Wednesday, December 24, 2008

At Last it's Christmas

The holiday is upon us. Windows are decorated. Candles are lit. Friends gather. Laughter fills the air. What better time to enjoy a rich, melty, cheesy, treat. I love warm brie. There are few things that entice me to make the yummy noise more than this dish. I often wrap a trimmed brie wheel with puff pastry and bake it until the center is molten. Lately, I have been baking the brie naked- with just a dressing of dried fruit and a sprinkle of maple sugar. Either way you slice it- you'll be singing it's praises.
Baked Brie with Dried Cherries
Unbelievably easy and rich, an elegant addition to your dinner party.
1 wheel Brie cheese (6-8 inches in diameter)
3/4 cup dried cherries or other dried fruit of your choice
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans or other nuts of your choice (Optional)
2 Tablespoons pure maple sugar
Unwrap the Brie. Place the wheel on its side on a cutting board. Using a sharp serrated knife, trim off the top layer of rind until the cheese is visible.
Set the wheel, trimmed side up, in a cast iron pan. Mound the top of the cheese with the cherries (and nuts if you like). Sprinkle with the maple sugar. Place in a 350 degree oven until the cheese is bubbly- about 20 minutes. Be careful that the fruit and nuts do not burn.
Carefully remove from the oven and set on a large wooden cutting board. Serve right out of the oven with bread rounds or crackers.

This recipe is one we have made for years. It guarantees that Santa will discover the way to your chimney.
Magic Christmas Dust
Just in case you want to be double triple sure that Santa finds your chimney, mix up a batch of Magic Christmas Dust. Sprinkle it outside your door and the starlight will illuminate a path to your rooftop. The Reindeer will smell the oats and Santa will know just where to land.
1 cup oats
1 teaspoon glitter
1 teaspoon sequins or other sparkly things
Place all ingredients in a bowl. Stir gently until completely combined- saying "Thank You Santa, Thank You Santa!". Sprinkle outside your door- and be sure to say, "Merry Christmas Santa!" Make enough to share with your friends.
Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Chocolate for the Holidays

Just in time for the Holidays- What do you get when you mix cream, vanilla, deep-dark-chocolate and a little heat…It's Bliss! I just have to share my secret. There are few recipes that I keep close to the vest. This is one of them. I will guarantee you that this one will please your sweetheart, your children, your parents or your guests. If they like dark chocolate- they will LOVE this. I frequently serve this as a fondue type dessert alongside fresh fruit slices. We have also draped it on warm berries, dipped marshmallows in it, spooned it over ice cream and licked it off a spoon. If you serve it warm, it's silky and liquid. At room temperature it starts to solidify. When chilled it is firm enough to scoop into truffles. You can even freeze it in ice cube trays and pop out a couple for a quick hot fudge fix. Any way you slice it- It's a moment of chocolate rapture. I've even deep fried it- see recipe below- for a molten chocolate meltdown. Hope this makes your holiday just a little bit sweeter.

Dark Chocolate Truffle Sauce
Serve this silken chocolate sauce atop ice cream or dip fresh fruit into its depths for a delightful end to any meal.
12 oz (2 cups) dark or bittersweet chocolate bits
2 oz unsweetened chocolate- chopped
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Heat the cream in the bowl of a double boiler. Add the chocolates. Melt the chocolates together with the cream, whisking constantly until smooth. Add the vanilla and salt. Stir until completely combined. Serve warm.
If you have any leftovers, cover and chill. When cool, shape into a log or large ball. For individual servings, use a small scoop or spoon to create little balls the size of your favorite truffles. Roll in cocoa or grated chocolate.

Deep-Fried Chocolate Truffles--OMG
3 cups chopped semi-sweet chocolate
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
3 cups fine dry French bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs mixed with1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon and 1/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup all-purpose flour mixed with 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 eggs, beaten with 1 teaspoon water
Vegetable oil (for frying)
Finely grate or shave chocolate; if necessary, transfer chocolates to a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse briefly; be careful not to let the chocolate melt in the processor bowl. Place chocolate pieces in a large bowl.
In a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, heat the cream just to a slight boil. Immediately pour the boiling cream over the chocolate pieces and allow the mixture to stand for 5 minutes. Stir mixture in a slow, circular motion. The molten chocolate and cream will blend slowly, and then become smooth and glossy. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, press the film onto the surface of the chocolate to prevent a skin from forming.
At this point, chill the ganache in the freezer for approximately 3 hours or until it is the consistency of modeling clay. Every 30 minutes give it a gentle stir to keep it from separating.
Line a sheet pan or cookie sheet with waxed paper and roll the ganache into small balls about 3/4-inch in diameter. Arrange the balls on a sheet pan. Put them back into the freezer for about an hour so they are completely firm.
Set three shallow bowls out across your work surface, into one place the flour mixture; into the next place the beaten eggs and into the third place the bread or panko crumbs.

Using your left hand, take a chocolate ball, roll it in the flour, and drop it into the egg. With your right hand, coat well with the egg, and transfer it to the bread-crumbs. Coat well and transfer to another half-sheet tray covered with waxed paper. After all the balls have been coated, repeat the process - flour, egg, bread-crumbs. At the end of the second coating they should be almost the size of a golf-ball. Place them back into the freezer for at least an hour, or even overnight. If you're going to keep them longer than that, put them on layers of waxed or parchment paper in an air-tight container.
When ready to serve, put vegetable oil into your fryer and bring it to 375 degrees F. Fry two balls at a time. Transfer the cold truffles into the oil and let them fry for almost a whole minute. The coating will be golden brown and slightly hard (the sugar will be nicely caramelized). Let dry on paper-towels. Serve them while still hot.
Makes 3 dozen truffles.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Chocolate and Cheese…Who Knew

When I was little I loved the old fashioned port wine cheese ball that my mother would make for holiday parties. She served it along with ritz crackers. I couldn't get enough. I have made several versions in my lifetime. Just this year the flavors of mascarpone, a creamy Italian cream cheese and chocolate came together with delicious results.
Chocolate Mascarpone Dessert Spread
Here we combine the flavors of fresh mascarpone with the decadence of dark chocolate- too delicious! If you like, chevre or cream cheese can be substituted. Slice some fresh fruit and serve this spread in the center. Surround it with shortbread cookies, savory crackers or graham crackers for spreading.
12 oz dark or bittersweet chocolate bits
8 oz mascarpone cheese
Melt the chocolate in the bowl of a double boiler. Add the mascarpone and stir until completely combined. Line a small bowl with plastic wrap. Pour the chocolate mixture into the bowl. Bring the plastic wrap up and twist to encase the chocolate. Cover and chill. When cool, unwrap the chocolate. Place on a pretty platter. Allow to come to room temperature before serving. For individual servings, use a small scoop or spoon to create little balls the size of your favorite truffles. Serve with shortbread cookies, savory crackers or graham crackers.

Here is a recipe for the 1970's version of the port wine cheese ball for old times sake:
Cheese Balls
2 (8 oz.) pkgs. Neufchatel cream cheese
1 cup Wispride cheese with Port Wine
3 Tablespoons chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked Black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
4 Tablespoons chopped nuts
Cream together the cream cheese and port wine cheese. Add pepper, garlic powder and parsley. Shape into a ball and roll in chopped nuts. Serve with crackers. This cheese ball freezes well if you want to make it ahead.

Just in time for the Holidays- What do you get when you mix cream, vanilla, deep-dark-chocolate and a little heat…It's Bliss! I just have to share my secret. There are few recipes that I keep close to the vest. This is one of them. I will guarantee you that this one will please your sweetheart, your children, your parents or your guests. If they like dark chocolate- they will LOVE this. I frequently serve this as a fondue type dessert alongside fresh fruit slices. We have also draped it on warm berries, dipped marshmallows in it, spooned it over ice cream and licked it off a spoon. If you serve it warm, it's silky and liquid. At room temperature it starts to solidify. When chilled it is firm enough to scoop into truffles. You can even freeze it in ice cube trays and pop out a couple for a quick hot fudge fix. Any way you slice it- It's a moment of chocolate rapture. I've even deep fried it- see recipe below- for a molten chocolate meltdown. Hope this makes your holiday just a little bit sweeter.

Savor. Linger. Enjoy. -Cynthia

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Remembering Peanut Butter Mousse Pie

My Sweetheart Sherwood rode in the Tour de Farms a couple of weeks ago. He biked 100- yes one hundred- miles! This on very little training (we had just reached our 1000 mile mark on our tandem, but only in 10,20, 30 and 40 mile rides- no long ones!) AND we had been out swing dancing the night before (so he had only about three hours sleep). I am so proud of him!! One thing he mentioned after the ride, was the peanut butter and bananas. I try not to make it a big deal- but I have an allergy to nuts. It's not the rush-me-to-the-hospital-immediately allergy, just an inconvenient tongue tingling- I really don't feel well- allergy. So, I don't eat peanuts, tree nuts, sunflower or sesame seeds anymore. Now, mind you, I never want to deprive the family of a food they want to eat- I guess I just forgot to buy peanut butter for a couple of years. Unless I've needed it for a particular recipe, I've avoided the whole nut thing. Until now... Sherwood decided that a big scoop of peanut butter on a mashed up banana was his answer to cycling-energy-food nirvana. It reminded me of this pie- that everyone LOVES. So, here's my nod to peanut buttery goodness.
If you are a peanut butter fan- this is the pie for you. The filling is a light peanut butter mousse that tastes great chilled or almost frozen. You can make it a day ahead and the flavors will just get better.
Makes one pie
1 cup chocolate cookie crumbs
2 Tablespoons sugar
6 Tablespoons melted butter plus a bit more for greasing
8 oz cream cheese at room temperature
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons confectioners sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
Make crust: Grease a 9 inch pie plate. Mix together the cookie crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Press evenly into the pie plate. Chill one hour.
Make Filling: In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the cream cheese and peanut butter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Gradually add 1 cup of confectioners sugar. Beat until fluffy. In a separate bowl, whip the cream to soft peaks. Add 2 Tablespoons confectioners sugar and vanilla. Whip to stiff peaks. Fold 1/3 of the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture. Gently fold in the remaining cream. Spoon into chilled crust. Chill until firm- about three hours.
Make topping: In a small saucepan,, heat the cream to a simmer. Add the chocolate. Stir until smooth and melted. Cool to room temperature. Spread over pie. Chill again until firm.
Savor. Linger. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What's in the Pantry?

I've been hard at work on my latest book all about desserts. As I was writing down 157 recipes- some of which have been saved for later publications- I came to a fun realization. Having your pantry stocked with the following items allows you to whip up that birthday cake for a friend, cupcakes for your child's class, biscuits for supper or that special goodie tray for the bake sale- without going out to the market for anything. This list can be accumulated over time. Many of the ingredients have an extended shelf life. The perishables listed at the end are those that you probably have on hand in the fridge anyway. This list is helpful when you're getting started as a baker. Lots of the items can be found in the bulk section of your local health food store. Rising Tide is my favorite local shop in Damariscotta. They carry many different types of flour and sugar to suit whatever recipes I can think up.

In the Pantry
Baking uses many of the same items to create a myriad of different recipes. Here are some things to keep on hand in your pantry to make baking a snap. You can gather them over time to have the staples necessary to whip something up when you need it.
Flour- white, wheat, soy...
Pastry or cake flour
Wheat germ
White sugar
Brown sugar- light and dark
Baking powder
Baking soda
Bakewell Cream- cream of tartar
Sea Salt
Cocoa powder
Confectioners sugar
Corn starch
Buttermilk powder
Egg white powder
Espresso powder
Dry milk
Corn syrup
Crisco or other vegetable shortening
Peanut butter
Various pure extracts- lemon, anise…
Nutmeg- whole and ground
Black pepper
Chocolate- bits, bars and unsweetened squares- white and dark
Dried fruit
Seeds and nuts- flax, sesame, poppy, caraway, etc...
Unflavored gelatine
Vanilla bean
Coffee beans
Jams and jellies of assorted flavors
Food coloring

In the icebox:
Sour cream
Cream cheese
Fresh citrus fruit
Pastor Chuck's applesauce and apple butter
Savor,Linger, Enjoy! -Cynthia

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Pear Bisque- Looking Toward Fall and the Harvest

Down East blog4
Apples and Pears are ripe and delicious. It's time to go picking. I've had a hankerin' for this pear soup. Its thicker than most bisques with the pulp of the fruit left in the soup. You could use apples instead if you've got them on hand. We talked about apples, squash and poultry at the last Aspiring Locavore class at the Morris Farm. A gal from Alna brought some honey crisps and mccouns from her trees. They were sweet and sour in turn. Apple crisp is definitely on the menu at home this week. Next month- the fourth Tuesday- the Aspiring Locavore will be talking about potatoes, turkey and oysters. Hope you can join us at the Morris Farm.

Pear Bisque
Serves 6
For an elegant first course, serve this bisque with a medallion of Appleton Creamery chèvre (goat cheese) and a sprinkle of pecans. Preferred wine is the Demi-Pear Wine from Winterport Winery.

3 T unsalted butter
1⁄2 c minced onion
1 T freshly grated ginger
1 small turnip, peeled and finely diced
2 T finely minced crystallized ginger
4 c chicken or vegetable stock
21⁄2 lb firm but ripe pears, peeled and cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes
1⁄4 lb dried pears, coarsely chopped
11⁄2 c heavy cream
1⁄3 c pear wine
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 T lemon zest
3 T Maine maple syrup
1⁄2 t nutmeg
1⁄8 t allspice
1⁄8 t freshly ground white pepper, or to taste
extra cream for thinning
Garnish (optional):
1⁄4 c finely chopped pecans
6- 1⁄2-inch slices from a log of chèvre
Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the onion and turnip about 8 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently.
Stir in the fresh and crystallized ginger and sauté another 2 minutes. Pour in the stock and bring the ingredients to a boil. Add the fresh and dried pears. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer 35 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove the pan from the heat. Use an immersion blender to purée the soup in the pan or, working in batches, purée the soup in a blender until smooth. Return the mixture to the saucepan. With heat on low, stir in the remaining ingredients and season to taste. Simmer about 30 minutes, stirring often. Thin with additional cream if desired.
Serve in pretty bowls, with a slice of chèvre and a sprinkle of chopped pecans.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Blueberry Bars at the Morris Farm's Tour de Farms Bike Ride

This weekend we are celebrating local foods at the Morris Farm in Wiscasset with the Tour de Farms bike ride. They have 8, 20, 50 and 100 mile loops winding along the Maine coast with stops for snacks at local farms. What better way to start off your autumn season than with a gorgeous ride that culminates in a local foods barbeque at the Morris Farm. One of the desserts we are planning incorporates the luscious local blueberry. It's easy to make and delicious to eat. They are great warm topped with a little Round Top vanilla ice cream. Hope you can join us for the Tour de Farms. Come ride- the century starts at 7:30 am see the Morris Farm's website for times for shorter loops- or just enjoy the barbeque at 2pm.
Blueberry Bars
Serves 32
Crust and Topping
6 cups cut oats, uncooked
2 cups flour
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, melted
8 cups blueberries, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup sugar
6 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350°.
Line a half sheet pan or two 9x13 baking pans with foil, letting ends extend above pan on 2 sides. Grease pans. In a large bowl, mix oats, flour, brown sugar, baking soda and salt. Add melted butter and stir with a fork until evenly moistened (mixture will be crumbly). Reserve 2 cups crumb mixture for topping.
Press remaining mixture evenly and firmly over bottom of 2 pans. Bake 12 minutes.
Filling: In a small saucepan stir berries, sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice over medium heat until bubbling. Simmer, stirring, until thick.
Spoon blueberry mixture evenly over crusts. Divide reserved crumb mixture and sprinkle over the top of the blueberries.
Bake for 30-40 minutes or until lightly golden. Let cool completely in pan. Lift foil by ends and slide entire slab onto a cutting board.
Peel off foil; cut into 2" squares.
Savor. Linger. Enjoy! -Cynthia

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Sweet-and-Sour German Potato Salad

Sweet-and-Sour German Potato Salad
I was up to Morse's Sauerkraut last weekend and had lunch with my sweetheart. We shared a reuben and some deep fried kraut balls. The dessert special was pannecotta with a sour cherry sauce. What a delicious treat! We try to get up to their shop whenever we can and fitting a meal into the trip makes it all worthwhile. Their sauerkraut is the best in the world. The folks who work in both the shop and bistro are knowledgeable and friendly. Definitely go when you are hungry. Stop by the cheese counter and sample some tasty nibbles. Let them take you on a tour around the world. You'll be glad you went.
My mom used to make this warm and tangy potato salad, always delicious with grilled bratwurst or any kind of barbecue. Both sweet and salty, it holds its own alongside other flavorful foods. The hearty potato soaks up the wonderful dressing, so be sure you serve it right away. If you need to wait before serving- make up an extra batch of the warm dressing and drizzle it over the top before you eat. We are fortunate that there are several local sources for bacon and sauerkraut along the coast of Maine. Contact your neighborhood natural food store to find some in your home town.
Serves 6-8
6 large Maine potatoes
1 large Vidalia onion
1 cup Morse’s Sauerkraut, roughly chopped
1 lb thick cut bacon, diced
3⁄4 c yellow onion, finely chopped
3 T flour
1⁄2 c white vinegar or sauerkraut liquor
3⁄4 c water
1 T celery seeds
3 T sugar
11⁄2 t salt
1 t fresh ground black pepper

Wash and trim the potatoes and Vidalia onion, peeling the potatoes if you like. Cut the potatoes and onion into quarters.
In a large saucepan, boil the potatoes and onion until the potatoes are fork-tender, but not mushy. When the potatoes and onion are cool enough to handle, chop them into bite-size pieces.
In a large pan, fry bacon till crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel; crumble and set aside.
Add the 3⁄4 c yellow onion to bacon fat in pan and cook 5 to 8 minutes, till onion is soft. With a slotted spoon, remove onion and set aside with the bacon.
Whisk flour into bacon fat. Add the vinegar or sauerkraut liquor, water, celery seeds, sugar, salt, and pepper. Heat to a boil; then, set pan on medium heat and cook till thickened.
Add potatoes, Morse’s sauerkraut, cooked Vidalia onion, bacon, and sautéed yellow onion. Gently stir to coat the potatoes.
Serve while warm.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Aspiring Locavore- Heirloom Tomatoes and Luscious Lobster

The Morris Farm Trust in Wiscasset, Maine is the gracious host for The Aspiring Locavore- Fresh, Local, Possible- A Maine Cooking Class. We gather on the fourth Tuesday of every month to share the freshest foods that are available in our area. Read more Here. Our August class involved a hands on approach for students to create delicious dishes. One thing we created was a Lobster Chevre Pate. Since the recipe was directly out of our heads- I thought it best to write it down here. Come join us next time at the Morris Farm for The Aspiring Locavore in September.
Lobster Chevre Pate
We decided that this light dish would be perfect on crusty bread OR chilled and made into little patties. The patties can be dipped in a beaten egg, then breadcrumbs and fried in butter until golden. The crispy patties can then be served atop fresh greens for a lovely salad.
You need:
11-12 oz plain fresh chevre at room temperature
6 oz cooked chopped lobster meat
the juice of 1/2 a lime- approximately 3 T
3 T finely chopped fresh cilantro
dash of sea salt
a few grinds of black pepper
Mash the chevre in a shallow bowl with a fork. Stir in the lime juice, cilantro salt and pepper. When combined, add the lobster and stir gently until completely incorporated. Serve immediately or Line a dish with plastic wrap and fill with the pate. Fold the plastic up over the mixture. Cover with another layer of wrap and chill until you are ready to use. When you're ready to serve, remove the plastic wrap until the pate is exposed. Unmold the pate onto a pretty plate and gently peel back the wrap to uncover the pate. Sprinkle the pate with a little more freshly chopped cilantro and serve with bread rounds or crackers. Delicious!
Savor. Linger. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Mimosa Dressing Makes Lobster Sparkle

Light and refreshing- a Mimosa is a delightful summer champagne cocktail. For a change of pace, serve your freshly cooked lobster draped with the flavor of champagne and citrus-minus the alcohol. You won't miss the butter. The orange juice concentrate is bright; the vinegar tangy. Together they allow the flavor of the lobster to shine- with just the right zing. Add a dash of cayenne for a spicy finish. Yum!
Mimosa Dressing
This light dressing is wonderful on seafood
Makes about 1 cup
3 T honey or maple syrup
1/3 c orange juice concentrate
2 T champagne-vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 T light olive oil
Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. Chill.
Savor. Linger. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Chocolate Chevre- a new twist on cheesecake

Here is a different way to experience chevre and chocolate. You can scoop the mixture into balls and serve with slices of tart apple and fresh berries. Whipped cream and a drizzle of melted chocolate on the top finish the dish with flair.
Chocolate Chevre Crème
Here we combine the flavors of fresh chevre with the decadence of dark chocolate- too delicious!
12 oz dark or bittersweet chocolate bits
2 oz unsweetened chocolate- chopped
16 oz plain fresh chevre
1 teaspoon real vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

Melt the chocolates together in the bowl of a double boiler. Add the chevre and stir until completely combined. Add vanilla and salt. Pipe into small dessert glasses. Serve with whipped cream.

Savor. Linger. Enjoy!
Cynthia Finnemore Simonds

Friday, August 1, 2008

Fresh Summer Ratatouille

We celebrated all things local last evening at Agren Appliance in Augusta, Maine. This was the first in a year long series of cooking classes that we are taping to post online and show on local cable stations around Maine.
Whether you are in Provence or on the coast of Maine this summer dish will have your tastebuds singing! Use the freshest ingredients you can find from your local farmer's market- your rewards will be rich! Make this dish in three parts- base, veggies and dressing. Each one is easier than the last but the sum is more than the parts.
Serves 4-6
Base Layer:
1 1/2 cups finely diced pepper- you can combine colors if you like. I often use red orange and yellow with some green Anaheim pepper for good measure. Be sure to remove the stem, seeds and light colored ribs inside before chopping.
2 T olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 c finely diced sweet yellow onion
3 fresh tomatoes (a generous 1 1/2 cups) peeled, seeded, and finely diced. Reserve all of the juice.
1 sprig fresh thyme
3 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
1 sprig fresh oregano
1 sprig fresh rosemary
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
Veggie Layer:
1 zucchini (a medium to large squash) sliced in 1mm rounds
2 Japanese eggplants, sliced into 1mm rounds
1 yellow summer squash (a medium to large squash), sliced into 1/16-inch rounds 4 tomatoes, sliced into 1mm rounds
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 t olive oil
1 t fresh thyme leaves
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T balsamic vinegar
1/2 t sugar
2 T Assorted fresh herbs (thyme flowers, chive blossoms, thyme)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Garnish: Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

For the Base Layer: Combine oil, garlic, and onion in medium skillet over low heat until very soft but not browned, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes (and any juice), thyme, parsley, and basil. Simmer over low heat until very soft and very little liquid remains, about 10 minutes; add peppers and simmer gently. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove and discard herb stems. Reserve 1 Tablespoon of the base mixture and spread the rest in the bottom of an 12-inch skillet.
For vegetables, heat oven to 275 degrees. Arrange the sliced vegetables in an alternating pattern in the middle of the pan on top of the base layer. Overlap so that 2-3mm of each slice is exposed. Around this strip, continue to layer the vegetables in a spiral pattern. Continue to lay the vegetables in a spiral around the first strip that allows slices to mound slightly toward the center. Continue layering the veggies until pan is filled (you may have some slices left over.

Combine the garlic, oil and thyme leaves in bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle this mixture over the vegetables. Cover the pan with a layer of parchment. Cover this layer with foil and seal edges well. Bake until vegetables are tender when tested with a paring knife, about 1 1/2 hours. Uncover and bake for another 30 minutes. Replace the foil if the veggies start to brown. If there is excess liquid in pan, place the pan over medium heat on the stove top until the liquid has reduced. (At this point it may be cooled, covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Serve cold or reheat in 350-degree oven until warm.)

For the dressing, combine reserved base layer mixture, oil, vinegar, herbs, sugar and salt and pepper to taste in a bowl.
To serve: Broil until lightly golden brown. Slice into six pie shaped pieces and carefully lift onto plate with a spatula. Drizzle dressing around each plate. Sprinkle with cheese. Serve hot.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Fresh Lobster or Shrimp Gazpacho

Summer is the perfect time for elegant, simple meals. There is nothing quite as succulent as a fresh tomato warmed by the sun. Find the farmers’ markets and farm stands in your neighborhood and purchase the flavorful, ripe wonders that grow close to home. These local fruits and vegetables will add immeasurably to your menu.

This recipe for an elegant gazpacho is enhanced with the delicate taste of lobster. It’s joined by a new summer classic that bursts with flavor: Duck Salad with Blueberries and Walnut Vinaigrette. This salad is a quintessential summer dish, incorporating both fruits and vegetables fresh from the field. Feel free to substitute your favorite herbs and vegetables to make each dish your own.

Fresh Garden Gazpacho with Lobster Medallions
This is one of the easiest versions available of this refreshing summer classic. The addition of vinegar gives it a delicious, subtle tang.

2 cups tomato juice or vegetable juice cocktail- you can choose the spicy version for a zippier soup
2 cups fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
1 cup diced canned tomatoes, with their liquid
1 cup celery, finely chopped
1 cup seeded and finely chopped cucumber
1 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 cup sweet onion or scallions, finely chopped
1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely minced
3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 1 t dried
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
Sprigs of fresh parsley
24 baby spinach leaves
4 cooked lobster tails or 1 lb cooked Maine shrimp

Place all of the ingredients except the parsley sprigs, baby spinach, and lobster in a large stainless steel or glass bowl. Cover and chill six hours or overnight. One at a time, place each lobster tail on your cutting board. Using a sharp knife, slice along the top of each lobster tail, cutting approximately 1/4 inch into the meat. De vein. Slice each lobster tail into 3/4-inch thick pieces to create large coin-shaped medallions.

When you are ready to serve, fill each bowl with soup. Lay three baby spinach leaves in the center of each bowl. Carefully place a few lobster medallions on top of the spinach “lily pads.” Garnish with a sprig of parsley and serve.

Serves 8.
Savor. Linger. Enjoy! -Cynthia

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Pasta Salad with Fresh Corn, Black Beans, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

The flavors of lime and cumin in this refreshing pasta salad give it a Mexican flair. Fresh corn cut right off the cob adds a touch of summer to your salad. Make an extra batch of dressing and use it to marinate or drizzle on cooked grilled chicken or shrimp for a delicious hearty meal.
Serves 8-10

1 lb fresh whole grain pasta
2 T olive oil
3 ears of fresh sweet corn, shucked and steamed
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
6 scallions, sliced thinly
16 oz cooked black beans
10 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
8 oz black olives
8 oz marinated artichoke hearts
12 sprigs of cilantro
1 large avocado
1 T fresh lime juice
1/2 c. black bean and corn salsa (I love Stonewall Kitchen's version)

1 bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1⁄2 c vinegar
1 c oil
1 t salt
1 t pepper
3 limes, zested and juiced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 T cumin
1⁄2 t cayenne
1 T Cholula pepper sauce or Tabasco sauce--optional

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. Drain, and drizzle with 2 T olive oil. Toss to coat, and chill for 30 minutes.
Shuck the corn, and steam or boil until tender (about 6 minutes). Hold the corn vertically on a cutting board and slice off the kernels close to the cob; be careful not to cut into the cob. After the kernels are removed, hold the knife blade perpendicular to the cob and scrape off any little bits of corn left clinging to the cob.
Wash, remove the seeds and coarsely chop the pepper. Wash, trim and thinly slice the scallions. Drain the beans, sun-dried tomatoes, black olives, and artichoke hearts. Slice the sun-dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts coarsely. Add all the drained ingredients and the salsa to the pasta.
In a large bowl, combine the pasta, corn, pepper, scallions, beans, sun-dried tomatoes, black olives, and artichoke hearts. Toss well and chill while you assemble the dressing.
In a small bowl, whisk together all the dressing ingredients. Pour over the salad and toss well.
Peel, pit, and slice the avocado. Pour 1 T lime juice over the avocado and toss gently to coat. Serve your salad garnished with sprigs of cilantro and a slice or two of avocado.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Sweet Summer Apple Salad

Oh my goodness- the aromatic perfume of pink lady apples is heady. We had my brother Todd's fiancé Rebecca's mom Susan and her partner Abigail here visiting this week. It was Susan's birthday-and a good time to celebrate. The pink lady apples looked delightful so, it was time to make something new. Here is a recipe for Sweet Summer Apple Salad. It incorporates Pink Lady Apples, fresh lemon and two kinds of cheese. If you want it to be a bit more savory- sprinkle sea salt over the apples. Somehow these flavors came together as a light, crisp, scrumptious side.
Sweet Summer Apple Salad
Serves 4-6
4 pretty pink lady apples
juice and zest of 1 lemon
3/4 cup water
6 oz fresh goat cheese- you can use flavored/herbed cheese if you like
4 oz very sharp cheddar cheese
fresh chive blossoms, pansies, herbs or other edible flowers for garnish
tools: 1 gallon plastic bag, cutting board, paring knife, large knife, zester or microplane, small bowl, spatula, grater, paper towel and platter.
Place the cheddar cheese in its wrapper or in a plastic bag in the freezer while you start cutting the apples. Wash and dry the apples. Place them beside your cutting board.
Zest the lemon. Place the zest and the plain (or flavored) goat cheese in a small bowl. Gently incorporate the lemon zest into the goat cheese. With a spatula, form the goat cheese into a ball, pyramid or small log. Cover and chill.
Open your gallon plastic bag and fold the top inch-or-so over to make a "collar" at the top. Set it on the counter so it is standing up- you can set the bag in a bowl if it doesn't want to cooperate. Pour the water into the bag. Juice the lemon into the bag- removing any seeds if they stray into the liquid. Swish the water and lemon around a bit and set aside.
With a large, sturdy knife (my favorite is an 8" French knife) you are going to slice the apples horizontally into very thin (less than 1/4") slices. Set an apple on its side on your cutting board. Very carefully slice the top 3/4 inch off of the apple. Lay it aside. Continue slicing the apple until you begin to see the core, setting each slice on top of the one before- making an upside down apple stack. Pause now and core the bottom part of the apple with a paring knife. Be sure that you leave the apple intact and only remove the core and seeds. Return the apple to the cutting board and continue slicing it (now into rings) until you reach the bottom. You can eat the bottom slice now- since you won't need it for your recipe. Stack the apple slices back up so you have it looking like an apple again. Hold the apple slices -all together- in your hand and dunk them into the lemon water separating the rings slightly so the liquid coats all of the slices. Remove the apple from the water, let the excess drip off and set aside on a paper towel. Repeat with the remaining apples.
When all of the apples are sliced, take the cheddar cheese out of the freezer. Now, you can start arranging your salad. On a platter place the goat cheese in the center. Arrange the bottom slice from each apple in a single layer around the cheese. Finely grate a few strands of the cheddar cheese over each of the apple slices. Lay the next slice from each apple on top of the cheddar and grate a little more cheese over this slice. Repeat with the remaining slices of apple until all of you apples are "reassembled" with layers of cheese in between all of the slices. Grate the remaining cheddar cheese over all of the apples and goat cheese. Garnish with chive blossoms, edible flowers or herbs. Chill until ready to serve.
To serve: use two spoons or small salad servers and give each diner a few slices of apple and a dollop of goat cheese. Mmm. Delicious.
Savor. Linger. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Chocolate Wow Cake- Fit for your own Royal Family

Here is a majestic, never fail chocolate cake recipe that is sure to please a crowd. The combination of cream cheese and butter make it very rich. The Chocolate, chocolate and chocolate create a velvety, dark, rich texture. This one is sure to elicit many “MMmMmmm”s from your family and guests. This recipe is best made in its entirety. It makes A Lot of cake! The cakes, once baked, can be frozen for a later date. It freezes well and retains its moistness. Yum!

2 c. butter
8 oz cream cheese
2 c. sugar
9 eggs
4 1/2 c. flour
5 T. cocoa
1 t. salt
1 c. buttermilk
1 1/2 T. baking powder
18 oz bittersweet chocolate
2 oz unsweetened chocolate
3 T. pure vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream butter, cream cheese and sugar.
Add eggs one at a time, incorporating completely after each addition.
Sift together flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder.
In measuring cup mix milk and vanilla together.
Melt bittersweet and unsweetened chocolates together. This is best done in a microwave or a double boiler. Stir the melted chocolates until they are combined.
Add the dry ingredients, milk mixture and chocolates alternately to the creamed butter and eggs. Beat until all are incorporated into a beautiful velvety chocolate batter.
This recipe is versatile- it can be baked in many different pans for whatever use you desire. The batter will make enough for four 8” round cake pans or a 9 x 13 pan AND 24 cupcakes or a 12” spring-form pan plus another small pan.
Bake cakes according to their pan size- until a tester comes out clean with moist crumbs. Plan to bake cupcakes 20-25 minutes, 8” rounds 30-35 minutes and a spring-form pan at least 45 minutes.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Fresh Herbs for Pesto on Mother's Day

Mother's Day is here with all its springtime glory! Every year my mom would ask for plants for her garden for Mother's Day. We would all go to the greenhouse and pick out a selection of herbs and flowers with her guidance. To this day I am happy to celebrate with growing things...the greener the better. Here are a pair of pestos to delight you palate and maybe your Mother.

Cilantro Citrus Pesto
Refreshing and delicious for an anytime treat. Great with pasta, rice, couscous or the grain of your choice.
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
2 cloves garlic
fresh zest and juice of one lemon or lime
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts (optional)
a drizzle of olive oil
1/2 cup fresh grated or shredded parmesan cheese
Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse to puree. If you choose not to use nuts add an extra handful of cheese.

Herb Paste- The Besto Pesto
This is a basic formula for herb pesto. Adjust the seasonings to your taste. Try different combinations of herbs for the season and dishes you desire.
1 cup fresh herb leaves
1 cup fresh parsley leaves
2 garlic cloves
2 T fresh citrus juice
1/2 cup pine nuts or almonds (optional)
1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
Use sage, rosemary, basil, dill, oregano or what you have fresh from the garden along with your imagination. Place the herbs, garlic, citrus and optional nuts in a food processor. Pulse until it becomes a uniform paste. Add the cheese and pulse again. Keep the machine on and drizzle the oil in until it has all been incorporated. Use immediately or chill for later use.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Kitchen Garden Symposium at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

This weekend April 25th and 26th Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay is hosting a Kitchen Garden Symposium. The speakers are William Alexander, author of The $64 Tomato; Jennifer R. Bartley, author of Designing the New Kitchen Garden; cookbook author Cynthia Finnemore Simonds,(that's me!) with a demo and tasting; and Russ Cohen, an expert on edible native plants and wildflowers. Amanda Beal, president of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) will provide opening remarks. It should be a day filled with humor, education and entertainment.
For me, spring is a time filled with inspiration. Everything is greening. Ideas also blossom when I imagine what to do with the little herbs poking up out of the garden soil. I have a kitchen garden filled with both perennials and annuals and try to alternate what I plant but some herbs are the same every year. Here are three recipes using fresh herbs. They are Delicious!

Cheese in Herbed Oil
This herb oil will strengthen as it sits and cheese will be more infused with the flavors.
2 cups olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 t red pepper flakes or 1 dried chili pepper
6 black peppercorns
6 coriander seeds
2 whole allspice
1 lb feta or other fresh soft cheese, chopped into bite size pieces
Put all ingredients in wide mouth jar with a lid. Keep refrigerated for 1-2 months. Delicious in salads or as an appetizer.

Kitchen Garden Herbed Cheese Spread
This creamy spread is wonderful on bagels, crusty bread, or on top of a warm piece of grilled steak. Herbed cheese is especially good when you pick the herbs fresh from your garden or from your local farm stand. One of the freshest cheeses we have here in Maine comes from the delectable chevre producers. Using this in combination with Neufchatel cheese produces a delicious lower fat spread- you’ll never miss those calories!
8 oz Neufchatel cheese or regular cream cheese
8 oz plain chevre- I love Appleton Creamery
1T chopped fresh rosemary
1⁄4 c fresh minced parsley
1⁄4 c fresh minced chives
1⁄2 t garlic powder or 1 clove fresh garlic minced
1⁄2 t white pepper
1⁄2 t salt
Blend all together until smooth. Chill. This is better the day after it’s made so the flavors can dance around a bit. If you have an herb garden and want to add oregano, thyme, marjoram, or sage, supplement the herbs to your taste.
Pack along a bottle of Winterport Winery’s Spring Fever or Dry Pear wine to whet your whistle.

Summer Herb Dressing
This dressing offers bright flavors that take you out to the garden. Use the freshest herbs you can find.
2 T Raye’s stone ground mustard
3⁄4 c white vinegar
1 shallot- minced
2 cloves garlic- use roasted garlic here if you have it
1 T sugar
1⁄2 t salt
1⁄2 t fresh ground black pepper
1⁄4 c chopped fresh basil
2 T chopped fresh sage
2 T chopped fresh thyme
3 T chopped fresh parsley
1 1⁄2 c olive oil
Whisk all of the ingredients but the oil together. Slowly drizzle the oil into the dressing, whisking constantly.
Serve chilled with your choice of greens.
Savor. Linger. Enjoy!
Cynthia Finnemore Simonds

Friday, April 18, 2008

Barbeque Season is Here!!

I had my face in the sunshine yesterday- and it felt so delicious to be warm. Spring has sprung and summer is well on its way. Of course, that makes me want to get the grill going full speed ahead. Summer makes me think of barbeque and some of my favorite bbq is had at Ed and Maria's home. My Uncle Ed and Aunt Maria are two of the most wonderful people I know. We visit them in the summer down on the Jersey shore. The beaches are beautiful and the weather warm and breezy. With the warm days we've been having- I've been thinking about our annual trek. One thing we always do is eat barbequed ribs. Uncle Ed's recipe is a sure thing. Always succulent and delicious. Aunt Maria's BBQ sauce is perfect for dunking. They slather it on the ribs on the grill with just enough time for it to caramelize a little bit. Here are my versions of their recipes- ready for your summer grilling pleasure.

Uncle Ed's Rib Rub
1/4 c. Paprika
1/4 c. Ground sweet red pepper
1/4 c. Ground black pepper
1/4 c. Sugar
1/4 c. Brown Sugar
1 T. Garlic powder
1 T. Ground white pepper
1 T. Cayenne pepper
Combine all & mix well.
Rub slabs of ribs generously w/white vinegar, then rub ~2T mixture on each side of ribs. Lay the ribs on a sheet pan and cover with plastic wrap. Let the ribs sit for at least an hour- they're even better if they chill over night. Remove the plastic wrap and roast them in the oven for about half your estimated cooking time. Grill them for the last half. Slather with sauce if you lik'em wet. Store the unused rub in a covered container in the refrigerator. It's also great in the boiling water for shell on shrimp.

Aunt Maria's BBQ Sauce
6T finely minced onion
3T oleo/butter
2T brown sugar
1c ketchup
2T Worcestershire sauce
1T Cholula pepper sauce
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1/8 t salt
2 T soy sauce
2t prepared mustard
1/4 c vinegar (white or cider)
In a small sauce pan saute the onion in butter until soft but not brown. Add remaining ingredients and cook over low heat until thick. Puree in a blender in small batches. Pour what you need in a bowl to mop on your grilled tasties. Store the rest in the refrigerator until you need it. You can serve it on the side either hot or cold. It's also great as a dip for shrimp, a glaze for meatloaf, topping for burgers or a marinade for tofu. (really! It's great on tofu!)
Savor. Linger. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Trip to Morse's Sauerkraut

When you walk into Morse’s Sauerkraut don't be surprised if you feel transported back in time to an old world Bavarian marketplace. The folks are friendly; more than willing to slice a sample off of the dozens of hams, sausages and cheeses in the well stocked cases. The shop is at once intimate and adventurous. On a busy day as many as 500 people might stop by to stock their pantry or browse the shelves for a delectable new treat.
A fixture in the community since 1918, Morse’s owners Jacquelyn Sawyer and David Swetnam have nurtured the business since 2000. “The business has a life of it’s own. We just nudge it along.” Said Swetnam. “When we first started here we tried to add our own touch while maintaining the integrity of the business.” said Sawyer, ”Our customers have been so loyal. The community support has been fabulous”
Located on Route 220 in Waldoboro about seven miles off Route One the shop is a leisurely ride from Camden, Damariscotta or Augusta. You’re at their doorstep in less than half an hour. “We know our customers are making an effort”, Sawyer said. “We know they have to come a long way out here and we want to give them a special experience.”
This fall brings new additions to the Morse’s shop. Sawyer and Swetnam purchased a new production facility this year and plan to expand their retail space into the former manufacturing room. “Our focus will remain on the kraut,” Sawyer explained, “We will be dishing it out from the original wooden barrel but there will be more space here to meander and explore.”
Sauerkraut has always been known for its curative properties. (see sidebar) Many cultures have their own versions of this fermented cabbage dish. Sauerkraut is its German name; in Korea it’s kimchi, and France calls it choucroute. Unlike grocery store varieties, Morse’s sauerkraut is non-pasteurized. In its raw form the compounds found in both the sauerkraut and its juice, also called liquor, are at once nutritionally beneficial and delicious. Morse’s sauerkraut does not need to be rinsed, but the liquor should be reserved and used in cooking or to drink in small quantities for good health.

In addition to Sauerkraut, Morse’s has expanded to include a Euro Deli. Their cheeses and meats come in a wide array of flavors. There is a Black Forest Schinken ham from Germany and rare aged gouda from Holland. The Stilton with mango and ginger mingles the flavors of sweet and savory. Roaring Forties Blue is hearty, rich and creamy. “People have really taken an interest in our cheese line,” Swetnam said “If we don’t have it we can order most anything. If we get more than three requests we’ll start to carry a product. Our customers let us know what they want.” Said Sawyer. This fall’s expansion will include the addition of a “Cheese Cave”. Swetnam describes the Cheese cave as a cheese ageing room where you can step into another world. It will be filled with sausages and cheeses. He hopes to share the “wonderment of cheese.”
Both Sawyer and Swetnam show a special passion for their patrons. “We want to preserve the history, the product and the people. There is a new generation of foodies who are finding us. There is the slow food movement and the raw food movement, both appreciate the unique properties of our sauerkraut. People in Hollywood are even following a sauerkraut diet. There are so many health benefits to this food” Sawyer said. (see sidebar 2)

As you look around the well-stocked shelves, you might find cloudberries from Sweden, treacle syrup from England, fresh Torrone from Italy and Knackebrote a Scandinavian crisp bread. Swetnam and Sawyer both believe in presenting the absolute best foods from around the world. They have taken the best sauerkraut in the world (according to this writer), made right here in Maine and hand picked the crème de la crème of ingredients to create an international pantry of gastronomic delight.

One customer from Spruce Head had returned after only 10 days between visits. “We just decide that today’s the day and we go.” When asked what her favorite thing was to purchase she answered, ”Rugelach… And then there’s the sausage… And Mac and Cheese…And what all else is in my basket. It’s all wonderful!” Swetnam quickly attended to questions as we toured the shop. His knowledge of their product lines makes it easy for folks to learn about the food items and find exactly what they want.
Customers here are dedicated folks. Some have been coming to pick up their kraut for over 60 years. Sawyer started taking pictures of people who had been coming for decades. She thought there would be a few but was surprised to have the number of photos quickly overwhelm the wall space. She plans to frame a mural of these photos to hang in a place of honor in their restaurant.

Morse’s cozy four-booth cafe is equipped to serve delectable Bavarian fare to hungry patrons. Bratwurst, Reubens, Schnitzel, Perogies and Borscht join Babka, Blintzes and Swedish Pancakes with Lingonberry jam to make your mouth water and your stomach oh-so-satisfied. No matter what choice you make- it’s a good one. I tried the Kraut Balls. They were crisp on the outside and tangy on the inside, served alongside a horseradish sauce atop a purple cabbage leaf. I just couldn’t believe how delicious they were!

“We love people to make the pilgrimage to Morse’s” Swetnam said. This is a surprisingly lovely task. Come for the selection and stay for a little lunch. I would recommend Morse’s Sauerkraut without reservation. Whether or not you see the sign: Kraut’s Ready- It’s worth the trip to Morse’s.
This article first appeared in The Lincoln County Magazine.

Sauerkraut Statistics A Passion for Sauerkraut, Samuel Hofer c2001
1/2 cup kraut
20 calories
1.1g protein
3.4g carbs
1.4g raw fiber
46 mg calcium
490 mg potassium
trace vitamin A
20 mg B1
18 mg C
730 mg sodium
31 mg phosphorus
0.5 mg iron
A Passion for Sauerkraut, Samuel Hofer c2001
Curative Properties
Contains superior lactic acid
Is a food that balances your system
Aids digestion
May help treat asthma
Improves blood circulation
Supports resistance to infection
Can help increase longevity
Can help sufferers of anemia, arteriosclerosis, bronchial colic, diabetes, gout, hardening of the arteries, headaches, rheumatism and reestablishes intestinal flora

Sauerkraut Salsa
A great way to combine the tangy flavor of kraut with the spice of salsa.
Makes about 5 cups
3 large ripe tomatoes, seeded and roughly chopped
1 c Morse’s Sauerkraut, drained (reserving all liquor) and finely chopped
1/2 c finely chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 c fresh squeezed lime juice
1/4 c finely chopped pickled jalapeno peppers
1/4 c finely chopped scallions
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 c adzuki beans
1/2 t cayenne pepper (optional)
Place all ingredients in a non-reactive bowl and stir to combine. Chill until ready to serve. This is great on burgers or nachos or scooped up with tortilla chips.

Sweet-and-Sour German Potato Salad
Excerpted from Fresh Maine Salads, Down East Books c.2006
My mom used to make this warm and tangy salad, always delicious with grilled bratwurst or any kind of barbecue. Both sweet and salty, it holds its own alongside other flavorful foods, with plenty of delicious potato to soak up the wonderful dressing.
Serves 6-8
6 large Maine potatoes
1 large Vidalia onion
1 cup Morse’s Sauerkraut, roughly chopped
1 lb bacon, diced
3⁄4 c yellow onion, finely chopped
3 T flour
1⁄2 c white vinegar or sauerkraut liquor
3⁄4 c water
1 T celery seeds
3 T sugar
11⁄2 t salt
1 t fresh ground black pepper

Wash and trim the potatoes and Vidalia onion, peeling the potatoes if you like. Cut the potatoes and onion into quarters.
In a large saucepan, boil the potatoes and onion until the potatoes are fork-tender, but not mushy. When the potatoes and onion are cool enough to handle, chop them into bite-size pieces.
In a large pan, fry bacon till crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel; crumble and set aside.
Add the 3⁄4 c yellow onion to bacon fat in pan and cook 5 to 8 minutes, till onion is soft. With a slotted spoon, remove onion and set aside with the bacon.
Whisk flour into bacon fat. Add the vinegar or sauerkraut liquor, water, celery seeds, sugar, salt, and pepper. Heat to a boil; then, set pan on medium heat and cook till thickened.
Add potatoes, Morse’s sauerkraut, cooked Vidalia onion, bacon, and sautéed yellow onion. Gently stir to coat the potatoes.
Serve while warm.

Kraut Veggie Pick Me Up
A delicious drink for a sleepy morning or whenever you need a little zip in your day.
1 c Spicy V8 juice
2 T Morse’s sauerkraut liquor
3 twists fresh cracked black pepper
dash celery salt
1 c crushed ice
Combine ingredients in a tall glass. Stir well to combine.
Garnish your glass with a stalk of celery and a slice of fresh lime

Cynthia Finnemore Simonds is the author of two cookbooks- Fresh Maine Salads and Superb Maine Soups. She can be reached through her food blog:

Monday, April 7, 2008

Knock Your Socks Off Brownies

My Dad, Fred Finnemore, does not have an enormous sweet tooth. When I was growing up, Mom often made desserts and Dad ate them in very small portions. He was a good example that way. He wanted just a few bites after a meal- not another full course. He enjoyed a little sweet to top off his dinner. Mom worked very hard to create a brownie recipe that he enjoyed. Not too sweet, not too chocolatey, just right. Well, My husband DOES have a sweet tooth. He wouldn't seek out a dessert after dinner- (unless it is a handful of dark chocolate m&m's)...but if there is a brownie or chocolate truffle to be had- He will have it. I've adapted Mom's brownie recipe to suit my sweetheart. It's still not too sweet- yet it is so full of chocolate it more closely resembles fudge. These brownies have that wonderful microthin layer of crust on top with a center that is dense and heavenly. Remember not to cook them too long or you'll end up with a dry crumbly dessert. Cut them into small pieces. Three bites is big enough for a serving.
Hope you enjoy them!
Knock Your Socks Off Brownies
These brownies are great baked in a 9 x 13 pan or in tiny muffin tins for little bites. Topped with chocolate- they are fit for a king.
1 cup butter
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate plus 1 cup dark chocolate bits
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 to 8 ounces chocolate bits to fold into the batter
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
-Melt butter, unsweetened chocolate and the 1 cup dark chocolate bits in a double boiler. Set aside until cool.
-Beat eggs with sugar until thickened and the sugar has begun to dissolve.
-Add butter/chocolate mixture. Stir until completely smooth.
-Add flour, cocoa and salt. Stir until incorporated and there are no lumps. Fold in the 6 to 8 oz chocolate bits.
-Line a greased 9 x 13 pan with parchment or foil and grease it well. Spread batter evenly into pan.
-Bake for 25 minutes. Cool. Run a sharp knife around the edges of the pan to release the brownies.
-If you’d like to bake them in tiny muffin tins be sure to spray or grease them very well. Bake for 12-15 minutes and check for done-ness. Sprinkle each with a few chocolate bits for an added touch.
-Lift brownies out in one piece and cool completely (unless you can’t resist- then have a little piece- it melts in your mouth when it is warm) Gently peel off paper or foil and cut to your desired shape.
-When they are completely cool you can wrap them up and freeze for up to a week.
-They are great alone or as a part of a sundae.
-If you like you can cut them into shapes with a cookie cutter and dip them in melted chocolate.
-Another option: when the brownies come out of the oven sprinkle chocolate bits, peanut butter bits, OR unwrapped Andes or After Eight mints on top. The heat will melt the toppings and they will become liquid in a minute or so. Spread the melted bits/mints over the top with a spatula and continue to let them cool.
-These are great for bake sales baked either in tiny muffin tins or cut in large squares- people find them irresistible.
Savor, Linger, Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Edemamme: A Fantastic Snack! Edemamme or Black Bean Hummus

Edemamme or Soy Beans are often served in their pods at Asian restaurants as an appetizer. You open the pods like you would with fresh peas and remove the inner bean. The pods are discarded and the beans enjoyed one at a time. These little green jewels are so delicious! They are perfect in school lunches! This time of year the pods or beans themselves are found in the freezer section of your favorite grocery store. They can be steamed and sprinkled with salt for an anytime treat. At our house we eat them warm, room temperature or cold. They can be used in place of beans in many recipes. I add them to chili, stir fry and succotash as well as green or pasta salad and seafood newburg. Anywhere you want a jolt of color and a burst of freshness- soybeans are the perfect choice. Here is a healthy, easy and yummy appetizer that's high in protein and great for you.
Edemamme or Black Bean Hummus
2 cloves garlic- peeled
2 T fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice
2 c cooked soy beans or 1(15ounce)can black beans, drained, reserving the liquid or cooking water
1 1/2 T sesame tahini
1 t ground cumin
1 t salt
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1 t Cholula chili sauce
In the bowl of a food processor, place the crushed cloves of garlic and lemon or lime juice. Pulse until the garlic is minced.
Add the Edemamme OR black beans, tahini, cumin, salt, cayenne and cholula.
Process until smooth, scraping down the sides often to incorporate all of the beans. Add a Tablespoon or two of the reserved bean liquid if necessary to make a smooth paste. Adjust the cayenne pepper and salt to your taste. Serve with pita triangles, crudite (celery stalk pieces and baby carrots are great), and/or chunks of crusty whole grain bread.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Reubens and Potatoes in the Snow

Good Morning Folks! The snow is falling outside- those lovely, lightly-drifting flakes. It's chilly outside but toasty warm in the kitchen. I love an excuse to bake and snowfall is one of the best. The kids come in the door after school to the scent of something hot from the oven. I count my blessings and working from home certainly is one of them.
Lately Sherwood and I have enjoyed Reuben sandwiches both at home and out for lunch. The flavors of pumpernickel bread, sauerkraut, corned beef and swiss cheese are so luscious together. I've never been a my-food-cannot-touch-on-my-plate kind of gal. I enjoy the mingling of flavors. Reubens are a perfect example of layers of flavors coming together- the sum is better than the parts. So, on this frosty day, we're going to enjoy a little variation of the classic Reuben sandwich. It's baked potatoes for dinner with a topping like no other- the Reuben filling. So delicious!

Reuben Potatoes
Serves 4

4 Large Maine Potatoes
2 cups diced corned beef
1 1/2 cups Morse's Sauerkraut- chopped a bit
1 cup shredded swiss cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chives
1 clove minced fresh garlic
2 T horseradish
8 oz Cream Cheese
3 T freshly grated swiss cheese for topping
Paprika for garnish
Bake Potatoes in a hot oven (425'F) for 45 minutes or until fork tender. Let sit until cool enough to handle. In a bowl combine corned beef, Morse's sauerkraut, swiss cheese, chives, garlic, horseradish.
Cut potatoes in half lengthwise. Carefully scoop out the centers of the potatoes. Try to leave the skins intact. Mash the potatoes with cream cheese and stir in the corned beef mixture. Mound the mixture into the skins of the potatoes. You might need to set two potato halves together for them to stand up. Sprinkle with swiss cheese and paprika. Place in the oven for 30 more minutes or until heated through and the cheese is melty. Serve with a light salad with thousand island dressing and pumpernickel toasts.
I do love melty cheesy potatoes--- yumyumyum.
Savor. Linger. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Roasted Eggplant with Garlic and Olive Oil

This is delicious as a spread on crusty bread. You can scoop it up with a slice, spoon some on like bruschetta or mash it up a bit and spread it on thick.
1 large eggplant
juice of 1 lemon
2 medium garnet sweet potatoes
2 large carrots
5 cloves garlic or more if you like
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
1 Tablespoon thick sweet soy sauce
1 Tablespoon Braggs Liquid Aminos or soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Peel the eggplant and chop into 1 inch chunks. Place in a bowl, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt, and the drizzle with the lemon juice. Fill the bowl with water to cover the eggplant. Drape a paper towel over the top. Press the paper towel down into the water to completely soak it. Let eggplant sit while you prepare the sweet potatoes.
Peel and chop the sweet potatoes and carrots into 1 inch pieces. Place the chopped sweet potatoes and carrots into a large zip top plastic bag. Pour 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil over the veggies and squish it around inside the bag to coat all of the pieces. Peel and chop the garlic coarsely and add to the bag. Massage it into the oil to disperse.
Drain the eggplant and squeeze it a bit to remove as much of the liquid as possible. Add the eggplant to the carrot bag along with the remaining olive oil, salt, pepper, thick soy, Bragg's or soy sauce and garlic powder. Move all of the vegetables around in the bag together to coat completely. Pour out onto a greased sheet pan. Roast in a preheated 350 degree oven for about an hour or until the eggplant is a deep golden brown. Sprinkle with a little bit of salt and serve warm.

Blue Cheese Apple Butter Puff and Happy Leap Year!

We have just celebrated a Leap Year Landmark with a party. What fun it is to have a house filled with happy people, yummy treats to share and lovely music in the background. We had such fun! Here is a little treat to serve at a party or alongside your next soup and salad.
Pastor Chuck’s Apple Butter contains all the concentrated goodness of Maine apple flavor and fresh complimentary spices.
Serves 8
2 sheets puff pastry, thawed if using frozen
8 oz crumbled blue cheese
4 Tablespoons apple butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
Unfold puff pastry sheets one each on a parchment or silpat lined sheet pan. Gently press seams together where the pastry had been folded. Brush each sheet with 2 Tablespoons of apple butter. Sprinkle 4 oz of blue cheese on top of the apple butter. Fold the pastry sheets back up the way they had been in the package. Fold one third toward the center, then fold the other side over the top of the folded pastry. You’ll end up with a narrow rectangle for each piece of pastry. Brush each rectangle with the beaten egg. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until the tops are puffed and lightly browned.
Remove from the oven and cool 10 minutes. Place on a cutting board and slice each puff carefully with a serrated knife into eight pieces.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Best Kind of Ginger

Dear friends- this post is not about cooking but about hope- There is something very special about having a companion. We had one of the best. Ginger was our Golden Retriever. We had trained her to be a Therapy Dog but maybe she had trained us. It has just been a week since she found her way to doggie heaven. She had a heart condition we were hoping she would grow out of. On Tuesday I was away filming a cooking spot, the kids were at school and Sherwood was at work. When we got home that evening we found that she had somehow gotten into the pantry and had eaten, among other things, a 24oz bag of dark chocolate. She certainly had good taste. After a call to the vet we realized that it was too late to get it out of her system but were advised to watch and see- that she would probably be fine. As it turns out she had a peaceful night's sleep. The following day she had crazy behavior and her heart was racing a mile a minute. She was restless and dramatically unsettled- behavior like this I had never seen in her. Later that afternoon she ran down the stairs, turned around and collapsed. I tried to revive her, called Sherwood and raced her to the vet. When we arrived she was already gone. They confirmed that her little heart just couldn't take the toxins of the chocolate.
I have never in my life felt such a loss.
The reason I write about this here is to offer a caution to all the dog lovers out there. Ginger was a constant presence in our lives. Amazingly expressive with her ears and eyebrows she always had a tail wag to offer and a hug to share. I hope that by telling this story we will help others to avoid the pain we have been through. Chocolate is poison to dogs.
Our sweet Ginger had an extraordinary affect on everyone she met. People were drawn to her to both give and receive a little love. She was pure of heart and wanted to please whomever was near. When we found this little golden ball of fur she would ride in my arms like a baby, falling asleep on my shoulder. She knew when you were sad and made every effort to love you through it. Our Ginger went everywhere with us. As a service dog she would come out to dinner, lay under the table and only move when we told her it was time to go. It was great to have other restaurant patrons exclaim that they didn't know a dog was there. She was the perfect combination of mischief and patience, playfulness and calm. We could bring her with us anywhere. When she was in her "uniform" she was working. When she was home or on a fun walk she would romp and explore. Whenever you got home- even if you'd only been gone for five minutes- she jumped to her feet and ran to the door as if to say- YAY!! You're Here! I missed you! You're Here! Let's Play!
What a Blessing it was to have her in our lives. If you have your own dog, please give them an extra pat and snuggle. They are so important to our well being. Someday we'll get another puppy. A Golden Retriever probably. Let us know if you find one. There's such an empty space here. We miss her so.
In Memory of Ginger

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Liquid Cinnamon Chocolate with Brown Sugar Espresso Cream

Not too sweet chantilly-esque whipped cream tops this warm chocolate soup. Delicious!

Liquid Cinnamon Chocolate with Brown Sugar Espresso Cream
Cinnamon and espresso enhance the flavor of chocolate in this warm, luscious soup.
Serves 4

2 c milk
2 c light cream
2 3- to 4-inch cinnamon sticks, broken in half
4 T instant espresso powder
6 T dark brown sugar, packed
1⁄2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1 c chopped milk chocolate
nutmeg and additional cinnamon sticks, for garnish

Simmer milk, cream, and cinnamon sticks in a medium saucepan over low heat until bubbles form around the edges of the pan.
Whisk in the espresso powder, brown sugar, and cocoa. Add the milk chocolate and whisk until it melts and the soup is smooth. Discard the cinnamon sticks.
Ladle into four heat-proof bowls. Top with Brown Sugar Espresso Cream and sprinkle with nutmeg. Garnish with additional cinnamon sticks, if desired.

Brown Sugar Espresso Cream
Yield: about 1 cup

1⁄2 c heavy cream, chilled
4 t light brown sugar, packed
2 t instant espresso powder
1⁄2 t pure vanilla extract

Whisk the cream in a medium bowl until soft peaks form. Sprinkle in the brown sugar, espresso powder, and vanilla. Whisk until stiff. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Savor, Linger, Enjoy!