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.