Monday Bread

Freshly baked bread

1/4 sprouted whole-wheat, partial sourdough bread.  No further comment needed.

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Peru comes to NE Wisconsin: Pisco Mar

Back in November, our friend Carol shared a newspaper clipping with us about a new Peruvian restaurant opening in Appleton (WI), a nearby city. Always on the lookout for new culinary adventures this was a possible contender. My first impression was that there was lots of fish, not my favorite. But we all agreed that maybe we should give it a chance sometime. Then the article got shuffled into a pile of papers and was moved and kicked around until last week when we and our friend planned a trip down to Appleton (about 45 minutes away) for a museum exhibit. Carol said, Why don’t we go later in the afternoon and then try that Peruvian restaurant for dinner? So destination ‘Pisco Mar’ was on.

First impressions were good. It was nicely decorated, warm colors, Peruvian art on the walls. Good variety of seating and even some outdoor tables.

Pisco Mar, outside and inside

After ordering drinks (pisco sours) we perused the menu. Lots of appetizers, small plates and main courses. In order to maximize our first time here we all decided it was going to be a dinner of sharing from the first two sections. If all was good we would try main entrees on the next visit.

So first choices were Crab Cakes w/baby arugula aji aioli, rocoto sauce and Beef Carpaccio w/ lemon vinaigrette, baby arugula capers, shaved Parmesan.
Both were excellent. The two Crab Cakes were softer than I like but the flavor was very good. Rocoto is a red chili pepper that is a staple in Peruvian cuisine. The sauce is a combination of a paste from these peppers combined with mayo, lime, vinegar and dry mustard. I loved the Carpaccio, beef sliced super thin. Frankly I was sorry I had to share this one.

While we were enjoying these and deciding what to order next our waitress brought a complimentary bowl of crispy homemade potato chips with a chili mayo dip to the table. She said they were from blue potatoes that are white inside. Really good.
Feeling the need for some greens we ordered a Kale Salad. Quite nice with radishes, cherry tomatoes, avocado, shaved Parmesan and pine nuts tossed in a lemon vinaigrette. It was a pretty large bowl, easily shared by three, or four. Pictured is just a serving on my plate.After more discussion we decided to go with two more dishes, Peruvian Ceviche Mixto (fish, shrimp, octopus, scallops) and Empanadas Criollas. The Ceviche came with plaintain chips (very tasty) and large corn (interesting). This was a huge plate of food and could have served as a main. Maybe all three of us could have finished it but since I am not a fan of octopus or fish there was some leftover. Carol and Curt liked it, there was just too much after already having four previous small plates. Empanadas are a puff pastry with a filling; we went with ground beef. These came with a chimichurri sauce. The pastry was a bit soft but at the same time very flaky. with very nice preparation and an interesting combination of flavors.

By now we were pretty full so when our waitress arrived with the dessert menu I was ready to pass. Just coffee please. But Carol wanted to try it all and thought we should have dessert just so we could make a full report on the dining experience. One order of Doughnuts please.

Ping pong ball sized doughnut holes, light and fluffy inside, vanilla sugar coated on the outside and served with Peruvian sweet cream.

There were six and yes, I ate two and loved the sweet cream as well. My advice, leave room for dessert.

Before I end, just a little background on the co-owners. Laura Saintgoers has previously operated restaurants for 11 years in Appleton and Miami. While in Miami she met and joined up with Hugo Torres, a native of Honduras, who spent five years learning and cooking Peruvian cuisine under a chef from Peru. Lucky for us they decided to come up to Wisconsin instead of trying to insert themselves into the overcrowded restaurant scene in Miami.

Here is a peek at the main entrees on the menu. We definitely want to go back. Want to join us?

 

Revuelto, a spring Migas of sorts

This week David Tannis, food writer for the New York Times reprised a recipe for Spanish Asparagus Revuelto from an article originally published in 2014 titled Asparagus, Spanish style.  The inter-web tells me that revuelto is Spanish for scrambled eggs.  So, Spanish asparagus and scrambled eggs.  Sounded good to me.

In reading through the recipe, it struck me that this revuelto sounds a lot like a variation on Migas, which we wrote about several years ago.  A comparison of that Migas to this Revuelto reveals a similar approach in preparation but with more vegetables, without the chickpeas and with eggs scrambled in rather than cooked separately and presented on top of the other ingredients.

I followed Mr. Tannis’ recipe but roughly cut it in half except I used 4 times the amount of pimentón that he called for and double the amount of chorizo.

The end result was very tasty but the eggs didn’t exactly scramble, rather they formed more of a sauce that coated the other ingredients.  I think the asparagus brought a lot more moisture to the dish than I had anticipated, making for the sauciness.  Yummy none the less.

Asparagus Migas

1-1/2 Tbs. olive oil
2 peeled garlic cloves, whole, plus 1 small clove, minced
1 cup day old bread (baguette or ciabatta), torn into 1/2″ pieces
Salt and pepper
2 oz. Spanish chorizo, cut into matchstick pieces
3/4 pound thin asparagus, cut into 1″ – 2″ pieces
1/2 bunch green onions, chopped
4 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp. pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika)
2 Tbs. Italian parsley, roughly chopped

Saute the whole garlic in olive oil until lightly browned, remove and discard.

Saute the bread in the oil until lightly browned and crispy.  Remove from the heat and add a pinch of salt, some pepper and 1/2 tsp of pimentón.  Remove from the saute pan and allow to cool.

Saute the chorizo a minute or two to release some of its oil, add the asparagus and saute for several minutes until the asparagus is tender but still firm.  Add the green onions and saute an additional minute.

Beat the eggs with 1/2 tsp of pimentón and a pinch of salt and some pepper to taste.  Add the eggs to the asparagus mix and cook, stirring until the eggs are just soften and creamy.

Divide the revuelto onto two plates, top with parsley and croutons.  Serve immediately.

Institutional Food #2 – The Rehab Facility

So I was discharged from the hospital at 11:00 am and got to the Rehab Facility around 11:30. Got checked in and installed in my room by 12:30 pm. I know someone asked me if I had eaten and something was brought to me but that is lost in the mists. Probably because dinner that evening was very memorable, a Pizza Burger.

Now before I go any farther I have to explain the meal situation at this place. It is an  Assisted Living and Rehabilitation Facility. That means there are short-timers in rehab, like me, and there are long-timers or people who actually live here. We are separated into two wings but we can intermingle. I could have gone over to the other side for Bingo and a Packer Party on Sunday but I passed. Long-timers are mostly elderly seniors (Hey! who you looking at?) and as a group they mostly want their noon meal to be the main meal (what I call dinner) and their evening meal light ( what I would call lunch). They outnumber us so that’s how the meals are served. This will all make sense later.

Now, the Pizza Burger. As in the hospital you get a little menu ticket. On it are usually two choices for a main and then a bunch of sides. You can circle everything if you want. I think one of the choices that night was fish so I went with the Pizza Burger, on my Certified Nursing Assistant’s (CNA) recommendation. Later, I had to remind myself that I really didn’t know anything about their taste in food so recommendations were a crap shoot.

Pizza Burger

Pizza Burger

My dinner included a very soft bun, a beef patty covered in Marinara sauce and a few bits of cheese, a bag of chips and yellow jello w/ cool whip top. But that’s not all that made this a PIZZA burger. When I bit into it, surprise! it was stuffed with mozzarella. The cole slaw was good.

After getting pancake/sausage bites one morning for breakfast, I decided to stick with cereal, raisin bran, because I needed to stay ‘regular’. However this place is the same as the hospital, that is, make sure you ask for everything. If you don’t circle milk, you’ll eat your cereal dry. And the raisins are usually dumped in a pile in the middle. So I would break up the clump and get some milk and it was a good breakfast.

Sausage/pancake bites are soggy pancakes around breakfast sausage with some syrup for dip. A three year old would love them.

Sausage/pancake bites are soggy pancakes around breakfast sausage with some syrup for dip. A three-year old would love them.

Remember my explanation of lunch vs dinner servings? This is what I mean.

Meatloaf, Turkey and Swedish Meatballs

Meatloaf, Turkey and Swedish Meatballs

These were usually pretty good but whoa, that’s a lot of food for lunch. Each had a dessert and beverage as well. Veggies could have been crisper but I don’t think they were from a can. Then there was dinner.

Billed as chicken salad (left) and potpie on a bisquit (right)

Billed as chicken salad (left) and potpie on a biscuit (right)

On the menu it said chicken salad on tomato slices. I love chicken salad but an ice cream scoop of salad on one little tomato slice was pretty disappointing. Potpie on a biscuit was also a controlled serving. More like chicken a la king. It was fine but I wanted more! And come on folks! It was September. Our garden and our local Farmer’s Market still had really good tomatoes coming in. So did the grocery stores. Where are the people at this facility forced to shop? Here’s what I mean. One night a BLT was on the menu. Well can anyone resist a bacon sandwich, with a red ripe tomato and crispy lettuce on toasted bread? Sorry. This just didn’t come close.bbllttFortunately when I got home my Sweetie made me a BLT worthy of the name.

Finally, did you recall that tossed salad I praised in my hospital food post? When I saw tossed salad on my Rehab menu I thought oh yes! that will make up for any sins of limp bread, pink tomatoes or fruit cocktail. However, one tossed salad is not like another.

1. Actually different items to toss 2. iceberg lettuce.

1. Actually different items to toss (hospital) 2. Iceberg lettuce (rehab)

Oh well. I don’t mean to diss the food service at rehab too badly. The food came pretty promptly, I had choices and except for a few missteps, it was all edible, sometimes pretty tasty. However the whole time I was there I kept clicking my heels and repeating, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.”

It’s Sandwichtime!

Yesterday was a weird eating day. Curt took out some boneless chicken breasts to thaw for dinner. In the meantime we decided to go to a movie, Anomalisa. We had read some interesting things about it and it was one of those films that we knew would be gone in a week. Showings were at 11:45am and 4:50pm. We opted for the earlier showing since we also had tickets to a play in the evening. The play was at 7:30. Then my Mom called and asked if we could stop over to her apartment to do just a few simple projects.

All of this threw our eating schedule into the weirdness I spoke of. Since the movie was during our normal lunchtime, we ate some crackers and cheese to tide us over till after the movie. The movie got out around 1:30 so off we went to lunch before heading to my Mom’s place around 2:30. Left her place an hour later and did a couple of errands. By the time we got home it was 4:30. We usually eat dinner around 7:00 but we had the play at 7:30 so that meant eating earlier but no one was hungry. So more cheese and crackers and a glass of wine and out the door in time to get to the play. Once we were home no one wanted a big meal so we each found a few snacks.

Where is this all leading? Well remember those chicken breasts Curt was thawing out for dinner? They were still in the fridge this morning and they became lunch today. He first made paillards of the chicken by putting them between two pieces of wax paper and pounding them pretty flat. Then they were breaded with Panko bread crumbs and sauted. He baked two whole wheat “take and bake” rolls, and made a spicy sauce from mayonaisse and Korean chili sauce. tomat

Put those together with a slice of tomato, some shredded flat leaf parsley and curly endive, and we had a great lunch. Just like MacDonald’s spicy chicken sandwich or rather 100 times better.

Curt's spicy chicken sandwich

Curt’s spicy chicken sandwich

Just a Little Nutty, vol. 2

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Tomato/Almond Pesto

This is another recipe adapted from one I found in Bon Appetite (November 2015). The original recipe called for cherry tomatoes and quite a bit more than I use here. I wanted more almond, less tomato to come through in the final product. This pesto was intended to be a dressing on blistered green beans.  We tried that and it was fine but I thought it was better as a dip for crudites (I kept sampling it with the raw green beans before I cooked them) so I present it here as a dip but feel free to use it however you think will be tasty.

Ingredients; Kumato tomatoes are described as brown

Ingredients; Kumato tomatoes are described as brown

2 medium sized tomatoes (I used Kumato Brown Tomatoes because they’re the best available in Green Bay at this time of year), seeded and cored, and cut into 1/2″ pieces.
1/4 C. roasted, unsalted almonds
1 large clove garlic, finely minced
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. Sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
1 tsp. sweet paprika
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
Salt and pepper

Cut about 1/4″ off both ends of the tomatoes.  Remove the core and the jelly/seed part.  Cut the tomato flesh from the walls and ends into 1/2″ pieces.  chopped

Place the tomato pieces into a cold nonstick saute pan and put on medium-low heat.  Leave the tomatoes to heat; they will release much of their water and gradually turn soft.  DO NOT vigorously stir.  You want to leave the cooked tomato in recognizable pieces.  Set aside to cool completely.

Grind the almonds in a food processor or blender to a fine chop or coarse meal consistency.  Finely mince the garlic.

Add half of the cooled tomatoes, all the almonds, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, paprika and cayenne (if using) to a mixing bowl.  Stir to combine well and mash the tomatoes somewhat.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Put in the remaining half of the tomatoes and stir gently, trying to keep the tomato pieces somewhat whole.

dip

Finished dip

Serve as a dip for raw or lightly cooked vegetables; as a sauce for grilled meat; or as a spread on thin slices of crusty bread.

This can be made up to several hours in advance.  It may store well in the refrigerator but I’ve never had any left over to find out.

Smoked paprika might be an interesting substitution for the sweet paprika. I’ll update you on that if I try it. In the meantime stay tuned for more “nutty” recipes.

Oysters on Chuckanut

view3Oysters on Chuckanut?  Is that a variation on the famous hors-d’oeuvre, Angels on Horseback?  Or, maybe some obscure British pub savory like Toad in the Hole.  Or, possibly a dessert even more obscure than Spotted Dick?

More precisely, it’s The Oyster Bar on Chuckanut Drive in Bow, Washington where we had more great food, more great views and more time with friends. But first, a bit about The Oyster Bar because I did a little homework.

During the Great Depression, the Rockpoint Oyster Company built an oyster shack between a cliff and Washington State’s first scenic highway, Chuckanut Drive. Here, oysters were sold by the plant manager, Mr. Maekawa, to the travelers that passed by. The little stand did so well a lunch counter was added and the Rockpoint Oyster Restaurant was born. But Maekawa’s family was interned during World War II and the restaurant sat empty from 1942-1946.

When Otto Amos bought the restaurant in 1946 his wife renamed it the Oyster Bar and they coined the slogan “The oysters that we serve today slept last night in Samish Bay.” The menu consisted of deep fried oysters and a ham dish. It was sold in 1954, major renovations were made, and the menu now included prawns, scallops, fish and chips and clam chowder.oldoyster barSince 1970 it has been bought and sold a couple of times and given a makeover in structure, the menu and the wine selections.

The Oyster Bar (2015)

The Oyster Bar (2015)

We were introduced to The Oyster Bar about 5 years ago when we were visiting our friends, Pam and Kenn, in Bellingham. As an afternoon diversion with our Green Bay foodie friends, Barb and Micheal, they suggested that we take a drive down Chuckanut Drive and have lunch at The Oyster Bar.  Well, the drive was spectacular, in part because of the view of Samish Bay and the San Juan Islands; in part, because of the breath-taking, sometimes white knuckle, curving road; and, in part, because of the precipitous, densely forested rise on the inland side and an equally precipitous and attention getting drop-off on the Bay side of the road.  About halfway between Fairhaven and Bow, The Oyster Bar is delicately perched on a steep cliff at a wide spot in the road with barely enough room to park a car between the roadway and the restaurant.

On this trip, because it is one of her favorite restaurants, Pam made reservations for all of us to go there for dinner. Once inside the restaurant you feel like you’re dining in a tree house because the view out the windows is nothing but trees and bay.  Here is a peek of the view from our table, that’s our friend Kenn in the corner enjoying the evening.

View from The Oyster Bar

View from The Oyster Bar

Once we pulled ourselves away from the view, we concentrated on the menu. Our waiter was very knowledgeable and steered us to a nice German Reisling to start things off. Not to dry, not too sweet. Something for every taste at the table.

A German Reisling

This was followed by appetizers all around.

row 1: crab cakes, gravlax row 2: raw oysters, mixed seasonal greens

row 1: crab cakes, gravlax
row 2: raw oysters, mixed seasonal greens

Curt, of course, had the oysters which he thoroughly enjoyed.  The high point of the oyster presentation was that little cup of a hard cider mignonette granita.  It was so refreshing and unexpected that, even though he normally takes his shellfish au naturale, he actually added some of the mignonette to his oysters this time.  I thought the salad, a combination of greens, toasted walnuts, blue cheese, red onions, gala apples, red grapes and a maple cider viniagrette, was fabulous. The gravlax disappointed. The salmon was very good but there was just too much goat cheese which overpowered the fish and most of which went uneaten. More on the crab cakes later.

After much laughter and talk and more wine being ordering, our entrees arrived. First up, Fresh Alaskan Halibut.

Halibut

Halibut

Pam and Barbara ordered this dish and found it delicate and perfectly cooked. The braised rhubarb and rosemary gastrique on top was a special addition. Going around the table, Kenn was next with Steak and Maine Lobster Tail.

Surf & Turf a la The Oyster Bar

Surf & Turf a la The Oyster Bar

I thought the presentation was interesting. This little tower didn’t last long once Kenn started to eat. I am not sure of the topping. From the picture it looks like pine nuts and maybe onion?

Michael ordered the special, Rockfish.

Rockfish

Rockfish

He described it as a very firm fleshed fish. As you can see by this picture and others, the vegetable of the evening was small new potatoes, steamed carrot, brussel sprouts and squash. Each entree also came with a starter of watermelon sorbet and a cheese souffle, see it up there above the rockfish?

Curt was next with, what else…the Fresh Local Oyster Fry!fried oysters?Not as pretty as the other dishes but he said they were great. They had a crispy parmesan breadcrumb crust and the dipping sauce was a creamy sour apple aoili.

Lastly, I had the Oyster Bar Crab Cakes ( from the entree menu). crabcakesPretty much the same as the appetizer, but a little bigger: Dungeness crab, Jonah crab, celery and onion cakes with a mango chutney. The chutney was a nice sweet addition along with the curried aoili.  And of course the vegetables of the day.

So if you are in Washington State, up near Bellingham, and someone says, “Let’s have oysters on Chuckanut”, run, don’t walk, to The Oyster Bar. Make sure you have good friends with you.

Latin Delights in Langley

porticoviewWe just got back from a glorious week on the west coast. Starting in Portland we ate our way up to Bellingham, WA and then back down a bit to Whidbey Island before flying out of Seattle. We were joined by two wonderful friends from Wisconsin (M/B) who are in our current eating group and two other great friends (P/K) who were part of our former gang of foodies in Green Bay. They now live in Bellingham, truly a wonderful place to visit. We thank them for choosing so well.

On Whidbey Island we stayed at the Boatyard Inn in Langley (for your information this is all Washington State except for the Portland part). It was a nice inn but it wasn’t a B & B nor did it have a restaurant attached, however the town of Langley had a lot of eateries. For lunch on our second day we ventured out to find someplace different, someplace good and someplace worthy of a group of foodies. We aren’t, for the most part, picky eaters but if all the menu has to offer is seafood I, for one, might not be happy.

Earlier while we had been shopping Pamela & Barbara has spotted a sign for the Portico: Latin Bistro & Cantina.

portico3portico2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After checking out a pizzeria and a Mediterranean grill, this looked more promising. And don’t you just love chalkboards, especially ones propped up on a chair and secured with a brick? The entrance was down a short hall  and looked quite nice. And yes, there was a water view (see the opening banner photo).

Portico entrance

Portico entrance

The restaurant featured Latin American cuisine, which incorporated the tastes of Mexico, the Caribbean, Andean and Spanish. The small menu offered just two starters and five entrees but no one felt that the choices were limited.  Curt got things rolling by immediately ordering a plate of Chifles for the table. I took this as a good sign that he had quickly looked over the offerings and knew he was going to like the food here.

Chifles

Chifles

The Chifles were deep-fried green plantains with a garlic cilantro dipping sauce. They were excellent, the dipping sauce was wonderful, and everyone quickly polished them off while deciding what to order. P/K, M/B and I all decided on the Tostadas de Cochinita Pibil. They each were splitting their entree along with ordering Roasted Pineapple Salads. I was eating all my tostadas by myself.

tostadasThe tostadas consisted of braised pork with lettuce and salsa yucateca, which was a pickled onion relish. The dish came with rice and black beans. All was really good..

pineapplesaladThe salad was listed as a starter but our friends were glad they chose to share it because it could have been an entree  in itself. There were mixed greens, broiled pineapple, cotija cheese, avocado, and sweet potatoes all drizzled with a garlic & cumin vinaigrette. Another flavorful success!

Curt chose Ropa Vieja. The name means “Old Clothes” because the dish, consisting of slow cooked Cuban beef, peppers, and onions is supposed to resemble a pile of colorful rags. This came with fried plantains, rice, black beans and a dab of salsa yucateca. He loved it and I agreed, because I had a taste.

Ropa Vieja "Old Clothes"

Ropa Vieja “Old Clothes”

We had some interesting microbrews with lunch along with a lot of good conversation and naturally a lot of laughs. We are a merry group. And even though we all were full the waitress talked us into ” a chocolate flan to die for.” How could we resist? One order, six spoons and it was so good we devoured it before I even thought of taking a picture. Sorry.

All in all a very good choice for lunch. In hindsight I wish we had gone back for dinner that evening because there was still Ecuadorian Ceviche, Chicken Enchiladas with Mole de Xalapa and Jamaica Jerk Chicken to try.

Fiddle-heads and Fulmars

FH_bannerDo you ever have those things in your life that seem unattainable or mysterious. Things that you’ve heard or read about and which you would truly like to see or experience but that seem impossible or simply out of reach. I have lots of them – some are birds that I think I will never see because they are too rare or too far distant – some are foods that are too exotic, expensive or elusive to ever grace my Wisconsin table – some are places that seem too distant or exotic for me to ever visit.

On a recent birding trip to New Brunswick, Canada (Grand Manan Island to be specific) I was graced by two such elusive experiences from my list.

One was the Northern Fulmar.  Fulmars are birds of the open ocean. They must come to land to nest somewhere (probably in the far, far northern reaches of the Atlantic but generally to see them you have to be lucky and somewhere out at sea.

Part of the birding trip – organized by Road Scholar – was a boat trip to look for pelagic birds. Our target, among other possibilities, was the Atlantic Puffin. Jeanne and I have seen puffins before, in Maine, but those were a colony that had taken up residence on very small island that supported a lighthouse. This time we were looking for them on the open ocean. To help us (the birders) have a chance to see some of these elusive birds they (the boat’s crew) were chumming the waters with small bits of herring. The herring attracts gulls, lots of gulls. The gulls attract other birds that might also want in on the free snacks.

Chumming with cut herring to attract seabirds

Chumming with cut herring to attract seabirds

Well, we didn’t have much luck. Someone (not me) eventually saw a puffin fly across the bow of the boat but none of the rest of us, in the rear of the boat, saw it. But suddenly, Heather drew our attention to a bird that was smaller than the dozens of gulls wheeling about the boat trying to snatch a piece of chum. Those more versed in seabirds than Jeanne or I recognized it as a Northern Fulmar. Fulmars are part of a group of birds called tube-noses. Because they spend virtually their entire life at sea, they have no access to fresh water. The tubes that sit atop their bills are part of an adaptation to excrete salt from their bodies. Apparently they sort of sneeze and a salty concentrate is expelled out of the tube.

Northern Fulmar

Northern Fulmar

Well, Fulmars aren’t one of those pretty birds but they are pretty cool, with the salt adaptation and the fact that it’s nearly impossible to see them anywhere but out at sea. It was a lifer for Jeanne and me.

Another lifer for us were fiddle-head ferns.  Fiddle-heads are the new shoots of Ostrich (and other) ferns – spiraling curls of fresh growth that appear for a very short time in early spring.  The look like the volute ends of violins, hence the “fiddle-head” name.  I’ve read about them in many cookbooks and foodie essays but I’ve never seen them for sale anywhere.  From what I can gather, most people who eat them forage for them and keep and eat what they gather.  On our trip we encountered fiddle-heads not once, not twice, not three times, but four different times.  Woo-hoo!

Fiddle-head Ferns (original image by

Fiddle-head Ferns (original image by Tammy Strobel)


First we found them on the menu of a gastro-pub in St. John, NB, called the St. John Ale House that went by the acronym of SJAH, which I kept seeing but thought was the name of an Indian or East-Asian restaurant.  The fiddle-heads at SJAH were on the appetizer menu as a deep-fired small plate.  We ordered them.  They were good but, frankly, I wasn’t all that excited by them.  They were OK.  They might have been frozen and cooked as ordered and the breading got in the way of tasting the fiddle-heads themselves, as is often the case with deep-fried foods. But I was glad I ordered them.

Fried Fiddle-head Ferns at the St. John Ale House

Fried Fiddle-head Ferns at the St. John Ale House

The next two times, they were served steamed as a vegetable side for dinner at the Marathon Inn, where we were staying during our trip.  At the Inn, there was no menu to speak of, just a choice each morning of either seafood or non-seafood entree – everything else was prix fixe.  Well, let me tell you, fresh and freshly cooked fiddle-heads are delicious – slightly nutty, kind of like a mild asparagus.  The second time the fiddle heads were served at the Inn, my liking for them preceded me and I was offered an extra portion from a fellow diner who didn’t share my appreciation for them.  Thank you Al.

The fourth time we encountered them on our trip was back in St. John when we had a layover before our flight home.  To pass some time we went to the large City Market in the old up-town section of St. John.  The market dates from 1830 although the building only dates from 1876.  The market was a varied mix of fresh fruits and vegetables, meats and fish, prepared foods and arts and crafts.  And, low and behold, one of the vegetable vendors had fresh fiddle-heads for C$4.00 per pound.  A pound of fiddle-heads is a sizable bag maybe as large as a medium cantaloupe.  More fiddle-heads in one place than I had ever seen.  Unfortunately, US Customs frowns on bringing fresh produce across the border so I had to leave New Brunswick empty handed but with my head and palette satisfied that I had ticked off one more experience from my elusive list.

Pie (Pi) Day

“Saturday, March 14, 2015 will be a very special Pi Day – one that only comes along once every 100 years! This year, not only does the month and day of the date (3/14) correspond to the digits in the mathematical constant, the digits in the year do too. If you write the date in the month/day/year format, then the digits of the date 3/14/15 correspond to the first 5 digits of pi: 3.1415.
But that is not all. This year’s Pi Day goes a step further – at 9:26:53 am and 9:26:53 pm, the date and the time will exactly correspond to the first 10 digits of pi: 3.141592653.”  -thanks to TimeandDate.com

When I read that I thought it was pretty amazing but you know what is more amazing?

Pie!

sliceof pieMy son called today because he wants to make a steak and kidney pie for a Pi Party he is attending on Saturday. He usually calls his Dad, the chef around here, when he has a cooking question. Curt tried to help him out even though he has never made a steak and kidney pie. Bottom line the hardest task will be finding kidneys.  But we sent him recipes anyway, for steak & kidney pie, along with Beef Bourguignonne Pie and Cock-a-Leekie Pie. Nathan said he already had a recipe for a cheese pie, not a quiche, which he was going to try in addition to the S & K pie. Sounded interesting so we said if it turns out send us a picture…and the recipe.

Some of the recipes we sent him came from my February issue of Bon Appeitit magazine which gave me a head start on my pie making last week when I made a “Carmelized Garlic, Spinach and Cheddar Tart” from the same issue. Except, I substituted onion for the garlic. The garlic was supposed to be the hero of this dish (and I like garlic) but three heads of garlic just wasn’t getting me excited. So, after wresting the kitchen from my husband’s clutches, I pretty much followed this recipe except for the onion, the creme fraiche and the fancy crust. If you wish to see the original recipe it is linked above. Below is my variation.

pie1Onion, Spinach, Cheddar Tart (quiche)

Pillsbury pie crust (because I just don’t have my Grandmother’s ambition)
4 large eggs
1 large onion (cut into wedges)1 Tbls olive oil
1 Tbls balsamic vinegar
1 Tbls pure maple syrup
1/2 tsp dried rosemary or (1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary if you have fresh)
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme ( I had fresh thyme )
freshly grd black pepper
6 oz. sharp cheddar cheese
2 cups baby spinach (torn in pieces)
3/4 C sour cream
3/4 C heavy cream

Unroll one of the Pillsbury crusts and line a 9″ pie pan. Turn up the edges and crimp with a fork. Line with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans and bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes. I crimped aluminum foil on the edges so they wouldn’t dry out or over bake, the one problem I have with pre-made dough. If crust bottom is not dry after 20 min. put it in for about 5 more minutes without the paper and beans. Remove, let cool.

Meanwhile put the onion wedges and olive oil in a pan and cook till the onions start to soften and turn a light brown. The wedges will fall apart but still will be in bigger pieces than if you cut slices. Add vinegar and 3/4 -1 cup water, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer till onion is really tender. Add maple syrup, rosemary, thyme and salt and pepper. Cook until liquid is syrupy but there will still be onion pieces present, maybe 5 minutes.

Take your cooled crust and scatter the cheese over the bottom, top with the spinach. Whisk the sour cream, the cream and the 4 eggs in a medium bowl, season with salt and pepper. Pour over spinach…it does fit. I was at first unsure and only used three eggs and then realized I needed the fourth. Add the onion mixture evenly on top.

Bake at 350 till custard is set and golden brown in spots about 40-45 minutes. I put foil on the edges again for part of the time. Cool on wire rack.

a serving of pie

a serving of pie

Because of the sour cream the custard will be very soft, not firm like a straight egg custard, but trust me, it is cooked through and tastes yummy.

For Saturday, official Pi Day, I am planning on making Shepherd’s Pie. That is if I can reserve my spot in the kitchen.