We Were Finalists in a Recipe Contest!

Today we are giving ourselves a big pat on the back because one of our recipes made it to the Top Ten Favorites in the Latin American Diet Recipe Contest sponsored by The Oldways Table and the Latino Nutrition Coalition. Go us!

Visit the
Latino Nutrition Coalition webpage to see our recipe (Chris and Amy - that's us!) for Shrimp with Pineapple Coconut Rice. Then drop by The Oldways Table's official blog to check out the winning recipe (congratulations, Nicole!).


Braised Beef with Tomato and Indian Spices

We've been into spices lately - warm, flavorful spices that smell like fall and taste like exotic places. That's why, when we saw this recipe in a WebMD magazine at the doctor's office, we knew it was destined for our Sunday afternoon table. It was originally from Padma Lakshmi's book Tangy, Tart, Hot and Sweet, and is a traditional North Indian dish. As usual, we adapted it to what we had on hand, and to our particular tastes. It definitely satiated our craving for spice, between the pepperoncinis and the Indian spices. The longer we cooked it, the better it got; leftovers the next day were simply delicious. The meat was fork-tender and the gravy soaked into the jasmine rice that we served it over. In the future, we're going to try it with other proteins, perhaps lamb or chicken.


2 teaspoons canola oil
2 pinches ground cumin
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
4 dried whole pepperoncinis
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
3 bay leaves
2 cardmom pods
4 whole cloves
1 1/2 pounds beef stew meat, cut in large chunks
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
2 cups hot water
salt to taste
2 tablespoons flour mixed with hot water (optional)

In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chopped onions, minced garlic, minced ginger, chilies and cumin. Saute for five minutes, until the onions start to become translucent. Stir in bay leaves, cardomom pods and cloves. Add the meat and stir-fry it until it is brown on all sides. Add tomatoes and garam masala. Cook for three minutes, then lower the heat and add hot water to cover the mixture. Let it come to a gentle boil, then add a pinch of salt, cover, and reduce heat to low. Allow it to simmer for 2 hours, stirring every so often. About 1/2 hour before it is finished, if you feel it needs thickening, add the flour and water mixture and stir it in. Serve over rice, noodles, or as a stew with some bread.


Green Tomato Jam

Last weekend brought temperatures in the thirties and forties with a couple of snow squalls dropping large white flakes from the sky. Yes, it's a bit early for all that, but we do live in New England after all. The chill in the air destroyed our previously bountiful basil plants (so sad!), thus prompting us to get outside and harvest the remaining herbs and vegetables in our garden. And by vegetables, we mean the two dozen or so green tomatoes that were still clinging to the vine. A friend happened to stop by during our task and suggested we make green tomato jam - that's what his grandma used to do after all. And so, after some research and deep thoughts, we bring you the great green tomato jam of 2009, a three-day experiment.

The jam turned out surprisingly sweet, but at the same time savory. It was a bit thin at first but set well after being refrigerated. Next year we plan to try it with different spices, and work harder to eliminate the seeds. Overall, though, we're quite happy with the results of our experiment, and proud to have this product, made from our own home-grown tomatoes.

Note: This recipe yielded six 8-ounce jars.

4-5 pounds (whole) green tomatoes
4 1/2 cups sugar
Juice of two lemons
2 cinnamon sticks
4 whole cardamom pods

Special Equipment:
Food mill
Canning jars

Wash and dry tomatoes then dice them. In a large bowl, combine the diced tomatoes, sugar, and lemon juice. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours.

The next day, pour the tomato mixture into a large pot. Add the cinnamon sticks and cardamom pods. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool, pour back into the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate another 24 hours.

The third day, remove the cinnamon sticks and cardamom pods from the mixture. Put the tomato mixture through a food mill in small batches to eliminate some of the seeds, breakdown the skins, and smooth out the mixture. After milling, pour the tomato mixture into a large pot. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Put the jam into clean, sanitized jars immediately and seal them. Immerse the filled jars in boiling water for 15 minutes. Remove them carefully and allow the jars to sit overnight. Refrigerate after use.


"Om My" Roast Chicken and Caramelized Vegetables

A few weeks ago, during one of our outings to the Coventry Farmers' Market, we noticed a new vendor, Boxed Goodes. Boxed Goodes is a company from the Litchfield, CT area that sells organic spice blends and snack foods. On this outing, we bought a few of the blends, among them the intriguing "Om My" - a blend of fenugreek, onion, coriander, cardamom, cumin, garlic, ginger and fennel. Quite nice for the fall and winter months, don't you agree?

Those fall and winter months crept up quickly. The recent cold snap found us inside last Sunday, craving something roasted, something to make our house and our tummies warm. Roasted chicken and vegetables! We had accidentally "harvested" the teeny-tiny beginnings of a bulb of fennel from our garden the day before, and wanted to try that flavor in our vegetable mix. After looking at the ingredients in "Om My," we knew it would be the perfect complementary seasoning for our chicken dish. The scent of the chicken and spices filled the house with the warmth we were hoping for and the meal was delicious - one we'd definitely make again.

3-4 lb. chicken breast for roasting
1/2 fennel bulb, sliced
2 stalks celery, cut into 1-inch long pieces
1 onion, chopped
1 dozen (or so) baby carrots
1 lemon, cut in half
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons Boxed Goodes "Om My" Spice Blend, divided
1 tablespoon balsamic vinaigrette
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place the chopped vegetables (fennel, celery, onion, carrots) in the bottom of a medium-sized roasting pan; this is the "bed" for the chicken to cook on. Season the vegetables with salt and drizzle them with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Pour 1/2 cup of water into the pan with the vegetables and set it aside. Season the chicken, inside and out, with salt. Put the lemon halves inside the cavity of the chicken. In a small bowl, mix 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon of "Om My" spice blend to make a paste. Cover the chicken with the paste and place the chicken on top of the vegetables in the roasting pan. Season the contents of the pan with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of "Om My" then place it in the oven. Roast the chicken uncovered for an hour and fifteen minutes (or until the "I'm done" popper pops and/or the temperature of the meat reaches 165). Remove the chicken from the pan and set it on a carving platter to rest. Add the balsamic vinaigrette to the pan with the vegetables and set the pan over medium heat on the stove top. Stir the vegetables in the balsamic, water and pan drippings until the liquid reduces to almost nothing and the vegetables are caramelized. Slice the chicken breast and serve it with the vegetables for a great autumn dinner.


Foodie Book Friday: Gourmet Rhapsody

Muriel Barbery, French author of the bestselling novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog, focuses on the life (and imminent death) of a famous food critic in her sophomore offering, Gourmet Rhapsody. (I read Europa Editions' English translation by Alison Anderson).

On the first page, we are introduced to Pierre Arthens, and in his first person point of view, he claims, "I am the greatest food critic in the world." It is on the next page that we learn that Pierre only has 48 hours to live, and in those hours, he plans to rediscover the flavor that for years has eluded him, the flavor that "holds the key" to his heart. Ironically, it's his failing heart that is leading to his demise.

In chapters that alternate with Pierre's own version of his search, the reader gets brief glimpses into his character via the voices of people who know him - relatives, acquaintances, the concierge in his building, lovers, even a statue of Venus, and a cat. And on page after page, there are gratifying descriptions of food that are so exquisitely detailed that you think you can smell and taste it through the page. Rhapsody indeed.

This is a gorgeously written novel that challenges the reader to think - not just about food, but about the meaning of life. As Pierre himself attests, "The question is not one of eating, nor is it one of living; the question is knowing why."


Scrimshaw Restaurant, Greenport, New York

After reading through Edible East End, a magazine devoted to harvesting local, seasonal foods on Long Island, we decided to spend our second evening of our long weekend getaway dining at one of the fall issue's feature restaurants, Scrimshaw.

Scrimshaw is located on Preston's Wharf in downtown Greenport, across the street from Claudio's, where we had enjoyed our first meal. The menu was elegant in its simplicity; there were only five appetizers, five entrees, and a few specials from which to choose, but all had several components and seemed to be influenced by Asian cuisine. The decor was also elegant yet simple - candlelit white walls with photographs of scrimshaw (delicate engravings done on whale bones or teeth) and masthead statues scattered throughout.

Continuing my newly-developed love affair with pork belly, I decided to try the special appetizer. Two large squares of pork belly arrived in a hoisin sauce alongside a basket of steamed buns. The meat was a bit undercooked for my taste, some parts having the consistency of jelly, but the flavor was amazing - star anise and five-spice stood out in particular - and I enjoyed making little sandwiches with the meat and the buns.

For my entree, locally raised duck, of course, or "Crescent Farm Long Island duck breast with cherry sauce and sweet potato fries." This is the duck mentioned in the Edible article. Again slightly undercooked, the skin and fat on the duck breast did not have the crispness I wanted, but the meat was tender and juicy, the sweet potato chips were crispy, and the sauce was a great accompaniment. It was a very good fall dish that paired well with the Wolffer Estate Pinot Noir we were drinking.

Chris started with the Scrimshaw chowder, a lovely stew of Long Island seafood simmered in cream, leeks and potatoes. It was a cream-based broth, but wasn't overly thick, as many New England-type chowders tend to be. In addition, it had plenty of fish and herbs to give it great flavor and heartiness.

Chris was disappointed in his entree, a sea bass served with mussels in a tomato-coconut broth. The bass was overcooked, a couple of the mussels had an off-taste, and the tomato-coconut broth overpowered rather than enhanced the fish.

The service was a let-down, especially for a place that looked and felt so sophisticated. Servers were bustling to and fro but our water glasses sat empty on the table, as did our dirty dishes. In all, there were some ups and downs at Scrimshaw, but the Asian-inspired American seafood menu is unique and, in my opinion, worth a visit.
Scrimshaw on Urbanspoon


Lavender by the Bay, East Marion, New York

We had plenty of time to catch the ferry, so the sign on Route 25 East caught our eye: Lavender by the Bay Lavender Farm. The fields behind the barn glowed in the sun. Lavender, as far as the eye could see, and the scent was at once intoxicating and calming. We purchased bunches of freshly picked sprigs and some infusios for tea or cocktails. I think lavender will be ingredient in some upcoming dishes. Definitely worth the stop!


The Wines of North Fork, Long Island

New York is well known for its wines, and winery-hopping was definitely on our to-do list when we visited over the beautiful Columbus Day weekend. A little research here, a few questions to the locals there, and we were off to explore the vineyards on Route 25, North Fork, Long Island.

Our first stop was
The Old Field Vineyards where we experienced not only our favorite wine of the day but also the best hospitality. Warm and welcoming, the ladies running Old Field chatted, poured, and gave great tips on how to spend the day. We enjoyed their spicy 2006 Cabernet Franc, but especially liked the light, smooth and inexpensive Rooster Tail.

There was a party going on a
Osprey's Dominion, with limos and buses and what looked to be bachelorettes everywhere, but we braved the mob and were rewarded. Above the din, a gentleman described each wine we tasted in great detail. Highlights here included the award-winning 2005 Cabernet Franc (so different from the 2006!), the rich and velvety Port, and the Spice Wine (served warm, it reminded us of the hot mulled wine we enjoyed on the streets of Prague). Plus, the Italian cheese plate was worth every cent.

We loved the wine-country look of
Lenz - lots of barn and barrels, and we were intrigued by the fact that they beat Petrus in a blind tasting. Still, none of the wines we tasted really spoke to us.

Our next stop was a total bust. We went into
Bedell Cellars looking for the Cab Franc we enjoyed at the previous night's dinner, to find it is only sold at their "sister winery," Corey Creek. We made a mental note to stop there on the way home and headed back out on our journey.

Peconic Bay, we were treated to live music and hot food for sale (the chicken pot pie was especially delish). Both the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc were good, and the (somewhat disingenuous) staffer claimed that the 2007 Merlot was "the best vintage on Long Island, ever." Perhaps we're hard to please, but nothing from Peconic came home to Connecticut with us.

After a few disappointing stops, we decided to go with what we know and went further down the road to
Pellegrini, where we were once guests at a wedding. It was as beautiful as we remembered, and the wines were excellent. Our pourer was focused, friendly and very helpful. He was knowledgeable about the wine and not afraid to share his own opinion. Highlights here included the hearty 2007 Steakhouse Red, the silky 2005 Cab Franc, and the surprisingly flavorful 2005 Merlot, all of which are headed into our cellar to age.

Clovis Point seems to be a relative newcomer to the scene, with only four wines available. We tried them all. The standout was the 2006 Barrel-fermented Chardonnay, because it tasted like buttered toast. Their award-winning 2004 Merlot couldn't hold a candle to Pellegini's 2005.

Our last,and most exciting, tasting was at
Jamesport Vineyards. Live jazz by "Jazz on the Half Shell" accompanied a $1 per oyster tasting benefiting the Southold Project for Aquaculture Training (upcoming post on that). Their 2006 Pinot Noir was very good but at $35, was also one of the most expensive wines we tried and we decided not to buy a bottle.

The end of the day found a case of wine in the trunk, mostly empty wallets (there is a charge for tastings on Long Island!) and two tuckered out travelers who needed a nap before dinner. But it was a really fun day and we'd recommend a visit to anyone who loves good wine!!!


Claudio's, Greenport, New York

Claudio's is the oldest same-family-owned restaurant in the United States. It was opened in 1870 by a former whaler in the town of Greenport, New York on the North Fork on Long Island. From what we could see last Friday night, the family has kept the restaurant going successfully by maintaining a beautiful Victorian building and serving up fresh, local seafood (and more) at great prices.

We came to Long Island by ferry, and after checking into our weekend's lodging, took the short drive into town for dinner. We found Claudio's on the water, near the docks, with plenty of well-lit signage to guide us there. The first thing we noticed was the gorgeous Victorian bar, reportedly salvaged from a New York hotel in 1885. Our imaginations immediately went to work: standing at the bar were Long Island elite, Gatsby types, stopping in to imbibe in a glass or two of illegal spirits during Prohibition, or America's Cup sailors fresh off their yachts coming in to snack on freshly caught, shucked oysters.

We did a little bit of both ourselves. We started by ordering a bottle of one of the many local wines, choosing a Cabernet Franc from Bedell Cellars, a wine we enjoyed enough to seek out the winery the following day. We stayed local for the rest of our dinner as well. Wanting to taste from the local waters, we ordered a raw bar sampler. Eight each of Peconic Bay littleneck and cherrystone clams, eight oysters caught from various farms on the North Fork, and four wild (Pacific) jumbo shrimp were served up atop chiseled ice on a large platter with lemon and cocktail sauce. All were exquisitely fresh and delicious. For our entree, we could not resist getting "Claudio's Friday Night Bake" (see photo). For a mere $21 each, we got a thin mesh net full of king crab legs, jumbo shrimp, clams, mussels, steamers, corn on the cob and red potatoes steamed in a wonderfully garlicky broth. How can you beat that?

Gorged on fabulously fresh, well-prepared seafood, we passed on dessert and took a walk around downtown Greenport thinking what a beautiful little place we've discovered! As for Claudio's, we'd recommend it. What could easily have been a cheesy tourist trap in fact was a great dinner served in a romantic setting with a touch of history to make it that much more interesting.
Claudio's Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Fettuccine with Sausage, Sage and Crispy Garlic

Something about today calls for pasta. Chris and I have both had a few stressful days in a row, so maybe we just need a little comfort food, and pasta is certainly that. But we also wanted to try something different. So during my lunch break (yes, even when I'm eating, I'm planning my next meal), I browsed through "My Recipe Box" on Epicurious.com. I love Epicurious because it indexes recipes from Bon Appetit, Gourmet, and other sources, and puts them in easy-to-search, printable formats with user ratings and notes. It's much better than saving all those magazines, plus you get good tips from other home cooks. Today, I found this tasty-sounding recipe and ran it by Chris. We adapted it according to our tastes and now have a new pasta to add to our ever-growing repertoire. Crisping the garlic just slightly gave the dish a bit of crunch and nuttiness, while the fresh sage jacked up the spices found in the sausage. Yummy!

1 pound fettuccine
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup olive oil
8 garlic cloves, peeled and very thinly sliced (think of the dinner-in-prison scene in GoodFellas)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage (we used regular, purple, and variegated sage from our garden)
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
salt to taste

Place 1 tablespoon butter with the olive oil and all the slices of garlic in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute until light golden, about one minute. Using a slotted spoon, set the garlic aside. Increase the heat slightly and add the sage to the skillet. Stir until it begins to crisp, about 10 seconds. Add sausage and saute until browned, breaking it up with a fork, about 8 minutes. Add red pepper flakes and salt to taste. Meanwhile, prepare the pasta according to package directions and drain it. Add the pasta and the remaining tablespoon of butter to skillet. Toss the pasta with the sausage mixture. Serve the pasta topped with the crispy garlic and breadsticks.