Grilled Fresh Sardines

 

I hope everyone in the Northern hemisphere is having a good summer! We have truly been blessed this year with blue skies and warm (not super-hot) days. We have gotten some rain here and there, but all in all it has been spectacular. We have been spending a lot of time outdoors, taking long walks, hiking, and gardening. So I haven’t been online as much as usual and so it has been hard getting blog posts out, let keeping up with all my favorite blogs…but I am plugging away!

Summertime is all about fresh flavors and simple recipes. I love throwing veggies on the grill, zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, onions, and potatoes – a great accompaniment to any dinner, simple and delicious.

Recently we were happy to find fresh sardines from Portugal at our local health food store. I have never had fresh sardines, although I see them on a lot of blogs this time of year, and I have always hoped to have a chance to try them. I have been trying to get into canned sardines for years – they are so good for you. But I have a hard time finding a good recipe to use them. Does anyone have any favorites? Please leave them in the comments, if you would! Plus we are always joking that if Roberto eats them, does that mean he is a cannibal? He is from Sardinia after all.

So when we got this package of beautiful fresh and silvery sardines, I knew I wanted to prepare them in a way that would really let us taste the fish. I looked online and found a lot of ways to prepare sardines, but in the end we went with simplicity, grilling them and serving them with fresh squeezed lemon juice.

I basically followed the directions for Portuguese Grilled Sardines from this website.  It is a very simple preparation and the result is truly delightful. Served up with some of those grilled veggies and a glass of vihno verde it is an excellent summer meal!

Guest Post: An End of the Season Roasted Eggplant, Tomato and White Bean Salad

I have one more guest post to share with you, for now, dear readers. This one comes to you by my friend Diana, from A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa. Diana and I have been foraging a friendship over this last year based in a love for the land, animals, and real, wholesome food. I love Diana for her honesty, and the way she really opens the door to her life on her urban homestead in Iowa through her blog. I know, doesn’t that sound like an oxymoron, that someone living in Iowa would consider their home to be urban? But again, that is the beauty of sharing lives with each other through blogging – you learn how wrong you are about so much and how much there is still to learn! I love that.

Diana and I both raise heritage breed chickens, and love to garden. Even though we are mostly at the end of our garden season here, many of you are still awash in tomatoes and eggplants, and this recipe is perfect for you. For the rest of us, let’s stock it away for next year! Now for a recipe straight from the garden, the lovely Diana takes it from here.

 

Thank you, Jenn, for inviting me to guest post on your blog.  You always inspire me in your dedication to live a life in sustainability and stewardship.

I’ve had the privilege of befriending Jenn over the past year.  Kindred spirits you might say.

We share a passion in real food and homesteading including calloused hands and dirt grimed fingernails from working our own pieces of land.

 

I an urban homesteader and she a homesteader.  Besides a shared appreciation of worm castings and poop, what I enjoy about Jenn is her love of fine cooking.

As much as I adore to work in my organic gardens and raise backyard urban chickens for eggs and meat, I find joy when I’m able to share the fruits of my labor with family and friends at the dinner table.

When Jenn asked me to share a simple seasonal recipe, I decided to share with you something special using end of the season eggplant and cherry tomatoes.

 

Eggplant has a sort of villain/superhero kind of reputation.  Some love it while others despise the notion of even looking at such an odd fruit that comes in so many shapes and sizes.

I enjoy eggplant and find that as long as it’s cooked along side other vegetables and herbs, it brings out the best in it’s texture and flavor.

A sure way to make any vegetable pleasing, including eggplant, is to roast them sprinkled with celtic sea salt and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.

 

It deepens their flavor and when it comes to eggplant, gives them a bit more sustenance without the creaminess.

An End of the Season Roasted Eggplant, Tomato and White Bean Salad

 


This is a simple salad to make using white navy beans, tuna, roasted eggplant and tomatoes.  It’s mixed in a balsamic vinaigrette and topped with feta cheese and fresh cut rosemary.  Deep and vibrant it makes a perfect side dish for a busy weekday meal.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup white navy beans
  • 1 can tuna
  • 1 eggplant, diced
  • 20 cherry tomatoes (use some green unripened tomatoes if you have them), cut in half
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1tbls fresh cut rosemary, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Feta cheese to garnish

Method:

1. In a baking dish, add the diced eggplant and half cherry tomatoes.  Sprinkle with sea salt and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.  Roast in a 375F oven for 25 to 30 minutes.  Once roasted, remove from the baking dish and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, mix the beans, tuna, roasted eggplants and tomatoes.  Add the balsamic vinaigrette, olive oil and fresh cut rosemary.  Add salt and pepper to taste and toss well.

3. Garnish with Feta Cheese.

Buen Provecho!

Summer Solstice 2011

Happy Summer Solstice to all my readers in the Northern Hemisphere!

 

The Summer Solstice marks the beginning of summer and is the longest day of the year! Here in Northern Vermont, it began getting dark around 9:30 PM. Sitting out on our side deck enjoying the mountain views and listening to all the sounds – barnyard animals, birds, frogs, insects made me think about past Solstices, and I recalled my time living in Norway when it was still bright as day at 2 AM! Very different but both great experiences!

 

I like to celebrate my Northern European roots on the Solstices and usually we toast with a local sparkling mead. Unfortunately we were not able to find the mead yesterday, so we settled on Sah’tea by Dogfish Head Ales. I was drawn to the graphics on the label – as it features my favorite animal, the Reindeer. Sah’tea is based on a 9th century Finnish recipe, Sahti. It is brewed with rye and juniper berries. They break with tradition by adding chai tea at the end of the boil. The flavor of the ale was intense with the chai spices tickling the palette. The color was a darker amber than we are used to seeing in an ale. It is a very unique brew, not something I would want every day, but it was definitely a good choice for a celebratory meal!

As for the nibbles, we decided on an antipasti of sorts. For proteins we had prosciutto, fresh marinated anchovies, duck rilettes and 2 types of cheese – a raw cow’s raclette and a sheep’s milk Lancashire. We also had assorted olives, peppadew peppers (which were delicious stuffed with rilletes), artichoke hearts homemade pickles – daikon radish and carrots. For dessert we had fresh, local, organic strawberries with fresh whipped cream!

 

We had a great evening, enjoying our al fresco meal and ending the night by “tucking in” all the animals. It is quiet moments like this that make everything feel right in the world. Hope you enjoyed yours too!

Seared Scallops

 

Why can’t I write a simple post anymore? Seems like everything I eat, and therefore blog about, it not just food, there is always something else going on there. I guess the more conscious I have become about where my food comes from, the more stories are behind it. And in light of being transparent with you, my readers, I have been talking more lately about personal struggles along the way. I mentioned a few posts ago that we are trying to start a family and towards that goal, we have been trying to eat more seafood lately. Living in a landlocked state, although it boasts many rivers and lakes, there unfortunately doesn’t seem to be a lot of access to good fresh or local seafood. I would love if someone in my area that knows of a good place to get some local trout could let me know, though!

So since local seafood has been impossible to find up until this point, we have always tried to navigate the murky waters of cost vs. freshness vs. sustainability vs. etc. and murky waters they are. I eat a fair amount of canned tuna and salmon (wild caught), but Robert o is allergic to both of those. We both enjoy canned sardines and anchovies, yet, they are far from local. We also found some delicious canned mackerel from the coast of Maine, which we were so excited about, until we couldn’t seem to find it anywhere anymore. But recently I found an unlikely source for frozen wild caught salmon, cod and flounder.

DUN, DUN, DUN… Costco. Now I am NOT a fan of big box stores, and shop locally the majority of the time, but there are just a few things at our Costco that are not only good products, but budget friendly and fall into the category of “doing the best we can for now” or “why would I buy the exact same product for double the price just because I can buy it from a non-box-store?”. For example, imported cheeses – we can get a large container full of buffalo mozzarella from Italy for about $9, the same price that we can get at the local shops for ONE ball of the same stuff. Same goes for REAL Parmigiano-Reggiano and prosciutto from Parma. I am the first one to shop locally, but I am also a thrifty consumer and I won’t overpay by double for something I can get for much less somewhere else for the exact same thing. That just doesn’t make good sense.

The second problem with seafood in this house is, aside from pan searing and making fish cakes (which we LOVE), I never know what to do with seafood. I also never know what to serve with it. We have not bought it much in the past years (except when we lived in Florida) because of the whole sustainability issue. But since we are trying to eat as well as we can, in hopes of boosting our fertility, we are making some hard choices.

But scallops are easy! Frozen seafood, like the sea scallops are also something we get from Costco, and nothing can be easier than pan searing them in butter and lemon juice. I like to serve them up simply on a bed of soft creamy polenta, or as an appetizer with some fresh homemade aioli and capers. We eat them as a snack this way, or sometimes a meal, served with a side of veggies. They are sweet and delicious, and so easy to prepare that we make this dish about twice a month. We try to eat some form of seafood at least 3-4 times per week. Right now, at this point in our lives, doing the pros and cons of everything, here we are.

Do you have any food situations in your life like this that you wish were different? Any local folks know of any gems I am missing?

Smoked Mackerel Salad and My Journey from Vegetarian to Omnivore

 

Have many of you bought a fish like this? With the eyes still there? This was a new experience for me. Even though I am no stranger to the cycles of life and how food gets to my plate, I never bought or ate a whole fish before. I have not really cooked much seafood in my kitchen career, but I do enjoy it. I love smoked fishes, and there is a store sort of near to us called Healthy Living, that actually sells several varieties of whole smoked fishes. The last time we were there, they had this guy, for about $9, which is a steal if you are used to buying smoked fillets. So with an adventurous spirit, I bought it, bones, fins, eyes and all.

Funny story interlude…so Healthy Living also has a great variety of local meats and sustainable seafood– things like pork, beef, venison, lamb, duck, chicken – pretty much you name it, it has probably graced their shelves at some point. So I like to go every so often, and buy a small variety. So on the day we bought Mr. Mackerel, we also bought some Highland grassfed beef, duck rillettes, some venison shanks, several packages of chicken wings, pork belly, cans of tuna, fresh marinated anchovies etc. That was all we bought – no veggies, no fruit, and no dairy. So we get to the check-out line, and our cashier was kind of scowling at us. Her lips were pursed and her nose wrinkled like she smelled something really foul. As she was scanning our box of meat, she was only touching the corners of the packages and moving them across the scanner as quickly as possible. Then it dawned on me, and I said “I hope you aren’t a vegetarian”, and she responded, “No, I am a vegan, actually”. SCREEEECH. Talk about a clash of cultures.

But it really got me thinking about my days as a vegan (all 6 months of them), and I felt like, even though we take very different approaches, this girl and I both care about the welfare of animals and are taking action to opt out against the inhumane slaughter of them for human consumption. She was young, so you never know where her path might lead. When I was a vegan, and a vegetarian (for 10 years) I never in a million years would have thought I would raise animals for meat. But once I saw first-hand how animals can be raised humanely and with love and respect, for consumption, and how feeding your family from the sweat of your brow and your own hands is more honorable than buying non-meat items that are subsidized by the government, (like soy, a major vegetarian protein and something I ate a lot of) to the detriment of us all, animals included…and when I learned enough about the natural world that I had been so disconnected from, and learned that even if I was a vegetarian, in order to eat, animals had to die, I decided there had to be a better way, a way where I could take full responsibility for the food on my plate while at the same time take my place in the natural world, as a part of it- and this is one of the reasons I do what I do on the homestead – because I love animals and because I am an animal. To the cashier that probably sounds so backwards, but I have been forward, back and back again!

 

So anyway, back to Mr. Mackerel…like I said, I love smoked fishes, and I wanted to showcase this beautiful fish in a nice spring dish. I decided on a mackerel salad. Mackerel is packed with protein and essential fatty acids. It has a nice meaty texture and smoked it is just delicious! One of our favorites. To make the salad, I mixed together half of the fish (after I opened it up, took the bones out, etc) with 2 hard -boiled eggs, capers, roasted red peppers a splash of red wine vinegar and a touch of homemade mayo. I then served it on a bed of greens. We dined al fresco on the porch looking at the mountain and admiring the buds on the trees, the greening of the grass and the beautiful tulips in bloom.

Also, don’t forget – you have a few more days to enter for your chance to win the book Root Cellaring, and to get your very own Leftover Queen Award  ! I want to hear your tips -what are some small things do you do in your kitchens that make you a “Leftover Queen”?

Cooking with Company

One of my favorite activities in the whole world is cooking with the people I love. For me there is no greater way to share the bounty we enjoy here in this part of the world. It is not just a way to share what is offered here, but  to also get creative with my favorite people. People hear me preach the act of eating locally, and cooking from scratch on my blog and in person, and when they come to visit us, we all have a great time together living out that vision. Mostly it is for fun, but it also shows people in a personal way why we decided to make our lives here, and how easy it can be to eat locally and healthfully in a place that really strives to make that ideal a reality.

I have had the best summer because we have had quite a few guests visiting the homestead, and since all of them love food in one way or another, we always, without fail end up spending time in the kitchen or out on the deck at the grill and then of course EATING what we have created together. Such a simple yet magical act that really brings people together in a fundamental way.

Here is our summer of eating so far – in mostly visual terms.

My mom was here earlier in the season, and we celebrated her visit with lots of al fresco dining. One evening we enjoyed mead sprizters – local mead, with a splash of Italian prosecco, garnished with muddled mint and currants from our garden. Sadly at the time of her visit we weren’t harvesting many veggies yet. But we still enjoyed many local meals out on the deck!

When my dad and stepmom came to visit, they both ended up cooking for us. My stepmom Kayzie made her mom’s famous crabcakes – and brought fresh blue crab with them all the way from Maryland! On another night my dad grilled some beautiful local steaks that we enjoyed with local sweet corn.

Roberto and I also got a duck as part of our meat CSA share from Applecheek Farm . I cooked duck once before with my friend Amber (who also came to visit us!!! ) but wanted to try a different method this time. So with the help of my dad, we grilled it on our rotisserie. It was lightly seasoned with herbs de provence and stuffed with orange wedges. I made a cherry sauce with red wine and oranges to accompany it. We also grilled some potato wedges under the duck letting the drippings season them.

Most recently my stepdaughter Gwen is visiting. She loves to cook, and whenever she comes to visit we end up making something yummy! This time we made the ultimate nachos – Tortilla chips covered in 3 kinds of cheese (cabot cheddar, maple smoked cheddar chunks and parmesan), homemade beef and bean chili, tomatoes and cilantro from the garden and green chilies.

Tonight she and her dad made me dinner – their specialty, spaghetti with tomato-cream sauce and garden fresh herbs with a delicious side salad – all veggies from the garden.

Thanks to everyone for your visits – and we look forward to many more wonderful meals with family and friends here on the homestead!

Smoked Trout Chowdah

smoked trout chowder chowder

It seems a little strange to be writing about a chowder recipe when it is sunny, bright and about 80 degrees outside. But we have had some cooler temperatures these past few weeks, and a lot of rain. These conditions are perfect for a nice big bowl of chowdah and so that is exactly what we had.

The inspiration came when we got our seed potatoes delivered from Seed Savers a few weeks ago. Some of them had not quite gone to seed yet, and so in true Leftover Queen fashion, I decided to use them to make several batches of potato puree, as well as some delicious homefries for breakfasts and for lunch one day a quick German Potato Salad. Call it practice for harvest time. I left one of the pint jars of puree out, to make a batch of potato leek soup, until I picked up some smoked trout at the grocery store, and a plan started to come together in my mind!

This chowder was delightful, and certainly something I will be making again, as we will have copious amounts of potatoes (75 feet of plants) to eat this fall and winter! It reminds me of something you would eat on the coast of Ireland, or one of the Herbridian islands of Scotland, especially because we enjoyed bowls of it with delicious crunchy oat cakes and slices of cheddar alongside.

INGREDIENTS:

1 pint of potato puree
2 c. water
¼ cup cooked, cubed potatoes
4 small garlic cloves, minced
¼ c. sliced leeks
¼ cup sliced fresh oyster mushrooms
¼ cup green peas
¼ cup spinach or other dark greens
juice of one ½ lemon – save the other half
olive oil
salt and pepper
4 ounces smoked trout, shredded

METHOD:

In a large pot combine the potato puree and water, until it is well mixed and has a uniform consistency.
While this is happening, in a skillet sautee the potatoes, garlic, leeks, mushrooms, peas and greens in a nice drizzle of olive oil. Once the veggies are soft, put them in the pot with the puree and mix. Add the lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Then crumble up ½ of the smoked trout and mix into the chowder. Cook all together for about 5 minutes. Serve with slices of lemon (Preserved lemon would be amazing with this) and the rest of the trout, divided evenly on top. Serves 4

Simple Smoked Mackerel Salad and The Pleasures of Eating Local

Smoked Mackerel Salad

We are still without internet, here at the homestead, so my absence in the blogosphere continues…but I have been amassing so many great recipes since we got here, I just have to keep sharing, as I can. I am just so inspired to shop for food and cook here!

This is a local, or at least regional salad with products coming from Northern New England (or grown by me – in the case of the lemons). This salad features the beautiful and delicious bounty of spring and is packed full of nutrients and major brain food.

I am excited to be featuring some delicious products from several awesome local producers here in beautiful Northern Vermont. This just goes to show how easy and pleasurable it is to eat locally, when you are in a community that really supports local agriculture and food producers. Especially when these products are readily available and easy accessible to the community.

That really is the crux of the local food movement– even though our growing season is much shorter here, there is always an abundance of local products available. Having local products available year round is an important goal of this community, and because it is a community effort, you really can find local products year round. This includes produce, meats and dairy in addition to local coffee roasters, bread bakers, beer and wine makers, peanut butter producers, as well as salsas, sauces and condiments. Not to mention the maple syrup and raw honey! The produce variety may not be as extensive as if you were going to the regular grocery store, but that is part of the joy and challenge of seasonal eating. Plus, learning simple techniques like canning and preserving can really prolong the bounty of a shorter growing season, adding color, flavor and nutrients to the winter months. So if you plan ahead, you can actually eat quite well during harsher months. Thinking that weather is the key factor in the availability of local foods in a community, is a terrible misnomer. I found it much harder to find true local staple products in Florida, which is one of the reasons we left. I lived there for over 3 years. I have lived here less than 2 weeks.

This focus on local and sustainable food is just one of the many major reasons we have decided to make this part of the world our permanent home. We really are so lucky to have found a community that shares our strong core values, which is important on so many levels. Living in a place where your ideals are supported and just a “normal” part of life is a welcomed relief. People are adaptable and can make do anywhere, finding hidden treasures, but being able to live according to your values with ease is a true blessing. I am looking forward to sharing many other finds with you over the coming months and years.

Local Products

* Bar Harbor Mackerel, Bar Harbor, Maine -all natural, wild caught, naturally hardwood smoked Atlantic mackerel. Sustainably harvested from the clear cold waters of the Gulf of Maine. I consider Maine as well as the rest of Northern New England and the Quebec province of Canada (25 miles as the crow flies) to be local to us. This mackerel as well as wild herring fillets are available from a local market, Apple Tree.

* Pete’s Greens – Four Season Organic Vegetable Farm, Craftsbury, Vermont – Salad mix featuring: red rib dandelion, endive, fennel tops, wrinkled cress, red leaf amaranth, tatsoi, ruby red chard, bright lights chard, arugula, upland cress, spinach, orach and purslane. These were some of the most delicious and aesthetically beautiful greens I have had. We first had them at the Bee’s Knees an amazing local restaurant. I asked the server where they got their mixed greens, and then we were able to procure some from another local market, The Green Top Market.

* Elmore Mountain Bread Elmore, Vermont– Wood fired micro bakery. They use a long fermentation process in their bread making. Each loaf takes a total of 16 hours. Sometimes it is hard to resist bread like this, and so I was indulging on it when we first got here and I wasn’t having any ill effects from it. Now I know why…just another blessing, considering many of the restaurants in the area, as well as local groceries, and markets sell Elmore Mountain Bread. Being able to eat a sandwich or burger at a restaurant is a true luxury for me. Thank you, Elmore Mountain Bread!

* Farmer Sue’s  Peperoncini Peppers Bakersfield, VT – Do you know how hard it is to find peperoncini peppers without corn syrup? I love these little pickled peppers, and now I have an alternative to making my own . Farmer Sue makes all kinds of delicious pickled vegetables and sells at the year round Lamoille Valley Artisan Farmers Market .

RECIPE:

Smoked Mackerel Salad

INGREDIENTS:

6-8 oz. smoked mackerel fillets
juice of ½ lemon
salt&pepper to taste
hefty sprinkle of herbs de provence
1 TBS fresh chives, chopped
1 TBS mayonnaise
2 peperoncini peppers chopped
drizzle of olive oil
2 cups salad greens

METHOD:

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl, reserving a little lemon juice for the greens. Dress your greens with olive oil and lemon juice and toss. Place a mound of the mackerel salad on top. Serve with slices of sourdough baguette, if desired.

Be sure to share the mackerel juice with any feline or canine friends you might have at home. They will love you! :)

Serves 2