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

Christmas Eve – Feast of the Fishes

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(Me, Mom and Michelle)

This year it was my turn to host the Christmas festivities for my family. For a variety of reasons, we didn’t have a huge Christmas celebration, like the days of yore. In days gone by my great aunt hosted a Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve for the whole extended family and we went every year to Western Pennsylvania to enjoy it followed by Christmas Dinner the next day, at my Grandparents house. The feast on Christmas Eve was held in my aunt’s basement and when you walked down there, from the main part of the house, it always smelled so good! Like you were entering a restaurant with so many smells. I remember those warm, happy times spent with my extended family, when everyone was still with us. We will never have those days back and so…

This year I wanted to honor those old and cherished family traditions and memories. I have found often, in my life, that food can bring back the past . One small bite of something or a long forgotten smell, can make the past come swooshing into the present. If only for a second. Since we will be moving in April, I don’t know when the next holiday will be that I can share it with both my mom and my cousin Michelle who both live in Florida. So I decided this was the year to bring back the Feast of the Fishes!

This feast is an Italian American tradition – not celebrated in the motherland, and is derived from a time of abstinence, as it says on Wikipedia: “ in this case, refraining from the consumption of meat or milk products—on Fridays and specific holy days. As no meat or butter could be used, observant Catholics would instead eat fish, typically fried in oil”.

But I must admit, that for me, it was always about the food!

We haven’t done a Feast of the Seven Fishes in my immediate family for years, but it is certainly a tradition that we all enjoyed. So this year, since I was in charge of the menu for Christmas Eve – I decided to bring this tradition back. It was a small gathering this year, only 4 of us, so I decided to do 4 fish courses – including 5 fishes, not the copious amounts of fish dishes from the past, but a revised menu. The menu was dictated by what was available at our local fish store the day before, and what the guests enjoyed from the past. I also wanted to make each course easy to prepare, so that I could enjoy time with my family without being too stressed. Most of these dishes we prepared in between courses together, or while we were eating other courses. So much fun was had in the kitchen with family!

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Roberto and I love ceviche, but have never made it at home. In fact it is one of my favorite things, first having fell in love with it in Jamaica on our honeymoon. It is kind of become a “special occasion” dish for us. We had it for our one year anniversary, and most recently for my birthday. So I knew I wanted to make a version of ceviche for this special occasion. I found and used a recipe for Shrimp and Scallop Ceviche from The Ravenous Couple which was excellent. It was the perfect course to enjoy with our champagne toast. The beauty of this dish is how flavorful it is, and also so easy to prepare. It would surely be a hit at any dinner party – elegant, beautiful and fresh.

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Next up was Bergensk Fiskesuppe, Bergen Fish Soup. I had received a soup starter from my buddy and Norwegian food blogger Siri, from Transplanted Baker. I was saving it for a special occasion, and this was the perfect one. I added fresh clams to it, and it was very much like a clam chowder, creamy and delicious. Again, with minimal effort. Everyone loved it. All that needed to be added was a bit of cream, water, a splash of wine and the clams. Bring to a boil and serve. Perfect and delicious! I am going to have to get Siri to send me some more! :)

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The third course was Zeppole con Alici. These are basically Italian donuts. However, there is a surprise stuffed inside these Calabrase zeppole or zippoli – they are not sweet like donuts, but savory, and filled with anchovies! I grew up with these, and they were the treat that everyone in my family looked forward to the most at my aunt’s Christmas Eve dinners. Since I entered the world of food blogging, I had seen various recipes for zeppole, but never our anchovy filled ones, until one day, I read my friend Michelle’s post on Bleeding Espresso . Then again last year, here . Apparently Zeppole con Alici, or anchovy filled zeppole are common among the Calabrese, and she grew up in PA with them as a child too. Michelle and I have a lot in common besides being born in PA and growing up with Calabrese relatives! But this post was a revelation to me! Finally a life long mystery solved! Especially since my Italian husband had never heard of these! He loves them now too!

Although my great aunt never did give away her secret recipe, my mom did a bit of recon this year, and found a recipe for zeppole dough. Although you can use Michelle’s – it is pretty much the same one – except her’s has a splash of wine added…yum….We had a great time making zeppole – all of us got in on the action, me, my mom, cousin Michelle and Roberto! Even the pups and cat were excited, smelling all the anchovies. These turned out differently than the zeppole of our youth, but were still delicious. So good in fact that we ate the entire plate of them! :)

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The next course was the main dish, a Stuffed Flounder prepared by my mom. She made a stuffing of toasted pine nuts, bread crumbs, Italian parsley, and capers. Then used it to stuff rolled fresh flounder fillets. You then bake them in some white wine, until flaky. We served this with an easy spinach salad. They were delicious – an easy and great way to make fish. I will certainly do it again in the future.

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The last dish was dessert – Trifle with an Italian Twist and no fish included. A few weeks ago, I was watching an episode of the Barefoot Contessa and she was making a holiday meal for a blogger – for her blog (lucky girl). For dessert she made a Red Berry Trifle with a cognac pastry cream, and it looked delicious and festive. I adore trifles – well any desserts made up of cream and custard is a winner in my book! So I decided to make a version of her trifle, except with more Italian flavors. Instead of cognac cream, I made frangelico cream. I also put frangelico in my whipped cream, and skipped the sugar. I also skipped the strawberries, opting for full on raspberries and sprinkled it with more frangelico instead of framboise. And I opted for Pandoro – which is a plain version of Panettone, in lieu of pound cake . Pandoro is usually served this time of year in Italy. The trifle was delicious. So delicious that my cousin, Michelle, who vows that “eating any dessert not made with chocolate is a waste”, ate every bite and loved it!

We had a really great night, full of laughter, and good times! This is how I remember Christmas Eve’s of yore and so I guess it all worked out! :)

Shellfish Pasta cooked in Black Box Wine

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Here is the post I promised everyone on Monday. If you have not read or commented on Monday’s post, Concerned Consumer, or Mentally Ill? please take a moment to do so. I think this is a very important issue – that leads to other larger issues, that affects all of us. Anyway, you can read all my thoughts about it on that post, for today, onto something else!

Are you a food blogger? If so, have you signed up to be a Featured Publisher with Foodbuzz? If not, I ask you, why not? Foodbuzz is a great place to meet and interact with other food bloggers and non- food bloggers who just love food! Not only that, there are also a lot of other great benefits to being a Featured Publisher. One being that you get to try free stuff through their Tastemaker Outreach Program! Recently I was lucky enough to receive some wine through that program…Black Box Wine, that is.

Several years ago I read an article that discussed screw top wine bottles and how there was mostly just an aesthetic difference between those and bottles topped with corks. So I started giving some screw tops a chance, and found some pretty good ones. So when Foodbuzz announced they were going to be featuring Black Box Wines in their next Tastemaker Outreach Program, I decided to sign up. I wanted to see what wine in a box would be like. It got a lot of good reviews, and so it really piqued my interest. Black Box wines feature vintage-dated wines from the world’s premier growing regions, and delivers great taste at half the price of bottled wines of the same quality. Plus it comes from a portable, re-sealable, recyclable box. Cool.

So about 2 weeks ago I received my box of wine in the mail. I was not sure what variety I would be receiving, and I must admit, I was a little disappointed to see a Sauvingnon Blanc. We are not really white wine drinkers in this family, but keeping an open mind I put it in the fridge to chill, waiting to get that urge for white wine.

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Roberto’s brother, Davide is visiting from Italy for the first time, so we really wanted him to enjoy some fresh FL seafood as soon as he got here! So the first full day he was here, we went to our local fish market and I got local shrimp, as well as mussels and scallops. When we got them home, I decided to cook them with garlic and wine, and serve it all over some nice pasta.

As part of my gluten free journey I have looked into alternatives to straight semolina (durum wheat) pasta. One of my favorites is De Boles pasta that is made with part semolina and part Jerusalem artichoke flour. The Jerusalem artichoke flour is high in inulin, a pre-biotic, that is a digestive aid. Inulin also lowers blood pressure and cholesterol. Artichoke flour gives the pasta a lower glycemic index making it easier for those with gluten sensitivity (not for those with a gluten allergy or celiacs because there is still some semolina flour) to process.  However, De Boles does carry a gluten free line, yet I have not seen it at my grocery store. For me, the difference between the Jerusalem artichoke flour pasta and “regular pasta” is non- existent. It cooks up nice and al dente, every time, just the way I like it.

The other gluten free pasta I have come to love is Mrs. Leepers 100% organic corn spaghetti – not a huge fan of their slow to load website, however.  My husband really loves this pasta, and he would be a good judge of all things pasta. I also like it. It does not get sticky or mushy and tastes…just like pasta!You would never know it was made from corn flour.

Although I am beginning to lean in the direction that I originally thought about my health, which is that I am just not very tolerant of grains in general, I don’t seem to be bothered by corn or artichoke. Therefore,  I may try to increase the number of times we eat these pastas. Roberto LOVES pasta, and I really only cook it once a month, at the most, when I don’t mid falling asleep at 8 PM. I highly recommend these products. They are really good.

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So back to the seafood. We brought it home and as I was putting it in the fridge, a light bulb went off – I could cook it in the Black Box wine and then drink some to go with it! So I did a simple sautee of garlic and onions in olive oil. I added the seafood and then about a cup of the wine, juice from one lemon (and the lemon peels)  and some fresh herbs from the garden – basil, chives and lemon balm.

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I let it all steam away for about 3-5 minutes, and then served it over the De Boles pasta with a drizzle of lemon olive oil on top, for fun. I also served it with a loaf of Artisan Bread in 5’s Olive Oil Bread , to which I subbed one half cup of water for plain kefir and added about 1 TBS of honey (instead of sugar). Of course I had to have a chunk too, to dip into the delicious sauce from the seafood boil! It was great.

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This meal was a huge hit and we all enjoyed the glass of Black Box Sauvignon Blanc that we drank with it! I can’t say I would chose to buy that variety again, however, I think I would try some of their reds! Thanks so much Foodbuzz for giving me the chance to sample this!

Summer Solstice Dinner

So I told you all about the Summer Solstice Preserves and the Gluten Free Lemon Cake that I made with the preserves, to celebrate the solstice, but what I didn’t tell you about was what we ate for dinner! It was too good not to share, so here it is!

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We had fresh local scallops and lobster (the lobster was not local, but was on sale for Father’s Day) kabobs with pineapple. The seafood and pineapple were marinated in a mixture of lime juice and zest, cilantro, jalapeño, sugar, salt, oil and pepper. Separately the same marinade was mixed with a whole sliced avocado. This was then used as a topping on a green salad with corn. On the side I made a red quinoa pilaf. To drink – “Teatini” a sun tea cocktail. Then of course dessert was the cake with preserves and whipped cream!

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Sea Salt/ Vinegar Potato Chip and Pistachio Crusted Haddock

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When we were at Whole Foods the last time we stocked up on meat and fish. It is pretty expensive, so I usually just get whatever is on sale or the cheapest. This is a way for me to ensure I am getting quality and “happy” meats and fishes, while at the same time, try new things since I am not always familiar with preparing what is on sale. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find good local sources, as of yet…hard to believe, I know…

When it comes to fish, I always look for “Wild” and “Fished in the USA”. So this time that meant we bought haddock and flounder. Not the most exciting visually or taste wise, (I prefer more fatty fishes like salmon and tuna, but Roberto is allergic), but I decided this would be a great exercise in expanding my horizon. I have never cooked with haddock before, so I decided to give it a whirl. I needed some inspiration, so I went on Twitter and asked around to all my buddies what to do with Halibut (since I misread what I actually had, halibut, haddock, same diff right?) and I got some great suggestions, like frying it, or making fish tacos. But this was a martial arts night and so I knew when I got home I would be exhausted and I am trying to watch weight right now, so frying was out of the question for right now (although in the future – definitely!). But my buddy Peter from Kalofagas suggested his recipe for Pistachio Crusted Halibut, using dijon mustard and panko.

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So I decided to do a version of that. I didn’t have all the ingredients in his recipe on hand, so I went through the fridge and pantry to see what I could sub in. We really enjoy Salt and Vinegar flavored natural Kettle Chips, and in the back of the pantry I found an almost empty bag. So I decided I could use that in lieu of breadcrumbs – plus vinegar goes great with fish. I spread dijon mustard and Greek yogurt on the fish and then smooshed my potato chip and pistachio mixture on top. Then I put it in the fridge until we got home. I also sliced up some carrots rounds and fresh fennel bulb strips that we had left over from the farmers market, drizzled them with olive oil and seasoned them with salt and pepper and roasted them at 350 for about 20 minutes.

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When we got home. I put the fish on top of the fennel and carrots, and baked everything at 350 for another 20 minutes. It turned out really delicious. All the flavors really complimented each other and it really brought to like otherwise boring haddock!
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Pub Grub: Fish n’ Chips, and other fried goodies…

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Recently we were in the mood for some pub grub. I guess it has something to do with the cooler weather settling in, but we were looking for something tasty for movie night, and we had an Irish movie, The Secret of Roan Inish and really good beer, Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout and Post Road’s Pumpkin Ale. So fish n’ chips just seemed so appropriate!

If you have never seen The Secret of Roan Inish. I highly recommend it. It is one of my favorite films, a beautiful tale based on the Orkney Islands myth of Selkies, people who can transform themselves into seals.

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The legend goes anyone who steals and hides the skin of the Selkie, when it has shed its skin, while in human form, they can keep the Selkie from being able to resume their seal form. So there are lots of stories of men stealing the skin of a female Selkie so that he can wed her, etc. But the Selkies always long to return to the sea. One of the most hauntingly beautiful songs I have ever heard, Sealwoman/Yundah by Irish singer, Mary McLaughlin is also about a Selkie. But, I digress….

Anyway, to make the fish n’ chips, I remembered that my good friend, Judy, from No Fear Entertaining had recently made beer battered squash blossoms, and so I decided to use her beer batter for our cod loins (does anyone know why they call them loins? Last time I looked, cod don’t have legs….).

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After battering the fish, we had more batter and since I had used the last of the oil, we figured waste not want not, and so we started pulling everything out of the fridge that could be battered and fried – like Bubbies bread n’ butter pickles and some leftover rings of onion. As per tradition, we also had oven baked fries (the chips).

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It was a fry festival! Like how I had to add some basil to the dish for the picture? It just looked too monotone without a little color in there!

This was a great dinner and was perfect for the movie and the delicious beer to wash it all down!

Recipe: The BEST Homemade Pizza EVER and “Italian Mojitos”

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So as many of you know, in the Leftover Queen household there is an unending quest for good pizza.

I have written about it on my travel blog here, here, here and here , as well as attempting it at home, on the grill last summer when we were at my mom’s.

We have tried other, not so successful pizza making attempts at home that certainly weren’t worth blogging about. But still on this bread revolution kick, I decided to use my new favorite cookbook, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day to try my hand at a new recipe for pizza dough.

I decided to go with the Olive Oil Dough, but I modified it a little to get some whole wheat flour in there. I have heard the low down on all WW pizza dough from my good friend Helen’s blog, Food Stories, and so I didn’t want to make the same mistake (thanks Helen for being the guinea pig!).

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This dough was amazing! It was easy to work with, lifted right off the cookie sheet with no trouble and a perfect golden brown. We topped our pizza with Ciliengini (small fresh mozzarella balls), sun dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and anchovies with capers. It was the perfect combination of flavors and they texture of the crust was perfect – thin, crunchy on the outside, with a soft give inside. The flavor of the olive oil in the dough really gave it a whole level of deliciousness. The fruitier the olive oil, the better!

We enjoyed this pizza while watching The Spiderwick Chronicles when my mom was visiting. Now Roberto is insisting we have this pizza at least once a week! ;)
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A Midsummer Night’s Dream Dinner

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Saturday was Midsummer, or Summer Solstice, known as the longest day of the year and celebrated all over the world.
However, since that date is always in flux, due to the rotation of the planet and the changing of calendars from the Julian to the Tropical, many people celebrate this holiday between June 21-24, because the actual astronomical solstice usually falls somewhere between these two dates. Midsummer is originally a pagan holiday, called Litha, and has since been Christianized to be the celebration of the nativity feast of Saint John the Baptist. This is a festival of fire and light, and of thanks for the sun and its importance for survival and fertility.

In the North of the Northern hemisphere, like Scandinavia, it means that the sun does not set this day in many places, nor the few weeks before and after this day. When I lived in Norway (Trondheim to be specific, located in the center of the country) at Midsummer, we got two hours of twilight and the rest of the day was as bright and sunny as a summer’s day. It was a remarkable thing to experience, especially when you are not used to it. It usually means staying up late, enjoying time with friends and family and cooking up some good food to celebrate. Scandinavian bashes are usually known for their simple and delicious seafood. This holds especially true at Midsummer, when fresh seafood is at the height of freshness – crab and shrimp figure prominently, as does the ubiquitous salmon.

So I decided to create a Midsummer Feast, by cooking up some crab and corn fritters with garlic aioli, crostini with goat cheese and smoked salmon,

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a nice salad full of goodies, like cucumbers, olives, pickled garlic, and roasted red peppers with a delicious avocado dressing.

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We enjoyed some lovely cocktails, mixed up with an awesome blend of superfruit juices from Genesis Today and spent a lovely evening listening to Caribbean music and enjoying our veranda until the arrival of night.
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