Posts filed under 'Buying Local'
This year, spoil mom with some seriously outstanding chocolate. Made with local ingredients like Smiling Hill Farm cream and top notch ingredients like rich European-style butter and chocolate from far away places like Tanzania and Venuzuela, Sweet Marguerite Chocolate is sure to please.
According to owner Meg Swoboda, the best way to store chocolate is to keep it at a constant temperature between 60 and 70 degrees, out of direct sunlight. So my method of squirreling away my chocolate stash in the pantry (aka hiding it form my husband and children) is perfectly acceptable.
The chocolate maker at Sweet Marguerites is "having the time of her life" making her chocolates and developing new flavors based on customer feedback and consumer trends. Meg Swoboda is a definite flavorista and the proof is in her chocolate.
Peanut Croquant: The bottom of this stepped-up peanut butter cup is a croquant layer of dark chocolate, mixed with bits of peanut brittle, topped with a creamy ganache of milk chocolate and all-natural peanut butter. Each square is dipped in our signature dark chocolate and topped with a roasted peanut and Maine sea salt.
My absolute favorite is Cafe Au Lait, a layer of espresso-flavored, dark chocolate ganache is topped with a layer of white chocolate cream. The square is enrobed with a Venezuelan milk chocolate and topped with cocoa nibs. OMG – sooooooo good!
Irish Creme Mousse is Sweet Marguerites’s version of Irish Crème. It has a very light and lively mousse center, made with ©Baileys Irish Cream and wrapped in dark chocolate.
April 30th, 2009
Earlier this month, I had the delicious pleasure of sitting down with fellow South Portlander, Meg Swoboda. Before you read on please read my disclaimer: I am the self-proclaimed #1 fan of Sweet Marguerites Artisinal Chocolates.
I first found these divine chocolates in the obscene chocolate section of our Whole Foods Market. Initially, I was drawn to the packaging. I adore the blue/brown color scheme of the box and I liked the look of the logo. With one bite I was hooked. Sweet Marguerite Chocolates easily rival any other boutique chocolate, but they are even more attractive to me because they are handmade here in South Portland.
Artisan chocolate is career number two for Meg, her first career was in finance. Following two years of culinary school, Meg decided to pursue her passion: Fine Chocolate. She furthered her chocolate education with training at the Culinary Institute of America and Ecole Chocolat.
Sweet Marguerites is a total family operation, Meg’s husband built her workshop and her website. When her children are home from college they help with packaging. For over two years, Sweet Marguerites has been delivering hand-dipped and hand molded chocolates to local retailers and to other retailers nationwide via their website.
Being a chocolatier requires a lot of dilligence. Working with chocolate can be fussy because it is so sensitive to heat, humdity and certain ingredients. For me, tempering chocolate, a process of heating and cooling chocolate to stabilize it, is harder than making a perfect hollandaise. I just to do not have the patience needed for successful chocolate making. No joke, my first foray into chocolate was this past Christmas. I was brave enough to make chocolate bark.
Starting a gourmet food company during these wild financial times may seem like a crazy idea to some, but to Meg it was "what she was meant to do." To supplement the chocolate business, Meg moonlights as a server at the award-winning, Hugo’s, in Portland. It is very safe to say that this lady knows her foods and flavors. Meg’s favorite savory dish? Risotto with a nicely paired glass of wine.
Sweet Marguerite chocolates are developed and made with sophisticated palettes in mind; sweet caramel is balanced out with Maine sea salt, dark chocolate ganache is ideally seasoned with fantastic Tahitian vanilla beans. The strawberry balsamic chocolate that I sampled during our interview was sweet with jammy berry flavor but perfectly balanced with a subtle hint of balsamic.
There were no oompa loompas in sight, but Meg’s 10×10 chocolate workshop and its contents were definitely magical.
Dark chocolate being tempered for dipping.
Planning a party? Take a look at these party favors.
With Mother’s Day just around the corner, Sweet Marguerites could make for easy gift giving. Locally, you can find Sweet Marguerites at Whole Foods or you can order her chocolates online.
April 29th, 2009
I finally had a chance to check out a new, independent cooking store in our area. Kitchen & Cork is located in Scarborough, ME and it is a lovely place with gourmet goodies and gorgeous wares for the kitchen. I adore ambling through kitchen stores checking out what’s new, what’s trendy and silly gadgets.
I am not in the market for a new pepper mill, but my eyes and hands were drawn to these Vic Firth Pepper Mills. They were heavy and smooth and so beautiful. The store samples did not have peppercorns in them but they seemed to turn so effortlessly. I am quite smitten with the Sierra model and may add it to my Christmas list.
Here’s the cool part of the story: Vic Firth was a timpanist for the Boston Symphony and he was very frustrated by the inconsistency of drumsticks. He was committed to creating a drumstick that delivered consistent tone with each drum beat. As a result, Vic Firth drumsticks are considered the gold standard all over the world and these drumsticks are made in Maine! The folks at Vic Firth have taken what they know about wood and building a superior product and have transferred this knowledge to peppermills and rolling pins.
Check out the Vic Firth online store for "Thoughtfully Designed. Meticulously Crafted. Guaranteed for Life." products. It is remarkable in the age of the mammoth W-Mart to find such a suberb, American-Made product. Thank you Vic Firth and company from flavoristas everywhere!
April 19th, 2009
What is a locavore you might ask? Well, a locavore is a person who eats food grown or produced within a 100 mile radius of his/her home. It is a noteworthy and praiseworthy concept. For those who live as a locavore, the rewards are clear: A much better connection to the food that nourishes your body and the pride of knowing that you are doing something good for mother earth (less fossil fuel used to transport food).
I would be negligent, if I did not point out that "going local" might result in a bigger grocery bill, especially in the short term. It takes some time to figure out how to "do local" cost effectively. Initially, it will also require more time planning and cooking. Proponents of "going local" will tell you the more you do it, the easier it gets. I would tend to agree with this. I checked my pantry and found plenty of (unintentional) local products.
Click here to determine your 100 mile radius.
Given my global kitchen, I’d have a tough time being a full-time locavore. Here’s a few reasons why:
San Marzano Tomatoes
Water Buffalo Yogurt
But…..My local kitchen would not be complete without:
Maine Seafood – Shrimp is in season right now!
Personally, I am not prepared to become a full-time locavore. I am a successful, semi-locavore during the Summer and Fall. The photo above is some of our "put up" products, made by me, with veggies we grew or bought at a farmers market during the bountiful summer months.
Locavism? It’s food for thought anyway?
January 19th, 2009
If you are looking for a totally delish cheese for New Year’s celebrations, give Silvery Moon Creamery cheeses a try. All of the varieties are produced with milk from Smiling Hill Farm. Several of Silvery Moon’s cheeses have been award winning: Creme Fraiche, Tuscan Herbed Curd, Tally-Ho with Peppercorns.
Currently, these cheeses are available in New England locations. Our favorite, Westbrook White, is a soft cow’s milk cheese perfect for spreading on crackers and topping with thin slices of dried figs or fruit pastes. It has not won any official awards, but it wins the people’s choice award everytime we serve it to guests. If you are a flavorista, who is a fan of all things cheese, you can order Silvery Moon cheeses from their website.
December 29th, 2008
While recently visiting Aspen, I picked up a wonderful publication, edible ASPEN, at the Farmers’ Market. To my delight, I found that there is also an edible FRONT RANGE (Boulder, Denver, Colorado Springs). Tracey Ryder founded Edible Communities in 2002 to "celebrate the abundance of local foods" in communities throughout the U.S and Cananda. These magazines are such a great way to get to know the local producers wherever you live. To date, there are 48 quarterly magazines throughout the U.S. – from Alleghany to the Twin Cities. Look up your region and see if there is an edible community near you: Edible Communities Map!
October 5th, 2008
My husband landed these rainbow trouts in Castle Creek. Fish doesn’t need much when it is fresh from the river. Season fish with a little salt and pepper and a touch of cornmeal. Add some butter to a hot skillet, cook until golden then turn to finish cooking and you’ll have yourself a nice delicate protein. After visiting the Aspen Farmers’ Market, I returned home with corn, peaches (!) and great tomatoes. My plan was to prepare a simple end of Rocky Mountain supper: corn pudding, tomato salad and something peachy for dessert. The trout was a pleasant and delicious surprise.
Savory Corn-A-Plenty Pudding
This is a family favorite at our house during corn season; it is fine on its own for a vegetarian entree or lovely as a side for fish or fowl.
3 Cups corn, fresh or frozen, thawed
1 Cup whole Milk
1/3 Cup Cornmeal
1 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 Tbsp. Butter
4 eggs, separated
1 Cup cheese of you choice, I use a good quality cheddar
1/2 Cup green onions, thinly sliced
1 fire roasted anaheim chili, seeded and diced (optional, if not using chili use 1/2 tsp. paprika)
Preheat the oven to 425. Place milk, cornmeal, corn kernels in a heavy bottomed pan and bring to a gentle simmer, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. If you have an immersion blender, use it for a few seconds on the corn milk mixture, just to puree it a little. If you have a blender, then puree half of the mixture. Place all of the corn mixture into a nice big bowl and allow to cool slightly. Season with salt, pepper and if using paprika.
In a skillet, saute the onions in the buter until just soft. If using the roasted anaheim chili, dice it up and toss into the onions. Add this to the corn milk mixture and stir well.
Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the egg yolks to the corn/milk mixture and stir well. Fold the whipped egg whites, green onions and cheese into the corn batter. Pour into a buttered 1 1/2 quart casserole and bake for 20 minutes. This will puff lightly but then deflate a bit.
October 2nd, 2008
I am almost finished reading this wonderful book on growing and eating one’s own food by Barbara Kingsolver. The author and her family chronicled an entire year of being "localvores", those who live off what their land produces, supplemented only by food available locally. I recommend this book to anyone who is completely out of touch with how food is grown and processed in this country. It is the perfect book for those who are starting out with small attempts to grow their favorite foods. While rift with food politics, this book also has recipes and it is full of adages as to the time and effort it takes to tend a garden. I am inspired by and in awe of the chapter entitled "You Can’t Run Away on Harvest Day" which eloquently describes butchering.
I’d love to spend a week at harvest with Barbara Kingsolver. She posseses such a huge wealth of knowledge. I haven’t tried any of the recipes, but there seems to be quite a few that are truly creative; the kind of recipes that come from abundance- the onslaught of green beans, zucchini coming out of your ears and 2 tons of tomatoes needing processing. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is not only a lesson in food politics but a fantastic discourse on food in America and potentially in your own back yard. The website is a great resource for finding locallly produced foods.
September 18th, 2008
Following a lovely weekend at the coast in Castine, Maine, we returned home with what I believe is the largest turnip that I have ever seen. Let’s face it, turnips can be a tough sell, but Lollie and I were up to the challenge. Ultimately, we decided it would be pickled. Of course, I turned to my favorite Quick Pickles and found not one but three turnip pickle recipes.
Pickled Turnips with Fennel, adapted from Quick Pickles
Yield – 8 cups
2 lbs. peeled turnips
1 fennel bulb with fronds
1/2 cup pink peppercorns
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 Tbsp. allspice berries
1 tsp. whole cloves
1 Tbsp. fennel seed
3 bay leaves
1 cup sugar
3 cups white wine vinegar (or rice wine vinegar)
1 1/2 cups white grape juice
Cut each turnip into bite-sized pieces up to 1/2 inch thick. Remove the feathery fronds from the fennel and set aside. Cut the fennel bulb in half and then cut 1/4 inch slices. In a large non-reactive bowl, toss the fennel and turnips with the pink peppercorns. If desired, divide them between smaller containers.
Add the salt, allspice, cloves, fennel seed, bay leaves, sugar, vinegar and grape juice to a non-reactive saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for three minutes. Pour hot brine over the vegetables. Allow to cool to room temperature; add the fronds back to the pickles. Refrigerate for up to 6 weeks.
These turnip pickles are great served alongside grilled meats, especially lamb.
They can also be included as part of an antipasto plate with
nuts, olives and cheeses.
September 17th, 2008
This dish was inspired by the beautiful, amethyst eggplants from Abbondanza Farm at the Boulder Farmer’s Market. Abbondanza specializes in heirloom varieties of vegetables and seeds. Their stall is always a joy to visit. Somehow, I wanted to showcase these beauties. I wasn’t able to achieve that goal because the stunning purple faded during cooking. Instead, what I ended up with was a very tasty interpretation of ratatouille. While it may seem like a lot of work, it only takes about 1 hour to pull it together and the oven does the rest of the work. This recipe will feed up to 12 people as a side dish and it is perfect for entertaining because it can be served warm or at room temperature.
Roasted Ratatouille, Reconstructed
2 Medium Zucchinis
3 Summer Squash
1 Large Japanese Eggplant
4 Tbsp. Butter
2 medium onions, julienned about 1/4 inch
10 Small Amethyst Eggplants (if not available, use more Japanese eggplants)
2 packages of Sweet Mini Peppers
(or 2 large Red Bell Peppers 1 Yellow Bell Pepper)
2 lbs. Cherry Tomatoes, a variety of color and shapes
(or 2 cans of diced tomatoes, Fire Roasted Muir Glen Tomatoes would work well)
2/3 cup Fresh Basil
1 Tbsp. Lemon Thyme
Salt and Pepper
Balsamic Vinegar and Extra Virgin Olive Oil, to add just before serving
3/4 cup grated cheese of your choice: Parmesean, Feta and or Smoked Gouda
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. If you have a convection option on your oven, use it. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise and then on the diagonal into 1/2 inch half moons. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and about 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Lay onto the baking sheet and roast in the oven until slightly tender, about 8 minutes. Repeat with the Summer Squash.
Cut the Japanese eggplant in the same shape as the zucchini. Place it into a colander and salt liberally. Allow to drain for 20 minutes. Meanwhile heat a heavy bottom skillet on the stove (perferably cast iron) and add about butter. When hot, add the onions to the skillet. Cook for a long time over moderate to low heat until the onions are nice and golden yellow/brown. This could take up to 45 minutes
Once the eggplant have "sweat" a little, damp dry them and toss in a bowl with salt and pepper and olive oil. Now that some of the water is out of the eggplant, it will roast beautifully. Place eggplant on the baking sheet and place into the oven for about 10 minutes, or until they are golden and soft. For the amethyst eggplants: cut them in half lengthwise, lightly oil and season with salt and pepper them. Spread them on to a baking sheet and roast until they are soft, about 6 – 8 minutes.
If you have a gas grill, then grill your peppers until soft and slightly black. If you don’t then place them on a baking sheet and roast in the oven until they are puffed and slightly blackend. If using large bell peppers, slide off blackened skin, seed and cut into strips.
As each of the vegetables are cooked, toss them together into an ovenproof baking dish. Place your cherry tomatoes into the dish as well. Lightly toss everything together. Add about 3 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil and 1 1/2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar and then cover with foil and place into the oven. Lower the oven temperature to 250 degrees F and cook for about 2 hours. Just before serving, chop some fresh basil and lemon thyme, toss with the vegetables. Garnish with the cheese of your choice.
This dish can be made one day in advance; hold on the herbs and cheese until serving time. The flavors of the ratatouille will mingle famously, while you sit back and sip your wine.
September 16th, 2008