Cindy (a talented home cook whose recipes have yet to fail me) at Coombs Family Farms sent me this recipe. I have so many apples from my apple CSA the more recipes using (the more) apples the better! In spite of a long work day last Friday I managed to muster the energy to make this for dessert at a friend’s home. So good! Pretty sure the secrets to making this are using local apples and real maple syrup. I’m a bit ridiculous when it comes to real maple syrup. Of course I like to practically drench my pancakes in it (I feel the same way about pickled ginger with sushi – cannot get enough of it have to order extra and eat the portion off my friend’s plate), but I cannot stand the fake stuff. I’m literally the gal who will go to a friend’s home for breakfast with a bottle of the real stuff and if I find out they have the fake stuff it normally ends up in the trash and mine in their fridge. The fake stuff has something like 3% maple syrup and the rest is junk. Do you really want to start your day with high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, caramel color, sodium hexametaphosphate, and sodium benzoate? See I’m on a tirade, the fake stuff and the people who push it bother me that much.
The real stuff does cost more, but it is my personal choice to support a local farmer (I purchase mine from Jim Freyenhagen who sells at his farm and some farmers’ markets in the Midcoast) – isn’t that the American way? Cindy works for Coombs Family Farms and this recipe includes some of their maple sugar. I’m not sure who else makes it, but theirs is good. Enjoy!
Maple Sugar Baked Apples
8 large baking apples
1/2 cup maple sugar
t tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
6 Tbsp 100% pure (organic preferred) maple syrup
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 – 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1 cup water
Peel skin off top quarter of each apple.Core apple, leaving bottom intact.Stand apples in 13x9x2-inch baking pan.Mix sugar and spice in bowl.Reserve 2 tablespoons mixture.Fill apple cavities with remaining sugar mixture and raisins if desired.Spoon ½ tablespoon maple syrup into each cavity.Scatter 3 tablespoons butter piece over apple.(can be made up to 4 hours ahead. Cover & chill)
Yield: 8 servings (um Cindy, those must be small servings because my two friends and I nearly polished off this recipe).
Gina DePalma’s recipes bring the sweet-toothed into the kitchen and back to the table with healthy size portions. With a couple exceptions, her recipes are simple to make but quite elegant to present. This Sweet Apple Omelet sounds humble enough until you begin to read the ingredients – grappa!? No complaints here, I find alcohol perfectly acceptable in all things baked and cooked.
What I had trouble grasping is the idea of this dish as an omelet. I think of omelets as eggs cooked in a pan with butter or olive oil and wrapped around (clutching if you will) vegetables and meats. I don’t think of them with apples and sugars. So, I decided to do a little research and find out just what makes up an omelet.
It turns out omelets date back to the Middle Ages. They can be sweet or savory dishes. Generally they are a mixture of beaten eggs, often with some dairy, and herbs. Wikipedia has examples of omelets from around the world including Debilovka – a traditional omelet, initially issued by Jewish-Russian immigrants in Israel – and the Hangtown fry, containing bacon and breaded oysters and originating in Placerville, California during the gold rush.
I’m not so sure about breaded oysters in my omelets, but this recipe is a keeper. Enjoy!
2 medium Golden Delicious, Rome, or Empire apples (I used Beacon apples from my Apple CSA)
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp grappa
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp honey (I used locally sourced/produced Culture Honey from the newly established Urban Farm Fermentory)
4-5 large eggs
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Peel and core the apples, cut them into quarters, then cut the quarters into slices. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat and add the olive oil, followed by the apples. Saute the apples until they just begin to turn soft, translucent, and tender, about 5 minutes. Add the sugar and cinnamon to the pan, shaking to coat the apples. Remove the pan from the heat and slowly add the grappa, then return the pan to low heat and let the apple mixture simmer for 2 to 3 minutes to cook off the alcohol and tenderize the apples.
In a small saucepan, melt 1 Tbsp butter over low heat; do not allow it to bubble. Add the honey and swirl the pan to combine the butter and honey thoroughly. Set the pan aside, off the heat. Have ready a serving plate dusted with confectioners’ sugar.
Crack the eggs into a medium bowl and whisk them until the yolks and whites are combined. In a nonstick 10-inch omelet pan, melt the remaining 1 Tbsp butter over medium heat, swirling it around to coat the bottom completely. When the butter begins to bubble, add the eggs. Use a fork or spatula to pull any cooked egg toward the center of the pan while tilting the pan to move uncooked egg to the edges. Continue moving the eggs around gently until all the eggs are cooked, 2 to 3 minutes. Very quickly, spoon some of the cooked apples into the center of the omelet in a straight line spanning the diameter of the omelet. Shake the pan to loosen the omelet completely then fold one side of the omelet over the apples.
Quickly slide the omelet onto the sugar-dusted serving plate, folding it over on top of itself with the edge of the pan or a spatula. Immediately drizzle the warm honey-butter mixture evenly over the surface of the omelet, then dust it with confectioners’ sugar.
Serve immediately, cutting the omelet into 2 large halves or 4 smaller quarters.
By the time the 12 plus episodes of the fourth season of AMC’s award-winning “Mad Men” arrive at my home via Netflix, every national publication will have imposed their thoughts on each episode of this profoundly popular/stylish/smart show. I stay away from the reviews (the written ones anyway, it is hard to avoid tidbits of conversation in public spots), but am happy to take a look at clever photo essays like the one Rolling Stone featured last month. Here are my favorite shots: Jon Hamm (of course!), prop table, wardrobe room, and January Jones (love her, hate her, she helps make the show).
I have begun to dream of short, fat waves and the joy of standing on an elongated piece of fiberglass riding over cool water friends shouting words of support blurred by the swish and tumble of the water beneath me. I live in Maine and this past spring I began surfing, or more specifically learning to surf. It is the single most humbling and learning experience I have ever taken on, and one I feel committed to coming back to for as long as I am able. Each time I enter the water the waves teach of patience, letting go, trusting, and managing fear. They can leave you on the beach wearing a happy salt coating or shaken knowing like life some moments are not easy and will take work. I am learning sleep matters less after meeting guilt head on when I let my tired body prevent me from reaching friends at the beach at dawn. Every encounter with this new passion of mine teaches me something and leaves me refreshed body and soul.
The surfing community in Maine I have experienced thus far is one of the kindest and most supportive I have ever known. Men and women, some decades older, some a few years younger, meet at Higgins Beach (one of a dozen or more spots in Southern Maine) as or shortly after the sun has come up and make their way into the water. They are relentless paddling through the breaking waves, fighting at times to get to the other side where they will sit on their boards and wait for that next wave the one they will ride for blissful seconds.
Last weekend surfers in Maine (and on much of the New England coastline) rejoiced in the epic waves gifted to us by Hurricane Igor. I had an excellent time playing in the surf and was psyched to see what the guys at Grain Surfboards were going to post on their blog about the waves. Brad and Mike, the owners, are living the dream hand-building natural, sustainable wood surfboards in a picturesque rural barn in York (about hour south of Portland). They also teach weeklong workshops where people learn to build their own wooden surfboard. Mike’s brother Nick is a talented photographer whose clients include Quicksilver, Roxy, Hurley, and Surfer’s Journal.
Lately it seems if a pro surfer is coming to New England his destination is Grain. Hey, I’ve visited their headquarters touched their beautiful boards and found these guys are the real deal, authentic to their lives and practice, super nice and well being invested in sustainable methods of board building deserving of all the attention/success they can get. Nick’s photographic sensibility offers controlled images brimming with fun sometimes sensual elements. Following are a few of his beauties from the recent swell…
A dream of mine is to spend a few nights up in a tree with an incredible view. Somewhere natural and unstressed, a bike or short car ride from a small town in the country. Over the years I’ve come across photos and articles of privately owned treehouses, heard about guided tree climbing sessions and tree camping (a hammock harnessed high up in a tree – that’s fine I suppose for a night), and read about numerous tree hotel resorts in Asia and Africa (my fear of flying prevents me from traveling quite that far – no way can I be on a plane for more than 8-9 hours).
Earlier this week I learned about Treehotel and this my dear readers this may be where I fulfill my dream – one day! The description on their website: Treehotel is located in the beautiful village of Harads, approximately 60 km south of the Arctic Circle, and one hour drive from Luleå, which has the largest airport in northern Sweden. Harads is a place that surrounded by forest and water and by stillness and wilderness. Here lives 600 inhabitants. We have restaurants, stores, hostel, gas station, swimming facilities, view point Klippan and a beautiful church.
In Portland, Maine’s East Bayside neighborhood an all but abandoned single-story warehouse bay has been transformed into the Urban Farm Fermentory (or “Ferm” as we locals call it), which is a fermentation, education and engagement center for beverage (cider, and wine) and food (sauerkraut, pickles…) fermentations. Last night I attended a class there led by horticulturalist David Buchanan and Ferm founder Eli Cayer on planting a backyard orchard and making sweet and hard cider.
The back-to-the-land movement in cities (New York, Chicago, Minneapolis) is just that a movement (one I am grateful has begun). In Portland, a large town in a rural state, it is a way of life. People home preserve here because that is how they are rewarded with the best jellies, jams, and mustards. Artisan breads are more often made by someone you wave to on the beach in the morning, cheese arrives in a plastic tub by way of a farmer’s husband who dolls it out at his office (other) job, honey from a neighbor’s backyard hives, and then like the rest of America whatever fresh ingredients we cannot source locally we purchase at a market. Here we actually know (most of the time) the fishermen who caught the seafood we picked up at the local market or fishermen’s coop and are seasoning with lemon, olive oil, and sea salt from the grocer. This “culinary surge” in Portland has become well documented by no less than The New York Times and Bon Appetit.
Eli Cayer, the founder of the Ferm, is a Portland based entrepreneur whose position of connecting communities and encouraging creative sustainable living fits with this environment. Eli worked with a local permaculture farmer (same one who saved my tomato and eggplant) to reclaim the derelict and overgrown lot behind the Ferm and turn it into a micro vertical and raised bed/container urban farm. With Eli’s encouragement several local small businesses and individuals have begun to bond themselves to the Ferm’s platform including: farmers, herbalists, fruit processors, beekeepers, and artists. Some of these individuals conduct workshops at there for people who want to learn season extension, worm composting, beekeeping, and live culture based pickling.
Horticulturalist David Buchanan, makes some of the sweetest cider I have ever tried. A couple weeks ago I stopped by the Ferm to check out the apple pressing festivities and was offered a sample of Dave’s cider. It was as if I was drinking nostalgia – causing a sudden hankering for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. That afternoon I went home with a jug of his excellent cider and today I’ll pick up another at the Portland farmers’ market. For a list of his apple trees (where he sources from and sells seedlings of) visit here.
What I learned in a nutshell. Apple cider is raw pressed apples with no added water or preservatives.
The basics of making apple cider: Obtain apples (if commercially make sure they are organic) and clean. Experiment with blends! Discard spoiled parts, worms (if freshly picked)…Core seeds. Quarter apples. Make sure all equipment (knives, cutting board, apple press or food processor …) is clean. Puree apples and extract juice. ***For step by step instructions visit thissite (where you can learn about sugars, yeast…).
For a list of home brewing shops nationwide visit this site. A helpful site for home brewing basics is homebrewing.net. Wild Fermentation is an excellent resource for learning about fermenting, including bottling alcohol ferments.
A lively You Tube video from a Vermont cider mill to get you in the mood (in case you can’t quite see the fall foliage yet where you are) and show you how a mid-size apple cider operation works.
It takes a lot for me to use this space as a place to rant, but here goes..
Okay, so I just want to be clear…The Corn Refiners Association petitioned the FDA last week for use of “corn sugar” as the alternate name for high fructose corn syrup with the “goal” of “eliminating consumer confusion” according to their official press release. REALLY!?! This, on the tails of Log Cabin putting out their “All Natural” Syrup, which as Yahoo smartly pointed out is not the “real deal” at all with only 4% maple. How stupid does the commercial food industry think consumers are – or more to the point how stupid do they want us to be – and how unhealthy?
Consider this: In 2008, the Corn Refiners Association spent at least $13 million and as much as $20 million in a massive public relations campaign about the natural goodness of high fructose corn syrup, including television ads aimed mainly at moms. That’s nine times more than what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allocated that year for its entire 5-a-Day fruits and vegetables program.
I looked out on the porch from my office and saw my cat Kirkland sunning herself. A butterfly flew up and I caught this photo. Will not be long before I’ll have to close the windows and shut the door. Till then enjoying the fresh air and today the sunshine. Hope you are too!
In a week fall will officially be ushered in. In Maine the beach house rentals are empty, downtown parking spots are available, apple picking is in high gear, bare limbs are not seen as frequently, windows are being lowered at night, and the dark is taking over earlier and staying later. This is my favorite time of year. Hours are spent finding great books wedged into the stacks of one of my favorite used book stores, discovering the next great story, meeting the characters, wrapping up in a blanket in the chair in my backyard my toes brushing the grass, bent over a table with a cup of tea, in my own literary world on the treadmill at the local gym. Some seasons are better than others for finding great stories. Last fall and winter I read books written decades ago, this year with few exceptions I am falling in love with books published in the past couple years.
One of the greatest gifts I think someone can share with another human being is an impossibly good book that tears at you relentlessly. A book that makes you laugh out loud (I love those) and cry or draw back. The authors who inspire me and make me want to tell everyone I know to read their work are those who provoke great emotion reaching out from the pages, between the lines brilliantly executed words play out like a Wimbledon tennis match. Careful and wild with great strength.
What I am reading:
Will Write for Food by Dianne Jacob – an immensely helpful book to anyone who wants to become a better writer and/or learn about the craft of food writing. She interviewed dozens of well known cookbook authors, food writers, and food bloggers and shares their insight into the world of professional food writing.
**Endless Feasts: Sixty Years of Writing from Gourmet and M.F.K Fisher’s The Art of Eating are on my list as a result of the writing exercises at the end of Jacob’s second chapter.
The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry: Love, Laughter, and Tears at the World’s Most Famous Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn – the reader travels along with Flinn as she pursues her childhood dream of attending Le Cordon Bleu. Have a bottle of wine, baguette, and some runny smelly cheese on hand to thoroughly enjoy this lovely woman and her fantastic tale of doing what no one does anymore – going on a great risk it all adventure that embraces life arms wide open running full speed ahead. I could not help myself from smiling as I read.
Dimanche and Other Stories by Irene Nemirovsky – if you have not read Suite Francaise stop reading, immediately get your car keys or pull your bike round and head to the nearest book shop. Tell them you need Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky. They don’t have it in, fine order it. Oh, or check with your local library!! Just don’t blame me when you finish the book and need more – that is why I am offering up Dimanche and Other Stories. Irène Némirovsky (1903 – 1942) was a French novelist who died at the age of 39 in Auschwitz, Nazi Germany occupied Poland. By reading her beautiful works you are preserving her voice.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro – I am 50 pages in and when I am done writing this post will continue reading. Written by the author of The Remains of the Day, which should say enough about the quality of the writing right there, the novel as narrated by Kathy tells the story of her time at an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside and the Orwellian past she shared there with friends Ruth and Tommy. A film based on the book, starring Kiera Knightley and Carey Mulligan, will be released this fall.
The Given Day by Dennis Lehane – a New York Times bestseller written by the author of Gone, Baby Gone; Mystic River and Shutter Island.
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger – I was intrigued about this book after reading this review in The New York Times. I did not, and have no intention of reading her other book The Time Traveler’s Wife (even a brilliant cast could not save that film from being dreadful).