Charmed by Jamie Oliver

Who wouldn’t be charmed by Jamie Oliver? A talented chef and bestselling author who encourages the use of seasonal ingredients, he has championed the idea of providing nutritious, cost-efficient meals to school children in the UK. This sexy Briton also set up the Fifteen Foundation, a charity to train disadvantaged young adults to become professional chefs. 

Last night in honor of this great chef my friends and I served up Jamie Oliver dishes at our weekly Sunday at Seven gathering.



James made Caponata (Incredible Sicilian Eggplant Stew) from Jamie’s Italy cookbook.

Making Fruit Smoothie

Making Fruit Smoothie

Janet and Andrew made one of Jamie’s Fruit Smoothies

Potato Salad

Potato Salad

Jeff and Angela made this dish minus the salmon from Jamie Oliver’s website.  To accompany this salad they served up Jamie’s Crispy Barbecued Side of Salmon with Cucumber Yoghurt and Hot Tuna Salad with Basil Creme Fraiche


Crispy Barbecued Side of Salmon with Cucumber Yoghurt


Hot Tuna Salad with Basil Creme Fraiche

fragole con limone e menta  

Fragole con Limone e Menta

For dessert I made Fragole con Limone e Menta (Strawberries with Lemon and Mint) and Torta di Riso (Florentine Rice Tart) both from Jamie’s Italy.  I’m happy to report everyone had some and cleaned their plates!

Torta di Riso

Torta di Riso

Pâte à Choux

I am finding out what kind of baker I am with the help of the four week course Techniques of Baking at The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. This past Saturday I got started making pâte à choux, also known as cream puff paste.  Following are a few pictures. 

Melting butter

Melting butter


Stirring mix vigorously with a wooden spoon

Stirring pastry mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon


Piping to form eclairs

Piping to form eclairs


Baking the eclairs

Baking the eclairs

Stirring chocolate pastry creme

Stirring chocolate pastry creme


Yummy "doggie" bag

Yummy "doggie" bag

Finished product

Finished product minus the glaze

Eric Hopkins Maine Artist

Winding down a week of Maine posts and could not leave this friend, gentleman, boater, pilot, in general brilliant artist out. He keeps me breathing and gazing at the stars.

A few pictures from my recent visit to his studio in Rockland, ME.

Unfinished work

Unfinished work

Brushes, paints, etc.

Brushes, paints, etc.

Work space

Work space

Eric in his other environment

Eric in his other environment

Pasta from Cafe Miranda

cafe-miranda-ext1This recipe is from Cafe Miranda in Rockland, ME. A lovely place full of warmth and cheer.  The range and quality of the items on their menu continues to inspire the foodie in me and the bread from their wood fired oven dipped in olive oil always blows me away. As much as possible chef owner Kerry Altiero sources local ingredients, which is something he encourages in any chef. He also has a great reputation for mentoring and retaining his staff for years by being a good teacher and encouraging fun in the kitchen. That fun generally spills out into the dining room. 

Fiddlehead or Asparagus Pasta with Cheese, Sweet peppers, Brown Onions and Lemon.

Ingredients (for two people):

3 Tbsp of olive oil

1 bundle of asparagus, or 1/2 a pound of fiddle heads, trimmed and washed

1 large ripe red pepper

1/2 of an onion (we use red, but I like Vidalias too)

2 Tbsp of minced garlic

4-6 oz of goat or sheep cheese (go for a pressed and aged like Ricotta Salata)

12oz of fresh pasta (Cafe Miranda’s is available at several Maine retailers)

1/2 a lemon


Bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil. Cook according to whatever pasta recipe you are using.

While the pasta is boiling…Heat the oil in a sauté pan. Once hot add the onions and peppers.

Sauté them until the onions are just starting to brown on the edges.

Add the minced garlic and sauté for about a minuet.

Add the fiddleheads or asparagus, if using asparagus try to keep them all in one direction, they look nicer that way.

Color (kind of brown) the asparagus or fiddle heads on one side and turn or

toss. Season lightly with salt and pepper as the cheese is pretty salty.

Lower the heat slightly, add the goat or sheep cheese in two large chunks.

Cover slightly and allow the cheese to melt. BUT not all the way.

Toss the finished pasta in a little olive oil, and divide into two bowls.

Divide the asparagus/fiddleheads and place a chunk of the slightly melted cheese on top of each.

Squeeze the lemon over both sprinkle with more pepper is you like.


Pasta at Cafe Miranda

Pasta at Cafe Miranda

Bread coming out of wood fired oven at Cafe Miranda

Bread coming out of wood fired oven at Cafe Miranda

In Miranda's kitchen

In Miranda's kitchen

Sweetgrass Farm Winery & Distillery

Sweetgrass Farm in Union, ME

Sweetgrass Farm in Union, ME

Like most people I know I enjoy a good glass of wine or spirits. Given  Sweetgrass Farm Winery & Distillery  in Union, ME is located along a route convenient to me when visiting Midcoast Maine I figured why not visit there and learn about the production side.

Keith and Constance Bodine, the husband and wife team who own Sweetgrass,  offer free tastings of their hand crafted Maine grown fruit wines, ports, brandies and spirits.

Label artwork by Madeleine

Label artwork by Madeleine

While I was there Keith was making apple brandy.

Keith’s narration of the making of Sweetgrass Apple brandy.  Apples are pressed into juice then fermented into apple wine. Apple wine is placed in the still (pot on the left – see picture) where it is heated to boiling. The alcohol and flavors become vapors and pass through the swan’s neck tube over to the condenser (right side – see picture). The condenser is filled with cold water which cools the vapors flowing through back to a liquid, in this case apple brandy, which flows out of the parrot spout and is collected. Apple brandy then ages in small French oak barrels for about 14 months until it is cut to bottling strength with water and bottled. It is bottled unfiltered.

Making of Apple Brandy at Sweetgrass Farm

Making of Apple Brandy at Sweetgrass Farm

Since I was there while the apple brand was being made  it only seemed reasonable to purchase a bottle.   Keith said it could be used in the making of apple pies, and I already know how yummy it will be with hot cider and spices having enjoyed a flask during a football game years ago being played under chilly conditions.  The words warm and a little fuzzy come to mind.

My friend Angela and I are going to use some to make Brandy Apples with Goat Cheese, a recipe she found on The Food Network’s website. If it turns out I’ll post pictures.

Midcoast Maine Expectations

To many people Midcoast Maine is lobsters, lighthouses, sandy beaches, windjammers, historic inns and antiquing.  Having lived in the region for several years I have my own list of can’t miss places and cravings to indulge during return visits.  Here are a handful of  places my traveling companions should expect to hit with me.

Camden Harbor as seen from Marine Harbor Park

Camden Harbor Park was featured in the Academy Award nominated film IN THE BEDROOM. The benches overlooking Camden Harbor are a nice place to have lunch.

Camden Harbor as seen from The Waterfront Restaurant

The Waterfront Restaurant is a Camden institution. A year-round favorite of locals, the view from the deck cannot be beat. In the background of this photo is (the barely visible masts of) the Schooner Olad, which takes passengers on a two-hour sail around Penobscot Bay.

Tim Whelan Photography

Hands down the best photography book store I have been to period. Tim Whelan is the enthusiastic owner whose stock includes signed, hard to find and well priced copies of photography books on every subject from Afghanistan to high fashion.  Just up the road the Maine Media Workshops offer week long classes led by some of the world’s best known photographers (Joyce Tenneson, Antonin Kratochvil, John Goodman…). During the summer I try to make as many of their free slideshows and gallery shows as possible.

View of Rockport Harbor from a friend's deck.

Loyal Biscuit Co. Rockland

The Loyal Biscuit Co. in Rockland is an independent dog and cat supply boutique with a stock of high quality, natural edible goodies. The owners are true pet enthusiasts who have really helped me find foods that meet my dog’s dietary restrictions (she has chronic ear infections the vet thinks may be caused by food allergies).

Paige is a loyal and fully satisfied customer

My dog Paige enjoying a visit to her favorite Midcoast locale.

Rock City Books and Coffee Rockland

A social destination for locals Rock City Books and Coffee has a fun staff serving up really good coffee (roasted by Rock City Roasters down the street) and yummy treats (I love their Morning Glory muffins and chocolate dipped macaroons). I’ve found a number of good books in their used and new sections. Die hards (like me who move away) can order a pound or more of their favorite roast online.


Rock Paper Scissors


I know, you are thinking what now she is going to write about the hand game? How random. Nope, actually I’m going to share with you one of my greatest pleasures in Maine and my obsession with office supplies. Well, office spaces, but that is another post. Rock Paper Scissors is a stationery shop on Main Street in Wiscasset, ME a small town about 1 1/4 hours north of Portland, ME. The shop is owner Erika Soule’s response to those whose workspace are well a bit unfortunate. If your office space is drab, unorganized, or just not inspiring Erika can help you pluck just the right items from her shelves and voila magnifique.

Like me, Erika loves letters. That is actually why she started the store, she loves the textures and feel of paper and Japanese pens that have a super fine point. Her shop feels fun, I think mostly because of her passion for colorful items and an equal opportunity kind of approach when it comes to stationery. She told me she will use everything from the classic deckled edge G. Lalo notes, to the intended-for-kids Japanese stationery sets. It is all good to her. Erika just supports the notion of taking the time to stay in touch.

Of the 200 lines she carries Russell + Hazel, Miquel Riuz, Waste Not Paper, Moleskine, and Semikolon are the ones that first come to mind. Some of the lines, like Eco Jots are completely eco-friendly.

The shop is also a great place to pick up kids items.





Southern Comfort

I spent the better part of my summers growing up in Magnolia, AR. with my father’s sister and her family. Located in the southwestern part of Arkansas I benefited from both southern and “Texan” cooking.  My aunt, a true southern belle, cooked up timeless favorites like barbecue shrimp, fried chicken, sweet potato pie, seasonal fruit compotes, and every vegetable you can imagine only smothered in butter.  Southern food takes me back to those glorious summers and comforts me like few other things can. However, these days I do not consume red meat, and only minimal amounts of chicken or dairy products. Thus I meet my cravings head on with catfish, collard greens and biscuits or a healthy portion of chocolate pecan pie with an even healthier portion of whiskey.


This past weekend  I wanted to relax, which meant nourishing my mind (catching up on reading) and satisfying some of my recent cravings for comfort food.  Sunday afternoon gave me the chance to dig through my ever expanding binder of recipes. Halibut on Mashed Fava Beans with Mint from the April, 2009 issue of Bon Appetit was the perfect response to the previous evening’s dinner of popcorn and diet cola I’d consumed during STAR TREK. It would also be a nice compliment to a relatively quick and easy corn bread recipe from my newly acquired copy of  the Babycakes: The Cookbook by vegan, gluten-free NYC based bakery owner and mastermind Erin McKenna.


With this combination of fish and cornbread I got exactly what I wanted in my final holiday weekend meal, a blend of comfort and health. I even got to try out the marmalade jam I’d picked up at the farmers’ market Friday.

Babycakes Corn Bread (makes 10 slices)

2/3 cup rice milk
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free all-purpose baking four
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup corn flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup coconut oil, plus more for the pan
1/3 cup agave nectar
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce (homemade recipe in book as option)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325. Lightly grease a 7 x 4 x 3-inch loaf pan with oil.


Pour rice milk and apple cider vinegar into a small bowl, but do not stir; set aside to develop into “buttermilk.” In  a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, corn flour, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum and salt.  Add the oil, agave nectar, applesauce, and vanilla to the dry ingredients. Stir the batter until well combined. Pour in the “buttermilk.” Mix gently until the ingredients are fully incorporated and a slightly grainy batter is formed.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the corn bread on the center rack for 32 minutes, rotating the pan 180 degrees after 20 minutes. The finished corn bread will bounce back slightly when pressed, and  toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.

Let the corn bread stand in the pan for 20 minutes, then gently run a knife around the edge of the bread. Cover the top of the pan with a cutting board, and invert the loaf onto the board. Carefully lift the pan away and re-invert the corn bread onto another cutting board. Either cut and serve warm, or wait until completely cool before storing. Cover the uncut corn bread with plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.


about this blog

About Me Sharon Kitchens and Delicious Musings. Welcome and thank you for visiting my blog. I write about all the things I enjoy - Culture, Food, Photography &Travel. Read more on my about page.


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