Food & Wine

Pairing with Salads

on Monday, 24 October 2011. Posted in Food & Wine

Easy and very delicious!

Salads are wonderfully fresh additions to the menu considered when pairing with honey wine. I find that it's easy to lose sight of the breadth of all the possible choices for dinner when starting to "cook". I end up focusing on the traditional heavy hitters like chicken, fish or lamb and so automatically fire up the stovetop and/or oven to prepare a meal. But let's step back and think of this salad alternative for a moment. Crisp, refreshing and potentially very satisfying. I find that the approach that works for me is to have a well stocked vegetable "presence" in the refridgerator. I don't mean vast quantities of just one or two veggies but small quantities of as many local, fresh offerings as you can find. At the farmer's market I find some new colors of carrots so I'll pick up one or two carrots of each color, not bunches. One beet, one small bunch of radishes, one of each heirloom tomato, and so on. You get the picture. Find some local blue cheese or a harder type at your favorite vendor, and some spicy greens like arugula. At your favorite organic foodstore pick up some guilty pleasures "from away" like avocado, walnuts and almonds as well as artichoke hearts and a can of chickpeas. If you cook just a little, then hardboil some eggs to keep handy to garnish your salad. The trick to not overcooking hardboiled eggs is to bring them to a boil in plenty of water to cover and then turn the heat off but leave the eggs in the water. Wait 6-7 minutes, pull them out and put them in some cold water to cool off. Done. The whole pot and pan "now I've got to wash the dishes" fiasco is neatly sidestepped when you make salads for dinner. I usually get by with a vegetable peeler, my chopping board and trusty chef's knife and a box style vegetable grater. I do not use a cuisinart or mandoline unless it's salad for multitudes of friends.

I paired this salad with Wild Blue, a lovely, fruity honey wine that tastes of Maine blueberries and has a warm subtle finish. It has a bed of arugula and a variety of fresh vegetables. Rather than serve a "tossed salad" I assemble salad in individual bowls where some ingredients just get tumbled in but others I will place carefully to get some color contrast going. In that regard I will speak highly of the red beet, especially at this time of the year they are sweet and crunchy. They do not need to be cooked. If you have not yet tried raw beet in a salad you should. Just peel and grate as you would a carrot. The main colors in this salad are orange and yellow carrots and red beet, along with green pepper  and avocado. Add your favorite dressing and enjoy! 


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Happy Birthday

on Tuesday, 24 May 2011. Posted in Food & Wine

Fiddler's Reach wine master and his wife celebrate their birthday's this month

Fiddler's Reach wine master Rob and his beautiful wife both celebrate their birthdays in May. At a recent get together, we had a non traditional cake. We enjoyed R.Nicoll Not So Dry with it.

It was delicious!


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Fickle Maine Weather and Ying & Yang Soup

on Monday, 23 May 2011. Posted in Food & Wine

2 Comfort Soups to warm up a Maine Spring

It is very obvious to me now, someone forgot to pay homage to the weather goddess. Maine is known for “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute” philosophy, but I can't wait. I'm ready for the weather goddess to change the cold & wet to warm and partly sunny. In the mean time, 4_bowls_ying_and_yang_soupI need soup, but just not any soup, to cope with this overcast.   I need my Ying & Yang Soup made from Spring “pumpkin” soup and a hearty spicy black bean soup. I call this combination that because when you serve the soups, you put pumpkin on ½ of the bowl or soup plate and put the black bean on the other side. Put a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream and garnish with some salsa and sprigs of chives.  I poured a glass of wine to sustain me while making two different soups to serve for dinner. For the wine, I chose R. Nicoll Not So Dry which would go well with the spring “pumpkin” soup. 

I prefer fresh organic ingredients, and I favor frozen. I will use canned when I have no other choice or for tomatoes. Savory pumpkin soup is hard to make in May from fresh pumpkin and my frozen fall pumpkin puree was all gone. What to do? I had a plan –use sweet potatoe, butternut squash, and carrots. They would have the right color and would take the savory sweet spices well. When I served it, I told the dinner guests that they were having pumpkin soup. They didn’t disagree. I asked them to taste again, same comments. I told the true source of the pumpkin soup and was told – “Good job, now share it.”

To make the black bean soup I used organic dried beans that I had cooked and frozen. This soup needs to be hot, spicy, and flavorful. I soaked some ancho chilies in warm water so that I could add them to the soup while cooking the onions and garlic and when pureed they would add great depth. 

The trick in producing the ying & yang effect for serving isFilling_soup_plate tipping the serving bowls. In the picture, the soup plate is raised up on the left side by a small dish. Take the thicker soup and ladle it into the lower part of the bowl until the desired depth. Then pour or ladle the other soup in place as you slowly level the bowl. The soups will stay separate this way. You can do a swirl with the back of a spoon handle for even more beauty. Be creative on decorative elements for service. 

Here is the "pumpkin" soup recipe.

Spring “Pumpkin” Soup

1 large Vidalia onion, chopped

1 ½ Tablespoons olive oil

1 piece fresh ginger – 1” x 1 ¼” grated

3 large sweet organic carrots, peeled and grated

½ teaspoon turmeric powder

1 lbs of sweet potato, peeled and grated

3 lbs butternut squash, peeled & cubed into ½” cubes

1 ½ quarts (48 oz) organic veggie stock without tomatoes in it

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

5 slices organic Thailand candied ginger chopped fine

Salt & pepper to taste

Optional: 3 – 4 Tablespoons ground flax seed

Saute’ the onion in olive oil over medium heat until softened.Saute_onions_ginger_carrots
Using the chop & drop method  (immediately add after preparing the vegetable to the pot)– add in order: fresh ginger, carrots, organic sweet potato. Stir after each new ingredient addition and sauté until very soft. Now add the tumeric and a few grinds of white pepper from a pepper mill (1/4 teaspoon).

While that is happening, peel and cube the squash. Add to the sautéing vegetables and stir well. Add the freshly grated nutmeg or nutmeg powder. Stir. Add one quart of organic vegetable stock that doesn't have any tomatoes in it. Stir, cover and bring to a boil. Check liquid and add up to 16 oz more stock if necessary. Reduce heat and simmer until all the vegetables are soft.  Add the candied ginger, salt & pepper and optional flax seed.

Using a stick blender, puree the soup in the pot. If you don’t have one, take some out and carefully puree the soup in a blender, returning to a pot.  When heating a pureed soup, keep the heat low or you might scorch it. You want a thick soup that coats your spoon and doesn't slide off quickly. Retaste the soup and adjust seasonings. This soup is great the first day, but best the next day after chilling in the refrigerator overnight to let the flavors really marry.  

Pair with a semi-dry wine such as R. Nicoll Not So Dry for a hint of sweet but a nose of wildflowers and summer fruits.

Ying_and_Yang_SoupHere is the soup with its complimentary black bean soup.

©2011 Alice G. Bean Andrenyak

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Easter Dinner

on Tuesday, 19 April 2011. Posted in Food & Wine

Spring has sprung with daffidils

daffidils_up_closeI love spring. I go outside daily to see and record all the changes. In my garden Daffodils are the first large flowers to come up, and they don't get eaten by deer (unlike tulips). They come in so many colors and patterns and have a long blooming season. The full yellows seem to come out first and then the multicolored varieties follow. My daffy season finishes with fragrant multipetaled colored varieties. Because I live in coastal Maine,  Easter is daffies, pussywillows, and grass just starting up. I have childhood pictures of me in my Easter bonnets with new white gloves and ankle socks in front of my Mom's black tulips and in snow suits because of an early snowstorm. But regardless of the weather, Easter dinner is about families coming together.

My family tradition is to have ham for Easter. When I met my husband, I Ham_Cooked_with_Pinapple_Ringsadded a number of other foods to my Easter dinners such as kielbasa, paska, garlic cloves dipped in honey, and kolachki. I have chosen to showcase an easier version that isn't sweet that everyone can make. Join my family with this dinner and drink Soft Southerly mead from Fiddler's Reach LLC. The soft sweetness that comes from the Leatherwood honey from Georgia  compliments the foods so well, that one bottle just may not be enough for everyone to finish dinner and dessert. Easter_Dinner


Easter Dinner

Baked Ham Studded with Cloves and Pineapple Slices

Roasted Organic Red Beets

Green Vegetable Casserole

Mashed Sweet and Red Potatoes

Salad with Watercress, Tomatoes and Crackled Dyed Eggs

Russian Honey Mazurka (for dessert)

Baked Ham

Buy a large shank or butt ham. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Coat the pan that you will be cooking it in with a non-stick spray.  Put the ham face down on the pan. Then using a sharp knife, score the fat sections into a grid of squares. Insert a clove into the center of eachHam_studding_with_cloves square. Once you have finished, put the ham into the oven to bake. Allow 20-25 minutes per pound to cook. When finished, place pineapple rings over the cloves and return to the oven for ten minutes. Remove and let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

Boiled Beets and Crackled Eggs

If you don't want red hands on Easter, I would do these ahead of time.  You will be cooking the beets and the eggs together. Take small organic red beets and cut the stems off. Boil the eggs with the beets until they are tender.  Remove the eggs and run under cold water to cool. Gently crack the shell but do not remove and put the eggs into a bowl. When the beets are finished cooking, drain them BUTCrackled_dyed_eggs cover the eggs with beet water and let them sit in the beet water in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight. When the beets are cool enough, slip the peels off and refrigerate. Reheat either whole, sliced, or in wedges for the dinner table.  For the salad, put a small amount of watercress or spring greens on the plate. After peeling the eggs, slice and arrange. Add slices of yellow carrots and dress with a mustard honey vinagrette. 

Mashed Sweet and Red Potatoes 

Not everyone likes candied sweet potatoes. A great savoryMashing_Sweet_and_Red_Potatoes dish is to combine two potatoe types. Peel red potatoes and cut into 1/2" dice. Put into a pan with cold water to cover and start the pot to boil. Then peel sweet potatoes and cut into 3/4" dice. Once the sweet potatoes are prepared, add them to the pot with the other potatoes. Boil until tender, drain, and place the potatoes back into the pot to dry out on a warm burner for 2 minutes. Mash well. Add some butter, cream or milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Serve with chopped fresh chives.

Green Vegetable Casserole

1 lb of fresh organic green beans, stemmed and cut in 1/2

1/2 cup sliced sweet onion

1 medium organic zucchini cut into quarters and chopped

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1/2 soup can  of half and half or whole milk

2 ounces sherry wine or better yet - Soft Southerly mead

Salt & Pepper to taste

1 Tablespoon dried dill weed

After prepping the veggies, steam the green beans untilCarmelized_sweet_onions_and_green_veggies crisp/tender. Quickly rinse under cold water and dry. While the green beans are cooking, saute the sweet onion in a little olive oil until caramelized on low heat. Add the zucchini slices and lightly brown/caramelize. Add the beans and saute for 2 minutes to blend flavors. In a bowl, mix the soup, 1/2 soup can of half and half or milk, the sherry, nutmeg, salt & pepper and dill. Add to the veggies and stir. Remove from heat. Pour into a greased casserole dish. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes until bubbly.

Enjoy your Easter holidays.


copywrite 2011 Alice Bean Andrenyak

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Bald Eagles and Seared Maine Scallops

on Monday, 28 March 2011. Posted in Food & Wine

Merrymeeting dry mead is great with scallops

Bald Eagles sighted and Seared Maine Scallops

Eagle_in_flight_up_highThere are many things that excite me, but I am particularly excited when I can watch spectacular birds flying. I look for raptors whenever I am a passenger in a vehicle. Trying to drive and watch is tricky but I admit to always being on the lookout. Over the weekend, I was blessed by a great sighting – 4 mature bald eagles were flying overhead. I pulled over and watched. I could see that they were trying to land in a particular tree, probably because it has a great overlook where they can fish. For more than 90 minutes, none were successful because of the high winds and even higher wind gusts. I left frozen and hopeful that they would be able to land. The picture is at great distanceScallops_and_Merrymeeting.

I had purchased large Maine scallops on my way home. I was happy to serve them for dinner.  We had friends over several evenings, so I served them two nights in a row to different people. Large scallops simply seared quickly on two sides brings out their sweetness. One night sautéed in bacon fat served with steamed broccoli and orange peppers, the other with sautéed green beans and mushrooms. Everyone loved Merrymeeting dry mead with the scallops.

It is very easy to sear large scallops in a hot pan. When your salad or the rest of your sides are nearly complete, preheat Searing_Scallopsyour pan with your choice of oil or butter. Rinse and then pat dry the scallops. If using unsalted butter or olive oil, very lightly salt them and sprinkle with white pepper. Place into the hot pan and don’t move them for 2 ½ minutes. Turn them and watch them for 3 minutes. They should have some give to them. Serve warm.


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St. Patrick's Day New England Boiled Dinner

on Sunday, 13 March 2011. Posted in Food & Wine

Drink Mead and Eat and Be Irish

NE_boiled_dinner_finishedSt. Patrick’s Day is truly an American holiday. I have friends living in Ireland in the beautiful peninsula of Dingle and it is not celebrated with parades and green beer. But for those of us brought up in New England it is about Boston, green, green beer, shamrocks, and the New England Boiled Dinner. My Dad would always bring home shamrock plants for my Mom and all the fixings for the dinner with an extra large piece or pieces of corned beef. He wanted to be sure there would be corned beef for sandwiches and hash. Mom knew just what to do and the smells of this meal cooking still bring me delight.

Thinking ahead to writing this blog, I went to the farmers market and bought beautiful organic veggies and then went to the store for the corned beef. In early years this was the approved method of preserving beef for delayed use. Putting root veggies in the root cellar meant good eating throughout the winter. St. Patrick ’s Day came before the southern spring fresh veggies would make it up on the train Winter vegetables were used and cooking all day on the back of a wood stove was easy. My Dad frequently reminded me that lettuce wedges with Thousand Island dressing were so special in Maine in the spring because that was all that was left of a head of lettuce after making the train trip.

My tasting committee decided that Mermaid’s Song and Soft Southerly were good choices for wine with the dinner. Each wine gave different finishes on the food. Choices changed depending on whether you were eating corned beef with the honey whole grain mustard or the Spelt and Oatmeal Irish Soda Bread with dried cranberries. I know that you might want a good Irish beer with the meal, but try the mead – it’s a great compliment!


New England Boiled Dinner for St. Patrick’s Day

3-4 pound Flat Brisket Corned Beef. Can use Point Cut

Organic carrots, peeled

Organic green cabbage, core removed and cut into wedges

Organic small boiling potatoes (red looks nice) peeledNE_boiled_dinner_veggies

Organic small-medium onions

Spices: spice packet with corned beef plus bay leaves, peppercorns, caraway seeds, mustard seeds, and a beef bouillon cube

Get your big pot out and after rinsing the corned beef and removing excess fat, place it in. Cover with water by 1”. Add the spice packet plus 2 extra bay leaves, 1 Tablespoon peppercorns, 1 teaspoon caraway seeds, ½ teaspoon mustard seeds, and a beef bouillon cube. Place on stove and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 2 ½ - 3 ½ hours or until fork tender and at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

At two hours cooking time start prepping veggies. How many you use depends on how many people you are serving and what you want to do with leftovers. I like using thinner carrots that only need to be cut in half, smaller onions and potoatoes to be served whole. I often place a wooden toothpick through the cabbage wedges to keep the leaves together while cooking. Place prepared veggies in cold water to store until the pot is ready.

Once the corned beef has reached 150 degrees, add all the veggies and raise the heat under the pot to bring it to boil. 15 minutes or so later check the meat. If it is finished, removed to a plate and cover with foil to rest and finish cooking veggies.

NE_boiled_dinner_cookingYou can do this in a crock pot but putting the meat in first, then the veggies and cover with water and cook for 6 or more hours. The veggies will lose a bit of color but are very tasty.

To serve, slice the corned beef across the grain of the meat. Place slices on plates with wedges of cabbage, carrots, onions, and potatoes. Have a honey grain mustard and Irish Soda Bread on the side. Enjoy Mermaid's Song or Soft Southerly mead with the dinner.

©2011 Alice Bean Andrenyak

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Stuffed Mushrooms on a Friday night

on Friday, 25 February 2011. Posted in Food & Wine

Bean and Lemon Stuffed Mushrooms

mushroom_caps__kielbasaMushroom caps and kielbasa appetizerIt was a Friday afternoon and I thought that it would be great to celebrate TGIF with my husband. Favorite relaxing foods for us are warm, soft, and they fill your mouth with flavor yet aren't salty or full of fat. Stuffed mushrooms sounded great to me. I checked the cupboards and found some dried aduki beans, fresh lemon. In the refrigerator I had organic two-bite sized white and baby portabella or crimini mushrooms. I decided treat my husband to some of his favorite polish kielbasa purchased in Pennsylvania warm with whole grain honey mustard as well.

I boiled some water for tea for me while cooking and to pour over the beans to rehydrate. Then I went to get the kielbasa out of the freezer, and I started to prepare the mushrooms. When the beans had finished their quick soak, I cooked them. For added flavor while cooking the beans use vegetable broth, dried kelp or dulse, or beef broth.

I chopped the onions, garlic, mushroom stems, zested the lemon before juicing it and started cooking. Wonderful smells filled my kitchen and greeted my husband when he came home. To speed up, have some organic canned beans in the cupboard.

I chose Merrymeeting Honey Wine to compliment the mushrooms and the kielbasa and it was great!

Try the recipe below.

Bean and Lemon Stuffed Mushrooms

Please use local or organic ingredients

1 cup dried or 2 cups canned Aduki beans (or substitute black beans)

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion finely chopped

2 garlic cloves crushed & finely chopped

1 teaspoon dry thyme

¼ teaspoon ground coriander

12 – 16 medium size/two bite mushrooms Baby bellas or white (mixed is best)

Grated rind of one lemon20110225_13

Juice of one lemon

3 tablespoons dry white wine or mead

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup whole wheat or rye or spelt bread crumbs

¼ cup freshly grated romano cheese

1/3 cup crumbled goat's cheese or feta cheese

Sea salt to taste

If using dried beans, sort and quick soak by covering with 3 cups boiling water with 2 or 3 dulse pieces added for one hour. Drain, cook in pot with enough water to cover by 2 inches with 2 or 3 pieces of dulse or kelp. When tender, drain & rinse.  If using canned beans, drain & rinse. Pulse beans in a food processor until grainy/near puree but with some beans not smashed. You can use a potatoe masher to smash the beans.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. or 200 degrees C.

Clean the mushrooms then break the stems from the caps. Finely chop the stems. Spray with cooking spray a large ovenproof dish or coat with olive oil. Spray the mushroom caps with cooking spray or lightly brush with oil and place in the ovenproof dish.

Saute_mushrooms__onions_-_captionSaute'ing diced mushroom cap stems and onionsIn a large heavy frying pan, preheat olive oil until warm. Add onion & garlic and stir until almost softened. Then add thyme and ground coriander and stir and cook 1 minute. Add the chopped mushroom stems and sauté until soft but not dry. Add the smashed beans to the pan and sauté for 2 minutes. Then add lemon rind, juice, wine, and black pepper. If too dry, add up to ¼ cup of water. Saute' until soft and sticky then add bread crumbs and romano cheese. Take off the heat and stir. Adjust seasonings now.

Fill the mushroom caps with the filling, making mounds. Cover with foil and bake 15- 18 minutes at 400 degrees. Remove from oven, uncover and top with goat or feta cheese. Return to oven for 15 – 20 minutes or when the cheese is melted and bubbly and the mushrooms are soft and tender.

Copywrite © 2011 Alice Bean Andrenyak


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Soft Southerly on Valentines Weekend

on Sunday, 13 February 2011. Posted in Food & Wine

Soft Southerly with Lamb and White Bean Stew

Lamb_and_White_Bean_StewIt was Valentines Weekend and I'm surrounded with over two feet of snow and a saltwater bay that is frozen. The daily highs are in the mid 20's and the evenings hover around 5.  Its time to celebrate flavor.

My husband and friends enjoy lamb. I wanted a Fiddler's Reach wine that would compliment a mediterranean style lamb dish with a baltic flare that uses subtle but rich regional spices. Soft Southerly has a sweetness that tastes like juicy apples and melon with a bit of earthy cinnamon in the finish. What a choice! The wine made the dish complete because it added flavor.  Continuing on after great conversation, for dessert I had made some truffles.  What little Soft Southerly that was left in our glasses certainly helped those truffles disappear quickly. The recipe is below if you want to try it.

While I'm cooking the stew I notice that the cardinals, blue jays, chickadees, finches, and titmouse are trying to beat the grey squirrels to the black oil seed. Suet is attacked by downy and hairy woodpeckers and chickadees when the crows and ravens aren't feeding. Then I see a downy woodpecker trying out the birdfeeders with black oil and thistle seed. I think it thought it was Goldilocks - for it tried all three front feeders. I know that my friends and husband will eat well tonight just like the birds are now.



Lamb and White Bean Stew

Use organic and local sourced ingredients whenever possible.

2 cups dried white beans (pea or navy)

3 Tablespoons olive oil

2 1/2 pounds boneless lean lamb shoulder in 1” cubes

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1 medium size onion chopped

12 very small cipollini onions peeled OR 2 medium size sweet onions chopped

½ teaspoon HOT Hungarian paprika

2 cups organic beef stock or broth

2 Tablespoons  organic tomato paste

28 ounce can of organic San Marino plum tomatoes in sauce

2 green bell peppers (cored & seeded) diced

1 very small chili pepper (cored & seeded) minced

4 cloves of garlic peeled and minced

1/8th of a teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons SWEET Hungarian paprika divided

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice, more later if desired

Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to taste

If using dried beans, soak overnight or covered with boiling water for at least 2 hours with a strip of dried kelp to rehydrate. Then cook in at least 6 cups of lightly salted water with another 5” strip of dried kelp. Start at a boil and reduce to a simmer until beans are tender – 40 minutes or so.  You can use 4 cups of drained canned beans.

In a large pot (can use a heat proof casserole dish) heat olive oil and then in small batches brown the lamb on all sides. Remove each batch to a dish. Pour off any remaining oil and add butter. Saute’ the onions until almost translucent then add the HOT paprika. When the onions are soft, return the lamb to the pot and gently stir. Mix the tomato paste in the broth and add to the pot. Simmer gently, covered for 45 minutes or until lamb is tender. Preheat oven near the end to 3500F

Add the plum tomatoes (chopped or squished into pieces), the juice, bell peppers, some or all of the chili pepper, garlic, cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of the SWEET Hungarian paprika, and lemon juice. Stir carefully and bring to a boil.  Cover and place in preheated oven for 1 hour.

Remove from oven, stir and taste. Add more lemon juice, salt & pepper as desired. Add some fresh chopped flat leaf parsley. Serve over or with rice and a salad.

Copywrite © 2010 Alice Bean Andrenyak

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