No matter how many times we travel to Maine, there is always something new to discover. This trip it was a beautiful cove in the historic community of Ducktrap. Thanks to detailed directions from our innkeepers, we found this lovely, secluded cove where locals go clamming and fishing.
It was a soft, grey day with the color of the season more subtle and yet more poignant than the day before. Pine trees clung to sheer rock as if to acknowledge that Maine is “where the mountains meet the sea.”
Continuing on our journey, we began to roam back hills and small towns that we had not yet visited. We stopped at the Petunia Pump which at one time, many years ago, must have supplied the village with water. Have you ever had the privilege of pumping your own water? I have! Years ago during a severe drought when our cistern had run dry, we had to travel miles with our jugs and were grateful that a pump like this was still working. Proof that this city girl was once a country kid.
We found a tree where apples were still clinging to branches. In Autumn I look to the apple harvest for a key ingredient in one of my quick and easy recipes for appetizers. I have to say that I do cheat when it comes to the preparation…I use prepackaged fillo shells which makes this a recipe my “go to” when I want something tasty, but I’m in a pinch for time. Also, these are perfect to make ahead. Just pop them in the oven minutes before your guests arrive.
Please don’t be intimidated about caramelizing apples. It’s actually very easy. A bit of butter, a sprinkle of sugar, fruit. Stir and watch it happen!
My trick is to bake the shells for 3 minutes before I stuff them with creamy cheese and caramelized fruit. They’ll look like this.
Pop a small piece of brie approximately 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch into the pre-baked shell.
Plop on a bit of fruit.
Pop back into the oven for 5 to 8 minutes.
Baked Brie Bites with Caramelized Apple Recipe
Yield: 15 pieces - 5 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
A fast, easy and delicious appetizer, perfect for the holidays.
1 box mini fillo shells (15 per box)
1 - 3 inch wedge of high quality brie, approximately 1/3 lb., cut into 1/2 x 1/2 inch pieces
1 large apple (I use Honeycrisp)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon granulated sugar (can substitute brown sugar)
Pinch cinnamon and/or nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Peel and cube apple into approximately 1/4 inch pieces.
Melt butter in a medium pan.
Add apple cubes and sprinkle with sugar and spices. Stir occasionally, for about 10 minutes till apples are a golden, caramel color. See photo.
I like the shells to be very crisp and golden, so I pre-bake the shells for just a few minutes before adding the filling.
Place shells on baking sheet. Bake for approximately 3 - 4 minutes. Remove from oven.
Pop brie into shells and top with caramelized apples. See photo.
Bake for 5 to 8 minutes until brie is hot and melting.
It had been a very long time since we went to Maine in Autumn, too long really. Most of the tourists had hung up their beach towels and packed away the camping gear weeks ago, leaving a few diehards left to say “so long” to the season. The warm breezes had fled, replaced by crisp leaves, painterly skies and crackling logs. Most of the roadside lobster shacks were shuttered and stores were on a different schedule. That lovely feeling that you should stock your pantry, split more wood and put on another sweater had descended.
We were in luck that Cedarholm Garden Bay Inn was open till the end of October. We were warmly welcomed by George, Kristin, Barry and Joyce. The Inn was still as beautiful and spotless as it was on our last visit. We settled back into our little cabin in the woods overlooking Penobscot Bay, lit a fire and raised a glass to being back. There was a change that we took to right away…Kristin was now making homemade granola, and it was delicious. We are not used to a big breakfast, but found room to stuff in not just the granola, but also the fresh fruit and the still warm homemade sweet breads and muffins Joyce prepared every morning. Another change was that instead of beds of blooming perennials, we were met by dahlias… tall, imposing stalks topped by flowers that burst forth with all of the colors of the rainbow and then some.
George and Kristin are avid gardeners and their love for the dahlia proves it. You have to be committed to dahlias, they’re not a flower you can just plant and walk away. We we told that dahlias have to be scooped out of the earth after the first frost, then washed, treated, dried and divided before they’re off for their long winter’s nap in the cellar. In the Spring they are started in the greenhouse and when they are a certain size and the weather is favorable they are planted in their special beds. Are they worth all of this work? You decide.
Dana and I were intrigued by the dahlias, so Joyce gave us a brochure and directions to Endless Summer Flower Farm in Camden where we were in awe of row upon row of the tallest, most beautiful dahlias I had ever seen in one place at the same time…wow! Dana and I made notes of our favorites: Wyoming Wedding, Valley Rust Bucket, Valentine Lil and Cafe au Lait. We were told that we could order online and receive these little tubers in the Spring to begin our own dahlia adventure.
On our drive to the farm, we saw that the hills of wild blueberries were now a crimson carpet. All of the little blue beauties bursting with flavor were gone till next year. Most of them are now nestled in jars and freezers waiting to be used to make something wonderful like this gingerbread. A burst of spice, a pop of sweet served warm from the oven. A plop of whipped cream and a few more berries make this treat even more special. So far, I’ve received rave reviews for this recipe…one friend even said that he would prefer it over pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving! Whether you serve it then, or at your next Sunday Supper with your friends and family is up to you.
Gingerbread Cake with Blueberries
Yield: serves 8
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
A burst of spice and a pop of sweet with a crunchy sugar topping.
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 tablespoons molasses
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Add egg, mix till combined.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt making sure that they are well blended.
In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, baking soda and molasses.
Alternate mixing in the flour and the buttermilk to the creamed mixture till it is all combined. Gently fold in blueberries.
In a 9 x 9 x 2 baking dish, or 9 inch round pan, pour batter and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar.
Bake for approximately 40 minutes or till a toothpick comes out clean.
Serve warm with whipped cream and fresh blueberries.
Jeff and I both knew that it would happen one day. Dana would walk out the door and come back very excited with something sparkling on her left hand. We just didn’t know who, or when, or where, till John. I honestly knew by the excitement in her voice the first time she met him that he was someone special. Over the last few years we figured that he was going to be the “who.” It wasn’t until we received a special e-mail from him, after he had already asked Jeff for her hand, that we knew the “when” and “where.” We were really touched that he included us in all of the fun. Dana had no idea of the date and place, although she knew that he was the guy…and that she was going to say, “yes!”
So, on a perfect September night, he asked…she said the obvious and then came the big surprise. John had planned a surprise engagement party. Have I told you how much Dana loves surprises? Her friends came from as close as Lincoln Park and as far away as Charleston and Washington D.C. There were lots of squeals and laughter and maybe a few tears (mostly from me). We are so very happy to welcome John to the family!
Then the wedding gears started turning and because they want to get married next year, those gears had to turn incredibly fast. Because of Dana and John’s careers, there was only one person who could sit on the phone for hours and hours and hours…me! So that friends, is what has been happening the last few weeks…that, and a trip to Maine. So, please forgive me for my absence in the blogosphere. But by now, you know me…family first.
Now things have settled into a mild roar, and I’m happy to be back sharing more Sunday Supper stories and recipes…that is until we get closer to the date…I might have to to into hiatus again, and I hope that you understand.
I was born just south of the original Mason-Dixon line. Or at least, that’s what the historical marker along I-71 on the way to Columbus, Ohio says. Maybe that ‘s why I’m drawn to a style of cooking that I’ve tasted since I was very young based on fresh, local ingredients. Cooks from Southwestern Ohio, Southeastern Indiana, and Northern Kentucky had many of the same influences. It was, like all of the regions of our country, a melting pot. I’m proud to reflect those influences in what I cook.
My Aunt Mary was from Southeastern Indiana, but she taught me a style of cooking that you might think was more suited to the South. Lots of fresh veggies from her garden, paired with meat that she and Uncle Jack bought directly from the farmer and stored in their large chest freezers. All fresh, all local. Were they way ahead of their time, or just keeping with their roots?
Most of the time she slow simmered her veggies with smoked meat, for a deeply flavored dish that flash cooking can’t produce. The vegetables were not crisp, but didn’t need to be. They were laced with smoky, rich flavor. Or, she’d mix a fresh vegetable with dairy and slow bake till it reached a golden goodness. I’m thinking about her corn pudding. Straight from the garden to the oven with a run through the dairy barn.
She didn’t raise corn, but she’d instruct Uncle Jack to stop at the local farm stand where she would inspect every ear and pick 13 of the best for a “baker’s dozen.” I always smiled that the farmers were “bakers” as well. When I was young this fact was very confusing. I can still find farmers at my market that sell a “dozen” the same way today.
So, even though you might think that corn pudding is a Southern dish, it felt right at home in Aunt Mary’s kitchen. Which brings me to the Beaumont Inn.
The Beaumont Inn is located in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. It is one of my favorite places on Earth. Not because it’s set among the lush, rolling hills of Kentucky bluegrass, dotted with horse farms, antebellum mansions and famous bourbon distilleries. No, those are the perks that come with the trip. Why I really love it is because it takes me back to Aunt Mary’s table. Savory meat, vegetables fresh from the garden, topped off with the most decadent of desserts.
The Beaumont Inn got its start as Greenville Springs Spa in 1806. It became Beaumont College in 1895 and since 1917, five generations of the Dedman family have been gracious hosts to visitors. Beaumont Inn reaches out and shakes your hand and invites you in with Southern hospitality. It has been my retreat for a very long time. I walk through the heavy, tall door and feel the weight of Victorian opulence. The warm and inviting parlors, the “Cleopatra” clock, pictures of Civil War generals and pretty girls in period dresses.
I travel back in time when I’m there and as I walk into the dining room, I step right into my Aunt Mary’s kitchen. Although, even Aunt Mary didn’t make fried chicken this good! I’ve eaten a lot of fried chicken in my day, and theirs is the best, bar none. The crispy, golden skin is not heart healthy and it doesn’t make apologies for that. Since I only indulge about once a year, I don’t feel the least bit of guilt…well, maybe I feel a tiny bit guilty when I dive into in their Robert E. Lee cake with ice cream for dessert.
They are also famous for their corn pudding. Which reminded me of this heirloom recipe from my family. My version starts with lots of freshly creamed corn, not corn kernels, I’ve actually never had any corn pudding quite like this one. This is not custard with a few corn kernels poking through. It’s lush with fresh, sweet corn and therefore it really can only be made with fresh, not frozen corn. This recipe was handed down through my family and now on to you to share with you family and friends for your next Sunday Supper.
Besides the fresh corn, the “secret” to this recipe is using a hand grater like this to grate the kernels from the cob. Then take a knife and scrap all of the milky goodness into the bowl. This grater is the same one that my aunt used and has been passed down to me. If you don’t have this type of grater, a box grater could be used. but it won’t be as easy.
This recipe uses 10 ears of corn, that’s another of the secrets. You can’t get this type of rich corn flavor with a couple of ears of corn.
Here it is hot from the oven!
Fresh, Sweet Corn Pudding Recipe
Yield: 6 - 8 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 1/2 hours
Freshly picked corn from the garden to the oven with a run through the dairy barn. Golden and delicious!
10 ears fresh corn (either Silver Queen or Bi-Color), grated - This will render 2 cups grated corn
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter a 2 quart glass or ceramic baking dish.
In a medium bowl, grate the corn. Be sure to scrape down the husks with a knife to release all liquid from husks.
In a large bowl, whisk the milk and eggs together then whisk in flour salt and sugar. Finally whisk in melted butter.
Stir the creamed corn into the milk/egg mixture until well blended.
Pour into buttered baking dish.
Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or till pudding is firm and golden brown on top (see picture).
Kale. The overcooked, overlooked vegetable of my youth has been in the limelight for the last few years. My mother was a fan of simmering it for a long, long time in stock produced from the “country ham” that she prepared often. It gave the kale a nice ham-y flavor. She served it up along side her buttery mashed potatoes for many a Sunday Supper.
Her kale came in a plastic bag from the supermarket. I don’t know what variety it was…it was just kale. Now, we have many varieties to chose from. My favorite used to be lacinato, but recently our farmer’s market and Whole Foods have been presenting us with a new way to enjoy this feisty green: tender, sweet, BABY kale. Have to say, I’m a big fan.
At the same time, I discovered an accessory for the grill that I’m loving this summer. It’s called a stainless steel grill grid. I’ve put these two together for what is our new go-to vegetable…grilled baby kale, sprinkled with Parmesan and a dash of red chili peppers. A drizzle of fresh lemon juice or balsamic vinegar is optional.
I’ve been working on grilling kale for awhile. At first, I thought that my lacinato would be perfect because it was large enough to stand up to grilling. I removed the long, tough center stem, drizzled on a bit of olive oil and popped it on the grill. It was just OK. Parts got a bit too much char, it was too oily and since it is a long leaf it did not make a good presentation.
I then found my new grilling accessory, used baby kale and tossed it with a lighter douse of olive oil. It takes just minutes on the grill and you have a rich, smoky dish that has a bit of an Italian accent. We love it and I think that your friends and family will as well for your next Sunday Supper.
Spicy Grilled Kale with Parmesan Recipe
Yield: 2 - 4 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Spicy and savory kale topped with freshly grated Parmesan and red pepper flakes.
1 - 5 oz. container of baby kale
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt (to taste) (optional)
Drizzle of balsamic vinegar or fresh lemon juice (optional)
Light your grill. When it is hot, place grill grid on the grill surface so that it can reach the temperature of the grill.
Place baby kale in a large bowl and toss with olive oil. It looks like a lot, but kale REALLY cooks down.
Place baby kale on grill grid as shown. Use tongs to move it around on the surface of grid...keep it moving and don't leave the grill. In a few minutes it will be ready.
Transfer to serving dish, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes.
We are trying to cut down on salt, so I personally don't add salt, I let the Parmesan lend a dash of salty flavor. Also, you can add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar or fresh lemon juice before serving if you'd like.