31 January 2009

The Red Rooster: The Best Sandwich in Portland!

What did you just say? "Hyberbole much?" I heard that! I'm not exaggerating though. I can't believe I never mentioned this here before, but Market Street Eats' Red Rooster is the best sandwich in town.

Grilled chicken, bacon, mayo with sriracha, cheese. Seriously, how can this go wrong? There's an advanced version that's not on the menu, where he adds a few fresh veggies that take the sandwich a few steps in the direction of a fresh spring roll. Ask for that, it's exceptional.

Brunswick's Winter Farmer's Market

Ok, the photo isn't very impressive, but the market is really growing and has some great stuff in it. In addition to getting your usual winter veggies—beets, rutabaga, squash, potatoes, onions, cabbage, and so on—you can find cheese, pork, fish, mussels and all kinds of other treats. A few highlights included the nice indian lady that sells naan and curries, a guy selling olives from his family's orchard in Greece and, of course, Mother Oven Bakery. If all you know of Mother Oven Bakery is what you see in stores, you should check out all the things he sells at the market: falafel, tsatziki, tabouleh, humus, all manner of whole wheat breads, pizzas, and some great cookies. Hint: try a Finikia.

Sunnny Squash Croquettes, or What to Do With Left Over Roasted Squash

Sunny Squash Croquettes

  • Left over roasted squash, such as a buttercup or red kuri (our recent favorite), about half of a medium sized butternut squash, which is about one pound of squash
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 1 apple, grated
  • parsley, sage (or whatever fresh herbs you have that seem to fit), chopped
  • 1 handful of walnuts, toasted in a cast iron skillet then chopped (its generally better to chop these with a knife rather than a food processor which makes a useless mixture of overlarge chunks and dust)
  • 1-2 eggs
  • salt, pepper
Mash up the squash with a potato masher, then mix in the other ingredients. It's a good idea to grate the apple after you've got everything else mixed so it won't brown. If the mixture is too lose, you might refrigerate it for a while so the cakes hold their shape. Sauté the the cakes and serve with a marinara.

29 January 2009

Pandalus Pandamonium Pizza and an Ingredient Alert: Crunchy Roasted Mushrooms

The Pizza

Maine shrimp came in at the beginning of the month. To celebrate, we made a pizza with caramelized onions, swiss chard, artichokes, tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms and, of course, shrimp.

The Mushrooms

I've never been satisfied with mushrooms on pizza. Recently, however, I discovered you can make them much better by pre-roasting them. Slice up a variety of crimini, shiitake and other suitable mushrooms and coat them with olive oil in a bowl. Crush loads of garlic and toss it with the mushrooms. Add some salt and pepper. Spread the mushrooms out on a baking sheet or sheets and roast them at 420°, stirring occasionally, until they begin to turn slightly crispy—about forty minutes. What comes out, depending on how long you roast them, is either little morsels of concentrated mushroomness or garlicky mushroom chips. Either way, these are a really useful ingredient for all kinds of things. We made a vegan lasagna with them that was very good. It's hard not to just eat them up by themselves when they come out of the oven.

Banhmi-Ni: Banhmitastic or an Abanhmination?

Banhmi-Ni? Oh please.

23 January 2009

Dear Lazy Web: where can I get a Bánh mì in Maine?

Any suggestions? There used to be Miss Saigon (or something like that) on Congress Street years ago. But where do you get one now?

UPDATE: Wow, Kim's is awesome and only sets you back $2.75 for lunch. I'm working on my low bro version of Vietnamese charcuterie. More bánh mì posts soon.

20 January 2009

Mitchell Feinberg's Food Photography

Perhaps this is stale, but, in case it's not, go to Mitchell Feinberg's photography site and click on Photography and check out the two galleries of food photos. They range from amusing—like the one above—to downright amazing.

17 January 2009

Two Healthy Sandwiches

We had sandwiches for dinner twice this week.

Baked mustardy tempeh sandwiches with tahini, more mustard, veggies and some pickles from Thirty Acre Farm.

Baked Mustardy Tempeh

  • An eight ounce package of tempeh
  • 3/4 Cu. cider (from Ricker Hill of course)
  • 2 Tbs. of tamari
  • 2 Tbs. of a whole grain, country mustard
  • 1/2 tsp each of cumin and caraway seeds, toasted briefly and ground in a mortar
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • 2 1/2 Tbs. olive oil
Preheat your oven to 375°. Cut the tempeh crosswise into four pieces and then cut each of those pieces in half such that you end up with two thinner pieces (the idea is to turn your tempeh into something like cold cuts). Steam the tempeh pieces for about 6 to 8 minutes. Lay the tempeh flat in a small baking dish just large enough to accommodate the pieces. Mix the remaining ingredients together and pour over the tempeh, then cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake further until the mixture evaporates enough to become a thick coating, possibly turning up the heat to brown them a bit.

Make sadwiches from the tempeh and mustard, some tahini loosened with hot water and also sauerkraut or just lettuce, onions and tomatoes. These are excellent vegan sandwiches.

Next up, grilled tuna burgers, which are more of a summery dish, but somehow we ended up having them anyway.

I don't know how we ended up with a trendy book like Bobby Flay's Grilling for Life but we did and it actually has a bunch of great recipes in it, like these burgers.

Grilled Tuna Burgers
Adapted from Bobby Flay, Grilling for Life (2005)
  • 2 1/2 Tbs. dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbs. of a light oil
  • 1 Tbs. of chipotle chilis from the can blended together with their adobo sauce
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. lime juice and take the zest from the lime as well
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 2 scallions, sliced or roughly chopped
  • 2 - 3 Tbs. finely chopped cilantro
  • salt; pepper
  • 2 lbs. fresh tuna (make it the good stuff, don't stint on the tuna), finely chopped (preferably by hand rather than by robot)
Take all the ingredients that aren't tuna and mix them together, then mix the tuna in. Form burger patties from the resulting mixture. PLace them on a plate or baking sheet with wax paper and refridgerate for an hour or so (i.e. the usual trick with loose cakes that you need to coax into a shape long enough to saute or grill). Grill (preferably) or pan fry (if you must) the burgers and serve with watercress and Flay's green onion mayo, which he makes from mayo garlic, green onions, lime juice, salt and pepper. Damn these are good. Oh, and I know you bough that awesome fresh tuna and it seems like a sin to cook it all the way through, but these burgers aren't about that; cook them through, but not enough to dry them out.

We had these burgers with a shaved fennel, orange and pomegranite salad that was really amazing and will be the subject of a future post.

16 January 2009

The Bacon Exception


Loco Pollo Tamale Review

Some found the Press Herald's reporting on the tamales at Loco Pollo a bit over succinct. As I was passing by and needed something to bring home for dinner, I stopped in to get the scoop.

Everything I know about Mexican food comes from going to the Mission district in San Francisco and a handful of obscure hole in the wall restaurants outside Davis, California. The Davis farmer's market had a tamale cart and I've yet to find a tamale that could compare to the ones it sold. The tamale cart sold vegetarian tamales that were particularly good, which was a bonus. To my mind the tamale needs to be moist throughout and it's filling needs to pack a lot flavor to stand out against its cornmeal coating.

I picked up three ancho chicken and black bean tamales from Loco Pollo; here's one:

Loco Pollo is a fun little spot with only a few tables. I think it's main strength will be as a take away place. I didn't try the pozole, which people said good things about while I was waiting for my tamales. But, alas, the tamales. They seemed a bit small, although that is offset by the fact that they are affordable (3 tamales is $6.00). My tamale was a bit dry and also a bit broken up. The filling wasn't an explosion of rich mexican spices, it was more of whimper. The place has a number of salsas available but all of the bowls were empty. The cornmeal had a nice flavor though and if it had been slightly less dry would have been a good point.

I sort of think my experience may have been a fluke. There were two other tamales available, both with goat cheese, that might have been better choices had I not been avoiding dairy.

A second visit is in order, but for now: merely okay.

09 January 2009

Ingredient Alert: Salsa di Noci; Also, Restaurant Mini-Review: Paciarino

It's Friday, you've been yelled at all week (ok, maybe you haven't), you're tired and you want to eat something marvelous at home, exerting the least amount of effort possible. What to do? I am now able to supply the answer to this question most emphatically: go to Paciarino. It's a little lunch spot that opened this week in the Old Port serving Italian pasta dishes and it's the real deal—the owners just came here from Milano.

"Lunch spot" is actually a huge disservice. Although they serve lunch from 11:30 to 2:20, they also offer take out from 2:30 to 6:00 p.m. as well as pasta cooking classes! For the classes you cook with the owners and then the class sits down to a meal together at the end. The menu rotates weekly and I was told to call in when you have a mind to and ask what is available that day.

I stopped by there this evening after work and the owners let me try various sauces and other treats that I immediately became addicted to. Like this (go buy this now):

Or this (get this too, it comes frozen and it's absolutely amazing):

I can't rave enough about this Salsa di Noci, but I'd like to try. I've tried to make a walnut sauce before but it didn't come out nearly as creamy and delicate as this.

After buying some frozen Salsa di Noci, some frozen Maqueroni and a loaf of crusty bread, I was ready for an easy dinner.

I'll be back for lunch next week and hopefully a class when I can get the chance.

Paciarino: very highly recommended.

N.B.: My nagging fear is that this Paciarino will suffer the same fate as Sophia's. Remember Sophia's? It was located in the Old Port in the little park and it's owner, Stephen I think, also an Italian import, baked all manner of really wonderful breads and offered amazing sandwiches and healthy foods for lunch. I remember a sad little note posted on the store front just after it closed shaming us all for not appreciating the fact that he served real, healthy food. (Sure, now he's baking at Micucci's, but no more fancy sandwiches in the Old Port and Micucci's is too far to walk from my office for lunch.) Don't let that happen to Paciarino!

UPDATE: See this profile in the Press Herald.

07 January 2009

The Incredible Exploding Kitching.

Ok, just one more:

[Also via here.]

05 January 2009

Ingredient Alert: Green Fire!

I got sidetracked by the little freezer at the Yarmouth Rosemont Market & Bakery and this caught my eye:

It's made right in Bowdoinham (and apparently has been for several years now). It's not really a pate at all. It's a salsa verde, and when it says "fiery" with red highlighter on it—well, let's just say they aren't playing with you. But in the right dosage this is a real treat. I had some chicken soup I wasn't satisfied with; I added the "green fire" and "hey, presto!" I had some potatoes that I didn't feel like fussing over; the green fire gave them life. This morning I tried it successfully in eggs scrambled with brown rice. I can see using this in marinades and in, well, any number of things. It'd be a great thing to keep in the freezer for when you don't have the time or ingredients to whip up something hot and flavorful.

Chicken Spa

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

[Via here.]

03 January 2009

Maine Food Map

I had this (I thought) wonderful idea to make a post containing a survey of all of the nearby ethnic markets and other places to buy good ingredients. Apparently, someone beat me to it: the Maine Food Map is the most useful thing ever.

Restaruant Mini-Review: Evangeline

My camera phone failed me miserably so you'll just have to take my word for it, but Evangeline is really wonderful. How wonderful? Do you remember that amusingly bird-like chef on Top Chef a few seasons back (Andrew, I think it was) and how he semi-famously uttered the phrase "I just got a culinary boner!" It's like that. But it's not Bandol, if you were fortunate enough to go there during its brief tenure on Exchange Street. Evangeline is more affordable and perhaps set in a slightly lower gear as a result. But it's still so worthwhile. Crispy calf brain fritters! Where can you go to get something like that (sure, Lydia Shire, self described "offal queen," just opened Blue Sky in Kenebunk, but still there's only a handful of places in the state that will offer you this experience).

N.B.: The chef offers pressed duck, but you have to warn him a day before your reservation, so plan ahead. We didn't know and now we have to go back. :)

Portland's Winter Farmers Market

It's like some kind of local food black market. How did I not know there was a winter farmer's market in Portland? And one in Brunswick too.

Update: here's some additional information from MaineToday.