The Night Pelican–A Story

Image result for pelican chick

I was the last nestling chick of my aging mother pelican.  She was almost 30 years old,  a near record and she knew she wouldn’t be around to see me mature.  Sadly, she was quite sure that I wouldn’t.  You see, my mother had stowed away on a ship that went to a country where some pretty serious chemicals are still used to spray for mosquitoes and other insect pests.  It doesn’t kill pelicans but it did cause my shell to be very weak and it got a little crushed before I was born.

My mother thanked goodness that the one wish that is granted to all of Mother Nature’s creatures was still waiting to be used.  Her life had been one of adventure and she had never wanted for anything.   That is until I came along.  I guess I was lucky but it doesn’t always feel like it.  To be truthful, her wish may not have turned out the way she had thought it would.  Since I was so much weaker than other pelicans, she only wished that I would live a protected life.  She knew that raucous camaraderie might spell the end of me.

Oh boy, am I protected.  I am also very lonely.  You would be too if the only time you were allowed to venture out was at night when all of your would be friends or mates are out in the marshes sleeping off the day’s adventures.

Understand, I love to look out at the garden of the home in the Hammock where I am propped, but to be cast in stone, unable to move while all around me does is as frustrating as it comes.

Yes, I am as I look–a stone pelican by day.  My life begins at sunset.

When the waking world heads off to sleep, I begin to feel my feathers soften ready for the safety of the dark.  This is when I find my way to the sea along the moonlit Hammock roads.

Full moon nights are the best.  I can pretend that it is daytime.  Sometimes I see a pelican or two taking advantage of the moonlight for a little extra fishing time.Image result for full moon flagler beach

Mostly I am alone.

On warm summer nights from April to October I often see sea turtles making their way ashore to lay their eggs.

Image result for loggerhead sea turtle nesting

Sometimes I see the sea turtle hatchlings struggling to make their way to the sea before being gobbled up by other birds and crabs that also make their homes on the beach.  I feel an affinity for them even though they surely could not be the recipients of Mother Nature’s only granted wish.  With each mother turtle laying  50 to 100 eggs you know that the wish a mother might have used to protect one of her young was used up long, long ago.

Nighttime, as you can see, is not a safe time for all of Nature’s creatures.  There will always be hunters and the hunted.  I understand it is the way of the world.  My own Hammock home is a good place to stay away from in the dark.

           

Some are not as wise or as fortunate to be graced with their mother’s wish and must learn the hard way where not to play.  Their punishment?  A banishment to a distant park far from their family and friends.

I see the moon begin to lower in the west, a sign that I must make my way back to my Hammock home–a refuge for the Night Pelican.

The white variegated shefflera and bromeliads light the turn to my daytime residence.

The beauty of the rising sun is not for the likes of me.

For I, the Night Pelican, am safely home.

 

 

 

 

Peanut Butter on Parade

 

Is there such a thing as too much peanut butter?

I had never thought so until the day when I was organizing our pantry.  While deciding to go healthy (and peanut butter is considered a good fat believe it or not) I had purchased the Costco portions of the Organic version.

One of our neighbors is on a limited income and is often the recipient of food items.  My husband knows that I love peanut butter, so he gracefully accepts a jar or two as a thank you for neighborly help that he provides.  I admit to re-gifting some of it to colleagues.  However, as you can see, I was still left with several jars.  Before it went out of date I planned to put it to use.  Peanut butter on toast and banana peanut butter smoothies were not enough.

I tried out an Asian Rice Noodle dish, but the two tablespoons of peanut butter involved didn’t really make a dent in my supply.  Peanut butter pie is crazy delicious but since all recipes seem to call for artificial cream and I really didn’t feel like working out the substitution for a real cream version nor eating the whole fresh cream pie, I needed recipes that would freeze well.  Otherwise, my zeal was going to turn into a great big tummy ache or a great big tummy!

My mom made a version of peanut butter cookies that were soft.  We smashed them with a crisscrossed fork design before baking.  My husband is not a fan of soft cookies so my search continued.  I came upon this crisp version and discovered a new use for a seldom used tool at the same time.  Behold what a meat tenderizer can do.

Crisp Peanut Butter Cookies (leitesculinaria.com)

Ingredients:

1 2/3 Cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 oz unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 Cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1/3 Cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons creamy or chunky peanut butter

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.
  3. Beat together on high speed the butter, sugars and vanilla until light and fluffy–about 4 to 5 minutes.
  4. Add the egg and beat until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the peanut butter and mix until smooth.
  5. Add the flour mixture and mix just until combined.  Scrape down and mix again a few time by hand.
  6. Use a 1 1/2 Tablespoon scoop to make balls.  Place the balls 2 inches apart on a baking sheet.  Flatten them with a fork cross-hatch or use a meat mallet (tenderizer).  Sprinkle with granulated sugar.
  7. Bake in batches for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container or freeze.

Our grandson was coming in a couple of weeks so I wanted to “kidify” the recipe.  I  used the same 1 1/2 Tablespoon scoop used to size the cookie dough to put these little cuties together with pineapple sherbet for a new version of ice cream sandwiches.  FYI adults like them, too.

My husband’s favorite cookie is a Neopolitan.  The recipe came from one of those Southern Living Christmas Book bonuses. It is so good that I featured the recipe as the back page of a Christmas letter many years ago.  The Neopolitan cookie, as in the familiar ice cream, features a chocolate, a pink almond flavored and a vanilla walnut layer.

I have neglected to say that my husband doesn’t like peanut butter.  Swapping in the peanut butter for a two-layer sliced cookie with chocolate was my attempt to trick him into liking it. They were super crisp and he liked the cookies, maybe not as much as the original but they didn’t go to waste.  I promise you will like them if you like peanut butter.  If you don’t like peanut butter, you would have stopped reading this after seeing the title!  Since they are a slice and bake cookie they don’t take up as much room in the freezer, either.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Slice and Bake Cookies

Ingredients:

1 Cup butter, softened
1 1/2 Cups sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 oz semi-sweet chocolate, melted
4 Tablespoons peanut butter

Directions:

  1. Line the bottom and sides of a 9 x 5 loaf pan with wax paper or plastic wrap with extra to fold over the top.
  2. Cream the butter in a large mixing bowl.  Gradually add the sugar, beating until light and fluffy.  Add the egg; beat well.  Stir in the vanilla.
  3. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl; add to creamed mixture, beating just until blended.
  4. Divide the dough in half.  Stir the melted chocolate into one half and the peanut butter into the other half.
  5. Spread the chocolate dough into the bottom of the lined pan.  Top with the peanut butter dough.  Cover with the remaining wrap and freeze until firm.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  7. Remove pan from freezer and cut the dough in half lengthwise.  Return half to the freezer.  Slice the remaining half into one quarter inch slices and place 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.  Remove to a wire rack to cool.  Store in an airtight container.

Omne trium perfectum

Omne trium perfectum, or the “rule of three” states that things are inherently more humorous, satisfying and effective when in that number.  Thus, I need to give you one more recipe, so here it is, and guess what?  It freezes really well.  I am preparing ahead for holiday gifts and visits.

Peanut Butter Fudge

Ingredients:

3 Cups sugar
1/2 Cup butter
2/3 Cup evaporated milk
1 2/3 creamy peanut butter
7 oz marshmallow creme
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Line a 13 x 9-inch pan with aluminum foil; spray it with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Combine the sugar, butter and milk in a large saucepan, stirring constantly on medium heat until it comes to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove it from the heat.
  3. Add the peanut butter and stir until blended before adding the marshmallow creme and vanilla.  Beat until well blended.  Spread in the prepared pan.  Cool completely then cut into one-inch pieces.  Store in an airtight container.  I like to eat it from the refrigerator or the freezer but it does keep at room temperature when or if you are going to make a gift of it.

 

From Beer to Bacon

 

 

Burlington, Vermont was our final much-anticipated destination on our 2-week road trip. We had started our journey, 10 days prior, with an aspiration to try every beer and brewery along the way.  It only took about 3 days to remember that in truth we only drink about 2 pints of beer a month!  We took advantage of our time in Quebec drinking cider and ice wine to refresh our taste buds and ready our palates for Burlington’s breweries.  The bacon comes later.

 

Arriving in the early afternoon from Quebec City with a quick stop at Jean Talon Market in Montreal, Canada; we were thirsty.  Our conveniently located Airbnb had us within a few blocks of the pedestrian thoroughfare of Church Street Market.  We stumbled into Leunig’s which as well as being a bistro and one of the oldest establishments in Burlington, it also had a quite obvious marble-topped bar, our destination.  We sampled a couple local beers but I mostly spent the time quizzing the bartender about the availability and location of the most famously desired beer of the area called Heady Topper from The Alchemist Brewery.

Heady Topper

My quest took us to City Market Onion River Co-op.  They send us onward to another small grocery and then to a package store.  No one had it.  Sold out.  This did not make me happy.  Somehow, we ended back at Leunig’s and lo and behold, the guy next to us at the bar was drinking a can of it.  It was serendipitous that it was unavailable for large-scale purchase as after tasting our own can I pronounced that I didn’t like it!  I repeat “can” as it is clearly stated on the can that it is to be drunk from the can–pouring into a glass changes it and not for the better.  Funnily enough, we had organized our route, ending in Burlington, without having to pass back through Canada, specifically to be able to bring back cases of the stuff without the alcohol limitations at the border.  I remind you of the crazy book I read that started the whole beer tour idea from my blog post More to Maine than Moose.  Heady Topper was the feature of a large section of the book.  Like they say, “don’t believe everything you read”.

It had only taken 10 days (ha! ha!) for me to discover that I am actually a fan of West Coast (California) style beers.  New England beers lean towards a cloudier, more sour style of brewing.  My son who brews opines that cloudy is a sign of a lazy brewer.  Whatever the case, be it a regional taste or laziness, it didn’t stop us from having the fun of sampling.  The following are a few of the brews and breweries that we tried and liked:

Foam Brewers

Sip of Sunshine

 

This tasty brew, probably our favorite, was enjoyed overlooking the millstream in Middlebury, famous to me as the location of my first IPA many years ago while doing an Immersion Portuguese course at Middlebury College.

 

Bernie Weisse (gotta love the name whether commiserating or celebrating) at Zero Gravity Brewery

Our informative bartender at Leunig’s reminded us of the Burlington Farmers Market, also walking distance from our Airbnb.  If I haven’t mentioned it before, markets are my favorite places, indeed, more than breweries in case you were thinking that!  The market coincided nicely with the end of our trip and my “saudade” for the Hammock.  Saudade is a Portuguese word most easily translated to “longing”.  Easily doesn’t necessarily mean all encompassing but it works in this situation.  Enough of the road, I was ready to get back to my own kitchens both indoor and outdoor.  The market held more than enough inspiration.  I might even dust off my old guitar.

Burlington, Vermont Farmers Market

I had already bought black currant liqueur in Quebec so it wasn’t a challenge to have a Kir Royale when we got back.  It has rained a little too frequently during our Hammock summer evenings for me to bake in our wood-fired pizza oven but those rainy hours were perfect for making Maple Cutout Cookies and finally getting to that bacon I mentioned at the beginning of this post.  I guess I should let you know that there is Maple Syrup in the curing of the belly pork for my bacon recipe.  I wish that I could say I have been practicing my guitar chords, but not yet.  Hey, a girl has to put in a few hours of paid work now and then.

Maple Cutout Cookies

The cutout part of the recipe is my BFF Deborah’s Old-fashioned Sugar Cookie Recipe.  I added the Maple flavoring to the dough and icing as my nod to Canada’s and Vermont’s Maple products.  Before you worry that you don’t have the real deal Maple Syrup I am going to share my mother’s secret.  It is what I use whenever I need Maple Syrup unless I have been gifted a jug of the authentic stuff from one of my sisters.  Or brought back 2 quarts of it purchased at the Burlington Farmers Market as my son and his wife did on their visit following ours.  Don’t try other brands, they will disappoint, this one will not.

Crescent Mapleine Imitiation Maple Flavoring

Crescent Mapleine Imitation Maple Flavoring 2oz Bottle (Pack of 3)

Old-fashioned Sugar Cookie recipe with added maple flavoring

Sift together into a mixing bowl:

3 Cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 Cup sugar

Cut in:

1 Cup margarine or butter.

Add:

1 slightly beaten egg
3 Tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon Mapleine flavoring

Chill dough.  Roll out on a floured surface to 1/4 inch thick.  Cut into desired shapes.  Makes 4-5 dozen maple leaf cookies.  Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 5-8 minutes.  Cool on a rack.

Icing:

1/2 Cup sifted powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon Mapeleine flavoring
3-4 Tablespoons cream or milk

If you want to make more of an Autumn statement you could certainly color the icing with red and yellow food coloring.

What’s smokin’?  Bacon!

 

 

You know that rain that I mentioned?  It doesn’t affect an old-fashioned smoker as long as you have someone clever around to rig up a smoker umbrella.

 

 

 

I have jumped ahead of myself as the smoking is the final step in homemade awe-inspiring bacon.  The idea first came to us from my brother-in-law.  Other than smoked trout I feel that this is the best-smoked idea he has shared.  Smoked trout is pretty amazing but I do not believe it would lend itself especially well to maple syrup and that is the direction this post has been taking with my espresso maple bacon being the grand finale.  Curing belly pork can be as simple as rubbing salt and sugar into it and leaving it for 3 to 10 days, rinse, dry overnight, smoke for 4 to 5 hours.  This is better.

Espresso Maple Syrup Cured and Smoked Bacon

Start off with the best pork belly that you can find.  Some are fatty, some have the rind still attached.  Some are more expensive than others.  We have seen it at Sam’s Club, Asian markets, Latin markets and at Costco.  We have purchased it in 3 of those locations.  The least expensive, leanest with no rind was from our Jacksonville Costco.

Pork Bellies seem to weigh on average 8 pounds.  After smoking you end up with a little over 6 and a half pounds of bacon.  We slice and freeze it in 5 to 6 rashers to a package ready to use for the two of us or for most recipes where it calls for bacon as an ingredient–Caesar Salad, bacon biscuits, bacon quiche to name a few.

Ingredients

8 pounds pork belly, rind trimmed
3/4 Cup sea salt (not iodized table salt)
1 Tablespoon coarsely ground black peppercorns
6 Tablespoon brewed espresso coffee
3/4 Cup maple syrup

Instructions

  1. Cut your pork belly into 2 to 3 pieces to fit in a large glass baking dish.
  2. Place the pork belly in the dish and coat it all over with the espresso and maple syrup mixture.  DO NOT POUR OFF EXCESS.
  3. Press the salt and pepper mixture into every part of the pork belly.
  4. Place the dish in the refrigerator covered with plastic wrap for 5 to 10 days until the meat feels firm.  I like 7 days for the best flavor.  The longer you leave it in the cure, the saltier it will get.  Turn it over daily.
  5. After your 7 days or whatever amount suits your schedule, rinse the salt mixture off carefully.  Pat the bacon dry and set it on a rack over a tray.  Allow the bacon to air dry overnight uncovered in the refrigerator.
  6. Get your smoker set up.  We like to add soaked applewood chips to the hot coals before placing the green bacon on the racks.  You could also use hickory chips  If smoking the full 8 pounds we found that we needed both racks.  Ideally, you will be smoking at 175 degrees for about 3 to 4 hours or until the internal temperature is at 150 degrees.
  7. The meat will look cooked a bit on the outside but not all the way.

8. Allow the bacon to cool to room temperature on a wire rack over a baking sheet.  Once cool, wrap it in parchment paper then refrigerate it overnight to set the flavor and texture.

 

9. Slice it with a long sharp knife.  It will keep in the refrigerator for about a week or in the freezer for several months.  I predict that you, like us will never buy bacon again.

Even babies like bacon.  This video was shared by my nephew Matt on Facebook today.  Pretty timely.

 

In the Land of Poutine

 

I was first introduced to poutine not all that far from the Hammock, at The Black Sheep Restaurant, in Jacksonville.  It was recommended by my friend Deborah who had tried out many of the city’s dining establishments.   I, believe it or not, 3 years ago had never heard of The Black Sheep nor poutine.  This was especially strange as I was born and raised in the cheesehead state of Wisconsin where my personal history led me to believe that I knew all there was to know about cheese curds.  So now you know, in case you, like me, had not heard of poutine–it contains cheese curds.  However, this post is not about poutine alone but about marvelous Quebec where poutine originated.

This was the third destination on our summer road trip that had already taken us to Petersburg, Virginia and Portland, Maine.  So far, so good.  The drive from Portland took us through scenic mountain passes and into Jackman where the road became Route 173 Route-du-President-Kennedy that led us to our first stop on Ile d’Orleans, Quebec.  My husband commented that he really felt like he was on vacation when the signs all changed to French.  It appears to take that jolt to his neurons to get him to switch to holiday mode.  Finally, I might add, as we had already been on our road trip vacation for 8 days!

Quebec in the background with French language in the foreground

The 5 and a half hour morning drive also timed well with a search for wineries that served lunch.  L’Ile d’Orleans showed a number of wineries on my Google search.  Actually, it looked like there were wineries, cidreries, and makers of cassis, that amazing blackcurrant liqueur that most of us are familiar with from Kir and Kir Royale.

Cassis Monna & Filles

 

What we thought best about Cassis Monna & Filles  was that it was the first stop upon crossing the bridge.  We motorcycle riders are always good at striking up  a conversations with other riders, so of course I inquired of the customer heading to his bike about how far he had ridden, in English silly me having forgotten where I was.  His charming accent had him from just across the bridge from Quebec City.

 

 

Woah!  $2 Canadian got a tasting of 5 of their products and of course, I bought a bottle of the most concentrated to bring home.

 

 

Better yet, we found, there was a restaurant upstairs.  Truly best of all, the restaurant served duck poutine and they put cassis in the gravy!   In the event that you can’t make out the ingredients in the photo, Poutine includes french fries layered with cheese curds then topped with a rich brown gravy.

 

 

What a marvelous introduction to Quebec, the origin of poutine somewhere in that province and since we were pretty beered out after Portland, we had a glass of local cider.

 

 

Quebec is famous for cider, but we were on the hunt for ice wine, a delight that I had first experienced 2 years ago on our trip to Nova Scotia.  Since the cidrerie that was next on our circumnavigation of the island appeared to focus on iced cider, we only darted in and out again on my quest.  We did manage to make a quick turn into a nougaterie    That is my husband’s favorite Christmas stocking stuffer.  We appreciated the free samples of nougat and a purchased a small supply that made it home but won’t make it into this year’s stockings at La Nougaterie Quebec.

 

We also tried some fried cheese at, you guessed it, a fromagerie, Fromage Ile d’Orleans.  I had last had this tasty bite in Salvador, Brazil on the beach.  Not all cheeses hold up to frying.

 

 

 

Vendange Tardive

 

We drove around the island once before we landed at the Vignoble Isle de Bacchus.  I know, I know, it should be called a “winerie”, but we are in francophone Canada and the French just wouldn’t do the “sounds like” thing correctly.  Several tastings of wine both red and white followed by ice wine, or vin de glace, as it is called in French and a second pressing of the ice wine, called Vendange Tardive, that we enjoyed and purchased fulfilled my quest for the time being.

 

Interactive map of Île d’Orléans

I wished I had found this interactive map before finding the island.  Here it is for your trip.  I wouldn’t want you to miss anything.  In fact, we might go back, for what we found and what we didn’t!

Click here for the map

The interactive map shows where the various businesses are located on the island, which can help you plan your stay on Île d’Orléans. Click on a number to learn more about that business and see its complete file. You can use the options under the map to streamline your search.

For years I thought I was pretty clever that I knew they said Mexico for Mexico City, Mexico.  It never dawned on me that, of course, we have New York, New York.  Well, Quebec has Quebec, Quebec (for what we call Quebec City).  Our next day was spent in  Vieux Quebec.  We had stayed in an Airbnb in a residential district outside of the historic area but found a parking lot as close as we could have wished.  The attendant recommended  Paillard for our obligatory cafe au lait and pastries.  A perfect choice to set us up for the morning ramble and photo opportunities.

Quebec, Quebec

Paillard

 

It doesn’t take foreign language fluency to get the gist of “Succombez”.  We did.

The coffee wasn’t half bad, either!

 

 

 

We spent 6 hours walking, exploring the Old Port Market, taking photos, shopping (the favorable exchange rate was my excuse) and eating.  I even dropped in on a charming realtor at Engel and Volkers to introduce myself and to tell her about Palm Coast and the Hammock, Florida.  Quebec City is such a pretty place.  Words alone can not do it justice.

There we were at 2:30 in the afternoon with time to spare before heading back to our Airbnb so we headed out to the Montmorency Waterfall.  It is taller than Niagra Falls.  I took a few dozen photos, but I think the video does it the most justice in perspective so hold on to the railing and imagine you are there.

That done and a growing thirst, and I am loathed to mention but I wanted still more ice wine even after the additional bottle that I had bought in the Old Port Market.  I am very fortunate that my husband is always a good sport when it comes to my shopping.  In fact, his usual comment is “does it come in other colors or flavors?”.  We returned to L’Isle d’Orleans which we could see just across the bridge from the waterfall.  I ran in to purchase a bottle of the most concentrated ice wine from Isle de Bacchus.

Vignoble Isle de Bacchus

Ice Wine

Our thirst was calling and I thought that I’d remembered a cafe or restaurant just up the road from the winery.

Auberge La Grange

 

We found it!  And we found Google.  HaHa!  That is the right order.  Google didn’t find it for us, when we found it we really did find “Google”.  I can’t say what we enjoyed more:  the Auberge la Grange (inn and restaurant), their terrasse, the vineyard views, the icy cold bottles of cider, the young owners and their first Cuvee dark rose made with their own pinot noir grapes or Google.

 

 

Google

 

Okay, we enjoyed Google the most.  Who doesn’t adore a puppy?

I could live at this place.  Our only disappointment was of our own making.  The dinner menu looked divine but we were unable to eat more after our late lunch in Old Town.

 

 

As the saying goes, “timing is everything.  With a stop at the Jean Talon Market in Montreal on our way to our final destination of Burlington, Vermont.  We were just in time for an early preschool celebration of Quebec National Day!

Jean Talon Market on Quebec National Day

It was also an incredible market.

Need I say more?

 

 

More to Maine than Moose

 

Did someone say road trip?  I had a trip to Mexico planned.  The fates were not with that idea so when our airline decided to not return us to our airport of origin and other more frightening recent events in locations that we were headed, I accepted my husband’s suggestion to move up our next year’s trip and see America first by car.  I hope you had the chance to visit Petersburg with us albeit vicariously in my last post.  Now it is time for Maine!

 

 

This metal moose sculpture was created by our Portland, Maine Airbnb artist host, Patty.

Lenny

 

Lenny, the world’s only life size milk chocolate moose at Len Libby’s, Scarborough, Maine.  Click on the title for fun facts about Lenny and moose in general.

 

 

 

A few weeks before our 2 week road trip I read a pretty crazy Kindle book called Champ and a Bit of Sunshine A Cryptozoology and Craft Beer Adventure.  I found it in a search for travel books about Maine.  I don’t want to spoil the story for you but I will share that the author and his buddies traveled from Maine to Burlington, Vermont trying to prove the existence of a creature from the folklore record such as Bigfoot or Chupacabras.  Along the way, they drink an awful lot of good craft beer.  I couldn’t help but store notes on my phone to not miss out on sites or brews particular to each area that we also planned to visit.  The author was the first to tell me about Lenny.

Since I said More than Moose, I guess I better move on–at least it was a chocolate moose.  Portland was great fun.  Our first evening we walked out to Lone Pine Brewery.  We met a young couple both with roots in Florida.  I don’t know if Florida people like beer more than other people but every brewery we went to, someone had a Florida connection.  It was always a great opportunity to pass out my Blog and CENTURY 21 cards..  They had me taking more notes about things to see and places to visit while in Maine.

Two summers ago we went to Nova Scotia.  It was my plan to eat lobster every day.  Something went wrong and I only saw it on menus a couple of times and while I ordered it, both were a little disappointing.  But this summer we were in Maine, armed with recommendations.

Gilbert’s Chowder House

 

I decided that I really wasn’t interested in corn and boiled potatoes that seemed to accompany all lobster dinners so I went for lobster rolls.  High Roller was the young couple’s recommendation for the best lobster roll in Portland.  I didn’t get there but I had a loaded one at Gilberts, a recommendation from our Airbnb host.

 

Wiscasset

Have you heard of Wiscasset?  Well, if you ask anyone who has traveled to Maine where the best Lobster roll in all of Maine is, that is where they will tell you to go.  You have 2 choices once you arrive.  Red’s Eats has a line around the block and the roll costs $26.

Red’s Eats

Or, you can go across the street, order and sit down to wait for the $21 version across the road on the Sheepscot River.  This was the preferred roll of our friends whose family has had a summer home on Popham Beach a few miles away for three generations.  Both contain close to a lobster and a half of meat on a bread roll.  After one look at the line at Red’s, we chose to cross the street to Sprague’s and enjoy lunch at lunchtime without the up to an hour and a half wait to sample Red’s Eats.

Sprague’s Lobster

 

 

We were not disappointed.

 

 

 

 

 

You can also buy your own fresh lobster off the pier in Old Port, Portland.

 

 

 

 

 

Or if you need some Kitsch, there are always a few places like this around!

 

The Holy Donut

 

“Holy schmoly” as one of my sons would have said.  A dark chocolate sea salt donut.  Now that is worth the trip if only to sample this recommended delight.  Worth every step around Old Port to find and devour.

 

 

Lots of flavors but of the ones that I tried, hands down, dark chocolate sea salted was the winner.

 

 

 

Oxbow Brewing Company

 

 

Oxbow Brewing Company on Washington Street along with Maine Craft Distilling were one block up the hill from our Airbnb.  We enjoyed an afternoon beer at Oxbow before heading down the road.

 

 

Maine Craft Distillery Maine Mule

 

 

At Maine Craft Distillery we purchased a 4 pack of Maine Mules made with rum and Maine Craft’s homemade Ginger Beer.  In hindsight, I should have bought a case.  It is almost too good.

 

 

Portland is second only to San Francisco for the number of restaurants.   I must show you my newest recipe discovered at Baharat, a middle eastern style restaurant walking distance from our East End Airbnb.

Beet Tahini

 

 

 

Puree:  1 large beet, boiled, peeled with 2 Tablespoons Tahini,  lemon juice, and salt to taste.  Top with Greek yogurt, chives, sumac, cumin or baharat spice.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Serve with warm pita.

 

Beyond Portland

Time to see outside of restaurants and breweries, don’t you think?  You won’t need a car in Portland itself.  It was handy for getting out to Wiscasset, Freeport (LL Bean)and to see Kennebunkport and of course Lenny the 1700 lb milk chocolate moose.

George H W Bush’s summer home in Kennebunkport

I thought I would share our visit there with music, (at least that’s what some would call it).

Casco Bay Cruises

Before we left Maine we also hopped on the Casco Bay Peaks Island Run, “Portland’s Iconic Ferry Servicing the Islands of Casco Bay”.  The Moonlight Run had been recommended as you can take your own beer aboard and enjoy an evening of twinkling lights along with your favorite beverage.  We, however, being morning people, caught the first ferry over to Peaks Island.  It is a quiet island.  Best enjoyed by renting bicycles or a golf car.  I met with a couple of realtors who surprise, surprise were very familiar with Palm Coast and our Hammock.  I’m sure that Maine winters have something to do with that!

Enjoy the Scenery

Time to head out of Maine.  Just watch out for those moose and more, seriously!

 

 

 

A History Filled Day in Petersburg VA

Do you recognize these settings from Mercy Street, Turn and Lincoln, ?  They are located in Petersburg, Virginia where we were treated to a private tour by our friends Bruce and Laurie.

 

 

We had dinner at the Brickhouse Run Pub used in Lincoln for its authenticity.

 


 

I’m sure we saw this used in an episode of Turn we saw on Netflix.

 

 

 

 

We were told this was the front of the Hospital in Mercy Street but it was built out for the series.

 

 

We don’t usually leave the Hammock for as long as 2 weeks, but we had an agenda this year.  First on our list was a chance to catch up with friends who had moved from Florida to Petersburg, Virginia and to admire all of their personal restoration efforts in this historic city.  In addition, we enjoyed an insiders’ 7 hour walking tour of Petersburg.  Don’t panic at the length of the tour.  It was broken up with a breakfast coffee stop, a beer break and a poke bowl lunch.

Dave McCormack

So let’s start with that coffee.  Or rather, the man that started the coffee shop.  Dave McCormack has been almost singlehandedly responsible for the economic regeneration of Petersburg.  Not only did he create this coffee mecca, named Demolition Coffee as the building was slated to be demolished,  but he has also restored or renovated the Mayton Transfer Lofts, The Trapezium Brewing Company, The Buttermilk Bake Shop,, Saucy’s Barbecue, and the Bosco Apartments.


 

The Bosco Apartments interior entrances.

 

 

 

 

The first two minutes of this Ted Talk introduces him and what he has done for Petersburg.

The coffee was good, the shop was charming, but I liked the tip jar best of all.  How can you be cheapskate with a label like this?

Dave McCormack is responsible for the commercial rejuvenation but our friends are doing more than their part to beautify Petersburg residences one restoration at a time.  Bruce lived in Petersburg in the 80s and restored these two lovely residences.

     

The first was his home and the second was a 7 bedroom home originally owned by a wealthy grocer with 6 daughters.  Later it became a funeral home and then the VFW until Bruce got it rezoned and opened the first bed and breakfast inn in Petersburg.

When they moved back to Petersburg from Florida they bought this 1845 home and had fun furnishing it with period antiques.  The home originally had 2 chimneys and an additional window in the front room, but they were taken out (literally) by a cannonball during the Civil War.

After restoring parts of the home and bringing the garden back to life they were inspired to buy 2 other homes that overlook their garden and a city park.

Both restorations are nearly complete.  We were fortunate to stay in the light green one.  Laurie paints furniture and some of her pieces were in the house.

While checking my facts I came upon this video that showcases 4 of the homes our friends have restored and more details on some of the other locations.

 

On with the tour

This is where Petersburg residents believe that Memorial Day was created.  The internet will provide you with several alternate choices but the story goes that this woman had a school for girls and they brought flowers to decorate the graves following the Civil War.

What does Edgar Allen Poe have to do with it?

 

The Hiram Haines house is no longer a coffee shop and ale house but upstairs is where Edgar Allen Poe spent his honeymoon with his 14 year old wife!

Aaron Burr Slept Here

Yes, Aaron Burr did sleep here before he shot Alexander Hamilton in a duel on July 11, 1804.  Hamilton died the next day.  Just a bit of added history for those who have seen Hamilton or plan to.

Peter Jones Trading Station

These photos are of the side.  Seen from the front, it was also a small jail that I am sure that I saw used in Turn.

Comportment for young ladies

 

 

Let me know if you would like to purchase this Revolutionary War home that was at one time a school that taught comportment to young ladies.

Ready for Renovation

Maybe you are interested in more of a fixer upper?  Bruce would love to get his hands on this one but Laurie did her best to move us along on the tour.!  Servant quarters available in the back.

Trapezium House

This home built in the 1800s doesn’t have any square corners.  Hence, the name Trapezium.  The servant of the owner was from the West Indies and she told him that evil spirits would not reside in a house without square corners.

Now at the end of our tour, it was just as well that David McCormack’s Trapezium Brewery was right across the street!

I would love to hear from you if you spot any locations from my photos or the videos during your TV or Movie viewing.

 

 

See if you can find this one.  Our friends promise it was used in at least one of the mentioned shows.

 

 

 

 

 

You Know It’s Mango Season

 

I, for one, know it is when mangoes only cost 50 cents a piece at Walmart!  If you prefer dates on a calendar then May and June are the months to keep an eye out for the lowest priced and best tasting mangoes.  Time for a decision.  Was I feeling in the mood for Mexican or Indian?  Why choose?  Especially as the timing was perfect with 2 weeks of rain in the forecast so not a lot of fun in the Hammock sun in my immediate future.

Out with the chopping board, after a trip to our Far East Asian Market to pick up some additional ingredients.  We already had the mangoes.

First up:

Mango and Tomatillo Salsa

Just these few ingredients:

In case you wondered what the tomatillos look like after their paper exterior is removed:

Dice up the mango, tomatillos and small serrano chile pepper.  Squeeze the limes over all in a bowl and stir in the chopped cilantro.  Add just a little salt and pepper if you like, to get this:

And when you are all done, you will have this:

 

 

Ha!  Ha!  These are the peelings and stems that go into our homemade composter that gives us over 200 lbs of our own “free”  compost each year.

 

 

I hope you enjoyed that pictorial Mexican recipe.  Time for something Indian, but don’t be put off if Indian isn’t your cup-of-tea.  It’s time for Green Mango Chutney.  Ever since I first tasted this condiment back in Dubai, I have been an aficionado.  (The Spanish teacher in me cringed at having to put an “o” on the end of an adjective that describes a female, but English spellchecker demanded it.)

I never thought about making my own chutney back in those days.  It wasn’t until living in England that I helped a friend make Green Tomato Chutney with the end of season tomatoes that were still hanging around her garden.  For all the digs about British cuisine, it is still surprising that in 2001 the British foreign secretary, Robin Cook, called curry a national dish.  He said: “Chicken tikka masala is now a true British national dish, not only because it is the most popular, but because it is a perfect illustration of the way Britain absorbs and adapts external influences.”

England really does have fantastic curry houses, but back to the subject at hand.  Yes, chutney traditionally accompanied curries.  The word itself comes from the Hindi “chatni”  which meant something lip-smacking, ie tasty.  The original ones were made with fresh herbs and fruits.  The British and Major Grey, who was probably a mythical colonial officer brought green mango chutney to prominence.  There is no copyright on the name Major Grey.  However, I prefer to call the chutney what it is:  Green Mango Chutney.  It includes sugar and vinegar, dried fruits and spices.  Be forewarned.  For some reason, it seems to stink up your house.  The resulting product is delicious, just “caveat creator”.

Chutney isn’t just for curries.  We use it on all sorts of things.  In fact, I had even contemplated marketing it to sell as it was so popular with my friends and colleagues.  I did sell 12 cases of it to my fellow teachers and friends back in the day.  I had  created labels with a photo of my dream house and called my company “Mango House”.  Mango salsa and mustard were also part of my product line.  The chutney was the best repeat seller.  It has an incredible shelf life and doesn’t require any special processing materials.  It is perfect with hot dogs or bratwurst.  It really complements cheese and crackers,  especially a sharp cheddar.  We love it with pate.  I had a friend who bought it from me to put on salmon fillets before baking them in the oven.  Back when spreads were popular, I made a very tasty one with cream cheese, curry powder and cilantro, topped with chutney, topped with chopped green onions and peanuts.

So, close your bedroom doors and turn on the exhaust fan and ready, set, go!

Green Mango Chutney

Yield about 4 lbs

This recipe came from The Complete Book of Preserving edited by Nicky Hayden and last published in the U.K. in 1984.  The measurements and ingredients are adapted to what is easily available in the U.S.

Buy the firmest mangoes you can find.

3 lbs green mangoes, peeled, halved and stoned

3 oz salt

3 1/2 pints water

1 lb sugar

1 pint apple cider vinegar

3 oz fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped

6 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 teaspoons cayenne

2 inch piece stick cinnamon (I prefer Sri Lankan)

4 oz raisins

4 oz dried dates, chopped

Cut the mangoes into small pieces and place in a mixing bowl, sprinkle the salt over the top and pour in the water.  Cover and set aside for 24 hours.

Drain the mango pieces and set aside.  Place the sugar and vinegar in a preserving pan and bring to the boil.  When the sugar is dissolved add the remaining ingredients and bring the mixture back to the boil, stirring occasionally.

Reduce the heat and simmer the chutney, stirring frequently until it is thick; (about 45 minutes)  then discard the cinnamon stick.

Now comes the interesting part.  Into sterilized jars (washed, drained and warmed in oven to dry) put the chutney leaving a small space at the top.  Screw on the metal tops and turn upside down on a rack to cool for 12 hours.  This creates a seal and along with the quantity of sugar and vinegar in the recipe keeps the product from spoiling.  Cool, huh?

Tip:  You can make your own wide mouth funnel with one you already have by sawing it off at the desired width.  The green one came from Walmart.  It isn’t as good of a fit for my jar mouths but it still works.

If you don’t feel up to the effort, don’t miss the season or your chance to enjoy the over 20 vitamins and minerals in a mango.  My favorite out of hand eating mango is the Ataulfo that comes from Mexico.  The Far East Asian Market has them in right now and they are really big.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Birthday No-Bake Cakes, Hooray!

 

With our two birthdays exactly a week apart in May and not that far after the birthday cake for 60 that I had made for our grandson’s first birthday bash, the idea of no-bake cakes seemed like a great one.

Now you may think that making your own birthday cake is not quite right.  Well, most of the time I would agree with you.  However, after several years of a Publix Key Lime Pie for my birthday dessert, I was ready for a change.

My husband is a an awesome cook when it comes to main courses.  He can also make a mean apple and blackberry tart.  Cakes, not so much.  Many, many years ago when I was away for our anniversary for my father’s funeral and staying to help my mom for a few weeks, I came home to find my husband had baked his first (and last) cake.  It might help you to imagine why when you hear that I had to ask him what kind of cake it was and he answered “chocolate”.

A simple but humiliating confusion was the reason.  When the recipe called for cocoa powder he had used a hot chocolate or to clarify, a hot cocoa mix.  After that, I didn’t expect him to bake my birthday cakes, in fact, I requested that he not.

My all time favorite birthday cake is homemade angel food cake with whipped cream and strawberries for the icing.  When one of my sisters happens to be around for my birthday that is what she makes for me.  One year when she wasn’t I tried to make my own with our mother’s recipe that my sister also uses.  So sad, it flopped and I vowed not to bake my own birthday cake ever again.  Hence the many years of Key Lime Pie.

But not this year!  I have friends out there that will like these two recipes.  No-bake all the way if you use one packaged ingredient instead of the homemade version that I will include for any purists out there.

Do you remember Icebox Cake?

Nothing more than whipped cream that sandwiches together Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers.

Image result for nabisco famous chocolate wafers

In case you have trouble finding these elusive wafers at your local supermarkets or you don’t feel like paying $31.35 for 4 packs of these from Amazon per the link above, I like this recipe and it is what I used for my two no-bake cakes.  I still count them as no-bake because I made these cookies a couple of weeks earlier and stored them in the freezer.  The recipe comes from a  once famous restaurant in Atlanta, part of the Pano and Paul’s Group, called Mick’s.  It was famous for its Chocolate Pie.  The best part of this recipe that was once printed in the Atlanta Journal Constitution is a recipe for Chocolate Wafers.

Chocolate Wafers

Makes 4 dozen.  That’s enough for two desserts and some left over to have with your morning coffee.

2/3 Cup butter

1 Cup sugar

1 egg

2 Cups sifted all-purpose flour

3/4 Cup cocoa, the unsweetened kind 😉

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 Cup milk

Cream butter and sugar.  Add egg and beat.  Sift dry ingredients and add alternately with the milk.  Mix, chill.  Make two large rolls, each about 2 inches in diameter.  Chill or freeze until needed.  Use a serrated knife to slice very thinly.  Bake at 350 degrees on a a greased or parchment lined baking sheet.

The second no-bake cake recipe comes from my English friend, Alison Van Dalen.  Due to the British origin of the recipe it is called Chocolate Biscuit Cake.  Chocolate Cookie Cake might give you a better idea of the ingredients.  The original recipe calls for purchased digestive biscuits, but you can use graham crackers or, in my birthday version, the same chocolate wafers as above.

Chocolate Biscuit Cake

8 oz. digestive biscuits or graham crackers, or chocolate wafers, crushed

8 oz. semi-sweet chocoate

8 oz. butter

2 eggs

2 oz. sugar

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over hot water or in the microwave.  Melt the butter.  Beat eggs and sugar together.  Stir in the melted butter, melted chocolate and graham crackers or chocolate wafers.  Pour into an 8 inch loose bottomed tin or a tin lined with plastic wrap.  Chill overnight.  Freezes well.

Just as well that is freezes.  My brother-in-law will be visiting around the time of his birthday so those wafers will have stretched to 3 birthdays by the time they are finished.

 

 

 

 

Let’s Take a Tour

 

The Wine, Dine and Roadster Tour of Saint Augustine was a unique Christmas Present that we finally found the right combination of date and weather to enjoy at 11 am on a sunny Saturday in April.  We came to appreciate that letting someone else be responsible for an afternoon’s entertainment can add to an experience in unexpected ways.

Since most of you have probably heard about, read about, (We had in a great book entitled  Henry Flagler The Astonishing Life and Times of the Visionary Robber Baron Who Founded Florida by David Leon Chandler.) and visited this oldest city in America perhaps on numerous occasions, as we have, it may surprise you to hear how much we enjoyed this “let someone else make the decisions, the reservations, the driving, the parking and need I go on” three hours of entertainment with Corley.

And off we go!  After a wine tasting, that is, at the The Gifted Cork and Gourmet where we enjoyed the wines so much that we had the owner hold 6 bottles for us to collect at the end of our red roadster adventure!  It wasn’t just wining and dining.  Corley took us on our own private tour of Saint Augustine with some historical details that the book we had read hadn’t mentioned or that we had just as likely forgotten.  He also pointed out a few locations that we had missed on our own rambles.  I won’t tell you all because I would like you to experience Corley’s most enjoyable repartee.

Did you know that Flagler built a church for every denomination?  Here are a few.

 

This one has a cupola that is a sold piece of terracotta.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This church has never been painted.  The yellow is the original color of the clay used in the bricks.

 

 

 

The Memorial Presbyterian Church was dedicated to the daughter of Henry Flagler who died in child birth.  It is modeled after St Mark’s Basilica in Venice.  Henry Flagler, his daughter Jennie Louise, her infant daughter and his first wife Mary Harkness are all buried here.

Memorial Presbyterian Church

That’s it for history, folks.  Corley can fill you in on some of the current residents like this one with three of the original Terracotta Warriors in her outside garden, no less.  But that is his tale to tell.

Time to eat, and time to drink.  Just so that I do not spoil it for you, the tour goes to different venues.  You may get to some that we did, but you will likely go to others.  We started at the Old City House Inn.  It was once the stables that serviced the Flagler Hotels.  It is also a bed and breakfast.

Old City House Inn

The dish they served also came with a delicious glass of Pinot Noir.  The proceeds of the wine go toward saving the condor.  Now that is a good excuse to drink wine if ever you needed one.

Gaufre’s and Goods, Inc.

Pierogis and Waffles coming up.  Don’t let me forget Bulgarian wine.  We sat inside but as you can see, outside is an option.

Athena

Are we in Greece?  No, but we did get to shout oompa!

Our last stop before picking up our wine to take home to the Hammock.

Barley Republic Irish Public House and Restaurant

As endings are supposed to be sweet, we opted for a refreshing glass of cider instead of wine and of course we had dessert!

Deep Fried Double Oreo Cookie

It was back to the Hammock for us, across the Bridge of Lions with John behind the wheel instead of Corley.  All we could say was:  Wasn’t that fun?

 

 

Did you say Cheese, and Crackers?

 

A few decades ago I lived in Dubai.  It was during the boom years of the 70s and 80s.  You may wonder what that has to do with cheese.  It does and it doesn’t.

5 star hotels and liquor license apart, it wasn’t always possible to acquire the ingredients or products that we were used to at home.  My sister used to ship in foot lockers full of Herbal Essence shampoo and Balsamic conditioner.  My desires were more specific to the baking realm.  Cream cheese, sour cream, buttermilk, crackers and spices that came in jars, for example.  If I am perfectly honest, I should also probably admit to the wish for cans of Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup.

Dozens of milk or cream and lemon mixtures and uncountable bechamels with sauteed mushrooms later I realized that I preferred and prided myself on the homemade version.  I had just never figured out that I could just as easily have made the cream cheese and crackers.

Most years I try to come up with a goal.  Nothing to save the world but something that I would like to master.  One year it was to learn Portuguese, another it was to make sour dough bread and one year it was to learn to make cheese.

One of our sons and his wife got me started with 2 boxed kits from Williams Sonoma.  Our other son and his wife coordinated with them and got us a cool cheese board.  No excuses to start the process.  All I needed was a gallon of milk, regular or goat’s milk.  Ricotta was easy, so was goat cheese.  Mozzarella took a little more time what with folding and stretching.

        

I was pretty proud of my first mozzarella.  It only took about 30 active minutes to make.  That was 3 years ago.

Now back to this week and the cream cheese and crackers.  These in fact are even easier to make.  The creamy cheeses actually only take 2 minutes.  That doesn’t count the leaving it alone for 12 hours and then straining the whey for another 4 to 8 hours, but you don’t have to hang around while that is happening.  The crackers can be mixed up, placed in the refrigerator and sliced and baked when you want them.

I knew that I needed some new rennet.  The supply that came with my boxes would have long expired if it hadn’t been inadvertently thrown out with a freezer clean out after Hurricane Irma.  Thank goodness for the internet.  I found New England Cheesemaking Supply Company.  Like all good internet shoppers, I perused their site and managed to buy a few extra items.  In addition to the rennet that I needed for mozzarella I bought some soft cheese molds and I purchased their Soft Cheese Sample Pack.  Boy, is it good.

 

Please note the frosty appearance that assures you that I am following instructions to store in the freezer.

 

 

 

So far I have made the Fromage Blanc and Ricki’s Fromagina.

They both have only a couple of instructions.

 

 

Heat the milk to 86 degrees. (The Williams Sonoma boxes include a cheese thermometer that registers lower temperatures than your average thermometer.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sprinkle the packet of culture over warmed milk.  Leave 2 minutes then stir. Cover for 12 hours.  Scoop out solids into muslin lined strainer over large pot.  Leave 4-8 hours.

 

 

 

 

At this point you have made the Fromage Blanc.  It can be used in various recipes.

 

 

 

 

You can mix it with fresh herbs and a little salt or mix it with honey.  It helps to have fresh herbs in your garden. I made it with honey, with basil and salt, with kalamata olives and oregano and with rosemary, garlic and lemon zest.

 

 

The same method is used to make the Fromagina.  You just use a different culture.  It gives a more sour cheese, much like Greek yogurt.  That’s how we like it.

   

Now for the crackers.  The basic recipe lets you be creative.  I can’t help but add three suggestions.  Be sure to bake them a little longer than you think they need and don’t slice them too thickly.  If you decide to freeze the dough be sure to let it really thaw before slicing as you won’t be able to get them thin enough otherwise.

The original recipe for these crackers came from a Martha Stewart article too long ago for me to remember.  I have switched up the ingredients to use what I had in my cupboard.  She also had a Cheddar and Gruyere cracker recipe, but honestly, it wasn’t as good as these two.

Dried Plum and Walnut Crackers (Martha’s were Fig and Almond)

8 dried plums, finely chopped (or figs)

1/4 Cup madeira (or port)

1/4 Cup walnuts (or raw almonds)

1 Cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon coarse salt

4 Tablespoons cold unsoftened butter, cut into small pieces

  1. Soak the dried fruit in liqueur for 10 minutes.
  2. Pulse the nuts in a food processor with the salt until finely ground.  Add the butter, pulse until crumbly.  Transfer to a bowl and stir in the dried fruit and liqueur with a fork until dough forms.  Shape into a 2 inch wide log.  Wrap in plastic and freeze 1 hour or up to 3 months. 
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut the log into 1/8 inch rounds.  Arrange on a baking sheet.  Bake, rotating the sheets once, until edges are golden,  14- 16 minutes.  Let crackers cool on a wire rack.

Whole Wheat and Za’atar Crackers (or sesame)

1 Cup whole wheat flour

2 Tablespoons sesame seeds, plus za’atar (or more sesame seeds) for sprinkling

2 Tablespoons sugar

3/4 teaspoon coarse salt

4 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter cut unto small pieces

1/4 Cup heavy cream (I used Greek yogurt)

Flaky sea salt and Za’atar for topping.  Za’atar recipe to follow.

  1. In a bowl, whisk together flour, sesame seeds and coarse salt.  Work butter into flour mixture until crumbly.  Stir in the cream or yogurt wit a fork until dough forms.  Shape into a 2 inch wide log.  Wrap in plastic, freeze 1 hour or up to 3 months.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut log into 1/8 inch thick rounds.  Arrange on baking sheet and sprinkle with za’atar or sesame seeds and sea salt.  Bake, rotating sheets once until edges are golden, 14-16 minutes.  Let crackers cool on a wire rack.

Za’atar (you can buy this at Ethnic markets but it is easy to make)

1/4 Cup sumac

2 Tablespoons thyme

1 Tablespoon roasted sesame seeds

2 Tablespoons marjoram

2 Tablespoons oregano

1 teaspoon coarse salt.

Grind the sesame seeds and stir in the rest.  Store in an airtight container.

Just because I get a kick out of making my own doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy the real McCoy made by other hands.  This cheese from Humbird Cheese Mart in Wisconsin, courtesy of my sister is divine.

If you are fortunate to find your year’s supply at Costco of these Panzanella Crackers, be sure to go for it.  If not, Trader Joe’s has their version in the standard size and they are just great.