It was sweltering yesterday as I walked up from the Free Street parking garage to Monument Square. As I'm on my way to meet Mike and Sarah Jerome of Kamasouptra I keep thinking it's too hot for soup. It was the perfect day for the Portland Farmers' Market though which was winding down as I opened the doors to the Public Market House. As I crest the stairs to the second floor and take a look around I am forced to reconsider. I should know better by now; there are no bad days for soup.

What was once only a wholesale business in the basement of the Market House has burgeoned into a restaurant space, and a very attractive one at that. The open kitchen is picturesque and inviting. I was so wrong before, I was craving soup at this point. Fiending might be a more apt description. There was a list of 9 soups on that board, 6 of them vegan, and I wanted at 'em. The most difficult decision now was which to try first.

There was a vegan interpretation of a Scotch Broth made with a touch of lavender. Or should I try the gazpacho? Cool soup. Hot day. Logical, right? There was also a potato and fennel offering, crafted with just the right amount of fennel as to not be abusive, coming on subtly at the end. All were delicate, well crafted, and finely balanced.

Standouts for me ended up being the Maple Spiced Sweet Potato which is a right proper mix of sweet, savory, and heat; and the Chilled Fiddlehead and Rhubarb, of which I consumed a whole bowl. It took a minute to get my head around the idea of pairing fiddleheads and rhubarb, not that I felt that they were disperate flavors, just that I had never seen them employed together. It was indeed a pleasant surprise that they worked so well together. It was definitely the highlight of my visit. The ingredients were sourced right at the Farmers' Market that day and the freshness was evident. Look for the recipe to be posted here, generously offered to us by the creator, Mike Jerome, in the near future.

After chatting with Mike for a bit I was all the more behind their soup and mission. He's intent on letting fresh ingredients speak for themselves and believes it's really the vegetables and herbs that make the flavors we love, and that the meat is actually quite superfluous. He's obviously passionate. After having trained in 5 star restaurants it was actually The Soup Peddler of Austin, TX that set him on his way to soup dominance here in Portland. Soup as art? I'm with it. Check out Kamasouptra at Public Market House, 28 Monument Square in Portland.

Kamasouptra on Urbanspoon

Fiddlehead And Portabella Mushroom Ragout

It comes to pass every year and, although expected, it always bums us out. That's the time when fiddleheads are no longer readily available. We heard that they were on their way out so we had to get one more round in. Our arms were twisted though. When Colleen sent out the call on Twitter that Farm Fresh Connection had fiddleheads at a mere $4/pound. Who were we to ignore that?

So again we made the trip to their farm stand on Pleasant Hill Road in Freeport last Saturday. Our day of vegan discovery took us from the Saco Farmers' Market, to Farm Fresh, followed by Silly's, and finally home to hammer out some kitchen concepts. It was a fun packed day that yielded some great memories and this recipe. Enjoy!

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium yellow onion
1 clove garlic
1 lb. fiddleheads well rinsed, ends trimmed
1/4 cup water
1/2 lb. portabella mushrooms, 1" dice
1/2 tsp. dried marjoram
1 tsp. dried thyme
2 tsp. lemon juice
kosher salt and course ground black pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in pot over medium heat and add onions. Saute for two minutes. Reduce heat and cover, allowing onions to sweat for six minutes. Add garlic and cover again. Cook another two minutes. Add fiddleheads and water. Replace cover and increase heat to medium high. Steam fiddleheads with onion and garlic for about eight minutes.

Add mushrooms, thyme, and marjoram and toss with fiddlehead mixture and return to heat for an additional four minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Toss with lemon juice and serve over polenta. Make the polenta to your desired consistency. This ragout would be great accompanied by either a corn mush or a grilled polenta cake.

Sunday Morning Hash

This is Missus Gray's hash. It's tried and tested. It's been in the Sunday morning breakfast repertoire around our house since before we went vegan. It's so tasty it defies boundaries. It didn't always contain smoked paprika though. We recently realized there was no excuse for using paprika that wasn't smoked. It's an indispensable element of this dish. So swap out the potatoes for other varieties, use red onions or green, but please, PLEASE make sure you use smoked paprika. The husband had his with his maple mustard but it really is truly for those who like a spicy mustard. I'm not that hardcore.

2/3 pound each sliced 1/4" thick:

  • new red potatoes (not peeled)
  • new yellow potatoes (not peeled)
  • sweet potatoes (peeled)
1 3/4 cup onions sliced lengthwise
2 large garlic cloves chopped
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tbsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. salt
light pinch cayenne or to your taste
cooking spray

Boil potatoes at a rolling boil for 10 minutes or until fork tender depending upon your cooktop. Drain, cool, and reserve. In a large skillet, we like cast iron, heat oil over medium heat and add onion and garlic. Toss and DON'T SCORCH. Ever had scorched garlic? Blargh. Cook for 2 minutes.

Add potatoes, chili powder, cayenne, paprika, and salt. Toss to coat. Now the fun part. With spatula, shove mixture to one side of the pan and hit empty side with the cooking spray. Shove it again the other way and repeat. Press mixture firmly into bottom of pan making an even layer. Now don't touch. Walk away. Don't walk away, that's dangerous. Maybe as far as the sink. You want the bottom of the hash to get brown and crispy. This should take about 4-6 minutes.

Brown one side then flip. How many flips that takes you will probably depend on the size of your spatula. Don't worry if it gets broken up a little at this point. Press again, allowing underside to crisp. Home stretch! The idea is to get the crispy bits into the middle and create love throughout. Toss, and press again. Allow to crisp one last time for a couple minutes. It's not rocket science, just serve it! Serves 4 but we did it with 2.
Condiments are important. A sweet potato french fry is delicious but the right dip can put it right over the top. It's the accoutrements really that make life worth living. We've set out to prove it with this Maine Maple Mustard. We're highlighting the lighter flavors of Grade A Medium Amber from Maine Maple Products Inc. The flavor balance on this mustard leans toward the sweet side, but it's done in order to counterbalance the heat from the mustard. I'm quite fond of a sweet and spicy mustard and it was perfect this morning with some hash.

To offer some more depth of flavor we've also included beer. We picked a stout in complement to the maple flavors and we think the pairing is spot on. Go with your own favorite local stout. Here in Maine we happen to have a brewery of national acclaim. That brewery of course is Allagash Brewing Company, makers of innovative Belgian style beers, located right in Portland. There were a lot of people abuzz about their Allagash Black when it was first introduced a few years back. We were amongst those. Use this unique Belgian style stout for an extra touch of elegance in this maple mustard and nosh away. The sweet potato fries and pretzels are at the ready.

1/4 cup brown mustard seeds
1/4 cup yellow mustard seeds
1 cup water
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 cup stout
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 tbsp. ground mustard
1 tsp. salt

Soak brown and yellow mustard seeds together in water for two hours. In food processor combine soaked mustard seeds and any remaining liquid with garlic and vinegar. Process until mustard seeds are busted up fairly well. Add maple syrup, beer, dry mustard, and salt processing until well incorporated. Makes about 2 cups.

A Very Silly Place

There is no other. If you live in or around Portland you probably already know about Silly's. If you don't, there's something decidedly wrong with you. Stop reading and go to 40 Washington Avenue now. Back yet? No? Ok, we'll wait. Now? Good. What did you have? If you're vegan like us, you should've had no problems finding something to eat on their eclectic menu.

Any place that offers Blue Mango Burgers is all right by us, and we've had them here on more than one occasion. But that's just one of the impressive number of vegan options available. It actually makes it a little hard at times. As vegans in Maine, we're somewhat used to identifying the one or two possibly veganizable items on the menu and having to run with that. Silly's has about 30 strictly vegan items on their menu, easily identified with a (v). The first time my wife and I went in there as vegans I think I stared at the menu for 10 minutes, unable to make up my mind.

That day I finally settled on the Tofu in a Dinghy. That's rice noodles, mushrooms, fried tofu, "cheese", and peanut sauce stuffed in a wrap and fried chimi style. Commence with the "oh face". It's hedonistic certainly, and today was the first time I've ventured to try it again since that day a while back. It's indulgent, junky, and super tasty. With a Geary's HSA alongside, you've got a perfect lunch of big flavors that will fill you up until next Tuesday. Their peanut sauce avoids the ultra-sweet peanut butter flavors I've gotten from some peanut sauces. Well done.

Amanda chose to customize a sandwich, and to delicious effect. I'm always doubtful of her mix and match approach, but she schools me every time. She chose the Vegan Deluxe Abdullah Wrap which, on paper, contains spinach, broccoli, green pepper, roasted red pepper, scallion, mushroom, carrot, Greek olives, and balsamic vinaigrette. Toss out the balsamic vinaigrette and add that famous peanut sauce, add some fried tofu and you've got a delicious sandwich remix. It was the highlight of the meal. She let me have a bite, but only one. The crisp, raw veg were fantastic texturally with the tofu. We both enjoyed their sweet potato fries with spicy vegan dipping sauce as we do every time we go. Try their unsweetened iced tea, served the proper way, in a mason jar.

Thanks to this East End heavy for offering one of the most vegan friendly menus in town, and an atmosphere that keeps us coming back. Later this summer, you'll find us on the patio!

Silly's on Urbanspoon

Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Balsamic

Local food isn't only about local food producers. It's also about supporting independent stores who carry products you enjoy. LeRoux Kitchen on Commercial Street in Portland is a foodie's dream. They carry many, many specialty foodstuffs and kitchen gadgets. They started in Maine but have been well received, opening stores in Martha's Vineyard and most recently, Portsmouth, NH. One of our favorite product lines they offer has always been the wide selection of fine, aged balsamic vinegars. They come in funky, refillable bottles and there are a number of different flavors and ages to choose from. Try a white balsamic in a salad dressing or the more traditional pairing of balsamic with fruit such as strawberries.

Here we've used their 15 year balsamic at the end of the cooking process to add just a simple note of complexity to the earthy flavors of Brussels sprouts. Try this along side of a full flavored brown ale like Smuttynose's Old Brown Dog.

1 lb. Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed, tough outer leaves removed, and halved
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1/4 cup low sodium vegetable broth
1 tbsp. olive oil
generous pinch pepper
1 1/2 tbsp. aged balsamic vinegar
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In roasting pan combine Brussels sprouts, sliced shallot, vegetable broth, olive oil, and pepper. Toss to coat and cover. Roast for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and peek inside. Looks good, yeah? We're not done. Add balsamic, salt to taste, and stir to coat the sprouts. Make sure you're scraping up any caramelized bits on pan. That's the good stuff. Cover and cook for 15 more minutes. Serves 2 normal folks or 1 Jereme.
We've been getting in touch with a lot of folks through the blog. Some of them are finding us and we're reaching out trying to find them too. We've talked with representatives from Maine-based companies offering vegan products, farmers' markets, and groceries. It's been very rewarding making these connections. As a result of those connections made, today was a bit of a field trip. I, Jereme, went out with my two young children, 3 and 4, on the road headed up coast a bit. We had two spots to hit.

The first was Farm Fresh Connection at Wealden Farm in Freeport. I've been hearing a lot about this place having linked up with their rep on Twitter, Colleen. They've been in wholesale for almost 10 years, bringing together terrific, fresh products from a multitude of Maine farms but just opened the doors on their retail operation last weekend. We met with the husband and wife team at the helm John Schwenk, who was harvesting some lovely looking rhubarb, and Martha Putnam, who was readying a delivery for one of their clients. I happen to know from speaking with Colleen that Rosemont Market and Bakery stores in Yarmouth and Portland are currently carrying fingerlings and asparagus supplied to them by Farm Fresh. In the next day here we'll be heading into the kitchen to bring you an asparagus preparation that highlights all the freshness of this locally sourced asparagus. Get some yourself at the farm stand in Freeport at 19 Pleasant Hill Road.

Not too far of a trek from there is Sparhawk Mill, location of the bakery of Spelt Right Baking Co. A while back I got in touch with founder Beth George via her blog. She invited me to come see the bakery and get a little tour. I was a little unsure of bringing the kids with me on this one, it being a commercial food preparation environment. Not to worry. There were pictures all over the walls painted by young ones and photos of previous tours comprised of grammar school aged children proudly showing off doughy fingers posted.

Before today I was largely unaware of the mission of Spelt Right. Beth's son experienced health and behavioral issues that, with some patience and research, she determined to be attributable to wheat flour, preservatives, artificial colors, and highly processed sweeteners. Eliminating these products from their life did wonders for her son and now she shares what she's learned with the world. In fact she wasn't there today as she's off traveling New England sharing her own story and welcoming people to try the product themselves. To think we've been eating them all this time because we just thought they were the tastiest. More information on the many healthy advantages of spelt can be found here.

Get out there and interact with your farmers and food producers. Speaking from personal experience, it's one of the most rewarding things you can do, both for you and for them.

Bean Suppah

It's SUPPAH, not SUPPER. Get it right. It's ingrained in our history. Every one of us Mainers has been to at least one. It's the heart of the community. Not very vegan, but wholesome in it's own way. We've set out here to create a vegan version of the New England tradition. Baked beans are sacred, and here we think we've done them right.

We're all about utilizing the local bounty and it doesn't get much more local to us than Harris Farm; it's less than 6 miles away! They're our regular go-to for Maine Maple Sunday and they're a regular face at the Saco Farmers' Market which kicked off this weekend. We've included their fine maple product in this here recipe using their Grade A Dark Amber for the maple notes in our baked beans.

1 lb. white navy beans, soaked overnight
1 medium onion, rough chop
1 clove garlic, minced
2/3 cup molasses
2/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 1/3 tbsp. tamari
2 tsp. dry mustard

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Drain beans and put soaked beans into large pot with 3 parts water per 1 parts beans by volume. Bring water to boil. Reduce to low, rolling boil and cook for 20 minutes. While beans are cooking put onions and garlic in large, deep casserole or preferably a beanpot. Drain and rinse par-cooked beans, reserving the cooking liquid.

In a saucepan, combine 2 cups liquid from the beans, molasses, maple syrup, ketchup, vinegar, tamari, and dry mustard, heating gently as to incorporate. As the sauce gets yummers, place beans in casserole with onions and garlic. Top with sauce, cover, and bake. After two hours check the beans to make sure they're not getting dry. If necessary, add more of your reserved cooking liquid. Replace cover, cooking for an additional 2 hours. You'll be able to tell when the beans are done by pressing them gently. They should yield under light pressure, their skin breaking and getting a little smooshy. Makes 8 hearty servings.

While we were at it we whipped up a brown bread recipe too. It's not much of a bean suppah without the brown bread after all. Couldn't we all benefit from a little more molasses in our life anyway?

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 cup unsweetened soy milk
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup applesauce
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tbsp. white vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Combine all dry ingredients. In another bowl combine all wet ingredients making sure molasses and maple syrup are incorporated. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Now pour the wet ingredients into the well and stir with dry ingredients until just mixed. We poured ours into a 9" x 9" inch pan and baked for 40 minutes. Again, keep an eye on it and call it done when a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean. 12 servings.

Thank You Spelt Right!

We're already hearing back from the community on So.ME.Vegans and apparently you guys dig it! We're meeting some great people and learning about some great local products. We've long been fans of Spelt Right Baking Co out of Yarmouth, and now it seems, they're fans of ours! Last week they published a blog post we submitted wherein we used their pizza dough for a pocket sandwich. Their dough, already vegan, is a perfect base on which to build vegan tasties!

We chose to stuff ours with broccolini, red onion, and Daiya cheddar. This miracle "cheese" just became available in the area, even though the vegan community has been buggin' about it since it's introduction in March of '09. That pocket was super tasty, but we weren't done. We also stuffed one with mushrooms, local Lalibela Farm tempeh, and MORE cheddar Daiya. Tasty chow for sure.Thanks again to Beth of Spelt Right for the support and for offering a product that fills the dietary needs of many. Probably most of all though, for being engaged with the community. Thanks for the support!

"Creamed" Fiddleheads On Toast

We anxiously await this time of year; the emergence of fiddleheads. Fiddleheads are the coiled leaves of the ostrich fern, harvested in the early Spring before they've had a chance to open. Many a meal at camp featured a side of these delicate wild greens. They're delicious simply blanched or if you're looking for something a little richer, coat and deep fry the buggers.

We decided to offer a take on creamed asparagus on toast, substituting the seasonal specialty of fiddleheads. My wife's suggestion is to include some fresh nutmeg as you would any b├ęchamel, but I took a pass. I've included it in this recipe as optional. Find yourself a nice, local bakery with a hearty loaf of bread. Here we've used When Pigs Fly Sourdough.

1 pound fiddleheads well rinsed and ends trimmed
6 cups water
1 cup unsweetened soy milk
3 tbsp. flour
1 tsp. freshly grated lemon zest
generous pinch dill weed (use fresh if you gots)
black pepper to taste
ground fresh nutmeg (optional)
4 slices of your favorite local bread

Season water with approximately 2 teaspoons of salt and bring to a boil. Drop fiddleheads into boiling water and continue cooking on high for about 10 minutes.

While fiddleheads are boiling mix flour with soy milk and place over medium heat until it starts to thicken being careful not to boil. At this time your fiddleheads should be about done. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

Add reserved cooking liquid to flour and soy milk mixture and continue to thicken adding pepper, dill, nutmeg, and lemon zest. Start your bread to toast. Toss cooked fiddleheads with finished "cream" sauce and serve over toast. Serves 4.

Try To Contain Your Excitement

As previously mentioned one of the goals of this blog will be to explore local, seasonal, fresh produce. There is no greater joy to us than Saturday mornings at the Saco Farmers' Market. We love the place so much in fact that this season, we decided to move in order to be closer to it. Actually we were already moving, just so happens the ideal place was conveniently close to the site of the Market. Now we're within walking distance of one of our favorite places to be as the Summer gears up.

Let it be known that the Market is opening in ONE WEEK on May 8th! Many of the vendors also sell meat, milk, cheese, and seafood. You're surely not going to hear about any of that here. We WILL bring you a bevy of fresh fruits and vegetables of the finest quality from Alewive's Brook Farm, Harris Farm, Seasonal Corner, Snell Family Farm, fine olive oils from Lakonia Greek Products, goodies from Higherground Enterprises, and crafts from Faithful Jewelry & Design. We'll frequently highlight ingredients we've found here and offer our own fun preparations. We'll be there on opening day, family in tow. See you there.

Photo from Snell Family Farm