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The North East Kitchen

Ingunn’s Kitchen

By Myriam Babin on Mar 21, 2016 08:00 am

We visited Ingunn in her Kennebunkport home where she made us a delicious vegan meal, which as promised, was full of texture and very satisfying – even for her carnivore guests. To my assistant’s delight, lunch was followed by an outing to the chicken coop with resident dogs Frida and Oscar. Ingunn tells us more about her kitchen – and her relationship to food and cooking.

You’ll find her recipe below.

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portobello mushrooms

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NEK: How long have you lived in this house? You were telling me you and your husband remodeled the house yourself, and that you created the open kitchen. Did you design everything yourself?

 IMJ: We bought the house three years ago, and after totally remodeling almost everything we moved in  August of 2013. It was still a construction site, but we finished it while living here. We did most of it ourself, including all the design. We demolished the house to its bare bones and built it back up. I hauled every floor plank off the truck, installed and treated it . The kitchen walls got nine layers of white before I found the shade that worked with everything from early morning light to sunset. It was such a fun project as we had a clear vision from the start. We did rush it and took our time.

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NEK: It seems perfect for entertaining! Care to tell us if you entertain often, what you most enjoy preparing…


IMJ: We wanted as open a space as possible so some walls were torn down. What resulted is a really is a great space for entertaining – it can hold quite the crowd! Yet I prefer smaller parties. I like to gather people around the dining table. Not to be formal but rather so the conversation can flow and include everyone…..I do love cooking for intimate dinner parties. The planning, the preparing…

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NEK: One can’t help but notice you have an art-filled kitchen! I always appreciate when people really live with their art, and are not precious about it. Perhaps it’s because you’re a painter yourself?

IMJ: Yes, I do need to be surrounded by art as it adds en extra dimension to our lives. As you can see I gave up upper cabinets for art work!!!! Well, the actual reason was to visually raise the ceilings – no trim, no upper cabinets – but it gave space for art. I am surrounded by my local favorites: Brad Maushart‘s large photograph of a nude,  and David Allen who did the small garlic painting . The Sparrow painting is something I did years ago. As you can see there are also lots of family photos throughout our house. I have fond memories of the generations before me so I like to be reminded of them. Also, since we have moved around the globe so much is important to be reminded of your roots.

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cups on a shelf and painting of garlic cloves

My wish for this house was to create a mix between an art gallery, a coffee shop, a book shop and a green house. Unpretentious easy living.

NEK: Well, you have succeeded. It’s comfortable and inviting – perfect for entertaining! Care to tell us about that – if you entertain often, what you most enjoy preparing…

IMJ: I have always loved cooking, baking, preserving, and considered the table a great place to bring family together. Dinner was always the gathering meal when the kids lived at home. We have moved a lot, and when things were a little chaotic we baked. Billions of cinnamon buns. There were waffles when they won a game, or lost a game, when mom felt guilty for being unreasonable… lots of waffles in other words.

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NEK: You mentioned cooking differently now that your children are grown and no longer living at home. How has it changed? Do you enjoy cooking more – did you enjoy it before?

IMJ: Now that the kids are out of the house I do spend less time cooking obviously, but I enjoy making simple healthy meals. I rarely plan what to make before I open the fridge. I am the only vegan in our family so when the kids lived at home there were more lean meats being served. My husband is totally fine with vegan food, he get his meat fix when traveling.

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NEK: Have you always been vegan?

IMJ: I stopped eating red meat six years ago as a part of a challenge, and never once missed it. Then about four years ago I cut out all meat, seafood, dairy and eggs. Every once in a while I have some cheese if I feel like it. What began as a interest in my own diet developed into a broader concern for animal welfare and the importance of a more global perspective. As a result I have become much more aware of the benefits of a plant-based diet. Before I ate without thinking, now I make sure my body gets the nutrition it needs. Also, because I live a very active life and work out a lot I need to fuel on the right stuff.

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NEK: You have a garden, which we haven’t had the pleasure of meeting yet as we did our shoot in early March – do you grow most of your vegetables in the summer?

IMJ: We are so lucky to have enough space for a vegetable garden! From May to December we harvest all kinds of lettuce, kale, spinach, beets, carrots, tomatoes, squash, eggplants, herbs….. this year’s mild winter allowed me to pick our Christmas dinner. Pretty cool.  Every year we expand a little. We have also been part of a farm share. There are lots of farmers markets around here…. and farm stands. With Spring almost here I itch to get back out there and start digging. There’s something incredibly satisfying about being able to grow the food you eat. It couldn’t possibly be more short travelled.

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NEK: And chickens?

IMJ: For the moment we have two sweet hens and one lucky rooster. Lizzie, Eloise and Hans. He is named after my great grand father as they share the same strict look. We lost some of our earlier chickens to the fox and hawks. They provide us with two eggs every day that we give away to friends. I had no idea chickens were so much fun and entertaining.

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NEK: How often do you go out to eat, and where do you like to go? Do you have a favorite restaurant – here or elsewhere in the world?

IMJ: We are lucky to have some great restaurants with good vision around where we live. Maine has become quite the food scene. My local favorite right down the road is of course Bandaloop. Chef Scott Lee always uses the freshest ingredients and has lots of vegan end vegetarian options. His soup of the day is always vegan and insanely delicious.

The best vegan meal I ever had must have been at Blossom in NYC. It was unreal. Another must while down there is by CHLOE in Soho. Vegan “fast-food” like nothing else.

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NEK: Do you have a favorite cookbook?

IMJ: I own a lot of cookbooks and love the inspiration they provide. One of my everyday favorite is Thug Kitchen. It’s simple, unpretentious and very flavorful food that doesn’t require tons of preparation. Just the way I like it. Plenty and the other Ottolenghi books are also beautiful read.  

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NEK: And what did you make for us today? Is there a story behind this dish? Care to share the recipe with our readers?

IMJ: This meal came together because I had some beautiful portobello mushrooms that needed to be used…. and I was further inspired by what happened to be in the fridge that day.
Here is the recipe:

2-3 portabello mushrooms, cut the stem and slice

1 8 oz. pack Tempeh – I use the 3 Grain from Lightlife

1 bunch of kale…or spinach, wash and cut. Cut the thicker stem off the kale. I used green and purple kale.

Sauce – adjust it to you own taste:

1/3 cup of low sodium soy sauce

2 table spoons chopped fresh ginger

1/2 red chillie, chopped… or more if you need !!

juice from 1/2 a lime

2-3 tablespoons maple syrup

( if you are in a hurry use a ready-made ginger teriaki one sauce)

-Make the sauce ahead of time so the flavors can blend

– Saute the mushrooms in olive oil for a couple of minutes

– Crumble the Tempeh into the pan and stir for another 2-3 min on medium heat

– add the sauce and let it cook for 2 more minutes on low heat… just enough so the kale still has some crunch to it

Lots of freshly ground pepper, but no salt as the soy sauce has enough.

Serve with lost of yummy, peppery arugula – preferably with a glass of red wine!

the chickens

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