During her almost eight years as Maine’s first lady, Karen Baldacci has been an energetic advocate of many causes relating to the literacy and health of the state’s citizens.

An avid gardener herself, she initiated the rehabilitation of the Blaine House gardens.

A rehabilitated New England garden designed by Frederick Law Olmstead is the centerpiece, but the project also includes a greenhouse, a cutting garden, an herb garden and a large vegetable garden.

Heather Hopkins, the Blaine House’s executive chef, has been preserving much of the garden produce by putting up jars of pickles, salsas, tomatoes and applesauce.

This pasta recipe, which appears in my book “Dishing Up Maine,” honors Karen Baldacci’s efforts on behalf of Maine’s farmers and artisan food producers.

FIRST LADY FARMERS’ MARKET PASTA WITH MAINE CHEVRE

Showcasing not only the kind of height-of-summer produce to be found in abundance at Maine’s farmers’ markets, but also the tangy fresh goat cheese (chevre) produced by a growing number of artisan cheese makers in Maine, this recipe is meant to be a rather free-form affair. Adapt with other vegetables of your choice, other pasta shapes, and other cheeses. If you’d like to add a bit of meat, toss in some diced ham or prosciutto.

Servings: 4

1½ pound-mixture of any of the following: asparagus, yellow or green summer squash, bell peppers (any color), broccoli, small eggplant, portabella mushrooms

About 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

12 ounces penne or other similarly-shaped pasta

3/4 cup heavy cream

4 ounces fresh goat cheese

2 cups grape tomatoes, halved, or chopped seeded beefsteak-type tomatoes

1 cup chopped sweet red onion

¼ cup torn basil leaves (or a mixture of other chopped herbs such as tarragon, thyme, chervil), plus sprigs for garnish

½ cup grated pecorino Romano cheese

Slice or chop vegetables into manageable sizes for grilling.

Toss with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and enclose in a grill basket.

Grill over moderately high heat until somewhat softened and blackened in spots. (Or spread out on a rimmed baking sheet and roast at 450 degrees to a similar degree of doneness.)

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, about 10 minutes.

Spoon out and reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

Drain pasta into a colander.

Return pasta to the still-warm cooking pot and add the cream, chevre and reserved cooking water.

Toss until the cheese begins to melt. (The residual heat should do the job, but if not, place the pan over very low heat.)

Add tomatoes, onion, basil and vegetables and toss gently until heated through.

Toss with pasta and season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with basil sprigs and pass pecorino Romano at the table for sprinkling over the pasta.

HEATHER’S CUCUMBER-DILL YOGURT DIP

Heather Hopkins uses Blaine House cucumbers and fresh dill from the herb garden in this refreshing summery dip. Serve it with pita crisps and raw vegetables for dipping.

Servings: 4

½ cucumber

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup plain low-fat yogurt

4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1 small garlic clove, minced

1½ tablespoons chopped fresh dill

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon lemon juice

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Peel cucumber if skin is waxed; leave skin on if cucumber is fresh from a garden. Halve lengthwise, scoop out most of the seeds and cut into fine dice. Transfer to a colander, toss with salt and set aside for 15 minutes. Blot dry on paper towels.

In a bowl, whisk together yogurt and cream cheese until smooth. Stir in cucumber, garlic, dill, lemon zest and juice, and pepper. Refrigerate for at least one hour to blend flavors.

 

Brooke Dojny is a Beard Award-winning author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “Dishing Up Maine” (Storey Publishing 2006) and “The New England Clam Shack Cookbook” (Storey 2008). She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula.