Every once in a while, a cookbook comes along that would be at home on any Maine bookshelf.
That’s the case with “The Chefs Collaborative Cookbook: Local, Sustainable, Delicious Recipes from America’s Great Chefs” (The Taunton Press, $40).
The Chefs Collaborative is a non-profit network of 6,000 chefs, farmers, fishermen, educators and food lovers that has been promoting sustainable food systems since it was founded in 1993. The ranks of the group include notable chefs such as John Ash, Rick Bayless, Dan Barber, Hugh Acheson and Deborah Madison.
The collaborative’s new cookbook includes 115 original recipes from some of its member chefs, including Portland’s own Sam Hayward of Fore Street, who joined the organization in its first year. (You’ll find Hayward’s contribution to the book, his recipe for sea scallops with saffron and cider, reprinted below.)
Last year, the Chefs Collaborative awarded Hayward its “Sustainer” award, which “recognizes a chef who has been both a great mentor and a model to the culinary community through his purchases of seasonal, sustainable ingredients and the transformation of these ingredients into delicious food.”
When chef Michael Leviton of Lumiere presented the award to Hayward in New Orleans last year, he said: “Sam has very quietly been doing this for a long time and has trained generations of chefs. Not only that, but he has been a champion of a cuisine that is uniquely representative of Maine’s bounty.”
Hayward, who has won a “Best Chef” James Beard award and whose restaurant has received multiple Beard nominations, said the award from the Chefs Collaborative is “the award I’m most proud to have achieved.”
So, what’s the Chefs Collaborative cookbook like? Think of it as a primer for the home cook on how to choose sustainable ingredients, read labels (what does “Food Alliance Certified” mean?), and in general prepare dinner like Hayward is standing beside you in your kitchen, giving you advice.
There are sidebars explaining why organic food costs more, and advising you “What to Ask When You’re Ready to Buy the Cow.”
What exactly is quinoa? How do you use teff and farro? You’ll find out in the mini-encyclopedia of grains in the book.
“Using Everything” gives advice on what to do with chard and collard stems, apricot and cherry pits, radish greens, and other “leftover” parts of fruits and vegetables.
There’s a guide to the categories and types of cheeses, and an explainer on egg labels.
If you have to choose between local and organic ingredients, which should you choose?
And that’s just the beginning.
You might be wary of the recipes in a book like this because they come from chefs who aren’t intimidated at all by recipes like roasted leg of goat with bordal beans and pork heart and sausage ragout over pasta.
Yes, those are in the cookbook, but don’t worry: There’s also plenty of accessible recipes for the faint-of-pork-heart, including buttermilk fried chicken from a North Carolina chef and corn spoonbread souffle with green garlic and asparagus from a San Francisco chef.
Most are in the middle – dishes that sound tantalizing but don’t require a culinary degree or 20 years in a professional kitchen to execute. Think smoke-roasted whole chicken with Moroccan spices, spicy lamb Bolognese with basil ricotta on fettucine, and grilled New York steaks (grass-fed, of course) with asparagus, spring onions and porcini sauce.
Most of the chefs from the Northeast who contributed recipes are from Massachusetts. Chef Evan Mallett from the Black Trumpet in Portsmouth is the only chef from New Hampshire in the book. He shared an “October Heirloom Salad” that features some of his favorite heirloom root vegetables.
Hayward is the lone Maine chef featured, and his scallop dish looks perfect for this time of year.
SEA SCALLOPS WITH SAFFRON AND CIDER
From “The Chefs Collaborative Cookbook” by the Chefs Collaborative and Ellen Jackson. Recipe by Sam Hayward, Fore Street, Portland
Sea scallops are as delicious raw as cooked. Sear them quickly in a hot cast-iron skillet, keeping the interiors cool and mostly raw so that their mild sweet flavor shines through. Scallop season in Maine runs from December through April. The other ingredients in this recipe are easy to find in the winter months.
2 teaspoons fresh chervil leaves
1/4 teaspoon finely chopped winter savory
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
2 ounces apple-smoked slab bacon (without the rind), cut into ¼-inch dice
1 cup safflower, peanut or grapeseed oil
4 ounces celery root, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
2 ounces firm dense winter squash, like butternut, kuri, or blue hubbard, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
1 medium leek, white part only, rinsed and cut into ¼-inch dice
3 tablespoons apple-cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups dry hard cider
Large pinch of saffron threads; more for garnish
1 cup heavy cream, preferably unpasteurized
1/2 cup baby bok choy leaves, loosely packed
1 1/2 pounds jumbo sea scallops (U-10 to U-16), connective tissue trimmed and patted dry
Freshly ground black pepper
Combine the chervil, savory and chives in a small bowl and set aside.
Put the bacon in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat and cover with the oil. Bring the mixture to a simmer, reduce the heat to very low, and continue to cook gently for 10 to 15 minutes until the bacon is tender but not browned. Cool the bacon to room temperature in the oil, remove with a slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels.
While the bacon is cooling, bring a pan of generously salted water to a boil. Blanch the diced vegetables in the boiling salted water, then drain and refresh in cold water.
Combine the apple-cider vinegar and hard cider in a nonreactive saucepan and reduce by about three-fourths, to 1/2 cup.
Meanwhile, add a large pinch of the saffron threads to a dry frying pan over medium-high heat until fragrant. Whisk the saffron threads and cream into the reduced cider mixture, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes, whisking occasionally. Season with sea salt and a pinch of Aleppo pepper. Keep warm.
Just before cooking the scallops, combine the blanched vegetables, bacon, and bok choy leaves in a small frying pan with a little of the oil. Saute quickly to heat through and gently wilt the bok choy. Keep warm.
Generously season the scallops with kosher salt and black pepper. Heat a large heavy-bottomed frying pan over high heat. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons oil, or enough to lightly film the bottom.
Working in batches, carefully add the scallops to the hot pan without crowding. Sear on one side for about 2 minutes, or until brown, then turn and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more on the other side. Remove from the pan to a platter and keep warm. Continue cooking the scallops in batches, making sure the pan is very hot each time and being careful not to overcook them. They should be well seared on both flat surfaces but still translucent and barely warm in the center.
To serve, divide the hot, seared scallops among six plates. Drizzle some of the saffron cream sauce around them. Sprinkle the sauteed vegetables and bacon over and around them, and garnish with a pinch of the herb mixture and a few saffron threads.
Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org