The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » Food Sun, 04 Dec 2016 04:04:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 El Rayo’s Portland redux is less quirky, but much quicker Sat, 03 Dec 2016 19:30:50 +0000 0, 03 Dec 2016 14:52:13 +0000 Chef who created Gen. Tso’s chicken dies at 98 Sat, 03 Dec 2016 02:17:45 +0000 NEW YORK — The chef who has been credited with inventing General Tso’s chicken – a world-famous Chinese food staple that is not served in China – has died. He was 98.

Chef Peng Chang-kuei brought the sticky, sweet-and-sour dish to New York 40 years ago. It became a favorite of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at the chef’s Manhattan restaurant.

Peng’s son, Chuck Peng, told The Associated Press that his father died Wednesday in Taipei, Taiwan’s capital.

The son runs the family’s Taiwan restaurant chain, Peng’s, where his father still cooked until a few months ago.

Peng’s son says his father created the dish in the 1950s for a Navy commander and named it after a 19th-century Chinese military leader.

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New restaurant and bar opens in Yarmouth Thu, 01 Dec 2016 21:58:16 +0000 Yarmouth is getting a new restaurant and bar that will offer a variety of small plates, with an emphasis on street tacos.

Seth Balliett and Katie Abbott opened the Woodhull Public House on Thursday night in the former location of the Forest Falls Café, 30 Forest Falls Drive. The Forest Falls Café closed at the end of August, and Balliett and Abbott immediately picked up the lease.

Balliett said they hope to become known for their homemade street tacos, assembled in corn tortillas that will be made fresh every day in-house. Look for chicken and carnitas tacos, but also inventive, cross-cultural taco specials such as swordfish with a miso-mustard glaze and pickled fennel, or hanger steak tacos with lemongrass.

The restaurant will also serve skewers – two to a plate – griddle-fried rice, vegetarian spring rolls, pho and salads such as a Thai green papaya salad.

The hours will be 4 to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The restaurant will be closed on Sundays.

Balliett said he and Abbott hope to launch the Woodhull website Friday morning.

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Creator of Big Mac, McDonald’s flagship sandwich, dies at 98 Thu, 01 Dec 2016 03:07:31 +0000 PITTSBURGH — You probably don’t know his name, but you’ve almost certainly devoured his creation: two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame-seed bun.

Michael James “Jim” Delligatti, the McDonald’s franchisee who created the Big Mac nearly 50 years ago and saw it become perhaps the best-known fast-food sandwich in the world, died Monday at home in Pittsburgh. Delligatti, who according to his son ate at least one 540-calorie Big Mac a week for decades, was 98.

Delligatti’s franchise was based in Uniontown, not far from Pittsburgh, when he invented the chain’s signature burger in 1967 after deciding customers wanted a bigger sandwich. Demand exploded as Delligatti’s sandwich spread to the rest of his 47 stores in Pennsylvania and was added to the chain’s national menu in 1968.

“He was often asked why he named it the Big Mac, and he said because Big Mc sounded too funny,” his son Michael Delligatti said.

However, McDonald’s in 1985 honored Esther Glickstein Rose with coming up for a name for the burger and presented her with a plaque etched with a likeness of the best-selling sandwich and french fries between the Golden Arches. She was a 21-year-old secretary for the company’s advertising department in 1967 when, the story goes, a harried executive dashing to a board meeting asked her for a name nomination.

Jim Delligatti’s family disputes that Rose came up with the idea. The company didn’t immediately clear up the dispute Wednesday.

Delligatti told The Associated Press in 2006 that McDonald’s resisted the idea at first because its simple lineup of hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fries and shakes was selling well.

“They figured, why go to something else if (the original menu) was working so well?” Delligatti said then.

McDonald’s has sold billions of Big Macs since then, in more than 100 countries. When the burger turned 40, McDonald’s estimated it was selling 550 million Big Macs a year, or roughly 17 every second. Delligatti received no payment or royalties for coming up with the burger, the company said.

“Delligatti was a legendary franchisee within McDonald’s system who made a lasting impression on our brand,” the Oak Brook, Illinois-based company said Wednesday in a statement. The Big Mac “has become an iconic sandwich enjoyed by many around the world.”

Ann Dugan, a former assistant dean of the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz School of Business and an expert on business franchises, said Jim Delligatti’s genius was simple: He listened to customers who wanted a bigger burger.

“In franchising, there’s always this set playbook and you have to follow it. Jim saw an opportunity to go outside the playbook because he knew the customer,” Dugan said. “He persevered and (McDonald’s) listened, and the rest is history.”

]]> 0, 30 Nov 2016 23:05:56 +0000
‘Trace’ tells us little, science panel says in calling for clearer food allergy labels Wed, 30 Nov 2016 23:35:26 +0000 WASHINGTON – “Made in the same factory as peanuts.” “May contain traces of tree nuts.” A new report says the hodgepodge of warnings that a food might accidentally contain a troublesome ingredient is confusing to people with food allergies, and calls for a makeover.

Foods made with allergy-prone ingredients such as peanuts or eggs must be labeled so consumers with food allergies know to avoid them. But what if a sugar cookie picks up peanut butter from an improperly cleaned factory mixer?

Today’s precautionary labels about accidental contamination are voluntary, meaning there’s no way to know if foods that don’t bear them should – or if wording such as “may contain traces” signals a bigger threat than other warnings.

Wednesday, a report from the prestigious National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine said it’s time for regulators and the food industry to clear consumer confusion with labels that better reflect the level of risk.

Today, “there’s not any real way for allergic consumers to evaluate risk,” said National Academies committee member Stephen Taylor, a University of Nebraska food scientist. He said research raises concern that consumers might simply ignore the precautions, “essentially a form of playing Russian roulette with your food.”

Food allergies are common and sometimes can trigger reactions severe enough to kill. About 12 million Americans have long been estimated to have food allergies, and scientists question if they’re on the rise.

But Wednesday’s National Academies report found that while food allergies are a serious public health problem, no one knows exactly how many people are affected – because that hasn’t been properly studied, in either children or adults. The report urged government researchers to rapidly find out, a key first step in learning whether allergies really are increasing and who’s most likely to suffer.

The panel also recommended:

• Better informing new parents about allergy prevention. Recent research has found that introducing potential allergy-triggering foods such as peanut butter before age 1 is more likely to protect at-risk children than the old advice to wait to try those foods until tots are older.

• Better education for consumers and health professionals alike about the differences between true food allergies and other disorders that people sometimes misinterpret as allergies, such as lactose intolerance and gluten sensitivity.

• Better training for restaurant workers, first responders and others about helping people avoid foods they’re allergic to, and how to treat severe allergic reactions with a quick jab of the drug epinephrine, often sold as an EpiPen.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America welcomed the recommendations as a “roadmap” of ways to improve the lives of families with food allergies.

The labeling recommendation, if eventually adopted, could mark a big change in how allergic consumers decide what packaged foods are safe to eat.

The report said the Food and Drug Administration should replace the “precautionary” label approach with one that’s risk-based. The idea: Determine a safety level for different allergens – just how much of a “trace” of peanuts or eggs or milk could most people with allergies tolerate? The resulting labeling would give consumers more information in deciding if they’d take a chance on a food or not, said Taylor, who pointed to a similar voluntary system in Australia and New Zealand.

A food industry group indicated support.

“Our members are committed to ensuring that food allergic consumers have the information they need on the food label to make informed choices about the safety of the products they purchase. We support the recommendations of the National Academies to establish threshold limits for products that use a ‘may contain’ allergen precautionary statement,” the Grocery Manufacturers Association said in a statement.

FDA spokeswoman Megan McSeveney said the agency was reviewing the report but was “particularly interested” in the science behind the panel’s labeling recommendations.

]]> 0, 30 Nov 2016 18:35:26 +0000
The Maine Ingredient: Lighten up! Dishes drawn from the sea can help you do so Wed, 30 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 After the elaborate Thanksgiving feast, some light fish main courses are most welcome. Here are a couple of winners.


This is a classically French treatment for sole or any other flatfish. Serve it with roasted red-skinned potatoes and steamed broccoli or a broccoli-cauliflower combination.

Makes 4 servings

1 cup milk

½ cup flour

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1¼ to 1½ pounds sole, flounder or other flat white fish fillets

5 tablespoons butter, divided

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon drained capers

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

4 lemon wedges

Pour milk into 1 shallow dish and put flour in another dish or plate. Season the flour with salt and pepper. Soak the fish in the milk for about 5 minutes, then dredge in seasoned flour to coat both sides, shaking off the excess.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet. Sauté the fish over medium-high heat, turning once, until golden brown on both sides and cooked through, about 5 minutes total. Transfer to a platter.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter to pan and cook, stirring, over medium heat, until the butter is nutty brown and fragrant. Stir in lemon juice and capers. To serve, spoon sauce over fish, sprinkle with parsley, and garnish with lemon wedges.


Ingredients that are typically Spanish – oranges or other citrus, olive oil, garlic, sherry and olives – add pleasantly intense flavor to this quick yet elegant shrimp sauté. Rice pilaf studded with toasted almonds, baby peas and roasted red pepper makes for an ideal accompaniment.

Makes 4 servings

4 clementines or 2 large seedless oranges

¼ cup olive oil

1¼ pounds peeled and deveined extra-large shrimp

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

¼ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

1/3 cup dry sherry

2 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar or red wine vinegar

1/3 cup sliced or chopped pitted Kalamata or other imported black olives

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Squeeze ¼ cup juice from 1 or 2 of the clementines. Peel and section the remaining fruit.

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the shrimp, garlic and pepper flakes and cook over medium heat until the shrimp just begin to turn pink, about 2 minutes. Add clementine segments and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add sherry, vinegar and clementine juice and simmer, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Stir in olives and parsley and season to taste with salt and lots of pepper. Spoon onto warmed plates to serve.

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “Chowderland: Hearty Soups & Stews with Sides and Salads to Match.” She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula, and can be contacted via Facebook at:

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‘My French Family Table’ sets itself apart with photos Wed, 30 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 ‘My French Family Table: Recipes for a Life Filled with Food, Love & Joie de Vivre.’ By Beatrice Peltre – Roost Books, $35

I was just starting to get into the rhythm of autumn when I picked up the stunning cookbook “My French Family Table: Recipes for a Life Filled with Food, Love & Joie de Vivre,” by Beatrice Peltre. I almost wish I hadn’t.

The photos – excuse me for gushing – are among the most gorgeous I’ve seen in a cookbook, and writer Beatrice Peltre takes you on an easy, comforting trip to her family table, covered with brightly colored vegetables, fresh fish and decadent desserts.

But this is the perfect book for an entirely different season.

As I perused the recipes, I longed for a summer walk through the farmers market, where the tables are lined with the radishes, peas and greens Peltre features heavily on her table. I wanted to swap the root vegetables and squash of winter that I am buying now for juicy tomatoes and herbs fresh from the garden.

Raised in France and now living in Boston, Peltre writes the award-winning La Tartine Gourmande blog. The book, like her blog, is filled with photos and stories of her family life. Peltre is also a food stylist, which should come as no surprise to anyone who flips through this book.

Peltre subtitles her book, “Recipes for a Life Filled with Food, Love & Joie de Vivre.” In her introduction and sprinkled throughout, she tells of her family’s love for food and the new chapter opened to her with the birth of her daughter, Lulu, six years ago. From her daughter’s earliest days, Peltre knew food would be “an essential part of her education.”

Peltre says she approached “My French Family Table” wanting to compile nutritious dishes inspired by French cooking that both adults and children would enjoy. The recipes focus on simple, quality ingredients. She organizes the book around the rhythm of her family meals: from breakfast to light dishes to children’s snacks she cooks with Lulu.

The book includes a healthy dose of tempting desserts, including French macarons and mini clafoutis with peaches and lemon balm. More than 120 of the recipes are gluten free, which Peltre briefly mentions in the introduction while talking about her own dietary preferences, but doesn’t otherwise dwell on.

I was tempted by a tomato tart with mustard and honey, but decided to save that to try when I can get tomatoes from my local farm stand, not the grocery store.

I knew I had a winning recipe when I flipped to the one for chicken stuffed with herbs, walnuts and grainy mustard, although I am still wondering why the title says “walnuts” when the recipe itself calls for hazelnuts and pecans. Peltre suggests serving the chicken with mashed celeriac and potato, but I opted this time for traditional mashed potatoes.

The mascarpone mix had a strong, bright flavor that complemented the chicken well. I was pleased that the skin was crispy and meat perfectly moist. This roast chicken is easy to make, but feels special enough for a dinner party or holiday meal.

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A puzzling title, since the recipe calls for hazelnuts and pecans. No matter, it still tastes delicious. You will need a pastry bag, cooking twine and a kitchen thermometer to make this recipe. In the recipe’s first line, Peltre suggests you “Rinse the chicken and pat dry.” In fact, the USDA suggests you avoid that practice: “Washing raw poultry, beef, pork, lamb, or veal before cooking is not recommended. Bacteria in raw meat and poultry juices can be spread to other foods, utensils, and surfaces.”

Serves 4 (use larger chicken if you want leftovers)

4 garlic cloves, peeled

1 large shallot, peeled

2 tablespoons hazelnuts

2 tablespoons pecans

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

1/4 cup mascarpone cheese

1 tablespoon grainy mustard

1/4 cup olive oil

Sea salt and pepper

1 (41/2-pound) organic chicken

2 bay leaves

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine 2 garlic cloves, the shallot, hazelnuts, pecans, parsley and cilantro. Puree until smooth. Transfer to a clean bowl and stir in the mascarpone, mustard and 1 tablespoon olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag without a tip; set aside.

Carefully stretch out the chicken skin on top and, using the pastry bag, pipe the stuffing uniformly under the skin, being careful not to tear the skin. Massage the chicken with the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil. Place the remaining 2 garlic cloves and the bay leaves inside the chicken. Tie the legs of the chicken close to the body with cooking string.

Place the chicken in a large oven dish and roast for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and continue to roast for 75 to 90 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F, checked by inserting a meat thermometer in a few places.

]]> 0, 30 Nov 2016 12:38:10 +0000
Airy, bright pavlova a dessert fit even for your gym-rat friends Wed, 30 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Pavlovas are dreamy. For the uninitiated, a pavlova (named after the famed ballerina’s fluffy tutu) is essentially a meringue shell baked at low heat until the outside is barely golden crisp, but the inside remains soft and billowy, like a creamy marshmallow. The shell then is typically filled with whipped cream, custard, or fruit compote.

And, as mentioned, the result is a dream-come-true. Pavlovas are a splendid choice for entertaining, because contrary to what we might think of a delicate meringue, these guys are pretty hardy, and you can make them a day or two in advance no problem. Just be sure to keep them in an airtight container so that they don’t absorb ambient air moisture and lose their delightful crisp texture, and top just before serving.

As you probably know, meringues are primarily two ingredients: egg whites and sugar. In this the good cop/bad cop pairing, sugar is definitely the bad cop, while egg whites are considered downright health food by many folks who look like they know what they are talking about at the gym. (They aren’t wrong, by the way, one egg white has 5 grams of protein, at only 25 calories and no fat.) The sugar is what gives the pavlovas their luscious interior. So I wondered: Just how low I could go on the sugar without ruining the texture and creating just a weird protein puff that only my gym-friends would want to eat?

The answer: surprisingly quite low. A typical pavlova recipe might have a ratio of 1/4 cup of sugar per egg white in the recipe. I found that I could cut the sugar in half with no noticeable impact on texture and taste. So I kept testing and reducing the sugar. And the very lowest that yielded a reasonable result was a ratio of 2 teaspoons of sugar per egg white, or one-eighth the typical amount of sugar.

At that level of sugar, the pavlova becomes less flowy, and more airy and crisp, almost Styrofoam-y. Two of my kids actually preferred this version! Most of us felt like a little extra sugar was worth the nutritional profile impact, and so I’ll share that version – with 4 teaspoons of sugar per egg white, or 1/4 cup sugar to 3 egg whites as the recipe is written. Still, a dessert victory if you ask me.

1116508_Food-Healthy-Raspberry Pavl.jpg


Servings: 8

3 egg whites

1/4 cup sugar (The recipe will work with as little as 2 tablespoons of sugar, but texture of pavlova will be less lush.)

1/2 teaspoon white vinegar

1 teaspoon corn starch

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)


1 cup light sour cream

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 cup raspberries (or other fruit)

1-2 tablespoons balsamic glaze (reduced balsamic vinegar) for drizzling

Fresh mint leaves, chopped, for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 275 F. In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat eggs on medium speed until foamy, about 1 minutes. Add the sugar and continue to beat on medium high speed until stiff peaks form. Add the vinegar, corn starch and extracts and beat on low until well mixed. (You can use a hand mixer, but times may be a little longer.)

Line a baking sheet with parchment. Spoon the meringue into 8 even, round piles. Use the back of a tablespoon to spread the meringue into circles about 1/2-inch tall and 3-inches wide. Use the spoon to create a gentle depression in the center of the meringue. Bake for 20 minutes.

Keeping the oven door closed, turn off the heat but leave the pavlovas in the oven for another hour. Remove the pavlovas from the oven and allow to cool completely. Stir the light sour cream and maple syrup together in a small bowl. Remove from the parchment paper gently. Place the pavlova on a plate and spoon 2 tablespoons of the cream into the center. Top with berries and a drizzle of balsamic glaze. Top with a sprinkle of mint leaves, if desired.

COOK’S NOTE: Pavlovas can be kept in an airtight container for up to three days. If they get soft from sitting out on the counter too long, you can crisp them up by heating in 275 degree oven for 15 minutes and then cooling.

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Chocolate biscotti: Treats that satisfy Wed, 30 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 I remember the first party I ever hosted. I was 5 and my mom invited all of my kindergarten girlfriends and their moms for a holiday singing gathering.

We noshed on homemade cookies dunked in hot cocoa made from packets of powder dissolved in boiling water. Standing there around our piano, surrounded by tiny off-key singers with crumby, smiling mouths and steamy chocolate breath, I fell in love with hospitality. I felt in my heart the joy of feeding people, especially around the holidays. Joy to the world, indeed.

As the days grow colder and shorter, and cookie-baking season is ushered in, the calorie-counter in me steps aside just enough to strike that balance of reasonable, but small, indulgence. A perfect example of smart cookie indulgence is biscotti.

Biscotti are firm, dry Italian cookies that are typically served alongside an espresso or coffee for dunking. Biscotti are dryer and harder than your average cookie, due to a double-baking process (which is easy, so don’t be intimidated) and relatively lower amounts of fat and sugar.

But the harder texture has a huge tactical advantage: biscotti take longer to nibble your way through, so the chances of me accidentally downing seven or eight are pretty small. One or two of these little guys, especially with a little espresso, and I feel like I’ve participated in the joy of holiday dessert.

Plus, biscotti feel a little fancy. Fancy enough, in fact, to double as a holiday gift – wrap some up in cellophane and take as a hostess or neighbor gift, or even send home with your guests as a little party favor.

Today’s recipe is flavored with dark chocolate and rosemary because they are classic winter flavors that I love together, but feel free to play with zests, spices, herbs and chocolate types to make a combo you love.

Bonus points if you eat them with friends singing around the piano.


Makes 16 biscotti

1 cup white whole wheat flour

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely minced

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips, finely chopped

1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Combine the flours, salt and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside.

In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with a hand or stand-mixer until light in color, fluffy and creamy, about 3 minutes.

Add the eggs in, one at a time, mixing well after each one. Add the vanilla, zest and rosemary and mix until incorporated. Add the flour, half at a time, mixing until incorporated after each half.

Use a rubber spatula to fold in the dark chocolate and the almonds.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and divide into two. Shape into two logs, about 14 inches each, and place on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Lightly press each log flatter, to make a rounded strip, about 15 inches long by 21/2 inches wide. Remove excess flour with a clean pastry brush.

Bake the logs until golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes. Meanwhile, reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Carefully transfer each flattened log to a cutting board and cut each log on the bias into 8 slices (16 slices total).

Place the slices cut side down on the parchment-lined baking sheet and continue baking until the cookies are golden and crisp, about 30 more minutes.

Once baked, let cool completely. Can be stored in airtight container for several days.

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Mini pies, or ‘pie cups,’ make dessert more sensible Wed, 30 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 When I have a lot of people coming over, I love to make mini pies, or “pie cups.” I coined the name “pie cup” when I created a “pie program” for one of my restaurants and vowed to make pie the new cupcake in NYC.

Since then, the mini, hand-held pie has exploded in popularity. The beauty of the mini pies is that they are portable, easy to make and the perfect proportion size.

Most people I know don’t make their own pie because they are afraid to make the pie dough from scratch. There is so much pressure on the cook for holiday meals, they’re not the time to learn how to make pie dough.

This recipe offers the option of using pre-made graham cracker crusts. If you already make your own pie dough, you can make this pie in mini pie shells or a muffin pan.

Once the pie crust is taken care of, you will understand the meaning of “easy as pie”: Assembling the filling requires just a bowl and a fork.

I add dark chocolate to a traditional pecan pie for all those chocolate lovers out there. I also add a touch of Kahlua to deepen the flavor of the chocolate, but you could stick with the traditional bourbon if you prefer. If you don’t like pecans, this pie is also delicious made with walnuts.

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Makes 12 servings

12 individual Keebler graham cracker pie shells or homemade 3-inch pie shells

1 cup pecan halves plus more for decorating the tops (substitute walnuts if you prefer)

4 tablespoons butter, melted

2/3 cup granulated white sugar

1/2 cup dark corn syrup

2 large eggs, beaten

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

4 ounces 70 percent bittersweet chocolate, melted

1 heaping teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons of Kahlua

Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, for serving (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Put two tablespoon of nuts into each unbaked pie shell. Set aside.

Combine butter, granulated sugar, corn syrup, eggs, salt, chocolate, vanilla and Kahlua and stir until well mixed.

Place the mini pie crusts on a half sheet pan. Pour the pie mixture on top of nuts just until the first line of the crust (if you made your own crust, this is about 1/4 inch from the top). Do not overfill as they will puff up as they bake. Decorate the tops of the pies with a few nuts.

Place the sheet pan in the center rack of the oven. Bake about 20 minutes or until cooked through, a little puffy and crusty on top. Let cool on a rack for at least 3 hours. Refrigerate leftover pie.

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Farro stew offers satisfying chew Wed, 30 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 I was served a version of this dish at a neighborhood restaurant in Milan last fall and was completely smitten with it. It provided the comforting, belly-warming satisfaction a chilly night calls for, and it charmed me with the rustic-chic elegance that came from pairing chickpeas with farro, an ancient variety of wheat that is officially on trend these days.

When I began to experiment with my own take on it, I realized that the dish involved the same basic technique as a familiar favorite, pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans), which, growing up in Queens, I always knew as “pasta fazool.” The basic idea is the same: The classic onion-carrot-celery triad is softened in a pot with some garlic; then broth, tomatoes and herbs are stirred in along with the beans (which, here, are chickpeas); after those cook for a while, the grain is added and cooked al dente.

In this recipe, the grain is farro, rather than the usual pasta, and it lends an appealing chew and subtly nutty flavor.

Besides the ancient grain, another unique element here is the luxurious texture of the broth, owed to the puree of chickpeas that is stirred into the pot toward the end. Baby spinach leaves also are added at that point and are cooked until just wilted, to lend fresh flecks of green. Once plated, the dish is finished with a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for a quick one-pot that’s as homey as it is stylish.

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Makes 6 cups

3 cups cooked or no-salt-added canned chickpeas (from two 15-ounce cans; drained and rinsed, if using canned)

31/2 cups no-salt-added chicken or vegetable broth

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 medium carrot, scrubbed well, then diced

1 rib celery, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

One 14.5-ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes

1 sprig rosemary

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup pearled farro (see headnote)

2 cups lightly packed baby spinach leaves, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Combine 1 cup of the chickpeas and 1/2 cup of the broth in a blender and blend to form a smooth puree.

Heat the oil in a medium soup pot over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion, carrot and celery; cook for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened but not browned. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute, then add the remaining 2 cups of chickpeas, the remaining 3 cups of broth, the tomatoes and their juices, the rosemary, salt and pepper, stirring to incorporate. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 15 minutes.

Add the farro and increase the heat to medium-high; once the mixture returns to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the farro is tender, about 20 minutes.

Discard the rosemary sprig. Add the chickpea puree, then stir in the spinach and cook for 1 or 2 minutes, until just wilted.

Serve hot, garnished with the cheese.

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Learn to love a long, slow braise to make tough meat tender Wed, 30 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 How do you transform a tough cut of meat into something tender and delicious? You braise it!

Braising is a wonderful and basic cooking technique that uses a slow, wet heat in a covered pot. It’s great for cuts such as chuck, flank, brisket, rump and round. In fact, cooked properly, these cuts can be more delicious than more tender cuts. I’m using boneless short ribs in this recipe, but the method can be used to wonderful effect on any other tough cut of meat.

Assuming you have the time, try to prepare this dish a day ahead, then allow it to cool off and chill overnight. It also freezes beautifully. Not only will the ribs taste better the next day, but by then the fat will have solidified at the top of the pan, allowing you to scoop it off with ease. Then you can warm up the contents and proceed with the recipe.


If you use bone-in short ribs, check the meat after 3 hours of braising. They likely will need an extra hour of braising.

Makes 8 servings

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

5 pounds boneless beef short ribs

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

2 cups thinly sliced yellow onions

2 medium carrots, coarsely chopped

11/2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 sprig fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)

1 bay leaf

Two 12-ounce bottles beer

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

11/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/2 cup water

2 teaspoons lemon juice

Heat the oven to 325 F.

In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Use paper towels to pat the ribs dry, then season them on all sides with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium, add a quarter of the ribs to the pot and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer them to a large platter or bowl. Repeat with the remaining oil and short ribs, transferring them to the platter or bowl when finished.

Return the pot to the heat and add the onions and the carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste, thyme and bay leaf, then saute for 2 minutes. Transfer the vegetable mixture to the bowl with the ribs. Return the pot to the heat and add the beer. Bring to a boil and simmer until the beer is reduced by about three-quarters.

When the beer is reduced, add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Return the meat and vegetables to the pot and cover with a piece of kitchen parchment. Put the lid on the pot and set in the oven on the lower shelf and cook until the meat is very tender, 4 to 5 hours.

Use tongs to transfer the ribs to a platter. Let them stand until cool enough to be handled.

Meanwhile, strain liquid in the pan into a bowl. Discard the solids and return the liquid to the pot. Let stand for several minutes, then skim off any fat that floats to the surface (or use a fat separator).

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and water. Set the pot over medium-high heat and bring the cooking liquid to a boil. Add half of the flour mixture in a steady stream, whisking. Bring the sauce to a boil, check the consistency and if you would like it thicker, whisk in more of the flour-water mixture. Simmer for 8 minutes. Whisk in the mustard and lemon juice, then season with salt and pepper.

Add the meat to the pot along with any juices from the platter. Cook gently, just until heated through. To serve, arrange some rib meat on each plate and spoon some of the sauce over each portion.

]]> 0, 30 Nov 2016 08:03:53 +0000
For generations, Kittery Point family has made a holiday tradition of Cream Cheese on Toast Wed, 30 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 KITTERY POINT — As Mollie Martin plated one of her family’s favorite dishes, spooning cheese sauce over toasted white bread and bacon, her grandmother, Phyllis Sanders, said, “Wouldn’t Queenie be tickled to know that you’re doing this?”

Queenie Sanders, who died more than 60 years ago, introduced the dish, called Cream Cheese on Toast, to the Sanders family decades ago, and its roots in the family tree may stretch back even farther. No one really knows.

But they are determined to keep the dish – a family favorite on Sunday mornings and on Christmas Day – alive.

“I love the fact that my kids will make this for their kids and their grandchildren,” Martin said. “And I like that it’s unique to our family.”

Martin keeps her diet gluten-free and dairy-free – except when she indulges in her great-grandmother’s Cream Cheese on Toast.

Queenie Sanders was born and raised in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Martin, who is researching her family history, has discovered that at age 19, Queenie lived in the building on Forest Avenue in Portland where Bibo’s Madd Apple Café is now located. She came to Portland, apparently, to work as a bookkeeper and had a civil service job at a local shipyard.

At some point she moved to the Kittery area, where she stayed busy in the community, working with the local PTA and garden club. She also wrote for the Portsmouth Herald.

Queenie Sanders had three sons – Earl, Steve and Paul – and all three loved her Cream Cheese on Toast. They ate it every Sunday morning and on Christmas, when she served it with fresh, homemade grape juice.

Phyllis Sanders met Earl Sanders in high school. They became a couple five years later after their high school reunion. Phyllis Sanders met her husband’s mother only once; Queenie died a few years before Phyllis and Earl married in 1953.

When Earl Sanders first told his new wife about Cream Cheese on Toast, she thought it was weird – especially because the cheese used in the dish is American cheese, not cream cheese – but she made it anyway and was won over.

“Anything is good with bacon, right?” she said. “But I like cheese anyway. The cheese sauce is really good. And we go heavy on the cheese.”

“And it has to be Land O’ Lakes white American cheese,” Martin added.

The family has tried making Cream Cheese on Toast with other kinds of cheese, and it’s just not the same, they say. Even other brands of American cheese don’t taste as good – they’re “not quite as tangy,” Martin said, and they have an odd texture.

“I’ve tried fancier cheeses, thinking I’m going to ‘up’ the recipe,” Martin said. “The kids will not go for it.”

The extended Sanders family repast of toast topped with bacon and cheese sauce. Its parsley garnish is in honor of one of Mollie Martin's uncles. "I feel like it's a little healthier," she said and laughed.

The extended Sanders family’s repast of toast topped with bacon and cheese sauce. Its parsley garnish is in honor of one of Mollie Martin’s uncles. “I feel like it’s a little healthier,” she said and laughed. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

On Christmas morning, Martin’s kids “supervise” the amount of cheese Sanders puts into the sauce.

“They want to make sure there’s a lot of cheese,” Sanders said. “So I get them to taste it to see that it’s right.”

For Christmas, the grown-ups in the house pair their Cream Cheese on Toast with mimosas rather than the grape juice Queenie Sanders served. Fruit salad on the side takes away a little of the guilt.

Not long after Martin dished up a serving, her 18-year-old son, Noah Laster, arrived home, thrilled to see what was waiting for him.

“I love this stuff,” he said as he dug in. “It’s like Christmas morning.”

Phyllis Sanders with her great-grandson Noah Laster, who was happy to come home to Cream Cheese on Toast – which actually doesn't contain any cream cheese. "I love this stuff," Laster says. "It's like Christmas morning."

Phyllis Sanders with her great-grandson Noah Laster, who was happy to come home to Cream Cheese on Toast – which actually doesn’t contain any cream cheese. “I love this stuff,” Laster says. “It’s like Christmas morning.” Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Laster learned how to make Cream Cheese on Toast when he was around 10 or 12. He’s not known for cooking at home, but he would make the dish for his friends when he went out for a sleepover.

Asked why he likes it so much, he replied, with the are-you-kidding-me? tone teenagers have, “It’s a ton of bacon and a ton of cheese.”

Laster said he tried making it with sharp cheddar once, and “that was a no. It’s not supposed to have a bite.”

At least not that kind of bite. Some people do like to sprinkle pepper on it. (Martin says it doesn’t need salt since the cheese is so salty.)

Martin noted that her Uncle Steve always insisted on adding parsley, so she sprinkled some on in his honor; it adds a little color to the otherwise mostly white dish.

“I feel like it’s a little healthier,” she said, laughing. “The mimosa’s missing, though. Usually that’s a Christmas tradition, too.”

]]> 0, 30 Nov 2016 12:44:58 +0000
Celebrate the anniversary of the end of Prohibition with a cocktail Wed, 30 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Portland is widely known in 2016 for its cocktail-friendly restaurants and bars. It hasn’t always been so.

Portland Mayor Neal Dow promoted a citywide ban on alcohol in 1851.

Portland Mayor Neal Dow promoted a citywide ban on alcohol in 1851.

Maine was the birthplace of Prohibition, led by Portland Mayor Neal Dow, who promoted a citywide ban on alcohol in 1851. Rum, he believed, made Mainers lazy. As Maine goes, so went the nation in 1920, and Dow became known as the “Father of Prohibition.” The country enacted a Constitutional amendment outlawing alcohol in the United States.

The law was repealed on Dec. 5, 1933.

Celebrate the end of Prohibition Sunday at the 2nd Annual Repeal Day Ball at the Mechanics Hall, 519 Congress St. There will be food, music, a photo booth – and, of course, drinks.

Tickets cost $20 and include entry, food, the photo booth and swag. Buy tickets at

Drinks cost $2 each, cash only. A portion of the proceeds benefits the Maine Chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild.

Bramhall Pub's Hanky Panky, a gin and vermouth cocktail dating back to a 1925 London.

Bramhall Pub’s Hanky Panky, a gin and vermouth cocktail dating back to a 1925 London.

If you can’t make the party, celebrate at home with the “Hanky Panky,” a Prohibition-era cocktail served at the Bramhall Pub in Portland, which bills itself as a modern-day speakeasy.

The Hanky Panky was created in 1925 by Ada Coleman, head bartender at The American Bar at the Savoy Hotel in London. (Surprisingly, women often worked as “barmaids” at the time, though the career choice was controversial.) She is said to have created the cocktail for a famous British actor who exclaimed after drinking it, “By Jove! That is the real hanky-panky.”

Hanky Panky

11/2 ounces gin

11/2 ounces sweet vermouth

1/4 ounces Fernet-Branca

Orange peel

Stir, strain, garnish with orange peel.

]]> 0, 30 Nov 2016 12:43:54 +0000
Longtime Portland restaurant BiBo’s Madd Apple Cafe will close Jan. 1 Tue, 29 Nov 2016 00:05:41 +0000 BiBo’s Madd Apple Café, a favorite spot for dining in the city’s Arts District before attending the theater at Portland Stage Company, announced on social media Monday that it will close Jan. 1, after 18 years in business.

William Boutwell, who owns the hip little café at 23 Forest Ave. with his wife, Andrea, announced on Twitter and Facebook that they will hold a farewell dinner on Dec. 16 and a New Year’s event on Dec. 31.

“As we announce the end of this adventure,” Boutwell wrote in a letter to customers, “John Hiatt’s lyric comes to mind, ‘mixing up drinks with mixed feelings.’ Our recipe includes: Pride in and exhaustion from the hard work, Gratitude for all the kindness and support along the way, Anticipation and anxiety for what lies ahead, and a tinge of Sadness. It’s never easy to Kiss & Say Goodbye.”

The Madd Apple is known for its “Satanic eggs” – the restaurant was offering deviled eggs with varied fillings long before deviled eggs became trendy again – apple fritters, and Maine Lobster and Crab Cakes.


]]> 0, 29 Nov 2016 06:29:17 +0000
Mainely Wraps has found a new location Mon, 28 Nov 2016 22:15:41 +0000 Mainely Wraps has leased the old Willow’s Pizza location at 1422 Broadway in South Portland.

The owners of the quick-service sandwich shop, Rich and Naphtali Maynard, announced last month they would close their location at 339 Fore St. on Nov. 30, in part because of rising rents in the Old Port.

Willow’s has taken over the former SoPo Bar & Grill Space at 740 Broadway in South Portland, leaving its original location empty.

In addition to lower rent, Mainely Wraps needed a space with better flow for employees. Its Old Port location had two floors, and the kitchen was in the basement. That meant employees had to run up and down the stairs all day to serve customers on the ground floor.

Mainely Wraps also has a location at 360 U.S. Route 1 in Scarborough.

]]> 0 Mon, 28 Nov 2016 17:15:41 +0000
After the excesses of Thanksgiving, be grateful for a nourishing Buddha Bowl Sun, 27 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Oryoki is an ancient Chinese, Japanese and Zen Buddhist eating practice that centers on a tidy bundle of nested lacquered wooden bowls; taking just enough food to adequately nourish your body at any given meal; and eating slowly, mindfully and with deep gratitude.

Having just participated in a gluttonous American Thanksgiving weekend that included two soup-to-nuts turkey dinners, I am intrigued by this practice for both my waistline and the lessons in sustainable eating it facilitates.

The largest of the nested bowls is called the zuhatsu, or the Buddha Bowl, because its deep, rounded shape symbolizes the Buddha’s head and depth of wisdom. Early Buddhist monks would use these bowls to beg for food, cultivating equanimity by gratefully accepting whatever was offered them.

More recently Buddha Bowls (also called Nourish Bowls, Hippie Bowls, Yoga Bowls, Glory Bowls) have been pushed along secularly on social media (seriously, check out #buddhabowl) as a great way to feed a body vegetable-forward meals as part of a leaner, greener lifestyle. The bottom of the bowl is lined with a healthy portion of chopped leafy greens and the top is an arrangement of colorful raw and roasted vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and a sprinkling of seeds or nuts. The dressings are simple, mostly vegan-compliant lemon- and/or tahini-based mixtures (see recipe).

While there is no strict formula for Buddha Bowl composition, a scan of over 100 recipes showed they generally include 50 percent vegetables and 25 percent each grains and proteins. To make these bowls green as well as lean, use seasonal vegetables (for us in Maine that means hearty winter greens, sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots, cauliflower, beets and winter squash), local grains (wheat, rye or spelt berries all available from Maine Grains or directly from a growing number of Maine farms) and sustainable proteins (organic legumes, local eggs, roasted pumpkin or winter squash seeds, pastured chickens or responsibly harvested seafood).

Much in the same way that a basic omelet, pasta sauce, soup or pizza base can be a creative way to repurpose leftovers, a Buddha Bowl is a great place for your roasted potatoes from Sunday lunch to coexist with the black beans from Taco Tuesday and the greens that came attached to the beets that went into your borscht on Thursday. Taking the time to arrange these elements artfully in a bowl for a satisfying meal that you savor slowly will make you very grateful to be sitting and eating in that moment.

Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer, a recipe developer and tester, and a cooking teacher in Brunswick. Contact her at:

]]> 0, 28 Nov 2016 08:09:06 +0000
Dine Out Maine: Yarmouth’s Dirigo Public House embraces the local, the distant Sun, 27 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 More and more, Maine restaurants seem to be narrowing their focus, so that anything that isn’t local is pushed off into the periphery of their field of view. In general, that is a wonderful thing. It’s part of a movement that has reduced food miles and built important, intimate links among growers, producers, craftspeople and the places where people eat, and it isn’t likely to change soon. But defiant little Dirigo Public House in Yarmouth has consciously dedicated itself to something that seems pretty radical in this environment: a wider perspective.

With a beer, mead and cider list that covers ground ranging from Belfast, Maine to Weihenstephan, Germany, the box-like restaurant just off Route 1 flaunts its promiscuous affections for beverages from nearby as well as those “from away.”

“Everybody’s got really good craft beer in so many places these days, and I want to expose people to it,” said Ben Grant, Dirigo’s co-owner. “There are something like 300 new breweries opening every year in North America alone. It’s a constant wave of exciting beer, and you have to ride the break, because if you fall behind, you might miss the fun stuff.”

To keep current, Grant spends time every day researching what’s new in craft beer, and changes up the beverage menu frequently. By the bottle, you’ll find a piney Smuttynose Shoals Pale Ale ($4) from New Hampshire, full of punchy hops and malty aromas. On a recent visit, one of the featured beers on tap was a terrific Boom Sauce IPA ($5) from Lord Hobo Brewing in Massachusetts, with a gentle bitterness, juicy citrus and tropical fruit – a dangerous flavor profile that masks a 7.8% alcohol content a bit too well. Drink more than a pint, and you’ll need a ride home. Drink three, and you won’t be riding with me.

Their broad view of craft brewing does not imply that Grant and his wife and co-owner, Katie, don’t care about Maine. The couple grew up in the area, and have found ways to honor their home state, both in the name of their restaurant – the state motto – as well as in the ingredients they use across their menu. One example is the Aroostook potatoes in the sensationally good, house-made sandwich rolls. The scaffolding for every sandwich on the menu, these enriched-dough buns have a brioche-like flavor, a gorgeous golden color and, thanks to the moisture-retaining properties of potato starch, are always tender.

You’ll also find potatoes – Ben Grant calls them “Maine’s most important agricultural product” – in the county nachos ($8), where in place of tortilla triangles, chef Chris McCollom and his team serve mandolin-cut wavy potato chips, mounded high with pickled jalapeños, onions, diced tomatoes and scallions. The pile is topped with a gooey, loose cheese sauce made from a béchamel base and Dirigo’s Cajun spice blend.

Unfortunately, substituting potatoes for tortillas creates problems. It’s difficult to keep a potato chip dry enough to withstand wet toppings, so the solution is to fry them to a coffee brown. Granted, some of that color comes from the high-sugar breed of potatoes Dirigo uses, but there’s no denying that the county nachos are fried substantially past golden. With the darker color and extra crunch comes an intense, nearly carbonized flavor that only half of our table enjoyed. And despite the trade-offs, after a few minutes on the table, all the chips had gone soggy and floppy anyway.

The restaurant’s twice-fried French fries were similarly a few shades too dark, not to mention undersalted. Much better were the red bliss potatoes served with the unpretentious steak tips ($15), a plain plate of cubed sirloin (cooked a step rarer than my guest requested), and broccoli florets. These weren’t steamed new potatoes, but roughed-up chunks resembling home fries that were seasoned well with the kitchen’s fry spice – far and away the best thing about the dish.

More ambitious dishes were hit-or-miss, like a panko-breaded fried chicken sandwich ($12), layered with shaved ham, Swiss cheese and two sauces: spicy buffalo and blue cheese dressing. This overcomplicated sandwich couldn’t decide if it wanted to riff playfully on chicken cordon bleu or buffalo wings, and was weaker for trying to do both at once.

Vegetarian food, according to Ben Grant, isn’t in Dirigo’s wheelhouse, so it’s hard to fault it for attempting to accommodate herbivorous patrons. But the falafel burger ($10) we tasted was hard and crusty around its perimeter and wet in the center. That’s a shame, because the falafel patty sang with parsley, garlic and cumin, and got even better when combined in a bite with the rich olive tapenade spread on the underside of the bun.

A Dirigo burger on one of the restaurant's highly regarded house-made sandwich rolls.

A Dirigo burger on one of the restaurant’s highly regarded house-made sandwich rolls.

Diners looking for lighter dishes should take heart, though. Dirigo offers a satisfying Caesar salad ($8) with exceptionally seasoned croutons that McCollom and his team make from loaves of their housemade potato bread, as well as a deceptively complex house salad ($9) that surprises with dried apricots and rough clusters of a super savory spiced almond brittle. If you’ve never thought about ordering something healthy in a pub, this salad is reason enough to reconsider, even if you plan to eat it along with an order of the restaurant’s fantastic (and fantastically sticky) cider-brined wings ($9 for 6 pieces, $14 for 10 pieces).

Soaked for hours in a cider brine infused with cinnamon sticks, orange and peppercorns, the chicken wings are first baked, then chilled and fried to order so that they’re moist inside and crispy outside – the ideal texture to soak up the sweet whiskey glaze, a concentrated reduction that uses three gallons of cider and a fifth of bourbon.

When our server (actually co-owner Katie Grant, who works the front-of-house three days every week) brought us an extra pile of napkins, we figured they were for those wings, but they proved just as useful for the sloppy and preposterously tasty Dirigo burger ($12). Made from house-ground sirloin and bottom round and slathered with Dirigo sauce – a puree of smoked onions and tomatoes that has been folded into a bacon-fat mayonnaise – this indulgent sandwich alone was worth the drive to Yarmouth.

It also made a pretty flawless match for a pint of the crisp Founders Brewing PC Pils ($5), a pale lager from Michigan with floral hops and a hint of green tea. In plenty of other craft-beer pubs in the area, that’s an interstate pairing that would be impossible.

“Just look at Allegash (Brewing Company). Maine is not their biggest market,” Ben Grant said. “That means people from other places get to love what they are doing. Why can’t we do the same? People should be able to appreciate good craft beers from everywhere. Why limit yourself?” After a few sips of Midwestern beer and a few bites of a burger served on a stellar Maine potato roll, I found it harder and harder to deny Dirigo’s central premise: that we can love both the local and “from away” at the same time – and if we’re lucky, maybe even in the same mouthful.

Andrew Ross has written about food in the United Kingdom and in New York, where he co-founded NYCnosh, a food website. He and his work have been featured on Martha Stewart Living Radio and in The New York Times. He is an Internet researcher and higher education consultant. Contact him at:

Twitter: @AndrewRossME

]]> 1, 26 Nov 2016 21:04:54 +0000
Photos: Thanksgiving came a day early at St. Vincent DePaul soup kitchen Wed, 23 Nov 2016 19:34:31 +0000 1, 23 Nov 2016 14:35:28 +0000 No meat or dairy? No problem for vegans planning holiday feasts Wed, 23 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 No meat or dairy? No problem for these vegans planning soup-to-nuts holiday feasts.

Inviting a vegan to Thanksgiving means inviting change to the table. And when vegans host Thanksgiving, change is everywhere as this traditional holiday morphs into a plant-based affair.

Erin Dillon of Freeport will be heading across town this Thanksgiving to celebrate with her parents and her sister, who lives in Boston. This will be her sixth Thanksgiving as a vegan eating with her non-vegan family.

“I bring vegan versions of dishes that people may not know could be vegan,” Dillon said. “You won’t catch me arriving with a kale salad. I try to prepare heartier fare like gravy or pie. One year, I pulled out the big guns by making a vegan pumpkin cheesecake.”

The gravy recipe she prefers comes from cookbook author Isa Chandra Moskowitz and uses lentils, miso and seasonal herbs.

Dillon’s parents swap in vegetable oil for butter when making side dishes and leave the bacon off the Brussels sprouts. But does her family eat her vegan dishes?

“At past Thanksgivings, people have been skeptical of, but willing to try, vegan dishes,” said Dillon, who when we spoke was still deciding whether to bring a seitan roast or a lentil loaf.

A month ago, Betsy Harding of South Portland not only knew she would be making a lentil loaf wrapped in pastry dough for this year’s feast, she was already testing her recipe for the dinner she and her husband will host for 10 family members.

Harding describes her Thanksgiving spread as New England-style with “turnip and all your roots and your squash.” In addition to a vegan centerpiece dish, Harding will serve a store-bought vegan roast.

The owner of Organic Roots, a vegan salon and spa, Harding is a longtime vegetarian who with her husband went vegan four years ago, as did their Thanksgivings. A veganized version of the twice-baked potatoes she’s eaten at Thanksgiving since she was a child is always on the table, and her dessert menu this year consists of pumpkin pie, cashew cheesecake and vegan ice cream.

“It’s wonderful to show people it can all be done this way,” Harding said. “You can make a pumpkin pie without eggs. The meal is not light. I’m still serving cheesecake and pie and ice cream. Part of having this dinner is like with my business – I’m here to educate.”

Harding’s guest list spans three generations, and their feelings about the all-vegan feast range; some are fully supportive, others want turkey.

“They’re getting used to the vegan thing,” Harding said. “It’s more exciting doing it as vegan because it adds a more kind, thankful flair.”

While Harding and her husband are rapidly becoming veteran vegan Thanksgiving hosts, Marie Coyle of Portland will host her first vegan Thanksgiving this year. Coyle’s menu, to be served in her downtown studio apartment, is all-vegan and the four friends attending include vegans, vegetarians and omnivores.

She describes her menu plan as “traditional dishes made in less traditional ways.”

For instance, here’s how Coyle makes her mashed potatoes: she leaves the skins on the potatoes, boils and mashes them and then mixes in vegetable broth, almond milk, Dijon mustard and hummus. Another veg touch: She adds chopped kale and scallions.

“I’ll also be making savory tofu baked with sage and rosemary,” Coyle said, “as well as a curried lentil stew made with dried cranberries.”

Coyle said she is excited to host – and enjoy – an all-vegan Thanksgiving meal.

This year, Betsy Harding of South Portland will make this vegan lentil loaf wrapped in pastry dough for her Thanksgiving centerpiece dish.

This year, Betsy Harding of South Portland will make this vegan lentil loaf wrapped in pastry dough for her Thanksgiving centerpiece dish.

“I want to experience the nostalgia of a more traditional holiday meal without compromising the choices I’ve made about how I want to live and eat,” she said. There is plenty of gratitude, togetherness and food at the vegan Thanksgiving Mary-Anne LaMarre and her husband host in Oakland, but that is where the holiday’s traditional trappings end. Rather than a harvest meal, LaMarre and her family buy vegan take-out from all their favorite Waterville restaurants and enjoy it smorgasbord style. This year’s menu includes vegetable sushi, Thai food, Indian dishes and wood-fired pizza.

“We lay out this buffet, gather around and feast, tell stories and play games,” LaMarre said. “The only rule is that everything is vegan. We keep the oven going all day long, and it’s a constant rotation. Everyone gets their favorite.”

Because many restaurants are closed Thanksgiving day, the take-out is picked up Wednesday and reheated on Thanksgiving. A few homemade dishes make it into the rotation, too, such as lasagna, vegan buffalo dip and the desserts – including vegan chocolate caramel clusters –that LaMarre’s daughter Mary Kate brings.

LaMarre and her family used to eat Thanksgiving dinner at the Senator Inn in Augusta. But the hotel doesn’t offer a vegan menu, so after the family went vegan four years ago, it was no longer an option.

“We don’t cook because that pulls us apart from being together,” LaMarre said. “The theme of gratitude has not changed since we have transitioned to veganism. If anything, we are more acutely aware of our blessings.”

Kathy Freston, whose cookbook “The Book of Veganish” hit bookstores this fall, said by sharing vegan dishes, vegans and the vegan-inclined get our friends and family to eat more plant-based fare during Thanksgiving than they otherwise would. She expects the trend to accelerate as the vegetable-loving millennial generation gets older.

“They’re creating new family traditions, blending their parents’ old ways with the dishes they’ve discovered and love,” Freston said. “And the children of these millennials are likely to keep pushing away from the old, embracing the modified holiday.”

Avery Yale Kamila is a freelance food writer who lives in Portland. She can be reached at:

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

]]> 0, 22 Nov 2016 19:06:34 +0000
A Thanksgiving rookie gets ready for the big day Wed, 23 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 BRUNSWICK — It’s a week before the big day. Not Thanksgiving Day, but the day before Thanksgiving, when home cooks are prepping, chopping and generally scrambling to lay the groundwork for the biggest meal of the year.

Emily Butters, sitting in her pumpkin-colored dining room with her handwritten menu in front of her, is excited but nervous. She has never cooked a turkey before, but in a (very) short eight days will be hosting and cooking her first Thanksgiving dinner. Seven guests are coming.

She imagines the worst but, ever the optimist, tries not to let her nerves get the best of her.

“Actually, I think the worst-case scenario is the oven breaks,” Butters, 35, said. “Or you drop the turkey on the floor, and the dog gets to it.”

She might as well throw in a couple of wild cards: Luke, Butter’s 3-year-old, who likes to remove drawer pulls and doorknobs around the house, and Frances, the daughter Butters gave birth to just five months ago.

“We’ll see what Forrest does,” she said, referring to her husband, Forrest Butler. “That will be the real test – how much child care is happening by not me, and that will determine the success of the day. We’ll see.”

Emily and Forrest have been together for 10 years, married for five. They are the co-owners of Royal Rose Syrups, a cocktail syrup company based in Brunswick that they founded together in 2010. The couple usually spend Thanksgiving at her mother’s home in Massachusetts.

“She is a really good cook,” Butters said. “We’d have the classics and then – because she’s Italian – sometimes she’ll make stuffed shells or a first course that’s a little different.”

Butters and her husband have lived in Brunswick for just over a year, and thought it might be nice to change things up by hosting Thanksgiving in their new home. Hosting has another advantage: no traveling with the kids.

Their guests will be Butters’ mother and father, her younger sister from New York and possibly her sister’s boyfriend, two of Butler’s friends, and an employee who just moved to Maine from Maryland. Luke and Frances are so small Butters isn’t counting them on the official guest list.


Passing the responsibility for Thanksgiving dinner from one generation to the next is a cultural benchmark for American families. Butters’ mother, Jo-An Desanctis, admits she is “a little conflicted” about it.

“I’m happy to not have that responsibility because it is a big responsibility,” she said. “At the same time, I’m getting tired. I’m at that stage where it’s time to turn over the reins.”

Desanctis says she has “total confidence” that her daughter can pull it off. She is “a great cook” who has “a lot of natural talent.”

Butters has written her menu and ordered the turkey, a “natural” 14-pounder from a local market. Now she is grappling with the big questions: To brine or not to brine? A wet brine or a dry brine?

She’s considering splaying the turkey because it will cook faster, has less chance of drying out, and she doesn’t care about stuffing it, although her mother would like her to reconsider that last point.

Butters is most confident about making the gravy, since she’s had plenty of practice making gravy for chicken and pork roasts. Butler will be making the stuffing to go inside either the bird or the pan, depending on who wins the “to stuff or not to stuff” debate. One reason the couple is excited about taking over Thanksgiving is it will give Butler a chance to make some of the Thanksgiving favorites he grew up with in his African-American family: cornbread stuffing, candied yams and sweet potato pie.

Butters loves the idea of embracing her husband’s culinary traditions, but is less enthusiastic about how it might work in practice. Like a lot of husbands, when Butler cooks, according to his wife, he uses every pan in the kitchen. “I’m being super chill about it, on the surface,” she joked.

The menu includes cranberry chutney, adapted from a plum chutney Indian recipe Butters likes; kale and apple salad from a recipe by Northern Spy restaurant in New York; and a carrots and fennel side dish made with orange zest and herbs that can be made on the stovetop, saving room for other things in Butters’ small oven.

“I really like fennel,” Butters said. “I think I would be nice to have something that’s light and refreshing tasting.”

She’ll get dinner rolls from a local bakery, and Butler has expressed a desire to make bacon-wrapped dates as an appetizer.

Butters estimates she’s made only half of the menu before, and she’s considering a “dry run” on the stuffing since stuffing is such an important part of the Thanksgiving meal.

The kale and apple salad, which also contains roasted squash and aged cheddar, is a concession to her sister.

“Last year, she requested there be healthy foods only, and everyone was secretly upset,” Butters said. “You can’t hijack the holiday.”

To drink, she’ll have beer, wine and the Ginger Rose Punch featured on their business’ website.

Butters' list of dishes – a work in progress, with cross-outs and all – she plans to make for Thanksgiving.

Butters’ list of dishes – a work in progress, with cross-outs and all – she plans to make for Thanksgiving.


When it comes to Thanksgiving, dessert is almost as important as the turkey. When Butters talks about her mother’s Thanksgivings, she lists a dessert spread that would make anyone salivate: chocolate cake with raspberry sauce, chocolate mousse, cheesecake, ricotta pie, pumpkin pie, apple pie and cookies.

Desanctis worked for many years as a lawyer, then opened a wholesale bakery in West Concord, Massachusetts. As Desanctis says, “Dessert is my bag.”

Butters has asked her to bring cookies. Desanctis is thinking bourbon balls and Italian cookies, including biscotti. Butters is also counting on her husband’s sweet potato pie and a pumpkin pie that a guest will bring.

Thanksgiving isn’t just some other dinner party. There are table settings and decorations to think about, too.

“I was googling stuff this morning,” Butters said. “I don’t know what to do.”

She has melamine plates and other white plates, but can’t decide which to use. There’s not enough silverware – her mother offered to buy her more, but she demurred for now – “and then it would be nice if we had some chargers or something.”

One thing the couple does have is a cabinet full of nice glassware, which they use to photograph drinks made with their Royal Rose syrups, and a nice punchbowl, perfect for that Ginger Rose Punch.

Also on Butters’ shopping list for the weekend: a few mini-pumpkins, tea lights, a table runner and placemats.

The more she talks, the more she starts sounding a little panicked.

“Maybe this weekend Forrest can help me,” she said. “He’ll help. He’s good at – no, he’s not actually, he thinks he is. He’s into design and stuff but I don’t think he’d be very good at the Thanksgiving table setting. What am I thinking? He can’t help. He’ll be watching the kids.”

Emily Butters of Brunswick after shopping at Trader Joe's in Portland for Thanksgiving dinner ingredients. She and her husband expect nine adults and two children at their holiday table.

Emily Butters of Brunswick after shopping at Trader Joe’s in Portland for Thanksgiving dinner ingredients. She and her husband expect nine adults and two children at their holiday table.


Saturday rolls around, and Butters heads to Trader Joe’s in Portland to do her shopping. She arrives early enough that, miraculously, the parking lot is not yet full and being circled by cars like vultures, as is usual the weekend before a big holiday.

The store smells like cinnamon. Butters rolls her red cart toward the produce section, her handwritten shopping list resting in the seat of the cart. Mashed potatoes have been added to her menu, as well as a cocktail shrimp appetizer.

She picks up a couple of green peppers, celery and herbs. She spies multi-colored carrots and grabs them. “That will look good,” she says.

“Is it wrong to get cut butternut squash?” she asks, holding up a bag of the pre-cut vegetables. She decides to pass, and later picks up a whole squash for $2.99, noting “you can’t beat that price here.”

The candied yams have been eliminated from the menu by now, so Butters heads for the kale. She decides to buy that later, so it will be fresh, then searches in vain for the “cloth-aged” cheddar she needs for the kale salad. She picks a brand that just says “aged” on the label, unsure if it’s the same thing.

“I haven’t decided if we should do a cheese plate,” she said. “I’m still planning.” Along the way, she picks up a few things that have nothing to do with Thanksgiving dinner – steel-cut oats for her husband, a box of bran flakes for her mother.

She discovers the store doesn’t carry evaporated milk, and only finds the frozen pie crusts with the help of an employee. She also strikes out on poultry seasoning, dried sage and the Jiffy cornbread mix needed for the stuffing. And she still needs to find a meat thermometer.

But at the checkout counter, Butters is more than satisfied. The bill comes to a reasonable $138.77 (sans turkey), and she was in and out of the store in a half-hour.

“It just goes to show you how important it is to have a list,” she said.

As for décor, since Wednesday Butters has remembered she has eight white plates at home, so she bought two more at Target. She also purchased some “cheap, but fun” flatware there, but Butler didn’t like it so he exchanged them. Butters didn’t like his choice either, so she returned them and is shopping around a little more. She ordered placemats online.

With five days still to go, there are still ingredients to buy and loose ends to tie up. But no matter what happens Thursday, Butters will be fine with it.

“The worst-case scenario is that everything is horrible, and even that’s not a big deal,” she said.

Her mother, who will be splitting her time between helping in the kitchen and cooing over grandchildren, agrees. Despite the pressure that comes with worrying about the gravy turning out just right, Desanctis said, “We’ll all be together. That’s what’s important.”


]]> 0, 22 Nov 2016 22:43:57 +0000
How to make the world’s best waffles Wed, 23 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 We all know that superlatives have lost whatever meaning they ever had (thanks, internet!). But we can also all agree that waffles are one of the reasons it’s good to be alive. And I’m prepared to stand behind the assertion that the recipe here produces the world’s best waffles.

The batter must be made 12 to 24 hours in advance, which requires thinking, “Do I want the world’s best waffles tomorrow?” (Answer: YES.) If it seems a bit inconvenient at the time, wait until the next morning, when your genius forethought means all you have to do is plug in the wafflemaker, take the batter out of the fridge, stir, and waffles.

The batter must be made ahead of time because it contains yeast. The yeast gives these waffles an almost ethereal lightness – their internal architecture is a honeycomb of air bubbles – and an extra-toasty, almost champagney taste. The batter also contains a full stick of butter, providing unparalleled richness and crispness. Yes, that’s a lot of butter, but hey, you probably won’t make them that often, considering you have to remember that you’re going to want them. Probably.

I first got a version of this recipe from Seattle freelance food writer Jill Lightner. (Her smart tip: Make the batter in a pitcher, so it can be poured right onto the hot waffle iron, no ladle required.) Plenty of variations may be found online, dating back to 1896, from “The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book” by Fannie Farmer. Hers, with puritanical restraint, calls for just one tablespoon of melted butter. Some people like it because it’s less rich. To each their own, I suppose.

Some contemporary iterations of the recipe – including Melissa Clark’s and Marion Cunningham’s – advocate for a last-minute addition of a quarter-teaspoon of baking soda, purportedly to make them airier and crispier. I’ve been so extremely happy with the non-baking-soda version’s level of airy-crispness, I’ve never bothered with it, even though it’d be so easy to try. (Maybe those are the world’s best? Sue me.)

My own innovations are, admittedly, not earth-shattering. Using salted instead of unsalted butter makes for a more complex, beautiful relationship with sweet toppings, to my mind. Reasoning that it might make the waffles even lighter, I started sifting the flour (I also just find using a sifter really satisfying). The addition of bourbon may fall into the imperceptible/ritualistic category, but if you can add bourbon to something in life, why not?

A Belgian waffle maker, thicker than the old-school round ones, arguably allows these waffles to achieve their fullest, fluffiest beauty, though you really can’t go wrong.

When it comes to toppings, the French crêpe treatment of powdered sugar and lemon makes a respectfully restrained match for the World’s Best Waffles, letting their lush-but-light nature shine through. Along those lines, honey with squeezes of lime (which you’ll find pancakes topped with in Thailand) is another sweet-and-tart way to centerpiece the waffles’ richness.

Your favorite fruit would be grand, or just jam. There’s always Nutella.

And, of course, it’s hard to beat the classic maple syrup (with a little more butter; again, why not?). If you want to get fancy, Lightner swears by Woodinville Whiskey Co.’s barrel-aged maple syrup. Bacon crumbled over the top is never a bad idea.

Warning: If you make these waffles for houseguests, you may have a difficult time getting them to leave. Give them the recipe and, in my experience, they’ll thank you every time you see them, forever.


Batter must be made 12 to 24 hours in advance

Makes about four (9-inch square) waffles

13/4 cups whole milk

8 tablespoons butter (I like salted), cut into 8 pieces

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

11/2 teaspoons instant yeast

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Dash of bourbon (optional, but do!)

Heat milk and butter in a small saucepan over low heat until butter is melted, approximately 5 minutes. Let mixture cool until warm to the touch.

Meanwhile, sift flour into a large bowl, then whisk in sugar, salt, and instant yeast to combine. (Use a half-gallon or larger pitcher instead of a bowl, and later you can just pour the batter right onto the waffle iron, no ladle required.) Add the warm milk/butter mixture gradually, whisking until the batter is smooth.

In a small bowl, whisk eggs, vanilla, and bourbon until combined. Add egg mixture to the batter and whisk until well incorporated. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 12 hours, up to 24 hours.

Heat waffle iron. Get the waffle batter out of the refrigerator; it’ll be puffed up to about twice its original volume. Stir it to deflate/recombine.

Make waffles and enjoy their greatness! They’re best eaten while nice and hot, so distribute them as they’re done rather than standing on ceremony. Suggested toppings: butter and maple syrup; powdered sugar and lemon juice; honey and lime juice; Nutella; nothing at all.

]]> 0, 22 Nov 2016 18:35:05 +0000
Mashed or pureed cauliflower adds creamy, tempting nutritional value Wed, 23 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Cauliflower entered the healthy food scene with a bang a few years ago as a clever solution to our low-carb-seeking starch-loving woes. And with good reason: Cauliflower is incredibly versatile and can be used to replace simple carbs in endless recipes – from cauliflower versions of risotto, pizza crust and couscous just to name a few.

While health-conscious folks will likely continue to debate the benefits and shortfalls of the low-carb-high-fat diets that probably are responsible for mainstreaming these cauliflower swaps, we can all agree that adding more cruciferous vegetables into our diet is a good thing.

Cauliflower is super low in calories – about 25 calories per cup – and is a good source of vitamin C, vitamin K, B6, folate and some minerals. Because of the fiber and protein, it’s also a filling vegetable, which means if you make a stir-fry using cauliflower instead of rice, you’ll actually be satisfied.

Its mild flavor means it’s an easy substitute for bland starches like rice or pasta, so parents can usually swap out some or all in recipes without kids turning up their noses.

Blending or mashing cauliflower is another excellent strategy – add blended cooked cauliflower to sauces or soups for cream-less creaminess and extra nutrition.

Mashed or pureed cauliflower may be the most celebrated swap of all, giving low-carb eaters an alternative to mashed potatoes. The drawback to many cauliflower puree recipes is two-fold: Often they rely on high quantities of butter or cream for flavor and texture.

Followers of a ketonic or super-low-carb diet may be fine with high-fat, but the resulting calorie counts might scare off the average eater.

The second problem is that a cauliflower puree is looser than true mashed potatoes, which means it’s nearly impossible to make a dent with a gravy ladle that will actually hold up. Mashed potatoes without gravy, especially around the holidays, is quite simply not an option at our house.

My trick is so simple, but it solves both problems: Silken tofu. Just a little bit of firm silken tofu blended up into the puree adds low-cal creaminess (along with a little chicken or vegetable stock) and just enough much-needed thickening to avoid the soupy puree that can easily happen.

With the tofu, you will only need a tiny bit of high-fat goodies like butter and milk (I use half-and-half if I have it – it’s only a few tablespoons) to give a luscious creaminess that the entire family will love. Once you master the basic recipe, feel free to tweak by adding spices such as smoked paprika, herbs or, if you are feeling decadent, top the puree with a little cheese and bacon and make a twice-baked “potato” casserole.


Makes 6 servings

1 large head of cauliflower (or 2 small heads)

3 cloves garlic, smashed

4 ounces firm lite silken tofu (1/3 of a 12-ounce carton)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth, or a little more if needed

3 tablespoons half and half (or whole milk or sour cream)

Salt and pepper

Core the cauliflower and cut into florets and boil (or steam) with the garlic until very tender, about 15 minutes. Drain well and set aside. Place the tofu in a food processor and process until creamy, about 30 seconds. Add the cauliflower, garlic, butter, broth and half and half and process until very creamy, about one minute. Add more broth if needed.

Season with salt and pepper and serve.

]]> 1, 22 Nov 2016 18:37:06 +0000
Cheesy crackers that are good for guests or as gifts Wed, 23 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 When I was a kid, my parents sometimes brought home tins of deliriously delicious cheese crackers. I can’t remember the brand – I think it was a British import – but I do remember that my sister and brother and I would inhale them as soon the tin was opened. All these years later the flavor of those crackers, richly cheesy and spicy, remains burned into my memory. This recipe is my attempt to resurrect them.

The ingredients and technique for making these crackers are similar to those used to make pie dough. Butter and flour (with added flavorings) are its bones. And as with pie dough, as soon as you combine gluten (the protein in flour) with a liquid, you have to mix quickly and briefly or the end product will be tough. So be careful not to overmix the dough.

The stars of this recipe are its two cheeses: extra-sharp cheddar and Parmesan. The spice, which is added to the dough at the start, then dusted onto the outside of each cracker, is provided by Colman’s Mustard powder (a venerable English brand) and cayenne pepper.

Happily, this recipe is simple to make. The dough is mixed quickly in a food processor, then shaped into a cylinder and chilled for an hour, time enough for the gluten to relax and the dough to solidify, making it easy to slice and bake.

Another advantage of this method is that you can freeze the cylinder (just take care to wrap the dough well, first in plastic, then in foil) and then, when guests show up unexpectedly, let the dough soften on the counter for a bit, then slice off and bake as many crackers as you need.

Or you can package the baked crackers in batches of 10 or 12, tie them up with a bow, and give them as gifts. No matter how you use them – as presents or served at home – I believe your family and friends will make them disappear as quickly as my sister, brother and I made that tin go poof.


Makes about 50 crackers

1/2 pound extra-sharp cheddar, coarsely grated

5 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided

11/2 cups (6 1/3 ounces) all-purpose flour

1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks

11/2 teaspoons Colman’s Mustard powder, divided

1/2 teaspoon table salt

1 1/4 teaspoons cayenne, divided

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons ice water

In a food processor, combine the cheddar and 4 ounces of the Parmesan. Pulse until the cheddar is finely chopped. Add the flour, butter, 1/2 teaspoon of the mustard, the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the cayenne. Pulse until the mixture looks like small pellets. Add the Worcestershire sauce and ice water, then pulse until just combined.

Pour the dough onto the counter, divide it into two mounds, then use the palm of your hands to smear each mound across the counter several times, or until it comes together quickly when you press it with your fingers.

Transfer each half of the dough onto a 16-inch-long sheet of plastic wrap. Shape into a 12-inch log (about 11/2 inches around), using the plastic as needed, then wrap tightly in the plastic. Chill for at least 1 hour.

When ready to bake, heat the oven to 325 F. Line two sheet pans with kitchen parchment and position one of the oven racks in the center of the oven.

On a large plate, combine the remaining 1 teaspoon of mustard and 1 teaspoon of cayenne. Remove one of the cylinders from the refrigerator. Unwrap the dough, then roll it in the spice mix, rubbing off the excess spice. Slice the dough crosswise about 1/3 inch thick. Arrange the dough rounds on the prepared sheet pans, about 1/2 inch apart.

Sprinkle each round with a pinch of the additional Parmesan cheese and bake on the oven’s middle and bottom shelves, switching places halfway through, until dark golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Sara Moulton is host of public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals.” She was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows, including “Cooking Live.” Her latest cookbook is “Home Cooking 101.”

]]> 0, 22 Nov 2016 18:33:45 +0000
‘New England Orchard Cookbook’ serves as guide to orchards Wed, 23 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 In addition to the delightful recipes, “The New England Orchard Cookbook” provides a guide to New England orchards. Writer Linda Beaulieu divides the book, a hardcover, into sections by state, compiling information on the thousands of acres in the region devoted to the cultivation of fruit trees.

Each section starts with a history of the apples and other orchard fruits and incorporates interesting farm and fruit facts. Through words and photographs, Beaulieu celebrates orchards and the beauty of the New England land that bears this fruit.

To write the book, she spent six months traveling around the region visiting orchards and collecting recipes, which range from savory dishes to sweet desserts. In keeping with New England tradition, for the most part, the recipes are simple and rely on readily available ingredients – if they are not already in your pantry. (One exception, which made me abandon it as a possible test recipe, was the Crepes with Boiled Cider Sauce. That recipe called for apple brandy – not a common item in my house nor the average supermarket.)

The instructions in “The New England Orchard Cookbook” are written in a minimalist, straightforward style, one that assumes the cook has some knowledge of baking.

Though the dessert recipes are plentiful and enticing, after much perusing and family discussion, I opted for a savory dish, the Apple-Onion-Cheese Gratin, which had an unusual combination of some of my family’s favorite foods. The resulting dish was a satisfying meal and a tasty fall treat.


1113670_315644 gratin.jpg

Apple-Onion-Cheese Gratin

I skipped the optional brown sugar and found that the onions provided plenty of sweetness.

Makes 6 servings

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon unbleached white flour

1 cup milk, scalded

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Pinch of ground cloves

4 cups peeled and sliced apples

1 cup chopped onions

2 tablespoons brown sugar, optional

2 cups grated cheddar

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease an 11-by-7-inch baking dish.

In a pot, melt the butter and whisk in the flour to make a roux. Slowly add the scalded milk, whisking continuously until the sauce starts to thicken. Add the salt, nutmeg and cloves, and stir for 1 minute or until thick.

Remove from the heat and set aside.

Spread the apples and onions evenly in the prepared baking dish. For a sweeter gratin, mix in the brown sugar.

Sprinkle the grated cheese over the apples and onions, and pour the sauce on top.

Scatter the walnuts and bread crumbs over everything. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes, or until top is golden and crisp.

]]> 0, 22 Nov 2016 22:47:36 +0000
Five tips to keep you safe from foodborne illness this Thanksgiving Mon, 21 Nov 2016 15:14:46 +0000 Perhaps more than any other American holiday, Thanksgiving is all about the food. So don’t let the food make you sick. These five tips from the U.S. Department of Agriculture can help you prepare the feast safely:

• Don’t wash the turkey. Washing raw meat and poultry can cause bacteria to spread. Cooking it to the right temperature kills any bacteria that may be present, so washing is unnecessary.

• Defrost your frozen turkey safely, in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave. Thawing food in the refrigerator is the safest method; allow 24 hours for every 5 pounds of weight. To thaw in cold water, submerge the bird in its original wrapper in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes. To defrost in the microwave, follow the instructions in your oven’s owner’s manual.

• Use a meat thermometer. Check the whole turkey in the innermost part of the thigh, the innermost part of the wing and the thickest part of the breast. For safe food, the temperature should read 165 degrees F in all three of these places.

• Don’t store food outside, even if it’s cold. Animals can contaminate it, and the outside temperature may not stay cold enough to be safe.

• Leftovers are good in the refrigerator for up to four days.

For more safety tips about your Thanksgiving dinner, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) oir visit

– Staff report

]]> 0, 22 Nov 2016 19:12:06 +0000
Dine Out Maine: Hot pot at Portland’s Ginza Town makes for a cozy, communal winter meal Sun, 20 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 If we take Tennyson at his word and buy his claim that the spring is when a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love, then what happens in winter? Forget love – in the colder months of the year, it’s all about hot pot.

Go pretty much anywhere in East and Southeast Asia at this time of year, and you’ll find people sitting around tables, orbiting portable gas burners that prop up bubbling pots of broth. Call it “shabu shabu” or “nabemono,” as the Japanese do; “suki” (Thai); “huo guo” (Chinese); or simply “hot pot,” it’s remarkably similar across the continent. Dinner (or lunch, or a snack) is all about dipping bite-sized pieces of vegetables, noodles, fish and meat in simmering soup to cook, then ladling them out into individual bowls along with a helping of the steaming broth.

Eating hot pot is not only a great way to stave off the season’s chill, it’s also an intensely social, communal way of eating. At the same time, it accommodates preferences and dietary needs seamlessly: You select the ingredients that go in, and you control how much they cook. Enjoy rare steak? Great. Pinch a delicatessen-thin slice of raw beef between your chopsticks, swish it around in the pot for a second or two, and you’re ready to eat.

So why, in a town like Portland – where winters are not especially gentle, and where people love to gather for a restaurant meal – is almost nobody serving hot pot? Downtown, you’ll find a few places that serve lazy, ludicrously expensive versions of the dish, but to get a well-conceived and entertaining nabemono experience, you have to head far off the peninsula to outer Forest Avenue’s Ginza Town.

Chef and co-owner Duc Bui, formerly of Sapporo, opened his casual, mostly Japanese restaurant in 2004, and has kept himself in business by offering indulgently generous happy hours that run from 3:30-7 p.m., as well as inexpensive snacks ($1 sushi, $3 rolls, a few $3 appetizers) during those times. “We’re not downtown, and we don’t have any tourists up here. No hotels, nothing. So we try to bring people in with things we know they like,” he said.

That means booze, but it applies equally to the restaurant’s huge menu of dishes, a list that reads like Japanese-food Mad Libs: sushi, tempura, teriyaki, bento boxes, udon. There are also a few Vietnamese dishes, like a decent Pho Tai Gau ($9.95) with raw steak and brisket. Truly great pho broth is a pleasure to sip on its own, even before the herbs are added in, but this version missed the mark, offering barely any flavor from charred onions and garlic, and only the vaguest background hint of star anise. It really needed every culantro and basil leaf, and a good squeeze of lime to bring it to life.

The sushi here is also unexceptional. Our sushi sampler ($14.95) included salmon, shrimp, yellowtail, surf clam and tuna nigiri, along with two rolls: spicy tuna and California (avocado, crab stick, cucumber). As you ought to expect in an ocean port city, the fish was all fresh and good-quality, especially the lush yellowtail and the soft and saline surf clam. The rice, which the kitchen prepares in small batches throughout the night, was unfortunately a little loose and not sticky enough to maintain its shape, and left us with loose white grains dotting our table like snow.

Similarly, some Japanese classics were disappointingly average, like chewy agedashi tofu ($4.50), or just plain disappointing, like sanma shioyaki ($6.00), a brutally over-broiled fillet of mackerel pike glazed in soy, vinegar and mirin.

Others were simply strange, like an enormous spiky dessert of ginger ice cream and pound cake, hard-frozen together, fried tempura-style ($5.00, and large enough to feed four people). Apart from a slight grainy texture to the ice cream, it was, to my total surprise, enjoyable.

In no small part, that’s due to the kitchen’s proficiency with tempura. Our order of shrimp and vegetable tempura ($7.95, or $13.95 for a large portion) revealed an airy, super-crispy batter that accented, rather than masked the flavor of the food inside, like green beans with a lovely faint grassiness, or still-juicy shrimp. Only the sweet potato, cut just a few millimeters too thick to remain tender during frying, was a small let-down.

Also very good was the hotate hokkaiyaki ($8.00), scallops baked in a spicy-hot, Japanese mayonnaise sauce along with soft shiitake mushrooms and scallions. When the dish arrived at the table in a small bowl rather than the scallop shell the menu advertised, I asked the server if she was certain this was our order. “Yes,” she said, grinning. “You get more this way.” I nodded, took a bite, and immediately recognized what a gift that few extra spoonfuls of this tobiko-sprinkled appetizer was.

It also wasn’t the first time that I appreciated our server’s candor. While she struggled to get us napkins and chopsticks at the start of the meal, she more than made up for it when we told her we planned to order the Ginza Hot Pot ($30 for up to three people, $35 for up to four). Some servers, when asked for recommendations, unhelpfully offer a list of whatever is popular. Ours didn’t hesitate to tell us what she liked best in her hot pot: “Definitely get the salmon jaw. I know it sounds weird, but it’s amazing,” she said.

So we obeyed, rounding out our six add-ins with rice noodles, raw steak, shiitake mushrooms, fish cakes and Chinese cabbage (which included both napa and bok choi). We also chose the house special broth, which was supposed to be spicy, but was actually very mild. Tasting like garlic, onion and ginger, with a little sweetness and plenty of umami, it was ideal for a style of eating where most of the flavor derives not from the soup base, but from the ingredients you add in at the table.

With our server’s help, we portioned out the pre-cooked rice noodles into our individual bowls, loaded up our pot with mushrooms and cabbage (both of which can cook for a long time without their texture suffering) and submerged our other items over the course of the next hour, as we sat talking and laughing – not to mention keeping a watchful eye on the gas burner, which has a tendency to send the broth into a messy rolling boil.

As promised, the salmon jaw (also known as “collar”) was outstanding: a little fatty, full of hidden pockets of delicate meat, and easily the very best thing we ordered. Nearly as good, though, were the flash-cooked, thin slices of raw, marbled ribeye steak. When I transferred one from the pot to my personal noodle-bowl and ate it with a steaming half-shiitake cap, I could only smile, glance for a second out the window at the busy street outside and silently celebrate the coming winter, when every day is a perfect day for hot pot.

Andrew Ross has written about food in the United Kingdom and in New York, where he co-founded NYCnosh, a food website. He and his work have been featured on Martha Stewart Living Radio and in The New York Times. He is an Internet researcher and higher education consultant. Contact him at or on Twitter @AndrewRossME.

]]> 0, 19 Nov 2016 13:59:23 +0000
Vignola Cinque Terre hires new executive chef Fri, 18 Nov 2016 21:30:40 +0000 Vignola Cinque Terre, the Italian restaurant at 10 Dana St. in Portland, has a new executive chef.

Mitchell Ryan, who has worked at the restaurant since 2011, has been promoted, replacing longtime chef Lee Skawinski.

The decision was made by owners Dan and Michelle Kary, who “just thought it was time to make a change,” said Jonas Werner, a restaurant consultant working with the Karys. Skawinski had a small ownership share, Werner said, which reverted back to the Karys when he left.

Ryan will continue the restaurant’s commitment to using Maine ingredients, Werner said, and will add more local seafood to the menu. Customer favorites will remain, such as the handmade rigatoni with pork and lamb Bolognese, and no changes are planned to “what makes Vignola Vignola, which is a lot of food that’s coming from farms that they’ve built relationships with over the years,” Werner said.

Vignola Cinque Terre was one of the early leaders in the region’s farm-to-table movement, sourcing produce, honey, pigs and other farm products from Grand View, the Kary’s farm in Greene.

Skawinski could not be reached for comment.

]]> 0 Fri, 18 Nov 2016 17:36:06 +0000
From turkey to leftovers: Recipes to help you get through your Thanksgiving meal(s) Wed, 16 Nov 2016 17:47:27 +0000 0 Mon, 21 Nov 2016 10:36:21 +0000 ‘Exciting gravy’ not necessarily an oxymoron Wed, 16 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Just because Thanksgiving mostly is about tradition doesn’t mean we aren’t open to going off-script when it comes to side dishes and exactly how to cook the big bird.

But the gravy? It’s where innovation goes to die! Generally, we’re content to just pour some store-bought chicken broth, along with a little butter and flour, into the pan in which the turkey was roasted, then call it a day. In truth, I love pan gravy as much as anyone, but you can make a more exciting gravy with just a little more work.

We were taught in cooking school that your sauce will only be as good as the liquid you add to it. In the case of turkey gravy, that would be turkey broth. What can be done to amp up its flavor?

To start, you want to brown the turkey parts that have been packed inside the bird – the neck and the giblets (that is, the heart and the gizzards). Then, slice off the bird’s wings – which nobody eats anyway – and add them to the other parts. (Do not add the liver; it will make the stock bitter. Instead, just reserve or freeze it until you can saute it in butter and serve it on toast. Yum!)

Browning these turkey parts in the company of some carrots and onions develops complex flavors. This is called the Maillard reaction. It’s what happens when amino acids combined with the sugars found in meat and many vegetables are heated above 300 F. Concentrated juices from these ingredients will collect in the bottom of the pan as you brown them. When you deglaze the pan, you dissolve those juices and add them to the browned ingredients, further deepening the stock’s flavor.

You may be surprised to find tomato paste among this recipe’s ingredients, but tomatoes happen to be a terrific source of umami. Umami is the fifth taste, after sweet, sour, salty and bitter. It is usually described as “meaty.” The carrots in the stock also contribute umami. Briefly sauteing the tomato paste in the skillet helps to brown it and develop its natural sugars.

Having cooked up your stock in a separate pan, you’re eventually going to want to add to it the juices that streamed out of the turkey while it roasted and use the fat that accumulated in the pan while you basted the bird. Again, this is how you intensify the gravy’s turkey flavor.

By the way, don’t despair if your turkey is missing the happy little package of giblets and neck bone usually found inside the cavity; you’ll still have the turkey wings. Just cut them off and supplement with some chicken wings. You’ll need about 8 ounces of poultry parts in total. Finally, I recommend making the turkey stock a day or two in advance of the feast. It will make the big day itself a little less stressful.


Makes 5 cups

The neck, wings and giblets (about 8-ounces total) from an 18- to 24-pound turkey

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 medium yellow onion, medium-chopped

1 medium carrot, medium-chopped

2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

1 tablespoon tomato paste

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

The drippings, 1/2 cup fat and pan juices from an 18- to 24-pound roasted turkey

Butter, melted (if there isn’t enough fat from the roast to make the gravy)

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons instant flour (such as Wondra)

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Carefully chop the neck and wings into 1-inch pieces and pat them and the giblets dry. In a large skillet over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the turkey pieces and giblets, reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the onion, carrot and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Transfer the mixture to a medium saucepan and add 1 cup of water to the skillet. Deglaze the pan over high heat, scraping up the brown bits with a spatula, until all the bits have been dissolved. Pour the mixture over the turkey parts in the saucepan. Add the chicken broth and 2 cups water to the saucepan.

Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, skimming the scum that rises to the surface with a skimmer or slotted spoon, until there is no more scum, 15 to 20 minutes. Add the celery, thyme and bay leaf, then simmer gently for 2 hours. Strain the stock through a colander, pressing hard on the solids. Discard the solids and measure the stock; you should have 4 cups. If you have more, return the liquid to the saucepan and simmer until it is reduced to 4 cups. If you have less, add water to the stock to make 4 cups. Cool, cover and chill until it is time to make the gravy.

When the turkey is cooked and resting on a platter, pour all the liquid in the roasting pan into a fat separator or large glass measuring cup. Pour or skim off the fat from the cup and reserve it; leave the cooking juices in the fat separator. You will need 1/2 cup of the fat for the gravy; if you don’t have 1/2 cup, supplement with melted butter.

Set the roasting pan on top of two burners set over medium-low. Add the fat, followed by the flour. Whisk the mixture, preferably using a flat whisk, for 5 minutes. Add the reserved cooking juices from the roasting pan and two-thirds of the turkey stock. Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking. If the gravy needs thinning, add more of the turkey stock and the juices that accumulated on the platter where the turkey has been resting.

Reduce the heat to a simmer, and simmer for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

MUSHROOM GRAVY: Proceed with the master recipe up to the point of adding the fat to the roasting pan. Add half the fat and 1/3 cup minced shallots and cook over medium heat, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add 8 ounces of assorted sliced mushrooms and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are golden, about 5 minutes.

Add the remaining fat and the flour and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add 1/3 cup dry sherry, Madeira or tawny port, or 1/2 cup red wine (this is optional; you can leave the alcohol out), along with the reserved cooking juices and two-thirds of the turkey stock. Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking. If the gravy needs thinning, add more of the turkey stock and the juices that accumulated on the platter where the turkey has been resting. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

MUSTARD-HERB GRAVY: Proceed with the master recipe up through the point of cooking the fat and flour for 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of dry white wine (this is optional; you can leave the alcohol out) along with the reserved cooking juices and two-thirds of the turkey stock. Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking. If the gravy needs thinning, add more of the turkey stock and the juices that accumulated on the platter where the turkey has been resting. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Whisk in 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard and 2 to 4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil, tarragon or sage. Season with salt and pepper.

]]> 1, 16 Nov 2016 08:12:18 +0000
The Maine Ingredient: Welcome diverse ingredients into the stuffing, but not the bad bacteria Wed, 16 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 For a lot of people, stuffing is the best part of the Thanksgiving feast – oh, and also the mashed potatoes and gravy and the green bean casserole and the buttered rutabagas, and …

Time was when cooks packed as much stuffing into the bird as possible, but that was before food scientists told us that bread and egg and broth and turkey juices can create a perfect storm for bacteria growth. Heat is key; harmful bacteria cannot live above 165 degrees. Here are a few simple rules to keep your stuffing safe:

Never stuff a turkey the night before roasting.

 It’s OK to make the stuffing one day ahead. But if the recipe includes meat or seafood (sausage, oysters and the like), refrigerate those components separately, and add them just before using stuffing.

 Likewise, do not add egg (if using) or broth until just before you stuff the bird.

 Refrigerate stuffing in a shallow pan so it cools quickly.

 Fill the turkey cavity lightly with stuffing.

 Bake extra stuffing in a casserole dish.

 Use an instant read thermometer to take the temperature of stuffing in the cavity.

 If the turkey is fully roasted but the stuffing has not reached the safe zone of 165 degrees, scoop the stuffing from the cavity and microwave it until thoroughly heated.

 Then relax, knowing you’ve done your job, and savor the delicious results!


Kale adds a pleasantly bitter edge to this otherwise classic bread stuffing.

10 cups lightly packed bread cubes (from 1 pound loaf of bread) or 9 cups cubed unseasoned stuffing mix

1/2 cup butter

2 large onions, chopped

2 celery ribs, chopped

5 cups slivered kale leaves

2 teaspoons poultry seasoning blend, such as Bell’s

½ cup chopped parsley

4 tablespoons chopped fresh sage

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup chicken or turkey broth, plus additional for baking stuffing

1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spread the bread cubes out onto a baking sheet and toast in the preheated oven, stirring once or twice, until firm to the touch, about 10 minutes. (If you are using packaged dried bread cubes, omit this step.)

In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the onion and celery and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the kale and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle on the poultry seasoning, add parsley and fresh sage, and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, combine the bread cubes with the onion mixture, tossing gently to mix. (Can be made a day ahead. Transfer to large shallow pan and cover and refrigerate.)

Before using, stir in the broth and beaten egg. Fill the turkey cavity lightly with stuffing; do not pack. Place remaining stuffing in a baking dish and bake at 350 degrees, adding a bit of broth for moisture, until heated through.


This is an unusual sweet-savory stuffing with an opulent Victorian feel that I learned to make when working with Martha Stewart. Her family always used it to stuff the neck cavity and then baked the remainder of the recipe. Since it contains no bread or meat, the only safety precaution needed is to add egg just before using.

1 (4-ounce) package dried fruit “tidbits” or 1 cup coarsely chopped dried fruits such as apricots, apples, prunes

¼ cup golden raisins

3 tablespoons bourbon

½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts

½ cup chopped pecans

2 tablespoons butter

1 medium onion, chopped

1 small celery rib, chopped

1 large semi-sweet apple such as Empire, unpeeled, cored and chopped (2 cups)

1 teaspoon dried thyme

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon powdered ginger

1/8 teaspoon allspice

½ cup whole fresh cranberries

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 egg, lightly beaten

In a small bowl, toss the dried fruits and raisins with the bourbon. Cover and set aside to soak for at least 1 hour.

In a large skillet, toast the walnuts and pecans over medium heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant and one shade darker, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Melt the butter in the same pan. Add the onion, celery and apple and cook, stirring frequently, until well softened, about 8 minutes.

Stir in the thyme, cinnamon, ginger and allspice. Remove from the heat and stir in the cranberries, macerated fruits, toasted nuts and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Before using, stir in the beaten egg. Use to stuff neck cavity. Use metal skewers to secure skin flap to underside of bird. Bake any remaining stuffing in a covered casserole dish at 350 degrees F until heated through.

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “Chowderland: Hearty Soups & Stews with Sides and Salads to Match.” She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula, and can be contacted via Facebook at:

]]> 0, 21 Nov 2016 10:23:01 +0000
Side dishes can carry on tradition and add new flavors Wed, 16 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 It’s all well and good to prepare new recipes that you have come across for the Thanksgiving dinner.

If there’s cranberry relish that calls for whole grain Dijon mustard or smoky dried chipotles, you might feel compelled to make it just to get out of that cranberry sauce rut, where year after year you feature the berries combined with clementines, sugar and walnuts.

But sometimes what we crave is the same-old, same-old routine, even if we have had it umpteen times before. I’m talking about those simple sides that taste just like how grandma made it.

Drop slender whole carrots (without the green top) in a pot of boiling water that has brown sugar and butter, so they get coated with a thin glaze. Drain, and garnish the root vegetables with chopped fresh thyme or parsley or dill before serving. The only caveat is that you don’t have to overcook the carrots like grandma would.

Russet is the way to go when it comes to mashed potatoes. Cook two pounds of spuds in cold water, which is generously salted, until they are tender, or for about 45 minutes. Drain and peel before returning them to the saucepan. Add a cup of hot milk along with a stick of butter. Mash the potatoes the old-fashioned way with a hand masher, and season with salt and pepper to finish the dish. Granted you could also add cream cheese and sour cream and any kind of cheese. But, why? In this case, less is a lot better.

For something green and snappy, saute tender green beans in olive oil for about 10 minutes, until they are slightly blackened. Then spike them with minced garlic and season with salt and freshly ground pepper, and cook for a few minutes longer. That is all that is needed for this side to get a shout-out.

Sweet caramelized Brussels sprouts also will bring unity among the feasters, and make a believer out of anyone. Combine honey or brown sugar with chopped garlic, crushed red pepper and balsamic vinegar or soy sauce, and then drizzle it over slightly charred sprouts.


Brussels sprouts are so prep friendly. Trim the tough end and slice the sprout into half lengthwise. Then place it in the pan, with the flat-side facing down, so that it can get charred nicely.

Makes 4 servings

1 pound Brussels sprouts

3 tablespoons canola oil

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon hot water

1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 2 cloves)

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

1/2 cup torn fresh mint leaves

Heat 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat for 5 minutes.

Remove outer leaves and stems from Brussels sprouts, and cut in half lengthwise.

Add oil to skillet, and tilt skillet to evenly coat bottom. Place sprouts, cut sides down, in a single layer in skillet.

Cook, without stirring, 4 minutes or until browned. Sprinkle with kosher salt; stir and cook 2 more minutes.

Stir together honey and hot water. Stir garlic, soy sauce, red pepper and honey mixture into sprouts. Stir in mint leaves, and serve immediately.

“The Southern Vegetable Book” by Rebecca Lang (Oxmoor House)

]]> 0, 16 Nov 2016 08:12:18 +0000
Your best turkey ever: Breaking it down Wed, 16 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Yipes, how I hated Thanksgiving and Christmas as a kid. Well, the dinners, anyway: As if the marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes (ewww!) and nondairy whipped dessert topping-topped pumpkin pie (blech!) weren’t bad enough. The turkey, though. Breast meat as dry as Tutankhamen’s toenails. Legs so greasy and tough they should have auditioned for “American Graffiti.” And gravy with exactly one-billionth the pizazz of a lecture on 14th-century agrarian economics.

Fortunately, as a grown-up, I’ve discovered a way to eliminate these problems (no, not ordering Chinese). Follow me.


Look, at first blush, this may seem like a huge pain, but trust me: Follow these instructions, and I guarantee you’ll have a meal that, had you lived in ancient Greece, undoubtedly there would have been epic poems written about you. Like the “Iliad,” only about you, cooking turkey. Call it, “The Turkiad.”


Right off the bat, let’s find you a good turkey. Stay away from the frozen bowling balls. For one thing, they’ve had more injections than Dolly Parton. For another, they read Solzhenitsyn and think, “Wish we had had it that good.”

Go to your local butcher. Get a locally raised, humanely slaughtered bird. Sure, you’ll pay a little more, but, come on … the injections … the turkey gulags … plus, you’re supporting the local economy.

Now that we’ve got your bird sorted, we’re going to hammer through what you’re going to do with it, because it’s a three-day process, and the work starts Tuesday before Thanksgiving.


Break down bird, brine pieces, roast bones and prep veggies (about 1 hour of prep).

To break down the bird, remove the boneless breasts from the carcass, and take off the legs and wings. Wait! You mean you don’t know how to do that? Butchers can break down the bird for you at no extra charge.

Ask them to give you two each: boneless breasts, wings, thighs, drumsticks. And, of course, a bag of giblets, including the neck, along with the carcass, preferably chopped into three or four pieces (easier to fit in the stockpot).

To make the brine, dissolve 3/4 cup each of salt and sugar in a gallon of water. Submerge the breasts, legs and thighs, cover and refrigerate overnight. If it’s cold enough outside, I’ll just put it all in a brining bag and leave it like a mob hit in the trunk of my car.

After you’ve done that, roast the turkey carcass along with the wings in a hot oven (425-ish) until they’re nice and brown, about 30 to 60 minutes. While they’re roasting, roughly chop a couple of onions, two carrots and four ribs of celery into about six pieces each. Brown them in a little fat in a saute pan or in the hot oven. The amount of onion you have should be roughly equal to the combined amount of carrot and celery. This is called mirepoix. The total weight of mirepoix should be roughly one-fifth (20 percent) of the weight of the carcass and wings combined. And remember, I’m saying “roughly.” This is neither rocket science nor brain surgery. When the turkey parts and mirepoix are all nice and brown, pack everything up together and store in the fridge overnight.


Dry the turkey and make the stock (30 minutes of prep and six hours of simmering).

Take the turkey pieces from the brine, and set the brine free by pouring it down the drain. Put the turkey pieces on a wire rack over a sheet pan and set them in the refrigerator overnight to dry.

To make stock, put the roasted turkey carcass, wings and mirepoix in a stockpot. Cover them with cold water, and add a couple of bay leaves, a bunch of parsley, a teaspoon-ish of dried thyme or a small bunch of fresh thyme, and 5 to 10 peppercorns. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer 4 to 6 hours. When the stock is done, pass through a fine-meshed strainer and chill it in an ice bath until cool. Wrap it and store it in the fridge until Thursday.


Braise the legs, roast the breasts and make the sauce.

Note: For smaller dinner parties, cook only one each: breast, leg and thigh. And freeze the rest along with some turkey stock for another day.

To braise the legs and thighs: Sear them on all sides in a little fat in a pot just big enough to hold them comfortably in one layer. While they’re searing, roughly chop an onion, a carrot and a couple ribs of celery. Remove the browned legs and add the vegetables along with two or three cloves of smashed garlic. When the veggies are brown, deglaze the pan with a little white wine if you like, then put the legs back in and add enough turkey stock to almost cover them completely. Add some fresh herbs, too – thyme, sage, parsley, whatever you like. Crank the heat, and bring it to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to low to braise at a bare simmer. Braise until the meat is falling off the bone, 60 to 90 minutes.

While the legs braise, roast the breasts: Make a couple of bacon mats to cover the breasts. Weave slices of bacon as you would strips of dough for a lattice pie crust. Sprinkle the breasts with salt and pepper, then cover each with a bacon blanket. Roast side by side in a 375-degree oven to an internal temperature of 165 degrees, about an hour. Remove from the oven and rest on a cutting board for about 15 minutes before slicing.

While the breasts rest, remove the legs from the braising liquid. To make your sauce, what we Amerkins like to call “gravy,” you’re going to need about 1 ounce of roux (equal parts by weight butter and flour) for every cup of liquid. Strain and degrease your braising liquid, discarding the used-up veggies and herbs. Melt your butter, then whisk in the flour and cook, stirring, until it turns a light brown, then whisk in the liquid. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. Taste for seasoning, then remove from the heat until right before you’re ready to serve.

While the sauce is simmering, carve the breasts and legs, and put the slices on a warm platter. Finish the sauce by whisking in an ounce or two of whole butter. Serve everything immediately and confidently, then sit back and wait for the adulation.

]]> 1, 16 Nov 2016 08:00:31 +0000
Cookbook review: ‘The Art of the Pie: A Practical Guide to Homemade Crusts, Fillings and Life’ Wed, 16 Nov 2016 06:00:00 +0000 My younger sister Bridget is the baker in our family for a reason.

When I bake, I usually spend more time eating the ingredients in my bowl than reading the careful measurements in my recipe. When Bridget bakes, she closely follows the instructions and somehow resists even the temptation to lick the spoon.

But this Thanksgiving, I find myself about 1,000 miles from the pies Bridget pulls out of the oven for our family table in Indiana. Looking for a taste of home (and some guidance), I turned to Kate McDermott’s “The Art of the Pie.” McDermott’s cookbook is born out of the pie-making workshops she teaches across the country, so I figured I was in the right place to learn.

1110232_343216 Apple2.jpgAt first, I flipped impatiently past the sections of prose in search of recipes. The hefty hardcover contains a wide range of choices, many accompanied by full-page photographs of the finished pies. McDermott is warm and welcoming and, at times, a bit wordy. (She seems to realize this. Her peach pie recipe has two options – a long version and a short version.)

I settled on making “The Quintessential Apple Pie,” and at the bottom of the recipe, I found a suggestion to try a cheddar cheese dough. That combination was new to me, but I was determined to outshine my sister’s aptitude for perfect crust. I consulted McDermott’s longer passages for tips.

“Chill your dough, the flour, the fats, your pastry cloth, the bowl you make your dough in, even the work bowl and blade of your food processor if you’re not doing it by hand … what am I missing here?” she writes in the introduction. “Only the most important chill of all. Yourself! Pie making, like life, can be approached in a number of different ways, and if you are uptight about your pie dough, fussing and fretting over every little tug and tear, you are probably expending energy you simply don’t need to.”

What I eventually found in those 350-plus pages was an assurance McDermott could teach me everything I would ever need to know about baking a pie.

The introduction includes an explainer on pastry cloths, a passage on caring for rolling pins and a guide to testing your oven for hot spots. Each section contains answers to questions I didn’t even know I had – how to weave a lattice top, how to make a gluten-free pie crust, how to alter a recipe for sour or sweet cherries, how to harvest rhubarb and more. A list of apple varietals warned me to steer away from Red Delicious, which don’t bake well. My chosen recipe gently suggested I not peel my apples, and I found the skins added a lovely tang and texture to my pie. A hurried baker might miss the finer points of these lessons by skipping the longer paragraphs, though the recipes themselves are detailed and easy to follow.

Now engrossed in these pages of practical tips, I also read about McDermott’s life in food. She wrote about school lunches from her childhood and shared meals with her son. She described her memories of making pies with her grandmother and once eating lunch with Julia Child. She mentioned she dedicates every single pie she bakes to a friend.

Buoyed by both the clear instructions and the kind manner of “The Art of the Pie,” I crafted my pie. I usually struggle with rolling out my crust, but I did find chilling the dough and equipment made the task much easier. My cheddar crust was a savory partner to the sweet filling. (I should have read even closer, as I cut into the finished product without letting the pie sit for the recommended hour. It was a juicy mess, albeit a delicious one.)

When I took the first warm bite, I raised my fork and dedicated it to Bridget. — MEGAN DOYLE

1110232_343216 Apple3.jpg


Baker’s note: To make the dough workable, I needed more water than the recipe called for.

Makes 1 double-crust pie or 2 single-crust pies

21/2 cups (363 grams) all-purpose flour, unbleached

1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) salt

1/4 pound (115 grams) Kerrygold Dubliner Cheese or other sharp cheddar cheese, grated and chopped fine with a knife (about 1 cup grated)

8 tablespoons (112 grams) salted or unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces

6-8 tablespoons (88-118 grams) ice water

Additional flour for rolling out dough

1. Combine all ingredients but ice water in a large bowl. With clean hands or a pastry cutter, blend the mixture together until it looks like coarse meal with some lumps in it.

2. Sprinkle ice water over the mixture and stir lightly with a fork.

3. Squeeze a handful of dough together. Mix in a bit more water as needed.

4. Divide the dough in half and make 2 chubby discs about 5 inches (12 centimeters) across. Wrap the discs separately in plastic wrap and chill for an hour.

1110232_343216 Apple1.jpg


About 10 cups heritage apples (skin on), quartered and cored, to mound up high in the pie pan

1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar

1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) salt

1 teaspoon (2 grams) cinnamon

2 gratings nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon (1 gram) allspice

1 tablespoon (12 grams) artisan apple cider vinegar or 1-2 tablespoons (5-10 grams) freshly squeezed lemon juice

1-2 tablespoons (15-30 grams) Calvados or other apple liqueur (optional but really good)

1/2 cup (73 grams) flour

1 recipe double-crust pie dough

1 knob butter, the size of a small walnut, cut into small pieces for dotting the top of the filling

1-2 teaspoons (4-8 grams) sugar, for sprinkling on top of the pie

For an egg wash, 1 egg white plus 1 tablespoon (15 grams) water, fork beaten

1. Slice the apples into 1/2-inch (1.5 centimeters) thick slices, or chunk them up into pieces you can comfortably get into your mouth.

2. In a large mixing bowl, put the apples, sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, vinegar, Calvados and flour, and mix lightly until most of the surfaces are covered with what looks like wet sand.

3. Roll out the bottom pie crust on a well-floured surface to be 1 to 2 inches larger than your pie pan, then lay it carefully in the pan. Pour the filling into the unbaked pie crust, mounding it, and dot with butter.

4. Roll out the remaining dough, lay it over the fruit, and cut 5 to 6 vents on top. Trim the excess dough from the edges and crimp.

5. Cover the pie and chill in refrigerator while you preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

6. Lightly brush some of the egg white wash over the entire pie, including the edges, and bake on the middle rack of the oven for 20 minutes.

7. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees F and bake for 30 minutes longer.

8. Open the oven and carefully sprinkle sugar evenly on top of the pie, then continue baking for 10 minutes more.

9. Look for steam and a slight bit of juice coming out of the vents before removing the pie from the oven. Get your ear right down almost to the top of the pie and listen for the sizzle-whump, which McDermott calls the pie’s heartbeat. (Her cookbook includes a glossary of pie-making terms.)

10. Cool the pie for at least an hour.

]]> 2, 16 Nov 2016 08:12:17 +0000
Piecaken – ‘the turducken of desserts’ – returns for Thanksgiving Wed, 16 Nov 2016 06:00:00 +0000 Only in America – land of the free and the bottomless pit holiday table – would you find a dessert creation so audacious, so over-the-top, so enticing as the piecaken.

It takes a pastry chef with a lot of talent – and a good sense of humor – to pull off this silly addition to the Thanksgiving table, a description that perfectly fits Zac Young, the irrepressible pastry director for the Craveable Hospitality Group (formerly known as the David Burke Group) in New York City.

Young, who turns 34 on Friday, grew up in Maine and still visits his parents regularly in Falmouth. This time last year, he took the crazy concept of piecaken – two or three pies stuffed into a cake – and turned it into a media sensation. Kelly Ripa gushed over Young’s piecaken on “Live with Kelly and Michael.” The New York Times wrote about it. But you had to live in New York to try it.

This year, Young is shipping the all-in-one holiday desserts nationwide through He’s already sold out for Thanksgiving, but will continue making piecakens through the end of the year. Between shipping and pickup service in New York, he expects to sell 1,200 of them for Thanksgiving alone.

A slice of Young’s piecaken is a Thanksgiving trifecta on a fork: pecan pie on the bottom, pumpkin pie in the middle and apple upside-down cake on top. The layers are held together with cinnamon buttercream.

In a telephone interview from New York, Young said he decided to create his own version of piecaken when the executive chef of David Burke Fabrick, a restaurant in the boutique hotel Archer New York, got excited about adding turducken to the restaurant’s Thanksgiving menu. (A turducken is a chicken stuffed inside a duck stuffed inside a turkey.)

“Kind of as a joke, and as a little nudge-nudge to him, I thought, ‘I’m going to do the turducken of desserts,’ ” Young said.

Piecaken has been circulating on the Internet for years, most commonly the “cherpumple,” which involves cherry, pumpkin and apple pie. Young wanted to use his own favorite Thanksgiving desserts and take “more of a classic French approach in layering them, like an entremet or one of the French-style mousse cakes where you have a custard layer, a cake layer and a crunchy layer.”

The dessert is also a sly nod to Thanksgiving gluttony.

“Personally at Thanksgiving, I want a slice of everything,” Young said. “I will be standing at the dessert table completely overloaded with plates because I want every pie, every cake, plus whipped cream, plus ice cream. This is a way to get one slice of everything in one.”

The piecakens are not huge, but they are dense, weighing in at about 6 pounds each. Each serves up to 20 people, if the slices are small. “It’s gluttonous,” Young said, “but it also lends itself to portion control.”

For the most part, Young’s recipes for the individual components of the piecaken took light tweaking to get them to work together, but there was one big curve ball. Young said Libby’s pumpkin puree is “the gold standard” for pastry chefs because of its consistent moisture content. Just when Young desperately needed large quantities of it, Libby’s experienced a shortage, and Young had to experiment with other brands. It meant reformulating the pumpkin pie recipe three times.


Piecaken was supposed to be just a special on the menu. But when Young posted a photo of the piecaken-in-progress on Instagram a week and a half before Thanksgiving, his followers started asking where they could buy one. Young went to Craveable’s marketing department and floated the idea of selling the piecakens at David Burke in Bloomingdale’s. Within a day, an e-mail blast went out, and the orders flowed in.

“I thought if I sell 50 of them, I’ll be happy,” Young said.

Then, the Monday before Thanksgiving, someone at “Live with Kelly and Michael” gave Kelly Ripa a copy of that email. She read it on air, and took a ravenous bite out of the paper. Young sent over two piecakens, and Ripa and her then co-host, Michael Strahan, sampled them on air. Ripa did her usual schtick, dancing and telling her audience that she was having “a dessertgasm.”

You can’t buy publicity like that. The company sold 250 piecakens in the three days before Thanksgiving.

Young started creating other versions. For Christmas, he unleashed the Pielogen, made with toffee pecan-pie, eggnog cheesecake and chocolate-salted caramel Yule log. For Valentine’s Day, he came up with the “Piecupen,” a red velvet cupcake stuffed with chocolate cream pie, covered with Red Hots cinnamon cream cheese frosting, and topped with a Champagne truffle.

Young began preparing for this year’s anticipated piecaken craziness last January. Because of limited storage and staff – Young personally oversees the packing of each piecaken – only 75 can be shipped each day. The piecakens are made in the basement of Bloomingdale’s, where Craveable has a cafe and test kitchen. To layer the pies, the pastry chefs cut off the outer crusts so the components will sit evenly.

One thing he doesn’t have to worry about is pumpkin puree.

“I wasn’t messing around this year,” Young said. “In July I bought 40 cases of Libby’s and stockpiled it. I’ll be on ‘Hoarders: Pumpkin Puree Edition.’ ”


A sampling of a piecaken in the newsroom brought mixed reviews. Many tasters loved the pie layers but were less impressed with the cake layer. While some called the whole thing “delicious,” others would prefer to eat each element separately. “It’s a waste of good pie,” said city editor Katherine Lee.

Food editor Peggy Grodinsky called herself “a bit of a purist,” and said she’s more likely to indulge in a single perfect piece of pie after the Thanksgiving meal. “On the plus side, this piecaken sure smells like Thanksgiving,” she added.

Some people balked at the $65 price tag (plus $29.95 shipping) and said they’d rather give the money to local pie makers. started taking pre-orders for the piecaken on Oct. 1. By Nov. 1, the Thanksgiving piecakens were sold out – aided by a spread in the November issue of O, the Oprah magazine, which came out in mid-October. Young estimates he’ll sell about 2,500 piecakens by the end of the Christmas holiday.

If you know Zac Young, or his family, and you missed ordering for Thanksgiving, don’t bother begging for special treatment. Even Young’s own sister, Alisa, and the CEO of Craveable couldn’t get a Thanksgiving piecaken this year because they waited too long.

Young will, however, bring one to his family’s Thanksgiving celebration.


Young gets back to Maine about four times a year. On his last visit, he was going through his baby book and found a list that his gluten-free, vegan mother, Susan Young, had kept, detailing what she fed him when he was 7 months old – things like kelp, millet, beets and tofu.

Becoming a pastry chef, he said, “was the ultimate form of rebellion, I guess.”

Young’s family owns Youngs Furniture, founded by his great-grandfather. As a child, Young used to walk to the original Mister Bagel on Forest Avenue in Portland with his grandfather and father, John, who was close friends with the owner, Rick Hartglass. Hartglass allowed Young to watch the bagel-making process, and on Thanksgiving and Christmas Young and his father worked there so the staff could have those days off.

“Now I equate the smell of yeast with Mr. Bagel,” Young said. “Every time I smell it, I’m brought back to my childhood there.”

Young had no desire to become a fourth-generation furniture executive. He attended the Waynflete School in Portland through middle school, then transferred to a boarding school in Massachusetts, where he nurtured his interest in performance and theatrical design.

“There was never any pressure” to go into the family business, Young said. “My father, God bless him, it wasn’t easy raising me. I’ve always done my own thing. And my parents have always totally supported me, even in trying times. I like to think that it all worked out.”

At 23, Young was living in New York City and working in the wigs department at Radio City Music Hall. Over Christmas, he decided to bake some cookies. He bought a KitchenAid mixer and a Williams-Sonoma cookie book and worked his way through it.

“I became fascinated with the creativity within the bounds of science,” he said.

Some experiments – chocolate chip cookies made with chocolate-covered pretzels – were a success, others a disaster. But his efforts caught the attention of his mother, who suggested he try culinary school. The idea had never crossed his mind.

“I had no clue what I was getting into,” he said. “Food didn’t play a big part in my world.”

He visited the Institute of Culinary Education in New York, and when they asked him what he wanted to do, he said he wanted to make cookies.

“They said, ‘We don’t really have a cookie program. We have a pastry program.’ And I was like ‘No, I want to make cookies,’ ” Young recalled.

But once he was exposed to classical pastries, he fell in love. After graduating with honors, Young worked at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery. Next came jobs at Butter Restaurant in New York, training in France, and then back to New York for a gig at Flex Mussels Restaurants. In 2012, he became pastry director at the David Burke Group, overseeing desserts for the company’s many restaurants and bars.

Young made the final four in the first season of Bravo’s “Top Chef: Just Desserts,” and now frequently appears as a judge on Food Network shows. He is co-host of a Cooking Channel show called “Unique Sweets,” and brought the show home for a Maine episode, visiting local spots such as Scratch Baking Co., Wicked Whoopies and Catbird Creamery.

In 2015, Young was named one of the Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America by “Dessert Professional.”

Even with all of his success, he tries not to take himself too seriously – as his piecaken sideline shows.

“I frequently say to my team and my staff, as perfectionist as we are and as invested as we are in what we do, we’re not saving kittens,” he said. “What we do is almost trivial, yet it’s also kind of important. Like the arts, or like anything that brings people joy or escape, it’s necessary.

“We make people happy.”

]]> 0, 16 Nov 2016 11:46:24 +0000
Vermont farm says thousands of its turkeys died from disease Tue, 15 Nov 2016 13:41:08 +0000 ORWELL, Vt. — Thousands of turkeys have reportedly died at a Vermont farm due to a bacterial disease that affects domestic and wild birds.

WCAX-TV reports the Stonewood Farm, in Orwell, usually raises and processes 30,000 turkeys each year. But only about half that number will make it to the market this year.

Owner Peter Stone says he thinks a fox carrying the bacteria— fowl cholera —sneaked into one of the barns, killing some turkeys and infecting the rest.

The die-off was reported to state officials, who conducted testing that ruled out the Avian Flu as the cause. State veterinarian Kristin Haas says every test came back negative.

Haas says this is the only outbreak of fowl cholera reported this year in Vermont. She says this particular infection isn’t transmissible to people.

]]> 0 Tue, 15 Nov 2016 17:46:49 +0000
This good-for-you chocolate bar tastes good too Sun, 13 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 You know how some people will try to convince you to eat something that’s good for you by telling you it tastes good? Disappointment usually follows. But in the case of MarthaBars, they really are both healthy and delicious.

The MarthaBar doesn’t claim to be low in calories or fat. It’s got 250 calories, about the same as a regular candy bar, and 35 percent of the recommended daily amount of saturated fat.

1108064_543092 Martha Bar.jpgBut it’s made with all of the good-for-you individual ingredients that you hear about in the news, the stuff that scientists are studying for potential health benefits – almonds, peanut butter, honey, cranberries, coconut oil, chia, hemp protein powder, flax and cinnamon. All of that is draped in a thick, luscious coating of dark chocolate.

Martha Carton of Freeport created MarthaBars with the help of a nutritionist friend. She was inspired by her three sons – they went off to college, and she worried about what they were eating. Her youngest, who still attends the University of Maine at Orono, regularly asks for the bars to be included in his care packages, she says, telling his mom to “make sure to put in enough for all my roommates and my Frisbee team.”

Carton says she thinks much of the appeal is that it’s a chewy bar. “A lot of bars with healthy ingredients can be dry or grainy,” she said.

The bars are made in a commercial kitchen in Brunswick. Carton markets them as energy bars to active people – runners, cyclists and hikers. But parents like them too, she said.

She is working on new versions of the bar – one with sunflower butter instead of peanut butter for people with peanut allergies, and perhaps a version without the chocolate coating. Athletes, she said, “don’t want the chocolate. They just want the energy part of it.”

Locally, MarthaBars are sold at Lois’ Natural Marketplace in Portland, the Bay Club and the Portland Food Coop for about $3.50 a bar, depending on the store. They can also be purchased online for $3 a bar plus shipping.

]]> 0, 11 Nov 2016 09:19:13 +0000
Dine Out Maine: When the pieces fall into place, Portland’s chic Tempo Dulu is worth the price Sun, 13 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Getting what you pay for is such an important principle of American culture that we probably should find some way to include it in our national anthem. Better yet, emblazon it on our currency. Our adherence to this idea is a large part of the reason why we struggle with our relationship with wine – a product that doesn’t follow linear rules very well. Why, we collectively ask, shouldn’t a bottle that costs $80 be four times as good as one that costs $20? The answer, as Mark Zuckerberg might say: “It’s complicated.”

So when I hear about an American restaurant that prices itself well within the “special occasion” range, it makes me a little nervous. Charge more, and people expect more. Charge upwards of $200 for the least expensive set menu and a drink apiece for two people, as Portland’s Tempo Dulu does, and you bravely set expectations of perfection.

Co-owners Raymond Brunyanszki and Oscar Verest, whose midcoast Camden Harbour Inn and restaurant Natalie’s both are part of the exclusive Relais & Chateaux network, are no strangers to high standards. The duo runs Tempo Dulu from within the swank Danforth Inn, and have made great efforts to create a sense of luxury across every aspect of the dining experience.

It begins with the restaurant’s space: a blend of styles, with architecture and rich, simple window dressings representing the traditional, and furniture – from a glossy gray coffee table in the shape of a smooth river stone to clear, smoked Lucite chairs representing the contemporary. Mostly, it all works to great effect, giving the space a unique sense of historically anchored modernism.

Sonically, the experience of dining at the mostly Indonesian Tempo Dulu can be a little less high-end. The soundtrack that chugs along over the sound system is pure downtempo electronic dance music – occasionally a little intrusive and out of place. Every time I have visited Tempo Dulu, I have been distracted from my conversation by the same chillout remix of Spandau Ballet’s 1983 hit, “True” mugging for attention in the background. It’s disorienting to be somewhere that makes you feel like you’re eating sambal in a sumptuous 1823 New England mansion that has somehow washed up on the shores of Ibiza.

All of these qualities have remained largely the same since the restaurant opened last year. What has changed recently is the chef. This summer, Michael MacDonnell (formerly of Natalie’s) took over the kitchen. I was interested to see how, under his aegis, things had changed since this paper’s four-star notice from 2015. In that review, critic James Schwartz described the experience of visiting Tempo Dulu as “intensely sensual,” lauding the restaurant’s unbending focus on intense flavors.

I was fortunate to have two recent data points for comparison, spaced apart by only a few weeks. One from a dinner early this autumn, while MacDonnell was still preparing dishes that were not of his own design, and the other just after the launch of his signature menu in mid-October.

Both meals started with the same tiny bites, served several minutes apart: a beet tartare with halibut and macadamia nuts, and a wonderful sample of swordfish salad with fermented soy, floral micro-cilantro and thin shavings of vinegary pickled butternut squash.

Served in larger quantity, the second amuse-bouche would have made a much better chef’s-choice “middle course” for the $69 menu, rather than a slightly tough and vanishingly small square of cured salmon, topped with a single cured mussel and two excellent vinegared components: a slice of dilly bean and a pink iris of pickled onion.

Like an alchemist, MacDonnell uses simple white vinegar (along with a little salt and sugar) to create some of his most magical flavors. With it, he pickles raisins to give a welcome tang to a sticky caramelized banana dessert. He also uses it to transform Fresno chilies into an acidic paste that he sweetens further with reduced orange juice to create an atomic orange sambal.

That sambal brings fiery life to perhaps the kitchen’s best dish: A crisp-tender tapioca-and-rice flour chive cake that has been steamed, then deep fried and served with smoked scallop and pork belly. The sambal makes it nominally Indonesian, but the flavors evoke Thai chive cakes (kanom gui chai) and their Chinese ancestor, the scallion pancake (cong you bing).

“Everywhere you go in Southeast Asia, you use basically the same ingredients – it’s just different techniques. And no matter where you go, China has a hold,” MacDonnell said. “It’s the first ‘serious’ cuisine people were taught to cook, so there’s a heavy influence.”

This is only one example of cultural cross-pollination you’ll find throughout the menu. MacDonnell, who has been cooking Thai and Laotian food for nearly two decades, has brought that expertise to bear across his menu, such as in an elegant tom yum-style appetizer showcasing mushrooms prepared three ways, all wading knee-deep in a lemongrassy coconut broth, poured by the server from a teapot. Or a rare massaman curry-flavored hangar steak served with a stunning kale-wrapped block of brisket confit, fried potatoes and crunchy lotus seeds.

So too, the seared, tamarind-glazed foie gras with pickled turnip and rice cracker – inspired by flavors from classic pad Thai – that offers a lovely balance of acid, toasty smokiness and funk from fish sauce, along with a brash textural contrast.

Or a spectacular sweet sticky rice that isn’t at all what it claims to be. Rather, this inventive dessert is made up of crunchy, toasted rice clusters with a creamy lime drizzle, a precise one-inch cube of barely caramelized pineapple and a mango sorbet that detonates with kaffir lime leaf flavor the instant it hits your mouth.

There’s also a Penang poached lobster tail that explores an imagined culinary intersection between Maine and Malaysia. Served with a warm coconut-and-turmeric rice and grilled lychees, there is an almost playfully understated quality to the way this dish pairs lush components with light, simple ones. “The challenge is not to leave people feeling heavy,” MacDonnell said. “I want people to leave and be able to go dancing and not feel like they need to lie down immediately.”

When the kitchen delivers clearly Indonesian-inspired dishes, the results are generally strong. MacDonnell and his team make a mean (and lip-numbing) sambal egg, buried in a loose mound of jasmine rice as part of the rijsttafel ($85) – a chef’s tasting menu highlighting a spectrum of flavors and techniques. The gingery beef rendang and gorgeously aromatic coconut curry chicken – served as part of the rijsttafel I sampled on my earlier visit – were both exquisitely, impossibly tender, as if they had been simmered and slow cooked for weeks, not prepared that day.

Unfortunately, a few of the rijsttafel dishes were underseasoned, including watery wok-cooked squid, and curried, banana-leaf steamed arctic char that tasted less like the curry and more like the steam.

Then there’s spekkoek, a many-layered traditional Indonesian cake. One version I sampled at Tempo Dulu was phenomenal, with star anise, apple, and an almost buttery coconut ice cream. The second, with maple ice cream and supremed, glazed orange was less so. The ice cream was both seasonal and a satisfying counterbalance to the citrus. But the unnecessarily potent cinnamon crumble overwhelmed everything on the plate, tasting like crunchy nuggets of potpourri.

Despite a few hiccups here and there: some related to food, and some to service (including one visit where I stood, wet umbrella in hand, without being greeted or even acknowledged by staff for ten full minutes), Tempo Dulu possesses an undeniable allure of sophistication. The parts of this machine that work, really work, and the parts that don’t feel like they could be fixed with a damp cloth and a few shots of WD-40.

Our neighbors at a nearby table on one visit were visiting bankers and their spouses – people who said things like, “20 basis points won’t get me out of bed,” and, “Everything changed when I bought the island…”. They couldn’t stop marveling that they had found a place quite so high-end in our small city. “It’s almost as good as that place we went for our anniversary in Boston,” one remarked. She meant well, but that qualified praise would probably have made Tempo Dulu’s owners blanch, because a restaurant with such lofty aspirations and prices simply can’t afford the costliest luxury good of them all: an “almost.”

Andrew Ross has written about food in the United Kingdom and in New York, where he co-founded NYCnosh, a food website. He and his work have been featured on Martha Stewart Living Radio and in The New York Times. He is an Internet researcher and higher education consultant. Contact him at:

Twitter: @AndrewRossME

]]> 3, 12 Nov 2016 19:02:52 +0000
Have no fear of getting the most of a monster squash Sun, 13 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 I know how to use all the bits of a 25-pound Thanksgiving turkey. That’s easy. You let the dozen or so 6-foot-plus men and boys in your life have at it and then you simmer the picked-over carcass for soup. But a 25-pound Blue Hubbard squash? For a cook concerned with not wasting food, that’s a more menacing monster to slay for the holiday buffet.

“The Hubbard is the dinosaur of the squash world: big, primordial and ungainly, with a swollen middle,” Deborah Madison writes in her book “Vegetable Literacy.” But despite its warty, grayish diplodocus-like appearance, this giant’s deep orange starchy flesh is “fine textured, sweet and rich,” she writes, making it a great ingredient for everything from soup to cheesecake (see recipe).

Unless you are feeding a strictly vegetarian army with one of these squashes, which range in size from 8 and 40 pounds, it’s best to take the cook-once, use-many-times approach I espoused last year to use up a whole Hubbard.

When you pick out any winter squash, look for one that is rock hard and free from bruises or soft spots. You want it to be heavier than it looks, an indication that the flesh is supple and not dried out. And the stem should be attached, so bacteria does not have an opening to invade the flesh should you be spurred to buy one by this column, but run out of time to execute the following process and have to store it in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months. It will only get sweeter as it sits until you have the time to deal with the beast.

Cracking open an enormous Blue Hubbard can seem daunting. You can soften the skin a bit by pricking the squash and baking it for 10 minutes in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven. To make the first cut, set the squash on a towel-lined cutting board to prevent slippage. Knock the stem off with the dull side of a heavy chef’s knife.

Then, starting with the tip of your knife set in the center of the squash, cut lengthwise through half of the squash. Rotate the squash and cut through the other side. Scrape the seeds and stringy bits away from the flesh.

Mix the pulp and seeds in a pot with 3 cups of water and simmer for 10 minutes (longer could make the mixture bitter) to make a broth to flavor soups, risottos and salad dressing (1/2 cup squash broth plus 2 tablespoons each of tahini, honey and olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, makes a good one). The seeds can be rinsed, separated easily from the stringy pulp – which gets composted at this point – and roasted using your favorite pumpkin seed recipe.

Cut the squash into 2-inch wide strips and roast them, flesh side up, in a 375 degree Fahrenheit oven until you can easily send a fork through the thickest part of the thickest wedge, 45 to 60 minutes. I typically roast the squash naked (the squash, not me), so I can use it in either sweet or savory recipes. Cool the roasted wedges for 20 minutes and then scrape the flesh into a bowl and mash it until smooth.

From here, you can have your way with the puree. Swap it into a sweet potato roll recipe, stir it into a soup as an interesting thickener, combine it with butter and cream and whip it up as a decadent side dish, or pack it tightly into containers to be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months.

My little 10-pound Blue Hubbard yielded 31/2 cups of mash, 3/4 pound of roasted seeds and 2 cups of broth while leaving less than a pound of skin and spent stringy bits to toss into the compost bucket. So I’m no longer afraid of these monster squashes.

But if you are still wary, try a Baby Blue, a family-sized Hubbard cultivated to weigh in between 4 and 6 pounds. The same preparation techniques apply, but cooking one of these little guys is not nearly as fun as slaying the monster squash and having the spoils of victory for pie.

Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer, a recipe developer and tester, and a cooking teacher in Brunswick. Contact her at:

]]> 0, 14 Nov 2016 18:24:17 +0000
Freeport approves 20,000-square-foot expansion of Maine Beer Co. Thu, 10 Nov 2016 18:34:14 +0000 Maine Beer Co. is set to start construction on an expansion that will more than triple the size of its Freeport brewery and tasting room.

Freeport’s Project Review Board voted Wednesday to approve a 20,330-square-foot addition to the brewery on Route 1. The expansion will include areas for brewing, bottling, storage, staff offices, employee break rooms, lockers and bathrooms. The company’s tasting room and retail store will be widened into the existing 6,000-square-foot brewery and an expanded outdoor seating area with room for food truck parking will be added. Parking will be expanded from 30 spaces to 125.

The expansion will allow the company to boost production, but the aim of the project is to give customers and employees a better experience, said spokesman Jesse Weyl.

“As long as we have the ability to make good-quality, consistent beer and the market demands it, sure, we’ll make some more,” Weyl said. The company plans to start construction this winter and start brewing in its new space in 2018, he said.

Expansion plans have not changed substantially since the company submitted them this summer, but Project Review Board members required more extensive landscaping in the final version, said Town Planner Donna Larson.

Maine Beer Co. started in Portland in 2009 and moved to Freeport in 2013. The brewery has gained national attention from beer drinkers, particularly for Lunch, a popular India pale ale. According to its website, the company distributes to 16 states and the District of Columbia.

The company is one of a number of Maine breweries that have expanded in recent years, taking advantage of the appetite for craft beer and the state’s reputation as a leading state for craft brewing. Most recently, Bunker Brewing in Portland has moved from East Bayside into an expended brewery and tasting room on Westfield Street in Libbytown that is set to open Friday.

]]> 2, 10 Nov 2016 22:47:50 +0000
Living their beliefs, for some Maine church members, means eating more plants Wed, 09 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 In southern Maine, vegan potlucks are popping up at a growing number of churches.

At local Seventh-day Adventist churches, vegan food has a long history that goes back to one of the founders of the Protestant denomination, Portland native Ellen G. White.

Beginning in 1863, White had a series of spiritual visions related to diet and health, which is why the Adventist church encourages (but does not require) members to eat minimally processed, plant-based foods. Today this means vegan and vegetarian dishes dominate the meals and potlucks enjoyed at many Adventist churches in Maine.

Paul K. Chappell is a West Point graduate and peace activist whose visit to Unity Church in Windham spurred many church members to eat more plant-based foods. Courtesy of Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

Paul K. Chappell is a West Point graduate and peace activist whose visit to Unity Church in Windham spurred many church members to eat more plant-based foods. Courtesy of Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

The Topsham Seventh-day Adventist Church takes it a step further, offering a monthly vegan cooking demonstration and plant-based health talk as part of an evening series called Simply Botanical – Choosing Life.

“The classes are stand-alone,” said Dr. Timothy Howe, who gives the talks and has helped organize this and similar programs at the church for the past 12 years. “But we try to cover a wide range of topics within a given year so that those who come can develop a strong scientific and philosophic basis for choosing a plant-based diet. Each class begins with a cooking demonstration, then tasting for all, then a nutrition lecture for about 30 minutes.”

Recent cooking demonstrations have featured oat-pecan burgers, avocado-basil pesto, homemade ketchup and DIY sauerkraut, while covering health topics such as endocrine disrupters and eyesight.

Howe spearheaded the popular Lifestyle Choices vegan program at the former Parkview Adventist Medical Center in Brunswick. Following the center’s recent merger with Mid Coast Hospital, the program was shuttered. However, Howe reports he is in talks with officials at Mid Coast and other area health-care institutions about similar preventative medicine programs.

Many members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Brunswick took the Lifestyle Choices class and have become vegan or veganish as a result. The church now hosts a vegan potluck once a month after Sunday services. Church members Larry Lemmel and Jessica Tracy first organized the potluck seven years ago in hopes of creating a “support group” and are encouraged that up to 15 people attend every month.

“I think it’s a matter of shared values and people who care about the earth,” Lemmel said.

The move toward vegan eating was affirmed by the national Unitarian Universalist Association in 2011, when the body adopted a Statement of Conscience on ethical eating. The document raises concerns about factory farms, farm worker rights and pesticides, though it did not call for a single dietary approach.

“Minimally processed plant-based diets are healthier diets,” the position paper states. It later adds: “Unitarian Universalists acknowledge and accept the challenge of enlarging our circle of moral concern to include all living creatures.”

This is a spiritual philosophy shared by Howe, who was invited to give a sermon at the Brunswick congregation last December. He spoke about mankind’s failure to steward the earth as instructed in Genesis.

"The Art of Waging Peace" by vegan Paul K. Chappell

“The Art of Waging Peace” by vegan Paul K. Chappell

“We must eat to maximize our own health, the earth’s health and our brothers’ health and well-being,” Howe said to the congregation. “There is only one diet that will accomplish all three.”

Kristen Aiello and her daughter Anne organized a well-attended vegan potluck at the Unitarian Universalist Community Church in Augusta from 2012 until last year. Aiello said that now that her daughter is away at college, she hasn’t had time to organize more potlucks.

In Windham, the Rev. Pat Bessey of Unity of Greater Portland Church is part of a congregation gently moving toward a plant-based, veganish way of eating. This July the church started hosting monthly vegan potlucks in the evening that include a guest speaker. Unity has switched its after-service meal to all-vegetarian, with vegan options.

Bessey, her husband, the Rev. LeRoy Lowell, and other members of the church community were nudged toward vegan eating by a shared experience. In late winter each year, Unity celebrates a season of nonviolence and this year they invited author, Army captain and veteran Paul K. Chappell, a director at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, to do a training about peace. During his visit, the church members who had organized the training had dinner with Chappell and learned he was vegan.

“When he left, it left us with a shift,” Bessey recalls. “My husband and I and other people in the community felt this shift. We began to talk amongst ourselves about how this fits in. This is really an ethical issue.”

Members of the Brunswick Unitarian Universalist Church gather at October's vegan potluck, which included chocolate cake, kale salad, roasted Brussels sprouts, and red beans and rice casserole. In the front row, from left, Val Heath, Esther Mechler, Faith Woodman and Andrea Sinclair. In back, from left, Mike Heath, Jessica Tracy, Larry Lemmel and Hugh Maynard. Courtesy of Brunswick Unitarian Universalist Church

Members of the Brunswick Unitarian Universalist Church gather at October’s vegan potluck, which included chocolate cake, kale salad, roasted Brussels sprouts, and red beans and rice casserole. In the front row, from left, Val Heath, Esther Mechler, Faith Woodman and Andrea Sinclair. In back, from left, Mike Heath, Jessica Tracy, Larry Lemmel and Hugh Maynard. Courtesy of Brunswick Unitarian Universalist Church

After Chappell’s visit, the church brought in peace advocate and author Will Tuttle to speak. Tuttle is also a vegan.

In her role as the religious community’s minister, Bessey speaks about food with care. A vegan diet “is not something we say everyone has to do,” Bessey said. “We accept everyone on their path where they are.”

Bessey is sensitive to the range of feelings about diet among church members and is careful “nothing gets said from the platform regarding veganism other than announcing the potluck.” She said for those looking for ways to grow spiritually, vegan eating can be an option, but it’s not a requirement.

Like the Seventh-day Adventists, Unity Worldwide Ministries traces its roots to 19th-century vegetarians, in this case Charles and Myrtle Fillmore. The Fillmores operated a popular vegetarian restaurant in Kansas City called Unity Inn in the early part of the 20th century. Bessey recently learned about this connection and said it reaffirms her and her husband’s decision to adopt a vegan diet.

“We are going back to what the founders of our movement really stood for,” Bessey said.

Howe of the Topsham Seventh-day Adventist Church looks further back, much further, specifically to the books of Genesis, Isaiah and Revelation in the Bible, which speak of a vegetarian Eden and a time when the “wolf also shall dwell with the lamb.”

“The prophets envisioned a time when animals and man would return to a plant-based diet, when violence would cease and the earth would be at peace,” Howe said in his sermon at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Brunswick. “Perhaps the time has come for us to embrace their vision.”

Avery Yale Kamila is a freelance food writer who lives in Portland. She can be reached at

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

]]> 2, 08 Nov 2016 16:29:15 +0000
Don Lindgren shares his thoughts on rare, old cookbooks and what they can teach us Wed, 09 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 One week ahead of Rabelais’ annual cookbook sale, we phoned proprietor Don Lindgren to talk books and collecting. The store, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary next year, is one of a small number in the United States that specializes in cookbooks and an even smaller number that handles antiquarian cookbooks. Of the total inventory at Rabelais – some 30,000 items – about 20 percent are rare books and food and drink ephemera. When we spoke last week, the oldest book in the store dated to 1535. Need some context? It was the reign of English King Henry VIII, a famous, or perhaps infamous, gourmand.

Lindgren got his first bookstore job – in a mall – as a teen. He earned a divinity degree from the University of Chicago, then worked his way up the “rare books food chain” with jobs in Chicago, New York and Boston, eventually specializing in books about the historical avant garde. “Dadaism, surrealism, Futurism, all the -isms,” he said. The art books market collapsed, Lindgren and his wife, Samantha Hoyt Lindgren (then a photo editor and baker), moved to Maine, bought a “small, low-functioning farm” in Alfred, and wondered how to make a living.

One day over lunch at Flatbread Pizza, the couple sketched out a plan to open Rabelais in an empty storefront they’d just driven by in Portland. Why food? “Farm and food were more relevant to us,” Lindgren said. “It was right there in front of us in Maine. The seed of the Portland food scene was already there.” In 2011, to make space for more rare books, they moved the store to North Dam Mill in Biddeford.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity, especially length. Lindgren is an eloquent, fascinating and fluent talker about books, food and collecting.

Q: A while back, you and I spoke about my cookbook collection, and you gave me a hard time about the word “collection.” So define a collection and a collector, please.

A: For me, and for most people in the antiquarian book world, a collection means having some sort of strategy. It could be very simple, like “I want all the books about strawberries.” Then you can get more refined and say, “I want all the American 19th-century books about strawberries.” But by picking a single subject and drawing these books together and spending time with them, you start to see patterns and to learn things that you might not otherwise be able to learn. You don’t have to spend a lot of money. You can choose a very narrow band of things and pursue them. But no matter how small or how inexpensive, perhaps you will create a collection which is interesting and has something important to tell us historically.

Q: Is there a cookbook you’ve never had a chance to hold that you’d like to?

A: I would love to handle a first edition of Amelia Simmons “American Cookery” sometime before I retire. There are only three known copies. I’ve handled copies of nine different editions, but I’ve never seen the first for sale. There are things that are super hard to find, but it would be exciting to see one walk in.

BIDDEFORD, ME - NOVEMBER 5: Greg Mitchell, chef of Biddeford's Palace Diner, browses the bookshelves while Don Lindgren, owner of cookbook store Rabelais Books, looks on. (Photo by Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer)

Greg Mitchell, chef of Biddeford’s Palace Diner, browses the bookshelves while Don Lindgren, owner of cookbook store Rabelais Books, looks on. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Q: Do such things walk in? Do you ever go to a yard sale and find the cookbook equivalent of a Van Gogh?

A: Stuff turns up that’s amazing. Here’s one: Somebody brought it to a dealer, a friend of mine in Connecticut. It happened to be an 18th-century English cookbook called “Ladies Delight: Or Cook-maids Best Instructor” (London, 1759). It’s quite a rare cookbook to begin with. Something I’d probably price for $3,500. It had an inscription, and we couldn’t quite make head or tails of it. I finally made out Anthony Benezet. A Frenchman who converted to Quakerism. He settled in Philadelphia. He knew Benjamin Franklin. He founded the first school for girls in America, the first school for African-Americans. He was a very early abolitionist. The book is not just interesting anymore for fans of English cookery, but also for people interested in American history, particularly Philadelphia American history or for people interested in abolition in America, women’s history in America, African-American history in America. The book suddenly goes from telling one story – the story the author had to tell – to telling multiple stories. And that’s what I really look for when I look for what makes a cookbook special.

There is the story the author wants to tell. There is the story of the physical production of the book. Then there is the story of the book as it goes through its own life. It’s hard to find a book that tells all of those stories, but when you do it’s pretty cool.

Q: I know condition is a critical issue for rare books collectors. But these are cookbooks, so is it OK if they have gravy stains or drips of melted butter?

A: There are collectors who pursue perfect copies of things, that are looking for an immaculate copy of an important book. We’ve been lucky enough to sell some books like that. We sold possibly the best copy of “The Joy of Cooking” in existence. The book looked like it was printed yesterday.

Q: This is the original “Joy of Cooking” (1931)?

A: Yes. The dust jacket almost never survived. It’s so rare that we had one that was covered with yellow tape that still managed to fetch a price five times what one without a dust jacket would fetch. We’ve sold a good number of copies without dust jacket, for $3,000 to $5,000, depending on the condition. That copy with the taped-up jacket we sold for $15,000. The step above that is the one that was perfect. That went for $32,000.

Q: Who buys a book for $32,000?

A: Even though that book is perhaps the most famous American cookbook, it was not a cookbook collector. It was a collector of important modern books. That is a field of collection where people are much more driven to find a perfect copy. That’s the only cookbook included in the New York Library’s Books of the Century. But the second part of your question – what about the copy that is dog-eared? I was telling you about a fantastic copy of “The Joy of Cooking.” I’m proud we found it, and I am very proud we sold it. But it’s much more interesting to me to see a copy of a book that has interesting evidence of use – that is the technical phrase – than it is a pristine copy. Sometimes it’s easier to sell the pristine copy. But the book with evidence of use tells a whole story that the pristine copy doesn’t tell us.

Q: Will the Internet kill cookbooks? Has it?

A: It’s certainly changing the way people use cookbooks, in some ways for the better. Online delivers things rapidly with little effort. It’s a great thing for efficiency, but it doesn’t take into account the larger role cookbooks have had historically. Cookbooks are one of the few books that are passed from generation to generation, like the family Bible. Cookbooks are dipped into again and again over a long period, and they change over time. (The owner) might mark it up. They might approve of the recipe, say something is good, say something is not good. They might change the instructions, or add an ingredient, or tell us this was good when they had it at Aunt Julie’s Christmas party.

Q: Should we care if someone writes on their recipe that it’s good, or they enjoyed it at Aunt Agatha’s?

A: I don’t want to make it sound like every book that has been scribbled in has been improved. But when you are looking at older books, it’s a piece of historical evidence. Sometimes the marginalia reveals something that allows us to know who owned something or where something started out or where it moved to.

Q: Do we publish too many cookbooks these days?

A: Absolutely. There are hundreds of thousands of titles in the world. Frankly, most of them are uninteresting and undistinguished. There are whole categories of books I don’t care about.

Q: Such as?

A: Books that are by celebrities. Is it possible that a supermodel could write a good cookbook? Sure. But do I care? No. I don’t. When I look at a book and I look at a recipe – this is true whether it’s a historical book or a new one – the thing that most interests me is whether the book and the author have a point of view. Online recipes can deliver a quality dish, a quality meal. They can do that just as well as a recipe in a book. But what a book gives you, and most online recipes do not, is a point of view.

Q: But thousand of food blogs have a point of view, so may I press you on this point. Will cookbooks disappear?

A: No. And I’m not normally an optimist. The market may end up being much smaller. Most people who used cookbooks in the past just needed some information, and that’s readily available on the internet. But there are some people who will always appreciate what’s special about a physical printed cookbook, which can be very engaging – the typography, the binding, the formatting, the type of paper – so there will remain a market for physical printed books. It’s most likely that the most interesting books will be in that physical market and the least interesting types will cease to have a physical presence.

Q: Which modern cookbooks will last? Which will people be collecting 200 years from now?

A: It’s not always the favorite book of the moment. I certainly think the El Bulli cookbooks will be valuable and interesting in 200 years. Partly because they will be hard to find – they are hard to find now. Also, they made a huge impact both technically and aesthetically in the fine dining world. And there are others like that.

In the complete opposite way, there will be technical books we are not even thinking about right now, like the book that introduced high-fructose corn into our lives. At some point, someone is going to show here’s the moment when Americans chose to poison themselves.

When people are looking for books historically, they are not looking for what to make for dinner tonight. That’s pretty much their last concern. They are looking for historical impact.

Q: Every day you handle books that are hundreds of years old. Presumably, you have the long view. Have people ever been more obsessed with food and drink than we are now? Will our obsession last?

A: The most food-obsessed were the people at the dawn of prehistory, where if they didn’t get food today they would starve. But we are at a moment with the most complex fascination with food that’s ever existed, and that is because – I am trying not to be too geeky – the individuation of food is tied up in who we are, in how we identify ourselves. In the past, regions would express their identities through their food, so you have southern food or food from the Low Country, or food from just one city in Italy. Now it’s very individual, and from person to person, we express ourselves through food in very different ways. Our expression may be that we are gluten-free, or that we only drink a particular type of Bourbon, or that we are obsessed that our food be produced locally. But whatever that individual opinion is, we care greatly about it. And short of there being a terrible calamity that changes the way we eat, the fact that food is greatly important to us will stay with us, because it remains real and sensuous at a moment when other things are increasingly virtual.


]]> 5, 08 Nov 2016 16:59:11 +0000
Add a pleasant flair to the table with roasted pheasant Wed, 09 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Long gone are the days when I went hunting with my dad. He usually got a ringneck pheasant or two on an autumn Saturday. I was lucky to tag along to topple a couple of tin cans off a wall with a BB gun. He’d field dress it, and take it home to my mum, and I remember she’d roast it, covered, on a bed of sauerkraut. Pheasants were, and are, free food and wonderful seasonal eating.

The hunter in your family may be out in the brushy fields stalking game birds. He or she may also have just one shot to drop a pheasant in the wild, maybe the only bird to be taken this season.

These days, I’m a buyer, not a shooter. Farm-raised birds are for sale online at D’Artagnan and other game sites. Around the holidays, Whole Foods Market and similar stores get them (call ahead for price and availability). Or a generous friend who belongs to a hunting club might gift one to you.

If a wild or farm-raised pheasant comes to your kitchen, you, too, will have only one shot to roast the best bird you can.

Cooking pheasant is straightforward. Young birds can be cooked as you would a chicken. Wild or farm-raised, I always roast mine in a Reynolds Oven Bag, a fool-proof product deserving of the plug. If a pheasant is full of shot, however, or not attractive enough to serve whole, poach it in chicken stock, cool, pull meat from bones and either serve in chunks or use, say, in a meat pie. One pheasant will serve two or three, depending on size.

How you carve and serve a roast pheasant depends on the size of the bird. If it’s a little guy, say in the one-and-a-half-pound range, serve one-half bird to a person. After the cooked bird has rested, place it on a cutting board; remove the backbone with kitchen scissors, flip it and cut down on either side of the breastbone. A larger bird, say three pounds, can be carved whole like a chicken. Each serving would include breast meat and a thigh.

Since pheasants are fast runners, their legs are full of tendons. Save the drumsticks for a delicious “picking” lunch in the kitchen. And always save the carcass and all bones and bits to make a stock, even a small amount is a delicious treat.

Complement the pheasant meat with cranberry or, better yet, Cumberland sauce, an old-fashioned tart-fruit sauce usually served with meats and game. For minimal fuss, a good substitute would be a red pepper jelly, melted along with a good slug of Port. Round out the meal with autumn favorites: apple, squash, Brussels sprouts and a homemade pie.


It’s important to remove the wing tips from all pheasants before they are roasted. If left on, the wing tips will curl back over the breast of the bird, making it almost impossible to carve.

Makes 2 or 3 servings

3 pounds pheasant

Salt and pepper or rub of choice, to taste

Lemon halves, optional

1 tablespoon flour for the bag

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Season or rub the bird.

Place lemon halves in the cavity, if using.

Add flour to the bag and shake it. Place bird in a Reynolds Oven Bag following package directions.

Roast bird for approximately 50 to 55 minutes.

When done, a meat thermometer (placed into the thickest part of the thigh) will register 170 degrees.

Carefully remove the bird from the bag, and let rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes. Save the juices: transfer them to a saucepan with 3/4 cup chicken stock and reduce a bit. Add a few wild mushrooms that have been sauteed in butter if you like.

Serve with Cumberland sauce (below).

From “Wild about Game” by Janie Hibler


Makes about 2 cups

Zest from 1 orange, finely julienned

Zest from 1 lemon, finely julienned

1 (12-ounce) jar red currant jelly

1/2 cup Ruby port

1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice from 2 to 3 oranges

2 tablespoons cup freshly squeezed lemon juice from about 2 lemons

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon (1/2 ounce) grated fresh gingerroot

Generous amount freshly ground black pepper

Salt to taste.

Cornstarch, optional

Fill a small sauce pan with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Place julienned orange and lemon zests in boiling water and blanch for 5 minutes. Strain zests, rinse with cold water, set aside.

Return now empty saucepan to stove and add red currant jelly, port, orange juice, lemon juice, mustard, ginger, salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking to combine. Reduce heat to a rolling simmer, stir in lemon and orange zests, and cook until sauce thickens enough to coat a spoon, about 10 minutes.

Stir occasionally until reduced to about 2 cups.

For a thicker “coating” sauce, stir 1 to 2 tablespoons cornstarch into 1/4 cup water or additional Port, add to the sauce and cook an additional 2 minutes. Cool and store in an airtight container for up to a week, warming prior to use. Leftover sauce is good with all poultry, and lamb, too.


Wild pheasants are often dry because they have so little fat. But when they are poached in chicken stock, the meat becomes infused with moisture. After the meat is pulled from the bones, it can be used in any recipe calling for cooked chicken. Enchiladas with fire-roasted chilies are terrific.

Makes about 3 cups

1 whole pheasant, about 3 pounds

1 onion, quartered

31/2 cups homemade chicken stock or reduced-sodium chicken broth

Combine the pheasant, onion and chicken stock in a large pot.

Cover and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, then turn the heat off, but do not take off the lid or remove the pot from the burner. Let sit at room temperature until the pan is cool.

Remove the bird from the stock and pull off the skin. Pull the meat from the bones and discard meat and bones. Check the meat for shot and any bone shards.

Strain the stock, and use as you would chicken stock.

From “Wild about Game”

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Chicken dish pays tribute to Julia Child’s fondness for comfort food Wed, 09 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 A while back, in honor of Julia’s Child’s birthday (she would have been 104 this year), I created a dish that embodies one of her many excellent sayings: “The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.”

You can fuss all you want with fancier dishes, exotic ingredients and new techniques, but isn’t it true that when you make something super-homey, super-comforting, that’s when everyone ask for seconds? When in doubt, choose comfort food.

Here, thinly sliced chicken breasts are enveloped in a creamy, cheesy sauce peppered with wilted spinach and sundried tomatoes.

Sundried tomatoes were all the rage years ago, and then they faded out of fashion, but it seems a shame to turn your back on a great ingredient just because it was a little overexposed for a while. If you can find real sundried tomatoes – which won’t be hard little dried-up disks but rather pliant, brick-red, chewy bites – then that will make all the difference. Look for them in a store that sells good Italian ingredients. Oil-packed sundried tomatoes can also be used, but use paper towels to blot excess oil before chopping them.

You can buy thin-sliced chicken cutlets at the market or butcher, or use a steady hand and a large sharp knife to cut regular chicken breasts horizontally into thinner slices. Depending on how thick your chicken breasts are, you will get two or three slices per breast, about 1/2-inch thick apiece. And if you don’t have fresh herbs, dried are perfectly acceptable here.

This makes a nice amount of sauce, which is a good thing, because when you serve up this chicken over a plate of steaming pasta or rice you’ll want to have lots of starchiness alongside the chicken, and you can ladle the luscious sauce over it.



Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pounds thin-sliced boneless, skinless chicken cutlets

2 large shallots, chopped

3/4 cup chicken broth

1 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano

1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme

1/2 cup grated Fontina cheese

1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

2 cups roughly chopped spinach

1/2 cup roughly chopped sundried tomatoes

Hot cooked rice or pasta to serve

In a very large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Sear the chicken for about 3 minutes on each side, or until browned and just barely pink in the center. Do this in batches if needed, and remove the chicken to a plate and set aside.

Return the skillet to medium heat, add the shallots, and saute for 2 minutes until they start to become tender. Add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom. Stir in the heavy cream, oregano and thyme, and heat until the edges of the sauce start to bubble. Sprinkle in the Fontina and Parmesan cheeses and stir until they are melted. Stir in the spinach and sundried tomatoes, and keep at a very low simmer until the spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes.

Return the chicken to the pan and allow it to heat through, about 2 minutes. Serve the chicken with the sauce over hot rice or pasta.

]]> 1, 08 Nov 2016 16:58:56 +0000
Dinner leftovers make a bright breakfast hash Wed, 09 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Vegetable roasting season is in full swing, and I can’t think of a better or simpler way to make fall and winter produce taste so enticingly good. That’s why, when I found myself with a colorful collection of leftover roasted vegetables in my refrigerator the other day – remnants from the past week’s dinners – they screamed “hash” to me. And I’m glad, because I now have a new favorite breakfast.

There were Brussels sprouts roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper; sweet potatoes and beets that were not yet seasoned; and green beans that had been glazed with balsamic vinegar.

To bring that haphazard collection of vegetables together, I needed a unifying ingredient. I found it in an onion, chopped and skillet-cooked until its inherent sugars helped to create crisped edges. Onions cooked that way are a bold flavor starter used in just about every type of cuisine, transcending culinary borders, so they are the perfect way to marry leftover roasted vegetables, no matter which vegetables they are or how they were originally seasoned.

Once the onions are done, you add your mix of chopped vegetables to the skillet and cook until they are warmed through and everything browns a bit further. Then season with salt and pepper (which you may or may not need, depending on how much is already on the vegetables); top with a fried (or poached) egg; add a little hot sauce, if you’d like; and breakfast is served.


Makes 4 servings

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)

4 cups chopped, mixed roasted vegetables, such as roasted carrots, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, beets, potato, sweet potato and/or squash


Freshly ground black pepper

4 large eggs

Hot sauce, for serving (optional)

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion; cook for 5 or 6 minutes, stirring a few times, until it has softened and is well browned on some edges.

Stir in the vegetables; cook until they are warmed through and have further browned, about 3 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat, but keep the hash in the pan, so it stays warm while you cook the eggs.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Crack the eggs and add them one at a time to the pan, spacing them evenly apart. Cook until the whites are opaque but the yolks are still a bit runny, flipping them over once.

Serve the eggs over the hash, with hot sauce, if desired.

]]> 0, 08 Nov 2016 17:00:02 +0000
Cookbook Review: ‘Mix & Match Cakes’ is a guide to some wow-worthy flavorings Wed, 09 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 The proof is in the pudding. Well in this case, first the boxed cake mix, then the pudding. Blogger and self-described “foodie” Shay Shull takes boxed cake mixes to a whole new level in her adorable new cookbook “Mix & Match Cakes: The Simple Secret to 101 Delicious, Wow-worthy Cakes.”

The book is separated into seasons and then holidays. Each cake starts with a boxed mix – either chocolate or vanilla – and is then spruced up with simple ingredients: extra eggs, a dry pudding packet or two, Jell-O mix; Shull also gives recipes for homemade ganache and glazes. The idea, as she puts it in the introduction, is to mix and match the main ingredients, then “create a whole new cake using the same method and producing the same yummy result.”

All of the recipes are designed for standard Bundt pans, but a chart at the beginning lets you easily substitute other pans, or cupcake tins, and calculates baking times for such swaps. The recipes are easy enough for a child to follow – with some adult supervision. “Mix & Match Cakes,” which has a photograph with every recipe, stands about 6½ inches tall, another reason it’s perfect for small hands.

Shay dedicates the book to one of her daughters, who she says helped bake every cake in the book. The introduction alone made me like the book. I have fond memories of baking with my mother when I was young. I had a child-sized apron, pink with a frilly edge and a fluffy lamb embroidered on the front. My mother still has it, slightly stained but in good shape, and when my niece is big enough, she’ll be wearing it and baking with her grandmother.

I’m grown up now, but I still love to bake, so I happily tested multiple recipes. When I brought the results to small events or parties, Nutella, Fresh Blueberry and Oreo were hits. Even if you’re not a skilled cake decorator, these recipes all produced handsome cakes.

Pecan Pie – the cake version – is already on the family sign-up sheet for Thanksgiving, and you better believe the Peppermint Mocha batter will be rising in my oven on the day of this winter’s first snowfall. I’ve made the Nutella cake twice now – the frosting alone is to die for! One friend described it as “the moistest cake ever.”


Yield: 1 Bundt cake

1 box chocolate cake mix

2 small boxes instant chocolate pudding

½ cup vegetable oil

1¼ cups water

4 eggs

1½ cups Nutella, divided

4 cups powdered sugar

½ cup butter, softened

3 to 4 splashes of milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 10-inch Bundt pan. In mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, puddings, oil, water and eggs with electric mixer.

Mix in ¾ cup of Nutella. Pour the batter into prepared pan and bake 40-45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let the cake rest on counter in pan for 10 minutes. Invert cake onto a serving plate to finish cooling.

To make the frosting, combine the powdered sugar, butter, milk and remaining ¾ cup Nutella with electric mixer until creamy. Spread on cooled cake.

]]> 0, 08 Nov 2016 16:59:42 +0000
Prime time for pears in salads and sweets Wed, 09 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 When I was a kid, I loved both kinds of pears – the ones that came in cans and the fresh ones that grew on trees. I’m not entirely certain I realized they were the same fruit. Sort of.

Now that I am older, I still have a secret, shameful fondness for the canned stuff. But what really thrills me are the fresh fruit in all their varieties: Bartlett, Anjou, Bosc, Starkrimson, Comice and more. This time of year, it’s pearadise.

Pear upside-down cake builds on a foundation of pears and caramel, another perfect combination. The pears absorb the caramel on the bottom of the cake pan – which of course becomes the top of the cake – with the cake batter above (which is to say below) that.

But this is no typical cake batter. It’s lighter than most, with whipped egg whites folded into it, but is also grounded with just a hint of the flavor of corn from a few tablespoons of cornmeal.


Makes 6 to 8 servings

12 tablespoons (11/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature, divided, plus more

3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons coarse yellow cornmeal or polenta

11/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed

2 medium pears (about 1 pound)

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs, separated

1/2 cup whole milk

Whipped cream or caramel gelato, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter cake pan; line bottom with a parchment-paper round.

Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Set aside. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a small pan over medium-low heat and stir in brown sugar until well combined. Pour into prepared cake pan and spread to coat the bottom.

Peel, halve and core the pears. Cut lengthwise into 1/8-inch slices, and arrange over the caramel in a circular patter, overlapping as needed.

Mix granulated sugar, remaining 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat on medium speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Add yolks one at a time, beating to blend between additions and occasionally scraping down the side of the bowl with a spatula. Beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with milk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

Using clean, dry beaters (or a whisk), beat egg whites on low speed in a medium bowl until frothy. Increase the speed to medium and continue to beat until whites form soft peaks. Fold about 1/4 of the whites into cake batter. Add in remaining whites, gently folding just to blend. Pour batter over pears in pan; smooth the top.

Bake cake, rotating halfway through, until top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few small, moist crumbs attached, about 55 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Run a thin knife around the inside of the pan to release cake. Note: This can be done up to 1 day ahead at this point. Store airtight at room temperature.

Invert cake onto a plate; remove parchment paper. Serve warm or at room temperature, with whipped cream or caramel gelato, if desired.

Adapted from Bon Appétit


]]> 0, 08 Nov 2016 18:56:10 +0000
At Portland polling places, voting is sweetened by homemade treats Tue, 08 Nov 2016 22:00:00 +0000 Donald Trump is right about one thing, anyway: The election is rigged. It turns out it’s rigged in my favor.

I vote at the Italian Heritage Center in the Stroudwater neighborhood of Portland. On Tuesday, Election Day, a long table at the entranceway to my polling place was lavished with homemade Italian cookies, pastries and cakes for sale. There were anise cookies, pignoli cookies, pizzeles, tiramisu, Italian coffee cake and biscotti ripieni.

That last, which a volunteer pronounced for me in an rolling, musical Italian accent that was the best thing I’ve heard in this long, wretched election season, was the unanimous, hands-down favorite among volunteers, beating even the cannoli, which came with a voter’s choice of chocolate chips or sprinkles. Biscotti ripieni, I was told, are anise biscotti filled with grape jelly, cherries, chocolate and walnuts. If the fact that you are lucky enough to live in a democracy and be able to vote is not enough incentive for you to actually go do so, these cookies could seriously sweeten the prospect.

The bake sale at the Italian Heritage Center benefits the center’s scholarship program, funding one of four annual $1,500 high school scholarships. At 1 p.m., many hours before the polls closed, they’d already raised that amount. Also by that hour, the Italian cookies had mostly vanished, replaced by take-home dinners for voters. Among a half dozen or so options, a generous plate of stuffed shells with meatballs on the side would set a voter back $8.50.

At Deering High School gymnasium, seniors were selling sweets and lunch around 1 p.m., benefiting the prom and Project Graduation, an alcohol-free party for graduating seniors, respectively. The problem? Nobody seemed to be voting at that hour. There was a lot of food but almost no takers. At East End Elementary School, where the bake sale benefited the library, arts enrichment and school events, they had the opposite problem: By about 11 a.m., the cookies were nearly out.

In an informal, incomplete and utterly non-scientific survey of Portland polling place election day bake sales, my polling place had just one real competitor: First Baptist Church in North Deering.

Picture this: another entranceway to another polling place with another long table so covered with plates of tempting homemade cookies the table is barely visible. A partial list of the cookie inventory sometime around noon on Tuesday included chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal cookies, molasses cookies, meringue cookies, Rice Krispie treats, and several types of brownies, pumpkin cookies and peanut-butter cookies. Bowls of pretzels and animal crackers were at the far end of the array. I tried to buy a sampling.

“This is not a sale,” church member Catherine Erskine kindly corrected me. “It’s free. Please have a cookie. And we have coffee, too.”

The idea for the cookie giveaway came from Hannah Veit, who has worked as the children’s director at First Baptist for three years. “I just thought we were missing the opportunity to love the community and share Christ’s love with them,” she said. “We have thousands of people coming through here today. The church is our house in a way, and we want to share with you. It’s a great opportunity to serve.”

How lovely is that?

Pity the poor voters assigned to vote at Merrill Auditorium, St. Pius Church, Grace Baptist Gymnasium or the Woodfords Club. They went hungry. The space at Woodfords Club, an election day volunteer explained, is simply too tight to accommodate a bake sale. It was hard to argue with her: At 1:30 p.m., a crush of voters formed two lines so crammed, A to L and M to Z, that it wasn’t possible to squeeze in the door past them. At Grace Baptist, a volunteer had a favor to ask me: “If you find something good, bring it over,” she said. “We could use a snack.”


]]> 2, 08 Nov 2016 19:12:36 +0000
Updated kitchen, or even old one, can easily be greener Sun, 06 Nov 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I spent three years in my early 30s, when my husband was in graduate school, living as a resident tutor in a suite of dorm rooms with no real kitchen.

In the corner of our main living space was a 48-inch bank of Formica laminate cabinets, an apartment-sized refrigerator, a microwave oven and a two-burner hot plate. The kitchen sink was in the bathroom.

The only cooking I did was my then-toddler’s favorite – broccoli scrambled eggs and Hidden Vegetable Bolognese on the hot plate.

Since we took most of our meals in the dining hall, I spent little time on food prep or cleanup and, therefore, had plenty to spend sitting in the guest room – also known as the pull-out sofa – sipping tea and formulating my dream kitchen. Back in 1998, my vision wasn’t very green.

Three kitchen renovations later, what I’ve come to understand is that designing a green kitchen relies on the same principles as building a diet centered on sustainable food: buy local, minimize chemicals and energy use, use up what you already have and avoid putting waste into the landfill.

For tips on how to translate those tenets into green kitchen design, I first turned to Catherine Weiland, principal of Balance Design Studio at Portland-based Performance Building Supply. Here’s her advice in a nutshell:

 Pay attention to the environmental impact of big ticket items – cabinets, countertops and appliances – as they are made, travel to your home and are in use once installed.

 Buy energy-efficient refrigerators, ranges and dishwashers. “There are good, greener choices at all price points,” she said.

 Donate any working appliances you are replacing to any number of charitable organizations that will find them an appropriate home. Don’t, in other words, throw them out.

 Reconsider granite. While popular, it’s often mined in Brazil, India, Spain and Italy, and its environmental travel footprint is big.

 Consider composite countertops made of recycled glass, paper or bamboo (if they are not traveling from China). Look for surfaces made from sustainably sourced wood, locally fashioned concrete, and Maine-made composites of shell and glass like Beachstone in Portland.

 Research the emissions policies of the manufacturer of the cabinets you are considering. To avoid harmful off-gasses seeping into your kitchen, look for cabinets made with formaldehyde-free wood and water-based paint.

Steve Prescott, owner of Fiddlehead Designs, a custom cabinetry company in Brunswick, obviously agrees with Weiland about sourcing local, chemical-free cabinets like the ones he makes. But he says his best advice for sustainable kitchen centers on the power supply. His kitchen – like his workshop – is solar powered.

“Serious cooks like gas, but I’d argue an electric induction cooktop gives you the same level of control over the heat source, and you can harness the power to run it from your roof without fossil fuels in the mix,” Prescott said.

Induction cooktops are more energy efficient than traditional electric ones because they heat pans instantly.

Using small appliances – a toaster oven, for example, rather than the oven, an energy-efficient electric tea kettle rather than the stovetop – is also an easy way cut back on energy use.

Making toastable crumpets.

Making toastable crumpets.

But such appliances tend to draw electricity while plugged in but idle. So try this: plug them into a single power strip and when they are not in use, shut down the strip with the flip of one switch.

It’s an easy green measure to take whether you are designing a new kitchen or making due with the one you’ve already got.

Christine Burns Rudalevige  is a food writer, a recipe developer and tester, and a cooking teacher in Brunswick. Contact her at:


]]> 0, 04 Nov 2016 11:16:24 +0000
Dine Out Maine: Pick your pie, order a salad and chill out at Bonobo Sun, 06 Nov 2016 08:00:00 +0000 As I paid for a to-go dessert – a dense and indulgent pot-de-crème-style cioccolata ($5) – at Bonobo’s bar, I witnessed a blurring of the lines between customers and staff. It wasn’t the first time, and it wasn’t a bad thing.

I watched two different groups of diners walk inside and receive not just a warm greeting, but hugs from servers and host. Earlier, at the rear of the open dining room, I overheard a tipsy customer get a gentle scolding from a staff member: “Sorry, but I’m cutting you off, Tim. I don’t want to have to walk you back home yet again.” And by the time the bartender started spinning a gossipy yarn to two regulars about her biggest customer pet peeve (people who order another drink immediately after she sets one down), I started wondering if I had accidentally shown up for a staff meal or a friends-and-family night. It turns out, this was just an ordinary Thursday at Portland’s Bonobo.

John Nauyokas, one of two chefs at the West End pizzeria, later explained, “We’re in a cush spot in the heart of the West End. Because we’re not downtown, we get lots and lots of regulars. There are customers I see almost every single day. It’s really a small, intimate, neighborhood spot and after a while, I guess we turn into their kitchen.”

If you’re not one of the in-crowd, this particular species of intimacy can sometimes feel a little intimidating. But Bonobo’s front-of-house team is a gregarious bunch, friendly to everyone, not just the people they recognize. It is as true now as it was nine years ago, when our then critic’s four-star review praised the “unpretentious” pizzeria’s excellent service. That’s important, because with a wood-fired brick pizza oven that can fit no more than eight pies at a time (nine in desperation), Bonobo relies on its service staff to keep diners happy as they wait – sometimes 20 to 30 minutes – for their pizzas.

One way to prevent the delay from feeling quite so long is to order a salad. The menu offers two good ones. There’s an unfussy, traditional Caesar salad ($6.75), dressed well and optionally topped with uncured white anchovies that (shhh – don’t tell) are also blitzed into the dressing to create terrific depth of flavor. But the house salad ($6.75) is the more inventive, with chunky, ridge-cut sweet pickles (prepared in-house) and curved strips of shaved endive atop a bed of arugula, romaine and spinach. Perhaps the best thing about the salad is the mustardy, sweet lemon vinaigrette – exactly what the salad needs to counteract bitterness from the arugula and endive.

You’ll find only two salads on the permanent menu, but that’s to make room for some unique pizzas. At any given time, the restaurant has an unchanging roster of 15 pizzas, plus a few seasonal pizzas that change every month or two. While you can indeed find a cheese ($9.75), pepperoni ($12.75) and margherita ($14.25) pie here, those pizzas are merely trail markers to orient you as you navigate a creative menu that includes Bonobo’s eponymous pizza ($17.50), made with leeks, mushrooms and a fontina- based white sauce, as well as a delightfully stinky Taleggio pizza ($17.25) with arugula and smoked tomato sauce.

As you might expect from a restaurant that offers so many varieties, the pies range in quality. Some are decent, like the Goat ($16.75), with sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, spinach, local goat cheese from Warren, Maine, and two unorthodox pizza ingredients: rosemary and roasted garlic butter. That garlic butter brings out a rich tanginess in the cheese, making it taste like ricotta’s feral ancestor. Sadly, our crust had a few issues around the rim – pushed into and folded up over on itself like tectonic plates at a fault line, it was tough and too dense.

The same was true of the crust on the otherwise fantastic Ocean ($13.50), made with white clam sauce, cream, Parmesan and scallions. Tasting its saline richness, I immediately thought of a clam alfredo. Nauyokas, on the other hand, thinks of it as “a bare-bones clam chowder.” Either way, it’s an enjoyable, if imperfect pie that is let down a bit by its crust.

Better still was the Middle-East-inspired Morocco ($17.50), topped with roasted red peppers, scallions, a blend of feta and goat cheese, and the restaurant’s homemade, honey-sweet spiced lamb sausage. Or the Caspian ($17.50), which with roasted chicken, smoked tomatoes and basil, offered plenty of smoke and clear, fresh basil flavors in every bite. The chicken, which was dried out in spots, was the pizza’s only real flaw.

If there’s a lesson to be learned about putting chicken on a pizza, it should come from the Marley ($17.50), a superb Caribbean-style pie featuring hot and roasted red peppers, scallions, cheddar and a jerk chicken “sausage.” As Nauyokas told me, the kitchen roasts chickens in its brick pizza oven until their skin crisps up, then picks the still-hot birds clean, coats these shredded chicken pieces in a house-made, thick jerk seasoning base and lets them marinate. What results is not so much a traditional sausage as highly seasoned, pulled meat. But when it is used as a topping for pizza, the wet seasoning acts as a protective layer, keeping the chicken as soft and tender as a confit, while giving the crust a chance to turn brown and shatteringly crisp.

Consistency of crust is likely to continue to be a minor problem for Bonobo, because they use a wet dough that is so finicky, it prevents them from using cornmeal to lubricate a pizza’s voyage from peel to oven and back again. Instead, they use baking parchment, which can trap moisture under the bottom crust.

For the sake of consistency, they also compromise on the temperature of their hardwood-fueled stove, keeping it far from its maximum temperature of 700 degrees Fahrenheit, instead maintaining a moderate heat of 500 to 550 – about the same as what you can achieve in most home ranges. It’s an unusual choice for a pizzeria with a supercharged brick oven at hand, and frankly, one that contributes to the length of the wait for pizzas.

At the same time, in a space that’s so homey and comfortable, with staff who go to enormous effort to make diners feel like they belong, it does not seem much of a burden to take a little extra time for dinner. Sit back, order a salad and listen to the kinds of restaurant conversations that normally happen after the front door has been locked for the night. Soon enough, this might become your kitchen, too.

Andrew Ross has written about food in the United Kingdom and in New York, where he co-founded NYCnosh, a food website. He and his work have been featured on Martha Stewart Living Radio and in The New York Times. He is an Internet researcher and higher education consultant. Contact him at or on Twitter @AndrewRossME.

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