The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » Recipes Mon, 30 May 2016 20:58:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Eggplant parmigiana a natural for the grill Wed, 25 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 This little gem combines my love of grilling with my endless search for new summer vegetarian entrees. Turns out that eggplant parmigiana is a wonderful candidate for the grill, cooking up quickly and cleanly. And – bonus! – grilling this dish not only requires less oil than the traditional recipe, it ends up imparting a smokiness.

For this recipe you want one of those big old-fashioned massive beauties. At the supermarket, make sure your eggplant’s skin is smooth and its flesh is firm.

You want to cut the eggplant into sturdy rounds about 3/4 inch thick. This allows each slice to hold its shape. A thinner slice would buckle under the weight of the tomatoes and crumbs. The slices also are salted, which seasons the eggplant and eliminates excess water.

Traditional eggplant parmigiana calls for tomato sauce, but here I went with fresh tomatoes to give the dish a fresher, more summery taste. Like the eggplant, the tomatoes are pre-salted to make them less watery and more deeply flavored.

Now, how to add the Parmesan to this grilled eggplant parmigiana? In the traditional recipe, the cheese is sprinkled onto the layered ingredients. But in this recipe there are no layers. Sometimes, however, the traditional recipe is breaded, and that opened up a door. I figured I could swap in panko crumbs for the breading, then add the Parmesan to the panko. Done!

To finish the dish, I topped off my eggplant slices with mozzarella and fresh basil


Start to finish: 1 hour

Serves 4

1 large eggplant (1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds)

Kosher salt

3/4 pound plum or small round tomatoes

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing on the eggplant

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

1 1/2 ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese

6 ounces mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated

Fresh basil, shredded, to garnish

Peel the eggplant, then slice it crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick rounds. Salt both sides of each slice, then set the slices aside for 45 minutes. Slice the tomatoes crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick rounds. Salt both sides of each slice and transfer the slices to a rack to drain until the eggplant is ready.

Prepare a grill for medium heat, direct and indirect cooking. For a charcoal grill, this means banking the hot coals to one side of the grill. For a gas grill, it means turning off one or more burners to create a cooler side.

Meanwhile, in a medium skillet over medium-low, combine the 2 tablespoons of oil and garlic. Cook, stirring, until quite fragrant. Add the red pepper flakes, if using, and panko. Increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring, until the crumbs turn golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, stir in the Parmesan cheese, then set aside.

Pat the eggplant slices dry and brush one side of each slice with olive oil. Add to the grill and cook over the hotter side until the slices are nicely browned on the bottoms, 5 to 6 minutes. Brush the top sides with more oil, turn the slices over and grill until browned on the second side, about another 5 minutes. While the eggplant is grilling, pat dry the tomato slices.

Transfer the eggplant slices to the cooler side of the grill, then top each slice with enough tomato slices to just cover the top. Top the tomatoes with 2 tablespoons of the panko mixture, then divide the cheese evenly among the slices. Cover the grill and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, or until the mozzarella is melted. Transfer 2 slices to each of 4 plates and top each portion with some of the basil.


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Bread & Butter: Move from island to Portland leads to rediscovery of dining – and cooking Wed, 25 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of three columns by Black Dinah Chocolatiers co-founder Kate Shaffer.

When I moved to Portland from Isle au Haut in June of last year my must-do list mostly consisted of one item: Go out to eat as often as humanly possible. After living in a place for close to 15 years where the only restaurant in town was, well, my own, I felt that even if I ate out every day for an entire year, I’d barely be scraping the surface of my long overdue training as a Maine-centric food lover.

My husband, Steve, and I – we own Black Dinah Chocolatiers in Westbrook and Isle au Haut – had the almost unbelievable good fortune of scoring an affordable apartment on Munjoy Hill when we moved here. But its one-room efficiency kitchen – with zero cupboard space – did not lend itself to the elaborate cooking projects I used to like to do in my spacious, fully stocked kitchen on the island.

So I left my library of beloved cookbooks behind, gave away most of the contents of my pantry to island neighbors, and gave myself over to enjoying the experience of other people’s cooking.

It’s not hard to find a fabulous meal in Portland, and I quickly found a few favorite spots: a walking-distance cafe to sip my Saturday morning cup over the crossword puzzle, a comfortable place to enjoy a solo beer, a couple of neighborhood bistros that promised reliably impressive meals when guests were in town.

In early September last year, just as the weather was starting to cool, and Portlanders were beginning to realize that summer wouldn’t last forever, I would come back to my apartment after work to find my upstairs neighbors enjoying evening drinks al fresco on the front stoop. Before long, I was joining them. And not long after that, I started to realize that even after working all day every day in the kitchen making chocolates, and despite access to so many fabulous eateries, I missed the pleasure of cooking in my own home. And I missed sharing my own meals with friends.

It’s no accident that I chose a career in food. I love to cook. I love to feed people. Food is how I move through the world, and in a lot of ways, it’s how I communicate. Steve jokes that he can tell what kind of day I had by what I make for dinner. And it’s a big part of how I introduce myself to new friends. Here, taste this. This is who I am.

By late fall, I limited my eating out to a weekly Friday-night splurge, and I began to instead frequent the neighborhood markets. I found several within walking distance of our apartment where I could pick up freshly baked bread, house-made pastas and super-fresh vegetables from nearby farms.

Shops on the Commercial Street wharves promised varieties of seafood outside my comfort zone of island lobster and halibut. I discovered that the winter farmers market was an easy walk downhill, and that the promise of the walk back uphill kept me from going overboard on too many leafy greens, or tiny potatoes, or varieties of beets and carrots, or fresh cheeses.

I began to train myself not to buy ingredients for a week, or even for the month (as was sometimes necessary on the island), but to buy just enough to make simple meals for a couple of days. Untethered from cookbook recipes and a cafe menu, I picked the ingredients that looked the freshest, or inspired an idea, or lent themselves to my small prep space and limited cookware.

I resisted the temptation to equip my kitchen with more pots and pans and baking dishes (there’s no room!), and instead let the tools I owned influence what ended up on our plates. I developed a system, a tiny mise en place, that both fit on my counter and kept our two kitties out of my prep. The meals that emerged were a new thing altogether, a new experience, a part of myself that I had not yet met.

And, to my surprise, I’m learning to cook. Again.


I love Sunday brunch. And, as it turns out, so does the rest of Portland. But if I’m not feeling like braving the lines at one of the city’s fabulous brunch restaurants, I’ll invite a friend or two to our apartment.

The leeks are the star of this dish, and while the bacon and the egg make it a meal, you could omit those, and simply serve the leeks on toasted slices of baguette for a spring appetizer. I use an Italian white for the bread.

Every ingredient in this recipe (except for maybe the wine) can be picked up at a Saturday farmers market, and quickly prepared for a simple Sunday brunch suitable for company.

Serves 4

8 slices bacon

1 pound spring leeks (or 1 large leek)

4 tablespoons butter

Pinch or 2 dried thyme, or 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

Salt and pepper, to taste

Dry white wine, or water

4 large eggs

4 slices bread of your choice

4 tablespoons chevre (goat cheese)

Parsley, chopped

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the bacon on a cookie sheet and bake, turning over once, for 20 to 25 minutes, until it is very crispy. Drain on paper towels.

While the bacon is cooking, halve the leeks lengthwise, and thinly slice the white and pale green parts into half rounds (reserve the dark green tops for stock, if you like). Place the sliced leeks in a colander and rinse away any dirt or grit.

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the thyme, leeks, salt and pepper. Give it all a good stir, lower the heat, and cover the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, adding a little wine or water to keep the pan moist and prevent browning, until the leeks are very soft – about 20 minutes. Taste them. When they are finished they should melt on your tongue.

Meanwhile, toast the bread, and spread each slice with a tablespoon of chevre.

When the leeks and the bacon are done, bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Crack 1 egg into a tea cup, and gently lay it in the boiling water. Repeat with the remaining 3 eggs. Keep the water at a gentle simmer, to prevent the eggs from breaking apart. When the eggs are done (the whites cooked, the yolks still jiggly) lift them from the pan with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels.

Spoon the warm leeks on the chèvre toast, top each with 2 slices of bacon and a poached egg. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley, and serve.

Kate Shaffer and her husband, Steve Shaffer, co-own Black Dinah Chocolatiers in Westbrook and Isle au Haut. Kate Shaffer is the author of “Desserted: Recipes and Tales from an Island Chocolatier.” She can be contacted at:

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Cookbook review: ‘Vegetarian India,’ by Madhur Jaffrey Wed, 25 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “Vegetarian India.” By Madhur Jaffrey. Knopf. $35.

I like eating Indian food and I like cooking Indian food, so it’s no real surprise that I own three Madhur Jaffrey cookbooks and her terrific memoir, “Climbing the Mango Trees.”

Wikipedia credits her for “bringing Indian cuisine to the Western world with her debut cookbook (1973),” and that’s not much of a stretch. If you don’t know Jaffrey as a cook, you may know her as an actress. Her many film credits include “Six Degrees of Separation” and “A Late Quartet.”

Jaffrey’s latest book is “Vegetarian India.” There may be no better world cuisine to explore for interesting, varied vegetarian dishes. Her aim, she writes, is to take readers “on an adventurous ride through India, tasting the real vegetarian dishes that Indians eat in the privacy of their homes, in their local cafes and temples, at the parties they throw for each other, and at their wedding banquets and religious festivals.”

It’s nice to be a guest in Indian homes and at Indian parties, as Americans are unlikely to encounter this food at the typical Indian restaurant in the States. I can’t recall ever having seen beets on the menu of an Indian restaurant here; the book’s Punjabi-Style Beets with Ginger changed my perspective on the vegetable.

And how often have you run into a nice cabbage side dish at your local Indian eatery? Never, as far as I can remember, which is a pity. Jaffrey’s Stir-Fried Cabbage with curry leaves, hot green chilies and mustard seeds is “simple and delicious,” I scribbled in a note to myself on the recipe.

My favorite in the category of Indian Food I’ve Never Eaten Nor Even Imagined Before was the Fresh Peach Salad with lime, cilantro, salt and cumin. Yum! (And tasting to me like Mexico, too.) I paired it with Jaffrey’s Sri Lankan Chili-Fried Eggs, also excellent, on a cool spring morning, but if we get a muggy spell this summer, I know just what dish will revive me.

Shopping for the recipes in “Vegetarian India” may present a challenge to the Maine cook. Jaffrey makes no concessions to the unprovisioned kitchen; the recipes call for ingredients I haven’t found easy to obtain here, for instance poha (flattened rice), urad dal (a type of pulse), rice powder and fresh curry leaves. If I ever do find them (or get around to ordering them online), I will be all over Jaffrey’s chapter on breads and savory pancakes as well as her recipes for poha.

The recipes themselves are not difficult, but many are time-consuming. It’s imperative that you measure out and organize the many spices and chop the many vegetables before you turn on the stove.

With anything, including cookbooks, it’s a special pleasure when the whole package comes together: Good recipes. Good writing. Good looks. “Vegetarian India” hits the mark on all counts. The recipes are clear; the headnotes are practical, informative and interesting; the sidebars are useful. Add to these the beautiful photographs of food and of India, and home cooks are in for an adventurous – and delectable – ride.


Make the salad just before eating it, Jaffrey says, as it gets watery as it sits. During her childhood in India, it was usually made from starfruit, bananas, roasted white yams or guavas, because peaches cost too much. Since I rarely find decent peaches in Maine, even during the season, and since mangoes were in the markets when I was testing this recipe, I made it with mango and banana slices.

Serves 2-3

2 ripe peaches, peeled and each cut into 10 to 12 slices

1/3 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon roasted and ground cumin seeds

1/8 teaspoon chili powder, or more as desired

1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice

2 teaspoons finely chopped cilantro

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Taste for the balance of seasonings, adding more of anything you wish.

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Cocktail conference in Portland will get down to business Wed, 25 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 So you want to open your own bar? Yeah, you and everyone else in Portland.

“It’s the dream,” says Tawny Alvarez, an associate at Portland law firm Verrill Dana who often works with would-be Tom Cruises. “It’s (the movie) ‘Cocktail’ from the ’80s. Everybody’s going to start a bar, and it’s going to be wonderful living the life.”

Alvarez and some of her colleagues from Verrill Dana’s Breweries, Distilleries and Wineries practice group, along with James Sanborn of GHM Insurance in Waterville – “the beer insurance guy” – will be on a panel at a June 4 seminar, So You Want to Open a Bar? Let’s Talk Logistics! during the New England Cocktail Conference. The seminar will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Hyatt Place Old Port. Attendance is free.

The conference, which runs from June 2 to 5, was formerly known as Rum Riots, but organizers decided to expand the event this year, adding more tastings and seminars, as well as welcoming bar-industry folk from all over New England.

Classes are both industry-focused (Become a Better Bartender) and designed for anyone who happens to enjoy a good cocktail, such as Hemingway and Rum. The Hemingway event will include Key West-inspired eats, tastings of Hemingway’s favorite cocktails and a talk by Carlton Grooms, head distiller of Papa’s Pilar Rum.

The conference will close with the U.S. Bartenders’ Guild Best Bartender competition, in which eight of New England’s best bartenders will compete for $500 and a Vitamix.

Briana Volk of the Portland Hunt + Alpine Club, who organizes the conference, expects 600 to 900 people who work in the cocktail industry to come in from New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Boston and Philadelphia. Volk said she hoped the regional approach would draw national attention to the “great work” that bartenders are doing here.

“Being up here and being a small state, it’s hard to get a lot of attention,” she said. “I like the strength in numbers showing there is this really amazing, flourishing cocktail community, not only in Maine but all around New England.”

Although the event is now called the New England Cocktail Conference, it will continue to be held in Portland every year, just before bartenders’ busy summer season, Volk said. All of the events – including ones on agave, Jägermeister and Glenfiddich – are open to the public. Some require tickets, others don’t.

“With every class we have, I have either the international or American brand ambassadors from those brands to represent them,” Volk said, “so it’s some of the people who are the best in the business and know the thing they are speaking about.”

Industry-focused seminars include High-Volume Bartending and Accuracy – costing just $5 – taught by two bartenders from the Clover Club in New York, “one of the most well-known and respected high-volume bars in the world,” Volk said.

Two sessions may be of particular interest to locals. A June 4 cocktail dinner ($60) called Grandpa Drinks at the Cumberland Club may satisfy the curiosity of anyone who has ever wondered what goes on behind closed doors at the circa-1877 private social club on High Street. Nibble shrimp cocktails and sip Scotch or some forgotten classic cocktails – Brown Derbies, riffs on Manhattans and Negronis – in the former Men’s Lounge. “Things that are very true to the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s,” as Volk describes it.

Another event likely to capture the interest of cocktail enthusiasts is the $40 seminar on Day Drinking Done Right, focused on lower-alcohol cocktails and drinks more exotic than brunch cliches like mimosas and bloody marys. The event, which includes brunch and cocktails, will be held June 5 at Roustabout on Washington Avenue.

For the bar-envious, though, the highlight just may be the free access to legal help at the seminar So You Want to Open a Bar?

Opening a bar is not the same as opening, say, a shoe shop or hair salon, because it’s such a heavily regulated industry, Alvarez said. The Verrill Dana attorneys serving as panelists will speak about what it costs to open a bar, what to expect in the first year of business and the importance of developing relationships with state and federal regulators.

Alvarez said wannabe bar owners don’t always understand the complicated legal issues involved. What happens if the bartender serves someone who is under age? What if a customer drinks and drives and hurts someone? What if an employee drinks and sexually harasses another employee? What if someone breaks his nose in a barroom brawl?

“We know in this industry the overhead is high and the profit margins are low,” Alvarez said. “It’s our goal that we provide as much information to people as possible so they can make an educated decision about whether this is truly something that they want to invest their time and money into. It’s not scare tactics that we’re employing. We just want people to go in with their eyes wide open.”

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Maine Lobster and Asparagus Salad with Curry Vinaigrette Wed, 25 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Primo chef Melissa Kelly’s lobster salad is a definite twist on a classic, as she dresses it with curry-flavored vinaigrette. Make the curry oil for the vinaigrette a day ahead so that the flavors can meld.

1/4 cup Madras curry powder

1 cup light olive oil

3 (1 1/4-pound) lobsters

1 pound pencil-thin asparagus

2 1/2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar

1 medium shallot, finely chopped

1/2 red bell pepper, very finely diced

Salt and freshly ground pepper

6 cups mesclun (about 6 ounces)

1/4 cup cilantro leaves

1/4 cup snipped chives

Stir the curry powder with 2 tablespoons water in a medium jar to make a thick paste. Add the oil, cover tightly and shake to mix thoroughly. Let stand overnight. The next day, pour the curry oil into a clean jar, leaving all of the sediment behind.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the lobsters until bright red all over, about 12 minutes. Plunge the lobsters into ice water, then drain. Twist off the claws, crack them and remove the meat. With kitchen scissors, slit the tail shells lengthwise and remove the meat. Discard the vein that runs the length of each tail. Slice the tails crosswise 1/4-inch thick.

Bring a medium skillet of salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Plunge the asparagus into ice water, then drain and pat dry.

Pour the Champagne vinegar over the shallot in a small bowl, and let stand for 10 minutes. Whisk in 5 tablespoons of the curry oil until blended. Add the red bell pepper and season the curry vinaigrette with salt and pepper.

Toss the greens, cilantro and chives with half of the vinaigrette in a large bowl. Arrange the greens on a platter and surround with the asparagus. Top with the lobster, drizzle on the remaining vinaigrette and serve.

Make Ahead

The curry oil can be refrigerated for 1 month. The lobster meat can be refrigerated for 1 day.

Originally published in May 2001 Food & Wine

]]> 0, 25 May 2016 11:07:45 +0000
Marinated leg of lamb with crunchy crust pleases a crowd Wed, 25 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 A showstopper on the table, this was one of the lushest and best-received roasts I have made in ages, with the layers of flavor and texture bringing everyone back for seconds.

The meat is seasoned with garlic, orange zest and herbs and marinated overnight. Then the roast is covered in a thick layer of mustardy panko breadcrumbs speckled with fresh parsley, which forms a fabulous crust. The crust falls apart a bit as you slice the lamb, but just scoop up the crumbles and serve them up with slices of tender, pink lamb.

If you don’t have a big crowd, you can definitely make this with a smaller roast – just adjust the rest of the ingredients down proportionately (and don’t make yourself too crazy with the math – the amounts are really guidelines. You’ll want to reduce the cooking time, too, aiming for an internal temperature of about 130 F for medium rare.

Or you can go for the better option: leftovers. We got lamb crostini, a shepherd’s pie and a lamb soup out of our big gorgeous roast. Not a bit was wasted. Just ask my dog.


Start to finish: Two hours and 45 minutes, plus overnight chilling

Servings: 12-14


1 (6-pound) boneless leg of lamb, rolled and tied

6 peeled garlic cloves

Zest from 1 orange

1/4 cup fresh thyme leaves

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

3 tablespoons olive oil


1/4 cup Dijon mustard, coarse or smooth

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs

1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

In a food processor, combine the garlic, orange zest, thyme and rosemary. Puree, then add the olive oil and blend to make a paste. Smear the paste all over the lamb, place it in a container or deep bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 450 F. Meanwhile, let the lamb sit at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes. Season the lamb with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons olive oil, mustard and parsley, add the breadcrumbs and use a spoon or your hands to thoroughly blend. Press the mixture all over the top and sides of the leg of lamb, and place it in a roasting pan. Some of the panko mixture will fall off the sides; tuck it in underneath the sides of the lamb.

Roast the lamb for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 400 F and roast for another hour to an hour and 15 minutes, or until an instant read thermometer inserted into the middle of the roast reads 130 F to 135 F for medium-rare.

Let the lamb sit for 20 minutes before slicing and serving warm.

Nutrition information per serving: 371 calories; 134 calories from fat; 15 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 145 mg cholesterol; 754 mg sodium; 10 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 0 g sugar; 49 g protein.

Katie Workman has written two cookbooks focused on easy, family-friendly cooking, “Dinner Solved!” and “The Mom 100 Cookbook.” She blogs at

]]> 0, 25 May 2016 07:56:45 +0000
Yes, homemade corn tortillas can be excellent and easy Wed, 18 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 You can wrap just about anything in a freshly made corn tortilla, hot off the comal or griddle, and it’ll be wonderful.

Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not much.

In another lifetime, when I was in my 20s and living in L.A., I made fresh tortillas all the time. I had a cheap aluminum tortilla press and a cheap aluminum comal (tortilla griddle); I’d picked up both in a Mexican grocery. You could buy a bag of masa harina (dried, powdered masa) just about anywhere.

I was in a serious carnitas phase: I’d fallen in love with Diana Kennedy’s version in her landmark cookbook “The Cuisines of Mexico,” and I’d make that with salsa verde cruda and guacamole and a big pot of pinto beans to serve on the side.

A few years after that, in the early ’90s, I lucked into meeting Kennedy, and we got into a discussion about corn tortillas. I’ll never forget her expression when I told her I was in the habit of using masa harina to make mine: I might as well have told her I was a regular at Taco Bell. She was scandalized.

She insisted that masa made from nixtamal – corn kernels cooked in a solution of lime (calcium oxide) and water – was the only legitimate masa. I knew all about it from her book, but when I’d gotten to the part of the two-page process that said, “Meantime, crush the lime if it is in a lump, taking care that the dust does not get into your eyes,” I stopped reading.

With Kennedy, I tried to defend my position, arguing that tortillas freshly made from masa harina are way better than anything you can buy at the store. “Better to buy masa at a tortilleria in your neighborhood,” she countered. But I was living in New York City at the time, and there were no tortillerias anywhere near my ‘hood.

The conversation seriously deflated me (this was my Mexican cooking hero!) and I lost some of my joy for tortilla-making.

That’s why last summer, when a review copy of Alex Stupak’s cookbook “Tacos: Recipes and Provocations” landed on my desk at work, I was delighted when it fell open to the following: “In Defense of Masa Harina.”

“A warm tortilla prepared with harina may not hit the same celestial notes as one made with fresh masa,” it said, “but it is still an absolute revelation if all you’ve ever tasted is reheated, store-bought tortillas. There’s irrefutable value in that, so I stand by it.”

Well, of course, I’ve tasted many a fabulous tortilla made from fresh masa, but I still think the ones made from masa harina (all you need to add is water!) are pretty darn good. And once you get the hang of it, making them is easy – easier than making pancakes, in fact, because the dough is just harina and water.

Once again, I’m hooked. Let’s get this taco party going!


Makes 12 tortillas

1 cup masa harina

1 1/8 cup warm water

In a large bowl, pour the water over the harina and stir with a wooden spoon until the masa is moistened, then knead it together until it holds in a ball. It should be moist but not sticky; it shouldn’t stick to your hands. If it’s not moist enough, add a little more water and knead again; if it’s too moist, add a little more harina and knead. Cover with a damp towel.

Place a two-burner griddle over both burners, or use two cast-iron pans. Heat one over medium-high heat and the other over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, cut a large piece of plastic: I find the very thin crinkly grocery bags from the supermarket work best. Fold it in half, open your tortilla press. You want it to line the bottom, with the fold lying against the press’s hinge, with the other half covering the top.

Roll a ball of masa about the size of a golf ball (maybe a wee bit smaller) and put it in the center of the bottom of the press. Making sure the plastic will sandwich the ball, close the press and pull the lever down gently. Open the press, lift the plastic with the tortilla, open your palm, lay the tortilla flat in your palm, peel off the plastic and place the tortilla on the less-hot part of the griddle or less-hot pan. Cook it for 15 seconds.

Use a metal spatula to flip it over onto the hotter side of the griddle or hotter pan and cook it for 30 seconds. Flip it again, still on the hot side, and cook for another 10 seconds, then flip a final time and cook 10 seconds more, at which point it may puff a bit. Place it in your tortilla basket if it’s to be eaten immediately or very soon, or better yet, in an insulated fabric tortilla warmer, which can keep it warm for more than an hour.

Soruce: Cooks Without Borders


So, what to fold into those warm, handmade tortillas?

Have a couple of good salsas on hand, like an easy-to-make roasted salsa verde, a store-bought salsa roja or homemade pico de gallo (diced onion and tomato, chopped cilantro, minced serrano or jalapeño chile, a little salt, a big squeeze or three of lime).

Set out bowls of any or all of the following: lime wedges, guacamole, crumbled queso fresco, sliced avocado, cilantro leaves, sliced radishes, chopped olives, chopped white onion, sliced scallions, sliced or diced cucumber.

For the fillings, let your imagination go:

 Pick up a rotisserie chicken at the supermarket.

 Stop by your favorite barbecue joint and buy some sliced brisket or pulled pork.

 Use leftover steak. Toss it in a hot skillet or grill pan, then slice it in medium-rare strips for bifstek tacos. They’re great dressed with chopped onion, cilantro and any kind of salsa.

 Boil some pinto beans for vegetarian tacos. Just soak beans overnight, drain, cover with water, toss in half a peeled onion (or a whole one), a couple cloves of unpeeled garlic, fresh thyme or oregano, dried or fresh bay leaves. Bring to a boil, lower heat, then simmer till they’re tender. Add salt to taste when they’re done.

 Pick up some shelled and deveined shrimp from the supermarket and toss them on the grill. Or grill fish fillets.

 Leftover braised short ribs make great tacos, too. So do leftover stews (beef, pork, lamb, veal, chicken), pot roast, chops, leg of lamb.

]]> 0 Wed, 18 May 2016 13:08:50 +0000
At Deering High School, the band plays on with a revived cookbook Wed, 18 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 In 2010, within the span of three months, three different people gave Gil Peltola stained and spotted copies of a 1947 cookbook called “Cooking to Beat the Band.” One had come from a yard sale, one from cleaning house, and one from a Medford, Massachusetts, woman who had participated in an exchange concert with the Deering High School marching band in 1948.

They were thoughtful gifts, considering that the old cookbook had been a fundraiser for the Deering High School band, put together by the “Band Mothers Club,” and Peltola is the current music director at the school.

“They just thought I would like to have it,” Peltola said, “but by the time I got the third one, I started to think that somebody’s trying to tell me something here, that I probably need to try to do something with this.”

Peltola, with the help of two seniors who are also band members, started working on a new, expanded edition of the cookbook to raise money for the music department. The spiral-bound, revised edition, which sells for $15, has a purple cover in homage to the school colors (purple and white) and contains about 200 vintage recipes, heavy on cakes, cookies and desserts. Whimsical illustrations by a teenage girl who would now be in her 80s are sprinkled through the pages. In the back are 35 pages of modern-day recipes from parents, teachers and friends of the band – including numerous marinades from Peltola, who loves to grill outdoors.

Natalie Veilleux, a member of the band, chorus, jazz band and hand bell choir, launched the project before she graduated last year. This year it was picked up by senior Sophia Morin, a member of the chorus and hand bell choir. Last week, Peltola and Morin met in the Morins’ newly renovated kitchen to make one of the classic recipes from the book – porcupine meatballs, a Depression-era recipe that uses rice to stretch the family meat supply. The rice is mixed into the meatballs and cooked in tomato soup and hot water, and as the rice cooks and expands, it pokes out of the meatball like porcupine quills.

As Morin mixed the meat and rice, and Peltola chopped celery and onion to add to the meatballs, Morin described the challenge of tracking down all the old advertisers – the ones who still exist, anyway – so she could ask them to advertise again in the new edition. Most have gone out of business, but the ones that were still around, she said, wanted to re-run their vintage ads. The ad for Oakhurst Dairy, for example, ran on page 130 of the original cookbook, just beneath a recipe for Lobster Stew, and says “We suggest that you use Oakhurst rich milk & cream in the above recipe.” In the back of the book, where the modern recipes are printed, it runs below a recipe for cornbread. An old ad for B&M Baked Beans includes a drawing of Portland Head Light and a photo of an 18-ounce glass jar of baked beans.

Other 1947 advertisers still in business today are Vose-Smith Florist – whose original ad reads “A good cook deserves the finest/Send her flowers from Vose-Smith Co.” – and Roy’s Shoe Shop on Stevens Ave.

Vintage recipes in the book were illustrated by a teenage girl who would now be in her 80s. They appear in the updated version, which also contains 35 pages of modern-day recipes from parents, teachers and friends of the band.

Vintage recipes in the book were illustrated by a teenage girl who would now be in her 80s. They appear in the updated version, which also contains 35 pages of modern-day recipes from parents, teachers and friends of the band.

Peltola and his students have been so busy re-creating the cookbook they haven’t had much of a chance to actually cook from it. They have their eye on many of the old desserts, though, including the Vermont Maple Cake with Maple Syrup Frosting. They chose the Porcupine Meatballs as a demonstration recipe because it was contributed by Esther Huff, one of the women who worked on the original book with Ethel Pettengill, president of the Band Mothers. The two women wanted to use the book to raise money to pay for new marching band outfits.

Peltola said many of the recipes are very like those his mother used to make. “I hope people realize that even though the recipes are 1947, they are still very viable and very good recipes,” he said.

There are classics like Swiss Steak, Lobster Newburg, Potato Pancakes, Salmon Croquettes and Tuna Fish Casserole (made with the obligatory can of mushroom soup and topped with potato chips). Green Tomato Mince Meat sounds interesting, too. And the book is also full of delicious-sounding cakes, cookies and other desserts.

But other entries might give younger generations a stomachache just looking at them. Some call for canned meats and seafood. And oh, the things they jellied in 1947. Jellied Tomato Salad, inexplicably made with both strawberry Jell-O and tomato juice, got its kick from horseradish and onion. Jellied Beet Salad required lemon gelatin, beet juice and canned beets. And then there’s the Jellied Meat Salad contributed by Ethel Pettengill, a shimmering mold of gelatin embedded with canned corned beef or ham, hard-boiled eggs, Miracle Whip and chopped celery, onions and pepper.

The last 35 pages of the cookbook contain the recipes contributed by faculty, staff, students and parents of today. One has to wonder: In another 69 years, will Red Velvet Cupcakes be the Yum Yum Date Roll of 2085?

The 1947 cookbook is written out by hand, most of it by Beverly Pettengill Parsons, who is a member of the class of 1949 and the daughter of Ethel Pettengill. With a little sleuthing, Morin was able to track down Betsy Parsons, Beverly Parsons’ daughter and Pettengill’s granddaughter, who once taught at Deering. “Her mother is still alive,” Morin said. “She said her mother is just so happy (the cookbook) was re-created.”

A page from "Cooking to Beat the Band."

A page from “Cooking to Beat the Band.”

Beverly Parsons is now in her mid-80s and lives in Indiana. Peltola asked her to write an introduction to the new book:

“Long ago high school memories carry me back to gathering around the big dining room table in our Read Street flat and copying my mother’s recipes, among others, while my friend Lois Hunter cleverly created a drawing to accompany. How thankful we are that as our generations delight in the joys of making music, we relish knowing that other parents and loved ones are using this little book and cooking to beat the band.”

Because many of the recipes are written in cursive, Morin wonders whether students of her generation will be able to read it; most students are no longer taught cursive writing. Hunter’s illustrations, on the other hand, are quaint and fun to look at. A Christmas cookie recipe is written within the outlines of a Christmas tree. A queen wearing a crown and ball gown illustrates the Queen Bread Pudding. A little bird sings “Cheerio” next to the English Crumb Pie.

“Look at the picture that goes with this angel food cake,” Peltola said, pointing to a praying angel surrounded by stars. “Isn’t that sweet?”

The introduction to the book notes that the Deering High Band was originally formed in the early 1930s and was made up of 35 “inexperienced students.” The Band Mothers Club was organized in 1936 and raised money for uniforms and instruments so the band could compete in regional competitions. By the time the cookbook was published, the band had grown into a 100-piece unit, including 90 musicians, seven majorettes and a three-person color guard.

Today, according to Peltola, the band is back down to about 30. There hasn’t been a band booster club for years, and Peltola hasn’t done any other fundraising in the 13 years he’s been teaching at the school, but the band has marched along nevertheless.

“Our budget is decent at Deering for the music department,” Peltola said. “I haven’t been able to splurge, but I’ve been able to get certain things that I need to run the program. This is going to help me do some things a little above and beyond.”

That includes buying supplies and taking the kids on a trip to an amusement park sometime next year. Some parks give discounted rates to school music programs that play and sing during their visit, he said.

“I want to try and do something with the kids to make them happy and keep them in the program,” he said.

Peltola ordered 200 copies of the cookbook and so far has reached out only to current and former faculty, staff and students to sell them. They’ll also be for sale at the school’s spring concert May 25, where there will be a special guest. Esther Huff’s son, a 1950 Deering graduate who is now 87 years old, still plays the tuba. He will be in town and has accepted an invitation to play with the band.

The whole project, Morin said, from gathering new recipes to contacting former students, “kind of makes you feel good inside.”

And the porcupine meatballs? They were fine, if woefully underseasoned. Everyone in the kitchen threw out ideas for jazzing them up and bringing them into the 21st century, bridging that 69-year-old generation gap with herbs and spices.


CORRECTION: This story was updated at 3 p.m. on May 18, 2016 to correct that Betsy Parsons, not Beverly Parsons, once taught at Deering.

]]> 0, 18 May 2016 15:02:25 +0000
The Maine Ingredient: Find a little love in your hearts for chowder ‘from away’ Wed, 18 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I know, these are not Maine specialties, but I recently spent a couple days eating around Rhode Island, and am in love with the delightful and delicious quirkiness of the food.

In addition to red chowder and clam cakes, other idiosyncratic dishes specific to the Ocean State are coffee milk, chow mein sandwiches, “cabinets” (milk shakes), johnnycakes, doughboys (fried dough), fried calamari and pickled banana peppers, and stuffies (baked stuffed clams).

Then there is the whole arcane vocabulary surrounding Rhode Island frankfurter preparations, including “weiners all the way,” a special small veal and pork frank topped with chili meat sauce, chopped onions and celery salt.


This recipe is based on the red chowder that was served at Rocky Point Amusement Park in Warwick, Rhode Island, from about the 1920s through the ’50s. Although the park is long closed, the chowder lives on in the memories of those who loved it. This recipe is a composite of what I found in my research. Don’t turn up your nose at the tomato soup – it’s authentic, and adds not just color and flavor but also some thickening power and a touch of sweetness.

Chopped hard-shell clams can be found fresh or frozen in the seafood section of most supermarkets. This chowder is especially great with fried clam cakes, of course!

Makes 4 servings

4 ounces salt pork or bacon, cut into ½-inch dice or ground in the food processor (about 1 cup)

3 tablespoons butter, plus more if necessary

1 large onion, chopped

2 cups bottled clam juice

1¼ pounds all-purpose potatoes, peeled and diced (about 3¾ cups)

1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

3 cups chopped hard-shell clams with their liquor

¾ cup condensed tomato soup

1½ teaspoons paprika


Freshly ground black pepper

Cook salt pork with the butter in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat until crisp and the fat is rendered, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove cooked bits with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towels and reserve. If you don’t have 5 tablespoons of fat in the pot, make up the difference with additional butter.

Add onion and cook over medium heat until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add clam juice, 3 cups water, potatoes and Old Bay. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Add clams, tomato soup and paprika and simmer for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (Since the clams, clam juice and tomato soup are salty, the chowder may not need more salt.) Let chowder sit at cool room temperature for at least an hour or, better yet, refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Reheat over low heat, ladle into bowls, and pass reserved pork bits (reheated in the microwave) for sprinkling on the chowder, if desired.


Clam cakes (also known as clam fritters) are traditionally served in Rhode Island and South Coast Massachusetts as an accompaniment to that region’s clear or red chowders. This mixture is proportioned exactly right – a high concentration of chopped clams suspended in a batter that fries up light and crispy.

Makes approximately 3 dozen fritters (6 to 8 servings)

1 egg

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

¾ cup bottled clam juice or clam liquor drained from clams

¼ cup milk

1½ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt, plus more if necessary

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 cup finely chopped drained hard-shell clams (½ pint)

Vegetable oil for frying

Malt or cider vinegar or lemon wedges

Liquid hot pepper sauce

Whisk egg and oil in a small bowl until blended. Whisk in the clam juice and milk. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and pepper in a large bowl and whisk to blend. Whisk in egg mixture just until blended and stir in clams. The batter should be consistency of thick cake batter. Adjust by adding a little more flour or liquid as necessary.

Heat 2 inches of oil in a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven to 370 degrees F, until a drop of batter sizzles when dropped on the surface. Dip a teaspoon into the oil (I use a long-handled iced tea spoon), spoon out 1 rounded spoonful of batter, drop into the hot fat and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, turning once with tongs, until puffed and golden.

Taste this first fritter for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper to the batter if necessary. If the fritter seems dense, add a bit more liquid. Continue to fry cakes, a few at a time, until all the batter is used. Drain on paper towels.

Pass vinegar or lemon wedges and the bottle of hot sauce to season the clam cakes before serving.

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, 18 May 2016 13:08:49 +0000
Delicate flavor of white asparagus harmonizes well in elegant salad Wed, 18 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Here in America we think of white asparagus as the pink elephant of the vegetable world – not even a rumor so much as a hallucination.

It actually has been a staple in Europe for centuries. These days, happily enough, I’ve been spotting white asparagus more often on our side of the pond.

White asparagus is white because the spears are never exposed to sunlight as they grow. Without sunlight, they produce no chlorophyll. Without chlorophyll, they don’t turn green. White asparagus is a little milder and more delicate in flavor than the green variety. It’s also rich in nutrients and very low in calories.

At the supermarket, the best white asparagus boasts the same attributes as the best green asparagus: a firm, smooth stalk and a tight top. While I am a fan of any kind of green asparagus – be it pencil-thin or thick as a carrot – thicker is better when it comes to white asparagus.

Once you get it home, slice off the bottom half-inch of each spear, then stand the entire bunch up, cut-side down, in a glass or narrow pitcher filled with a few inches of water. Cover the tops with a plastic bag and refrigerate until you’re ready to cook them. This little trick, which works equally well with green asparagus, will keep them fresh longer.

White asparagus has a tough bitter peel. Unlike green asparagus (which I only peel when it’s more than a 1/3 inch thick), white asparagus must be peeled. Otherwise, it’s very hard to chew. Because white asparagus tends to break easily, peeling these guys requires a little extra care. You want to lay each spear on the counter. Then, using a vegetable peeler, peel it from just below the tip to the end of the stalk. Also, white asparagus takes much longer to cook than its green cousin.

I tried both steaming and boiling the asparagus and, surprisingly, found no difference in taste. I’d worried that boiling it might leave the spears waterlogged, but as long as you pull them out of the water when they’re tender, that isn’t really a problem. Lightly salting the water is key, though. The asparagus absorbs the salt, which points up its flavor, making it taste more asparagus-y. Salting it after you’ve cooked it will not have the same effect.

Given the relative subtlety of the flavor of white asparagus, I recommend pairing it with similarly subtle ingredients, ones that will harmonize with – but not overwhelm – the asparagus.

For this elegant salad, conceived as a treat for Mom on Mother’s Day, I teamed the white asparagus with an orange vinaigrette, toasted hazelnuts and aged goat cheese. If you can’t find white asparagus, don’t sweat it; this recipe will work just as well with the green or purple (but cook them for less time).


Makes 6 servings

⅓ cup orange juice

2 tablespoons finely minced shallots

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

¼ cup vegetable or canola oil

2 pounds fresh white asparagus, the bottom ½ inch discarded and the spears peeled from just below the tip down the length of the stalks

1 cup fresh orange segments

2 ounces crumbled aged goat cheese

⅔ cup coarsely chopped toasted hazelnuts

Chopped fresh dill, chives or tarragon, to garnish

In a small saucepan over medium, simmer the orange juice until it is reduced to 2 tablespoons. Add the shallot, vinegar, mustard and salt and pepper. Whisk until the salt is dissolved, then add the oil in a stream, whisking. Set aside.

In a large saucepan over medium-high, bring 3 inches of salted water to a boil. Add half the asparagus and simmer for 6 to 8 minutes, or until tender (take one out, cut a piece off and taste to determine doneness). Transfer the spears to paper towels to drain, then cook and drain the remaining asparagus in the same manner.

On a large platter toss the asparagus gently with two-thirds of the dressing, then season with salt and pepper. Transfer the asparagus to plates and top each portion with some of the orange segments, cheese, nuts, herbs and a little of the remaining dressing.

Sara Moulton is the host of public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals.” She was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years.

]]> 0, 18 May 2016 13:08:48 +0000
Seafood lovers get help finding the good stuff Wed, 18 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 A new cookbook and an updated guide lead through New England’s seafood shacks and markets.

Just in time for summer, two seafood-centric books are out to help guide you through the crowded landscape of lobster shacks and seafood markets in New England.

Both are by Mike Urban, a food and travel writer based in Old Saybrook, Connecticut.

Mainers may think they know the lobster shacks that dot the Maine coast, but the revised and updated version of “Lobster Shacks: A Road-Trip Guide to New England’s Best Lobster Joints” – previously published in 2012 – will open your eyes to many you may never have stumbled across.

Half of the book is dedicated to Maine lobster shacks from Kittery all the way up to Eastport, where relative newcomer Quoddy Bay Lobster (founded in 2007) makes its own smoked lobster pate.

It’s interesting to read about the history of some of the shacks, and while this isn’t a cookbook, recipes are sprinkled throughout. In the back, an index sorts the shacks into types – most romantic shacks, shacks with dock or deck dining, shacks with great architectural design, and so on.

Urban’s newest project is “The New England Seafood Markets Cookbook: Recipes from the Best Lobster Pounds, Clam Shacks, and Fishmongers.” The book includes about a dozen Maine seafood markets, including the best-known markets in Portland. The markets and their recipes are not sorted by state, so it takes a little hunting to find those from Maine, but that’s OK.

With this book, availability of ingredients is more important than location. Who really cares if that luscious-looking lobster Benedict recipe originates in Rhode Island, as long as Maine lobster can be used in the dish?

The book is divided into many sections that go beyond Soups and Chowders, Lobster, and Cod and Haddock. Some of the more interesting recipes can be found under Seafood Cakes, Grilled Fish, Flounder and Sole, and something called New England Exotica. That last category includes recipes for Easy Baked Maple-Glazed Arctic Char from City Fish Market in Wethersfield, Connecticut, and Corned Hake and Potatoes from Fisherman’s Catch in Damariscotta.

884388_695222 Lobster Shacks Guide.jpg

Half of this book is dedicated to Maine lobster shacks from Kittery all the way up to Eastport. Courtesy photo

You’ll want to keep both of these books handy this summer – one in your car for when you hit the road looking for a lobster dinner, and one in your kitchen.


From “Lobster Shacks: A Road-Trip Guide to New England’s Best Lobster Joints” by Mike Urban

Portland Lobster Company regularly rolls out this tasty dish as a special.

Serves 2-3

1 pound fresh jumbo scallops

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

6 ounces thick-cut bacon (preferably apple wood-smoked or similar), chopped

2 cloves garlic

1/4 cup chopped shallots

3 ounces bourbon

1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/3 cup heavy cream

2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley

Lightly sprinkle the scallops with salt and pepper. Heat the butter and olive oil in a pan on high heat until almost smoking. Add the scallops and bacon to pan and sear scallops quickly, about 30 seconds on each side. Do not lift or move scallops while searing. Remove scallops and set aside.

Add garlic and shallots to the now-empty pan, and sauté until they soften. Add bourbon, and carefully ignite to burn off alcohol. Once the flame subsides, add the brown sugar, heavy cream and 11/2 teaspoons of the fresh parsley. Reduce the sauce until the desired consistency is reached. Pour the sauce over the jumbo scallops and garnish with 1/2 teaspoon remaining parsley.

Clam Shack Seafood Market in Kennebunk keeps presidential swordfish stocked and ready for whenever President George H.W. Bush calls. The market has a decades-long relationship with the Bush family and their Walker’s Point staff, who are loyal customers. This recipe was handed down by longtime Bush family chef Ariel Guzman, who adapted it from a family friend’s recipe. Clam Shack Seafood has adapted it slightly.


From “The New England Seafood Markets Cookbook: Recipes from the best lobster pounds, clam shacks, and fishmongers” by Mike Urban

Serves 4

4 swordfish steaks, 6-8 ounces each


1 teaspoon coarse salt

1 teaspoon coarse ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried onion

1/2 teaspoon dried garlic

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary

1/4 teaspoon dried coriander

2 cups mayonnaise

1/3 cup lemon juice

In a small bowl, whisk together the spices and herbs. In a larger bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise and lemon juice. Add the herbs and spices to the mayonnaise mixture, and stir until smooth.

Place the swordfish steaks in a large, resealable plastic bag. Pour in the marinade, and move around the contents of the bag to make sure the steaks are covered and coated thoroughly. Refrigerate in the bag on a plate for at least 3 hours.

Preheat the outdoor grill. Grill the swordfish steaks over high heat for about 2 minutes per side, anticipating flare-ups from the marinade. The steaks will be ivory colored and golden brown around the edges when done.

]]> 0, 18 May 2016 13:08:42 +0000
What can you add to granola? Whatever floats your oats Wed, 18 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Making granola is dead simple and ridiculously satisfying: You mix, bake, stir and then feel terrific about yourself and the pile of crunch you pull out of the oven.

It isn’t the same as hacking Oreos, ketchup or Sriracha at home. That stuff is difficult, and perfection is tough to achieve. But granola? A cinch! What you make at home will not just be as good as what you typically purchase, I can guarantee it will be better. Fresher, too.

And, best of all, it will be exactly what you want. Don’t like raisins? Skip ’em. Love cashews? Add ’em.

Notice, I didn’t say it would be cheaper. Good artisanal granola, made with excellent ingredients and no difficult-to-pronounce additives, is expensive in the stores and only slightly less expensive to make at home.

Savings might not be the prime reason to go DIY, but there are others: Homemade granola is fabulously delicious, pure and bespoke; the process is easy, fun and an all-around feel-good; and the cookielike bites that you can also make from the mix are both adorable and tasty.

Perhaps this explains why, developing the accompanying recipe for you, I worked through what must have been a field of oats and now have six quarts of granola in my pantry.

You probably can make granola with something other than oats, but oats are the usual backbone of the mix. If you are gluten-intolerant, make sure that you buy gluten-free oats.

And everyone should look for old-fashioned rolled oats. Instant or quick-cooking ones won’t produce the texture that’s such a big part of why we love granola.

Takeaway tips:

 The real musts in granola are oats, some kind of oil and a sweetener. For this granola, I use just three tablespoons of coconut or olive oil and a mix of brown sugar and honey. I’ve seen recipes without or with just a token amount of sugar, but I think it’s nice to have something sweet to play off the earthy flavors in the granola and the salt, which I consider a necessity as well.

 Once you’ve got these basics, just about everything else is up to you – the bespoke part. I like granola that has half as much nuts and seeds as oats, so I add pumpkin and sunflower seeds and a mix of whatever nuts I have on hand, which are typically almonds, pistachios and pecans. Although I suggest you chop the nuts, you don’t have to; I’ve seen great granolas made with whole nuts, but I think those are better for snacking than for breakfasting or sprinkling over yogurt.

In the accompanying recipe, I’ve added a few fun ingredients: millet and flax for crunch; wheat germ for depth (if you’re gluten-free, just add more oats); large coconut flakes for beauty, flavor and chew; vanilla to round all the flavors; and cocoa powder for surprise. The combo is great, but you can mix it up by adding spices, if you’d like, or omitting some of the crunches. You can even leave out the cocoa, but why would you want to?

Because I’m a big fan of dried fruit, I add it to the granola, but at the very end, so that it doesn’t get baked. Again, use what you love: snipped apricots, pears, figs, dates or apples (use scissors to cut the fruit into bite-size bits), golden or black raisins, cherries or cranberries. The key is to make sure the dried fruit is moist, which is kind of oxymoronish, but important. Shriveled fruit is hard to eat and harder to enjoy. If yours isn’t moist, give the fruit a good soak in hot water, pat it dry and then stir it into the just-baked granola.

If you want to make my Granola Bites – granola mixed with brown rice syrup, pressed into muffin tins and baked until they’re super-crispy and puckish (think round energy bars) – spoon out the three cups of granola you’ll need to make them and add the fruit to what’s left in the bowl. Fruit baked into the bites has a tendency to harden and get overly browned.

Play with the recipe and let me know what you add – or subtract. This is definitely a make-it-your-own project.


Makes 14 servings (6½ cups to 7 cups)

To make Granola Bites, you’ll use 3 cups of the baked granola and omit adding any dried fruit. See the variation, below.

Packed in tightly closed containers – humidity is granola’s foe – the granola will keep for at least 1 month. The Granola Bites will be good for at least 1 week.

¼ cup (packed) light brown sugar

¼ cup honey

3 tablespoons coconut oil or olive oil

2 cups old-fashioned oats (not instant or quick-cooking)

1 cup mixed chopped nuts, such as almonds, pecans, walnuts, pistachios or hazelnuts

½ cup hulled, unsalted pumpkin seeds

½ cup hulled, unsalted sunflower seeds

2 tablespoons wheat germ (may substitute old-fashioned oats)

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tablespoons millet (optional, but nice for crunch)

1 tablespoon flaxseed (optional)

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes or shredded coconut

½ cup moist, plump dried fruit, such as raisins, cranberries, cherries, snipped apricots, apples and/or pears (see note)

Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 325 degrees F. Have two 9-by-13-inch Pyrex baking dishes at hand. (If you have only metal pans, line them with parchment paper.)

Combine the brown sugar, honey and coconut oil or olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring, just until the sugar dissolves.

Combine the oats, nuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, wheat germ, cocoa powder, millet and flaxseed, if using, and the sea salt in a large mixing bowl. Pour in the warm oil mixture, add the vanilla extract and stir, preferably with a flexible spatula, until everything is evenly moistened. Scrape the mixture into the baking dishes, gently spreading it out evenly. Bake on the upper and lower racks for 20 minutes, then stir, making sure to dislodge any bits that may have stuck to the baking dishes. Rotate the baking dishes top to bottom and front to back, stir and bake for 20 minutes.

Stir once again, but this time stir in the shredded or flaked coconut. Bake for 5 minutes or until the coconut is very lightly toasted; the total baking time should be between 45 and 50 minutes. Scrape the baked granola into a big bowl, then stir in the dried fruit.

Once the granola comes to room temperature, use your hands to break up the clumps that will have formed.

VARIATION: To make Granola Bites, preheat the oven to 300 degrees (instead of 325). Use baker’s spray to generously grease the 24 wells of two standard-size muffin pans. Combine 3 cups of the baked granola (without dried fruit), ½ cup of brown rice syrup and 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a mixing bowl, stirring to coat evenly. Divide the mixture evenly among the muffin pan wells, using the bottom of a jar or glass wrapped in plastic wrap to compact the granola. Bake (middle rack) for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the pans front to back halfway through, until the syrup, which will have bubbled, has settled down and the bites are deeply golden. Transfer the muffin pans to wire racks to cool for 5 minutes, then use a table knife to pop the bites out. Place them on racks to cool to room temperature before serving or storing.

NOTE: While the granola is in the oven, check your dried fruit. If it’s not soft and plump, put it in a bowl, cover with very hot tap water and let it soak for 5 to 10 minutes. Right before you’re ready for it, drain the fruit and pat it dry.

]]> 1, 18 May 2016 13:08:51 +0000
‘Paleo Perfected’ by America’s Test Kitchen Wed, 11 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “Paleo Perfected” by America’s Test Kitchen. $26.95

I’ve long been conscious of the in-your-face carbohydrates, like rice, pasta and potatoes, but around the beginning of the year I started to make a concerted effort to also avoid the ones that are otherwise considered healthy, like apples, chickpeas and yogurt.

One plus side of a low-carb diet – on top of filling up quicker and feeling lighter – is that you’re supposed to eat more fat, so I don’t have to hesitate before topping something with cheese.

The downside is that it takes a bit more creativity to put together a complete meal. There are only so many times you can eat zucchini “noodles” or cauliflower “rice.”

Luckily, the popularity of the paleo diet – which largely overlaps with a low-carb one – bore books upon blogs of new recipes. “Paleo Perfected” by America’s Test Kitchen is the best compilation I’ve seen, complete with pictures for every recipe.

While it does sport those zucchini noodles on the cover and suggests serving dishes over cauliflower rice, the recipes in the book offer ways to infuse flavor into those foods that I never would have imagined.

Herbs, spices and shallots can turn ground-up cauliflower into a curried version of the fake rice, and zucchini noodles can be used to replace pasta in more ways than under red sauce. With tahini and sesame seeds, they can turn into a Asian noodle salad, or they can take the place of egg noodles in chicken soup.

Soups are one of the meals I found easiest to adapt to a low-carb diet. Usually, all it takes is leaving out an ingredient and, most of the time, I didn’t miss it.

Although I eventually gave up a strict adherence to the diet, that trick has stuck with me.

While many southwestern chicken soup recipes call for rice, black beans or corn, along with tortilla strips on top, the one in “Paleo Perfected” packs all the flavor without the carbs, or corresponding calories. The heat from the spices and the jalapeño is balanced by the toppings – coolness from the avocado, acid from the lime and freshness from the radishes and cilantro.

Since I don’t have a slow cooker, I simply seared, then simmered the seasoned chicken in water until it was ready to shred, then used that water as the base for the soup, with some store-brought broth added. (The recipe calls for the book’s paleo chicken broth, which is just water, chicken, olive oil, salt and bay leaves, all strained.)

Although many of the recipes in “Paleo Perfected” call for ingredients that I imagine only dedicated paleo followers will have, like coconut aminos and tapioca flour, there are many good suggestions, from stuffed mushrooms to garlicky Swiss chard, that would make for healthier appetizers to serve to carb-conscious guests or more well-rounded meals for dieters sick of grilled chicken salad.


For the paleo broth the recipe calls for, I used water from cooking the chicken and some store-bought broth. I did not use a slow-cooker. Instead, I seasoned the chicken and seared it in oil in the bottom of a saucepan, then covered it with water and simmered it until it was cooked through. I then added the flavored onion-chile mixture to the pot, and I skipped step 2. On the stovetop, I cooked my soup for another half-hour.

Serves 6-8

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 onions, chopped fine

1 jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded and minced

Kosher salt and pepper

3 tablespoons tomato paste

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1½ teaspoons chipotle chile powder

8 cups paleo chicken broth

3 (12-ounce) bone-in split chicken breasts, trimmed

1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick

2 tomatoes, cored and chopped

2 avocados, halved, pitted, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

4 radishes, trimmed and sliced thin

½ cup cilantro leaves

Lime wedges, to serve

1. Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, jalapeño and 1 tablespoon salt and cook until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, garlic, oregano, cumin and chile powder and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in 1 cup broth, scraping up any brown bits stuck to the skillet; transfer the mixture to slow-cooker.

2. Stir remaining 7 cups broth into slow cooker. Season chicken with salt and pepper and nestle into slow cooker. Cover and cook until chicken is tender, 3 to 5 hours on low.

3. Transfer chicken to cutting board, let cool slightly, then shred into bite-sized pieces using 2 forks; discard skin and bones.

4. Using wide, shallow spoon, skim excess fat from surface of soup. Stir in zucchini, cover, and cook on high until tender, about 30 minutes.

5. Stir in shredded chicken and let sit until heated through, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top individual portions with tomatoes, avocados, radishes and cilantro and serve with lime wedges.

]]> 0, 11 May 2016 09:13:46 +0000
Bread & Butter: For Black Dinah Chocolatiers, adjustment from island life is under construction Wed, 11 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 EDITOR’S NOTE: This week, we inaugurate a periodic Food + Dining column in which we ask Maine chefs to share recipes and give us firsthand accounts of their lives in the food business. This is the first of three columns by Black Dinah Chocolatiers co-founder Kate Shaffer.

It’s an ordinary Thursday afternoon in Westbrook. I am sitting at my desk at Black Dinah Chocolatiers’ new facility on Main Street, typing up production notes for the coming week, when a major earthquake startles me out of my chair (and my glass-walled office) and under the nearest door frame.

I’m alone, so am only slightly embarrassed when I realize that it’s not actually an earthquake, but rather the army of road equipment that is tearing up our parking lot, pounding the earth into submission. The corner of Main and Bridge streets – our corner – is undergoing a major facelift, which includes two new bridges over the river, new sidewalks, new roads and a new parking lot. The construction explains the daily flashbacks I’m having to my California childhood, and also why the usual steady stream of customers to our sweets shop, which is attached to our factory, has slowed to a trickle.

I know that it will be over in the next couple of weeks and ultimately that the construction will bring us more business. And in a funny way, the earth-shaking demolition and re-building is an apt metaphor for my own life: I feel blasted from my own foundations, blown away by how much things have changed in the last 10 months.

Our new facility is 4,200 square feet of brand-new, state-of-the-art, squeaky-clean materials, and it’s beautiful. But it’s a far cry from where Black Dinah got its start – my husband Steve’s and my tiny flagship location on remote Isle au Haut, 3 1/2 hours north of here and 45 minutes out to sea. This time of year, a staff member might arrive with heaps of fresh-caught halibut, and we’d share a lunch of it on our café’s sun-dappled deck, serenaded by migrating birds and wood frogs, amid budding maples, the stream burbling behind our café. No matter how shiny and new the stainless steel and copper are here in Westbrook, they can’t compete with that.

I might be romanticizing. Running a growing business from a beautiful but remote outpost like Isle au Haut is no small feat. We started making hand-crafted chocolate confections from our island kitchen in 2007. After receiving widespread press and a few national awards, we expanded our production, moved it to a dedicated facility on our island property and hired our neighbors to work with us. Before long, the business outgrew the new space. And the romance of our location, which sometimes attracted new customers, began to frustrate them, too.

“Why aren’t you in stores in southern Maine?” I can’t tell you how many times I heard this question from someone reluctantly paying shipping on a small order to a Portland address. Or, “Why are you so hard to find?!” from an over-heated summer tourist stumbling through our café door. Not to mention our own island-based frustrations – high overhead, shipping delays because of bad weather, the pure physical stress of lugging our ever-growing number of supplies on and off the mail boat. The move to the mainland last June was the right, the inevitable, decision. Still, my heart aches every day for Isle au Haut.

I am shaken from my thoughts by another round of pounding from the parking lot, and then surprised by a tentative “Hello?” from someone in our retail store. I walk in from my adjacent office, and face what feels a lot like a scene from the past: a somewhat bewildered-looking customer, his face tinged with frustration. He throws up his hands. “You were easier to find on Isle au Haut!”

Shaking off life’s little ironies is second-nature for the small business owner. I fight the momentary urge to sigh, defeated, and instead, smile, and offer my customer a sample. The chocolate placates him as he savors what he has presumably made the arduous journey to Westbrook to find. I apologize for the construction, and 15 minutes later, he leaves like so many of our island customers have in the past: laden with chocolate and proud that he successfully navigated his way to this secret spot in the wilds of Westbrook.

The more things change, the more things stay the same. We want to continue to grow our business, and the new location will let us do that. What took us one, sometimes two weeks on the island, can now be done in a single day. Specialized equipment and much more space account for some of the time savings, but most of it is sheer logistics. In Westbrook, we have easier access to materials, to shipping, to fresh ingredients and to labor. It’s a dramatic game-changer.

After almost a year here, though, I’ve realized that in many ways, we’re starting the business all over again. There’s the expected – dealing with bigger spaces, bigger numbers, new and different challenges. But there’s also this sense of newness, that ever-present parent-of-a-newborn-fear that if you leave your baby alone for even a single second, something is bound to go wrong. The need to constantly nurture, feed and build. And the knowledge that there is, again, a very long road ahead of us.

Kate Shaffer, in Black Dinah Chocolatiers's homier space on tiny, remote Isle au Haut. Courtesy photo

Kate Shaffer, in Black Dinah Chocolatiers’s homier space on tiny, remote Isle au Haut. Courtesy photo


The bewildered customer today isn’t alone. I hear his story several times a month. And when the Fed-Ex or UPS guys chide us for being so hard to get to in the middle of all this construction, we smile and nod, and stop ourselves from whining, “Yeah, but you should have seen where we USED to be!” The truth is, I feel lucky to be here. I feel lucky that our crew takes such care with everything they make. I feel lucky that they, too, recognize the value of the space they work in. Every single one of us knows what it took to get here. But every once in a while, Steve and I come home from work and wonder if we’re up to the challenge. It’s then that I remember the island spruce needles and twigs we built a company out of in the first place, and say, “Hey, babe. We’ve already done the impossible.” Haven’t we?

Kate Shaffer and her husband, Steve Shaffer, co-own Black Dinah Chocolatiers in Westbrook and Isle au Haut. Kate Shaffer is the author of “Desserted: Recipes and Tales from an Island Chocolatier.” Kate Shaffer can be contacted at: info@BlackDinah

]]> 3, 11 May 2016 10:49:05 +0000
This Mother’s Day, consider an especially delicious roast bird Wed, 04 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Ever since my parents came to England in 1972, my mum has had a wild love affair with roast chicken.

The only thing she loves even more is her family and unfortunately for her, my dad is a vegetarian. So for 41 years now, her opportunities to turn the oven on, throw caution to the wind and put a beautiful bird in to roast have been limited. She’s simply too loving a wife to torment my dad like that.

That’s why every Mother’s Day, there is only one thing that we will cook: tandoori roast chicken. But this isn’t just any old roast chicken; it is one worthy of a feast. It has all the merits of a normal roast chicken, flavorful crispy skin, butter-soft meat and largely fuss-free prep, but it is much more elegant and celebratory.

The chicken is made tender with a marinade of yogurt and lemon juice, then enlivened with earthy cumin, garam masala, ginger and garlic. Once the ingredients have been blended into a paste, all that’s needed is a quick rub down and rest (the chicken, not you) before it goes into the oven, leaving you free and out of the kitchen.

It’s the only time of the year we force our father into the kitchen to help with the sides (supervised, of course). But given that there are plentiful greens around this time of year, they are quick and easy, too. We love to serve this with spring’s finest asparagus, peas and spinach, a little lime pickle, toasted naan bread and some crisp white wine.

All of this fuss-free cooking allows us more time for a relaxing family lunch together. Until we need to tackle the washing up, that is.


You will need a blender to make the marinade. I like to marinate the chicken first thing in the morning to give it time for the flavors to mingle.

Makes 4 servings

4-pound whole chicken, giblets removed

3 green serrano chilies, roughly chopped

6 cloves garlic

1 thumb-sized piece ginger

1 tablespoon garam masala

1/2 tablespoon cumin seeds

3/4 teaspoon hot paprika

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons canola oil

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt (or to taste)

2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt

Line a roasting pan with foil, then place the chicken in the center.

Combine all remaining ingredients except the yogurt in a blender, then puree until reduced to a fine paste. Mix in the yogurt. Rub the yogurt mixture over all parts of the chicken, then refrigerate and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to several hours.

When ready to cook, heat the oven to 350 F.

Roast the chicken, not covered, on the oven’s middle shelf for 40 minutes. Baste the chicken with any juices in the pan, then lightly cover with foil.

Roast for another 40 minutes, or until the meat reaches 170 F at the thigh and 165 F at the breast. Remove the chicken from the oven, leaving it covered, and set aside to rest for 15 minutes before serving.

]]> 0, 04 May 2016 10:23:41 +0000
For Mother’s Day, a chat with mother-daughter Mediterranean cooking experts Wed, 04 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 In the case of cookbook author Nancy Harmon Jenkins and her daughter, chef Sara Jenkins, the chestnut didn’t fall far from the tree. Aside from cooking, writing and a deep curiosity about “why food becomes the way it does,” as Sara Jenkins puts it, the pair share a love for their olive farm in Tuscany, especially the picnic table set under two ancient chestnut trees with a view down the valley into Umbria. “We’ve been feasting around it for 40 years,” Sara Jenkins said.

With Mother’s Day on our mind, we spoke with the mother-daughter culinary dynamo, Nancy Harmon Jenkins calling in from Camden, where she lives, and Sara Jenkins from New York City, her home of many years. Mom is a 13th-generation Mainer and an expert on the cooking of the Mediterranean, with eight cookbooks (and two non-food books) to her name. Daughter is the chef of two beloved Manhattan eateries – the sandwich shop Porchetta and the pasta-centric Porsena – and is set to move to Maine next month with her husband and 9-year-old son to open a Mediterranean restaurant in Rockport. She is also the co-author of two cookbooks and a former columnist for The Atlantic website. Mother and daughter recently collaborated on their first book together, “The Four Seasons of Pasta.” Our conversation touched on picky eaters, chowder and which of the two is the better cook.

Q: Nancy, was passing on your love of food to Sara intentional, the way my mother wanted her children to learn a musical instrument?

NHJ: No, not at all. I think it came about as a result of our living in so many places. I’ve always had this theory that the way to get into another culture is through its food. We lived in Spain twice. We lived in Paris. We lived in Beirut. And we lived in Hong Kong, all before we ended up in Italy, and in all of those places food was very important. (Her former husband was a foreign correspondent.) Sara and her brother always went out to eat with us. A lot of the time we spent on the weekends was around a big table full of food. That’s just what you do in those parts of the world. She grew up with good tastes in her mouth.

Q: But did you teach her to cook?

NHJ: People always want to think that Sara learned to cook by standing at her mother’s knee in the kitchen, and she didn’t. I think you learned more from Mita than you did from me, didn’t you Sara? Mita was our Italian neighbor and she was, in effect, the Italian nonna, grandmother, of my children.

Q: Did Sara hang around you in the kitchen when she was young?

NHJ: She mostly had her nose stuck in a book. She was a picky eater, we always say that.

Q: Any advice for the parents of picky eaters?

SJ: They should chill out. As long as your kid is eating healthy foods, who cares?

Q: Sara, are you teaching your own son to cook?

SJ: I take a tact with my child that my job is to see what he is interested in and encourage that, as opposed to impose my interest. But he’s a really picky eater. He likes pasta with tomato sauce. He likes fruits of every kind. He did have a Tibetan nanny as a child, so he’s really into dumplings. That’s probably the most exotic thing he eats.

Q: So, Sara, if you were a picky eater, when did you begin to enjoy food?

SJ: When I came back to the States when I was 15 years old. I had never thought much about what was put in front of me. I came back to boarding school in Maine. I was just appalled. I remember ordering a pizza in Bethel and being really puzzled. It wasn’t a pizza the way I thought of pizza.

Q: How was it different?

SJ: I think I ordered tomato pizza and what I got was a pizza with slices of plum tomato. That wasn’t what I meant. I probably meant pizza margherita. It didn’t occur to me that there was any variation on what I ordered. So you’re standing there wondering “What’s the problem? What did I do wrong?”

Q: Had you lived in Maine before?

SJ: No.

NHJ: But they came back every summer.

SJ: My aunt always says we were trained to demand lobster the minute we came over the state border. But when you live in Maine, it’s not as though you eat lobster on a daily basis.

NHJ: Although my mother was a great one for handing out lobster whenever the occasion demanded it. We used to have lobster for Thanksgiving. We used to have lobster for Christmas. Lobster for birthdays. I think my mother just loved lobster and loved any occasion to eat it.

Q: Nancy, were you pleased Sara became a chef?

NHJ: Very much pleased. I was a little bit surprised because she trained as a photographer and worked as a photographer. She really had a natural feel for the kitchen and the restaurant kitchen in particular. She had found her métier. And I think a parent is always happy when a child has found her métier. It means you can stop worrying about them a little bit.

Q: How about your son? Does he cook well?

NHJ: He’s a very good cook, but (disapproving tone) he’s a vegetarian.

Q: So that’s a bad thing?

NHJ: It’s kind of limiting. But he’s a very good vegetarian cook.

Q: What is your favorite dish of Sara’s?

NHJ: I just love the anelloni with lamb sausage and greens. I think it’s a fabulous dish. (See recipe.)

Q: Sara, what did your mother teach you about food and cooking?

SJ: I learned her respect for ingredients.

Q: Did she encourage your love of food and cooking?

SJ: No, not necessarily.

NHJ: You didn’t think I encouraged you?

SJ: I don’t think you discouraged me. But I just kind of took off with it. You were supportive.

NHJ: Yeah, certainly was. Still am.

Q: Do you have a favorite dish of your mother’s?

SJ: Oh yes, her chowder.

NHJ: Clam or fish or corn?

SJ: Lobster.

NHJ: It probably is Sam Hayward’s recipe for lobster chowder.

SJ: No, you’ve been making it much longer than that.

NHJ: That’s true. But Sam has sharpened my technique.

Q: Who is the better cook?

NHJ: She is far and away a better cook than I am. Which is not to say that I am a bad cook. She is speedy in the kitchen. She is focused in the kitchen. Things don’t fail her the way they fail me.

SJ: Honestly, I would agree.

NHJ: That you’re a better cook?

SJ: It’s not that you’re not a great cook and you don’t make fabulous delicious foods, but I have better skills. I do it professionally.

Q: What sparked your collaboration on “The Four Seasons of Pasta”?

SJ: It was (former New York Times food writer) Molly O’Neill. We wanted to do an e-book with her. It never came to fruition.

NHJ: She wanted us to do 25 winter pastas. So we did them. (The e-book) never came to anything, but there we were with these recipes. We thought, why not do spring and summer and fall? And we did, and we sold it to an agent and there we were on the road to fame and fortune. More fame than fortune, I’m afraid.

Q: How did you handle the mechanics of writing together?

SJ: Some recipes were very much mine, some were very much Nancy’s. Some we discussed. I always tell everybody that you didn’t want to make the pasta con sarde with sardines because you didn’t want people having to clean the sardines.

NHJ: I didn’t think you could get sardines. Here even in the capital – what used to be the capital – of sardine country, you can’t get them. But you can get them in New York, I guess. It’s a Sicilian traditional dish, and I think it’s wonderful. I’ve made it in Italy, but I’ve never made it here in the States.

Q: So did you include the sardine recipe in the end?

SJ: Yes, yes, we did.

Q: Sorry, to end with a bit of a snoozer, but I’m thinking readers will want to know. What are your favorite restaurants in Maine and New York?

SJ: I would say Long Grain (in Camden).

NHJ: Yes. Long Grain. And there is Bagaduce Lunch in Brooksville. It depends what you are looking for. Fore Street and Primo are still two great restaurants we have in Maine. My favorite restaurant in New York is, oddly enough, Porcena.

]]> 0, 04 May 2016 10:23:39 +0000
Maine Ingredient: Be a sweet baby and start Mom’s day with a Dutch treat Wed, 04 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 A Dutch baby – basically a cross between a pancake and a popover – is such a fun thing to make for breakfast or brunch on Mother’s Day. If breakfast, serve it with some crisp bacon, sautéed Canadian bacon or smoked salmon on the side; if brunch, add a beautiful spring salad to make it a meal.


Simple and easy to put together, the pancake puffs impressively in the oven like a soufflé. It begins to deflate almost immediately, so serve it quickly!

Makes 4 servings

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 cups cored, peeled and sliced medium-tart apples such as Macoun or Gala

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 eggs

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup milk, whole or low-fat

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup all-purpose flour

Powdered sugar for sifting over top

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. In an 11- or 12-inch skillet, preferably cast-iron, with ovenproof handle, melt the butter. Spoon out 2 tablespoons of the butter and transfer it to a large bowl. To the remaining butter in the skillet, add the apples. Cook over medium to medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and continue to cook until sugar dissolves and lightly caramelizes and the apples are tender, about 5 more minutes.

Break eggs into the bowl with reserved butter. Add salt, milk and vanilla, and whisk well to blend. Place flour in a sieve, sift over the egg mixture and whisk gently but thoroughly until combined.

Spread apples out in an even layer in the bottom of the skillet and pour batter over. Bake in preheated oven until pancake is puffed and golden and crisp around the edges, 20 to 25 minutes.

Sprinkle heavily with powdered sugar and serve immediately, cut in wedges. (Remember that the skillet handle is hot!)


A lovely spring salad combo – leafy greens, sweet-tart strawberries, smoked almonds and tangy goat cheese – that pairs perfectly with the Dutch baby. It’s too pretty to toss, so arrange the salad on a large shallow platter or on individual plates and pass the dressing on the side. Substitute one of the bagged mesclun mixes if you prefer.

Make 4 to 5 servings


¼ cup white wine vinegar

1 medium shallot, minced

½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

½ cup olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


4 ounces (4 cups) baby spinach

1 small head frisee or other similar greens (about 5 ounces), torn into bite-size pieces

½ cup coarsely chopped smoked almonds

1½ cups sliced strawberries

1/3 cup goat cheese, broken into 1/2-inch clumps

For the dressing, whisk together vinegar, shallot and Worcestershire in a small bowl or plastic container. Whisk in the oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. (Can be made up to 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Put spinach and frisee in a salad bowl and toss to combine. Scatter nuts, strawberries and cheese over the top. Serve dressing in a small pitcher on the side.

Brooke Dojny’s most recent cookbook is “Chowderland: Hearty Soups & Stews with Sides and Salads to Match.” She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula, and is on Facebook:

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Cookbook review: “Comfort and Joy: Cooking for Two” Wed, 04 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “Comfort and Joy: Cooking for Two.” By Christina Lane. The Countryman Press, 2015. $24.95

I had notions of romantic dinners and candlelight when I picked up “Comfort and Joy: Cooking for Two,” but as I flipped through it, I had a hard time getting into the mood.

I kept bursting out laughing instead.

Maybe I’ve been cooking for too many people for too long to appreciate author Christina Lane’s niche market of “for two” cookbooks (she also wrote “Dessert for Two”), but I kept thinking these recipes require a lot of time for not much payoff.

And once I saw the recipes that way (16 ingredients, prep and oven time of about an hour – for two carrot cake muffins?) I couldn’t unsee it. “Thanksgiving Dinner for Two?” “Two Mugs of Hot Chocolate?” “Two Mugs of Eggnog?”

Do people really cook this way? Haven’t you ever wanted leftovers to take to work the next day?

And then there was the one recipe where I think I actually snorted out loud: “Baked Bacon,” which is, er, putting four strips of bacon in the oven. Lane’s thoughts? “So meaty!”

I almost felt bad about my cynical take on the cookbook, but I lived alone for decades, so it’s not like I’m unfamiliar with small-batch meals. This cookbook, despite its beautiful pictures and high quality production, takes a decent concept and doesn’t quite deliver. The recipes are either unnecessary (I’m good with hot chocolate and bacon, thanks) a bit too precious (“Homemade marshmallows”) or seem like something you would automatically double even if you were serving only two people.

But I do see the wisdom of small-batch sweets – sometimes cooking dozens of cookies at a time is too much. So I went with the gingersnaps, which Lane says is a favorite family recipe: “I loved anything my grandmother made, but these cookies have to be my all-time favorite.”

The snaps were great, but next time I’m doubling the recipe.


Yield: 1 dozen cookies

1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus more for rolling

1 large egg white

2 tablespoons molasses (not blackstrap)

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a medium-size bowl, beat together the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Add the egg white and molasses and mix well.

Add the remaining dry ingredients on top and beat until just combined.

Have ready a shallow bowl filled with extra sugar for rolling the cookies.

Roll tablespoon-size chunks of dough into 1-inch balls. You should get about a dozen cookies. Roll each cookie in sugar. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for about 12 minutes.

Let cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. The cookies will be very soft, but they will firm up as they cool.

]]> 0, 04 May 2016 10:23:40 +0000
Dandelion greens are one man’s weed, another man’s treasure Sun, 01 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Monsanto’s Roundup has rendered one of my childhood memories – picking tender dandelion greens with my Italian grandmothers in springtime – a little hazy. The herbicide curtailed the proliferation of this slightly bitter delicacy as so many Americans deem them a menace to manicured lawns.

Before chemist John E. Franz discovered the herbicide glyphosate in the early 1970s, I happily led my mom’s mom along the grassy hillside upon which her house perched, easily finding the dandelions whose leaves were no longer than the 4-inch blade of her pickin’ knife. In her opinion, these smaller, only slightly bitter leaves were best eaten raw in salads (which I love) while the longer, more bitter ones that resemble the cultivated dandelion greens found in grocery stores today, were best simmered slowly with garlic and salt pork (which I loathe). The flowers went to my Uncle John (born Giacomo Luigi Piacquadio) who made dandelion wine with the first pressing of the flowers and grappa with the second. Waste not, eat (and drink) well, was a family mantra.

Dandelions were a delicious stop gap solution in early spring before we could fill our salad bowls with tender lettuce leaves from my mom’s garden. Foraging experts in Maine can name a whole host of springtime salad substitutes found in the wild. Josh Fecteau, who leads weekly foraging and birding workshops in York and Cumberland Counties, says the ones that most often land in his salad bowl are violet leaves, which are smooth and a grassy green and taste like young spinach without the tannic aftertaste. His salads are garnished with their delicate purple flowers whose sweet finish lingers. He’s also a fan of the young leaves of the American linden (aka basswood or the salad tree, heart-shaped, light green, the size of a dessert plate and very lettuce-like.

An early spring foraged green Fecteau stirs into soups are garlic-mustard shoots, whose leaves are shaped like a knight’s shield and whose taste is self-explanatory. Unlike more popular wild edibles like fiddleheads and ramps, whose continued existence is threatened by market demand, garlic-mustard is an invasive species that spreads rapidly in many woodland areas, displacing native wildflowers, tree seedlings and wildlife. Eating them, then, is beneficial on many levels.

Chris Knapp of the Koviashuvik Local Living School in Temple is conducting a two-hour class on Friday, May 13, called Wild Salad for Kids and an all-day workshop entitled Wild Greens for the Common Table the following Sunday, May 22. Like me, he’s a lover of dandelions, and he also favors basswood leaves like Fecteau. But the trout lily, with its picturesque yellow flower, is his foraged ornamental salad ingredient of choice.

When I asked Knapp if his pristine location gave him better access to quality wild edibles than the average Maine resident living in town, he said no. “There really are no truly pristine spots for foraging. You have to take responsible environmental precautions wherever you are,” Knapp said. The best places to find edible greens are in what he called “transitional zones” – the edges of fields before the forest thickens; the banks of streams; along roadsides if you pick up hill from where traffic passes; and, in your neighborhood if you know for certain your neighbors don’t use Roundup. And as a matter of sustainability, never take more than one-quarter of any edible you find in the wild at any one time.

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

]]> 3, 02 May 2016 08:51:55 +0000
Horseradish prepared at home could make you give up the bottled Wed, 27 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Horseradish – a member of the mustard family native to Eastern and Central Europe – has been enjoyed by people since antiquity. Even so, when Peter Kump, one of my mentors, wrote in praise of the root in 1992, he argued well that horseradish remained vastly underappreciated.

Sure, we know it as a key ingredient of cocktail sauces and as one of the five bitter herbs served at a Passover seder. But fewer people know it for how well it complements roasted meats, poultry and fish, he said.

If anything, Kump may have understated its usefulness. Food historian Waverly Root wrote that some ancient populations ate copious amounts of horseradish in winter for its warming qualities and that Roman philosophers recommended horseradish to treat all manner of ailments.

Modern chefs have always loved horseradish, but now, increasingly, you can find it in the produce section of the supermarket, making it easy to add it to your home culinary tool kit.

So let’s talk about two kinds of horseradish: fresh and homemade prepared. In search of fresh horseradish at the supermarket, look for a firm, off-white root with no soft spots or cuts.

Peeled, it should appear smooth and white inside. Potent as horseradish can be, sometimes just a hint of it is enough. In that case, peel and grate the fresh vegetable on top of your finished dish right before serving. Raw, it’s almost sweet.

But if you want to make your own prepared horseradish similar to what you’d buy jarred – a fierce batch that will last for several weeks in the fridge – you’ll need to start with quite a bit of freshly grated horseradish. If you try to do the job with a hand-grater, you’ll be sawing away for hours. Here’s a much faster and easier way; cut the root into 1-inch chunks and grind them in a food processor.

However – and please pay attention here – once you’ve ground the root, you must treat it like a dangerous gas.

Horseradish contains strong and volatile oils that are released when it is chopped or crushed. That’s why you need to stand at arm’s length from the processor as you remove the lid, then keep your distance for a few minutes before spooning it out of the processor. If you don’t keep your distance, at least initially, you’ll tear up worse than if you’d just chopped a bushel of onions.

Oddly enough, 10 minutes later all the wind has gone out of this storm. The horseradish becomes quite mild, even boring. What do you do to preserve horseradish’s trademark heat? Add vinegar, and do it quickly, before the flavor starts to fade.

Your homemade condiment will taste sharper and cleaner than the stuff in the bottle and can be used in any dish to which you used to add the bottled stuff.

Here, I’ve combined our prepared horseradish with mayonnaise and mustard to form a super-tangy glue for the crumbs adorning some steaks. It would be equally wonderful with fish. For that matter, it’ll add a nice kick to just about any spring dish you can name.


Makes 4 servings

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

1/2 cup finely crushed potato chips

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons prepared horseradish (recipe below)

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1-1/2 pounds petite fillet or flat-iron steaks or boneless short ribs, cut crosswise into 1-inch thick pieces

Heat the oven to broil.

In a large, oven-safe skillet over medium, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the garlic and rosemary and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Stir in the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring, until they have turned slightly golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, then add the potato chips and stir well. Set aside. Wipe out the skillet.

In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, horseradish and mustard, then season with salt and pepper.

Heat the remaining oil in the skillet over high heat. Season the steaks on both sides with salt and pepper, then sear for 1 minute per side.

Working quickly, spread the horseradish mixture generously on one side of each steak, then top the mixture with the breadcrumb mixture, pressing it down gently. Transfer the skillet to the oven’s middle shelf and broil until the crumbs are lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Divide the steaks among serving plates, along with any juices from the skillet. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.


Makes about 1/2 cup

2-ounce piece peeled fresh horseradish, cut into 1-inch chunks

2-1/2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

In a food processor, process the horseradish until it is very finely chopped. Keeping your eyes averted when you remove the lid from the food processor, transfer the horseradish to a bowl and stir in the vinegar and salt. Let stand for 10 minutes before using.

Sara Moulton is the 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.”

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Three tips for a better, easier breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day Wed, 27 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Breakfast in bed is a love language in our home. Anytime there is a special occasion to celebrate – a birthday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, whatever – the rest of the family follows an unspoken agreement to meet early in the kitchen to craft a breakfast-in-bed tray. I’m always first to the kitchen, and as I get the project rolling my daughters show up one at a time, bleary-eyed and clutching handmade crafts or cards and some flowers picked from the garden.

As the team leader for many of the breakfasts our family has orchestrated over the years, I’ve developed a few best practices. And my No. 1 tip: Do the bulk of the work the night before. Overnight breakfast recipes are key. The (critical) decorating of the tray with small kiddos sucks up a surprising amount of time, leaving precious little space for complex recipe execution in the morning.

Tip No. 2: Serve something a little special. Stepping outside the routine breakfast menu has incredible power to make the whole morning feel like a party.

Tip No. 3: Keep in mind the logistics of eating off a tray while mostly reclined in bed. Cereal, aside from breaking rule No. 2, is just about impossible to eat in bed without spilling. And while you don’t need to be limited to finger food, think twice before getting too cozy with messy and liquid-based meal ideas. (It takes weeks for the smell of maple syrup to leave a comforter after a serious spill. Listen to the voice of experience on this one.)

So what dish covers all these bases? And is healthy? Egg strata, which layers bread, eggs, meat and veggies all in one dish. I make mine in a muffin tin, which results in perfect portioning, pretty presentation and the flexibility to pick up breakfast with your hands or use a fork and knife. I use white whole-grain bread and a combination of eggs and egg whites to keep the nutrient profile reasonable. So even your morning breakfast party can boost your day with protein and fiber.


Makes 8 servings

8 slices of white whole-grain bread

2 small breakfast sausage links or 1 large link chicken sausage, mild or spicy (uncooked), casings removed

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup finely chopped button or mixed mushrooms

4 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and excess liquid squeezed out

1/4 cup (2 ounces) light cream cheese

1/4 cup salsa

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 whole eggs

2 egg whites

3/4 cup low-fat milk

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

2 medium tomatoes, cut into 8 thin slices

1/4 cup shredded Gruyere, Swiss or cheddar cheese

Cut the crusts off the bread, then cut the crusts into 1/2-inch cubes and set aside.

Use the palm of your hand to lightly press the slices of bread flat, making them thin and a little doughy. Coat the cups of a muffin pan with cooking spray, then gently press 1 slice into each cup, creating 8 little crusts. Set aside.

In a medium saute pan over medium-high, cook the sausage, crumbling with a spoon, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook until fragrant, about another minute. Add the spinach, cream cheese and salsa, then cook for another 2 minutes (the mushrooms will not be fully cooked). Remove from the heat and stir in the mustard. Allow to cool for several minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg whites and milk until frothy. Add the slightly cooled mushroom and sausage mixture and stir to combine. Season with generous pinches each of salt and pepper. Place a few cubes of bread crust in each muffin cup, then spoon the egg mixture on top. You may not need all of the bread crusts. Lay 1 slice of tomato on top of each tart, then 1/2 tablespoon of cheese over that.

Cover the muffin tray with foil and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. When you are ready to serve, heat the oven to 350 F. Bake for 15 minutes covered, then remove the foil and continue baking until the eggs are firm, another 10 to 15 minutes.

Food Network star Melissa d’Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook, “Supermarket Healthy.”

]]> 0, 27 Apr 2016 12:16:59 +0000
Shrimp pasta relies on orange peel for unique flavor Wed, 27 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Orange peel adds intriguing flavor to this shrimp and tomato pasta dish. Fresh basil and Parmesan cheese add additional flavor. This colorful dish is served over a bed of rotelli (corkscrew pasta.) The shrimp cook quickly in the tomato and orange sauce.

A salad with cannellini beans – large white Italian kidney beans – completes the meal.


Makes 2 servings

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 cup sliced onion

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 cup low-sodium pasta sauce

1 cup water

4 strips orange peel, about 2 inches by 1/2 inch

3/4 pound peeled and deveined large shrimp

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup chopped fresh basil

1/4 pound rotelli (corkscrew) pasta, (about 11/2-cups)

2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Place large pot of water on to boil for the pasta. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté 3 minutes without browning. Add garlic and sauté another minute. Add pasta sauce, water and orange peel and cook 5 minutes. Lower heat to medium and add shrimp and cayenne pepper. Cook gently 2 to 3 minutes, turning shrimp over until shrimp are pink. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Remove orange peel and stir in basil.

While sauce cooks, add pasta to boiling water and cook for 8 minutes or according to package instructions; drain and divide between the two dinner plates.

Spoon shrimp and sauce over the cooked pasta, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve.


Makes 2 servings

4 cups washed, ready-to-eat Italian-style salad

1/2 cup rinsed and drained low-sodium cannellini beans

2 tablespoons reduced-fat oil and vinegar dressing

Place salad in a bowl. Add the beans and toss with the dressing.

]]> 0, 27 Apr 2016 12:03:30 +0000
Cookbook review: ‘Teeny’s Tour of Pie: Mastering the Art of Pie in 67 Recipes’ Wed, 27 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “Teeny’s Tour of Pie: Mastering the Art of Pie in 67 Recipes.” by Teeny Lamothe. Workman Publishing, 2014. $$$

In the movie “City Slickers,” crotchety cattle-drive trail boss Curly doesn’t share much, but he does share his philosophy of life: “One thing,” he tells the dudes he’s assigned to oversee, holding up one forefinger. “One thing.” They’re baffled, until (spoiler alert) they realize he’s telling them that the secret of a satisfying life is to find and focus on one passion.

Teeny Lamothe is one of the lucky people who knows what her “one thing” is and does it. A woman who grew up making kid-size pies at her mother’s elbow, she returned to pie-making mode in her mid-20s and dived in with a single goal: to become a professional pie baker. She designed a vagabond version of an independent course of study, what she calls her Tour of Pie, a year of apprenticeships at nine pie shops from Washington state to New York to Georgia.

The resulting cookbook is full of her stories from that year, stories that flow easily in a young, friendly and often funny voice. She describes failures as well as successes, and can expand on just about any topic that involves pie creation, starting with tools of the trade, from the traditional ones like rolling pins to items you’d maybe never heard of, like “pie birds” and “pie beads” and crust covers – yes, there actually is a way to avoid the dreaded tinfoil method! (Well, it was news to me!)

I in particular appreciate that this is a how-to book. I did not grow up baking pies under my mother’s expert guidance; I need Lamothe’s “5 Commandments of Crust” and the photos of the crust-crimping process. I need someone to tell me to chill the ingredients before making the dough, and the dough before making the pie. She covers not only the what and the how, but the why, and in a very readable way. Post-it notes throughout offer snippets of pie-baking wisdom.

For those of you who already know these basics, there are the stories and, of course, the 67 recipes. Lamothe offers eight types of crust, from all-purpose to whole wheat to pretzel (!) and gluten-free, as well as crumbles and homemade whipped cream with variations. The pies themselves – some extremely appealing (Blubarb; Zested Lime Curd; Georgia Peach), others a tad outré, like “Bourbon Bacon Pecan” and the somewhat scary “Pickled Beets with Goat Cheese and Candied Walnuts” – are organized by season, to take advantage of fresh ingredients, although no one’s going to grate your knuckles with a zester if you make summer’s Lemony Blueberry Crumb Pie in spring, as I did.

Oddly, the first pie I was moved to make was not a sweet, toothsome, bubbling berry pie, but a chicken potpie with kale and cannellinis. Actually, six of them, 5-inchers. I think if I’d used fresh whole-wheat flour instead of the stuff that had been mouldering in my cupboard for, oh, maybe 15 years, these labor-intensive pies would have been really delicious. The filling was great.

My second attempt was the Banana Cream Pie with Vanilla Wafer Crust, chosen mainly to get as far as possible from anything resembling whole wheat. The crust was a snap: crushed vanilla wafers held together with butter. Mmmmm. Who needs a special filling, anyway? I filled it with instant vanilla pudding and enjoyed every bite. So I guess this pie doesn’t really count.

Third was Lemony Blueberry Crumb Pie. This is a “summer” pie that a friend and I made on March 27, barely spring. I refused to make the vodka-infused whole-wheat crust the recipe calls for, opting instead to go tame with a buttery all-purpose crust. Instead of 4 cups of fresh blueberries, which would have cost about $40 at this time of year, we used blueberries we’d frozen from last summer and halved the recipe because we had only 2 cups left. Finally, a pie that was something to rave about.

My one complaint about this cookbook has nothing to do with recipes, but with the Table of Contents. It lists chapters and what page they start on, but not the pies and their pages. I found it difficult to relocate recipes. Yes, the index contains them all, but if you can’t remember the exact name, you have to troll for it. This may sound like a small thing, but it was darned irritating.

So, stir together pretty good stories charmingly told, useful tips, delicious pies, and you’re off on a light-hearted Tour of Pie with Teeny Lamothe. Maybe you’ll be inspired to pursue your own “one thing,” be it pie or whatever else you have a taste for.



Makes 1 (9-inch) single-crust pie, 6-8 slices


1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1/4 cup sliced almonds

1 cup packed light or dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

In a large bowl mix together the flour, oats, almonds, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt with a fork or your hands until combined.

Pour the melted butter over the mixture and stir with a rubber spatula or your hands until everything is thoroughly combined. The crumble mixture should clump easily when pressed together in your hand.


2½ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

¾ cup (1½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces

¼ cup cold vegetable shortening

¼ cup cold vodka

6 tablespoons cold water, plus extra as needed


4 cups fresh blueberries

1-2 tablespoons freshly grated zest of lemon and 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

2/3 cup granulated sugar

7 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

To make the crust, in large bowl combine the flour, salt, and sugar. Add the butter and shortening and cut the mixture together using a pastry cutter until it forms small pea-size crumbs coated in flour.

Pour the vodka over the dry ingredients a few tablespoons at a time while using a rubber spatula to press the dough together. Similarly, add the water and continue to press the dough together to form a large ball. The dough should be fairly wet and sticky; if for some reason it seems particularly dry, add a little extra ice water a tablespoon at a time until everything comes together easily.

Divide the dough into 2 equal balls, press each into a 1-inch disk, wrap each in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days before rolling out.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F with a rack in the middle position.

To make the filling, place the blueberries in a large bowl, add the lemon zest and toss to combine. In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon to combine.

Add the lemon juice to the sugar mixture along with 1 tablespoon water and whisk until smooth. (If the cornstarch and sugar clump, you can add an additional 1 tablespoon of water.) Pour the mixture over the blueberries and toss gently to coat. Set aside.

Place 1 disk of dough on a floured work surface and with a floured rolling pin roll it into a rough 11-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Lay the crust into a 9-inch pie plate, gently press it in, and trim any excess dough from the edge with a paring knife, being sure to leave a 3/4-inch overhang. Tuck the overhanging dough under itself and crimp. Place the lined pie plate on a rimmed baking sheet.

Pour the blueberry filling into the unbaked pie crust. Sprinkle the crumble evenly over the filling.

Bake until the filling is thickly bubbling and the crust and crumble are golden brown (cover the crimp with foil if it begins to brown too quickly), 45-55 minutes. Let the pie cool before serving.

]]> 0, 27 Apr 2016 12:03:22 +0000
Can parsnip “rice” sushi hold its own against the real deal? Wed, 27 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 HYDE PARK, N.Y. — As hauntingly good recipes go, anything with parsnips as the main ingredient seems an unlikely candidate. Except for this one.

During a recent meal at Pangea, a “vegetable forward,” student-run restaurant on the campus of The Culinary Institute of America, I was served a sushi roll made entirely from vegetables. The “salmon” was an amazing rendition made from slices of tomato. I know. I was just as dubious. Until I ate it. The rice? Made from finely chopped and seasoned raw parsnips. I know. I was just as dubious. Until I ate it.

Let me put it this way: I’m a happy carnivore and I love real – really good – sushi. But these rolls were so good, I’d gladly eat them at a legit sushi bar. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say, I’d gladly have traded the entirety of the rest of my meal for multiple orders of this sushi. So kudos to the students (and no doubt their hardworking instructors) for nailing this dish.

In the weeks following the meal, I found myself wishing I had more of that sushi. So I decided to see whether it could be reproduced at home. Because as lovely as the school’s campus is, most of us can’t get there just for the vegetable sushi.

After reading the school’s recipe for the tomatoes – a multi-day marinating process – I decided the tomato “salmon” wasn’t in the cards for most home cooks. That’s fine. I like real smoked salmon. And since I’m not vegetarian, who cares? But the rice? That was totally doable. In fact, it takes far less time to whip up a batch of the parsnip rice than it does to prepare true sushi rice.

As long as you have a food processor, the rice can be prepared in 5 to 10 minutes. It then can be combined with nori (seaweed) sheets and whatever fillings you like to make excellent sushi rolls.



Makes 6 maki rolls (about 8 pieces each)

1-1/2 pounds parsnips, peeled, trimmed and cut into chunks

3 tablespoons tahini

3 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar

11/2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

6 sheets nori

4 ounces smoked salmon, cut into thin strips

1/3 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into thin strips

In a food processor, combine the parsnips, tahini, rice vinegar and soy sauce. Pulse for 20 to 30 seconds, or until the parsnips are finely chopped and resemble grains of rice.

One at a time, set a sheet of nori on a sushi rolling mat or a sheet of kitchen parchment. Scoop one-sixth of the parsnip mixture onto the nori. Wet your hand, then gently press and spread the parsnip mixture until it covers about 80 percent of the nori, leaving the edge furthest from you bare. On the edge closest to you, arrange strips of salmon and cucumber.

Using the mat or kitchen parchment to help, start with the edge closest to you and roll the nori up on itself to create a roll. Before completing the roll, wet your fingers and run them along the bare nori, then continue rolling. The moisture helps seal the roll. Set aside and repeat with remaining ingredients.

When all of the rolls are assembled, use a serrated knife dipped in warm water to cut each roll into 8 rounds.

]]> 0, 27 Apr 2016 12:03:39 +0000
Chocolate, chicken find each other in decadent mole sauce Wed, 27 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Don’t be fooled into thinking mole (pronounced mole-EH) is just a Mexican chocolate sauce. To start with, though it is rich and decadent, it is savory, not sweet. In fact, depending on how it is made, it can pack significant heat. Most varieties involve some sort of ground nuts or seeds, which give these sauces a stick-to-your-ribs thickness that begs to be paired with hearty meats.

There are many ways to make mole. This version uses raw almonds, which are sauteed with onion, garlic, a few spices, a few chili peppers, some orange juice and tomato paste. The result is balanced and rich, and it won’t overwhelm. You will, however, want some warm flour tortillas to sop up the excess. It’s that good.

It’s worth going out of your way to get Mexican chocolate for this recipe. It’s less sweet than most chocolates, and it has a pleasantly grainy texture that – like the almonds – adds body to the finished sauce. If you can’t find it, opt for a semi-sweet dark chocolate.


Makes 6 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large yellow onion, diced

1/2 cup raw, unsalted almonds

4 cloves garlic, whole

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

2 to 4 Thai red chilies (depending on desired heat)

1/2 cup orange juice

1-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth or stock

6 ounce can tomato paste

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2.7-ounce disk Mexican chocolate (such as Taza)

1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

Kosher salt

Cooked brown rice, to serve

In a large skillet over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the onion and saute for 3 minutes. Add the almonds, garlic, cumin, coriander and chilies, then cook, stirring often, for 6 minutes. Add the orange juice and chicken broth, then stir to deglaze the pan. Bring to a simmer, then stir in the tomato paste and oregano. Transfer the mixture to a blender, then add the chocolate. Blend until smooth, then set aside.

Return the skillet to medium-high and heat the vegetable oil. Season the chicken with salt, then add it to the skillet and cook for 3 minutes per side. Return the sauce to the skillet, stirring gently to cover the chicken. Return to a simmer, then reduce heat to maintain. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, or until the chicken reaches 165 F. Serve the chicken over rice, spooning mole sauce over the top.

AP Food Editor J.M. Hirsch is on Twitter and Instagram as @JM–Hirsch. Email him at:

]]> 0, 27 Apr 2016 12:03:25 +0000
Do environmentally conscious habits in our kitchens actually have an impact? Sun, 24 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 As I approach my second anniversary writing this column, I’ve starting wondering more and more about whether the baby steps I often suggest will add up in the longterm. Each week in Green Plate Special, I try to break down the process of eating sustainably into digestible chunks. I illustrate each topic with a recipe I hope is tempting enough to persuade readers – you – to make sustainable changes in your own kitchens.

The Pollyanna in me stamps her foot earnestly and says that every little bit has got to help, right?

But the piles of reports digging into how our industrialized food system has overtaxed our soil; the demographic assertions that by 2050 there will be 9.6 billion mouths to feed; the ongoing social and political debate about what role laboratories should play in food production; and, the gobs of data regarding how warming oceans and changing climates are affecting food supplies, can render even those very optimistic voices in my head speechless.

Add to those, your online comments, specifically about columns I’ve written about using fewer paper towels, re-growing scallion bottoms, serving soup to my neighbors made from kitchen scraps, and cutting back (but not eliminating) meat consumption. Some of you have commented that these won’t add up to a hill of beans, further undercutting my inner Polly.

So I’ve been looking for data that will help me answer this nagging question: Do the small efforts made by 10, 25 or even 50 moderately sustainable eaters lighten the footprint of environmental consumption more than, less than or equal to the concerted efforts of a single vegetarian who grows her own food, prepares it without the help of fossil fuels, wastes nary a potato peel, and never forgets to put reusable bags into her panniers before cycling to the (farmers) market for incidentals?

Arriving at an answer to that query is going to take some serious data mining and maybe even some complicated coding. As a physicist friend who studies global warming explained, myriad organizations (like sustainability centers at land grant colleges, environmental think tanks, concerned scientists across the globe and local, state and federal governmental agencies) are tracking the environmental costs of all sorts of food consumption activities. But the trick yet to be pulled off is collating and then correlating them to the various personal sustainable eating habits.

With all these moving parts in play, the environmental benefit realized from how any one eater sources, prepares and conserves food is going to vary. Even Pollyanna recognizes that reality. But I am hopeful that in this Fitbit-toting world (over 21 million of these trackers were sold in 2015), where counting up single paces literally adds up to sustained personal health, we can establish a system to track sustainable eating activities, one that proves that little steps taken by hordes of Americans can foster good habits with long-term benefits for the planet.

Stay tuned for more data. While you’re waiting, make an omelet.

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

]]> 2, 25 Apr 2016 11:24:45 +0000
After maple season is over, birch tappers are bringing something new to the table Wed, 20 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 TEMPLE — A mile down a country road wet with spring mud lies a sugar house where Michael Romanyshyn is checking an old milk tank filling up with birch sap.

The machinery makes a rhythmic pumping noise as it carries sap up to the house from the birch grove in the woods below. The steam from nearby evaporators and a finishing tank, where the sap is simmered (not boiled) into syrup, thickens the air with a scent that evokes molasses.

“This is the sap coming in from the woods,” Romanyshyn said as he grabbed a clean glass mug for sampling. “You want to taste a little bit?”

This is nearly midseason sap – the birch syrup season typically begins right after maple season and lasts about three weeks, if you’re lucky – and it tastes like slightly sweetened water. Next came a taste of the syrup in progress. It was surprisingly complex and bright, with strong notes of citrus and earthy undertones.

Birch sap and birch syrup are starting to show up in cookbooks, in artisanal products and on menus at trendy restaurants. Its potential for growth in the Northeast is “very substantial,” according to Abby van den Berg of the University of Vermont’s Proctor Maple Research Center.

The Romanyshyns have sold some of their syrup to a Massachusetts chocolatier, who plans to make birch truffles. Here in Maine, they’ve sold the stuff to North Spore, a Portland-area mushroom company, for the development of Birch Bitters, which will be made from the syrup and chaga mushrooms.

David Levi, chef/owner of Vinland, once obtained several gallons from a friend on Peaks Island and used it in a few dishes at his restaurant, while Hugo’s once served birch sap tapped by former owner Rob Evans from trees on his own property. The birch sap, served with birch ice, had “a hint of sweetness, but a little bit of earthiness,” said Arlin Smith, one of the restaurant’s current owners, who used to work for Evans. “It was beautiful and cold and clean.” The restaurant stopped serving it because it couldn’t find a consistent supply.

That may change in the next few years.


Romanyshyn, his wife, Susie Dennison, and two sons call themselves the Temple Tappers, and they are the first commercial makers of birch syrup in Maine. Birch sap has traditionally been collected in the forests of Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and Asia and sold as a drink, according to van den Berg, who has been researching the viability of birch syrup production in the Northeast. In North America, most birch syrup is produced in Alaska and Canada.

Van den Berg says there’s no data on the number of people in the Northeast who are gathering sap and making birch syrup now, but she believes it has increased substantially since she first started researching the topic a few years ago.

“You have lots of the resource, especially there in Maine – lots of birch forest – and because this is something that can be picked up by maple producers that use very similar equipment there’s really very high potential for birch syrup and sap production to grow in the Northeast.”

About 30 producers from the Northeast attended the first International Birch Sap and Syrup Conference held in upstate New York last June. (The Temple Tappers’ first-run syrup took first prize in a tasting contest at the conference, beating out even Alaska’s largest birch syrup producer.)

In maple trees, the natural vacuum that’s needed to make sap flow occurs in the branches; in birches, that pressure is thought to be generated in the tree’s roots. For a sap run, birch needs daytime temperatures in the 40s and 50s, and nighttime temperatures in the 30s. Once temperatures start regularly hitting the high 50s and 60s, the sap gets cloudy and it’s spoiled. Romanyshyn said you can tell when the season is over because the sap starts running a reddish color.

The Romanyshyn family makes maple syrup, too, but just enough for their own use. They started tapping birch trees a few years ago when they were looking for something they could do “from the land” that would help them stay on their homestead. The family lives in Dennison’s childhood home, perched on a hill with a stunning view of Mount Blue. (Her father was novelist and short story writer George Dennison, best known for “The Lives of Children,” a best-seller that documented the education of poor children on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the late 1960s.) A small stream runs from a large pond on the property and flows through the birch grove they tap for syrup.

When a friend gave Michael Romanyshyn a copy of a New Hampshire study on birch, he went right out and tapped a few trees, mostly white birch. Today the forest is interlaced with so much tubing it resembles a blue spider’s web. Last year, the family made about 30 gallons of birch syrup. This year, they tapped 900 birch trees and hope to make 50 gallons.

It takes 40-50 gallons of maple sap to make a gallon of maple syrup. Birch sap contains half the sugar of maple sap, so it takes twice as much – about 110 gallons – to make a gallon of birch syrup.

“The biggest producers in Alaska…they might have 10,000 or 12,000 taps, but they’re only making a few hundred gallons,” Romanyshyn said. “And that’s why it’s so expensive. Every gallon is very precious.”

Van den Berg’s 2013 study estimated that a birch syrup producer with 400 taps would need to charge $170.20 a gallon just to break even. The Temple Tappers charge $3.75 an ounce – it’d work out to more than $475 a gallon – but they aren’t yet profitable because they haven’t paid off the investment they’ve made in equipment.

Last year, the family sold out of syrup quickly by offering it at local stores and the Common Ground Fair in Unity, where they handed out 5,000 samples. This year, they also plan to sell online.


Since maple producers already have the equipment, and birch sap starts flowing just as maple season is ending, many of them are considering making birch syrup for extra income, van den Berg said.

Kevin Grant has been making birch syrup since 2003 for his family’s use. At their 64-acre homestead in Ripley, Grant taps a dozen or so birch trees every other year, and they make the syrup in a big pan on top of the wood stove. “My wife, Nancy, can’t have refined sugar, so we look for other things to do,” Grant said. “We have honey bees, and we tap the maple trees.”

Grant describes the taste as “similar to molasses.” Others compare it to butterscotch, and chef Levi describes its flavor as “more bitter and complex” than maple syrup. Grant’s wife makes baked beans with birch syrup, and he uses it to make beer and wine. Van den Berg drizzles it on roasted vegetables, and enjoys it in sauces and baked into bread. But the one thing birch syrup shouldn’t be wasted on, Grant and others say, is pancakes.

Tyler Kirkmann disagrees. He has developed a lighter, pancake-style birch syrup that can also be used on ice cream.

Kirkmann, an engineer who lives on 33 birch-covered acres in Brewer, has been making birch syrup for three years and is now selling it ($25 for an 8-ounce bottle) through eBay and his shop, “The Kirkmann Homestead.”

“I tapped maple trees as a kid growing up in Maine,” he said. “I read about people making (birch syrup) in Alaska, and I thought I would try it out.”

Birch syrup, he discovered, is more difficult to make than maple syrup because it has different sugars in it that scorch more easily.

Romanyshyn doesn’t like it when people compare the taste of birch syrup to molasses because “molasses takes over whatever you use it on,” he said. “Birch has a lot more subtlety to it.”

The Temple Tappers label describes the taste as “woodsy” and warns: “Some people love it, some don’t.”


“You know what it’s really good on? Vanilla ice cream,” Dennison said Friday as she prepared a lunch that featured birch syrup in several ways: salmon brushed with birch syrup glaze, salad with birch syrup dressing, and pound cake that the couple’s 12-year-old son Auley iced with creamy birch frosting. Depending on its use, the syrup’s character changed.

No matter how you serve it, birch sap and birch syrup are poised for growth.

“Around the country there is a huge movement to use and produce more local food,” van den Berg said, “and this is just adding yet another really great ingredient to the suite of local foods that are available.”

]]> 3, 20 Apr 2016 12:21:48 +0000
Birch syrup recipes Wed, 20 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 BIRCH SYRUP GLAZE FOR SALMON OR PORK

1 shallot

Olive oil


1/4 cup dry white wine

1 bay leaf

1/2 cup birch syrup

1 teaspoon mustard

Finely chop the shallot and sauté in a small amount of olive oil and butter until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the wine and bay leaf. Reduce at a fast simmer by about three-quarters.

Add the birch syrup to the pan and bring to a low simmer. Cook for 15-20 minutes until the mixture is the consistency of syrupy glaze. Cool, remove bay leaf and add the mustard.

Brush onto salmon or pork to glaze.


Serves 1

Put 1 or 2 shots vodka into a glass of ice. Add tonic water almost to fill. Mix in 1 tablespoon of birch syrup. Squeeze in a good-sized slice of lime and leave the slice in the glass to serve.


This dressing is best with spinach or mixed greens.

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 pinches salt

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon mustard

2 tablespoons birch syrup

1 1/4 cup olive oil


Combine the vinegars, salt and garlic. Whisk in the mustard and birch syrup. Add the oil slowly while whisking to make a slightly thick dressing. Season with pepper.

]]> 0, 20 Apr 2016 08:13:04 +0000
Maine Ingredient: Spring has sprung. Celebrate with a menu that sings of the season Wed, 20 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 This menu fairly sings of springtime. Paillards are thin slices of meat (chicken, in this instance) that get quickly sautéed or grilled – the beauty being that the thin cut can be immersed in and surrounded by a sauce of complementary flavors, in this case the sprightly flavors of lemon, capers, and fresh thyme.

The accompanying couscous pilaf is also light and colorful, and if you add some steamed sugar snap peas, the seasonal meal is complete.


This recipe calls for cutting boneless breasts longitudinally into half-inch-thick slices but you could also use chicken tenders, which are available in most supermarket meat cases. Be sure to drain the capers well, otherwise the sauce could end up too salty.

Makes 4 servings

1½ pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon, plus 2 teaspoons unsalted butter

1½ tablespoons chopped fresh thyme, plus sprigs for garnish

1½ cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1½ tablespoons drained capers

4 thin lemon slices, cut in half

Slice chicken longitudinally into ½-inch-thick slices and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Spread flour out on a plate. Dredge chicken in the flour, shaking off the excess.

In a very large skillet or 2 smaller skillets, heat the oil and 1 tablespoon butter. When oil is hot, add floured chicken and cook over medium to medium-high heat, until golden brown on the first side, 3 to 5 minutes. Turn, sprinkle with the thyme, and cook until the second side is browned. Remove to a plate, leaving drippings in the pan.

Add broth to the skillet, raise heat to high, and cook, stirring up browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until liquid is reduced and lightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Add lemon juice and capers and simmer for 1 minute. Cut the remaining 2 teaspoons butter into small pieces and whisk into the sauce.

Return chicken and any accumulated juices to sauce, along with lemon slices, and heat through. Garnish with thyme sprigs, and serve.


I always find it amazing – almost miraculous – that couscous (tiny Middle Eastern pasta) cooks by just sitting in hot liquid for a mere 5 minutes. What could be simpler? And the addition of some colorful vegetables is a lovely enhancement to this delightful, light starch.

Makes 4 servings

3 tablespoons butter

2 carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice

1 medium onion, chopped

1 large or 2 small stalks celery, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

2 cups chicken broth or a combination of broth and water

½ teaspoon salt, plus additional if necessary

1½ cups (one 10-ounce box) plain couscous

Freshly ground black pepper

In a medium-large saucepan, melt the butter. Add carrots, onion, and celery and cook over medium heat until vegetables are tender and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add broth and salt, raise heat to high, and bring to a boil. Add couscous, stir, remove from heat, and cover. Let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and taste for seasoning, adding pepper and more salt if needed. Couscous reheats well in the microwave.

Brooke Dojny’s most recent cookbook is “Chowderland: Hearty Soups & Stews with Sides and Salads to Match.” She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula. Contact her via Facebook:

]]> 0, 20 Apr 2016 08:13:04 +0000
This is the iconic chicken recipe that you need in your life Wed, 20 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 When this recipe was first created by The Silver Palate catering and take out shop on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, it earned an immediate following. When the recipe was later published in “The Silver Palate Cookbook” by Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso, it was a revelation, mostly thanks to its eccentric ingredient list: Vinegar? Olives? Prunes? Capers? Garlic? Brown sugar? White wine? All in one dish?

Yes! To taste it was to be converted.

And so for a nice chunk of time during the ’80s this dish made appearances on tables all over the country, sometimes for family dinners, but more often for entertaining. I grew up on this dish (my mother was an early adopter of it). It was one of the first “grown-up” meals I served to family and friends as a budding cook, and not too long ago I even made it to bring to a kindergarten potluck for one of my kids.

Of course, I also had a deeper connection to this recipe. My father, Peter Workman, was the publisher of the “Silver Palate Cookbook,” so I really felt like the recipe was part of my family’s culinary history.

And for a long time it was the first dish on my Passover menu every year. Thankfully, this is not a dish to forget, or imagine to be dated in any way. The faultless and brilliant combination of flavors is timeless, the recipe is pretty foolproof, the chicken is unfailingly moist, and it can be made ahead. Make it again, if you have forgotten it for a while. Or make it for the first time, and tell me that you’re not a card-carrying lifetime chicken marbella fan.


Makes 10 servings

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1 cup (about 8 ounces) pitted prunes

1/2 cup (about 3 ounces) pitted Spanish green olives

1/2 cup capers, with a bit of juice

6 bay leaves

1 head of garlic, minced

1/4 cup dried oregano

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

10 pounds quartered chickens pieces

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley or fresh cilantro, finely chopped

In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, vinegar, prunes, olives, capers and a splash of the juice, the bay leaves, garlic, oregano and a hefty pinch each of salt and pepper. Add the chicken and stir to coat. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to cook, heat the oven to 350 F.

Arrange the chicken in a single layer in 1 or 2 large, shallow baking pans. Spoon the marinade evenly over the chicken. Sprinkle the chicken pieces with the brown sugar and pour the white wine around them. Bake, basting frequently with the pan juices, until the thigh pieces reach 170 F and the breasts reach 160 F, 50 minutes to 1 hour.

With a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken, prunes, olives and capers to a serving platter. Moisten with a few spoons of the pan juices and sprinkle generously with the parsley or cilantro. Serve the remaining pan juices on the side.

NOTE: To serve chicken marbella cold, cool to room temperature in the cooking juices before transferring the pieces to a serving platter. If the chicken has been covered and refrigerated, reheat it in the juices, then allow it to come to room temperature before serving. Spoon some of the reserved juices over the chicken.

]]> 0, 20 Apr 2016 08:13:04 +0000
‘Fire + Ice: Classic Nordic Cooking’ by Darra Goldstein Wed, 20 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “Fire + Ice: Classic Nordic Cooking.” By Darra Goldstein. Ten Speed Press, 2015. $40

My sister and I hiked across a small corner of Norway a decade ago, making for one of the most magical trips of my life. In Denmark several years later, I dined so well in a single week, I practically had to be force-marched onto the plane home. But even if I weren’t predisposed to like a cookbook about Scandinavia, I’d prize my copy of “Fire + Ice: Classic Nordic Cooking” by Darra Goldstein.

As a professor of Russian at Williams College, the founding editor of Gastronomica, and a frequent visitor to Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark over decades, Goldstein knows her subject cold. Cooks – and anyone curious about Nordic eating (and culture) – will feel in supremely competent hands.

She knows to adjust the recipe for Dill-Marinated Herring to account for “weakling American vinegar.” She relates the place that porridge (gröt, grød and grøt, “cognates of our English word ‘gruel’ with its harsh Dickensian association”) holds in Nordic hearts: “A Nordic Oliver Twist would ask for more gruel not because he’s so deprived but because the gruel’s so delicious.” She leads the reader on interesting detours, relating, for instance, that the log cabin – quintessential symbol of American humble origins – originated itself in Sweden. Her recipes range from homely sounding dishes like Rutabaga Pudding to complicated classics requiring homemade pork shank stock, gelatin and fresh horseradish (Beet Terrine with Horseradish Cream).

And oh those recipes. I lived with “Fire + Ice” for much of the winter, which gave me the chance to test many of them. If you’ve ever been to Scandinavia, you’ll know why the desserts chapter took me hostage. Blueberry Tosca Cake is a keeper. (And when I worried I was misunderstanding the recipe, I tweeted to Goldstein, who sent several encouraging tweets back.) Marzipan Bars brought three requests for the recipe. Whipped Berry Pudding (made with Cream of Wheat) sounds odd to American ears but is a classic in that part of the world; I was thrilled with the light, tart result.

On the savory side, Fish Cakes with Remoulade Sauce were a splendid weeknight meal, Honey-and-Beer Braised Short Ribs warmed me up on a frigid Maine winter’s night, and Root Vegetable Cakes had an earthy and unusual sweetness thanks to parsnips. Spinach Pancakes, which I haven’t yet had a chance to cook, will finally give me a use for that plättlagg (Swedish pancake pan) I picked up at a yard sale for $3 more than 30 years ago.

It’s impossible to review “Fire + Ice” without a shout out to Stefan Wettainen, whose beautiful photos more than do justice to a very beautiful region. The book will live in my kitchen, a bit of a pity, as it is really far too pretty for the cooking smudges and smears that are already accumulating on its pages.

Fish cakes and remoulade sauce are an interesting twist on seafood.

Fish cakes and remoulade sauce are an interesting twist on seafood.


Serves 4

1 small yellow onion, coarsely chopped

1 pound cod or other whitefish, skin removed, and cut into 1-inch pieces

1/2 cup chopped fresh dill

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

1/4 cup flour

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons melted butter, plus 1 tablespoon

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 recipe Remoulade Sauce

Process the onion finely in the bowl of a food processor. Add the fish, dill, parsley, flour, egg, 2 tablespoons of melted butter, salt, and pepper and pulse until ground medium fine. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours.

Shape the fish mixture into 8 patties. Set them on waxed paper.

Heat the oil and the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in a heavy, wide skillet over medium heat. When the butter begins to foam, add the fish cakes and cook for about 6 minutes, until golden, periodically sliding a spatula under the cakes to make sure they don’t stick. Carefully flip the fish cakes, lower the heat to medium-low, and continue cooking until nicely browned, about 6 minutes more, periodically using the spatula to keep the fish cakes from sticking. Serve immediately, with remoulade sauce on the side.


1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup minced dill pickle

1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon snipped chives

1/2 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon

1/2 teaspoon prepared yellow mustard

1/4 teaspoon curry powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground white pepper

Make this sauce ahead of time and refrigerate for a few hours to give the flavors a chance to blend and the mayonnaise time to absorb the color of the curry powder and mustard.

Stir together all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Scrape into a serving dish and refrigerate until well chilled.

]]> 0, 20 Apr 2016 08:13:03 +0000
Muffins will satisfy zest for lemon – and raspberries, too Wed, 20 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Fresh lemon – including the juice and the peel – is one of my all-time favorite ingredients, in part because it’s just so versatile. It can be the star of the show (as in this recipe) or a brilliant supporting actor (as in so many of my everyday dishes). It’s indispensable in fish dishes and pairs beautifully with all sorts of vegetables, raw and cooked. I also reach for it regularly to brighten up soups, stews and sautés.

The great thing about lemon peel, also known as the zest, is that it adds intense lemon flavor to a recipe without all the acid that is found in the juice. I use grated lemon zest in scrambled eggs and creamy pasta dishes and combine it with chopped herbs as a finishing touch for braised meats.

Whichever parts you use, it’s important to start with the best possible lemons. The winning candidates will boast a bright yellow color and a thin skin. A thin skin signals more juice and less pith (the bitter-tasting white layer between the peel and the fruit itself). When grating the peel, you want to stop short of the pith. How do you know a given specimen has a thin skin? It will give a little when you squeeze it.

Once home with your lemons, scrub each one lightly under water to remove the edible wax with which it was covered to protect the fruit on its journey to market. If your recipe calls for zest and juice, grate the zest before you juice the lemon. But don’t grate the zest until just before you’re ready to add it to the recipe. Zest quickly dries out and loses its oomph if it sits around for very long.

My favorite tool for grating zest is a wand-style grater. Once upon a time, the tool of choice was the fine-side of a four-sided grater. Unfortunately, this gadget often grabbed too much of the pith – not to mention the tips of your fingers – in the process. I do my grating over a piece of kitchen parchment, which allows me to pick up and measure the zest easily. The yield is roughly 1 tablespoon of zest per large lemon. If your recipe calls for zest but not juice, wrap the unused lemon in plastic wrap when you’re done and do your best to use it up within a few days. A lemon stripped of its protective layer of zest dries out pretty quickly.

There are several ways to make sure you squeeze the maximum amount of juice from your lemon. First, soften up the fruit by rolling it on the counter and pressing down as you do. Second, heat it, either by microwaving it for 20 seconds or so or by stashing it in the oven at 350 F for 10 to 12 minutes. Finally, cut the lemon in half crosswise and juice it.

I like to juice using an old-fashioned and brightly-colored Mexican hand press. But there’s also a more unorthodox, if equally effective, way to do it. Place the cut lemon half in between the two arms of a set of tongs, right at the top where the arms are joined. Then squeeze the bottom ends together. I learned this little trick from Ming Tsai, who picked it up from Jasper White, two of my favorite chefs. One large lemon will give up about ¼ cup of juice.

These muffins are quite rich, better suited to dessert than breakfast (though they would indeed be a delightful morning splurge on a special occasion). Made with juice and zest, their deep lemon flavor is complemented by the raspberries. They are a very good reason to be glad for spring.


Start to finish: 45 minutes (15 minutes active)

Servings: 8

1 cup (4½ ounces) cake flour (not self-rising)

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon table salt

¼ cup grated lemon zest

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

¾ cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons plus 1½ teaspoons lemon juice, divided

1 pint raspberries

¼ cup plus 2 teaspoons powdered sugar

Heat the oven to 325 F. Line a cupcake tin with 8 paper cupcake liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and lemon zest. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat together the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in the vanilla. Add half the flour mixture and mix just until combined. Beat in the cream and 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice. Add the remaining flour mixture, beating just until combined.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling them halfway. Press 4 raspberries gently into the center of the batter in each cup, then top with more batter, filling the cups just up to the tops of the liners. Bake the cupcakes on the oven’s center shelf until golden on top and a toothpick inserted at the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack and let cool completely.

While the cupcakes are baking, make the glaze. In a small bowl whisk together the powdered sugar and remaining lemon juice until smooth. When the cupcakes are cooled, drizzle the glaze over each cake.

]]> 0, 20 Apr 2016 08:13:03 +0000
One delicious meal becomes 2 (and a half) Sun, 17 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 My sister and I have been cooking our way through Maureen Abood’s cookbook, “Rose Water & Orange Blossoms,” and finding in the exploration of her Lebanese kitchen a connection to our own roots. Along the way, we’ve also discovered dishes that have quickly come to feel like old standbys, like the crowd-pleasing, cross-cultural casserole of lamb, tomato and eggplants that have been broiled to a crisp, called “sheik al mehsheh,” and a simple warm potato salad dressed with lemon and mint that is at home on a summer table alongside whatever has just come off the grill.

In our latest venture into Abood’s book, we found not just one meal to put into heavy rotation, but two. Actually, call it two and a half, with a lesson in leaving nothing to waste.

Abood’s cabbage rolls, stuffed with lamb and rice and boiled in a broth of tomato and garlic, are satisfying, even more because of the half-dozen chicken wings added to the pot for cooking. Served alongside a big green salad, dressed with lemon juice and olive oil, and with labneh, the ever-present Lebanese condiment made by straining salted yogurt, these made for a hearty family meal.

But, what about those chicken wings? And all that rich broth the rolls were cooked in? We put them to good use.

The chicken meat, so moist it simply fell off the bone, became dinner for my 1-year-old son – hence, the half – but could just as easily top a salad, be folded into a quesadilla, or get mixed into a colorful egg scramble.

The chicken bones went back into the pot, with all of that flavorful broth, topped off with some of the water used for blanching the cabbage, then out onto our back porch when the weather was still cold enough to keep it safely until we were ready the next morning to put it back on the stove. Into the pot we added a fresh whole chicken, along with the bag of kitchen scraps I keep in the freezer – kale ribs, lemon peels, carrot tops, celery bits, mushroom stems and more. We added a couple of bay leaves and some cardamom pods, the last a tip also picked up from an Abood chicken soup recipe.

The pot simmered for the better part of seven hours. (It’s best to remove the chicken about one hour in, pick the meat off and set it aside, then return the carcass to the pot.) We strained the broth, then added barely sautéed carrots, celery and onions, plus the chicken meat and about a cup of rice.

The many-layered broth made for a hard-to-describe soup that turned heads when I warmed it up in the office for lunch the next day. And it taught us a lesson our Lebanese ancestors surely knew: When you know how to work with what you’ve got, one delicious meal begets another.

]]> 0, 16 Apr 2016 18:39:44 +0000
Cookbook review: ‘Authentic Portuguese Cooking’ by Ana Patuleia Ortins Wed, 13 Apr 2016 19:00:00 +0000 “Authentic Portuguese Cooking: 185 Classic Mediterranean-style Recipes of the Azores, Madeira and Continental Portugal.” By Ana Patuleia Ortins. Photography by Ted Axelrod. Page Street Publishing. $25.99.

She had me at the potatoes. In introducing one of her recipes, Ana Patuleia Ortins calls potatoes “earthly delights” and says they are beloved by the Portuguese. Since I am half-Portuguese, I now feel entitled to my love of spuds.

Before another recipe in her new book “Authentic Portuguese Cooking,” she says, “We Portuguese love our cheese,” and I started to feel she could peer into my soul.

But then I saw the octopus recipes, along with a page of pictures by Maine photographer Ted Axelrod (the husband of Portland Press Herald social media editor Susan Axelrod) on preparing octopus for cooking, and my Scotch-Irish half said, “Thanks anyway.”

Be assured Ortins ventures far beyond potatoes, cheese and octopus in her cookbook, with a diversity of meat (including goat), seafood, vegetable, bread and dessert recipes, accompanied by lots of mouthwatering photos. Her instructions are clear and helpful, and I appreciated the cultural connections she makes in describing recipes.

Ortins explains that Portuguese cooking is Mediterranean in style, even though the country and its islands aren’t actually on that sea. But she also does a good job of focusing on what Portugal calls its own. Linguica and chorizo sausages show up in several recipes, and the seafood section includes plenty of salt cod.

My family liked the flavors of cinnamon and allspice, with other spices, in a pork recipe I tried. I enjoyed the hint of cinnamon along with lemon in easy and tasty Creamy Custard Tartlets.

Thanks, Ana Patuleia Ortins of Peabody, Massachusetts, for putting me in touch with my root vegetables. And even for those who have no Portuguese DNA, Ortins’ cookbook offers abundant reasons to explore a flavorful cuisine.

Potatoes with Green Herb Sauce. Photo by Ted Axelrod/Courtesy of Page Street Publishing

Potatoes with Green Herb Sauce. Photo by Ted Axelrod/Courtesy of Page Street Publishing


Ortins calls for peeling the potatoes. I didn’t and my family was still happy with the results. The recipe didn’t specify red or white vinegar; I used white. Also, I used parsley but would like to try this delicious dish with cilantro sometime.

Serves 6

1 large onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 cup finely chopped cilantro or parsley, or combination

1/2 cup wine vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon hot sauce

Coarse kosher salt, to taste

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

12 small red bliss potatoes, peeled

Combine the onion, garlic, parsley or cilantro and vinegar in a bowl. Whisk in the olive oil and hot sauce, thoroughly mixing. Season with salt and pepper. Let stand for 1/2 hour. Do not chill.

While the dressing flavors are melding, put the potatoes in a pot and cover completely with water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until fork-tender, about 25 minutes. Drain and transfer the potatoes to a serving bowl.

Spoon the herb sauce over the hot potatoes, turning gently to coat completely, and serve.


Ortins calls these “a mouthful of joy” and I can’t argue. She suggests using 2 miniature muffin pans or 24 (2-ounce tartlet) tins.

Makes about 24

2 1/4 cups whole milk

1/2 cup butter

2 cinnamon sticks

Peel of 1 lemon

2 large eggs

2 cups sugar

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease the tartlet tins or miniature muffin pans, then set them on a sheet pan.

Heat the milk in a medium pot with the butter, cinnamon sticks and lemon peel until the butter is melted and steam is rising from the milk, about 5 minutes. Do not allow the milk to boil.

Using the high speed of an electric mixer, beat the eggs in a bowl with the sugar until they are thick and pale yellow, 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and gradually add the flour in small increments while beating. Discard the lemon peel and cinnamon sticks from the hot milk. Slowly, while mixing, incorporate the hot milk into the batter, about 1 minute.

Ladle a scant 1/4 cup of custard into each miniature tin, filling them about 3/4 full. Place in the oven and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes our clean and they are lightly golden on top, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven.

They will firm up as they cool. When slightly cool, transfer to a serving dish. Cool completely. Serve cool or at room temperature. Refrigerate if you are not serving immediately.

]]> 0, 13 Apr 2016 15:12:29 +0000
Shed the tears: Here’s the right way to chop onions Wed, 13 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Back in the ’80s and ’90s, I used to work behind the scenes with Julia Child during her appearances on “Good Morning America.” It was my job to prepare the food she would put before the cameras.

Once, when I knew that I couldn’t be there for one of her upcoming appearances, I invited a pal of mine – a culinary professional – to try out for the gig. We prepped the food as usual, and at the end of the day I thought my friend had done a dandy job. Julia flatly disagreed and said she wouldn’t hire her. I was flabbergasted. “Why not?” I asked.

“Because she sliced the onions the wrong way,” Julia replied.

Yikes! I simply hadn’t focused on how my friend sliced the onions. I didn’t think this detail was that important. But all these years later, I realize Julia was right. Exactly how you slice an onion makes a difference. So does how you cook it.

Everyone knows that chopping onions can literally bring tears to your eyes. Here’s why. When an onion’s cells are ruptured, they give off pungent sulfur fumes. The more roughly an onion is treated – such as when it is chopped with a dull knife or pulsed in a food processor – the more fumes it gives off.

There are any number of quaint folk remedies for this problem. Put a piece of bread in your mouth while you’re chopping. Do your chopping near a running faucet. And so on. None of them works.

What does work – at least when you’re chopping up a lot of onions – is wearing onion goggles. Modeled on welder’s goggles, these babies prevent the onion’s fumes from reaching your eyes. But the best everyday tactic is to chop or slice the onion quickly and with a very sharp knife. Chilling the onion for an hour or two ahead of time also is a good idea.

Having managed to blunt an onion’s ability to bring you to tears, let’s turn to the correct way to slice one, a la Julia. Lengthwise, not crosswise, is the way to roll. Cutting an onion in half through the root end and then slicing it from stem to stern stimulates far fewer sulfur fumes. These lengthwise slices also happen to hold together much better than crosscut slices, precisely because you’ve sliced with the grain instead of against it. This is especially important for a dish like onion soup, when you want the slices to maintain their shape.

Finally, we come to how to cook an onion, which affects not just the flavor of the onion, but of the whole dish. If you throw it into a hot pan and quickly sauté it over high heat, the onion and the dish it’s added to will be bland. If you do it slowly over low heat, you’ll maximize the onion’s flavor.

All of these tips apply to making my Alsatian Onion Pie. The French call it tarte flambée. The Germans call it Flammkuchen. It strikes me as more like a pizza than anything else. I tasted it for the first time on a river cruise in France a couple years ago, and I was really knocked out by its combination of simplicity and big flavor. Accompanied by a fresh salad, this treat would make the perfect light supper for spring.


Start to finish: 1 hour 15 minutes

Makes three 10- to 12-inch pizzas

6 ounces bacon, thinly sliced crosswise

4 cups thinly sliced yellow onion

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

8 ounces crème frâiche

1 large egg yolk

Pinch nutmeg

1½-pound ball purchased pizza dough, room temperature

3 ounces coarsely grated Gruyère cheese

In a large skillet over medium, cook the bacon, stirring, until it starts to brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain and pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the skillet. Return the skillet to medium heat and add the onions. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until very soft, about 10 minutes. Remove the cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about another 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then set aside.

Heat the oven to 500 F. Arrange one of the oven racks on the oven’s bottom shelf.

In a small bowl, stir together the crème frâiche, egg yolk, nutmeg and a pinch each of salt and pepper.

Divide the dough into 3 even pieces. On a lightly oiled surface, roll out each piece into a 10- by 12-inch rectangle about 1/8-inch thick. Transfer each to a 15- by17-inch sheet of kitchen parchment. The dough may shrink and lose its shape. If so, roll it again on the parchment.

One at a time, transfer each piece of parchment and dough to a baking sheet (unless your oven can fit 2 sheets on one shelf, you’ll need to bake these one at a time).

Spread a third of the crème frâiche mixture over the piece of dough on the baking sheet, then top with a third of the onions and bacon. Sprinkle with a third of the cheese, then bake on the oven’s lower shelf for 10 minutes, or until the crust is crisp. Repeat with remaining dough and toppings. Serve right away.

Nutrition information per half pizza: 640 calories; 310 calories from fat (48 percent of total calories); 35 g fat (16 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 120 mg cholesterol; 1260 mg sodium; 60 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 6 g sugar; 17 g protein.

]]> 0, 13 Apr 2016 08:55:47 +0000
The Maine Ingredient: Symbols of spring awaken taste buds in all seasons Wed, 06 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 With their bright sun-colored yolks amid a halo of white, eggs even look like spring, and we tend, still, to link them symbolically to this season.

Before the advent of electricity, eggs were a seasonal food closely identified with spring. As daylight waned in the fall, hens slowed or ceased laying until the days lightened and lengthened.

When electricity came along, farmers put lights in their chicken coops to keep hens laying all year long.

Where I live in rural Maine, fresh organic, free-range, cage-free chicken eggs are readily available at farmers markets and in honor stand coolers by the side of the road.

The dull flavor and wan color of supermarket eggs cannot begin to compare with them.


This scrumptious sandwich can be eaten with immense pleasure for breakfast, lunch, light dinner or midnight snack.

If you’re cooking more than 3 or 4 slices of prosciutto, arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast in a 375-degree F oven for about 10 minutes.

Unless the kale stems are very tough and woody, I always cut them into thin slices and add to the pan with the leaves.

Makes 2 sandwiches, 1 to 2 servings depending on occasion and appetite

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small bunch kale (about 8 ounces), chopped

1 garlic clove, minced


Freshly ground black pepper

3 paper thin slices prosciutto (about 2 ounces)

2 tablespoons butter, plus additional for rolls

2 large fresh eggs

2 kaiser or ciabatta rolls, sliced in half

Heat the oil in a medium-large skillet. Add kale and garlic, along with about ½ cup water, and cook over medium heat, turning with tongs, until greens are wilted and tender, about 10 minutes, adding more water if they seem in danger of scorching. Season with salt and pepper.

Place prosciutto on a large plate between 2 layers of paper towels.

Microwave on high for 1 minute. Check, and if prosciutto is not frizzled, cook for 10 to 20 more seconds. Remove from plate and cool on a clean paper towel. It will crisp as it cools.

Preheat the broiler. Melt butter in a medium skillet. Crack eggs into pan and cook over medium-high heat until they begin to set.

Reduce heat to low, cover pan and cook until white is fully cooked. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, arrange rolls on a baking sheet and lightly toast under broiler. Butter the rolls.

To assemble, spread a layer of kale on the bottom of the rolls, break prosciutto into pieces and arrange atop greens, and place egg on prosciutto.

Prick yolk to make it run, and top with the other half of the roll.


Asparagus is the springtime vegetable of choice, but you can also use broccoli florets in this frittata.

Serve with a tomato salad and crusty semolina bread.

Serves 3

8 ounces slender asparagus, trimmed and cut into 3/4-inch diagonal pieces

3 tablespoons butter

½ cup thinly sliced scallions

7 eggs

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

½ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 cup diced cooked ham

2 tablespoons grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

Cook asparagus in a pot of boiling salted water for about 3 minutes, or just until crisp-tender.

Drain in a colander and run under cold water.

Melt the butter in a 10-inch skillet with an ovenproof handle. Add scallions and cook over medium-low heat for 2 minutes.

Preheat the broiler.

In a bowl, whisk the eggs with mustard, salt and pepper. Stir in the cheese and ham.

Pour the egg mixture over scallions in skillet and stir gently to combine. Scatter cooked and drained asparagus over the eggs.

Cover and cook the frittata over very low heat until eggs are almost set on top, about 10 minutes.

Sprinkle with cheese and place the skillet under the broiler for 1 to 2 minutes, until the top is just set and flecked with brown.

Cut into wedges and serve.

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “Chowderland” (2015). She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula, and can be contacted via Facebook at:

]]> 0, 06 Apr 2016 09:31:56 +0000
‘Simply Vietnamese Cooking: 135 Delicious Recipes’ By Nancie McDermott Wed, 06 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “Simply Vietnamese Cooking” by Nancie McDermott. Robert Rose, 2015, $19.95

I had been making fresh spring rolls every day for a week when “Simply Vietnamese Cooking” by Nancie McDermott came into my life.

I’m glad it did.

Packed with 135 recipes that heavily feature crisp vegetables and fresh herbs, this book was just what I needed to elevate my Vietnamese cooking game (which, if we’re being honest, included only the spring rolls).

McDermott takes a straightforward and inviting approach to introducing readers to Vietnamese cuisine: She describes the flavors and lifestyles that influence the cuisine and encourages cooks to embrace the simplicity of fresh ingredients and pantry staples that are easy to find even in non-Asian markets.

A glossary of Vietnamese ingredients and suggested menus are nice additions.

The book is heavy on recipes for soups and noodle bowls, but it also offers recipes for pickles and relishes, rice porridge and sauces. Most are made with just a handful of ingredients you likely already have in your pantry and fridge. The only downside to the book – and it’s a minor one – is the small number of photos. I tend to gravitate to cookbooks that are heavy on photos, especially when I’m cooking things I’ve never made before.

As I flipped through the book debating which recipe to try first, I noted with particular interest recipes for Egg Pancake with Crab and Cilantro, Pork in Caramel Sauce and Soothing Rice Porridge with Salmon and Fresh Dill. I’ll get to those in time, but when I found the recipe for Big Cool Noodle Bowl with Roast Chicken, Cucumbers and Mint, I knew I had a winner.

I made the noodle bowls on a weeknight after an extra long day in the newsroom, so I took McDermott’s suggested time savers and picked up a rotisserie chicken and bags of shredded carrots and lettuce at the grocery store. The pickled carrots and dipping sauce came together quickly and, before I knew it, I was assembling the perfect cool noodle bowl. This will no doubt be a new staple at my house.


830175_476367 BigCoolNoodleBowl.jpg

The big noodle bowl, with fresh sprigs of mint, is easier to make than you might think and pays for the work with big taste. COURTESY PHOTO


From “Simply Vietnamese Cooking” by Nancie McDermott.

Serves 4

1 pound thin rice noodles

2 cups shredded lettuce or spring salad mix

3 cups shredded roast chicken

2 cups peeled, sliced cucumber

1 cup small sprigs fresh mint and fresh cilantro combined

2 cups mung bean sprouts, optional

1 cup Everyday Pickled Carrots or shredded carrots, optional (recipe follows)

1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions

3/4 cup chopped dry-roasted salted peanuts

Double recipe Everyday Dipping Sauce, about 1 cup (recipe follows)

1. Bring a large saucepan or pasta pot of water to a rolling boil over high heat. Drop in noodles, remove from heat and let stand, using tongs or a slotted spoon and fork to separate the noodles and let them soak evenly for 10 minutes. When noodles are tender, drain, rinse in cold water and drain again. You’ll have about 6 cups of cooked noodles. Let stand while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

2. Set up 4 big Asian-style noodle or soup bowls. Divide ingredients evenly among the bowls: lettuce first, topped with 11/2 cups noodles in each bowl.

3. Place roast chicken on one side and cucumber, fresh herbs and any optional ingredients you’re using on the other.

4. Sprinkle green onions and peanuts over chicken, pour 1/4 cup of Everyday Dipping Sauce over each portion of noodles and serve at once, inviting your guests to toss everything together as they begin to eat.


From “Simply Vietnamese Cooking” by Nancie McDermott.

11/2 cups water

3/4 cup white vinegar

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3 cups shredded carrots

1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine water, vinegar, salt and sugar. Cook, swirling once or twice, until sugar and salt dissolve and brine is clear and smooth, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool.

2. Add shredded carrots to cooled brine, toss well and set aside for 20 to 30 minutes. Serve at room temperature or transfer to a jar, cover and refrigerate until serving time. Scoop out carrots from brine as needed and store the remainder in the refrigerator for up to five days.


From “Simply Vietnamese Cooking” by Nancie McDermott.

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon chili-garlic sauce, finely chopped fresh hot red chilis or 1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes

3 tablespoons fish sauce

3 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1. Combine garlic, sugar and chili-garlic sauce and mash into paste with pestle or the back of a spoon.

2. Scrape paste into a small bowl and stir in fish sauce, water and lime juice. Stir well to dissolve sugar. Transfer to small bowls for dipping or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

]]> 0, 06 Apr 2016 09:31:56 +0000
Apply your new confidence: Bake buttermilk biscuits and chocolate tart Wed, 06 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 These biscuits are light and fluffy and delicious served warm right out of the oven with the Double Ginger Butter (double because the butter is mixed with chopped bits of crystallized ginger and ground ginger). They are sized right for serving at breakfast, with tea or as a light dessert. And they would be ideal cut open and filled with vanilla-scented whipped cream or crème fraîche and fresh, thinly sliced strawberries.

Two tricks with the recipe: The first is that the butter is grated (using the widest opening on a box grater, the one usually used for grating hard cheese), which allows its fat to be incorporated into the flour mixture very easily. The second involves folding the dough over several times to create flaky layers and height.

If you really love ginger, you can add a touch of ground ginger to the biscuit dough. You’ll need a 2-inch biscuit cutter.

The butter is delicious on pancakes, French toast, muffins and plain old toast.

Serve with jam or honey, in addition to the ginger butter.


10 to 12 servings

MAKE AHEAD: The cut-out biscuit dough needs to freeze for a least 1 hour and up to overnight. The butter can be made a day in advance; cover and refrigerate until ready to serve; bring it to room temperature before serving.


2 cups (240 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling

1 cup (120 grams) cake flour

1 tablespoon plus ¾ teaspoon (17 grams) baking powder

1½ tablespoons (12 grams) sugar

½ teaspoon (2½ grams) ground ginger (optional)

1 teaspoon (5 grams) sea salt

6 tablespoons (¾ stick) chilled unsalted butter

¾ cup cold regular or low-fat buttermilk, or more as needed


6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 tablespoons (24 grams) finely chopped crystallized ginger

Generous pinch ground ginger (about 1/8 teaspoon)

Pinch coarse sea salt

Whisk together the all-purpose and cake flours, baking powder, sugar, ground ginger, if using, and salt in a large bowl.

Use the widest opening on a box grater to grate the butter into the flour mixture, adding it a bit at a time and gently mixing it into the flour so it doesn’t clump up. Use your hands to make sure the butter is fully incorporated into the flour. Add the buttermilk; use a flexible spatula to mix until the dough holds together. If the mixture’s still too crumbly, add up to 2 more tablespoons of buttermilk.

Lightly flour a rolling pin and a clean work surface. Transfer the dough there; use a light touch to shape it into a rectangle, then pull the far end of the rectangle up toward you and fold the dough over in half. Press down on the dough and repeat this step 6 more times.

Roll out the folded dough to a 1-inch thickness. Use the biscuit cutter to form a total of 10 to 12 biscuits; you can reroll the dough once, but you might notice less height on those rerolled biscuits after baking. Place the biscuits on a baking sheet.

Cover the biscuits with plastic wrap; freeze for 1 hour or up to overnight.

Meanwhile, make the ginger butter: Use a flexible spatula to further soften the butter. Add the crystallized ginger, ground ginger and salt, stirring until the ginger is fully incorporated. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use; bring to room temperature before serving.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.

Bake the biscuits (straight from the freezer, unwrapped; middle rack) for 12 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake for 8 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.

Serve hot.

Nutrition: 230 calories, 4 g protein, 28 g carbohydrates, 12 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 30 mg cholesterol, 230 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugar


8 to 10 servings

You might say this tart combines several popular flavors. The pastry is made from almond flour and all-purpose flour and is very buttery and crisp. The filling is like a chocolate mousse: good bittersweet chocolate, cream, eggs, vanilla and sea salt. It’s topped with toasted coconut flakes and more sea salt. The tart filling has no sugar; it’s all about honoring the chocolate and the balance of the salt.

Cookbook author Kathy Gunst likes to make the pastry dough by hand, but you can use a food processor. If you serve the tart the day you bake it, it’s like chocolate pie. But if you refrigerate it overnight, the filling becomes dense and almost fudgy. It’s delicious either way.

You will need an 8-inch round tart pan with a removable bottom.

MAKE AHEAD: The pastry dough needs to rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Plan on letting the tart cool for at least 1 hour, or cover and refrigerate it for up to 12 hours.


1 cup (120 grams) all-purpose flour

½ cup (60 grams) almond flour

Pinch sea salt, plus more for sprinkling

2 tablespoons (28 grams) sugar

12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, well chilled, cut into small pieces

About ¼ cup ice-cold water, or as needed

⅓ cup (20 grams) unsweetened flaked coconut

For the filling

1½ cups heavy cream

9 ounces (255 grams) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (may substitute 5 ounces 65 percent bittersweet chocolate plus 4 ounces milk chocolate)

2 large eggs

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon (3 grams) good sea salt

CRUST AND TOPPING: Whisk together the all-purpose and almond flours, the salt and sugar in a large bowl. Add the butter; use your hands and a light touch, work the butter into the flours until it resembles coarse cornmeal. Add a few tablespoons of water and mix, using a soft spatula or wooden spoon, until the mixture just comes together. Add more water as needed, using only enough to keep the dough together.

(Alternatively, pulse the flours, salt and sugar in a food processor just until blended. Add the butter and pulse about 15 times, until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add only enough water so that the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.)

Place the dough in a sheet of plastic wrap and form it into a ball. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to overnight.

Unwrap the dough and roll it out on a clean work surface into a 10-inch round. Drape the dough into the tart pan, covering the bottom and up the sides of the pan; trim the edges (you’ll have scraps left over), but make sure there’s enough to fit just over the rim. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Remove the tart shell from the refrigerator; use a fork to dock the pastry in several spots. (This will keep the pastry from puffing up.) Place the tart pan on a baking sheet; bake (middle rack) for 10 minutes, then let it cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Keep the oven on; spread the coconut on the baking sheet and bake for about 5 minutes, watching closely, until the coconut begins to turn golden brown. Let cool; keep the oven on.

FILLING: Heat the cream in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until it is gently bubbling at the edges.

Place the chocolate in a large mixing bowl. Pour the hot cream on top and stir steadily until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth.

Whisk together the eggs, vanilla extract and ½ teaspoon of sea salt in a separate mixing bowl until frothy. Add the egg mixture to the chocolate mixture and stir until fully incorporated and smooth. Pour the filling into the cooled crust and bake (middle rack) for 25 to 28 minutes. To test for doneness, gently shake the tart; if the middle wobbles just a little (and still appears undercooked) but the sides seem solid, it is done. The tart will continue to cook once it’s removed from the oven, and it will firm up when cooling.

While the tart is still warm, sprinkle it with the coconut and about ½ teaspoon of the coarse sea salt; press the salt and coconut very gently into the tart to make sure they adhere. Let the tart cool for 1 hour before serving, or refrigerate (see headnote).

Nutrition: 380 calories, 5 g protein, 24 g carbohydrates, 32 g fat, 19 g saturated fat, 105 mg cholesterol, 150 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 14 g sugar

]]> 0, 06 Apr 2016 09:31:55 +0000
Use peas three ways in this spring dish Wed, 06 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 With their bright green hue and the fact that they are one of the first non-leafy vegetables to be harvested in spring, peas provide a refreshing change from a winter’s worth of root vegetables. This recipe triples the pea love by incorporating three kinds: sweet shelled peas, plump sugar snap peas and crunchy snow peas.

The sauce is easy and one that I bet you’ll make again and again. You just cook sliced scallion and grated ginger in some oil for a minute; add water, orange juice and rice vinegar and allow that to come to a boil; then stir in white miso paste and a dash of sesame oil. Toss the mixed peas with the warm sauce, garnish with a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds, and you have an inspired side dish that goes perfectly with meat, poultry or marinated tofu.

Miso paste, which is made from fermented soybeans, gives the sauce its complex sweet-savory-nutty flavor and silky texture. The paste lasts for at least several months, kept airtight in the refrigerator, so don’t hesitate to pick up a container. It adds unique flavor to a whole realm of soups, sauces and dressings. And you can use it to make this lovely sauce many more times throughout the year, because it enhances a wide variety of seasonal steamed vegetables including carrots, cauliflower, zucchini and sweet potatoes.


6 servings

This is an easy, inspired and healthful side that goes perfectly with roasted or grilled meat, poultry or marinated tofu.

From nutritionist and cookbook author Ellie Krieger.

1 tablespoon canola oil

2 scallions (white and green parts), thinly sliced

1-inch piece peeled fresh ginger root, finely grated (2 teaspoons)

⅓ cup water

¼ cup fresh orange juice

1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar

1½ tablespoons white miso paste

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1 cup shelled fresh peas or frozen/not defrosted peas

8 ounces sugar snap peas (2½ cups), trimmed and sliced in half on the diagonal, if desired

4 ounces snow peas (1½ cups), trimmed and sliced in half on the diagonal, if desired

Salt (optional)

2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the scallions and ginger and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the water, orange juice and rice vinegar; increase the heat to medium-high to bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and stir in the miso until it has dissolved, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat; stir in the toasted sesame oil, then cover to keep warm while you cook the peas.

Bring a pot of water to boil that is fitted with a steamer basket. Add the fresh or frozen shelled peas, cover and steam for 1 minute, then add the sugar snap peas and snow peas; cover and steam for 2 to 3 minutes or just until crisp-tender.

Transfer the cooked peas to a serving bowl. Add the sauce and toss to coat. Taste and season lightly with salt, as needed. Scatter the sesame seeds on top. Serve warm.

Nutrition per serving: 90 calories, 4 g protein, 11 g carbohydrates, 4 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 190 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber, 5 g sugar

]]> 0, 06 Apr 2016 09:31:56 +0000
Savor the savory side of spring flavors Tue, 05 Apr 2016 17:12:48 +0000 In typical early spring fashion, the weather waffles between cold and warm; wet and dry; and raw and pleasant, but the season’s savory flavors don’t.

It is a time of the year when vegetables awaken from their deep winter slumber fresh and tender, and burst with flavor and color. When they are morphed into savory tarts, salads, dressings and purees, they are simply irresistible.

For better or worse, asparagus is available year-round but the vegetable is at its best now. When buying them, remember slender spears are not necessarily better; they are only younger and so more tender. Fatter spears can be more succulent. Roasting the vegetable brings out its complexity — the sugar caramelizes and an ever so slight bitterness emerges. If you want to go the classic French route, poach asparagus and serve it cold.

Radishes provide some of the first color splash of spring. The early-season ones have a milder peppery flavor than the ones grown in summer, and are perfect for a raw-vegetable platter or to top a mixed salad. When preparing them, wash and trim root ends just before using. For a crisper bite, soak radishes in ice water for a couple of hours.

New potatoes, the freshly dug young tubers with a delicate skin whose sugars have not yet been converted into starch, are wondrous when roasted in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil, a good sprinkling of salt and pepper and fresh herbs such as dill or thyme. Or simply boil them with a little salt and slightly smash them for a chickpea, egg and potato salad.

Tender baby spinach not only adds a verdant splash on a rainy day but also brings deliciousness to the table when sauteed with sesame oil and crushed garlic. Or combine spinach with romaine lettuce for a spring salad.

Frozen peas are omnipresent year-round but opt for the fresh ones that are available now as, after all, their season is fleeting. However, keep in mind that they should be consumed soon after being picked because the natural sugars in them turn to starch. In addition to the obvious choice — soup — peas can be use in purees and served with roast chicken or pork, or even savory pancakes.

The best way to let early spring vegetables shine is to blanch or steam them, then toss them with a little butter or olive oil and lightly season with salt and pepper. But it won’t be against the law to dress them some or even have them take the runway to earn all the glory.

Asparagus spears are laid out side by side in this tart made with goat cheese.

Asparagus spears are laid out side by side in this tart made with goat cheese. Nate Guidry/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS


Stylish and satisfying, there’s no mistaking that the asparagus spears, placed closely beside one another, are the stars of this tart.

Serves 8 to 10

For pastry:
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch of sea salt flakes
2 to 3 tablespoons ice-cold water

For filling:
7 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups goat cheese
1 medium white onion, diced
12 asparagus spears, ends removed

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place butter, flour and salt in a food processor and pulse mixture for 20-40 seconds, until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Add water slowly and mix until dough comes together. Don’t over mix. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Roll dough out as thinly as possible on a lightly floured surface. Line 9-inch fluted tart pan with the pastry and prick base all over with a fork.

Place on baking sheet, line with greased parchment paper slightly larger than the pan and fill with baking beans.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove baking beans and parchment paper and return pastry to oven for 5 to 10 minutes more, or until it is pale golden and cooked through.

Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, heavy cream and sour cream. Season with salt and pepper, then gently mix in goat cheese and onion. Pour mixture into tart, distributing it evenly.

Lay asparagus spears in a single layer on top of filling, alternating heads and tails, and gently push them into the tart.

Bake for about 1 hour, or until golden and just set. Serve hot or cold.

— Adapted from “Cooking With Cheese” by Ryland, Peters & Small (Ryland, Peters & Small; 2016)

Tulips adorn a table with a spring salad with spinach, romaine lettuce, radish and cucumber, served with a creamy mint dressing.

Tulips adorn a table with a spring salad with spinach, romaine lettuce, radish and cucumber, served with a creamy mint dressing. Nate Guidry/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS


Light, fresh and colorful, this salad screams spring. The creamy dressing with shallots and mint complements the salad.

Serves 6

For salad:
1 (5-ounces) package baby spinach
2 romaine lettuce hearts, chopped
2 cucumbers, cut in 1-inch pieces
1 cup thinly sliced radishes

For dressing:
1 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped, plus leaves for garnish
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Toss together spinach, romaine, cucumbers and radishes in large bowl.

Stir together shallot, vinegar and lemon juice in a medium bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Stir in sour cream and gradually whisk in half-and-half. Stir in chopped mint, salt and black pepper.

Top greens mixture with feta cheese; garnish with mint leaves and serve with dressing.

— Southern Living magazine, March 2016

Sauteed lemon chicken and fried capers from "Sara Mouton's Home Cooking 101" sits on sweet pea puree that has a slight kick.

Sauteed lemon chicken and fried capers from “Sara Mouton’s Home Cooking 101” sits on sweet pea puree that has a slight kick. Nate Guidry/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS

Lemon Chicken With Fried Capers over Pea Puree

What’s better than chicken topped with caramelized lemon slices and fried capers, and sitting on a pool of pea puree?

Serves 4

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast cutlets, thinly sliced
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, divided
3 tablespoons capers, rinsed, drained, dried
Flour for dredging
1/8 teaspoon chili powder
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 large lemon, sliced thin crosswise
2 tablespoons sugar
2 shallots, minced
1 1/4 cups chicken stock

Pound chicken flat, pat dry and cut in pieces in half if they are too large.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high and then add capers. Stir until they are crisp (they do pop so be careful), about 2 minutes. Transfer capers to a small bowl.

Mix flour and chili powder on a plate. Add 2 tablespoons oil to skillet and heat it over medium-high.

Season chicken with salt and pepper on both sides and coat pieces lightly with flour, shaking off the excess.

Add chicken to oil, and cook until lightly golden, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to plate.

Dip lemon slices in sugar, coating them on both sides, and add to skillet. Cook over medium heat until they are lightly caramelized, about 1 to 2 minutes each side. Transfer to plate with chicken.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to skillet and shallots, stirring for about 2 minutes. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan.

Return chicken and lemon slices to the pan, along with any juices from the plate. Simmer gently, turning the chicken over several times until it is heated through.

Transfer chicken and lemon to plates and simmer sauce until it has thickened slightly. Spoon sauce and lemon slices over chicken and top with fried capers. Serve with pea puree (recipe below).

— Adapted from “Sara Moulton’s Home Cooking 101” by Sara Moulton (Oxmoor House; March 2016)


This sweet and spicy puree with a hint of mint radiates with spring flavor and color. It complements sauteed chicken, flaky crab cakes or pan-seared tilapia.

8 ounces frozen green peas, thawed
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1 tablespoon feta cheese
1 tablespoon fresh chopped mint
2 garlic cloves
1 green chili
Salt to taste

Combine peas, stock, feta, mint, garlic, chili and salt in food processor; blend until smooth. Serve at room temperature.

— Arthi Subramaniam


The hearty salad is best served warm, and combines nutty chickpeas, slightly smashed new potatoes with their skins, black olives and hard-boiled eggs. For a tangy dressing, I used lemon juice instead of white wine vinegar, which was in the original recipe.

4 tablespoons olive oil
Juice from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 garlic clove, crushed
Salt and ground black pepper to taste, divided
1 pound new potatoes
1 (14-ounces) can chickpeas
Handful of pitted black olives
3 hard-boiled eggs
Handful of fresh chives, chopped

For the dressing, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, parsley and garlic. Season with salt and pepper; set aside.

Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender. Drain, and slightly squash with back of a fork in a bowl.

Drain and rinse chickpeas, smash 1/3 of them slightly, then mix with remaining chickpeas and add to potatoes in bowl. Add olives and dressing; mix gently.

Transfer salad to a serving plate.

Peel and chop the eggs in quarters and place them all over the salad. Sprinkle chives on top, and serve immediately.

— Adapted from “Appetizers” by Ryland, Peters & Small (Ryland, Peters & Small; 2016)

]]> 0, 06 Apr 2016 09:31:57 +0000
Separated from her husband by war, Congolese woman makes his favorite dish as a reminder Wed, 30 Mar 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Pascaline Lisembe has not seen her husband, Michel, since she left South Africa in 2014, but every time she makes cassava for their two boys, she thinks of him.

The dish, also known as pondu, is his favorite food – and the thread that binds them together across continents.

Lisembe and her husband left the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2007 to escape the ongoing violence there and ended up in South Africa. But it’s difficult to get asylum there, she said, and the politics were not friendly to her people, so Lisembe applied for visas to the United States for herself and her boys. She did not want to explain why her husband did not come with her. She came to the United States in 2014 and is now living in Portland, an asylum seeker separated by thousands of miles from the husband she loves.

“He is alone now,” she said. “There is no one to cook for him.”

Millions of people have been killed and more than a million people displaced from the DRC since civil war erupted there in the mid-1990s, according to Amnesty International and other human rights groups. The country has been plagued by a climate of corruption and serious human rights violations that have caused widespread suffering. Armed groups that were supposed to protect civilians instead routinely prey upon them. The International Criminal Court has investigated charges of murder, rape, sexual slavery, the conscription of children and other atrocities.

Lisembe does not wish to share the details of her personal story, for both personal and legal reasons. Just thinking about it brings her to tears. But she did agree to share a cherished part of her culture, and memories of the physician husband she had to leave behind.

Lisembe, who speaks Lingala, French and English, is a Christian and, in her home country, worked as a nurse. (She’s not yet allowed to work in this country.) Now she lives with her sons, Dody, age 7, and Beny, 5, in a modest apartment on Cumberland Avenue. She still has trouble sleeping at night. A clock on wall in the living room says “God is My Strength.”

“My boys are still young,” she said during a recent visit where she agreed to demonstrate making cassava. “I want for them to be safe.”

One of the ways she keeps them tied to their culture, and to their father, is through cassava, which is a staple in central African countries. Every time she makes the dish, she’s filled with happy memories, but also sadness.

Cassava is a stew made from the leaves of the cassava plant. In Lisembe’s village, it’s eaten with rice and either fish or dried monkey meat. (Despite a visitor’s skepticism, Lisembe insists that monkey is “delicious” and, when it is smoked, tastes similar to turkey.) In her husband’s village, cassava is most often eaten with fish and pap, a thick, sticky porridge also known as fufu that is made with cornmeal, the root of the cassava plant, or some other starch.

Making cassava with fresh leaves is an arduous task that involves a lot of pounding. Lisembe uses frozen cassava that’s ready for cooking. She buys it at Save-A-Lot or at one of the ethnic grocery stores within walking distance of her apartment. Other ingredients include Maggi Seasoning Cubes, palm oil, and vegetables such as onion, eggplant, cucumber, scallions, onion, green pepper and cabbage.

As she chopped the vegetables in her kitchen, the cassava leaves simmering in a big pot of water on the stove, Lisembe talked about her life in the DRC before the war tore everything apart.

Lisembe is from the province of Equateur; her husband is from Kasai. If their native traditions had anything to say about it, they would not be together. Their love story has a pinch of “My Fair Lady,” and a dash of “Romeo and Juliet.”

Traditionally, people from their villages do not intermarry, Lisembe said. In the past, families typically arranged unions. But with western influences, things have changed. Couples “just need love, that’s it,” Lisembe said.

Lisembe met her husband when he was a university student. He tutored her in biology and math. He has a good sense of humor, she said, and he loves gospel music. He plays the piano, “but he doesn’t sing very well,” Lisembe said with a laugh.

When the couple told their families they wanted to marry, neither side was happy. Lisembe said it was “a big problem for my parents to accept my husband.” Her parents worried that she would not be treated well by her new family.

People in her husband’s village, Lisembe explained, consider women from her village too talkative and aggressive, and tell stories of them “beating up” their husbands. While that’s an exaggeration, Lisembe said, they do prefer wives who are quiet and stay in the home – qualities that don’t describe Lisembe or the women from her village. “In my village, the women are strong,” Lisembe said. “They can fight with men.”

It’s the job of future mothers-in-law to find out if the newest female member of the family knows how to cook. Lisembe had not bothered to learn since she had set her sights on becoming a nurse. She was worried her lack of skills might ruin her chances of marrying the man she loved. “In my country, if a woman doesn’t know how to cook, it’s a big problem,” Lisembe said.

Her mother told her she couldn’t put it off any longer. “She teach me late, but I learn fast,” Lisembe said.

Lisembe said her people have always eaten only “natural foods,” such as the fruits they find in the jungle and the vegetables they grow at home. Plantains there grow the size of her forearm. Her late grandmother had “great knowledge” of how to heal sick children and take care of “women’s problems” with food, she said. Cassava leaves, for example, have traditionally been used to treat chicken pox.

An hour and a half after Lisembe began making the cassava, the pot of leaves and vegetables were bubbling vigorously, having absorbed at least half the water she’d put into the pot. The cassava looked like stewed spinach. Lisembe used a large spoon to mash the vegetables in the pot, then turned to making the pap – just cornmeal and water, like polenta.

When it’s done, she cuts out a serving of the pap with a bowl – in her country, they have a special bowl for dishing it up – and puts it onto a plate next to a generous pile of cassava. The vegetables are practically invisible in the finished dish, but the flavor is remarkable for such a simple food. The cassava leaves themselves are bland, almost bitter. But they absorb the other flavors in the pot so that, when it’s time to dish them up, they taste something like like very well-seasoned cooked spinach.

When people in Lisembe’s village cook, they “take time for food,” she said. “They relax and leave it (to cook). But I can see here you have fast food. We don’t have fast food.”

Lisembe makes cassava for her sons to strengthen their tie to their heritage, but it can take some convincing to get them to eat it. Beny likes vegetables; his older brother does not. The boys have grown to love American food, especially pizza and American chop suey. A trip to McDonald’s is a treat. That makes Lisembe a little wistful, but letting her boys have fast food once in a while in a country where they are safe is a trade-off Lisembe is happy to make.

“I want to stay here,” she said. “I love Maine. I just say, thank you God.”

Lisembe hopes that if she and her children are granted asylum, her husband will be allowed to follow. She would love nothing more than to cook him a big pot of cassava.

]]> 3, 31 Mar 2016 09:48:14 +0000
Fans of cottage cheese find it has advantages over yogurt Wed, 30 Mar 2016 08:00:00 +0000 In our never-ending quest to root for the underdog, where better to begin than with cottage cheese?

The mere mention of it will make some turn up their noses, and others sigh with nostalgia. Once the mainstay – along with a chopped meat patty and tomato slices – of restaurant “diet” menu choices, cottage cheese for years has been relegated to barely a chilly shelf or two at grocery stores. Meanwhile, its golden-child sibling, yogurt in an abundance of forms and glory, extends well into the refrigeration horizon.

Cottage cheese is perhaps as divisive as one of its long-ago stalwarts, Richard Nixon, garnering Facebook comments – on cottage cheese, not the late president – ranging from “Love it!” to “Yuck. Looks like lumpy butter to me.”

Although National Public Radio recently charted how cottage cheese consumption has fallen by more than half since the mid-1970s, perhaps yogurt needs to relinquish a little space for coming-into-its-own-again cottage cheese. Among those touting its various benefits – high in protein, low in carbs, good for digestion – are, and my yoga instructor.

So while sales may have hit a five-year low in 2014, they started climbing last year, reports Dairy Foods magazine. Cottage cheese, the article continues, is seeing a resurgence, as companies “try to change the cottage cheese conversation” by adding flavors and even more protein.

When New Orleans food blogger Anjali Prasertong wrote about her love for just basic cottage cheese on, she expected maybe a few hidden supporters to fess up. Total comments, most of the positive variety, now surpass 200.

“It’s so old-fashioned,” she says. “It has a fusty reputation. I hope it’s coming back, and I think it is, judging by the comments.”

When she was a kid growing up in the ’80s, “it was the go-to snack my mom would provide for us,” she says. “We ate it with fruit, either canned or fresh.”

On Thanksgiving, the family would eat a dish from a recipe passed down from her great-grandmother, one that combined the Old World ingredients of Jell-O and cottage cheese. Not until years after childhood, though, did she start eating it again. Her husband began buying it after being introduced to its dip qualities by a friend holding a handful of chips.

“I eat it with carrot sticks, or with pepper or a drizzle of olive oil,” she says.

Although most of the negative comments to her blog post had to do with the texture of cottage cheese – something about those little curd characters – she doesn’t mind. She focuses on taste, high protein content and relatively low fat content. As a student studying nutrition, this is important to her.

“Why not embrace it?” she asks.


Because, says registered dietitian Claudia Perkins says, there is that texture thing. (“Chunky clots of semi-firm mush without color or flavor” is how Peter Beitsch, a Dallas surgical oncologist, described it for us on Facebook.)

“I’ve never been a big fan of the texture,” says Perkins, who is also a health educator at Texas A&M Health Science Center Coastal Bend. “I think it drives people away. Maybe it needs to be made smooth.”

The texture, on the other hand, is a main reason Karen Lukin of Dallas has eaten cottage cheese for years.

“I love the texture,” she says. “Yogurt is smooth, but cottage cheese gives you something to bite into. You have the satisfaction of having something to chew on. I’ll usually put some into a nice little glass dish, but by the end of the evening, I end up scraping it out of the carton. I do the weirdest things to cottage cheese,” she says. “It’s a good base.”

Sometimes she puts chili powder on it. Or lime juice. Or balsamic reduction (the vinegar boiled down). She remembers her cousins chopping hard-boiled eggs into it, then adding cucumber slices and Lawry’s Seasoned Salt. It was a staple of Atkins and other high-protein diets, she says.

The protein content, which surpasses that in yogurt, does get the nod from Perkins.

“The whole difference between cottage cheese and yogurt is interesting,” she says. There’s not a big difference calorie-wise, Perkins says, but if you want more protein and fewer carbohydrates, “cottage cheese will be better.”

One cup of 1 percent milk cottage cheese has 28 grams of protein, she says, compared to the same amount of plain yogurt, which has 13 grams. Low-fat yogurt has 17 grams of carbohydrates, she says. Cottage cheese? Six.

“For someone with diabetes, counting carbs is very important for counting blood sugar,” she says. “The more foods with less carbs, the better.”


But before cottage cheese starts getting all uppity, there’s one major ingredient to consider:


“They do have a no-sodium-added kind that has minimal amounts, 29 milligrams per cup,” Perkins says. However, she says, the same cup of 1 percent has close to 900 milligrams of sodium, “which is almost half the recommended amount for one day.”

So yes, she says, you have low-cal, low-carb, high protein “to make you feel satisfied and full for even the long term. But if you have heart or blood pressure issues, or even if you don’t, that’s a lot to be consuming at one sitting, and that’s just one cup.”

With yogurt, the culprit tends to be sugar.

“Most people, when they buy yogurt, they buy it with fruit or granola pieces so it will have extra added fat and extra added sugar,” she says.

People trying to lose weight look toward cottage cheese because of the low-cal/high-protein feature to keep you full, she says. The protein is really good for elderly people, who may not be eating large enough amounts of food and getting protein they need, and for athletes and bodybuilders.

But you have to watch the sodium.

“Too much of a good thing,” she says,” is still a bad thing.”


Here are some go-withs readers suggested to pair with cottage cheese:

Lemon pepper and Triscuits

Sunflower seeds

Ketchup (this was Richard Nixon’s choice)

Salsa and chopped apples


Canned pear half, dollop of mayonnaise, maraschino cherry


This dish can be prepared the night before, and baked the next day before guests arrive, allowing you to spend more time with guests and less time in the kitchen. This leaves more time to prepare any last-minute side dishes.

Makes 8 servings

1 pound extra-lean ground beef

1/3 cup onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 (4-ounce) can sliced mushrooms (do not drain)

1 (16-ounce) jar meatless spaghetti sauce

1 (8-ounce) package spaghetti, cooked and drained

1/3 cup light sour cream

1 cup low-fat cottage cheese

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Sauté ground beef, onion, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper in a large skillet until meat is browned; pour off fat. Stir in undrained mushrooms and spaghetti sauce; simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.

Place half the cooked spaghetti in the bottom of a deep 8-inch square casserole dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

Layer half the meat sauce mixture on top of spaghetti.

Combine the sour cream and cottage cheese; spread over meat sauce layer.

Add remaining spaghetti and cover with remaining meat mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 35 minutes; let stand for 5 minutes. Cut into squares and serve.

]]> 0, 30 Mar 2016 08:19:50 +0000
Cookbook Review: ‘Cuban Cocktails: 100 Classic and Modern Drinks’ Wed, 30 Mar 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “Cuban Cocktails: 100 Classic and Modern Drinks.” By Ravi DeRossi, Jane Danger and Alla Lapushchik. Sterling Publishing Company. $24.95

These days Americans have Cuba on the mind. President Obama’s recent push to lift the embargo first enacted in 1962 coupled with his visit have placed Cuba firmly center stage.


Courtesy photo

Who even remembers the Cold War? It’s hard not to be entranced by this romantic island nation, which evokes images of classic American ’60s cars, curled cigar smoke in Havana cantinas and, of course, Ernest Hemingway at Bar La Florida downing glass after endless glass of rum concoctions.

In “Cuban Cocktails: 100 Classic and Modern Drinks,” Ravi DeRossi, Jane Danger and Alla Lapushchik make it easy to love Cuba through recipes centered around Havana’s liquide de vie: Rum.

The owners of Cienfuegos, a Cuban-inspired bar in Manhattan’s East Village, these Cuban drink enthusiasts have put together a book that combines classic recipes and those with more modern twists.

“Cuban Cocktails,” a handsome, 230-page hardcover volume, is filled with beautiful photos, engaging historical anecdotes and easy to follow recipes that lead to syrupy, sweet rum drinks.

To perfect these recipes, you’ll have to prepare some simple syrups and infusions. I was intimidated at first until I actually made a honey syrup for the Hot Buttered Rum recipe – no sweat. DeRossi, Danger and Lapushchik make each syrup recipe accessible to mixology laymen. Though it would be helpful to have standard barware – blender, jigger, juicer, muddler – I was successful using everyday kitchen ware.

I tested the Rum Old Fashioned, the aforementioned Hot Buttered Rum and the Honeysuckle. (Nice work if you can get it.)

The rum shone in a simple recipe for the Rum Old Fashioned, which calls for dark rum, demerara syrup, bitters and orange and lemon peels. The demerara syrup (again, it’s easy to prepare) gave a strong sweetness, which cut the alcohol burn. The book suggests Dorado 12 Year Rum, but I took the liberty of substituting Ration Rum from Maine Craft Distilling, which made a smooth, earthy Rum Old Fashioned.

On a cold spring night in March I prepared two Hot Buttered Rums for my wife and me. Using the Ration Rum again, I combined rum, water, honey syrup and butter – yeah, butter – in a saucepan and brought the mixture to a boil. Topped with fresh nutmeg, this drink was a silken cold weather dream.

The real winner was the Honeysuckle. Like a lot of recipes in this book, the Honeysuckle has a humble list of ingredients, but the resulting cocktail is brimming with fresh juice and rum flavors and is dangerously smooth. What I would give to toss a few back at Bar La Florida with Hemingway.


Courtesy photo


For a local flare, I used Ration Rum from Maine Craft Distilling.

Makes 1 drink

2 ounces white rum

¾ ounce honey syrup

¾ ounce lime juice

Shake with ice, and strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a lime wheel.

]]> 0, 31 Mar 2016 09:40:17 +0000
Ethical, sustainably produced chocolate makes a dessert you can feel good about Sun, 27 Mar 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Perhaps it reflects my snarkier side, but I just love the cheek with which British newspapers are written.

In a 2013 review of ethical and organic chocolate Easter eggs, The Guardian began its assessment of Sainsbury’s Freefrom (it’s free from eggs, dairy, gluten and wheat) Dark Chocolate Easter Egg with ” ‘It’s too short on the palate,’ said one taster who has spent too much time watching MasterChef.”

I chuckled first. And then sobered up with the thought that the average Brit (Sainsbury is one of the country’s main grocery chains) could parse his ethical chocolate Easter egg choices in such fastidious detail because he had so many to choose from. The most pressing question I was asking of chocolate eggs (or bunnies for that matter) was: solid or hollow? Last week, I went looking for an ethical chocolate egg in my local grocery stores. I found none, but with bars it was a different story: I had the choice of eight brands of bars that carried markings indicating they were made with the cacao beans grown, harvested or processed to the benefit (as opposed the detriment) of the people and environment in equatorial regions like South America and West Africa.

“Chocolate makes us smile. So it makes sense that it should bring joy to the human and animal communities in which it is grown and produced,” Kate Shaffer wrote in her 2011 memoir-cum-cookbook that serves up recipes and her life as a chocolatier on Isle au Haut in equal measure.

I couldn’t agree more. But knowing which chocolate to buy has gotten pretty complicated. On the eight bars I bought (for research purposes only, I assure you) labels variously certified them as USDA Organic (4), Fair Trade (4), For Life (2), gluten-free (2), carbon neutral (1), halal (1), non-GMO (1) and vegan (1). Several also had pictures and stories of the heirloom varieties grown, farmers who grow them, the processes by which they are fermented, dried, roasted and made into chocolate. How’s a lover to choose?

Shaffer, whose Black Dinah Chocolatiers is now located in a bigger facility in Westbrook, doesn’t buy chocolate that involves slave or child labor, environmental destruction, or unfair pay to farmers. Her confections have won national Good Food awards for being both exceptionally delicious and sourced to support sustainability and social good.

“You have to look deeper than the certification labels,” Schaffer said, because they don’t necessarily tell the whole story. Many cocoa-producing countries opt out of USDA Organic certification and Fair Trade certification as their own laws governing that commodity are actually stricter.

“I … look for single-source chocolate,” Shaffer said. “Not that blends are bad, but if I focus on purchasing chocolate made with beans from a single region, then I can research the production processes in that region and the laws that govern the commodity.” She also looks for chocolate produced in the region where the beans are grown (she mainly chooses chocolate from Venezuela and Peru) because she believes that communities should benefit from the commodity they produce.

Enna Grazier, an aspiring cocoa bean-to-chocolate bar maker based in Exeter, New Hampshire, has similar sourcing ideals, but adds one more: cacao genetic biodiversity. Cacao trees, like coffee trees, provide shade cover for a host of species – plant, insect and animal – in the very hot climes in which they grow. Having a diverse gene pool represented in cacao groves will help the population of trees and the species that depend upon them cope with changes in the overall environment. Grazier recommends Madecasse chocolate, which is available at Hannaford, Market Basket and Whole Foods; it is sourced from heirloom cacao beans grown in Madagascar, she said.

“The benefit of a vast cacao gene pool for chocolate lovers is that each type of bean offers a new and different flavor to the chocolate it gets made into,” Grazier said. A detail she feels is well worth noticing.

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

]]> 8, 28 Mar 2016 12:21:48 +0000
‘Maple: 100 Sweet and Savory Recipes Featuring Pure Maple Syrup’ by Katie Webster Wed, 23 Mar 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “Maple: 100 Sweet and Savory Recipes Featuring Pure Maple Syrup.” By Katie Webster. Quirk Books, 2015. $22.95

Two years before my husband and I moved to Maine, a magazine he was working for assigned him to photograph Maine Maple Sunday. Not wanting to be left at home in New Jersey while he roamed around rural Maine from one steamy, sweetly scented sugar house to another, I decided to join him, giving me my first taste of “sugar on snow” and my first look at the laborious process of turning maple sap into delicious syrup.

Now that we’re settled in a Maine farmhouse, there’s always a jug of local syrup in our fridge, with a backup in the pantry, just in case. But I never thought we might actually be able to produce our own maple syrup until I read the introduction to Katie Webster’s book, “Maple: 100 Sweet and Savory Recipes Featuring Pure Maple Syrup.”

It’s first and foremost a cookbook; however Webster, who lives in Vermont, describes her family’s forays into “backyard sugaring” (illustrated with charming photographs of her and her daughters) in a way that made me look at the old maple trees on our property and think: “We could do that.”

Maybe next year. For now, I’m still getting used to associating maple syrup with spring, rather than fall. Aside from pouring it over pancakes, since maple pairs so beautifully with autumnal ingredients – apples, pumpkin, root vegetables – I tend to push the jug to the back of the fridge once the crocuses appear.

Most of the recipes in “Maple” don’t altogether contradict this mindset, but they will broaden a cook’s maple repertoire. Maple Pickled Ramps, Greek Yogurt Parfaits with Maple Vanilla Sour Cherries and Maple Oat Zucchini Bread make tasty use of seasonal produce, while recipes for a Maple Margarita, Asian Pork Lettuce Cups, Swordfish with Maple Piperade and Maple Lemon Squares demonstrate the versatility of maple syrup as an ingredient.

A contributing editor to Eating Well magazine and a blogger at, Webster includes a page on the health and sustainability benefits of cooking with maple syrup. “With a score of 54, it falls lower on the glycemic index than many other sweeteners” … and “has anti-inflammatory properties as well,” she writes, also mentioning sugaring’s low impact on the environment and that buying real maple syrup – even a supermarket brand – supports family-owned businesses.

Given its hefty price, it’s unlikely that you’ll use maple as your primary sweetener, unless, like Webster, you have your own source. I felt almost reckless as I measured out 1/4 cup of the precious stuff to make her Maple Whole Wheat Pizza Dough, but I’m not sure store-bought dough would have been as good a match for what topped it. The earthy, slightly sweet, crispy-chewy crust was an ideal backdrop for an unusual combination of caramelized onion, cheddar and feta cheeses, baby arugula and pepitas – the whole thing drizzled, after baking, with a bit more syrup. Webster got the idea for syrup on pizza from a bakery in the Vermont town where she lives. “Trust me,” she writes.

So I did.

“That’s not pizza,” said my husband, a purist who insists on tomato sauce, mozzarella and pepperoni. “But it’s really, really good.”

Balsamic Caramelized Onion Pizza from “Maple” by Katie Webster.

Balsamic Caramelized Onion Pizza from “Maple” by Katie Webster.


From “Maple” by Katie Webster

Since I always have trouble shaping pizza dough into a round, I love that this recipe calls for it to be rolled out to fit a baking sheet. This also keeps it neat; the toppings will not fall off in the oven. To me, this is a better appetizer than main course. The recipe calls for sweet onion, but I used a red onion, and I used a sprinkle of dried thyme in place of fresh.

Makes 4 (2-piece) servings

1 tablespoon organic canola oil

1 large sweet onion, sliced

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

2 tablespoons cornmeal

All-purpose flour for dusting

1 recipe Maple Wheat Pizza Dough (see below) or your favorite store-bought dough

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar (4 ounces)

2 ounces crumbled feta, preferably reduced fat

2 tablespoons pepitas

1/4 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3 cups loosely packed baby arugula (2 ounces)

2 tablespoons dark pure maple syrup

Place oil in a medium saucepan. Add onion, cover, and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, 12 to 15 minutes, until onion is soft and starting to brown. Reduce heat to medium-low if the onion slices are browning too much before softening. Stir in vinegar and thyme, cover, remove from heat, and set aside while you prepare the pizza.

Place a rack in the bottom position of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Coat a large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray and sprinkle with cornmeal. Dust clean work surface with flour. Roll out dough to the size of the baking sheet and transfer to the sheet.

Spread caramelized onions over dough. Top with cheddar and feta. Sprinkle with pepitas, salt and pepper.

Bake, rotating once halfway through, 13 to 16 minutes, until crust is crispy and cheese is bubbling and just starting to turn golden. Remove from oven. Scatter arugula over pizza and drizzle with syrup. Cut into 8 pieces and serve.


From “Maple” by Katie Webster

I used all-purpose flour instead of the bread flour specified in the recipe.

1/2 cup warm (105 to 115 degrees F) water

1 package rapid or instant dry yeast

1/4 cup maple syrup, warmed

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for bowl

3/4 teaspoon salt

11/2 cups white whole wheat flour

1 cup bread flour, divided, plus more for dusting

In a large mixing bowl, whisk water and yeast and let sit until foamy. Add syrup, oil and salt and whisk to combine. Add whole wheat flour and ½ cup bread flour. Stir with a wooden spoon until too difficult to stir.

Turn onto a floured surface and knead until dough comes together as a ball. Continue kneading, working the remaining ½ cup bread flour into the dough, about 10 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic. Alternatively, mix dough in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment for 5 to 6 minutes, until smooth and elastic and the dough climbs the hook.

Coat a clean bowl with oil, set dough in bowl, cover with damp kitchen towel, and let rise in a warm spot for 1 to 2 hours until almost doubled. Continue with the Balsamic Caramelized Onion Pizza.


]]> 0, 29 Mar 2016 11:29:40 +0000
Slow cooking adds to joy of pork vindaloo Wed, 23 Mar 2016 08:00:00 +0000 There’s a real joy in slowing down in the kitchen. Gone is the frantic stress of trying to get dinner on the table in an instant and in its place comes a different type of gentle cooking. It allows beautiful smells to waft through the house and ingredients to mingle and develop over time into something deep, rich and flavorful.

Of all slow-cooked dishes, Goan pork vindaloo is my favorite. Originally a Portuguese stew made with meat, garlic and wine, the dish made its way to India in the 1500s with Portuguese explorers. Like so many other dishes, it then was reinterpreted. Today, vindaloo curry is a sweet, hot and sour dish popular all over the world.

Though the modern recipe, like the original dish, still uses garlic and wine vinegar, it has changed to include chilies and lots of warming spices, such as cinnamon, cumin and cloves. I like to use a cheaper and fattier cut of meat, such as pork shoulder, which responds well to a slow braise and shows its true colors after a few hours to become the best type of pork – succulent, sweet and soft.

Whatever happens, rest assured that there are no wrong moves with slow cooking. It’s one of the only mediums of cooking that creates a level playing field between the pro chef and the amateur. It gives you the flexibility to taste and adjust as you go until it tastes just right. The only trouble is that after several hours of cooking, it will only take a few minutes to eat.


If you’re nervous about the amount of chili powder, halve the amount called for in the recipe. It will still be delicious. If your slow cooker doesn’t have a saute setting, start the dish in a large saute pan, then transfer to a slow cooker.

Makes 4 servings

4 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil, divided

20 black peppercorns

1 star anise

3-inch cinnamon stick

6 whole cloves

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

6 cloves garlic, crushed

1 1/2-inch chunk fresh ginger, grated (plus extra to serve)

2 teaspoons chili powder

5 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 medium red onion, finely sliced

28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon sugar

2 1/4 pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes

Plain Greek-style yogurt, to serve

Cooked basmati rice, to serve


Set the slow cooker to saute mode. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and heat until hot. Add the peppercorns, star anise, cinnamon, cloves and cumin. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until the peppercorns and cloves swell and are fragrant. Transfer the spices to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Grind until smooth, then add the garlic, ginger and chili powder. Grind again, then transfer to a small bowl and stir in the vinegar. Set aside.

Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil in the slow cooker. When hot, add the onions and cook, stirring often, until brown and caramelized. Add the tomatoes, and cook for 5 minutes. Add the spice paste, salt and sugar. Stir well, then add the pork.

Coat the pork with the paste then add just enough water to cover the meat. Stir well, then cover and cook for 3 hours on high or 5 hours on low, or until the meat is completely tender and straining to hold its shape.

Serve topped with grated ginger, dollops of yogurt and basmati rice.

]]> 0, 23 Mar 2016 08:33:46 +0000
The Maine Ingredient: In praise of the versatility of the little black bean Wed, 23 Mar 2016 08:00:00 +0000 All beans are versatile, not only yielding up their own subtle flavors and textures, but also providing the ideal neutral vehicle for combining with and absorbing intense flavors. But black beans may be my all-around favorite bean. Their beautiful glossy blackness has something to do with it, plus their small size and firmish texture make them very appealing.

Black beans are wonderful in salads, chilies and chunky soups, but they also puree into a creamy smooth soup and a zesty spread or dip.


If you serve this scrumptious soup over a scoop of hot cooked white or brown rice, it becomes an even heartier meal. Garlic-cheese toasts would also be a welcome addition.

Serves 2 (can be doubled)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 small stalk celery, chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

2 teaspoons dry mustard

3 cups drained cooked black beans (two 15-ounce cans)

2 cups vegetable or chicken broth

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon good-quality chili powder

1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons sherry

½ teaspoon liquid hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup chopped fresh tomato

½ cup sour cream or plain yogurt

1/3 cup sliced scallions

¼ cup coarsely chopped cilantro

Heat the oil in a medium-large saucepan or soup pot. Add onion, celery, garlic and mustard and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add beans, vegetable broth, cumin, chili powder and sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Cool for about 10 minutes.

Using an immersion blender or food processor, puree soup until quite smooth. Return to pot, add about 2 cups water, and stir in sherry and hot pepper sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for about 5 minutes until heated through. Soup should be quite thick, but not so thick that it mounds on a spoon. Thin with additional liquid if necessary.

Put tomatoes, sour cream, scallions and cilantro in small bowls and pass at the table to use as garnishes.


My sister made this spread (or dip) for a recent party and reported that it was maybe the best of its kind she’d ever tasted. Let this recipe be a guide, and add more or less heat (from the jalapeños) and spice (from the vinegar, Worcestershire, chili powder, cumin) to suit your taste.

Makes about 1 cup

1½ cups drained cooked black beans (one 15-ounce can)

1 garlic clove, peeled

1 small pickled jalapeño (or more to taste)

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon sugar

¾ teaspoon good-quality chili powder

½ teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon paprika

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In the work bowl of a food processor, combine the beans, garlic, jalapeño, vinegar, Worcestershire, sugar, chili powder, cumin and paprika. Process thoroughly to make a smooth puree. If the mixture is too thick to puree smoothly, add a tablespoon or 2 of water. Season with salt to taste.

Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow flavors to blend, or for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Serve with tortilla chips or fresh vegetable crudités (such as cucumber, carrot or jicama sticks, strips of red or green bell pepper) for dipping.

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “Chowderland” (2015). She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula, and can be contacted via Facebook at:

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Old family recipes yield a family’s story of adaptability – and a distinctive Easter pie Wed, 23 Mar 2016 08:00:00 +0000 When my Aunt Maria Ciancio passed away recently at age 92, my husband made a request: Save the family recipes. I did.

Maria – “Nini” to her sisters’ children – was not the family’s alpha cook. That role fell first to my grandmother and then to my Aunt Sophie, now 93 and the oldest of my grandmother’s three daughters.

Nini, however, did something her mother and two sisters didn’t do. She wrote down their recipes.

Nini, whose sharp memory stayed with her until her final hours, served as the de facto family historian.

It was Nini who told me that my grandmother’s father had wanted my grandmother to marry a certain man because his violin playing was impressive. My grandmother had other ideas. She had fallen for my grandfather, one of three brothers who had left their family in Italy as teenagers and who lived across the street from her on Providence’s Federal Hill. My grandmother told her father that if he forced her to marry the violinist, “When I’m up at the altar and the priest asks if I want to marry him I’m going to say no.” She won the argument.

The DiFolco women – the author’s mother, grandmother and aunts – are shown at the family home in Providence, R.I., in the 1940s. Seated is Anna, and her three daughters, from left, Anna, Sophie and Maria.

The DiFolco women – the author’s mother, grandmother and aunts – are shown at the family home in Providence, R.I., in the 1940s. Seated is Anna, and her three daughters, from left, Anna, Sophie and Maria.

Like the recipes, many of my grandparents’ papers were saved by Nini, and finding them, I was reminded how much of my family’s story is a tale of immigration. In the same envelope as my grandfather’s certificate declaring him to be a naturalized U.S. citizen (he was 33 at the time) was a form I found curious: My grandmother signed an “Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance” to the United States in 1941, which effectively repatriated her, even though she’d been born in Providence and had never left the country in all of her then-40 years. It turns out that, prior to 1922, women lost their citizenship if they married men who were not U.S. citizens. My grandparents had married in 1921, before my grandfather’s U.S. citizenship, so my grandmother was forced to give up hers.

Another, less important immigration narrative plays out among the recipe cards. At Easter, everyone made a pie called pastiera. More accurately, everyone made two pies: One with wheat, one with rice.

Nini, the middle sister, had written down her mother’s recipe, oldest sister Sophie’s recipe and her own recipe. I already had the recipe of the youngest sister, Anna, my mother, who died in 2013.

As a child, I’d loved the wheat pie, with its chewy whole grains and bits of lemon and citron. I decided to make it, and the recipe’s evolution from my grandmother’s kitchen to mine speaks to the way Americans reshape whichever culture they hybridize, particularly in the kitchen.

The recipes first presented a mystery. My two aunts’ versions called for using the “Gloves” recipe for the crust. I found a recipe card labeled “Gloves” and it was, indeed, a crust, but why was it called “Gloves?” I could recall none of the four women using the term to refer to anything but what you’d expect. As you can imagine, googling “gloves” and “pastry” turns up a multitude of places to buy gloves to use in the kitchen. I wondered if it were an Italian word and ran it through an online translation program. Nothing. I asked a few people who like to cook. No clue. Finally, I called Aunt Sophie. She knew the answer: The crust is made from the same dough twisted into bow-like shapes and deep fried to create Wandies, a cross between a pastry and a cookie that was ubiquitous at Italian weddings I’d attended. Wandies are apparently nicknamed “gloves.”

Next came a challenge. My mother had complained to me about six years ago that she could no longer find the jarred or canned wheat that went into the pie. Food Editor Peggy Grodinsky did some research and determined that the wheat, grown in southern Italy, is called grano cotto, and my husband – He Who Wanted the Recipes – also did some research and ordered a couple of cans of it online.

However, there is a lesson in these recipe cards: Use what’s available. Adapt. Substitute. For pastiera, that turns out to be using wheat berries.

This Italian Wheat Pastiera is made from wheat berries and ricotta cheese. It’s a traditional dessert served at Easter.

This Italian Wheat Pastiera is made from wheat berries and ricotta cheese. It’s a traditional dessert served at Easter.

Here are some of the other adaptations and differences among the recipes:

 All the recipes call for soaking “whole wheat” for 72 hours before baking. I instead cooked the wheat berries (which the package notes are pre-steamed) according to the directions on the package – 15 minutes.

 Reduce the fat by using part-skim ricotta cheese. Be sure to drain it first. For my next attempt, I plan to substitute Greek yogurt for some of the ricotta. (Sorry, Italian ancestors.)

 I went with all orange peel instead of citron/orange peel mix, just because I couldn’t find citron in the market. My mother’s recipe also adds lemon peel to the mix.

 My grandmother’s recipe calls for Spry vegetable shortening, a product that enjoyed its heyday in the 1950s. I don’t know why she needed it since her daughters all omitted it or any substitute.

 Orange flower water and orange flavoring have given way to orange juice in the three sisters’ recipes.

 Sophie’s recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar; Nini’s calls for 2 cups. My mother used 1 cup in the filling but added sugar to her crust. I used 2 cups of sugar and found the pastiera a little too sweet. Next time, I’m going to cut back the amount and try light brown sugar to add moistness.

  All the recipes call for boiling the milk, then cooling it before adding it in. I suspect this step dates from the days when it was a food safety issue, but I did it anyway.

 The ladies seem to have serious disagreement on the number of eggs: three, six or 12. I went with three, separated, and beat the whites, hoping it might give the pie a lighter texture.

 The recipes variously call for baking two or three 9-inch pies or one monolith in a springform pan. I favor the single pie in a springform, which is how my mother made it. When I tested this recipe, however, I made one 9-inch pie and another that filled about half a springform pan. Next time, I’ll go all-in with one springform pan.

 This pie crust is chewy, as opposed to flaky. I’m guessing that any pie crust that suits your palate would work fine. When I rolled out the dough, I made it too thick so it was quite formidable to the teeth.

 The baking temperatures and times vary on the recipe cards. I used a convection oven heated to 325 degrees. Even the 9-inch pie took an hour to bake. My mother’s recipe for the large springform pie puts the cooking time at up to two hours in a conventional oven at 325 degrees.

Would the women in my family have objected to my recipe changes? I doubt it, especially since each had developed her own version. Whether a recipe originates in a small Italian village or an old Maine logging camp, we American cooks draw on our ingenuity as we adapt it for this place, this time.

One more note: Unlike today’s food scene, where competition rules, the Italian culture of my heritage considers feeding people to be an act of love. My children will tell you that my mother (their grandmother) never showed up to visit without bringing a lasagna or two because she knew that was their favorite.

That kind of love is an ingredient that Nini knew she didn’t have to write down.

Jill Brady/Staff Photographer Carol McCormick Semple reconstructed an old family recipe for Italian Pastiera, a sweet wheat pie served at Easter.

Jill Brady/Staff Photographer
Carol McCormick Semple reconstructed an old family recipe for Italian Pastiera, a sweet wheat pie served at Easter.



3 eggs

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon flavoring (vanilla, orange or lemon extracts)

2 cups flour

Mix all ingredients except flour in a food processor or bowl. Add flour. Roll out the dough so it will fill two (9-inch) pie plates or 1 springform pan, with enough crust left over to form a lattice top.


1 cup wheat berries

2 pounds part-skim ricotta, drained

2 cups sugar

3 eggs, separated

1 cup boiled milk, cooled

½ cup finely chopped orange peel

1½ tablespoons orange juice

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Cook the wheat berries according to package directions, making sure they remain chewy.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Blend the ricotta, sugar and egg yolks.

Add the cooled milk, wheat berries, orange peel and juice, and cinnamon.

Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold them into the batter.

Pour the batter into the crust-lined pan, top with lattice crust and bake until the pie is set in the middle, just over an hour for the 9-inch pies and 1¾ to 2 hours for a single larger pie. Cooking times aren’t exact, so keep a close eye on it toward the end. It’s done when the center no longer jiggles and a butter knife inserted in the middle comes out with just a little moistness.

Carol McCormick Semple can be contacted at 791-6371 or at:


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Cookbook review: ‘The Farmette Cookbook: Recipes and Adventures from My Life on an Irish Farm’ Wed, 16 Mar 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “The Farmette Cookbook: Recipes and Adventures from My Life on an Irish Farm.” By Imen McDonnell. Roost Books. 384 pages. $35

“The Farmette Cookbook”  is, conceptually, exactly the kind of cookbook you’d imagine springing from the mind of an uninspired rom-com screenwriter in Hollywood. Imen McDonnell was, by her own description, “a young woman building an exciting career while living and working in Minneapolis, New York, and Los Angeles” when she met a “dashing” Irishman named Richard and “the fog of love” carried her off to his family farm in Dunmoylan, Ireland.

There is a lot of other insipid blather in her introduction, about trading in her “Weitzmans” (that’s code for expensive and chic) for Wellingtons. But just skip over the pitch for the movie where she’s played by Reese Witherspoon because the recipes in this book are quite good. They reflect Irish classics influenced by an American working with local, farm-fresh ingredients (many recipes involve buttermilk made from Richard’s cows), and the half-dozen recipes I made from it were all excellent.

I started with the Smoky and Salty Buttermilk Vanilla Fudge, even though I question any fudge that doesn’t involve chocolate, and brought the results to work, where colleagues fell on it and praised its creamy, tangy qualities. And this without me even topping it with smoked sea salt as ordered (I used plain). For my son’s birthday, I deviated from my ever-reliable Epicurious recipe to test McDonnell’s Rich Chocolate Buttermilk Cake, which featured one recipe for the filling and another for the frosting. It was heavenly, if not particularly Irish, and a reminder to me not to get stuck in a cake rut.

Her Classic Dublin Lawyer, a simple dish involving lobster, butter, whiskey (torched) and cream, was a keeper, and this from a woman who believes that steamed with butter is even more dependably pleasing than an Irish farmer bringing you buttermilk. I stepped into less-well-tread territory (for me) by trying her Irish Dulse Miso Soup, subbing in Maine grown kombu (seaweed) and dulse, which was perfect for a virtuous day of food penance after the rich Dublin Lawyer.

My only quibble with McDonnell’s recipe writing was an error in measurements in her Traditional White Soda Bread – she is off in her metric conversion for the buttermilk, which could lead to soggy dough issues. Precision is especially important with a type of bread that tends to be hard to pull off successfully, no matter how simple it might seem.

Her Best Brown Bread was the most “Irish” recipe I tested, and since we’re about to hit St. Patrick’s Day, that’s the one included here. It came out of the oven nicely rounded (I used a cast iron pan as suggested), golden brown and smelling just right. Served warm with butter it was dreamy, just like life with Richard.

The Best Brown Bread comes out smelling just right and goes great with butter.

The Best Brown Bread comes out smelling just right and goes great with butter.


McDonnell suggests Bob’s Red Mills whole wheat flour. Recipe tester Mary Pols used King Arthur. It tastes best on the same day “but three days after I made it, the interior was still moist and chewy,” Pols said.

Makes 1 loaf

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups coarse-ground whole wheat flour

2 tablespoons butter, room temperature

11/2 cups buttermilk

1 large egg

1 tablespoon honey

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a large bowl, sift together the all-purpose flour, salt and baking soda. Mix in the whole-wheat flour. Rub or cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs.

In a separate vessel, whisk together the buttermilk, egg, and honey.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquids. Mix together with a spoon. The dough will be wet and sticky. Pour into a greased loaf pan or an oiled cast iron pan and cut a line or a cross down the middle.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes, pop the bread out of the pan and cover with a tea towel.

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Whiskey glaze gives punch to salmon Wed, 16 Mar 2016 08:00:00 +0000 For St. Patrick’s Day or any day, try this whiskey glaze on salmon – it adds a little kick to the dish. Complete the meal with Rosemary Garlic Potatoes and Beans.

There are two spellings of whiskey or whisky. Whiskey spelled with an “e” is the common spelling in Ireland. It’s generally aged in white oak, giving it a slight smoky flavor.

To save on prep time for this meal, look for fresh green beans trimmed and ready to cook in the produce department. They’re slightly more expensive, but you may find the time savings worth it.


1/4 cup fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth

1/4 cup Irish whiskey

3 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons honey

3/4 pound wild-caught salmon fillet

Place broth, whiskey, tomato paste and honey in a medium-size skillet over medium-high heat. Blend mixture together. When it comes to a simmer, add the salmon. Keeping the sauce at a low simmer, cook the salmon 3 minutes, turn and cook 3 minutes. The sauce will cook to a glaze. Divide salmon between 2 dinner plates and spoon glaze on top. Makes 2 servings.


1/2 pound red potatoes cut into 1-inch cubes

1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 teaspoon minced garlic

3 teaspoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place potatoes, green beans and garlic in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave, uncovered, on high 5 minutes. Remove and add the olive oil, rosemary and salt and pepper to taste. Toss to combine ingredients. Makes 2 servings.

Linda Gassenheimer is the author, most recently, of “Delicious One-Pot Dishes.” Her website is

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