The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » Recipes Fri, 09 Dec 2016 00:13:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Books for younger green eaters and readers Wed, 07 Dec 2016 09:00:46 +0000 “PETA’S VEGAN COLLEGE COOKBOOK: 275 Easy, Cheap, and Delicious Recipes to Keep You Vegan at School.” With Marta Holmberg and Starza Kolman. Sourcebooks. $15.99. No photos.

BEST FOR: College students; vegan high school students; young people in their first apartment; all people on tight budgets; those who travel and stay in hotel rooms; and microwave fans everywhere.


This is the update of PETA’s 2009 book and features quick and inexpensive recipes crafted with an assist from the microwave and other countertop appliances, such as blenders, toasters and even an iron (used with tin foil to make vegan grilled cheese). The book recommends thrift, such as loading up on chopped veggies at the dining hall salad bar and finding lots of vegan foods at dollar stores. It also provides an updated list of plant-based meat and cheese brands and where to find them. Emphasizing budget-friendly foods, the book includes whole chapters on peanut butter, ramen and potatoes. There are multiple recipes for microwave pancakes in a mug or a bowl. Other (goofily named) recipes include “Don’t Be a Chump” chickpea sandwich, Rush Week Greek salad, teacher’s pet tater skins and instant enlighten-mint chocolate latte.

“THE ROOTLETS: Trouble at Plantasy Land.” By Vicki Marquez. The Rootlets. $12.99. Illustrations by Jeremy Russnak.


BEST FOR: Vegan kids; vegetarian kids; kids who won’t eat vegetables; kids who will eat vegetables; and young superheroes everywhere.

Will the Great Zucchini destroy the garden? Or will Carrotina, Cornelius, Brocc and Kaley discover his plot? Opening day at Mr. Fungo Fungi’s plant-themed amusement park is the setting for this illustrated tale and my one break from the cookbook mold in this year’s list. The book is a fun, adventure-filled story that parents and kids will enjoy reading together. The veg-positive message is not heavy-handed but weaves “ooey gooey oats” and “chickpea crispies” into a story about four veg-powered superheroes on a faraway planet who must unravel the mystery of a dying garden. The book follows up on Marquez’s 2014 “The Rootlets: Super Rootabilities” and mixes nutrition with a story that my preschooler honored with a coveted “Read it again, please.” At 60 fully illustrated pages, it also appeals to older readers tackling books on their own.


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Unfamiliar with Maine’s connection to the brownie? You’re in for a treat Wed, 07 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Like the whoopie pie, the origin of the brownie is clouded in a mist of flour and cocoa powder, and it too has a strong Maine connection.

Pennsylvania and Maine both claim to have invented the whoopie pie. Every few years, the debate flares up, with Maine shoring up its case in 2011 through legislation that made it the state’s official treat.

The backstory of the brownie is even less clear, but the argument for Maine as its birthplace had a staunch proponent in one Mildred Brown Schrumpf, a Maine home economist so beloved that in 1970, the Maine Department of Agriculture named her the state’s Unofficial Ambassador of Good Eating.

The nickname she was better known by? “Brownie.”

Few other sweets are as identified with America as the brownie. Sonja Swanberg, a co-founder of Scratch Baking Co. in South Portland, describes the squares as “that iconic childhood thing,” and she cherishes her copy of her great-grandmother’s recipe.

Alison Pray of Standard Baking Co. in Portland says it’s one of the first baked goods she ever remembers eating. “At everybody’s home there was a pan of brownies around,” she said, “and it’s one of the first things you learn to bake.”

Thursday is National Brownie Day. When better to celebrate Maine’s connection with the confection and to thank it for helping to take our minds off of politics for five minutes? (Thursday, it turns out, is also National Pretend to Be a Time Traveler Day, which means it could serve double duty for people unhappy with the election results.)


Americans have been baking brownies since the late 19th-century, but here’s a surprise – early versions contained no chocolate at all. They were flavored with molasses. The first known recipe that called the brownie a brownie appeared in the 1896 edition of Fannie Farmer’s “Boston Cooking-School Cook Book.”

The name is believed to have come from Canadian writer Palmer Cox’s books and comic strips about mischievous sprites called the Brownies.

“The idea of a brownie was very appealing at the turn of the last century,” said Maine food historian Sandra Oliver. “They were little people, so any little thing was nicknamed a brownie.”

Just how the brownie as we know it today came into being is a topic of debate. One early version of the chocolate brownie was known as the Bangor Brownie because it was believed to have originated in Maine. A vague story claims a Bangor housewife invented the Bangor Brownie when a cake she was making for company fell because she forgot to add the baking soda.

The idea that Maine invented the brownie was promoted by Schrumpf, who died in 2001 at age 98 after a long career. Over some 70 years, she tested gas stoves, ran 4-H programs, taught home economics at the University of Maine and camp cookery for foresters through the extension service, and advocated for Maine food products. For 43 years, she wrote a column for the Bangor Daily News that focused on traditional Maine recipes.

Schrumpf was best known by homemakers within the state; in 1997, she was inducted into the Maine Women’s Hall of Fame. But she did gain some national recognition when she judged the Pillsbury Bake-Off – and when she promoted brownies as a Maine invention.

At 4-foot-11, Schrumpf was “the teeniest thing,” Oliver said (perhaps another reason she earned the nickname “Brownie”?). She loved the color red and “was hospitable to a fault,” Oliver continued, “with people flowing in and out of her house at all times.”

“People said if you saw a red car driving down the street with no apparent driver, that was Brownie,” she said.

To bolster Maine’s case for the brownie, Schrumpf cited a chocolate brownie recipe from a 1912 cookbook, known by then in some cookbooks as Bangor Brownies. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America initially disputed Schrumpf’s claim, pointing to a 1905 edition of the Fannie Farmer cookbook that contained a similar recipe. The encyclopedia backpedaled in a later edition, writing that Bangor Brownie recipes had since been discovered in other local community cookbooks published around 1904 (among them an Illinois service club cookbook; a recipe was also published in the Boston Globe in 1905).

Oliver does not believe that brownies originated in Maine. It’s “a complicated thing,” she said, influenced by the rise of chocolate companies in the United States.

“I don’t think it just occurred to some women in Maine, ‘Oh I’m going to use chocolate in this recipe instead of molasses,’ ” she said.

Beginning in the early 1900s, she said, chocolate companies encouraged homemakers to replace molasses in recipes with chocolate. The shift began with marble cakes. The earliest marble cakes were made with yellow and molasses batters swirled together, Oliver said. Over time, the molasses was replaced with chocolate at the urging of chocolate companies eager to sell more of their product.

Just as Schrumpf found cookbooks published in Maine and the rest of the Northeast that contained chocolate brownie recipes, Oliver said, “I think there’s probably some Midwest cookbooks that also show this kind of molasses-to-chocolate transference.”

She added that even recipes for Bangor Brownies are different from cookbook to cookbook – there’s not one single recipe, which seems to point to no single origin.

“Nobody invents a recipe,” Oliver said. “Recipes are always, always based on some kind of a previous development of some sort or another, or previous idea. Recipes are descended in families just like human beings are.”


Whatever its origins, there’s no arguing that the brownie is a favorite American treat. Debate still rages around the brownie, but it’s mostly over which sort is best – dense and fudgy or cakey.

Every professional baker we asked preferred dense and fudgy, except for Pray, a self-proclaimed “cakey” fan. Not dry, she clarifies – it has to be moist – but cake-like nonetheless. She also identifies with “the edge people.”

The edge people? She’s referring to those who like the chewy edges from the sides of the brownie pan – so popular in some circles that someone invented a special brownie pan that gives all the brownies in a batch two chewy edges.

Trina Beaulier, co-founder of Simply Divine Brownies, a gourmet brownie company in Kents Hill, packages the edge pieces from her company’s brownies to sell separately. They are wildly popular, she said. “We used to call them Happy Endings, and then my kids told me that that was kind of a dirty term,” Beaulier said, laughing. “So now we call them Sweet Conclusions.”

On the other side are the middle people. Swanberg said a lot of her customers are “committed middle people,” who will dig through the stack of brownies to find just the right piece from the middle of the pan.


Oliver doesn’t pick sides, but she does have a favorite – the so-called Katherine Hepburn brownie, a recipe which can be found all over the Internet. It’s said to be the actress’ family recipe.

“They come out just unbelievably rich and chewy,” Oliver said. “They’re just about three points above being fudge. Man, I love those brownies.”

At Scratch Baking Co., Swanberg uses a tweaked version of the recipe on the back of the Hershey’s cocoa box. That’s the recipe her grandmother used, and “that’s the one I love the most.”

“We use a little less sugar, a little more salt, and we also use chopped-up chocolate in it,” she said. She’s also swapped out the Hershey’s for a more upscale cocoa.

Her evolving brownie recipe has plenty of company. Beaulier, for example, claims she was one of the first to add thick, flavored frostings. But Pray, for one, hopes the brownie will never stray too far from its humble beginnings. Appreciate the brownie as it is, she says.

“It’s not something that needs to be innovated on,” she said. “It’s comforting, right? You could add flavors, but I don’t think anyone’s dissatisfied with the brownie in its original form, or the first brownie they ever ate. I don’t think anybody ever thought, ‘Hmmm, I could do better.’ ”

Except for, maybe, adding a cold glass of milk.

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These plant-focused cookbooks are the (nondairy) cream of the crop Wed, 07 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Here’s a radical thought for the cooks on your Christmas list: Consider a vegan cookbook, even if the recipient isn’t a vegan. Such books – and the 2016 crop was abundant – make excellent gifts for any friends and family members open to eating more plants.

This year’s cookbooks reflect several popular culinary trends. For instance, tropical jackfruit is firmly established as the go-to plant-based version of BBQ pulled pork. Luckily, it’s easier to find in Maine than it used to be, with many local health food stores stocking national brands of prepared refrigerated jackfruit.

Vegan cookbook writers have also embraced the smoothie trend, extended the spotlight on superfoods and latched more firmly than ever on to chickpeas. Always a vegan fan fave, in these books chickpeas show up everywhere from snacks to soups to stir fries. They even take a star turn on cover designs.

For cooks with lots of free time, many of this year’s cookbooks offer a chapter on DIY pantry staples. For cooks in a hurry, speed and convenience are highlighted in the meal-in-a-jar recipes included in many of this year’s books.

With so many plant-based titles released this year, it was tough to whittle them down to a manageable list. But after reading through the books that were stacked high above my desk, I’ve picked these as this year’s best new vegan books.

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“THE BOOK OF VEGANISH: The Ultimate Guide to Easing into a Plant-Based, Cruelty-Free, Awesomely Delicious Way to Eat, with 70 Easy Recipes Anyone Can Make.” By Kathy Freston with Rachel Cohn. Pam Krauss Books. $22. Color photos.

BEST FOR: People who say they “would go vegan if only ___”; new vegans; flexitarians; omnivores who sometimes order vegan food; and pretty much every millennial you know and those who cook for them.

Following up on her recent books “The Lean” and “Veganist,” the best-selling Freston is back with a comprehensive guide to eating more plant-based foods while avoiding hard-and-fast labels. The book tackles all aspects of seeking out vegan food in easy-to-digest sections, such as understanding plant-based nutrition, answering “What about the protein?” kind of questions, dating non-veganish people, eating out, and the improved skin most see – you get the picture. A full chapter is devoted to teens who go veganish and includes a section for parents to read. The first half of the book answers questions, provides information and offers meal templates. Freston’s advice is interspersed with comments from her readers. The second half provides basic, beginner-friendly recipes such as red bean and sweet potato hash, eggless Benedict bowls, chickpea Caesar wraps and chocolate mug cake.

Workman Publishing Inc.

“CARIBBEAN VEGAN: Meat-Free, Egg-Free, Dairy-Free Authentic Island Cuisine for Every Occasion – Expanded Second Edition.” By Taymer Mason. The Experiment. $24.95. Color photos.

BEST FOR: Fans of the first edition; fans of the Caribbean; fans of island food; people who love to travel; northerners yearning for summer; and everyone interested in regional food traditions.

Mason has updated and expanded her 2010 book in response to the rising tide of interest in vegan eating – both in the Caribbean and around the world. She notes that particularly since 2012 the people who live in the Caribbean have a renewed appreciation for traditional island diets centered around root vegetables such as cassava, sweet potatoes and yams. The book is jam-packed with tidbits and tips about ingredients and island cooking and the international influences that have shaped the cuisines of the individual islands.

The recipes feature native Caribbean foods, with suggestions for how to find them outside of the region and how to find substitutes if need be. These veganized regional recipes include plantain porridge, callaloo fritters, Bajan “beef” stew and calabaza squash cinnamon rolls.


“MINIMALIST BAKER’S EVERYDAY COOKING: 101 Entirely Plant-Based, Mostly Gluten-Free, Easy and Delicious Recipes.” By Dana Shultz. Avery/Penguin Random House. $35. Color photos.

BEST FOR: Cooks who are pressed for time; people who prefer simple recipes; people new to vegan cooking; fans of the Minimalist Baker blog; and fans of hearty meals, plenty of sweets and the occasional adult beverage.

This attractive hardbound cookbook hit store shelves in April and brought with it the signature simplicity of the popular blog. The premise of both book and blog is plant-based cooking with 10 ingredients or fewer, only one pot and just 30 minutes’ time. Within these constraints, Shultz (who lives in the other Portland) serves up an abundance of hearty dishes perfect for this cozy season, such as classic vegan lasagna, garlic scalloped potatoes and hearty cocoa-black bean burgers.

True to her blog’s name, Shultz delivers in the dessert department as well, with tempting recipes for 5-ingredient peppermint patties, 1-bowl vegan tiramisu cake and no-bake strawberry cheesecake bars. The book closes with five beverage recipes ranging from pumpkin chai tea lattes to tamarind whiskey sour.


“THE MOON JUICE COOKBOOK: Cosmic Alchemy for a Thriving Body, Beauty, and Consciousness.” By Amanda Chantal Bacon. Pam Krauss/Avery. $30. Color photos.

BEST FOR: Juicing fans; raw food fans; foodies who like to try new things; chefs who are into health food; longtime vegetarians; fans of Moon Juice restaurants; and people with coffee tables.

A former food and wine editor for the Los Angeles Times magazine, a trained chef and the owner of a successful juice bar business, Bacon has distilled her restaurants into this artfully presented cookbook. The book’s 75 recipes favor drinks with a decent selection of snacks and treats. Bacon writes that the Moon Juice philosophy offers “a bridge between the world of medicine and the pleasures and rituals of fine dining and familial ceremonies.”

She makes her often raw recipes with lots of high quality fats and tiny amounts (if any) of low glycemic sweeteners. She also takes superfoods to a whole new level (Bacon calls them high-functioning foods) with ingredients that include mucuna pruriens, schisandra berry and colloidal silver. Juices are not fruity but rather things such as cilantro celery punch and spiced yam. Readers can also learn how to make sesame-ginger-matcha milk, sea bone broth, cured macadamia nut cheese, and pulp brownies with salted caramel sauce.


“OH SHE GLOWS EVERY DAY: Quick and Simply Satisfying Plant-Based Recipes.” By Angela Liddon. Avery/Penguin Random House. $27. Color photos.

BEST FOR: Oh She Glows blog fans; people who own Liddon’s previous book; new cooks; experienced cooks; people who read cookbooks like others read fiction; fans of Canada; and fans of high-style health food.

Following up on her 2014 smash hit “The Oh She Glows Cookbook,” Liddon’s latest book offers more than 100 new recipes alongside the Ontario native’s radiant charm. Liddon reveals that between writing the two books she became a mom and found herself “looking for ways to save time on the preparation and execution of my favorite recipes.” The influence of motherhood can be seen in many recipes, including PB&J thumbprint breakfast cookies, mac and peas, loaded sweet potatoes and peanut better balls.

The book begins with a section on smoothies and ends with a section on homemade staples, such as all-purpose cheese sauce and vegan mayo. A known salad aficionado, Liddon serves up Thai crunch, stuffed avocado and the best shredded kale salads. Liddon’s family continues to grow. In October on her blog, she announced the birth of her second child.


“SUPERFOOD SOUPS: 100 Delicious, Energizing & Plant-Based Recipes.” By Julie Morris. Sterling. $16.95. Color photos.

BEST FOR: People who love soup; people who love smoothies but live in a northern climate; health food fans; Morris fans; and whoever is cooking you dinner tonight.

The latest in best-selling author Morris’ superfood series is ideal for every cook on your gift list. Why? It’s simple. “Everyone loves soup,” as Morris found in writing the book. These are no ordinary soup recipes but rather superfood smoothies served savory and warm. Think persimmon holiday soup, made with parsnips, maca powder and goji berries. The book also includes recipes for chilled soups ideal for steamy summer days and chunky soups filled with broth, beans and noodles perfect for winter nights.

Morris fortifies many familiar soups with superfoods. Her version of minestrone includes farro, chia pesto, goji and kelp. Morris writes extensively about the principles of soup-making and the details of the superfoods she uses throughout the book. This book is a perfect companion for a snow day.


“SUPERFOODS SUPERFAST: 100 Energizing Recipes to Make in 20 Minutes or Less.” By Julie Montagu. Quadrille. $24.95. Color photos.

BEST FOR: Flexi Foodie fans; Anglophiles; fans of “Ladies of London”; yoga practitioners; busy families; people who own Montagu’s “Superfoods” cookbook; and all of us who need the most nutrient-dense foods.

The third season of Bravo TV’s “Ladies of London” began at the end of November and it again features Montagu, an American-born, British-based yoga star, mom of four kids and future lady of Mapperton manor. Her latest plant-based cookbook reached store shelves this summer and features nutrient-dense recipes that can be whipped up fast.

Each chapter starts with an overview of the nutritional benefits of the superfoods featured in the recipes. These powerhouses range from chia seeds and chickpeas to tomatoes and turmeric. She uses quick-cooking strategies – including cooking rice uncovered to speed the process and using fast-cooking (and superfood superstar) quinoa. Recipes include pumpkin seed pate, fennel and pear salad with spicy almonds and avocado, cannellini bean masala, and goji-cinnamon cookies.


“THE SUPERFUN TIMES VEGAN HOLIDAY COOKBOOK: Entertaining for Absolutely Every Occasion.” By Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Little, Brown and Company. $32. Color photos.

BEST FOR: People who love to party; people who invite vegans to their parties; people with zero vegan cookbooks; people with every vegan cookbook; people who love Moskowitz; and people who love pretty cookbooks.

Best-selling cookbook author Moskowitz’s latest book dropped last month, and it is a hefty, hardbound, gift-worthy tome (clocking in at 439 pages) that left me feeling like I’d attended the wildest vegan dinner party of my life. Moskowitz breaks down all the major American holidays in chronological order from New Year’s Eve to Christmas with stops at Chinese New Year, Mardi Gras, Cinco de Mayo, the Fourth of July, Rosh Hashanah, Halloween and many others.

The more than 200 recipes veganize many classic American dishes – warm artichoke dip, glazed tofu ham and mu shu pancakes. The recipes are all familiar even as Moskowitz updates them with a bold nod to vegetables, as seen in recipes for bagels and nox with wild mushroom caviar; chipotle mac & cheese with roasted Brussels sprouts; and burrito potato salad. This party definitely includes dessert, serving up Irish cream whoopie pies, veganized candy corn and candy cane fudge cookies.

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

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

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Roasted Brussels sprouts are sublime in a warm salad Wed, 07 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 I think this is (possibly) the best Brussels sprouts recipe I have ever made. They are roasted and then tossed while still warm with an assertive dressing that makes your mouth jump up and down with joy.

And for those who don’t like Brussels sprouts (and in fact my family is divided), well, more for the rest of us.

This is a great addition to a holiday spread. You can make the dressing ahead of time, and then just roast the Brussels sprouts before the meal, toss them with the vinaigrette, and serve them warm or even room temperature. I’m not a fan of reheating Brussels sprouts, and would prefer to just serve them at room temperature if they cool down.

Don’t over-salt the Brussels sprouts because the anchovies add salt to the dressing. You can always add a pinch of salt to the final tossed salad if you want.


Makes 6 to 8 servings

2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

Kosher salt

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

3 anchovies, rinsed

1 clove garlic

2 teaspoons grainy Dijon mustard

2 scallions, white and green parts, trimmed and cut into pieces

2 tablespoons parsley leaves

Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Toss the Brussels sprouts with 1 tablespoon of the oil and spread them out on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes until the Brussels sprouts are fairly tender and browned in spots. Let cool slightly, on the baking sheet, for about 10 minutes.

While the Brussels sprouts are cooking, make the dressing. In a food processor place the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, the lemon juice, anchovies, garlic, mustard, scallions, parsley and pepper, and process until pureed.

Drizzle the Brussels sprouts with about half of the dressing and toss to coat. Add more dressing if you like. Transfer the Brussels sprouts to a serving dish and serve warm, with the rest of the dressing on the side.

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Cookbook Review: ‘Cicchetti: Small-bite Italian appetizers’ brings taste of Venice to your kitchen Wed, 07 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 “Cicchetti: Small-bite Italian appetizers.” By Liz Franklin. Ryland Peters & Small. $16.95

Liz Franklin’s “Cicchetti: Small-bite Italian appetizers” has “over 40 recipes” for the bar snacks peculiar to Venice, which seems a number far too small to be bragging about. I took the book home to review anyway, because my policy on anything related to Venice boils down to “yes, please.”

Ciccetti are typically served to people standing up with a glass of wine or prosecco in one of Venice’s many wine bars (bacari) and the rough translation is “small or modest,” according to Franklin. I’ve heard them described as like tapas, but even smaller.

For me, they’re more like savory pieces of candy. You pick out a few from a case, or from plates on a counter, and if you like something, you ask for a few more. You’re charged individually and it might be as little as $1 or $2 per piece.

I was skeptical of Franklin’s book mainly because it’s primarily the Venetian atmosphere – and the variety available – that makes the cicchetti experience so wonderful. You feel as though you’re participating in a cultural experience that would seem hard to duplicate in your kitchen at home. After all, it’s a lot of work to churn out multiple appetizers for dinner guests.

I started with something very simple, her rosemary roasted chickpeas (basically you dry out a can of chickpeas slowly in a 325 degree F oven until they’re crisp, and then sprinkle them with rosemary, salt and good olive oil. They made for a nice but definitely not transporting snack.

Then I tried her artichokes with Taleggio (a soft, pungent Italian cheese) and prosciutto. The recipe calls for two kinds of flour and deep frying, so it’s fairly labor intensive, as appetizers go.

I ended up with some lumpy balls and remained skeptical until I cut into the first and saw how the pastella (a light batter coating) fell away with a nice crunch. The Taleggio had oozed nicely over the interior of the artichoke and the prosciutto (which the recipe referred to as “prosciutto ham,” which is akin to saying “bologna lunch meat”) had crisped up beautifully.

Even though I’d forgotten both the suggested lemon zest and the squeeze of juice over the finished product, I had to admit, it was absolutely delicious. And even though I was drinking water, not prosecco, in my own, decidedly unromantic kitchen, I could nearly taste Venice. I’ll dip into this cookbook again.

Artichokes with Taleggio cheese and prosciutto (arcofi con taleggio e prosciutto).

Artichokes with Taleggio cheese and prosciutto (arcofi con taleggio e prosciutto). Photo by Mowie Kay/Courtesy of Ryland Peters & Small


8 whole baby artichokes in oil, drained

5 1/2 ounces Taleggio cheese

8 slices of prosciutto

1 quart sunflower oil for deep frying

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Fresh lemon juice

Sea salt flakes


1 egg white, beaten

1/2 cup sparkling water

3/4 cup self-rising flour

Salt, to season

Zest of 1 lemon

Remove the artichokes from the oil and dry them on paper towels.

Gently make a hole in the center of each, using a teaspoon or (my preferred method) your little finger. Push a small amount of Taleggio into the hole.

Wrap each artichoke with a slice of prosciutto and set aside. (Or several pieces of slices, as the case may be. They tend to fall apart unless they are the prepackaged vacuum-packed variety. Just try to encase it.)

Make the pastella by whisking the egg white and the sparkling water together (it will foam, pleasingly).

Slowly add the self-rising flour and beat until smooth. Add the lemon zest and salt.

Dust the artichoke in the all-purpose flour and shake off any excess.

Heat the oil in a wok or deep saucepan to 375 degrees F. Dip the floured artichokes into the pastella batter and then deep-fry for 3 to 4 minutes, until golden and crisp. (Golden is a relative term when something is encased in rosy meat.)

Drain on paper towels, squeeze lemon juice over, slice in half and serve immediately.

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Enrich the comfort of grilled cheese with sauce or sauerkraut Wed, 07 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 As the days grow shorter, my cooking leans toward comfort. Be forewarned, I like my comfort food with a bit of flair and plenty of warm cheese. Freshly shredded, it improves any macaroni and cheese. Vegetable and bean soups come into their own with a garnish of grated hard cheese. Even hot dogs taste better stuffed with cheese, wrapped in bacon and grilled. A grilled cheese sandwich, made with hearty bread and sweet butter always satisfies.

A cheesy, Monte Cristo sandwich, relished on my first trip to Manhattan many years ago, proves the culprit for this cheesy penchant. Layered, buttered and battered, then sprinkled with sugar, this was not my mother’s grilled cheese. Later, a Parisian anniversary trip yielded my first croque-monsieur, the griddled French Gruyere and ham snack that started a sandwich revolution.

I’ve been playing around with the combination of bread and cheese ever since, from weekday quesadillas to a friend’s inspired meatless version of the classic Reuben.

My favorite rendition of croque-monsieur involves a smear of a cheesy white sauce, aka bechamel, enriched with cream cheese and riddled with fresh herbs. Local soft cheeses, diminutive pretzel loaves and whole grain mustards never fail to inspire sandwiches perfectly suited to casual dinners with friends.

The keys to success prove few: Freshly shredded or sliced cheese, good bread, sweet butter, a heavy nonstick griddle. If you have a panini press, great. Or, flip the waffle iron plates to the smooth side. A hot oven will help keep sandwiches crisp.

Gruyere’s nutty flavor and melting qualities make it the ideal cheese for melting goodness. Likewise French Comte. Among domestic cheeses, fontina or Muenster have mild flavors and textures that turn pleasingly gooey when heated.

For the bread, I prefer to purchase unsliced, whole-grain loaves at my local farmers market or bakery. Then, a serrated knife makes quick work of cutting 1/2-inch thick slices. I also enjoy croque-monsieurs on torpedo-shaped pretzel rolls and soft Mexican teleras. Ciabatta rolls work, too, albeit they are a bit chewy. Sliced brioche bread tastes great and crisps beautifully.

A croque-monsieur includes ham – Black Forest or Westphalian hams have rich, smoky flavor and add a toothsome, meaty texture to any grilled cheese sandwich. Other options include sliced deli ham or ham off the bone. I like Trader Joe’s sliced oven-roasted rosemary ham in combination with this herbaceous white sauce.

Chunks of smoked salmon, turkey or chicken can stand in for the ham. Or, make it a vegetarian treat, and use grilled sliced eggplant (or more cheese!).

Sliced tomatoes taste great in the sandwich but tend to make everything more moist and more difficult to cook. If using, slice the tomatoes thinly and pat them dry. FYI, I’d never say no to a fried egg and a shower of fresh herbs on top of any grilled cheese concoction.

Our friends in the U.K. served up their meatless Reuben sandwiches after a day of hilly biking in the countryside. Like a grilled cheese sandwich stuffed with fresh sauerkraut, it’s perfect on a cool day. Use a super-dense whole-grain bread or a hearty rye for a crusty, toothsome treat.

Serve hot cheesy sandwiches with sides that counter the richness, such as sharp pickles and/or a green salad tossed with balsamic vinaigrette. Then consider yourself comforted.

A cheese sauce enriched with cream cheese and plenty of herbs boosts a croque-monsieur.

A cheese sauce enriched with cream cheese and plenty of herbs boosts a croque-monsieur. Photo by Michael Tercha/Chicago Tribune via TNS


The white sauce can be made a day or two in advance.

Makes 4 servings


11/2 tablespoons each: butter, flour

3/4 cup skim or whole milk

1/4 cup reduced-fat cream cheese, softened

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh chives or green onion tops

1/8 teaspoon each, finely chopped or dried: rosemary, thyme

1/8 teaspoon each: salt, freshly ground pepper


12 ounces Gruyere, Comte, fontina or Muenster cheese (rind removed)

8 slices, each about 1/2-inch thick, hearty whole grain bread

12 ounces thinly sliced, ham

3 tablespoons butter, melted

Whole grain mustard

Small or sliced pickles

For the white sauce, put butter and flour into a small saucepan. Set over medium heat; stir until smooth and melted. Gradually whisk in milk until smooth. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cream cheese, chives, herbs, salt and pepper. Let cool.

For the sandwiches, use the large holes on a 4-sided box grater to shred the cheese. Lay the 8 slices of bread out on a work surface. Spread one side of each with about 1 tablespoon of the sauce. Top 4 of the slices each with a quarter of the shredded cheese. Top each with a quarter of the ham slices. Place a dressed slice of bread on top to make a sandwich.

Smear the tops of the sandwiches with a little melted butter. Flip the whole sandwich and spread with more melted butter. Sandwiches can be assembled an hour or so in advance; cover tightly with plastic wrap.

Heat the oven to 200 degrees, and place a baking sheet in the oven. Heat a panini press or a large nonstick griddle over medium heat until hot. If not using a panini press, also heat a cast-iron skillet over medium until hot. (You’ll use the hot bottom to press the sandwich.)

Spray the hot cooking surface, and add the sandwiches, working in batches as needed to accommodate your equipment. If using the griddle, set the heated skillet on top of the sandwiches to compact them a bit. Cook until cheese is melty and bread is nicely golden and crisp, 5 to 6 minutes. Turn sandwiches so they cook evenly; if not using a panini press, flip them to crisp the other side. Transfer the sandwiches to the baking sheet in the hot oven until ready to serve.

To serve, cut the sandwiches in half. Put onto heated serving plates. Accompany with a small dish of whole grain mustard and the pickles.


Serve these tangy, cheesy sandwiches with “crisps,” aka potato chips.

Makes 2 servings

8 ounces fresh sauerkraut, preferably refrigerated, not canned

3 tablespoons softened butter

4 slices hearty rye bread

4 slices Swiss cheese

3 tablespoons Thousand Island dressing

Nonstick cooking spray for high heat

Dill pickles

Put sauerkraut into a strainer and rinse under cool water for a few minutes. Drain well; pat with paper towels to remove excess moisture.

Spread about 2 teaspoons butter on each of 2 slices of bread. Top each buttered slice with half of the drained sauerkraut. Top each with half of the cheese. Spread the dressing evenly on the other two slices of the bread. Place on top of the cheese to make a sandwich.

Heat a nonstick griddle or skillet over medium heat until hot. Spray the griddle, and then add the remaining butter.

As soon as it melts, add the sandwiches. Reduce heat, if needed, to cook the sandwiches until the bread is golden and crisp, about 3 minutes.

Press down on the sandwiches while they grill to compact them a bit. Use a spatula to gently flip the sandwiches; toast the other side.

Cook until cheese is hot and melty, 2 to 3 minutes more. Add a little more spray or butter if the pan seems dry.

Transfer sandwiches to a cutting board; cut in half on the diagonal. Serve hot with dill pickles.

]]> 0, 07 Dec 2016 09:35:14 +0000
Residual heat keeps things cooking even when the oven’s off Sun, 04 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Holding a hot cup of tea on a cold December morning is a lesson in the power of residual heat. Understanding how to harness that energy in your kitchen for more than just warming your hands will make you a greener cook.

Residual cooking – also called carry- over cooking – is when food continues to cook after it has been removed from a heat source. The heat held within the food itself raises its overall temperature before it starts to cool down. It’s a gentler, radiating heat that equalizes the temperature throughout the food.

In culinary school, I was taught to make accommodations for residual heat so that grilled steaks would end up cooked as ordered and green vegetables were not reduced to gray mush. The temperature of a resting steak or chop will rise 5 to 10 degrees and a large roast will cook another 15 degrees because of residual heat. Many green vegetables – green beans, snow peas, broccoli and kale, to name a few – need a few minutes to cook to crisp tender perfection. So chucking them into the pot once you’ve brought the salted water in it to a boil and have turned off the heat will provide plenty of heat to cook them.

More recently, I’ve learned to seek out and take advantage of residual heat sources throughout my kitchen in order to decrease my fossil fuel consumption as I poach fish or chicken (see recipe), bake cookies, scramble eggs, steam rice or warm sauces. My primary sources are my heavy-bottomed pans, ceramic baking dishes, cooling oven, stove-top grates, make-shift pan lids and the top of my refrigerator, the coziest place for dough to rise given that the motor is always running.

If there is a cook on your holiday shopping list, I suggest buying him or her cast-iron skillets or their enameled Dutch oven counterparts. They make great green gifts as both hold onto heat better than thinner aluminum-based cookware and therefore help promote carry-over cooking. That said, cast iron is not the best initial conductor of heat so it’s best to warm such pans either in an already hot oven or over a burner equal in size to the pan. Ceramic and glass baking dishes (another solidly green gift) conduct and retain heat better than metal so you can reduce oven temperatures by 25 degrees and count on residual cooking when you pull them out of the oven.

When I bake – mostly in or on aluminum-based cake pans or cookie sheets – I turn my well-insulated oven off with about 20 percent of the cooking time remaining and let my cookies, bars and cakes coast to the finish line – without opening the oven door, of course. I’ve also learned to keep the timer running so that I don’t forget altogether that the baked good is still in the oven so they don’t burn.

I use my cast-iron skillets (which live on my stovetop for easy access) as a makeshift pan covers when cooking either potatoes or pasta because it serves as an ideal spot to warm milk and butter for mashed potatoes or a tomato sauce for pasta. The residual heat held in the stovetop burner grate used to boil water for green vegetables provides the perfect temperature for making a brown butter and caper sauce in which to dress them.

Finding (and subsequently using) new sources of residual heat in my kitchen has become a personal adventure for me. So far, my exploration has relied on my sense of touch, as in, “Ouch, that’s still hot!” Perhaps, should my very own Santa be reading this, I can suggest that an infrared thermometer would be just the right stocking stuffer this year?

CHRISTINE BURNS RUDALEVIGE is a food writer, a recipe developer and tester, and a cooking teacher in Brunswick. Contact her at:

]]> 0, 05 Dec 2016 09:02:43 +0000
Learn to love a long, slow braise to make tough meat tender Wed, 30 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 How do you transform a tough cut of meat into something tender and delicious? You braise it!

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

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


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

Makes 8 servings

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

5 pounds boneless beef short ribs

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

2 cups thinly sliced yellow onions

2 medium carrots, coarsely chopped

11/2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 sprig fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)

1 bay leaf

Two 12-ounce bottles beer

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

11/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/2 cup water

2 teaspoons lemon juice

Heat the oven to 325 F.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The law was repealed on Dec. 5, 1933.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hanky Panky

11/2 ounces gin

11/2 ounces sweet vermouth

1/4 ounces Fernet-Branca

Orange peel

Stir, strain, garnish with orange peel.

]]> 0, 30 Nov 2016 12:43:54 +0000
The Maine Ingredient: Lighten up! Dishes drawn from the sea can help you do so Wed, 30 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 After the elaborate Thanksgiving feast, some light fish main courses are most welcome. Here are a couple of winners.


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

Makes 4 servings

1 cup milk

½ cup flour

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

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

5 tablespoons butter, divided

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon drained capers

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

4 lemon wedges

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

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

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


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

Makes 4 servings

4 clementines or 2 large seedless oranges

¼ cup olive oil

1¼ pounds peeled and deveined extra-large shrimp

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

¼ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

1/3 cup dry sherry

2 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar or red wine vinegar

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

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

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

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

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

]]> 0, 30 Nov 2016 08:03:54 +0000
‘My French Family Table’ sets itself apart with photos Wed, 30 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 ‘My French Family Table: Recipes for a Life Filled with Food, Love & Joie de Vivre.’ By Beatrice Peltre – Roost Books, $35

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1116504_551577 FrenchFamily Chicken.jpg



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

Serves 4 (use larger chicken if you want leftovers)

4 garlic cloves, peeled

1 large shallot, peeled

2 tablespoons hazelnuts

2 tablespoons pecans

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

1/4 cup mascarpone cheese

1 tablespoon grainy mustard

1/4 cup olive oil

Sea salt and pepper

1 (41/2-pound) organic chicken

2 bay leaves

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1116508_Food-Healthy-Raspberry Pavl.jpg


Servings: 8

3 egg whites

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

1/2 teaspoon white vinegar

1 teaspoon corn starch

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)


1 cup light sour cream

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 cup raspberries (or other fruit)

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

Fresh mint leaves, chopped, for garnish (optional)

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

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

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

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

]]> 0, 30 Nov 2016 08:03:54 +0000
Chocolate biscotti: Treats that satisfy Wed, 30 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 I remember the first party I ever hosted. I was 5 and my mom invited all of my kindergarten girlfriends and their moms for a holiday singing gathering.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Makes 16 biscotti

1 cup white whole wheat flour

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely minced

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips, finely chopped

1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]> 0, 30 Nov 2016 08:03:53 +0000
Mini pies, or ‘pie cups,’ make dessert more sensible Wed, 30 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 When I have a lot of people coming over, I love to make mini pies, or “pie cups.” I coined the name “pie cup” when I created a “pie program” for one of my restaurants and vowed to make pie the new cupcake in NYC.

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

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

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

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

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

1116517_892099 pies.jpg


Makes 12 servings

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

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

4 tablespoons butter, melted

2/3 cup granulated white sugar

1/2 cup dark corn syrup

2 large eggs, beaten

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

4 ounces 70 percent bittersweet chocolate, melted

1 heaping teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons of Kahlua

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

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

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

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

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

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

]]> 0, 30 Nov 2016 08:03:54 +0000
Farro stew offers satisfying chew Wed, 30 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 I was served a version of this dish at a neighborhood restaurant in Milan last fall and was completely smitten with it. It provided the comforting, belly-warming satisfaction a chilly night calls for, and it charmed me with the rustic-chic elegance that came from pairing chickpeas with farro, an ancient variety of wheat that is officially on trend these days.

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

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

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

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Makes 6 cups

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

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

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 medium carrot, scrubbed well, then diced

1 rib celery, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

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

1 sprig rosemary

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup pearled farro (see headnote)

2 cups lightly packed baby spinach leaves, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

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

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

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

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

Serve hot, garnished with the cheese.

]]> 0, 30 Nov 2016 08:03:53 +0000
After the excesses of Thanksgiving, be grateful for a nourishing Buddha Bowl Sun, 27 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Oryoki is an ancient Chinese, Japanese and Zen Buddhist eating practice that centers on a tidy bundle of nested lacquered wooden bowls; taking just enough food to adequately nourish your body at any given meal; and eating slowly, mindfully and with deep gratitude.

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]> 0, 28 Nov 2016 08:09:06 +0000
‘New England Orchard Cookbook’ serves as guide to orchards Wed, 23 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 In addition to the delightful recipes, “The New England Orchard Cookbook” provides a guide to New England orchards. Writer Linda Beaulieu divides the book, a hardcover, into sections by state, compiling information on the thousands of acres in the region devoted to the cultivation of fruit trees.

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

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

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

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


1113670_315644 gratin.jpg

Apple-Onion-Cheese Gratin

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

Makes 6 servings

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon unbleached white flour

1 cup milk, scalded

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Pinch of ground cloves

4 cups peeled and sliced apples

1 cup chopped onions

2 tablespoons brown sugar, optional

2 cups grated cheddar

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup bread crumbs

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

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

Remove from the heat and set aside.

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

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

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

]]> 0, 22 Nov 2016 22:47:36 +0000
No meat or dairy? No problem for vegans planning holiday feasts Wed, 23 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 No meat or dairy? No problem for these vegans planning soup-to-nuts holiday feasts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Batter must be made 12 to 24 hours in advance

Makes about four (9-inch square) waffles

13/4 cups whole milk

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

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

11/2 teaspoons instant yeast

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Dash of bourbon (optional, but do!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Makes 6 servings

1 large head of cauliflower (or 2 small heads)

3 cloves garlic, smashed

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

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

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

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

Salt and pepper

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

Season with salt and pepper and serve.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Makes about 50 crackers

1/2 pound extra-sharp cheddar, coarsely grated

5 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided

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

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

11/2 teaspoons Colman’s Mustard powder, divided

1/2 teaspoon table salt

1 1/4 teaspoons cayenne, divided

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons ice water

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]> 0, 22 Nov 2016 18:33:45 +0000
From turkey to leftovers: Recipes to help you get through your Thanksgiving meal(s) Wed, 16 Nov 2016 17:47:27 +0000 0 Mon, 21 Nov 2016 10:36:21 +0000 ‘Exciting gravy’ not necessarily an oxymoron Wed, 16 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Just because Thanksgiving mostly is about tradition doesn’t mean we aren’t open to going off-script when it comes to side dishes and exactly how to cook the big bird.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Makes 5 cups

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

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 medium yellow onion, medium-chopped

1 medium carrot, medium-chopped

2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

1 tablespoon tomato paste

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

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

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

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

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Never stuff a turkey the night before roasting.

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

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

 Refrigerate stuffing in a shallow pan so it cools quickly.

 Fill the turkey cavity lightly with stuffing.

 Bake extra stuffing in a casserole dish.

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

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

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


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

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

1/2 cup butter

2 large onions, chopped

2 celery ribs, chopped

5 cups slivered kale leaves

2 teaspoons poultry seasoning blend, such as Bell’s

½ cup chopped parsley

4 tablespoons chopped fresh sage

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

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

1 egg, beaten

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

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

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

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


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

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

¼ cup golden raisins

3 tablespoons bourbon

½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts

½ cup chopped pecans

2 tablespoons butter

1 medium onion, chopped

1 small celery rib, chopped

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

1 teaspoon dried thyme

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon powdered ginger

1/8 teaspoon allspice

½ cup whole fresh cranberries

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 egg, lightly beaten

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Makes 4 servings

1 pound Brussels sprouts

3 tablespoons canola oil

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon hot water

1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 2 cloves)

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

1/2 cup torn fresh mint leaves

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]> 0, 16 Nov 2016 08:12:18 +0000
Cookbook review: ‘The Art of the Pie: A Practical Guide to Homemade Crusts, Fillings and Life’ Wed, 16 Nov 2016 06:00:00 +0000 My younger sister Bridget is the baker in our family for a reason.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1110232_343216 Apple3.jpg


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

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

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

1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) salt

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

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

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

Additional flour for rolling out dough

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

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

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

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

1110232_343216 Apple1.jpg


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

1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar

1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) salt

1 teaspoon (2 grams) cinnamon

2 gratings nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon (1 gram) allspice

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

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

1/2 cup (73 grams) flour

1 recipe double-crust pie dough

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10. Cool the pie for at least an hour.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The dessert is also a sly nod to Thanksgiving gluttony.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We make people happy.”

]]> 0, 16 Nov 2016 11:46:24 +0000
Have no fear of getting the most of a monster squash Sun, 13 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 I know how to use all the bits of a 25-pound Thanksgiving turkey. That’s easy. You let the dozen or so 6-foot-plus men and boys in your life have at it and then you simmer the picked-over carcass for soup. But a 25-pound Blue Hubbard squash? For a cook concerned with not wasting food, that’s a more menacing monster to slay for the holiday buffet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]> 0, 14 Nov 2016 18:24:17 +0000
Add a pleasant flair to the table with roasted pheasant Wed, 09 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Long gone are the days when I went hunting with my dad. He usually got a ringneck pheasant or two on an autumn Saturday. I was lucky to tag along to topple a couple of tin cans off a wall with a BB gun. He’d field dress it, and take it home to my mum, and I remember she’d roast it, covered, on a bed of sauerkraut. Pheasants were, and are, free food and wonderful seasonal eating.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Makes 2 or 3 servings

3 pounds pheasant

Salt and pepper or rub of choice, to taste

Lemon halves, optional

1 tablespoon flour for the bag

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Season or rub the bird.

Place lemon halves in the cavity, if using.

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

Roast bird for approximately 50 to 55 minutes.

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

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

Serve with Cumberland sauce (below).

From “Wild about Game” by Janie Hibler


Makes about 2 cups

Zest from 1 orange, finely julienned

Zest from 1 lemon, finely julienned

1 (12-ounce) jar red currant jelly

1/2 cup Ruby port

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

2 tablespoons cup freshly squeezed lemon juice from about 2 lemons

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon (1/2 ounce) grated fresh gingerroot

Generous amount freshly ground black pepper

Salt to taste.

Cornstarch, optional

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

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

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

Stir occasionally until reduced to about 2 cups.

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


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

Makes about 3 cups

1 whole pheasant, about 3 pounds

1 onion, quartered

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

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

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

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

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

From “Wild about Game”

]]> 0, 08 Nov 2016 16:32:43 +0000
Chicken dish pays tribute to Julia Child’s fondness for comfort food Wed, 09 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 A while back, in honor of Julia’s Child’s birthday (she would have been 104 this year), I created a dish that embodies one of her many excellent sayings: “The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.”

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

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

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

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

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



Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pounds thin-sliced boneless, skinless chicken cutlets

2 large shallots, chopped

3/4 cup chicken broth

1 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano

1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme

1/2 cup grated Fontina cheese

1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

2 cups roughly chopped spinach

1/2 cup roughly chopped sundried tomatoes

Hot cooked rice or pasta to serve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Makes 4 servings

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)

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


Freshly ground black pepper

4 large eggs

Hot sauce, for serving (optional)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Yield: 1 Bundt cake

1 box chocolate cake mix

2 small boxes instant chocolate pudding

½ cup vegetable oil

1¼ cups water

4 eggs

1½ cups Nutella, divided

4 cups powdered sugar

½ cup butter, softened

3 to 4 splashes of milk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Makes 6 to 8 servings

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

3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons coarse yellow cornmeal or polenta

11/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed

2 medium pears (about 1 pound)

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs, separated

1/2 cup whole milk

Whipped cream or caramel gelato, optional

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adapted from Bon Appétit


]]> 0, 08 Nov 2016 18:56:10 +0000
Make ratatouille with no mush or fuss in slow cooker Wed, 02 Nov 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I have often been conflicted about ratatouille. Not about eating it, because that is an undisputed pleasure, but about cooking it.

On the one hand, making the classic Provençal stew of tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant and peppers is an easy way to transform those vegetables, which are at their bountiful peak in autumn, into comfort food that captures and concentrates the flavors of the season. Then again, it’s the middle of hiking and leaf-peeping season, for goodness’ sake; who wants to be in the kitchen cooking stew?

The simple solution, it turns out, is the slow cooker. The countertop appliance allows you to breezily toss the vegetables together (with thyme and a luxurious coating of olive oil and tomato paste), plug it in and leave.

When you return several hours later, you just need to uncover it so it can thicken a bit, and before you know it, you have a sumptuous, herb-infused, soft (but not mushy!) medley of vegetables that is ready to be eaten as a side dish with grilled poultry or meat, as a bed for a fish fillet, on a sandwich or perhaps over toast with an egg on top.

It is delicious warm or at room temperature, and it not only keeps in the refrigerator for several days but also freezes well, so you can preserve the essence of summer, conflict-free, throughout the year.

1103237_445999 ratatouille.jpg


You’ll need a slow-cooker with 4- to 51/2-quart capacity.

The salted eggplant needs to drain for 30 minutes. The ratatouille can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 3 months.

Makes 6 servings

1 medium eggplant (unpeeled; about 1 pound), cut into 3/4-inch pieces

11/2 teaspoons salt

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

5 medium Roma or plum tomatoes (about 1 pound), cut into medium dice

2 medium zucchini and/or yellow summer squash (about 8 ounces each), cut into 3/4-inch pieces

1 large red, orange or yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

1 large onion, sliced into half-moons

4 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves (may substitute 1 teaspoon dried thyme)

1 bay leaf

Fresh basil leaves, left whole or cut into ribbons (chiffonade), for garnish

Place the eggplant in a colander set over a bowl or in the sink, and toss with 1 teaspoon of the salt. Allow to sit and drain for 30 minutes, then rinse the eggplant with cold water.

Lay the eggplant on paper towels and pat with additional paper towels to remove as much water as possible.

Whisk together the oil, tomato paste, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the black pepper in a medium bowl until incorporated.

Combine the drained/rinsed eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini and/or squash, bell pepper, onion, garlic and thyme in your slow-cooker.

Add the oil-tomato paste mixture and stir to incorporate. Add the bay leaf.

Cover and cook on low for 4 hours or until the vegetables are tender, then uncover and cook for 1 hour more to allow some of the liquid to evaporate and the vegetables to meld further. Discard the bay leaf.

Garnish with the basil before serving.

]]> 0, 02 Nov 2016 08:09:40 +0000
‘Flavorwalla’ brings spice into a Mainer’s kitchen Wed, 02 Nov 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Mainers have a well-known aversion to spice. The Yankee palate leans heavily toward sweet and savory, rather than bold and fiery. Hot sauce, for example, is a staple condiment in greasy spoons across the U.S., but is conspicuously absent on the tables of similar joints in New England.

It is no surprise then, that growing up in rural western Maine my exposure to “ethnic” food, for lack of a better term, was fairly limited. But that was a long time ago, and my appreciation of dishes from every corner of the globe has grown over the years, as has the variety and availability of those foods in Maine.

1103239_664051 food.flavorwalla1.jpgSo when I saw “Flavorwalla: Big Flavor. Bold Spices. A New Way to Cook the Foods You Love,” by Floyd Cardoz, I was immediately attracted. I wasn’t familiar with Cardoz, a well-known New York City chef, James Beard Award nominee and winner of “Top Chef Masters,” but I liked the bright colors, interesting flavors and variety of dishes it promised.

“Flavorwalla” is a 350-page tome packed with recipes that jump all over the map, from simple rice dishes to whole spatchcocked chickens; soups and stews to cocktail mixes. It’s a lot to take in, and its organization is muddled – for example, a complicated recipe for vanilla bean kulfi with citrus fruit in rose water syrup is followed immediately by “my dog Shadow’s favorite dinner” which is exactly what it sounds like: a recipe for dog food.

In some cases, intriguing recipes are bogged down by the number of ingredients and steps required. I really liked the idea of a masala mary, Cardoz’s take on the classic brunch cocktail, but mixing 26 ingredients with two different pots and a blender was too much work for me, even on a lazy Sunday morning.

Those gripes aside, “Flavorwalla” has a lot to offer. The recipes are inventive, and offer enough variety to appeal to an advanced culinary artist or working parent cooking for a family of four.

As the subtitle implies, spice is a key factor in all of Cardoz’s dishes. Assertive spicing adds twists to traditional favorites like chicken soup with chickpea noodles, or osso buco braised with warming spices. And anyone who buys the book expecting it to lean heavily on themes from Cardoz’s native India won’t be disappointed, with offerings like tomato-potato curry, Sunday morning masala omelet, shrimp curry with cauliflower, and chicken pilaf with coconut milk.

Many of Cardoz’s recipes also lend themselves well to improvisation and substitution. That’s an attractive quality for a cook like me, who sometimes has a hard time following the rules, or more frequently, forgets an ingredient at the store. It is nice to crack open “Flavorwalla” and find templates to build a meal around, instead of directions that require painstaking attention to detail.

Which brings me to my favorite dish from the cookbook, “Beryl’s Sunday Lunch” basmati rice. It’s one of the easiest recipes from Cardoz, but the short ingredient list and simple one-pot preparation belie the elegant coloring and deep flavor of the rice. Like many of his recipes, the rice is drawn from Cardoz’s personal history – when he was young his mother made it so often for Sunday lunch that his memories of those days are “inextricably” linked to the dish.

This rice is perfect as a side dish, or as the base for a curry or stir fry. Or, you can have it my favorite way, topped with a poached egg, soy sauce and Sriracha. — PETER MCGUIRE

"Beryl's Sunday Lunch" basmati rice from Floyd Cardoz's "Flavorwalla."

‘Beryl’s Sunday Lunch’ Basmati Rice

Serves 6

3 tablespoons canola oil

1 1-inch piece cinnamon stick

3 whole cloves

1 cup finally chopped white onion

4 scallions (white and green parts) thinly sliced

2 bay leaves

2 cups white basmati rice, rinsed, soaked and drained

11/2 cups diced tomatoes

2 small or 1 large chicken bullion cube

3 cups boiling water

Kosher salt

Heat the oil in a 4-quart stew pot over medium heat until simmering.

Add the cinnamon stick and cloves and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the onions and scallions and cook, stirring, until softened (don’t let them color), about three minutes.

Add the bay leaves and drained rice, stirring to coat the rice with the oil. Cook, stirring frequently until the rice starts to stick to the bottom of the pot, four to six minutes.

Add the tomatoes, bouillon cube and water, taste and add salt as necessary. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Gently stir the rice with a silicone spatula a couple of times and cover the pot.

Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the pilaf stand, covered, for 15 minutes.

Fluff the pilaf with a fork. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick, cloves and bay leaves and serve.

]]> 0, 02 Nov 2016 08:09:37 +0000
Sweet and sour chutneys worth relishing Wed, 02 Nov 2016 08:00:00 +0000 How do we know it’s fall? It’s getting dark way too early in the evening, for one thing.

But also, it’s the changing flavors, which in autumn make a slow slide from the bright, sunny savor of berries, melons and stone fruits to the tangy crunch of apples, the spicy warmth of ginger and cinnamon, and the meaty sweetness of fresh pumpkins and fat, purple plums.

Fall chutneys are a perfect way to capture those distinctive tastes and aromas.

American-style chutneys are cooked to a jam-like consistency with more than a little sugar. They also include vinegar, which works both to preserve the fruits and vegetables and give them a bit of tang. Onion and garlic often make an appearance.

There also can be unexpected aromatics, such as black pepper, red chili pepper and mustard or fennel seeds.

It’s a bit different in India, where the condiment originated (chatni is Hindi for “sauce”) and is often used to enliven rice dishes (think mint chutney, cilantro chutney and tamarind-date chutney). Ingredients can range from peanut to coconut to vegetables such as tomato, onion and beet, and the finished product – which can be cooked or raw – often resembles what Americans consider a relish.

Chutney made its way west across the Indian and Atlantic oceans during the British colonial era. In the process, the recipe was modified somewhat with the addition of vinegar to give it a longer shelf life so it could be eaten throughout the year.

The ingredient list also was expanded to include the seasonal bounty of English orchards – think apples, quince and damson plums – along with sweet dried fruits such as raisins for added flavor.

Thick and chunky, chutney can be used to perk up cheeses, bread, cured or roasted meats and as a spread for crackers.

It also brightens a grilled cheese sandwich, and when mixed with a little olive oil or water over low heat, it makes a terrific glaze or marinade.

Some tips on making chutney at home:

Always start with the freshest ingredients. If the fruit has bruised spots, cut them out.

 Cook the chutney in a nonreactive pan, such as stainless steel, glass or enamel-lined cast-iron. Aluminum and copper react with acidic foods, imparting a metallic taste.

Keep an eye on the cooking pot. Because it contains sugar, chutney can easily burn.

 Cook the fruit down until it’s thick and fairly dry. You’ll know it’s done when the mixture sticks to the back of the spoon. It shouldn’t be runny.

 Don’t be afraid to experiment with different fruits and spices. Something you’re not particularly fond of eating out of hand can be magically transformed when cooked with sugar and vinegar.

Spiced apple chutney.


From “Composing the Cheese Plate: Recipes, Pairings and Platings for the Inventive Cheese Course” by Brian Keyser and Leigh Friend.

Serve this awesome chutney with grilled or roasted pork chops or a juicy slice of ham; it’s also absolutely delicious tucked inside a grilled cheese sandwich.

Makes 3 cups.

2 cups cider vinegar

2 cups light brown sugar

5 garlic cloves

2 ounces fresh ginger, peeled and sliced or coarsely chopped

11/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon red chili flakes

2 pounds Granny Smith apples

11/2 cups golden raisins

2 sticks cinnamon

2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds

Place vinegar, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, salt and red chili flakes in blender. Puree on medium-high until smooth, about 1 minute.

Peel apples and cut out core. Discard core. Dice apples into 1/4-inch-thick cubes. They need not be perfectly uniform.

Place apples, raisins, cinnamon and mustard seeds in large saucepan. Pour vinegar blend over apples.

Simmer, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until almost all the liquid is reduced, about 25 minutes.

Remove cinnamon sticks. Turn off heat and let cool.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Serve cold, warm or at room temperature.

Spiced pumpkin chutney.


From “Kitchen” by Nigella Lawson.

Forget the pie. This recipe will be your new favorite way to cook pumpkin at Thanksgiving. Red chili peppers add just the right amount of bite while ginger adds spice. I spread it on toast but it also makes a wonderful dip for crackers.

21/2-pound pumpkin, peeled and seeded

2 medium onions, finely chopped

2 small red chili peppers, seeded and finely chopped

2 cups light brown sugar

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

2 teaspoons ground cloves

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

21/2 cups white wine vinegar

Dice pumpkin. Place in wide saucepan with remaining ingredients. Mix well.

Place pan over medium-high heat, bring to boil, then reduce to medium-low.

Simmer uncovered until pumpkin is very tender and liquid has thickened, 45 minutes to an hour. (If chutney thickens but pumpkin is not soft, partially cover and cook as needed.)

While chutney cooks, sterilize two one-pint canning jars and their lids in boiling water for several minutes.

When chutney is ready, spoon it into jars, cover with lids and allow to cool. Can be stored unopened at room temperature for up to three months.

Spiced carrot chutney.


From “Composing the Cheese Plate: Recipes, Pairings and Platings for the Inventive Cheese Course” by Brian Keyser and Leigh Friend.

This crunchy, spicy chutney can be served with feta, farmer’s cheese or any other salty pressed cheese. It’s also delicious with cold meats or on top of rice.

Makes 2 cups.

1 pound medium carrots

1 small yellow onion

2 garlic cloves

1 ounce fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 cup white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

Peel carrots and trim off tops and bottoms. Grate carrots on the largest hole of box grater. Yield will be about 3 cups. Set aside.

Peel onion. Grate it on the largest hole of box grater. Set aside.

Puree the garlic, ginger and vinegar in a blender, on high, for 2 minutes or until smooth.

Combine all ingredients in medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat for about 15 minutes, or until most of the liquid is reduced.

Remove chutney from heat and let it cool to room temperature. Store in airtight container in refrigerator for up to 1 week. Serve at room temperature.

Spiced plum chutney.


From Epicurious.

Supermarket plums can be disappointing to eat out of hand. This sweet-spicy chutney, perfumed with ginger, cloves and pepper, is anything but. It’s good enough to eat by the spoonful right out of the jar. Terrific on roasted chicken or a pan-seared pork chop, and a great way to start your day on top of waffles.

Makes about 4 cups.

1 whole star anise

1 whole clove

1 2-inch piece cinnamon stick

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup sugar

1 2-inch piece peeled fresh ginger, cut into ½-inch-thick rounds

1 tablespoon whole mustard seeds

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 pounds red, black, green, or blue plums (tart or sweet; about 5 large), quartered, pitted

Finely grind star anise, clove, and cinnamon stick in spice mill or coffee grinder.

Combine spice mixture, vinegar, sugar, ginger, mustard seeds and pepper in heavy large saucepan. Stir over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves and bring to boil.

Add plums; reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until chutney thickens and chunky sauce forms, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Cool. Season to taste with salt.

Nectarine chutney.


From “Fruitful: Four Seasons of Fresh Fruit Recipes” by Brian Nicholson and Sarah Huck.

Chutneys often rely on ginger for flavor. This recipe hangs its hat on fennel, a vegetable in the carrot family that has a sweet licorice flavor. Stuff this fresh chutney into a pork tenderloin for an extra-special meal. Or mix it with mayonnaise and roasted chicken for a quick sandwich salad.

Makes 2 to 3 8-ounce jars.

13/4 pounds ripe nectarines, peeled and pitted

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup white wine vinegar

1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

1/2 cup finely diced fennel

1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped

1/3 cup golden raisins

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

Cut nectarines into 1/2-inch wedges.

In a heavy, dry pot over medium heat, toast fennel seeds until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in sugar and vinegar, and bring mixture to a boil. Stir in onion, fennel, jalapeno, raisins, black pepper and salt.

Reduce heat and simmer very gently for 10 minutes. Stir in nectarines and simmer, stirring occasionally, until fruit is tender and juices are thick enough that they don’t pool when dragged with a spoon, about 10 minutes.

Ladle the hot chutney into jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.

Wipe rims and apply lids and bands; process in boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

Allow jars to seal, and store in a cool, dark place. Refrigerate after opening.

]]> 1, 02 Nov 2016 08:09:40 +0000
The Maine Ingredient: When the temperature drops, craving for soup soars Wed, 02 Nov 2016 08:00:00 +0000 It’s that turn-of-the-season time when we somewhat reluctantly leave thoughts of summer behind, face the bracing fall weather and return to the kitchen to concoct warming, soul-satisfying soups and stews.


My husband, Richard, grills meat, smokes fish and game, makes a mean tuna sandwich for lunch, but he rarely cooks. Except, every now and then, he gets a yen to make soup. This hearty split pea soup – perfect for a chill fall day – has become his specialty.

Use a ham bone with some meat still clinging to it or buy smoked ham hocks and supplement with a bit of additional chopped ham from a ham steak or a thick slice from the deli. Corn bread or buttered rye toast and a simple salad of mixed greens will complete the meal.

Makes 4 to 5 main course servings.

1 pound dried split peas, rinsed

1 large meaty ham bone or 2 smoked ham hocks plus 1 cup diced smoked ham

4 cups chicken broth

1 bay leaf

1 large onion, chopped

2 large carrots, peeled and finely diced

1 large celery stalk, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme or 1½ teaspoons dried

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

¼ cup dry sherry


Freshly ground black pepper

In a large soup pot, combine peas, ham bone or hock, broth, bay leaf and 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cook, covered, until the peas are almost tender, about 1 hour.

Add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme and parsley. Cook uncovered over medium heat until split peas and vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.

Remove ham bone or hock and strip off the meat. Discard bone and fat. Chop ham and return it to the soup. (If using the additional chopped ham, add it now.) Discard the bay leaf. You can add sherry and seasonings and serve the soup now, but I prefer to puree it as follows.

In a food processor or using an immersion blender, process the soup, pulsing to make a textured, not completely smooth, puree.

Return to the pot and add sherry and salt and pepper to taste. Adjust liquid as necessary, boiling down to make it thicker, adding broth or water to thin.

This soup gets better with time, so it’s ideal to make ahead and reheat over low heat before serving.

Apple-Butternut Bisque

Coconut milk is the secret here, adding some richness and its slight sweetness to this lightly curried and beautiful-to-look-at, smooth and creamy bisque. A squeeze of lime finishes it with a sprightly flourish. Serve with sourdough toasts and an arugula salad.

Makes 2 to 3 main course servings.

2 to 2½ pounds butternut squash, or other meaty winter squash such as Kabocha or Hubbard

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons butter

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

1 large carrots, peeled and chopped

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 teaspoon powdered ginger

1 apple, any type, cored and cut in quarters

1 can (14½ ounces) chicken or vegetable broth

1 can (14½ ounces) lite coconut milk

Half a lime

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cut squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Season with salt and pepper and place cut sides down in a large roasting pan and pour a little water around squash.

Cover with foil and roast until tender, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Scrape squash pulp out of the skins.

In a large pot, heat the butter. Add onion and carrot and cook over medium heat until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add curry powder and ginger, and cook, stirring for 1 minute.

Add apple and broth and cook until apple is soft, about 15 minutes. Stir in cooked squash.

In a food processor or using an immersion blender, process the mixture to make a smooth puree.

Return to the pot and whisk in coconut milk. Bring to a simmer and cook for a few minutes to blend flavors. Squeeze in lime juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.

The soup can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen. Reheat 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, 02 Nov 2016 08:09:42 +0000
Fried chicken recipe from a real Southern cook – Mom Wed, 02 Nov 2016 08:00:00 +0000 When I called my mother in Nashville last week to ask her for her fried chicken recipe, she sighed a little sigh, and I knew we were in for another less-than-fruitful conversation about cooking.

I grew up watching her cook the dish, so I knew she fried the chicken in melted Crisco, but when I asked her how much Crisco, this is what she told me:

“Oh Meredith, I don’t know,” she said. “Grab a big spoon and get a big glob of it and put it in there. I never measured it.”

This is the way most of our conversations about cooking go. I’m always wanting to learn how she made our favorite foods, and she can’t tell me because she never wrote down what she did. Oh, she used recipes, all right, just not for the Southern classics that I’m most interested in inheriting.

Her rustic method for fried chicken would seem strange today – no brining of the meat, no buttermilk batter, no fancy seasonings. But it always had a good crust, and we loved it.

About that crust, though, here’s the thing: It turns out she’d remove the skin before frying the chicken. Why did she make it this way? “That’s the way mama did it,” she said, repeating the most common Southern excuse for doing anything.

My mother dredged her skinless chicken in just flour and fried it in Crisco melted in a cast iron skillet, with just a little salt for seasoning. “You have to cook it fairly slow so it will get done,” she said.

So how long is that? I should have known better than to ask. Until, she said, the chicken is “golden brown.”

My parents are both in their 80s now, and my mother hung up her apron long ago. She only cooks when she feels like it. Believe me, she’s earned it. But she said talking to me about her fried chicken made her want to make it again.

Mostly, though, her habits have changed: “If we want chicken, I go to Colonel Sanders.”

]]> 1 Wed, 02 Nov 2016 08:09:39 +0000
Cod and red wine go together swimmingly Wed, 02 Nov 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I think we all know that eating fish several times a week is a good call, both for our hearts and our brains. In the summertime, it’s easy. I love tossing a piece of fish seasoned with just a little salt and pepper on the grill, giving it a bit of char and squeezing it with bright lemon and serving it next to a lightly-dressed coleslaw or a chopped grilled veggie salad.

But winter? I crave something richer and meatier. I want food that fills my belly with warmth and coats my tongue with luscious, deep flavors. Basically, I want to eat a fatty venison stew for several months a year. Is that so wrong?

Well, I can’t eat like a bear before hibernation every day from December to March. It wouldn’t meet my health goals, and let’s face it: I don’t have that kind of braising time available to me on a casual Tuesday night.

A simple, quick sautéed fish recipe comes to the rescue! It’s a classic saute plus pan-sauce method that is more blueprint than recipe: Sauté the fish and remove from the pan, add in some veggies and aromatics and cook until tender, deglaze the pan with broth, wine or other liquid and then add finishing touches, such as whisking in a pat of butter or adding chopped fresh herbs.

The recipe today, Quick Cod with Red Wine Pan Sauce has a few tricks up its sleeve to satisfy my winter palate. I use meaty portabella mushrooms as the veggie, which amps up the filling factor of delicate cod. And for the sauce, I use beef broth and red wine, surprising companions for a white fish dish. But, get excited, because they work.

For minimal extra calories, this cod dish goes from summer-light to winter-comfort with these small swaps. Oh, and yes, I added a smidge of butter at the end to make the sauce glossy, but feel free to skip if you don’t want the extra fat.


Makes 4 servings

4 (5-ounce) fillets of cod, rockfish or other sturdy white fish

2 teaspoons of flour, divided

1 tablespoon olive oil, divided

1 shallot, minced

8 ounces baby bella (or white) mushrooms, sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2/3 cup beef stock

1/3 cup red wine (regular, or sweetened, such as Marsala or Madeira)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Chopped parsley for garnish

Lemon wedges, for garnish

Salt and pepper

Pat the fish dry with a paper towel and season it with salt and pepper. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of flour on the fish, using a silicon brush to coat the fish very lightly with the flour.

Heat half the oil over medium-high heat in a large nonstick skillet. Cook the fish until golden brown on both sides and cooked through, about 4 minutes per side, flipping the fish only once to retain the nice crust.

Place the fish on a warmed platter and set aside.

Add the remaining oil, shallot and mushrooms to the skillet and sauté until mushrooms begin to soften, about 3 minutes.

Add the garlic and remaining teaspoon of flour, and stir for a minute.

Then add the stock and wine to deglaze the pan, and bring to a boil for a minute or two, until sauce starts to thicken.

Turn off the heat and add in the lemon juice and whisk in the butter to make the sauce glossy. Top with parsley and a lemon wedge for garnish.

Serve the sauce with the fish, either on the side to spoon on, or on top of the fish.

(Optional: Serve the fish on a bed of baby spinach, spaghetti squash or quinoa to soak up the tasty sauce.)

]]> 0, 02 Nov 2016 08:09:41 +0000
Seasoning’s the secret to easy homemade sausage patties Wed, 02 Nov 2016 08:00:00 +0000 A nourishing breakfast – one with real staying power – includes protein, but many people tell me they’re in a rut, breakfast protein-wise. Happily, there are plenty of tasty and convenient solutions.

First, there’s no need to limit yourself to typical breakfast foods. Who says you can’t start the day with some hummus and pita, a tuna sandwich or a bowl of lentil soup?

On the more classic end of the spectrum, there are eggs, of course, which seem to say “good morning” on the plate; milk (a cup of milk has more protein than a large egg); yogurt; nuts and nut butters; and seeds.

Health-conscious food lovers steer clear of breakfast meats such as sausage, with its saturated fat and nitrates. But if you are like me, you yearn for sausage’s lip-smacking, savory flavor.

The accompanying recipe answers the call, adding another healthful breakfast protein to the arsenal and satisfying those sausage cravings as well.

These homemade turkey sausage patties are simple to prepare and can be refrigerated or frozen in advance. You mix into the meat a medley of quintessential sausage seasonings: fennel seed, sage, thyme, garlic, salt, pepper and a pinch of allspice; turkey’s neutral flavor is the ideal carrier.

Then you form the mixture into disks that are smaller than hamburger patties. Be sure to buy ground dark-meat turkey or ground turkey sold as 93 percent lean, instead of a “low-fat” kind, because some fat is needed to achieve that rich sausage essence. And the meat still qualifies as lean.

Homemade turkey sausage sandwiches.


The patties can be formed and refrigerated between pieces of plastic wrap or wax paper for up to 3 days, or individually wrapped and frozen for up to 1 month; defrost in the refrigerator overnight.

Makes 8 servings


1 teaspoon whole fennel seed

1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage

3/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic (garlic powder)

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

1 pound ground dark-meat turkey (93 percent lean)

1 tablespoon olive oil


8 whole-wheat English muffins (not honey wheat)

2 cups lightly packed fresh spinach leaves

2 medium tomatoes, sliced

Flesh of 2 ripe avocados, sliced

Hot sauce and/or ketchup (optional)

Whisk together the fennel seed, sage, salt, pepper, thyme, garlic powder and allspice in a small bowl.

Place the turkey in a medium bowl, then sprinkle the seasoning blend evenly over it. Use your clean hands to gently work the seasonings into the meat, being careful not to over-mix; it’s okay if they are not absolutely evenly distributed throughout. Form the mixture into 8 patties that are about 3 inches across.

Heat half the oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add half of the patties; cook until nicely browned on the outside and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate; repeat with the remaining oil and patties.

To make the sandwiches, toast the English muffins. Place a few spinach leaves on the bottom half of each one. Add a cooked sausage patty, then a slice of tomato and a few slices of avocado on each portion. Add hot sauce and/or ketchup, if desired, then place the top of the muffin on the sandwich. Serve right away.

]]> 1, 02 Nov 2016 08:09:39 +0000
For these 2 reasons, a classic combo endures Wed, 26 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Much has been written about the classic combination of legumes and grains. There’s a persistent myth involved, though: the idea that you have to combine the two to get a so-called complete protein, or protein that contains all the essential amino acids found in animal protein.

In fact, some legumes, grains and other plant-based foods can be complete sources of protein on their own. Moreover, researchers have learned that you don’t have to eat complementary foods in the same meal to get the benefit.

There is, however, another reason to eat beans and grains together: They taste wonderful in concert. Cuisines the world over celebrate the pairing, from the beans-and-corn dishes of Mexico to the pasta-with-chickpeas of Italy and the soybeans-with-rice of Asia.

Beans and grains can take a good amount of time to cook, although there are solutions for each: pressure cookers, slow-cookers (for that set-it-and-forget-it approach), plus canned and frozen products.

When it comes to legumes, the quickest ones to cook from dried are in the lentil family, and my favorite – especially as the weather gets cooler – are split red lentils, which lighten to a golden hue and become super-creamy as you cook them.

There are the wonderful dals of India, of course, but my previous go-to recipe for such was Mollie Katzen’s combination of these lentils with soft onions.

Now I’ve found another take that is destined to become a staple. In her lovely new book, “Small Victories,” Julia Turshen writes of cooking red lentils with curry spices and coconut milk, a recipe born of college-age dinners in which she would try to make the most out of a friend’s sparse pantry.

It’s a revelation: You “bloom” the spices in oil, right along with garlic, ginger and shallot, and then let the lentils slowly absorb the coconut milk and a little water, until they become almost like a thick soup.

On their own, the lentils are deeply flavored and warming. Served over a little basmati (or brown basmati) rice, for that classic combination, they’re a meal.


Feel free to substitute your favorite already-mixed curry powder for the combination of cumin, turmeric and coriander. (The basic dish is vegan; you can keep it that way by skipping the yogurt or using coconut or other vegan yogurt.)

Adapted from “Small Victories: Recipes, Advice + Hundreds of Ideas for Home-Cooking Triumphs,” by Julia Turshen.

Makes 4 to 6 servings (about 4 cups)

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon peeled, finely chopped fresh ginger root

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 shallot lobe, finely chopped

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

½ teaspoon ground coriander

1 cup dried split red lentils

One 13½-ounce can full-fat coconut milk, shaken (may substitute low-fat)

½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

1¾ cups water (see directions)

Cooked brown or white basmati rice, for serving

Plain dairy or vegan yogurt, for garnish (optional)

Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the ginger, garlic, shallot, cumin, turmeric and coriander; cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and the spices are quite fragrant, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the lentils, coconut milk and salt, then fill the empty coconut-milk can with water and add that to the saucepan. (It will look like a lot of liquid, but the lentils will absorb much of it as they cook and turn from orange-red to golden in color.) Stir everything together and increase the heat to high; once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low or until the liquid is gently bubbling. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are completely soft, 20 to 30 minutes. Taste, and add salt as needed.

Serve the lentils hot, over rice. Top each serving with a spoonful of yogurt, if using, and a sprinkle of cilantro.

]]> 0, 26 Oct 2016 09:27:51 +0000
Local chefs turn squash into a star on autumn menus Wed, 26 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 With vegetable-centric cooking on the rise, local chefs have turned to squash this autumn to make plant-based dishes that pop. Right now, nutrient-dense pumpkins and other squashes can be found in vegan restaurant dishes both savory and sweet.

At Union in the Press Hotel in Portland, chef Josh Berry added a vegan entree to his dinner menu this fall for the first time, and the star of the show is locally grown squash. The type of squash he uses for his squash curry – blue hubbard, buttercup, butternut, red kuri – changes depending on what he finds at the farmers market.

Inspiration for the dish comes from Switzerland, where Berry once worked in a traditional hotel restaurant. An affiliated Thai restaurant stood next door.

“We’d chop the squash up and have some left that weren’t perfectly square,” Berry said. The Thai chefs would take the imperfect pieces of squash, “toss them with a curry, and it was some of the best curry I’ve ever had,” Berry recalled.

Berry’s version, which will stay on the menu until January, uses various curry spices, coconut milk, local mushrooms and bok choy. Served with soba noodles, “it’s become incredibly popular,” Berry said.

Nearby at Grace, chef Adam Flood centered his fall vegan entree around spaghetti squash from Dandelion Spring Farm.

“We roast the spaghetti squash for 10 to 15 minutes so it’s not fully cooked,” Flood said, “so we can extract the separate strands. When we’re about to serve it, we heat a little garlic oil and then we cook it.”

The cooked squash strands are tossed with pesto Flood makes using African blue basil, nasturtium, chocolate mint and lemon bee balm that are all grown in his Biddeford garden. He adds confit cranberries, which he cooks sous vide so they cook but don’t burst. He plates the spaghetti squash with mashed celery root and dots of pine nut butter – picture peanut butter but made with pine nuts.

“People are raving about the dish right now,” Flood said.

Flood usually labels his menu’s vegan dishes, but he didn’t this time. As a result, he says customers who wouldn’t normally order a vegan dish are ordering it. He doesn’t shy away from meat himself. He even has a pig tattooed on his forearm. “I love foie gras,” Flood said, “and I could eat this dish and not think it’s vegan.”

The dish will be on Grace’s menu until December.

At the vegan-friendly Local Sprouts Cooperative Cafe in Portland, the kitchen staff always makes several vegan squash dishes at this time of year. One is the cafe’s butternut squash soup – winner of multiple awards at the Common Ground Country Fair.

“The squash is roasted and cooked down with apples and sometimes carrots and onions and coconut milk,” worker-owner Leslie Hogan said. “We don’t use any very strong spices because we really want that butternut flavor to come out. It’s pureed and really creamy like a bisque.”

Even before Local Sprouts switches to its fall menu, “people start requesting our roasted squash sandwich,” Hogan said. For it, whole wheat bread is slathered with vegan aioli and cranberry sauce and topped with roasted squash, grilled onions and organic greens. Customers who aren’t vegan can add cheddar cheese.

Local Sprouts’ vegan pumpkin bread and vegan pumpkin whoopie pies are available year-round, and as Thanksgiving approaches, the restaurant will begin taking special orders for vegan pumpkin pies.

At the all-vegan Olive Branch Cafe in Lewiston, customers can’t get enough of pumpkin dishes – including pumpkin-chickpea soup, pumpkin French toast, pumpkin pudding and pumpkin spice latte bites.

The cafe’s most popular pumpkin dish is cheesecake, which chef Kim St. Clair said “sells really, really well. As soon as we put it in the (dessert) case, we can barely keep it there.”

There’s no cheese in this cheesecake, though. It’s made from raw, soaked cashews, mashed banana and silken tofu mixed with pumpkin pie spices (see recipe).

The crust can be made using crushed graham crackers or ginger snaps, but St. Clair prefers to substitute gluten-free organic cereal in order to keep the dessert gluten-free. The cafe expects to have pumpkin dishes on the menu through Thanksgiving.

This season's vegan entree at Portland's Grace is roasted spaghetti squash with chef's garden pesto, confit cranberries, celery root and pine nut butter.

This season’s vegan entree at Portland’s Grace is roasted spaghetti squash with chef’s garden pesto, confit cranberries, celery root and pine nut butter.

At the Green Elephant Vegetarian Bistro in Portland, the desserts are always vegan, and at this time of year always include a pumpkin-based option. This fall, that’s pumpkin tapioca pudding.

“It’s pumpkin-y without being overly pumpkin-y. It’s sweet but not make-your-teeth-ache kind of sweet,” said Andy Cole, Green Elephant front-of-house manager. “Our chocolate mousse pie is extravagantly sweet and an indulgence. This is not that sweet or as intense as some sugary desserts.”

After selling well last fall, pumpkin tapioca pudding is back at the Green Elephant in Portland.

After selling well last fall, pumpkin tapioca pudding is back at the Green Elephant in Portland.

The pudding is sweetened with palm sugar, seasoned with pumpkin pie spices and garnished with pistachios and shredded coconut. It is served warm and will be on the menu throughout the winter.

Chef Berry at Union finds that the season for squash dishes is dictated by weather. “As soon as you get to the ‘I should put a coat on’ day, people are done with tomatoes and people want squash,” he said.

At Local Sprouts, Hogan said that restaurant pumpkin and squash dishes sell well in part because “for some reason, people find squash to be a daunting vegetable to deal with in their own kitchen.”

Thankfully, local chefs make it easy to eat squash and eat vegan, too.

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

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

]]> 0, 26 Oct 2016 11:53:49 +0000
For Five Fifty-Five pastry chef Yazmin Saraya, Day of the Dead is an important celebration Wed, 26 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Yazmin Saraya, 28, speaks about Day of the Dead the way American ex-pats often speak of Thanksgiving – with nostalgia and longing. “I love it,” she said simply of the holiday, which she grew up celebrating in her native Mexico. Now pastry chef at Portland’s Five Fifty-Five restaurant, Saraya jumped at the chance to explain its traditions, food and otherwise, to Mainers.

She explained in precise and enthusiastic detail the symbolic objects and colors of Day of the Dead, celebrated every Nov. 1 and 2, when Mexicans build tiered altars in their homes to honor friends and family who have died. The altars are meant to entice the deceased to return for a visit and, among other items, hold glasses of water to quench the thirst of souls after their long journey and vividly colored marigolds to help them navigate their way. In deeply Catholic Mexico, a cross is essential, too.

This year, like most years since she left Mexico, Saraya – and her fiancé Kyle Robinson, chef de cuisine at Five Fifty-Five – traveled home in late October to get a taste of the approaching holiday. But not before speaking with us about what it means to her.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: For readers who don’t know it, can you explain what Day of the Dead is?

A: Day of the Dead is a very, very big celebration in Mexico. It started even before the Spanish people came. These days it is a mix between the Spanish and the original people of Mexico. It’s a very complex celebration. There is so much history behind it, and everything has a meaning.

In Mexico – it’s kind of funny, because instead of feeling sad about a person’s passing, it’s usually a happy time. We celebrate the good memories of that person. Everybody is afraid of death. And it makes sad everyone, so in Mexico one way to defense is joking about it. A lot of people make very funny rhymes remembering that person’s life.

There are a lot of places with random altars. You go to a hospital and they will put an altar to the doctors and all the patients they have lost. Or you go to a music school and they will have an altar to all the musicians who are gone, and they might put a guitar next to the altar. Or if that person liked to paint, you put a few paint brushes.

Q: Do Americans confuse Day of the Dead with Halloween?

A: Oh yeah. So much. I think they can’t even be compared at all. The reason that they get confused is they are very close dates. But we don’t wear costumes, and it’s not about hanging out with friends or going to parties. It’s about remembering the people you lost.

Q: There are also all the skeletons and skulls, though. For Halloween, those things are a little scary and creepy. Is it the same for Day of the Dead?

A: No. It’s not meant to be scary at all. Just to remember the person that passed away in a happy way. It’s more happy than creepy.

Q: How did your family celebrate when you were growing up?

A: I never met my mother’s parents. Well, my grandpapa passed away when I was 2 years old. And I never met my grandma. My mom made sure we always had an altar. Usually you put the favorite food of the dead person there so they can have a feast when they come to the altar. Mom would make that dish for the elder, but you would eat the rest of it. You are not supposed to eat anything from the altar. The souls they already ate the essence, the soul of the food.

The favorite drink is a very important thing, too, because it’s an alcohol drink so it’s to remember the happy things. So whenever (the souls of the dead) come, they can remember the happy moments they had in their life and celebrate.

My mom would always cook mole, and she would always put chocolate on the altar for my grandpa. He was diabetic so he was not supposed to eat chocolate, but he would always sneak out to have some. Or for my great-grandma, we would put cigarettes because we cannot even picture her without a cigarette in her hand. She smoked until she was 102, and she would cure everything with tequila. Everything. Head cold, stomachache, you just have a shot of tequila.

My uncle would always make tamales and invite us over every Nov. 1, and we’d drink hot Mexican chocolate and we would have a family dinner.

Q: Tell me about the special sweets for Day of the Dead.

A: Sugar skulls are very important. They represent each family member. (For the altar) sometimes they even personalize them and put their names on their head. They used to be made with amaranth. Also, you bring those little skulls to your friends, like a little gift, and kids definitely eat them.

Q: What about pan de muerto (translation: “bread of the dead”)?

A: It’s kind of like a brioche. It’s like a bowl and on top it has the bones. It’s always present in the altars. Supposedly, it represents the bones of the dead people. (Bakeries) start selling them in August. They start selling them really early. It’s like here with Christmas. We’re like, “Really? (The holiday) is not even until November.” Sometimes on (Day of the Dead), you can’t find anything else in the bakery. You dip the pan de muerto in Mexican hot chocolate.

Q: Is one recipe for pan de muerto pretty much like another?

A: No. Some people brush them in butter and roll them in sugar. That’s what I do. Some people don’t have sugar. They are more on the line of being savory. Some people put in orange blossom water. Some people put in anise. Sometimes they do it with butter; sometimes they do it with a little bit of shortening. Some places they even fill them with stuff. All the states in Mexico fight about which one has the best.

Q: As a professional pastry chef, have you tried to improve the recipe?

A: I played around a lot with it. Especially now that I am here, because I cannot get it here the way they make it where I am from. People have gotten really creative with them, but I’ve been trying to get the traditional one. I haven’t done anything crazy.

Q: How much do Mexican sweet traditions play a part in what you bake for Five Fifty-Five?

A: So much. I always have the Mexican influence on the ice cream or one dessert. Right now I have tamarind sorbet or guava ice cream. Or for example, I made cajeta (goat milk caramel) ice cream. People were scared to order it. They don’t know what it is. I decided to put a berry sauce. Problem fixed. I always have to do little tricks like that.

Or I make the servers try it. They try it and they love it and that takes care of the rest. Or Pastel de elote. Corn cake. But if I said corn cake here they would misunderstand it. They think they would get cornbread, but it’s not like that. It’s like bread pudding but it’s corn pudding. It’s like a cake, but it’s very wet. I put some grilled corn kernels in it, and I put it with the cajeta ice cream and a mixed berry sauce. It was perfect for the summer because we were using local corn and local berries.

That corn recipe is a family recipe and my mom was not very pleased I put it on the menu. That one is a very special recipe for her, so she didn’t want me sharing it. She got over it and is happy about it now.

Q: Is it morbid to ask what will be on your altar when you’re gone? What foods do you love so much they’d bring you back from the hereafter?

A: I would definitely say chiles en nogada. It’s a poblano pepper stuffed with meat, and it also has dried fruit, fresh fruit, nuts. It goes in an egg batter. You fry it. Then you cover it with a walnut sauce. Then you top it with pomegranate seeds and cilantro. It’s for Independence Day, September, because of the season of the walnuts and the poblano peppers. And it’s very representative of Mexico, even the decoration when you plate it – it’s the Mexican flag. It has the pomegranate, cilantro and then the nogada sauce, which is white, so it’s red, white and green. It’s so complex and it involves so many things. It’s savory and sweet and it has so many components that for me it’s my favorite Mexican dish.

Saraya's pan de muerto, a traditional bread for Mexico's Day of the Dead.

Saraya’s pan de muerto, a traditional bread for Mexico’s Day of the Dead.


This fluffy, sugary, rich yeast bread is traditionally eaten for Day of the Dead. You’ll need a kitchen scale to make this recipe; Yazmin Saraya, like most professional pastry chefs, measures by weight, not cups.

Yields 6 smallish loaves, each feeds about 2

1.1 ounces warm milk

0.4 ounces dry yeast

1 teaspoon sugar, plus 4.5 ounces

1 pound and 7.5 ounces all-purpose flour, plus extra for “bones”

¼ teaspoon salt

Zest of 1 orange, plus 0.6 ounces orange juice

9.3 ounces eggs

8.2 ounces butter


3 ounces melted butter

6 ounces sugar

Mix the yeast, lukewarm milk and 1 teaspoon of sugar together in a measuring cup. Let sit in a warm place for a few minutes until the mixture foams.

Using a stand mixer with a paddle, mix together the flour, salt and zest. Add the warm yeast mixture, then add the eggs and the orange juice.

Add the 4.5 ounces sugar and mix the dough on slow speed until the sugar is incorporated and the dough is not too sticky, 10 to 15 minutes.

Cube the butter into pieces about ½-inch in size, and add the cubes to the dough, little by little, while continuing to mix another 20 minutes to develop the gluten.

Spray a bowl lightly with cooking spray, place the dough in the bowl, spray the dough lightly and then cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

Let the dough rise in a warm place until it doubles in size, roughly 40 to 60 minutes, but keep an eye on the dough as the range varies.

Portion the dough in 5-ounce pieces and shape them into balls. You should get 6 balls; reserve the remaining dough.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer the dough balls to the sheet evenly leaving space between them. Let rise for 20 minutes in a warm place. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Take the reserved dough and add a little bit of flour to make it easier to work with. To make the decorations, weigh out 1-ounce pieces and roll each into a strips. Criss-cross 2 strips on each dough ball; these are the “bones.”

Bake the pan de muerto in the preheated oven for 8 minutes. Rotate the sheet pans so the breads will bake evenly, then bake for an additional 8 minutes until the loaves are golden brown.

Brush immediately with the melted butter and roll in the sugar. Let the bread cool at least 15 minutes before eating. Serve the bread with hot chocolate and enjoy.


Ibarra chocolate is flavored with cinnamon.

Serves 4 to 5

1 quart whole milk

1 whole round Ibarra Mexican Chocolate

Bring the milk almost to a boil in a medium-sized pan on the stovetop.

Meanwhile, chop the chocolate into 4 pieces.

Pour the hot milk into a blender, add the chocolate and blend until the chocolate is incorporated and the mixture is foamy. Pour into mugs and serve.

]]> 0, 26 Oct 2016 08:41:46 +0000
In America, a love of beef on bread is all over the map Wed, 26 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 There is no such thing as Italian food, according to thoughtful chefs who specialize in the varied and specific cuisines of places such as the Piemonte or Puglia. And they’re right.

As America continues to develop its culinary chops, one day there will be no such thing as American food, either.

The greatest influences on any region’s food are geography and history: People cook what’s available near them and what they learned growing up. In America, we have a third great resource: the collective knowledge of the cultures that have settled here.

But to define America’s regional cuisines, you don’t need a historian or a researcher. You don’t even really need a map. All you need is to talk to people about roast beef sandwiches. Looking at how meat meets bread around the country becomes a kind of culinary cartography.

The first plot point is in New York. Buffalo may be known for creating an industry based on a part of the chicken that used to be tossed out, but ask folks there what the indigenous dinner is, and you’re more likely to hear about beef on weck.

It’s a simple sandwich of roast beef on a unique roll, adorned only with horseradish for a good kick. You might not have heard of it if you don’t live in Buffalo. It’s a sandwich that was born there and hasn’t really left. And as with all great foodstuffs, there is lore.

Cheryl Staychock, the owner of Schwabl’s in West Seneca, N.Y., says that, as she understands it, a German immigrant was working at a bar in Buffalo that served roast beef sandwiches. Of course, it also sold beer, and profit margins being what they are, there was an interest in selling more beer. So the baker started baking coarse salt and caraway seed onto the crust of the kaiser rolls as a strategy to induce thirst. It worked. The roll became known as the kummelweck, and it became the star of the show.

If you move one Great Lake to the west, you’ll find yourself in Chicago, a city that has a history with beef that even Upton Sinclair couldn’t derail.

But beyond steakhouses and meatpacking plants, Chicago has Italian beef sandwiches. The meat is roasted in much the same way that Buffalo cooks prepare beef for their kummelwecks. The origins are even less clear than those of beef on weck, but the theory holds that the sandwich was developed by immigrants who had only cheap cuts to work with. They added giardiniera – a zingy salad featuring hot peppers – to the roll, and soaked the beef in its cooking liquid.

The only connection this sandwich has to Italy is the ancestry of the people that invented it. This sandwich is 100 percent Chicago. It even has its own designated stance. Somehow, it tastes right only if you eat it standing up, hunched over a counter so the excess juice runs down your arms. Roll up your sleeves and grab napkins.

Head due south of Chicago to New Orleans and you’ll find po’ boys, a favorite variety of which stars that same roast beef you see all over the country. Here, they scrape up all the bits from the roasting pan and call it debris. They stack it on a soft French roll with the most mundane of dressings – pickles, lettuce, tomato, mayo – and somehow the simple becomes singular. The memory of eating one of these while sitting at a wrought-iron table in the French Quarter might be the best souvenir you could have.

Fly to Los Angeles and order a French dip sandwich, and you’ll get something that looks like an Italian beef sandwich that someone forgot to put the giardiniera on. But that isn’t what it is. It’s a French dip, and it is loved for being exactly that.

Take the “roast” out of the equation, and our map gets even more points of interest. Philadelphia griddles slices of steaks and stacks them with cheese, an iteration embraced around the country and synonymous with its place of origin.

Baltimore grills hunks of beast and buns them up with horseradish and onion. Look for pit beef outside a generous radius of Charm City and see if anyone knows what you’re talking about.

Nebraska stuffs ground beef, cheese and sauerkraut in dough and bakes it. Want a runza? Your best bet is to drive on I-80 somewhere west of Omaha.

Then there’s Iowa.

Iowa’s entrant in this conversation isn’t something you’re likely to find anywhere else. It isn’t a burger. It isn’t a sloppy Joe. It’s a loose-meat. Which is what, exactly?

To say the loose-meat sandwich is like a sauceless sloppy Joe provides a visual but sort of misses the point. It’s its own thing. The ground meat is sauteed and seasoned and piled on buns that have little chance of containing it. It is at once a symbol of economy and generosity.

The lore surrounding this sandwich involves butcher Fred Angell, who in the mid-1920s in Muscatine, Iowa, experimented with different grinds of different cuts of meat, cooking them with different seasonings. When he hit on the one he liked best, he opened the first Maid-Rite restaurant, now a 40-location chain.

Now a loose-meat is an icon, a celebration of a place.

1099894_795858 sammy3.jpg


Two things set this sandwich apart as it’s served in Buffalo: the kummelweck-style kaiser roll topped with caraway and salt, and a generous amount of horseradish.

The meat and broth can be refrigerated separately for up to 5 days. Reheat before serving.

Makes 12 servings


One 3- to 4-pound boneless top round roast or chuck roast

6 cloves garlic, each cut lengthwise in half

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 onion, thinly sliced

1/2 bunch fresh thyme

11/2 cups dry red wine

4 cups water, plus more as needed

Prepared (white) horseradish, for serving


1/4 cup coarse sea salt

1/4 cup whole caraway seed

1 large egg white

1 tablespoon water

12 kaiser rolls or other firm sandwich buns

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Use a sharp knife to cut 12 slits in the roast, then insert a piece of garlic in each one. Liberally season the beef with salt and pepper on all sides.

Heat the oil in a roasting pan (set across two burners) over medium-high heat. Sear each side of the roast, about 5 minutes per side, then scatter the onion slices and thyme around it.

Pour in the wine and water, adding more of the latter, as needed, so the liquid level comes about an inch up the side of the beef. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil; roast for about 3 hours, checking each hour to maintain the water level and adding more as necessary.

Just before the meat is done, prepare the rolls: Mix the salt and caraway seed in a small, shallow bowl. Whisk together the egg white and water in a separate bowl until slightly foamy; brush this mixture onto the top of each kaiser roll, setting the rolls on a couple of baking sheets as you go. Liberally sprinkle the rolls with the salt-caraway mixture.

Carefully transfer the roast to a cutting board and let it rest for about 30 minutes; leave the oven on. Strain the cooking liquid into a saucepan, discarding the solids, and keep it warm over low heat. Taste, and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Bake the rolls for 5 minutes or just long enough to set the topping.

Cut the rested meat against the grain as thinly as possible.

Cut each roll in half horizontally. Stack several slices of beef on the bottom half, then top the meat with a generous amount of the horseradish. Briefly dip the cut side of each top roll half into the warm broth and place it atop the sandwich. Transfer the broth to a serving bowl, for more dipping at the table.

1099894_795858 sammy.jpg


This is fashioned after the classic Chicago sandwich. It’s worth taking the extra step of chilling the cooking broth/serving jus, because that makes it easier to remove fat.

You’ll need several clean pint jars for the giardiniera. The giardiniera needs at least 3 days’ curing time in the refrigerator and can be refrigerated for up to 1 month (not water-bath canned). Bring to room temperature before serving.

Makes 6 servings (1 quart giardiniera)


3/4 cup apple cider vinegar

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon celery seed

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

6 ounces hot cherry peppers, sliced

4 ounces small cauliflower florets (no large stems)

1/2 cup pitted green olives, coarsely chopped

1/2 medium green bell pepper, seeded and minced

1/2 medium red bell pepper, seeded and minced

1 medium carrot, scrubbed well and shredded

2 ribs celery, minced


One 3- to 4-pound boneless top round roast or chuck roast

6 cloves garlic, each cut lengthwise in half

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 onion, thinly sliced

1/2 bunch fresh thyme

11/2 cups dry red wine

4 cups water, plus more as needed

6 soft sub rolls, for serving

FOR THE GIARDINIERA: Whisk together the vinegar, oil, salt, celery seed, oregano and crushed red pepper flakes in a large mixing bowl to form a dressing.

Add the cherry peppers, cauliflower, olives, green and red bell peppers, carrot and celery; toss until evenly coated. Divide the giardiniera mixture and all the dressing among 2 or 3 clean pint jars; seal and refrigerate for at least 3 days and up to 1 month. The yield is 1 quart. You’ll need about 1 cup for this recipe; reserve the rest for other uses.

FOR THE BEEF: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Use a sharp knife to cut 12 slits in the roast, then insert a piece of garlic in each one. Liberally season the beef with salt and pepper on all sides.

Heat the oil in a roasting pan (set across two burners) over medium-high heat. Sear each side of the roast, about 5 minutes per side, then scatter the onion slices and thyme around it.

Pour in the wine and water, adding more of the latter as needed so the liquid comes about an inch up the side of the beef. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil; roast for about 3 hours, checking each hour to maintain the water level and adding water as necessary.

Carefully transfer the roast to a plate, cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate for several hours. Strain the cooking liquid, discarding the solids, and refrigerate it for several hours. (This will make it easy to de-fat the broth.)

When ready to serve, skim off and discard the fat from the top of the liquid; reheat the liquid in a large saucepan over medium heat.

Transfer the roast to a cutting board; thinly slice the beef against the grain and warm it in the broth. Pile the beef into the rolls, then spoon on about 3 tablespoons of the giardiniera per sandwich.

1099894_795858 sammy2.jpg


Serve with mustard and ketchup on the side.

Makes 6 servings

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 pounds ground beef (20 percent fat)

1 medium onion, cut into small dice

1 cup homemade or store-bought no-salt-added chicken broth

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 chopped chipotle pepper in adobo (optional)

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

6 split hamburger buns, for serving

Dill pickle slices, for garnish

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, stir in the ground beef and onion; cook for several minutes, until they have browned, stirring vigorously and breaking up any clumps of meat. The end result should look like lots of small crumbles.

Add the broth, vinegar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, the chipotle pepper, if using, the brown sugar, salt and black pepper, stirring to incorporate. Bring to a boil, stirring, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the liquid has evaporated.

Use a slotted spoon to pile a large amount of meat atop each bottom bun half. Garnish with a couple of pickle slices, and serve with the top bun.

Recipes dapted from “Big American Cookbook,” by Mario Batali with Jim Webster.

]]> 0, 26 Oct 2016 09:28:49 +0000
Accents from around the world turn meatballs trendy Wed, 19 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Meatballs are the little black dresses of the culinary world.

You can dress them up for dinner with a velvet robe of sour cream and wild mushroom gravy.

They can be daytime simple with a jacket of roasted tomato marinara, trimmed with fresh asiago cheese and tucked into a crusty roll.

Or they can be cocktail party sweet-and-spicy, glistening with a glaze of pineapple juice, sriracha sauce and sugar.

They also are comparatively inexpensive; can be made ahead then sauced later; require little attention once prepared; often can be retrofitted on Day Two for a second go-round; and perform as well at a family dinner, a Sunday tailgate with friends, or a flavors-of-the-world themed get-together.

And they’re trendy, too.

One of the nation’s leading food research and consulting firms, Chicago-based Technomic, describes meatballs as a 2016 food trend that’s part of a national movement involving the “elevation of peasant fare” to new heights. “Meatballs … are proliferating – traditional, ethnic or nouveau,” Technomic opines.

That’s no surprise to Brian Borres, general manager of Emporio: A Meatball Joint in Pittsburgh.

Borres postulated that executive chef and managing partner Matt Porco adds his “distinct and different” brand of creativity to produce meatball bowls such as a “tater tot” poutine topped with mushroom gravy, a fried egg, bacon and pork meatball. It’s Borres’ favorite dish, he confessed, referring to it as “the breakfast bowl.” And it costs about $11. “Over a pound of food that is absolutely to die for. That’s a great value,” he said.

The affordability of meatballs makes them the perfect vehicle to introduce family and friends to a new ethnic flavor profile.

Whether fashioned of pork, beef, chicken or no meat at all (as in mushrooms/lentils/cheese), the essential meatball ingredients are comparatively inexpensive.

That allows for spending a little more dough on some of the spices needed to round out a recipe for the likes of Albondigas en Salsa de Limon. Translated, it’s meatballs in lemon sauce. The sauce requires a pinch of pricey saffron threads. A delicious overture into Spanish cuisine, this pork and veal meatball is cooked in a richly viscous egg yolk/lemon/saffron sauce enhanced with mushrooms.

The recipe for Albondigas en Salsa de Limon is featured in Penelope Casas’ “One Pot Spanish” tome, published in 2009 by Madison Press Books. Lemon, both in the meatballs and the sauce, makes a nice taste counterpoint to the delicious velvet of fat in the meat and egg yolk.

Casas suggests a sidecar of boiled new potatoes. Rice also would do well, especially if the sauce ingredients were doubled and the meatballs were situated atop of the rice.

Smacking of pan-Asian is an exceptionally simple and yummy recipe for cocktail meatballs in the recently published “Ultimate Appetizer Ideabook, 225 Simple, All-Occasion Recipes” by Kiera and Cole Stipovich from Chronicle Books.

The recipe pairs a delicate ground lamb ball with a spicy-sweet glaze of chili-pepper jelly that can be made for pennies in about 10 minutes.

It’s hard to think of meatballs without thinking of tomato sauce. A 2015 publication by the editors of Saveur, entitled “Saveur Italian Comfort Food,” offers a spin on the pairing that calls for a very spicy meatball cooked in an unusually simple and spice-free red sauce. Called “Classic Meatballs,” they feature ricotta, pork fat and prosciutto with a half-dozen spices, all adding up to a dish that need not sit atop pasta to stand as an entree.

These meatballs are more involved than the meatballs I make to serve with my spaghetti. And a couple of ingredients required special effort (my butcher had to trim a slab of pork fat for me), but they are worth the extra effort if you want to dial up Italian night a notch.


Classic Italian meatballs

Classic meatballs

I used veal in this recipe with ground pork and pork fat instead of unsmoked bacon. I also bumped up the heat with a few extra chili flakes. I like my tomato sauce a bit more flavored: I added a teaspoon of sugar and a teaspoon of salt.

10 ounces ground veal

10 ounces ground pork shoulder

2 ounces finely chopped pork fat or unsmoked bacon

2 ounces prosciutto, finely chopped

11/4 cups loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped, plus more to garnish

2 teaspoons dried oregano

11/2 teaspoons fennel seeds

1 teaspoon chili flakes

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

7 slices white bread, finely ground in a food processor

Kosher salt (divided) and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2/3 cup ricotta, drained in a sieve for two hours

2 tablespoons milk

3 eggs, lightly beaten

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing

1/4 cup red wine

4 cups canned tomato puree

1 cup beef or veal stock

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano to garnish

Combine all meats, herbs, spices, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper in a large bowl and set aside. In another bowl, whisk together ricotta, milk and eggs then add to meat mixture, gently. Chill for an hour.

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Grease two rimmed baking sheets with oil and set aside. Using a 2-ounce ice cream scoop (I just used my hands), portion mixture and roll into balls. Transfer to baking sheets.

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in high-sided, 3-quart (ovenproof) skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the meatballs; cook, turning occasionally, until browned, about 10 minutes.

Transfer meatballs to a plate and wipe out skillet. Repeat with remaining oil and meatballs.

Return reserved meatballs to skillet along with any juices from the plate. Add wine, increase heat to high and cook for two minutes.

Stir in tomato puree, stock, sugar and salt, bring to a boil and tightly cover skillet.

Transfer to oven and bake until meatballs are tender and have absorbed some sauce, about 11/2 hours.

To serve, transfer meatballs to a platter and spoon sauce over. Sprinkle with Parmigiano and parsley.

Adapted from “Saveur Italian Comfort Food” by the editors of Saveur


Meatballs with lemon sauce.

Meatballs in lemon sauce

The thick and glossy sauce is delicious. I’d use it on rice even sans meatball.

6 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs

1/4 cup milk

3/4 pound ground veal

3/4 pound ground pork

2 eggs

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons minced parsley

2 tablespoons finely chopped prosciutto

11/2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme leaves or 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme

2 cloves garlic, minced

11/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

All-purpose flour for dusting

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup finely chopped Mayan onion

3/4 cup chicken broth

3 tablespoons dry white wine

3 tablespoons minced parsley

1 clove garlic, minced

Pinch of crumbled saffron threads

Kosher or sea salt

4 ounces mushrooms, brushed clean, stems trimmed, and caps halved or quartered

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 egg yolks

Chicken broth or water, as needed

To prepare meatballs, combine breadcrumbs with milk in a large bowl. Gently mix in ground veal and pork, eggs, lemon juice, parsley, prosciutto, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper. Shape into 1/2-inch meatballs and dust with flour.

To prepare sauce, heat oil in a shallow flameproof casserole over medium-high heat, and saute meatballs until brown on all sides. Add onion and saute until softened. Stir in broth and wine. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and simmer for 40 minutes.

Mash 2 tablespoons parsley, garlic, saffron and a pinch of salt to a paste in a mortar, or process in a mini food processor until finely minced.

Transfer meatballs to a warm plate and keep warm.

Strain sauce through a fine sieve, pressing on the solids with the back of a metal soup ladle to extract as much liquid as possible. Return sauce to the casserole and add mushrooms, mortar mixture and lemon juice.

Whisk egg yolks with a little hot sauce from the casserole in a small bowl, then add back to the casserole. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until thickened (do not boil). If the sauce seems too thick, add a little broth or water. (Mine needed no additional liquid.)

Return meatballs to the sauce and simmer for 1 minute. Serve straight from the casserole, sprinkled with remaining parsley.

From “One Pot Spanish” by Penelope Casas


Chili-pepper jelly-glazed lamb meatballs.

Chili-pepper jelly-glazed lamb meatballs

These are like potato chips; you can’t stop with one. I doubled the sauce recipe because I found it to be so deliciously spicy yet sweet.

1 pound ground lamb

2 tablespoons minced onion

1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

11/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves

3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon ketchup

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 lightly beaten egg

Mix all ingredients lightly, except egg. When combined, add egg and mix again. Shape into 1-inch balls. Place on baking sheet, lined with parchment paper or foil. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake meatballs for 20 to 25 minutes or until internal temperature is 165 degrees. Immediately add cooked meatballs to 1/2 recipe Chili-Pepper Jelly Glaze in a saucepan (I made a full recipe and used it all) and simmer uncovered over low heat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring gently as needed until the meatballs are nicely glazed.


1/3 cup ketchup

1/4 cup water

3 tablespoons pepper jelly

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine all the ingredients. Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until the flavors have blended.

Use right away or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to five days.

From “The Ultimate Appetizer Ideabook” by Kiera and Cole Stipovich

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Hot tip for cheesecake: Enjoy it right out of the oven Wed, 19 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Cheesecake is usually served cold. So brace yourself for something a little different.

The first time I made this recipe, I pulled it out of the oven and set it on the counter to cool. The plan was to chill it overnight in the refrigerator. But my dear daughter – also known as The Girl with the Sweet Tooth – just couldn’t wait to dig in. So I handed her a spoon. And when she started babbling with delight, I tried it, too.

Boing! It was ridiculously good. So good that I now recommend that you serve this cheesecake hot, right out of the oven, topped with a little vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream.

That said, getting there requires some care. Be sure to buy plain pumpkin puree, which is sometimes labeled solid pack pumpkin. Avoid anything labeled “pumpkin pie filling” or “pumpkin pie mix,” both of which contain unwanted sugar and spices. You’re much better off adding those ingredients yourself.

Also, don’t forget to drain the pumpkin puree. Losing the excess liquid from the puree improves the final texture and flavor of the cake.

The cooking also requires some care. You’re going to cook the cake in a water bath, which helps to equalize the temperature in the oven and prevents overcooking. But first the springform pan must be tightly wrapped with foil to prevent any water from leaking into the batter while the cake is baking.

Finally, do your best to not overbake the cake, which will make it dry and crumbly. After the allotted cooking time, it should still be a little jiggly. Worried that the cake might be undercooked at that point? Don’t be. The residual heat will continue to cook it even after you pull it out of the oven.

By the way, this cheesecake also is a knockout when it’s served the usual way – cold. If you decide to go this route, run a knife around the outside edge of the cake to separate it from the pan as soon as you remove the cake from the oven. This will allow the cake to remain intact as it shrinks in on itself, rather than cracking down the middle as it vainly attempts to unglue itself from the sides of the pan.

If you do indeed decide to serve this cold, let it cool completely on a rack on the counter – it’ll take three to four hours – before wrapping it tightly and popping it in the refrigerator to chill overnight.

When it’s time to serve, run a knife around the edge of the pan again, carefully remove the side of the pan, then slice the cheesecake with a knife dipped in hot water (or use unflavored dental floss).

And don’t forget the crowning glory. As noted, whipped cream or ice cream are the accessories of choice.


Makes 16 servings


6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for the pan

11/4 cups gingersnap cookie crumbs (made by pulsing about 25 cookies in a food processor until finely ground)

1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon table salt


15-ounce can pumpkin puree

3 large eggs

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup bourbon, dark rum or cognac

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

11/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground dry ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon table salt

Three 8-ounce packages 1/3-less-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), room temperature

Vanilla ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream, to serve

Heat the oven to 375 F. Brush the inside of a 9-inch springform pan with melted butter.

To make the crust, in a medium bowl, stir together the 6 tablespoons of butter, the gingersnap crumbs, brown sugar and salt until combined well. Pour the crumb mixture into the pan and press it evenly over the bottom of the pan. Bake on the oven’s middle shelf for 10 minutes. Transfer to a cake rack and cool for 30 minutes.

Reduce the oven to 350 F.

Line a mesh colander with a clean kitchen towel. Mound the pumpkin puree into the towel and set over a medium bowl. Bring the ends of the towel up and gently squeeze to remove excess water (you should be able to squeeze out about 1/4 cup of liquid). Discard the liquid. Rinse and dry the bowl, then in it mix together the pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, cream, vanilla and bourbon. Set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together the granulated sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and salt. Add the cream cheese, then use an electric mixer on high to beat until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the pumpkin mixture to the cream cheese mixture and beat on low, just until combined.

Bring a large kettle of water to a boil.

Use foil to wrap the bottom and sides of the springform pan. Pour the filling into the pan. Fold a kitchen towel so it fits evenly in a roasting pan just a bit larger than the springform pan. Set the springform pan on top of the towel in the roasting pan. Working quickly, pour enough boiling water into the larger pan to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake the cheesecake for 65 to 70 minutes, or until it is mostly set but still slightly jiggly at the center.

Spoon some of the cheesecake onto each serving plate and top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a spoonful of whipped cream.

Alternatively, if serving the cheesecake cold, transfer it to a rack, run a sharp knife around the edge and let it cool completely, about 4 hours, before covering with plastic wrap. Chill. To serve, cut into slices and top each slice with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a spoonful of whipped cream.

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Popcorn warms to flavors of the season Wed, 19 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Popcorn, much like fall, is a crunchy treat.

And it’s even more of a treat when you pop it up with the flavors of the season – Halloween and football-friendly flavors like pumpkin spice, peanut butter and honey, white chocolate and candy corn, Buffalo ranch, bacon Parmesan.

We scoured the internet for the most tempting popcorn recipes for fall and found several winners. These recipes are all easy to make – some take only a few minutes to mix up – and they’re perfect for Halloween parties, tailgates or even simple snacking.

Popcorn also is inexpensive, plus it’s high in fiber and low in calories if you pop it yourself. We started all of these recipes by popping the corn from kernels, something that’s easy to do. Just heat up a quarter cup of oil at the bottom of a big pot, then add enough kernels to cover the bottom. Move the pot around on the burner until the popping slows. All of the five recipes included here were made using just one 32-ounce bag of kernels, and we had about eight cups left over.

You also can use microwave popcorn or bagged popcorn, but the calories and cost both go up if you do.


Makes 12 cups

12 cups popped popcorn

1 teaspoon granulated garlic or garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon dill

1/4 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

4 tablespoons butter

2 teaspoons hot sauce, like Frank’s RedHot

In a small bowl combine granulated garlic, dill, cumin and sea salt. Set aside. In another bowl, melt butter and add sauce. Mix until combined. Toss butter with popcorn in a large bowl. Then toss with seasoning.


Makes about 8 cups

1/4 cup popcorn kernels

Vegetable oil

Fine salt

1/2 cup honey

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup peanut butter (should be free of added sugar)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Have a clean paper shopping bag or oversized mixing bowl ready.

Heat a 4-quart heavy pan over medium heat and film the bottom with vegetable oil. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the popcorn, shake to distribute, then put a lid on the pan, leaving a small crack for steam to escape.

When the first kernel pops, put the lid on all the way. As the popcorn starts popping, shake vigorously to make sure the kernels are distributed evenly. When the popping slows to a few seconds between pops, take the pan off the heat.

Pour the popcorn into the paper bag or bowl to cool, and attempt to leave any unpopped kernels behind in the pan. (Coated with peanut butter caramel, the unpopped kernels are a serious tooth hazard). Lightly salt the popcorn to taste.

Mix the honey and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Let it simmer for about 2 minutes, then remove from the heat and add the peanut butter. Stir vigorously until all the peanut butter is melted, then mix in the vanilla.

Immediately pour the peanut butter caramel over the popcorn and stir with a long-handled wooden spoon until it’s all coated. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Note: This recipe will also cover one standard bag of microwave popcorn, so you can substitute that for the stovetop popcorn, if you wish. This keeps well overnight. You can perk up a bowl of leftover popcorn in 15-second bursts in the microwave until slightly warm and soft.


Makes 16 cups

16 cups popped corn

12-16 ounces white chocolate chips, melted

3/4 cup candy corn

3/4 cup peanuts

11/2 cup pretzel sticks

11/2 cups Reese’s pieces

Make sure unpopped kernels are removed from popcorn. Place it in a large bowl. Melt white chocolate in a microwave-save bowl in the microwave. Pour chocolate over popcorn in bowl and stir to coat. Spread the mixture onto two large cookie sheets lines with wax paper. Distribute candy corn, pretzel sticks and Reese’s Pieces over the popcorn. Allow chocolate to set up and break mixture into pieces.


Makes 16 cups

4 quarts popped popcorn

1/3 cup butter or margarine

1/4 teaspoon hickory liquid smoke seasoning

1/3 cup bacon bits or soy “bacon” bits

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon seasoned salt or kosher salt

Place popcorn in a large serving bowl. Place butter in a small bowl and melt in microwave, about 20 seconds. Stir liquid smoke into butter. Pour butter mixture over popcorn and toss to distribute evenly. Sprinkle bacon bits, Parmesan cheese and salt over popcorn. Toss and serve immediately.


Makes 15 cups

15 cups plain popped popcorn

11/2 sticks butter, cubed

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup light corn syrup

1/4 cup molasses

1 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a Silpat. Place the popcorn in a large bowl and set aside. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the butter, sugar, corn syrup, molasses, pumpkin pie spice and salt to a boil.

Stir briefly to combine the ingredients and then allow them to boil for 3 minutes without stirring.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and immediately pour onto the popcorn. Stir until evenly coated. Spread the popcorn evenly on the prepared sheet pan and place in the oven. Allow to cook for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and break into pieces (or enjoy as clusters). Serve popcorn warm or at room temperature.

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Signature Dish: Fried lobster comes with warm memories of grandmother Wed, 19 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 BAILEY ISLAND — Brett Johnson gently lowered two pieces of batter-covered lobster tail into a pan of hot oil, and they sizzled in a way that seemed unnatural. That can’t be right, a voice bellowed inside my head. Lobster, I knew from nearly 30 years of living in Maine, is steamed or boiled or sautéed – why is it sizzling?

It will be tough, my mind protested silently. It will be greasy. It will taste like a chicken finger.

None of that was true. When the Johnson family finally gathered at the dinner table and dug into their fried lobster, served with slaw and a cup of seafood chowder, the golden pieces of fried lobster claws and tails were tender, decidedly not greasy, and the lobster taste wasn’t overwhelmed by batter.

People have tried to interfere with the frying of the lobster before, wanting to add a spice here, a little extra flour there, but Johnson will have none of it. “Step away from the batter,” he tells those friends. “I am channeling my nana.”

Nana is Eileen Johnson, who in the 1950s owned the rustic Rock Ovens restaurant, where Morse’s Cribstone Grill sits now. She is Johnson’s grandmother. Fried lobster, and a wide variety of other fried seafood, was on the menu at Rock Ovens.

Eileen was married to Capt. Lawrence E. Johnson, a lobsterman who fished until he was into his 80s. Between the two of them, Johnson and his siblings’ Maine roots run as deep as a canyon in the North Atlantic. Brett Johnson, an interior designer who lives in Portland; his older sister Cathy Silva, who lives in Port Charlotte, Florida; and brother Chris Johnson, who lives on Great Island, are 16th- or 17th-generation Mainers on the Johnson side. Eileen Johnson, who was born a Shea, traced her Maine roots back to the late 1800s.

Eileen Shea’s father, Jeremiah, was a stonemason who raised his family on Little Island, a tiny island off of Orrs Island. Eileen worked at her sister-in-law’s boarding house on Bailey Island and was a “hash slinger” at the Merritt House, which took in guests from the steamships that arrived from Portland. Millie Johnson, Eileen’s daughter-in-law, recalled her as “a character” who liked to drink beer.

Brett Johnson said she reminded him of “Dirty Sally,” the cantankerous frontierswoman from the old TV series Gunsmoke. “Not that she was rough and tumble, but she was wry and witty and definitely had a little bit of a raunchy side,” he said.

Growing up, Brett Johnson and his siblings spent the kind of summers kids dream about at their grandparents’ house. When they weren’t working as sternmen on their grandfather’s boat, Nana took them strawberry and blueberry picking, and they hunted for dandelions. She fed them chicken and dumplings, and lobster hash from a cast iron skillet. None of the kids remember her restaurant – she was out of the business before they reached the age of remembering – but they do fondly recall walking into the kitchen and seeing their grandfather knitting lobster trap heads at the kitchen table while Nana cooked.

“There was always something really good in the refrigerator,” Brett Johnson said. “Literally, you’d go to the refrigerator and see what was in there for leftovers before you’d even say hello.”

Capt. Johnson noticed his grandson’s predilection for leftovers and nicknamed him GG – for “garbage gut.”

Brett Johnson said his grandmother would ferment anything. “There was always a crock of something fermenting in the backyard – pickles or dandelion wine,” he said.

She salted fish as well. “The clothesline was always full of dried fish,” Brett Johnson said.

Before she died, Nana gave her granddaughter Cathy an old trunk that had been in the attic. Inside, Silva discovered an old, handmade “diploma” dated 1955, a “Doctorate of Culinary Arts” bestowed upon Eileen Johnson by a group of English professors from Bowdoin College. The professors were regulars at the Rock Ovens restaurant, and obviously loved her cooking.

The diploma reads in part:

“Be it known to all men by these presents, that we, the undersigned Board of Goliardic Examiners, after consideration, fitting discussion, and mature digestion of her many varied works of gastronomical delectation, relishing her comfortable sustenance of body and spirit, and with cordial appreciation… do hereby award to Eileen Johnson of Rock Ovens, Bailey Island, Harpswell, Maine, the degree of Doctor of Culinary Arts, the same to be had and held by her, friend of gourmets, sustainer of learning, and patroness of professors of English, with all rights, honors and privileges thereunto appertaining…”

It’s fortunate that Silva got the trunk when she did, because the Johnsons’ home burned down in the 1990s, taking with it family photos and heirlooms. The property sat for years until the Johnson grandchildren, around 2009, decided to form a trust and rebuild the house, this time higher on the hill to capture a better water view. They named it the Capt. Lawrence E. Johnson House and now rent it out in the summer and use it as a family retreat.

When Brett and Chris Johnson finished with the renovations and interior design, they asked their sister to scan a copy of their Nana’s honorary culinary arts degree so they could frame it and hang it in the new kitchen. When Silva removed the document from the frame in order to do so, she discovered, hidden in the back, an old newspaper column that included their grandmother’s recipe for fried lobster. The column, called “The Valley Pantry” and written by Cynthia McKee, described McKee’s vacation in Maine and how she and her family ate lobster every day. The Johnsons have been unable to nail down what newspaper the column ran in, but think it may have been published in the Midwest. McKee wrote that the family tried all the restaurants in the Bailey Island area, but Rock Ovens was their favorite.

“There I was introduced to fried lobster, and after I ate it once, I was lost – I had it for dinner every night afterward,” McKee wrote.

McKee noted that the restaurant offered lobster fried in either batter or butter, but she preferred the batter. Eileen Johnson told McKee that the fried lobster recipe had been given to her by her sister-in-law, who got it from her mother.

Brett Johnson is the only one of his generation who remembers his grandmother making fried lobster. But once the siblings discovered the recipe, of course they had to try it. Now Brett Johnson often makes it for his friends at dinner parties. He serves it plain, but wonders if a dipping sauce might work well with it – “maybe a really buttery aioli,” he suggests. His sister likes the idea of a sriracha aioli.

Eileen Johnson died in 1987, at the age of 69. Sitting around the new dining room table, the family pointed out that a lot of their family history was “just gone” after the fire, which makes re-creating their Nana’s fried lobster “even more special.”

“A lot of our memories are around cooking,” Brett Johnson said, “and certainly around…

“Eating!” they all chimed in in unison. And they laughed.


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