Recipes – The Portland Press Herald Sun, 22 Jan 2017 16:01:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Locally raised Maine meat is not in short supply Sun, 22 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 There is certainly enough local meat being raised in Maine to go around. The problem is that most of it leaves the state to be processed.

Analysts with the Reinvestment Fund, a public-policy driven lending institution based in Baltimore, presented findings of a recent study geared toward optimizing the state’s red meat supply chain to a packed house at the More Maine Meat Workshop held at the 76th Annual Maine Agriculture Trade Show in Augusta earlier in January. The bottleneck to getting more sustainable red meat on the menu in Maine is a shortage of meat-cutting facilities and butchering talent that can efficiently bring local beef, pork and lamb from the pasture to the plate here.

In the study, demand for local meat was based on USDA sales numbers. Supply was based on data pulled from a Dun & Bradstreet business registration of local farms. Researchers noted that supply was likely underestimated as many smaller farms are not included in those numbers. But even with the lowball estimate on the supply side, researchers found that the existing meat-processing facilities in Maine today can process only a third of the animals that local farmers can raise.

Ingredients for Christine Burns Rudalevige's Beef and Ale Pie.

Beef and Ale Pie is made with stewed beef and mushrooms. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

This statistic was not a surprise to the dozens of farmers in the room that day. The shortage of first-stage processors (ones that slaughter animals in certified facilities and butcher them into large primal cuts that then get shuttled off to second-stage processors that break them down into the steaks, chops and ground meat we buy) is a reality they’ve been working around for years. They do so by booking slaughter dates six months in advance at the dwindling number of Maine processing facilities or trucking their animals out of state to get the job done at an added cost to producers and the environment with no guarantee that the processed meat will make it back to Maine eaters. Having to transport the animals long distances causes them stress and gives farmers who care about how their animals die less control over their demise.

The study gave five potential locations (Chapman, Monmouth, Troy, Windham and Port Clyde) where additional Stage 1 meat-processing facilities could be located to, theoretically, relieve the bottleneck.

“But with the margins on meat processing so tight, you’d have to almost guarantee even more demand to have the cost of the new plants be feasible,” said Barry Higgins of Maple Lanes Farms, a beef producer and operator of a custom meat-processing facility in Charleston.

Christine Burns Rudalevige's Beef and Ale Pie.

The finished product, Christine Burns Rudalevige’s Beef and Ale Pie. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Farmer Nanne Kennedy of Meadowcroft Farm, a board member of the Maine Sustainable Agriculture Society, said her group is working to build a brand that could certify that meat came from an animal that was born, raised and processed in the state. “Consumers want a guarantee they are in fact getting the local meat they believe they are paying for,” Kennedy said. She is working on a grant proposal for a pilot program that would use low-frequency RFID tags (which are attached to the animal’s ear and store information about birth, pedigree and location that can then be read electronically) to track and verify where an animal was reared throughout its lifetime. She anticipates the pilot would start this summer and is looking for farmers to participate.

If consumers are intent on buying more Maine meat, the industry must also address the need for more trained meat cutters, Higgins said. Filling these physically demanding jobs, which according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics pay between $14.90 and $16.30 per hour in Maine, is a constant struggle, Higgins said.

The ingredients for Beef and Ale Pie

The ingredients are all ready for making the Beef and Ale Pie. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Dr. Richard Brzozowski, food systems specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, stepped up to say the extension would hold a weeklong meat-cutting school in late April and would work with existing processors to tailor the curriculum to their needs. He was peppered with ideas ranging from preparation of hides to charcuterie food safety plans.

If the farmers, processors and food systems specialists have their way, more Maine meat will be available. It’s our job to try it – and keep on buying it – to support the systems needed for that part of the local agricultural system to thrive.

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


Christine Burns Rudalevige cooks the beef for her Beef and Ale Pie.

Christine Burns Rudalevige cooks the beef for her Beef and Ale Pie. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer


This recipe is a labor of love, but it is also one that keeps on giving. The stew should be made ahead and cooled before it gets baked into the pie. The amount of gravy it makes cannot go into the pie as that would risk a soggy bottom.  Reserving a good portion of the gravy means you can serve it with bangers (sausages) and mash later in the week.

Serves 6, plus makes gravy for a future meal


1 ounce dried wild mushrooms

11/2 pounds of braising beef (buy whole piece and cut into 1-inch pieces)

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 large onions, roughly chopped

4 large carrots, chopped into large chunks

2 parsnips, chopped into large chunks

2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons sugar

11/2 cups dark ale

11/2 cups beef stock

4 sprigs thyme

4 parsley stems

1 bay leaf

1/4 cup chopped smoky bacon

1 pound fresh button mushrooms, quartered


21/2 cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

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

1/2 cup lard or bacon fat, frozen and cut into pieces

5-6 tablespoons ice water

1 egg yolk, beaten, to glaze

To make the beef, place the dried mushrooms in a large measuring cup and cover them with 11/2 cups boiling water. Set aside for 20 minutes. Strain the mushrooms, reserving the mushrooms and soaking liquid separately.

Season the meat well with salt and pepper. Melt the butter with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Working in batches to avoid crowding the pan and steaming the meat, brown the cubes of meat, then remove them to a bowl using a slotted spoon. In the fat remaining in the pan, add the onions, carrots, parsnips and garlic. Turn the heat down to medium and sauté until the vegetables soften, 5-6 minutes. Add the rehydrated mushrooms, stir and cook for 1 minute. Sprinkle the flour and sugar over the vegetables, stirring until the flour turns brown, 2-3 minutes. Return the meat, and any juices that have accumulated in the bowl, to the Dutch oven. Stir to combine. Add the ale, stock and mushroom soaking liquid, discarding the last few drops, which may contain grit.

Tie together the thyme sprigs, parsley stems and bay leaf with kitchen twine. Tuck the herbs into the stew and bring it to a simmer. Cover with a lid and continue to simmer on low heat until meat is tender, about 2 hours.

While the stew is cooking, heat remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet. Add the bacon and cook until the pieces are crisp, about 3 minutes. Turn up the heat, add the fresh mushrooms and cook until golden, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and, when the stew is cooked, stir in the bacon-mushroom mixture.

Remove herbs from the pot. Cool stew completely.

To make the pastry, mix the flour, salt and pepper together in a medium-sized bowl. Using your fingers or a fork, cut fat into the dry ingredients until the coated fat is roughly the size of peas. Add enough ice water to make a soft dough. Knead the pastry lightly, and divide it into 2 disks, 1 about 1/3 larger than the other. Wrap and let disks rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. The pastry can be made up to 2 days ahead and kept in the refrigerator or frozen for up to 1 month.

When you are ready to make the pie, heat the oven to 425 degrees F and place a flat baking tray in the oven. Grease a 9-inch pie dish and dust well with flour. Roll out the larger disk of pastry into a 1/4-inch thick round that will easily line the pie dish and have an overhang. Line the pie dish with it. Add the cool beef stew to the dish using a slotted spoon so that most of the gravy is left behind in the container. The filling will be slightly higher than the rim of the dish.

Roll out the remaining pastry disk into a circle big enough to cover the pie dish. Brush the edges of the bottom crust with egg yolk, then cover with the pastry lid. Trim the edges, crimp them together, then re-roll your trimmings to make a decoration, if you like. Make a few little slits in the center of the pie to allow air to vent, brush the top of the pie with egg yolk, place the pie on the hot baking tray, then bake for 40-50 minutes until golden.

Let the pie rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Serve warm with some of the reserved gravy.




]]> 0 ingredients for Beef and Ale PieFri, 20 Jan 2017 13:19:51 +0000
‘Sweet Sugar, Sultry Spice’ offers unusual, delicious recipes Wed, 18 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 “Sweet Sugar, Sultry Spice: Exotic Flavors to Wake Up Your Baking.” By Malika Ameen. Roost Books. $30.

The premise of “Sweet Sugar, Sultry Spice: Exotic Flavors to Wake Up Your Baking,” a new cookbook by Malika Ameen, is made clear in its title. And as advertised, the book is filled with intriguing recipes, also pretty pictures, that made me excited to get the book off my shelf and into my kitchen: A Winter Citrus Galette is enlivened with cumin; Indian rice pudding is topped with tamarind caramel; Pomegranate-Milk Chocolate Scones (as if that weren’t exotic enough) are sprinkled with rose petal sugar.

The five chapters are divided by flavor profile, such as “Floral & Aromatic” or “Complex & Mysterious.” The top of each recipe, in delicate rose-pink ink, lists the name of the spice, or spices, that Ameen, who is of Pakistani heritage, wants to highlight.

I tested five recipes and was tempted by many more. Golden Semolina Friands were baked in muffin pans greased with tahini, not butter. The idea is brilliant! It gave the edges a haunting, wonderful crunch. The little cakes themselves were dressed up with black sesame seeds and golden raisins and had a winning moist and chewy quality. The Best-Ever Honey-Glazed Corn Muffins may not have been the best ever, but they were pretty darn good, at once moist and fluffy with a spiced glaze – cayenne, cumin and smoked paprika – that lent excellent contrast. I liked the Chocolate-Hazelnut Clouds, too, meringues with cocoa nibs and a hint of cardamom.

But while the Four-Spice Ginger Cookies tasted good, they were flat as newsprint, though I followed the instructions to the letter. And though the Luscious Pineapple and Honey Squares were tasty, they weren’t worth the trouble. They were a lot of trouble.

Which brings me to my two complaints, big complaints, about “Sweet Sugar, Sultry Spice,” one of three books that came out last fall on a similar theme. (The others, also reviewed by the Portland Press Herald, are “The New Sugar & Spice: A Recipe for Bolder Baking” and “The Cardamom Trail: Chetna Bakes with Flavours of the East.”)

Ameen is a professional chef who cooked at many restaurants and also ran her own. Perhaps she forgot that home cooks lack kitchen staffs and often must wedge baking projects into busy lives. To give just one example, and I could give many, here is her process for making those pineapple and honey squares.

First, the cook must cut a fresh pineapple into 1/2-inch cubes, drain them on paper towels and toss them with sugar. Then she must set a cast-iron pan over high heat for 3 minutes (setting off my smoke alarm), and brown the cubes in two batches, 6 to 7 minutes per batch, individually turning each and every cube to brown on all four sides. Then it’s time to put together the batter, which calls for sifting the dry ingredients and using caramelized honey, which must be made beforehand by boiling honey over high heat for six minutes.

The recipe requires a baking pan, a bowl to hold the raw fruit, a skillet to brown the fruit, a second bowl to hold the browned fruit, a third bowl for the dry ingredients, a fourth bowl to combine spices and coffee, a saucepan to make the caramelized honey, and a fifth bowl for whisking the eggs. By my count that is eight pots and bowls for a single cake.

There was another significant problem with this recipe and more than a few others in “Sweet Sugar, Sultry Spice.” The pineapple squares called for 70-75 minutes of baking. In my oven, which is calibrated correctly, they took 45 minutes. Likewise, the Golden Semolina Friands: The recipe instructed 35 to 40 minutes baking; mine were done in 20 minutes, plus the yield was off. A recipe for Apricot Almond Financiers told readers to use a mini-muffin pan, but the photograph shows they were baked in boat-shaped barquette molds. The recipe for Sesame Semolina Date Bars refers to the “spiced espresso-date filling.” In fact, the espresso is in the dough, not the filling. The instructions for slicing citrus crosswise are omitted from the Winter Citrus Galette.

These mistakes – and more – made me wary of “Sweet Sugar, Sultry Spice,” much as I liked its premise as well as some of the recipes I did try and the sounds of many that I didn’t. Baking is expensive and can be laborious. Before I embark on a new recipe, I want some assurance that neither my money nor my time will be wasted.

Where were the recipe testers? Was the editor asleep on the job or just stretched dreadfully thin as the publishing industry reels in the face of grave digital threats? Whichever, it’s a shame. “Sweet Sugar, Sultry Spice” is a book I’d like to have been able to recommend without reservation.


1139257_61960 muffins.jpg


Recipe from “Sweet Sugar, Sultry Spice: Exotic Flavors to Wake Up Your Baking” by Malika Ameen. The recipe says it makes 12 friands. When Food Editor Peggy Grodinsky tested it, her yield was 11. Also, though it calls for a baking time of 35 to 40 minutes at 375 degrees F, Grodinsky found they were done after just 20 minutes at 350 degrees F. The recipe below has been amended to reflect those changes. If you do not have fine semolina, you can substitute Cream of Wheat.

2 tablespoons cold tahini

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons black sesame seeds

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 cup fine semolina (not semolina flour)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 cup whole milk

2 tablespoons water

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup golden raisins

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush the tahini evenly onto the bottom and sides of 11 cups of a 12-cup muffin pan and place in the freezer.

In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the sugar, the sesame seeds, and 1/8 teaspoon of the salt. Remove the pan from the freezer and sprinkle each cup with the sesame sugar, making sure to coat the cups evenly. Return the pan to the freezer until needed.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine 2 tablespoons of the butter and the turmeric. Once the butter is melted, stir to combine and cook until foamy, about 1 minute. Add the remaining butter and reduce the heat to low.

Heat until the butter is melted, then transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and allow to cool.

Into a large bowl, sift the semolina, flour, baking powder, the remaining 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt. When the butter is cool, add the milk, water, and vanilla and whisk together. Add this mixture to the semolina mixture and whisk until just combined and lump free. Stir in the golden raisins.

Scoop 1/4 cup of batter into each prepared muffin cup. Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown, firm to the touch at the edge but just a bit soft in the center. Place the pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Run a paring knife around the edges of the muffin cups to loosen the friands, then turn them out onto the wire rack to cool fully.

]]> 0, 17 Jan 2017 17:26:37 +0000
Big flavor and nutrition, not to mention ease, make broccoli rabe a go-to green Wed, 18 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 If you have been eyeing the bunches of broccoli rabe in your grocery store but passing them by because you are unsure how to cook this vegetable, here is your official cue to pick some up and discover something powerfully delicious and healthful.

The accompanying recipe is like Broccoli Rabe 101: a basic preparation all cooks should have in their back pockets to serve as a side for just about any Italian-style main, from pastas and pizzas to chicken piccata; to be piled on panini; or to be chopped and cooked into frittatas.

Broccoli rabe, also called rapini, is a more intensely flavorful, even more nutrient-packed cruciferous cousin of regular broccoli. Despite its name and appearance, it’s not a type of broccoli but is more closely related genetically to turnip greens. Broccoli rabe has a mustardlike bitterness that becomes a mouthwatering taste dimension once mellowed by blanching the vegetable briefly before sauteing it with garlic in olive oil.

That’s all it takes to make this dish, which is an Italian restaurant standard and a staple in my home.

Although I typically avoid boiling vegetables in favor of steaming them – the more contact with water they have, the more water-soluble nutrients are lost – I make an exception for broccoli rabe. Steaming doesn’t temper the bitterness quite enough for my taste. Just a minute in boiling water followed by a brief ice-water bath does the trick, and it is a step you can conveniently do several days in advance.

Interestingly, salting the water helps prevent nutrients from leaching out by creating a more even osmotic balance, but some salt will then be absorbed, so if you are watching sodium, cooking the broccoli rabe in unsalted water is fine. Either way, I figure you get more nutrients from a deliciously tasty vegetable eaten with abandon than from one that’s not. This recipe is definitely the former, and a classic for a reason.

The broccoli rabe also can be blanched, cooled, drained and refrigerated up to 4 days in advance.


Makes 4 to 6 servings

2 tablespoons sea salt, plus 1/2 teaspoon

1 large bunch broccoli rabe (about 1 pound)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large clove garlic, thinly sliced

Generous pinch crushed red pepper flakes

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the 2 tablespoons of salt. Fill a large mixing bowl with cool water and ice cubes. Line a large plate with a few layers of paper towels.

Trim off and discard about an inch from the ends of the broccoli rabe stems, then add the vegetable to the boiling water. Once the water returns to a boil, cook for 1 minute, then use tongs to transfer the vegetable to the ice-water bath just long enough to cool it completely. Transfer the vegetable to the plate.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, stirring until it is just beginning to turn golden. Add the blanched broccoli rabe, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the crushed red pepper flakes; cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until the vegetable is warmed through and tender.

Serve warm.

]]> 0 rabe with Chinese take-out chicken.Tue, 17 Jan 2017 17:32:19 +0000
Quick bok choy can help draw you out of a cooking rut Wed, 18 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 If you tend to fall into cooking ruts, one easy way to snap out of it is to check out the holiday calendars of different cultures. Next up on my list of inspirations is the Lunar New Year, or Chinese New Year.

I love cooking Chinese and Asian food all year, but certain foods carry symbolism in Chinese culture and are intrinsic parts of this holiday.

Many of the new year’s foods are associated with luck and prosperity. Long noodles symbolize longevity; the word for “orange” in Chinese is similar to the word for “gold,” thus signifying wealth, so that fruit is commonly presented and shared (the round shape also signifies fullness); fish is served whole, to symbolize a strong year to come, start to finish; and green foods are equated with money.

It takes just a few ingredients – garlic, ginger, soy sauce, hot chili sauce – to turn a variety of vegetables into a delicious Asian side dish. Because my husband is knee-deep in love with bok choy these days, that was the vegetable I picked to create my prosperity-green vegetable dish.

Bok choy is available in cute baby versions, but for this dish you can use the inexpensive bigger bunches. Look for it in well-stocked produce sections or Asian specialty stores.

This dish has a nice amount of cooking liquid, so serve it over rice alongside a main course.

I’m under no illusions that money equals happiness, but I do know that this green dish makes my family happy, and that’s a rewarding feeling. Wishing all of you lots of luck in the Rooster New Year.


Serves 6

2 tablespoons sesame seeds (optional)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

2 pounds bok choy, trimmed, sliced into 1-inch pieces, and rinsed

1/2 cup chicken broth

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon Sriracha or other hot chili sauce

Place the sesame seeds, if using, in a large stock pot or braiser (this will seem silly, but you will use the same pan to cook the bok choy). Heat the pan over medium heat, stirring frequently until you can smell the sesame seeds and they turn a bit more golden in color. This will only take 2 or 3 minutes; watch carefully that they don’t get too brown. Turn the seeds onto a small plate and set aside.

Heat the vegetable oil in the same pan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and the ginger and stir for 1 minute until you can smell the aromas. Add the bok choy (it’s OK if it’s still a bit damp) and stir for another 2 minutes, then pour in the chicken broth, soy sauce and hot sauce, and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan and cook the bok choy for about 8 minutes, until it is tender, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a serving bowl with its cooking liquid and serve hot, with the sesame seeds sprinkled on top if desired.

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

]]> 0, 17 Jan 2017 17:38:43 +0000
Fresh lemon, garlic suit rich salmon – as does a simple parsleyed side Wed, 18 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Lemon and garlic add a fresh and flavorful sauce to salmon fillet.

The secret to perfectly cooked salmon is to sear it first in a skillet and then finish the cooking in the oven. It should come out soft and juicy and a little translucent in the center. It will have some carryover cooking once it is off the heat. Look for wild caught salmon.

The tartness of the sauce is a perfect balance for the richness of the fish. Fresh parsley adds color and flavor to the whole wheat spaghetti side dish.


Makes 2 servings

2 tablespoons lemon juice

3 garlic cloves, crushed

3 ounces white wine

Olive oil spray

3/4 pound wild caught salmon fillet

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix lemon juice, garlic and white wine together in a bowl. Set aside. Heat a nonstick skillet that is oven-proof over medium-high heat. Spray with olive oil spray. Add the salmon and sear 2 minutes, turn and sear 2 minutes. Pour the lemon sauce over the salmon and place the skillet in the oven for 5 minutes or until the salmon starts to flake. This is for a one-inch-thick fillet. For 1/2-inch-thick fillet, sear 1 minute on each side and 3 minutes in the oven. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.


Makes 2 servings

1/4 pound whole wheat spaghetti

2 teaspoons olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup chopped parsley

Bring a large saucepan filled with water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and boil 8 minutes. Remove 2 tablespoons pasta water to a bowl and add the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Drain the spaghetti and add to the bowl. Toss well. Sprinkle with parsley.

Linda Gassenheimer is the author, most recently, of “Delicious One-Pot Dishes.” Follow her on Twitter @lgassenheimer.

]]> 0, Byrne seasons a fillet of salmon for Salmon Au Puy, a French dish.Tue, 17 Jan 2017 17:45:04 +0000
Meatballs come alive with Southeast Asian flavors Wed, 18 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Though students at The Culinary Institute of America face a seemingly endless to-do list, central to their course work is recipe and menu development. At the CIA, food is life, and even the best-managed restaurant is nothing without flavorful, exciting, and innovative recipes.

A recent standout is this recipe for Hanoi Pork Meatballs with Hoisin-Peanut Dipping Sauce, which is ideal if you’re hosting friends and family for the big game.

Bursting with the flavors of Southeast Asia, like garlic, ginger and bright herbs, these meatballs are an easy make-ahead option that will stand out among the usual party favorites. The sweet hoisin-peanut dipping sauce will remind you of other meatballs you may have simmered in your slow cooker, but with a little something special and unexpected.

If you love the flavors in these meatballs, why not put your own spin on the recipe? You can replace the pork with turkey for a leaner appetizer to balance out those beers. Or, for a more substantial dinner, form the mixture into burger-sized patties and serve them on buns. You can top them with the dipping sauce, more fresh herbs, and pickled onions for some zing.

This year’s big game is being held in Houston. And even though you might think of Houston as BBQ central, it’s actually known to have some of the best Vietnamese restaurants in the country – so this recipe will help your guests feel like they are right in the middle of the action.


You can service Hanoi pork meatballs hot, with toothpicks and a bowl of dipping sauce.

You can serve Hanoi pork meatballs hot, with toothpicks and a bowl of dipping sauce. Phil Mansfield/CIA via AP


Servings: 5 (Makes 15 meatballs, 3 per serving)

Non-stick cooking spray, as needed

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon canola oil

5 cloves minced garlic

21/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

3 minced scallions

2 teaspoons chopped parsley

11/2 tablespoons chopped Thai basil

11/2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

11/2 tablespoons fish sauce

1 teaspoon sriracha

1/8 cup whole milk cottage cheese

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

2 teaspoons ground black pepper

1 teaspoon lime zest

1 pound ground pork

Hoisin-Peanut Dipping Sauce (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Oil a rack for a sheet tray with non-stick cooking spray. Place rack in sheet tray and set aside.

In a medium-size saute pan, heat both oils over medium heat. Once oil is hot, add the garlic, ginger, and scallions.

Sweat until aromatic and soft (about 5 minutes). Remove from pan, and allow to cool.

In a mixing bowl, add and combine all remaining ingredients except for the ground pork and dipping sauce. Mix all of these ingredients together until completely combined.

Add the ground pork and mix lightly until all the ingredients are lightly incorporated. Be careful not to over mix the meat, as it will result in tough meatballs.

Scoop or form mixture in 15 11/2-ounce balls and place them onto the oiled rack.

Cook the meatballs in the preheated oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature has reached 155 degrees F and the exterior is golden brown.

Serve meatballs hot, with toothpicks and a bowl of the Hoisin-Peanut Dipping Sauce to dip.


Serves 5

3/4 cup hoisin sauce

3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1 tablespoon soy sauce

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.

This article was provided to The Associated Press by The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.

]]> 0 can service Hanoi pork meatballs hot, with toothpicks and a bowl of dipping sauce.Tue, 17 Jan 2017 17:52:14 +0000
Maine native heads west and finds success with vegan living in Los Angeles Wed, 18 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Amber St. Peter, a Maine native who now lives outside Los Angeles, is a rising vegan star.

She’s best-known for Fettle Vegan, a popular blog that she began in 2010, but her first cookbook, “Homestyle Vegan,” came out in November.

St. Peter, 26, contributes to the lifestyle website One Green Planet; she maintains a well-followed Instagram account, and she regularly works for LA-area food companies doing product shoots, recipe development and other projects.

Oh, and she and her fiancé, Alex Owens, occasionally host a pop-up vegan restaurant called Tacolepsy.

I caught up with her on an icy January morning in Portland. She’d taken a red-eye from LA into Boston, then driven to Maine. St. Peter was in town for a wedding, and she was wearing sneakers and no socks, though the temperature was well below freezing. We huddled over hot beverages at the all-vegetarian Dobra Tea in the Old Port.

She told me that she jumped at the opportunity when publisher Page Street called to offer her the book deal, though writing the cookbook meant leaving her day job as a nanny and chef.

“It took me from a part-time blogger to full time,” St. Peter said. “Being a full-time blogger is fun, and I hope I can do it forever, but there are months when I make a lot of money and others months when I make no money. It’s still a tricky balance. Summers are tighter and holidays are better.”

St. Peter grew up in Whitefield and graduated from Hall-Dale High School. After school she enrolled at the University of Maine at Orono, but it wasn’t a good fit and she soon left. A visit to a friend in southern California convinced her to move there, where she met Owens, went vegan and started her blog.

“Originally it was a way to show my mom and dad that this is a healthy diet,” said St. Peter, who as a teen had dieted and didn’t always have a positive relationship with food. “I started the blog so I could put up recipes and my mom could see it had nutrition.”

Soon her mom wasn’t her only fan.

Last spring Erin Wysocarski, who blogs at the vegan site Olives for Dinner, interviewed St. Peter and wrote: “I especially love how Amber takes all of the fuss out of cooking, and just gives us warm and welcoming dishes.”

St. Peter discovered that as traffic on the site grew “even if it wasn’t a great recipe or photo it was getting shared and pinned because it was vegan. So I realized if I had a great recipe and a great photo, it would really get shared.”

Fettle Vegan is now known for both, as well as being on-trend in terms of both ingredients (think jackfruit, cauliflower and chickpeas) and dishes (fig + almond chia oat pudding; San Pedro style fish-less market tray; and shredded kale and Brussels sprouts salad).

For her book, “Homestyle Vegan,” St. Amber “veganizes” traditional comfort foods and baked goods. The book has 80 recipes – the vast majority of them new. Each is paired with an appealingly composed and styled photograph. Among the Maine-influenced recipes are apple cider donuts, lobster-mushroom bisque, creamy corn chowder, blueberry crumb cake, needhams (see recipe) and pumpkin whoopie pies. The book contains no recipes that call for tofu or faux meat. St. Peter told me that she is allergic to soy, and avoided recipes with plant-based “meats” because she was concerned readers in rural areas might have trouble finding them.

As we talked over tea, St. Peter noted a big difference between the vegan culture in Maine and in LA. Portland has vegan options, she said, but such choices are far fewer elsewhere in Maine. By contrast, when St. Peter is in California, she can get a smorgasbord of vegan meals delivered to her doorstep.

“If we want to go out, there are hundreds of vegan places,” St. Peter said, going on to list some of her favorites, including fellow Maine native Matthew Kenney’s Plant Food + Wine in Venice (“It’s like the next level of food”); Crossroads in LA where she met Alicia Silverstone (“the nicest restaurant I’ve ever been to”); and Seabirds Kitchen in Costa Mesa, where she and Owens held their engagement party (“my family was blown away”).

With all-vegan eateries firmly entrenched in LA’s restaurant culture, St. Peters said the next trend appears to be all-vegan restaurants that “don’t say anywhere they’re vegan.” An example just opened near her home: an all-vegan cinnamon bun bakery that doesn’t advertise itself as vegan.

While St. Peter has a keen eye for food trends, she is less sure what her own future holds.

“This whole business is such a weird thing,” St. Peter said. “I don’t know where I’ll be in five or 10 years. Maybe blogging will be out of style and Instagram won’t exist, but I think a food focus will always be important to me.”

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

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila


Recipe from Amber St. Peter’s “Homestyle Vegan.” “Whether you’re sick with a fever or a broken heart, this soup is the answer,” St. Peter writes in the book. Leftover soup can be refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen and reheated as needed.

Serves 6

2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 medium onions, chopped

4 medium carrots, thinly sliced

4 celery stalks, thinly sliced

6 to 8 sprigs fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

2 quarts (2 L) vegetable broth

8 ounces (227 g) whole-wheat rotini noodles

1 cup (200 g) cooked chickpeas

Salt and pepper

Chopped fresh parsley

Crackers or bread

In a cast-iron Dutch oven or large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.

Add the garlic, onions, carrots, celery, thyme and bay leaf and sauté until the veggies are softened, but not browned.

Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil.

Once the soup is boiling, add the noodles and chickpeas and cook for about 8 minutes, until the noodles are almost completely cooked (they’ll continue cooking in the water). Add salt and pepper to taste.

Remove from the heat and serve with freshly chopped parsley and salty crackers or bread.


Recipe from Amber St. Peter’s “Home Style Vegan.” “Growing up in Maine meant eating potatoes with almost every meal,” she writes in the book. “They’re a huge crop for the state, and I still eat them several times a week. I LOVE potatoes! Any way you cook ’em, really. I can’t remember the first time I had needhams, but I remember the first time I realized I could make them at home, from scratch, using only vegan ingredients.” Leftover candies will keep for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container in the refrigerator and indefinitely in the freezer.

Makes 20

2 cups (260 g) powdered sugar

¼ cup (75 g) plain mashed potatoes

1 tablespoon (6 g) vegan butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon salt

¾ cup (68 g) unsweetened, finely shredded coconut

½ pound (227 g) vegan chocolate chips or chopped bar chocolate

1 tablespoon (11 g) coconut oil

Using a large saucepan with a glass bowl or another pan over the top, create a double boiler. Pour the powdered sugar into the glass bowl, creating a well in the middle. Add the mashed potatoes, butter, vanilla and salt to the well, gradually stirring in the powdered sugar until a smooth paste forms, about 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in the shredded coconut. Pour the mixture into 20 small candy molds or form it into a large, 1-inch (2.5-cm) thick square on a baking sheet. Place the candy molds or baking sheet in the freezer to harden, at least 20 minutes.

While the candies harden, use the same double boiler method to melt together the chocolate and coconut oil. When the candies have set, pop them out of the molds (or, if using the baking sheet method, cut into 20 equal squares). Dip each square into the melted chocolate mixture, coating it completely. Place the coated candies onto a baking sheet in the refrigerator or freezer to set, about 1 hour. Enjoy!

]]> 0, 17 Jan 2017 22:49:46 +0000
Olive oil cake with prune jam and whipped ricotta Wed, 11 Jan 2017 09:00:59 +0000 Makes one (8-inch) cake. Serves 12.

1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (from 3 or 4 oranges)

2 1/2 cups sugar, divided

2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3 eggs

1 1/4 cups whole milk

1/4 cup brandy

1 1/2 cups olive oil

Zest of 1 lemon

2 teaspoons ground anise seed
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Spray the bottom and sides of an 8-inch springform pan.

Combine the orange juice and 1/2 cup of the sugar in a small pan over medium heat and simmer until the sugar dissolves.

Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Sift the flour, baking powder and baking soda into a medium bowl and set aside.

Whip the eggs in a stand mixer (using the whisk attachment) on medium speed for 1 minute. Slowly add the remaining 2 cups sugar and whip on medium speed until dissolved, about 3 minutes.

Pour 1/4 cup of the cooled orange syrup, along with the milk, brandy and olive oil, into the egg-and-sugar mixture; whip on low speed until incorporated. Add the zest, anise seed and salt, and mix just until combined. Using a spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the batter, mixing just until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and bake on the middle shelf for about 11/4 hours, until the cake is dark golden brown, it’s set in the middle, and a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let the cake cool to room temperature and brush with the remaining orange syrup before slicing into 12 pieces. Serve with Prune Jam and Whipped Ricotta (both recipes follow).

TO SERVE THE CAKE:  Place a slice of cake on a dessert plate. Dollop some Whipped Ricotta on top, sprinkle with chocolate shavings, and serve with a spoonful of Prune Jam. Repeat with the remaining slices.


Mallett says the recipe was tested with plums dehydrated in-house, but that store-bought prunes will work.

Makes 12 portions

8 prunes

4 dates, pitted

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup red wine

2 tablespoons apple brandy

2 tablespoons honey

Zest of 1/4 orange

Combine all the ingredients in a small, heavy-bottomed pan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce the heat to low, and simmer 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool in the pan. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times, stopping often to scrape down the bottom and sides. Continue pulsing until the ingredients are fully incorporated and smooth.


Makes a little more than a pint.

2 cups whole-milk ricotta

1 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whip the cheese on low speed in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue whipping until combined.

]]> 0, 10 Jan 2017 23:49:26 +0000
Garden tomato soup with shellfish and saffron cream Wed, 11 Jan 2017 09:00:40 +0000 Serves 8


4 pounds paste tomatoes, cored, rough-chopped

1 cup packed fresh basil leaves

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons plus 1⁄2 teaspoon salt, divided

1 cup medium-diced Spanish onion

1 cup medium-diced celery

1 cup medium-diced carrot

12 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup vegetable stock

Pepper, to taste

16 cherrystone clams

3⁄4 cup white wine

40 mussels

16 medium white shrimp, peeled and deveined


1 clove garlic

1⁄2 teaspoon saffron

1⁄2 cup cream

Pinch salt

In a nonreactive pot, combine the tomatoes, basil, sugar, and 2 tablespoons of the salt; simmer, covered, over low heat for 45 minutes. Strain the tomato mixture through a mesh strainer or china cap into a bowl, pressing on the solids with a ladle to capture all the liquid. Place the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, olive oil, and remaining 1⁄2 teaspoon salt in a heavy-bottomed nonreactive pot and cook for 15 minutes, until the vegetables have begun to soften. Add the strained tomato mixture and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer until it thickens slightly, about 10 minutes. Transfer the soup to a blender and blend until smooth, adding up to a cup of vegetable stock to thin the liquid, if necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper as needed.

Meanwhile, place the clams and the white wine in a separate pan with a lid and bring to a boil. Add the mussels and shrimp, cover again, and reduce the heat to medium. Simmer 3 minutes, or until all the clams and mussels are open.

MAKE THE SAFFRON CREAM:  Slice the garlic lengthwise into seven or eight thin slices. In a hot, dry pan over a high flame, add the garlic slices and cook 1 minute. Add the saffron and toast 10 seconds. Add the cream and salt and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer 2 minutes and strain through a mesh strainer.

FINISH THE DISH:  When you’re ready to serve, heat up the tomato soup and the shellfish separately. When it’s hot, pour the tomato soup into bowls, dollop the Saffron Cream in the middle, and arrange the seafood around the periphery of the bowl.

]]> 0 Tue, 10 Jan 2017 18:37:42 +0000
Winter root veggie potpie Wed, 11 Jan 2017 09:00:24 +0000 This recipe calls for up to 10 individual tart pans.

Makes 10 (eight-ounce) individual pies


12 ounces all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces

1⁄2 cup ice water


1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in double the volume of water

3⁄4 cup unsalted butter, divided

1 medium-sized celery root (about 1 pound), peeled and diced into 1-inch pieces

4 Red Bliss potatoes, scrubbed and cut into eighths (1-inch pieces)

1 cup pearl onions, peeled

3 medium carrots, cut into obliques (quarter turns on the bias, 1⁄2 inch thick)

3 baby white turnips, quartered

1 pound parsnips, cut into obliques

1 bulb fennel, halved, cores removed from each half, sliced 1⁄2-inch thick

8 ounces parsley root (optional)

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 1⁄2 quarts vegetable stock

1 tablespoon chopped fresh winter savory

1 1⁄2 teaspoons ground coriander

1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1⁄2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 tablespoon salt

1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper

1 sweet potato (about 1 pound) peeled, quartered lengthwise, and chopped into 1-inch pieces

8 ounces fresh black trumpet mushrooms

1⁄3 cup raisins, soaked in 1⁄2 cup orange juice for 30 minutes


1 egg

2 tablespoons milk

MAKE THE BRISÉE DOUGH: In a food processor, pulse the flour and salt three to four times. Add the butter and pulse ten times, counting one to two seconds per pulse. With the motor running, add the ice water in a slow drizzle. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and, handling it as little as possible, mound into a disk, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to a few days.

MAKE THE POTPIE: In a large pot, add the chickpeas and four times the volume of cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until the chickpeas are al dente.

Melt 1⁄4 cup of the butter in a medium round high-sided sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the next eight ingredients including the optional parsley root, if you like, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies begin to turn golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove the veggies, melt the remaining 1⁄2 cup butter in the pan, and whisk in the flour, creating a roux.

Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add the stock and the next six ingredients, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens slightly, about 7 minutes. Add the browned vegetables, sweet potato, and black trumpets, and simmer until fork-tender, about 25 minutes. Drain the chickpeas and add along with the raisins and simmer 10 minutes to allow the flavors to develop.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and allow the dough to sit at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes. Place 1 cup filling in each of ten (8- to 10-ounce) individual baking dishes or ramekins. Divide the dough into ten (1 1⁄2-ounce) balls. Roll out each dough ball to 1⁄4 inch thick and cut with a 4-inch biscuit cutter. Lay the pastry rounds over the top of the filling, tucking the ends into the baking dish. Whisk the egg and milk together in a small bowl and brush the top of the dough with the mixture.

Score the crust with three slashes and place the baking dishes on a baking sheet. Slide into the oven and bake until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbly, about 20 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes and serve.

]]> 0 Tue, 10 Jan 2017 18:30:17 +0000
Bread and Butter: Bakery has been open just 2 days, so, of course, the power goes out Wed, 11 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re sorry to say we profited by chef Krista Kern Desjarlais’ misfortune. Her new restaurant, The Purple House in North Yarmouth, which opened on Dec. 28, lost power soon after. Not good. We asked her to write about the experience. Since writing this column, Desjarlais tells us that though she increased her bagel production by 50 bagels per day this past weekend, she still sold out by 9 a.m. Saturday and 9:40 a.m. on Sunday, so she’s planning to go up again. Desjarlais also owns the seasonal Bresca & the Honey Bee in New Gloucester. Bread & Butter is an occasional chef-written series that runs in Food & Dining.

One step forward, two steps back.

“I can’t believe you’re out of bagels before 10:30 a.m.!!” These are words I never expected to hear on day two, ringing out like a gong and sending waves of anxiety through my body. I smiled – at that customer and everyone else who showed up over the next two hours – as I explained again and again that the 200 bagels we’d made had sold out in just two hours.

As that crazy shift came to a close, I decided we’d close for the next day, Friday, in order to try to catch up. We’d make Friday a prep day, tripling our par for Saturday, restaurantspeak for increasing the number of items to be produced per shift. I vowed to myself that when the weekend came, we would be ready.

What we couldn’t prepare for, it turned out, was Mother Nature’s wrath upon the region on Dec. 29-30. The events that unfolded that night would culminate in multiple trash bins filled with a majority of our prep.


Buzz buzz… buzz buzz… I can see a flash of light from the flip side of my phone while I’m lying in bed. I pick up the phone and stare at the screen. It’s a text from my security company. They’ve detected a power outage at The Purple House as of Friday, 3:18 a.m. I take in the information, then roll over and go back to sleep. The power will come back on soon, I tell myself, so don’t stress out.

When I do get up, the world outside my bedroom window is awash in a frozen, glistening white wave of snow. The storm passed in the night. It’s beautiful, but I don’t let myself linger. I need to get out the door and begin work. I quickly check the Central Maine Power (CMP) website for outage information and learn that all of North Yarmouth is without electricity. I am supposed to meet my staff at 9 a.m. It has now been five hours since that security company text. I’m starting to worry, but I’m determined to get to The Purple House – I live in New Gloucester, exactly 17 minutes’ drive away – and fix any problems as soon as I shovel out my car. All will be well.

I never make it to the bakery, let alone to my driveway. Instead, I lie down on my daughter’s bed (she’s already gone to school) in the warm morning sun, curled up on my side and battling a sinking feeling that on top of the power outage, I am coming down with the dreaded stomach virus that is surging through schools and the neighborhood. I text my staff to delay our prep since we don’t have power. I also delay deliveries. I console myself that the food and doughs will be fine as the coolers run very cold and that without power, the room they are in will stay cold, too. Thankfully, I’ve got power at home, so I linger in my daughter’s ever sunny bed, comfortable and warm, while my health sinks steadily downward – like the temperature at The Purple House.

At noon, I check the CMP website again. Still no power.

Normally, I would make myself get up and drive to the bakery, and I’d push all our fish and meat into the snowbanks, if that’s what it takes. But I can tell that today is not going to be a normal day for me. By 1 p.m., the virus has overtaken me.


Meanwhile – and I know I sound like a broken record – there is still no power at The Purple House. By 3 p.m., I’ve canceled prep day. The power is still out, and the sun is starting to sink on the horizon, dragging temperatures into the teens and soon presenting yet another flurry of things to worry about.

Buzz, buzz… buzz, buzz… Oh god, why is everyone texting me today while all I want to do is lie here and try to survive this virus? It’s Derek, the coffee roaster I work with from Massachusetts. He’s seen my Instagram post from that morning about losing power, and is concerned, very concerned, that the drip coffeemaker tank (price tag: roughly $1,200) will freeze and crack in a frigid, unheated room overnight. He’s worried the espresso machine tank (price tag: roughly $7,500) will suffer the same fate.

I tell him I am too ill to drive. I further tell him that if the power isn’t restored soon, I will find, I will have to find, a way to get to the cafe. Unless I drain the tanks and water lines, I risk facing huge and expensive plumbing and equipment repairs. Derek tells me to hold tight. Maybe it isn’t absolutely necessary yet – I can put it off until later tonight. He rings off. I refresh the CMP website: still no power in North Yarmouth. I sink deeper into my pillow, hoping later doesn’t come too soon.

6 p.m. I’m in full viral meltdown with simultaneous upheaval, a 102 fever and chills and shakes. Thoughts of losing the food and the equipment have melted into a hazy dream that I’ll revisit once I can actually see and think clearly. The phone buzzes – again – and I’m gently reminded by Derek that we are approaching “DEFCON 1” time. To save the equipment I’ll need not only to get out of bed and drive to North Yarmouth but somehow to pull myself together to be a capable plumber. I obsessively check CMP again. No power. It has been 15 hours and even though it’s cold outside, our fish and meat are goners. I am looking at a major loss at this point. (Insurance won’t cover them until I hit my deductible.)

I stay where I am and drag a blanket up over my head.

Time flies when it feels like your guts are spilling out all over the bathroom floor. Not a pretty picture. But by 11:20 p.m., I can finally keep down ginger ale and catch my breath. I refresh CMP, and while The Purple House doesn’t yet have power, a message now appears next to the address. It reads: “11:30 p.m. December 29, power to be restored.” This is clearly the wrong date, but I take it as a good omen and proceed to do the only thing I can manage: I pass out for the night.

When I awake Saturday morning, I am still sick, but the power at The Purple House has been restored. I am exhausted and have a low-grade fever, so I’m not driving anywhere anytime soon. Fortunately, my husband Erik is able to help out today, and he drives over to The Purple House to check on things. The heat is on! So though the food is history, the equipment is saved.


The virus lasts the weekend. By Sunday night, I feel well enough to eat again – also to dread what I will find at the bakery on Monday.

When coolers go down and time has passed, sorting through their contents feels like a forensic exercise. You remove everything, unwrap it and assess. What survived? What did not? Some things are obvious, like wilted herbs or sliced vegetables. Proteins – meat and fish – are too risky to keep. These go straight into the trash, no questions asked. It turns out that the rest, like hard cheeses and such high-acid preparations as pickles and preserved lemons, have survived the outage; luckily, my coolers never warmed up that much, and there are no signs of warmed-then-cooled-again food, which is highly unsafe.

But we have lost daily preparations, like chopped chicken liver, hummus and a few soft cheeses as well as all of our gravlax, smoked salmon, smoked hake and fish roes. My doughs from Thursday are also a loss and must be started all over again. I pause to tend to my sourdough starter, which has sat unhappily for four days waiting to be fed. And I make a list of all we have lost and all we need to prep before we can open later in the week.

Barely a week ago, we opened our doors at Purple House for the very first time. Just like then, we begin anew.


“This kept me alive once I could stomach more than ginger ale,” chef Krista Kern Desjarlais said after suffering a terrible stomach bug. Use all organic ingredients if possible. “You may have survived this terrible stomach virus like I did and now your body and soul are fully cleansed to start the new year, so why ingest a bunch of pesticides?”

Serves 1

2 cups chopped kale

1 cup chopped green cabbage

1 piece apple, quartered, seeds removed

1 piece carrot, chopped

1/2-inch piece ginger root, peeled

1 cup chopped spinach

2 tablespoons maple syrup

Add all the ingredients to the jar of a powerful blender. Pour in ice-cold spring water until it reaches the top of the vegetables and fruit. Blend until the mixture is completely liquified. Do not strain. Drink immediately and feel good about doing something good for your body.

]]> 0 YARMOUTH, ME - DECEMBER 9: Krista Kern is in the process of opening a new cafe, The Purple House. (Photo by Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer)Wed, 11 Jan 2017 10:43:46 +0000
‘Grain Bowls’ offers keys to blending healthful ancient grains into modern diets Wed, 11 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 “Grain Bowls: Bulgur Wheat, Quinoa, Barley, Rice, Spelt and More.” By Anna Shillinglaw Hampton. Photography by Victoria Walls Harris. Hardie Grant Books. Paperback. $19.99.

“Grain Bowls: Bulgur Wheat, Quinoa, Barley, Rice, Spelt and more,” a new cookbook by Anna Shillinglaw Hampton, makes you feel healthy just by reading the recipes. That wholesome, healthful feeling is furthered by the photos that accompany each recipe. Shot by Victoria Wall Harris, the photographs show the separate ingredients on the lefthand side of the page followed by the finished grain bowl on the right.

A grain bowl, Shillinglaw writes, is a convenient way to make ancient grains a part of modern-day diets. By combining whole grains with vegetables, fruit, meat or seafood, and topping the bowls with dressings or sauces, grain bowls can be complete nutritious meals.

The cookbook is divided into four sections: salad grain bowls, vegetarian grain bowls, meaty grain bowls and dressings and toppings. Every recipe serves two and almost all of them give a time of 15 minutes at the top of the page. In a quick glance, the reader might think the grain bowls can be whipped together in 15 minutes. Don’t be fooled. Actually, the recipes all call for cooked ingredients. The 15 minutes time refers to the assembly of those pre-cooked foods.

The front of “Grain Bowls” provides cooking times and tips for the different types of grains. My son Henry chose the Sweet Potato & Black Rice vegetarian bowl for us to try because of its colorful presentation. The rice, sweet potatoes and pickled red onions in the bowl each needs at least 30 minutes to cook, or in the case of the last, to brine. Making the Dijon dressing and slicing red cabbage are additional steps in preparing this meal. Also, heads up: Shillinglaw, who is British, gives the ingredients measurements in grams (with conversions to ounces, not cups, in parentheses). Still, it was worth the time as this grain bowl made for a delicious meal. The crispy red cabbage combined with the nutty black rice, the creamy roasted sweet potatoes and the tangy pickled red onions created a mouthful of distinct yet complementary flavors.

In addition to the nutritional benefits that come with eating more grains, they’re also economical. The variations and combinations for grain bowls seems endless in this collection of recipes; the range of low-cost meals is a bonus.

“Grain Bowls” promotes good quality, healthy food. Bear in mind that the key to using these recipes is advance preparation, but as most cooks know, good food is worth the planning and effort.



I doubled the recipe to make enough dinner for a family of 4.

Serves 2

120 g (4 oz) red cabbage, finely sliced

2-3 tablespoons Dijon Dressing (see recipe)

Pinch of salt

250 g (9 oz) cooked black rice (100 g/ 31/2 oz uncooked)

250 g (9 oz) sweet potatoes, diced and roasted

15 g (1/2 oz) Pickled Red Onions (see recipe)

Freshly ground pepper

Toss the cabbage with 1 tablespoon of the dressing and the salt. Massage the dressing and salt into the cabbage to tenderise. Divide the black rice, sweet potatoes and cabbage evenly between 2 bowls. Top with Pickled Red Onions and drizzle with the remaining dressing. Season with black pepper.


Makes 150 ml (5 fl oz)

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon lemon juice

125 ml (4 fl oz) olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Whisk the honey, mustard and lemon juice together in a bowl until smooth. While whisking, slowly add the oil until the dressing comes together. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


Makes 400 ml (13 fl oz)

230 ml (8 fl oz) apple cider vinegar

2 teaspoons sea salt

1 bay leaf

11/2 tablespoons granulated (raw) sugar

1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 large red onion, finely chopped

Heat the vinegar, salt, bay leaf and sugar in a pan over medium heat, stirring until dissolved. Add the peppercorns. Put the onions in a 400 ml (13 fl oz) jar and pour the hot pickling liquid over the top. Let chill for 30 minutes, then store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

]]> 0 by Victoria Wall Harris/Courtesy of Hardie Grant BooksTue, 10 Jan 2017 21:29:12 +0000
The Maine Ingredient: Shellfish hors d’oeuvres are a snap to make Wed, 11 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 While we’re all still somewhat in the party mood (Twelfth Night gatherings are quite common in Maine), here are a couple of stylish and utterly delicious shellfish hors d’oeuvres that can be assembled ahead and cooked at the last minute.


It’s scallop season, and I think these meaty beauties are an ideal hors d’oeuvre. Their rich taste (and their price) combine to make them a perfect one-bite treat. The scallops I’ve been getting are so large that they can be cut in half before receiving their bacon wrap, but if the ones you get are smaller, just leave them intact.

Makes about 30 pieces

1 pound large sea scallops

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound thin-sliced bacon

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Half a lemon, cut in wedges

1135840_120263 scallop.jpg

Remove side hinge from scallops and cut the scallop in half around circumference. Combine oil, salt and pepper in a bowl. Add scallops, stir to coat, and refrigerate while the bacon cooks.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the bacon in half crosswise, peel slices apart, and arrange in a single layer on 1 or 2 rimmed baking sheets. Bake until the bacon is about three-quarters cooked, 8 to 10 minutes. Pour off rendered fat.

To assemble, wrap each scallop around its circumference with a bacon slice. Secure with a toothpick and arrange on a rimmed baking sheet. (Can be assembled up to 4 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Bake the scallops until the bacon crisps and the scallops are cooked through, 7 to 10 minutes. Arrange on a serving platter and sprinkle with parsley. Squeeze a couple of lemon wedges over the scallops and garnish platter with remaining lemon.


They sometimes call this “barbecue shrimp” in New Orleans, though it never goes near an open fire. Maybe it’s the red-tinted sauce. You can use shrimp in their shells the way they do in the Big Easy, which guests peel and eat by hand (supply lots of napkins!), or use peeled shrimp with tails on or off. Pick up by tails to eat or serve with toothpicks.

Makes 25 to 30 pieces

1/2 cup olive oil

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

11/2 teaspoons crumbled dried rosemary or 1 tablespoon fresh

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 pound large shrimp, 25 to 30 count

Heat the oil in small saucepan or skillet. Add the garlic and rosemary and cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant but not browned. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice, paprika, salt and pepper. (Can be made a day ahead.)

Pour the sauce over shrimp and marinate for 2 to 4 hours. Preheat broiler.

Lift the shrimp out of the sauce and arrange in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Broil about 5 inches from heat source for 2 to 3 minutes, or until cooked through. Meanwhile, bring the remaining sauce to a simmer. Arrange the cooked shrimp on a platter, pour the sauce over, and serve hot or warm.

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 can be contacted via Facebook at:

]]> 0, 10 Jan 2017 17:23:56 +0000
Portsmouth chef fuses ethnic influences with New England cuisine Wed, 11 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 PORTSMOUTH — Whenever people ask Evan Mallett what kind of food he serves at his restaurant, Black Trumpet, he can never give them an easy answer.

The chef’s food is an interesting blend of ethnic influences layered over a backdrop of New England cuisine, and made with as many local ingredients as possible, a reflection of Mallet’s devotion to the farm-to-table creed – a devotion also on display in the restaurant’s farm/garden, his promotion of heirloom seeds and his interest in foraging.

On a recent, chilly winter evening, pots of fish stock, rabbit stock and veal demi-glace simmered on the stovetop in the restaurant’s small kitchen. Mallett cut up a heritage breed New Zealand white rabbit from a Maine farm for his Mountain Paella – chicken mole meatballs, chorizo, rabbit, snails and mushrooms simmered with Spanish rice. Behind him, two cooks shelled peanuts for an experimental dish, Mallet’s take on West African peanut soup, an African-Mexican hybrid containing okra, onions, garlic, Berbere spice mix, chiles, cilantro and Nantucket bay scallops.

Mallett, 48, gathers much of his inspiration not from fancy food in expensive restaurants, or from celebrity chefs, but from other cultures’ food traditions. He is always on the hunt for new flavors.

“The most memorable meals, the ones I can still taste, aren’t ones that had hundreds of ingredients that were touched by 20 different people before they came to my table,” he said. “It was the ones that were made with heart and soul elementally by people who loved what they were doing. I can cite a restaurant I just ate in in Montreal called Foxy, where everything is made with fire, either on a wood grill or in a brick oven, and the food was just perfect. I would take a meal like that any day over one that’s 24 courses of fabulousness that looks great on camera.”

To answer that frequent question – what kind of food do you serve? – Mallett recently published his first cookbook, “Black Trumpet: A Chef’s Journey Through Eight New England Seasons.” Each of the four seasons is divided further into early and late spring, early and late fall, etc. The book targets “the ambitious home cook,” Mallett says, but he tested recipes over more than nine months to make them as accessible as possible. Still, he knows that not everyone will want to shop for and cook with, say, rabbit.

Mallett, a Boston native, also tells his own story in the book, along with sharing profiles of some of his favorite farmers and fishmongers. He regrets that he does not have any kind of “traceable food heritage” or one of those quintessential chef stories about falling in love with food while he was cooking with his grandmother. Though the family couldn’t afford expensive restaurants, his father used to splurge on them occasionally to mark the milestones in Mallett’s life. Those experiences gave him an appreciation for the hospitality industry, he says, “but there was never this epiphany that I really want to be a chef.”


Mallett attended seven different colleges but never got a degree. He was an English major and French minor, then abandoned both to study marine biology. He was living in the Washington, D.C. area in his early 20s when he began working in restaurants to help pay for school. He parked cars and cleared dishes before a chef coaxed him into the kitchen. Mallett got just far enough along to get a taste for the work before he decided to focus on completing his studies.

His interest in marine biology waned, however, as his interest in writing grew. Mallett moved home to Boston and started writing about food. He was a staff writer at Improper Bostonian, and freelanced for several Boston newspapers and magazines. It’s no surprise, then, that “Black Trumpet” is better written than most other cookbooks. Take, for example, Mallett’s description of New Englanders as “hardy as parsnips, our wills stronger than the roots of the sugar maple…”

“My exposure to food increased exponentially with writing about food,” Mallett said. “One of the perks of being a food writer is exposure to so many different styles and influences and ethno-culinary traditions and farms and food sources and things like that. I became really driven by those connections.”

He returned to cooking professionally in 1998, after he and his wife, Denise, shared an unforgettable meal of rabbit and pappardelle at Lindbergh’s Crossing, a bistro and wine bar located in a two-centuries-old ship’s chandlery on the Portsmouth waterfront. The location, 29 Ceres St., was the former home of the legendary Blue Strawbery restaurant. The rabbit and pasta, Mallett recalled, “was breathtaking and soul-warming enough to trigger that desire to return to the kitchen.”

Chef Evan Mallett prepares rabbit for dinner in the kitchen of his Portsmouth, N.H., restaurant, the Black Trumpet. "I'm pretty adamant about sourcing from within New England, and from New Hampshire and Maine whenever possible," he says.

Chef Evan Mallett prepares rabbit for dinner in the kitchen of his Portsmouth, N.H., restaurant, the Black Trumpet. “I’m pretty adamant about sourcing from within New England, and from New Hampshire and Maine whenever possible,” he says. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

The couple was living in Concord at the time and thinking of starting a family. Mallett’s grandfather lived in Portsmouth and was ill. The dinner at Lindbergh’s Crossing helped tip the balance, and they moved to Portsmouth, where Mallett landed a job at Lindbergh’s Crossing. He worked there, and later as sous chef at its sister restaurant, Ciento, until 2001.

That year, a perfect storm hit: Terrorists attacked on Sept. 11, Mallett’s wife lost her job, and Ciento closed. The couple had a newborn daughter to support, so when a job offer in San Miguel de Allende, a city in central Mexico, came along (courtesy of a flamenco guitarist who had played at Ciento), the Malletts jumped at the opportunity. Mallett knew only “eight words of very vulgar kitchen Spanish” when he arrived, but within six months found himself conversant in the language.

They were looking, Mallett explained, for “a decompression, a sabbatical, and it was a perfect escape. I ended up working just as hard there as I have anywhere. … It still, today, informs the way I cook.”

They stayed for nearly two years and still return once a year.

When Mallett’s former employers in Portsmouth invited him to return, he and his wife moved back and bought a home in Berwick, where they still live with their two children, Eleanor, 16, and Cormac, 13. Mallet became executive chef at Lindbergh’s Crossing. Three years later, the owners asked the couple to take over the restaurant. They agreed, and transformed the restaurant, which had served cuisine from the south of France, into the Black Trumpet.

Denise Mallett, while a co-owner, did not work there on a day-to-day basis until the recession hit, and her husband credits her with the restaurant’s survival. (She is now back to her own career, working for a Portland firm that researches socially responsible investing.)


The cozy downstairs dining room at Black Trumpet peers out over the harbor at sidewalk level. Guests can see the riverfront and the Fort Macon tug standing guard – an even better view is available in the upstairs dining room. Downstairs, where the kitchen is located, the long, narrow dining room is filled with small copper-topped tables and huge, dark, wooden beams stretch across the ceiling. The narrow fireplace hasn’t worked since the 1800s, according to a server. Along one old brick wall is a long shelf filled with wine bottles; below them, a line of photographs of fish, seaweed and, of course, black trumpet mushrooms. Shortly before opening for the evening, Mallett brings out a pot of shrimp and meatball gumbo for the staff meal and explains the additions to the night’s menu, which are listed on a chalkboard that sits on the fireplace mantel.

A meze plate holds a trio of tastes, including veal Bordelaise, an achiote-rubbed tenderloin, and a creamy beef empanada. The achiote spice blend is house-made – the Mallets also own a spice store called Stock + Spice next door. The tenderloin is seared rare and served with a dab of crème fraîche. Sampling the plate reveals how the spices build in heat, from left to right. It’s a warm heat that complements the food, never overwhelming.

Among other items on the chalkboard are pork rillettes made with a mulefoot hog’s head from Washington County, Maine. Small plates include local oysters Bienville, and the fish for the evening is local dayboat cusk. The menu includes a wide variety of small and medium plates. Entrees range from $19-$32.


Over the years, Mallett has earned a solid reputation as an advocate for what he calls the “Good Food Revolution” and for using only the freshest, local foods.

“I’m pretty adamant about sourcing from within New England, and from New Hampshire and Maine whenever possible,” he said.

Mallett sits on the boards of Slow Food Seacoast and the Chef’s Collaborative, a national nonprofit network of chefs and food professionals dedicated to food sustainability, access to good food, and building a better food system.

Black Trumpet has its own garden, which began as a raised bed in a community garden on the grounds of Strawbery Banke. Today it’s a three-quarter-acre organic plot at Meadows Mirth Farm in Stratham, 10 to 15 miles from the restaurant. It has spawned another food system-building project called the Heirloom Harvest Project, co-founded with Josh Jennings, the owner of the farm.

“Feeding our guests from our garden is a nice story to tell,” Mallett said, “but a more important story is the food heritage that we are curating and disseminating, literally. The heirloom plant varieties that we grow there are, generally speaking, endangered or approaching extinction.”

Once a year the Heirloom Harvest Project shares heirloom seeds with local farmers, for free, and connects them with chefs. Rare varieties that have been targeted by the project include Roy’s Calais flint corn, Longpie pumpkins and Gilfeather turnips.

Kathy Gunst, a food writer and cookbook author from Berwick, calls Mallet “driven, creative and obsessed with learning about, and supporting, local farmers and the food they grow.”

“He has an almost childlike wonder, in the best way, about the food world around him,” she said.

Gunst occasionally dines at Black Trumpet and has taken part in one of Mallett’s other projects, the annual “Take a Bite Out of Appledore” eco-culinary retreat on Shoals Marine Laboratory at Appledore Island, one of the Isles of Shoals off Portsmouth and Kittery. Mallett co-founded the event, a weekend of foraging, education in ecology, and good food, then later invited his longtime friend and mentor Sam Hayward, co-owner of Portland’s Fore Street and Scales restaurants, to help. (Hayward began his own culinary career on the island in the mid-1970s.)

Guests explore and collect edible plants with biologists, trawl for groundfish in the lab’s research vessel and snorkel in tide pools for intertidal shellfish. Hayward said he and Mallett had only a limited idea what edible plants and marine species would be available when they first arrived on the island, “and yet, somehow, every meal was a buffet of literally dozens of species.”

“Evan embodies much that I wish all food professionals would share,” Hayward said. “He cooks from a deep well of generosity, the basis of hospitality. His curiosity is limitless. He’s one of the few chefs I know who studies the natural history of the creatures and plants we cook and serve. He’s an observant naturalist and a habitual forager. He’s a tireless experimenter. And as a collaborator, he’s incredibly inclusive and open to the suggestions of those working with him.”

Mallett says the opportunity to talk about foraging and ecology with a captive audience was “a once-in-a-lifetime possibility” that he couldn’t pass up. “I am exponentially more educated by that experience than I am an educator.”

“The most surprising thing that’s happened is learning about the adaptability of species to adverse conditions because the Isles of Shoals sees that more than most places in our region,” he said. “The harshest storms, the most severe droughts. This last year, there was a species of plant that flourished because of the drought that would normally have been dormant.”

He used that plant, red goosefoot, to make a salad that was “a better salad than any spinach has ever made.”

Consider it one more lesson learned about an ingredient that grows in New England – an ingredient that, when it makes its way into Mallett’s kitchen, will likely find itself enhanced by flavors from another land.

]]> 0 Mallett at Black Trumpet restaurant in Portsmouth, N.H., and his eponymous cookbook (below), which was published last year.Tue, 10 Jan 2017 23:07:40 +0000
Recipe for beer-infused Super Bowl sliders one for the win column Wed, 11 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Big provisions are required to watch the big game, and nothing’s more substantial than a burger, even in its mini-form – the slider.

Indeed, if you plan to serve a variety of dishes for the Super Bowl, sliders are more sensible than the full-sized guys. But they happen to be a little trickier to cook than a standard-issue burger. The slider’s size makes it tough to put a nice crust on the outside while ensuring that it doesn’t overcook on the inside.

These sliders are adapted from a burger I used to make at a bar in Ann Arbor, Michigan, called the Del Rio – my first job as a cook. Dubbed the Det Burger, this marvel was dreamed up before I landed at the Del Rio by a cook named Bob Detweiler, who christened the creation after himself. The heart of the original version was a quarter-pounder topped by “the Det mix” – canned mushrooms, canned olives, grilled onions, freeze-dried green peppers and slices of cheese.

But there also was a secret ingredient: beer. The Det Burger was steamed in beer. If it wasn’t quite “the burger that made Ann Arbor famous,” it was undeniably a city-wide favorite.

A generation later, I assembled the same winning combo of ingredients – though in a fresher form – and then focused on the cooking process to make sure that these mini-burgers ended up both juicy and crusty. There are a few key points to preparing Beer-Steamed Cheese and Mushroom Beef Sliders.

First, the sliders need to be about 3/4 inch thick, not only so they don’t overcook, but also so you can fit all of them at one time into the skillet. Second, the skillet needs to be large, a 12-incher. If you don’t have a skillet that big, use two smaller ones and cook six sliders in each. And third, whichever skillet you use, the oil must be heated until it’s almost smoking. At the start, you want the burgers to sear, not steam, which is what will happen if the pan isn’t hot enough.

At first, the sliders will be crowded together in the skillet, but they’ll shrink down as they cook, giving off fat and juices in the process. You deglaze the pan with beer, of course, which mingles intimately with the fat and juices released by the burgers to create a delectable pan sauce.

I recommend spooning some of this liquid onto the buns before sliding in the burgers, but my son proposes a more extravagant way to roll: Pour the sauce into ramekins and invite your guests to dunk their sliders into it between bites. Whatever happens onscreen, you’ll be winning at home.


Start to finish: 50 minutes

Makes 12 sliders

3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion

3 ounces mushrooms (white, cremini or shiitake), finely chopped

Kosher salt

2 tablespoons finely chopped pitted green olives

2 tablespoons finely chopped, drained, canned green chilies

3 ounces sliced sharp cheddar cheese, broken into 12 equal pieces

11/2 pounds ground beef, shaped into 12 sliders, each about 3/4 inch thick

Ground black pepper

1/3 cup beer

12 slider buns

In a large (at least 12-inch) skillet over medium, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the onion and cook until golden, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the onion to a bowl. Add another tablespoon of the oil to the pan, the mushrooms and a hefty pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid the mushrooms give off has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to the bowl with the onion. Reserve the skillet.

Add the olives and chilies to the mushroom mixture and stir well. Set aside.

Return the skillet to high heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil and wait until it is almost smoking. Meanwhile, season the sliders on one side with salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, add the sliders, seasoned side down (it will be a little crowded in the pan), and cook them until they are just browned on the first side, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle the top side of each with salt and pepper, turn the sliders over and cook for another 2 minutes.

While the sliders are browning, top each slider with a heaping teaspoon of the mushroom mixture, dividing all of the mixture among the sliders, then place a piece of cheese on top of each. Quickly pour the beer into the pan, all around the sliders, cover the pan and steam for 2 minutes.

Turn off the heat and let the sliders sit in the pan for another minute to let the cheese melt completely. Spoon some of the liquid in the skillet onto the tops and bottoms of the buns, transfer the sliders to the buns and serve right away.

Sara Moulton is host of public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals.” Her latest cookbook is “Home Cooking 101.”

]]> 0 Cheese and Mushroom Beef Sliders.Tue, 10 Jan 2017 19:05:51 +0000
Sheet-pan salmon supper keeps diet resolution afloat Wed, 11 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 So let’s get right down to it: If healthy eating is complicated and time-consuming, we will lose interest before Valentine’s Day has arrived. That’s why sheet-pan salmon suppers are so terrific – they take minutes to make, and yet the healthy fats in salmon are filling. Today’s recipe features salmon alongside super-quick-cooking asparagus, which tastes sweet and less grassy when roasted. This incredibly simple recipe will keep the 2017 healthy menu rotation on track.

Sheet-pan suppers are perfectly quick for weeknight eating, and versatile enough that you can swap out ingredients to match your tastes and your fridge. Don’t have salmon? Use sea bass or cod, no problem. Just pay attention to the cook times, particularly as you swap out veggies – you may need to pre-cook hardier vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower. (Tip: You can do a quick microwave steam to par-cook slower-cooking ingredients like potatoes before placing them on the sheet-pan.) You can even use frozen fish fillets for this recipe if you add a little cooking time (use an instant meat thermometer to check for doneness).

Since my daughter is gluten-sensitive, I use almond flour for a bit of bread-less breaded texture on top of the salmon, but feel free to use crunchy panko breadcrumbs if you prefer. Herbes de Provence is my go-to dried herb blend, and it can be found now in most well-stocked grocery stores, and is a worthy little splurge. Otherwise, use a mix of dried oregano, marjoram and thyme and the results will still be delicious.

A final weeknight strategy: you can prep this whole dinner ahead of time on your sheet tray and stick it in the fridge. Then, when you get home, pop the whole thing into the oven for a dinner that is even faster than microwaving a frozen lasagna. You’ll save both time and calories, and who couldn’t use that in 2017?


Servings: 4

4 fillets salmon, skin removed, about 5 ounces each

1/3 cup almond flour or almond meal (can substitute panko bread crumbs)

11/2 teaspoons dried herbes de Provence (or dried oregano or thyme)

1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 bunch of asparagus, cleaned and trimmed, about 1 pound

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt, divided

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Lemon wedges for serving

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Pat the salmon dry gently with a paper towel.

On a small plate, mix the almond flour, herbs, garlic, lemon zest, half the salt, and pepper with a fork until well-blended. Sprinkle or brush the lemon juice even on top of the salmon fillets. Dip the top of the salmon fillets into the almond flour crumbs, gently pressing them into the top of the fillets, evenly dividing the almond flour and herb mixture among the fillets. Place the fillets on the sheet pan. Toss the asparagus with the olive oil and remaining salt. Place around the salmon fillets. Cook until salmon reaches 135 internal temperature and asparagus is tender, about 15 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.

Food Network star Melissa d’Arabian is is the author of the cookbook “Supermarket Healthy.”

]]> 0 sheet-pan supper of salmon and asparagus.Tue, 10 Jan 2017 17:58:58 +0000
‘So bovine’: Maine singer-songwriter Denny Breau’s pot roast strikes a chord Wed, 04 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 ‘I brought the whole cow,” Maine singer-songwriter Denny Breau says with a big laugh. He wolf-whistles behind my kitchen counter as he unwraps a bloody and impressive 5-pound hunk of beef.

It’s mid-December, and I’ve invited Breau over to cook me a pot roast, an invitation sparked by a happy chance encounter with his charming, bluesy tune, “Pot Roast.” I’ve also assembled a last-minute gathering for later in the day, since the song extols the virtues of feeding the dish to company:

“Pot roast for all your guests.

Pot roast, why not feed them the best?

Pot roast, and I’m feeling blessed

‘Cause if you think you are through I could finish the rest

Of your pot roast.”

We have filled out the menu under Breau’s direction with mashed potatoes (with sour cream and butter), string beans (plain) and coleslaw. “That’s my traditional pot roast meal,” he says, adding about the last, “There’s just something about mayonnaise that goes with everything.”

Pot roast is more than a meal to Breau, whose family is Maine music royalty – his parents were country music singers who recorded for RCA Victor, his late brother Lenny, a renowned jazz guitarist; Denny himself started performing in his teens and was inducted into the Maine Country Music Hall of Fame in 2004. Pot roast is memory and nostalgia, too.

We have just one hour to get the roast into the oven. The roast will take three hours to cook, more or less, and dinner – or maybe dunch, since we’ll be eating at the unconventional hour of 3:30 p.m. – cannot be late because Breau has his own engagement that evening. He is singing a Christmas concert at One Longfellow Square in Portland with fellow musicians Dave Rowe and Phil House.

Guests are coming. There’s a lot of food to make, music to discuss, dishes to wash and a table to set. I am anxious. “Stress!” I text my boss.

Not Breau.

He arrives before I return from grocery shopping – we divvied up the list beforehand. I grab a shovel and attempt to de-ice the front steps ahead of him. He deposits the roast, also a bottle of Kitchen Bouquet, a packet of Lipton Onion Soup and a partly consumed cup of McDonald’s coffee in my kitchen, then he comes outside to shovel my stairs and walkway. I like him already.

Side dishes included mashed potatoes, green beans, cole slaw and, of course, mushroom gravy.

Side dishes included mashed potatoes, green beans, cole slaw and, of course, mushroom gravy. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer


At 11 a.m. Breau is unwrapping the meat, competently chopping onions and garlic into big chunks and unscrewing a bottle of cheap supermarket red. (“You don’t need to go nuts about the wine because it’s just going to go into the gravy,” he’d instructed me.)

Precisely 22 minutes later, about the length of time it would take him to run through “Pot Roast” four times, the roast is in the oven.

The house smells fantastic; it will smell exponentially better as the afternoon goes on.

“It’s pretty easy,” he says. “It’s not rocket science by a long shot.”

The recipe is in Breau’s head. He eyeballs the amounts, measuring nothing.

“This much of that and that much of this,” he says. Come winter, he makes pot roast every two to three weeks – “it’s in the rotation” – though these days his wife and daughter are on special diets, so cooking for the family is a challenge.

Breau has been making pot roast since he was in his 20s, and at 64 years old, he’s had plenty of time to practice. It started out as his mother’s recipe, but early on he modified it to suit himself.

“My mom would never do it with Lipton Onion Soup or wine,” he says. “She always just did it very straight with water and onions. Bland. Bland. I like things that pop, and it’s pretty hard to get a pot roast to pop. It’s the gravy that pops. Put that on the meat? Mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm.”

Did I mention that he will be making mushroom gravy this afternoon?

Breau’s mother died 2½ years ago at age 92, and whatever one might say about her cooking – and Breau has plenty good to say about it, too – no one could knock her singing: Breau, who grew up in Auburn, is the son of country music singer Betty Cody, whose song “I Found Out More Than You Ever Knew,” reached No. 10 on the Billboard country chart in 1953, the year after Breau was born. His father is Harold Breau, a guitarist and vocalist who toured with his wife as Hal Lone Pine.

If Breau found his mom’s pot roast bland, his mother – whose recipe for tourtiere Breau makes to this day – had nothing but good to say about his.

“She loved it. There isn’t anybody that doesn’t. I’ve never had anybody say, ‘This sucks!’ ” Breau says. “She loves the song, too. She was my biggest supporter for sure.”

From left, Press Herald copy editor Charmaine Daniels, Food and Source Editor Peggy Grodinsky, Dave Rowe, Stacey Guth and Gillian Britt gathered to try Denny Breau's pot roast.

From left, Press Herald copy editor Charmaine Daniels, Food and Source Editor Peggy Grodinsky, Dave Rowe, Stacey Guth and Gillian Britt gathered to try Denny Breau’s pot roast. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer


Like the recipe, the song evolved. It started out some 10 years ago as a song about “being roasted on pot,” Breau says a little sheepishly, “and then it migrated into what you are hearing.”

A pretty big shift.

“That is a big transition,” he agrees. “I was just going with the flow, with what was happening that day. … But it didn’t get past maybe two or three lines before it turned into the pot roast song.”

In answer to my next question, he says, no, he was not making pot roast when he dreamed up the song. He wasn’t cooking anything. “I was just sitting at the camp (in Peru), looking out at the lake and these lyrics started falling in.”

“Most of my good songs are very spontaneous and spill right out,” he says, then apologizes for sounding boastful. “Pot roast fell right out.”

You can hear that in the song. It’s playful, funny and easygoing, like Breau himself, at least in our short acquaintanceship. My favorite lyric – “so bovine” – turns out to be his, too. It’s what gets the song going, he says, reciting “So bovine. Dinner on a dime. Favorite wine. It lends itself to words that would rhyme that would make sense for the chorus.”

He says he borrowed “bovine” from a Cormac McCarthy song, which he proceeds to sing. ” ‘Cows. Got big brown eyes. Cows. Got tasty thighs. Cows.’ I think he says ‘bovine’ in there somewhere.”

The song “Pot Roast” mostly, but not entirely, mirrors what happens in Breau’s kitchen when he cooks one. It diverges in two respects. First, the song goes like this:

“Keep your turkey.

You can keep your hams.

Cranberry stuffing, candied yams.

For when that next holiday comes rolling around,

For me, baby, it all comes down to pot roast.”

But Breau says he doesn’t actually eat pot roast over the holidays. His family’s Christmas meals are more traditional. “The meat pies (tourtiere). The spiral ham.”

“I wouldn’t be offended to eat a pot roast for Christmas by any stretch,” he adds.

Then there’s the matter of the Crockpot. The lyric says, “We all love the kids and the wife, but it’s that Crockpot that’s calling me home tonight.”

In fact, Breau makes pot roast in a Dutch oven, getting it started on the stovetop with a good hot sear, finishing up in the oven with a long, slow braise.

“I hardly ever use it, but I own one,” Breau says of the Crockpot. “Once in a while we’ll bust it out to cook something or other.”

With the song, he took a little poetic license. “I couldn’t say it’s the oven calling me home tonight,” he says. “Or the Dutch oven. It doesn’t have the same …” He stops mid-sentence. Crockpot, he goes on, “is much more poetic. It rolls off the tongue much more. It just sounds better.”

Breau is not a prolific songwriter. He thinks he’s written 150 to 200 songs, all told. “Most songwriters have thousands,” he says. “Some guys can go to Nashville, and they can pump out song after song after song all day long. With me, it’s maybe one or two or three a year pop out. And that’s it. And if I force it, it doesn’t sound good.”

He amends himself. “It may sound good, but it’s not pleasing to my sense of ‘What are you trying to say? What are you trying to convey?’ ”

Does he plan to write another food song?

“No. This is the only one. This is the only one!” Breau repeats himself and laughs. Laughs long and loudly. “Isn’t that enough?!”

His more recent songs are more reflective, he says, and if he’s learned one thing over decades of songwriting, it’s that simplicity works best.

“Don’t make the lyrics too thought-provoking,” he cautions. “Don’t make the chords so hard that nobody can play them or hear what’s going on. Just say what you got to say.”

The same line of thinking applies to what he likes to cook and eat. Breau describes himself as a “comfort-food kind of guy.” He likes shepherd’s pie, hamburg pie, hot dogs, fried haddock, fried scallops, a baked dish he ran into once in Vinalhaven called red top that involves layers of mashed potatoes, ground meat and corn, all topped off with a can of Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup.

“The meals that make me the happiest are the meals that my mom used to make me when I was a kid,” he says. “For instance, when I make American chop suey, let’s say. It brings me back to a wintry day when I’m 8 or 9 years old. The wind is howling, and we’re out sliding, having a ball. Just not a care in the world. You walk into the house and the smell of that cooking is like ‘Oh man!’

“Now when I prepare those kinds of dishes, those memories all flood back. Just like when you hear a certain song.”

Denny Breu's finished pot roast on a platter, awaiting a hungry diner.

Denny Breu’s finished pot roast on a platter, awaiting a hungry diner. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer


The pot roast is coming along nicely, but the clock is ticking. Breau flips the roast, and returns it to the oven. While it finishes up, he puts together the cole slaw and the mashed potatoes.

He is in an unfamiliar kitchen, but that doesn’t faze him. He pauses to make goo-goo eyes at my cat, who is sitting on top of the refrigerator watching the proceedings with interest. He snacks on the cabbage hearts and insists I try one, too. “The best part of the cabbage,” he says. I wonder if he likes the crunch, which has a fine musical sound.

The guests trickle in – musician Dave Rowe and his girlfriend and “social media guru” Stacey Guth, Portland-area publicist Gillian Britt and Portland Press Herald copy editor Charmaine Daniels. Breau is an acquaintance of a few hours; Rowe and Guth are strangers to me. Britt and Daniels know only me.

We’re a motley crew, united solely by the fact that our schedules allow us to dine in the warm belly of a winter’s Tuesday afternoon.

By meal’s end, we are also united by pot roast. “So sublime,” according to the song. Not only that, it has the power to pry open belt buckles, loosen tongues and warm hearts.

The conversation meanders from Donald Trump to the history of spiced meat to an electronic keyboard that shut itself off to great hilarity in the middle of a recent performance.

Breau and Rowe – another avid cook – tell us how they used to trade recipes when driving from gig to gig on tour. Rowe theorizes that all chefs are frustrated musicians and all musicians are frustrated chefs.

There is a lot of pot roast – this particular rendition has soared to “the top of the pot roast charts,” Daniels declares – and a lot of laughter. We’re not friends yet, but we think we could be.

Daniels starts talking about the tourtiere she noticed recently at the concession stand at the Franco Center in Lewiston. Have you tasted tourtiere, asks Rowe, who grew up in Auburn. “It’s the most delicious thing ever.”

“Really?” Daniels says.

“For me it is,” Rowe says.

“Except,” Breau says definitively, “for pot roast.”


Breau doesn’t follow a recipe. It’s all in his head, so, like his cooking, this recipe is relaxed and casual, the measurements a bit of a guess. Adjust it depending on the size of your pot roast. We made a 5-pound roast for 6 people and had plenty of leftovers.

1 to 2 yellow onions
2 cloves garlic
10 ounces white button mushrooms
5-pound chuck roast
Generous handful flour
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
1 quart beef broth
3/4 to 1 cup cheap red wine
1 envelope Lipton Onion Soup
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Kitchen Bouquet

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Chop the onions and the garlic roughly. No need to be fussy because “after 3 hours at 350, they are pretty much history,” Denny Breau said. “You can cut them anyway you want.” Slice the mushrooms thickly and set all the vegetables aside.
Shake the pot roast in a bag with flour.

Heat the olive oil and the butter in a Dutch oven. When it’s very hot and the butter is melted, add the roast and sear it on all sides. Getting a good sear is key to a good pot roast, Breau said.

Pour in the beef broth – Breau likes no-salt, no-fat broth – and the red wine. Stir in the soup mix, and grind in black pepper. “Lots of pepper,” Breau said. “We add copious amounts of pepper. You just can’t get enough pepper.” Add the apple cider vinegar, a natural meat tenderizer, Breau said.

Place the onions and garlic on top of the meat, so their juices run down the meat as it cooks.

Once the liquid in the pot boils, cover the pot and put it in the oven. Cook about 11/2 hours, then flip the meat and stir the onions that were sitting on top of it into the liquid. Cook another 11/2 hours or so, adding the mushrooms about 30 to 45 minutes before you are done, “depending on how al dente you want them.”

When the meat is done, move the pot roast to a platter to rest with a little tin foil over it to keep it warm.
Start on the gravy. If the meat juices are greasy, defat them. Next, stir up the stuff at the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon.

“What people don’t do when they make pot roast is they don’t scrape the sides when they are done to get all of that crunchy stuff into that juice,” Breau says, vigorously scraping the bottom and sides of the Dutch oven. “That’s where all the flavor is.”

Amp up the color of the gravy with “just a touch” of Kitchen Bouquet. “Some people use a little bit of coffee to do that,” Breau said.

Now make a slurry from the cornstarch and a little water. It should be thick, but not so thick it would hold a spoon upright.

Add the slurry to the meat juices. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring all the while, then immediately drop the heat to medium and cook a few minutes until the gravy thickens. After the pot roast has had a chance to rest, slice it and serve with the mushroom gravy.

LEFTOVERS? Lucky you. Here are two ways to use them. Breau combines the leftover mashed potatoes, gravy and a bit of chopped meat for a hash. He forms the mixture into patties, crisps them up in a frying pan, and serves an egg on the side. “Yum. Yum. Yum,” he said.

Or, as Breau sings in “Pot Roast”: “And if you’ve got anything left, you make a fricassee.” Which is pretty much what musician Dave Rowe suggested: Cook up carrots, parsnips, turnips, potatoes and pearl onions and add the vegetables to the leftover gravy. Thin the mixture with Guinness beer and add cut-up leftover pot roast. “You get a second dinner,” Rowe said. “That’s a stew waiting to happen.”


]]> 0 Denny Breau talks with guests eating a meal of pot roast with gravy and mashed potatoes he cooked at the home of Food Editor Peggy Grodinsky in Portland. Breau's song "Pot Roast" pays tribute to a dish that inspires happy memories for him.Mon, 09 Jan 2017 14:50:34 +0000
‘Power Greens Cookbook’ offers no-nonsense approach to cooking with greens Wed, 04 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 “The Power Greens Cookbook: 140 Delicious Superfood Recipes.” By Dana Jacobi. Ballantine Books, New York. $22.

Here’s a dead obvious way to kick- start your New Year’s resolutions, even if you don’t want to diet: Eat more greens.

Dana Jacobi is here to help you out, with “The Power Greens Cookbook.” It’s a no-nonsense, fresh take on the many, many non-shake ways to eat your greens.

I loved that the book started out with a “Let’s be real” section on how these greens can be bitter, tough, take time to prepare and tricky to cook. Jacobi walks through specific strategies to reduce bitterness and preserve texture – like short-cooking the greens in a small amount of boiling water and then chilling them quickly under cold running water.

In another section, she focuses on 15 power greens, from arugula to watercress, and gives a tutorial on what each is, what to look for when buying it, how to store it, techniques for washing, prepping and cooking it, and a “top five” ways to use it. This section alone is worth buying the whole cookbook for me, since I frequently stand in my grocery store contemplating the exotic, only to grab the bok choy – again – and some broccoli. Maybe some kale or spinach to throw in a blender.

No more. I’m stuffing the pork loin with broccoli rabe and steaming salmon in a cabbage leaf.

The recipes are divided into courses, but I found what was listed as a main dish could easily be a side, and vice versa.

The “serves 4” kale salad I made got wiped out by two people, but one was a growing 12-year-old, so take that into account. The dishes are not elaborate, which I liked, and the kale salad worked with a mix of tender greens with the counterpoint of crunchy pine nuts and sweet raisins.

So here’s my resolution: 2017 will be the year of the greens in my house. – NOEL GALLAGHER

1132462_639835 kalesalad.jpg


Serves 4

Vegan and gluten-free

½ cup golden raisins

2 bunches Tuscan kale (8 to 10 ounces each), center veins and stems removed

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 small red onion, chopped (½ cup)

2 to 4 anchovy fillets, optional

¼ cup pine nuts

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons dried currants

1. In a bowl, soak the raisins in ¼ cup hot tap water until soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.

2. In a covered, large saucepan, boil 8 cups of water over high heat. Add the kale, pushing it into the water with a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat to medium-high and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the kale is tender to your taste. Drain the kale in a colander, then run cold water over it while swishing with your hand until it feels cool, 30 seconds. Gather the kale and squeeze it to remove excess water. Coarsely chop the kale and pull it apart; there will be about 4 cups.

3. In a deep medium skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Cook the onion, stirring occasionally, until it is golden, 6 minutes. Mash in the anchovies, if using. Stir in the kale until it looks shiny. Add the raisins, pine nuts and 1¼ cups water. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until most of the water has evaporated and the kale is very tender, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the kale to a serving bowl. Sprinkle on the currants, and serve. Leftovers keep tightly covered in the refrigerator for 3 days.

Cook’s tip: For broccoli rabe, use 1 large bunch (1½ pounds) Short-cook for 4 minutes before braising. Spinach and chard do not need short-cooking.

]]> 0, 04 Jan 2017 08:21:13 +0000
Bread and Butter: First-day jitters as The Purple House cafe opens in North Yarmouth Wed, 04 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of two columns from chef Krista Kern Desjarlais, owner of Bresca & the Honey Bee in New Gloucester and The Purple House in North Yarmouth, which opened Dec. 28. Bread and Butter is an occasional chef-written series we publish in Food & Dining.

I wake at 4:30 a.m. and silently glide through my chilly house, not even pausing to slide up the shade as the impending dawn has yet to raise an eyelid in this wee hour of morning. My dog, who normally follows me out of bed, has thought better of it today. She wags her tail briefly, then falls back to sleep with a soft huff. My two cats lie curled up in a chair in my office, merely perking up their ears as I pass through on the way to the kitchen.

As usual, I cannot force myself to sit down, so I eat my breakfast while standing in front of my kitchen sink. Unusually, I have to force myself to eat at all – a bowl of granola and some juice.

I am readying myself for what will be the first day that my new restaurant, The Purple House, will be open to the public.

A baker’s life can be a lonely one. Bakers push against normal sleep patterns and often work alone and in silence in the hours before dawn. But it is a life that suits me, apparently, as I have come in and out of it over my long career. Like all things in our lives, baking has a rhythm. Once you find it, that rhythm can lead you into a beautiful discourse with the doughs and the oven. You can find yourself working seamlessly and producing mass volumes as a sole engineer. Today, though, as I ready the bakery for its first day, I struggle to find that rhythm.

Opening time is 7 a.m. It’s 6 a.m. now. The fire is lit and the doughs are resting. This morning I will need to finalize the savory side of the kitchen, too, not something I’ll have to do at this hour once the restaurant gets going, and also start rounds of pastries I hope to serve later in the day. Under normal circumstances, this is not a daunting task, but my nerves are on edge. And, of course, that’s when mistakes happen – like overboiling (and ruining) a batch of bagels so I need to throw them out, or knocking over my spoon bain marie (a small container that holds my sauce spoons and a bit of water), thus covering my prep sheets with a gloss of cold water and turning the fresh ink of my “to do’s” into a stream of useless, blurry black lines.

6:30 a.m. and Sean, my barista, has arrived and started the coffee, filling the air with the smell of morning. Tom and Jason soon follow. They will work the savory station and build the orders for bagel sandwiches, salads and pizza as we move through the day toward lunch.

The young men are calm and prepare their stations with ease, but I can’t shake my first-day jitters. To make things worse, the fire is lagging today, and the temperature is not yet quite up to 550 degrees, where it needs to be to create the thin crust and oven spring for the bagels.

I should have been in earlier to account for this, but waking at 4:30 a.m. was early enough for my body and brain. Any earlier, and I’d be reliving my days as the sole baker at the Sonesta Hotel in Portland, formerly the Eastland and now the Westin.

In those months, I had to arrive at work at 3:30 a.m., which meant waking at 2:30 a.m., getting dressed and running from my apartment on Park Street to the hotel to prepare and bake off all the pastries and breads for the entire hotel as well as any scheduled banquets. I was tired all the time. Really, really tired.

Krista Kern Desjarlais sweeps the steps at her new cafe, The Purple House in North Yarmouth.

Krista Kern Desjarlais sweeps the steps at her new cafe, The Purple House in North Yarmouth. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

7 a.m. is fast approaching. This is it. The beginning. And I don’t have any baked goods ready!

At 7:10 a.m., I can see the handle turn and the door open. We say hello to our very first customer, an older gentleman who is bundled up against the freezing morning air. He enters quickly, smiles and asks for a menu and coffee. Sean obliges with a smile of his own, hands the man a fresh cup of drip coffee and begins the conversation of what we have to offer – later today.

There will be bagels; house-smoked and -cured fish; many spreads, toppings and finishes; pastries that will be displayed beside the cash register; and all sorts of items planned for lunch.

Baking has a rhythm, Krista Kern Desjarlais says, and once you find that rhythm, you can strike up a great partnership with dough and the oven.

Baking has a rhythm, Krista Kern Desjarlais says, and once you find that rhythm, you can strike up a great partnership with dough and the oven. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

The gentleman smiles and says he’ll be back for a bagel. The clock is moving quickly now, and a few other people have noticed cars in our parking lot and are stopping in for coffee. Some of them wait until the bagels finally emerge from the oven, around 8 a.m.

Customer No. 1, the bundled-up gentleman, returns as promised and orders a traditional bagel sandwich with smoked salmon, cream cheese, tomato, onion, dill and capers, to go. Tom prepares this quickly, as Jason and I tend to more bagels that are baking in the oven. Before I can even turn my head to say thank you and goodbye, he is heading out the door. As he leaves, another new face slips in.

The sun has started to rise in earnest as I greet a few more customers and thank them for their well wishes. Its warm glow mimics that of the flames in the oven. And just like that, after many months of hard work and preparation, The Purple House is open. Day one is underway, full of hope and my quest to find my baker’s circadian rhythm, which beats against the 9 to 5 workday norm.


Recipe courtesy of chef/owner Krista Kern Desjarlais.

4 cups rolled oats

2 cups sliced almonds

1/2 cup flax seeds

1/4 cup chia seeds

1/4 cup hemp seeds

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

1/4 cup sesame seeds

1 cup coconut flakes

All organic if possible! Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper, grease the paper and set aside. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Then combine the following:

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup maple syrup

1 oz water

1/4 cup coconut sugar or brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Pour the combined wet ingredients over the combined dry ingredients and toss everything together to coat the oats mixture.

Spread the granola on the sheet pan. Bake, stirring often until evenly golden, for 25 to 30 minutes.

Remove and cool. Store in an airtight container.

Serve with milk of choice or over local yogurt or just toss in your mouth and enjoy!

Optional ingredient: 1 tablespoon instant ground espresso (Medaglio d’Oro brand) added to granola as it comes out of oven before it cools. Just sprinkle on and stir to combine evenly.

I don’t drink coffee anymore, but while I’m adjusting my internal clock to my new baking schedule I’ve been tempted to toss a spoon full of instant espresso in the milk I pour over my granola. Whatever works, right?

]]> 0 Kern Desjarlais sweeps the steps at her new cafe, The Purple House in North Yarmouth.Wed, 04 Jan 2017 08:51:41 +0000
If eggs are coddled, they’ll be good with everything Wed, 04 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Like kale and quinoa, kimchi and anything charred, the egg is having its moment. The hashtag #putaneggonit turns up close to 60,000 times on Instagram.

Put an egg on a salad of bitter greens, some hash, Brussels sprouts, toast, rice, ramen or a ragout, and that dish’s appeal goes up. Way up. Eggs have a knack for making just about anything look farm-to-table: A runny yolk is a shortcut to rusticity and charm.

But the egg can also be refined and ready to take its place next to a flute of champagne, which is where these coddled eggs were when we celebrated New Year’s Eve in Paris.

When you buy eggs at a Parisian cheese shop, they are never refrigerated (once refrigerated, they’re “dead,” says our French cheesemonger), are most often “bio” or organic, and are labeled with either their “fresh-until” date or, my favorite, their “extra-fresh-until” date.

Extra-fresh eggs are the ones you get if you want to eat them raw. I know, because I was once ready to buy them when the cheesemonger asked what I was going to use them for. Hearing that I was provisioning for cake baking, he took the eggs out of my hands and told me to save my money, because “extras” cost a little more.

When I make these coddled eggs in Paris, I spring for extra- fresh eggs; when I make them in America, I buy organic eggs.

In both places, lightly cooked, or coddled, eggs are voluptuous, even if they take only 15 minutes to get on the table.

This version of coddled eggs is a little ritzier than the ones I’d make for an everyday meal. They’ve got sauteed mushrooms and herbs forming a cushion on the bottom of the coddling cup. Whether you put more mushrooms on top of the eggs before you sashay into the dining room is up to you. (I always do.)

What makes coddled eggs so luscious – and as right for breakfast as for the start of a fancy-pants dinner – is their consistency: The whites are just set, and the yolks run the instant the tip of a spoon touches them.

That they welcome other ingredients and flavors just adds to their allure.

I love mushrooms and eggs, but eggs go with just about anything, from truffles, caviar and smoked salmon (maybe even all together) to roasted peppers (think Western omelet; also think hot sauce) and soft cheeses.


Use large-size organic and/or local eggs, and bring them to room temperature before you cook them. (The cooking time for the accompanying recipe is based on room-temp eggs.)

 Because you’ll be eating your eggs with a spoon, chop the mushrooms (or whatever else you choose to go under the eggs) into small pieces.

There are cups made specifically for coddled eggs (they usually have tight-sealing lids, and the setup is made to go into a water bath), but I prefer to use heatproof ramekins, canning jars or souffle, custard or espresso cups. The best size is 4 to 6 ounces.

 When you spill the egg into the cup, it’s important that the yolk remain intact. To make sure there are no mishaps, crack the egg into a bowl before pouring it into the coddling cup.

 You can assemble everything – mushrooms, egg, spoonful of cream on top – up to the night before. Keep the cups tightly covered in the refrigerator, then bring them to room temperature before coddling.

 The eggs are cooked in a steamer. You can use any steamer with a flat bottom, the straining insert in a pasta pot, or a grill/cooling rack set into a skillet with a lid.

 How quickly the eggs coddle will depend on the cups, how much water you’ve got under them and how much steam is in the pot. I’ve given you a range of 5 to 7 minutes, but check a minute before and don’t be discouraged if your eggs take a minute or so more.

 The eggs are done when the whites are just set and the yolks are still runny. Remember, the eggs will cook a tad more between pot and table (residual heat), so undercooked is better than over-.

 Lightly buttered toast points or batons (“soldiers”) are good for dipping.

Dorie Greenspan's Earthy Coddled Eggs. Like kale and quinoa, kimchi and anything charred, the egg is having its moment.

Dorie Greenspan’s Earthy Coddled Eggs. Like kale and quinoa, kimchi and anything charred, the egg is having its moment. Goran Kosanovic/For The Washington Post


4 servings

You’ll need a steamer basket and individual 4- or 6-ounce ramekins or glass canning jars.

If you plan to double or triple this recipe, use a larger vehicle for steaming.

MAKE AHEAD: You can assemble the eggs (including the cream) and keep them covered overnight in the refrigerator. Bring them to room temperature before cooking.

Fine sea salt

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus more for the ramekins

2 tablespoons minced mixed herbs, such as chives, tarragon, parsley and/or dill

4 ounces cleaned, stemmed and trimmed mushrooms, mixed or all one kind

Freshly ground white pepper

2 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar or dry white wine

4 large organic (and/or local) eggs, at room temperature

4 teaspoons heavy cream

Toast points or batons (“soldiers”), lightly buttered, for serving

Set up a steamer. If you have a Chinese bamboo steamer, that’s great; you can even use a pasta pot that has a pasta-strainer insert. Ideally, you want a steamer with a flat bottom, so that you can rest 4 cups on it. If you don’t have a steamer, you can set a cooling rack in a deep skillet with a lid.

Fill the steamer pot with salted water (leave space between the water and the steaming rack) and heat so the water is barely moving.

Use some butter to grease the insides of four souffle, ramekin, custard or other heatproof cups. The ideal size is 4 ounces (more for looks than anything else), but cups between 4 and 6 ounces will be fine. Lightly sprinkle the inside of the cups with some of the minced herbs.

Coarsely chop the mushrooms, making them the right size to eat from a teaspoon.

Melt the tablespoon of butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Once its bubbling has slowed, add the mushrooms. Season lightly with salt and pepper; cook until the mushrooms are almost tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the vinegar or wine and cook until it evaporates.

Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl and stir in some of the remaining herbs. You want to reserve a few pinches of herbs to top the eggs when they’re cooked.

Divide the mushrooms among the cups. (If you’d like, you can hold back a few mushrooms to top the eggs.) Carefully break 1 egg into each cup, taking care to keep the yolk intact. Season lightly with salt and pepper, then spoon 1 teaspoon of cream over each egg. (Try to leave the yolk exposed, but it’s not necessary. At this point, the cups can be covered and refrigerated up to overnight.)

Place the eggs in the steamer, cover and cook for 5 to 7 minutes. It’s hard to give an exact time, because it will depend on how much steam you have beneath the eggs, the thickness of the cups and the temperature of the eggs. You want the whites to set and the yolks to remain runny, so test with the tip of knife after 5 minutes.

Carefully remove the cups from the steamer; top each egg with herbs and mushrooms, if you’ve saved some. Wipe the bottoms of the cups dry, place them on saucers and serve right away with the toast points or batons.

Nutrition per serving (using white balsamic vinegar, without toast): 120 calories, 7 g protein, 2 g carbohydrates, 10 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 200 mg cholesterol, 340 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugar

]]> 0 Greenspan's Earthy Coddled EggsWed, 04 Jan 2017 08:21:11 +0000
Homemade pretzels are just one of the ways you can recycle pickle brine Sun, 01 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Pickle brine is not an insignificant substance.

According to Pickle Packers International, Inc., a trade association for the pickled vegetable industry, Americans consume more than 2.5 billion pounds of commercial pickles each year. Even before you start counting the ones we pickle at home, we’re still talking about 20 billion pickles annually, folks.

All of which have been sitting in a brine comprising some combination of water, salt, sugar and spices, a mixture most of us don’t think twice about dumping down the drain. Being resolute about using up used pickle brine across your culinary repertoire is a small, but significant, step to take for a greener new year.

Based on the eight jars of pickles in my cupboard, I estimate a quart jar can hold 10 large, 16 medium or 24 small pickles. Once the pickles, regardless of their size, are gone, each of the jars is left with 1¼ to 1½ cups of what you can now think of as liquid flavor.

You can drink it, especially before and after a tough workout, when it can help relieve muscle cramps (thanks to the sodium and vinegar) and help replenish electrolytes, which renders expensive, plastic-bottled, sugary sports drinks unnecessary. Given that it is the day after New Year’s Eve, I can also offer up pickle brine as a hangover cure.

If you are taking it straight up, sipping is the right approach. A big chug might not sit well in your tummy. You could always strain the brine into Popsicle molds and freeze it if you need to further monitor the speed at which you take it in.

Pickling expert Marissa McClellan, who wrote “Food in Jars,” “Preserving by the Pint” and “Naturally Sweet Food in Jars,” says you can use spent pickle brine to make more pickles – but only if you are making a batch of refrigerator pickles. And we’re not just talking about cucumbers; you can quick-pickle sliced red onions, grated carrots, hard-boiled eggs, garlic, artichoke hearts or any other soft vegetables. McClellan warns that once a brine has been processed in either a water bath or a pressure canner and has sat in a jar on the shelf with a batch of pickles submerged in it, the acidity of the brine will not likely be high enough to make a new batch safe to store unrefrigerated.

Cathy Barrow, whose book “Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry” guides cooks through sundry ways of using every bit of the canned goods in your larder deliciously, suggests using pickle juice to brine chicken. A basic brine – essentially a salt-and-water solution with optional flavorings – tenderizes meat and allows it to absorb the flavored liquid. If you want to cut the sourness, add a little brown sugar. If you want only a hint of pickle, cut the brine with an equal amount of water.

You can use pickle brine anywhere you’d use vinegar, such as salad dressings, marinades and barbecue sauces. You can use it – albeit in shorter measure – in a dirty martini instead of olive juice or to tart up a Bloody Mary, swapping out the celery garnish for a pickle spear, of course. And you can use a dash of pickle juice anywhere a heavy or flat-tasting dish need a bit of zip – like when you’re boiling a pot of potatoes, mixing up meatloaf, baking macaroni and cheese, steaming vegetables or making hummus.

The one Internet-fueled idea I found hard to swallow was using pickle juice to make bread. The recipes I read recommended a 1:1 swap with warm water used in standard bread recipes. I wasn’t thrown off by the potential taste – I thought that would be great – but I worried the acid would diminish the bread’s rise. In fact, it doesn’t. My homemade pretzel dough rose to twice its size in the expected 90 minutes. And the finished product was soft, chewy perfection with a pleasing tang that allowed me to forgo my usual mustard on the side.

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


]]> 0, ME - DECEMBER 20: Green Plate Special. What to do with leftover brine in the pickle jar. Make pretzels. )Tue, 03 Jan 2017 09:14:51 +0000
Cookbook review: ‘Beer Bites: Tasty Recipes and Perfect Pairings for Beer Lovers’ Wed, 28 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 “Beer Bites: Tasty Recipes and Perfect Pairings for Beer Lovers.” By Christian DeBenedetti and Andrea Slonecker. Photography by John Lee. Chronicle Books. $24.95.Everyone knows that beer and pizza go together, and it’s great to have a bowl of something salty in front of you when tossing a few back. But after that, commonly known culinary pairings for America’s favorite adult beverage drop off pretty quickly.

The newfound, seemingly insatiable demand for craft beer is changing that. High-end beer dinners and suggestions for food pairings on bottle labels still aren’t as common as with wine, but they aren’t hard to come by either.

It’s no surprise then, there is a steadily expanding catalog of cookbooks focused on connecting the best things to eat with a galaxy of beer styles.

“Beer Bites” is a solid, if slightly intimidating, entry in the category. Recipes lean heavily toward finger foods meant to be shared, broken into six themed chapters like “hoppy and herbal” and “malty rich and sweet.” Each recipe is paired with a specific style of brew and a handful of suggested pairings.

While the book has a few entries that are instantly recognizable – fish and chips, bratwurst, Bavarian soft pretzels – many had me scratching my head wondering where to even buy the ingredients – fried burrata sandwiches with blood-orange tomato soup, for example.

I ended up choosing gougere beef sliders with a dry Irish stout because it seemed to match the bitterly cold near-solstice evening I cooked. The gougeres, tiny cheese puffs made with eggs, butter, milk and gruyere, came out a little flat, but the tiny burgers were delicious nonetheless, especially topped with quick-pickled shallots and mayo. And, unsurprisingly, a Guinness Foreign Export washed them down easily.

The dish was fine, but in the future, I plan to experiment with the book the way the authors suggest – picking a few recipes, grabbing some friends and cracking open some nice bottles or cans to share.


Gougère Beef Sliders


Makes 4 to 6 servings


1/4 cup milk, plus more for brushing

1/4 cup water

3 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into cubes

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

Pinch of ground pepper

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 large eggs, room temperature

3 ounces gruyere cheese, shredded


2 large shallots, thinly sliced

3/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt


11/2 pounds ground beef

2 teaspoons fine sea salt

1 teaspoon ground pepper

Dash of Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil

Dijon mustard, finely shredded iceberg lettuce and mayonnaise for serving

1. To make the gougeres: Position racks in the upper and lower third of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Lightly butter two rimmed baking sheets.

2. Combine the milk, water, butter, salt and pepper in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the flour using a wooden spoon. Return the pan to the stove top and turn the heat to medium. Beat the dough vigorously with the spoon until it is smooth and glossy and pulls away from the sides of the pan, about one minute. Remove the pan from the heat and beat in one of the eggs. When the first egg is completely incorporated, add the second egg, along with half the cheese. Stir vigorously to combine.

3. Drop tablespoonfuls of the dough on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them at least 11/2 inches apart. You should have 12 mounds. Brush the tops lightly with milk and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake until puffy and golden brown, about 25 minutes, rotating the pans top to bottom and front to back in the oven halfway through.

4. To make the pickled shallots: Put the shallots in a small bowl. Add the vinegar, sugar and salt and stir well to mix. Set aside at room temperature to marinate until pickled, about 30 minutes.

5. To make the beef patties: Combine the beef, salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce in a large bowl and stir gently to combine; do not over-mix. Form the mixture into 12 small patties, again being careful not to handle too much. Heat the peanut oil in a large skillet, preferably cast iron, just until it begins to smoke. Add half of the burger patties and cook, turning once, until browned and crispy on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Repeat to fry the remaining patties.

6. Cut the gougeres in half horizontally and spread the bottoms with mustard. Position the burger patties over the mustard and top each with a big pinch of lettuce and pickled shallots. Spread the top halves lightly with mayonnaise and place over the sliders. Serve immediately.

]]> 0, 03 Jan 2017 09:14:54 +0000
The Maine Ingredient: Informal yet inviting buffet lets you start the year relaxed Wed, 28 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 The menu for a New Year’s Day open house might look like this:

Assorted cheeses with crackers and pear slices

 Crudité platter with curry dip

 Lox on mini-bagels with scallion-lemon cream cheese*

 Big bowl of cashews

 Blue corn chips with pico de gallo salsa

 Spiral-sliced glazed ham

 Mini-potato rolls

 Party rye

 Custard mustard sauce*

Chopped green cabbage and red apple salad*

 Dessert spread of leftover Christmas cookies and sliced pound cake

As you can see, this is a relaxed, informal, fairly non-labor-intensive buffet, one to which items could easily be added or subtracted – if guests insist on bringing a contribution, for instance.

Most of the ingredients/dishes can be bought or made ahead. Buy a spiral-sliced ham (so tasty and so practical), which you can bake in the morning, glazing with a mixture of brown sugar and apple juice for the last half hour or so. The ham – in fact, all the food – can sit out at room temperature for the duration of the party.

The custard mustard sits beside the ham, along with mini potato rolls and/or party rye bread, so guests can make their own little sandwiches, and a pretty platter of cookies and sliced pound cake graces a side table next to the coffee. Happy New Year to all!

(* recipes included)


If you run out of time, simply put out the components in bowls and invite guests to assemble their own canapes.

Makes about 36 canapes

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

¼ cup finely chopped scallions or chives

9 plain small bagels

6 ounces very thinly sliced lox or other smoked or cured salmon

About 1 tablespoon drained small capers

Coarsely ground black pepper

In a small bowl, combine cream cheese, lemon juice and zest, and chives. Stir well to blend. Let stand at least 30 minutes to blend flavors or refrigerate for up to 2 days. Return to room temperature before using.

Split each bagel in half, then cut each half into 2 pieces to make 4 canape bases from each bagel. Spread each piece with about a teaspoon of flavored cream cheese, top with a thin piece of salmon, and press a couple of capers into the cream cheese. Grind pepper over the top. Arrange on a platter. (Can be assembled up to 3 hours ahead; remove from refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving.)


This sauce is so yummy that people have been known to eat it plain, with a spoon.

Makes about 1½ cups

¼ cup Coleman’s dry mustard

½ cup distilled white vinegar

¼ cup dry white wine or vermouth

2 eggs

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

In a small bowl, whisk together mustard, vinegar and vermouth. Cover and let soak at room temperature for at least 6 hours or overnight.

In the top of a double boiler or in a stainless steel bowl set over simmering water, whisk together the eggs, sugar and salt. Whisk in the mustard mixture. Cook over barely simmering water, whisking every 5 minutes or so, until sauce thickens to consistency of a thinnish mayonnaise, 35 to 45 minutes. Cool to room temperature, whisking occasionally as it cools. (Sauce will thicken as it cools.) Transfer to a covered container and refrigerate for up to 3 days before using.


If you can find a cabbage with loose dark green outer leaves, reserve leaves and use them to line the serving bowl or platter for a pretty presentation.

Makes about 20 buffet servings


1 cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon celery seeds


1 medium-large head green cabbage

1 cup dried currants

¾ cup chopped red onion

3 crisp red-skinned apples, such as Empire

To make the dressing, whisk together all the ingredients in a bowl. (Can be made up to 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

To make the salad, cut the cabbage in half, remove core, and shred in a food processor or by hand. Toss in a large bowl with the currants and red onion. Toss with enough of the dressing to coat well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or for up to 8 hours.

Up to 3 hours before serving, core the apples and coarsely chop; stir into the cabbage mixture, adding more dressing if necessary. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if necessary. Spoon onto a rimmed platter or bowl and 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 can be contacted via Facebook at:

]]> 0 awe-inspiring portal to the former Chestnut Street Church, now the entrance to Grace. At right, a cheese plate at Grace features Medalion (Maine), Mimolette (France) Asher Blue (Georgia) along with Marcona almonds, raisins-on-the-vine, pickled green strawberries, and housemade crackers.Tue, 03 Jan 2017 09:15:00 +0000
Recipes you’ll be glad to have on hand Wed, 28 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Having one or all of these recipes on standby is the entertaining equivalent of Bullwinkle the Moose’s “watch me pull a rabbit outta my hat!”

There’s something here for everyone – cocktail snacks, a handy dessert and satisfying entrees – and all of them can be made in advance.

Olives with citrus zests and fried herbs. Refrigerate these for up to a week.

 Enchiladas with chili gravy. This has real-deal, Tex-Mex flavor. The multipart recipe can be accomplished over a day or two.

 Sweet potatoes with chicken and lemon grass. Surprisingly satisfying and bright-tasting, with fairly few ingredients.

 Orange-scented olive oil cake. The recipe yields two 9-inch rounds; they can be frozen for up to a month. To make it a chocolate cake, melt 3 ounces of coarsely chopped dark chocolate with 2 tablespoons of warm almond milk in a small saucepan over low heat. Cool slightly, then add to the egg-sugar mixture and proceed with the recipe.

Sweet potatoes with chicken and lemongrass.

Sweet potatoes with chicken and lemongrass. Photos by Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post


This thin-brothed stew is homey yet flavorful enough to serve to holiday guests. It was inspired by the Hmong community in Minnesota, whose cooks tend to use simple ingredients.

The Hmong top the dish with an optional, lightly salted mixture of chopped Thai chilies, fresh ginger and cilantro, which we really liked in testing.

The stew can be refrigerated for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 1 month. Prepare the chili pepper topping just before serving.

Adapted from “Smashed, Boiled and Baked (and Fried, Too!): A Celebration of Potatoes in 75 Irresistible Recipes,” by Raghavan Iyler (Workman, 2016).

Makes 4 servings

1 pound sweet potatoes

2 stalks lemongrass

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (trimmed of visible fat), cut into 1-inch cubes

1 cup water

1 teaspoon coarse sea or kosher salt

1 teaspoon coarsely cracked black peppercorns

Steamed white or brown rice, for serving

Fill a medium bowl with cold water. Peel the sweet potatoes and rinse them under cool water, then cut them into 1-inch cubes, submerging them in the bowl of water as you go.

Trim the ends of each lemon grass stalk to yield a tightly layered middle section that’s about 3 inches long. Use the flat side of a chef’s knife to smash the section, then cut that in half lengthwise, discarding the tough outer layer. Cut the halves into thin strips, then into small pieces.

Heat the oil in a wok or large saute pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the chicken and stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes or until it loses some of its raw look.

Drain the potatoes, then add them to the pan along with the cup of water, the lemon grass, salt and cracked peppercorns. Once the liquid comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the sweet potatoes are tender and the chicken is cooked through.

Divide the stew, including the broth, among bowls filled halfway with rice.

For the optional topper, stir together 10 to 12 thinly sliced red and/or green Thai chili peppers (not seeded), 1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger root, 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro and tender stems, and a small pinch of coarse kosher or sea salt in a small bowl. Use some of the mixture to top each portion of the stew.

Olives with citrus zests and fried herbs.

Olives with citrus zests and fried herbs.


You’ll be happy to have these on hand when folks drop by for cocktails or a glass of wine.

The mixture can be refrigerated (without the garlic) for up to 1 week. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Adapted from “A Recipe for Cooking,” by Cal Peternell (William Morrow, 2016).

Makes 12 servings (3 cups)

1 orange

1 lemon

3 tablespoons olive oil

20 sage leaves

20 rosemary leaves

1 small clove garlic (unpeeled)

1 pound mixed olives, such as black Niçoise and green Castelvetrano

Pinch crushed red pepper flakes

Use a vegetable peeler to cut 5 or 6 wide strips of zest (total) from the orange and lemon.

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the oil, sage, rosemary and garlic; cook for about 20 seconds or until the herbs stop sizzling. Turn off the heat.

Stir in the olives, citrus zests and the crushed red pepper flakes, then transfer to a deep bowl. Use a Microplane grater to grate the remaining zest from the orange and lemon directly into the bowl. Stir to incorporate.

Serve warm. Or cool, discard the garlic, cover and refrigerate.

Enchiladas with chili gravy.

Enchiladas with chili gravy.


Think of this as a kit: a spice blend, a sauce for coating the tortillas and a killer gravy you’ll be glad to have on hand. The components can be made on different days, and all are great to have around.

The recipe makes more chili gravy than you need here, but you’ll be happy to have it on hand, for topping tostadas, scrambled eggs, chilaquiles and more.

The chili gravy can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 3 months. The spice blend can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 month. The tortilla sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 6 months. Defrost completely and stir to re-blend before using.

Adapted from “The Enchilada Queen Cookbook: Enchiladas, Fajitas, Tamales, and More Classic Recipes from Texas-Mexico Border Kitchens,” by Sylvia Casares with Dotty Griffith.

Makes 4 to 6 servings (12 enchiladas)


11/2 cups chopped white onion

5 cloves garlic, smashed

31/2 cups water

1/4 cup cooked ground beef, crumbled

2/3 cup vegetable oil

2/3 cup flour

2 cups no-salt-added beef broth

3 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons Tex-Mex Holy Trinity spice blend

1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper


7 dried guajillo chili peppers, stems and seeds removed

2 dried arbol chili peppers, stems removed (no need to remove seeds)

13/4 cups water


Twelve 6-inch corn tortillas

4 cups shredded cheddar cheese, plus 11/4 cups for sprinkling

1 cup diced onion (optional)

FOR THE GRAVY: Combine the onions, garlic and 1/2 cup of the water in a blender on high speed; puree until smooth.

Pour the mixture into a small saucepan; add the beef and 2 cups of the water. Cook over low heat, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Use a large spoon to skim off and discard any froth on the surface; repeat two or three times as needed. Also, use the spoon to break up clumps of meat for a smooth consistency. Remove from the heat.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, reduce the heat to low; add the flour, stirring constantly to form a smooth roux. Cook for several minutes, until it develops a light brown color, then remove from the heat.

Heat the broth and the remaining cup of water in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until heated through. Meanwhile, whisk together the chili powder, salt, Tex-Mex Holy Trinity spice blend and cayenne pepper in a medium bowl. Stir that mixture into the broth mixture, whisking until smooth.

Gradually add the cooked beef and chili powder-broth mixture to the roux, stirring constantly so it’s lump-free. Stir and cook over low heat for 5 to 15 minutes or until the mixture is almost as thick as ketchup. The yield is about 5 cups. Let sit for at least 10 minutes before using.

FOR THE TORTILLA SAUCE: Rinse the chilies with cool water, then place them in a medium saucepan with the 13/4 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and cook for 15 minutes. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

Pour the cooked chilies and their liquid into a blender or food processor; puree for about 1 minute, until smooth. Strain the pureed mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium bowl, pressing with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids. The yield is about 13/4 cups. Cover and refrigerate until chilled before using.

FOR THE ENCHILADAS: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking oil spray.

Place the tortilla sauce in a wide, shallow bowl. Dip the tortillas into the sauce one at a time, coating both sides and shaking off any excess. Stack them on a plate. You’ll have sauce left over; strain out any pieces of tortilla before pouring it into a clean container to cover and refrigerate.

Working with one at a time, place about 1/3 cup of the cheese down the center of each tortilla. Roll the tortillas and place them, seam sides down, in the baking dish. Repeat until all the tortillas are filled, arranging them in a baking dish with barely any space in between.

Pour 1/4 cup of the chili gravy over each enchilada, then sprinkle evenly with some of the remaining shredded cheese and the onion, if using. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the sauce is bubbly. Garnish with a little more cheese before serving.

To make the Tex-Mex Holy Trinity spice blend, combine 3 cloves of garlic, 11/2 teaspoons of cumin seed, 11/4 teaspoons of whole black peppercorns and 1 tablespoon of water in a molcajete, mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Process until the garlic is a smooth paste and the spices are finely ground. The yield is about 4 teaspoons. Transfer to a small airtight container; refrigerate for up to 1 month.


This is the one cake that can see you through the holidays: It’s easy to assemble and serve, and it freezes well. Pastry chef-instructor and cookbook author Nick Malgieri likes to use pure olive oil rather than extra-virgin here, because it has a less assertive flavor.

You’ll need two 9-inch round cake pans with sides at least 2 inches high.

Serve with orange slices and a dollop of whipped cream, or a scoop of vanilla ice cream or orange sherbet.

The cakes can be double-wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 1 day or frozen for up to 1 month. Bring to room temperature before serving.

From pastry chef-instructor and cookbook author Nick Malgieri, who credits the recipe to Fritz Blank, chef-owner of the now-defunct Deux Cheminées in Philadelphia.

Makes 16 to 20 servings (two 9-inch round cakes)

11/2 cups pure olive oil, plus more for the pans (see headnote)

3 large navel oranges

3 large eggs

21/2 cups sugar

11/2 cups whole or low-fat milk (may substitute nondairy milk)

21/2 cups flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use some of the oil to generously grease the 9-inch cake pans, then line the bottoms with parchment paper.

Grate the zests from the oranges over a mixer bowl (from a stand mixer), then use a knife to completely cut away the remaining skin and pith from the oranges. Cut the fruit into 3/8-inch-thick round slices; cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Add the eggs to the mixer bowl, whisking by hand until well blended. Whisk in 1 cup of the sugar, then seat the bowl on the stand mixer and secure the balloon-whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed for 3 to 4 minutes, until very light. Remove the bowl from the mixer.

Whisk in the oil by hand, in a steady stream, followed by the milk. (You can also do this with the mixer on low speed.)

Stir together the remaining 11/2 cups sugar, the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl, then whisk that mixture into the egg mixture in three separate additions, whisking smooth after each addition.

Divide the batter equally between the pans. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, until the cakes are well risen, deeply golden and firm in the center when pressed with a fingertip.

Transfer the cakes (in their pans) to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Run a table knife around the edge to loosen the sides, then invert to unmold and turn them right side up again, placing them on the racks to cool completely.

Cut into wedges and serve with the orange slices, plus other accompaniments, as you wish.

]]> 0 potatoes with chicken and lemon grass.Tue, 03 Jan 2017 09:14:58 +0000
Make New Year’s Eve food festive by adding champagne to risotto Wed, 28 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Even though risotto is a simple rice dish, I associate it with special occasions.

A northern Italian rice dish cooked in broth to a creamy consistency, risotto is most often served as a first course. But in the U.S., we serve it as a side or a main course.

It most always includes butter, onions and wine. I have made white wine risotto with spring peas and crab meat and red-wine risotto with caramelized shallots and mushrooms. But I never thought about making champagne risotto until my friend and fellow chef, Bob Blumer mentioned it to me.

I immediately knew that champagne risotto would have to become my New Year’s Eve staple – it’s comforting on a cold night and easy to prepare while talking and drinking with friends. And it’s the perfect choice for an at-home celebration.

Bob makes his risotto with asparagus, which is out of season right now. I opted to make mine with one of my favorite ingredients, mushrooms – any kind of mushrooms work, or a mixture of wild mushrooms. The combination of garlic, shallots, butter, champagne, Parmesan and thyme is so rich that this recipe is excellent with button mushrooms and only gets better with more interesting mushrooms.

My favorite two mushrooms are meaty morels and chanterelles. And since it is New Year’s Eve, why not splurge with champagne and chanterelles?

The key to risotto is setting up two pots, one for the chicken stock and the other for making the risotto itself. Keep the chicken stock warm so it is absorbed quicker and doesn’t “shock” the risotto as you stir it in, little by little.

1129591_298663 risotto.jpg


Makes 2 dinner portions or 4 side dishes

2 large shallots, chopped (about 1/3 cup)

2 large cloves of garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons butter, divided

4 ounces mixed chopped mushrooms (a generous cup of cooked mushrooms)

1 cup champagne

32 ounces unsalted chicken stock

6 sprigs of fresh thyme, divided

1 generous cup Arborio rice

1 generous cup Parmesan cheese, grated

In a heavy-bottomed medium-size (about 6 quarts) pot over medium-high heat, add olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter. Immediately add shallot and garlic and stir for 3-4 minutes, or until the shallot is translucent and beginning to brown around the edges.

Add rice to the shallots and garlic and stir vigorously for about 30 seconds until all of the rice grains are coated in oil. Let rice toast in the pan for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

In a medium saute pan, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and let melt. Season butter with salt and add mushrooms. Let cook down until lightly sauteed and set aside.

In a second pot (about 4 quarts), warm chicken stock and 1/2 cup of champagne over medium-low heat. Add about 4 whole sprigs of thyme to infuse the stock.

Add the remaining 1/2 cup of champagne to the rice mixture and reduce heat to medium. Add in the sauteed mushrooms. Stir for 2 to 3 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed.

Use a ladle to add 1/2 cup of the hot chicken stock to the rice. Stir frequently. Each time the stock is almost fully absorbed, add another 1/2 cup. Continue stirring and adding stock until rice is creamy yet still a little firm to the bite. (It may not be necessary to use all of the stock.) The total cooking time should not be more than about 25 minutes. To keep the rice slightly creamy, don’t wait until the last ladle full of stock is totally absorbed before pulling it off the heat and serving.

Remove from the heat. Stir in the reserved thyme (leaves only) and the Parmesan cheese. Continue stirring until the cheese is completely melted. Season with a touch of white pepper and salt if desired. You shouldn’t need to use much salt, if any.

Serve in flat bowls with a sprig of thyme.

]]> 0, 03 Jan 2017 09:14:56 +0000
Finger food that won’t make your guests pop their buttons Wed, 28 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 The holidays may be peak season for elaborate, tradition-steeped dishes, but they are also a time when most of us feel overwhelmed and could use something fast and fabulous to take the edge off the stress of entertaining. This finger food answers that call beautifully, and it’s healthful, to boot.

It flashes with festive color, with creamy white goat cheese on crispy shards of pita that become a canvas for a confetti of ruby-red pomegranate seeds, green pistachios and mint: ingredients that give you creamy, crunchy, fruity, fresh, sweet and savory at once in each bite.

Making the pita toasts requires minimal effort from start to finish, and it’s something you can pull together at a moment’s notice because you can prep most of the elements several days in advance.

To make the toasts, you slice whole-grain pita into rounds, brush them with olive oil, cut them into wedges and bake just until crisped. Making them at home this way yields a top quality, ultrathin, crisp whole-grain chip, but store-bought pita chips would work if need be; just get the unsalted variety.

You can also take advantage of another healthful convenience option and pick up a container of pomegranate seeds (arils) rather than deal with the whole fruit. Toast and chop the pistachios ahead, and mix the honey-lemon drizzle; all you need to do once guests arrive is chop some mint, spread, sprinkle, drizzle and serve.

1129594_96866 toasts.jpg


The combination of colorful ingredients in this festive finger food is as tasty as it is attractive. But the real beauty of the dish is that nearly all the ingredients can be prepped in advance, so it can be pulled together at a moment’s notice, making entertaining a breeze.

Feel free to substitute store-bought, unsalted baked pita chips, if you prefer.

The pita toasts can be baked, cooled and stored in an airtight container at room temperature a day in advance.

8 servings

11/2 tablespoons shelled, unsalted pistachios

2 whole-wheat pitas, about 6 inches in diameter (see headnote)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

4 ounces plain fresh goat cheese (chevre), at room temperature

1/4 cup pomegranate seeds (arils)

2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the pistachios on a small baking sheet and toast for 7 to 8 minutes, until fragrant. Let cool, then coarsely chop.

Meanwhile, slice the pita pockets in half so each forms 2 rounds (for a total of 4 rounds). Place the pita rounds on a cutting board and brush them with oil. Cut each round into 6 wedges, to create a total of 24 wedges. Arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet; bake for 5 or 6 minutes, until crisped and browned. Let cool completely.

Stir together the honey and lemon juice in a small bowl.

When you’re ready to serve, spread goat cheese on all of the toasted pita wedges, arranging them on a serving platter as you go. Sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds, mint and pistachios, then drizzle with the honey-lemon mixture and serve.

]]> 0, 03 Jan 2017 09:14:55 +0000
Here’s the French toast you’ll want to serve on Christmas morning Wed, 21 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 SCARBOROUGH — Christmas was still 12 days away, and already Nancy Cerny had received two phone calls from her teenage grandchildren, asking “Are you going to make the French toast, Grandma?”

Chloe, 15, and Liam, 14, will arrive from Iowa today and have just three days of anticipation left until they can indulge in their grandmother’s decadent deep-fried French toast. It’s a dish the family always enjoys on Christmas Eve morning.

Cerny, a caterer, has been making this particular version of French toast ever since she was 12 and learned it from a French chef she met while on a family vacation. She grew up on the South Side of Chicago with six siblings and with parents who were interested in food. Her father was a sales executive at a food business that made jams and jellies.

“My mom was a homemaker and always having parties and people over,” Cerny said. “With seven kids, we had a picnic table in the kitchen. We all sat around the picnic table, and if we all brought friends we’d barely fit, but we did. Ours was a house that all the kids loved to come to.”

Her parents sometimes held spontaneous parties for as many as 75 people.

Once a year – always in the summer – the family went to The Abbey Resort in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, for a vacation. One day, 12-year-old Cerny practically swooned over the French toast on the Sunday breakfast buffet. She told the staff how much she loved it, and the chef, Jacques – “a French guy, a real skinny guy” – invited her into the kitchen to learn how to make it. Cerny was thrilled, partly because she was the only one of her family allowed in the kitchen.

“I remember that day. I only ate French toast,” Cerny said. “And of course I was on Cloud 9.”

Cerny has made the French toast for her family every Christmas ever since. (She also still makes a quiche that the French chef taught her that day.) Over the years, she has made only one change to the recipe: The chef made his recipe with half heavy whipping cream and half milk; Cerny switched to all cream.

“I figure you only have it a couple of times a year, so you might as well use all cream,” she said.

A quick check of The Abbey Resort’s restaurant menu shows that they still serve French toast on their breakfast buffet, but the current recipe is made with challah bread and apple and blueberry compote.

After tasting Cerny’s French toast, it’s hard to believe the modern version could have it beat. It’s sweet and simple; the most complicated thing about the recipe is deep frying until the toast is golden brown. It’s crunchy on the outside, warm and soft on the inside. And Cerny adds just the right amount of nutmeg.

Jacques’ encouragement set Cerny on the path to one day working with food. She lived in Rhode Island in the early 1970s, when her two daughters were small, and one of her friends was the school nurse at the Johnson & Wales culinary school. She used to slip into classes and audit them for free. It changed the way she entertained at home and pushed her closer to a catering career.

In 1984, she married Chuck Cerny, her second husband, who worked for Gilroy Foods in California and was, Nancy says, responsible for putting garlic in oil in a jar. “When we got married,” she said, “that’s when I got more serious.”

The couple used to hold cook-offs where they would compete against each other.

In 1998, they were living in Pennsylvania. They had been vacationing in Maine for about five years, and one day made a spontaneous decision to move to Portland, though they knew no one here. They bought the Victory Deli, a favorite sandwich shop for Portland residents, and transformed it into the Victory Café. The endeavor lasted only about 18 months, when they had to walk away.

“It just wasn’t the right timing,” Cerny said.

Nancy Cerny sprinkles powdered sugar on her family's favorite French toast.

Nancy Cerny sprinkles powdered sugar on her family’s favorite French toast. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Today the couple owns CVC Catering in South Portland. On the wintry day when we were making French toast together, Cerny’s staff was making turkey and gravy for 390 employees at L.L. Bean.

Cerny says learning how to cook with her mother and grandmother, and learning from her mother how to be organized, also led to her catering career. Her mother is now 88 and still cooks for herself and even hosts parties. She still makes everything from scratch, including her spaghetti sauce, Cerny said.

The Cerny’s home is decorated for the holidays, and Christmas carols play as Cerny makes her French toast – a special batch she’ll freeze for her grandchildren. The couple own 1,000 cookbooks and a stash of food magazines from the 1950s that Nancy Cerny says she can’t bring herself to throw out.

Even when Cerny and her husband go to Iowa for Christmas, they still do all the planning, shopping and cooking – which is just fine with them. Cerny’s daughter Jennifer is engaged to be married, and her other daughter Bethany is the mother of the two grandchildren.

“My daughter Jennifer likes to have lobster bisque,” she said, “and my son-in-law is from Vietnam, and I make him pho.”

The family has one more – more unusual – tradition at Christmastime. On Christmas morning, they eat what most people would consider Christmas dinner.

“We have filet mignon and asparagus with Hollandaise sauce and chocolate-dipped strawberries on Christmas morning,” Cerny said.

So does that mean they skip Christmas dinner? No way. Christmas dinner is something different every year. Sometimes turkey, sometimes pork, sometimes lamb. Last year, it was a rib roast. This year, it will be a huge ribeye steak.

But none of those foods will be as cherished as the French toast on the morning of Christmas Eve.

“Some of the best things in the world to eat are the easiest things to make,” Cerny said. “That’s the way I feel, anyway.”

]]> 0 Cerny sprinkles powdered sugar on her family's favorite French toast.Wed, 21 Dec 2016 08:10:19 +0000
Butterscotch pie is a secret crowd pleaser Wed, 21 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Recently, over wedges of homemade pie, my sisters shared that they love butterscotch. Turns out the nieces do, too. Then, my father, a self-confessed chocoholic, capitulated. We spoke of butterscotch sundaes, candies, warm sauce, boxed pudding and restaurant desserts layered in fancy glasses. Mom mentioned pie for the holidays, and the deal was sealed. Butterscotch. Pie. Done.

Like all the chocolate cream pies in my life, this cream pie starts with a crumb crust. Easy, peasy, says the daughter. Instead of the expected graham-cracker crumbs, the crust uses the sweetly spiced Belgian cookies known as speculoos. Anyone enchanted with jars of cookie-butter spread will recognize the flavor of this classic cookie. The Biscoff brand sets the gold standard for a perfect balance of spice, sweetness and crunch, though the Trader Joe’s private label speculoos cookie works well here too. Make crumbs with a rolling pin, and the crust is nearly done.

The pudding part of the pie requires more patience than the crust. This soft-set filling sports deep butterscotch elements from browned butter and dark brown, mildly molasses-flavored sugar. The directions look intimidating, but I’m just offering guidelines for successful butter browning and smooth texture.

The pudding can be thickened like a traditional pudding with cornstarch. If you are avoiding corn-based products, substitute tapioca starch (also called tapioca flour). If minute tapioca is all that is available, you can pulverize it to a powder in a coffee grinder or spice mill.

Upgrade all your holiday baking by investing in pure vanilla. Pure vanilla bean paste makes your pudding look as if you’ve gone to the trouble of steeping and scraping the vanilla bean without the work or mess. To my mind, good vanilla proves essential to butterscotch.

Of course, you always can skip the cookie crust and serve the butterscotch pudding out of the bowl. Or, portion the pudding into small dessert dishes, let it set overnight in the refrigerator and garnish with whipped cream before serving.

Butterscotch cream pie is even better when you make the crust with speculoos.

Butterscotch cream pie is even better when you make the crust with speculoos. Michael Tercha/Chicago Tribune via TNS


Substitute shortbread cookies, chocolate wafers or about 2 cups of graham cracker or gingersnap crumbs for the spiced cookies, if desired.

Makes 10 servings


1 box (7 ounces) cinnamon spiced Belgian cookies (speculoos or Biscoff)

3 tablespoons dark brown sugar

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


21/2 cups whole milk

1/4 cup cornstarch (or 1/3 cup tapioca starch)

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 large egg yolks

4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) unsalted butter

3/4 cup tightly packed dark brown sugar

1 cup heavy (whipping) cream

2 teaspoons pure vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract

Whipped cream for garnish

For the crust, heat oven to 350 degrees. Have a shallow 9-inch pie plate ready.

Break the cookies into the food processor. Use on/off turns to crush them into fine crumbs. (Alternatively, put the cookies into a clean zippered plastic food bag, seal the bag and crush them into crumbs with a rolling pin or heavy can.) Transfer the crumbs to a bowl. Set aside 1 or 2 tablespoons of the crumbs for garnish.

Stir 3 tablespoons brown sugar and 5 tablespoons melted butter into remaining crumbs until mixture resembles wet sand. Press mixture over bottom and up the sides of the pie plate. Bake until crust is set and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.

For the pudding, put milk, cornstarch and salt into food processor or blender. Process until smooth. Add egg yolks and process to blend. Set aside.

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large, deep saucepan set over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring often, until butter bubbles and looks and smells toasted (but not burned).

Whisk in 3/4 cup sugar, and keep whisking until mixture is smooth and homogenous. (You will see the melted butter pool around the sugar – just keep whisking.) Remove the pan from the heat. (Be careful, the sugar is very hot.)

Slowly and carefully whisk in cream until smooth. (It is normal for the sugar to seize into small, hard bits as the cream is added. If necessary, return the pan to low heat and continue whisking until the sugar has melted.)

Add about a cup of this hot butterscotch cream to egg mixture, and whisk to blend. (This tempers the yolks, so they do not curdle.) Return this egg yolk mixture to the remaining butterscotch cream in the pan.

Set the pan over medium heat. Stir constantly until the mixture comes to a boil, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking and whisking until smooth and thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, and whisk in vanilla.

For smoother results, strain the pudding through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Then pour the strained pudding into the cooled and baked pie shell.

Cover the surface directly with plastic wrap or wax paper (this prevents a “pudding skin” from forming.) Refrigerate the pie overnight.

To garnish, pipe whipped cream around the edge of the cold pie and sprinkle with reserved cookie crumbs. Cut into wedges with a knife dipped in warm water. Serve cold.

]]> 0 cream pie is even better when you make the crust with speculoos.Wed, 21 Dec 2016 08:10:42 +0000
Let salmon swim in green salsa for brighter flavor Wed, 21 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 The French love to cook fish by poaching it in a flavored liquid, usually a combination of white wine and water, leeks or onions, and some herbs. It’s a notably lean way to roll because there’s no fat involved. And the finished product is reliably tender because it’s been cooked at a low temperature.

So, it’s lean, tender and … quite boring. I crave more flavor and texture. So here’s a recipe for poached salmon that adds the missing elements.

Typically, poaching calls for a lot of liquid. The fish is supposed to be submerged as it cooks, after which the liquid usually is tossed. I wanted a way to poach the fish in a small amount of liquid, which then could do double duty as a sauce.

Given that fish generally requires a spritz of acid to brighten it up, the ideal liquid needed to be acidic and intensely flavored. Green salsa – that is, tomatillo salsa with chilies and lime juice – struck me as a likely candidate.

The salmon wouldn’t have to swim in a vat of the salsa. I made a modest batch and cooked the salmon in a smallish skillet with the salsa rising halfway up the sides of the fillets. I covered the pan tightly to trap the heat and flipped over the salmon halfway through its cooking time to make sure it cooked evenly.

How do you know when the salmon is finished cooking? If you slide a knife into it and the blade sails through the fillet with no resistance, it’s done. And be sure to pull it off the heat when there’s still a tiny bit of resistance left, which will allow for carry-over cooking time.

For crunch, I sprinkled tortilla chips on top; they are salsa’s classic partner. But these were my own healthy baked tortilla chips, which take only 15 minutes to prepare.

On the whole, this recipe is pretty quick and easy to make, but you can streamline it even further by picking up green salsa and baked tortilla chips at the supermarket.

By the way, there were leftovers the second time we tested this winner. When we polished them off the next day, we discovered that this dish is just as delicious cold as hot.

Salmon poached in green salsa and topped with baked chips.

Salmon poached in green salsa and topped with baked chips. Associated Press/Matthew Mead


Makes 4 servings


2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Four 6-inch corn tortillas

Kosher salt


8 ounces fresh tomatillos, husked, rinsed and quartered

1/2 cup coarsely chopped scallions (white and light green parts)

1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon lime juice

1/2 jalapeno or serrano chili, seeds removed if desired

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

11/2 pounds center-cut salmon fillet, cut into 4 equal portions

To make the tortilla strips, heat the oven to 400 F.

In a small bowl, stir together the oil, chili powder and cumin. Brush the oil mixture over both sides of each tortilla. Using a knife or pizza wheel, cut the tortillas into thin strips. Arrange the strips in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake the strips on the oven’s middle shelf for 6 to 8 minutes, or until crispy. Sprinkle with salt, let cool completely, then break them up slightly. Set aside.

To prepare the salsa, in a food processor, combine the tomatillos, scallions, cilantro, lime juice, chili and garlic. Pulse until the ingredients are almost smooth with a few small chunks.

In a medium skillet over medium, heat the oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatillo mixture and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. If the mixture gets too dry, add 1/2 cup of water. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the salmon to the skillet, skin sides down, then cover the skillet tightly and simmer gently for 5 minutes.

Turn the salmon over, cover and simmer gently until the salmon is almost cooked through, about another 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the salmon stand for 3 minutes, covered..

To serve, transfer a portion of salmon to each of 4 plates, then top each with sauce and tortilla strips.

]]> 0 poached in green salsa and topped with baked chips.Wed, 21 Dec 2016 08:10:42 +0000
Three soup recipes, distinct in flavor, will bring you comfort Wed, 21 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 It wasn’t the best advertising line, but it was undeniably true: Soup is good food.

On a frosty night when the wind is blowing, and the chill sinks deep into your bones, what is it that you turn to? Soup. When you want something warming and comforting after a difficult day, what is it that you most desire? Soup. When you have a cold, what is the only thing that can make you feel better? Soup, especially if it has chicken and noodles in it.

It restoreth the soul. And of course it is always best when your cup runneth over.

At its most elemental level, soup is just water with a bunch of other stuff cooked in it. And that is what makes it so exciting. You can have a free hand to do with it what you will.

Take, for instance, my mother’s cabbage soup, which is still one of my favorite soups ever. When she and my father were first married, she asked if he had any favorite dishes he wanted her to prepare. He said he loved a cabbage soup from a famous local delicatessen.

My mother called the wife of the deli owner and asked for the recipe. The woman was happy to oblige – but she only knew how to make it for a restaurant, and even then her measurements were inexact.

So my mother mixed a bit of this and a handful of that, then threw in a dash of something else, and ended up with a cabbage soup. She served it to my father, who said it wasn’t at all like the original soup from the delicatessen. It was better. She has been making it ever since.

Many years ago, I asked my mother for the recipe. She wasn’t very specific. She said to use a bit of this and a handful of that and maybe a dash of something else.

I took down as much of this non-recipe as I could and tried making it for myself. It tasted remarkably like my mother’s.

What I love so much about the soup are its contradictions. It is a thin broth, but it is filled with hearty pieces of beef and cabbage. It is made with a lot of tomatoes, but it isn’t remotely a tomato soup. It is both sweet and sour. And it has seasonings that you would not expect to find in soup, such as allspice and cloves.

It is unlike other soups you have had, and it is certainly unlike the soup they sold at the delicatessen, but it is little short of wonderful.

Next, I made an onion soup, but I didn’t want a familiar, traditional French onion soup. So I went next door to Belgium to cook a Flemish Onion Soup.

What is the difference? There are several, beginning with the onions that are only lightly browned, yielding a taste that is less sweet and more oniony. The soup is flavored with potatoes and then pureed, and only then is it enlivened with milk.

Even with croutons and cheese on top, it is a completely different soup – and not just because the cheese is sprinkled rather than melted. This version is a much lighter soup, with a comforting onion flavor that is subtle and beautifully tempered by the blended potatoes. It’s irresistible without being overpowering.

Subtlety is also the key to a gorgeous curried cauliflower soup. Curry and cauliflower are a classic combination, and so are curry and cream – though this soup uses relatively little cream.

The other main ingredient in this soup is apples. Golden Delicious apples, which the recipe recommends, are sweet but not too sweet, just enough to balance the heat from the curry.

All together, the soup is smooth and almost silky. It is a dish to serve when you want to impress someone, but it is easy enough that you’ll want to make it for yourself.

Mom's cabbage soup.

Mom’s cabbage soup. Hillary Levin/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS


Makes 8 servings

11/2 pounds short ribs

2 tablespoons oil

1 large onion, sliced thin

7 cups water

1/2 small head cabbage, sliced thin

12 whole allspice berries

2 (141/2-ounce) cans stewed tomatoes

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

A weekly treasure trove of tastiness, featuring reviews from restaurant critic Ian Froeb and how-to videos by food writer Dan Neman.

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

Trim the fat from the ribs. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add ribs and onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the beef is browned on all sides and the onions are translucent, about 8 minutes. Pour out the fat.

Add water, cabbage and allspice berries. Bring to a boil, then lower the temperature and simmer 30 minutes, skimming foam off the top when necessary.

Break up tomatoes with your hands or in a blender. Add tomatoes, brown sugar, vinegar, pepper and ground allspice. Bring to a boil, lower temperature and simmer until meat is completely cooked and has pulled away at least 1/2 inch from the edge of the bone, about 30 minutes. Taste and correct for salt and pepper. If the broth is too weak, continue simmering until the flavors are more concentrated.

Flemish onion soup with cheese.

Flemish onion soup with cheese. Photo by Hillary Levin/St. Louis Post-Dispatch


Makes 6 servings

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

2 pounds yellow onions, thinly sliced

2 large baking potatoes, peeled and cubed

4 cups water

1 bay leaf

1 cup milk

Salt and white pepper, to taste

Ground nutmeg, preferably fresh, to taste

3 tablespoons minced chives, optional

Croutons, optional

3/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese

Melt the butter in a heavy soup pot over low heat. Add the onions and increase the heat to medium. Cook stirring occasionally, until translucent, 10 minutes. Let the onions brown slightly for a more pronounced flavor.

Add the potatoes, water and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat. Simmer, covered, until the potatoes are soft, 20 to 25 minutes.

Discard the bay leaf and let the soup cool slightly. Press the soup through a food mill or purée in batches in a blender or food processor until smooth.

Return the purée to the pot and gradually stir in the milk. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Reheat the soup gently before serving. Do not let it boil. Serve hot, in warmed soup plates. If desired, sprinkle with chives and float croutons in each soup plate. Place the grated cheese in a bowl and pass at the table.

Recipe from “Everybody Eats Well in Belgium Cookbook,” by Ruth Van Waerebeek, with Maria Robbins.

Curried cream of cauliflower and apple soup.

Curried cream of cauliflower and apple soup. Hillary Levin/St. Louis Post-Dispatch


Makes 4 to 6 servings


4 cups chicken stock

11/2 tablespoons sweet (unsalted) butter

1 cup onions, chopped

2 teaspoons Madras curry powder

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads or 2 pinches saffron powder

1 cup Golden Delicious apple (or other apple), peeled, split, cored and sliced

4 cups cauliflower (about 1 small to medium head), broken into florets

1 cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon chives, minced


1 cup Golden Delicious apple (or other apple), peeled, split, cored, in 1/4-inch dice

1 teaspoon Madras curry powder

1/4 teaspoon saffron threads or 1 pinch saffron powder

Salt and pepper

For the curried cream of cauliflower: Warm the chicken stock over medium heat. Melt the butter in a heavy pot over medium-low heat. Add the onions, curry powder and saffron and sweat for 2 minutes, stirring often. Add the sliced apple and sweat for 5 more minutes, stirring often. Add the cauliflower and warm chicken stock and bring to a boil.

Boil until the cauliflower is tender when pierced with a knife, about 20 minutes. Add the cream and cook for 3 more minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the soup in batches to a blender or food processor and purée at high speed until very smooth. Keep warm until ready to serve, or refrigerate when cool and reheat just before serving.

For the curried apple dice: Place the apple dice with 1 tablespoon of water in a pan over medium heat. Add the curry powder and saffron, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix well, cover with a lid, and cook for 3 minutes. Strain and keep warm on the side.

Recipe from “Cooking With Daniel Boulud,” by Daniel Boulud.


]]> 0 by Hillary Levin/St. Louis Post-Dispatch Flemish onion soup with cheeseWed, 21 Dec 2016 08:10:41 +0000
‘The Saffron Tales: Recipes from the Persian Kitchen’ is a first-rate cookbook Wed, 21 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 “The Saffron Tales: Recipes from the Persian Kitchen.” By Yasmin Khan. Photography by Shahrzad Darafsheh and Matt Russell. Bloomsbury. $27.

“The Saffron Tales: Recipes from a Persian Kitchen” had me at the dedication: “For Pedar Bozorg, my grandfather, who taught me how to eat.” Not cook, interestingly, but “eat,” and when you think about it, mustn’t every good cook begin as a good eater?

The cookbook, by British food writer Yasmin Khan, captivated me right through to the end, where a recipe for Choux Buns with Rose Water and Pistachio Cream is still haunting my culinary dreams; alas, I haven’t yet had time to bake it.

In between, the pages are delectably strewn with pomegranate seeds, mint leaves, sour cherries, sumac, saffron, tahini, barberries and dried sour limes. (Prepare to shop.) So far, I have made eight recipes from “The Saffron Tales,” and I’ve been pleased with, and excited by, each and every one.

Both the dried limes and the pomegranate seeds appear in a butternut squash soup, taking it in an exotic and electrifying direction. The addition of pistachios, fresh mint and pomegranate molasses make an otherwise typical carrot salad extraordinary. And how will I ever again be satisfied with a plain Jane western omelette after testing two of Khan’s breakfast recipes, one for a Date and Cinnamon Omelette, the other for Saffron and Cardamom Vermicelli with Fried Egg? “Many Iranians will tell you that breakfast is their favorite meal of the day,” Kahn writes in her chapter on the subject. I can see why.

Add to the enticing, accessible and terrific recipes, many other good qualities: sensible writing that is informative and never overwrought; beautiful photos of the food and of Iran itself; and a personal and personable travel diary through the lens of food – Kahn says she “traversed almost 2,000 miles of the country’s rugged landscapes searching for recipes and stories that captured modern Iranian life.”

Thanks no doubt to Americans’ (and Brits’?) modern-day obsession with food, a gratifying number of truly excellent cookbooks were published this year – a lot of bad ones, too, but that’s another story. Despite stiff competition, “The Saffron Tales” effortlessly sailed onto my Top Ten cookbook list for 2016. — PEGGY GRODINSKY

1126546_22750 Datecinnamon.jpgShahrzad Darafsheh and Matt Russell/Courtesy of Bloomsbury


Serves 1

1/4 cup pitted Iranian or Medjool dates, halved

A couple of pinches of cinnamon

A small pinch of ground ginger

3 tablespoons cold water

2 eggs

A pinch of sea salt

2 teaspoons milk

Scant 1 tablespoon butter

Place the dates, a pinch of cinnamon, the ground ginger and water in a small pan. Stir well, put a lid on the pan, and cook on a low heat for 5 minutes, until the dates have softened.

Meanwhile, crack the eggs into a bowl with a pinch of salt and the milk. Beat with a fork until fluffy.

Put a frying pan over a low heat and let it get hot. Add the knob of butter. When the butter has melted and is bubbling, add the dates and fry for 2 minutes. Space the dates out evenly in the pan and then pour the eggs in, giving the pan a gentle shake to spread them out evenly.

Cook until the omelette is almost set and then fold in half and lightly press down. Slide on a plate and dust with cinnamon just before serving.

]]> 0, 21 Dec 2016 08:10:42 +0000
Key to cooking dried beans is to avoid conventional salting wisdom Wed, 21 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Since I’ve been vegan for 25 years, most people assume I’ve been happily cooking dried beans all those years. But they would be wrong.

For too many years I skipped dried beans and went straight for the canned aisle. Why? Because it took too long to soak dried beans. I often forgot. And because I’d tried – and failed – to cook them from scratch in the past.

Rinse, soak, drain, add more water and cook. And cook.

Eventually the beans would be done. But they were nothing special. The canned beans tasted better.

Over the years, I’d read up on dry bean cookery in book after book, and they all agreed: Don’t add salt until the beans are cooked (adding salt earlier would toughen the bean skins, they warned). So that’s what I did. It turns out the “no salt” thing is just a long-lasting and widely held myth.

My editor enlightened me a few years ago: Always add salt when soaking and cooking beans. Boy, am I glad she did. Salt gives dried beans an essential base note of flavor and aids cooking.

This simple advice revolutionized my bean cooking. Now I often cook multiple pots of dried beans.

In addition to learning from knowledgeable editors, another perk of writing this column is that I get to meet and talk about creating plant-based dishes with chefs and home cooks. It was by talking with chefs about their hummus-making secrets that I learned to heavily season my dried beans as they soak and cook. The flavorings seep through the entire bean.

These days, in addition to adding salt and spices to beans, I sprinkle in a scoop of dulse flakes. Seaweed – a powerful plant-based food that is harvested here in Maine – adds flavor, provides micronutrients, promotes digestion and helps thicken the cooked sauce.

Once the black beans are cooked in a stockpot, they become even more flavorful after another 30 to 45 minutes of cooking in a frying pan.

Once the black beans are cooked in a stockpot, they become even more flavorful after another 30 to 45 minutes of cooking in a frying pan. Avery Yale Kamila

The chefs I’ve talked with about bean cooking disagree on whether or not to drain the soaking water. I can see the point of cooking the beans in the soaking water since fewer seasonings are needed, and they’ll retain maximum nutrition.

Yet draining the soaking water and starting afresh is said to make beans more digestible, so that’s what I opt for. Once they are drained, I add fresh water and more salt and seasonings. Next I set the pot over medium-high heat with the lid askew. Once its contents are bubbling vigorously, I turn the heat down to medium low, and I walk away and let the beans gently simmer for a couple hours.

Dried beans cook at different rates depending on their age, so I start checking the beans a little before two hours, and once they are soft and creamy, they are done. Now they can be taken off the heat and cooled and refrigerated in the cooking liquid or used to make another dish – say veggie burgers, soup or hummus.

Lots of times I don’t stop there and instead take my beans to a higher level of slow-cooked bliss.

To do this, I put the cooked beans (liquid and all) in a smaller pan; I often use my cast iron frying pan. I put this pan over medium to medium-low heat and let it reduce for 30 to 45 minutes until the beans are coated in a thick, flavorful sauce.

The taste of these beans is vastly superior to that of any canned beans. Slow cooked on the stove top, beans make an ideal filling for tacos and burritos or can be served over a bed of cooked whole grains. These slow-cooked beans are so tasty, they can be served as a stand-alone dish on a buffet table or at a potluck meal.

Many of us in Maine are familiar with slow-cooked dried beans in the form of baked beans, which is where I actually first experienced success with bean cookery. More than a decade ago, I was given a set of bean pots and a family recipe. Soon I starting making baked beans. Even before I learned to add salt, my baked beans turned out well and showed me how rewarding slow-cooking can be.

Classic baked bean recipes call for seasoning the beans while they cook, and as a New Englander I’ve long known what a rich taste this produces.

I began by slow-cooking beans with a veganized version of the traditional family recipe – retaining the navy beans, molasses and dry mustard but replacing the salt pork with olive oil. Soon I was experimenting with other types of beans and other seasoning combinations.

No matter which type of slow-cooked bean I’m making, I always soak them overnight. So how do I remember?

First I started using sticky notes on the fridge. Now I’ve moved to weekly menu planning, so I check each day to see what I’m cooking for tomorrow and whether I need to do anything, such as thaw bread, pick up an ingredient or soak beans.

After soaking, it takes up to eight hours to bake beans while stove-top beans can be cooked in under three.

Both are satisfying and worth the effort.

Having shared my vegan version of classic Maine baked beans in the past, today I’m sharing my recipe for slow-cooked, stove-top black beans. It’s the perfect project for a snowbound weekend or anytime you’ll be spending a few hours in the house. The beauty of slow-cooked, stove-top beans is that even though from start to finish they take almost half a day when you factor in the soaking, the hands-on time is pretty minimal.

I serve this dish on its own; in nachos, tacos or burritos; pureed with apple cider vinegar for bean dip; and in soup, such as black bean and corn.

Not only are beans tasty and filling, they’re also nutrient-dense powerhouses packed with the clean-burning, plant-based fuel our bodies need. I hope you’ll join me in giving slow-cooked, dried beans a chance.

Slow-cooked black beans.

Slow-cooked black beans. Avery Yale Kamila


The slowness of these beans comes from their long soaking and cooking times, but the active time is minimal and comes mostly at the end when they require regular stirring to keep them from sticking.

Makes 8 to 10 servings

2 cups dried black beans, rinsed and picked through

2 teaspoons salt

3 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons dulse flakes

Place the beans in a stockpot and add water until the beans are covered by 2 to 3 inches. Add 1 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon chili powder and 1 teaspoon dulse flakes and stir. Cover and let soak overnight or for 8 hours.

When you are ready to cook them, drain the beans. Then fill the pot with 12 cups of fresh water. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, the remaining 2 tablespoons chili powder and the remaining 1 teaspoon dulse flakes. Place the pot over medium low heat with the lid askew.

Let simmer and begin checking the beans for doneness shortly before 2 hours. They are done when they are soft and creamy.

Once they are cooked, either continue simmering them in the same pan with the lid removed, or if you want to save some for another dish, set them aside now. You can also pour the beans and liquid into another pot (I use my cast iron skillet) and cook uncovered over medium to medium-low heat for another 30 to 45 minutes, stirring frequently in the last 10 minutes. The beans are done when the liquid has all evaporated and what remains creates a thick sauce around the beans.

Serve as is or add to another dish. The beans will keep in the refrigerator for days.


I buy my spices in bulk and make my own spice mixes. Use this recipe to whip up your own chili powder.

3 tablespoons paprika

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon garlic powder

2 teaspoons oregano

2 teaspoons onion powder

1 teaspoon chipotle powder

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Mix all the spices together. Keep in a cool, dry place.

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

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

]]> 0, 21 Dec 2016 08:55:26 +0000
For Christmas Eve’s Feast of the Fishes, Maine offers many choices Sun, 18 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 When you ask a handful of Maine-based sustainable seafood experts what they would serve for a Christmas Eve Feast of the Fishes celebration, they say locals are not wanting for choice. In fact, you’d better be prepared to bypass the southern Italian menu of just seven fishes and opt for the Polish custom of serving as many as 12 courses, one for each apostle.

Regardless of whether you take holiday cues from Naples or Krakow, the fish-centric feast as practiced in both places takes place after sundown but before midnight. The meal centers on fish because, for Roman Catholics in generations past, Christmas Eve was a holy day of obligation: Rome dictated the day must include Mass but not meat.

Sustainable seafood-centric celebrations, regardless of how many dishes of fishes you serve, are no problem here in Maine. It’s more a matter of knowing which ones to buy at this time of year and why.

It’s no surprise that Togue Brawn, owner of DownEast Dayboat in Hancock, recommends scallops. She works with five Maine fishermen who harvest scallops within 3 miles of the Maine coast, and she sells them to customers within 24 hours of the mollusks being hauled out of the water during the state’s short winter scallop season.

To make sure you’re getting Maine scallops, buy them from a reputable dealer or, ideally, directly from the fisherman, explains Brawn. A guarantee of origin and freshness provides the green light to serve them as Brawn suggests: raw, thinly sliced, with Thai chili paste, lime juice, crispy fried shallots and cilantro. “I like to serve this right on the scallop shell,” Brawn says.

Dana Morse, a scientist with Maine Sea Grant and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, explains that farmed oysters and mussels are good for Gulf of Maine marine life, as they eat phytoplankton and remove nitrogen and phosphorous from the ecosystem, thereby improving water quality for the rest of the fish in the sea.

These bivalves are particularly good to eat this time of year, when they are plump and sweet, packed with the glycogen stores they need to live in colder water (See recipe for Broiled Oysters with Truffle Butter.)

But Morse is also quick to point out that smaller fishes, like herring and redfish, should be considered. Eating these Gulf of Maine fish will help create a retail market for them that pays the fishermen a better price than what they can get when they are sold as bait.

Morse suggests preparing the herring like Moroccan sardines and the delicate tasting redfish raw, either as sushi or sashimi.

Ben Martens, executive director at Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, says Maine lobster is always a good choice. But he also suggests that Jonah crab be on the menu, because it has long been by-catch in the lobster industry and should be eaten rather than tossed. Both claws and picked meat are available at most local fish shops and Hannaford fish counters.

As for flaky white fish, Brawn says she’d serve corned hake, an old Maine dish that involves slowly cooking finely chopped salt pork until the meat is crisp and the fat is rendered, while poaching sustainable hake fillets and steaming new potatoes.

To serve, you smash a few potatoes on the plate, slide on a piece of hake, drizzle some rendered fat over it and garnish the dish with the crispy salt pork.

Martens suggested American plaice, a species of flounder that is one of the staples of the diminishing groundfish fleet in Maine. “Fishermen are seeing a huge uptick in this species on the water,” said Martens, adding that it can be used in any recipe calling for haddock.

Cooks should also consider buying Maine-caught cod, argues Martens.

Since Maine fishermen work within a management system that uses science to set quotas on species, fish caught within those quotas are sustainable.

Because there has been so much publicity about cod stocks declining, Martens says people wrongly shy away from all cod.

This lack of sales has caused the price of local cod to drop, which hurts many Maine fishermen who catch cod while targeting healthier populations like pollock, haddock and American plaice.

“We should feel good about buying local cod,” Martens said, because supporting Maine fishermen during the holidays, and throughout the year, is the best way to ensure a local seafood supply going forward.

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

]]> 0, 17 Dec 2016 18:50:08 +0000
Chef Brian Hill’s recipe: Sour Milk Orange Cake Wed, 14 Dec 2016 09:00:44 +0000 Francine Bistro chef Brian Hill makes the cake with dried cherries, apricots, sultanas and dates. His version of the recipe calls for buttermilk, but his great-grandmother presumably used sour milk, an ingredient old recipes often called for in pre-refrigeration days.

Brian Hill, pictured in 2015 at Francine Bistro, makes his great-grandmother's Christmas cake both at home and at the restaurant this time of year.

Brian Hill, pictured in 2015 at Francine Bistro, makes his great-grandmother’s Christmas cake both at home and at the restaurant this time of year. Whitney Hayward/Staff Photographer

Zest of 2 oranges
2 cups of dried mixed fruit
1⁄2 cup toasted hazelnuts
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1⁄2 cup undiluted orange juice concentrate
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons Kirsch
3 tablespoons Grand Marnier

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and sugar a 9-inch springform pan.
To make the cake, grind together the zest, dried fruit and hazelnuts in a food processor or meat grinder. Cream the butter and sugar in a mixer until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs and mix thoroughly.
In a separate large bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add to the creamed butter mixture, then add the fruit-nut mixture, buttermilk and vanilla.
Bake the cake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until a paring knife inserted into its middle comes out clean.
To make the glaze, combine ingredients. Glaze the cake while it is still in the pan and still hot. (The cake may crumble if it is removed from the pan hot.) Let the cake sit 1 day before serving.

]]> 0, 14 Dec 2016 08:13:43 +0000
Chef Josh Berry’s recipe: New England Indian pudding Wed, 14 Dec 2016 09:00:41 +0000 “This hearty, old-fashioned dessert originated in New England. The reason I love this dessert is that it tastes like ‘gingerbread pudding!’ A scoop of good vanilla ice cream atop the warm pudding and you know it’s Christmastime.”

Serves 4
1 quart milk
2 1/2 sticks butter
1/3 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
8 ounces molasses
3 eggs
Vanilla ice cream, for serving
Powdered sugar for dusting.

Grease a 9 X 11-inch baking dish. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine the milk, butter and cornmeal in a pot over medium heat. Cook the mixture until thick, about 12-15 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and stir in the sugar, salt, cinnamon and ginger.
Mix the molasses and eggs together and stir into the cornmeal mixture.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until slightly set.
Dust with powdered sugar and serve warm with ice cream.

]]> 0 Wed, 14 Dec 2016 08:13:40 +0000
Chef Anders Tallberg’s recipe: Swedish meatballs Wed, 14 Dec 2016 09:00:30 +0000 Tallberg recommends doubling the recipe and freezing some to save for your New Year’s party.

"Your dad's original! It just says Christmas," reads a note on Anders Tallberg's family recipe for Swedish meatballs.

“Your dad’s original! It just says Christmas,” reads a note on Anders Tallberg’s family recipe for Swedish meatballs. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Serves 6
3 slices white bread, crusts removed
1 cup milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 pounds lean ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
4 tablespoons minced onion
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons butter
3-4 tablespoons flour

Soak the bread in the milk. Pour the soaked bread and egg into the combined meats. Mash with your hands. Then add the onion, the seasonings and the sugar. Mash the mixture with your hands again.
Shape the mixture into balls that are smaller than a golf ball but larger than a big marble.
Melt the butter in a skillet. Adding more butter as needed, brown the meatballs in batches in the skillet. When they’re all brown, return all the meatballs to the pan with a bit of water and steam them covered until they are cooked through, 20-25 minutes. Transfer the meatballs to a serving bowl or deep platter. Add the flour to the drippings, stirring, to make the gravy. Pour gravy over meatballs and serve warm.

]]> 0, 14 Dec 2016 08:13:45 +0000
Beans add health to broccoli cheddar soup Wed, 14 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 This soup is a dream come true – if, like me, you dream about things like soup. It has all the attributes that made a warm bowl of broccoli cheddar soup a comfort food classic in the first place: a rich, velvety texture; a belly-filling quality that oozes melted cheese; and an unfussy preparation with simple, everyday ingredients.

But instead of the alarming nutritional wake-up call that comes with the classic version, this recipe lets you dream on because it achieves those quintessential qualities in a healthful way.

The pivotal ingredient is a cup of cooked white beans. Neutral in flavor and color, the beans – when simmered and pureed with the broccoli and broth – give the soup a thick, creamy body. They not only eliminate the need to add white flour and cream as thickeners but also impart a wealth of nutrients including protein, fiber, essential minerals and antioxidants.

Another strategy in this recipe is in the way the cheese is used for maximum effect. First, extra-sharp cheddar provides the biggest punch of flavor, so you don’t need as much for the taste to burst through. Second, sprinkling some on top before serving makes for a delightfully melty first impression.


Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 large head broccoli, florets and tender part of stems, chopped (about 6 cups)

3 cups no-salt-added chicken or vegetable broth

1 cup canned, no-salt-added Great Northern or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup low-fat (1 percent) milk

1 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese (3 ounces)

1 teaspoon powdered mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, stir in the onion and cook for about 4 minutes, until tender but not browned.

Add the broccoli, broth and beans; increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Let the soup cool for 15 minutes, then puree it in a blender in three batches, until smooth. Wipe out the saucepan as needed.

Return the blended soup to the saucepan over medium heat. Once the soup is bubbling at the edges, reduce the heat to low. Stir in the milk, 3/4 cup of the cheese, the powdered mustard and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook until just warmed through.

Taste and add more salt as needed. Divide among individual bowls or deep mugs, and garnish with portions using the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese. Serve hot.

]]> 0 Cheddar Soup.Wed, 14 Dec 2016 08:13:48 +0000
Three Maine chefs share old family recipes prepared for the holidays Wed, 14 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 If you’ve ever fantasized about sitting at a chef’s table during the holidays, here’s your chance.

Chefs are just like the rest of us when it comes to celebrating Christmas and New Year’s. They have favorite dishes they like to serve their families, including recipes that have been passed down through the generations. We asked local chefs what they like to prepare at Christmastime, and they responded with favorite holiday recipes from childhood.

So take a seat at their tables, and enjoy.


Josh Berry, executive chef of Union Restaurant in Portland’s Press Hotel, is the first to admit that Indian pudding isn’t the most attractive dish in the world. But this quintessential New England dessert, especially popular during the holidays, unleashes his inner 5-year-old.

“When you eat it,” he says, “it’s like melted gingerbread. How is this possible? It really opens your eyes to the magic of cooking and how it’s like part science, part alchemy.”

Chef Joshua Berry finishes a serving of Indian pudding and ice cream at Union restaurant in the Press Hotel.

Chef Josh Berry finishes a serving of Indian pudding and ice cream at Union restaurant in the Press Hotel. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Berry, who was born and raised in the Sebago Lake area, has wanted to be a chef since he was 5, when he started experimenting in the kitchen with his mother and grandmother. Indian pudding is easy to make, so it quickly became one of his favorites.

This traditional American pudding is a “crazy hybrid mash” of Puritan and Native American cultures. It’s made with cornmeal, which was known by colonists as “Indian flour” or “Indian meal,” and milk, and sweetened with molasses. The dish reminded the homesick colonists of their beloved English “Hasty Pudding.”

In his previous job as executive chef at The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel in New Hampshire, Berry added Indian pudding to the menu to represent the region’s heritage. He’s done the same at Union, where it appears on the menu right around Christmastime, including the day-after-Christmas brunch.

Berry still makes Indian pudding at home too – his 10-year-old daughter Jillian “loves it to death” – but never until after Thanksgiving. To the chef and his family, Thanksgiving until Christmas is “Indian pudding season.” Just a couple of weeks ago, his family gathered at Sugarloaf for the weekend, and Berry made them a batch.

“You’ve got to have it warm,” Berry said. “Scoop it right out of that pan with some ice cream and oh, it’s delicious.”

Anders Tallberg, chef at Roustabout, makes Swedish meatballs with his family every year at Christmas.

Anders Tallberg, chef at Roustabout, makes Swedish meatballs with his family every year at Christmas. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer Derek Davis/Staff Photographer


As the chef at Roustabout, the Italian restaurant on Washington Avenue in Portland, Anders Tallberg makes a lot of meatballs. Some weigh in at as much as a quarter-pound.

But it’s little Swedish meatballs the size of a large marble that he looks forward to every holiday season, even though it can take hours to roll them all out. This annual ritual becomes less of a chore when the whole family pitches in, he says.

“I don’t think I’ve ever actually made the recipe myself without my family involved,” Tallberg said. “Every Christmas, there’s always a couple hundred of these things.”

Tallberg’s mother is of Sicilian heritage, and his father’s grandparents were Swedish. The chef grew up in Hampden, but usually spent the holidays visiting family in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Tallberg said that participating in these holiday family gatherings, and making and eating the food that was served at them, is one of the reasons he chose cooking as his life’s work.

The meatball recipe was passed down from his Swedish great-grandmother, Alma Tallberg, who died long before Tallberg was born. Tallberg says his family typically makes a batch a few weeks ahead of Christmas and freezes them. Later, they’ll make another batch to freeze. By staggering the production, they are able to spread the work out and have more meatballs available during the holidays.

"Your dad's original! It just says Christmas," reads a note on Anders Tallberg's family recipe for Swedish meatballs.

“Your dad’s original! It just says Christmas,” reads a note on Anders Tallberg’s family recipe for Swedish meatballs. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Tallberg said his family usually lays out a big spread of appetizers on Christmas Eve, and the Swedish meatballs are a part of that. Any family who happens to be in town comes over to visit and partake of the Christmas abundance. “There’s always a big table of food,” he said.

Alma Tallberg’s Swedish meatball recipe is safely tucked into her great-grandson’s family recipe book, which was a gift from his mother. It’s filled with all the dishes he ate as a child. “It’s not the most glamorous food, and it’s not necessarily the most authentic stuff, but it’s what I ate coming up, and it’s stuff that means a lot to me,” he said.

He hopes one day to travel to the land of Swedish meatballs with his wife, Kate.

“My wife’s family is Swedish as well, so we’re both chomping at the bit to get over there,” he said.


Chef Brian Hill’s great-grandmother Elsie, who was originally from Austria, died when he was 5 years old or so, but he still remembers being in the kitchen with her as she worked her magic making “incredible desserts.”

Hill, the chef-owner of Francine Bistro in Camden, recalls watching his great-grandmother roll out apple strudel by hand until it was so thin “you could read through it.” Her Sour Milk Orange Cake, reminiscent of a holiday fruit cake made with lots of dried fruits and spices, was another favorite.

Brian Hill, pictured in 2015 at Francine Bistro, makes his great-grandmother's Christmas cake both at home and at the restaurant this time of year.

Brian Hill, pictured in 2015 at Francine Bistro, makes his great-grandmother’s Christmas cake both at home and at the restaurant this time of year. File photo/Whitney Hayward Whitney Hayward/Staff Photographer

Elsie’s cake is dense, Hill says, but not heavy like fruit cake.

“When the cake came out of the oven, she would put this orange juice, sugar and booze mixture over the top, and it would just candy over the entire thing,” Hill said. The orange juice mixture glazes the top, creating an “incredible crunchy, sugary, glossy top that’s really neat.”

The cake was usually made the day before Christmas Eve so it could “ripen” on the counter for a day before being cut and served the night before Christmas.

“Having to stare at it there on the counter drove me crazy because it smelled so amazingly good,” Hill recalled.

But the deliciousness, apparently, skipped a generation. Once Hill’s “proto-hippie” parents inherited the recipe, they tried to make the cake more healthful, which always led to disappointment.

“They would put whole oranges in it and wheat germ – horrible hippie additives,” Hill complained.

Hill’s parents passed the recipe along to him about 20 years ago. Eventually, in addition to making Sour Milk Orange Cake at home, he started serving it at the restaurant so he could share the cake with his customers. His staff starts making it the day after Thanksgiving and serves the last slice on New Year’s Eve. The cake is usually served with a scoop of blackberry jam ice cream, or this year persimmon ice cream.

“We have customers that ask for it all year round, and we say, ‘No, you have to wait,’ ” Hill said. “It’s really moist, and it’s just the sort of thing you want to eat this time of the year.”

]]> 0 Berry dusts Indian pudding with powdered sugar at Union restaurant in the Press Hotel.Wed, 14 Dec 2016 08:18:30 +0000
The Maine Ingredient: Keeping eggs handy is a cook’s best insurance policy Wed, 14 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Having a carton of eggs in the fridge – especially fresh local eggs from a farmers market – is like having supper insurance for the weary, holiday-frazzled cook. I’m always happy to take them plain and simple, fried or scrambled. But since eggs can be prepared and seasoned in any number of ways, it’s also fun to experiment.


Mexican-style eggs are great for breakfast or lunch, but I like them best for supper. Serve with a salad of carrots, red onion and jicama and a basket of more warm tortillas.

1123133_391654 huevos.jpgKonstantin Kopachinsky/

Makes 2 servings

About 4 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 corn tortillas

2/3 cup refried beans

¾ teaspoon ground cumin

¾ teaspoon chili powder

4 eggs


2/3 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese or Mexican cheese blend

1 cup good-quality purchased salsa, hot or mild, to your taste

2/3 cup fresh cilantro sprigs

Half an avocado, peeled and diced

Half a lime, cut in wedges

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Heat the oil to sizzling in a large skillet. Fry tortillas, 1 at a time, until they are speckled with brown on both sides, about 20 seconds total. Drain on paper towels and arrange on a baking sheet. Spread the tortillas with beans, sprinkle with the cumin and chili powder, and place in oven to keep warm.

In the same skillet, fry the eggs over medium-low heat until the whites are beginning to set. Season with salt. Sprinkle the cheese over the eggs, cover the pan for about 30 seconds so that the cheese melts, and transfer the eggs to the tortillas.

At the table, pass the salsa, cilantro, avocado, and lime for squeezing over the top.


This frittata really tastes like pizza! A big green salad and sliced Italian bread are all you need to complete the meal.

Makes about 3 servings

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, sliced

7 eggs

1 teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

2 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced crosswise

4 ounces thinly sliced pepperoni

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

In a 10-inch skillet with an ovenproof handle (such as cast iron), heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until it begins to brown and soften, about 5 minutes.

Whisk the eggs in a bowl with the oregano, salt and pepper flakes. Stir in mozzarella. Reduce the heat to low and pour the egg mixture over the onions. Arrange the tomato slices over the eggs and scatter with the pepperoni. Cover the pan and cook over very low heat until the eggs are almost set, about 10 minutes. Preheat the broiler.

Sprinkle the top of the frittata with Parmesan and place the skillet about 5 inches under the heat source. Broil, watching carefully, until the top is just set, about 1 minute.

Cut into wedges 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, 14 Dec 2016 08:13:50 +0000
Bread and Butter: Opening a restaurant requires resourcefulness, optimism and more money than you think Wed, 14 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of two columns from chef Krista Kern Desjarlais, owner of Bresca and the Honey Bee in New Gloucester and the soon-to-open Purple House in North Yarmouth. Bread and Butter is an occasional chef-written series we publish in Food & Dining.

“You know what would be great in that spot!? A bakery … like a wood-fired bakery. With rustic pastries, nice coffee and bagels!!! I’ll just call the broker to schedule a look-see.”

That’s how it starts, innocently enough, with the glimpse of a “for sale” sign, a glimmer of an idea, a lot of enthusiasm, and a quick, impulsive phone call. Fast forward two years, and I’m on the brink of what will be my third restaurant opening in Maine, The Purple House in North Yarmouth (the others were Bresca in Portland and Bresca & the Honey Bee in New Gloucester), and the 13th of my career.

I’ve opened four restaurants on my own and nine as a chef or pastry chef with an opening team and owners to carry the financial burden. I say “burden” because of the massive cash drain it takes merely to open the doors. More about that in a minute.

Opening a restaurant or bakery or cafe is not for the faint of heart. Things go wrong, budgets go south, contractors go missing, openings get delayed. The first lesson I learned this time around was not to hire a carpenter off of a craigslist ad. Ever! He was a nice guy but in way over his head, and when he finally disappeared for good I was already two months behind.

Second lesson, things happen for a reason: If I had not hired this first carpenter, I would have never found my way to the professional carpenters who took over on the fly right before Christmas and completed the job expertly and quickly.

As for delays, well, it depends on your perspective. I made a deliberate decision to take my time, so it’s funny when I see the media describing The Purple House as “a long-delayed opening.” I gave myself time to rest after the summer, when I spend 12-hour days and seven-day weeks at Bresca & the Honey Bee. I’ve enough openings under my belt to know that the stress can literally kill you, so I structured this one so that I could still take care of my family and myself. I worked smarter, not harder.

The Purple House is at its heart a bakery, but I’m a cook as much as I am a baker and pastry chef, so I can’t help myself from intertwining the two. Whenever I design the interior of a space, I try to join the two worlds so I’ll be able to work with ease in my split existence. Part of my initial attraction to The Purple House, all 544 square feet of it, was that despite its small size I sensed it could accommodate all of me.

What I didn’t account for was that I would also have to serve as landscaper, gardener, general contractor and all-around fixer. I enjoy all these roles. Still, working by yourself pulling up weeds on the entire half-acre property for two weeks, as I did last fall, when you should be in the kitchen readying the place to open – sourcing flours, firing the oven, finalizing a million things – well, sometimes things just take time. That’s the reality of owning the property.

It’s a reality I embrace. For years when I would open a restaurant as an employee, I’d focus on the kitchen, the equipment and sometimes the placement of the equipment and the kitchen flow. But when I open a restaurant as an owner, I get to see my vision through from start to end. It’s daunting, sure, but it’s also exciting.

When I went on that “look-see” of this little cottage two years ago, I thought all the building needed was some aesthetic love and a few other upgrades, changes that seemed perfectly doable for my little budget. But after I bought the property and began to peel away the years (The Purple House has been a summer cottage, a year-round home, a hot dog stand and a beloved video store), it became clear I’d need to do a complete overhaul.

In the past year, I have had a roof installed, along with a new septic system, a leach field, a heating and cooling system, a front door and front steps, a parking lot surface and a patio. I’ve had the place painted inside and out, added electrical wiring, plumbing, flooring, interior walls, landscaping, and interior and exterior lighting. Did I forget anything? Oh yeah, a wood-burning oven for cooking and baking everything I plan to sell, including Montreal bagels, rustic pastries and Roman pizza by the slice. I needed – I need – all new windows too, but that one will have to wait a year, or maybe five.

Taken together, the overhaul represented a serious cash drain but, truthfully, it’s par for the course for opening any new business. If you want to succeed, you learn to roll with it, to adjust the budget (like a hundred times), to make succinct decisions that keep things moving but at the same time aren’t imprudent, and to reassure yourself that things usually work out fine. Or if they don’t, you force them to work out fine with your iron will, smiling as you write the largest checks you’ve ever written outside of signing your mortgage documents.

As of this writing, I aim to open The Purple House the week before Christmas. I’m staring down this beast I worked so hard to create. Day One is always a day of hope. Deep down, I know that ultimately it will be great. But it’s also a day of reckoning that can be nerve-racking in the extreme. Day Two is usually when I emerge from that portal of dread and self-doubt otherwise known as a restaurant opening.

My anxiety doesn’t stem from a fear of the unknown. Rather, it comes from my desire to create something beautiful for you, the guest; something financially successful for me, the owner; and a space that’s efficient for me, the baker/cook, to work in every day. Until I open, I can’t know if I’ve succeeded on all three counts. Stay tuned. I’ll let you know after Day Two if I got it right.

]]> 0 Kern Desjarlais outside The Purple House in North Yarmouth.Tue, 03 Jan 2017 09:48:35 +0000
Shrimp turn simple pasta into an impressive dish Wed, 14 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 This is a dazzler of a pasta dish. When you combine fresh pasta with big shrimp you are quickly telling your guests they are in for a treat.

But it’s not just the guests who will be happy. The whole dish comes together in about 20 minutes. Truly!

Adding some of the pasta’s cooking water to the dish cuts the heaviness of the cream sauce. Salt the sauce lightly, if at all, up to the point where you add it, since it will also be salted. Then taste and see if you need more seasoning.

Linguine with shrimp and peas.

Linguine with shrimp and peas. Katie Workman via AP Katie Workman via AP


Makes 6 servings

Kosher salt to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed

2 pounds peeled and deveined extra-large shrimp

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

1 cup frozen peas

1 cup heavy cream

Fresh ground pepper to taste

2 9-ounce packages fresh linguine

Chopped fresh parsley or basil to serve

Bring a large stockpot of salted water to a boil.

Heat the oil in a very large skillet over medium heat, and saute the garlic for 3 or 4 minutes just until it starts to lightly color. Remove the garlic cloves and toss them.

Add the shrimp to the skillet and saute for about 3 minutes until they have started to turn pink but are not cooked through, then remove them with a slotted spoon to a plate and set aside.

Add the tomato paste and white wine to the skillet and stir until the tomato paste has dissolved into the wine. Add the parsley, basil, peas and cream and bring to a simmer. Season with pepper. Return the partially cooked shrimp to the sauce and continue to simmer until the peas and shrimp have cooked through, about 2 minutes.

While you are making the sauce, cook the pasta in the boiling water according to package directions, about 4 minutes. Remove 1/2 cup of the cooking water and stir it into the sauce, then drain the pasta. Taste the sauce and see if it needs more salt or pepper.

Return the pasta to the pot, pour the sauce over it and toss to combine. Transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle with additional parsley or basil if desired, and serve immediately.

]]> 0 with shrimp and peas Katie Workman via APWed, 14 Dec 2016 08:13:52 +0000
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.


]]> 0, 07 Dec 2016 08:22:54 +0000
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.

]]> 0 butter brownies and mint brownies at Foley's Bakery in Portland. Early renditions of the brownie were flavored with molasses rather than chocolate. An early version of the chocolate brownie, known as the Bangor Brownie, was said to have been invented by a Bangor housewife when a cake she was making for company failed to rise.Wed, 07 Dec 2016 09:39:40 +0000
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.

1119695_871838 BookofVeganish1.jpg

“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

]]> 0, 07 Dec 2016 09:33:03 +0000
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.

]]> 0, 07 Dec 2016 09:32:52 +0000
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 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.

]]> 0, 07 Dec 2016 08:11:58 +0000
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 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 cheese sauce enriched with cream cheese and plenty of herbs boosts a croque-monsieur.Wed, 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 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 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 Martin spoons out cheese sauce for her grandmother Phyllis Sanders (background) to taste-test. The recipe came from Sanders' husband's family.Wed, 30 Nov 2016 12:44:58 +0000