The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » Recipes Tue, 25 Oct 2016 03:42:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Accents from around the world turn meatballs trendy Wed, 19 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Meatballs are the little black dresses of the culinary world.

You can dress them up for dinner with a velvet robe of sour cream and wild mushroom gravy.

They can be daytime simple with a jacket of roasted tomato marinara, trimmed with fresh asiago cheese and tucked into a crusty roll.

Or they can be cocktail party sweet-and-spicy, glistening with a glaze of pineapple juice, sriracha sauce and sugar.

They also are comparatively inexpensive; can be made ahead then sauced later; require little attention once prepared; often can be retrofitted on Day Two for a second go-round; and perform as well at a family dinner, a Sunday tailgate with friends, or a flavors-of-the-world themed get-together.

And they’re trendy, too.

One of the nation’s leading food research and consulting firms, Chicago-based Technomic, describes meatballs as a 2016 food trend that’s part of a national movement involving the “elevation of peasant fare” to new heights. “Meatballs … are proliferating – traditional, ethnic or nouveau,” Technomic opines.

That’s no surprise to Brian Borres, general manager of Emporio: A Meatball Joint in Pittsburgh.

Borres postulated that executive chef and managing partner Matt Porco adds his “distinct and different” brand of creativity to produce meatball bowls such as a “tater tot” poutine topped with mushroom gravy, a fried egg, bacon and pork meatball. It’s Borres’ favorite dish, he confessed, referring to it as “the breakfast bowl.” And it costs about $11. “Over a pound of food that is absolutely to die for. That’s a great value,” he said.

The affordability of meatballs makes them the perfect vehicle to introduce family and friends to a new ethnic flavor profile.

Whether fashioned of pork, beef, chicken or no meat at all (as in mushrooms/lentils/cheese), the essential meatball ingredients are comparatively inexpensive.

That allows for spending a little more dough on some of the spices needed to round out a recipe for the likes of Albondigas en Salsa de Limon. Translated, it’s meatballs in lemon sauce. The sauce requires a pinch of pricey saffron threads. A delicious overture into Spanish cuisine, this pork and veal meatball is cooked in a richly viscous egg yolk/lemon/saffron sauce enhanced with mushrooms.

The recipe for Albondigas en Salsa de Limon is featured in Penelope Casas’ “One Pot Spanish” tome, published in 2009 by Madison Press Books. Lemon, both in the meatballs and the sauce, makes a nice taste counterpoint to the delicious velvet of fat in the meat and egg yolk.

Casas suggests a sidecar of boiled new potatoes. Rice also would do well, especially if the sauce ingredients were doubled and the meatballs were situated atop of the rice.

Smacking of pan-Asian is an exceptionally simple and yummy recipe for cocktail meatballs in the recently published “Ultimate Appetizer Ideabook, 225 Simple, All-Occasion Recipes” by Kiera and Cole Stipovich from Chronicle Books.

The recipe pairs a delicate ground lamb ball with a spicy-sweet glaze of chili-pepper jelly that can be made for pennies in about 10 minutes.

It’s hard to think of meatballs without thinking of tomato sauce. A 2015 publication by the editors of Saveur, entitled “Saveur Italian Comfort Food,” offers a spin on the pairing that calls for a very spicy meatball cooked in an unusually simple and spice-free red sauce. Called “Classic Meatballs,” they feature ricotta, pork fat and prosciutto with a half-dozen spices, all adding up to a dish that need not sit atop pasta to stand as an entree.

These meatballs are more involved than the meatballs I make to serve with my spaghetti. And a couple of ingredients required special effort (my butcher had to trim a slab of pork fat for me), but they are worth the extra effort if you want to dial up Italian night a notch.


Classic Italian meatballs

Classic meatballs

I used veal in this recipe with ground pork and pork fat instead of unsmoked bacon. I also bumped up the heat with a few extra chili flakes. I like my tomato sauce a bit more flavored: I added a teaspoon of sugar and a teaspoon of salt.

10 ounces ground veal

10 ounces ground pork shoulder

2 ounces finely chopped pork fat or unsmoked bacon

2 ounces prosciutto, finely chopped

11/4 cups loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped, plus more to garnish

2 teaspoons dried oregano

11/2 teaspoons fennel seeds

1 teaspoon chili flakes

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

7 slices white bread, finely ground in a food processor

Kosher salt (divided) and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2/3 cup ricotta, drained in a sieve for two hours

2 tablespoons milk

3 eggs, lightly beaten

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing

1/4 cup red wine

4 cups canned tomato puree

1 cup beef or veal stock

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano to garnish

Combine all meats, herbs, spices, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper in a large bowl and set aside. In another bowl, whisk together ricotta, milk and eggs then add to meat mixture, gently. Chill for an hour.

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Grease two rimmed baking sheets with oil and set aside. Using a 2-ounce ice cream scoop (I just used my hands), portion mixture and roll into balls. Transfer to baking sheets.

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in high-sided, 3-quart (ovenproof) skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the meatballs; cook, turning occasionally, until browned, about 10 minutes.

Transfer meatballs to a plate and wipe out skillet. Repeat with remaining oil and meatballs.

Return reserved meatballs to skillet along with any juices from the plate. Add wine, increase heat to high and cook for two minutes.

Stir in tomato puree, stock, sugar and salt, bring to a boil and tightly cover skillet.

Transfer to oven and bake until meatballs are tender and have absorbed some sauce, about 11/2 hours.

To serve, transfer meatballs to a platter and spoon sauce over. Sprinkle with Parmigiano and parsley.

Adapted from “Saveur Italian Comfort Food” by the editors of Saveur


Meatballs with lemon sauce.

Meatballs in lemon sauce

The thick and glossy sauce is delicious. I’d use it on rice even sans meatball.

6 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs

1/4 cup milk

3/4 pound ground veal

3/4 pound ground pork

2 eggs

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons minced parsley

2 tablespoons finely chopped prosciutto

11/2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme leaves or 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme

2 cloves garlic, minced

11/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

All-purpose flour for dusting

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup finely chopped Mayan onion

3/4 cup chicken broth

3 tablespoons dry white wine

3 tablespoons minced parsley

1 clove garlic, minced

Pinch of crumbled saffron threads

Kosher or sea salt

4 ounces mushrooms, brushed clean, stems trimmed, and caps halved or quartered

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 egg yolks

Chicken broth or water, as needed

To prepare meatballs, combine breadcrumbs with milk in a large bowl. Gently mix in ground veal and pork, eggs, lemon juice, parsley, prosciutto, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper. Shape into 1/2-inch meatballs and dust with flour.

To prepare sauce, heat oil in a shallow flameproof casserole over medium-high heat, and saute meatballs until brown on all sides. Add onion and saute until softened. Stir in broth and wine. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and simmer for 40 minutes.

Mash 2 tablespoons parsley, garlic, saffron and a pinch of salt to a paste in a mortar, or process in a mini food processor until finely minced.

Transfer meatballs to a warm plate and keep warm.

Strain sauce through a fine sieve, pressing on the solids with the back of a metal soup ladle to extract as much liquid as possible. Return sauce to the casserole and add mushrooms, mortar mixture and lemon juice.

Whisk egg yolks with a little hot sauce from the casserole in a small bowl, then add back to the casserole. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until thickened (do not boil). If the sauce seems too thick, add a little broth or water. (Mine needed no additional liquid.)

Return meatballs to the sauce and simmer for 1 minute. Serve straight from the casserole, sprinkled with remaining parsley.

From “One Pot Spanish” by Penelope Casas


Chili-pepper jelly-glazed lamb meatballs.

Chili-pepper jelly-glazed lamb meatballs

These are like potato chips; you can’t stop with one. I doubled the sauce recipe because I found it to be so deliciously spicy yet sweet.

1 pound ground lamb

2 tablespoons minced onion

1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

11/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves

3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon ketchup

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 lightly beaten egg

Mix all ingredients lightly, except egg. When combined, add egg and mix again. Shape into 1-inch balls. Place on baking sheet, lined with parchment paper or foil. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake meatballs for 20 to 25 minutes or until internal temperature is 165 degrees. Immediately add cooked meatballs to 1/2 recipe Chili-Pepper Jelly Glaze in a saucepan (I made a full recipe and used it all) and simmer uncovered over low heat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring gently as needed until the meatballs are nicely glazed.


1/3 cup ketchup

1/4 cup water

3 tablespoons pepper jelly

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine all the ingredients. Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until the flavors have blended.

Use right away or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to five days.

From “The Ultimate Appetizer Ideabook” by Kiera and Cole Stipovich

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Hot tip for cheesecake: Enjoy it right out of the oven Wed, 19 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Cheesecake is usually served cold. So brace yourself for something a little different.

The first time I made this recipe, I pulled it out of the oven and set it on the counter to cool. The plan was to chill it overnight in the refrigerator. But my dear daughter – also known as The Girl with the Sweet Tooth – just couldn’t wait to dig in. So I handed her a spoon. And when she started babbling with delight, I tried it, too.

Boing! It was ridiculously good. So good that I now recommend that you serve this cheesecake hot, right out of the oven, topped with a little vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream.

That said, getting there requires some care. Be sure to buy plain pumpkin puree, which is sometimes labeled solid pack pumpkin. Avoid anything labeled “pumpkin pie filling” or “pumpkin pie mix,” both of which contain unwanted sugar and spices. You’re much better off adding those ingredients yourself.

Also, don’t forget to drain the pumpkin puree. Losing the excess liquid from the puree improves the final texture and flavor of the cake.

The cooking also requires some care. You’re going to cook the cake in a water bath, which helps to equalize the temperature in the oven and prevents overcooking. But first the springform pan must be tightly wrapped with foil to prevent any water from leaking into the batter while the cake is baking.

Finally, do your best to not overbake the cake, which will make it dry and crumbly. After the allotted cooking time, it should still be a little jiggly. Worried that the cake might be undercooked at that point? Don’t be. The residual heat will continue to cook it even after you pull it out of the oven.

By the way, this cheesecake also is a knockout when it’s served the usual way – cold. If you decide to go this route, run a knife around the outside edge of the cake to separate it from the pan as soon as you remove the cake from the oven. This will allow the cake to remain intact as it shrinks in on itself, rather than cracking down the middle as it vainly attempts to unglue itself from the sides of the pan.

If you do indeed decide to serve this cold, let it cool completely on a rack on the counter – it’ll take three to four hours – before wrapping it tightly and popping it in the refrigerator to chill overnight.

When it’s time to serve, run a knife around the edge of the pan again, carefully remove the side of the pan, then slice the cheesecake with a knife dipped in hot water (or use unflavored dental floss).

And don’t forget the crowning glory. As noted, whipped cream or ice cream are the accessories of choice.


Makes 16 servings


6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for the pan

11/4 cups gingersnap cookie crumbs (made by pulsing about 25 cookies in a food processor until finely ground)

1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon table salt


15-ounce can pumpkin puree

3 large eggs

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup bourbon, dark rum or cognac

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

11/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground dry ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon table salt

Three 8-ounce packages 1/3-less-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), room temperature

Vanilla ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream, to serve

Heat the oven to 375 F. Brush the inside of a 9-inch springform pan with melted butter.

To make the crust, in a medium bowl, stir together the 6 tablespoons of butter, the gingersnap crumbs, brown sugar and salt until combined well. Pour the crumb mixture into the pan and press it evenly over the bottom of the pan. Bake on the oven’s middle shelf for 10 minutes. Transfer to a cake rack and cool for 30 minutes.

Reduce the oven to 350 F.

Line a mesh colander with a clean kitchen towel. Mound the pumpkin puree into the towel and set over a medium bowl. Bring the ends of the towel up and gently squeeze to remove excess water (you should be able to squeeze out about 1/4 cup of liquid). Discard the liquid. Rinse and dry the bowl, then in it mix together the pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, cream, vanilla and bourbon. Set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together the granulated sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and salt. Add the cream cheese, then use an electric mixer on high to beat until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the pumpkin mixture to the cream cheese mixture and beat on low, just until combined.

Bring a large kettle of water to a boil.

Use foil to wrap the bottom and sides of the springform pan. Pour the filling into the pan. Fold a kitchen towel so it fits evenly in a roasting pan just a bit larger than the springform pan. Set the springform pan on top of the towel in the roasting pan. Working quickly, pour enough boiling water into the larger pan to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake the cheesecake for 65 to 70 minutes, or until it is mostly set but still slightly jiggly at the center.

Spoon some of the cheesecake onto each serving plate and top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a spoonful of whipped cream.

Alternatively, if serving the cheesecake cold, transfer it to a rack, run a sharp knife around the edge and let it cool completely, about 4 hours, before covering with plastic wrap. Chill. To serve, cut into slices and top each slice with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a spoonful of whipped cream.

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Popcorn warms to flavors of the season Wed, 19 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Popcorn, much like fall, is a crunchy treat.

And it’s even more of a treat when you pop it up with the flavors of the season – Halloween and football-friendly flavors like pumpkin spice, peanut butter and honey, white chocolate and candy corn, Buffalo ranch, bacon Parmesan.

We scoured the internet for the most tempting popcorn recipes for fall and found several winners. These recipes are all easy to make – some take only a few minutes to mix up – and they’re perfect for Halloween parties, tailgates or even simple snacking.

Popcorn also is inexpensive, plus it’s high in fiber and low in calories if you pop it yourself. We started all of these recipes by popping the corn from kernels, something that’s easy to do. Just heat up a quarter cup of oil at the bottom of a big pot, then add enough kernels to cover the bottom. Move the pot around on the burner until the popping slows. All of the five recipes included here were made using just one 32-ounce bag of kernels, and we had about eight cups left over.

You also can use microwave popcorn or bagged popcorn, but the calories and cost both go up if you do.


Makes 12 cups

12 cups popped popcorn

1 teaspoon granulated garlic or garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon dill

1/4 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

4 tablespoons butter

2 teaspoons hot sauce, like Frank’s RedHot

In a small bowl combine granulated garlic, dill, cumin and sea salt. Set aside. In another bowl, melt butter and add sauce. Mix until combined. Toss butter with popcorn in a large bowl. Then toss with seasoning.


Makes about 8 cups

1/4 cup popcorn kernels

Vegetable oil

Fine salt

1/2 cup honey

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup peanut butter (should be free of added sugar)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Have a clean paper shopping bag or oversized mixing bowl ready.

Heat a 4-quart heavy pan over medium heat and film the bottom with vegetable oil. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the popcorn, shake to distribute, then put a lid on the pan, leaving a small crack for steam to escape.

When the first kernel pops, put the lid on all the way. As the popcorn starts popping, shake vigorously to make sure the kernels are distributed evenly. When the popping slows to a few seconds between pops, take the pan off the heat.

Pour the popcorn into the paper bag or bowl to cool, and attempt to leave any unpopped kernels behind in the pan. (Coated with peanut butter caramel, the unpopped kernels are a serious tooth hazard). Lightly salt the popcorn to taste.

Mix the honey and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Let it simmer for about 2 minutes, then remove from the heat and add the peanut butter. Stir vigorously until all the peanut butter is melted, then mix in the vanilla.

Immediately pour the peanut butter caramel over the popcorn and stir with a long-handled wooden spoon until it’s all coated. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Note: This recipe will also cover one standard bag of microwave popcorn, so you can substitute that for the stovetop popcorn, if you wish. This keeps well overnight. You can perk up a bowl of leftover popcorn in 15-second bursts in the microwave until slightly warm and soft.


Makes 16 cups

16 cups popped corn

12-16 ounces white chocolate chips, melted

3/4 cup candy corn

3/4 cup peanuts

11/2 cup pretzel sticks

11/2 cups Reese’s pieces

Make sure unpopped kernels are removed from popcorn. Place it in a large bowl. Melt white chocolate in a microwave-save bowl in the microwave. Pour chocolate over popcorn in bowl and stir to coat. Spread the mixture onto two large cookie sheets lines with wax paper. Distribute candy corn, pretzel sticks and Reese’s Pieces over the popcorn. Allow chocolate to set up and break mixture into pieces.


Makes 16 cups

4 quarts popped popcorn

1/3 cup butter or margarine

1/4 teaspoon hickory liquid smoke seasoning

1/3 cup bacon bits or soy “bacon” bits

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon seasoned salt or kosher salt

Place popcorn in a large serving bowl. Place butter in a small bowl and melt in microwave, about 20 seconds. Stir liquid smoke into butter. Pour butter mixture over popcorn and toss to distribute evenly. Sprinkle bacon bits, Parmesan cheese and salt over popcorn. Toss and serve immediately.


Makes 15 cups

15 cups plain popped popcorn

11/2 sticks butter, cubed

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup light corn syrup

1/4 cup molasses

1 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a Silpat. Place the popcorn in a large bowl and set aside. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the butter, sugar, corn syrup, molasses, pumpkin pie spice and salt to a boil.

Stir briefly to combine the ingredients and then allow them to boil for 3 minutes without stirring.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and immediately pour onto the popcorn. Stir until evenly coated. Spread the popcorn evenly on the prepared sheet pan and place in the oven. Allow to cook for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and break into pieces (or enjoy as clusters). Serve popcorn warm or at room temperature.

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Signature Dish: Fried lobster comes with warm memories of grandmother Wed, 19 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 BAILEY ISLAND — Brett Johnson gently lowered two pieces of batter-covered lobster tail into a pan of hot oil, and they sizzled in a way that seemed unnatural. That can’t be right, a voice bellowed inside my head. Lobster, I knew from nearly 30 years of living in Maine, is steamed or boiled or sautéed – why is it sizzling?

It will be tough, my mind protested silently. It will be greasy. It will taste like a chicken finger.

None of that was true. When the Johnson family finally gathered at the dinner table and dug into their fried lobster, served with slaw and a cup of seafood chowder, the golden pieces of fried lobster claws and tails were tender, decidedly not greasy, and the lobster taste wasn’t overwhelmed by batter.

People have tried to interfere with the frying of the lobster before, wanting to add a spice here, a little extra flour there, but Johnson will have none of it. “Step away from the batter,” he tells those friends. “I am channeling my nana.”

Nana is Eileen Johnson, who in the 1950s owned the rustic Rock Ovens restaurant, where Morse’s Cribstone Grill sits now. She is Johnson’s grandmother. Fried lobster, and a wide variety of other fried seafood, was on the menu at Rock Ovens.

Eileen was married to Capt. Lawrence E. Johnson, a lobsterman who fished until he was into his 80s. Between the two of them, Johnson and his siblings’ Maine roots run as deep as a canyon in the North Atlantic. Brett Johnson, an interior designer who lives in Portland; his older sister Cathy Silva, who lives in Port Charlotte, Florida; and brother Chris Johnson, who lives on Great Island, are 16th- or 17th-generation Mainers on the Johnson side. Eileen Johnson, who was born a Shea, traced her Maine roots back to the late 1800s.

Eileen Shea’s father, Jeremiah, was a stonemason who raised his family on Little Island, a tiny island off of Orrs Island. Eileen worked at her sister-in-law’s boarding house on Bailey Island and was a “hash slinger” at the Merritt House, which took in guests from the steamships that arrived from Portland. Millie Johnson, Eileen’s daughter-in-law, recalled her as “a character” who liked to drink beer.

Brett Johnson said she reminded him of “Dirty Sally,” the cantankerous frontierswoman from the old TV series Gunsmoke. “Not that she was rough and tumble, but she was wry and witty and definitely had a little bit of a raunchy side,” he said.

Growing up, Brett Johnson and his siblings spent the kind of summers kids dream about at their grandparents’ house. When they weren’t working as sternmen on their grandfather’s boat, Nana took them strawberry and blueberry picking, and they hunted for dandelions. She fed them chicken and dumplings, and lobster hash from a cast iron skillet. None of the kids remember her restaurant – she was out of the business before they reached the age of remembering – but they do fondly recall walking into the kitchen and seeing their grandfather knitting lobster trap heads at the kitchen table while Nana cooked.

“There was always something really good in the refrigerator,” Brett Johnson said. “Literally, you’d go to the refrigerator and see what was in there for leftovers before you’d even say hello.”

Capt. Johnson noticed his grandson’s predilection for leftovers and nicknamed him GG – for “garbage gut.”

Brett Johnson said his grandmother would ferment anything. “There was always a crock of something fermenting in the backyard – pickles or dandelion wine,” he said.

She salted fish as well. “The clothesline was always full of dried fish,” Brett Johnson said.

Before she died, Nana gave her granddaughter Cathy an old trunk that had been in the attic. Inside, Silva discovered an old, handmade “diploma” dated 1955, a “Doctorate of Culinary Arts” bestowed upon Eileen Johnson by a group of English professors from Bowdoin College. The professors were regulars at the Rock Ovens restaurant, and obviously loved her cooking.

The diploma reads in part:

“Be it known to all men by these presents, that we, the undersigned Board of Goliardic Examiners, after consideration, fitting discussion, and mature digestion of her many varied works of gastronomical delectation, relishing her comfortable sustenance of body and spirit, and with cordial appreciation… do hereby award to Eileen Johnson of Rock Ovens, Bailey Island, Harpswell, Maine, the degree of Doctor of Culinary Arts, the same to be had and held by her, friend of gourmets, sustainer of learning, and patroness of professors of English, with all rights, honors and privileges thereunto appertaining…”

It’s fortunate that Silva got the trunk when she did, because the Johnsons’ home burned down in the 1990s, taking with it family photos and heirlooms. The property sat for years until the Johnson grandchildren, around 2009, decided to form a trust and rebuild the house, this time higher on the hill to capture a better water view. They named it the Capt. Lawrence E. Johnson House and now rent it out in the summer and use it as a family retreat.

When Brett and Chris Johnson finished with the renovations and interior design, they asked their sister to scan a copy of their Nana’s honorary culinary arts degree so they could frame it and hang it in the new kitchen. When Silva removed the document from the frame in order to do so, she discovered, hidden in the back, an old newspaper column that included their grandmother’s recipe for fried lobster. The column, called “The Valley Pantry” and written by Cynthia McKee, described McKee’s vacation in Maine and how she and her family ate lobster every day. The Johnsons have been unable to nail down what newspaper the column ran in, but think it may have been published in the Midwest. McKee wrote that the family tried all the restaurants in the Bailey Island area, but Rock Ovens was their favorite.

“There I was introduced to fried lobster, and after I ate it once, I was lost – I had it for dinner every night afterward,” McKee wrote.

McKee noted that the restaurant offered lobster fried in either batter or butter, but she preferred the batter. Eileen Johnson told McKee that the fried lobster recipe had been given to her by her sister-in-law, who got it from her mother.

Brett Johnson is the only one of his generation who remembers his grandmother making fried lobster. But once the siblings discovered the recipe, of course they had to try it. Now Brett Johnson often makes it for his friends at dinner parties. He serves it plain, but wonders if a dipping sauce might work well with it – “maybe a really buttery aioli,” he suggests. His sister likes the idea of a sriracha aioli.

Eileen Johnson died in 1987, at the age of 69. Sitting around the new dining room table, the family pointed out that a lot of their family history was “just gone” after the fire, which makes re-creating their Nana’s fried lobster “even more special.”

“A lot of our memories are around cooking,” Brett Johnson said, “and certainly around…

“Eating!” they all chimed in in unison. And they laughed.


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Toppings make Mexican chicken soup sing Wed, 12 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I find it a source of comfort that pretty much every culture, every cuisine, has its own interpretation of chicken soup.

The Mexican version in particular speaks to me, scented with chilies and spices like cumin and coriander, riddled with slightly softened tortilla chips.

In Mexico, whole chilies may be used, often toasted and the crumbled into the soup. I rely on dried chili powder, pure ancho if you can find it, but in this recipe, regular blended chili powder also works just fine.

Cooking the chicken breasts in the broth enriches both broth and chicken, but if you are in a rush, go ahead and use about 3 cups of shredded cooked chicken, maybe from a rotisserie chicken. Need one more shortcut? Skip the frying of the tortillas; grab a bag of tortilla chips, lightly crush a few handfuls and use those instead.

The garnishes are what make this soup so special. Do not be timid with the offerings: An assortment of shredded cheese, diced avocado, fresh cilantro, salsa and lime wedges will turn a comforting soup into a feast.

You can make the soup ahead – stopping after adding the chicken – and keep it refrigerated for up to four days. Reheat, adding the lime juice when you are ready to serve (and, of course, don’t fry the tortillas or prep the toppings until just before serving).


Serves 4 to 6


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium-size onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1½ teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon pure ancho chili powder

1 can (14.5 ounces) crushed tomatoes

6 cups chicken broth, preferably low-sodium

Kosher or coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 11/2 pounds)

Canola or vegetable oil, for pan-frying

6 corn tortillas, halved and cut crosswise into thin strips

Juice of 1 lime

TO SERVE (optional, pick and choose):

1 or 2 avocados, peeled and diced

1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Salsa or Pico de Gallo

1 lime, cut into wedges

Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until tender and golden, 5 minutes. Stir in the cumin, coriander, and chili powder and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and chicken broth, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer over high heat. Add the chicken breasts and lower the heat to medium-low. Simmer uncovered (don’t let the soup come to a boil), stirring occasionally, until the chicken is just barely cooked, about 12 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate and let sit until cool enough to handle. Keep the soup gently simmering over medium-low heat.

Meanwhile, pour the oil to a depth of 1 inch into a medium-size skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Line a plate with paper towels. When the oil is hot, add the tortilla strips in batches and fry, stirring often, until they are crisp and lightly colored, about 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to the plate, and sprinkle lightly with salt while they are still hot.

Shred the slightly cooled chicken, and stir it and the lime juice into the soup.

Ladle the soup into soup bowls and top with the fried tortilla strips, along with your choice of diced avocado, cheese, cilantro, salsa and lime wedges.

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

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Soft to the core: That’s how we like them (baked) apples Wed, 12 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I’m writing to you from Paris, where the weather is still sunny and warm but the markets are decked out for fall. The hard-shell squash are coming in; the figs and plums are petering out. Apples are plentiful and will be for months ahead. Thank goodness! Apples are a harbinger of fall, and they’re also a baker’s best friend. Take an apple, apply heat and you’re guaranteed that what you get will be satisfying.

Sure, you can make a pie or a tart – I’ll be doing that – and crumbles and crisps and turnovers and fritters. But for pure coziness, nothing beats an old-fashioned baked apple.

Baked apples were a dessert of my American childhood, but it was in Paris that they became something I loved. In France, people don’t bake at home with the enthusiasm that we Americans bring to the craft. They do bake apples, though – stuffed with dried fruit, spiced and basted with pan syrup. The dish is so popular that when you look at apple charts, which turn up often at the market here and more often in French food magazines, you can be sure there will be a note when a specific kind is good for pommes au four.

In America, baked apples typically are made with large apples such as Romes, Empires and Cortlands. For years, that’s what I used; those apples give you plenty of room for stuffing, and they bake to a spoonable consistency, which is lovely for some people and too close to nursery food for others. But in France, you’re as likely to find a baked Gala or a Golden Delicious, the latter an apple the French seem to appreciate more than we do. The benefit of baking those smaller apples is that they’re, well, smaller: You don’t get as much filling, but you do get what seems like just the right size portion. More Mama Bear than Papa or Baby.

Given my propensity for tinkering, it’s no surprise that I like baking apples. They can be stuffed with any variety of good things. In this version, the filling is a mix of soft, sweet dried dates, spice cookies, maple syrup and little pieces of fresh lemon: chosen for their deliciousness, bien sûr, but also because these are ingredients that I almost always have at hand. I know that adding maple syrup to dates sounds like sugar on sugar, but it turns out that with the spice and lemon, the combination is just right. You’ll see.

Takeaway tips:

 Choose firm, unblemished apples – “baking apples,” Galas or Golden Delicious – and core them one of two ways: Remove the core and pits from the center of the apple in a slender cylinder (or by cutting away with a peeler until what you’ve got is cylinder-like; I’ve never gotten it perfectly cylindrical and it’s never mattered). Or cut a slice off the top of the apple and hollow out the core and bits to make a bowl with sturdy sides, which will leave you more room for filling, so you may want to up the amount of it by about 50 percent. Either way, don’t dig all the way to the bottom of the fruit.

• Peel the apples from the top down to the midpoint. Peeling helps keep them from bursting out of their skins in the oven, and it also gives you a surface that will sop up the tasty basting liquids.

• You can replace the chopped dates with raisins; chopped prunes; snipped, dried apricots; pears; even apples. You can add chopped nuts, if you like. What I wouldn’t forgo is the lemon, because that shot of acidity offsets the sweetness of the fruit.

• I use Lotus brand Biscoff cookies (sold as Lotus Speculoos in Europe) in the filling. They add body, and, more important, they’ve already got all the spices I’d want to add to the dish. If you’re not a fan, use plain butter cookies.

• My favorite liquid for basting is apple cider, but juice or water would be fine as well. And yes, you can use pears instead of apples.

In France, you’re likely to see these apples served warm with a dollop of slowly melting crème fraîche or a trickle of heavy cream over them. But moi? I go for the warm apple with ice cream – memories of an American childhood.


The baked apples are best within a few hours of being made. You can keep them covered in the refrigerator overnight, but their texture will not be as soft and comforting.

Makes 4 servings


1 lemon, cut crosswise in half

8 plump pitted dates, chopped

4 Lotus brand Biscoff or Speculoos cookies, chopped

3 or 4 tablespoons pure maple syrup

4 large apples, such Golden Delicious or Gala

4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter

¾ cup apple cider, apple juice or water

FOR SERVING (optional):

Ice cream

Heavy cream

Crème fraîche

Plain yogurt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Have a baking pan at hand that will hold the apples comfortably.

Slice off a strip of lemon peel from one lemon half, cutting away the bitter white pith. Remove 8 segments of lemon (also with no pith) from that same half and chop them finely. Toss the chopped lemon into a bowl with the dates, cookies and 2 tablespoons of the maple syrup and stir to combine.

Peel the apples from the stem end down to their midpoints; reserve the peels. Rub the peeled part of the apples with the remaining lemon half. Core the apples, taking care not to cut through to the bottom. (If you prefer, you can cut a small slice from the top of the apple and scoop out the core, scooping away a little extra apple all around, so that you create a “bowl” for the filling.)

Cut half the butter into 8 pieces. Put a piece of butter inside each apple, then divide the fruit filling among the apples, spooning it into each cored section and allowing it to mound on top if you have excess filling. Top each apple with another piece of butter.

Pour the cider, juice or water into the baking pan. Cut the remaining butter into small pieces and toss it into the pan along with the reserved apple peels, the piece of lemon peel and 1 tablespoon of the maple syrup. Stand the apples up in the pan.

Bake the apples for 60 to 75 minutes, basting every 15 minutes, until they are soft enough to pierce easily with a thin knife. After about 30 minutes, taste the pan juice. If you’d like it a bit sweeter, stir in the last spoonful of maple syrup.

Transfer the apples to a serving platter or put each apple in a bowl. The apples can be served with or without the basting liquid. If you’d like the juice to be more syrupy, pour it into a small saucepan and boil it down for a few minutes.

Serve the apples after they’ve cooled for 10 minutes or when they’ve reached room temperature. If you’d like to serve cream, top the apples with it or serve it on the side. Dorie Greenspan’s preference is to serve warm apples with ice cream; the contrast is fun.

The apples are good on their own and nice with heavy cream or yogurt or crème fraîche poured over them.

]]> 0, 12 Oct 2016 08:26:39 +0000
Even a newbie to Indian cooking can find success with ‘Mr. Todiwala’s Spice Box: 120 Recipes from Just Ten Spices’ Wed, 12 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “Mr. Todiwala’s Spice Box: 120 Recipes from Just Ten Spices.” By Cyrus Todiwala. Mitchell Beazley. $29.99

The last time I cooked Indian food, I burned it.

My late departure from the office had delayed a promised chicken tikka masala feast on my boyfriend’s birthday, and when I tried to rush through the sauce, I overcooked the spices and ended up with a charred mess. He forgave me – but I owed him one.

Enter “Mr. Todiwala’s Spice Box: 120 Recipes from Just Ten Spices.”

I have loved Indian food since my best friend first introduced me to a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in our hometown, where we would treat the delicious burn of vindaloo sauce with the cool refreshment of mango lassi. Only in recent years have I been confident enough to bring those dishes I love so much into my kitchen, and my success has been variable. The recipes in Cyrus Todiwala’s cookbook are not the typical fare you’ll find on your takeout menu, but the writer, a British chef and restaurant owner, aims to guide a beginner like me into a marriage of Indian and western flavors.

“Professional chefs often make the mistake of assuming knowledge in their audience, and I must admit that I’ve been guilty of that myself,” Todiwala writes.

He goes on to explain he has built his cookbook on 10 inexpensive, readily available and versatile spices – black mustard seeds, red chile, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cardamom, cloves, saffron, cinnamon and mace. I did have six from Todiwala’s list already on my shelves, although I spent extra time at the grocery store searching for tamarind paste needed to make Chicken Curry with Butternut Squash, Potatoes and Rum. (I thought butternut squash made for a nice seasonal twist. My boyfriend was just excited to pour rum into the bubbling curry.)

The book was overwhelming at first – more than 230 pages packed with full-page glossy photographs. I felt strangely comforted and emboldened, however, by the friendliness of Todiwala’s descriptions atop each recipe. In two or three short sentences, he explains the origin of each one and, on occasion, adds a personal note. His wife is partial to crisp fried okra, for example, and the beef curry is named for the part-time cook who taught Todiwala the recipe at a hotel in Goa.

Perhaps the friendliness of the head notes is why I also decided to try my hand at naan. Todiwala warns his readers naans are not easily made at home, a fact to which I can attest personally from a number of failed attempts. But his tone was gentle, the steps seemed clear enough – and just looking at that photo gave me cravings for a pile of the warm bread.

One word of caution: Many of these recipes require several hours of waiting time before any actual cooking can begin. The chicken needed to sit in its marinade for two to three hours, and the naan dough took two hours to rise.

When the curry was finally simmering on the stovetop, we took regular tastes and added extra amounts of nearly every spice to strengthen their flavors. In the meantime, we also sautéed a quick batch of Purple Sprouting Broccoli with Garlic, Chile and Pomegranate, a relatively easy and fresh-tasting side dish.

The naan dough proved easy to maneuver; each piece we griddled was more successful than the last, and the sprinkle of salt on top was perfect. While I have tossed every recipe I’ve tried in the past, I’ll be saving this one to make again.

The smells wafting from my pots and pans had our stomachs rumbling, and after more than an hour over the stove, we quickly cleaned our steaming plates. The curry was flavorful and filling, with just the right amount of lingering heat and plenty of sauce for dipping.

I think I’ve done my penance for a botched birthday dinner, and I have to say, I didn’t mind one bit.


As we tasted our simmering curry, we decided to increase the spicing, adding more turmeric, chiles, coriander, tamarind paste and salt and pepper. I recommend tasting as you cook and doing the same to suit your preferences. The recipe makes excellent leftovers.

Serves 6-8

6 to 8 chicken legs, chopped in half through the bone

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup sunflower, peanut or canola oil

2 red onions, chopped

1.2-pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 2-inch cubes

2 to 3 red or white potatoes, peeled

1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk

2 cups chicken stock

1 tablespoon tamarind paste or pulp (to taste, since some tamarind preparations are very strong)

3 bay leaves

1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons dark rum

Juice from 1/2 lime

1 to 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Steamed or boiled rice, to serve


1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

2 to 3 fresh green chiles, coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon sea salt

1. To make the marinade, combine all the ingredients in a blender with a little water and whiz to a smooth paste.

2. To make the chicken, put the chicken in a bowl, rub in the salt and pepper, then stir in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 to 3 hours.

3. When you’re ready to start cooking, heat half the oil in a large, heavy saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Scrape the excess marinade off the chicken pieces, reserving it for later. Saute the meat for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, turning regularly until browned all over. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.

4. Heat the remaining oil in the empty pan, then add the onions and saute for 6 to 8 minutes, until soft.

5. Add the squash and potatoes and saute for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring regularly until just soft and pale golden brown.

6. Add the reserved marinade to the pan and stir well to coat the vegetables. Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, stirring often, until the spices are fragrant.

7. Return the browned chicken to the pan and add the coconut milk, chicken stock, tamarind (a little at a time, tasting as you go), and the bay leaves. Stir well and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until reasonably thick, then pour in the rum. Cover the pan and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the chicken in tender and the sauce has thickened. At that point, gently stir in the lime juice. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Scatter with the chopped cilantro.

8. Serve with steamed or boiled rice.`


]]> 1, 12 Oct 2016 08:26:56 +0000
This edamame dish can be used as a side dish or as the star Wed, 12 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I’m a fan of stocking my kitchen with healthy, nutrient-dense ingredients that can be used on the fly on those busy days when 5 p.m. sneaks up without notice.

Frozen edamame, or soybeans, are a great example. Buy both shelled and unshelled versions and keep them in the freezer. The edamame in the pod are perfect to grab to stave off hungry kiddos while dinner is being prepared – a quick steam or microwave visit, plus a bit of garlic or spices, and a healthy nibble is ready. Edamame pods are also great for boosting the protein and fiber in lunchboxes, or as a perfectly-placed dinner party appetizer.

Shelled edamame are also a worthy purchase, even if they cost a bit more than other frozen beans, such as lima (which, by the way, are a reasonable substitute).

Toss a handful of frozen edamame into soup before serving, slip into taco fillings, blend up into hummus, or add some straight to your pasta water in the last minute or two of cooking to bulk up dinner.

Half a cup of edamame adds 11 grams of protein and 9 grams of dietary fiber for about 120 calories, so you’ll feel fuller longer with those little beans in there. Or, combine this freezer staple with fellow weeknight staple quinoa to make a power side dish whose leftovers can easily be taken to lunch as a main dish the next day. Cooking once and eating twice is the ultimate weekday time saver.


Makes 4 servings

1 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed

1 cup cooked quinoa

1/2 cup small grape tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup parsley, chopped

1/4 cup toasted almonds, roughly chopped

1/4 cup feta cheese crumbles


1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped

1 small shallot, minced

1/4 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Place the edamame, quinoa, tomatoes, parsley, almond and feta in a large salad bowl.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the mustard and lemon juice. Drizzle in the olive oil, whisking into an emulsion. Add the dill, shallot, salt and pepper and mix. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of water if the dressing is too thick.

Pour the dressing on the salad and toss. Serve immediately, or chill.

]]> 0 Wed, 12 Oct 2016 08:25:35 +0000
‘War’ cake goes without, but you won’t notice a difference Wed, 12 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 This cake’s name refers to some key ingredients the recipe doesn’t call for, which were rationed in America during World Wars I and II: butter, milk and eggs. But I like it for what it has aplenty: big chocolate flavor, a moist, fudgy crumb and one-pan ease.

Healthful oil replaces the butter, making this version better for you than a typical chocolate cake. I take that goodness a step further by using mostly whole-grain pastry flour, and just enough sugar so the cake definitely tastes like dessert but it is not overly sweet.

The way to make it is so different, it almost feels as if you are performing magic, but the steps make perfect sense when you understand the reasoning behind them. Most methods for making cake revolve around minimizing the development of gluten, the mixture of proteins that typically makes the crumb less tender. Because gluten forms when the flour is hydrated, most cake recipes have you either add the dry ingredients directly to the fat before adding the liquid or combine the fat and liquid and then add the flour. That way, the flour becomes coated with fat, creating a barrier against the liquid, and minimizes gluten.

In this recipe, you want the opposite effect. It is essential to develop the gluten because that structure holds the crumb together: There are no eggs or milk to do it.

That’s why, after combining the dry ingredients right in the baking dish, you make a well in the center and pour in the oil and vanilla extract. Then you sprinkle a mixture of water and cider vinegar directly over the top of the dry ingredients to hydrate the flour before mixing the whole thing together. (Why vinegar? It provides the acid that activates the gluten further, and it also balances the pH of the baking soda.) Once the batter is mixed, I double down on the star ingredient by stirring in mini chocolate chips that melt into the tender, rich cake as it bakes.

You won’t miss what’s not there, and peace will reign in your dessert kingdom.


To make this cake vegan, omit the mini chocolate chips, or use carob or vegan chocolate mini chips. You’ll need an 8-inch square baking pan.

Makes 9 to 12 servings

1 cup whole-grain pastry flour

½ cup all-purpose flour

¾ cup granulated sugar

⅓ cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup cold water

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

⅓ cup canola oil or other neutral-flavored oil

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ cup bittersweet mini chocolate chips

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the whole-grain pastry flour, all-purpose flour, granulated sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in the baking pan.

Combine the water and vinegar in a small bowl.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture; pour the oil and the vanilla extract there. Sprinkle the water-vinegar mixture over the dry ingredients; stir to form a smooth batter. Scatter the chocolate chips over the surface, then stir them in so they are evenly distributed.

Bake (middle rack) for 35 to 40 minutes, until the cake is set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack for the cake to cool.

Before serving, dust the top of the cooled cake lightly with confectioners’ sugar.

]]> 0, 12 Oct 2016 08:26:20 +0000
Pizzaiola: How to add pizza flavor to just about anything Wed, 05 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Pizzaiola is Italian for a pizza-style tomato sauce. Sounds straightforward, right? Well, the recipe certainly is. It usually starts with chopped tomatoes cooked with olive oil, a little garlic, a pinch of salt and some dried oregano. That’s it.

So why hadn’t I heard of this dish until recently? After all, I’ve been obsessed with pizza for years and can name innumerable styles, regional variations and cooking techniques. Why hadn’t I crossed paths with pizzaiola before?

Right away, it’s important to note that, as Michele Scicolone explains in “1,000 Italian Recipes,” the sauce can’t actually be used on pizza, “since the extreme heat of wood-fired Neapolitan pizza ovens would overcook an already cooked sauce.” Instead, it’s just supposed to be reminiscent of the sauce you put on pizza.

Which leads to another important question: How does pizzaiola differ from any other traditional tomato sauce, like a marinara? In the strictest definition, marinara is a tomato sauce flavored with garlic and basil. Pizzaiola, on the other hand, gets garlic and dried oregano. Sounds slight, and, well, it is.

From what I can tell, pizzaiola’s distinguishing feature is that it’s usually used as a sauce for meat. According to Anna Del Conte’s “Gastronomy of Italy,” pizzaiola is a “specialty of Naples, but is quite common everywhere.” Expecting to find a trove of recipe options, I visited the Harold Washington Library in the Loop, which is easily the largest library in the city. There I flipped through 100-odd Italian cookbooks, setting aside each and every book that mentioned the term. In the end, my haul came to a paltry three books. Not exactly what I’d hoped for.

I think this has to do with the straightforward and humble nature of pizzaiola. It’s one of those dishes that’s so basic that it feels unnecessary to write a recipe for it. Yet, it’s a shame that more people don’t know about pizzaiola, because it has the ability to transform almost any cut of meat.

Here’s a basic blueprint: Pick up some thick-cut pork chops. Saute them in some olive oil in heavy skillet over high heat until browned, but still pink inside. Remove and set aside while you prepare the sauce. Cook some garlic, and then add tomatoes, salt and oregano, and simmer until the sauce reduces to a thick, spoonable consistency. Add the chops back in to finish the cooking. Serve the chops with the sauce spooned on top.

The sauce has a vibrancy from the tomatoes, which plays nicely off the pork. But it also picks up the juices from the pork, adding a savory depth to each bite. Serve this with some pasta, with more of the sauce drizzled on top of the noodles, and you have a filling weeknight dinner.

Of course, as with all incredibly simple recipes, quality is key. Pizzaiola is only as good as the tomatoes used. During the summer, this is slightly easier, but if it’s cooler, then you’ll need to track down some top-quality canned tomatoes, preferably San Marzanos from Italy.

Besides pork, beef and veal are the most popular meats served with the sauce. But if you’re willing to cast any worries of authenticity aside, you can repeat this process with almost any kind of protein. Chicken is an obvious choice, and I also saw one recipe for swordfish. Hoping to push the boundaries of the dish, I even tried the sauce with squid. With the addition of a sprinkle of crushed red pepper, the sauce makes a lively and satisfying companion. And if you make sure to only cook the cephalopod until just done, usually around 2 minutes, you’ll be rewarded with exceptionally tender squid. Once again, adding pasta turns this into a full meal, though polenta or even potatoes work too.

While quick-cooking meats work with the sauce, I believe the sauce works best when it’s paired with an equally humble cut of meat that needs time to cook. In “Lidia’s Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine,” Lidia Bastianich offers a recipe for short ribs pizzaiola that requires more than two hours to slowly simmer. Instead of fresh and vibrant, the sauce reduces to a robust and richly hearty base, with a luscious body from the fatty beef. This is the kind of stew that everyone, from a picky child to confident cook, will melt for. It’s equivalent to a hug from your grandmother.

Call pizzaiola humble or unduly spartan, but when done right, the result can be refreshingly uncomplicated and soul-satisfying.


Known in Italian as braciole alla pizzaiola, this recipe is from Michele Scicolone’s “1,000 Italian Recipes.”

Makes 4 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 thick-cut pork chops, about 1-inch thick

Salt and black pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained, chopped

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Season chops with salt and pepper. Add chops, and brown on both sides, about 2 minutes a side. Remove chops to a plate and set aside.

Add garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in tomatoes, oregano and crushed red pepper. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until thick, about 20 minutes.

Add the chops to the tomato sauce, and cook until internal temperature is 140 degrees, about 5 minutes. Taste sauce, and add more salt if needed, probably 1/2 teaspoon.

Transfer chops to a platter. Spoon on some of the tomato sauce, and sprinkle with parsley.


From “Lidia’s Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine” by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali, this recipe is called costolette di manzo alla pizzaiola in Italian.

Makes 6 servings

4 pounds beef short ribs

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

6 garlic cloves, crushed

2 cups dry red wine

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand

2 cups chicken stock

3 medium onions, chopped

3 bell peppers (red, yellow, or orange), stemmed, seeded, slice into 2-inch strips

Sprinkle short ribs all over with 1 teaspoon of salt. Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add short ribs and garlic; cook until meat is browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Remove short ribs; set aside. Discard the garlic. Pour out all but 2 tablespoons of the fat.

Add the wine. Reduce heat to a simmer; cook until reduced by half, about 15 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, oregano, red pepper flakes, tomatoes and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat; return short ribs to pot. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, 1 hour.

Add onions; simmer, 15 minutes. Add bell peppers; simmer, 15 minutes, or until the meat is tender.


Developed by Tribune reporter Nick Kindelsperger.

Makes 4 servings

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 (14-ounce) can whole tomatoes, chopped

1 pound squid, cleaned

Heat extra-virgin olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add garlic; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add oregano, red pepper, salt and tomatoes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes reduce into a thick sauce, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice the squid bodies into 1/4-inch rings. When sauce is thick, add the squid pieces; cook, stirring often, until squid is just cooked, about 2 minutes. Don’t overcook the squid, or it will turn rubbery. Serve over cooked spaghetti or another pasta, if you like.

]]> 0, 05 Oct 2016 12:21:51 +0000
Food writer finds the ingredients for inspiration in adopted state Wed, 05 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 SOUTH BERWICK — Food writer Kathy Gunst’s kitchen looked ready for fall last week as the tail of September slipped out the door.

Late-morning sunshine gave warmth to the room, and the last summer flowers from her garden reposed in a vase on the kitchen island. In the window sat the last of the garden tomatoes and a couple of squash. On a counter were bowls of eggs from a neighbor and spinach ready for a video shoot planned for later.

Simmering on the stove, alongside some chicken stock, was a big pot of Mulligatawny soup made from a recipe in Gunst’s latest cookbook, “Soup Swap” (Chronicle Books, $24.95). It’s her 15th cookbook, another culinary feather in her cap after winning a James Beard journalism award last year for a magazine article she wrote about cabbage.

Gunst can hardly believe she has lived here in her beautifully restored 1760s farmhouse for three decades. Her love affair with Maine began in the early 1980s, when she was an editor at Food & Wine magazine in New York City and her then-boyfriend, John Rudolph, was a freelance journalist. She got an assignment to write about the best restaurants along the New England coast and, after several days of traveling, ended up at the Blue Strawbery in Portsmouth, N.H. The chef there, James Haller – who still lives in Maine – was considered ahead of his time. He later invited Gunst and her husband back to spend Labor Day weekend.

“We both had this moment of, wouldn’t it be amazing to live here for a year?” Gunst recalled. “This is before the Tuscan book (“Under the Tuscan Sun”) and “My Year in Provence,” but that was the idea: This will be our year in Maine.”

So they sublet their New York apartment and rented a big farmhouse down the road from where they’re living now. They moved at Christmas and were lonely at first, but soon met people and became part of the South Berwick community of artists and writers and craftsmen.

“Our quality of life was so much higher,” said Gunst, who is now 60. “There was no turning back, really. We stayed and we stayed and we stayed, and it’s been 32 years. I’ve raised two daughters here. I’ve written 15 cookbooks here. Maine informs everything that I do. Everything about it – the landscape, the ocean, the seafood, the chefs, the community. The food consciousness in this state is huge.”

Gunst wrote “Notes From a Maine Kitchen” about learning to cook with the seasons in Maine.

Award-winning food writer Kathy Gunst has a new cookbook which includes a recipe for this mulligatawny soup, which can be topped with, from left, cilantro and scallions, a tomato chili topping and greek yogurt. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Award-winning food writer Kathy Gunst has a new cookbook which includes a recipe for this mulligatawny soup, which can be topped with, from left, cilantro and scallions, a tomato chili topping and greek yogurt. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer


But the path was not so clear in the 1980s. Gunst and Rudolph got married and bought their farmhouse – “super cold, super dark and super charming” – and Gunst wrote her first cookbook, “Condiments.” It was the beginning of the gourmet food craze when “suddenly there were 10 mustards.”

Gunst spent the next decade or so writing cookbooks (including six for Stonewall Kitchen and one – her favorite – titled “Roasting”) and freelancing for major newspapers and magazines.

In the late 1990s, Gunst heard that WBUR, a public radio station in Boston, was launching a two-hour show called “Here & Now,” which follows the news of the day. She got the gig as “resident chef,” and decided that she would do her cooking segments live in the staff kitchen.

“The host would leave the studio at the beginning of the show, come into the kitchen and I would start to cook something in real time,” Gunst said. “And it had to be very sound rich because it was radio. You don’t do pasta – boiling water is not interesting on radio. You need sound-rich cooking, which generally involves high heat because that’s drama. I became really tuned into the sound of chopping a parsnip versus chopping an onion.”

When the war in Iraq broke out in 2003, the news trumped food and the live cooking stopped. But she stayed on the show, eventually going from one appearance a month to three. Today, “Here & Now” airs on more than 550 stations; Maine Public Radio airs one hour of the show, at noon, Monday through Friday.

Gunst’s 5- to 6-minute food segments typically feature her live in the studio with the show’s hosts, chatting about ingredients and how to prepare them. The topics are seasonally driven, say, the end of tomato season, although she is careful not to become “too New England-centric.” Related recipes get posted to the show’s website.

“My goal is always to excite people to get home and start cooking,” she said.

This year, the radio show, which Gunst calls “an unexpected joy,” won her an award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals.

“I hope the thing that comes across on the radio is how much fun we have,” she said, “the joy of the kitchen. So many people have stopped cooking. There are five million cookbooks being published every year, and there are several networks on TV. People sit at home and watch food programs. They don’t cook. This makes me crazy.”

A pot of mulligatawny soup made by food writer Kathy Gunst, with accompaniments.

A pot of mulligatawny soup made by food writer Kathy Gunst, with accompaniments.


In 2010, after a visit to the White House as part of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, Gunst started a gardening program at the Central School in South Berwick, where her daughters were enrolled. She also taught cooking classes for the students, trying to influence a new generation of potential home cooks. Her own children, at least, got the message, both at school and at home – one is now a cookbook editor in San Francisco.

“You would think that kids in Maine had gardens and knew where food came from and had an awareness about food because we live in a place that’s surrounded by land,” Gunst said, “but I was really shocked at how many kids had never had an avocado or asparagus.”

When Gunst cooks at home, it’s in a modern kitchen she added onto the farmhouse about 15 years ago. The home’s original “kitchen,” a huge open fireplace with beehive oven, has been turned into the dining room, and for years Gunst cooked in an adjacent room on a tiny gas stove. That room is now her office, where she writes and she stores her cookbook collection. Propped along one wall are her IACP awards. Perched on a bookshelf is her coveted Beard medal.

She won the award for a story she wrote on cabbage for Eating Well magazine. Her first draft was “very generic.” Then her editor suggested she write from a more personal perspective, as a survivor of non-Hodgkins lymphoma, since cabbage is a well-known cancer-fighting food. (Gunst has been cancer-free for five years.) At first, she resisted, but after thinking it over, she rewrote the piece.

“It was a terrible time,” she wrote in the article. “But as often happens with adversity much good came out of it. The shock of being told that I had cancer led me to make changes in my life, including taking a serious look at my diet.”

She gave up, at least for a time, dairy, gluten and “gooey ripe cheeses.” And she ate a lot more cabbage.

The experience of writing the article was, she says now, “a real lesson.”

“When I won, I acknowledged that editor and that I had been pushed,” she said. “If you don’t tell your own story, then what story are you telling?”

Despite Gunst’s bout with cancer, “I never lost my appetite,” she said.


Her new cookbook also springs from her life. Gunst and her husband are part of a community soup swap organized by a neighbor. Once a month, six couples get together for dinner and each brings a big pot of soup and take-home containers. The host couple provides salad, bread and dessert. Everyone samples small portions of the soups, then carries the leftovers home at the end of the evening, stocking their refrigerator for the rest of the week.

Gunst was a little skeptical at first.

“I really don’t like potlucks,” she said. “If someone invites me to something, I want them to cook for me. I don’t want to bring half the meal.”

But with the soup swap, “everybody has to bring something, but you go home with more than you bring. It’s a total win-win.”

The soups, a little ordinary at first, quickly got better and better. Some of the couples discovered the monthly ritual improved their cooking. One couple with children at home went from eating canned soups to making homemade. Others found themselves bringing home spices from overseas travel to flavor their soups.

The couples begin the evening by “introducing” their soups.

“What I learned quickly was that more than anything else, except maybe baking, soups tell a story,” Gunst said. “People would start by saying ‘My grandmother was French, and she used to make an onion soup but she did it this way and I’ve lightened it up over the years and this is my version.’ And then they start to talk about their grandmother or their family.”

Almost all the soups in “Soup Swap” are Gunst’s own recipes. She spent the snowy winter of 2015 testing “comforting recipes to make and share,” as the book’s tag line goes. But the end product is more than a collection of recipes. In the book, she argues the importance of making your own stock – making stock from scratch controls the amount of salt that goes into it, for example. Homemade stock is a lot easier than most people think.

“You put a few things in a pot,” she said. “You cover it with water. You let it simmer. How hard is that?”

For home cooks who don’t mind more work, she’s included a roasted bone marrow bone beef stock in the book “that will knock your socks off, it’s so good.”

Gunst also emphasizes the importance of toppings and garnishes to make soups something really special. To illustrate, she dishes up a bowl of Mulligatawny Soup and asks a guest to taste it on its own. Then she adds a tomato-chile topping that adds not only flavor, but a swirl of color.

“Then you add a little dab of Greek yogurt and suddenly it’s got this whole other dimension,” she said. “Then you add the cilantro and the scallions, and it’s, like, whoa.”

Gunst occasionally goes back to New York, where she appreciates the energy of the city, “but once I leave and I’m driving home and I hit that New Hampshire toll booth, I let out a big sigh of relief that I’m here and not there.”

Her day-to-day work at the farmhouse finds her planning radio segments, testing recipes, freelancing articles and – once she gets an idea – working on her next cookbook. Her family jokes that she is always thinking about food.

“I stay incredibly busy,” she said. “And I feel incredibly grateful that I get to have a career doing this thing that I love so much.”

Correction: This story was updated Oct. 5 to correct John Rudolph’s last name.

]]> 2, 05 Oct 2016 12:38:24 +0000
If your Jewish grandmother wasn’t a great cook, borrow one from ‘Bubbe and Me in the Kitchen’ Wed, 05 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “Bubbe and Me in the Kitchen” by Miri Rotkovitz. Sonoma Press. Paperback. 262 pages. $12.99.

Although I am Jewish, I did not call my grandmothers Bubbe (Yiddish for grandmother). One was Nana, the other Nanny. I grew up in the age of assimilation.

And as far as I can remember, I never cooked alongside either of them. Nanny – long gone or I would not write what I’m about to write – was a terrible cook. What I remember of Sunday meals at her home was watery, undersalted chicken soup; canned peas boiled to mush; and beige, saggy-skinned chicken.

Nana also died long ago, and frankly, I can’t ever recall ever seeing her cook. Perhaps because she lived in Montreal all of her 91 years, where the shops are crammed with delicious delicacies, she didn’t bother. She was, however, a terrific hostess, and my mother, then me inherited her love of entertaining.

“Bubbe and Me in the Kitchen: A Kosher Cookbook of Beloved Recipes and Modern Twists,” a new book (Sonoma Press, 2016, $16.99) by Miri Rotkovitz, is very far from my own experience. Lucky Rotkovitz to have grown up with a grandmother who “introduced me to new foods, shared wisdom about the ingredients she loved, and let me ‘help,’ even when mess-making was my forte,” as she writes in the introduction.

Some time ago, Miri and I worked together for several years at the James Beard Foundation in New York, so for me this book is a double embrace: a chance to visit with a bevy of Jewish grandmothers – she interviews other Jewish food professionals about their grandmothers’ cooking and weaves their tales into the book – as well as a chance to catch up with Miri, now a mother herself.

Since I have no family recipe for apple cake passed down through the generations, I am borrowing hers for the High Holy Days, the period of time from the Jewish New Year to the Day of Atonement, this year Oct. 2-12.

The recipe makes a gigantic cake, which made the house smell marvelous while it baked (and baked and baked; it took almost two hours in the oven). It’s moist and quite sweet, appropriate as apples are eaten at Rosh Hashanah to express hope for a sweet new year.


From “Bubbe and Me in the Kitchen.” Rotkovitz suggests using sweet-tart multipurpose apples like Gala, Fuji, Lady Alice, Cameo or Granny Smith. Plan ahead: cutting and layering all those apples takes time. The cake is pareve, meaning those who keep kosher can eat it with either milk or meat meals. Food Editor Peggy Grodinsky glazed the cake top lightly with warm marmalade. Savta, by the way, means grandmother in Hebrew.

Serves 10-12

6 small apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting

2½ cups sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup expeller-pressed canola, grapeseed or walnut oil, plus extra for greasing

4 large eggs

⅓ cup orange juice

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. (If you are using a dark or nonstick pan, preheat to 325 degrees F to prevent burning.) Grease and lightly flour a large tube pan with a removable bottom. Tap out any excess flour and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the sliced apples, sugar and cinnamon. Gently toss to coat and set aside.

In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Using an electric mixer or a large wooden spoon, beat in the oil, eggs, orange juice and vanilla, mixing just until the batter is smooth and thick.

Spoon about 1/3 of the batter into the prepared tube pan, then spread with a spatula to cover the bottom of the pan. With clean hands, arrange about 1/3 of the apple slices in an even layer over the batter, taking are to keep the apples from touching the walls of the pan. (This prevents sticking and makes it easier to unmold the cake.)

Spoon and spread a little less than half of the remaining batter over the apples. Don’t worry if the batter doesn’t quite cover the fruit, or moves some of the apples around. Top with about half of the remaining apples, reserving the most attractive slices for the final layer. Spoon the remaining batter over the second layer of apples, spreading with the spatula to cover them evenly.

Decorate the top of the cake with the reserved apple slices, arranging them in slightly overlapping concentric circles – they will spread out during baking. If there’s any syrupy cinnamon-sugar liquid left in the apple bowl, drizzle a little of it over the cake.

Place the cake pan on a rimmed baking sheet or on top of a piece of foil to catch drips. Bake on the center rack of the preheated oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until a cake tester comes out clean and the top of the cake is golden and crusty in spots. Test at the 1 1/2 hour mark. If the cake isn’t ready, test at 15-minute intervals until the tester comes out clean.

Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool in its pan on a wire rack. When it’s completely cool, run an offset spatula or knife around the edge of the pan, then remove the outside of the cake pan. Next, run the spatula or knife between the underside of the cake and the pan bottom to loosen.

Over a plate, carefully invert the cake and slide it off of the tube and pan bottom. Place a serving plate face down on the cake. Hold both plates and flip, so the cake is now resting apple-side up on the serving plate.

]]> 0, 05 Oct 2016 12:23:46 +0000
The Maine Ingredient: During food’s ‘shoulder season,’ take advantage of the last of summer’s flavors Wed, 05 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Like fashion, food has a sort of “shoulder season,” especially here in New England, where real fall and then deep winter arrive all too soon. I love to play around with some of the end-of-summer/early autumn farmers market offerings in an attempt to bridge the gap between seasons, catching as much of the fresh harvest as possible.


Tuna takes particularly well to grilling, and this dazzling peach salsa, using the last of this season’s crop, offers the perfect foil for tuna’s rich, meaty flavor. If tuna is thoroughly cooked it dries out, so try for somewhere on the rare to medium spectrum, according to your preference. Add roasted new potatoes and steamed, buttered zucchini for a special dinner.

Serves 4


2 to 3 medium ripe but firm peaches, skin on or off, diced

1 cup chopped red onion

¾ cup chopped red bell pepper

1 large garlic clove, finely chopped

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

¼ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


4 (6- to 8-ounce) tuna steaks

1/3 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary, plus sprigs for garnish

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

To make the salsa, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Set aside at room temperature for about 1 hour or refrigerate for up to 6 hours, returning to room temperature before serving.

To make the tuna, place fish steaks in a shallow bowl or rimmed dish. Pour oil over the fish, add rosemary and salt and pepper, and turn fish to coat on all sides. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 3 hours before cooking, turning once or twice so the fish stays coated with oil. Remove from refrigerator about 1 hour before cooking.

Build a moderately hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill. Lift tuna out of the oil, letting excess drain off, and place on the grill. Cook, turning once, until tuna reaches desired degree of doneness, 2 to 4 minutes per side for medium-rare to medium, depending on thickness. Garnish fish with rosemary sprigs and serve topped with salsa.


Flavorful smoked fish and the zing of fresh ginger give a wonderful boost to potato-based fish cakes. Any of Maine’s several varieties of smoked fish can be used here – smoked haddock, mackerel, salmon or trout. An early fall salad of spinach, thinly sliced apple and blue cheese – along with some toasted farmers market focaccia – would round out the meal nicely.

Serves 4

1½ pounds russet or all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks

6 ounces flaked or shredded boneless smoked fish, about 1½ cups

1/3 cup snipped chives or minced scallions

1/3 cup chopped cilantro

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Salt, to taste

1 egg, lightly beaten

4 tablespoons peanut or other vegetable oil, plus additional if necessary

Lemon wedges

Cook the potatoes in a large pot of boiling salted water until very soft, about 20 minutes. Drain well, and put through a ricer or mash with a potato masher or a large fork until smooth. (You should have about 4 cups of puree.)

In a large bowl, combine the potatoes with the flaked fish, chives, cilantro, ginger and pepper. Stir well to combine. Taste and season with salt if necessary. (The smoked fish may provide enough saltiness on its own.) Beat in the egg. Shape into 8 (½-inch thick) cakes and chill for at least an hour to firm.

Heat oil in 2 skillets and cook cakes over medium heat until nicely browned on both sides and heated through, about 10 minutes total. Add a tablespoon or so more oil to skillets if cakes seem in danger of scorching. Serve with lemon wedges.

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, 05 Oct 2016 08:09:54 +0000
Bread and Butter: Music hath the charm to soothe the frenzied cook Wed, 05 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of three columns written by chef and restaurateur Mike Wiley of Eventide Oyster Co., The Honey Paw and Hugo’s, all in Portland.

Apart from the satisfaction of a job well done, cigarettes (either smoking them, or quitting), and snacking, listening to music while we work is one of the greatest balms against a taxing workday life. I can attest to this personally as the part-owner and chef of three very busy restaurants in Portland.

At our restaurants – Eventide Oyster Co., The Honey Paw and Hugo’s – we’ve tried streaming services that curate playlists for our dining rooms, where all roads (yes, dear reader, all roads) eventually lead to The Smiths. We’ve turned to personal music libraries, which invite critique and invariably lead to bickering. And at The Honey Paw, we’ve got our own turntables and record collection. (Fun fact: we have more albums released by Ghost-faced Killah than any other artist.) The limitations of vinyl are wonderful and terrible, given that we can’t not play music and we must continue to play a finite amount of music, which leads, inevitably, to repetition. As one of our sous chefs once put it, “Oh, you like Sam Cooke? Well, we’ll see about that …”

At The Honey Paw and at Eventide, the cooks used to listen to whatever was playing in the dining room all day long, but with the advent of Bluetooth portable speaker technology, all bets are off. Individual cooks or prep teams can disrupt the soundtrack. Although Eventide might be playing Daft Punk, and The Honey Paw, Little Feat, as I walk from through one kitchen into another I might hear Dying Fetus, Belphegor or Isaiah Rashad, and if I head down to the bakery, Drake, Justin Beiber, etc. In kitchens, alliances are forged and battle lines drawn over musical tastes. It can be difficult to navigate the cacophony, and find common ground.

In fact, it happens only once a week.

Whether it’s streaming from Apple devices at Hugo’s and Eventide, blasting from tiny technicolor portables, or spinning from the turntables at The Honey Paw, without fail every Saturday at 4 p.m. – which may be the busiest, craziest, most frantic part of our entire week – we all listen to Jeff Lynne and his Electric Light Orchestra. Every Saturday since 2011.

At first, it was the troika: “Telephone Line,” “Mr. Blue Sky” and “Boy Blue.” But over time our repertoire has ballooned to seven or so ELO hits. My favorite part is not the thrum of power chords, nor the mingling violins and harmonized falsettos of Lynne and the boys. I love watching our staff, deep in the weeds – restaurantspeak for being way behind, with disaster looming – scrambling to clean the kitchen and survive the transition from prep to service, all the while singing along under their breath, “Blue days, black nights, doo wah, doo waaahaa.”

Clearly, the music is much more than filler. But strangely, it almost doesn’t matter what kind of music it is. Many of our employees, both past and present, loathe ELO with the white-hot intensity of a thousand flames. But because it’s been ritualized, because we’ve prepared for Saturday nights with ELO every week for five years now, we’re dependent on it. You should see what happens if the music app tosses ELO into the mix at Eventide on a Tuesday: The cooks go, bananas. There’s an all-out sprint to the music terminal to turn it off, fast, right this instant, thus protecting the sanctity of the Electric Light Orchestra.

I suppose it does, in the end, matter to me that ELO has become our restaurants’ collective anthem. With the band members’ perms, huge collars and chest hair, their aviator sunglasses, and also their certainty that America was ready for classical music and rock ‘n’ roll in one dazzling package, I think they’re a pretty good foil for us.

Also, “Do Ya!” rocks.


What’s the connection between tempura and music? Both are always welcome, chef Mike Wiley joked. You can find rice and tapioca flours in Asian markets, like Sun Oriental Market and Veranda Asian Market in Portland.

Yield: About 2 cups batter

Tempura Batter

½ cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup rice flour

¼ cup tapioca flour

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

Ice cold club soda

Vegetables, meat or fish chunks for dipping

Mix the dry ingredients together. Gently stir the club soda into the mixture to achieve a consistency like lumpy, loose pancake batter; start with 1/2 cup club soda. If the mixture jiggles instead of sloshing when shaken, add another 1/4 cup.

Refrigerate the mixture while you gather the vegetables, mushrooms, meat, or fish you intend to dip into the batter.

Ponzu Sauce:

Wiley measures the sauce by ratio, rather than exact cups and teaspoon measurements.

1 part sugar

1 part water

2½ parts light soy sauce

2½ parts lemon juice

Bring sugar, water and soy sauce to a simmer and cook for a few minutes until the sugar has dissolved. Cool, then stir in the lemon juice.

To Fry:

“Purists may argue that the batter should be blonder,” Wiley says about the tempura-fried chunks, “but I like a bit more color.”

Pour canola oil to a depth of 4 inches into a small pot and heat it to 350 degrees F.

Dip whatever vegetables, meat or fish you’ve chosen into the tempura batter, then shake off the excess.

Gingerly slip the items into the oil – you want to keep the hot oil from splashing – and fry until it is golden brown and delicious. Don’t crowd the pot and if you need to fry in more than 1 batch, return the oil to 350 degrees F before adding the second batch. Drain the tempura briefly on paper towels, then serve with a small bowl of ponzu for dipping.

]]> 0, 05 Oct 2016 07:58:35 +0000
Love it or hate it, gefilte fish is here to stay Wed, 28 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 NEW YORK — Got a live carp in your bathtub? Planning on losing a day to food prep for the October Jewish holidays?

We don’t think so, and neither do Jeffrey Yoskowitz and Liz Alpern.

They’re the authors of a new cookbook, “The Gefilte Manifesto,” a lively collection of Ashkenazi standards – some with a twist and others left to wander back to the old country.

Out in September from Flatiron Books, the collection of history and recipes by the two young Brooklynites celebrates Jewish soul food from soup to nuts, kicking off with a bagel butter flecked with not one but two kinds of sesame seeds, black and white, and winding down with beverages, from beet and ginger kvass to a seeded rye cocktail.

As for the catchy title, there are three takes on gefilte fish, the fish food some people love to hate. That once included Alpern, who as part of her family’s Passover seders, declined the dish “every year of my life” growing up. It was the gelatinous jarred version, “and I hated it,” she said in a recent interview with Yoskowitz.

“Until I started making my own, I associated it with something I would never eat,” Alpern said of her upbringing in Long Beach, New York, just outside New York City.

Yoskowitz, from Basking Ridge, New Jersey, grew up with lots more love for gefilte fish. It was made by his grandmother, then she stopped and his family relied on a local shop, he said.

“But I didn’t like the horseradish. It was usually the beet horseradish,” Yoskowitz recalled. “But later, the moment I put horseradish on, I felt like an adult.”

In 2011, the two friends started making gefilte fish together, experimenting as they embraced its place in Ashkenazi lore, in both Europe and North America.

They wondered why nobody was making gefilte fish relevant again, putting the soul back in.

At its most basic, gefilte is made by mixing pulverized freshwater fish with eggs, onions and spices. Bread crumbs are often used today. It stood, especially on the Passover seder table, as a symbol of Ashkenazi resourcefulness, the two said. Exactly how far can a single fish be stretched to feed an entire family?

Usually served cold or at room temperature, there were practical aspects to gefilte fish. It’s often poached or baked, when it doesn’t come from a jar.

Lake fish is commonly used, including carp and pike. The two don’t use carp because, Yoskowitz said, it’s a bottom-feeding fish that tends to be high in heavy metals, especially when it comes from the Great Lakes.

“Most people commonly think of gefilte fish as a bunch of fish balls in a jar. That’s where the misconception is, that gefilte fish is gross and unappetizing,” he said.

Their recipes look anything but, often coming in terrine form, sliced and served with their colorful, grated horseradish relishes: A sweet beet version and a carrot-citrus version.

“What we realized right away was we need to make all of this look like something you’d want to eat,” Alpern said. “The first thing I would say to someone who is unfamiliar and maybe unwilling is you’ll see that this is a fish pate.”

Prep time for their gefilte dishes? Usually under an hour and a half, including baking, Yoskowitz said. No live carp in the tub needed. Just use fillets.

“We like to say that our gefilte fish tastes like gefilte fish,” Alpern said. “We’re not trying to add, you know, hot sauce or cumin to our gefilte fish.”

But there are twists, such as fresh herbs to add color and freshness.

In researching gefilte fish, which in Yiddish translates to “stuffed fish” (there’s a recipe for that, too) the two delved into what they describe as “the gefilte line.”

The line: Do you make your gefilte fish sweet or peppery?

In Galicia, or modern-day southern Poland, sugar beet factories were common and Polish Jews added sugar to everything, including gefilte, they said. North of Galicia, Lithuanians, Latvians and some Russians spiced gefilte fish with pepper.

And there was a third group: People who lived farther south of Galicia, in places that included Hungary, preferred not to spice their gefilte with anything at all.

The two compromised in the book with a couple of recipes that include both sweet and peppery flavors, but not much of either.

They also discovered that Lithuanian Jews, Hungarians and Galicians all agreed that horseradish relish, or chrain in Yiddish, is the only acceptable condiment to grace the top of gefilte.

Why? This Yiddish proverb speaks volumes: “Gefilte fish without chrain is punishment enough.”


Here’s an update on another holiday tradition from “The Gefilte Manifesto” by Jeffrey Yoskowitz and Liz Alpern.

Serves 12

8 ounces egg noodles

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan

8 cups small-curd cottage cheese

8 ounces cream cheese, cut into pieces, at room temperature

2 cups whole milk

1/4 cup sour cream

3 large eggs

1/2 cup pure maple syrup or granulated sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

6 teaspoons ground cinnamon

6 tablespoons light brown sugar

About 11/2 pounds plums, pitted and sliced

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the noodles just until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and transfer to a bowl. Add the butter and stir gently to coat the noodles. Set aside.

In a large bowl with high sides, whisk together the cottage cheese and cream cheese until fluffy. (Alternatively, use a hand mixer.) One at a time, add the milk, sour cream, eggs, maple syrup or sugar, and vanilla, whisking to incorporate after adding each ingredient.

Add the cottage cheese mixture to the bowl with the egg noodles and gently combine. Pour the mixture into a greased 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Cover the pan and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Bake the kugel, uncovered, for 45 minutes, then top decoratively with the plums and sprinkle with the cinnamon and brown sugar. Bake for 30 minutes more, until the fruit has softened and released its juices. Remove from the oven and let sit for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

]]> 0, 27 Sep 2016 16:17:06 +0000
To pep up lamb chops, top with a warm salad Wed, 28 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 This recipe is a template for topping sauteed steaks or chops of most any kind with a wilted salad, a splendid dish for an early fall dinner.

Mostly, I’m taking my cues here from the Italians. In Florence, they like to pep up their grilled steaks with a drizzle of olive oil and a spritz of lemon, which cuts through the meat’s fattiness. Then there’s veal Milanese, a breaded chop with a salad on top. But the latter dish doesn’t marry the salad dressing to the chops, as I do here, and my chop isn’t breaded. Also, Caesar dressing is rooted in Mexico, not Italy. All of which is to say I guess my inspirations were pretty diverse.

How to marry the meat to the salad? By taking advantage of the concentrated bits of reduced meat juices at the bottom of the pan, as well as the juices from the resting chops after they have been cooked. It’s then that the salad’s flavors – anchovies, garlic and shallots – are added to the skillet, followed by chicken broth, lemon juice and olive oil.

As noted, these are basically the ingredients for a Caesar dressing with a little chicken broth added. (The broth amps up the meat flavor while cutting down on the need for more olive oil.)

If the very thought of anchovies sends you screaming for the exit, steel yourself and add them to the recipe as called for. Try it that way just once. You assume that the little devils are going to overwhelm the dish, adding nothing but fishiness. Not true. In this context, the anchovies are surprisingly modest; they provide salt and depth of flavor, but no obvious fishiness.

As for the greens, feel free to experiment. If you prefer them to be more crispy and less wilted, don’t add them to the pan; just toss them with the warm dressing.

Finally, I have called for lamb shoulder chops because they’re more affordable than rib or loin chops. They’re every bit as tasty as the pricier chops, even if they’re also marginally chewier. Of course, if you feel like splurging, reach for the more expensive cuts. And know that this recipe works just as well with steak, pork chops and chicken on the bone as it does with lamb chops.


Makes 4 servings

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

Four 1/2-inch-thick lamb shoulder or round bone chops

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

4 anchovy fillets, chopped

2 tablespoons minced shallots

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth

2 tablespoons lemon juice

4 cups chopped escarole, dandelion greens (tough stems removed) or romaine

1 ounce shaved Parmesan cheese

In a large skillet over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Reduce the heat to medium and add 2 of the lamb chops, sprinkled with salt and pepper. Cook until lightly browned on both sides, 5 to 6 minutes total for medium-rare. Transfer to a plate and cover loosely with foil. Repeat with the remaining 2 chops in the oil remaining in the pan.

Return the skillet to the heat and reduce to medium-low. Add 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil, the anchovies, shallots and garlic, then cook, stirring, for 11/2minutes.

Add the broth and lemon juice and cook, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom, for 1 minute.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, the greens, and a hefty pinch each of salt and pepper.

Cook, stirring until the greens are slightly wilted, about 2 minutes. Add the juices from the resting lamb and remove from the heat.

To serve, transfer the chops to each of four plates and top each chop with a quarter of the dressed wilted greens and the cheese.

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

]]> 1, 27 Sep 2016 16:10:59 +0000
‘A Jewish Baker’s Pastry Secrets’ reveals secrets from The Cheesecake King Wed, 28 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “A Jewish Baker’s Pastry Secrets.” By George Greenstein. Penguin Random House. Hardcover. 208 pages. $29.99

‘A Jewish Baker’s Pastry Secrets” is a posthumous compilation of recipes and expert baking advice from the late George Greenstein, who for more than 20 years ran The Cheesecake King bakery on Long Island, New York.

The cookbook is a sequel to his James Beard Award-winning cookbook “Secrets of a Jewish Baker,” which focused on breads. This second book concentrates on European-style pastries, offering recommendations on equipment, tools, ingredients and techniques for making about a dozen doughs – many of them Greenstein’s master recipes.

Each chapter features a different dough (bundt, strudel, gugelhopf, stollen, puff pastry and more) and begins with Greenstein family reminiscences about both the recipes and the bakery’s clientele. At times, I felt transported to the neighborhood as customers and delivery people dropped in to buy their favorite baked goods, often pausing to chat with George – his hands, forearms and baker’s apron covered with flour and sugar.

The book is liberally peppered with information boxes, offering novices helpful tips on how to better execute each recipe.

One huge drawback for me is that no images accompany any of recipes – not one sketch – to help bakers discern instructions or understand what the finished product should look like. When I’m on a journey, I need landmarks to help me arrive at the right destination.

Also, had I taken the time to thoroughly read the chapter on recommended equipment, I’d have known that the recipes were intended for stand mixers with a capacity of at least 5 quarts.

My poor little 4.5-quart and less powerful KitchenAid mixer struggled to keep up with the 10 to 15 minute mixing time needed to develop the dough for the Danish pastry I was trying to make. The unit got hot after just a few minutes and the dough was barely contained in the mixing bowl; it crept up, over the paddle hilt, and embedded in the crevices of the mixer head, requiring several minutes of deep cleaning.

Don’t repeat my mistake. Be advised that most of the recipes in this cookbook make big batches of dough, in keeping with a bakery operation, e.g., the book’s master recipe for Danish pastry makes enough dough for four individual recipes.

Thankfully, after all the work, these recipes freeze well. The home baker need only divide the dough into smaller portions and freeze them for future use, allowing each to thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.

My Danish pastry batch yielded a very wet, sticky dough. I panicked, thinking I’d done something wrong, so added more flour than called for and increased the mixing time. Now I had a tight, unyielding dough that was nearly impossible to roll out.

Since I knew that continuing to work the dough would make the pastry tough, I moved on to shaping the danishes. But they lost their shape during baking, and adding insult to injury, their edges got too dark.

The silver lining? Somehow, the flavor and texture were spot on – the outside crisp and the interior tender and delicious, with just a hint of orange rind. With so much potential, I just had to give the recipe another try.

On my second attempt, I allowed the dough to remain soft, adding just enough additional flour to form a ball that barely cleared the sides of the mixing bowl. This batch remained soft, supple and easy to work with through the successive roll-out and folding sessions required to build its laminated layers.

When I finally sampled the finished pastries, I was pretty sure after just one bite that my favorite bakery uses this dough for their cream horns. Good timing – my order for extra-large cream horn molds had just arrived.

I also tested the cookbook’s recipe for cinnamon babka, which produced a dense cinnamon roll-style loaf, filled with swirls and crags of pecans and a gooey almond schmear.

The babka received lots of positive feedback from co-workers. And I will certainly be frequenting chapter two for its abundant selection of fillings, toppings and glazes. The cheese filling for the Danish – which uses cottage cheese – and the babka’s butter streusel were delicious.

“A Jewish Baker’s Pastry Secrets” would appeal to novice bakers who like a serious challenge or moderate to experienced bakers, who are used to working with European pastry doughs and desire to perfect their skills.

DANISH PASTRY DOUGH (master recipe)

Bakers: Be aware that the recipe requires a large mixing machine with a powerful motor and several hourly roll-out and folding sessions to properly build the dough’s many layers.

This makes enough dough for 4 individual batches.

3 tablespoons (or 3 packets) active dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water (95 to 115 F)

1 cup whole milk, cold

7 eggs

3/4 cup granulated sugar

6 tablespoons butter, softened, plus, 2 cups for roll-in

1/3 cup non-fat dry milk powder

5 3/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus additional flour as needed

11/2 cups cake flour

1 tablespoon kosher salt

Finely grated zest and juice of 1/2 an orange

Vegetable oil for brushing

Flour a half-sheet (18 x 12 inch) pan. In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with paddle, sprinkle yeast over warm water to soften. Add milk, eggs, sugar, six tablespoons softened butter, milk powder, flours, salt and orange juice with zest. Mix on low, pulsing slowly at first to avoid contents flying out of bowl.

When flour is fully incorporated, stop motor and scrape down bowl using a scraper or rubber spatula. Mix 10 to 15 minutes on low. After 10 minutes, if dough has not come away from sides of bowl to form a ball, add in a bit more flour – 1/4 cup at a time – until a soft, loose ball begins to form.

Do not add too much flour. Dough should be very soft. Remove paddle and cover dough with towel or plastic wrap. Allow to rise until doubled in volume, 45 to 60 minutes.

Deflate dough and turn onto the prepared baking sheet, pressing dough to flatten out. Cover loosely with floured cloth or plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 to 45 minutes.

While dough is chilling, prepare remaining 2 cups of butter for roll-in. Cut it into 1-inch cubes. Put in a clean stand mixer bowl, fitted with paddle and pulse a few times to break up butter, keeping it cool yet spreadable.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface, lightly dusting the top with flour and roll it out to a 24 x 12 inch rectangle. Gently pick up and move the dough occasionally, in a sliding motion, to ensure it isn’t sticking. Add a bit more flour as needed, using just enough to prevent sticking. Always brush off excess flour off the top to keep dough tender.

Spread the prepared butter over two-thirds of surface, leaving a 1-inch border all the way around. Fold the unbuttered third section of dough up over the buttered center. Brush off excess flour and, then fold over remaining buttered section.

Turn dough a quarter turn, so that it is facing you. Dust with flour and roll dough out again to 18 x 24 inch rectangle. Brush off excess flour. Fold into thirds. Place on floured baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat instructions for two more roll-and-folding sessions. On the third and final session, roll dough out to 32 x 18 inches.

Brush off excess flour and do a four-fold, bringing both ends in to meet at center then flipping one end over the other, like you’re closing a book. Return dough to the well-floured baking sheet. Use rolling pin to gently press and coax dough to fill the pan. Brush lightly with vegetable oil so dough doesn’t dry out. Cover with plastic wrap.

Place in coldest part of refrigerator to chill overnight. (Baker’s tip: Freeze dough for 30 minutes to slow rise before proofing overnight in refrigerator.) At this stage, the dough can be cut into quarters and used immediately or wrapped and frozen.


Makes 12 pastries

1/4 portion of master Danish dough recipe

1 egg

1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

11/2 cups cream cheese filling (see recipe below)

Sliced almonds, optional

Quick Danish Glaze (see recipe below)

Line two 18 x 12 inch sheet pans with parchment paper. On a floured surface, roll out the dough in an 17 x 17 inch rectangle. Trim edges, using a clean yardstick and sharp knife or pizza wheel, to bring dimensions to 16 x 16 inch even square. Cut this into 12 four-inch squares.

Place a rounded tablespoon of filling at center of each square. Lightly beat the egg and water to create egg wash and brush corners of each square. Grasp two corners diagonally opposite each other. Stretching slightly, bring the first corner end over and just beyond filling. Press down firmly to seal. Bring the other end over and seal once more, pressing hard to ensure they don’t open up during baking.

Repeat with remaining squares. Allow to rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Gently brush Danishes with egg wash. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately brush with hot Danish glaze. Cool on a wire rack. Store leftovers, covered tightly, at room temperature.


Yields 3 cups filling

1 cup cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 cups small-curd cottage cheese

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 egg yolk

1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Add cream cheese and sugar to a stand mixer bowl, using paddle to lightly cream. Add cottage cheese and mix until just combined.

Add remaining ingredients, beating just enough to incorporate without aerating. Cover and refrigerate until needed.


1/2 cup apricot jam or orange marmalade

1/2 cup water

Combine in small saucepan, bringing to a simmer over medium-low heat.

Use while hot.

]]> 3, 27 Sep 2016 16:21:05 +0000
Too much thyme on your hands? Here’s a cheese that will while it away Wed, 28 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 If there’s ever a time when you can have too much of a good thing, it might be now, when fresh summertime herbs are abundant. Happily, this recipe for Fresh Herbed Yogurt Cheese is just the ticket when you’re looking to put a dent in the stockpile of herbs overflowing in your garden or taking up too much space in your refrigerator.

It’s a fresh cheese based on Greek yogurt, and it’s very flexible regarding its herbal flavorings.

I’ve chosen some of my favorites, including chives, parsley, thyme and tarragon. But if you have other herbs at hand – basil, cilantro, mint, oregano – go right ahead and swap them in for my mix.

Whichever herbs you use, be sure to chop them with a supersharp knife, and do so briefly and efficiently. Whacking away at herbs endlessly with a dull knife guarantees that you’ll end up with a wet, gray mess.

Making this cheese is simple, but you need to plan ahead because the yogurt takes 48 hours to drain. And although you’re welcome to dig into it right after you’ve added the herbs, it tastes much better if you let it chill overnight. Plus, it’s easier then to shape the cheese into a log or a round.

As an appetizer, this spread is delicious served on toasted French bread rounds or your favorite crackers.

It’s also great in place of mustard or mayonnaise on a summer sandwich of sliced turkey, smoked salmon, or roast beef – or on veggie sandwiches starring cucumbers or tomatoes.

However you use this cheese, you’ll be glad to have put the season’s herbs to good use.


Makes a little over 2 cups

17.6 ounce container (about 2 cups) Greek yogurt, full-fat or low-fat, your choice

3 tablespoons minced shallot

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon minced fresh chives

2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon

11/2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and black pepper

Toasted baguette slices or crackers

Line a large strainer with a triple layer of rinsed and squeezed cheesecloth and set the strainer over a larger bowl.

Pile the yogurt into the strainer, spreading it out.

Cover with plastic wrap, top with a plate and a weight such as a can of tomatoes and let the yogurt drain in the refrigerator for 48 hours.

Transfer the drained yogurt to a bowl and stir in the next 7 ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste.

If time permits, cover and chill the cheese for up to 8 hours (to develop the flavor).

Shape the cheese into logs or rounds and serve with toasted baguette slices or crackers.

]]> 0, 27 Sep 2016 16:12:45 +0000
The magic of baking leads to spicy cake Wed, 21 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I love baking but until I was 16, our oven was just used as a place to keep big cutting boards and exiled frying pans.

My Indian parents were of a place and time where no one had ovens at home. All breads were flatbreads, like chapattis, which were hand-rolled and cooked on the stove and all cakes, if any, were either baked with the help of the village bakery or purchased.

Even now, ovens are rare across the whole of India because there’s never been much of a culture around baking, so baked goods are precious treats and baker’s skills are revered.

Having not grown up with baking, the first cake I made felt like real magic. Creating a goo out of eggs, butter, sugar and flour and watching it rise into something magnificent was very special to me and the total opposite of the way we cooked Indian food, by tasting, balancing and adjusting along the way.

Over time, classics became mingled with Indian spices and ingredients like cardamom, cinnamon and dates – as in this cake.

The dates add a lot of moisture, density and a caramel flavor to the sponge and the spices add sweetness and exoticism. Strictly speaking, the icing is unnecessary – a dusting of icing sugar would do – but the coffee butter icing gives it a special celebratory feel, which is, partly what baking is really all about.

Date And Cardamom Cake With Coffee Frosting

Soft dates are best for this cake as they’ll add to the moisture.

Serves 10


1 stick butter, softened, plus extra for greasing

11/4 cups dates, pitted

3/4 cup sugar

2 large eggs

11/2 cups all-purpose flour

11/2 teaspoons ground cardamom

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking powder

A pinch of salt


6 tablespoons butter, softened

11/4 cups powder sugar

1 teaspoon instant coffee granules

1 tablespoon boiling water

Butter a loaf tin (approximately 9 x 5 inches) and line with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Chop the dates and place them in a saucepan. Add 1 cup of water to the pan and bring to a boil over a low heat, stirring occasionally. When the dates disintegrate into a soft paste, take off the heat and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, add the butter and sugar, cream together, then add the eggs, mixing in one by one. Fold in the flour, baking powder, salt and spices and when folded, add the date mixture and mix well.

Pour the batter into the loaf tin and place in the center of the oven for 45 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

Leave the cake in the tin to cool before removing.

To make the frosting, mix the coffee granules with a tablespoon of boiling water (no more or you’ll have wet frosting until the granules dissolve).

Add the butter and sugar and whisk until soft and creamy.

When the cake has cooled, remove from the tin and smooth the frosting over the top.

]]> 0, 21 Sep 2016 08:18:23 +0000
The Maine Ingredient: Celebrate September’s bounty with versatile frittata Wed, 21 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 In Maine, the real height of farmers markets – at least in the midcoast region where I live – is in September. The markets burst with bounty, and it gets even harder to resist buying way more than seems prudent. Somehow, my husband and I always seem to get through it in a week’s time without a problem, savoring every flavorful (and healthy) bite.


For the last month or so of summer, I make this – or a variation – about once a week. It’s a very forgiving dish, with many possible substitutions open to the farmers market shopper. You can use sliced fennel, or young turnips or kohlrabi, greens, beans, tomatoes – almost any vegetable. A bit of starch in the form of potatoes, leftover rice, or cubed bread adds body and substance, and ham contributes smoky, salty flavor. Serve with pickled beets and crusty country bread (from the farmers market!) and butter.

Makes 2 to 3 servings

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional if necessary

1 small (about ½ pound) eggplant, unpeeled, cut in ½-inch rounds

¾ teaspoon salt, plus more to season eggplant

1 medium onion, sliced

2 small summer squash, any color (about ½ pound), sliced

1 red frying pepper (about 4 ounces), sliced

½ cup slivered ham or smoked sausage (optional)

About ¾ cup starch – cubed leftover potatoes, rice, or bread or pasta

About ½ cup torn basil leaves

5 eggs

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¾ cup shredded cheese, such as cheddar

Heat oil in a 10-inch skillet with ovenproof handle. Season eggplant with salt and cook over medium heat, turning once or twice, until softened and nicely browned, about 10 minutes. Remove to a plate.

Add a tablespoon or 2 more oil to pan if necessary. Sauté onion, squash, pepper and optional ham over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tinged with brown and softened, about 8 minutes. Stir in cooked potatoes or other starch, layer eggplant over vegetables and scatter with basil.

Preheat broiler. Beat eggs with 3/4 teaspoon salt and pepper and pour evenly over vegetables. Cover pan and cook over low heat, tilting pan and lifting up edges of frittata to allow uncooked egg to flow to the bottom, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese. Place pan in oven about 5 inches from heat source and broil until cheese melts and top browns slightly.

Cut into wedges to serve.


Pickled beets are one of those old-fashioned dishes whose goodness lies in its simplicity. These days, with pretty golden varieties and striped Chioggias in the mix, the resulting pickle is more beautiful and more delicious than ever.

Makes about 1½ cups

12 ounces (about 8 medium) trimmed beets, at least 2 colors if possible

Salt for cooking

2/3 cup cider vinegar

¼ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup beet-cooking water or plain water

1 teaspoon salt

½ cup slivered onion

Cover beets with water, add salt, and cook, covered, until tender, about 30 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel beets and cut into ½-inch dice. (Alternatively, wrap beets in foil and roast in a 375-degree oven for about 40 minutes until tender.)

In a medium saucepan, bring vinegar, sugar, water and salt to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Put beets and onion in a bowl, pour pickling liquid over and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to a week.

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

]]> 0, 21 Sep 2016 08:12:18 +0000
Make brisket with no worries and all the flavor Wed, 21 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 As the Jewish holidays approach, it’s time for many of us to think about brisket.

My sister who cooks for the Jewish holidays every year (and plenty during the rest of the year) recently admitted to me that she had never made brisket, that it intimidated her. How to make sure it’s flavorful? How to know how long to cook it? It all made her anxious.

This brisket recipe is straightforward, uses traditional seasonings and flavors, and results in a tender-but-still-sliceable piece of meat. Aside from setting aside a few hours for it to cook, it really takes little work. Don’t you just love a main course that you can ignore while you’re preparing the rest of the dinner?

Some recipes call for browning a brisket first, which is nice if you have extra time on your hands, but it’s not necessary for a perfectly tender brisket.

If possible, make the brisket a day ahead. This accomplishes several things: One, your main course is made and checked off the list. Two, you can scoop off any fat that has hardened on top of the sauce, resulting in a cleaner-tasting gravy. Three, cold brisket is easier to slice, and then you reheat the slices in the sauce. Four, the flavors have more time to meld and build (like soups and stews).

First-cut brisket means brisket with much of the fat cut off (but not all; you don’t want that). If you get a bigger piece of meat and want to cut it into two pieces, you can overlap them in the pot. In general, brisket is resilient.

Brisket is great served with mashed potatoes or some simple buttered noodles.


Makes 8 to 10 servings

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

11/2 teaspoons dried thyme

1 teaspoon kosher or coarse salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 first-cut beef brisket (4 to 5 pounds)

2 cups chopped onions

4 large carrots, peeled and thickly sliced

3 bay leaves

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup low-sodium beef or chicken broth

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes in juice or puréed

1 cup red wine

2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley for garnish

Preheat the oven to 325 F.

Place the olive oil, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper in a small bowl and stir to mix. Rub the mixture all over the meat.

Place the brisket, fat side up, in a large casserole or Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid. Toss in the onions, carrots and bay leaves. Blend the tomato paste into the broth and then pour it over the meat and vegetables. Pour the crushed tomatoes and red wine on top. The liquid should cover the meat and most of the vegetables. Cover the casserole and bake until the meat is very tender, about 31/2 hours.

If you are serving the brisket the next day:

Let it cool and then put the entire casserole in the refrigerator. About an hour before serving, skim off any hardened fat, then take the meat out of the sauce and cut off any excess fat from the top of the meat. Slice the brisket across the grain, as thin or thick as you like, then neatly return the sliced meat to the sauce. You can let it sit at room temperature for an hour before reheating it, which will make the process go faster and the meat heat more evenly.

Place the pot over medium-low heat, and heat the brisket in the sauce until everything is hot. Alternatively, you may place the pot in a preheated 325 F oven until everything is warmed through, and the cooking liquid has reduced and thickened a bit. This will take about 30 minutes in the oven, maybe less on the stovetop. Adjust seasonings as needed.

You can serve the brisket in the casserole or transfer it to a large shallow serving bowl. Either way, remove and discard the bay leaves and sprinkle the parsley on top of the brisket, if desired.

If you are serving the brisket right after you cook it:

Remove the meat from the casserole and let it rest on a platter, loosely tented with aluminum foil. Let the cooking liquid and vegetables sit for about 15 minutes, then spoon off any fat that has accumulated. Place the casserole over medium-high heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid reduces a bit, about 10 minutes. Adjust seasonings as necessary, and remove and discard the bay leaves. Slice the meat neatly across the grain, return it to the pot.

]]> 0, 21 Sep 2016 08:16:02 +0000
Five essential sauces for building new recipes Wed, 21 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Most sauces are designed to develop flavor over a long time, which is a nice idea if you have the time to keep an eye on the stove. Or you can whip up five sauces in under five minutes each, using just a lidded jar or an electric blender.

Even better, these sauces mix and match with one another or with other pantry staples in a variety of ways, so you can build new recipes: Add a spoonful of the marinara sauce to the coconut curry base to create an Indian-style curry sauce; toss chicken strips and root vegetables with the red wine vinaigrette for a quick marinade; or stir honey, cinnamon and vanilla extract into the Cashew Cream to make a sweet dip for sliced apples.


From Washington food writer and editor Kristen Hartke.

If you’re craving a quick curry, then start with this sauce, which provides a good base for both Indian- and Thai-style curry dishes. Mixing and matching ingredients allows you to create new sauces from a single base, and as your ingredient pantry grows, you can start to create richer curries with more depth of flavor.

Using raw onion in the basic sauce will give a slightly sharper flavor than is traditionally found in curry sauce, so sauté the onion with the ginger in a little oil first if you want to get a mellower flavor, then blend with the rest of the ingredients.

The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Makes 8 servings (about 41/2 cups)

27 ounces canned low-fat coconut milk (2 cans, shaken well)

1/2 cup no-salt-added vegetable broth

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 teaspoon seasoning blend, such as Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute

1 teaspoon chili powder

Combine the coconut milk, broth, ginger, onion, seasoning blend and chili powder in a blender; puree until smooth.


To make an Indian-style curry sauce (2 to 3 servings’ worth), combine 1 cup of the basic Coconut Curry Sauce, 2/3 cup Fast Blender Marinara Sauce (see recipe below), 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, 1 teaspoon curry powder and a pinch of sugar in a blender; puree until smooth. The yield is 12/3 cups. Cook in a saucepan over low heat for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to develop, then stir in cooked proteins, canned chickpeas or vegetables; cook for about 15 minutes while the sauce thickens. Serve over rice.

 To make a Thai-style curry sauce (2 to 3 servings’ worth), combine 1 cup of the basic Coconut Curry Sauce, 2 tablespoons each of Cashew Cream and Quick Stir-Fry sauces (see recipes below), 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, 1 tablespoon sugar and Sriracha (to taste) in a blender; puree until smooth. The yield is 11/3 cups. Cook in a saucepan over low heat for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to develop, then stir in cooked proteins, canned chickpeas or vegetables; cook for about 15 minutes while the sauce thickens. Serve with rice or rice noodles and a slice of lime.


Adapted from a recipe by Martha Stewart.

Basic Red Wine Vinaigrette

Basic Red Wine Vinaigrette

A good vinaigrette goes a long way in the kitchen, whether you’re using it on fresh salads and sauteed vegetables or as a marinade for proteins. This recipe is as basic as you can get, and it’s perfectly fine to use different kinds of vinegar and mustard, add a touch of honey for sweetness, add fresh herbs or substitute lemon juice for the vinegar.

The vinaigrette can be refrigerated for up to 4 weeks. Shake well before using.

Makes 4 servings (1/2 cup)

1/3 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 small clove garlic, minced


Freshly ground black pepper

Combine the oil, vinegar, mustard and garlic in a mason jar. Season with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Seal and shake well, until emulsified. Use right away, or refrigerate for up to 4 weeks.


Adapted from “Yum Universe: Infinite Possibilities for a Gluten-Free, Plant-Powerful, Whole-Food Lifestyle,” by Heather Crosby.

Cashew Cream

Cashew Cream

If you’ve ever wanted a creamy sauce but didn’t have dairy products on hand, then this is the next best thing. Made with raw cashews and water, this sauce has a nutty creaminess that is also extremely versatile. Thin it down further with water to create a savory base for macaroni and cheese, or mix in a little honey, cinnamon and vanilla extract to make a sweet dip for sliced apples.

This quick method calls for boiling the cashews for a few minutes to soften them, but you can also put them in a bowl, cover them with water, and let them soak in the refrigerator overnight.

The cashew cream can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Makes 10 servings (21/2 cups)

2 cups raw, unsalted cashews

1 cup cold water, or more as needed

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

Place the cashews in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium; cook for 15 minutes, or until the nuts begin to plump slightly and soften.

Drain the cashews, then transfer them to a blender along with the 1 cup of cold water, the lemon juice and salt. Puree until smooth, stopping to scrape the sides of the blender, as needed.

If the mixture seems too thick while blending, add more water, one tablespoon at a time. Use right away, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 week.


From Washington food writer and editor Kristen Hartke.

Quick Stir-Fry Sauce

Quick Stir-Fry Sauce

Salty, tangy and lightly spicy, this is a great sauce to have in your repertoire when you need to pull together a fast meal out of whatever’s in the refrigerator. Toss it with leftover rice or noodles, vegetables and any kind of protein for an impromptu dish of fried rice or lo mein, or use it as a marinade for chicken, beef or tofu.

Add it to the Basic Coconut Curry Sauce with some Cashew Cream (see related recipes), a squirt of lime juice and Sriracha to give it a Thai-inspired flavor, or substitute it for that packet of dried seasoning the next time you mix up a late-night bowl of ramen.

The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 4 weeks.

Makes 20 servings (11/4 cups)

1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce

1/2 cup no-salt-added vegetable broth

1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar

1 teaspoon vinegar

2 teaspoons ground ginger

2 cloves garlic, minced

Combine the soy sauce, broth, honey or agave nectar, vinegar, ginger and garlic in a mason jar. Seal and shake well, until incorporated. Use right away, or refrigerate for up to 4 weeks.


Adapted from a recipe at

Fast Blender Marinara Sauce

Fast Blender Marinara Sauce

It’s true that the most flavorful marinara sauces are cooked for hours in order to allow them to develop the richest flavors, but this quick sauce has a bright freshness that’s perfect with pasta or as a topping for a weeknight pita-bread pizza.

If you want to take some time to develop the flavor of the sauce, saute the carrot, onion and garlic in a little olive oil before adding them to the blender, then continue the recipe as written.

The just-blended, uncooked marinara can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. The cooked sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Makes 8 servings (4 cups)

1/2 cup chopped carrot (about one 6-inch carrot will do)

3 cloves garlic

3/4 cup chopped onion

One 28-ounce can no-salt-added, whole peeled tomatoes, plus their juices

1 teaspoon seasoning blend, such as Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine the carrot, garlic, onion, tomatoes and their juices, seasoning blend and pepper in a blender; puree on low speed until all the vegetables are finely chopped.

Pour into a medium saucepan; cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 30 minutes. Use right away, or cool completely before storing.

]]> 0, 21 Sep 2016 08:18:39 +0000
A London vegetarian restaurant produces ‘Mildreds: The Cookbook’ Wed, 21 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 As I flipped through a pile of new cookbooks that had just arrived in the newsroom, my eye went right to “Mildreds: The Cookbook.” The simple cover features a sketch of the restaurant that has been a vegetarian mecca in London since 1988, but the inside pops with bright photos of vegetarian and vegan dishes featuring fresh produce.

Although I love vegetables, I’m not vegetarian and my meat-loving husband most definitely is not. I hesitated: Would any of the recipes be a hit at my house?

A quick flip through the book assured me that, yes, we could get behind this one. Plus, the authors promise delicious vegetarian recipes for “simply everyone.”

Jane Muir opened Mildreds with the late Diane Thomas in Soho at a time when most places with vegetarian menus still had a distinctly 1960s hippie vibe. Mildreds focused on affordable, fresh and colorful international vegetarian food. Muir said she and Thomas deliberately stayed away from the brown food in earthenware pottery that was more common in vegetarian restaurants at the time.

The book’s introduction is written by Muir and chefs Daniel Acevedo and Sarah Wasserman, who also wrote the recipes.

“Nowadays, vegetarian cooking really is for everyone, whether you still enjoy tucking into a steak, or prefer a completely vegetarian diet,” they write. “Vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts and seeds have now taken their rightful place in the kitchen and have stolen the limelight.”

The recipes are grouped by course, but the appetizers – enticing dishes like stuffed baby eggplants and spring vegetable pakora – could also work as entrees. Vegan and gluten-free recipes are marked as such, and the chefs point out that many recipes that aren’t gluten-free can easily be adapted to fit food restrictions.

With the air taking on a bit of early fall chill, many recipes have been added to my to-try list: Black Bean Chili-Filled Baby Pumpkins with Toasted Coconut Rice, Wild Mushroom and Ale Pies, and a Wellington made with roasted portobello mushrooms, pecans and chestnuts in place of the standard beef.

I couldn’t resist the Lapsang-scented Mushroom Stroganoff. The description promises a fun twist on a classic Russian recipe with a slightly smoky taste from the tea. Which would have been great if I had been able to find the tea. It proved hard to find at grocery stores near my house, though some Portland tea purveyors, including Dobrá Tea and Whole Foods carry it. The recipe was still tasty without it – the dill was a great complement to the rich cream and earthy mushrooms – and I’ll be sure to buy the tea before I make the stroganoff again.



The recipe calls for corn flour, which is the British way of saying cornstarch. Lapsang souchong tea has an aggressive smoky taste, which adds complexity and depth to the stew that would normally come from the beef. Like the original dish, this stroganoff is quite rich. Serve with rice pilaf.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

2 pounds mixed mushrooms (such as ceps, cremini and meadow), trimmed

Light cooking oil (such as canola, peanut and sunflower)

2 lapsang souchong tea bags

21/2 cups boiling water

2 tablespoons butter

2 onions, finely sliced

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

2 tablespoons corn flour

13/4 cups heavy cream

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup sour cream

1 bunch of dill leaves, chopped

Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut the mushrooms into even, bite-sized pieces. Drizzle a little oil into a roasting pan, add the mushrooms, and toss together thoroughly to coat. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender but have not yet begun to shrivel. Set aside.

Put the lapsang souchong tea bags into a bowl, cover with the boiling water and let stand to infuse for 4 minutes. Remove and discard the tea bags and set the tea aside.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, add the onions and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, or until soft. Add the garlic and paprika and fry for another 2 to 3 minutes. Then add the corn flour and stir together well. Pour in the tea and heavy cream, then stir in the mushrooms, mustard and tomato paste. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has begun to reduce and thicken slightly.

Add the sour cream and cook for another 5 minutes, or until the stroganoff is thick and creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide between serving plates and scatter with dill.

]]> 0, 21 Sep 2016 14:46:28 +0000
Melon glams up deliciously with something sparkling Wed, 21 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Sparkling wine is my aperitif of choice. It’s light and refreshing, it pairs well with just about any starter, and those bubbles always put me in a good mood.

Occasionally, I will spring for a glass of French Champagne, but I find Italian prosecco, Spanish cava or an American sparkling wine does the trick just as well for, typically, a much lower price, making it possible to enjoy that effervescence in an everyday way.

It turns out sparkling wine also makes for a wonderful end to a meal, as a star ingredient in this easy, elegant, four-ingredient dessert. First you sweeten prosecco (or whatever sparkling wine you prefer) with a little sugar – just enough so it is lightly sweetened but not at all syrupy.

Superfine sugar is preferred because it dissolves quickly and easily, but if you don’t have any on hand you can make your own by putting regular granulated sugar in the food processor to grind it more finely.

Then add balls of sweet, juicy honeydew melon, and let the mixture steep in the refrigerator for at least two hours, so the flavors can meld and everything is well chilled. Spoon into cocktail glasses, shower with a fragrant, floral confetti of basil, and you have a grown-up dessert that is fresh, fun and glamorous.

It is one that is well suited to cap off a special-occasion meal but, like those tiny bubbles themselves, can make a regular day feel like a celebration.


If you can’t find superfine sugar, give your granulated sugar a good turn in the food processor.

The melon balls need to macerate in the refrigerator, covered, for at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours.

Makes 4 servings

1 cup prosecco (not extra-dry)

3 tablespoons superfine sugar (may substitute granulated sugar; see headnote)

4 cups (1 pound 7 ounces) honeydew melon balls, from one 4-to-41/2-pound melon

1/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves, for garnish

Pour the prosecco into a large bowl. Add the sugar and stir gently until it is dissolved. Add the melon balls and stir to coat evenly. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours.

Just before serving, stack the basil leaves, roll them tightly and cut them crosswise into thin ribbons (chiffonade).

To serve, divide the melon balls and their liquid among 4 cocktail (martini) or dessert glasses; garnish each with about 1 tablespoon of the basil ribbons.

]]> 0, 21 Sep 2016 08:15:36 +0000
Thai Green Pork Curry tantalizes with aroma and taste Wed, 21 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The scent of Thai curry cooking is very possibly one of the greatest kitchen smells ever.

Ingredients like lemongrass, chilies, garlic, ginger, coconut milk and spices like coriander and cumin all mingle to create a heady perfume that pulls people to the table.

There are as many versions of Thai curry as there are provinces of the country – perhaps as many as there are Thai cooks. Thailand is at the center of Southeast Asia, and its cooking has influenced and been influenced by the cuisines of many countries, from India to China.

While making your own curry paste is an interesting and rewarding experience, opening a jar of Thai curry paste is by far the easiest solution for a weeknight dinner. It’s available in the Asian section of supermarkets, and online.

Fish sauce is a traditional ingredient in Thai and other Southeast Asian cuisines. It is made from fermented anchovies or other seafood, and has a pungent smell, but when a small amount is employed in a recipe it adds a bracing, salty flavor that calls your taste buds to attention. If you like Thai food, you probably like fish sauce. Start with a small amount, and add more from there.

The sauce of this curry is fairly thin. If you want a thicker sauce, stir a couple of teaspoons of cornstarch into 2 tablespoons of water and add with the coconut milk. Either way, you’ll want to serve it with plenty of rice to soak up the delicious liquid.


Makes 6 servings

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon vegetable or peanut oil

1 onion, halved and thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 tablespoons Thai green curry paste

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1 red bell pepper, slivered

11/2 cups chicken broth

1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk

1 tablespoon fish sauce or soy sauce

2 cups small cauliflower florets

4 cups cubed pork loin

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

3/4 cup slivered fresh basil leaves

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

6 cups hot cooked white or jasmine rice to serve

Lime wedges to serve

In a large pot over medium high heat, melt the butter with the oil. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until tender, about 4 minutes. Add the curry paste and ginger and stir until you can smell the spices. Stir in the bell pepper, then add the broth and coconut milk and bring to a gentle simmer (do not let the mixture boil or it might separate or curdle).

Add the fish sauce or soy sauce, and the cauliflower. Simmer for 5 minutes, until the cauliflower starts to become tender. Add the pork and the chickpeas and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 7 to 10 minutes, until the pork is cooked and the cauliflower is tender. Stir in the basil and lime juice and serve over the hot rice, with the lime wedges on the side to squeeze over.

]]> 1, 21 Sep 2016 08:19:00 +0000
Which Maine heritage apples work best in your favorite recipes? Sun, 18 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 My favorite part of the Common Ground Fair is preservation pomologist John Bunker’s annual Apple Tasting. You’ve got to get there early to get a seat under the tent. But as the crowd gathers at its edges, a loaves and fishes kind of thing happens: everybody gets at least a sliver of each heirloom variety on offer and a chance to hear their stories told by Maine’s own apple whisperer.

Bunker’s apple joy is contagious. I just joined his cooperative Out on a Limb heirloom apple CSA through which, for $150, I will get a quarter bushel of rare, Maine apples (10 to 12 pounds) sourced from multiple orchards every other week through early November.

The point of the CSA is to provide a market for these old apples, which many growers don’t even bother to harvest for lack of retail interest.

“If we keep these growers happy, we hope that they will take good care of their old trees” and keep the heritage varieties alive for future generations, Bunker explained.

Cultivating biodiversity in any crop is protection from having a monolithic failure of any monocrop by pests and disease. But from a culinary standpoint, cultivating apple biodiversity means that cooks can have a wide variety of apple tastes, textures, tannin levels and times at which the apples ripen.

In all, I’ll get to sample over 20 varieties I could never find in the grocery store and might only see at a farm stand once in a blue moon. I will receive a mix of eating and culinary apples.

Uh-oh. How do I know how any of these apples will behave in the pan? I went looking for a few rules for fitting apple varieties I don’t know into recipes I do.

Yankee Magazine Food Editor Amy Traverso, author of “The Apple Lover’s Cookbook,” divides all cooking apple types into four categories. Firm-tart ones like Granny Smith, Gravenstein and Ida Red hold their shape when cooked, are best for cakes and pie and benefit recipes that require “a bit of acidity and bright flavor.” Firm-sweet apples like Golden Delicious, Braeburn, Ginger Gold, Honeycrisp and Jonagold work well in savory and sweet dishes that need firm, but sweet fruit. Tender-tart apples like Cortland, Macoun or McIntosh are best for soups and sauces. And lastly, tender-sweet Gala and Fuji apples suit quick-cooking dishes, dessert sauces and especially salads since neither tends to brown very quickly when sliced.

These apples are familiar because they (plus the ubiquitous Red Delicious) are the dozen best-selling in the United States. Traverso offers up a cheat sheet for how 48 more interesting but less common culinary apples (her favorites are the firm-tart Calville Blanc and firm-sweet Pink Lady, both of which are good options for her Pork and Apple Pie with Cheddar-Sage Crust, recipe below), line up in her categories as well.

Of the 123 apple varieties Rowan Jacobsen profiles in his book “Apples of Uncommon Character,” he only enthusiastically recommends about 40 for cooking. He says early summer apples should be eaten as the first raw tastes of apple season; that dessert apples (in the English sense of fruit being served for dessert) should also be eaten straight up; and that the bulk of what he calls keepers, should be taken fresh from the root cellar as a necessary dose of freshness in winter.

I cross-checked Jacobsen’s list with Traverso’s, looking for agreement on heirloom cooking apples and found only a baker’s dozen in common. Both authors agree that Arkansas Black, Ashmead Kernel, Bramley’s Seedling, Calville Blanc, Newtown Pippin, Northern Spy, Rhode Island Greening, Rome, Roxbury Russet and Staymen Winesap apples would make great stand-ins for ordinary firm-tart Granny Smiths in cakes and pies. And they agree that Black Oxfords and Grimes Goldens can be used anywhere a recipe calls for a Braeburn. The Black Twig is the only one they agree upon as a tender-tart apple good for soups and sauces.

Understanding where the rest of the thousands of apples that grow in this region fall into your own recipes requires case-by-case research. The website maintained by Fedco Trees, an outgrowth of Fedco Seeds that is headed by Bunker, serves up an interactive chart ( depicting over 90 types of Maine apples, their flavor profiles, their best culinary uses and their seasonality.

Still, as the saying goes, there is no accounting for personal taste. So as you’re digesting virtual information about a new-to-you apple, take a bite out of the real thing to really understand how it might fit into your own favorite apple recipes moving forward.

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

]]> 6, 19 Sep 2016 06:07:37 +0000
‘The Modern Preserver’ gets creative with canning Wed, 14 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “The Modern Preserver: Jams, Pickles, Cordials, Compotes and More.” By Kylee Newton. Countryman Press $25.95

Canning is not fun. With all of the attendant preparation, sterilization of jars and sweating over a simmering pot often in the height of summer, canning is labor.

What is fun is having canned, possessing the finished product, pretty jars sitting on a dark shelf as the temperature dips and scarcity replaces splendor, that satisfaction equivalent, as the “Joy of Cooking” puts it, “only to a clear conscience or a very becoming hat.”

“The Modern Preserver” by Kylee Newton presents a very different view. Here, canning is color and flash, preservation for an all-at-once age. A celebration not so much of capturing the seasons – Newton briefly describes the importance of using produce at its peak and wasting none of it – but of the alchemy of blending flavors to create something new and capturing that thing, like a sprite, in a jar with a vacuum seal.

Newton, a New Zealander who has lived for years in London, where she sells her homemade creations as Newton & Pott, encourages readers in the introduction to play with fruits and vegetables that are grown around the world and are now more accessible than ever.

“Let travel influence your ideas, spin that flavor wheel and try out new and interesting combinations,” she writes.

This is not your guide to canning local produce. Here recipes are offered for Beets and Orange Chutney, Roasted Pineapple and Coconut Sweet Pickle, Apple and Sage Butter, and Passionfruit Curd.

Yet, I did go to Newton’s book looking for ways to make the most of what’s ripe in my garden right now. Her recipe for homemade ketchup may be sedate, but it excited for me for its simplicity. She adds apples for sweetness, making this a perfect recipe for right now in New England, when local tomatoes and apples are abundant.

The bag of raspberries in my freezer are bound for Chocolate and Raspberry Jam. And I’ve earmarked Blueberries In a Pickle and Rhubarb and Prosecco Jelly, for when the seasons come around again. (Call me old-fashioned.)

Newton spends just two pages on sterilization and food safety. Her recipes generally recommend pouring hot contents into well-sterilized jars and sealing, without the extra step of processing the finished jars in boiling water or a pressure cooker. Lots of people have done it that way for many years, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture says that method isn’t enough to absolutely prevent botulism.

Use “Modern Preserver” for its many tantalizing recipes. For a guide to the basics of food preservation, try the “Joy of Cooking.”


Makes 4-5 17-ounce bottles

Newton writes that the key to thick ketchup is steeping the tomatoes in salt as long as possible, for at least three hours, and draining well. (I left them to steep overnight.) She recommends eating this with fish and chips, burgers (duh), or “anything else you like eating with ketchup.” Which, with this recipe, might be everything.

To make the spice bag, wrap the spices in a small piece of cheesecloth and secure with kitchen twine.

4 pounds tomatoes (preferably vine)

1 tablespoon salt

1 pound apples

1 pound onions

1 cup raw granulated sugar

11/4 cup distilled malt vinegar

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon ground allspice


1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 teaspoon whole cloves, lightly toasted

1 bay leaf

1/4 tsp chili flakes

Roughly chop the tomatoes, place in a large bowl and gently stir through with the salt. Leave to steep for at least 3 hours. If you don’t want tomato skins in your ketchup, blanch the tomatoes to remove the skins before chopping and salting.

Meanwhile, peel, core and dice the apples, and peel and roughly chop the onions.

Drain off the excess salted liquid from the tomatoes and prepare the spice bag. Put the tomatoes and spice bag, along with all the other ingredients, in a large, heavy-bottomed pan and bring to boil.

Simmer and stir steadily for 1 hour until the mixture has thickened and reduced by around a third.

Remove the spice bag and leave to cool then use a food processor or a food mill to blend the mixture to a smooth sauce-like consistency.

Return the sauce to the pan and bring to boil once again, simmering and stirring for another 20 minutes, skimming off any scum on the surface as it reduces.

Remove from the heat once it is as thick as you want it.

Using a funnel, ladle or pour the ketchup into warm, dry sterilized bottles.

Gently tap the bottom of the bottles on a hard surface to remove any air bubbles, then seal.

Can be eaten immediately but best left to mature for 2-4 weeks before opening.

Keeps for up to 6 months to a year unopened. Once opened, refrigerate and eat within 4 months.

]]> 0, 14 Sep 2016 08:43:12 +0000
With tomatoes at their best, think beyond the BLT Wed, 14 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 While we all have access to tomatoes in even the depths of winter, the words we use to describe them sound like other names for disappointment – mealy, bland and sad. But describe an encounter with the best summertime tomatoes, and suddenly it sounds as if you’re reliving some steamy affair – luscious, sumptuous and messy.

The best summertime tomatoes have a super juicy interior with a taste that hovers from sweet to acidic to, most importantly, savory. You probably think I’m joking, but tomatoes contain a high proportion of glutamic acid, which also lends Parmesan cheese and soy sauce their oddly meaty powers. Kind of amazing, no?

As an American, I make sure to eat my fair share of BLT sandwiches; when done right, it is a nearly flawless creation. But it’s not the only word on tomatoes and bread. There’s a wide world of options out there, and making the slightest adjustment to the bread or the fat used completely changes the result. The only rule is to keep things simple.

Let’s start with the obvious. We’ve all heard of bruschetta, right? At its simplest, the base recipe is nothing more than toasted or grilled slices of bread rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil and salt. If you’re using great bread, this can be satisfying, if a tad boring. But add tomatoes to the mix and maybe some torn basil, and now you have one of the most ubiquitous appetizers on earth. The crunch of the bread contrasts with the soft chopped tomatoes, with the garlic heat coming at the end.

In northern Spain, they also serve a toasted bread and tomato dish called pan de tomate (or pa amb tomaquet in the Catalan language), but while the ingredients are extremely similar to bruschetta, the dish differs dramatically. Instead of neatly chopped tomatoes and a pop of bright green basil, cooks drag a halved tomato across the toasted bread, saturating the slice and leaving a trail of pulp and seeds in its wake.

Compared to bruschetta, it’s a messy, unkempt sight. But it’s immensely satisfying, perhaps even more so than the Italian version, because of the mix of crunchy toasted bread and the soft tomato-soaked interior.

If you prefer your sandwich more handsome, follow the example of Denmark’s meticulously composed open-faced sandwiches, called smorrebrod. Though topping options are nearly limitless, they all start with a firm foundation of grilled or toasted rye bread spread with butter. One of the simplest is to pair sliced tomato with hard-cooked egg and watercress. You could stack all the ingredients on top of each other, but Nika Hazelton, in her book “Classic Scandinavian Cooking,” suggests placing eggs on one side and tomatoes on the other, with watercress neatly positioned on top. Be as fiddly as you like.

The result certainly looks much neater, but if you’re using plump summertime tomatoes, each bite is still adequately messy. The sliced egg adds a creaminess, while the tangle of watercress lends a pleasing peppery bite.

Not all tomato sandwiches need to be toasted. In the southern United States, tomato sandwiches are usually built on untoasted, pearly white bread. While the softness of the bread seems destined to buckle under the juicy tomato slices, a healthy coating of mayonnaise helps protect it. What kind of mayonnaise? According to Southern cookbook author Virginia Willis, store-bought brands are actually the traditional way, with the regional brand Duke’s being mentioned often, though Hellman’s works, too.

Honestly, I quite enjoyed the sandwich I made with Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise, though that will seem sacrilegious to some.

Regardless of which recipe you try, the tomato sandwich should be unreasonably messy, necessitating a nearby stack of napkins for backup. That part of the sandwich crosses all borders.

Pan de tomate is a simple way to savor the flavor.

Pan de tomate is a simple way to savor the flavor.


Makes 2 servings

1 large tomato

Salt and pepper

2 slices rustic bread, sliced 1/2-inch thick

1 clove garlic, peeled, sliced in half

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

10 fresh basil leaves, torn or chopped

Chop the tomato, discarding the core, and transfer to a bowl. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir well; set aside for 10 minutes.

Heat a broiler to high. Place bread slices on a baking sheet; transfer to the top rack of the oven underneath the broiler. Cook until bread is well toasted on top, about 2 minutes. Flip and toast bread on the other side, about 2 minutes. Remove and immediately rub one side of both slices with cut side of the garlic.

Spoon the chopped tomatoes over the garlic-rubbed side of both slices of bread. Drizzle each with olive oil; garnish with fresh basil.


Makes 2 servings

2 slices of rustic bread, sliced 1-inch thick

1 clove garlic, peeled, sliced in half

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 large tomato, cut in half

Salt and pepper

Heat a broiler to high. Place bread on a baking sheet; transfer to the top rack of the oven underneath the broiler. Cook until bread is well toasted on top, about 2 minutes. Flip and toast bread on the other side, about 2 minutes. Remove and immediately rub one side of both slices with cut side of the garlic.

Drizzle both slices with olive oil. Take a tomato half and firmly rub it on the top of one slice of bread, leaving some of the pulp and seeds behind, but not the skin. Repeat on other slice. Season with salt and pepper.

Tomato and egg smorrebrod

Tomato and egg smorrebrod


Adapted from “Classic Scandinavian Cooking” by Nika Hazelton.

Makes 1 serving

1 slice dense rye bread

1 tablespoon softened butter

1/2 large tomato, core removed, sliced

1 hard-cooked egg, shelled, sliced

Salt and pepper

1/2 cup fresh watercress

Heat a broiler to high. Place bread on a baking sheet; transfer to the top rack of the oven underneath the broiler. Cook until bread is well toasted on top, about 2 minutes. Flip and toast bread on the other side, about 2 minutes. Spread one side with butter.

Place slices of tomatoes on half of the bread. Place egg slices on the other. (You can also build egg and tomato slices one on top of the other.) Season with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Top with watercress.


Makes 1 serving

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 slices white bread

1 large tomato, core removed, sliced thickly

Salt and pepper

Spread the mayonnaise on one side of both slices of bread. With one slice facing mayonnaise-side up, add a tomato slice and season with salt and pepper. Continue adding tomato slices and seasoning them until the whole tomato has been used. Top with slice of bread facing mayonnaise-side down. Slice sandwich down the middle and serve.

]]> 0, 14 Sep 2016 08:16:44 +0000
Pasta salad goes everywhere without losing any appeal Wed, 14 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I am on the road for work fairly often, and although my teenage daughter and husband can surely fend for themselves while I am away, it puts me at ease knowing I have left them with a couple of prepared dishes in the refrigerator.

This pasta salad is one I make again and again at my daughter’s request, whether I am heading out of town or not. She typically digs into it when she gets home from school, famished after volleyball practice, but I have dubbed it the Lunch Box Pasta Salad because of the way it holds up in a cooler pack, making it an ideal midday meal for toting to work or school.

I use whole-grain pasta (specifically fusilli, because its corkscrew shape ensnares all the flavorful salad ingredients), but you could use any short shape: farfalle or penne, for example.

The salad is chock-full of chopped, colorful vegetables – bell peppers, broccoli and tomatoes – along with diced, fresh mozzarella cheese.

The dressing is a classic combination of extra-virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, basil, oregano, salt, pepper and a touch of garlic.

But what makes this salad most unique and serviceable is what it doesn’t have. There is nothing in it that becomes soggy or unappealing after several days in the refrigerator or hours in a lunchbox.

Instead of dicing a large tomato, which quickly becomes mealy mush with refrigeration, I use grape tomatoes, which are firm enough to hold up beautifully.

The bell peppers and broccoli retain their crispness, and I use dried herbs to avoid unappealing, oxidized, wilted leaves.

It’s a salad that I am confident will make it into regular rotation in your home, as it has in mine.


This colorful pasta salad, full of vegetables and fresh mozzarella cheese in an herb-garlic vinaigrette dressing, earns its name for being an ideal meal to tote to work or school.

Makes 4 servings

8 ounces whole-grain fusilli pasta

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 small clove garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 medium yellow bell pepper, diced

1/2 pint grape tomatoes, quartered

1 cup cooked, chilled, coarsely chopped broccoli

6 ounces fresh, part-skim mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4-to-1/2-inch dice

Cook the pasta al dente according to directions on the package. Drain, then transfer it to a large bowl, toss with 1 teaspoon of the oil and allow it to cool completely.

Whisk together in a small bowl the remaining 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons of olive oil, the vinegar, oregano, basil, garlic, salt and black pepper to form a dressing.

Add the bell pepper, tomatoes, broccoli, mozzarella and dressing to the pasta, and toss to combine.

Krieger blogs and offers a weekly newsletter at

]]> 0, 14 Sep 2016 08:16:47 +0000
Bread and Butter: Joys and sorrows of the staff revolving door Wed, 14 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 EDITOR’S NOTE: Mike Wiley, chef and co-owner of Eventide Oyster Co., Hugo’s and The Honey Paw, all on Middle Street in Portland, is the second chef to contribute to our occasional chef-written series, Bread and Butter. This is the first of his three columns.

I’m not going to whine about how hard it is to hire good cooks, because enough ink has been spilled on the subject already. Cooking is hard work, it eats up a lot of time, and it isn’t for everyone. But as part owner of three restaurants in Portland – Hugo’s, Eventide Oyster Co. and The Honey Paw – I can say with authority that staffing sure is hard.

A lot of cooks have quit our restaurants over the years. We’ve fired a few people for dangerous, insane or illegal behavior, but for the most part, cooks leave of their own volition. We’ve had people leave our kitchens and change careers entirely; frequently these folks need more time with their families and a more “normal” work schedule. Or they finally succumbed to the siren’s call of insurance adjusting, I’m not sure which.

Occasionally, cooks quit because they don’t like the job. Earlier this summer, in an unforgivable display of cowardice, a cook walked out the door without giving any notice on a very busy Saturday afternoon – he melted a plastic container by accident, and was embarrassed. You should hear the Hugo’s cooks talk when his name comes up.

On the other end of the spectrum, fantastic cooks like Dane Newman, who had worked for us for almost three years, move to Seattle for their partner’s career, no matter how much begging I did – or how much I slandered the Emerald City.

In some cases, the best thing to do is to shoo people out the door. Since in this industry, cooks aren’t in it for the money, learning is part of the salary. If we come to a point where we don’t have much left to teach cooks, it seems like the right thing to encourage them to find a new job where they can grow and learn.

However it happens, it’s always painful to lose a staff member with whom you’ve shared a lot personally and professionally. I can’t imagine that rehashing “Game of Thrones” around the water cooler in an office setting forges the same kind of deep bond that challenging prep days and busy services at restaurants can.

In fact, people in restaurants become so close, so dependent on each other that many chefs behave like disowned parents when valuable cooks leave.

But such behavior is childish and short-sighted. We’ve been lucky enough to rehire cooks regularly. We’ve hired Teen Wolf (Ian Driscoll, who started at Hugo’s and needed a haircut, hence the nickname) something like three times, maybe because we got a him a gift certificate to Eleven Madison Park (one of New York City’s best restaurants) when he left the first time. Or maybe because we treated him like a human being.

I’m interested to see if Nick Nappi ever comes back. We presented him with a gilded Gray Kunz spoon. If that’s not a symbolic parting gift, I don’t know what is. (Gray Kunz, for those of you not in my world, ran the four-star Lespinasse in New York for many years. And he designed a special spoon for chefs to taste, portion and sauce.)

We’ve been lucky enough to have cooks work in the building while they are working toward opening their own restaurants, such talents as Anders Tallberg (eventually, he opened Roustabout) and Chris Gould (Central Provisions). Right now, Brant Dadaleares is helping us out in the pastry department (and pulling the occasional shucking shift at Eventide) as he works toward opening his dessert bar.

It is a privilege to have such dedicated professionals staff our restaurants. We provide them a source of income and a place where they can keep their knives and skills sharp before their own spots open, and they set a high standard of professionalism in our kitchen. I’m not so deluded as to think that they’re working for us to pick up new recipes from the likes of me. But I am thrilled that they serve our kitchens’ culture by inspiring and teaching greener cooks.

It’s funny, people want to believe that all restaurants have one artistic genius, the brilliant chef, from whose noggin springs – like Athena from Zeus – inspired and delicious dishes. This is not the case. At least not for us.

When I try to be frank with our guests about where the ideas and food come from, I get the sense they think my explanations are false modesty. That’s not it at all: A lot of really talented and hardworking people work in our restaurants, and everything is a collaboration.


This dish is a real crowd-pleaser. You can bake it as a big log or pack it into the same kind of pan you might use for meat loaf, or you could make it into little meatballs.

Serve this with pitas, a red onion and tomato salad, grated cucumbers in a yogurt dressing, some leaf lettuce, and maybe a little hot sauce on the side.

2 pounds ground beef (90 percent lean)

1 tablespoon Diamond Kosher Salt

1 onion, minced

5 garlic cloves, minced

5 parsley sprigs, minced

1 mint sprig, minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground Aleppo pepper (sweet paprika is a reasonable substitute)

1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika

Pinch of red pepper flakes

Combine salt and dry spices with the ground beef.

Allow to cure in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

After curing period, transfer mixture to a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.

Paddle on low for 5 minutes.

While the mixer is running, add garlic, onion, parsley and mint.

Choose your shape – logs, meatloaf or meatballs.

Arrange schwarma mixture on a baking sheet, and bake until golden brown and delicious. Internal temperature should be 155 degrees F.

Allow to rest for 10 minutes. Arrange your delicious Grecian buffet, and slice schwarma as you like it.

While you bask in the adulation of your friends and loved ones, look skyward and whisper, “Thank you, Chef Ben Groppe.”

]]> 6, 14 Sep 2016 08:16:38 +0000
In ‘Cooking with Loula, Greek Recipes from My Family to Yours,’ the recipes satisfy Wed, 07 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “Cooking with Loula, Greek Recipes from My Family to Yours.” By Alexandra Stratou. Artisan New York. $29.95.

The first thing that struck me about “Cooking with Loula, Greek Recipes from My Family to Yours,” was its physical appearance: no spine binding and a partial cover. I hadn’t even cracked the cover and I was already intrigued – congrats to the marketing team for making this cookbook stand out in a tsunami of niche cookbooks!

But like a romantic infatuation that fades with time, this cookbook’s charms – from its gorgeous photos to broad range of recipes – slowly morphed into a trying-too-hard-to-impress distraction.

Random essays and free-form poetry were something to get past. Recipes organized by weekdays, Sundays, holidays and traditions made for a fun initial flip-through, but made choosing between side vegetable dishes later a frustration.

And not to dumb it down, but I would have appreciated a pronunciation guide for the many, many Greek dish names, so I could serve them up with aplomb, instead of a paler description: “Here’s some … Greek beef stew.” (Hunkiar Beyendi) “And some … custard pie!” (Galaktoboureko)

Recipes have rambling, poorly written, introductions (“I have found that if I am to be at peace, I must have a multidimensional relationship with food, just as it was in my home, and many other Greek homes, when I was growing up,” the jam tart entry starts. It goes on: “Pasta flora seemed like an appropriate recipe to accompany these thoughts as the lattice design on top that separates the jam into squares reminds me of the way I, and other humans, often sort our life into boxes.”

I dunno about all that. Sometimes a jam tart is just a jam tart.

For sheer over-the-top imagery, the moussaka recipe says: “If moussaka represents Greece only in one’s mental capacity, then we must let go of it as an emblem. Perhaps the deconstructed identity of a modern-day Greek man or woman lies deep in the center of a moussaka.”

But, like these descriptions, I digress.

The recipes themselves satisfy, with easy-to-follow instructions and range from everyday go-to dishes to complex holiday affairs. As a weekend-warrior chef, I appreciated the inclusion of recipes for basic sauces and purees that I can use in multiple dishes but overall, I felt like this cookbook made me work to hard to get to its strengths. Ultimately, the intimate tone of the writing and rambling additions made it seem more of a self-published vanity press product than a professionally edited cookbook.


Serves 4 to 6, Time under 3 hours

One 16-ounce (500 gram) bag dried white beans

Extra-virgin olive oil

1 onion, grated

2 carrots, cut in half lengthwise, then sliced

1 clove garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 small celery stalk, sliced

Salt and pepper

1 bay leaf

Red chili flakes

Place the beans in a large pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes, then drain and set aside.

Coat the bottom of the same pot with a thin layer of oil and place over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots and garlic. Cook until the onion is translucent, add the tomato paste and then add the parboiled beans. Stir well to coat the beans in the oil, and add the celery. Cook for 5 minutes, allowing all of the flavors to blend.

Add water to cover the ingredients by about 1 inch, along with a large pinch of salt and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil, and then lower the heat to a simmer. Continue to simmer gently for 1½ to 2 hours. The beans are ready when they are so full of water that they want to burst. Taste and adjust the salt. Add pepper and chili flakes to taste. Remove the bay leaf and the garlic if you see them swimming around still intact.

Serve in a soup bowl, with some leaves of baby lettuce, Taramosalata (cod roe dip,) smoked herring, black olives, feta and fresh bread.

]]> 0, 07 Sep 2016 07:59:02 +0000
The Maine Ingredient: Do yourself a flavor and roast tomatoes Wed, 07 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 At last, they’re here in abundance, and in all manner of shapes and sizes and colors. What heaven! Here’s a lovely recipe for gently cooked ripe tomatoes layered with buttered garlic crumbs, as well as instructions for roasting them, which concentrates and deepens their incomparable flavor.


To make fresh bread crumbs, tear 4 to 5 slices of good-quality white bread into pieces and whir in a food processor.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

4 cups fresh bread crumbs or Panko crumbs

2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano or marjoram

2 tablespoons snipped chives

1 large garlic clove, minced

½ teaspoon salt, plus additional for sprinkling

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus additional for sprinkling

5 tablespoons melted butter

6 large ripe tomatoes, cored and sliced about ½-inch thick

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, oregano, chives, garlic, salt and pepper. Drizzle butter over crumb mixture and toss to combine thoroughly. Spread about half the mixture out in a shallow 2-quart baking dish, such as a 9-by-11-inch dish, and press down firmly to make an even “crust.” Bake in the preheated oven until golden, about 10 minutes. (Crust can be baked a couple hours ahead and held, loosely covered, at cool room temperature.)

Arrange a layer of sliced tomatoes over the crust, sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with the bread crumbs. Repeat until all tomatoes are used, finishing with a top layer of crumbs.

Return the casserole to the oven and bake, uncovered, until the tomatoes just begin to soften, their juices have started to run and the crumbs are golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Some recipes call for several hours in a slow oven, but I find that an hour or so at 350 degrees F does the job perfectly. You can use any type or color tomato, but plum tomatoes are the meatiest and produce the most substantial result.

Makes about ¾ cup

6 to 12 plum tomatoes (or other types), about 1½ pounds


1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Core tomatoes and cut lengthwise in quarters if small, and in eighths if large. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet and arrange tomatoes cut sides up in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and dribble with a small amount of oil.

Roast in the preheated oven, without turning, until the tomatoes soften, give up their juice, and are caramelized on the bottom, 1 to 1½ hours, depending on size. Grind black pepper over.

Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 4 days or freeze.

Here are some serving suggestions for your Oven-Roasted Tomatoes:

 Spread French bread croutes with goat cheese, add a small smear of pesto, and top with a tomato for an hors d’oeuvre.

 Fold roasted tomatoes in half and skewer on toothpicks with small wedges of mozzarella and a basil leaf.

 Layer country bread with thinly sliced sharp cheddar cheese and top with a thin slice of red onion and roasted tomatoes for lunch.

 To boost flavor of almost any other sandwich, (turkey, cucumber, avocado, roast beef, chicken, etc.), add a layer of roasted tomatoes.

 Soften garlic in a small amount of olive oil; add heavy cream and simmer until reduced by one-third. Coarsely chop roasted tomatoes and add to the cream with a handful of torn basil. Toss with hot pasta and pass grated pecorino cheese.

 Sauté zucchini, a sliced sweet pepper and sliced onion in olive oil until caramelized. Add coarsely chopped roasted tomatoes to heat through. Sprinkle with crumbled feta and serve with crusty country bread.

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, 07 Sep 2016 12:15:21 +0000
Grilled greens – and reds – gain silky texture and deeper flavor Wed, 07 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I have been playing around lately with grilling wedges of greens, with delicious results. When they meet the grill, varieties such as romaine lettuce, napa cabbage and endive retain their crisp, quenching essence, yet they yield to the heat just enough to gain a softer, more luxurious texture, more savory flavor and an appealing, smoky char.

Radicchio, although red, certainly qualifies as a grill-friendly “green,” and both its royal color and pleasantly bitter flavor deepen beautifully during grilling.

Prep is minimal, and the technique applies across the board: Just quarter the head lengthwise, so each piece retains a bit of the core to hold it together on the grill. Then brush with oil, sprinkle with salt and grill for two to three minutes per side.

You can serve it just like that or with your favorite salad dressing, as a first course or alongside whatever protein you might be firing up.

In the accompanying dish, I paired grilled radicchio with fresh, sweet cherries to counterbalance the vegetable’s bitterness and match its dramatic, dark red hue.

The fruit is the base of a vinaigrette made in the blender with balsamic vinegar (for additional sweetness and dark color), a little chopped shallot and extra-virgin olive oil.

To get the most vivid effect, the dressing is poured onto serving plates or drizzled onto a platter, then topped with the char-grilled radicchio wedges, scattered with fresh cherries and showered with chopped chives.

It is a salad that is as tasty and healthful as it is out of the ordinary.


The dressing can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Makes 4 servings

20 sweet red cherries, pitted, each cut in half

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon finely chopped shallot

1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 medium heads radicchio (about 6 ounces each)

2 teaspoons finely chopped or cut chives

Combine 12 of the cherries (24 halves), 3 tablespoons of the oil, the balsamic vinegar, shallot, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and the 1/8 teaspoon of pepper in a blender; puree until smooth. (Some flecks of cherry skin will be visible.) Transfer the dressing to a container or serving bowl.

Remove and discard any wilted or tough outer leaves from the heads of radicchio, then cut each head lengthwise into quarters, so each quarter retains a piece of the core to keep it together. Brush the radicchio lightly on all sides with the remaining tablespoon of oil and sprinkle with the remaining 1/8 teaspoon of salt.

Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Grill the radicchio wedges until softened and lightly charred, about 2 minutes on each of the three sides.

Meanwhile, cut the remaining cherry halves into quarters.

To serve, spoon about 2 tablespoons of the dressing onto individual salad plates, or drizzle or spread it on a platter. Top each salad plate with two wedges of the grilled radicchio, or arrange them all on the platter. Scatter the quartered cherries on each plate or on the platter, then garnish with the chives.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

]]> 0, 07 Sep 2016 08:17:00 +0000
What saved the 1970s from a purely polyester legacy? Culinary breakthroughs Wed, 07 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The ’70s were the decadelong equivalent of March. It came in like a lion and went out with a mirrored disco ball.

In between was a national malaise and a long, national nightmare. It was the best time for movies and the worst time for fashion. And we were more concerned about the price of oil than the fact that, for two full years, we had both a president and a vice president who had not been elected to their positions.

We got out of Vietnam, but we got into polyester.

In the culinary world, though, things were not that bad. In the ’70s, people began to think more seriously about eating for their health; the health-food fad began in earnest and has yet to fade away. Yogurt became popular, and so did granola.

Two culinary events in the ’70s changed forever the way we look at food.

The iconic restaurant Chez Panisse opened in Berkeley, California, in 1971, eliminating the stuffiness previously associated with fine dining and igniting a revolution of cooking with the best possible, local ingredients.

The other cuisine-altering event was the 1977 publication of “Moosewood Cookbook.” One of the best-selling American cookbooks of all time, “Moosewood Cookbook” moved vegetarian food from something of a punchline into a viable and even popular way to cook (though “Moosewood” author Mollie Katzen, who originally self-published “Moosewood” in 1974, gives more credit to Anna Thomas, who came out with “The Vegetarian Epicure” in 1972).

So for my culinary sojourn through the 1970s, I turned to my favorite recipe in “Moosewood Cookbook,” Hungarian Mushroom Soup. I had remembered liking it, but I did not recall just how staggeringly rich and filling it was.

As the book’s recipes often did, this one calls for tamari or soy sauce to create an earthy, umami flavor to make up for a lack of meat. A shot of lemon juice, too, brightens the taste.

The soup has the expected mushrooms, onion, stock and milk, plus a hefty dose of paprika and dill for that authentic Hungarian piquancy. It also has lots of butter and sour cream – health food may have come into its own in the ’70s, but plenty was still being served that wasn’t healthy.

Like Quiche Lorraine. Quiche Lorraine was everywhere in the ’70s; any luncheon was bound to have it. And why not? With a filling made from eggs, cream and shredded cheese, it is basically a custard set inside a tart shell – with bacon.

Sales dipped dramatically after the 1982 publication of the book “Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche,” but maybe it is time to bring them back up again. It’s hard to get any better than cheesy custard, crust and bacon.

Every bit as ubiquitous as Quiche Lorraine in the ’70s was, perhaps surprisingly, guacamole. Although it had been available in certain places for decades, when the country as a whole discovered it in the ’70s it suddenly became a part of every summertime gathering.

Because everyone makes pretty much the same guacamole as everyone else (some use garlic powder and onion powder, some don’t), I decided to go back to the basics with mine.

I made it without lime juice. That may not be the 1970s way to do it, but apparently it is the authentically Mexican way.

And I have to say I loved it, even though I am also a huge fan of limes. With just five ingredients (avocados, serrano chiles, cilantro, chopped onion and salt), this limeless version really lets the avocado flavor shine through. With guacamole, the avocado should always be the star.

The ’70s simply would not have been the ’70s without crepes. Crepe restaurants sprang up all around the country, most notably the Magic Pan, a chain that was owned by Quaker Oats throughout the decade.

The great thing about crepes is you can use them for practically everything. Their popularity soared when people realized they could be used to make a fancy presentation of leftovers, but they are also great with vegetables, chicken or seafood – try any of these with a simple white sauce. Just add a little sugar to the batter for dessert, and fill them with ice cream, whipped cream, or jam.

Or just eat them fresh off the pan, as I did. Well, some of them.

Finally, I made a big pot of pasta primavera, which, I was surprised to learn, was invented in the 1970s, in New York City. Its actual origin is a matter of some debate, but it is universally agreed that it came to prominence in 1976 with the opening of the famed Le Cirque restaurant in New York.

A 1977 recipe from Le Cirque in the New York Times sealed its popularity. It became the dish of the moment, the dish of the hour, the dish of the decade.

I made the version as originally printed in the Times, and it was so much better than any other version I’ve had that it was like eating a different dish. This one has the cascade of vegetables that you would expect (broccoli, zucchini, asparagus, green beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, peas and pea pods – I used sugar snap peas) plus some ingredients that you might not.

Butter, for one, and heavy cream. Plus, Parmesan cheese, lots of olive oil and toasted pine nuts.

All this time, I have thought of pasta primavera as a healthy meal, but no. It may not be good for you, but it tastes amazing.

Hungarian Mushroom Soup, from "Moosewood Cookbook."

Hungarian Mushroom Soup, from “Moosewood Cookbook.”


Yield: 4 servings

4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter, divided

2 cups chopped onion

12 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced

1 teaspoon salt

1 to 2 teaspoons dried dill

2 cups stock or water, divided

1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce

1 tablespoon Hungarian paprika

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup milk

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

½ cup sour cream

¼ cup chopped parsley

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet. Add onions, and sauté over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, salt, dill, ½ cup of the stock or water, tamari and paprika. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly, for a few minutes. Add the milk and cook, stirring frequently, over medium-low heat for 10 minutes or until thick.

Stir the mushroom mixture and remaining 1½ cups stock or water into the milk mixture. Cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.

Just before serving, add salt and pepper to taste, lemon juice, sour cream and, if desired, extra dill. Serve hot, topped with freshly minced parsley.

Quiche Lorraine always satisfies.

Quiche Lorraine always satisfies.


Yield: 6 to 8 servings

1¾ cups all-purpose flour

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cubed and chilled

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more

3 eggs, divided

¾ cup grated Gruyère cheese

½ cup heavy cream

½ cup milk

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Black pepper, to taste

3 slices bacon, finely chopped

Chopped chives, to garnish

Place flour, butter and salt in a bowl; using your fingers, rub together until pea-size crumbles form. Add 1 of the eggs and 1 tablespoon ice-cold water; stir until dough forms. Briefly knead until smooth; form into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.

Whisk together remaining 2 eggs, cheese, cream, milk, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste in a bowl. Cook bacon in a small skillet over medium heat to render its fat, about 12 minutes; drain on paper towels until cool. Add to egg mixture. Set filling aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll dough into a 13-inch circle; transfer to an 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, pressing into bottom and sides. Trim excess dough; chill for 30 minutes. Prick bottom with a fork; cover with parchment paper, fill with dried beans or pie weights, and bake until set, about 20 minutes.

Remove paper and beans; bake until light brown, about 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees; pour filling into crust. Bake until just set, about 20 minutes; garnish with chives.

– Adapted from Saveur

Hold-The-Lime Guacamole is a soothing, salty treat.

Hold-The-Lime Guacamole is a soothing, salty treat.


Yield: About 2 cups

1 or 2 serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded, finely chopped

¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped

¼ cup white onion, finely chopped

2 large ripe Hass avocados

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Combine chiles, cilantro and onion in a large bowl. Just before serving, halve and seed avocados, scoop out pulp and mash pulp into chile mixture with a fork until just combined. Season with salt and serve immediately.

– From “Epicurious,” by Nils Bernstein


Yield: 8 servings (16 crepes)

1 cup cold water

1 cup cold milk

4 large eggs

½ teaspoon salt

2 cups all-purpose flour

4 tablespoons butter, melted

Cooking oil or more butter

Whirl water, milk, eggs, salt, flour and melted butter in a blender at high speed for about 1 minute. Refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Set a small nonstick or cast-iron skillet over moderately high heat and brush lightly with oil or butter. Just when it begins to smoke, immediately remove from heat. Hold the pan with one hand and pour a scant ¼ cup of batter into the middle of the pan with your other. Quickly tilt pan in all directions to run batter all over bottom of pan in a thin film, pouring back any batter that does not adhere to the pan.

Immediately set pan over heat and cook for about 1 minute. The crepe is ready for turning when you can shake and jerk it loose from bottom of pan; lift an edge to see that it is a nice brown underneath. Turn the crepe and cook for about 30 seconds on the other side. Slide the crepe onto a plate and continue with the rest of the batter, greasing the pan lightly each time it seems necessary.

If you make the crepes in advance, it is best to stack them between layers of waxed paper or foil to prevent them from sticking together.

Roll crepes around a filling of creamed fish, meat, vegetables or leftovers. If desired, cover with a white sauce, sprinkle with cheese and brown in the oven before serving.

– From “The French Chef Cookbook,” by Julia Child

Le Cirque's Spaghetti Primavera

Le Cirque’s Spaghetti Primavera


Yield: 4 servings (or 6 to 8 appetizers)

1 bunch broccoli

2 small zucchini, unpeeled

4 asparagus spears

1½ cups green beans

½ cup fresh or frozen peas

¾ cup fresh or frozen pea pods

1 tablespoon peanut, vegetable or corn oil

2 cups thinly sliced mushrooms


Freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon minced hot red or green chili, or 1/2 teaspoon dried red-pepper flakes

¼ cup finely chopped parsley

6 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 teaspoon minced garlic, divided

3 cups tomato cubes, cut into 1-inch dice

6 basil leaves, chopped

1 pound spaghetti

4 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons chicken broth

½ cup heavy cream, or more

½ cup grated Parmesan

⅓ cup toasted pine nuts

Trim broccoli and break into florets. Trim off ends of the zucchini. Cut into quarters, then cut into 1-inch or slightly longer lengths (about 1½ cups). Cut each asparagus into 2-inch pieces. Trim beans and cut into 1-inch pieces.

Cook each of the green vegetables separately in boiling salted water to cover until crisp but tender. Drain well, then run under cold water to chill, and drain again thoroughly. Combine the cooked vegetables in a bowl.

Cook the peas and pods; about 1 minute if fresh; 30 seconds if frozen. Drain, chill with cold water and drain again. Combine with the vegetables.

In a skillet over medium-high heat, heat the peanut oil and add the mushrooms. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Cook about 2 minutes, shaking the skillet and stirring. Add the mushrooms, chili and parsley to the vegetables.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a saucepan and add ½ teaspoon of the garlic, tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cook about 4 minutes. Add the basil.

Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet and add the remaining ½ teaspoon of garlic and the vegetable mixture. Cook, stirring gently, until heated through.

Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water until almost (but not quite) tender, retaining a slight resilience in the center. Drain well.

In a pot large enough to hold the spaghetti and vegetables, add the butter and melt over medium-low heat. Then add the chicken broth and half a cup each of cream and Parmesan, stirring constantly. Cook gently until smooth. Add the spaghetti and toss quickly to blend. Add half the vegetables and pour in the liquid from the tomatoes, tossing over very low heat.

Add the remaining vegetables (but not the tomatoes). If the sauce seems dry, add 3 to 4 tablespoons more cream. Add the pine nuts and give the mixture a final tossing.

Serve equal portions of the spaghetti mixture in soup or spaghetti bowls. Spoon equal amounts of the tomatoes over each serving. Serve immediately.

– From Le Cirque restaurant, published in the New York Times in 1977

]]> 0, 07 Sep 2016 12:51:01 +0000
For healthy, forgiving cooking, try a foil pack in the oven Wed, 07 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Social media tells me that in part of the country, kids are already back to school. And so we are teetering between the lazy days of summer and the impending promise of crisp, cool air, long sleeves and the desire to fire down the grill and turn on the oven instead.

This is the perfect time to talk about one of my favorite shoulder-season cooking strategies: the foil pack. Place thinly sliced veggies with a little marinade or vinaigrette in a large sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil and fold shut into a packet, pinching the edges, and this handy little guy will be equally delicious whether cooked on the grill if you have a hot fall day, or in the oven, if you’re already in pumpkin latte weather.

Add some fish or chicken, and you’ll have a full meal, all packaged and pretty in individual servings, a presentation that thrills dinner party guests and kiddos alike. Foil packet cooking is healthy – little fat is needed to accomplish tender, flavorful results.

And packet-cookery is incredibly forgiving – you basically can’t overcook a foil packet. A few minutes extra in the oven won’t ruin packet-fish like it would dry out a fillet cooked on the stovetop, grill or even just roasted directly in the oven. As a mom of four, I appreciate that kind of weeknight-meal flexibility.

Try my foil-pack fish tacos to master some of the basics, like layering the ingredients in order of how quickly they cook – the bottom will cook more quickly since it will be touching a direct heat source.

Fish tacos are an excellent summertime favorite to take with us into colder weather. I love using cod because it full of healthy fats which feed your brain, your heart and make you feel full, but it’s available frozen year-round. And these packets do great with frozen fish – no need to thaw before making.

Happy fall indeed.


Makes 4 servings

Juice of 1 lime, about 2 tablespoons

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon granulated garlic

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

4 fillets of cod (or other fish), frozen, about 4-5 ounces each

1 yellow onion, sliced thinly (about 2 cups)

2 sweet peppers (red, yellow, orange), sliced thinly (about 2 cups total)


2 cups chopped or sliced cabbage

1/4 cup plain Greek lowfat yogurt

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 chopped green onion

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Chopped tomatoes, for garnish (optional)

Salt and pepper

8 corn tortillas, for serving

Cubed avocado, for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 F. In a large bowl, mix together the lime juice, olive oil, chili powder, cumin and granulated garlic.

Cut four 12-inch by 12-inch pieces of heavy-duty foil. Dip the fish into the marinade and set aside.

Toss the onion and peppers in the marinade to coat, and divide among the foil squares. Place the fish on top of the onions and peppers.

Toss the tomatoes into the marinade and then place on top of the fish, along with any remaining marinade. Close the foil up into packets, crimping the edges together.

Place on a baking sheet and bake until fish is cooked through and vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes. Subtract 10 minutes if you use fresh fish.

Meanwhile, mix together all the ingredients for the spicy slaw topping.

Serve one foil packet per person, along with corn tortillas, slaw for topping and avocado if desired.

]]> 1, 07 Sep 2016 08:16:23 +0000
Pros share their secrets for mouth-watering veggie burgers Wed, 31 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 With Labor Day weekend almost here, so too are the waning days of backyard cookouts. There is no time to waste. Let’s brush up on our homemade veggie burger skills so we can close the grilling season with our best vegan patties yet.

Veggie burgers are having their moment. Seemingly everyone from high-profile chefs, such as Jean-Georges Vongerichten andDavid Chang, to fast food restaurants, such as Wendy’s and White Castle, have added them to their menus.

Last year, GQ magazine bestowed its 2015 Best Burger of the Year title on the veggie burgers from Superiority Burger in New York’s East Village, and Grub Street recently penned a report headlined “Why Veggie Burgers Are Poised to Be the Country’s Most Exciting New Burgers.”

To help regular home cooks compete with trendy Manhattan restaurants and celebrity chefs, I reached out to a few veggie burger experts. The keys to a memorable plant-based burger, they said, are choosing the right ingredients, combining them to maximize texture, and preparing the burgers properly. Which, come to think of it, are the keys to pretty much all cooking.


Toni Fiore, who lives in Cumberland and hosts the PBS cooking shows “Vegan Mashup” and “Totally Vegetarian,” makes veggie burgers at least once a week. “It’s endless how many varieties of veggie burgers you can do,” Fiore told me.

Her cookbook, “Totally Vegetarian: Easy, Fast, Comforting Cooking for Every Kind of Vegetarian,” offers three vegan burger recipes, including a beet burger that came from vegetarian cookbook author Didi Emmons. “She had one of the first beet burger recipes,” Fiore said. “We didn’t realize back then how important it would be.”

Since then, beets have become a familiar veggie burger ingredient. Beyond Meat uses beets in the pre-made veggie burger it has recently begun selling in the meat department at Whole Foods Market. The burger is marketed to non-vegetarians as a veggie patty that “bleeds.”

Other commonplace veggie burger ingredients include various grains, beans, mushrooms, nuts, seeds, tomato paste and onions.

Fiore said when she is working from other people’s recipes, she wants to see nuts and grains that will offer “something to chew on. If I don’t see nuts or things that are going to give me a good texture I will modify the recipes and add them myself.”

Miyoko Schinner, who wrote “The Homemade Vegan Pantry: The Art of Making Your Own Staples,” suggested another benefit: “Nuts add richness and the fatty sensation without added oils.”

Fiore also regularly incorporates yesterday’s soups, pastas, rice or vegetables into today’s veggie burgers.

“It’s a good way of using leftover foods,” Fiore said. “And the flavors are so intense. I use leftover soup. I whiz that in a processor and mix in other things.”

Italian Herb Burger adds some spice to the veggie burger scene.

Italian Herb Burger adds some spice to the veggie burger scene.


Beans, grains and mushrooms don’t naturally adhere to each other, so vegan burgers need something that can hold them together. Bread crumbs, flour or vital wheat gluten can all serve that purpose.

In “Grilling Vegan Style: 125 Fired-Up Recipes to Turn Every Bite into a Backyard BBQ,” writer John Schlimm variously uses white or whole wheat flour, oats and vegan egg substitute to bind his veggie burgers.

In “The Homemade Vegan Pantry,” Schinner uses vital wheat gluten. She created her recipe for what she calls a Real Burger more than 20 years ago for her former San Francisco restaurant Now and Zen.

“I was really proud of myself when I thought of adding gluten flour to hold it together, since I hadn’t seen that in burgers,” said Schinner, who these days is known for her cultured vegan cheese company Miyoko’s Kitchen. “There weren’t many veggie burgers around back then. Most of them were tofu, bean or grain-based and were often mushy or dry and tended to crumble and fall apart.”

“I wanted a burger that would not only hold together but was juicy and chewy and without added fat,” she added. “So the idea of raw, ground mushrooms came to me. They create the juiciness of the burger, and the gluten flour holds it all together.”

For eaters who are allergic to wheat, she suggests ground flax or chia seeds to bind the patties.


In addition to using nuts and grains, both Fiore and Schlimm recommend pulsing veggie burger ingredients in a food processor to achieve the best texture while making the ingredients stickier.

“I always tell people: ‘Don’t use the process button, use the pulse button,'” Fiore said. “If you use the process button, you have hummus or mush.”


Both Schlimm and Fiore chill their burger mixtures before cooking, but when it comes time to make them, the three cooks I interviewed each takes a different tack.

Schinner’s Real Burger is baked. Schlimm’s recipes are either broiled or sauteed in a skillet and then finished on the grill. To make her patties crispy on the outside, Fiore dredges them in flour or cornmeal, then cooks them in a skillet. She does so over medium-high heat for a good sear, because as she pointed out, “the longer you cook a veggie burger, it loses moisture and falls apart.”

And as both veggie burgers and veggie burger eaters proliferate, we can all agree that no one wants a veggie burger that crumbles as it cooks.

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

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

]]> 0, 31 Aug 2016 08:15:35 +0000
What to do if the neighbor leaves a bag of zukes on your porch Wed, 31 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 When a friend gave me a 20-pound box of zucchini, I was in an upper ring of Zucchini Heaven.

First, I dug through my mother’s old Farm Journal canning book and made a double batch of what are basically zucchini bread-and-butter pickles, a little sweet, with the fragrance of celery and mustard seeds.

From another canning book, I followed (loosely) a recipe for zucchini chow chow. Then I had to get really creative.

It turns out zucchini works for every meal of the day. For a Saturday breakfast, we had zucchini pancakes from Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything.”

I squeezed out excess liquid before mixing in the other ingredients and let the mixture sit a few minutes before forming the cakes. It was a quick and easy breakfast with a little low-fat yogurt on the side.

At lunch, we put some of those zucchini pickles and relish on our sandwiches. (I also love to grill a couple zucchini cut into quarter-inch slabs, which I can keep in the refrigerator for salads during the week.)

I searched through the kitchen gadgets at TJ Maxx until I found a spiralizer, one of those cutters that turns vegetables into curly strands, for less than 10 bucks. That opened up vast possibilities for dinners besides the standards.

One night, we had a simple zucchini salad, cut in spirals and tossed with fresh lemon juice and a little olive oil.

The crowning dinner event was Zucchini Pad Thai, with spiralized zucchini standing in for the noodles. A quick sauté softened them without making them limp and unappealing. A sauce came together easily with natural peanut butter (which I substituted for the ketchup called for in the recipe), fish sauce and a few other ingredients I always have on hand. I crisp-fried some tofu as a protein and we enjoyed a tasty, nutritious dinner.

And what’s dinner without dessert? I whipped up a zucchini cake, similar to carrot cake: shredded zucchini, spices, chopped nuts. It calls for a cup of oil, but dedicated gleaner that I am, I had some mashed banana in the freezer. (I never let those mushy Costco bananas go to waste!) I substituted a 1/2 cup of mashed banana for half of the oil. It made a rich, tender cake that lasted well.

This weekend, you can sneak those zucchini onto your neighbor’s porch if you’d like. But if you keep them for yourself, there’s plenty you can do with them.


Makes 6 to 7 pints

4 quarts sliced, unpeeled zucchini

1 quart onions, sliced

1 quart distilled white vinegar

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup salt

2 teaspoons celery seed

2 teaspoons turmeric

1 teaspoon ground mustard

Place zucchini and onions in a large, heatproof bowl. Combine vinegar, sugar, salt and spices in a large pot or Dutch oven.

Bring to a boil; pour over zucchini and onions and let stand 1 hour.

Fill a deep pot with a rack with water and bring to a boil. Wash 6 to 7 pint canning jars well and fill with hot water. Wash rings and new canning lids.

Return the zucchini and onion mixture to the pot, bring to a boil again and cook for 3 minutes.

Pour the hot water out of the jars and divide the zucchini and onion mixture among the hot jars. Immediately top with the lids and rings.

Using tongs, lower the jars into the boiling water bath and process for 5 minutes. Use tongs to remove the jars and place on a dish towel.

Let stand until cool, then check to make sure the lids are sealed.


Makes 2 servings

About 2 medium zucchini

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1/2 pound firm tofu, sliced

3 large cloves garlic, minced or crushed

1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced thin

3 green onions, sliced

1 large egg

About 2 cups bean sprouts

1/3 cup roasted peanuts

1/4 cup chopped cilantro (optional)

Few lime wedges for serving (optional)


2 tablespoons rice vinegar or distilled white vinegar

2 tablespoons fish sauce or to taste

3 tablespoons peanut butter

1 teaspoon packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or 1 small red chile, sliced

1 teaspoon chile garlic sauce, or to taste

Make the sauce: In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, fish sauce, peanut butter, brown sugar, cayenne pepper and chile garlic sauce. Set aside.

Cut the zucchini into noodles or long pasta using a vegetable spiralizer or sharp vegetable peeler.

Heat a large pan on medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add zucchini noodles and cook 2-3 minutes or until tender. (Don’t overcook. The zucchini should be slightly crunchy.)

Let the noodles rest for about 3 minutes to allow as much moisture as possible to release. Remove the noodles from the pan and drain.

In a small skillet, heat about 2 teaspoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the tofu slices and cook about 4 minutes, until it’s brown and releases from the skillet. Turn over and cook on the other side.

Remove to a plate, cut into cubes and let stand.

Wipe out the pan you used for the zucchini, then reheat on medium high heat. Add the remaining olive oil and garlic. Cook the garlic until soft, about 30 seconds.

Add the tofu and cook, turning, until crisp on both sides.

Add the bell peppers and green onions. Cook for about 1 to 2 minutes or until tender. Add the egg and stir in with the vegetables until the egg is cooked.

Return the zucchini noodles to the pan, stir in the cooked tofu and add the sauce. Cook about 1 minute, until heated through. Stir in bean sprouts.

Serve topped with roasted peanuts, cilantro and lime wedges.



2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons cinnamon (or use a mix of spices such as allspice and nutmeg)

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

3 eggs

2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (optional)

2 cups (from 3 or 4 zucchini) grated zucchini (squeeze out moisture before measuring)

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1/2 cup golden raisins (optional)


3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1/4 cup butter, room temperature

1 1/2 to 2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 13-by-9-inch baking pan or a loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and baking powder. Set aside.

Beat the eggs on high speed with an electric mixer until frothy. Lower the speed and beat in the sugar, vegetable oil, vanilla and lemon zest (if using). Stir in the flour mixture a third at a time. Stir in the zucchini and chopped nuts and/or raisins.

Pour mixture into the prepared pan. Bake 40 to 45 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, beat together the cream cheese and butter. Add the powdered sugar and beat until smooth.

Frost the cake and serve.

]]> 2, 30 Aug 2016 17:50:36 +0000
‘America’s Best Breakfasts’ uses day’s first meal to take readers on tour of the country Wed, 31 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “America’s Best Breakfasts: Favorite Local Recipes from Coast to Coast.” By Lee Brian Schrager and Adeena Sussman. Clarkson Potter. $23.

There’s little better than indulging in a top-notch breakfast from a favorite diner – except maybe indulging in that same breakfast in the comfort of your own home, while wearing fuzzy slippers and plaid PJs.

“America’s Best Breakfasts: Favorite Local Recipes from Coast to Coast” gives you that opportunity. In this attractive soft-cover book, writers Lee Brian Schrager and Adeena Sussman break the country into four geographic regions: The West Coast and Pacific Northwest; Northeast and Mid-Atlantic; Midwest; and the South. They also include two bonus sections at the back: one with several pages of Bloody Mary photographs from the writers’ travels to breakfast spots, the other on How to Get Perfect Eggs Every Time. Although the Northeast section doesn’t include any Maine eateries, the first recipe in the West Coast section is for Lobster Scrambled Eggs. Definitely something I can fall in food-love with.

The cookbook has an abundance of delicious-sounding and wide-ranging recipes – from malawach (Yemenite fried bread) and pozole to graham cracker waffles with marshmallows and Nutella and Creole file gumbo. As a group, the recipes reflect the breadth of 21st century America. But my favorite part may have been reading the brief overviews included with each recipe. These describe, in text and photographs, the towns and cities where the diners, bakeries, coffee shops and food trucks are located, as well as the restaurants themselves.

The recipe I tested, for instance, originated in a Florida restaurant, and the description with it almost gave me the feeling of being in Miami, while I preheated my oven in Maine. That recipe, for Morning Glory Muffins, was described as a local favorite at Panther Coffee shop, where baker Cindy Kruse provides the baked goods. The description in “America’s Best Breakfasts” sold me: “Cindy Kruse hand delivers her scrumptious pastries; get there early or these morning muffins will most definitely be sold out.”

Muffins are typically a hit-or- miss breakfast item in my kitchen. I’ve often found they are too dry or I mess up an easy blueberry muffin recipe by adding too many berries. But I was confident after reading the first few lines of the ingredients list that the end result would be moist. And it was. The recipe gave me plenty of guidance, so despite my uneven track record, these muffins turned out really well.

The recipe also gave instructions on how to wrap the muffins individually and freeze them for up to three months, a helpful tip that I appreciated because leftovers – especially leftover muffins – are a favorite in my family of two.


This recipe is from “America’s Best Breakfast: Favorite Local Recipes from Coast to Coast.” The instructions call for making the muffins in larger than typical muffin tins, yielding 12 large muffins; I used the standard size tin and made 24.

2 cups grated carrots
1 apple, peeled and grated
1 (14-ounce) can crushed pineapple, squeezed of excess liquid (1 cup drained)
½ cup shredded sweetened coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts
½ cup golden raisins
3 large eggs
1½ cups sugar
1½ cups vegetable oil
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the carrots, apple, pineapple, coconut, walnuts and raisins. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, then whisk in the sugar until smooth. Whisk in the oil and vanilla.

In a third, large bowl, stir the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt until well combined. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until all of the dry ingredients are moistened. Add the carrot-apple mixture to the batter and fold with a spatula until just combined. Divide the batter among the muffin liners and bake until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 minutes.

]]> 0, 30 Aug 2016 22:56:08 +0000
‘The Cardamom Trail: Chetna Bakes with Flavours of the East,’ may be a struggle in American kitchens Wed, 24 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “The Cardamom Trail: Chetna Bakes with Flavours of the East.” By Chetna Makan. Photographs by Nassima Rothacker. Mitchell Beazley. $29.99

Never have I felt the truth of George Bernard Shaw’s witticism that England and America are “two countries divided by a common language” so forcefully as I did when baking from Chetna Makan’s new cookbook, “The Cardamom Trail: Chetna Bakes with Flavours of the East.”

Weighing ingredients was not the problem – I own a digital kitchen scale that records both ounces and grams so I can navigate amounts outside of the American cup system. I could also work out relatively quickly that their “plain flour” is our “all-purpose flour,” that “bicarbonate of soda” is “baking soda” and “double cream” is “heavy cream.”

A few minutes of internet sleuthing taught me that I could substitute granulated sugar for caster sugar (though some disagreement exists about whether or not it needs to be whizzed in the food processor first to make it finer) and that we Americans have no real substitute for golden caster sugar so I’d have to settle for more granulated sugar. I also knew “digestive biscuits” as one of those charmingly English unembellished cookies.

But was “plain dark chocolate” our semi-sweet or unsweetened? Did their “dessicated coconut” contain sugar? Why did so few recipes call for either salt or vanilla extract? And how the heck did the 2-pound loaf tin called for to make Black Sesame and Lime Cake relate to my own American standard 9 x 5-inch pan?

I was already scratching my head in puzzlement and frustration, wondering if I could ever bake the many intriguing pies, cakes and loaves in “The Cardamom Trail” that the stunning photographs had me lusting for, when I flipped the page to Raspberry Biscuits with Coriander Lemon Curd; the utterly alien “freeze-dried raspberry powder” lurking in the ingredients list stopped me cold.

I am an experienced home baker. So despite the language obstacles – the book was put out by a division of the British firm Octopus Publishing Group – I refused to be daunted.

“The Cardamom Trail” is the second of three cookbooks that have crossed my desk recently, all of them on the same theme – infusing Western-style baked goods with exotic spices, in other words pushing the baking envelope beyond cinnamon.

I reviewed “The New Sugar & Spice: A Recipe for Bolder Baking in June and will review the last in the trio this fall. “The Cardamom Trail” author Chetna Makan, Indian by birth, English by current residency, was a semifinalist in the popular British show “The Great British Bake Off.” This is her first book.

In it, she ranges from savory to sweet, from clearly Western cakes (though with Indian touches) such as Mango, Cardamom and Coconut Cake to clearly Indian foods, such as Spinach Pakoras and Rajma Paratha.

She sprinkles the book with practical information on the exotic spices in her baking arsenal, including tamarind, fenugreek and coriander. When it comes to our ubiquitous cinnamon, she brings an outsider’s perspective: “To the British, cinnamon is the quintessential sweet spice and most people have a jar of ground cinnamon in the cupboard for baking. I did not know of it until I moved to the UK. In India, my mother used whole cinnamon sticks, and only for savoury dishes.”

I tested three recipes from “The Cardamom Trail.” Each had its own translation challenges, yet I was really pleased with all three outcomes. Lychee Cake was moist, tender, floral and surprising. Black Sesame and Lime Cake had an equally lovely tender texture, and the attractive black sesame seeds that flecked the cake also gave it an appealing slight crunch.

Curry Onion Tart – imagine a quiche traveling to India and reinventing itself – was truly delicious with layered complex flavors, make that flavours.

I had specifically selected these three recipes because the language barrier in the directions and ingredients felt lower than with other recipes in “The Cardamom Trail.” Nonetheless, with each one, I had to wing it at times, adding extra cream, guessing at pan sizes, ignoring my misgivings about mixing methods.

I intend to take up Makan’s challenge – “experiment as I do and give your favourite bakes a new edge.”

But until the publisher translates this book to “American,” I would recommend it to only the most confident of American bakers.


This recipe comes from “The Cardamom Trail: Chetna Bakes with Flavours of the East.”

I wouldn’t have thought to put together lychees and caramel, but the combination turns out to be delectable.

Depending on the season, you can sometimes find fresh lychees at Veranda Asian Market.

Serves 10-12

400g (14 oz.) canned lychees

200g (7 oz.) unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing

150g (5 1/2 oz.) caster sugar, plus 4 tablespoons

4 large eggs

150g (5 1/2 oz.) self-raising flour

50g (1 3/4 oz.) ground almonds

1 teaspoon baking powder


100g (3 1/2 oz.) caster sugar

2 tablespoons water

40g (1 1/2 oz.) unsalted butter, diced

4 tablespoons double cream


300ml (1/2 pint) double cream

200g (7 oz.) canned lychees (drained weight) or fresh peeled and pitted lychees, halved

Preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F), Gas Mark 4. Grease 2 x 20 cm (8in) cake tins and line them with nonstick baking paper.

To make the cake, drain the canned lychees, reserving the syrup, then chop the fruit into small pieces and set aside. Cream the butter and the 150g (51/2 oz) sugar together with an electric whisk or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the dry ingredients and beat for 1 minute until thoroughly combined.

Fold the chopped lychees into the cake batter, then pour the mixture equally into the prepared tins. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centres of the cakes comes out clean. Leave the cakes to cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the reserved syrup from the lychees and add the remaining 4 tablespoons caster sugar. Bring to the boil, then simmer until the volume of the liquid has reduced by half.

Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

When both the cakes and syrup are cool, brush the syrup over the cakes.

To make the caramel sauce, combine the caster sugar and measured water in a small saucepan and cook for 5-6 minutes until the mixture turns into a golden-brown caramel.

Stir in the butter and cook for another couple of minutes. Now slowly add the cream, stirring continuously.

Cook for a further 3 minutes, then set aside to cool.

To prepare the decoration, whisk the double cream in a bowl until soft peaks form. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of the cooled caramel sauce and fold it in.

To assemble, place the cake on a serving plate and spread half the flavoured cream on it. Sit the second cake over the cream and spread the remainder of the flavoured cream on top.

Decorate with the lychees and drizzle with some of the remaining caramel sauce.

This cake will keep, refrigerated, in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Let it sit at room temperature before serving.

]]> 0, 24 Aug 2016 08:58:05 +0000
The Maine Ingredient: What’s not to like about chowder and biscuits? Wed, 24 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I hope you’ll forgive me if I run a chowder recipe every so often. Since writing “Chowderland” (Storey Publishing, 2015), my chowder repertoire has expanded, and I make it more often than ever. It’s especially nice to have discovered or developed several summery chowders that showcase vegetables at the height of their season. This squash chowder is a case in point. An especially suitable accompaniment is Crisp Salt and Pepper Biscuits.


When your garden or farmers market overfloweth with summer squash – whether it be yellow crookneck or green or yellow zucchini or patty pan – make a pot of this quick, scrumptious chowder. Also included in this brew are late-summer long skinny peppers known as Italian frying or Cubanelle, and thin-skinned new potatoes. A handful of cheese enriches the soup and adds pretty color.

Makes 4 to 5 servings

4 ounces bacon, cut into ½-inch dice (about 1 cup)

2 tablespoons butter, plus more if necessary

1 large onion, sliced

1 red, green, or yellow Italian frying pepper (also called Cubanelle), chopped

2 tablespoons flour

1 (32-ounce) box shelf-stable chicken broth

2 cups half-and-half

1 pound red- or yellow-skinned potatoes, unpeeled, halved, and sliced (about 3 cups)

½ teaspoon salt, plus more if needed

1 pound summer squash (any type) cut into ½- to 3/4-inch slices or chunks (about 3 cups)

1½ tablespoons chopped thyme leaves

1½ tablespoons chopped tarragon leaves

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Freshly ground black pepper

Liquid hot pepper sauce

Cook the bacon in a large heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat until crisp and the fat is rendered, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove cooked bits with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towels and reserve. You should have about 2 tablespoons of fat in the pot. Pour off any excess; if not enough fat, make up the difference with extra butter.

Add the 2 tablespoons butter and cook the onion over medium heat until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add flour and whisk until thick and bubbly, about 2 minutes. Add chicken broth and half-and-half and whisk over high heat until the mixture comes to a simmer. Add the potatoes and salt and simmer, covered, over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Add the squash, thyme and tarragon and continue to cook until the potatoes and squash are both very tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the chowder from the heat and stir in the cheese. Return the bacon bits to the chowder and season with salt and pepper to taste. Let the chowder sit at cool room temperature for at least an hour or, better yet, refrigerate overnight.

Reheat over low heat and ladle into bowls. Pass the hot sauce at the table.


Not your fluffy mile-high biscuits, these are designed to be less than an inch tall, with a crisp bite akin to a cracker. Black pepper adds a subtle kick and a generous sprinkling of flaky sea salt is a lovely final fillip. There are several types of flaky sea salt, including Maldon salt, produced in England, which has soft flakes and is beloved by chefs for its pure flavor, absence of bitterness, and extreme saltiness.

Makes about 16 biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon table salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon sugar

3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut in chunks

3 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening, cut in chunks

¾ cup cold whole milk, plus about 1 tablespoon for brushing biscuit tops

1 teaspoon flaky sea salt, such as Maldon salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a food processor, combine flour, salt, pepper, baking powder and sugar and pulse to blend. Distribute chunks of butter and shortening over the flour and pulse 8 to 10 times, until most of the shortening is about the size of peas. Slowly pour the ¾ cup of milk through the feed tube, pulsing until the dough begins to clump together. (To make by hand, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar in a large bowl. Add the butter and shortening and use your fingers to rub the mixture together until most of the shortening is the size of peas. Add the milk all at once and stir with a fork to make a soft dough.)

Turn out onto a lightly floured board, gather into a ball, and knead 5 to 10 times until smooth. Roll to a scant ½-inch thickness. Using a 2-inch cutter or a floured glass, cut biscuits and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Reroll and cut the scraps once. (Biscuits can be shaped up to 3 hours ahead. Refrigerate, loosely covered.)

Brush tops with the remaining 1 tablespoon milk and sprinkle with the sea salt. Bake in preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until pale golden and risen. Serve hot or warm. (Can be made a few hours ahead. If making ahead, under bake slightly and reheat in a 400-degree oven for 5 minutes.)

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks. She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula, and can be contacted via Facebook at:

]]> 1, 24 Aug 2016 08:13:08 +0000
With watermelon and basil, peach and prosecco – soup’s on Wed, 24 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Hot soup is the quintessential comfort food, but there’s nothing more welcoming than a bowl of chilled soup during scorching summer days.

Cold soups combine a wealth of fresh, seasonal ingredients and flavors in a quick, no-fuss, simple meal.

“Soup is a four-season food that isn’t meant just for the cold days when you want to be cozy but also for the summer when you want something refreshing and easy and don’t want to turn on the stove,” says Julie Peacock, co-author of “The Soup Club Cookbook.” It’s a good genre of food – it’s an easy meal and way of combining lots of flavors in a bowl, she adds.

When we think of chilled soups the first thing that usually comes to mind is the renowned Spanish gazpacho – the uncooked tomato-based soup with raw cucumbers, peppers and onion. Despite the extra chopping involved, Peacock favors the concoction because the end result packs a bold, chunky bite of savory summer flavors.

Trendier variations have expanded the cold soup menu in recent times. There are savory purees including the classic vichyssoise crafted by Chef Louis Diat at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New York in the early 20th century. Sassy, textured raw vegetable creations are on the list, while cooked then chilled soups are always a convenient option. And then there are the semi-sweet fruit purees and raw fruit-based soups served as desserts.

Cold soups are supposed to excite your appetite, not satiate your hunger, and therefore are served primarily as starters or accompaniments. Occasionally they can be the main attraction of the meal. “They are also a nice finisher and palate cleanser and can act as a digestif at the end of a meal,” Peacock says.

You can make a plethora of things with chilled soups, yet, to a novice it can still be a surprising sensation when tasting a cold soup, especially given the texture and fresh, uncooked ingredients, says Mikhail Istomin, marketing director at the Uzbek restaurant Kavsar in Pittsburgh’s Mount Washington.

The rule of thumb for cold soups is fresh ingredients, he says. Fresh kefir (liquid) and yogurt also are important when making milk-based broths, he says. Peacock stresses the importance of seasonal and high-quality ingredients when whipping up chilled soups. Moreover, it’s key to use citrus to bring that next level of zing, and be liberal with fresh herbs for that extra brightness. Add plenty of seasoning and don’t forget to factor in the time to chill the soup and allow the flavors to mingle, she says.

When it comes to combinations, there’s a world of possibilities. Peacock opts to combine vegetables and herbs such as cucumber and yogurt, tomato, basil and parsley; avocado, arugula and cilantro; or melon and mint. You can always turn your salad into soup with a mix of lettuces and herbs, thicken the puree with yogurt and top it with a colorful salsa. Combine sweet melons with vegetables and brighten the flavor with splashes of lime or lemon juice. Spike peaches with prosecco and cool mint or drown crimson berries in a pool of red wine. For a vegan approach, try a blend of bread, almonds, garlic, vinegar, water and olive oil.

Countries around the world embrace the cold soup tradition. Ukraine is proud of its sorrel soup, Russia is famous for its beet borsch, while Uzbekistan revels in its okroshka, a traditional mixture of raw vegetables served in a milk-based, tangy cold broth. It can be vegetarian or speckled with chunks of beef for a meaty version. In Pittsburgh, chef Tahmina Umaralieva of Kavsar serves an authentic family recipe of okroshka.

But regardless of country, technique or type of soup, plenty of seasoning is vital as cold soups tend to showcase a dull edge with flavors lessening in the cold, Peacock says. Amp up the taste of soups with a wide array of garnishes; top them with tangy vegetables, hard-cooked eggs, dollops of sour cream and seafood. Sprinkle purees with herbs such as mint, basil or dill, add a dash of citrus and toss in some toasted nuts. For a brave punch, finish the dish with a pinch of red pepper flakes.

You might want to avoid loads of animal fat or butter in cold soups as they tend to envelop your mouth in an unpleasant way.

Don’t be intimidated to make cold soups. “If you can make a margarita you can make a cold soup,” Peacock says. At the very least, get out of your comfort zone and try chilled soups. It will be a challenge, but you will be pleasantly surprised, Istomin adds.


I love watermelon, so having the watery fruit be the star of this soup was right up my alley. Although it’s called a gazpacho, the tomato shines faintly in the background leaving center stage for the watermelon.

Makes 6 servings

1 (5-pound) seedless watermelon, rind removed and flesh chopped (6 cups)

1 medium heirloom tomato, chopped

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 limes

3/4 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped

1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a blender or food processor, combine watermelon, tomato and olive oil. Zest one lime and squeeze juice; add zest and juice to the blender and puree until mixture is smooth. Pour soup into a large bowl and stir in the basil, mint, salt and pepper. Chill soup for at least 3 hours before serving.

To serve, pour soup into chilled bowls. Cut remaining lime into wedges and use to garnish the bowls.

Served cold or hot, this Ukrainian Sorrel Soup is a treat.   Dan Cizmas/Tribune News Service

Served cold or hot, this Ukrainian Sorrel Soup is a treat. Dan Cizmas/Tribune News Service


This recipe calls for sorrel, an herb that looks like arugula but has a somewhat sour taste. As I could not find it, I used baby spinach and added a few extra tablespoons of fresh lemon juice. Although it’s called Ukranian Sorrel Soup, this soup is actually very popular in my native Romania, too. It can be served cold but it tastes just as delicious hot.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

2 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 pound fresh sorrel leaves, stemmed

1 bunch scallions, white parts and 4 inches of green tops, sliced

6 cups vegetable stock, chicken stock, or purchased stock

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 large egg yolks

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

3 to 4 diced hard-cooked eggs, for garnish

1/2 cup sour cream, for garnish

1/4 cup chopped fresh dill, for garnish

Heat butter in a 4-quart soup pot over medium heat. Add sorrel and scallions and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, or until the sorrel wilts. Add stock and tarragon and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Stir sugar and lemon juice into the soup.

Beat egg yolks in a mixing bowl with a whisk until thick and light yellow in color. Slowly beat about 1 cup of the hot soup into the egg yolks so they are gradually warmed up, and then return the egg and soup mixture to the pot. Place pot over medium-low heat, and stir constantly, reaching all parts of the bottom of the pot, until mixture reaches about 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. At this point it will begin to steam and thicken slightly. Do not allow mixture to boil or the eggs will scramble. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Refrigerate soup until cold, at least 4 hours but preferably overnight. Adjust seasoning if necessary. To serve, ladle into bowls, topping each serving with diced eggs, sour cream and dill.

Note: The soup can be prepared up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated, tightly covered. Stir well before serving.

Chilled Minted Peach and Prosecco Soup

Chilled Minted Peach and Prosecco Soup


Pleasantly fruity and sweet with a boozy punch of prosecco, this dessert is a palate cleanser. I loved every spoonful.

Makes 4 servings

2 pounds fresh peaches, peeled and pitted

11/2 cups dry prosecco

1/2 cup fresh mint, finely chopped

1/2 cup coconut milk

2 tablespoons agave syrup, plus extra if needed

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus extra if needed

4 sprigs mint

Chop peaches and put them in a 4-quart saucepan with prosecco. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until peaches are breaking down, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat, then stir in mint and let cool.

In a blender or food processor, puree peaches with milk, agave syrup and lemon juice.

Refrigerate soup up to 4 days. Taste and adjust lemon juice or agave. Serve in bowls with mint sprigs.

]]> 0, 24 Aug 2016 08:13:10 +0000
For college-bound kid, Mom’s cooking becomes his own Wed, 24 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I spent the last 15 months attempting to teach my college-bound son to cook, and all I got was a lousy tattoo. Let’s be clear. I didn’t get the tattoo. And my son doesn’t think it’s lousy at all. He considers it an artful, expressive rite of passage for himself and a genuine tribute to me.

It’s a tidy, less-than-life-size outline of my favorite 10-inch chef’s knife. On his ribcage. Pointing to his heart. Don’t get me wrong. I get the sentiment. My first-born has permanently inked his devotion to my home cooking on his torso, after all.

But the basic tenet of my calculated cooking curriculum – which started with steaming, shocking and properly storing vegetables for weeklong-use; was supposed to have sailed through making pizza dough as a party starter; and be capped off with a lesson in cookware versatility with cast iron skillet cornbread – was to give Owen the skills and culinary confidence he’ll need to venture into kitchens unknown. The tattoo is a reminder, every time he takes off his shirt, that he’s still somewhat attached to my apron strings.

Cooking classes, like most of the homework Owen completed during his senior year at Brunswick High School, started off strong, fueled by good intentions. For example, in September, he became expert at using the oven to cook a side of skin-on salmon. He now knows he prefers the mild taste and silky texture of sustainably farmed local salmon to the stronger, less fatty but arguably better-for-you-and-the-earth wild variety from Alaska.

He learned the hard way that lining a half-sheet pan with foil covered in a skim coat of oil, before laying the fish cut-side down onto it, makes the job of flipping the fish once the broiler has bubbled up the skin for easy removal much, much easier. And he’s discovered that leftover salmon is a great breakfast item.

But his time in front of the stove was severely curtailed by soccer in October, the college application process in November, a successful basketball season that included tournament play through late February, and jazz band competitions in March.

The delays, going back to the homework analogy, resulted in panicked cramming in the kitchen starting in April, motivated by the prospect of a University of Chicago housing placement that included cooking facilities, the realization that dining halls aren’t open on Saturday nights, and the reality that Owen doesn’t want to use too much of his limited cash flow on food.

Owen's favorite mac-and-cheese goes into the pan. Joel Page/Staff Photographer

Owen’s favorite mac-and-cheese goes into the pan. Joel Page/Staff Photographer


As with many of the push-pull teaching moments I’ve experienced while parenting teenagers, the cooking lessons that did stick were the ones he actually wanted to learn.

He flat out refused to cook eggs because he doesn’t eat them. When we were whisking oil drop by drop into the mustard, vinegar and shallot that would eventually result in a basic French vinaigrette, he was so exhausted by the process that he asked for a stool. And he was less than gracious about making peanut butter buttercream so he could pull off his sister’s birthday cake if I couldn’t at some future point, because of his firm conviction that there is only one true frosting flavor: straight vanilla.

The skills he willingly mastered he did so because he was hungry for tasty food, copious amounts, mostly meat, acquired as cheaply as possible. Yes, I know, that’s the polar opposite of how sustainable food activist and author Michael Pollan says we should be eating for a better planet. Baby steps.

Owen prefers food writer Mark Bittman’s technique for making whole roasted (local) chicken a weeknight staple to full-on butterflying a bird to accomplish the same hour-long cook time. Bittman simply preheats a cast iron pan in a very hot oven, and severs the skin holding the legs and thighs close to the breasts so that when you place the seasoned chicken into the pan, the dark meat settles onto the surface of the hot pan and gets a jumpstart on cooking so that it’s done at the same time as the normally faster-cooking white meat.

Spatchcocking the chicken by removing its backbone so that it lies flat on a sheet pan means that Owen has to touch the raw bird more intimately than he finds comfortable. That said, he’s more than happy for me to butcher a chicken in this fashion as it produces crispier skin on the thighs, a favorite aspect of his favorite part of the bird.

To go with either roast chicken, Owen practiced making his favorite yellow rice. Sometimes from a Goya or Vigo pouch, sometimes from scratch using real saffron.

Certainly the homemade is better overall because you can taste more than just salt, he concluded. “But at this point in my life, it’s going to come down to price. When you tell me that saffron is the most expensive spice out there, I’m not feeling it,” Owen said.

He’s mastered the method for cooking both, because it’s one and the same: combine ingredients, boil, don’t stir, cover, turn off the heat, wait 20 minutes, fluff and serve. But the price differential for one cup, we calculated, was 39 cents for the processed stuff compared to $1.05 for the saffron-laced variety.

While he accepted that math on the rice front, my showing him how to use chicken bones to make stock that could then be used to flavor any rice dish, and pointing out that he was basically using free garbage to make something that would cost him almost $3 a quart in the store, didn’t add up in his eyes. Doesn’t that dried yellow powder in the rice mix have chicken flavor in it too, he asked. Clearly, my work is not done.


We’re covering tuition, dorm fees and an unlimited meal plan for his freshman year, but Owen’s responsible for buying the books he’ll need for each of the three quarters he’ll take classes running through next June.

So he knows he’s not buying a good steak to cook on his own anytime soon. But he’s also figured out I’m more likely to spring for things like that if there’s a lesson to be learned.

“I think I need to practice my grill marks on a ribeye, Mom,” he said one night in early August. It was a total “aha” moment for me in culinary school when the chef explained that if you place a steak on the grill at an angle pointing to 2 o’clock, wait three minutes, and turn it to 10 o’clock to sit for the same period of time, you get restaurant-quality marks.

Owen rejected my point that he could practice making marks on slices of zucchini, eggplant and summer squash just as easily at much less cost. But he’s rarely hungry for those items. I bought the steak because I am both a sucker and I know he’s not likely to be home for dinner at a regular clip for much longer.

If I had it to do over again, I’d have started my home cooking school 15 years ago. I stand by the lesson plan because I think it strikes a good balance between needing to feed a body, a soul and an extended family.

But I’ve come to understand as well that there needs to be more time built into the schedule for both a little less task-mastering by the teacher and more self-guided culinary exploration by the student.

For his final class, Owen asked to learn how to make my version of baked macaroni and cheese. I, of course, obliged, as it starts with a béchamel, one of the classic mother sauces I was more than honored to pass along to my son, who received it with gusto.

I’m totally OK with him admitting that he cooks out of hunger. If he wants to be reminded of how food can make a nostalgic mark on a person, there’s always the tattoo.

The finished product is perfect for a college freshman – or anyone. Joel Page/Staff Photographer

The finished product is perfect for a college freshman – or anyone. Joel Page/Staff Photographer


Owen has always preferred homemade to the boxed variety. This recipe has evolved to be more flavorful over the years as we’ve mixed and matched cheeses we’ve come to love along the way. Owen likes to make this dish with rigatoni as they are bigger than other dried shaped pasta, like medium shells, elbows, penne or rotini. But any of those other pastas will work just fine, cooked al dente so that the pasta has room to soak up a little cheese sauce.
Serves 6 to 8

1 pound shaped pasta
¼ cup butter plus more for buttering dish
¼ cup flour
1 tablespoon powdered mustard
4 cups milk (whole is best but 2% is okay)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
4 ounces smoked cheddar cheese, grated
4 ounces yellow mild cheddar cheese, grated
4 ounces Alpine cheese, grated
4 ounces stretchy cheese like Monterey Jack, grated
½ to 1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta to al dente, 9 to 12 minutes, depending on the pasta type. Drain.

While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the ¼ cup butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep whisking for about 5 minutes to cook out the floury taste. Make sure the mixture is free of lumps. Stir in the milk and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Combine all of the cheeses. Slowly add ¾ of the cheese to the sauce, a handful at a time, stirring after each addition. Season with salt and peppers. Fold the pasta into the mix and pour into prepared casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

Bake the macaroni and cheese for 30 minutes until the cheese on the top has browned a bit and the sauce is bubbling up around the edges. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer, a recipe developer and tester, and a cooking teacher in Brunswick. She also writes the Green Plate Special column in Source. Contact her at:

]]> 9, 24 Aug 2016 08:52:29 +0000
Garden herbs that bolt early still have plenty to offer Sun, 21 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Chef, slow food advocate and food writer Deborah Madison waxes poetic in the opening chapter of her “Vegetable Literacy” cookbook about the beautiful flowers a home gardener can enjoy as she looks over her patch of kitchen vegetables and passel of herbs at the season’s end.

In due time, these flowers are all well and good. They signal the point in the plants’ growth cycle when they are ready to produce seeds and ensure future generations of their species. But the abnormally warm and dry weather we are experiencing has many an herb in our area bolting early, leaving cooks and gardeners seemingly unable to experience their flavor for much longer.

No worries, folks. You can still enjoy your bolting herbs. According to Massachusetts-based herbalist Betsy Williams, backyard gardeners can pinch off the flowers from perennial herbs like chives, marjoram, mint, oregano, sage, tarragon and thyme; cut the plants back a bit; and give them a good watering. With that care, they will keep growing.

For annual herbs like basil, cilantro/coriander, dill and fennel, their one and only botanical job is to bear seeds; bolting signals the end of their growth cycle, so you need to use them before you lose them to seed (which really isn’t a loss, anyway, but a head start on next year’s garden if you save them).

Chef Ben Hasty of Thistle Pig in South Berwick uses bolted herbs to make flavored oils for marinating meat and mushrooms. And if the bolted herbs have made it to the seed production part of their life cycle, he uses them fresh to garnish plates of crudo (carefully prepared raw fish and meat dishes) for an interesting look and a pop of flavor.

Hasty also uses them in broths and braises because bolted herbs have the same flavor as non-bolted ones.

For a quick broth that will add great flavor to summertime soups, follow food writer Mark Bittman’s recipe for herb broth. He puts a small handful of rosemary, thyme or sage sprigs (bolted or not), a large handful of parsley sprigs, a few bay leaves, 1 or 2 crushed garlic cloves and a pinch of black peppercorns in a pot with 6 cups of cold water, then brings the pot to barely a simmer, steeps the herbs for 15 minutes off the heat and finally strains the broth before using it.

Williams puts the stems into Garbage Herb Vinegar and uses the flowers (especially those of Thai basil plants) to make flavored brandy by filling a quart mason jar with the blossoms, pouring in a pint of moderately priced brandy, 1½ cups sugar and ½ cup water, twisting on the lid and storing it in a dark, cool place for two to three months before she strains it and saves it for sipping around the holidays.

With the other flowers, she’ll chop them very finely if she has a small number and incorporate them into compound butters for slathering on bread, baked or grilled poultry and fish, and into dressings for both raw or cooked vegetable salads.

For a large number of blossoms, she suggests drying them, spread out on a pan in the sun. She then rubs them together to break them up, puts them in a jar labeled “Flower Power” and shakes them over cooked vegetables all winter long for a burst of summer sunshine.

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

]]> 0, 19 Aug 2016 13:34:33 +0000
Doctors throw party to accentuate appeal of Earth-friendly food Wed, 17 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I’ve been to my fair share of parties, and The Taste for Change was the coolest I ever attended.

While the all-vegan party had many must-haves of a hip soiree, its true coolness came from its low carbon footprint. Held in late July at O’Maine Studios in Portland and hosted by the Maine chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility in conjunction with Delicious TV, the event had the express goal of illustrating how our food choices affect climate change.

Not only was all the food vegan at this sold-out event, but much of it was made from organic or local ingredients and all the waste – including napkins, plates, cups and cutlery – was composted by Garbage to Garden.

As soon as I walked through the open garage doors into the industrial space, I was surrounded by food. One minute I was being handed a slice of Flatbread pizza, the next deciding whether to try a Green Elephant banh mi sandwich or a Terra Cotta Pasta veggie dumpling. Or maybe a Pai Men Miyake futomaki?

Fourteen restaurants and food vendors donated to the event.

“We highlighted vegan food because we know that meat and dairy production plays a large role in contributing to climate change,” said Karen D’Andrea, executive director of the Physicians for Social Responsibility Maine chapter.

Another purpose of the event, she said, was to show party-goers how easy and delicious it can be to add more plant-based meals to their lives.

“You don’t have to go, ‘Today I’m done with meat,’ ” D’Andrea said. “It’s not like giving up smoking.” A gradual or partial approach is fine, she said.

Physicians for Social Responsibility Maine counts 3,000 physicians and health-care professionals as members, and D’Andrea said its membership is all over the map when it comes to their personal eating habits. However, whether vegans, meat-eaters or somewhere in between, D’Andrea said all the organization’s members are interested in lowering the carbon footprint of what they eat.

Not only did the party tempt with seemingly unending vegan hors d’oeuvres, the festivities included three cooking demonstrations in the facility’s media kitchen.

Elizabeth Fraser of the Girl Gone Raw cooking school on Munjoy Hill led the first demo, showing how to make three varieties of nice cream using frozen bananas and a high speed blender (see recipe).

She was followed by Toni Fiore, the host of the Maine-produced PBS cooking show “Vegan Mashup,” who demonstrated how to make a tuna-free salad with artichoke hearts and chickpeas. (Find the recipe in Vegan Kitchen, Press Herald, June 11, 2014.)

Fiore urged audience members to “start shifting to some of these foods,” and she spoke about her deep concern for the state of the oceans and endangered fish like tuna. “Understand what’s happening on land with animal agriculture is seriously impacting our oceans,” Fiore told the crowd of onlookers.

The final cooking demonstration featured Kirsten Scarcelli of Plant IQ showing the crowd how to make Super Easy Beans without any oil; the group advocates a diet with no oil.

“Even though we’re not cooking with oil, it’s not sticking,” Scarcelli told the audience as she sauteed peppers, onions, corn and black beans. She later added that once you switch to cooking without oil “you really don’t miss it.”

The other thing no one missed was the meat.

“The food is excellent and the cause is very important,” Dr. Bruce Taylor told me. “As a physician I’m very concerned about the quality of our food and water.”

Taylor pointed out that climate change enables communicable diseases (and the creatures that spread them) to migrate north and it worsens air pollution, which is highly linked to diseases such as stroke.

“We’re in a vicious cycle with the way we produce food,” Physicians for Social Responsibility Maine board member Dr. Daniel Oppenheim told the crowd. “We need to find ways to eat lower on the food chain.”

The party’s final event was the Climate Cake Contest, judged by yours truly, Portland Press Herald food writer Meredith Goad and Fiore. Three gorgeous vegan cakes were brought out and we had the tough task of deciding whether the chocolate cake from The Cookie Jar, the chocolate peanut butter cake from Ice It Bakery or the lime-Bacardi coconut cake from Love Cupcakes should be awarded top marks.

After much tasting and consulting, we all cast our votes for the Love Cupcakes creation.

As Goad said, “It’s like having a key lime pie in a cake.”

No one complained that the moist and flavorful cakes lacked dairy or eggs. And when the party wrapped up, all that was left were a few crumbs for the compost bin.

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

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

]]> 0, 17 Aug 2016 08:53:17 +0000
Use of old bread in panzanella a gift of good sense from Italy Wed, 17 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 File this under “everything old is new again” – panzanella, the Italian bread salad, is a harmonious marriage between old and new. Leftover stale bread added to vibrant summer produce leads to a winning seasonal dish.

The “old” of panzanella is further linked to the Italian tradition of using up leftovers. With all due respect to the more recent – and vitally necessary – emphasis on reducing food waste around the world, Italians have been making do with leftovers for centuries. Day-old risotto becomes arancini (fried rice balls), last night’s spaghetti transforms into a breakfast pasta frittata and squishy grapes find new life as high-gravity grappa.

Bread is especially well-suited to Italian leftover reincarnation. Besides, bread and other baked goods are in particular need of creative recycling because uneaten bread is a major component of food waste.

In his book “American Wasteland” (Da Capo Press, 2010), Durham, N.C., blogger, journalist and food waste expert Jonathan Bloom reported that supermarkets waste a lot of bread: “Bread and baked goods are by far the most commonly wasted foods at supermarkets.”

All the more reason to find reuses for this daily staple, and the Italians are on it. For example, old loaves show up in Italian soups like ribollita (bread, bean and vegetable soup) and pappa al pomodoro (bread and tomato soup), and milk-soaked bread or bread crumbs are used in meatballs.

Appreciation for the particular charms of panzanella is so old it was documented in ancient literature. Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio mentioned “pan lavato,” or washed bread, in his 14th-century opus “The Decameron.” Florentine Renaissance poet and painter Agnolo di Cosimo, otherwise known as Bronzino, waxed poetic about the salad in the 16th century:

“He who wishes to fly above the stars / dip his bread and eat to bursting / a salad of chopped onion / with purslane and cucumbers / wins every other pleasure of this life / consider if I were to add some basil / and rocket.”

Yet, for all its romantic associations, panzanella has quite humble origins. In her book “The Classic Italian Cookbook,” doyenne of authentic Italian cuisine Marcella Hazan brought the rustic salad down to earth: “This salad was originally the poor man’s dinner in parts of Tuscany and Rome.”

So what’s “new” about panzanella? A lot! The salad has undergone a bit of a renaissance since the Renaissance. You’ll notice that Bronzino’s recipe does not include a single tomato because tomatoes were not introduced to Italy until the 1500s. However, today’s panzanella recipes often contain that New World ingredient.

Also, early panzanellas were not made with the cubed, toasted bread popular in recipes today. They were made with saltless Tuscan country bread that was soaked in water, squeezed and added to the salad to give it additional heft. (This method of reviving stale bread was apparently popular with ancient Italian mariners, who liked to dip their dried-out chunks in sea water before eating.)

The wet-bread method is not as popular today, perhaps in part because it’s not easy to find the authentic Tuscan bread that works better when soaked. While Hazan acknowledges the authenticity of the wet-bread technique in her book, she said, “I much prefer this version, however decadent it may be, in which the waterlogged bread is replaced by crisp squares of bread fried in olive oil.”

Really, every dish of panzanella has new elements because it incorporates the freshest produce available. If you’re lucky to have your own garden, your salad will have fresh-from-the-soil cucumbers, just-picked tomatoes and scissor-snipped basil. If the farmer’s market is your source for produce, your panzanella ingredients are likely to be very recently harvested from the farm. The latest and greatest from the vegetable patch or vine (or fruit orchard) are just the things to extend the life of your mature bread in panzanella form.

One last note: A lot of recipes recommend that the longer the salad sits, the better it gets. However, you don’t want the salad to sit so long that the bread gets soggy. It should still have some structure to it when it’s time to eat. And most panzanellas are best served the day they’re made.

However, if you find yourself with last night’s tomato panzanella in your fridge, you can experiment with making gazpacho out of the leftovers by whirring an extra tomato or two with the salad in a food processor. Yet another way to make the old new again – it would make an Italian grandmother proud.


This classic tomato panzanella recipe is the updated version with summer tomatoes and crouton-like bread cubes. Feel free to experiment: Use different kinds of breads and vegetables, stir in cheeses like mozzarella, parmesan or feta or add other new ingredients like olives, capers, hard-boiled eggs, pine nuts or whatever else you like in a salad. In a pinch, a store-bought balsamic or red wine vinegar dressing may stand in for the homemade vinaigrette. Inspired by an Ina Garten recipe.

Makes 6 servings


One regular clove or 1/2 of a large clove of garlic

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 grinds black pepper

1/4 cup olive oil


4 cups of 1-inch bread cubes cut from a loaf of leftover rustic French or Italian bread (roughly half of a large loaf)

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

4 small or two medium-sized ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes

1/2 cucumber peeled, seeded, cut into 1-inch cubes

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

1/2 red, yellow or orange bell pepper, cut into 1-inch cubes

14 basil leaves, divided

Salt and pepper to taste

Make the vinaigrette: Mince garlic as finely as possible, then smash it against the cutting board with the side of the knife. Place in a bowl with the vinegars, mustard and salt and pepper. Slowly drizzle in olive oil, whisking constantly until all of the oil is incorporated. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if needed. Let vinaigrette sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before adding to the salad.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Toss the bread cubes in 1 tablespoon olive oil; add more oil if needed to coat the bread cubes thoroughly without drenching them. Spread the cubes on a sheet pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the bread is crispy like a crouton. Let the bread cool.

Make the salad: Mix tomatoes, cucumber, onion and bell peppers in a salad bowl. Slice 10 of the basil leaves into thin ribbons and add to salad. Add 2 tablespoons vinaigrette to salad and let sit for 15 minutes. Add the bread cubes and the remaining vinaigrette, mix everything together and let sit for at least an hour or up to 4 hours in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Right before serving, top the salad with the remaining four basil leaves cut into ribbons.


Though it retains some of the elements of the classic recipe (tomato, onion), panzanella gets an even newer spin with this cornbread version. The texture is rather crumbly, similar to a Thanksgiving cornbread dressing. Feel free to substitute your favorite cornbread recipe, or you may use store-bought cornbread, but keep in mind that the recipe works best with a cornbread that’s not sweet.

Serve this as a side dish for grilled meats like ribs, pork chops, turkey or chicken. Unlike other panzanellas, this dish tastes great the next day – it just might need to be freshened up with extra dressing and salt and pepper.

One note: If you don’t want to grill the corn, you can prepare it as you like. The dressing recipe makes about a pint, which is more than you need. It will keep for five days in the refrigerator.

Makes 6 to 8 servings


2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

3/4 cup buttermilk

3 tablespoons lime juice

3/4 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons chopped chives

3 to 4 dashes hot sauce

4 grinds black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt


2 small or 1 medium-sized ripe tomato, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion

1 jalapeno, seeds and membranes removed, finely chopped

2 ears corn

1 (8.5-ounce) box cornbread mix, prepared, or 5-6 cups of leftover cornbread, cut into ½-inch cubes

5 pieces cooked bacon, crumbled

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Salt and pepper to taste

Make dressing: Place garlic, buttermilk, lime juice, mayonnaise, cilantro, chives and hot sauce in a food processor and finely chop. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if needed. Let dressing sit in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.

Mix tomato, onion and jalapeno in a salad bowl. Add a tablespoon of spicy cilantro dressing to the vegetables and mix. Let vegetables sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Grill the corn on a hot grill for 10 to 15 minutes until the corn is charred all over. Let corn cool, then slice the corn off the cob and add to the vegetables.

Fold the cornbread into the vegetables (mixture will be crumbly). Add 1/4 cup dressing until incorporated. Add additional dressing if needed until the salad is slightly moist but the cornbread is not drenched. Fold in bacon crumbles and cilantro. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Let salad sit for 15 minutes before serving.


The dessert take on this ancient salad is similar mostly in concept, but not in ingredients or even general execution. Peaches and blueberries taste great together, but the dessert would work just as well with strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries, nectarines or plums. Also, leftover angel food cake would be a fine substitute for the pound cake. Makes 4 servings

4 cups leftover pound cake, or one thawed 10.75-ounce frozen pound cake, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

4 tablespoons melted butter

4 ripe peaches

3/4 cup blueberries

2 teaspoons sugar

Juice of 1/2 lemon


1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel

2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place metal mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer for the lemon whipped cream.

Toss pound cake cubes with melted butter. Spread cubes on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Let cool.

Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Prepare a bowl with water and ice. Score the bottom of the peaches with a paring knife.

Carefully place peaches in the boiling water. After about 40 seconds, remove the peaches from the hot water and place immediately in the ice bath to shock them. After about 1 minute, remove the peaches from the ice water. Peel the peaches, then cut the peaches into 1/2-inch cubes.

Place the peaches in a bowl with the blueberries. Add sugar and lemon juice to the fruit and stir thoroughly. Place the fruit in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes until you are ready to assemble the dessert.

Once you are ready to serve, prepare the lemon whipped cream with the chilled metal bowl and beaters. Combine heavy whipping cream, 2 tablespoons sugar, lemon peel and 2 teaspoons lemon juice in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat to soft peaks. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and chill. Rewhisk before using.)

Divide the pound cake cubes into four dessert bowls. Spread the fruit over the pound cake, then top each serving with lemon whipped cream. Serve immediately.

]]> 0, 17 Aug 2016 07:58:04 +0000
Tomatoes are stars of BLT as a chilled soup Wed, 17 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Everyone knows Joyce Kilmer’s love song to trees – “I think that I shall never see/ A poem lovely as a tree.” That’s the way I feel about tomatoes. Accordingly, Chilled BLT Soup puts the “T” in BLT. Yes, there’s bacon and lettuce, and some toast, too, in the form of croutons. But the star of this show is the tomato in its season.

How do you know whether you’re buying a good tomato? To start, pick it up. It should feel heavy, which lets you know it’s ripe and juicy. Then take a whiff of the stem end. It should smell strongly like … a tomato. Once you get it home, store it on the counter, out of the sun. If it’s not fully red, just leave it alone. It will continue to ripen at room temperature. Refrigerating it kills the flavor and the texture.

You want to salt your tomatoes ahead of time, before you cook them, a step that helps to concentrate their flavor. First salt the large tomatoes, which form the base of the soup. Then salt the quartered tomatoes, which provide crunch.

Do not seed the tomatoes. If you do, you lose a lot of the jelly surrounding the seeds – and that jelly is where the tomato essence lives.

On the chance that you’ve somehow underrated tomatoes before, this deeply flavorful and refreshing soup will show you what you’ve been missing.


Makes 4 servings

3 pounds large tomatoes

Kosher salt

2 cups 1/2-inch bread cubes

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

4 slices bacon

1 pound cherry tomatoes, quartered

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon finely minced garlic

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

Black pepper

1 cup shredded romaine

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Core and cut the large tomatoes into 1/2-inch-thick wedges. In a large bowl toss the wedges with 1 teaspoon salt and set them aside for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, on a large rimmed sheet pan toss the bread cubes with 1 tablespoon olive oil until they are well coated. Sprinkle them very lightly with salt and toss again. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven until they are golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Set them aside to cool.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, cook the bacon until it is crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. When the bacon is cool, crumble it and set it aside.

In a strainer set over a bowl, toss the cherry tomatoes with 1/2 teaspoon salt and let them drain for 15 minutes.

In a small bowl combine the mayonnaise with the garlic, the lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of the tomato juice from the drained cherry tomatoes and stir well.

Working in batches, transfer the tomato wedges and their liquid to a blender and blend until very smooth. Transfer to a bowl, stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, the sherry vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Add the cherry tomatoes and chill the soup until it is cold.

Spoon one-fourth of the soup into each of four soup bowls. Drizzle each with some of the mayonnaise and top with the bacon, the romaine and the croutons.

]]> 0, 17 Aug 2016 07:58:05 +0000
Take right veggies, add some zingy sauce and roll with it Wed, 17 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 A single game-changing ingredient can turn summer salads into festive finger food that is sure to elicit oohs and ahhs at a beach or backyard gathering: rice paper rounds, also called spring roll wrappers.

They are widely available on the international aisle of larger grocery stores and in Asian markets. Working with them always feels a bit magical to me. They come in a package, dehydrated and brittle, looking like thin sheets of almost-opaque plastic. But a brief dip in warm water transforms them into pliable, sheer wrappers for creating tidy bundles of whatever chilled fillings you can imagine.

Here, I went with the most brilliantly hued garden vegetables I could find: carrot, watermelon radish, bell pepper and red lettuce leaves, along with fragrant fresh basil and mint, a cool crunch of cucumber, and plump, pink shrimp. It’s important to have all the ingredients lined up and ready before you begin, because a softened wrapper needs to be filled before it gets too sticky and hard to handle.

And because the ingredient you add first will be visible against the sheer wrapper, I recommend starting each roll with a different component, so you get the full spectrum of color and variety facing up on your serving platter. Be sure to serve the rolls with the accompanying dipping sauce.

Although the wrappers are the ingredient that loads the bases, the tangy-sweet-spicy sauce is the mouthwatering hit that brings it all home.


Makes 4 servings (8 rolls)

The rolls may be prepared several hours in advance; cover with a damp paper towel and refrigerate in an airtight container. The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 days in advance.


1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon chili sauce, such as Sriracha

1 teaspoon Asian fish sauce

1 scallion (white and green parts), thinly sliced


8 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, cooked and chilled

16 medium fresh basil leaves

16 medium mint leaves

1/2 cup shredded carrot

1/4 cup thinly sliced radish, cut into half-moons, preferably watermelon radish

1/4 English (seedless) cucumber (unpeeled), sliced thinly into half-moons

1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into matchsticks (julienne)

3 red leaf lettuce leaves, spines removed, torn into large pieces

8 round rice paper wrappers (about 6 inches in diameter)


Whisk together the rice vinegar, honey, lime juice, chili sauce, fish sauce and scallion in a medium bowl until they are well combined and the honey is dissolved. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use (up to 3 days).


Slice each shrimp in half lengthwise.

Line up the remaining basil and mint leaves, carrot, radish, cucumber, red bell pepper and lettuce in separate bowls.

Fill a 9-inch or larger pie plate with very warm water that is not too hot to touch. Place a rice paper round in the hot water and soak for no more than 15 seconds – just until it is pliable and the pattern on the surface of the rice paper is barely visible. Transfer to a clean work surface, making sure to lay the softened round flat.

Layer some of each of the ingredients onto the center of the round, then roll it up, burrito style, tucking in the sides as you go.

Place the finished roll on a plate and cover with a damp cloth or paper towel. Repeat with the remaining rice paper rounds and filling ingredients, starting each roll with a different filling ingredient on the bottom, so a different color ingredient is showing under the translucent rice paper wrapper for each roll.

Serve with the dipping sauce.

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Beyond bad puns, Bob’s Burgers Burger Book has inventive recipes Wed, 17 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “The Bob’s Burgers Burger Book: Real Recipes for Joke Burgers” by Loren Bouchard, recipes by Cole Bowden. Universe Publishing, $19.95

Fans of the cult animated sitcom “Bob’s Burgers” know to watch the chalkboard behind the fictional burger joint’s lunch counter every episode to catch the burger of the day.

The creations, ostensibly by Bob, the owner of the financially struggling family-run burger joint, is inevitably a cringe-worthy pun – the type that elicits a groan, rather than a chuckle.

Bob’s creations evoke common popular culture tropes like “Hummus a Tune,” “Human Polenta-Pede,” “Baby you can Chive my Car,” “A Leek of their Own,” “The Sound and the Curry,” and “Onion-tended Consequences.”

The writers of the show never intended anyone to actually cook the burgers, but tried to style them in a way that would seem palatable if they showed up on an actual menu. But sometime during its eight-season run, one enterprising fan, Cole Bowden, took it on himself to re-create the joke burgers and post the recipes on his blog,

As these things tend to do, the blog was turned into a book, with recipes from Bowden and original art and writing by show creator Loren Bouchard and the show’s writing staff.

The resulting book, with more than 70 burger recipes, is geared toward fans of the show. It is debatable whether you’d find it in the cooking or humor section of your local bookstore.

But behind its hokey writing, bad jokes and cartoon illustrations are a number of inventive, fun and delicious burgers. The first section of the book describes how to mold and cook a standard burger, and the recipes build from that base. The kaleidescope of toppings and combinations will likely alienate burger purists, but those willing to take a step beyond basic 1/4 pound of ground beef with lettuce, tomato and onion won’t be disappointed.

My wife and I have both spent hours binge-watching “Bob’s Burgers,” so the recipe collection seemed like it would be a nice addition to our kitchen bookcase.

Since we’re both fans of Indian food we went with the Every Breath You Tikka Masala Burger. The standard burger is topped with masala rice and fresh basil, served with a side of spicy potatoes and peppers.

Because there were only two of us, I halved the recipe and decided to use ground beef instead of the suggested lamb.

On its face, the four-part recipe for the meal seems involved and time-consuming (like many of the other recipes in the book) but most of the ingredients are basic. I made the rice and a simple masala sauce out of sautéed onions and garlic simmered with canned plum tomatoes, spices and a healthy dollop of yogurt stirred in to give it creamy body. I stirred some of the sauce in with the rice and cooked four burgers in a cast iron pan on the stove top, then toasted sesame-seeded bus in the same pan.

We constructed each burger with a bun, patty, rice, then fresh basil. We also opted to add sliced red onion and a healthy smear of mayonnaise to bind everything together. The potatoes were parboiled, tossed in a pan with sautéed peppers and roasted in the oven, then combined with the remaining masala sauce.

The result was delicious. The spices in the rice didn’t overpower the perfectly cooked burger, and the basil and red onion added a welcome fresh bite. What’s even better, the rice masala was the right consistency so it didn’t spill out the sides of the bun while we were eating, a problem I had anticipated with the recipe.

The bottom line? “The Bob’s Burgers Burger Book” doesn’t ask to be taken seriously but shouldn’t be ignored as a guidebook to unexpected, quirky burger creations.


Makes 8 burgers

2 cups basmati rice

3 large potatoes, diced

4 sweet peppers, finely diced

1 hot chili pepper, seeded and finely diced

2 tablespoons butter


1 large onion, coarsely diced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 (14.5-ounce) cans whole plum tomatoes

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon garam masala

1 cup yogurt

2 pounds ground beef or lamb

8 buns

Fresh Thai basil leaves (1 cup)


1. Don’t skip this step. Rinse your rice until the water runs clear, then let it soak in clean water for at least 30 minutes.

2. Bring 31/2 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the rice and stir. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, covered, until done (until all the water is absorbed and the rice is moist but not sticking to the pot).


1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Cover the potatoes in a large saucepan with water and season with salt. Bring the potatoes to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook until tender.

2. In a large oven-proof frying pan, sauté the sweet and hot peppers in 1 tablespoon of butter until the chili pepper heat hits your eyes and your kitchen smells delicious.

3. Drain the potatoes and add them to the pan with the peppers. Sprinkle with a generous amount of paprika and bake for 20-30 minutes (or until the sauce is done and you are ready to eat.)


1. Sauté the onion over medium-high heat in the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter until translucent. Add the garlic.

2. Add the tomatoes and their juice to the onions and keep the mixture at a simmer. Add in the cumin, curry powder and ginger. Wait for the tomatoes “to sweat” – a fancy cooking term for when they start to release their liquid, you can see the liquid sort of pool up in a lighter color. When this happens, add the salt and garam masala.

3. Let the mixture reduce for about 10 minutes, and then remove from heat. Give it some time to cool.

4. Add the yogurt and mix it up. The yogurt will curdle but you didn’t ruin anything! You’re still a good person and this is totally safe to eat. It just means the yogurt is in contact with the acid, it’s not like curdled milk. Mix enough masala with the rice so that it is saturated but not soupy; reserve remaining masala for the potatoes.


1. Form 8 patties, season both sides with salt and pepper and grill or cook the burgers as you normally would.

2. Toast the buns, then build your burger; bottom buns, burger, masala-rice mixture, basil leaves, top buns.

3. Pour the remaining masala over the potatoes and serve on the side.

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Tune into summer Olympics with Brazilian shrimp casserole at hand Wed, 10 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 As the world turns its attention to the host country of the Olympic Games, I’m reminded of a trip I took to Brazil 20 years ago with my friend, chef and cookbook author Christopher Idone.

Idone was so enamored of Brazilian food that he had written a wonderful cookbook, “Brazil: A Cook’s Tour” (Clarkson Potter), for which I was the editor.

We traveled through Sao Paulo, Rio and Bahia, and all the recipes over which we had pored on manuscript pages were suddenly there in real life, 3-D, red with dende oil, crunchy with manioc flour, aromatic with coconut milk. There were rich Feijoadas, creamy Tutu a Mineira, hot and cheesy Pao de Queijo.

Brazil’s combination of Indian, African and European (mainly Portuguese) cultures is visible in the ingredients, techniques and dishes of the country.

In more recent years, an influx of Japanese, Lebanese, North American, Chinese and other immigrants has continued to enrich the culture and food with new influences.

One of my favorite dishes was Camaroes com Palmito, or Casserole of Shrimp and Hearts of Palm, which we encountered in Rio de Janeiro. Two of the most appealing foods ever are nestled together in a tomato-tinged, brothy, one-pot dish, fragrant with scallions, cilantro and parsley.

Christopher and I continued to cook and eat together after our trip to Brazil. He died just months ago, having introduced a whole lot of people to a whole lot of cuisines, including Brazilian.

This recipe is adapted from his classic book.


Makes 8 servings

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 onions, chopped

1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped

1 teaspoon minced garlic

10 large ripe plum tomatoes, roughly chopped (juices reserved)

1 cup chicken broth

½ cup chopped fresh parsley, divided

4 scallions, white and most of the green, trimmed and chopped, divided

2 pounds extra-large or jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 (14-ounce) cans hearts of palm, drained and cut into 1-inch pieces

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Hot cooked white rice to serve (about 6 cups)

Heat a large heavy stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat.

When the pan is hot, add the flour and stir until it starts to turn light beige, about 2 minutes.

Turn the flour out of the pan onto a plate.

In the same pot, heat the oil over medium heat.

Add the onions, and saute until slightly softened, about 4 minutes. Add the bell pepper and garlic, and sauté until the vegetables are all tender, about 4 more minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juices.

Partially cover and bring to a simmer. Adjust the heat so the tomatoes keep at a simmer, and cook for another 10 minutes, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are soft and soupy.

Add the broth and return the mixture to a simmer. Stir in half of the parsley and half of the scallions.

Add the shrimp and hearts of palm to the pot with the tomato broth mixture, season with salt and pepper and stir.

Sprinkle the flour very gradually over the cooking shrimp and tomatoes, stirring constantly, until all of the flour is incorporated.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thickened and the shrimp are almost cooked through, about 4 minutes.

Stir in the remaining parsley and scallions, and the cilantro, and cook for 1 more minute.

Serve over white rice.

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Maine Ingredient: Nothing beats baking for bringing out best in blueberries Wed, 10 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Ahhh, blueberry season. Isn’t it the best? When wild blueberries were designated the Maine state fruit in 1991, there were really no other contenders. I eat them every day during their brief season – sprinkled on my breakfast yogurt or cereal, added to my salad at lunch, and eaten by the handful after supper. As great as they are in their raw state, it’s in baked goods that blueberries really come into their own, releasing some of their flavorful juices and contributing their gorgeous color to pies, muffins, cobblers, cakes, quick breads and pancakes.


These really are The Best Muffins – chock full of blueberries, enough butter to make them taste just the right degree of rich, and the perfect amount of sweetening, including some brown sugar, which adds a subtle dimension of flavor.

Makes 12 muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour

⅓ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup packed light brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

¾ teaspoon salt

2 eggs

¾ cup whole or low-fat milk

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Generous 1 cup blueberries

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin well or line with paper liners and spray liners with cooking oil spray.

Set a medium-mesh sieve over a large bowl and measure flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder and salt into the sieve. Use your fingers or a wooden spoon to push mixture through the sieve. (This removes any lumps from brown sugar and blends the dry ingredients.)

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and melted butter. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir just until flour is moistened. (Do not overmix or the muffins will be tough; batter should still look slightly lumpy.) Fold in the blueberries. Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups.

Bake until the muffins are pale golden brown and springy to the touch, 18 to 22 minutes. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes before removing. Serve warm.



Pie is wonderful, but somewhat time consuming, whereas cobbler is simple and straightforward and takes under an hour to make and bake. In this one, a touch of cornmeal adds a hint of golden color and a pleasing gritty crunch to the biscuit topping. You can roll out the dough to make a one-piece topping as I suggest here, or cut out rounds or other shapes with a cookie cutter, or simply drop the unrolled dough onto the top of the fruit for that nice bumpy “cobbled” effect.

Makes 4 to 6 servings


1 tablespoon softened butter for the dish

5 cups low-bush Maine blueberries

½ cup granulated sugar

½ teaspoon grated lemon zest and 2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal

2 teaspoons baking powder

¾ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar

5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut in about 10 pieces

⅓ cup whole or low-fat milk

Lightly sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Generously butter a shallow 1½-quart baking dish such as a deep pie plate or 8-inch-square dish.

In the prepared dish, combine blueberries, sugar, lemon zest and juice, and vanilla, and stir gently to mix. Place in preheated oven for 15 minutes to start berries releasing their juices. Remove dish from oven.

For the dough, in a food processor combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and 2 tablespoons of the sugar and pulse to blend. Distribute butter over flour mixture and pulse until butter chunks are about the size of peas. Dribble milk through feed tube, pulsing until flour is moistened and dough begins to clump together. (To make by hand, whisk the dry ingredients together in a bowl, work the butter in with your fingertips, and stir in the milk with a large fork.) Transfer to a lightly floured board, knead a couple of times to bring the dough together, and roll or pat out into the approximate shape of the top of your dish.

Trim edges if necessary so topping is slightly smaller than the dish; then crimp edges with your fingertips or a fork. Place over the berries and cut several deep slashes to let steam escape. Sprinkle with remaining teaspoon of sugar.

Return dish to the oven. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until biscuit is golden and fruit is bubbly. Serve warm or at room temperature, with whipped cream or ice cream.

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

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