When you find that unbelievably fresh bag of greens or the first rhubarb of the season at the farmers’ market, you can’t wait to run home and do something with it. But what?

Farm-to-table cookbooks are a dime-a-dozen these days, but the ones from local writers can still be inspiring if the ingredients in the book actually match what is in season at your market. Here are 10 Maine cookbooks that may help you figure out what’s for dinner tonight:

Always in Season: Twelve Months of Fresh Recipes from the Farmer’s Markets of New England

by Elise Richer, 2013

We started reading Maine-based Richer’s May section and thought, yeah right, maybe in Connecticut the peas are up, but after that nightmare of a winter, the closest we’ve come to a fresh pea are pea shoots. Glumly, we flipped backward to March to pick a sample recipe, a Buttermilk Maple Cake that ultimately had to be pried out of the Bundt pan in chunks. But the chunks were sweet, moist and pleasant, if not particularly maple-flavored and our newsroom scavengers didn’t care that the cake was atrocious-looking. There’s a lot more to explore in this Islandport Press book, which has the distinction of being blurbed by Vinland chef/owner David Levi, and fans of old classics like the “Moosewood Cookbook” will appreciate Teresa Lagrange’s cheery illustrations. Richer gets most of her vegetables from Ten Apple Farm in Gray, and personally, we can’t wait until August, when her Tomato Pie recipe can be put to good use with locally sourced tomatoes. Bonus: Hardback. We love hardback cookbooks. They hold up in the messiest of kitchens. (Not referring to ours of course.)



The Eat Local Cookbook

by Lisa Turner, 2011

This very simple, unassuming paperback from Down East Books is split into seasonal sections and is very Maine-centric; if you’re flummoxed by what to do with whatever is in your CSA share, this might be the book for you. Turner runs Laughing Stock Farm in Freeport and supplies chefs like Fore Street’s Sam Hayward and Caiola’s’ Abby Harmon, and because of that, she’s got access to some seriously tempting recipes, like Theda Lyden’s Pan-seared Sea Scallops with Spinach and Corn Salad or Hayward’s Celeriac Salad. It’s good to have advice on matters like celeriac, which can look like the impenetrable goiter of vegetables but is secretly delicious. On the other hand, does anyone really need a recipe for a Caprese Salad or simple mashed potatoes? This isn’t a book to push the good home cook to greater culinary heights, but it’s a lovely volume to dip into on the day when you’ve come home from farmers market with a pile of gorgeous vegetables and want to break out of your usual routine. Also? Turner won us over with a non-ironic recipe for Tuna Noodle Casserole; this one makes us want to revisit 1972 (mayo, canned tuna, shredded cheese) from a 2014 perspective (dill, leeks and white wine).



Notes From a Maine Kitchen

by Kathy Gunst, 2011

This cookbook is Gunst’s love letter to Maine. Even if you never try a single recipe, you’ll want to read her short, seasonal essays on topics such as smelt fishing in January, making pies for summer guests in July, and mushroom hunting in October. The sense of place is palpable, and will give folks “from away” a good idea of what it’s like to live here; the accompanying recipes will make locals run to their local farmers market so they can make linguine with Maine clam sauce, ramps and garlic in the spring, or spiced peach butter. Gunst, who has lived in South Berwick for 30 years, has written 14 cookbooks and was nominated for a James Beard award this year for her work as the “resident chef” on WBUR’s “Here & Now,” which is broadcast from Boston on more than 170 public radio stations. Gunst’s style is slightly folksy. After you’ve shelled a bowl of peas for her “First-Harvest Pea and Lettuce Soup,” she urges you in a sly aside: “Sure, go ahead, eat a few.” She is also good at giving you fresh ideas for ingredients that are seasonal standbys. If that pea soup doesn’t ring your bell, Gunst suggests making fresh pea hummus, or pea pesto to top a portion of grilled salmon or chicken.



Harbor Fish Market: Seafood Recipes from Maine

by Nick Alfiero, Rian Alfiero and Kathleen Alfiero, 2013

In Maine, farm-to-table cuisine encompasses more than vegetables just plucked from the earth. We are lucky enough to have access to ocean-to-table fare as well. If you aren’t taking advantage of everything that’s fresh and local from the sea, shame on you. If you need guidance, who better to explain how to shop for, prepare and store seafood than a fishmonger who has been in business for more than four decades? If you live in Portland, chances are you’ve been to the Alfiero family’s Harbor Fish Market on Custom House Wharf. Happily, they finally wrote a cookbook. It’s not perfect, judged by all-local all-the-time standards. Not every single bit of seafood in the book is from Maine, but who can turn down softshell crabs, or large roasted Gulf shrimp with orange and fennel? Ninety percent of its pages translates the Alfieros’ years of experience selling seafood and tinkering in the kitchen into dishes such as scallops with sage and brown butter sauce, and halibut with spring pea risotto. They’ve also collected seafood recipes from friends, including one who used to be a chef in Portland and contributed dishes such as flounder bourride and cod loin baked in parchment paper.



How to Fix a Leek & Other Food From Your Farmers’ Market

by Sandra Garson, 2011

What is that thing? What can I do with it? If you’ve ever asked a farmer these questions at your local farmers market, this book, like Turner’s (above), will provide answers. Garson is a journalist who lives in West Bath, and her book is very Maine-centric, as it restricts itself to the local harvest season from May through October. Using a short essay format, she describes how to shop for each fruit, vegetable, meat or other ingredient that can be found at the market, and tells how to store it and prepare it. Each ingredient comes with just one simple recipe, but the range of ingredients Garson covers is impressive, including everything from leeks (of course) to parsnips, pears and a variety of herbs. The book has a blog, too, where Garson regularly posts new recipes. The latest entry is for a Spanish-style asparagus dish, a “revuelto.” Find the blog at: howtofixaleek.blogspot.com/



Saltwater Seasonings: Good Food from Coastal Maine

by Sarah Leah Chase and Jonathan Chase, 1992

This cookbook was ahead of its time. Don’t let the cover — the makings of a lobster bake in all their summertime glory — or the first chapter or two fool you. Like any tourist-friendly cookbook, the book tells you how to prepare lobster stew, clam cakes and blueberry pie. But go deeper, and you’ll discover that the writers (bestselling cookbook author Sarah Leah Chase and her brother Jonathan, who owned Jonathan’s Restaurant in Blue Hill) also considered Maine farm-raised meats, and visited Grange suppers and saltwater farms. The recipes include parsnip stew, bean pot poached pears, warm spring dandelion salad, roast spring chicken with fiddleheads, campfire smelts, sardine and corn fritters, and lavender morning sausage made with ground pork and lamb. The last chapter includes an interview with a very youthful-looking, pre-James Beard Award-winning chef named Sam Hayward, who shares a recipe for Maine Cassoulet. But don’t diss the other Maine classics in this book. The clam chowder is now my go-to recipe, after two 20-something male relatives scarfed down two bowls each at one sitting. The wild blueberry pie ain’t bad, either.



The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook

by Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman, 2013

When all those trips to the farmers market inspire you to get serious about your own backyard gardening, here’s your guide. Damrosch and Coleman are the husband and wife team who operate Four Season Farm in Harborside and are national icons of organic gardening. This is no guide to container gardening. In the first 250 pages, they are talking soil aeration, seed saving and homemade greenhouses. Then, Damrosch takes over, offering ideas with what to do with the harvest (Simply looking for ideas on how to use your market bounty? Skip to page 251): a salad with steamed asparagus and a vinaigrette made from the greens thinned in early spring, tomato bisque with a touch of sherry for the heat of the summer, and lamb shanks with root vegetables. Plus, there’s a whole chapter on how to use kale, chard and other cooking greens, always abundant in the garden or at the market.



The Maine Summers Cookbook

by Linda Greenlaw and Martha Greenlaw, 2011

Linda Greenlaw is an author and swordfishing captain who lives on Isle au Haut. Martha Greenlaw is her mother. Their cookbook makes us long for hot afternoons spent on shady porches, slow dinners at dusk with friends, and the abundance of the season. They offer a guide to roasting a whole pig, with sauces and suggested sides. When the berries are ripe, try the chilled berry soup, balanced with port and mint. And if boiled lobster dinner isn’t exciting enough, how about barbecued lobster with lime and chile butter? The Greenlaws know the charms of an island summer well, and they share bits of it through recipes that encourage us to savor summer.



Stonewall Kitchen Harvest: Celebrating the Bounty of the Season

by Jim Stott, Jonathan King and Kathy Gunst, 2004

I’ve had this cookbook for 10 years, during which I’ve moved three times. Somewhere, sometime, amid the several hundred other cookbooks I own, it vanished. I uncovered it recently when I moved to Maine (the book has taken a circuitous route home) — and what a happy rediscovery. Although the writers are from Maine (and Stott and King run Stonewall Kitchen here), “the bounty of the season” they refer to is not strictly local. Two of my favorite recipes, ones that I entertained on often when I lived in Texas, are Winter Salad of Mixed Greens, Persimmons, and Pomegranate with Fresh Ginger Vinaigrette and Roast Leg of Lamb with Fresh Figs and Shallots— “absolutely delicious” reads a scrawled note next to the latter. Figs and persimmons grow locally in Houston. In Maine? Not so much. That said, plenty of Maine products are represented, too, from shrimp to blueberries to fiddlehead ferns, and every page holds yet another smart, modern, doable and tempting recipe. More than 20 slips of paper poke up from my rediscovered copy, marking dishes I apparently intended to cook. Swiss Chard Tart with a Potato Crust? Vietnamese-style Asparagus Soup with Vermicelli Noodles and Spicy Peanut Paste? Coming soon to my table.



Dishing Up Maine: 165 Recipes that Capture Down East Flavors

by Brooke Dojny, 2006

Dojny dedicates her book “To the farmers, fishermen, and artisan producers of Maine,” and she delivers on her promise, with plentiful photos and pint-sized essays on such Maine-centric topics as apple cider, Wolfe’s Neck Farm, pilot biscuits and Bakewell Cream. These are interspersed with recipes for mostly classic dishes (chowder, lobster stew, baked beans and blueberry muffins) and some newer fare (Limed Lobster and Melon Skewers, Chipotle-Roasted Winter Squash Tacos). The recipe notes have a chatty, friendly tone — “This recipe is my tried-and-true formula, and the beans come out perfect every time” — as though Dojny is standing in your kitchen, cooking alongside you. Seeped in the state, “Dishing Up Maine” would make a nice gift for a Maineophile, even if he doesn’t like to cook. Dojny co-writes a weekly column for the Press Herald, The Maine Ingredient.



Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.