The Little Local Maine Cookbook. Photo courtesy of The Countryman Press

You’ll find a lot of uses for “The Little Local Maine Cookbook” (The Countryman Press, $14.95), a cute and useful collection of classic Maine recipes by Annie B. Copps. It would make a sweet hostess gift, a great stocking stuffer, or a good introduction to Maine food for someone who is headed here on vacation. If you’re from away, it will tuck into a corner of your suitcase nicely.

Copps, a cooking teacher and former food editor of Yankee Magazine and Boston Magazine, grew up on the north shore of Massachusetts, but her family spent a lot of time in southern Maine. She now lives in Boston but visits Maine four or five times a year. Her new cookbook is part of a series that includes Cape Cod (which Copps also wrote), Texas, New Orleans and the other Portland.

Copps presents Maine’s most iconic dishes – lobster rolls, fish chowder, whoopie pies – as they have always been, but she has tweaked or upgraded other recipes so as not to be “frumpy and dusty” in her choices. She uses Moxie as a cocktail mixer in a Manhattan, and in a Moxie-braised pulled pork sandwich with Asian red cabbage cole slaw. (Copps herself is not a fan of Moxie, citing its “peppery, medicinal” taste, but she says that bartenders in Boston love it.) Instead of a plain apple pie, she offers a recipe for Maple Tarte Tatin made with Maine apples and maple syrup, which represents the state’s “wonderful and respected tapping tradition.” Copps says she consulted with experts in Maine cuisine, such as Camden-based food writer Nancy Harmon Jenkins, to be sure she was doing the state justice.

“I really wanted to make sure I didn’t miss something that was really obvious,” she said.

One dish that almost didn’t make it into the book was the classic Shrimp and Pea Wiggle, traditionally served on top of rice, potatoes or crackers.

“It was in, it was out,” Copps said. “Then I thought, it’s shrimp and pea wiggle, how can you not include it? It’s hilarious.”

The result is a traditional, but also fun and somewhat contemporary exploration of Maine food through the lens of 30 recipes. You’ll learn more about Maine ingredients than you will the state itself – how oysters thrive in Maine’s cold rivers, for example – but that’s OK. The world needs to know how whoopie pies got their name.

BLUEBERRY ALMOND STREUSEL CAKE

Makes 12 servings

FOR THE STREUSEL TOPPING:

1/2 cup granulated sugar

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons finely ground almond meal

Pinch of kosher or sea salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

FOR THE CAKE:

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan

1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan

1/2 cup finely ground almond meal

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

1 cup granulated sugar

2 whole large eggs

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt

2 cups blueberries

Make the streusel:

In a small bowl, using a fork, mash the sugar, flour, almond meal, salt and butter together until well mixed but still crumbly.

Make the cake:

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper. Butter and flour the parchment, as well as the bottom and sides of the pan.

In another small bowl, whisk together 1 cup flour, almond meal, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of a standing mixer with the whisk attachment (or using a handheld blender), beat together the butter and sugar until the mixture is pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between each addition. Add the almond extract. Add one third of the flour mixture, all of the sour cream, and another third of the flour, mixing just until blended. Stir in the remaining flour. Gently fold in the blueberries.

Spread the cake batter into the prepared cake pan. Scatter the streusel topping over the top. Bake until the top is golden brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean – about 35 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for about 10 minutes, then slice and serve.

 

The New Portland, Maine Chef’s Table.  Photo courtesy of Down East Books

Margaret Hathaway is the first to acknowledge that a lot of the recipes in her first chef-driven cookbook, “Portland, Maine Chef’s Table,” were more aspirational than practical for the home cook. Since 2012, she says, trends have shifted, both in eating out – restaurants are less “adults only” now and more family-friendly – and there is “a wider palette of ingredients. In a lot of respects, the food feels a lot more cookable.”

She cites her own family as an example of how the recipes in her updated book, “The New Portland, Maine Chef’s Table” (Down East Books, $29.95), are more manageable. The book launched a couple weeks ago with an event at Print: A Bookstore in Portland. (Karl Schatz, Hathaway’s husband and partner in Ten Apple Farm in Gray, where they raise dairy goats, took the photographs.) Hathaway used the brine from Woodford F & B chef Courtney Loreg’s vegetable chow chow recipe this spring to pickle fiddleheads, asparagus and rhubarb. “Anything that will stand still, I’ll soak in that brine,” she said.

Hathaway regularly bakes the Pistachio Olive Oil Cake contributed by baker Atsuko Fujimoto of the late Ten Ten Pié. And at a family reunion later this summer, the burger accompaniments from The Black Cow will be part of the menu.

For the new book, Hathaway chose an entirely new roster of Portland restaurants, many of which didn’t exist when the first book was published. “The New Portland, Maine Chef’s Table” begins with an introduction that provides historical background on Portland. Each restaurant gets a mini-profile in which Hathaway describes the food and the chefs and/or owners. These brief write-ups are accompanied by recipes and luscious photos of both the food and the restaurant spaces where it’s served. Sprinkled throughout the book are short essays about topics such as the Portland waterfront, Maine potatoes and craft brewers.

Hathaway enlisted family and friends to help her test the recipes. At Thanksgiving last year, while the book was being edited, she invited her Thanksgiving guests to bring a dish from the draft book to her holiday table. The guests feasted on Brussels Sprouts with Mojo Picon and Blue Cheese Sauce from Little Giant, Hay-Smoked Carrots With Honey Vinaigrette and Goat Cheese from Central Provisions, and Fernet Michaud Ice Cream from Liquid Riot.

Two of the 37 restaurants in the book, Bolster, Snow & Co. and Ten Ten Pié, closed after the cookbook was far along in the publication process; Hathaway acknowledged the closures with a simple line: “Restaurant closed 2019.”

Hathaway’s biggest challenge? Just as she was under the gun to get all the recipes in by deadline, Bon Appetit named Portland its Restaurant City of the Year. The city’s restaurants were suddenly overrun with diners. “Those poor chefs,” Hathaway said. “They were just scrambling to get through every day.” The chefs’ recipe deadlines had to be put off until things calmed down.

Now, with the publication of Hathaway’s book, lovers of Portland food can try making their favorite restaurant dishes at home, such as these Corn and Lobster Fritters with Saffron Aioli that chef/owner Chris Gould serves at Central Provisions.

Corn and lobster fritters from Central Provisions, one of the restaurants featured in the new cookbook “The New Portland, Maine Chef’s Table” by Margaret Hathaway. Photo by Karl Schatz

CORN AND LOBSTER FRITTERS WITH SAFFRON AIOLI

Makes 8 servings

To make brown butter, melt butter over medium heat, swirling the pan to be sure it doesn’t burn. As the butter begins to foam, it will gradually turn the color of toast and produce a nutty aroma.

Saffron Aioli

1 tablespoon canola oil

1/3 cup brunoise (1/8-inch dice) shallots

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon saffron

Pinch of salt

1 1/3 cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup buttermilk

To make the saffron aioli: In a small skillet over low heat, heat the canola oil. Add the shallots, garlic, saffron and salt. Sweat the mixture over low heat until shallots and garlic are fragrant and translucent, but not browning. Remove from the skillet and puree in a food processor or blender until smooth.

In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise and buttermilk. Add the shallot and garlic puree and mix until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Corn and Lobster Fritters

2 cups flour

1 cup cornmeal

1/3 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons salt

2/3 cup sliced scallions

1/3 cup chopped cooked bacon

4 large ears sweet corn, kernels cut from cob

1/3 cup brown butter

1 1/3 cups diced cooked lobster meat

Canola oil, for frying

Sliced scallions, for garnish

To make the fritters: In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt, whisking to blend. In a separate large bowl, stir together the scallions, bacon, corn kernels, brown butter and cooked lobster meat. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, using a rubber scraper to clean the sides of the bowl. Mix until just incorporated – be careful not to overmix.

Heat canola oil in a deep fryer or a deep skillet over high heat, until the oil registers 350 degrees. Using a 3/4-ounce scoop, slip balls of the fritter mixture into the hot oil, frying until golden, about 3 minutes.

Serve corn and lobster fritters with saffron aioli, and garnish with sliced scallions.

 

“Borealis Breads” by Jim Amaral and Cynthia Finnemore. Simonds.  Photo courtesy of DownEast Books

Before “artisan baker” became a regular part of the Maine lexicon, there was Jim Amaral.

Amaral, founder of Borealis Breads, was baking artisanal breads long before the local foods revolution got underway here. Now he’s written a book that is more than just a baking book, with some of his favorite recipes. “Borealis Breads” (Down East Books, $28.95) is a valuable history of the local grains movement, as well as a textbook outlining the variety of bread wheats grown in Maine and listing of resources for readers who want to learn more. Amaral wrote the book with Cynthia Finnemore Simonds, author of four other cookbooks. In the second half of the book, she contributes recipes for spreads and fillings, pizza and flatbread toppings, soups, sides, herb butters and sweets.

Amaral, a talented amateur photographer, took the photos for the book. (He told me he’s working on a documentary project photographing farmers, grain growers, bakers and others involved in Maine’s grain renaissance.)

Borealis Breads has bakeries in Wells and Waldoboro. (A Borealis bakery and bistro in Portland closed in 2016.) Amaral says his bestselling breads are the same ones he’s been making for 26 years. The book includes recipes for these, as well as breads the bakeries no longer make, such as Portuguese Cornbread and Rosemary Hazelnut Bread, and some that just make an occasional appearance, such as Lemon Sage Focaccia and Maine Coast Focaccia (which contains seaweed). All of the breads are made with sourdough starters, so Amaral included a section that explains how to make and work with a starter. Many of the recipes highlight locally grown grains – whole wheat, rolled oats, Abenaki flint corn, and others.

Signed copies of “Borealis Breads” are available at the two bakeries.

Amaral is excited about the growing local bread scene. He anticipates seeing more “really good bakers develop in the state,” he said. “Start-up costs (for small bakeries) are not a big hurdle like they can be in some businesses. Also, there are more places to learn about bread baking, such as Maine Grain Alliance classes. People working for bakeries are starting their own businesses. You can operate as a one- or two-person operation and make a living at it.”

Amaral suggests that beginners who buy his book start with the simplest bread, the Aroostook Wheat, which has only four ingredients and “great flavor.” Once that bread comes out of the oven, they can try pairing it with some of this Hot Crabmeat Spread from Simonds. If they don’t like crab, they can substitute smoked trout, lobster or salmon.

HOT CRABMEAT SPREAD

Makes about 3 cups

3/4 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon grated Vidalia onion

3/4 teaspoon dry mustard powder

8 ounces cream cheese

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 pound fresh Maine crabmeat

1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar

Paprika

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, combine sour cream, onion, mustard, cream cheese, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and garlic powder. Gently fold in the crabmeat and cheddar cheese. Grease a 1 1/2-quart casserole with vegetable spray. Spoon mixture into casserole dish and sprinkle with paprika. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

 

The Green Crab Cookbook by Mary Parks and Thanh Thai. Photo courtesy of the Green Crab R&D Project

The crop of new cookbooks includes a couple regional books that focus on the sea and the problems that plague the creatures who live there. “The Green Crab Cookbook” by Mary Parks (a native of coastal Maine and cofounder of the nonprofit Green Crab R&D Project in Boston) and Thanh Thai (a resident of New Hampshire who shares her recipes on the Green Crab Cafe blog) teaches how to shuck and cook with the invasive crabs, which prey on native shellfish and destroy valuable habitat. The cookbook ($31.99) is self-published, and all proceeds support the Green Crab R&D Project.

The book is packed full of practical information, including step-by-step instructions, with photos, for picking the crabs and harvesting the masinette – the crab caviar that many of the recipes call for. Many of the recipes look challenging for the average home cook, but if you’re up for that, you could soon find yourself enjoying masinette crab cakes, a fried green crab po’ boy or banh mi, or campari and tarragon linguine with green crab broth. (The grilled pizza crawling with whole fried green crabs looks a little creepy.)

The other cookbook for eaters who care about the environment is “Simmering the Sea: Diversifying Cookery to Sustain Our Fisheries” (University of Rhode Island, $20) by Sarah Schumann, Kate Masury and Marie-Joëlle Rochet. Chef Rizwan Ahmed of the Johnson & Wales Culinary School developed the recipes. “Simmering the Sea” introduces cooks to 40 under-used fish and shellfish that live in the northwest Atlantic Ocean and provides instructions for how to prepare them. There are recipes for razor clams, squid, Jonah crabs, periwinkles, sea robin, Acadian redfish, skate, black sea bass and more. The idea is if more people start eating these more abundant species, it may help protect more vulnerable fish whose populations are in danger.

 

“Simmering the Sea” by Sarah Schumann, Kate Masury and Marie-Joelle Rochet. Photo courtesy University of Rhode Island

The recipe below calls for flounder. The authors note that many East Coast fish are lumped together under that name, so the recipe also works for species such as sole, plaice, brill, fluke or dabs.

FLOUNDER EN PAPILLOTTE

You’ll need parchment paper to make this recipe.

Serves 4

8 flounder fillets

Salt and pepper to taste

8 parsley sprigs, trimmed

1/4 carrot, peeled and cut in coins

1/4 leek, white part only, cut in coins

1/4 zucchini, cut in coins

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1/2 lemon, thinly sliced

4 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup white wine

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Season fish fillets with salt and pepper. Place a sprig of parsley on each fillet and roll the fillet around the parsley. Mix carrots, leeks, zucchini and garlic in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Fold four large squares of parchment paper in half and unfold. Place a quarter of the vegetable mixture on each sheet of parchment paper, on one side of the crease. Place two rolled fillets atop each pile of vegetable mixture. Place a few lemon slices on each fillet. Top with butter. Fold the other half of the parchment paper over to cover the vegetable mixture and fillets. Starting at an end, make overlapping folds along the edges of the paper, pressing and tucking to seal the edges. Before sealing the fourth side, divide wine between each of the four packets.

Place on baking sheets and roast for 10 to 12 minutes or until parchment puffs. Remove packets and place on four separate plates. Have guests cut open from the center of the packets. Warn them to be careful of escaping steam.

 

 

 

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