Maine Roots

A blog about all things Maine


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Weekly Recipe: Creole Dipping Sauce with Green Beans

I’m pretty excited about the recipe I’ll be sharing with you today.  When I came across it in The Maine Summers Cookbook, I knew it would be a perfect choice for a summer party we were going to.  It’s fun, different, and healthy – which as we all know can be a challenge to find in any ‘chips and dips’ section!  Typically, these recipes involve mayo, cream cheese, breadcrumbs, and any number of other things that make them deliciously bad for you.

In addition to its healthfulness, it sounded quick and easy (my number one recipe test), and it can be made ahead.  I was sold, and I hope you are too!

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 small garlic clove, peeled
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped scallions, white and green parts
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped celery
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 drops Tabasco sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1/4 cup tarragon vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • Dijon or other mustard
  • 1 lb. green beans
  • 1 lb. wax beans
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • Several flat-leaf parsley sprigs for garnish

To make the sauce, place the vegetable oil, garlic, scallions, celery, 1/2 teaspoon salt, cayenne, Tabasco, paprika, ketchup, vinegar, horseradish, and mustard in a blender or food processor fitted with a metal blade and process until the mixture is smooth – about one minute.  Cover and refrigerate. (Easy – check!)

To prepare the beans, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil.  Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of salt and the green and wax beans.  Cook until just tender, about 4 minutes.  Remove the beans to a colander and rinse under cold water.  Drain and pat dry, then cover and refrigerate.  Bring the beans to room temperature before serving. (Also easy!)

To serve, place the sauce in a small glass bowl on a platter and garnish with parsley sprigs.  Arrange the beans in a spoke pattern around the bowl of sauce.  This recipe makes about 2 1/2 cups of sauce, or 10 servings.

Colorful and flavorful!

Colorful and flavorful!

As you can see, I served the sauce with both green beans and celery sticks – the cookbook also recommends red and green bell pepper strips.  The sauce can be made 2-3 days ahead and the beans can be prepared one day ahead.

I really liked the flavor of the sauce – although it honestly could have been even a little spicier for me.  It had a nice ‘zing’ and satisfied my unhealthy snack cravings with veggies instead!  As the summer parties continue, I’ll keep my eyes peeled for other healthy appetizer / snack ideas to share!  Have you come across any healthy recipes that are easy to take to cookouts and parties?

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Painting A Fireplace

Where have I been the last few weeks, you ask?  Well, I’ve been missing my blogging, because I’ve been (extremely) busy working at that thing called my “real job,” and in my spare time I’ve been putting the finishing touches on various home improvement projects, including painting our fireplace – which is what you lucky readers will get to hear all about today.

While I realize my home is far from Maine, one of the characteristics of a Mainer tends to be an independent, ‘I’ll do it myself’ resourcefulness.  As a result, I really enjoy tackling almost any type of challenge, and I take great pride in the projects my husband and I have completed at our house, with our own two (or four, math has never been my strong suit) hands.

I’d been thinking about painting the fireplace in our den space for some time, and as our connected space between the formal living room and den continued to come together, it became clear that it was the right choice to get the look I want in the finished space.  But before I tell you how to paint a fireplace, I have to thank my mom – the room wouldn’t have come so far without her willingness to spend a long weekend on ‘vacation’ in NC helping me paint!  Her visits always make me feel more connected to my roots, and they almost always involve a project that leaves our house a little more beautiful than it was before.

My own inclination and my husband’s and mother’s encouragement ultimately led to my decision to paint the fireplace the same white as the trim of the room.  In so many ways, I’ve made it my mission to make the spaces in our home as light and airy as possible, so when it came to painting the fireplace, a cheerful, bright white seemed like the perfect solution.

The project itself turned out to be more challenging than I anticipated.  Here’s what you need to do, and why it’s not as easy as it sounds:

1) Prep the fireplace by clearing the area and cleaning it – I chose to vacuum my fireplace and use a water and vinegar solution to clean the areas that seemed to really need it.  Various sites I visited recommended using a wire brush on the brick, and then vacuuming.  While I didn’t use a wire brush, and I don’t think it’s necessary, it may be something you want to do – particularly if your fireplace has a lot of soot build up.

2) Gather your painting supplies – paint, trays, rollers (remember to get the thick roller covers for painting rough surfaces), paint brushes (I recommend using old ones, or cheap ones – the brick will destroy them by the time you’re finished), drop cloths, wet rags, etc.

3) Get down to business – the fun begins (and ends) with the first coat.  I began by rolling the entire fireplace, and then going over the trim and mantle using a paint brush.  It was exciting and fulfilling to get that initial coat on, despite the effort involved.  The difference between painting a smooth wall surface and a brick fireplace is substantial.  My arms rapidly began aching from the effort to press down on the roller and apply a decent coat…  and then I stepped back and realized just how many coats it would probably take to get the coverage I wanted.  Eeek!

First coat!

First coat!

But I persevered.  It took all weekend, three full coats with the roller, three coats with the paint brush on the trim and mantle, and an additional coat, using the paint brush rather than the roller, on the mortar.

My goal was to achieve mostly solid white coverage, with some of the brick texture peeking through.  For completely solid coverage, with all porous areas filled in, I’d recommend renting a paint sprayer and using that – it would be a heck of a lot easier!

Bright and fresh!

Bright and fresh!

I’m really pleased with the end result, even though it was, quite frankly, exhausting to get to it.  Next project: the updating the wet bar cabinetry and counter tops!

Are you working on any home improvement projects?  Painting tips for fireplaces you’d like to share?  Businesses you think I should write about?


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Weekly Recipe: Orzo and Vegetable Salad

It should come as no surprise that I tend to be most drawn to salads that include a form of pasta (although, this arguably makes them less healthy and certainly higher in carbohydrates), and I tabbed this recipe as one to try during my first flip-through of my Maine Summers Cookbook.  This dish is a great weeknight meal for us, because it’s quick, easy, and filling.  You could easily add chicken or shrimp to it as well.

Colorful ingredients!

Colorful ingredients!

You’ll need:

  • 2 1/2 cups orzo
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 1 cup sugar snap peas, blanched and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions, green parts only
  • 1/2 cup chopped zucchini
  • 1/2 cup chopped summer squash
  • Good quality olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook the orzo according to the package directions, drain, and cool completely.  Combine the orzo with the tomatoes, peas, red onion, scallions, zucchini, and summer squash in a large salad bowl.  Dress with the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.  Serve at room temperature.

This salad stores well in an airtight container for up to 3 days, and I actually liked the flavor better on the second day.  This could be a good make-ahead dish for a party or light dinner.  I added some feta cheese to my serving, which was a delicious addition.  It just seemed to go well with the tomatoes, red onions, and other veggies.

Great summer dinner!

Great summer dinner!

As I mentioned above, I think you could certainly add chicken, shrimp, or other seafood to this pasta salad to make it heartier.  The flavor of this dish, not surprisingly, reminded me very much of a Greek Tuna Pasta Salad that I like to make for many of the same reasons – it’s quick, easy, and filling.  I’ll keep that on the list to share with you all sometime!


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Maine Summer Favorite: The Yarmouth Clam Festival

What is summer in Maine all about to this girl?  The Yarmouth Clam Festival!  I’m not confident that I’ll be able to adequately describe what has made this festival so special to me, but I’ll do my best.

Always beginning on the third Friday in July, this year The Yarmouth Clam Festival will be Friday, July 19th – Sunday, July 21st.  It’s been several years since I’ve attended the festival (living in NC has put a damper on that), but I remember going every year, or close to it, as a child, teen, and young adult.  For me, the atmosphere at the festival embodies the best of Maine and its people – it’s welcoming and relaxed, while bustling with attendees and activities.  It highlights arts and crafts, local musicians, and dishes up great food all prepared by Yarmouth-based non-profits – so when you’re buying those fried clams, you’re also making a donation.

With family scattered throughout southern Maine, it’s no real surprise that one of my mom’s siblings settled in Yarmouth – my Aunt Nancy and her husband, my Uncle Chris.  Their home in Yarmouth was one of my favorite houses to visit – old, big, and rambling, I used to love venturing from room to room.  It was also conveniently located for parking and walking to the festival – whether we all went together or as smaller groups.  Admission to the festival is free, which is something I simply took for granted before but I now recognize as unusual and special, and all proceeds from food booths and parking lots support Yarmouth’s non-profit student, sporting, music, church, and community service organizations.

What I remember most vividly about attending the festival as a child is wandering along row after row of arts and crafts booths.  While we certainly enjoyed numerous carnival rides, watched the parade, listened to live music, and indulged in a variety of foods, the simple pleasure of browsing through pretty things in th0se booths stands out boldly in my memory.  It’s a lovely, relaxing way to spend a bit of time on a Maine summer day – drifting from booth to booth – supporting these local artists.  Then, when you’re ready for a meal and more excitement – you simply trek over to the food booths and grab a plate.

At this festival, I typically go for fried clams and french fries with a nice dose of salt and vinegar, but there are plenty of other options including non-seafood items.  In addition to food, crafts, and music, the festival has a number of events – check out the schedule here – including a parade on Friday night, a five-mile road race and kids’ fun run on Saturday, canoe and kayak races, and of course, the Maine State Clam Shucking Contest.

Maine is full of hard working, dedicated people who are always ready to offer a warm welcome to a newcomer.  Perhaps it’s this sense of welcome and community that makes The Yarmouth Clam Festival one of my favorite events.  I hope you’ll go and experience it for yourself!


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Happy 4th of July!

Today, this is just a brief post, from my phone no less, to wish you all a very Happy 4th!

I love this country and am proud to be a citizen. No system is without its flaws, but we are lucky and blessed to live in the land of the free. Our freedom has been fought for and earned, and today we celebrate our independence.

When I think of the 4th of July in Maine, I think of hamburgers and red hot dogs, possibly seafood, plates piled high with salad, chips, and dessert; and most of all, I think of family. My family, the one I had the good fortune to be born into, and the one I married into, is fundamentally the most important thing in my life. This year, I’m not with them, but I usually am. Perhaps that’s why they’re on my mind. A holiday always feels like time for family. I hope you’re with yours, and enjoying this special day!


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Weekly Recipe: Oven-Roasted Summer Squash

When my mom came down to visit a few weeks ago, she also brought a new cookbook for me (thanks, Mom!).  Titled “The Maine Summers Cookbook,” it is by a mother and daughter, Linda Greenlaw and Martha Greenlaw, who live on Isle au Haut in Maine.  Jam-packed with recipes for summer days in Maine, what I’ve discovered and particularly enjoy about this cookbook is that while there is an emphasis on foods traditionally recognized as Maine staples, the recipes often put a new spin on them, incorporating unique ingredients and flavors.

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Naturally, we wanted to try the new cookbook out right away – so we went to the grocery store and picked up the ingredients for several recipes – including the oven-roasted summer squash and Ben’s peppery potato wedges.  And while we were there, a massive thunderstorm rolled through Charlotte (reportedly one of the most damaging storms this year) and knocked the power out in our neighborhood.  It remained out for several hours, so we ended up heading to a local Italian restaurant, Rudy’s.  I always enjoy Rudy’s because of their friendly service, good prices for quality food, and wine specials, but it’s just not the same as trying recipes from a new Maine cookbook!  We did end up making Ben’s peppery potato wedges with salmon the next night (and they were really good!), but my mom had to head back to Maine before we got around to the weekly recipe featured here today, oven-roasted summer squash.

I love summer squash and eat it any number of ways – raw, with hummus or ranch, or roasted, sauted, etc.  I decided to give this side a whirl in addition to baked salmon and wilted kale.  It can be found on page 165.

You’ll need:

  • 2 lbs. yellow summer squash or zucchini
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
Ingredients

Ingredients

Preheat the oven to 450, and begin your prep by cutting the squash into 1/2 inch thick rounds.  Scatter them over a 17×11-inch rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle the squash with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper to taste, and rosemary.  Toss by hand to evenly coat.

Ready for the oven!

Ready for the oven!

Roast, turning occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until caramelized.  Then enjoy! (this recipe serves 8)

There are a few things I would do differently when making this recipe next time – I’d cut my slices a little more thinly, add a bit more rosemary, and cut down just slightly on the olive oil (I felt they were a little too saturated on oil once caramelized).  Having said that, this was a tasty, easy side to put together for a week night meal, and it rounded out our healthy plate nicely!

Now that's the look of a healthy plate.

Now that’s the look of a healthy plate.