Maine Roots

A blog about all things Maine


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Cooking for Memorial Day: Maine Cookbook Recipes

With all of the excitement that Memorial Day brings (the start of summer!  Barbecues!  Long weekend!), it is important to reflect the true purpose of this holiday: it is a somber day of remembrance of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our country.  Having had a number of family members and friends who have served, the significance of this day is not lost on me, and I offer thanks and prayers to all of those whom this holiday is truly about.

I was incredibly fortunate to grow up as part of a close, large family.  This has instilled in me a love for holiday weekends because of the opportunity they present to gather together, and to enjoy good food, good drink, and good conversations with each other.  While these often potluck meals do tend to feature some high calorie, unhealthy menu items (burgers laden with cheese come to mind), in general, home cooking is much better for you than a meal eaten out.  The following sides and salads tend toward the healthy, with one final dessert recommendation that is decidedly unhealthy (but delicious!).

Here are a few possibilities for inclusion in your Memorial Day festivities:

Strawberry Spinach Salad, Maine Home Cooking, page 220
I’ve shared this salad in a weekly recipe post before, and it truly is delicious.  I recommend adding some goat cheese and going with balsamic vinegar for in the dressing – the combination of sweet, tart, and creamy really complements the wholesome spinach.

A Dilly of a Pickled Beet Salad, Dishing Up Maine, page 69
Nick loves beets, and ever since we joined our local CSA, The Dirt Farmers, I’ve been including them in our order almost weekly.  I haven’t made this one yet, but it’s a guaranteed hit in our house:

For 4 servings, you’ll need:

  • 1 1/2 lb beets of uniform size, trimmed
  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dill seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons Simple Shallot Vinaigrette (recipe below this one)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

Cook beets in a pot of salted water until tender when pierced with a sharp knife (30-45 minutes, depending on size).  Drain and allow to cool, then peel and slice into a bowl.

Bring the vinegar, water, sugar, dill seeds, and salt to a boil in a medium-sized sauce pan.  Cook, stirring until sugar is dissolved, and pour the hot liquid over the beets, stirring gently to combine.

This salad is meant to be served at room temperature or cool, so refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to one week.  Before serving, remove the beets from the pickling liquid, drizzle with vinaigrette and sprinkle with dill.  Enjoy!

Simple Shallot Vinaigrette, page 58

  •  2 shallots, minced (3 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons whole grain Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup olive oil

Whisk ingredients together, adding oil last.  Refrigerate and use as needed, up to one week.

Salad of tomato, feta, and basil with kalamata vinaigrette, Maine Summers Cookbook, page 159
Coming appropriately from my summertime cookbook, this salad looks right up my alley… easy, quick, and tasty:

For 4 servings, you’ll need:

  • 2 cups cubed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/3 cup kalamata olives, pitted and minced
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Mix the tomatoes and basil by hand in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, sugar, and olives until well blended.  Pour the oil mixture over the tomato mixture and toss to coat.  Toss in the feta cheese and serve at room temperature.

Whoopie Pies, Maine Home Cooking, page 70
The whoopie pie is a classic Maine dessert guaranteed to make you the hit of the party.  And they’re really not as hard as they look to make!  This is another recipe I’ve previously blogged about: Whoopie for Whoopie Pies

Here’s to a Memorial Day weekend of delicious food and even better company!

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Get Closer: Locally Grown Food in Maine

It seemed serendipitous this morning, as I browsed the various headlines of the Maine news emails I receive, to stumble across this one: CSA fair reveals diversification of central Maine farms.  Just yesterday, Nick and I signed up for a CSA here in Georgia called The Dirt Farmers.  We’re already excited about our first delivery next Saturday.

Participating (buying “shares”) in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture program) offers so many excellent benefits both to you as the consumer and to the local economy in terms of supporting farmers within your state or region.  For example, the CSA we just joined estimates that for every dollar spent at a grocery store, only 25 cents remains local.  For every dollar spent with a CSA, 75 cents remains local.

Perhaps more importantly to many people, the food itself is better for you – it’s picked more recently, meaning it has more nutrient value when you eat it; it was generally allowed ripen naturally; and your fruits and veggies are often naturally or organically grown (even without the certification, which can be cost-prohibitive for small farms).

In most CSAs, a number of farms producing a variety of fruits, vegetables, dairy, meats, and more will collaborate to put together your CSA box, ensuring you all receive a variety of foods.  Our CSA offers a “Farmers Choice” box in which they pick and choose what you’ll receive, or a “Custom Share,” where you log into their online store and can choose which items you’d like using your points.

It’s a lot like online grocery shopping… but much, much better!  Here’s to eating well…


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Weekly Recipe: New England Clam Chowder

Although I missed it, I want to honor National New England Clam Chowder Day (January 21st) with a weekly recipe from one of my favored Maine cookbooks.  It seems especially appropriate with the New England Patriots facing off in the Super Bowl tomorrow (Go Pats!).

While there is some debate about the origins of chowder, the Oxford English Dictionary has traced the roots of the word ‘chowder’ to fishing villages along the coast of France.  The term is applied broadly to nearly any soup or stew made with fish and vegetables and its consistency and flavors vary from cream or milk based to tomato based (like Manhattan clam chowder).  Historically considered “poor man’s food,” chowder became mainstream in the Northeastern US by the mid 1800s and now claims wide popularity. (source: http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/ChowderHistory.htm)

Personally, I enjoy all types of chowder – it combines many of my favorite foods and flavors and it meets my number one recipe requirement: simplicity.  For today’s post, I went directly to my Superb Maine Soups cookbook by Cynthia Finnemore Simonds – “Maine Clam Chowder” can be found on page 60.  The recipe serves 4-6.

You’ll need:

  •  10 slices of bacon
  • 4 tablespoons reserved bacon fat
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 4 medium potatoes, chopped into bite-size chunks
  • 1/2 cup flour (I don’t care for a really thick chowder so I added slightly less flour)
  • 5 cups bottled clam juice
  • 16 oz. chopped cooked clams
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup light cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

In a large saucepan, saute the bacon until crispy and place on a paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Reserve four tablespoons of the bacon fat in the saucepan and spoon out the rest.  When bacon is cool enough to handle, crumble into a bowl and set aside.  Cook the onion in the remaining bacon fat until translucent (don’t brown).  Add the potatoes and cook until fork tender.

And here’s where the recipe and I went in different directions.  The recipe as written: Remove the potatoes and onions with a slotted spoon – place the mixture in a bowl and set aside.  Stir the flour into the fat in the saucepan, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom with a whisk.  Add the clam juice, whisking constantly until the flour is completely incorporated (you don’t want any lumps).  Continue cooking on low heat until thick.

What I did: because I didn’t use as much flour, I didn’t see the point in removing the onions and potatoes. I slowly added both the clam juice and flour in tandem, whisking / stirring to combine.  This worked for me… but to each their own!

Return the potatoes and onion to the thickened liquid, and add the clams, milk, cream, salt, and pepper, and stir well to combine.  Warm the mixture, but don’t let it boil. Ladle the chowder into bowls and top with the reserved bacon.

Enjoy!

A few closing tips: if you prefer not to use the bacon, just start with a few tablespoons of butter.  In my opinion, this is not the time to try to substitute olive oil.  As my brother would say (and he’s a heck of a cook), “it needs a little fat.”  You will miss out on the salty, smoky bacon flavor, but it will still be delicious.  Also, as with many of my recipes, I like to add more veggies to create a nutritious, one-dish meal for us – things like corn and even kale complement this basic recipe well.

Happy cooking!


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Weekly Recipe: Maine Shrimp Linguine

Since beginning this blog, I regularly receive cookbooks by Maine authors and organizations, about Maine food and Maine food traditions, as gifts.  Most recently, at Christmas, I received as many as four or five new “Maine” cookbooks.  Today, I’m bringing you the first “weekly recipe” from one my new books, Dishing Up Maine, by Brooke Dojny – Maine Shrimp Linguine.  Yum!

I love pasta, seafood, butter, and white wine.  Bingo!  Therefore, this recipe was a guaranteed winner for me unless I did something horribly wrong in the cooking process (luckily for both Nick and me, all went smoothly).

You’ll need:

  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons minced shallots (about 3 large shallots)
  • 1 cup bottled clam juice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons angostura bitters
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • 12 ounces linguine or other strand pasta
  • 1 lb. shelled Maine shrimp (or other small to medium shrimp)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Nearly ready!

Nearly ready!

Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the garlic and shallots and cook for one minute.  Add the clam juice and wine, raise the heat to high, and boil briskly until reduced by about 1/3 (approximately 5 minutes).  Add the bitters, lemon juice, lemon zest, and red pepper flakes.  (the sauce can be made ahead and held at room temperature for an hour or two)

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water, until al dente.

Meanwhile, reheat the sauce and add the shrimp.  Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the shrimp just turn pink, about two minutes.  Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Drain the pasta, spoon the shrimp and sauce over it, and serve.

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This recipe is pretty easy and quick, and uses many ingredients I usually already have on hand (I’m not sure what that says about the health meter of my kitchen, though).  We both enjoyed it – and adding a side salad is really all you need for a complete meal!


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Maine Delicious: The Holy Donut

With the Old Port Festival in full swing this weekend, visitors to Portland, Maine are presented with the perfect opportunity to patronize The Holy Donut at its Old Port location, 7 Exchange Street.  And I can assure you, you won’t leave disappointed (or hungry).  That is, if you can get there before the donuts run out (they are wildly popular).

Side note: I’ve had an ongoing, internal debate throughout the writing of this post about whether I should write “donut” or “doughnut.” As the holder of a degree in English, the stress of not using the dictionary-approved spelling of “doughnut” is no small matter – but, I’ve decided to go with “donut.”  For all of the obvious reasons – such as matching the business name.

My first Holy Donut experience was last November, while Christmas shopping in the Old Port with my husband, my mom, and my sister.  There is so much to love about this business (I learned most of what I’m about to share with you from their website, and I highly recommend checking out their videos), and I most admire the fact that it’s family-owned, they exhibit a clear dedication to giving back (please see their ‘Recipe’ page for notes about giving to local fundraisers and promoting bicycling), and they are almost religiously (pun intended) committed to sourcing quality ingredients.

What makes The Holy Donut’s offering unique is the inclusion of potato in their donut recipes (including some sweet potato flavors), which adds a lightness to the end product – these donuts quite literally melt in your mouth.  The use of this ingredient honors the (predominantly) northern Maine tradition of including potato in donut dough (or should I say “do”?  Oh jeez), and it also supports the Maine agriculture industry, of which potatoes are the largest crop.  And we all know how much I love potatoes… and how much I like to promote local business supporting other local business.

Perhaps most importantly, though, from a consumer-perspective, these donuts are delicious.  I had the pomegranate-glazed flavor, and it was nothing short of spectacular.  It is probably for the best that I live in Georgia – far from either of the two Holy Donut locations.

But if you’re reading this, and you live in southern Maine, what the heck are you waiting for?  Make your Sunday even more enjoyable.  Go get a donut you can feel good about.


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Made in Maine: Dragonfly Farm and Winery

While my husband and my father were upta camp for deer season in Maine, they made an afternoon trip to a nearby winery – Dragonfly Farm & Winery, located in Stetson, Maine.  This family-owned business is the result of dreaming big – and taking action to make that dream a reality.  As they say on their website, “most importantly, if you want to see how dreams can become reality, look no further. Dragonfly Farm & Winery is our proof that if a family can dream, a family can do.”

Their wines include grape wines and wines made from other fruit – including plum, which is what we tried at here at home the other night.  In addition to operating their vineyard and winery, they also produce maple syrup from the beautiful sugar maples on their property.  Visit them in March to see the French Canadian way of making maple syrup!

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Their wine-making style is the result of a love for German Riesling Style wines, and most of their white wines are hybrids of the Riesling grape.  The white wines include: St. Pepin, Serendipity, Clarity, By The Numbers, Edelweiss, Shorty, and Sweet Louise.  Red wines include: Frontenac, Sabrevois, Jelly Juice, Misbehavin’, Marquette, and St. Croix.  Fruit wines include: Blueberry Bliss, Candle Waster, Raspberry Riot, Rudy, Blackberry Bewitched, Second Chance, Blue Lightning, and Red Thunder.

Their plum wine, Miz Plum, made its holiday season return just in time for my dad and Nick’s visit, and they picked up an extra bottle.  I really enjoyed this wine, which I can admit came as a bit of a surprise.  I typically prefer dry wines, although I do enjoy some chilled, sweeter whites on hot summer days.  There is no doubt that this is a plum wine – you can smell and taste the notes of plum – but it’s very drinkable.  The color is a rosy gold – I found this really interesting – it was a very pretty color with its blush notes.

Pretty!  (picture courtesy of the hubby)

Pretty! (picture courtesy of the hubby)

Although the wine was sweet, it had hints of dryness that made it very enjoyable.  I could certainly see myself sitting on the deck in the summertime, with a chilled glass of Miz Plum, and maybe a nice, spicy cheese.

On another note, the Maine-shaped cutting board pictured above is made of bamboo (a renewable resource) and was a gift to us from my best friends – the lovely and talented Emily and Elisabeth!


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Mead: Made in Maine

National Mead Day was celebrated over the past weekend on Saturday, August 3rd.  Unfortunately, I missed getting this post out on that day (due to furniture shopping… which was pretty fun!), but I would still like to capitalize on the opportunity this week to talk about mead and a couple of companies in Maine that are making it.

What is mead, and why would you want to enjoy a glass? Mead, also known as honey wine, is an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting a solution of honey and water.  It is generally regarded as the ancestor of all fermented drinks (which is a good enough justification for me to try it!).

I have always had a passion for history; I suppose on some level, it goes hand-in-hand for any English major.  We do read an awful lot of classics.  As a result, researching this post was fascinating for me and I could go on about the history of mead at length.  Instead, I’ll provide the cliff notes version.

Mead is known from many sources of ancient history throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia, but the earliest known archaeological evidence for the production of mead dates to around 7000 BC.  Pottery vessels containing a mixture of mead, rice, and other fruits along with organic compounds of fermentation were found in Northern China.  Much later, mead is referenced in the Old English epic poem, Beowulf, as being consumed by the Danish warriors.  (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read Beowulf throughout the course of my education).

The alcohol content of mead can range quite widely, from 8% ABV to 18% (this stat courtesy of Fat Friar’s Meadery website).  In addition, it may be dry, semi-sweet, or sweet, and may be still, carbonated, or naturally sparkling.  Flavors may change depending on local tradition or recipes, and it may be flavored with spices, fruit, or hops, which produces a more bitter, beer-like mead.  I had no idea mead could be so varied, although I suppose it shouldn’t come as a big surprise – it seems most fermented drinks have wide-ranging styles and flavors.  I hope to try a variety of styles of mead very soon.

I particularly enjoyed this infographic on the Maine Mead Works website, which takes you from bee to bottle – check it out!

As you likely know, the great state of Maine is home to a number of craft brewers and wineries (check out the Maine Wine Trail here).  It is also home to at least two makers of mead – Fat Friar’s Meadery and Maine Mead Works.  Today, my mission is to call both of them, learn about their businesses, what makes their mead unique, hopefully be able to procure some mead (depending on shipping permits and regulations to NC), and then, sometime over the next week or so, report back to you on my findings so that you might venture out to visit them!

Is there anything you’d like to know about mead that I should ask?  Questions for the businesses?