Maine Roots

A blog about all things Maine


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This ‘N That

Today is definitely a ‘this ‘n that’ post.  I have several things to share that I find very exciting, and I hope you will, too.

First, an explanation and apology for the relatively quiet blogging weeks I’ve had recently.  Next week, I will be back in Maine (hooray!) to celebrate my grandfather’s 90th birthday.  I am thrilled to get back home, and over the last month, a great deal of my time has been dedicated to preparing our family’s gift to him – a photobook, made on mixbook.com, that compiles many of the Stark family photos from the beginning of the 1900s through 2013.  This project has been a wonderful experience, but has left little time for blogging.  However, one of my favorite aspects of the project has been the opportunity to learn about my mother’s side of the family, their travels from New England to Europe, and their return to the States, including the 1965 purchase of my grandparents’ first home – a house in the Pennellville Historic District in Brunswick, Maine.  This home, which features classic New England architecture and has a rambling, farmhouse feel, is where many of my favorite childhood memories took place.

My Papa (grandfather) and a much younger 'me' skating on the pond at the Pennellville house

My Papa (grandfather) and a much younger ‘me’ skating on the pond at the Pennellville house

Being back in Maine will also give me the opportunity to visit some new places to share with you all.  Now is the time to begin planning that spring or summer vacation to Maine!  (or your Maine wedding- more on that to come!).

Second, today is my 27th birthday.  It has been a very happy birthday, and I have much to be thankful for at this point in my life.  One of the gifts I received from my mother is a new cookbook from Maine – written by Sandra L. Oliver and published by Down East – it is titled ‘Maine Home Cooking: 175 Recipes from Down East Kitchens.’  After just a brief scan, I am filled with excitement to try and share some of these home recipes from Maine kitchens with you.  I’m also looking forward to learning more about the author, Sandra Oliver.  I find her fascinating already – she lives on the island of Islesboro, Maine, is a food historian and freelance food writer, and she also gardens, preserves, cooks (of course), and teaches sustainable lifeways.  Sustainable living, in the sense of growing and raising your own food supply, is more than just an important piece of American pioneering history – it’s also a skill that few of us can now claim, and one that I am increasingly interested in learning.

Maine Home Cooking cookbook

Lastly, some of you may recall my New Year’s Eve post on the unique New Year’s celebration of Eastport, Maine.  Eastport was once home to thirteen sardine factories, and it is no secret that this industry, like so many others in Maine, has suffered, shrunk, and vacated.  Over the last decade, a significant effort has been made to revitalize downtown Eastport, and I was thrilled to stumble across an article from the Bangor Daily News, posted on Twitter, that highlighted this ongoing endeavor and, in particular, the effort to renovate and restore one of the last remaining empty buildings, the 1908 Seacoast Canning Co. building at 15 Sea Street.  This building is a waterfront landmark, and the current owners (Dirigamus LLC) are looking to develop it – either themselves with additional partners, or buy selling it to a party that has the means to do so.  The building is zoned in Eastport’s Shoreland General Development zone, which allows for a variety of office, retail and hospitality uses – and the three partners of Dirigamus LLC envision a hotel and residential conference center.

For more on the plans for this historic building, please follow this link to the article.

An interesting note – Dirigamus LLC is a partnership formed by three women – Linda Godfrey, Nancy Asante, and Meg McGarvey – and their name is the Latin plural meaning “we lead,” a take on the state of Maine motto, Dirigo, which means “I lead.”  These three have clearly played a fundamental role in the revitalizaton of Eastport.  Way to go, ladies!

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Weekly Recipe: Homemade Tomato Soup

This tomato soup recipe is one that I first learned from my cousin’s wife’s blog – which you can check out at http://www.piercewholenutrition.blogspot.com/.  Ann is a Master Nutrition Therapist, and this is originally one of her family’s recipes.  My mom and I modified it a bit when we made it on Christmas Day, but it’s great just as it is.

I like it because it’s homemade, healthy, and easy.  It was also a good lunch option for a busy Christmas in Maine – warm and tasty without being labor-intensive.  You’ll need:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

1 fennel bulb, trimmed and diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup dry vermouth

2 lbs. heirloom tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped (I have used regular tomatoes, and I also skip the peeling – the skins make it healthier)

3 tablespoons tomato paste

4 cups vegetable broth or chicken broth

2 tablespoons of mixed herbs (parsley, chives, tarragon)

Tomatoes!

In a large pot, warm the olive oil.  Add the onion, fennel, and garlic.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender.  Add vermouth and cook until evaporated (in this case, we didn’t have any vermouth – although dear old Dad swore that we did until the moment of truth – we supplemented by adding roughly a 1/2 cup of sherry at the very end of cooking, and it truly made the soup something special).  Add tomatoes and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes begin to break down (8-10 minutes).  I didn’t cut the tomatoes into small enough pieces this time around – I usually cut them in eighths, and quarters isn’t quite enough.

Tomatoes, breaking down

Tomatoes, breaking down

Add broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer 20 minutes.  Wait until the soup has cooled, and, using an immersion blender (also known as a stick  blender), puree the soup, leaving some chunks for texture.  If you don’t have one, you can use a regular blender or food processor (you should wait to do this until the soup has cooled, but when I’ve been in a rush, I have done it while the soup is still quite hot, and it didn’t cause any problems).  Season with salt and pepper, and stir in the herbs when ready to serve.

In this case, as I mentioned, we substituted a 1/2 cup of sherry for the vermouth, and we also added about 3 tablespoons of butter, which smoothed out the flavors nicely.

When I make this at home, I usually make grilled cheese sandwiches as well – the perfect complement to this soup on a chilly day.

The end result:

Truly - good enough to eat!

Truly – good enough to eat!

Try and enjoy!  Happy Holidays to all.