Maine Roots

A blog about all things Maine


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Family Recipe: Cherry Tomato Pasta

This recipe is a Shevenell original, and I’m honored / excited / proud to share it.  My brother, Ed, is the creative mastermind behind this flavorful blend of veggies, olive oil, butter, and wine, which can be served over pasta or a “noodle” like spaghetti squash or spiralized zucchini.  This meal is delicious and good for you – especially if you go the 100% veggie route.

Mom and I whipped this up during her visit to Georgia, and it will become a regular in my cooking rotation (get ready, Nick).  Ed has a knack for coming up with new recipes and unexpected flavor profiles that taste spectacular, and this is no exception.

Serves 2-4
You’ll need:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1-2 cups cherry tomatoes, washed and whole
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Balsamic vinegar (1-2 tablespoons, your preference)
  • Worcestershire sauce (just a drizzle)
  • 1-2 cups white or red wine, or chicken stock (or a combination;quantity depends on your preference)
  • Noodles of your choice (or spaghetti squash or spiralized zucchini)

Heat the olive oil and butter over medium high heat, then add the onions and saute until tender.  Add the cherry tomatoes, garlic, balsamic vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce, continuing to cook over medium high heat until the tomatoes blister, burst, and start becoming tender.  At this point, add your wine and/or chicken stock and allow ingredients to simmer.

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We made our sauce with a blend of white wine and chicken stock, approximately 1 1/2 cups total, and it was excellent – the rich qualities of the broth and the acidity of the wine created a nice blend to complement the other flavors.

Allow the mixture to simmer while the wine reduces, approximately 10 minutes, then add your noodles, squash, or spiralized zucchini.  Continue to simmer for a few minutes, or until squash or zucchini is soft.  Ed likes to go with zucchini for the nutty flavor it introduces.

You can also easily incorporate meat in this recipe, just vary when you add it depending on cooking requirements.  To keep it easy, Mom and I went with cooked Italian chicken sausage, which also made this a heartier dinner.  Other good additions would be: cooked chicken, shrimp, or a flaky white fish.  For even more nutrient value, you can toss in some leafy greens like spinach or kale.

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Recognize the shape of that cutting board? #ME

This is one of those recipes I love because you can stray from it a little bit or vary it to work with the ingredients you have, and it will still deliver delicious results.

Ready to serve!

Ready to serve!

I hope you try it – and enjoy!


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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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Weekly Recipe: Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese

Happy Saturday!  I enjoyed this recipe so much that despite this meaning two “weekly” recipe posts back-to-back in one week, I couldn’t resist.  I really like cauliflower, but we rarely eat it because Nick isn’t a big fan.  When I saw this recipe, I thought he could probably stomach it (and maybe even like it), if it was baked and covered in cheese.  After all, cheese really does make everything better.

This is the Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese recipe found in my Maine Home Cooking cookbook on page 236.

You’ll need:

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1 to 2 cups uncooked macaroni or shaped pasta
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • milk
  • cheeses of your choice (I went with 1 1/2 cups of cheddar, and a 1/4 cup parmesan)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • dill, parsley, scallions, or nutmeg (optional)
Chopped scallions and dill (this is my favorite method for chopping herbs - pop them in a cup, grab the scissors, and snip away!  It's so easy)

Chopped scallions and dill (this is my favorite method for chopping herbs – pop them in a cup, grab the scissors, and snip away! It’s so easy)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Cut the cauliflower into bite size pieces and steam or simmer until barely tender.  Cook the pasta according to the package directions and drain.  Mix the pasta and cauliflower in a lightly greased baking dish.  Put the butter into a heavy pan over medium heat, melt it, add flour, and cook together until bubbly, then add milk (I used about 1 1/2 cups).  Whisk and cook until slightly thickened, and add the cheese.  If the sauce is very thick, add a bit more milk, and whisk until smooth.

Mmm, cheesy sauce...

Mmm, cheesy sauce…

Add seasonings, and pour the sauce over the pasta and cauliflower, stirring it a little to distribute evenly.  Top with a bit more cheese and bake until bubbly, about 30 minutes.

Time to dish it up!

Time to dish it up!

This was a truly delicious dish.  I loved it in every way – the pasta, the cauliflower, the cheese, the seasonings.. well, you get the idea.  If I made it again, I would probably make it as a side rather than a main dish.  I think it would complement roasted or fried chicken really nicely.  Nick liked it as well, and I didn’t see any pieces of cauliflower left on his plate, so I considered it a victory.

I hope you try it and enjoy it as well!


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Weekly Recipe: Spinach, Ricotta, and Pasta Casserole

I really, really hate letting anything go to waste.  I purposefully select recipes and “meal plan” our week to use up any ingredients in our fridge.  For example, if a recipe calls for chicken broth, I specifically seek out other recipes (that are varied enough not to bore us) that require chicken broth so that I can use it within the 10 days specified on the carton.  Same goes for any veggies, dairy products, etc. that might be living in our refrigerator.

The one area in which I have failed repeatedly to accomplish this feat is with ricotta cheese.  My husband loves lasagna, so I make it fairly frequently, but I haven’t found a use for the remaining ricotta, which inevitably goes bad before I make lasagna again.  So, imagine my surprise and delight when I stumbled across this recipe in my Maine Home Cooking cookbook.  It resides on page 218, under the ‘Fresh and Seasonal’ category, and it requires nearly the exact amount of ricotta cheese that I had left over from making lasagna late last week.  Additionally, it includes spinach, which I am coincidentally trying to eat more of (along with kale, and other dark green vegetables), because my eye doctor recommended it for my long-term eye health.  Perfection!

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 package frozen, chopped spinach or 1 lb. bagged fresh spinach (I used fresh)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, minced (optional)
  • 1 pint of ricotta cheese
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of pesto (optional)
  • 8 ounces bow tie or rotini pasta
  • 1/2 lb. of mozzarella, grated

I added both the garlic and pesto (which my mother had made herself), and I highly recommend both.  It really set the dish off.

If using fresh spinach, wash it and spin it to remove excess water, then blanch or steam it.  Squeeze the water out of the steamed or frozen spinach and chop it up.

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Steaming spinach, boiling pasta…

Saute the chopped onion and minced garlic in the olive oil until soft.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Put the ricotta cheese in a medium bowl and stir into it the spinach, onions, garlic, and pesto (or your choice of seasonings).  I should mention, I also added about a 1/3 cup of parmesan cheese – because I had it, and it’s delicious – what other reason do I need?

Next step – boil and drain the pasta and mix into the seasoned spinach and ricotta.

Mix it all together...

Mix it all together…

Brush or spray a little oil in a 2-quart baking dish.  Put in half the mixture and sprinkle half the grated mozzarella, then add the other half and top with remaining mozzarella.

Layered pasta, spinach, and cheese, pre-baking

Layered pasta, spinach, and cheese, pre-baking

Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese is melted on top and it is heated through.  Then enjoy!

Yum!

Yum!

This dish was exceptional.  I love pasta and cheese, so it wasn’t a long shot to wow me, but Nick is a little tougher.  While he (pretty much) always likes my cooking, I can tell when he really enjoys it because he says something along the lines of “wow, honey, this is really good.”  When that happens, I put it on my “make again” list.  This recipe just landed there.  I can’t recommend it highly enough!


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Keeping Maine in My Kitchen

I have a favorite cookbook, and it’s not Rachael Ray, Martha Stewart, or Giada, although I have theirs as well.  My favorite cookbook is Recipes from the Maine Kitchen, a compilation of favorite Maine recipes put together by Friends of the Cancer Community Center.  All proceeds from this cookbook benefit the Cancer Community Center, a non-profit that provides support and information, at no charge, to adults living with cancer and their family and friends.

Recipes from the Maine Kitchen

I’m not saying this is my favorite because it’s from Maine and that fits neatly with my blog, or because it benefits a non-profit, although I love those things as well.  It is the cookbook I reach for the most frequently by far, I love every recipe I’ve tried, and, in particular, I appreciate that the ingredient lists aren’t two miles long.  Rachael Ray is wonderful, but whenever I try a recipe of hers, I seem to find myself buying a multitude of ingredients I’ll never use again, and they inevitably go bad.  This cookbook incorporates many of the basics – the seasonings, spices, and foods I keep in my house all the time – into their recipes, which works beautifully for me.

Today, I want to share one of my favorite recipes from this favorite book.  Last night, I had my friend Bethany over for some girl time, and this is what I made.  It’s on page 157 and is called simply, ‘Pasta with Olives, Tomatoes and Cheese.’ And it is extraordinary – after all, how can you go wrong with a title like that?  It has these little chunks of Havarti that positively melt in your mouth, a parmesan cheese topping, and a great tomato flavor.

You’ll need:

  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 3 cans (28 oz.) Italian plum tomatoes, drained
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 lb. penne pasta (I use whole wheat)
  • 3 cups Havarti cheese, grated or chopped
  • 1/3 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Cooking Instructions:

Heat the oil, in a large, heavy pan, over medium high heat and saute the onion and garlic until translucent (about 6 minutes).  Add the tomato, basil, and crushed red pepper and bring to a boil.  If you’ve bought whole plum tomatoes, break them up at this point (a wooden spoon works well).  I buy the diced tomatoes so I can skip this step.

Ingredients

Add the broth and bring back to a boil, then reduce to simmer until mixture thickens into a chunky sauce, stirring occasionally (this takes about an hour).

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Cook the pasta in boiling water until al dente.  Drain the pasta and return to the same pot.  Mix with the sauce, adding the Havarti cheese and olives.  Place in a 9″x13″ baking dish and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Bake for approximately 30 minutes.

A bottle of Chianti goes well with this yummy dish!

Here are the end results:

End Result!

If you’re interested, I highly recommend reaching out to the Cancer Community Center to procure a copy of this cookbook and support a great cause in the process.  Happy Cooking!