Maine Roots

A blog about all things Maine


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Weekly Recipe: Roasted Root Vegetable Salad

Historically, the onset of winter would also bring a shortage of the leafy greens we commonly associate with salad, necessitating a dietary switch to root vegetables like potatoes, beets, carrots, and parsnips during the colder months.  Today, we live in a world where foods of all types – including greens – are shipped, flown, and trucked to us wherever we may live, whatever the time of year, but there is still something very comforting and appealing about this root vegetable salad, which is flavorful and savory and filling – my top requirements in a winter meal.

This recipe comes from the Notes from a Maine Kitchen cookbook by Kathy Gunst, which I particularly enjoy for the running commentary and stories Ms. Gunst skillfully weaves through the recipes.  Notes from a Maine Kitchen is also organized by month, as it features “seasonally-inspired recipes,” and I’ve found I appreciate this structure as it not only reflects the proud history of Maine home cooking through an accurate picture of what is available by season, but also enhances the storytelling as a result – capturing the Maine spirit in action.  To be candid, I would enjoy this cookbook more if it included a higher quantity of recipes to accompany the commentary, but what it lacks in quantity it certainly delivers in quality – each recipe I’ve tried has had excellent results.

I made the roasted root vegetable salad as written with parsnips, carrots, and onion, but I think the suggestion of beets, potatoes, or turnips would also be good.  It is a ‘February’ recipe, naturally, and can be found on page 34.  I already plan on making it again, likely with beets, parsnips, and carrots.

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 lb. carrots, cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 1/2 lb. parsnips, cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil (or coarsely chopped fresh parsley)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar (I went with white)
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Ready to chop!

Ready to chop!

On a large baking tray or rimmed cookie sheet, toss the parsnips, carrots, and onion with about two tablespoons of the oil.  Add the salt and pepper, arrange the vegetables in a single layer and place in the oven on the middle shelf.  Roast for 15 minutes.

Toss the vegetables and rearrange in a single layer – roast for 10 more minutes, or until the vegetables have begun to brown and are tender when tested with a sharp knife.  Remove from the oven and let cool.

Arrange the roasted veggies on a medium platter or oval plate.  Scatter the basil on top and drizzle with vinegar and remaining oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Scatter the cheese along the edges of the plate and sprinkle some in the middle.  Serve!

Colorful!

Colorful!

We both enjoyed this colorful, flavorful, healthy salad.  To reduce calories, you could go to a low-fat feta cheese, but personally, I hate the texture of the low-fat version.  This is a good side to accompany virtually any meat, and I ate the leftovers as a stand-alone meal for lunch the next day.

Happy home cooking!


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Weekly Recipe: Brown Rice Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Just a quick post this evening!  My parents came to visit for the last several days, which was wonderful and kept us busy as well.  We ventured all over Charlotte – hitting up Festival in the Park, Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, having dinner with my cousins, and completing yet another home improvement project… painting our wet bar area!  The results below:

Fresh paint and accessories work wonders!  Thanks Mom, Dad, and Nick.

Fresh paint and accessories work wonders! Thanks Mom, Dad, and Nick.

For our family cookout, my mom and I chose this Brown Rice Salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing from Recipes from the Maine Kitchen.  It was a hit.

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice (we substituted wild rice)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons coarse grain mustard
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olive
  • 1/2 cup yellow pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup basil, chopped

In a sauce pan, bring water and salt to boil and stir in rice.  Cover and reduce heat to low.  Simmer 45-60 minutes or until rice is done.  In a small bowl, combine vinegar, mustard, olive oil, and pepper.  Mix thoroughly then pour over rice while the rice is still warm.  Add  tomatoes, olives, pepper and basil just before serving.  Serve chilled or at room temperature (serves 8).

Time to dig in!

Time to dig in!

I have to thank my mom for doing the honors and making this dish.  I’m quite sure everyone now knows how much I value my family – but I can’t close this post without saying how much I appreciate them.  Every time we’re together, I’m reminded of how lucky and blessed I am to have been born into this particular family.  Thank you and I love you!


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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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Weekly Recipe: Strawberry Spinach Salad

You can’t say I didn’t warn you about the forthcoming barrage of salad and other veggie-heavy recipes.  My cousin Cathy has made a stawberry and spinach salad for years – it’s consistently served when we have dinner at her house – and I’ve always loved it, yet never made one myself.  When I came across this recipe in Maine Home Cooking, I couldn’t resist.  It can be found under Fresh and Seasonal, page 220.

You’ll need:

  • 4 to 8 ounces of spinach
  • 1/2 large red onion, or to taste
  • 1 cup (or less) strawberries
  • 1 teaspoon of Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 tablespoon red wine, malt, or balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil or your favorite vinaigrette salad dressing
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Remove the big stems from the largest spinach leaves and shred the spinach into a bowl.  Chop the onion finely and toss into the bowl with the spinach.  Slice the strawberries and add them to the spinach to suit your taste.  Whisk together the mustard, vinegar, and olive oil, and sample the dressing by dipping a spinach leaf into it, then add salt and pepper to taste.  Dress the salad lightly just before serving.

strawberry spinach salad

While this recipe sounded great with no additions, I made two adjustments.  First, I added goat cheese.  I had a feeling that it would become a deliciously creamy addition to the vinaigrette, and it did.  Second, on Nick’s serving, I added cooked and chopped chicken, so he’d have a bit more protein to bulk up the meal.

We both loved this salad – it was every bit as tasty as I’d hoped, and we’re adding it to our meal plan on a regular basis.


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Weekly Recipe: Mediterranean Chicken Salad

Brace yourselves for an onslaught of salad recipes!  There is something about these early days of summer that makes me crave a crisp, refreshing salad (and it has nothing to do with the beginning of bathing suit season).  Frankly, I should be eating more salad and other leafy greens year round, but my own early-summer cravings, in addition to my husband’s request that we eat a bit lighter (hmm, do you think I make too much pasta?), led me to peruse my Maine cookbooks in search of some delicious, exciting salad recipes.  They didn’t disappoint.

If you’re thinking, ‘a Mediterranean Chicken Salad recipe from Maine? Yeah right,’ you do have a point.  I pulled this recipe from my Maine Home Cooking cookbook, under the Modern Maine Cooking section.  In an introductory paragraph, Sandra Oliver acknowledges that many of the recipes in that section are a reflection of outside influences, both international and national.  Maine home cooks, like cooks elsewhere, want to experiment at home with the recipes they’re able to try at restaurants.  The following recipe serves 3 to 4 people.

You’ll need:

  • a whole chicken (cooked), breasts and a thigh
  • 1 big fistful of green beans
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • a dozen black olives, pitted and chopped
  • handful of cherry tomatoes (optional)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • dried oregano
  • finely minced parsley
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • washed and torn lettuce or baby greens

Because Nick and I certainly don’t need to consume an entire chicken between us (and I’m not a big fan of salad leftovers – in my opinion, the greens just don’t keep well), I poached a couple of chicken breasts in a broth with onion, several peppercorns, and some white wine.  After it was cooked, I shredded it for use in the salad.  I also think a rotisserie chicken would be a delicious and speedy answer for cooks who would rather not undertake cooking the chicken themselves.

The fixings...

The fixings…

Pull the meat from the bones, cut into bite-size pieces, and put them into a bowl.  Snap the beans and blanch them in hot water or cook until tender – your choice (I simmered mine until they were slightly tender, but retained a little bit of crunch).  Add them to the chicken.  Sprinkle capers on to taste, add the olives, slice the tomatoes in half (if you wish), and add them.  In a small jar, shake the olive oil and lemon juice together and dribble over the salad to taste.  Sprinkle on some dry oregano, parsley, and add salt and pepper to taste.  Let rest at room temperature.  Serve the salad on the lettuce or greens.

Pretty and delicious!

Pretty and delicious!

This salad was every bit as good as I imagined it would be when reading the recipe.  Personally, I love the caper and lemon flavors, and with the addition of chicken, it was a light but filling meal that really hit the spot.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!