A Maine Thanksgiving

November 26th, 2014 by Cathleen Miller

For most of us, Thanksgiving conjures up visions of food: food made by our mothers and grandmothers in our childhoods. We spend this holiday trying to live up to (or surpass) the meals of our past. Whether you are a traditionalist or a having a Friendsgiving party with people of many backgrounds, our cookbook selection holds some delicious (and interesting) ideas for your Thanksgiving and post-turkey meals.

From Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cookbook (1884), here are some of the basic traditional Thanksgiving staples:

Turkey, plus the all-important stuffing and gravy.

A variety of pies

For some new and interesting side dishes, I consulted Meg Wolff’s A Life in Balance (2010), which offers “plant-based recipes for optimal health.”

You might enjoy a side dish of Beet Slaw or Sweet Turnips:
   

Perhaps you are looking to re-create some of your mom’s favorite recipes?
Turn no further than the Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook (1959), which offers “slick tricks with vegetables” and some delicious apple-based desserts.

   

For those adventurous readers looking for a non-traditional Thanksgiving feast, you might enjoy a selection of vegetarian options from Barbara Damrosch & Eliot Coleman’s garden to table cookbook The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook (2013).

A nice appetizer

A simple, delicious main course

After all that food, you might need a good digestive tonic tea. Deb Soule’s most recent book How to Move Like a Gardener (2013) offers a simple tea that will help to nourish your body and keep your belly happy after any meal.


Finally, you’ll need some ideas for all that extra turkey.
Here are some traditional ideas from Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook.  

Perhaps a more modern inspiration is what your heart (or belly) desires.
Try Kathy Gunst’s Greek-Style Turkey-Lemon-Rice Soup.


There you have it–our round-up of recipes for this foodie holiday. Whether you’re preparing a meal for one or thirty, we hope you feel your appetite for good food and wonderful cookbooks whetted.

If you’re needing a good Maine cookbook, stop by Longfellow Books on Saturday to meet some local authors (including Monica Wood), and check out their wonderful selection of cookbooks.

Cooking with Maine Women Writers: Standard Baking Co. Pastries

June 11th, 2014 by Laura Taylor

Have you had a morning bun from Standard Baking Co.? Have you perused their cookbook – Standard Baking Co. Pastries? If not, I highly recommend it. Their morning buns are one of my very favorite foods…ever. Made with croissant dough, then stuffed with cinnamon and brown sugar (and nuts, if you like), they are sweet, flaky and delicious. Imagine my delight when I received their cookbook for Christmas last year and realized that the morning bun recipe was in there. Oh the possibilities!

They’re a terrifically indulgent treat (hello, butter!) and they take quite some time to make, so they definitely won’t be making it onto my regular breakfast schedule. Normally, I post the recipes I’ve made here for you to try at home but in this case, I’m not going to – it’s far too long and involved. The buns start with butter croissant dough – the ingredients list is short but the instructions are long. There are many steps, requiring a bit of planning and forethought.

For those of you who’ve never made croissant dough before, the process is lengthy but not especially complicated. It starts with a yeasted dough, which is left to rise for a bit. The dough is then wrapped in plastic and transferred to the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Following this resting period, a large square of butter is wrapped in dough and rolled out, then folded and allowed to rest in the refrigerator for an hour or so. The dough gets rolled out and folded several times (call “laminating”), with an hour’s rest in between each folding/rolling, which is what makes the process so lengthy. It’s not an especially complicated or difficult process, but it definitely requires a certain investment of time. When the dough is finally ready, it rests in the refrigerator for another 2 hours before shaping. (Alternately, it can be frozen for up to 10 days and then thawed overnight before shaping, which is what I did.)

At this point, it can be shaped into croissants or…morning buns! To make the morning buns, the dough is rolled out one last time, then covered with a cinnamon and brown sugar mixture. You roll it up and slice it into 12 pieces and then put each piece in a buttered muffin tin into which has been placed a teaspoon of the cinnamon sugar mixture and some chopped walnuts, if that’s your thing. (I love the addition of walnuts, but my kids don’t, so I did half of each.) The buns are left to rise again, then baked. Finally they’re tipped out of their tins onto a piece of parchment paper and all that delicious melted cinnamon/sugar/nut mixture drizzles down.

This was my first attempt at making croissant dough and I’m incredibly pleased with how it turned out. The buns were amazing – the whole family agrees! The instructions were clear and well-written and, despite the fact that I’m a pretty regular baker, I do think someone without much (or any) baking experience could follow these directions without too much difficulty.

The authors of the cookbook, Alison Pray and Tara Smith, gave a great lunchtime talk at Portland Public Library last week, where they discussed how they got into baking, the process of writing a cookbook and the local food scene in Maine, among other topics.

It was fascinating to hear a behind-the-scenes account of writing a cookbook, particularly one devoted to baking. The process takes years. They have to scale down recipes from bakery-quantities to home cook-quantities – most home cooks don’t need to make a batch of hundreds of cookies. (Delicious though that may be.) They convert ingredients from weights to measures for the convenience of the home cook who generally uses measuring cups and spoons instead of a scale. (If you have a kitchen scale, use it! The results will be more accurate and consistent.) They have to do research to make sure the ingredients required are commonly available to the home cook. The recipes were tested – by the authors, bakers, family members, friends – and re-tested to make sure that they were clear and could be easily followed by folks who don’t have any baking experience at all. (This is likely why the directions for laminating the croissant dough are so lengthy – so those of us who’ve never done it before feel comfortable attempting the process!) The cookbook was edited and proofread repeatedly. (It’s probably a good idea to make sure the instructions don’t direct you to add salt by the cupful to a recipe for biscotti.)

The pair also talked about a typical day in a bakery and gave some interesting statistics on the volume of baking involved. For instance, during a typical week in the summertime, the bakery will make 300 bags of molasses cookies. At 8 cookies per bag, that’s 2400 cookies, all shaped and rolled in sugar by hand. (That’s 150 lbs of dough, if you’re wondering.) And that’s only one of the numerous varieties of cookies. And that’s just cookies – not to mention breakfast pastries, tarts, cakes, other snacks and, of course, bread. Having never worked in a bakery, this is just mind boggling to me!

I was quite pleased to see that they had (as I’d hoped they might) brought along a few samples for the crowd at the library. I didn’t arrive in time to snag a molasses cookie but the chocolate one I was able to get was delightful.

I think perhaps I’ll next have to attempt the molasses spice cookies at home…or perhaps coconut macaroons? So many delicious choices…

Cooking with Maine Women Writers: cake…and more cake!

April 9th, 2014 by Laura Taylor

The arrival of a new issue of Baker’s Notes, published by Scratch Baking Co. in South Portland, is always a cause for a little celebration at my desk. It doesn’t happen often, being only a bi-annual publication, but I always look forward to it. I love to see what recipes they’ve decided to share this time and pore over all the beautiful photographs of beautiful baked goods. (I can’t be the only one who enjoys looking at and reading about food nearly as much as eating it?)

My daughter turned 4 this past Sunday and when I thought about what cake I was going to make, using a recipe from Baker’s Notes and then blogging it here seemed a logical choice. (I do love to multi-task!) I actually ended up using three recipes from the same issue of Baker’s Notes – their everyday yellow cake (transformed into cake pops) and their one bowl chocolate cake (made into cupcakes) with ring ding-a-ling filling, which I used to frost the cupcakes. Every last bite was delicious. (If you’ve never had one of their ring ding-a-lings, I highly recommend them!)

We went for a spring theme – bee cake pops buzzing amongst the flowers and sheep cupcakes grazing on a field of gluten-free grass cupcakes. They were all super easy and a huge hit with all the party guests, young and old. Most importantly, the birthday girl loved them!


The recipes came from Issue No. 2: Sweet, published in 2011/2012. (I’m sharing the yellow cake recipe below – I’d recommend finding a copy of Issue 2 yourself and making the chocolate cake and ring ding-a-ling filling as well!)

Note: you will need a kitchen scale for this recipe.

every day YELLOW CAKE

INGREDIENTS

  • 7 ounces (0.44 pounds) cake flour
  • 7 ounces (0.44 pounds) sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 4 egg yolks (room temperature)
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk (room temperature)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

TECHNIQUE

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and have a well greased 9-inch round high-sided cake pan ready. In a stand mixer with paddle attachment combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Stir on low for 30 seconds to combine dry ingredients and aerate them. Add the soft butter cubes and mix on low until all of the butter is incorporated and the mixture looks like wet sand. Add 1/2 cup milk and increase mixer to medium speed. Mix for 90 seconds, scraping the sides of the bowl a couple of times. Whisk yolks, 3 tablespoons milk, and vanilla together and add to batter. Scrape down sides of bowl then mix one minute more. The batter should be very silky with no lumps. Pour into the cake pan and bake for 45 minutes until golden brown.

My notes: I do not have a high-sided round cake pan, so I baked this in an 8×8 square pan and it turned out beautifully. (Although, since the final goal, in my case, was cake pops it didn’t really matter how my cake looked – it all got crumbled in the end!)

Cooking with Maine Women Writers: butternut squash ravioli

March 4th, 2014 by Laura Taylor

ravioli

This time of year, it can be hard to eat local. More squash? Potatoes? Again? Sigh.

We’re starting to reach the end of our winter stores and might be quite tired of root vegetables, squash and the like. (Personally, I love root vegetables and I adore winter squash but not everyone in my house shares this devotion.)

I decided to try my hand at homemade ravioli to see if I could get the rest of the family to appreciate the wonders of the butternut squash. The recipe comes from a beautiful cookbook here in our collection called Portland, Maine Chef’s Table: Extraordinary Recipes from Casco Bay. I’ve mentioned it before in my post about my semi-successful adventure in gelato-making.

This ravioli recipe is from Local Sprouts. I’ve never had their version, so I can’t say how my homemade one compares – but I will say that it was quite tasty! It was my first time making homemade pasta and while it wasn’t exactly difficult (very easy, in fact) mine turned out a little thicker and tougher than I wished. I guess I need practice!

ravioli

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter
(Serves 4-6)

  • 9 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 1 cup roasted butternut squash puree
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 ounces plus 3 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 recipe pasta dough*, rolled out into wide ribbons about 1/8-inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves, for garnish

In a large saute pan, over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the shallots and saute for 1 minute. Add the squash puree and cook until the mixture is slightly dry, about 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and white pepper. Stir in the cream and continue to cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in 3 tablespoons of the cheese and nutmeg to taste. Adjust seasonings to taste. Cool completely.

Cut the pasta ribbons into 3-inch squares. You will have approximately 40 pieces of dough. Place 2 teaspoons of the filling in the center of each pasta square. Bring one corner of the square to the opposite corner, forming a triangle, and pinch the two open sides to seal the filled pasta completely.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 2-3 minutes or until the pasta floats and is pale in color.

Remove the pasta from the water and drain well.

Season with salt and pepper.

In a large saute pan, melt the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter. Add the sage to the butter and continue to cook until the butter starts to brown. Remove from heat.

To serve: Divide the ravioli between the serving plates. Spoon the brown butter over the pasta. Sprinkle the remaining 2 ounces of grated cheese over the plates and garnish with parsley.

*The intro states: For the Butternut Squash Ravioli…use your favorite pasta dough, or try East Ender’s recipe (see below).

For the pasta:

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 whole egg
  • Splash of extra virgin olive oil
  • Splash of milk

To make the pasta: Sift flour into a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour and add egg yolks, egg, oil, and milk. Using your fingers, slowly mix in flour from the edges, kneading to make a stiff dough. Lightly flour a smooth work surface and turn out the dough, pushing it and kneading with the heels of your hands for 15 minutes. The dough will become silky and elastic as you knead. Gather into a ball and cover with plastic wrap, then refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Take out of the refrigerator, remove plastic wrap, and use a rolling pin, pasta roller, or wine bottle to roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness.

My notes: I could not get my pasta thin enough, and thus didn’t have nearly 40 squares for filling. I had about half that, which left me with leftover filling. (Yum.) Since I didn’t have as many raviolis, I only used half the butter for the brown butter with sage. I managed to win over one person in the house to the joys of butternut squash, but the two littlest members of the family remain unconvinced.

Cooking with Maine Women Writers: New Year’s resolutions

January 15th, 2014 by Laura Taylor

The New Year is upon us and with the New Year very often comes…New Year’s resolutions! Have you made any resolutions this year? Are you sticking to them? Perhaps you’ve vowed to read more, exercise more, be nicer, get out of debt or volunteer. Of course, there’s always the ever-popular resolution to eat better and/or lose weight. I don’t know about you, but after the excesses of the holidays, I’m ready to get back to more vegetables and less sugar.

Vegetable flower bouquet from Farm Journal’s Best-Ever Vegetable Recipes.

We have here in our collection a lovely cookbook by Meg WolffA Life in Balance: Delicious Plant-Based Recipes for Optimal Health. Published in 2010, the book is full of healthy recipes like Summery Quinoa Salad, Vegan Pad Thai, Sweet Turnips with Maple Glaze and the one I’m going to share with you here today – George’s Tuscan Bean and Bread Hearty Stew.

This hearty stew could certainly fit right into a new year of healthy eating!

George’s Tuscan Bean and Bread Hearty Stew

In January 1999, Dr. Devra Krassner, a naturopath, told me that “some women with breast cancer have been helped by the macrobiotic (a plant-based) diet.” She later told me that her father George Krassner had adopted the way of eating when he was diagnosed in 1988 with advanced prostate cancer, which was expected to be terminal. My husband and I met George and his wife Judith on a trip to Italy in 2001. After that, we got together each year when they came up from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to Maine to visit their children. When I saw George in summer 2009, he was 80. He continues to live a healthy and active life, continues to travel, and still beats his 20-year-old grandson at tennis (almost).

  • 1 1/2 cups pre-soaked cannellini beans
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 small ribs celery
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 2 carrots, sliced in rounds
  • 2 cups green cabbage, coarsely chopped
  • 16-ounce can stewed tomatoes
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped kale
  • sea salt, black pepper, garlic, shoyu to taste
  • 3 slices sourdough or whole-grain bread, cut into bite-size pieces

Soak beans overnight. Bring the beans to a boil on high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for 1 hour or until tender.

Optional: Set aside 3/4 cup cooked beans; puree the remaining beans with the cooking liquid.

Heat olive oil on low to medium heat in a soup pan, then add the celery, onion, carrots, and cabbage. Stir well and saute for 3 to 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and water to cover. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the beans (and the puree, if used). Simmer covered for 1/2 hour. Add chopped kale and cook for 8 more minutes. Season with spices to taste. Stir in bread and serve.

Serves 6.

George says: “I’m pleased to credit my friend, Ginger Seles, a holistic chef, caterer and purveyor of natural skin-care products, for the basis of this recipe.”

Have a happy healthy new year!