Fourth of July in Maine: Cedar Planked Salmon, Peas and New Potato

It’s a Maine tradition that marks the start of the summer season with more. emphasis than the Memorial Day parade.

Our gardens deliver the first peas and new potatoes in early July.. Wonderful Atlantic salmon its available in the market.

Putting it all together in one spectacular meal is a family celebration, with junior shelling the peas, Granddad digging the potatoes and Mother finding the nicest fresh filet of salmon.

We like to fire up the grill, season the fish and place on a new cedar shingle. It all goes on the grill, the cedar burning around the edges and giving the fish a bit of smoke. Yep. Its really works! Quite delicious too.

Add some Romesco sauce …you can fire grill the red peppers for this while the grill is on…. (recipe in Seasonal Recipes) and a handful of fresh chopped dill from the garden.

You’ve got a” summer in Maine “ treat that screams “CELEBRATE SUMMER!”And we will, if it ever stops raining!

Cheers,
Chef Laura

Romesco Sauce Recipe


Romesco Sauce, while pairing beautifully with salmon, is a culinary gift from Spain and brings that excitement to our fresh fish dish.

It only requires a handful of ingredients and is easy to prepare using a food processor:
  • Fire grilled roasted red peppers, cleaned of their charred skin and seeds
  • Smoked paprika
  • Salt and peper
  • A little anchovy paste, optional
  • Fresh chopped garlic to taste, start with a tsp.
  • A bit of orange zest
  • Crushed Natural almonds, start with one cup
  • 1/4 cup of good olive oil
  • Some dried or stale bread, less is more but it works to tighten up the sauce.
Romesco doesn’t even need a recipe. To make a quart I begin with perhaps 6-8 roasted whole red peppers, cleaned. And a cup of almonds. Pulse these in a food processor with the seasonings, nuts and bread  to desired texture. I prefer mine slightly chunky but a silky texture can be achieved with more and longer processing time.
 
Correct seasonings
I top mine with more oil and it keeps for a week under refrigeration. It’s a terrific go-to for most any grilled protein.  Enjoy!

Easy Stovetop Hollandaise Recipe


MAKES A QUART. Keeps for a week covered under refrigeration. Takes 20 minutes. Use a good sized double boiler and have a sturdy whisk on hand As well as a cool bowl to pour the sauce into when finished.

In French Cuisine, Hollandaise is a classic Mother sauce, meaning one of the basics that others spring from, such as Béarnaise. It is an emulsified sauce. Basically the same idea, but using a different acidifier in this case lemon juice rather than a reduction of wine, vinegar, herbs and pepper which acidify and typify a Béarnaise.

This is a stove top recipe taught to me “on the fly” during a sauce crisis at dinner service one evening by the very able James Hatch who was assisting me on the line back in the Pine Cone days, circa 1989. Visit James now at his dining spot, the fabulous Home Kitchen Cafe in Rockland ME….he still uses this recipe taught to him, no doubt, by his Dad at the Cupboard Cafe in New Harbor, Maine.

For our Hollandaise, use the best eggs and butter you can find. I like free range eggs and good unsalted butter ( gives a rich color to the sauce) which I melt, then clarify.

To clarify just means pouring off the milk that collects in the bottom of the melted butter… or simply don’t use it. I save mine for a chowder.

INGREDIENTS

  • A DOZEN ORGANIC EGGS, SEPARATED ( save the whites for an low fat omelette)
  • 1 POUND OF UNSALTED BUTTER,MELTED. I LIKE GRASS FED
  • 1 CUP FRESH SQUEEZED LEMON JUICE at the ready
  • SALT AND FRESH GROUND WHITE PEPPER TO TASTE
  • A DASH OF TOBASCO SAUCE OR CAYENNE PEPPER

On your stovetop, warm the water at a medium heat under the double boiler as you pour your yolks into the top half.

From THIS POINT ON NEVER STOP WHISKING. Adjusting the heat lower as needed, slowly drip in the melted clarified butter until the eggs emulsify and the sauce thickens to your desired consistency . It will thicken further as it cools. If too thick for your purposes, add back in some of the milk from the clarifying process to thin it. Correct the taste with salt, pepper and tabasco, continue stirring until some of the heat is out of the sauce.

Pour your Hollandaise into an airtight container or bowl, cover with Saran wrap. Best if used immediately, but the sauce will hold for a few days in the refrigerator and can be brought back to room temp carefully. Good at Brunch, on crab cakes or poached salmon!

Enjoy Spring~

Asparagus time in GERMANY and MAINE


It’s early June and I’ve been eating my fresh asparagus for about two weeks. My asparagus bed is now 12 years old. I never tire of it, steamed, blanched or roasted…pureed into a soup or on an Eggs Benedict.

Asparagus as we know it is the sprout of the Asparagus Officinalis, sometimes affectionately called sparrow grass. As with all culinary sprouts (think Belgian endive), this plant is all about the root system. The larger the root system the more it sprouts and produces the stalk we know and love. If left untended, the stalk grows and ferns out, creating a beautiful hedge and small red berries or seeds. Leaving it to grow is a surefire way to increase production for next season.

Growing asparagus requires a lot of preparation. It’s “like digging a grave” as an old and wise woman once said.” You dig a trench, add a lot of organic material, lay in your root bundles, spreading them out for best effect and then wait for a few years. Water, water, water. Seriously. At first all you’ll get is slender shoots, which you leave alone, but as the root systems develop that’s when the magic happens. It’s a long wait, then a short season. It’s no wonder that asparagus is known as a luxury!

Considered a delicacy in many cultures, Spargle, or a type of blanched, white asparagus is widely celebrated throughout Europe… especially in Germany. Festivals are held just to exalt the seasonal vegetable, which is often served topped with Hollandaise, with buttered boiled potatoes and cured ham. And beer… always good beer or a dry white wine such as a German Kabinett.

It is cooked and eaten in much the same way and it’s flavor is similar to the green, if not slightly more bitter. Sometimes with the fatter spears, the bottom part of the stalk is peeled and naturally there is a special tool for this. IF one cannot be found a common vegetable peeler will do.

Now, asparagus is not just a beautiful vegetable and plant. It is a powerhouse of nutrition offering vitamins A, C , Folic acid and plenty of fiber. Honestly, it always smells like it’s flushing something evil out of me, so I hope it is!

Try fresh poached asparagus in season on a smoked salmon Eggs Benedict topped with a tarragon flecked homemade Hollandaise. You can find this recipe under my seasonal recipe blog.

It’s a great reason to get up on a Sunday morning!

Cheers,

Laura Cabot

Wild Ramp Butter


This recipe is courtesy of my friend in fine cookery, Charlotte Davenhill. She makes the most delectable ramp butter….and you can see by her recipe that it isn’t hard. The trick is to chop more than you need in a food processor with sea salt and EVOO, then store it under refrigeration until more is needed:

Use only the strappy, green leaves.

Wash and dry them throughly.

Process with salt to taste and EVOO in a food processor.

To make ramp butter, just add cubed, fresh butter to the chopped greens mixture and blend until there are no more butter lumps . More greens equal a stronger garlic flavor. Keeps well and tastes heavenly.

Maine May Musings – Wild Ramps


These beautiful spring days have us out and about in the back woods of Maine enjoying the wonders of nature. And perhaps foraging.

If you’re lucky and know a little bit about foraging, you may be able to identify a low growing, broad leafed plant, the ramp, a member of the onion or allium family. Sporting just a few broad green leaves and a white or reddish stem, the taste is reminiscent of garlic and onion.. but somehow more sublime. Their taste raw is far more pungent than when cooked. The ramp stands in nicely in quiche , pesto or a compound butter. Sometimes you can spot them in a Farmer’s market. Or a Trader Joes, which its where I got the ramps I used to start my own bed of them! They cannot be farmed, so they are a true wild food .

Ramps are not as prolific in the wild in Maine as they once were. In fact, they’re now protected. So it’s important to note that when foraging anything, never take it all. If we want all the gifts of the woods in the beautiful State of Maine to continue to thrive, we must never be greedy. Conservation begins with every foraging event. Take care to not harvest the root of the plant, but cut some of the leaves to maintain the plants viability.

Here’s the good news… ramps are easy to grow IF you happen to have a spot with fertile, moist soil near a stream lined, with hardwood trees. My wild ramps are coming along splendidly after two years of uninterrupted growth, as you can see in the picture. Once they flower, the leaves disappear and they’re harder for a novice to ID.

Because I am obsessed with the ramp’s flavor, and yet am loathe to use mine fully, I take just one leaf per plant to make my friend Charlotte Davenhill’s famous salted ramp butter. The recipe may be seen on our Seasonal Recipes section of this website.

A crusty loaf of bread and fresh ramp butter … Absolutely decadent.

Cyprus


We flew into Larnaca. Rhymes with Narnia and it was something like a fantasy world at first. From Lanaca on the East side of the island we travelled West to Kouklia where we were hosted by a charming couple who served as our tour guides to historical digs, museums, craft markets, the most wonderfully ’typical” restaurants and tavernas and wineries as well as beaches and sites of distinction.

Talking about wine, the volcanic nature of the soil here makes for some delicious drinking ( and beautiful black sand beaches!) from crisp whites, to pleasing roses to a spectrum of delightfully different and distinctive reds. Grapes that are typical to Cypriot wines include Maratheftiko, Mavro,and Commandaria for reds. For whites Xinisteri may be the most popular. Grand dads, for the most part, gather around a strong glass of OUZO , an aperitif made from the fennel plant.

In a wet spring, such as we experienced in March, the countryside explodes with a carpet of wildflowers….Cupid’s Dart, Nigella, Tulips, Chrysantheum, Cyclamen, Fennel, Rosemary , Thyme and a million different flowers I have no name for….all blooming freely and making the tastiest fodder for the local sheep, goats and cows. You can taste it in the cheeses, honey and yoghurt.

Cyprus is a bread basket, a self sustaining island that does not need to import much so, in fact, it offers beautiful and well priced meats, cereals, dairy, fruit and produce all from “right here.” There is an abundance of fresh and farmed fish, including sea bass and sea bream, calamari and octopus . We enjoyed these offerings in a variety of different preparations. Outdoor grilling is great fun and perfect for whole fish stuffed with lemon and herbs.

Because of the heat of the summer, bread, pastries and long cooked stews (like the famous Kleftiko) are often cooked outside of the home in clay ovens sometimes called Tandoors. Sometimes a special earthenware vessel , or tava, is used for long cooking. It’s a type of red ware.used since ancient times in Cyprus. As a historical aside, the name Kleftiko is rooted in the the word KLEPHT, which means stolen…the word kleptomaniac comes from this word. The mountain rebels from the Greek Revolution or Klephts often cooked their food underground to prevent it form either being stolen or lets the smoke and steam give away their strategic positions.

Pastries, too many to discuss here but were incredibly different and delicious, often made with their world famous Cypriot honey. Oranges also factor into the pastry lineup….we found one dessert made with phyllo dough, oranges and honey for the win! Citrus was growing everywhere and we even spend a day making a bitter orange marmalade.

Dairy: who knew that ice cream was a “thing” in Cyprus? Because of the sweltering summers, it has gotten to be incredibly popular over the last 100 years and unusually rich, a favorite with street vendors, of which there are many. Flavors can be unique too from feta/watermelon to mastic, which is a flavor made from a resin and gently reminiscent of spruce.

Textile arts are prevalent there with weavings and home made clothes abounding. Folkloric wood carved furnishings, sometimes painted or distressed continue being crafted today. Pottery making has been exalted since ancient times and continues to this day.

If you enjoy the abundance of a tropical garden, exuberantly fresh produce and walking into a grocery store smelling of hot, fresh breads and pastry, a visit to Cyprus may be for you. The food and wine is incredible, the people are lovely and if you can’t speak Greek, most everyone will speak English. Costs are relatively low and the weather is nice with two growing seasons. So much to see and do and Spring is the perfect time to do it.

I for one will be returning!

Cheers from Cyprus! Laura

Avgolemono, or Chicken Egg and Lemon Soup from Cyprus

Just roasted a fat chicken? You don’t need to be a Grandmother to ace this dish. This is a very forgiving recipe, the quantities are somewhat fluid.

Try this recipe after you create a rich chicken stock:

Shred 2 cups chicken and set aside.

In a large and heavy pot, sauté a medium dice of ( one cup each) onion, celery and carrot in olive oil. Add 1/4 cup of finely diced garlic after the other veg is half cooked.

Add 2 quarts rich broth and a bay leaf. Bring to a rolling boil. Then add a cup of raw, washed rice and simmer on low for 20 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper.

Once the rice is cooked and still very brothy, add 2 cups of cooked shredded chicken.

Prepare and temper the egg and lemon sauce :

Whisk 2 eggs in a medium bowl with 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice. Temper the eggs by slowly adding in a label or two of hot broth….slowly.

Add to the soup and remove from heat immediately or the soup will separate.

Serve immediately, admire broth if you choose…check the salt, and enjoy with crusty bread and a salad. Maybe a glass of OUZO?

This soup freezes beautifully, being fat free. It’s rich and velvety…completely delicious. Decedent without the calories! Easy too.

From Lima to Machu Pichu


I was fortunate to travel to Peru in the mid 70’s when it was fairly off the beaten track.

Lima was our first stop after flying in over the spectacular Nasca ruins, which really do beg the question concerning extra terrestrial life. Enourmous works of inspired art appearing to the airplane viewer.The ultimate goal was Machu Pichu, but it became more about holding down any food rather than eating it there due to altitude sickness, despite coca tea!

Lima was a rainbow from the very wealthy neighborhoods , like Mira Flores, to the barrios and everything in between. The street foods were amazing and varied from colorful “to-go” dishes featuring beets and avocado, to quinoa preparations( often found in graves as food for the afterlife) interesting drinks including maca ( or Peruvian Ginseng) to Pisco Sours.

Let’s talk about Pisco Sours, the national drink, a white brandy. Pisco is a study in itself. Like wine different kinds present different features. It can be smooth and floral …..or a lot rougher in it’s cheaper forms.

We frequented Lima’s Hotel Boulevard , a grand dining room, in a grand hotel where lunch was an event. There I learned to love conchitas. While conchita means shell in Spanish, these tasty local scallops were served barley broiled in their shells ,with their roe, and dressed with lime and hot peppers, sometimes parmesan cheese.

But my biggest infatuation was with SEVICHE. In Maine , in the winter, our local sea scallops are wonderful and Seviche is a fresh and lean way to enjoy them.

Please see our SEASONAL RECIPE for one of my favorite variations.

Peruvian Style Sea Scallop Seviche / Picso Sour

One of Maine’s favorite winter foods get a Latin American spin with this Peruvian preparation.

Here is one of my favorite way to enjoy scallops:

SERVES 4 TO 6

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 POUNDS MAINE SEA SCALLOPS
2 DICED, FIRM RED TOMATO
1 LARGE MINCED SHALLOT
1 SMALL JALEPENO, DICED FINE ( USE THE SEEDS IF YOU LIKE IT HOT)
1/2 CUP FRESHLY SQUEEZED LIME JUICE
1/2 CUP FRESH ORANGE JUICE, SLIGHTLY MORE TO TASTE
1 TSP. PINK SALT, MORE TO TASTE
AVOCADO SLICES AND CILANTRO , TO GARNISH

MIX ALL INGREDIENTS TOGETHER IN A GLASS BOWL.

COVER AND CHILL FOR AT LEAST 4 TO 6 HOURS, GIVE IT AN OCCASIONAL STIR.

WHEN READY TO PLATE, USE A BED OF CRISP BOSTON LETTUCE AND TOP WITH SEVICHE.

SEASON TO TASTE WITH MORE SALT AND PEPPER. GARNISH WITH LIME AND AVOCADO SLICES AND CORN CHIPS.

HAVE SOME COLD CERVEZA ON HAND! OR A PISCO SOUR!

THIS CAN ALSO BE MADE WITH A FIRM WHITE FISH LIKE HALIBUT OR COD.

PISCO SOUR RECIPE

PERU’S NATIONAL DRINK is oddly attributed to an American bartender from the early 1920’s.

Due to the addition of egg whites, the Pisco sour sports a thick and frothy head of foam attained by a method called “dry shaking”, where by the ingredients are first combined by vigorous shaking before the second shake with ice to chill the drink:

2 oz. Pisco ( spring for a good one!)
1 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 oz simple syrup
1 egg white
Angostura bitters, to garnish

Add all ingredients, except bitters and ice. Shake vigorously until a nice cap of foam forms.

Add crushed ice and shake again until well chilled.

Strain into a cocktail coupe or a rocks glass over more ice.

Garnish with a few drops of bitters.

There you have it!

Enjoy this distinctive drink with toasted, salted corn nuts, the Peruvian bar snack of choice.