BaltimOregon to Maine

Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

Salad Perfection: Roasted Celeriac and Roasted Exotic Mushrooms with Shaved Radish (or Turnip) and Buttermilk Dressing

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My recreation of a Fore Street salad, with shaved local watermelon radish instead of white turnip, and roasted celeriac and roasted meaty King Trumpets and some enoki-or-shimeji-type smaller mushroom. Delish!

I don’t usually run photos this large, but this is an unassuming salad with big flavor. It’s inspired by a truly memorable one I just had at Fore Street, perhaps this Portland’s hottest restaurant. Chef/owner Sam Hayward is Maine’s answer to Alice Waters. My parents took us to his  Street& Company on a visit to Maine years ago, but I’d yet to eat at his flagship spot, just above his renown Standard Baking Co., which bakes the chewy fougasse I devoured with my appetizers at Fore Street.

Now, Fore Street is famous for its protein, its house-cured-and-smoked charcuterie, fresh Maine seafood and spit-roasted meats. So this simple salad especially stood out. The menu described a turnip and exotic mushroom salad with roasted celeriac and a light buttermilk dressing. Mushrooms on a salad usually stand out as a rare ingredient. I assumed the mushrooms would be pickled or marinated and shaved. But Fore Street is known for its wood-fired cooking. It turns out the mushrooms were quickly roasted, to seal in their juices and concentrate their flavor. How had I, long a slave to mushrooms in the sautee pan, never thought of roasting them before? So I sliced up some locally-cultivated King Trumpets and shimejis (smaller clumped ones like big enokis), rubbed them with olive oil, Maine sea salt and pepper, and into the 450 degree oven they went, along with the cubed celeriac. The buttermilk dressing, with Kate’s legit buttermilk from Maine’s Old Orchard Beach, came from a Vermont locavore cookbook. Recipe to come.

It wasn’t hard coming up with my “Meals We Loved” pick for today’s radio show (our second) I taped with fellow Brunswick food writer, Michael S. Sanders. The topic was sustainable seafood. Visit the Table Arts Media page for a soon-to-be-posted podcast of the show. We have a lot of kinks and technical glitches to iron out, but hey, it’s college radio. And as Michael reminded me, James Beard Award-winning chef Sam Hayward’s first restaurant experiment in Maine–22 Lincoln right here in Brunswick–actually went under after a 10-year-run. But, to the delight of diners everywhere, that sure didn’t stop him.

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Short Ribs Once, Dinner Thrice

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The surprise of short rib ravioli with tangy horseradish-creme fraiche sauce, dusted with parmesan and fresh cracked pepper. More Slavic than Italian. Absolutely divine. Hats off to chef Amy.

It wasn’t hard coming up with the “food I loved” for the new “Fresh from Maine” radio show I launched today with veteran Brunswick food writer and  cookbook author Michael S. Sanders. It was a simple, Silver Palate-inspired winter borscht, a velvety broth with beets, tomato and braised cabbage, held together with a meaty short rib broth. Michael served it for lunch as we pulled together the show last week. Hands down best borscht I’ve ever had.

It turns out Michael’s discovery of these short ribs discounted at Shaw’s (the large grocery store with the best meat selection) led to not one, but three distinct meals. Talk about frugal gourmet. First, they slow-braised the short ribs in beer, plating the fall-off-the-bone morsels atop polenta. The recipe came from Michael’s lovely Fresh from Maine cookbook, he thought from the Portland restaurant, Vignola Cinque Terre. Or was it the “Stout and Chili Braised Short Ribs over Parmesan Polenta” recipe from the Harraseeket Inn in Freeport? The only expensive thing was the gluten-free beer required for braising to accommodate a guest’s dietary preferences. Meal #1.

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The pressed ravioli, to be boiled and dressed.

The braising liquid and bones Michael and his wife, Amy, then boiled down into stock with the requisite veggies. The resulting rich elixir yielded the most delicious borscht. No tough chunks of meat here but more umami-rich and savory than the still-good, vegetarian Moosewood version. Meal #2.

And Meal #3 was today to celebrate our first radio show (for now on Sundays at noon…live-stream it!) on WBOR, the Bowdoin College station. Michael and Amy graciously invited us to join them and their neighbors for an impromptu, quite convivial meal embodying the best of the Slow Food ethos. Amy, who is busy as an AP English and creative writing teacher at the high school, still managed to whip up a batch of homemade ravioli, putting the leftover short rib meat to good use. But don’t let the “ravioli” label fool you. These were more Slavic, almost like pirogis or Russian pelmeni, than Italian pasta. No coincidence here, since Michael and Amy speak Russian, and he used to import rugs from there and the Ukraine. A light horseradish-creme fraiche sauce perfectly complemented the sweet short rib meat. The ravioli reminded me of my Nonny’s kreplach, which I have yet to recreate. Here’s to more short ribs and homemade ravioli (and kreplach) in 2013!

Best Fresh Cranberry Sauce (Raw, Local and Sugar-Free!)

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Local, organic Maine cranberries, from Sparrow Farm in Pittston. They are also veteran growers of fresh ginger, I just learned!

I have nothing against Ocean Spray. I’m even a fan of their canned, jellied sauce, mostly for its gelatinous texture and the way it lies flat on a turkey and stuffing sandwich. But if you have access to fresh berries, it’s worth making your own cranberry sauce. And you don’t even have to occupy a precious burner on your crowded Thanksgiving stove-top. My favorite cranberry sauce recipe, which I’ve made for years now, is raw, and better yet, sugar-free. This sauce is sweetened with only oranges, apples and dates and whipped up in a blender (preferably a high-powered one like a Vitamix). I often punch it up with orange zest, vanilla extract, cinnamon and nutmeg. I never knew the source of the recipe (see below), but it appears to come from Rose Lee Calabro, an old-school raw foodie. I wish I could remember which dear friend or magazine turned me on to this effortless approach.

I’m excited to receive a pound of local Maine cranberries in our Small Wonder Organics CSA box next week. They’ll be from Sparrow Farm in Pittston, which I also hear has been growing fresh ginger for years. Maybe I’ll finally try Mama Stamberg’s infamous cranberry relish this year.

Cranberry Sauce

by Rose Lee Calabro

2 C fresh cranberries
1 orange
1 apple
1 C dates
water for consistency

Process cranberries, orange, apple and dates in a blender and serve.

Susan Stamberg Ivy Manning

Fresh Monkfish: Salt & Sea C.S.F. Share #1

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The just-caught fresh monkfish tails from Salt & Sea Community-Supported Fishery, with a spice packet of cinnamon sticks and whole cloves to simmer on the stove separately as the fish cooks, to eliminate any lingering fishy odors.

I love Community-Supported Agriculture (CSAs), though I was hardly an early adopter. I used to think they’d be too confining and limit the spontaneity of buying what one stumbled upon at the market. But CSAs are economical and efficient. They’re all about the paradox of choice. Having a fixed set of ingredients to work with makes dinner preparation faster and in many ways, more enjoyable. You’re allowed infinite freedom and creativity under these restraints. You also spend less time wandering aimlessly around the market.

We did our first CSA, a winter share, last year through the Willamette Valley’s Open Oak Farm. We learned that eating truly local through the winter means embracing more bitter greens, such as escarole. Last spring, we also dabbled in a start-up cured and fresh meat CSA. Now we’re doing a wonderful fall CSA with Small Wonder Organics here. But we’ve never before had the opportunity to become a member of a Community-Support Fishery. Until now.

I salted the fresh monkfish fillets (which are actually the meaty tails) and let them sit an hour, then drained them and patted them dry. Jamie Oliver recommends this step to prevent the monkfish from becoming mushy by boiling in its milky juices. I also tried to remove as much of the thin gray membrane as possible, using my fingers and sharp knife.

Coastal Maine is home to Port Clyde Fresh Catch, the nation’s first community-supported fishery. But I found the start-up Salt & Sea C.S.F. even closer to home. Fish is supplied from medium-sized trawlers and small gill-netters run by the Odlins, a fourth-generation old Portland fishing family, their cousins and other local Portland fisherman. Salt & Sea’s Justine Simon, who married into the family, says the experience for members mimics how fisherman share fish with their families when they come home from trips, trading recipes and fresh filets. The goal is to create new markets for more sustainable, but often less appreciated and unknown, varieties of fish. Simon says all their species are plentiful in the Gulf of Maine. Like monkfish.

I picked up my first installment, a pound of monkfish, at the weekly drop-off site at Morning Glory Natural Foods in Brunswick. We need more members to keep this drop-off site viable, so tell your local friends! It was so fresh, with no fishy aroma. For those who are squeamish about fish (do those people, who are not vegan or vegetarians, even still exist?), Salt & Sea included a cute little packet of spices to simmer in a small pot before you start cooking your fish, to combat fishy aromas.

They also included a recipe card for “Roasted Monkfish,” to take the guesswork out of how to cook this new fish. The recipe came from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. I dredged the monkfish steaks in a mixture of flour and chopped herbs, salt and pepper and preheated the oven to 450 degrees. I seared the fish in a hot skillet, browning on all sides to develop a crust. I added broth to the pan and then transferred it to the hot oven to cook until it was tender. And tender and sweet it was. Now I just have to ask Salt & Sea how to get my hands on monkfish liver, a Japanese delicacy I once enjoyed at a cute Brooklyn sushi spot, whose name now escapes me, with my sister-in-law, Julia.

Local Ginger in Maine and Oregon (with Recipes)

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Fresh baby ginger (and its rhizome cousin, tumeric) at Chas Gill’s Kennebec Flower Farm stand at the Brunswick Farmers’ Market in early October (all photos by Laura McCandlish, unless otherwise noted).

I had never cooked with fresh, baby ginger before. I remember seeing local ginger once in Oregon, at the Eugene Farmers’ Market, at the Groundworks Organics booth, I believe. But Maine is not Oregon. Artichokes, and even citrus such as Meyers Lemons, are relatively easy to grow in temperate Oregon. It rarely snows during the Willamette Valley’s mild winters. In Oregon, the garlic seed sends up green shoots by November, vegetation that reminds you spring is coming throughout the wet, grey winter. But in Maine, the fall-planted garlic doesn’t poke up until April or May.

So I was more than a little surprised to chance upon locally-grown ginger at the farmers’ market in this harsh clime. At least half a dozen farmers in Maine are growing the niche crop in their unheated, underutilized greenhouses throughout the summer. Leading ginger producer Freedom Farm will speak on a panel about “New Crops [winter-sprouting broccoli, raspberries and ginger] in Tunnels” at MOFGA’s upcoming Farmer-to Farmer conference this weekend.

The Maine-grown ginger I first chanced upon at Morning Glory Natural Foods in Brunswick.

I first chanced upon ginger at Morning Glory Natural Foods in Brunswick. It was from the Koubek family of The Good Shepherd’s Farm in Bremen, which planted the rhizomes for the first time this season. The Koubeks also supplied Chef Aaron Park (who grew up in Eugene, Ore.!) of Henry and Marty Restaurant here. Park, whose sister lives in Corvallis, pickled the rosy young ginger into the Japanese sushi condiment, gari. He also shaved it over ocean perch and grated it into a beef short rib marinade for Korean kalbi.

Chef Aaron Park’s pickled ginger, with its natural blush.

My pickled ginger, its pink amped up with a slice of raw beet.

The best thing about young ginger is it doesn’t require the painstaking step of peeling before use. Its pink bud-scales lend pickled ginger its natural pink hue. My former KLCC “Food for Thought” show colleague Jennifer recommends throwing in a slice of raw beet to stain the slices a punchier pink. And here’s a shout-out to my former “Food for Thought” colleagues! Eugene Weekly readers recently voted it their second favorite radio show in town.

For pickled ginger recipes, I recommend consulting this one, from my friend Linda Ziedrich, a food preservation guru and cookbook author who homesteads in Scio, Ore. I also drew on the “pickled fresh ginger” recipe from Old Friends Farm in Amherst, Mass., which pioneered the growing of New England ginger back in 2006. Ginger seed supplier East Branch Ginger is another good source of baby ginger recipes.

Alas, the fresh ginger season has come to a close. I’m out of product. Next year, I hope to candy my own crystallized ginger. And I’ve always wanted to try naturally-fermented ginger beer. Oregon master bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler has this recipe. You can even use the gnarled spent mother-roots of the baby ginger to make the “bug,” so nothing goes to waste.

Sara Iams (left) snatches up some fresh ginger from Chas Gill’s Kennebec Flower Farm at the Brunswick Farmers’ Market.

Donuts in Maine and Oregon

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A $5 shift’s end grab-bag from Voodoo Donuts newish location in downtown Eugene, conveniently near the KLCC studio.

I’ve never been much of a doughnut girl. Sure, I’ll indulge in an occasional airy Krispy Kreme or a coconut-frosted from the 24-hour Donut Pub when I lived in Chelsea (as featured in Louis CK), but they generally don’t seem worth the calories. Not my go-to vice. However, Dan (and his dad) love a good donut, so I’m wont to buy them to be a good wife.

While working at KLCC, I once came home with a nasty $5 bucket from Voodoo Donuts. That’s how they clear out the inventory at the end of each shift. It was chock full of Capt’n Crunch, Double-Bubble Gum and rainbow sprinkle-clad donuts, way too syrupy-sweet for my palate. Dan gifted most of them to the OSU economics student lounge, where they were appreciated. The Voodoo thing is more about shock-value than flavor. We did enjoy their Neapolitan (chocolate cake with vanilla frosting, tangy strawberry sugar and marshmellows in whole) and the huge Memphis Mafia (glazed banana fritter topped with peanut butter, nuts and chocolate). Voodoo can not be judged by its mediocre glazed donut. And just say no to Voodoo’s gimmicky Bacon Maple Ale, brewed by Rogue. It’s expensive and supposedly nasty.

OId-school Tony’s Donuts in the other Portland (Maine) is a favorite of my father-in-law’s. Tony’s is known for its molasses donuts, both cake and glazed. Delicious with coffee!

So far, Maine donuts are more my style, with old-fashioned, uncomplicated flavors. I hit up landmark Tony’s Donuts on the drive back from the Portland airport last week. Tony’s kept my father-in-law warm and happy when his Visicu work took him to Maine Med. The sought-after glazed molasses is my order at Tony’s.

Nothing says New England like molasses. They put it in their baked beans, their cornmeal-studded Anadama bread and brew it into dark rum. Tony’s Donuts in Portland is famous for their molasses donuts, both cake and glazed. They’re like a cakey, fried, spiced molasses cookie.

Now, it’s rare that I’ll have two donuts in one week. This is not a habit I’m looking to acquire. But Dan came home from a downtown eye appointment today with two donuts from Frosty’s, whose reputation seems to exceed Tony’s, at least here in Brunswick. The blueberry one tasted artificial, but the glazed buttermilk one, yes buttermilk!, was a revelation. So light and creamy and not at all cloying. Almost like the famous Mrs. Yoder’s sourdough ones at the Richmond Farmer’s Market. These buttermilk donuts won’t help in the ongoing quest to lose the baby weight (sure, blame it on the baby even though you had those pounds to lose before he was even conceived). I was already worried about the freshman fifteen with the stellar dining hall food, which we do partake of here.

Clammy Steamers

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Two pounds of mostly dead raw steamer (long neck clams) sadly in the trash.

Note to self: don’t put the wild-harvested Maine steamer clams in the fridge with the bag sealed. Live shellfish need to breathe. Most of the shells didn’t clench up when tapped, proving my poor mollusks were dead. Their long, fore-skinned necks oozed out of their thin shells, like mini geoducks. They smelled a tad fishy. I meant to put them in a bowl overnight so they could breathe. ‘Tis a pity these guys had to die in vain without someone first savoring their sweet flesh. I love to drink their sweet, briny hot broth, as my Nonny did. So tonight was a vegetarian meal of soothing mujadara, a comforting balm to all the cool rain we’ve had here. Plus, I don’t lack for Maine seafood. I had a regrettable lobster B.L.T. in Rockland Saturday (and yes, I fasted the previous Wednesday). And memorable whiting (in Baltimore we called it Lake Trout) fish and chips to raise the profile of underutilized (unlike their lobster bretheren) Gulf of Maine fish.

Written by baltimoregon

October 1, 2012 at 8:43 pm

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