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May 31, 2009

Spring Cleaning From Within: Watercress Recipe

A river runs through it.

Well, a stream actually, but resembling a small river after these several days of rain! But it's my little stream and the better part of the reason that I chose this property to be my home, which was originally part of an old farm stead, complete with a meadow, old pear and apple trees, a water source, and ancient venerable trees. It's a lively stream, this stream of mine, and it babbles its way over rocks and makes waterfalls in a few different spots under big willows. It has a gentle voice, and accompanies my gardening tasks, urging me on after the blackflies have worn me down. It's great to have water so nearby, assisting with irrigation needs for vegetable seedlings, doggie drinks, and foot dipping. Did I mention mosquito breeding? Yep, I'll bet it helps with that too.

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May 30, 2009

Fire Up The Grill for a Fiesta Burger

A while ago I was sent a variety of seasoning packets from a company called Amazing Taste. Being one who usually likes to mix my own spices, I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical at first as to what kind of flavor these little packets would produce. (I was sent seasoning packets for poultry, burgers, steaks, fish, and pork.)

Let me tell you, I recently tried the Amazing Taste for Burgers, and the flavor was delicious! A nice blend without any one overpowering flavor and without being wimpy on taste.

These little packets are only .99 cents, perfect for a great meal that doesn’t require much in the way of cost (or fuss to make). I like that.

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Terra Optima Homemade Crock Pot Chili

This dish is full of flavor, hearty, and can be prepared with relative ease. With the use of a crock pot, slow cooking results in tender meat and big taste. And trying this recipe is a great way to support our farmers by sourcing pork locally.

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May 28, 2009

Favorite Place on Earth: Maine

Midcoast Maine is abuzz this summer with all things Wyeth. I had just attended the opening reception at the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland for Jamie Wyeth’s exhibition “Seven Deadly Sins” when I received an email from a longtime friend whose new book had just been released by National Geographic. “My Favorite Place on Earth: Celebrated People Share Their Travel Discoveries” was written by Jerry Dunn, a former neighbor of mine who had told me a year ago that he planned to include two Mainers in his book, Jamie Wyeth and Paige Rense.

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Isle au Haut – A Memorable Culinary Getaway

Our Island Gourmet Girls Culinary Getaway on beautiful Isle au Haut on June 13-15 and June 15-17 is an event we know you will enjoy. Join me, along with DianaMeal3-0352masked Linda Greenlaw and Kate Shaffer for a weekend cooking extravaganza. You will learn to perfectly prepare and cook succulent Maine fish, make delicious complementary side dishes, and finish off with an artisan chocolate making class. Walk away with recipes and memories to last a lifetime.

I love dinner parties: the planning, decorating, preparing, the laughter and fun. The satisfaction and happiness I get feeds my soul as well as the bellies of my guests. Heck, I even opened an inn on an offshore island with no restaurants so I could do it 7 nights a week!

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May 27, 2009

Wyeth’s Gulls: Representations of the Sea

Since the death of his father Andrew in January, artist Jamie Wyeth has continued with his life and his life’s work: painting. His first show since his father’s death — “‘Seven Deadly Sins,” which opened at Rockland’s Farnsworth’s Wyeth Center on May 16 — marks the Maine debut of his series of gull paintings, and its first showing since they were originally put on display in New York in 2007.

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May 26, 2009

Wood-Grilled Peppered Steaks with a Bouquet of Grilled Vegetables

Mainers pride themselves on being a hardy bunch, so bragging rights are claimed for chipping ice off the grill in order to pry off the lid in January. Not me. But by the month of May, when standing outside feels more like pleasure than pain, we begin to go at it with a vengeance, grilling all manner of fish, chicken, meat, and vegetables. This simple peppered steak with its bouquet of summer vegetables showcases the very best of the height of grilling season.

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May 25, 2009

Maine Blueberry Coffee Cake, Oriole Orange Coffee Cake

BluePlateThis recipe is very popular among the visitors to our summer bakery, but it really shines when a cake is needed that will stand up to being sent through the mail! Island kids off to school on the mainland love it, and their roommates and teammates love it even more! It seems lots of people get chocolate chip cookies from home, but not everybody gets Maine blueberry cake. This keeps well, if wrapped, for several days, and freezes nicely.

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May 24, 2009

Memorial Day in Maine: Grilled Lobster

Well here it is. The unoffical start to summer. Grills are dusted off and fired up, children have the day off from school, and families celebrate together with picnics and barbecues. Some travel, some stay close to home. Flowers are planted at the graves of loved ones. State parks and beaches officially open.

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May 23, 2009

Chicken Skewers on Watermelon and Feta Salad

Fresh and juicy, with a salty lick of feta, this dish is perfect for lunch on a hot summer’s day or for a shared platter with friends on a balmy evening.

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May 22, 2009

Calypso Salmon

Life is just busy. No matter what we do, it just doesn't slow down for long. When it comes to meals, most people eat them on-the-go, nuked, or at a restaurant. What if you could save the money spent on quick meals, eat healthier, and have a home cooked meal without the fuss?

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Toys and Exercise: Bringing Home a New Puppy or Kitten

Remember folks, puppies and kittens are not toys that you put in a box and take out to play with when you feel like it. As natural hunters and predators, being active is essential to their well being. Adopt a companion with this in mind, making sure you have the time, patience, and finances necessary to become a responsible pet guardian.

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May 21, 2009

Tunes, a Unique Race & Tons of Tastes in Brunswick

The first time I ever tasted Vietnamese spring rolls was on the town Mall on Maine Street in Brunswick. I was 12 and my mother and step-father were building a house nearby. Most afternoons I would ride my bike down to Bowdoin College and go to the Peary Arctic Museum or hang out in the library. I know that it's shocking that with such a rockin' daily itinerary that I wasn't rolling in friends as a preteen, but I was the kind of kid who saved her baby sitting money to buy jars of pickled baby corn at this tiny gourmet store on Center Street in Auburn — the city we were moving from. After several weeks of repeated exposure to historic exploration data, I ventured out into Brunswick's downtown area where I discovered "the cart."

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Double Chocolate-Cranberry Biscotti

Chocolate cookies are always a big hit at the Inn, and these twice-baked Italian favorites are no exception. Packed with cocoa powder, crème de cacao and chocolate chunks, this recipe is a variation on the almond and apricot biscotti from my first cookbook. Some of my other favorite flavors and combinations for biscotti include orange-raisin, anisette, vanilla-hazelnut, and peanut butter-chocolate chunk.

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May 20, 2009

Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine Attempts World’s Longest Lobster Roll

Look out for Linda Bean's Perfect Maine as they make a Guinness World Record Attempt! Their feat will involve assembling and authenticating the World's Longest Lobster Roll: A 60 foot long Linda Bean's Perfect Maine Lobster Roll!!

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Arrows Restaurant Appetizer: Asparagus Soup with Lobster, Morels, and Chervil

This is the ultimate spring soup. Few dishes could make a more elegant start to a celebratory dinner. It is not hard to make, but be careful not to overcook the asparagus or it will lose its bright color and turn mushy. We enjoy the delicate look of chervil, and its aniselike flavor brightens this rich soup. Chervil takes about 6 weeks to grow from seed, but you can plant it quite early (a month before the last frost) or grow it indoors in pots on a sunny windowsill.

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May 19, 2009

Sauté of Fiddleheads, Sugar Snaps, and Baby Carrots

Fiddleheads are one of the most significant culinary harbingers of spring in Maine, and in this recipe they're combined with two other seasonal vegetables to create a gorgeous, colorful mélange. If you can't get fiddleheads, asparagus cut into 2-inch lengths is a fine substitute.

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Rabelais Books Food Films Presents “Babette’s Feast”

Rabelais Books, One Longfellow Square, and the Maine Food and Drink Ambassadors present a special screening of "Babette's Feast", perhaps one of the most memorable meals ever to appear on film. Based on the Isak Dinesen story, a refugee from the French Revolution prepares a sumptuous feast for her pious employers. 

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Rockland Farmers’ Market Season Begins May 21

Hooray! It's time for the Rockland Farmers' Market to open in our area, and we can't wait. What seasonal offerings are we looking forward to gobbling up? Asparagus, herbs, and spring greens such as mesclun, spinach, and dandelion greens. The ambitious gardeners of us may take away some seedlings, too. And of course, maybe some fresh cut flowers for the office….

Get to the Harbor Park in Rockland on Thursday from 9am-12:30pm. Everything there is fresh, local, and you will taste the difference! Check out local participating vendors, and for more information, email

From the staff at Maine Food & Lifestyle magazine.

May 18, 2009

Leek and Asparagus Barley Risotto

Since asparagus showed up at my farmers’ market, the first hour of shopping has turned competitive. Typically mild-mannered customers, crazed by the precious green and purple spears, cast territorial glares as they scout which farmers have got the goods and race to claim their shares. By nine o’clock, not a trace of asparagus remains.

In this dish, fresh asparagus lends its earthy flavor to a spring risotto. Like pasta and stew, risotto is a year-round dish that can be endlessly customized to showcase seasonal flavors. Making risotto with barley is both easier and healthier than using arborio rice, which has been scrubbed clean of nutrients and requires constant stirring.

While mild rice serves as a backdrop for flavors and textures, barley asserts itself: its warm, nutty flavor and chewy texture complement subtle spring vegetables. Pearl barley, the type most commonly found in grocery stores, has been scrubbed of its bran. Hulled barley, which retains its bran, has a nuttier flavor and more fiber, protein, and healthy oils, but you’ll probably have to make a trip to the natural foods store to find it.

Made with whole grain, barley risotto sticks to your ribs. It’s just the thing to warm you up on a cool, rainy spring night.

Leek and Asparagus Barley Risotto

Small bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces (about 1½ cups)
4 Tablespoons olive oil
4 cups sliced and rinsed leeks, white and light green parts only (about 2 medium)
1½ teaspoons chopped garlic
2 ½ teaspoons minced fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 cup barley (pearl or hulled)
½ cup dry white wine
4 cups vegetable broth, or 2 cups broth and 2 cups water
Salt to taste
Lemon wedges

Steam asparagus 3-4 minutes, until just tender. Rinse under cold water and set aside.

Warm broth (and water, if using) in a small saucepan over low heat. Keep broth warm on a back burner.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pot over medium heat. Sauté leeks, garlic, and thyme 8-10 minutes, until liquid evaporates and leeks begin to brown lightly.

Add carrot, celery, and barley to pot and stir for three minutes. Add wine and stir frequently until almost evaporated.

Add 2 cups of the broth and stir. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, until broth is absorbed. Add the remaining broth and simmer for 15-18 minutes, until broth is almost absorbed. Add steamed asparagus and stir frequently, until liquid is absorbed and asparagus is heated through.

Remove from heat. Season with salt to taste. Serve with a drizzle of the remaining olive and lemon wedges.

Serves 4.

Mary Lake is a writer, teacher, columnist for MF&L, and vegetarian blogger: Mitten Machen