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February 28, 2011

Maine Shrimp Casserole

It may be the end of Maine Shrimp Season, but I am prepared. With 20 pounds hoarded away in my freezer, I’m looking forward to enjoying all my favorite recipes (and exploring some new ones) for weeks to come.

photo by Jim Bazin

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February 27, 2011

Curried Cream of Carrot Soup

This curried carrot soup is so easy to make and full of fantastic flavor!

curried carrot soup

Curried Cream of Carrot Soup

1 ounce butter
1 pound carrots, sliced
½ pound onions, sliced and chopped
2 level teaspoons curry powder
½ pint milk
2 Tablespoons cream

Melt butter, add onions, carrots, and curry powder. Fry gently for about 5 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking.

Add stock bring to the boil and simmer 25-30 minutes until vegetables cooked.

Liquidise or sieve soup and return to the pan, add milk and cream, bring to boil. Season to taste. Serve with croutons.

February 26, 2011

Academy Award Best Picture Recipes

I’m excited to sit down with my son, Jacob, and watch the Oscars. This is one of the first years we’ve seen nearly every best picture nominated film. It was certainly a great year for movies. I’m still rooting for The Fighter. It had guts, grit, heart, and strength. I left the theater saying, “Now that was acting.” And most of all, I left inspired.


Maybe that’s the key to a worthy film in my book. Inspiration: that spark of hope a film leaves you with at the end, and the feeling of overcoming obstacles and rising above what could so easily keep you down. Jacob gives his nod to The King’s Speech, another truly winning film and the front runner to take home the statue. What was your favorite Academy Award nominated film of 2010?

I came across a fun Oscar food site, dedicated to each Best Picture Nominee. Each film has a fun and appropriate corresponding dish, such as The Social Network’s Chocolate Billionaires, True Grit’s Red Rooster, and Black Swan’s Easy Pavlova. Check out for more winning recipes, and enjoy the show!

February 25, 2011

Roast Tenderloin of Beef with Horseradish Cream

If you’re like me, you need a pretty good excuse to spend nine bucks a pound for a hunk of meat. Here it is: Phyllis Gimbel’s scrumptious and cinchy roast beef. Invite your best beau or lady and another couple for a double date, or hog the whole thing for just the two of you. Fluffy baked potatoes and Asparagus ASAP are suitably stylish, no-fuss accompaniments.


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February 24, 2011

Linda Greenlaw’s Ginger-Almond Wafers

This is a deliciously crunchy, not-too-sweet wafer cookie that comes via Linda Greenlaw and her mother, Martha. Since ginger is a natural sea-sickness remedy, Linda touts these cookies as the ideal mid-morning snack aboard a fishing boat.


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Maine James Beard Semifinalists

It’s that time again. Time to be thinking about the upcoming James Beard Awards. The semi-finalist list has been released, and some of our Maine favorites are (back) on it. And the semi-finalists are:


Best New RestaurantShepherd’s Pie, Rockport

Outstanding ChefSam Hayward, Fore Street, Portland; Melissa Kelly, Primo, Rockland

Outstanding Restaurant
Fore Street, Portland

Best Chef Northeast — Krista Kern Desjarlais, Bresca, Portland; Demos Regas, Emilitsa, Portland; Brian Hill, Francine, Camden; and Megan Chase, Penelle Chase, Phoebe Chase, and Ted LaFage, Chase’s Daily, Belfast

The final list of nominees will be announced on March 21. Congratulations and best wishes to all!

February 23, 2011

Haddock with Mango Beurre Blanc

This haddock recipe has the delicious surprise addition of a mango beurre blanc. Woodman’s starts with the freshest local haddock and they only make it better from there!

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February 22, 2011

Annato, Adobo, and Sofrito: A Latin Culinary Mystery Solved!

Can’t go tropical this year due to personal budget cuts? Me either. But I am revisiting one of my favorite recent vacations, Puerto Rico, from a culinary point of view. We’ll just have to imagine the sea and sand and tropical breezes….

Sofrito, Adobo and Annato were terms much bandied about in Latin cooking, but that didn’t mean that I really understood what they were. That is until I visited the magical island of Puerto Rico. I soon decided that “getting into one’s bathing suit” and Mofongo, their national dish of plantains with pork cracklings  and pork stew, didn’t really go together.

I came to love the island cooks’ delicious and deeply orange-y take on Arroz con Pollo, colored with Achiote oil or Annato seeds and Adobo, the richly flavored rub for meats or poultry and the basic seasoning behind so many traditional island foods we call Sofrito.

Here are recipes for preparing each and a recipe to practice your “Latin’ on….

ANNATO OR ACHIOTE is the seed of a tropical tree. If you can’t find them in a specialty market, I sometimes use a good paprika to achieve the rich reddish color that predominates in much Latin cooking.


FOR ANNATO OIL…All you do is cook the ANNATO seeds with good paprika or saffron (if you are feeling flush and can’t find annato) until sizzling in lard or oil until you get that nice red-orange color. Do not overheat the oil or it will turn an off color. Cool a bit, then strain out the seeds. Keep this oil in the refrigerator and use by the spoonful for recipes like Chicken with Rice.

ADOBO is a blend of ingredients used to rub a unique flavor into meat or poultry. This recipe is appropriate for one pound of meat or chicken.


1 teaspoon black peppercorns, whizzed in a coffee blender (I keep one in my kitchen for nothing but pepper)
1 clove of garlic, peeled and minced
¼ teaspoon of fresh or dried oregano, minced or crumbled
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon olive oil
½ teaspoon fresh lime juice

Mix all ingredients together and rub into your meat or chicken thoroughly. Let marinate for several hours for the best taste.

SOFRITO is the seasoning behind so many native dishes.


1 ounce salt pork
2 ounces lean cured ham (pork and ham optional; you can make a great vegetarian version)
½ cup vegetable oil or lard, divided use
½ pound green pepper
½ pound white onion, peeled
¼ pound sweet red peppers
1 small head of garlic, peeled
1 small bunch of cilantro
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
You may want to add some salt to this recipe if salt pork is not used.
Tabasco sauce to taste

Wash all ingredients, seed them, and cut into small pieces.

Pour the first ¼ cup of vegetable oil into a blender and gradually add all the pork, vegetables, cilantro, and oregano and grind them up.

In a heavy kettle, pour the second ¼ cup of oil into the pot. Bring to medium heat and add the ground mixture. Bring up to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer and let cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Allow to cool, season with Tabasco to taste.

A  great way to use and keep Sofrito is to make ice cubes with it and keep them handy in the freezer, pulling out a few at a time to make a dish. They don’t stick together. Two to three cubes will suffice for a dish that feeds 6-8 people.



¼ cup of annato oil
1- 4 pound chicken, cut into ten pieces
Kosher salt and ground pepper
½ cup sofrito
¼ cup coarsely chopped green pimento stuffed olives (alcaparrado)
1 teaspoon cumin
Pinch of ground cloves
4 cups of long grain brown rice
5 cups of homemade chicken stock
1½ cups of roasted red peppers, cut into strips

Choose an attractive Paella pan or something that you can bring to the table for serving. It must have a tight fitting lid. In this large shallow pan, heat the Annato oil until it ripples. Add the salt and pepper seasoned chicken to the pan, only as many pieces as you can without crowding them, so you’ll be working in batches browning the chicken and cooking it almost through. Set it aside.

When the chicken has been cooked, add the sofrito and alcaparrado. Season to taste with more salt and pepper, adding the cumin and clove. Raise the heat and simmer off some of the water from the sofrito.

Stir in the rice and coat with the seasonings. Return the chicken to the pan and add enough broth to cover the rice by a width of two fingers (an inch, basically). Bring the rice to a boil and cook until the broth reaches the level of the rice. Stir and cover the pot tightly, reducing the heat to low. Let it cook until the rice is tender but firm, about 20 more minutes.

Fluff the rice with a fork, garnish with the red pepper strips, and bring the whole pot of chicken and rice to the table. If you don’t have a great looking pan, you may arrange the contents attractively on a large platter and dig in while hot.

Absolutely delicious, and cheaper than air fare!

Serves 6.

February 21, 2011

Natalie’s Executive Chef Geoffroy Deconinck vies for Award

We at Maine Food & Lifestyle magazine wish to congratulate Natalie’s Restaurant Executive Chef Geoffroy Deconinck on his recent nomination for The 2011 People’s Best New Chef Award! Deconinck is the only nominee from Maine to compete for this New England regional title.

image: Irvin Serrano

This is a new award created by Food & Wine magazine in parternship with CNN’s Eatocracy. The premise is to highlight and honor 100 talented innovators who have been running their own kitchens for no more than five years. Restaurant patrons determine the winner of this national award through online voting.

Chef Deconinck, born and raised in Belgium, has been labeled “amazing because he uses his traditional Belgian pedigree to modernize French food.” His background includes an education at CERIA Culinary Academy in Brussels and work with such fine establishments as Café Boulud, Daniel, Bouley (New York City); Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée (Paris); L’Epicerie (Belgium).

Natalie’s Restaurant, the vital culinary heart of the Camden Harbour Inn, is run by Raymond Brunyanszki and Oscar Verest. From their website about their AAA four diamond award-winning restaurant, they have this to say about their Executive Chef:

“Our Award-winning Executive Chef Geoffroy Deconinck seeks out the harvest of Maine fishing boats, farms, and gardens and transforms these honest, unsullied ingredients into distinctively new presentations that reflect his imaginative interpretation of classic French cuisine with a modern twist.”

We are proud to support Chef Deconinck and encourage EVERYONE to scroll to the bottom of the following page link to VOTE NOW FOR CHEF GEOFF!

Congratulations to Raymond, Oscar, and Geoffroy on your well deserved achievements and honors!!

February 20, 2011

Fajita Salad

I’m not sure we’re talking real fajitas here, but this salad is “yum-yum-yum,” to quote Patrice Robertie. Patrice sampled a dish like this at Pier 66 in Albuquerque, NM, and went home to replicate it. “The sauce starts off medium-hot on your tongue,” she says, “but it cools down fast.”


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February 19, 2011

Thomas Jefferson Loved Macaroni

After he returned from Europe, Thomas Jefferson was so fond of macaroni that he ordered it to be delivered along with his wine shipments from Marseilles. Historical sources show that a basic baked macaroni dish with Parmesan cheese was served at Monticello. The additional ingredients in this version were all grown in the garden at Monticello. This recipe is adapted from “Macaroni” in Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife (1824).


Macaroni and Spinach Bake
Dave DeWitt, The Founding Foodies: How Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin Revolutionized American Cuisine

1 (7-ounce) package uncooked dried elbow macaroni
¼ cup dried breadcrumbs
1 Tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh garlic, minced
½ teaspoon marjoram
¼ teaspoon black pepper, coarsely ground
1 (10-ounce) package chopped fresh spinach
1½ cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350°. In an uncovered pot full of salted, boiling water, cook the macaroni for 10 minutes. Drain the pasta, and set aside. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs into a buttered, 3-quart casserole, and set aside.

Melt the butter in a medium skillet until sizzling, and add the onion, garlic, marjoram, and pepper. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the onion is soft (2-3 minutes). Stir in the spinach. Stir constantly until the spinach is heated through (about 3 minutes). Stir in the cooked macaroni and cheese, and remove from the heat.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared casserole, pressing gently. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Makes 6 servings.

February 18, 2011

Mulligatawny Soup

This dish benefits from being made the day before, so its flavors have a chance to develop. Make a meal out of this by adding a loaf of bread and a hoppy India Pale Ale beer.

mulligatawny soup

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February 17, 2011

Zesty Seafood Chowder

This robust chowder is a lip-smacking meal-in-a-bowl. I love the hint of smokiness balanced by the heat of the jalapeño.



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February 16, 2011

Roast Chicken with Caramelized Grapefruit

February is National Grapefruit Month. There are some tantalizing recipes out there, some very savory like the one featured here, which highlight this tart fruit. Grapefruit is good for you. Eat up!


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February 15, 2011

Roquefort Tartines with Shallot-Cranberry Confit

This entertaining recipe comes from The Sumptuous Small Plates Deck by Bibby Gignilliat. A delicious small plate to pass around at your next gathering!


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February 14, 2011

Ocean Escargot Hasn’t Conched Out Yet

Anyone who has been to the Bahamas, the Turks, and Caicos or even Key West knows the word Conch. Pronounced “konk,” the name has become widely popular thanks to Jimmy Buffet songs and wild crazy Key West visits. Residents of Key West (known as the Conch Republic) are called conchs, the streets are lined with conch houses, and tourists can ride the conch train. Go further south into the Bahamas where the term “conchy joe” is used to refer to Bahamians of mixed race.

All the slang aside, this beautiful and delicious marine mollusk has gone through a roller coaster of existence over the last 20 or so years.

In my early 20s, fresh out of culinary and looking for adventure, I took a job charter boat cooking in the Virgin Islands. What great fun it was to dive off the boat for conch, filling up a net bag with as many as we could before our lungs exploded, surfacing to hear the ooh’s and ahh’s of the guests onboard at the sight of these magnificent conch!

Learning from the locals that rather than smash a shell for the meat, an hour or so in the freezer was most effective at driving the conch out, leaving a fully intact shell for someone to take home as a souvenir. Running this tough hunk of muscle through a hand crank meat grinder produced a perfect textured meat for creating my version of some local dishes.

Conch incidentally is higher in protein than most seafood and second to salmon in omega-3 fatty acids. It’s pretty much a “perfect seafood.” On a trip to St. Thomas a couple years back, I was told that diving for conch would be nothing more than an exercise in holding my breath. They are few and far between in those waters.

The queen conch (the one in that beautiful big white shell with the pale pink interior) is most commonly used in all conch recipes from conch fritters to conch chowder. In the early ’80s, the queen conch population was starting to collapse. Florida banned its harvest and it was banned from the Bahamas down to Haiti and Honduras. It was being seriously overfished and facing depletion. The industrious Bahamians sanctioned a 176 square mile area of Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park as a no-take fishery zone. Since then the park has become a major source for the replenishment of queen conch. Florida jumped on the wagon and began operating a conch hatchery in the Keys in 1991 to help conch stocks recover.

As recently as 2005, there was only one commercial conch farm in the world. Owned by an American on the Island of Provo in the Turks and Caicos, this underwater pasture of 260 acres raises millions of conch annually for export. Conch is gaining its place in the seafood repertoire of some of this country’s top chefs. My interest in conch sparked further research which is now leading to partnering with a group in the Bahamas to set up a small manufacturing facility to produce (you guessed it) value added conch products for export. From Lobster Stew to Conch Chowder—here we go!

The following recipe was given to me by my good friend McKenzie, a true Bahamian gentleman.


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February 13, 2011

Valentine Cocktail

In honor of Valentine’s Day, here’s a spirited cocktail to help you and that special someone enjoy the most romantic day of the year.


La Vie en Rose

2 scoops vanilla ice cream
¼ ounce grenadine
½ ounce vodka
1 ounce Pernod
1 ounce white crème de cacao

Mix all ingredients in a blender at high speed until smooth. Pour into a large chilled champagne flute.

Option: Garnish with a rose.

February 12, 2011

Blueberry Oatmeal Scones

Dried (or dehydrated) blueberries, which are more and more available, are a wonderful way to enjoy Maine’s preeminent fruit all year long. Their pleasantly chewy, raisin-like texture and concentrated flavor makes them ideally suited for adding to baked things, and their tartness perfectly enhances these rich, crumbly oat scones. Frozen blueberries also work well in this recipe.blueberry-oat-scone

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February 11, 2011

Grilled Cheese and Creamy Tomato Soup

When life throws you daggers, sometimes the only thing that’ll save the day is a grilled cheese sandwich. A few years ago, while working at, I wrote a piece called “The Tao of Grilled Cheese,” which explains the “You had me at hello” allure of this universally beloved sandwich: “The most simple and humble of hot sandwiches is what makes me feel most at home, when time stands still, when I think of nothing but the alchemy that results from two slices of ordinary bread, a few hunks of cheese, and the heat of the skillet. It is the grilled cheese that has walked alongside me throughout my life.”

So I present my grilled cheese, jazzed up with a little Dijon mustard and olive oil in place of butter. Naturally, soup is on the menu, because where there’s grilled cheese, there’s soup, just like when we were kids. The soup can be made in advance.


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February 10, 2011

Stuffed Portobellos

I confess to being a dyed-in-the wool carnivore. That being said, I’ve come to realize that the older I get (ahem, no specific age revealed but let’s just say I recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of my 50th birthday) I often choose a vegetarian entrée when dining out and Peter and I have happily adopted the new “Meatless Monday” idea.

Mushrooms of any type are a wonderful substitute for meat because they have great texture and “chew” and portobellos in particular have substantial meatiness and umami. This recipe combines lots of my favorites: artichokes, spinach, and cheese all stuffed into a tasty mushroom. Served with a green salad and a crusty baguette, dinner is meatless and marvelous.


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