Sometimes things that start badly turn out for the best. That’s what happened to us when we discovered a computer issue that we had to take care of while we were away. We had to drive a distance to Belfast, Maine where there was a computer store that would have the solution we needed. My tummy was growling as we walked out the door, so I grabbed a guide book hoping to find a restaurant where we could have lunch. There was a place that looked interesting practically right across the street…Chase’s Daily.
The guide book said that it was a vegetarian restaurant that also housed a daily farmer’s market…sounded up my alley. Even though I’m not a true “veg head,” I love to eat fresh, flavorful veggies and I believe that some of the most creative dishes can be all veg.
We walked up to the door and I noticed the large windows filled with flowers…a perfect introduction to the natural scene within.
Even though we arrived before noon, it was packed. We gave our name to the very friendly hostess and headed straight for the back of the restaurant where we found the market area…large galvanized containers were center stage and freshly picked produce was the star.
Folks were streaming in the back door and heading straight for their favorites…I so wish that I had a kitchen…it was kind of a tease…all of this fabulous produce and NO kitchen!
As we were being led to our table, we went by folks eating the most lovely pizza…you know, sometimes you just crave a pizza, right? Especially when you’re coming from Chicago…so you won’t be surprised by what we ordered.
This week’s Sunday supper was inspired by our visit and based on the concept of going to your local market or garden, finding the freshest ingredients and combining them for a light and flavorful meal. Fat, thick slices of red ripe tomatoes straight off the vine, tender sweet kernels of Silver Queen corn and lots and lots of bright fresh herbs.
I decided to experiment and use a packaged pizza dough for this recipe. I used the whole grain version, cut out individual-sized rounds using a bowl and a knife and followed the instructions that said that I should bake the dough for about 6 minutes before adding the toppings, then bake again for about 6 – 9 minutes. I found that the crust was crisp and the veggies were not overcooked. I sprinkled more fresh herbs and a drizzle of olive oil before serving.
I think that the next time I make this, I’m going to use homemade pizza dough, but if you’re pinched for time, you might want to consider the packaged version.
Fresh Herb, Corn, Tomato and Goat Cheese Mini Pizza Recipe
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Straight from the garden to the table.
1 container of packaged pizza dough (I used whole grain) or use your favorite pizza dough recipe
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 teaspoons good quality olive oil (to oil cookie sheet and add to top of pizza before adding the veggies)
4 medium tomatoes, sliced
1 ear fresh corn, kernels removed from husk
8 oz. goat cheese
1/2 cup mixed herbs (I used basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme, removed from stems)
Olive oil to drizzle on top
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Oil cookie sheet.
Roll out dough. For individual mini pizzas, cut out by pressing a 6 to 8 inch bowl down onto the dough, use a knife to cut around the bowl, then lift out rounds and place on oiled cookie sheet.
Bake according to packaged directions, remove from oven after 6 minutes.
On top of pizzas spread a bit of olive oil, then sprinkle on finely minced garlic, add sliced tomatoes, kernels of corn, goat cheese and herbs.
Return to oven and bake for an additional 6 or so minutes.
Remove from oven, sprinkle with more fresh herbs and drizzle with olive oil.
Every morning at breakfast we would discuss where we should go and what we should do that day. While placing something fresh from the oven on the table, our hostess would always have a great suggestion..usually followed by a welcomed brochure.
One morning was especially beautiful and we decided to go to the Beech Hill Preserve, a conservation property owned by the Coastal Mountains Land Trust located close by in Rockport. Our goal was to hike up the trail to the summit where we would find the romantic stone “tea house”, named Beech Nut. Along the way, we hoped to see some special birds (Beech Hill is known to have over 100 species) and admire the large fields of wild blueberries…the small, sweet kind found only in Maine.
As soon as we got on the trail, we spied a sign identifying the native Wood Lily. We were told that when these lilies appear in the fields, the blueberries are ready to pick. We searched and found one! OK, we see the lily, but where are the blueberries?
We were almost at the summit, and still no sign of them….then something on the ground caught my eye…was it…yes, yes, it was. Right there were very low growing blueberry bushes, not the sturdy tall variety I was used to seeing. We’d been walking by them all along and our eyes were focused up and not down. Now that we knew where to look, they sprinkled the hillside like fairy dust.
Beech Nut looks like an enchanted cottage…could someone inside be spinning straw into gold? It was designed by Norwegian landscape designer, Hans O. Heistad and built in the early 1900′s out of stone with a sod roof in keeping with Norwegian tradition. The Gribbell family of Philadelphia who developed Beech Hill, used to meander up the curving trail in their buggy, admiring the scenery and carrying picnic hampers groaning with all of the trappings of a fine Victorian tea.
After their journey, they would have their tea overlooking the wonderful panoramic views of the Camden Hills, Penobscot Bay and the St. George Peninsula.
At Beech Hill you are asked to stay on the trail and not to pick the blueberries or the lilies, this land is dedicated to conserving not indulging. There is one day a year (this year, it’s TODAY) that you can go up and pick the tiny, blue treasures. So, if you’re in the neighborhood….
I thought that it might be fun to have an “old timey” dessert for family and friends for this week’s Sunday Supper…something that they might have served at high tea at the top of that hill on warm summer afternoons.
On a dusty shelf in an old antique shop I found a well worn copy of The American Heritage Cookbook. This book is filled with time honored recipes of the past; such a grunts, fools and flummery. By now, you probably know that I’m drawn to simple, tasty recipes. I chose to adapt this one, and I’m glad I did. It has a light, fluffy, fruity taste with a hint of lemon.
Oh, and you top it with crumbled macaroons (not to be confused with French macarons). I found these almond macaroons at my local bakery, but if you can’t find them your way, you could use crumbled sugar cookies. I added fresh blueberries as well for another texture to enjoy.
Old Fashioned Blueberry Fool Dessert Recipe
Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
A light, fluffy, fruity dessert that is perfect for a hot summer evening.
2 pints fresh blueberries, reserving a few as garnish
1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup crumbled macaroons (or sugar cookies)
Rinse berries (keeping a few for the garnish) add remainder to saucepan with 1/4 cup of water. Let simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes or till the fruit is very tender. Remove from the heat and place in a strainer over a bowl. Work the berries through the strainer with a spoon. While the fruit puree is still warm, stir in the sugar and the lemon zest. Place mixture in the fridge to cool.
Now you are going to whip the cream and fold it into the fruit puree. I like to place my bowl and the beaters that I'll be using in the freezer to chill. Using chilled bowl and beaters, add heavy cream and whip cream till it forms soft peaks.
Remove the fruit puree from the fridge and whisk mixture a bit to loosen it (it will be slightly jelled). Then fold in the whipped cream. Spoon into serving bowls and place in fridge till you are ready to serve.
When ready to serve, sprinkle crumbled cookies and blueberries on top.
I don’t consider myself a sailor, but I just can’t go to Maine without getting out there on the water pretending to own a boat (at least for a few hours) and this trip was no exception.
It was up in the air as to which day we were going to sail, but we got the call and jumped at the chance to go out on such a beautiful summer evening.
We set sail from the harbor at Rockport on the Schooner Heron. The Heron is a 65 foot classic wooden boat hand built by Twig and Bonnie Bower (I know, can you believe it?). I thought it looked familiar…later I discovered that it was featured as “Sanderson’s yacht” in the Johnny Depp’s film, “The Rum Diary”.
On board were folks from England and Germany and soon everyone was chatting and enjoying themselves. One thing we all had in common was our love for Maine and the sea.
Soon we were out of the mooring and heading toward Penobscot Bay, but first we had to pass the Indian Island Lighthouse.
The billowing sails soon stood at attention like seamen in the presence of an admiral.
The landlubber in me was a bit relieved when the winds proved to be calm as the kitten “Monkey” who popped out of the hold to sniff which way the wind was blowing.
For their gourmet sunset sail the Bowers’ provide the hors d ‘oeurves, but you provide the drinks. We chose a nice Chardonnay which went very nicely with the selection of various cheese and fruit…but what I really liked was the crab dip.
Hours later we return to the Rockport harbor to find that the evening was just beginning for some looking to the ocean for their meal.
I thought that you might enjoy a bit of the sea to share with your family and friends for your next Sunday Supper.
I realize that not all of you have access to fresh crab…and neither did I when I returned home, but I did find this which was the perfect substitute at a local market.
Spicy New England Crab Dip
Yield: 12 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
For those of you who love crab with a bit of a kick.
1 cup mayonnaise (I use Hellman's)
1/4 cup Chili Sauce (I use Heinz)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest (I used a rasp instead of a zester)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
5 dashes of Tabasco sauce
1/4 cup celery, minced
1/4 cup green pepper minced
2 tablespoons sweet onion, grated
2 tablespoons parsley, minced (I used Italian)
1 pound crab meat (if you use fresh, please make sure that you check it for any random shell bits)
In a large bowl, wisk the first 6 ingredients together (mayo, chile sauce, Tabasco, lemon juice and lemon zest) till combined.
Then add the next four ingredients (celery, green pepper, onion and parsley) and stir together till combined.
Finally, fold in the crab meat till combined.
Chill for an hour or more in the fridge. (can be made a day ahead)
Serve on toasted French bread or cucumber slices.
We drove along Highway 1, through charming villages and beautiful countryside till we reached our destination just north of Camden, Cedarholm Garden Bay Inn.
From the moment we entered, we could tell that this was a very special place. We were greeted by two of the owners, Kristin and George, and were told the story of Cedarholm. Eighteen years ago, Kristin, George and her parents left the noise and hectic lifestyle of New York behind and moved to this tranquil spot and slowly, with their own hands (yes, you heard right) built the lovely cottages and gardens that hug the shore and wind through the dense woods.
I can’t tell you just how lovely and immaculate the cottages and grounds are…not a leaf out of place in the herbaceous borders or vegetable gardens and I can honestly say that I’ve never seen such scrupulously clean rooms…ever!
In the morning we would wake up to the soft purr of the lobster boats going out for the day to inspect their traps.
Then up to the lodge to enjoy a breakfast that always included something freshly baked and the luxury of deciding how we were going to spend our day.
But in the evening, we would come home to our little cottage with it’s deck overlooking the bay and the fields of wildflowers and listen to the lapping of the gentle waves on the shore and the birds singing their final songs.
Those quiet evenings inspired this refreshing summer cocktail. The infused vodka is a beautiful pink/purple…the color of a Maine sunset. It is just perfect on hot summer days (or evenings) and it’s family friendly as well…just don’t add the infused vodka. Serve it with a spoon so that you can nibble on the bites of fruit and cucumber as you sip.
Summer Blueberry Cocktail Recipe
Yield: 1 - 8 oz. glass
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
A light, refreshing drink...perfect for a hot summer day.
1 or 2 slices of cucumber
1 or 2 slices of orange
1 or 2 raspberries
1 or 2 sliced strawberries
1 ounce blueberry infused vodka (optional) - directions below
3 ounces club soda
3 ounces lemon-lime soda
If you want to use the blueberry infused vodka for this recipe, it's quite easy to make. In a glass jar, add freshly washed (organic, if possible) blueberries and good quality vodka. The ratio that I use is 1/2 cup blueberries to 1 cup vodka. Slightly macerate the blueberries (squish with fork). Place jar with blueberries and vodka in the fridge for about 24 hours. Before you serve, use a fine mesh strainer to separate the liquid from the blueberries and store the infused vodka in the fridge.
In an 8 ounce tall glass, add ice. Arrange the fruit and cucumber around the ice. I like to do this so that they don't all float to the top.
Pour in the infused vodka (optional), club soda and lemon-lime soda. Stir.
I swear I didn’t mention anything about having a food blog. I just asked the nice guy behind the counter at the airport if he could recommend a great place for lunch.
He immediately replied, “since you’re heading north, you have to go to Red’s for their lobster roll!”. He grabbed the map, circled Wiscasset, and in big letters wrote Red’s Eats.
We pulled into a charming village that some call the prettiest in Maine and lucked into a parking spot right across the street from Red’s. We stared at the line in awe and disbelief.
We were starving…how long would it take? Turns out, it was about 45 minutes (which is about average for a summer afternoon). Some have been known to wait 1 1/2 hours in the scorching sun.
The folks in line were friendly and the cheerful staff passed out umbrellas and cold water.
The next time, I might have to go with a friend that could bring their dog(s)…the four leggers were ushered to the front of the line so the pups wouldn’t overheat.
We finally received our order and eagerly took our lobster rolls with a side of drawn butter (we could have opted for mayo) to a table overlooking the water.
These rolls were big…enormous, in fact. Over a pound and a half of lobster meat nestled in a buttered, grilled bun. The pieces were huge, torn by hand with a claw placed at either end and heaps of fresh lobster in the middle. They were simple and to the point, satisfying and delicious.
A few days later we were in Rockport, and talk turned to lunch and we were told emphatically that Red’s Eats gets all of the press, but we had to go to Graffam Brothers, to have the “real” best lobster roll in Maine.
Graffam Brothers has a small roadside stand across from their seafood market and the post office. We pulled into their parking lot and hopped out of the car to find a smaller line of friendly people.
Dogs were welcome here as well, but had to wait their turn.
We ate on brightly colored picnic tables under large shade trees.
These rolls were different…not as large (but they cost less than half the price of Red’s). The meat was cut into tender, more bite size pieces and dressed with a hint of mayo. The contrast of the warm, buttery roll and the chilled lobster was…well, wonderful.
OK, which did we prefer?
Split decision. Jeff loved the simplicity of Red’s fresh, succulent lobster in a bun. I preferred the smaller, more tender chunks from Graffam Brothers…I don’t mind a bit of mayo.
From what I’ve heard, most folks in Maine don’t go for the “fancy” versions with celery, peppers, onions or herbs. They want their lobster simple and straightforward.
Dana suggested that those of us “from away” could add a bit of celery, a sprinkle of lemon zest and a touch of lemon juice to a mayo base, but please don’t tell the folks in Maine!
So, the next time that we want a taste of Maine to share with family and friends for Sunday Supper, this is what I’m going to do.
First, the lobster. Try to find a market in your area that flies the lobsters in daily from Maine and have them cook them for you. That way, all you have to do is remove the meat, look it over carefully for any shell particles and you’re good to go. Another option, Graffam Brothers will ship live lobsters to your door.
Second, the bun. In Maine, they are not called hot dog buns, they are called frankfurter rolls. They look like hot dog buns with their ends cut off and a cut halfway down the middle, and that’s exactly what you need to do if you are not in New England.
Now grill these like you would grill cheese. My technique? Spread the sides with room temperature butter and place in a hot skillet turning till lightly golden on each side.
If you want the Red’s Eats version, pile lots of hand pulled lobster in the middle and place the claws on each end…serve with drawn butter or mayo.
If you want the Graffam Brothers version, cut your lobster into bite size chunks and toss with a scant amount of mayo (it will depend on the size of the lobster).
Classic Lobster Roll
Yield: 1 serving
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
A classic taste of Maine.
1 - 1 1/2 pound lobster, cooked, (meat removed and checked for shell particles) cut or torn into pieces
1 scant tablespoon mayonnaise
1 frankfurter roll or hot dog bun with sides cut off (just remove a tiny bit from the sides or they will fall apart)
1 teaspoon butter
Toss the lobster meat with the mayonnaise. Chill.
Heat skillet and butter the outside of the roll. Place roll in the skillet and grill till lightly golden on each side.
Open the roll and place lobster claws on either side, fill the middle with the rest of the lobster.
Now, take a bite…you decide!
Update: Diane wrote in to let us know that for bakers reading this post, King Arthur Flour makes a pan that is perfect for making New England Hot Dog Rolls and they include a recipe. You can find the information in this link.