Cook, Sip, and Sail Away on Penobscot Bay – a Maine Gourmet Feast

Join us on the Schooner J. & E. Riggin for a unique Maine Gourmet Feast! Come savor the best of Maine’s local foodways on this 4-day foodie adventure!

Maine Gourmet Cruise

Meals will feature the best of the best: oysters from Pemaquid Oyster Company, produce from acclaimed Hope’s Edge Farm, award-winning cheese from Appleton Creamery and Hahn’s End. Every night will feature a different specialty cocktail demo (be sure to bring your own vodka, gin, and whiskey!). Come join us and celebrate the outstanding local food MidCoast Maine is famed for and celebrate the release of the newest cookbook Sugar & Salt Book Two – The Orange Book.

This delectable foodie cruise will take place on our Maine Windjammer, the Schooner J. & E. Riggin from August 1st – 4th (2016)  at only $650 per person.

Cooking (and sipping) away on Penobscot Bay

On a Boat, It’s Not Always Perfect, But It Is Just Right

I traded swanky, landscaped, plated meals for the pine-studded coast liberally sprinkled with lichen-covered granite and a sea that is ever changing from a smokey charcoal to deep forest green.  My kitchen (galley) is outside and instead of being enclosed by four greasy walls lined with pots, pans and stainless equipment, I have pine tables, a cast iron wood stove and the smell of wood smoke.  My skin has the kiss of the sun, rather than the pasty white of someone who works indoors, even in the summer.

However, as a chef, there are a few things that occasionally ding my pride.  I’m a big girl, also an enthusiastic, optimistic one, so the moment doesn’t last long.  But I cook  on a boat all summer long and there are a number of situations that take priority over the visual attractiveness of my culinary hard work.  Sometimes my food doesn’t look perfect and it bothers me.

For example, the reason this salad has so many apples on it is not that Cassie, my assistant cook, got crazy with the apples, although this is not out of the question.  No, the true reason is that salad greens unprotected, literally, blow away with the first step on deck.  We feed the fish, not our guests.IMG_7753-001a

I love the look of micro-greens.  Do I ever use these delicate beauties?  No.  I would be the only one to see them.  See the blowing away reference above.

Also, the nature of my galley and the space available on any boat dictates that I serve family style.  I don’t have space to plate up 30 dinners in my galley.  Which means that sometimes my food is served in the pan in which it was cooked.  Again, there is a rustic simplicity, and dare I say beauty, to this look.  But no, beauty is not the word.  Practical, useful, convenient, expedient, safe, frugal.  These are the words I would use to describe my pans, but I tell you, a girl who wants to look pretty does NOT want to use these words and neither does the girl, who is the chef, who wants her food to look pretty.

The menu for lunch on the day these photos were taken was:

Local Porcini and Broccoli Leaf Mac n Cheese, Roasted Veggie and Local Italian Sausage Mac n Cheese, Garlic Knots, Apple, Walnut, Raisin Garden Greens Salad, Dijon and Champagne Vinaigrette and an Apricot Orange Pound Cake


It sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?  And then I look at these photos and I’m sad that they don’t do it justice.  I remember this meal and I loved the Porcini and Broccoli Leaf Mac n Cheese… There was nothing left of this meal.  But the look of it?  The pans are …  Hmm.

Ah well, at heart I am both creative, practical, artistic, and frugal.  It turns out that my food on this beautiful boat we sail, meandering along the breathtaking Maine Coast, has the exact qualities of both me and of Maine.  I’d rather be right where I am – in my outdoor kitchen, creating honest food that fits it’s place perfectly.

Just accepting what is

Green, green pasta

This is the time of year when I crave green vegetables by the bushel-full.  Kale, broccoli, swiss chard, green beans, spinach – it all sounds good to me.  So when Chlöe asked for Spinach Balls as I was headed to the grocery store this week, this is what came…

Green, Green Pasta

Spinach Balls

They do well if frozen, but do not defrost in the microwave, but rather bring to room temperature or heat in the oven or toaster oven.   Add to Marinara Sauce or cool and refrigerate or freeze.  Makes approximately 48 spinach balls

Spinach Balls:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, (4 T. for spinach balls, 2 T. for green beans, 2 T. to toss with pasta)
1 cup minced onions
2, 16 oz. packages frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
2 cups bread crumbs
1 teaspoon kosher salt
several grinds of fresh black pepper

Green Beans:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
10 ounces green beans, stem ends removed and cut into thirds
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
several grinds of fresh black pepper

1 pound spinach fettuccine
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese

Spinach Balls:
Preheat oven to 350°.  In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and add the rest of the ingredients.  With a small melon baller, form the dough into 1-inch balls and place on a baking sheet.  Bake for 30 minutes.

Green Beans:
In the skillet that you cooked the onions, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and add the green beans, salt and pepper.  Sauté on high heat for 3 to 4 minutes or until the beans begin to brown on the outside, but are still crunchy on the inside.  Remove from heat and set aside until the pasta is done.

Cook the pasta to package instructions in a medium stockpot filled with boiling, salted water.  Stir well when you first add the pasta to the water to prevent the noodles from sticking to each other.  When the noodles still have a insy, tiny dot of white in the center when you cut one in half, they are done.  Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl or platter.  Toss with 2 tablespoons butter and half of the Parmesan.  Top with the green beans and then the spinach balls.  Serve with the other half of the Parmesan as an additional topping.

Serves 6-8

Why Salt Ahead?

This menu is one that became a column somewhat recently, but the link will expire soon, so I post it here for you instead.  It might make a nice entertaining menu for a smaller group of people – maybe for a Sunday night meal or if you are feeding guests from out of town.

The original idea for this recipe came from a technique used by Judy Rodgers of Zuni Café.  She salts all of the meat and some of the vegetables as they come into the restaurant, giving days, rather than minutes for a deeper flavor as opposed to simply a surface salting.  It’s a form of dry-salting and actually allows retention of moisture rather than a drying out of the meat.

Here’s how it works.  The chemical reaction that takes place is called osmosis, which is the moving out of or into cells – in this case, salt, moisture and aromatics.  At first, salted meats do leach liquid which is where the still popular idea that “salting ahead of time dries out meat” comes from.  But then, the reverse begins to happen and the moisture that returns to the cells is now flavored with salt, making the cells more resilient to heat and promoting juiciness and tenderness.  The salt actually goes to work on the proteins and “opens them up” allowing them to hold more moisture.

This technique is most dramatic with large, sinuous cuts of meat where the surface area to weight is lesser.  The amount of salt used on these cuts will look too heavy handed initially, but will produce a well seasoned, not salty, succulent slice of meat.

For smaller and more tender cuts of meat such as chicken breasts or in this case, the pork tenderloin, less time and salt is required.  This method is also forgiving.  If you change your mind and decide to have something else for dinner, it will wait another day.  In addition, if you found you over bought at the grocery store and are worried about a few things going before you have a chance to use them, this is also a good technique for extending the life and freshness of your purchases.  Salting is a time honored method of preservation used for centuries, although we are talking about using considerably less salt in this method.  Keep in mind that this won’t bring back from the dead what should be given a “go directly to the garbage” ticket.

I used locally raised pork for this recipe which usually means the tenderloins are smaller due to the smaller size of the pigs when slaughtered.  In the grocery store, they typically come 2 to a package and are 12 to 16oz. each.  I find that if sliced on the bias as you would flank steak, that a full 6 to 8oz. portion per person is not necessary.  This will then serve 6 to 8 people instead of the 4 to 6 listed below and it’s possible to stretch to 10 to 12 if you plan to serve another side.  If you can only find the tenderloins packaged in twos, either save one for another meal or increase the rest of the ingredients by two.

This recipe would also be great with a blue cheese aioli or another cold and creamy blue cheese sauce.

Pork Tenderloin with Toasted Walnuts, Sage and Blue Cheese
2 small pork tenderloins or one large, about 1 pound, silverskin removed
two generous pinches of sea salt, with a grind the size of kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon canola or peanut oil
several grind of fresh black pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup lightly packed sage leaves
pinches of salt for both the sage leaves and walnuts
1 cup whole walnuts
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 oz. crumbled blue cheese

The day before you plan to serve the tenderloin, lightly sprinkle with salt and drizzle with olive oil.  Return to the refrigerator until ready to cook.  They can be salted 24 to 48 hours ahead.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the canola oil to the pan.  Carefully add the tenderloin and season with black pepper.  Sear on all sides for 10 to 15 minutes or until an internal read thermometer registers 145 degrees.  Remove from the pan to a platter and let rest.

In the same pan, add the olive oil and then the sage leaves.  Spread them out so that they are all touching the bottom of the pan and remove with tongs when they darken and become crisp, about 1 minute.  Lightly salt and set aside on a serving platter.  Again with the same pan (being frugal on the water and the dishwasher), add the walnuts and stir until the outsides begin to brown lightly, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Remove from pan to the same platter that holds the sage, lightly salt and set aside.  Once more with the same pan, on medium-high heat, add the butter.  Swirl until the butter has bubbled and then begins to brown.  Pour over the sage and walnuts and toss gently.  Slice the pork with a diagonal cut 1/4 inch thick and place on top of the walnut and sage mixture.  Sprinkle all with blue cheese and serve immediately.

Serves 4 to 6

Roasted Carrots, Red Onion and Kale
Curly or Russian kale will get a little crispy on the edges in this recipe while Lacinato kale (the longer more wrinkled variety) will wilt more like other greens do.  Both are delicious.
1 1/2 pounds carrots, sliced into 1/4 inch slices
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus another 1/4 teaspoon for the kale
several grinds of fresh black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus another 2 tablespoons for the kale
1/2 bunch of kale, stemmed and coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  On a large roasting pan, drizzle olive oil, salt and pepper over the carrots and onions.  Use your hands to coat evenly.  Roast for 1 hour or until the carrots are tender and the onions are beginning to brown.  Add the kale and drizzle with more oil salt and pepper.  Stir well and roast for another 20 minutes or until the kale is bright green and a little crispy on the edges.

Serves 4-6

Crispy Pasta
Like many things delicious, this recipe was invented through necessity, not creativity.  There are times either at home or on the boat when what I thought we had in the way of supplies, turns out to be less than originally planned (say, hypothetically eaten during a late night watch by a ravenous 20 year old deck hand who works hard all day and is still growing into his 6’4” limbs) and I need to move to plan C.

This will also work with leftover dried pasta, but is terrific with the homemade.  This is an intentionally loose recipe intended for the vagaries of the amount of leftover pasta with which you find yourself.  The amount of onions in this recipe is intended for 4-6 people, but if you want to increase or decrease the amount of pasta, then do so accordingly with the onions.

a handful of cold cooked pasta per person
1 cup caramelized onions (about 3 cups before you cook them down)
1-2 tablespoons grated Parmesan per person
salt and black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Toss the pasta with olive oil in a roasting pan.  Place pan on middle shelf in oven.  Bake until the edges crisp up and turns golden brown.  Toss with the rest of ingredients and bake for another 3 to 5 minutes.  Serve immediately.


Cranberries – The Colorful Family Member

Cranberries are sometimes one of the few things that bring bright color to an otherwise fairly brown meal – Thanksgiving. Think about it – brown turkey, stuffing, potatoes, roasted vegetable (yes a little color but not much) and the gravy.  Maybe green beans, but if you are like most people and do the cream of mushroom soup with the topping – then we are back to brown.

Good thing that making your own sauce is not hard.  My recipe for Cumberland Sauce which ran in the paper today, can actually be served cold as a jelly or warm as a sauce.  I like it either way.  The Cranberry Syrup is one I posted about last year and still love on my french toast.  I’ve also used it as a sauce on pound cake, drizzled on top of yogurt with some walnuts and spread on whole wheat toast for breakfast.  The link expires within 30 days so be sure to click over soon to snag the recipes.

The other recipes in the column are: Turkey Confit, Turkey Galantine, and Turkey Stock

Cranberries go into the pot.

Juice from the oranges – who needs a reamer anyway when you’ve got fingers?

Bring to a boil until the cranberries burst and then to a simmer for 10 minutes.

Smash with a potato masher and serve hot or cold.   Don’t forget to remove the bay leaf and if the whole peppercorns bug you, then put them into a little cheese cloth bag before they go into the pot.

A little color never hurt anyone!

German Chocolate Cake – Maine Ingredient

This rich cake is saved from being cloyingly sweet by the bittersweet chocolate ganache and the pecans which both add a slight layer of tang or acidity that combines to big time advantage with the sweet frosting.  It ran with a Homemade Macaroni and Cheese recipe in the Portland Press Herald last Wednesday.

German Chocolate Cake
The box recipe that my mom and grandma always used to make was never attractive to me as a child.  With the addition of a layer of ganache, however, the balance of bitter and sweet in the chocolate make this a dessert my daughters love.  Me too!  I used the traditional recipe for the frosting, but instead of standing over the stove for 12 to 15 minutes stirring constantly, I put the frosting over a double boiler and only stir occasionally.  It takes longer, closer to 30 minutes for the mixture to thicken.  The ganache is straight from Christopher Kimball’s The Dessert Bible.  It’s perfect just the way it is and needs not even a little tweaking.

German chocolate actually has less cacao, what gives chocolate its distinctive flavor, than semi sweet or bittersweet at 46%, 54% and 67% respectively.  This then the reason that the cakes are lighter in color and chocolate flavor.  (And also why the layer of ganache makes this cake so much better.)

4 ounces German chocolate, 4 squares, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces or smaller
1/2 cup fresh, hot coffee
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, plus a little more for the pan
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter two 9-inch round cake pans.  In a small bowl, combine the chocolate and coffee and cover.  Stir after 5 minutes to make sure the chocolate has melted.  Cool.  Cream the butter and sugar together and then add the eggs one at a time.  Add the cooled chocolate.  Sift the flour over the creamed mixture alternating with the buttermilk and vanilla.  Mix until just combined.  Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until a tooth pick comes clean when inserted into the center of the cake.   Let cool in the pan.

1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
8 ounces German or bittersweet chocolate, 8 squares, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces or smaller

In a small saucepan, bring the cream, butter and syrup to a strong simmer.  Add the chocolate and cover for 5 minutes.  Stir to be sure the chocolate has fully melted.  Then cool to a point where it will set on the cake, but is still spreadable.

Coconut Frosting:
1, 12oz. can evaporated milk
1 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup butter, one stick
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cup toasted coconut
1 cup toasted pecans

Place all ingredients except coconut and pecans in the top of a double boiler, keeping at least 1-inch of simmering water in the lower pan.  Stir occasionally until the mixture thickens considerably.  Add the coconut and cool in the refrigerator until it will spread, but set well on the cake.

Assemble the Cake:
Place a dollop of ganache on a flat, round platter or upturned round baking dish.  (This is if you don’t have a cake turn table.)  Flip one of the cakes top side down into the middle of the platter.  Spread half of the ganache and then repeat with the second cake, again top side down.  Spread the coconut frosting on the top and sides of the cake.  With your hands, press the pecans into the sides of the cake, picking up what doesn’t stick and repeating until the entire side is covered.

Cook the Book – Three Sausage and Butternut Squash Sauce

I created this recipe for Curtis Custom Meats in Union, Maine several years ago.  We used to buy all of our meat from them, pre-the enormous freezer full of cuts of whole pig and cow from Terra Optima in Appleton.

This recipe makes a large pot of sauce – good for a big family dinner before or after Thanksgiving Day.  It also freezes well if you’ve a smaller group.  When I first created it, I thought I should cut it down to make it serve 4-6 people, but then all of the sausage comes in one pound pacakages.  So either you have all of these 1/2 pound bits of sausage, not to mention the 1/2 a butternut squash, or you’ve got your self a lot of sauce.  I went for the ‘lotta sauce’ knowing that everyone could use a dish that freezes well and cooks up in minutes for those crazy days when it’s either whatever you find in the freezer or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner.

Three Sausage and Butternut Squash Sauce

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound hot sausage, cut into 1-inch slices
1 pound sweet sausage, cut into 1-inch slices
1 pound garlic sausage, cut into 1-inch slices
3 large onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons fresh basil, or 2 tablespoons dried
3 tablespoons Italian seasoning
1 cup red wine
6 cups peeled, seeded, and diced tomatoes (or 2 16-ounce cans diced tomatoes)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley to garnish

Preheat oven to 500°.  Toss the squash with the olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast for 45 minutes or until the squash is cooked through (but not falling apart).  Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat.  Add the sausages and sauté until they are lightly browned.  Add the onions, garlic, and seasonings and continue to cook until the onions are translucent.  Add the wine, tomatoes and salt; reduce heat and simmer for at least 30 minutes.  Add the squash and serve over your favorite pasta and garnish with the ricotta cheese and parsley.

Serves 12-16

Looking forward to a big family dinner

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Tomato and Avocado Quesadillas with Mango and Red Pepper Salsa

Love, love, love quesadillas and salsa.  Easy, forgiving, zingy, sloppy, cheap, pretty and the girls like them.  What more could a person ask for?

Wait for them to cool a bit before slicing as it gives the cheese time to set up and not ooze out the sides.
You can hold these in the oven at 200º for up to one hour.

Tomato and Avocado Quesadillas

8 plain flour tortillas, 8-inch
2 avocados, peeled, pitted and sliced
2 tomatoes, peeled pitted and sliced
3 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
Pinch of salt for each quesadilla, use sparingly as the cheese is also salty
3 tablespoons olive oil, approximately

Prepare the quesadillas by laying out four tortillas and dividing the avocado, cheese and tomatoes evenly between  them.  Sprinkle with salt.  Place the other tortillas on top like a sandwich.  Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium  high heat.  Add a tablespoon of the oil and carefully place one quesadilla into the skillet.  Cook for 2 minutes  on one side or until golden brown and flip.  Cook for another 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool on a cutting board or hold in the oven on a cookie sheet at 200º.

Repeat with the other three quesadillas adding oil to the pan at the beginning as needed.  Cut into 6 or 8 pieces each.

Serves 4-8

Mango and Red Pepper Salsa

1 mango, diced
1 tomato, diced
1 red pepper, diced
2-3 tablespoons of lime juice, 1 to 2 limes
1 tablespoon minced onion
1/2 teaspoon minced jalapeno pepper (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh black pepper

Combine all ingredients together and serve.

Makes 2 to 3 cups


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Windjammer Film: the Maine Windjammer Fleet and the Riggin Rebuild

As many of your may know, Jon and I plan to lead a rebuild of the J. & E. Riggin, a National Historic Landmark, next winter.  For those of you who don’t know, owning, or as we sometimes say, stewarding, one of these National Historic Landmarks is a way of life and a labor of love.  While they may seem like catch phrases, I can assure you, they aren’t.

The planning stages of the project are underway so to speak and the physical work will begin at the end of September just as quickly as we can get all of the removable parts like sails, mattresses, deck boxes, everything galley related and anything else that we can hoist off the boat and into the barn.

Andy Seestedt, a former crewmember (really an alum, having graduated from the School of Riggin), will be producing an independent film about the unique community of windjammers of which we are apart, the wealth of knowledge and history that lives in these windjammer captains and owners and the one-of-a-kind lifestyles we all choose by becoming stewards of these grand vessels.  The Riggin’s comprehensive restoration will be the lens through which the broader story is told.

Andy has been up from NYC to film a couple of times and his visits will increase in frequency until he’s camped out in Rockland for the fall/winter.

Andy and Capt. Jon

Riggin hauled out at North End Shipyard.

The silly Capt. and Andy

Like all independent projects, funding can be crucial.  Both the rebuild and the film fall into this category.  If you are moved by either story and would like more information or to donate to either project visit Windjammer Film or Association for Maritime Preservation.

Thinking outside the box

Salmon, Creme Fraiche and Peas with Penne

“Mama, WHY are we the only ones who take care of the chickens?” say the girls one morning. (They aren’t but who’s counting.)

“I tell you what, I’ll do the chickens both morning and evening if you cook dinner tonight,” I say with complete certainty that they’ll choose chickens.

“DEAL!” they say.

So then goes the conversation about what they’ll make and how they’ll make it all by themselves. Admittedly, they did ask questions and I did hang around the kitchen to field them, but I didn’t touch a pot or a pair of tongs once.

They served it with asparagus from the garden and even figured out how to use the pasta water to blanch the asparagus. The amounts of the peas and the cheese are approximate as I wasn’t in there measuring, but the creme fraiche and the salmon are exact.

It wasn’t just edible; it was GOOD!

Salmon, Creme Fraiche and Peas with Penne
1 pound package of penne
4 oz. creme fraiche
1 1/2 to 2 cups peas. The girls used frozen, but if you have fresh peas? Heaven.
1 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese. I was skeptical but it was great!
salt and pepper
4 oz. smoked salmon

Asparagus with Lemon
If the asparagus you find is skinnier than what I’ve listed, reduce your blanching time accordingly.
1 bunch thick asparagus (about 3/4-inch diam.)
1/2 lemon
salt and pepper

Cook the pasta for 5 minutes in boiling salted water. Add the asparagus for 4 more minutes. Remove asparagus with tongs to a platter and add the peas to the water for 1 minute. Drain and return to the pasta pot. Add the creme fraiche, cheddar cheese and smoked salmon and stir until the cheddar is melted. Add salt and pepper to taste. Squeeze half a lemon over the asparagus and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Serve the pasta with the asparagus and a lettuce and vegetable salad.

Serves 4 to 6


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