Lobster, Mushroom, Spinach Risotto

This recipe is the perfect balance of colors with the bright reds and pinks of the lobster nestled alongside the gentle white of the risotto and the brilliant green of the spinach.  The flavors also balance well.  The spinach is a slightly bitter taste that pares well with the soft, cheesy risotto and the salty, creamy sea taste of the lobster.

Me, I’ll take risotto any way you can think of making it, but this one?  Tops.

Risotto has such a reputation for taking a long time to cook while the said cook stands over the stove with limp hair and a little damp with the heat as they endlessly stir and stir.  It doesn’t have to be so serious.  Just some coming back to the stove to stir, add more liquid, move away and repeat as needed, but not continuously.

Lobster, Mushroom and Spinach Risotto

2 tablespoons olive oil
8 oz. mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 t. salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3oz. or 4 cups lightly packed spinach, washed, drained and deribbed
1/2 pound cooked lobster meat
2 tablespoons butter

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add oil and then mushrooms.  When the mushrooms begin to brown on the edges slightly, add the white wine and salt.  Bring to a boil and add the spinach and lemon juice, stirring quickly with tongs.  When the spinach has wilted, remove from heat and add the lobster meat and the butter.  Swirl the pan or stir with a wooden spoon and serve on top of risotto.

Serves 4


4 tablespoons butter, 1/2 stick
1/2 cup diced onion
2 cups Arborio rice
4 cups low-salt chicken stock
1/8 teaspoon salt
pinch of white pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onions and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.  If the onions begin to brown, reduce heat.  When the onions are done, add the rice and stir for one minute.  Add the salt, pepper and 1 cup of the stock and stir.  Continue to add the stock one cup at a time until it is all incorporated stirring frequently.  The rice is done when the liquid is completely incorporated and the grains are just the tiniest bit al dente in the center.  Add 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and reserve the second 1/2 cup for garnishing at the table.

Serves 4


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Adventures in Living Well

For those of you who are in the area, and are 55 or older (I’m sure they will be carding everyone at the door), I’ll be giving a talk on our life on the Riggin, how we’ve come to create a sustainable business within the eco-tourism sector and all of the interesting projects on which we’ve been working over the past year or two.

Oh, and by the way, we’ll eat lunch together! Yesterday I met with John Roy, the chef at Quarry Hill, the retirement community where I’ll be speaking, to talk about the menu. I’m thinking about Curried Lamb and Lentil Stew and Chicken and Pesto Soup with Handkerchief Pasta. John and I will be working together to recreate a typical lunch aboard the Riggin, complete with the baskets and bowls that I typically use.

It’s free, but you must make reservations and I understand that it’s already booking up.  Around the Table – At Home or At Sea.


  • March 24, noon to 2pm
  • Quarry Hill Retirement Community, Camden, Maine
  • To make reservations call 230-6114

Off to test a few more recipes for book and column…

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Time to Spring Clean the Freezer Challenge

Eating local during the months before the garden really gets going is the toughest. My body is craving fruit and LOTS of veggies but they all come from far, far away… except for what’s in the freezer and the pantry. Can’t get much more local than that! Not only does it feel terrific to be spending less on groceries, but the space in the freezer is making room for what’s to come this summer. Goodness all the way around.

This week’s column in the Portland Press Herald is a menu based entirely on ingredients I found in my freezer:

Beef Stroganoff
Raspberry Cinnamon Gallette

I even found a frozen pie crust hanging in the way back of a shelf!

So here’s a challenge to you… What can you make with what you find in your freezer? If you are stumped – write and I’ll help you. Maybe I’ll even have a recipe on hand to match what you’ve got.

I wonder what else I will unearth in that freezer before the month is out?

P.S.  Be sure to click on the link soon, it expires in 7 days!

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Upcycling a Sweater – Ella’s Homemade Gift

Lest you think I am not a 100% fair and equitable mom, I post here the sweater I made for Ella’s birthday. Hers started with a browse through Salvy’s. I spotted the sweater from across two isles knowing it was the perfect color for my more finicky daughter and practically lunged for it. I may have elbowed someone out of the way. I hope not, but my memory is somewhat fuzzy due to a small adrenaline rush.

I’ve knitted several sweaters and pairs of socks for both girls. Chloe wears them, Ella stores them. Hers are too itchy, too tight, too big, not the right color, too little girlish, etc. I continue to make things for her because I want her to be “wrapped in mama love,” as we call it whether she wears the clothes or not, and I’m secretly hoping to impart a little flexibility into that oh, so determined mind.  I have, however, pared down the time it takes for me to execute her projects. While I’d just found the perfect color of yarn with which to knit a sweater, I, understandably, was loathe to spend hours on something she may or may not really like in the end.

This sweater was a women’s small cardigan with the usual button up the front from bottom to top. WAY too big for Ella, but by moving the buttons and making the sweater double breasted, it worked. The back was the best place to “cinch it up,” hence the shoulder to bottom seams.  The sleeve width needed adjusting too, but that was a simple one.  I then embroidered the vertical PEACE and peace symbol. Turns out, she loves this one. Score a point or two for the mama person!

Having a good mama day

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A Weekend in Maine

My Maine weekend:

  1. tap maple trees
  2. go up and down the hill what seems like one million times for items left in one place or the other
  3. take  scenic drive
  4. go for a swim with the girls
  5. cut up tree that fell over in the last big storm
  6. cut down the rest of the tree with the help of all the neighbors’ advice and tools
  7. buck up part of the tree for fire wood
  8. save one big log to use on the schooner and drag it over to the side of the barn with a line and a truck

I told a friend of mine in New York City about my weekend and he said, “Could you be any more of a cliche?”


Carrots from the Garden in February

This stuff really works.  I just dug up half a bucket of carrots that have been resting in the ground under a mountain of straw.  The ground isn’t frozen and the carrots are gorgeous.  I’m thinking about a recipe with carrots, kale and red onions.  Maybe with brown rice and/or a soy seared halibut…. Hmm…. I’ll let you know.

Who knew you could play in the garden in February!

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Basic Bread Recipe – Part 2

This is the second half of my erudite elaboration on a basic bread dough recipe which I used for stromboli but is versatile enough for a crusty Italian bread, pizza dough or dinner rolls.

Chef Anne Mahle serves Stromboli aboard the Maine Windjammer J&E Riggin

These stromboli were made on the Riggin this summer in my wood stove.  They don’t last long, let me tell you!

When the dough is ready to roll out, preheat oven to 400°.  Place a cast iron skillet or other heavy oven proof pan in the bottom of the oven.  Dust a baking pan with corn meal.  Roll out the dough on a lightly floured countertop to about the size of a laptop.  Lay out ingredients over the entire surface and roll up snugly into a loaf, tucking in the ends and pinching the seam closed.   Place the loaf onto the pan dusted with cornmeal.  Oil and cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise again, about 1/2 hour.  When the loaf has nearly doubled, make three diagonal slashes on the top with a razor or very sharp knife.

Place the baking pan in the oven, throw 1 cup of water into the skillet on the bottom to generate steam and quickly close the oven door.  Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown and an internal read thermometer reads 210°.

‘When the dough is ready to roll out, preheat oven to 400°.  Place a cast iron skillet or other heavy oven proof pan in the bottom of the oven.  Dust a baking sheet with corn meal.’

  • Bread rises better and creates a better crust when the oven temperature is high.  Pizza is baked at 500° and it’s one of the factors contributing to the famed, crispy crust.
  • I’ve found in my home oven, after much trial and error and more than a few really big messes, that using a cast iron skillet to help create steam in the oven is the best way to go.  I have a skillet from my grandma in which I’ve placed lemon-sized rocks.  It just stays in the bottom of my oven and when I’m ready to create steam, I pour a cupful of water on the rocks.
  • Steam is important to bread making for two reasons.  One, the moisture retards the formation of a crust so that the bread can rise more.  Two, in the later stage of baking, it actually helps create a crisper, thicker crust.
  • Dusting with cornmeal is not 100% needed, but it does add a little texture to the bottom crust and make it easier to remove the loaf from the pan.  Although, if you’ve done a good job, the bread should be easy to remove from the baking sheet.

‘Roll out the dough on a lightly floured countertop to about the size of a laptop.  Lay out ingredients over the entire surface and roll up snugly into a loaf, tucking in the ends and pinching the seam closed.’

  • Dust the countertop as lightly as possible.  It’s even okay if the dough sticks a little bit because it helps anchor a corner or two when you are rolling it out.
  • If the dough really doesn’t want to roll out and you push and it shrinks, you push and it shrinks.  Don’t fight.  Just walk away for 5 minutes and then come back to it.  The gluten will have relaxed and it will be much easier to handle.
  • When you pinch the seam closed and then place it on the pan, the seam should be on the bottom.

‘Place the loaf onto the pan dusted with cornmeal.  Oil and cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise again, about 1/2 hour.  When the loaf has nearly doubled, make three diagonal slashes on the top with a razor or very sharp knife.’

  • When you lightly oil bread dough, you retard any drying out that might happen in the rising process.  Plastic wrap does the same work and it’s why a ‘dampened cloth’ isn’t something I use any longer.
  • The slashes help the bread rise and are for aesthetic purposes as well.

Write if you have more questions and if not, get baking!

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Local Talent – Chefs, Writers and Producers

Yesterday was a food-filled day and today my head is bursting with new recipes to create and stories to tell.  I can’t decide where to let my fingers fly – the kitchen or the keyboard.

Kitchen first, to bake a loaf of no-knead bread which I started yesterday when Sharon was visiting. I wanted to show her what the dough should look like when first mixed because while I can write “the dough should look like wet biscuit dough and if you are familiar with breadmaking, it looks way too wet, almost panicky-too-wet,” it is so much easier simply to show.

We then had a brownie snack before lunch, lunch, and a brownie for dessert.  The Espresso Brownies.  The brownies could be consumed without guilt because we had a big shrimp salad inbetween.  No, I don’t have the recipe for it.  I just made it up with leftover that were in the fridge.  But I can tell you how I made it.

Romaine lettuce, chopped, washed and drained.  Maine shrimp, pan fried with lots of garlic.  Kale chopped and sauteed with lots of garlic.  Rice noodles soaked in water and then cut into shorter lengths (about 2 inches).  Quarter and slice tomato and peeled cucumber. Combine everything in a large salad bowl.

To make the dressing, whisk an egg yolk with dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, tamari and minced garlic.  Drizzle in 1/4 extra virgin olive oil and 3/4 canola oil until mixture thickens.  Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.  Toss with salad and serve with grilled homemade bread, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt.

Then it was on to a foodie dinner at the Hartstone Inn, hosted by the acclaimed Michael and Mary Jo Salmon.  Everyone brought either an appetizer or a dessert and then sat to share drink, food and stories.  Heaven.  Old friends and new.

My contributions were Carrot Cake with Pinapple and Black Pepper and Chocolate Tart with Toasted Coconut and Sea Salt.  The sea salt and toasted coconut were a perfect crunchy, sweet, and salty combination on top of this bittersweet tart.

To new friends:  MargaretNancy, Sean and Heather and old:  Kerry and Lani.

Cheer to you all for your fantastic food and such fun!

Photo credit Sharon Kitchens

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Saying Goodbye

Wooden boats have an energy and a spirit that is comprised of the wood from which they are made and the hands that made them.  It comes from the careful, skilled hands that shave curls of wood off an edge to make a perfect fit; an eye for sensuous, gentle curves that, when combined, create art and function simultaneously; a brawn body to mold and lift what used to be a tree into a shape that becomes a boat; and a sharp, swift mind to bring the forces of mathematics and physics to heal.

It’s not often that all of these qualities are housed in one person, but Tom Bournival was one.  He was integral in building the Riggin‘s yawl boat and the house in which we live.  He left our world this Sunday, and while his physical self is no longer with us, his spirit will live on in the numerous boats he touched.

Our world is less because he is gone, but full from the legacy he leaves behind.

I have this image in my head of a scene similar to one in “Like Water for Chocolate” where instead of tears flowing into kneading bread, they stain newly sanded wood and newly steamed planks of wooden sailing vessels cared for without the hands of our dear friend.

Annie and Jon
You are already sorely missed, friend.

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Sourdough Starter Questons – Do I feed my starter before or after using it?

This was another question that was submitted about sourdough starters – related to a series of posts that happened in the winter of last year.  I’ve added some of the original posts if you are looking for more information.

I am storing my starter in the frig. I am using it about every 5 days.  When it comes time to use it in a recipe can I use it straight from the frig or do I have to feed it first, let it rest for a day out of the frig, and then use it?

I’ve done both.  Because I’m mostly using the starter for flavor in my no knead recipes rather than a leavening agent, I’m not sure it matters.  However, if your starter smells too strong, then I would feed it first to reduce the sour or ammonia smell and therefore taste of it.  Also, if you decide to use your starter for its rising properties, then I would feed it the night or morning before you use it.

Other posts on the same topic:

Sending out 100 year old sourdough starter

Sourdough starter – can you kill it?

Sourdough starter – can I use different flours in my starter?

And even more questions answered in these posts

Time to pull out the dutch ovens and get baking!

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