Maine Food Cruises – Veggies and Greens, Oh My!

One of the many questions I get from folks in the cooking realm is what to do with all the veggies that come for their CSAs.  Now that Community Supported Agriculture has taken parts of our country by storm, the questions keep coming.  Among them are… What else can I do with my kale?  How do I use up that ugly kohlrabi that keeps turning up in my box?  Is there a way to combine all of these veggies in a meal or dish?


On our Maine Gourmet Food Cruises we talk about how to combine veggies, what to do to make them interesting, and how to preserve them if you just have too darn much to use in a week’s time.

Vegetable Tip:  To keep lettuce and greens longer in the refrigerator, wash the lettuce and remove every bit of water that you can and then layer the leaves with a dish towel or paper towel.  Store in a large tub with a lid or in a resealable plastic bag.  I’ve used this technique on long, at sea adventures, on the Riggin and in my home kitchen to great effect.  Another way to preserve hearty greens is to clean and dry them, ribs removed.  Once they are dry, coat them in a thin layer of olive oil.  They will last for at least a week and a half in the refrigerator.

Thinking about greens galore and our next Maine Food Cruise, July 6 to 9!


Maine Gourmet Food Cruises – Bread Baking

Fresh sourdough baguette straight from a wood fired oven?  Sure!  Off the coast of Maine on an historic sail boat?  Even better.

Gourmet cooking cruises, culinary travel, or Maine Food Cruises, no matter what you call them, they all have the same thing in common – local Maine food, grown sustainably, and served with care and attention on the deck of the Schooner J. & E. Riggin.  We serve what I call swanky comfort food all summer long, but our special Cooking with Annie trips have an additional element – a bit of education.

Kalamata Olive and Black Pepper Bread.  Yum.
Kalamata Olive and Black Pepper Bread. Yum.

We aren’t “in class” all day long, so if you have a spouse or friends that are just interested in eating well while you learn a few more tips and techniques to add to your culinary arsenal, this is perfectly planned.

That said, anyone who wants to spend all day in the galley with me, watching and learning, absolutely can.  From 6am to 7pm, I’m in the galley making breakfast, lunch and dinner, so there are plenty of chances to get your hands doughy or dirty, so to speak.

The first in the series of topics that we talk about during the trip is bread.

Breads – to knead or not to knead, sourdough or quick breads, baguette or stirata, the world of bread is big and the options are many.

Bread Tip:  Did you know that there are two ways to encourage the formation of gluten (what gives a loaf it’s loft and structure) in bread?  Kneading is one and more moisture is another.  So to achieve a similar result, you can either spend 5 to 10 minutes kneading your bread or you can add more liquid to your dough and let time do the work.


Gourmet cooking cruises?  Who doesn’t want to eat well on vacation?  July 6 to 9th is our next Maine Gourmet Food Cruise.

Canning Pear Nectar

This fall, I was the surprised recipient of a beautiful bushel of pears from what we think is a Seckle Pear tree. That gift, however, did not come co-bundled with an abundance of time. I was determined that this gift would not sit too long while I put it off until the pears were passed perfectly ripe and had moved into “uh oh.”


To hustle along, I decided to not can them as whole pears, but as nectar. Making nectar is a much easier process than canning whole fruit, as it does not require peeling. It begins with making a loose pear sauce much the same way one would apple sauce by bringing to a simmer pear quarters and water and cooking until the pears are either tender or falling apart. Pear varieties will differ in whether they stay together once they are fully cooked or fall apart – just like apples.

With the addition of lemon juice and sugar plus a hot pack canning process, pear nectar emerges. I’ll use it all winter long in smoothies instead of honey, as a juice for brunch, a foundation for mixed drinks, combined with ginger ale for a special drink for the girls and, well, I let you know what else I come up with!

Thank you, friend Glen. I’m glad we are both good at sharing.

All Hail Kale – Kale is King!

Maybe it’s because outside it’s white and windy.  The grey and brown skeletons of the trees rise up against clouds filled with coming snow.  The only green to be seen in our landscape is from the frost-tipped branches of evergreens.  Perhaps this is why this season brings such a strong craving for greens.  If it’s not in our landscape, we want it on our plates?

Potato, Cheddar & Kale Souffle

I don’t know.  What I do know is that I need to honor the instincts of my body and have created a number of recipes for cooking winter greens, this time for kale.  Potato, Cheddar and Kale Souffle; Thai Peanut Shrimp with Kale; and Tuscan Kale, Chickpeas and Olives are all in the Maine Ingredient column this week.

Kale is King

Thyme and Lime Potato-Crusted Salmon with Greens

Extra greens this time of year seems to be what I crave over and over again.  More kale, more spinach, more Swiss chard.  I’ve even begun eating kale for breakfast with my eggs instead of having toast.  It’s delicious and gives me one more serving of what’s good for me anyway.

This column for the Maine Ingredient, created with holiday entertaining in mind, could easily become a weekend dinner with friends.  The recipes – Thyme and Lime Potato-Crusted Salmon, Brown Butter Kale with Toasted Almonds, and Spinach Salad with Pomegranate Seeds, Cranberries and Preserved Grapefruit – are all healthy, with a large dash of elegance.

Spinach Salad with Pomegranate Cranberry Preserved Grapefruit

Eating my greens

Asparagus and Tomato Gratin

Asparagus – classy, healthy and easy.  Three of my favorite things!  One incredibly simple way I like to do asparagus at home is to roast them in a bag with lemon and thyme.  The tang of the lemon combined with the herbal flavor of the thyme is a perfect combo for a light, healthy side to almost any protein.

Other asparagus recipes detailed in the latest Maine Ingredient column are:

Asparagus and Tomato Gratina
Red Rice and Asparagus Salad
Hake with Pork and Potatoes and Asparagus

Lemon and Thyme Bag-Roasted Asparagus
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the bottoms off one or more bunches of asparagus.  Place asparagus onto a large paper bag, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add 1 lemon cut into 8 wedges and a generous sprig of thyme. Roll the bag closed and then place into a baking sheets with sides. Place in the oven for 20 minutes or until the asparagus is just done.

Caveat:  There are some that suggest that oiling the bag before putting it into the oven is a way to keep it from burning, however, that has never made much sense to me. I’ve also never had an oven fire while making this recipe, so there.

Asparagus Tomato Gratin
Asparagus Tomato Gratin (see link above for recipe)

Sad that the asparagus will go away soon, but happy to start seeing peas and strawberries

Eating Spring Dug Root Vegetables – Parsnip Latkes

How fun to have both harvested the last of the parsnips on the same day that I planted next spring’s crop.  In playing around with these ivory beauties, I created a couple of new recipes for a column:  Parsnip Latkes, Root Vegetable Soup, Roasted Parsnips and Collard Greens.

Parsnip Latkes

Gone Digging

Potato Skins with Artichokes and Fontina

I’m sure that other parts of the country are beginning to thaw (if they ever were really frozen), but up here in Maine, the idea of having the oven on for a couple of hours to bake potatoes, bread, pie and a roast while we pull our chairs up around the stove to warm our toes, hands and cheeks is still quite in vogue.

This is one I made yesterday when the wind was howling – still.  The crew was happy to run from the barn to the house to find a blast of warm air hit their cheeks as they came in for tea or to check on the new baby chicks.

Potato Skins with Artichokes and Fontina
5 russet potatoes
10 marinated artichoke quarters, coarsely chopped
6 ounces sliced Fontina cheese
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Pierce the skin of the potatoes with a fork and place on the middle rack bake for one hour or until the potatoes are tender in the middle and give a little when you squeeze them.  You can do this step ahead of time.  When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them in half and scoop out the flesh on the inside.  Save the flesh for gnocchi or a soup and place the skins onto a baking sheet.

Reduce oven to 300 degrees.  Divide  the artichoke quarters evenly among the the potato skins and top with slices of  Fontina.  Grind the pepper on top and bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Serves 4 to 6 as an appetizer

Good to go in the garden as soon as the ground thaws

Super Big Roasted Portabella Mushroom Ravioli

These ravioli are ravioli for grownups.  They are huge and one, maybe two, per plate are all that are needed for a grownup-sized serving.  The wonton wrappers make it actually a pretty easy process and the end result is super elegant.  We had them for a weeknight meal and felt like royalty.  I’d serve these to guests any time.

 Roasted Portabella Mushroom Ravioli 5

 Roasted Portabella Mushroom Ravioli 3

 Roasted Portabella Mushroom Ravioli 4

 Roasted Portabella Mushroom Ravioli 2
Super Big Roasted Portabella Mushroom Ravioli with Spinach Tomato and Brandy Cream Sauce
4 portabella mushrooms
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch scallions, ends removed
2 cups fresh bread crumbs
4 ounces cheddar, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
Several grinds of fresh black pepper
1 teaspoon minced garlic; about 1 clove
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Zest from one lemon
2 eggs
1 to 2 tablespoons flour, just enough to dust the counter
1 package egg roll wrappers; at least 20 wrappers
Extra virgin olive oil if needed

1 1/2 cups diced onion; about 1 medium onion
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup brandy
2 dashes Worcestershire
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
4 cups lightly packed spinach, de-stemmed, washed and drained

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Rub the portabella mushrooms with the olive oil on a large baking sheet and roast for 30 to 40 minutes until the mushrooms are dark and the edges are really brown.

Combine all ingredients except the flour, wrappers and water in a food processor and pulse until fully combined.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Meanwhile, very lightly dust a work surface with flour and lay out 4 wrappers.  With a large spoon or number 12 scoop, place mushroom mixture in the center of the wrapper.  With a pastry brush, wipe water all around the mushroom mound.  Lay a second wrapper over top of the first and line the top edges and corners up.  With your palm and the edge of your hand, press the two sheets together around the mushroom mix, pushing any air bubbles out passed the edges.  Dust a baking sheet with a little flour and transfer to the baking sheet.  Repeat.

When the water is boiling gently transfer all raviolis to the pot.  If the pot looks like it will become crowded, work in two batches.  Cook the ravioli for 3 to 4 minutes or until they are floating on the surface and the pasta is a uniform color.

Remove to a platter with a slotted spoon or basket strainer.  Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and repeat if needed.  Serve immediately with the sauce.

Makes 10, serves 5 to 10

Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat.  Melt the butter and add the onions.  Sauté until the onions begin to brown and caramelize, about 15 minutes.  Add the brandy and reduce by half.  Add the chicken stock and cream and reduce again.  Remove from heat and add the tomatoes and spinach.  Turn with tongs until the spinach is wilted, but still bright green.

Makes 3 cups

Lovin’ my pasta

Homemade Doughnuts Care of Grandma

Glen, a long time Riggin Relic and friend, is often the first to greet me in the morning and I am often the first to greet him, with his cup of steaming coffee in hand.  His cup is poured before anyone else’s, one because he’s a guest and two because he’s down in the galley having early morning conversation amid the chopping and slicing of vegetables and fruit in prep for all of the meals of the day.

Food memories come up often as we move in and out of intense work and then a sip of coffee.   During one of these moments, Glen shared a memory he had of making doughnuts with his Grandmother who was the long-time cook at Bowdoin College in one of their fraternity houses.

We’ve been talking for two years about making his Grandmother’s doughnuts together.  He’d long since shared the recipe with me, from memory, but I didn’t want to make my first batch without Glen.  It just didn’t seem right.

Last trip, after another winter had gone by with out making doughnuts together, I put my foot down.  We were making doughnuts and we were making them together on the boat.  And so we did.  And they were fantastic.  And I felt full in so many ways!

Glen in my spot pressing out doughnuts.
Cassie and Ian having their first bites!

Cinnamon and sugar on top. Delish.

Note the very important meat fork as a turning tool. Another piece of history carried forward.

An opened can and a biscuit cutter serve as our doughnut cutter.

Our crew – Cassie, Justin (apprentice), Kaitlin and Ian.
Sugar and cinnamon, powdered sugar or plain anyone?

What can I say, would someone help me with my hair for goodness sake?

Team work with a friend. The best.

You rock, Glen.