Two new guides celebrate the bounty of Maine.
- By: Brooke Dojny
Two glossy new cookbooks, Linda and Martha Greenlaw’s The Maine Summers Cookbook (Viking Studio, New York, New York; hardcover; 224 pages; $30) and Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier’s Maine Classics (Running Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; hardcover; 320 pages; $30), add to the growing list of books securing Maine’s prominent place on the culinary map. Both are gorgeously designed and photographed and both bear the charmingly personal stamp of their high-profile authors.
Renowned swordfish captain, fisherman, and author Linda Greenlaw has once again partnered with her mother, Martha, to write a cookbook. Their best-selling Recipes from a Very Small Island (2005) was declared a “must-have cookbook” by Time magazine. The “very small island” is Isle au Haut, and this new book, too, centers around life on that rugged dot in the ocean off Stonington — but this time with an emphasis on the food and social rituals that happen during their short summer season.
The Greenlaws are confident home cooks. Martha, who grew up on a farm in Winslow, draws upon her voluminous recipe files (many from other talented Isle au Haut cooks) and a lifetime of cooking for family and friends. Linda is as adventurous in the kitchen as she is at the helm of a boat, snatching ideas from friends and her mother and avidly reading food magazines and cooking Web sites.
The emphasis in The Maine Summers Cookbook is on seasonal Maine ingredients, with lobster, crabmeat, clams, swordfish, and strawberries, and blueberries playing starring roles. Some recipes are tried-and-true classics — an ungussied-up Maine lobster roll, a simple crabmeat salad — others, like grilled crab-stuffed mushrooms and a lobster cocktail with mango cilantro crème fraiche, are contemporary renditions. Grilled swordfish kebabs and a blackened swordfish with blueberry chutney come from swordfish captain Linda, who reminds the reader to buy only domestically harvested fish. Martha’s mile-high strawberry pie and a blueberry cheesecake are dessert highlights.
Photographs of spectacularly beautiful island scenery add life and interest, and Linda Greenlaw’s longer essays — on the allure of island living, on rafting up, on “grubbing up” for a long fishing trip, and especially her hilarious telling of Isle au Haut’s first pig roast — are treasures.
Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier, chefs and co-owners of Ogunquit’s James Beard Award-winning Arrows and the more casual MC Perkins Cove, have lived and worked in Maine for more than twenty years, and Maine Classics reflects their intense love of the food, history, and culture of their adopted state. The duo, who are passionate about sourcing local ingredients, have forged strong ties with fishermen, farmers, foragers, and other food artisans, and they organize their book accordingly. Smashing color photographs are liberally scattered over the pages and each chapter features photo portraits, some beautifully sepia-tinted, of the valued people who work to supply their restaurants. Gaier’s and Frasier’s heartfelt essays on savoring the goodness of Maine food also weave through the recipes.
As is typical of most Maine cookbooks, seafood, the state’s crowning glory, is heavily represented in Maine Classics. “The Shore” chapter offers particularly helpful information on Maine oysters and oyster farming, including step-by-step photos on how to open them without losing a thumb. The oyster recipes are especially creative, showcasing the bivalve raw, grilled, broiled, poached, and fried. “The Sea” chapter contains dozens of lobster, shrimp, scallop, and finfish dishes — many simple enough for a newbie cook (chilled scallops with citrus, for example), others, such as shrimp dumplings with sweet chili sauce, requiring more skill to execute.
Portraits of goats, cows, and a prize pig decorate “The Farm” chapter. Gaier and Frasier have developed a repertoire of satisfyingly warming meat-based dishes for the colder months. “The Tao of Braising (and other great ways to cook meat)” is a lead essay here, in which meat cooking techniques are described in cogent, precise prose. A slow-braised pork with root vegetables, roast chicken with Mark’s cornbread-sausage stuffing, and grilled lamb chops with a spicy mint relish prove the point.
“The Dairy” chapter tells you all you need to know about ice cream making, “The Bakery” has recipes for scrumptious-sounding breads, muffins, crumbles, and tarts, and “The Root Cellar” offers tips on preserving food, including — yes — advice on setting up your own root cellar. Extensive back matter supplies information on kitchen equipment, stocking a pantry, and mail order sources.
Gaier and Frasier sum it up this way: “The recipes are classically Maine . . . but they also come from the Maine inside us, from the place where we learned how to grow our own food and create dishes from what Maine has given us — the simple, fresh, honest, and delicious food from our hearts and from our home.” I’m sure Linda and Martha would agree.
- By: Brooke Dojny