Using local Maine ingredients whenever possible is at the heart of Cynthia Finnemore Simonds' new cookbook Fresh Maine Salads: Innovative Recipes from Appetizers to Desserts (published by our affiliate, Down East Books, www.downeastbooks.com
; paperback; 112 pages; $18.95). In this edited excerpt she explains her enthusiasm for using local Maine produce, meat, and seafood — as well as other locally made specialty foods. Simonds also shares six delicious recipes for salads that run the gamut from appetizers to hardy dinner salads to sweet and delectable desserts:
Many people might not immediately think "salad" when they hear the phrase "Maine foods," but in Fresh Maine Salads I show just how compatible those two concepts are. Here in Maine we have an active, enthusiastic farmer's market network. These open-air markets are the best places to find anything grown or produced here in Maine, from fresh vegetables to wild mushrooms, specialty cheeses, condiments, and organic meats and eggs. The Maine Department of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Resources also publishes two helpful booklets: Finding Maine Farmer's Markets: A Guide to Maine's Farmer's Markets and Finding Maine Foods and Farms: A Guide to Maine's Farms and Food Companies. Traditionally, Maine is known for its potato farms, blueberry barrens, and orchards. Farms across the state offer the opportunity to pick your own berries and apples, including heirloom varieties nurtured by growers committed to preserving America's agricultural heritage. Of course, Maine is famous for its lobster and other seafood.
Aquaculture farms raise trout and salmon. Local smokehouses produce golden smoked mussels, trout, cheeses, and other specialties. All of these delicious products are excellent additions to salads.
In the recipes that follow, I indulge in a little bit of local pride by specifying "Maine potatoes," or "Maine maple syrup," or "Maine smoked trout," etc. You can, of course, substitute equivalent ingredients if you do not happen to live in Maine, but I'd certainly encourage you to try the genuine Maine-made products first.Sweet-and-Sour German Potato Salad
My mom used to make this warm and tangy salad, always delicious with grilled bratwurst or any kind of barbecue. Both sweet and salty, it holds its own alongside other flavorful foods, with plenty of delicious potato to soak up the wonderful dressing.
Serves 6 to 8Salad
6 large Maine potatoes
1 large Vidalia onionDressing
1 lb bacon, diced
3/4 c yellow onion, finely chopped
3 T flour
1/2 c white vinegar
3/4 c water
1 T celery seeds
3 T sugar
11/2 t salt
1 t fresh ground black pepper
Wash and trim the potatoes and Vidalia onion, peeling the potatoes if you like. Cut the potatoes and onion into quarters.
In a large saucepan, boil the potatoes and onion until the potatoes are fork-tender, but not mushy — about fifteen minutes. Drain the water. When the potatoes and onion are cool enough to handle, chop them into bite-size pieces.
In a large pan, fry bacon till crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel; crumble and set aside.
Add the 3⁄4 cup of yellow onion to bacon fat in pan and cook five to eight minutes, till onion is soft. With a slotted spoon, remove onion and set aside with the bacon.
Whisk flour into bacon fat. Add the vinegar, water, celery seeds, sugar, salt, and pepper. Heat to a boil; then set pan on medium heat and cook till thickened.
Add potatoes, cooked Vidalia onion, bacon, and sautéed yellow onion. Gently stir to coat the potatoes.
Serve while warm.Baby Spinach with Bacon, Cheddar, and Midcoast Mediterranean Dressing
Here is a combination of flavors that mingle with bacon and cheese to create a delicious spinach salad.
Serves 4 to 6Salad
6 c baby spinach
4 hard-boiled eggs
8 oz Maine cheddar cheese
8 strips baconDressing
2 T white vinegar
4 T bacon fat
1 T fresh oregano, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 t pure Maine maple syrup
1/4 t salt
1/2 t white pepper
2 T fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 c fresh Maine apples, cored and chopped
Wash the spinach. Fry the bacon until crisp. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Reserve four tablespoons of the bacon fat.
Peel and rinse the hard-boiled eggs and cut them into quarters. Slice the cheese into bite-size chunks.
To serve the salads, evenly distribute the spinach on four individual chilled glass plates. Crumble two pieces of bacon on top of each. Add four quarters of egg. Sprinkle cheese on top.
In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients until well blended. Drizzle the dressing over each salad to your taste.
Sprinkle with apples and enjoy.Pasta Salad with Corn, Black Beans, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
The flavors of lime and cumin in this refreshing pasta salad give it a Mexican flair. If calories are not an issue, you can serve it with a dollop of sour cream on the side. Spelt is a grain used in place of wheat. You can also use regular semolina pasta in this recipe, if you like. Choose a small pasta shape: bowties, rotini, or penne work well.
Serves 8 to 10Salad
1 lb fresh spelt pasta
2 T olive oil
3 ears of fresh sweet corn
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
6 scallions, sliced thin
16 oz cooked black beans, drained
8 oz black olives, drained
10 sun-dried tomato halves packed in oil
1 jar (8 oz) marinated artichoke hearts
1/2 c Stonewall Kitchen Corn and
Black Bean Salsa*
12 sprigs of cilantro
1 large avocado
1 T fresh lime juiceDressing
1 bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 c vinegar
1 c oil
1 t salt
1 t pepper
3 limes, zested, and juiced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 T cumin
1/2 t cayenne
Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. Drain, and drizzle with two tablespoons of olive oil. Toss to coat, and chill for thirty minutes.
Shuck the corn, and steam or boil until tender (about six minutes). Hold the corn vertically on a cutting board and slice off the kernels close to the cob; be careful not to cut into the cob. After the kernels are removed, hold the knife blade perpendicular to the cob and scrape off any little bits of corn left clinging to the cob.
Drain the sun-dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts and slice coarsely. Add all the drained and sliced ingredients to the pasta. Add salsa and toss well. Chill while you prepare dressing and avocado.
In a small bowl, whisk together all the dressing ingredients. Pour over the salad and toss well.
Peel, pit, and slice the avocado. Pour one tablespoon of lime juice over the avocado and toss gently to coat.
Garnish each serving with sprigs of cilantro and a slice or two of avocado.Maine-Style Chef's Salad
Traditional chef's salads are made with cold cuts and thinly sliced cheeses. Here we have a delightful twist on that old favorite: the luscious tastes of the Maine coast — shrimp, smoked salmon, and lobster — combined with fresh peapods, beets, carrots, and local cheeses. Remember to snitch a bite or two for yourself as you create this masterpiece of delicacies.
Serves 6 to 8Salad Vegetables
6 c mesclun greens
2 c baby spinach
1 c baby carrots
2 c fresh snow peas
1 lb fresh asparagus
3 large portobello mushroom caps
1 c sliced cooked beets (optional)Dressing
4 T balsamic vinegar
4 T olive oil
1/4 c chives, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepperSeafoods and Cheeses
1 lb clean fresh cooked Maine lobster meat
1 lb fresh cooked Maine shrimp
8 oz smoked salmon
4 oz Mystique Cheese Rosemary
4 oz Mystique Cheese Herb Chèvre*
Wash the mesclun greens and baby spinach and place them on a large platter (or on individual salad plates, if you prefer).
Quarter the baby carrots lengthwise to create long, thick matchsticks. Trim the ends off the snow peas.
Trim the bottom ends off of the asparagus. Blanch the asparagus in boiling salted water for three minutes. Remove and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
Lightly wash the portobello mushroom caps and slice into half-inch strips.
In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, olive oil, chives, garlic, salt, and pepper. Place the mushroom slices in a large resealable plastic bag and pour the dressing over the mushrooms. Set the bag in a bowl and chill while you assemble the salad.
Arrange the lobster, shrimp, smoked salmon, chèvre, carrots, snow peas, asparagus, and beets (if desired) on top of the greens. You can be creative here, arranging the ingredients decoratively (for example, like the spokes of a wheel).
Drain the mushrooms carefully into a bowl, reserving the dressing. Place the mushrooms on the greens.
Drizzle the dressing over all of the ingredients. There should be just a touch on the seafood and vegetables, allowing the flavor of each element to come through.
Serve chilled with breadsticks or rosemary foccacia.Marinated Steak Salad with Oranges and Capers
Flank steak is a tender cut of beef that is sliced on the diagonal across the grain. When it is marinated and grilled to medium rare, it melts in your mouth. Wolfe's Neck Farm, located in Freeport, is one of the premier purveyors of beef in Maine. If you cannot find their flank steak, use the best you can get from your local butcher. Be sure it is fresh and, if possible, organic. You will be surprised at the difference in taste. It's worth the effort.
Serves 4 to 6
2 lbs Wolfe's Neck Farm sirloin or flank steak*
1 T fresh ground peppercorns
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T Raye's Bar Harbor Real Ale
2 T olive oilSalad
1 large ripe red or orange bell pepper,
chopped into 3⁄4-inch chunks
1 c grape tomatoes
1/4 c drained small capers
1 small red onion, chopped coarsely
2 large navel oranges, segmentedDressing
1/4 c red wine vinegar
3/4 c olive oil
2 T frozen orange juice concentrate
1/4 t Tabasco sauce or chili paste
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 t salt
1/2 t white pepper
1 large head red leaf lettuce, washed, and torn into bite-size pieces
Mix together the pepper, garlic, mustard, and olive oil. Rub steak all over with this mixture; cover, and let the meat sit at room temperature for an hour.
Grill the steak to your liking just before you serve the salad. Slice the steak on an angle into thin strips, and cover with foil until you are ready to serve.
To segment the oranges: Cut a slice off of the top and bottom of the fruit. Remove the peel by slicing down the sides of the orange, turning it each time you cut. Slice through the peel and white pith, leaving the segments visible. Insert your knife along either side of each membrane. The segments will slide out as they are trimmed. Be sure there is no white pith or membrane remaining on the segments. Once all of the segments have been removed, squeeze the remaining center portion of the orange over the vegetables to release any juice.
Gently toss the peppers, tomatoes, capers, onion, and orange segments together.
Whisk the vinegar, oil, orange juice concentrate, Tabasco, and garlic together. Add salt and pepper. Drizzle the dressing over the vegetable mixture and toss again.
Place the torn lettuce on a large platter. Gently mound the salad on top of the lettuce. Lay the steak strips over the top. Lightly drizzle all with dressing and serve the remaining dressing on the side.Warm Harvest Apple Salad with Maple Whipped Cream
Here you have apple pie without the crust. The apples still have that fresh taste, while all the flavors of apple pie melt in your mouth.
Serves 4 to 6Salad
2 large Granny Smith apples
2 large Cortland apples
2 large McIntosh apples
1 T lemon juice
1 c golden raisins
1/2 c calvados or cognac (optional)
2 T pure Maine maple syrup
4 T McIntosh Farm Apple Pie Jam*
1/2 t cinnamonMaple Whipped Cream
1 c heavy cream
1 t vanilla
2 T pure Maine maple syrup
Wash and core the apples. Coarsely chop or slice and toss with the lemon juice.
Place the raisins and calvados (or water, if you choose) in a small bowl to plump.
In a medium saucepan over low heat, whisk the maple syrup, apple pie jam, and cinnamon until the jam is completely dissolved. Add the apples. Taste and adjust sweetness to your liking. Add the raisins and soaking liquid. Heat until the entire mixture is warmed.
In the bowl of an electric mixer pour the cream, vanilla, and maple syrup. Whip the cream until stiff peaks form.
Serve the warm apple salad in a dessert bowl with a dollop of the maple whipped cream on top.