Sunday, August 31, 2014

Boothbay.....All The Way!

I just spent the best two days of judging since I began my food competition circuit years ago. I have judged New England chowders all over the United States including New York believe it or not, and I must say that Mainah's just have a way with chowder. Not to give a back seat to the chili recipes I also judged, but there is just something ingrained in a Yankee that plain loves milk-based chowder. And in Boothbay Harbor, those fishermen and fishermen's wives certainly know how to reel us in. In all fairness however(and a little "truth be told") many other people that aren't "of the sea" or in the restaurant industry whipped up their own version of chili and chowder that truly tempted me to take more than a taste. But from experience and many upset stomachs later, I have learned to curtail my ingestion of creamy chowder and spicy chili so that I can get through each and every entrant.

And that brings me to the entrants. I have never felt so welcomed anywhere than I did in this Downeast area of Maine. Although the old adage holds true that there will always be a bad apple in the lot, I constantly was on the lookout for that one sourpuss who wasn't a people person or simply didn't want to put on a smile. Heck, I even prompted someone to grimace in my own, dry Yankee style, but nobody would have any of it. Regardless of my "pushing their buttons" at times, I walked away with both happiness and "I'll get the next one" attitude. Every single shop owner, restaurant chef, retail clerk and even the tourists, seemed happy to be where they were and rubbing elbows with everyone that crammed into their shops and accidentally bumped into them.

Not only did I have to judge food, but I was also a judge for the displays that many businesses set up in front of their shops. From adolescnet girls in lobster costumes to all out decorations that involved a 20 gallon martini glass, it was all just such a great way to spend a sun-filled weekend on the coast.

But my main object of participation was to taste the chowders and chili's. And staying on track was very difficult. The restaurants, individuals and businesses that contributed to my tasting frenzy and set up beautiful displays included:

(Go ahead, safely click on each of these places to take you to their website or FB page. Beautiful places)

Mine Oyster


Smiling Cow

Jansons Clothing

Coastal Maine Popcorn Company

Silver Lining

Sadie Greenes

Andrew's Harborside Restaurant


Harbor Optical

2 Salty Dogs

Casual Interiors


Gold/Smith Gallery


Coco Vivo

Boothbay Region Greenhouse

Whales Tale

Rocktide Inn

Robinson's Wharf

                                                                                   Watershed Tavern

Fisherman's Wharf Inn and Restaurant


I cannot tell you the winner until it is announced next weekend but I will tell you that the winner of the chowder challange is a chowder that I have never had the equal of. I have tasted chowder all over the United States and have judged some chowders from the finest, upscale restaurants in this country, but it was this one recipe in a little town in Maine that won my palate becaue of the one ingredient that many chowder makers never put in anymore. Along with that ingredient, the consistency was perfect for the classic preparation of this New England....well, classic chowder.

The best chili was one of the best I have eaten as well. With that hint of spice that stuck around just long enough to let you know it was there, but not altering the flavor and heat of the next bite.

Please come back next weekend to see who the winner is for best chowder, chili and decoration. Not only will I give you the winners, but my thoughts for those that didn't place. I know, I know. Us Mainah's are never good at taking constructive criticism, but if these folks accept what I have to say with the same gracious and dignified way they treated me while I was down there, maybe that sour, dry, stubborn and unforgiving attitude that Yankee's are known for just may be on the way out.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Sufferin' Succotash

Ever give it much thought when Sylvester blurted out that phrase whenever he didn't get his way?

There has been so much written about Succotash and, as in genealogy, there is a lot of half truths. While many "authorities" say that Succotash comes from the Algonquin misckquatash, I don't believe that to be the case. See my article on corn at

In the meantime, Succotash is a great, original American Indian dish that our fore-families have enjoyed for centuries. This dish is made mostly during the Holiday times of year, which is not understood by me. It was eaten at all times of the year, whether it was when the corn was ripe to eat or in the middle of winter when they had to use their dried corn and beans.

Although fava and lima beans were the original beans used for this dish, I have substituted Great Northern, only because my kids won't touch either one of the other two. Clabbard, or Clapboard, beans were used during the 18th and 19th centuries more often than not as well.

I have also used a variety of vegetables in this Yankee staple too, but have omitted any protein, although the Indians and colonists used whatever meat or fish they had on hand. Succotash is great by itself as a side dish or as a base for meat or fish. It is as tasty as it is colorful.

Enjoy these three recipes that highlight our heritage and simplicity as well as being the original colony of comfort foods, the New England colony.

Creamy New England Succotash

Without going into a long spiel about the beginnings of Succotash and variations over the years, I will simply tell you this is probably as good of a true Yankee dish as you are going to enjoy. True Succotash used chicken, pork or whatever protein the family had and cooked it with beans, corn and onion. They would then add some milk to the pot and let it get a little thick before serving it to their family. I have added some more vegetables but have kept the true recipe intact. I think you will enjoy this trip back in time, with a modern approach.

3 strips bacon, diced
1 small summer squash, diced*
1 small zucchini, diced
1/2 cup red bell pepper, minced
1/4 cup minced onion
2 cups milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups whole kernel corn
1 cup cooked navy beans
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet or pot, cook bacon over medium heat until crispy. Leaving the bacon and fat in the pan, add the squash, zucchini, bell pepper and onion. Stirring occasionally, cook until vegetables are crisp tender. In a bowl, whisk together the milk and sour cream until well incorporated; set aside.

Add the corn, beans and milk mixture and salt and pepper to taste. continue cooking, stirring occasionally still, until everything is heated through and most of the liquid has been absorbed, another 5-7 minutes.

*or use zucchini or a combination of each

Cheesy Succotash Grill

Want a great and filling grilled cheese sandwich that is truly filling? Here it is, and using Succotash ingredients gives you the satisfaction of protein without the fat. As you know, Succotash has been around for centuries here in New England and many moons before us Europeans coming over. This is, yet again, one of the true, great food gifts bestowed upon us from the Native Americans.

2 small pita breads

Pumpkin Mayonnaise, recipe below
Nonstick cooking spray
1 cup shredded Pepperjack cheese
1 cup whole kernel corn
1/2 small diced tomato
1/4 cup diced onion
1/2 cup cooked great northern beans*
1/2 cup diced, cooked chicken


With a sharp knife, insert it into the pita bread and cut around it to form two thin halves. Repeat with other pita. In a small bowl, mix 1/4 cup mayonnaise with 2 tablespoons pumpkin, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, 1/4 teaspoon cumin, 1/4 teaspoon salt and black pepper; mix well; set aside. Spray the outer outer half of two pitas and place in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Spread some Pumpkin Mayonnaise and top with equal amounts of half the cheese, corn, tomato, onion, beans and chicken. Sprinkle remainder of the cheese over both and top with the other halves of the pita, with more Pumpkin Mayonnaise spread over each. Cook, flattening down with a spatula, until it is starting to crisp. Carefully flip over to finish crisping on the other side. Remove and enjoy.

*Lima, fava, kidney or cooked pinto beans would be equally delicious

Tempting Jagasse

Not many people know, or even heard, of Jagasse. In the early 1800s, fishermen along the Massachusetts coast were also farmers in their 'non-fishing' time. Of course their families had their fill of fish in meals and this dish gave them a subtle hint of the ocean while enjoying the bounty of the garden as well. They used whole fish in their Jagasse, but just the hint of the ocean is all that is needed in this delicious, original Yankee recipe derived from Succotash.

2 strips bacon, diced
1 cup fish broth or clam juice
1/2 small summer squash, diced*
1/2 small zucchini, diced
1 cup whole kernel corn
1/2 cup red bell pepper, minced
1/4 cup minced onion
1 cup cooked navy beans
2 cups cooked rice
1(15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and black pepper to taste


In a large pot, add the bacon and cook until crispy over medium heat. With the bacon and fat still in pot, add the fish broth. Boil for 3 minutes before adding the squash, zucchini, corn, red bell pepper and onion. Stirring occasionally, cook until the vegetables are just barely tender. Add beans, rice, tomato sauce, garlic and onion powders, red pepper and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine and continue cooking until everything is heated through.


Enough for 4 side dishes


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

MOTHER Knows Best

Mother of Vinegar that is. Let me 'splain!(Can't tell I was brought up in a certain era, can you?

Apple Cider Vinegar is simply a soured apple cider. Although any liquid that can ferment can be converted to vinegar, it is with pride that we New Englander's grew up with this, most popular, type.

Although most, if not all, definitions of vinegar state that the word vinegar means literally sour wine, this is not true. Sources say that 'vin' means wine and 'aigre', from Old French, means sour. Nope! Although 'vin' does equal wine, 'aigre' is Old French for sharp or biting. So it really isn't so much from sour wine, but from sharp wine. But regardless, it is the soured wine(or cider) that vinegar is derived.

Now this particular post will be a brief talk on true apple cider vinegar, the kind our forefathers and mothers made and used. Raw, unfiltered and unpasteurized apple cider vinegar. The type with the Mother of Vinegar still visible. Although this slimy, floating mass is unappealing in many ways, it is the healthiest part of cider vinegar. This gelatinous film is remarkable in a number of ways:

Want to cut down on your salt intake?
Simply substitute apple cider vinegar for the salt found in many recipes. This works well for any cake, bread or meats. It lessens the sweetness in fruited and berried desserts as well.

Our ancestors took a portion of Mother of Vinegar from each batch and used it to speed up the process of the next batch of cider. Much the same as they took a little piece of bread dough from one days baking to begin the next days bread making. 

During the Civil War, Mother of Vinegar was used to dress and disinfect wounds.

Only found in unpasteurized vinegar, it is the most healthful part of cider vinegar. Used as an antiseptic for eons, is is known to help with ear aches, sunburns and when mixed with water, a great throat gargle.

Speaking of drinks(the best lead-in I can come up with), right up until the early 1900s, when mixed 1 part vinegar, 1 part molasses or sugar and 4 parts water, it was called a Haymakers Switchel. My grandfather and many before him, took this drink many times throughout haying season. And they didn't rely on the mechanical toys of today, I am talking about taking the scythe out in the hot summer sun and “swooshing” through their 'mowing lanes', cutting down the tall grass to dry for hay.

Want to clean your windows the old fashioned way and leave them just as streak free as that blue liquid? Put ½ and ½ vinegar and water and us newspapers.

And there is growing proof that apple cider vinegar is key in weight loss. Scientists have yet to determine exactly how it works but they say it works.

Some evidence newly out refers to making your own vinegar drink(such as the Haymakers Switchel above)and drinking a glass a day to help with type-2 diabetes or for those that are inherent it contracting it.

But first and foremost is the Mother of Vinegar. It truly and I urge everyone to at least check it out. You don't have to do anything with it as is, just shake the bottle up before using. Once you purchase and use, raw, unfiltered, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, you will never go back to distilled. The taste is phenomenal. No more expensive and much better for you.

It is also effective in killing 0-157 strain of E-coli. And if it that powerful, no wonder world wide attention has been focused on its antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.

As for the life span. It will last 3-5 years if kept out of direct sunlight. Of course it will last much longer but the taste will diminish. “Then why does it have an expiration date on it?” you ask. Because that date only corresponds to the best quality of the vinegar.

Check out Bioscience, Biotechnilogy and Biochemisty, a well respected scientific journal in Japan. They have done extensive testing and experiments. Look them up and see for yourself.

It's Just that Simple!