By Roberta Bailey
Maine is a rich state. We are rich in beauty, rich in art, rich in innovative people. We are colorful and full of local color. We color outside the lines. We think outside the box. We get cabin fever and turn the box into a high tunnel and learn how to laugh at winter’s twisted sense of humor. We are a state growing increasingly richer in creative farmers growing healthy food and creating new ways to market a rich palette of vegetables and fruits, berries, apples, nuts and tree fruits, cheeses and dairy products, fermented foods, tofu, tempeh, bread, mushrooms, garlic, grains, oils, meat, jams, pickles, maple syrup, seed and so much more.
I think of us all as artists. All over the state, we move across the canvas, nestling young seedlings into the ground, carrying out our visions. In unison, we walk our rows, hoeing and bending to pull weeds. We inch along picking a row of green beans. We squeeze the teats of a goat, milk ringing in the pail. We arrange carrots in a perfect bunch. We stop to appreciate a spot of beauty, a rose campion and a poppy amid the orange and gold of calendula, the blue-green of barley contrasting with the lighter green of a soybean row, the blush of an apple, the red of a chard stem against the green of its leaf, or mist hovering over a corn field and the family cow grazing in the foreground. Every effort, every motion, a brushstroke on the canvas that we paint each year. Every year, another chance to get it just right. Patchworks that link us with the past and the future, a human thread of life and art.
4 c. (about 2 lbs.) chopped, pitted European (Italian prune) plums
2 c. chopped, peeled and cored apples
1-1/2 c. water or apple cider
1 cinnamon stick, 3 inches long
2 c. evaporated cane juice or organic sugar
1/2 c. maple syrup
grated rind of 1 large lemon
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 c. finely chopped hazelnuts or filberts
Combine plums, apple, water or cider, and cinnamon in a large stainless heavy bottomed pot. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add sugar, maple syrup, lemon juice and rind. Return to a boil and boil rapidly, uncovered, stirring frequently, for 20 minutes or until it forms a gel. It is thick enough to gel when a spoonful flows off the spoon in a sheet, where two drops run together before dropping off. Remove from heat and stir in nuts.
Ladle into hot, sterilized jars and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Seal jars. Makes 5 cups.
Pear and Apple Preserve
1-1/2 c. water
4 c. sliced, peeled pears
4 c. sliced, peeled apples
1/4 tsp. baking soda
4 c. evaporated cane juice
3 to 5 Tbsp. crystallized/candied ginger, finely chopped
Remove the outer rind of the lemons with a vegetable peeler and cut into very fine strips with a sharp knife or scissors, or use a zester. Place in a large, heavy-bottomed stainless saucepan. Remove the white inner rind from the lemons in large pieces and add them to the saucepan along with the water. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 20 minutes.
Finely chop the lemon fruits. Add lemon, pear and apple slices and baking soda to pan. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the inner white lemon rind pieces.
Add cane juice and ginger to the pan. Return to a boil over high heat and boil rapidly, uncovered and stirring frequently, until it forms a thick gel that flows off the spoon in a sheet, where two drops run together before dropping off. Remove from heat. Pour into hot, sterilized canning jars. Seal and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Makes 5 to 6 cups.
3/4 lb. mixed nuts and seeds
2 Tbsp. water
3/4 tsp. sea salt
Sesame seeds for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Grind the nuts finely in a blender. Add the egg, water and sea salt and stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a stiff dough.
Divide the dough into two and place each piece on the parchment papers. Roll them out into two rectangles, about 1/10-inch-thick. If the dough sticks to the rolling pin, cover it with parchment paper while you roll it out.
Cut the dough into slices or squares, spray them with a little water and top with the seeds.
Bake for about 10 minutes. Watch the oven closely, as the crackers burn easily.
Makes 30 to 40 crackers.
Spinach, Apple and Walnut Salad
2 crisp apples, cored and cut into large dice
4 Tbsp. lemon juice
8 c. (about 10 oz.) baby spinach leaves
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. apple cider or white balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. honey
Salt and pepper to taste
2/3 c. crumbled goat cheese or feta
1/2 c. chopped walnuts, toasted
Toss apples with 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice. Place spinach in a large bowl; remove long stems and bruised leaves. Whisk together remaining juice, olive oil, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper to taste. Toss spinach with apples and dressing. Divide among four bowls. Top with cheese and walnuts. Serves 4 to 5.
Chocolate Hazelnut Cake
12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 c. (1-1/2 sticks) butter, cut into chunks
6 large eggs
1 c. packed light brown sugar
1/2 c. hazelnut liqueur, divided into two quarter cups
1 c. (about 5 oz.) hazelnuts, finely ground in a processor
1 tsp. coarse salt
1 c. chilled heavy whipping cream
Chopped toasted hazelnuts
Position rack in center of oven. Preheat to 350 F. Butter a 9-inch-diameter springform pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a parchment paper round. Wrap the outside of the pan tightly with three layers of heavy-duty foil.
Combine chocolate and butter in a medium metal bowl; set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Whisk until the mixture is melted and smooth. Remove the bowl from over the water.
Whisk eggs, brown sugar and 1/4 cup liqueur in a large bowl to blend. Add chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth. Stir in hazelnuts and salt. Transfer the batter to a prepared pan. Place the springform pan in a large roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Place both pans in the oven and tent the springform pan loosely with foil. Bake until cake is set in the center and top is dry to touch, about 1 1/2 hours (top of cake will remain shiny). Remove cake from roasting pan; remove foil. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack. Chill the cake until cold, about 3 hours.
Using an electric mixer, beat the whipping cream and remaining 1/4 cup liqueur in a medium bowl until soft peaks form. Run a knife around the pan sides to loosen the cake. Release pan sides. Cut the cake into wedges and transfer the wedges to plates. Top with whipped cream; sprinkle with chopped, toasted hazelnuts.