The Maine Farm Table Cookbook: 125 Homegrown Recipes from the Pine Tree State
By Kate Shaffer (Countryman Press, 2021)
The Maine Farm Table Cookbook, part of its publisher’s “Farm Table” series, is authored by Kate Shaffer, who comes credentialed with some Downeast culinary experience and, notably, founder of Black Dinah’s Chocolatiers. Originally on Isle au Haut (where the mountain of that name is located), the confection operation has moved to Westbrook, now renamed Ragged Coast Chocolates.
Her book, beautifully illustrated with lush photographs, offers an enthusiastic introduction to many of the hardworking folks who provide the ingredients in Maine that make seasonal cooking here so rewarding. The book is organized by way of the various food sources: “From the Mill,” “From the Field,” “From the Pasture,” “From the Sea,” “From the Forest and the Hive,” “From the Creamery,” “From the Bog, Bramble, and Barren,” “From the Orchard,” and “From the Brewery, Vineyard, and Cask.”
At the back of the book, some seasonal meals are suggested with lists pulling together dishes from the various categories. March, for example, has an apropos “Cabin Fever Reliever Cocktail Party” featuring a “Rum Rusticator” with maple syrup.
This collection of recipes is very accessible, with nothing ultra-complicated in technique and nothing too exotic.
That road trips could come from all these suggestions, with a list of what you should see and taste and buy and bring home, seems a natural expectation. Sadly, the book lacks a map or itineraries to create those trips.
Help with that, I’ve discovered, can come from another source. Online, visit the Maine Farm and Seafoods Products
Directory produced by the University of Maine’s Extension Service. This excellent, comprehensive list and map will help you locate the farms, orchards, docks, etc. you want to visit.
Happily for any who deem themselves just middling in the kitchen, this collection of recipes is very accessible, with nothing ultra-complicated in technique and nothing too exotic—that is, if you’re in Maine in the right season—for ingredients. Some famed restaurants are represented, among them, the Lost Kitchen in Freedom, El El Frijoles in Sargentville, Nīna June in Rockport; and bakeries Two Fat Cats in Portland and Tinder Hearth in Brooksville.
But the point of including that level of success is empowerment, not intimidation. You, too, can wow dinner guests with the “classic crab cakes,” made from the book’s shamefully easy but powerfully delicious recipe. Finish a meal with lemon zucchini whoopie pies with blueberry filling and bask in satiation. I’m feeling like if I could have only one cookbook in my Vinalhaven kitchen, it might be this one.
With the peak of harvest upon us, I’m surveying my island garden now and looking ahead, working on my to-try list for next year. So far, it’s elderberry bushes and some apple varieties specific for cider, and sweet potatoes in a variety able to mature in a Maine summer. And what I don’t grow, I feel newly inspired I can find, not too far away.
Tina Cohen gardens, forages, and cooks on Vinalhaven.