Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Scents of Aromatic Foods Heighten Thanksgiving Excitement Linda Maintanis, Governor Francis Farms

"The pleasure of the mouth is the nose before..."
This quote from Lorna Doone is most appropriate for our Thanksgiving feasts. Few aromas could be as memorable as those we recall of Thanksgiving's past. Only then could you experience such a hypnotic fullness that left all the senses feeling completely satisfied.

Linda Maintanis, James Maintanis, thanksgiving, governor francis farms

Each of us has memories of those wonderful wisps of hot vapor that escaped from the open oven door while the blessed bird was being basted. Like silent fingers they crept up the staircase and waited outside of your bedroom door until you finally opened it. It hit you like a wall, a warm sweet wall that wrapped itself around you, euphoric, and effortlessly drew you downstairs to the source of the scent.

Linda Maintanis, James Maintanis, thanksgiving, governor francis farms

Or do you remember coming home from school on that last Wednesday before Thanksgiving? Your nearly frozen fingers clutching a colored paper turkey or perhaps a small pair of Pilgrims or Indians. Upon opening the back door another aroma told you that great things had been baked in your absence!

Linda Maintanis, James Maintanis, thanksgiving, governor francis farms 

The particular scents that stir memories within me are those of sausage and sage (which were always in our stuffing), spices, which were evident in nearly everything baked, and all of the bourbons and brandies. My paternal grandmother was well known for putting a liberal splash of either of these into nearly every dish at the table.You can imagine the intoxicating fumes that would cloak her kitchen for many days up to Thanksgiving.

Linda Maintanis, James Maintanis, thanksgiving, governor francis farms 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Avocado Worship with Reckless Abandon

I absolutely adore avocados. My love began in a simple way. I was in heaven to just slice a whole one into halves, remove the pit and fill each cavity with balsamic vinegar; then devour it, still standing up. When time allowed for a more civilized method I would mash their flesh with salt, pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, then mound it onto thin slices of crusty bread. Alternately, this may be loaded onto nearly ready baked potato skins and finished in a hot oven to warm through. YUM.

                                                                                Cream of Avocado Soup

With a little experimentation based on French cooking I learned that avocados could be used in many more sophisticated ways. They could be composed into delicious sauces, soups and mousses. Their unique flavor only needs a light seasoning to be enhanced. Avocado halves would become containers for salads, usually crab or shrimp, then drizzled with a light vinaigrette. My own cravings led me to fill avocado halves with a crab-cream cheese kind of dip mixture and bake until browned and puffy. The unctuous texture of hot avocado is beyond description...

                                                                      Salmon with Avocado Cream Sauce

We find that the uses for avocado in the regions of Mexico and California are quite different. Take guacamole for example, when avocados are are paired with coriander and hot chili pepper you would expect that these strong flavors would compete with their delicate character. But surprisingly enough avocado, like butter, has an affinity for assertive ingredients as well as subtle ones.

Linda Maintanis


Avocados seem designed for quick easy dishes because they do not require cooking. Indeed, many preparations where they appear are so simple that there is no need to give precise instructions for. The popular Italian first course of mozzarella and tomato with olive oil and basil is occasionally embellished with avocado to yield a red, white and green salad. In California chopped avocado is sometimes scattered on pizza as a topping. Mashed avocado offers a refreshing change from butter, cream cheese or mayonnaise and has the advantages of being low in saturated fat and cholesterol free.


                                                                       Avocado Rolls with "Zucchini" Rice

The best flavor of avocado is Haas, which has a thick pebbly skin that turns purplish black when the fruit is ripe. This is the variety that is most common in supermarkets. When these are out of season another good choice, although more difficult to find, is the Fuerte, easily recognized for it's bright green, smooth skin.


A ripe avocado should give gently to light pressure; only then it should be used.. If an avocado is firm, leave it at room temperature to ripen; it will do so more quickly if put into a paper bag. Once an avocado is ripe it can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days. For an avocado to keep it's fresh flavor and beautiful color it should be peeled and cut only a short time before serving. If a dish containing avocado must be made ahead, cover it's surface tightly with plastic wrap to prevent discoloring. Sliced avocados can be sprinkled with lemon or lime juice to preserve their golden-green color, but depending on variety may still start to discolor after about a half hour. (Jeff Smith, the Frugal Gourmet, insists that garnishing your dish with the whole pit will retard the process of color change!)

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Time to Slim Down with Light Foods, aka Bathing Suit Season Gaspee, Warwick RI

Sometimes you just plod along, week after week, cooking meals, cleaning house, going to work, taking care of the needs of others and then - suddenly - it hits you. Like a slap in the face. It's the end of May, or even worse, the beginning of June.

This may not be a significant time for most men, children and hyperactive teenagers. But for the middle-aged housewife who's facing a whole summer at the beach with the tell-tale signs of those extra-helpings and rich desserts that she consumed over the long winter, it spells trouble.

Oh sure, we all knew it was coming. There were the obvious signs such as Easter, Mother's Day and Memorial Day Weekend. But who can seriously diet for summer when the temperature is still in the 50's? So you let time go by, ignoring any suggestion to begin. Or, possibly, you get a bit more ambitious and say, "I'll start my diet on Monday." Well, Mondays come and Mondays go until one Monday it happens...

You wake up to a perfect 72 degrees. By noon it's gone up to 85 degrees and still climbing.
Feeling the flush of warmth that nature has finally rewarded you with you go to your bureau and dig out an old wrinkled pair of shorts. But before you can close the drawer you see something peeking out at you; there, at the bottom of the pile.You gently push aside the heap on top of it. (Big Mistake) As soon as it comes into the light of day it seems to spring to life. It may just as well stand up and point a finger at those flabby thighs. If there were ever a queen mother of diet motivations this would be it. Your bathing suit.

You don't try it on yet, it's not that warm outdoors. Besides, it wouldn't look any good without a tan. (So you tell yourself) No matter. Whatever the reasons, it has accomplished the necessary - you've decided to start a diet. And it's the beginning of June.

Starting a diet at the start of summer can be overwhelming. You can stick to it's rules all week long and then Friday night comes and you binge your way through the weekend. And so the cycle goes.

Since most of us already have diets for Monday thru Friday this blog will help you cope with the weekends. We all need some ideas for eating lighter when the weekend arrives, or when we are entertaining. The recipes that follow will help you to eat lighter when you're serving to guests.

These little hints are for the days between the diet days. Try to use them as often as possible. They can rescue you from a binge!
  • Keep the cocktail hour short, serving just enough in the way of hors d'ouevres to heighten, not dull, the appetite.
  • Keep your pantry stocked with flavored vinegars, oils and a variety of mustards. They will go a long way adding flavor to marinades and salads.
  • Instead of using loads of melted butter, dust vegetables with freshly grated Parmesan, zests of orange peel, minced fresh herbs or a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds.
  • Use smaller plates so that portions appear larger. If possible use plates with a decorated border or design; then put food within it.
  • For dessert, a thin slice of decadent chocolate cake followed by fresh fruit and a cup of rich coffee can make an elegant and filling, but still light party dessert. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Harvest of Fresh Spring Produce Fills Salad Bowls

Finally we are able to enjoy the fresh produce of spring. The early gardens are generous. 
Produce stands are once again laden with the good, green things of which salads are made.

 When we go to the market we can't help but see the bounty of the season. The colorful mosaic created by the many varieties of lettuce has an immediate effect on us. Armies of asparagus stand upright on their turfs of crushed ice. Jumbles of peapods overflow from their bins. Baskets and ropes of the sweetest spring onions beckon at every turn. Each day there is more and more from which to select. And each day we become more and more convinced. The official salad season is here.

The tenderest and freshest of ingredients are truly a breath of spring after the stale,
 heavy flavors of winter. Take full advantage of the bounty of spring and serve these salads
 as often as you can. The season is short; summer really is right around the corner!


                                                          Spring Potato Salad with Walnuts and Green Beans




Friday, April 15, 2016

Planning Ahead for the Summer Harvest

Once again Spring Fever has caught our house unaware!

The earliest symptoms begin with small children waking at the crack of dawn and birds chirping furiously outside of windows that have been locked tight for months. I wonder, are they secretly competing in a contest, trying to out-do each other? The winner of course being the first to rouse us from our unfinished dreams...

Not long after this my own symptoms begin. I race through housework and dinner preparations so that the rest of the day is my own to let April's sparkling sunshine bring the color back to the pasty remains of last summer's tan!

Even on rainy days (without which it certainly wouldn't be spring) I find my fever still climbing. For now I'll spend hours, April through June, reading seed books, sketching plans and most importantly, combing pages of old cookbooks, all in the scheme of planting the ultimate garden.

My cookbooks are truly the best tool for this job. Recipes for Ratatouille with Lemon and Basil and Eggplant with Herbs were responsible for inspiring last years' very abundant eggplant and basil crops.

Do you know how many eggplants grow from eight plants? By late August we were humming "The Eggplant That Ate Chicago"!

Our tomatoes never seem to make it into a recipe. They are usually taste-tested by that day's lucky picker en route to the kitchen. When a few do make it to the dinner table they hesitate only long enough to be sprinkled with salt and pepper and then vanish. By summer's end we do occasionally have a tomato surplus.  

These select orbs sit at attention on my window sill, their flavors concentrating and colors deepening until I can find a new way to exploit them.

A simple Layered Mozzerella Tomato Salad truly enhances their splendor, making a wonderful side dish for any dinner guests.

If you have begun planning your garden as you read then now is the time to mention squash! Every year my husband asks, "Honey, just how much squash are we planting this year?" He knows how much one plant will yield and when four or five hills are planted he breaks a sweat. Thanks to a dear neighbor of mine, Pat Kirwin, I have gotten a recipe that can handle almost all of this squash. It really never had a name, we just called it Everybody's Favorite Squash. When time is short a quick stir fry of thinly sliced zucchini with a splash of olive oil, minced garlic and chopped fresh herbs can be easy and impressive.

This year I'm also trying some new choices in my garden Yellow peppers, garlic, pea pods, and some new herbs. I chose yellow peppers for two reasons. First, because they are priced way out of my food budget and second, for a recipe that I've come across this spring for a Yellow Pepper Puree. Be sure to follow their suggestion and serve this in a clear glass bowl.

When my lists are complete I'll take my lists with me to the garden center and buy what I need. But, every year I have the same problem, it's always June before I get around to shopping and planting.

Not this year. I'll vow to start my gardening in May and give you some advice.
Let's compare notes then?