The foodie on your gift list doesn’t need another pizza stone, or a pasta maker, or another set of paring knives. No, what the home chef that has everything needs is inspiration in the kitchen. In 2010, a number of great cookbooks with a distinct Maine connection were published. We’ve gathered some of the best, combining old-fashioned, down-home Maine cooking with chefs on the forefront of America’s culinary scene.
Recipes range from traditional Maine entrees and desserts from visual artist and home chef Brenda Erickson, to dishes from the likes of Rob Evans of Hugo’s restaurant in Portland and Brian Hill of Francine Bistro in Camden, both nominated for James Beard awards. All eight books are available online at Amazon.com or at Mr. Paperback or Borders locations, with the exception of “Lily’s Cafe Cookbook” and “Kitchen Memories,” both of which are available in select Maine bookshops and from the authors.
Lily’s Café Cookbook, Revised Edition, by Kyra Alex
$19.95, Thomson Shore
Kyra Alex, owner and chef at Lily’s Cafe in Stonington, has for years been a bastion of culinary excellence in her island community. Her first cookbook of recipes from her restaurant came out in 2001, but Alex has revised her collection of quiches, scones, soups and other comfort classics in a new edition. To order a copy, visit Lily’s Cafe or call 367-5936. Try her recipes for Hungarian mushroom soup or wild blackberry scones. According to fans of her island restaurant, she makes the best quiche in Maine — but you’ll have to visit the cafe or make a quiche of your own from her recipes to verify that.
Kitchen Memories: Recipe Paintings with a Taste of Art, by Brenda Erickson
Artist, home cook and Round Pond resident Brenda Erickson this year put out a full cookbook of her many recipe paintings created from friends’ recipes, featured in calendars for a number of years. The 87 recipes in her book are accompanied by watercolors featuring ingredients from the recipes, ranging from Helen’s Corn Souffle to Pumpkin Whoopie Pies. The book is available at North Light Books in Blue Hill, Just Us Chickens in Lincolnville, Maine Artisans in Islesboro, The Reading Corner Bookstore in Rockland and the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport. You also can visit www.kitchenmemories.com.
Cooking for the Common Good: The Birth of a Natural Foods Soup Kitchen, by Larry Stettner and Bill Morrison
$18.95, Random House
Just over one year ago, Larry Stettner and Bill Morrison opened the Common Good Soup Kitchen on Mount Desert Island. They believed, and still do, that organic, local food isn’t something that should be available to only the comparatively wealthy. They did something radical — at their soup kitchen, they offered all-natural, healthful food to low-income residents of the area, as well as creating a place for the community to come together. This fall, the pair released a cookbook with soup and salad recipes from their kitchen and observations from a year of feeding people.
A Life in Balance: Delicious Plant-based Recipes for Optimal Health, by Meg Wolff
$19.95, Down East Books
Meg Wolff survived breast cancer, after being diagnosed in 1998, and attributes much of her success in beating it to switching to a healthful vegetarian diet. Wolff, a Maine resident, offers recipes that are animal-free and glowingly healthful. Fresh vegetables, whole grains and lots of spices take macrobiotic eating to another level. Wolff will be signing copies of her book from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11, at Whole Foods Market in Portland.
Fresh From Maine: Recipes and Stories From the State’s Best Chefs, by Michael Sanders and Russell French
$25, Table Arts Media
The photos in this book, taken by Portland photographer Russell French, are almost enough to make you jump in your car and have dinner at one of the 20 restaurants featured in “Fresh From Maine.” From Sam Hayward of Portland-based Fore Street Restaurant comes Pork Belly With Carola Potatoes and Sauerkraut; from Maine Shrimp and Peekytoe Crab Salad, courtesy of Maureen Cosgrove of Town Hill Bistro on Mount Desert Island. These are recipes that aren’t out of the range of the home cook, and use Maine ingredients. Yum.
Cooking Down East, by Marjorie Standish and Melissa Kelly
$27.95, Down East Books
Whether you’re looking for traditional recipes from one of Maine’s culinary queens from yesteryear, or you’re looking for a way to spice up old-fashioned favorites, this updated version of Standish’s classic is a perfect choice. James Beard award-winning chef Kelly of Primo offers helpful hints and a few of her recipes as well. Blueberry cake, fish chowder and vegetable dishes are time-tested highlights.
Good Maine Food: Ancient and Modern New England Food & Drink, by Marjorie Mosser
$29.95, Down East Books
Another revised edition of a time-honored Maine cookbook, this book was first published in the 1930s, featuring Mosser’s recipes and excerpts from the works of author Kenneth Brown, her uncle. The revised edition also features a foreword by Bangor Daily News columnist Sandra Oliver. Mosser’s approach is a bit more worldly, with Russian, French and Spanish dishes sitting alongside Maine favorites such as raspberry pie and lesser-known dishes like Kennebec Scrapple.
Making Whoopie: The Official Whoopie Pie Book, by Nancy Griffin
$12.95, Down East Books
Eighty-eight pages of all things whoopie pie: recipes, recollections and a history of Maine’s favorite sweet treat. Favorite spots to sample the dessert that are mentioned in the book range from Labadie’s Bakery in Lewiston to Bangor’s Friar’s Bakehouse. The book is a great stocking stuffer for the sweet-toothed in your life.