The first stop on our 50 states, 50 recipes tour is;
State capital: Augusta
Largest City: Portland
Admission to the Union: March 15, 1820 becoming the 23rd state
Economics: poultry, eggs, dairy products, cattle, wild blueberries (the state produces 25% of all blueberries in North America, making it the largest blueberry producer in the world), apples, maple syrup and maple sugar. Aroostook County is known for its potato crops. Commercial fishing, once a mainstay of the state’s economy, maintains a presence, particularly lobster and ground fishing. Western Maine aquifers and springs are a major source of bottled water. Maine’s industrial outputs consist chiefly of paper, lumber and wood products, electronic equipment, leather products, food products, textiles, and bio-technology. Naval shipbuilding and construction remain key as well, with Bath Iron Works in Bath and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery. (source Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maine)
In my research on the subject of Maine I came across several sites for information and tourism, which is also a vital part of Maine’s economy.
I could wax poetic about the beauty of Maine. I could tell you about the history of Maine and that I was surprised to learn it was a territory of Massachusetts until becoming a state in 1820. You should know as well that Maine’s population is mostly centralized in the south of the state with the northern half being populated sparsely with French speaking Canadians, farmers and fishermen. If you ever want to be the first person in America to see the sunrise you can visit Arcadia National Park and stand on the eastern most point of the USA. I’m putting that on my bucket list!
Maine is the largest producer of toothpicks, and of course Maine is best known for its production of lobster. Now I can’t fathom going to the state of Maine and not having some of its world famous lobster. Summers in Maine are filled with lobster bakes and I can imagine sitting on the beach as the sun sets behind us steaming pots of lobster, clam chowder and potatoes over driftwood fires filling the senses. Lounging on red and white checkered table cloths spread across the sand with the pots thrown in the middle to grab freshly boiled lobster from for a quintessential summer feast. What could be better and more Maine than that? Probably nothing… but as Road Rule #5 clearly states- manage your finances so you can enjoy the trip.
With Road Rule #5 in mind, I realized very quickly that lobster would not be on this week’s menu. And frankly after watching “Julie/Julia” and how to prepare a fresh lobster… I just don’t have the stomach for it. Lobster in the mid-west is expensive because it has to be flown in from one of the coasts, and really… by that point it’s no longer fresh. So as an alternative I found another recipe with a very authentic Maine ingredient. On our trip to Maine we’re going to have a DLT!
A Maine Forager’s Recipe
The “DLT” (Dulse*, Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich). Adapted from Maine Coast Sea Vegetables
Yield: one serving
Small handful of dry dulse seaweed, smoked or regular
Olive oil or other cooking oil
Lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and bread
Pull apart the dulse and sauté it for a minute or two in an oiled pan, pressing down until it turns a pale brown color and becomes crisp. It will have a bacon-like smell and taste. Prepare the rest of the sandwich as you would any BLT. Add dulse right before serving.
* Dulse is available at most natural food stores, Whole Foods, or online at www.seaveg.com￼. Cost is about $5 for a 2 oz. package
Yes, that’s right… we’re eating seaweed! This recipe is courtesy of the Maine Tourism website that can be found here… http://www.visitmaine.com/
The reasoning behind using the recipe is two-fold. First of course is the cost consideration. But more importantly I liked the idea of using an abundant resource- such as seaweed- something most people would discard as a food staple. I wondered who first realized that cooking seaweed in Maine would be the equivalent of bacon. To me that ingenuity and use of what you have in abundance spoke to the character of Maine itself. I see them as a rugged people working close to the land and making the most of what resources they have. This sandwich epitomizes that spirit of Maine in my mind. Plus in deference to my vegetarian friends I thought it would be nice to start with a meal everyone could enjoy- because I’ll fully admit I’m a meat eater and this may be the only veggie meal you see until we hit California!
It started with a small fib…
Generally speaking I don’t tell lies, but with this particular recipe I found myself telling a small lie. SGM Martha and I have been married for 20 years as of July 4th. There isn’t much that I keep from him, especially when it comes to food. If I’m experimenting with a recipe I’ll usually fess up that it is an experiment and tell him what the ingredients are up front, he’s usually a good sport and likes some experiments even I think are awful. In the case of the seaweed BLT- I was fairly certain he wouldn’t be so gung-ho about it so I simply explained that the BLT was going to be made with organic bacon. The recipe makes it sound as if when the seaweed is cooked it will have the same consistency and flavor as bacon. So to be sure, I didn’t tell hubby it was seaweed in hopes his reaction will be that it does indeed taste like bacon. Not to worry, I have a back-up dish available if he hates it, so I won’t torture him with an inedible dinner. However, I don’t feel bad about the deception because there was one occasion when he served me deer meat spaghetti without telling me- so I feel completely justified in my fib and will remind him that paybacks are hell!
The recipe calls for Dulse seaweed, which is a product of Maine. I was lucky enough to live near a Whole Foods and when I called they assured me they carried the Dulse seaweed. I went to the store and having shopped there maybe once before couldn’t find the seaweed aisle. My thinking was it’s a health food store; they’ll have a whole aisle of crazy ingredients like seaweed. Turns out Whole Foods is just like my local grocery store but with more healthy options… and seaweed is in the Ethnic foods aisle as it’s used mostly for sushi. A very lovely store clerk named Michelle directed me right to the seaweed; when I told her what it was going to be used for she was even excited about the blog. She suggested that I contact the store’s Public Relations manager and share the recipe with them as they are always looking for healthy recipes to share with their customers. So like any good trip across the 50 states the bonus of travel was meeting some new people and discovering some new places the only difference is I did it right here at home.
The other ingredients were olive oil, which I had on hand. Tomatoes which I also had on hand- I was a little bummed that my garden’s tomatoes were out of season, but the store bought ones will be just as good. The lettuce did come from a local farmer’s market, and of course hubby insists we use Miracle Whip as a condiment. Oh, and don’t forget the bread. I would imagine any type of bread will do… I decided to toast a few slices of potato bread we had on hand. I personally have never eaten a bacon lettuce and tomato sandwich, so I don’t have anything really to compare it to. We’ll see what hubby’s reaction is and whether it’s comparable.
The seaweed comes out of the package fairly crisp already, it’s important to pull it apart so it will cook evenly but do so gingerly because although not brittle it’s still fragile. It has reddish brown ting to it already and fully cooked it looks light brown or if you don’t pay attention- burnt black. I managed to keep the “organic bacon” hidden from hubby until it was nice and crisp; turning it once seemed to help. He came through the kitchen once and sniffed the air saying; “Smells like bacon.” I took the first bite. It does have a bacon flavor to it. I will say however that’s where the bacon-ness ends. It’s 100% lighter and crisper than any bacon I’ve ever eaten. The after taste does have a seaweed flavor to it, but it’s mostly just a pleasant saltiness-nothing too offensive. Hubby announced at the end of the cooking process that it wasn’t bacon it looked like leaves. After tasting it and pronouncing it was indeed bacon like- I confessed it was seaweed. We sliced up some tomato, added a few pieces of our sweet garden grown lettuce, Miracle Whip and the seaweed to two toasted slices of potato bread and had a meal.
Review: scale of 1-5 stars; the more stars the better
Ease of preparation: ***** 5 stars (time and difficulty of prep both easy)
Cost of ingredients: ***** 5 stars (the main ingredient was about $5.00 for a large package enough to feed at least 6 people)
Taste: ***** 5 stars (and earned a “repeat this meal approval” from hubby)
Nutrition: ***** 5 stars (Excellent for health with substitution of white bread for whole wheat and Mayo for low or no fat dressing)
Given that I’ve never had a real BLT -I have nothing to compare this to in the end. So aside from saying… it was GOOD you’ll just have to trust me. I would imagine a real BLT would have a heavier consistency, but as far as flavor is concerned hubby, the BLT lover said it tasted just like one. And the ultimate approval for a recipe comes from Hubby saying that if I made it again he’d enjoy it.
The first bite is tangy from the Miracle Whip, sweet from the garden lettuce and tomato, and salty with a smoky flavor of bacon. It was light and easy with a very crisp texture not only from the seaweed, but the tomato and lettuce as well. As I said, I’ve never had a BLT with bacon- simply because I am not a huge fan of lettuce and tomato on a sandwich… I mean if I want a salad I’ll eat a salad. I could never imagine the bacon being able to carry a whole sandwich of basically veggies… but after this DLT or seaweed sandwich I’ve changed my tune. I applaud the state of Maine for such an ingenious way of using a natural resource in a surprisingly delicious way. And maybe when the tour reaches another state famous for its lobster… we’ll have that lobster bake on the beach. But for now, toast up some bread, slice those tomatoes, wash up that lettuce and sauté your seaweed. A picnic on the beach will taste just as yummy with a DLT and for a much more reasonable price.
Next week our journey will take us south of Maine to New Hampshire. So until next Sunday- may all your journeys be safe and all your eats be good!