Words by
Green Plate Special
Sustainable and Delicious Recipes

“Just what is a Green Plate Special, exactly? Well, it’s like a Blue Plate Special, only greener in the sense that the food on the plate is better for the environment and your body.” So begins Christine Burns Rudalevige’s timely and abundantly useful cookbook (buy it HERE), a collection and expansion of the column she has been writing for the “Source” food section of the Portland Press Herald since 2014.


While Rudalevige might touch on what the good home cook might consider the usual suspects when thinking about this subject—using the whole vegetable or protein in clever ways—she goes way beyond with a depth of recipes and range of techniques for the everyday kitchen and pantry. The result? She makes you truly open your eyes to the many ways you could cook and eat more sustainably, all while pleasing mate and kids without breaking the bank. And, as the recipes that follow shout out, also without losing the taste and beauty of a well-conceived plate. 



Earl Grey Dipper Biscuits


Makes 24 cookies  

 

2 tablespoons Earl Grey tea leaves (previously steeped is perfectly OK) 

⅓ cup organic granulated sugar  

1 vanilla bean, split and seeds removed  

1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest  

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon  

¼ cup confectioners’ sugar  

1¼ cups all-purpose flour  

Pinch of sea salt  

½ cup room-temperature butter, cut into pieces  

½ cup heavy cream  

½ cup raw sugar  

  

Spread out the tea leaves in a small skillet over medium heat and toast until fragrant (2–3 minutes). Toss the toasted leaves into the bowl of a food processor. Cool slightly. Add granulated sugar to the bowl, along with the vanilla bean seeds (stick the pod in your sugar bowl!), and orange zest. Pulse the ingredients together to get a fine, speckled powder. Add the cinnamon, confectioners’ sugar, flour, and salt. Pulse again to combine. Add the butter and cream and pulse to form a rough dough.  

 

Spread an 18-inch piece of parchment paper on a flat surface and sprinkle half of the raw sugar around it. Turn dough out onto prepared sheet and shape it into a 9-inch log with a 3-inch diameter. Gently press down on the top of the log so that a cross-section will be more oval than round. This makes the finished cookies better suited for dipping. Sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup raw sugar over the top of the log. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for 2 hours.  

  

Preheat oven to 350º. Line two baking sheets with silicon mats. Slice chilled dough into ⅓-inch slices and place on prepared sheets, 2 inches apart. Bake until edges begin to brown slightly, (10–12 minutes). Cool on pans for 5 minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 


Husk Cherry and Hot Pepper Upside-Down Cornbread


Serves 6 to 8 

  

1½ pints husk cherries (about 1½ cups of cherries, husked) 

1 jalapeño pepper 

1 poblano pepper 

½ cup unsalted butter, melted and divided 

⅔ cup light brown sugar 

1 cup stone-ground cornmeal 

1 cup all-purpose flour 

2½ teaspoons baking powder 

½ teaspoon salt 

¼ teaspoon baking soda 

1¼ cup buttermilk 

2 eggs 

1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels 

  

Preheat oven to 400º. 

 

Slice half of husked cherries in half, leaving remainder whole. Slice peppers into ¼-inch rounds. 

 

Place a 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat, add 4 tablespoons melted butter, husk cherries, pepper slices, and ⅓ cup of brown sugar. Cook, stirring until sugar melts and cherries start to break down slightly (3–4 minutes). Remove pan from heat and set aside. 

 

Whisk cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. In a large measuring cup, whisk buttermilk, eggs, and remaining 4 tablespoons butter. Stir wet ingredients into dry ones until just combined. Fold in corn kernels.  

 

Gently pour batter into cast iron pan, over husk cherries and peppers. Bake until a toothpick inserted into center of cornbread comes out clean (20–24 minutes). Remove pan from oven. Place a plate larger than the circumference of the pan over it, and flip cornbread to reveal caramelized cherry and pepper top. 

 

Serve warm or at room temperature. 


Creamy Potato and Spinach Curry


Serves 6 

 

½ pound baby leaf spinach

1 pound small new potatoes, quartered

2 tablespoons neutral oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon garam masala

½–1 teaspoon red chile flakes, to taste

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

½ teaspoon ground cumin

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup whole or reduced-fat Greek yogurt

1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated

Salt and pepper, to taste

Garnish: fresh mint leaves, ½ red chile, sliced, and lemon or lime wedges

 

Put spinach in a colander positioned in the sink.


Place potatoes in medium pan with salted cold water. Bring pot to a boil, cook for 8 to 10 minutes until potatoes are just tender. Drain potatoes over colander of spinach to wilt it.

 

Remove potatoes from the colander and prick them with a fork to roughen skins so the curry sauce will stick to them. Set aside. 


Refresh spinach leaves with cold water and squeeze to remove excess water. Roughly chop and set aside. 


Heat oil in a large sauté pan over a medium heat. Add onion and a pinch of salt and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring, until golden. Add garlic and spices. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add butter and potatoes; stir to coat. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so spices don’t burn. Turn heat to its lowest setting. 


Combine yogurt, ginger, salt and pepper. Stir mixture into pan with 2 tablespoons of water and heat gently for 5 minutes until potatoes are tender and sauce has thickened. Stir reserved spinach into curry. Scatter mint and sliced chile over top. Serve warm with lemon or lime wedges. 


Fish Tacos with Cilantro Corn Pesto, Red Cabbage and Lime

 

Serves 4  

 

½ cup corn flour  

1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder 

½ teaspoon fine sea salt 

1½ pounds flaky white fish fillets, cut into 4-inch pieces 

Neutral oil, such as canola or grapeseed 

8 small corn or flour tortillas, warmed 

1 cup Cilantro Corn Pesto (recipe below) 

1 cup thinly sliced purple cabbage 

Lime wedges for serving 

 

Combine flour, chili powder, and salt on a plate. Dredge fish pieces in seasoned flour. Set aside. 


Add enough oil to a 12-inch skillet to skim-coat the bottom of the pan. Place pan over high heat until oil shimmers. Reduce heat to medium high and arrange pieces of fish in hot oil. Fry fish until it is slightly browned on one side (3–4 minutes). Flip pieces and cook until they are opaque at their centers (2–4 minutes, depending on type of fish). Transfer fish to flattened paper bags to drain. 


To build tacos, slather each tortilla with 2 tablespoons of pesto, 1/8 of the fish, a tablespoon or so of cabbage, and a lime wedge. 


Serve immediately. 


Corn Cilantro Pesto 


Makes 2 cups

 

2 cup loosely packed spinach leaves 

1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves 

1 cup fresh corn kernels 

⅓ cup toasted pepitas  

1 garlic clove 

½ cup neutral oil 

1 teaspoon lime zest  

1 teaspoon lime juice 

Salt 

Cayenne pepper 

½ cup finely grated hard cheese (Dry Jack is great but pecorino works) 

 

Combine spinach, cilantro, corn, pepitas, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until mixture is a fine paste. With the machine running, slowly pour in oil until it is fully incorporated. Stir in lime zest and juice. Add salt and cayenne to taste. Stir in cheese if using right away. If not, store pesto in the refrigerator for a week, or the freezer for a month.  


Golden and Ruby Beets with Goat Cheese, Pistachios, and Microgreens


Serves 4–6 

 

4 small cooked red beets 

4 small cooked golden beets 

1½ cups microgreens 

3 ounces fresh local goat cheese, crumbled  

¼ cup shelled pistachios 

Honey and Orange Blossom Vinaigrette (recipe below) 


Slice beets in ¼-inch thick slices and arrange in concentric circles on a serving platter. When ready to serve, shake vinaigrette and pour two thirds of it over beets. Top with microgreens, goat cheese, and pistachios. Drizzle remaining vinaigrette over salad and serve. 


Honey Orange Blossom Dressing 

Makes a generous cup 

 

½ cup olive oil 

¼ cup honey 

¼ cup lemon juice (Meyer Lemons if you can get them) 

4 teaspoon sherry vinegar 

2 teaspoon orange blossom water 

1 teaspoon kosher salt 

½ teaspoon cracked black pepper 

 

In a pint jar with a lid, combine oil, honey, lemon juice, vinegar, orange blossom water, salt, and pepper. Put cover on and give it a good shake until honey is dissolved. Set aside.

Christine has lived in many places, including Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, England and France. But her professional world has consistently been grounded in just two: in journalism and in the kitchen. Throughout her 30-year writing career, she’s covered sports, politics, business and technology. But for the past 10 years after completing culinary school, she’s focused on food. Her words and recipes about eating locally and sustainably have appeared in publications from The Portland Press Herald to Fine Cooking. Her award-winning cookbook Green Plate Special (link is: https://www.amazon.com/Green-Plate-Special-Sustainable-Delicious/dp/1944762140) was published in 2017. When she’s not laboring over a cutting board or a keyboard, she’s learning from her two semi-adult children, a community of food-minded friends, hundreds of productive Maine farmers, thousands of innovative chefs near and far, and her 30,000 honeybees.

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