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Eating Well: Devouring 'A Taste of It All'

Lifestyle

Eating Well: Devouring 'A Taste of It All'

"A Taste of It All: Celebrating the Mood of Food" is likely to become Maine's – and maybe the country's – new favorite cookbook.

Georgia Manzo Joachim, of Millinocket, author, photographer and publisher of "A Taste of It All," was, until recently when her job migrated to Massachusetts, a human resources professional for a major power generating company in Maine. She spent nights and weekends cooking, developing recipes, taking writing classes and writing about food and life.

Now, she is a full-time author at work on her second book, cheered on by her husband, Scott Joachim, a forester and wildlife biologist, her grown children, and her family and friends in Millinocket.

Georgia has been cooking since she was old enough to pull a chair up to the sideboard to watch her mother (born in Mattawamkeag of French, Scottish and Native American heritage) and her grandmother (of Lebanese heritage) create delicious meals from the food the family had raised at their homes in Millinocket's Little Italy neighborhood.

"In our family," she writes, "knowing how to cook and appreciating good food is not only required, it is the part of our colorful heritage that most often brings us together in happy times and in sad; offering a means for sharing and closeness when words cannot."

Her father, Richard Manzo, explained to her that his family, which immigrated from Italy at the turn of the century, "found that times were tough in America" and "often, the only thing they had to share was food they had grown and prepared. So they did just that ... as often as they could. It didn't matter if all they had was a very bad cut of meat or some flour and eggs for pasta; they knew how to cook and made the most of it. Every yard had a chicken coop, and every garden had grape vines."

In 1996, inspired by a trip to Italy, her parents opened an Italian deli in Millinocket. They named the deli Orvieto, after her mother's favorite city in Italy, and named the sandwiches for characters in "Pinocchio." The whole family helped and it was a great success.

The recipe for Italian meatballs in "A Taste of It All" was used at the deli and came from Georgia's grandmother, who taught her granddaughters how to make meatballs and tomato sauce. And, of course, there was no written recipe.

Georgia, however, has collected and published her family's favorite recipes and menus and has added new favorites. "A Taste of It All" follows nature's seasons and life's seasons and moods. Each menu comes with suggestions for music to listen to while cooking and dining and for a movie or book to enjoy after the meal.

Try this menu at your house during a rainy late summer evening: Pinot Noir Sangria, Mediterranean salad, grissini (bread sticks), angel hair pasta with Italian meatballs and tomato sauce supreme and, for dessert, white chocolate cheesecake with raspberry topping. Listen to the Gipsy Kings play "Inspiration" or play the soundtrack to "The Secret Garden." After dinner, read "The Perfect Storm."

The book is peppered with Georgia's thoughtful poetry, prose, philosophy and photography, There's even a picture of Mount Katahdin, which Georgia and her husband can see through the changing weather from their home on South Twin Lake.

Georgia finishes a list of helpful hints with this suggestion: "Whenever possible, crack open a bottle of good wine, turn up the music, and take a moment to dance in your kitchen."

Reading "A Taste of It All" is like reading an engaging novel. Cooking from it is a revelation.

Order the book online at thymemosspublishing.com, or by mail at Thyme & Moss Publishing, P.O. Box 1148, Millinocket, ME 04462. Or telephone (207) 723-9496. The cost is $19.95 plus tax and shipping.

Here are some recipes from the book:

Creamy Tomato Soup
With the soup, have a ham salad sandwich and vanilla bean ice cream. The ham salad is made with ham, red onion, celery, sweet pickles, jalapeno pepper, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, sour cream, salt and pepper.
Note: It is important that this soup does not come to a boil or the milk fats will separate.

3 tablespoons butter
2 large shallots, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes
3 cups chicken stock
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch or two of red pepper flakes
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup whole milk or evaporated milk
2 tablespoons fresh dill weed, finely chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried dill weed

In a large, heavy saucepan, sauté the shallots and garlic in the butter over low heat, covered, until shallots are soft and translucent (approximately 12-15 minutes). Add the canned tomatoes, chicken stock, tomato paste, bay leaf, thyme, sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the bay leaf. Allow to cool slightly and place in a blender, or use an immersion blender, to puree the tomatoes. Return mixture to the saucepan on low heat.

In a small saucepan, melt 1/4 cup butter and slowly add the flour to make a roux. Cook over medium-low heat for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Slowly whisk in the half-and-half and allow to thicken slightly, stirring occasionally. Pour this mixture into the tomato mixture.

While stirring with a whisk, slowly add the whole milk or evaporated milk to the tomato mixture; stir. Add the dill, and season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
Simmer for 15 minutes. Serve hot.
Serves 6 to 8.

Pancetta-Wrapped Scallops with Lemon Hot Sauce
This is from a chapter about snack foods to serve to people while they watch televised football games.
Note: pancetta is cured Italian bacon. Prosciutto or bacon may also be used. If you're worried about missing the game, you can completely prepare these a few hours ahead of time, cover tightly and refrigerate until ready to cook.

1 pound fresh sea scallops
6 ounces pancetta, very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons fresh, flat-leafed parsley, finely chopped
1 cup dry white wine
Flour Coating
1/2 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Lemon Hot Sauce
4 tablespoons hot sauce
4 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons honey

Remove the tough, crescent-shaped tendon located on the side of the scallops. Rinse the scallops; drain and pat dry. Roll scallops in pancetta slices. You should see a little of the scallop out each side of the pancetta. Press the pancetta against the scallop to be sure it will hold together.
Dredge the wrapped scallops in the flour coating and set aside.
In a large skillet, heat the oil and half the garlic. Immediately add the wrapped and coated scallops and cook for 2 minutes or until golden brown on one side. Carefully turn the scallops with tongs, add the remaining garlic and 1 tablespoon of butter, and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the parsley and wine; simmer for 1 to 2 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the scallops from the skillet onto a serving dish and cover with aluminum foil. Continue to reduce the wine for 1 minute. Add the remaining butter and whisk into the sauce. Cook down for another 1 minute. Drizzle over scallops. Whisk together the lemon hot sauce ingredients and serve with the scallops.
Serves 6 as an appetizer.

Katahdin Red Hot Sauce
Scott Joachim, a great gardener and fine cook, created this hot sauce.

Note: A pepper's heat resides primarily in its ribs (membrane), but also in the seeds, so keep and use both for optimum heat; except that the seeds should be removed from the cherry bomb peppers as they are bitter. If you are not wearing gloves, after handling the peppers, be sure to wash your hands and dip them in milk for a few minutes to help diffuse the heat. Refraining from touching your skin with your hands or rubbing your eyes until you have removed all traces of peppers from your hands will save you from a lot of misery.

To roast the garlic head, rub it with olive oil and use a terra cotta garlic roaster or simply wrap the entire head of garlic in aluminum foil and place on a small baking dish; cook at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Remove garlic from skin after roasting by placing each clove on a flat surface and pressing down on one end with a butter knife. The roasted garlic will ooze out of the other end, neatly and completely.

40 fresh hot red chili peppers (mixture of habaneros, cherry bombs, serranos, etc.), stems removed
1 head roasted garlic
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup apple cider vinegar

Coarsely chop the peppers. Except for the vinegar, place all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the vinegar and stir until well blended. Remove from heat and cool for one hour.
Place the cooled pepper mixture in blender and puree. Separate into small containers which may be frozen until ready to use. Will last up to 8 - 10 weeks in the refrigerator.