(Here is a link to the original story http://www.southcoasttoday.com/article/20151104/ENTERTAINMENTLIFE/151109906/101110)
By Brian J. Lowney
Posted Nov. 4, 2015 at 2:00 AM
Updated Nov 13, 2015 at 11:19 AM
A project created to preserve family recipes and inform future generations about their vibrant history and culture has exceeded Maria Lawton’s wildest expectations and propelled the busy wife and mother of three daughters into the national spotlight.
The recipe collection became a best-selling cookbook, “Azorean Cooking: From My Family Table to Yours.” It has won Lawton thousands of appreciative fans and followers on Facebook, where she frequently posts recipes and answers questions from cooks eager to replicate the delicious dishes of their ancestral homeland.
“Many of the recipes are from my mother Adelina and my grandmother Filomena, who was a grand baker,” Lawton shares. The author’s family settled in New Bedford when she was 6 years old, and she quickly learned English. She is a graduate of the former Holy Family High School.
When she arrived in New Bedford, Lawton says she was taunted and called names such as “greenhorn” and “fava bean.” Armed with a delightful sense of humor, Lawton started calling herself “The Azorean Greenbean,” which has developed into a successful marketing tool that has brought the author worldwide recognition.
The cookbook’s success has taken the author on an adventurous journey filled with restaurant appearances, dozens of book signings, speaking engagements and cooking demonstrations, but the best — hopefully — is yet to come.
Lawton is working with Rhode Island Public Broadcasting Service to create a 13-part series highlighting Azorean cooking, based on the recipes found in her book, now in its seventh printing. She filmed a pilot last spring in the Azores that highlights the scenic beauty of the nine-island archipelago. It also features Lawton cooking in the spacious, well-equipped kitchen at Dartmouth Building Supply, where she prepared Bachalhua a Gomes de Sa, featuring layers of salt cod, potatoes and onions.
“They loved it,” Lawton begins, adding that after viewing the pilot, PBS general managers asked her to film 12 additional episodes for national distribution.
“We’ve got to film it all,” she says, adding that the one caveat is that she must now obtain funding from sponsors to shoot the series.
“I need underwriters — national or regional companies or foundations that have a national presence,” Lawton continues, adding that potential sponsors must be approved by PBS, which is a nonprofit organization, and must also meet stringent federal guidelines.
According to Lawton, when the project is funded, episodes will be filmed in the Azores, New Bedford, Fall River, and other locations where there are large concentrations of residents of Azorean descent.
“When this does happen, it will be the first Portuguese cooking show on PBS,” she says. Once produced, she expects the series will air in all 50 states.
Lawton believes that a Portuguese cooking show will be popular with viewers who fondly remember large holiday meals or sitting in their grandmother’s kitchen while she prepared simmering pots of hearty soups or rolled dough to make biscoitos.
“They feel like I’m part of their family,” she says of her many followers. “I’m not a chef but I am a very good home cook.”
For a testimonial, you can consult Lawton’s husband Bob. He sampled hundreds of dishes that the author prepared as she tested recipes for the book.
Unlike many people whose relatives took treasured heirloom recipes to the grave, Lawton says she feels “blessed” to return periodically to the Azores to cook with her elderly aunts and cousins. She adds that while every island and village has a different way of preparing the same dish, home cooks can adapt the recipes found in the book to their liking.
In addition to the proposed television series, Lawton is slated to lead a food and cooking tour, sponsored by Sagres Vacations of Fall River, to the Azores next year.
“When it comes to my cookbook, I just think that it’s wonderful to see my mom’s recipes being enjoyed by so many all over the world,” the author reflects, adding that in addition to searching for sponsors for the proposed television cooking series, she is also busy compiling and testing recipes for a second cookbook.
“I think she would have been surprised by it all,” Lawton continues. “Knowing that her recipes will live on long after I am gone is a gift for all those trying to recreate those wonderful food memories,” Lawton says. “Food memories are the most powerful memories we have, so I’m proud that I have a small part in preserving them.”
For more information, visit Lawton’s web site, www.azoreangreenbean.com
The cookbook author shares the following recipe for easy holiday entertaining.
She comments, “This past summer I had the pleasure of having my cousin Daniela spending a few weeks here with my family and me. It was her first time in the United States, visiting from the Azores. She enjoys cooking as much as I do and whenever possible, we would try to cook together and teach each other different recipes; this recipe came from one of those evenings.
“She explained that especially during the holidays or when you ever need to bring an appetizer to anyone’s home, this was her favorite. She explained that all she would need is three ingredients: puff pastry sheets, sausage and honey … and she would also need the food processor. I couldn’t imagine what she was putting together, but lucky enough I had all three as well as my processor!!
“She explained that for the sausage you can use whatever you like or have on hand. She has made it with all different types of Portuguese sausages such as chourico, linguica, morcela and alheira. The only thing she suggests is that if you make it with morcela, that you serve it with chunks of fresh pineapple.
Lawton concludes, “Trust me when I say, these simple stuffed pillows are delicious!”
Pillows Stuffed with Chourico
(Almofadas Recheado com Chouriço)
Makes 18 appetizers. From Maria Lawton.
1 frozen package of two ready-to-bake puff pastry sheets
8 ounces chourico
Honey for drizzling
Defrost the puff pastry sheets approximately 30 minutes, or until they reach room temperature.
Just as they are about defrosted, preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and set aside.
Remove the casing on the chourico and cut the links into rounds. Place them in a food processor or blender and pulse until the sausage becomes a paste, and set aside.
Now that the pastry sheets are defrosted, you need to unfold and lay out the first sheet on a very lightly floured counter.
Each sheet is about 9 inches wide by 9 inches long, so if you cut along the folds it should give the perfect 3-inch strips that are 9 inches long. Then you’re going to take each strip and cut each into three 3-inch squares. Each sheet should give you nine 3-inch squares.
Place a small spoonful of the chourico paste in the center of each square,d fold in the corners over each other, and place on baking tray. Repeat the same with the other pastry sheet, until all 18 pieces are stuffed and placed on baking tray.
Place in preheated oven and bake until golden about 30-35 minutes, depending on your oven. As soon as they are done, remove from oven and then drizzle the pillows with honey. Allow the pillows to cool a little before you serve.
Enjoy each bite!!