Beer Cupcakes with Candied Bacon Frosting

February 18th, 2015

beer cupcakes with candied bacon



No one goes to school or work anymore. We shovel, and find ways to be together in our homes through what feels like one constantly barren and howling day. Snow days blur into weekends. which have now blurred into school vacation; our plans for which have been cancelled because this time the blizzard is in Washington D.C.





We almost enviously watch the lights of the plows tunnel through another storm: the plows can go anywhere. Our appointments have been cancelled. Our stores are closed. We’ve been banned from parking anywhere, banned from driving, banned from taking trains, sentenced to shovel egresses, to unburden our roofs and decks, to free our cars, and to do it all over again when the contemptuous winds raze it all in three gusts.

I toss logs in the fireplace to cheer things up. I make soups and stews, telling my family “this is just the weather for it!” We eat by the fire, because that feels so elemental. When stew is too much, I lighten things up: fresh cod with a Venezuelan pepper, garlic, scallion and cilantro sauce. We eat that by the fire, too, and I say how the brightness tastes so good.

But, today, my daughter said forget the tea-smoked chicken, Mom, I’m making “Beer Cupcakes with Candied Bacon Frosting.” After so many days trying to rake a positive attitude out of the embers of brewing moods, trying to nourish souls battered by arctic blasts, trying to write a to-do list under house arrest, I’ve found release in every naughty, absurd, wonderful bite of this Buzzfeed-born recipe.

Don’t call it weird until you’ve had one. The cake has an aley background indulged by that drift of sugary frosting. There’s a whiff of beer in the frosting, too. Snuggled into all is a wand of candied bacon (bacon tossed in brown sugar and baked to a caramel crisp).

Make these, and indulge like a sixteen year old who has had it up to the highest snow drift with her mother’s good taste and good sense. The mother has, too, and enjoyed every bite.


plate of cupcakes

Beer Cupcakes with Candied Bacon Frosting

makes 12 cupcakes


1 1/2 cups cake flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

pinch salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup light brown sugar

2 eggs

1 cup beer (preferably a citrusy wheat beer)

for the frosting:

1 1/4 cup salted butter, softened

1/4 cup beer, room temperature

4 cups confectionary sugar (or more)

1 teaspoon vanilla

pinch salt

4 strips bacon

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons maple syrup


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 12 cupcake tins with cupcake papers.

2.  Whisk together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.  Set aside.

3.  In a mixer, cream together the butter and brown sugar.

4.  Add eggs one at a time, incorporating each before adding the next.

5.  Add the flour mixture in 4 additions, alternating with the beer, beginning and ending with flour.

6.  Pour into cupcake liners, and bake for 25 – 30 or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Remove onto wire rack and allow to cool completely.

7.  To make the frosting, beat butter until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the beer. The butter may break down a bit, but don’t worry; it will unite again with the sugar addition.

8.  Sift confectionary sugar into butter with mixer going very slowly. Keep adding sugar until all is added, and beat well. Add vanilla and salt, and beat until creamy. (You may need more confectionary sugar; add more until the frosting is stiff and creamy.)

9.  To make the bacon: preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lay parchment down on a baking sheet. Cut bacon into three pieces each. Lay the pieces on the parchment.  Make a paste of the brown sugar and maple syrup, and spread it on top of each piece of bacon.  Bake until brown and bubbly about 12-15 minutes. Remove bacon and allow to cool on wire racks. Frost cupcakes, and tuck a piece of bacon on top of each.

Shy Creme

February 8th, 2015


This valentine dessert is about the romance of local food – honestly wonderful local food as creamy, cultured and full of integrity as a cheese from a Burgundy farmhouse.

Cloumage comes in a carton. It’s a cultured fresh cheese that has the yeastiness of champagne and the fresh smoothness of creme fraiche. It’s sold at Whole Foods, and better grocery stores and cheese shops, but it’s created in Westport, Massachusetts.


Cloumage carton


Once the greatest dairy producer in the state, Westport has struggled against modern economics to preserve farm land. About five years ago, the Santos family, a third-generation Westport milk-producer, was forced to admit their accounting’s steep slope downhill. The sons – two sets of twin brothers – one set 53 years old, the other just turned 51 – wanted to only do what they had been doing since they were kids, take care of their cows. With the help of Barbara Hanley, who guided the dairy into cheese making, the brothers are doing just that: Norman milks the cows. Arthur feeds them. Kevin runs the machinery, and now Karl, who is famous for fact-keeping, makes the cheese.

Hanley and Karl traveled to Burgundy, France together in 2006, looking for a cheese style that would suit the Santos dairy. They returned with the model for a thimble-sized cheese called “Hannahbells,” named for the boy’s mother. As the cheese making began to grow, and Hanley began to give presentations about the farm, people at an event would ask, “where are these brothers; can we meet them?” Hanley would have to confess that they weren’t there because, “well, they are shy.” And so the dairy has been famously – and honestly – renamed, “Shy Brothers Farm.”

Now the shy brothers are making Cloumage, a soft cheese delicious spooned as is onto roasted pears or baked apples bubbling with brown sugar. Cloumage can bind lobster; it can stuff a pepper, rise in a souffle, even bake into a luxurious coffee cake. Drizzle a dish of Cloumage with local honey, strew with chopped rosemary and serve with slices of toasted baguette. Some Westport chefs say they have yet to find a place in the kitchen that Cloumage doesn’t improve.

Shy Creme proves how a carton of Cloumage in the refrigerator means you are just minutes away from an unusually wonderful dessert: a cup of Cloumage is whipped in a mixer with a cup of cream and some sugar until it comes to stiff peaks; spoon (or pipe if you’re feeling more formal) the creme – like a creamy, spoonable cheesecake – into dishes, and cover with raspberry sauce. For a textural variation, I sprinkled the top with chocolate graham cracker crumbs. The raspberry sauce and crumb preparation are slightly involved, but you could also simply heat raspberry jam with a little Chambord, and make crumbs from your favorite chocolate cookie; Oreos would work fine.  Also, my dessert tastes lean towards slightly less sweet; feel free to increase the sugar in the creme if you find it not enough “valentine.”


instagram dishes


Last winter, Hanley gave me a tour of the Shy Brothers cheese making operation, and then to see the family farm, the dairy barn, and to meet the cows. Hanley pointed to a small house where Arthur and Norman live next door. I asked how they felt about the exciting new contract with Whole Foods, and about all the excitement buzzing among chefs using the Shy Brothers cheeses; Hanley paused for a second, and then said, “I don’t think they even know; all those boys want to do is take care of the cows, they way they have all their lives.”


one dish, quince


Shy Creme

serves 6 – 8


For the sauce:

1 bag frozen raspberries (12 ounces)

1 tablespoon water

2 tablespoons confectionary sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

cold water to dissolve – about 1 tablespoon

1/2 teaspoon vanilla pinch salt

For the crumbs

3 ounces semisweet chocolate (or chocolate chips)

4 tablespoons cream

1 package graham crackers

For the creme:

1/2 carton Cloumage or 7.5 ounces

1 cup whipping cream

1/2 cup sugar

fresh raspberries


1.  To make the sauce, put frozen raspberries into a sauce pan with the water. Simmer until melted and broken down, about 10 minutes. Whisk in confectionary sugar. (Add more if you like the sauce sweeter.) Push sauce through a sieve to remove seeds. Wipe out sauce pan, and return the clear liquid to it. (Discard solids.)  In a small glass dish dissolve corn starch in cold water, stirring into a smooth mixture. With gentle heat on the raspberry liquid, whisk in cornstarch. Cook gently, constantly whisking, for 4-5 minutes, or until the sauce thickens and the cornstarch taste is gone. Stir in vanilla and a pinch of salt. Set aside to cool.

2.  To make the crumbs, put chocolate and cream together in a double boiler. Heat until chocolate is melted, and mixture is shiny. Blend graham crackers to fine crumbs in a food processor. Pour in melted chocolate and cream, and process well. The mixture will be a fine chocolate crumb.

3.  To make the creme, put the Cloumage, cream and sugar into the bowl of a mixer. Mix on high until the cream is sturdy, almost reaching peaks, about 4 minutes. Spoon into dishes (or pipe into champagne flutes). Pour cool raspberry sauce over each, and sprinkle generously with crumbs. Top with fresh raspberries.


dirty glass and 2 dishes

Mudiga Steak

February 1st, 2015

from In Cod We Trust: From Sea to Shore, the Celebrated Cuisine of Coastal Massachusetts, by Heather Atwood

Mudiga Steak

serves 4

Mudiga is a seasoned bread crumb mixture used throughout the Gloucester Sicilian community. No one really knows the origins of the word, but the blend coats chicken, steak, vegetables and fills meatballs in Sicilian Gloucester kitchens. The crumbs seem to always promise that the dish will be good; everyone in Gloucester smiles when there’s something mudiga on the menu. There are still some Gloucester fishermen who rise for work at 3:00 and 4:00 a.m., and are looking for something hearty by 7:00; Mudiga Steak is still listed as a breakfast choice in not many, but a few Gloucester restaurants. In Gloucester Mudiga Steak is for breakfast, served on Virgillio’s Bread.

Ingredients for the steak

4 thick fillet mignon steak or New York strip steaks, trimmed

1 cup Italian breadcrumbs

4 slices provolone cheese

4 crusty rolls


1. For the steak: Lightly bread the steaks with the breadcrumbs. Preheat the skillet to very hot. Sear the steaks on each side for 2 minutes, then lower the temperature to cook all the way through to your desired doneness.  Alternatively, broil for 4 minutes per side,  or until browned and cooked through.


2.  Cover each steak with a slice of provolone cheese.  Warm in oven until melted.

3.  Serve on warmed or toasted rolls.

Mudiga (Seasoned Bread Crumbs)

Yields about 2 1/2 cups.


1 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (toast your own or you can use the regular store bought type)

1/2 to 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 medium white or yellow onion, chopped into very small pieces.

1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

3 to 4 cloves garlic, chopped fine

salt and pepper to taste.


1. Mix all together and taste for salt and pepper. Freeze extra in a plastic bag.

Remembering Marvin Roberts

January 15th, 2015


I met Marvin Roberts at Shaw’s a few years ago; he was standing behind me in line, and said, “lady, that’s the worst looking rhubarb I’ve ever seen.”

I’ve told this story before. Marvin insisted I follow him to his home on Witham St. for some real rhubarb, not the wilted stuff available in a grocery store on a Sunday night at 8:30.

“Just give me time to get home; I’m on my bike.”

Marvin was that very thin man with a gray beard you always saw riding a bike in the Shaw’s neighborhood. He had a Ph.D. in Botany, and had taught in four different universities, the last being Salem State. His paper on the ballistic seed dispersal of the illicium plant received international attention. (Exploding ilicium seed pods, the plant’s great evolutionary trick, can shoot 40 feet.)

I can’t say I was a real friend of Marvin’s, because he was very private, but I spent enough time to see – and admire – how much Marvin loved growing things. His garden, I’ve said many times, was raucously vibrant and diverse: those thick juicy stalks of rhubarb had leaves the size of tabletops. Jumbled over a 1/4 acre hillock grew asparagus, rhubarb, raspberries, blueberries, peaches, cherries, horseradish, kale, beans, every kind of allium and herb, and that’s only what I can remember.




After just a short tour of the garden with Marvin, I no longer saw a quiet Gloucester guy, grayed by time, who rode his bike everywhere, or an academic who referred to plants only by their Latin genus and species, who read the NYT front to back every day, quoted from yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, and noticed when I missed a week writing my column, as he did; I saw a skinny kid who loved science more than anything in the world. I didn’t see the aging Marvin worrying a discolored peach tree leaf with earth-stained fingers; I saw a boy in his parent’s Ohio backyard who loved nothing more than a whole day with his hands in the dirt helping his father plant potatoes.

On Cape Ann Marvin collected red algae to make his own blanc mange. He grew things from produce that Shaw’s was tossing out. He salvaged begonias (Begoniaceae) and lamium (Lamiaceae)that people had long ago placed on graves in the cemetery, and that were being composted, and he grew them into lush decorative elements beside his herbs. I’m lucky to have received a grandchild lamium from one of these salvages.

I’m also lucky to have received some Coral Bells (Saxifragaceae,) from Marvin. The original plant is on his mother’s farm in Ohio; Marvin planted divisions from that plant in each of the four states in which he lived. Coral Bells in Marvin’s Witham St. garden were practically taking down a wall, such was the energy with which they burst out of the crevices. Now there’s one in Folly Cove, too.



A book loan from Marvin, be it horticulture, history or a cookbook, was always a good one. I learned from him about the history and international significance of wheat, and later about Helianthus tuberosus (Jerusalem Artichokes), and discovered in his loaned cookbooks a great recipes for a Christmas Porridge and Cape Cod Fish Balls. If anyone stumbles upon the Burpee Cookbook, snatch it; it’s great. That was a loan from Marvin long ago, and I’ve been looking for my own copy ever since.

Tragically, I still have a couple of books I need to return to him. I just now learned Marvin died last September at 66 years old; his cousin, Jody Brickner, reported it was a heart attack.  Many on Cape Ann, and in his neighborhood will miss him, including his friends at the Rockport Farmers Market, where his rhubarb sold out in minutes. I hadn’t seen Marvin since last spring, but I will miss him at every turn of the garden season.  Rhubarb and raspberry will never be the same.

Passion is such an overused word these days, but I think I can use it legitimately here, and it is the exact thing I so deeply admired in Marvin. I think passion is something you do even though no one is watching. You do it when reward, or praise, or credit have long since vanished as relevant. Passion is that thing you continue to study when it makes no difference to anyone except yourself; you do it truly and honestly only for your self. Maybe even the self doesn’t matter; maybe the self is lost to an honest passion.

I don’t know many people with a real passion for anything, except Marvin, who was the perfect study. He ventured into the world quietly and lived privately, but I know he never stopped wondering about his soil or marveling at the vigor of his Egyptian onions.




Marvin Roberts will be buried at home in Ohio; I hope the earth above him is covered in Coral Bells.


Marvin young


For anyone interested in making a donation in Marvin Roberts’ memory, Jody Brickner sends this message:

“Marvin taught and did research at Stone Lab for The Ohio State University many summers. This would be a fitting place if anyone were interested in making a donation.  – Anything research or education oriented here would please him.”

“Also, his three-year-old great niece has cystic fibrosis, and a donation to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation at her fundraising page would be another way to honor his memory. There is a place for a note for the participant, and that way you can be sure that her parents will get the message. Her name is Annabelle Hanson.  Her mother is Marvin’s niece.”

Marvin with family

Roasted Salmon with Avocado Cream

January 2nd, 2015

 spa food


Midnight January 1, the online wassail and plum puddings images disappear, replaced by images of sparkling glasses of water and large white plates artfully scripted with julienned crudite. Grocery stores can’t stock enough bags of baby spinach. Across the nation there’s a low roar of high protein smoothies whirring in blenders.

Nothing says January like penance, but I don’t enjoy the punitive sound of penance; I think of it as time to do the diet laundry. My January regime usually just means any cuisine east of Uzbekestan, but this year my cleansing consideration has been whittled down to one ingredient:  Avocado.

My teenage daughter, who is on a diet every other day, holidays included, had purchased a while ago a little book called “Cooking with Avocados,” by Elizabeth Nyland. Suddenly, this book is the only one on the kitchen counter; in it seems to be everything we want to eat right now.

In the “why didn’t we think of this before” category there is the simple but delicious avocado and mango smoothie, also the nori-wrapped avocado with toasted sesame sauce. In the “cool is cleansing” category there’s an avocado and cucumber soup; a little heartier, there is an avocado and broccoli salad, made with greek yogurt, cherry tomatoes and topped with crumbled bacon. This will be made in my home before the week is over.

Our favorite so far is Roasted Salmon with Avocado Cream.  Four ounces of cream cheese is blended in a food processor with avocado, garlic and lemon.  Swathe it over a beautiful Coho salmon fillet, and roast.  The combined omega-3’s of salmon and avocado make a sublimely nutritious January dinner.  Packing in the leafy greens, I served this on a collard greens chiffonade sautéed in sesame and grape seed oils, dusted with Gloucester’s Atlantic Saltworks salt.   The laundry is done.


salmon serving

Roasted Salmon with Avocado Cream, from “Cooking with Avocados,” by Elizabeth Nyland

serves 4


4 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 large avocado, halved, pitted and peeled

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest plus 3 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 clove garlic, minced or grated.

2 tablespoons capers (optional)

2 pounds salmon fillets


1.  Preheat oven 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Using a blender or an electric mixer, blend the cream cheese, avocado, garlic and lemon zest and juice, until smooth. Stir in the capers if using.

2.  Place the salmon fillets on the baking sheet skin side down. Spread the sauce of the fillets and cook for 10 to 15 minutes. (The salmon is done when the flesh is slightly firm and the juices just begin to turn white.) Serve immediately.

Try Pots Chowder

December 31st, 2014

whaling church


Instead of a New Year’s Poem, I’m copying a bit of the finest food writing ever, a reminder of the mercies – if not art – the cod and clam once bestowed on a difficult voyage.

Chapter 15 from Moby Dick, by Herman Melville

Upon making known our desires for a supper and a bed, Mrs. Hussey, postponing further scolding for the present, ushered us into a little room, and seating us at a table spread with the relics of a recently concluded repast, turned round to us and said- “Clam or Cod?” “What’s that about Cods, ma’am?” said I, with much politeness. “Clam or Cod?” she repeated. “A clam for supper? a cold clam; is that what you mean, Mrs. Hussey?” says I, “but that’s a rather cold and clammy reception in the winter time, ain’t it, Mrs. Hussey?”

But being in a great hurry to resume scolding the man in the purple shirt who was waiting for it in the entry, and seeming to hear nothing but the word “clam,” Mrs. Hussey hurried towards an open door leading to the kitchen, and bawling out “clam for two,” disappeared. “Queequeg,” said I, “do you think that we can make a supper for us both on one clam?”

However, a warm savory steam from the kitchen served to belie the apparently cheerless prospect before us. But when that smoking chowder came in, the mystery was delightfully explained. Oh! sweet friends, hearken to me. It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuits, and salted pork cut up into little flakes! the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt. Our appetites being sharpened by the frosty voyage, and in particular, Queequeg seeing his favourite fishing food before him, and the chowder being surpassingly excellent, we despatched it with great expedition: when leaning back a moment and bethinking me of Mrs. Hussey’s clam and cod announcement, I thought I would try a little experiment.

Stepping to the kitchen door, I uttered the word “cod” with great emphasis, and resumed my seat. In a few moments the savoury steam came forth again, but with a different flavor, and in good time a fine cod-chowder was placed before us. We resumed business; and while plying our spoons in the bowl, thinks I to myself, I wonder now if this here has any effect on the head? What’s that stultifying saying about chowder-headed people?

“But look, Queequeg, ain’t that a live eel in your bowl? Where’s your harpoon?”

Fishiest of all fishy places was the Try Pots, which well deserved its name; for the pots there were always boiling chowders. Chowder for breakfast, and chowder for dinner, and chowder for supper, till you began to look for fish-bones coming through your clothes. The area before the house was paved with clam-shells. Mrs. Hussey wore a polished necklace of codfish vertebra; and Hosea Hussey had his account books bound in superior old shark-skin. There was a fishy flavor to the milk, too, which I could not at all account for, till one morning happening to take a stroll along the beach among some fishermen’s boats, I saw Hosea’s brindled cow feeding on fish remnants, and marching along the sand with each foot in a cod’s decapitated head, looking very slipshod, I assure ye.

Supper concluded, we received a lamp, and directions from Mrs. Hussey concerning the nearest way to bed; but, as Queequeg was about to precede me up the stairs, the lady reached forth her arm, and demanded his harpoon; she allowed no harpoon in her chambers. “Why not? said I; “every true whaleman sleeps with his harpoon- but why not?” “Because it’s dangerous,” says she. “Ever since young Stiggs coming from that unfort’nt v’y’ge of his, when he was gone four years and a half, with only three barrels of ile, was found dead in my first floor back, with his harpoon in his side; ever since then I allow no boarders to take sich dangerous weepons in their rooms at night. So, Mr. Queequeg” (for she had learned his name), “I will just take this here iron, and keep it for you till morning. But the chowder; clam or cod to-morrow for breakfast, men?” “Both,” says I; “and let’s have a couple of smoked herring by way of variety.”

Go! – Julfest at Spiran Lodge, December 13th

December 9th, 2014




Spiran Lodge flags


A few rich veins of authenticity still marble Cape Ann. One vein is the traditions behind Spiran Lodge, the local chapter of the Swedish order “Vasa,” an active preservation of the Scandinavian culture that brought song, dance and the haunting aroma of wafting cardamon to this granite promontory.

This Saturday is Spiran Lodge’s Julfest. On Friday, the Nisu team will work all day in shifts, lead by Claire Franklin, mixing, allowing to rise, pounding down, braiding, letting rise again, and finally baking the 120 glorious shining loaves of Cardamom Braid, or Pulla, or Coffee Bread; to each Scandinavian culture a different name for this delicious-with-coffee sweet bread mostly known on Cape Ann as Nisu. A pair of members (Peg Lecco and me) will drive to Crown Bakery in Worcester to pick up a brimming order of other Swedish breads and pastries to be sold at the festival, along with many Rockport-made Scandinavian treats.


rising Spiran Nisu


Nisu for sale



There will be pickled herring and the Swedish sausage, Korv. This year, for the first time, Karl’s Sausage Kitchen, a venerable source of Scandinavian and Germanic foods, will help to sponsor Rockport’s Julfest, thus offering an even wider selection of hard-to-find foods, the rich, hearty dishes meant to warm hearts through long, bleak winters, both in Sweden, Finland and Cape Ann.




Coffee and Nisu will be served for breakfast, and for lunch there will be traditional open-faced Scandinavian sandwiches along with choices of fish chowder, pea soup, fruit soup, and rice pudding.

Tables of freshly picked and arranged greens will be for sale, along with Scandinavian linens.  Serenaded by “Silent Night,” the chosen St. Lucia will walk the upstairs hall crowned by a wreath of candles. The enormous orange Dala horse will stand cheerfully on the Broadway Ave, sidewalk announcing “god jul!”

At Spiran Lodge Swedish and Finnish phrases still spring up in a sentence here and there. The members are earnest – and work incredibly hard – at keeping the traditions of their parents and grandparents alive. Matthew Rask describes Spiran Lodge as in transition from an aid society to a cultural center.

“Whereas in the past members looked to Vasa to help them learn the ways of the new country and provide them a means to share problems and solutions with their countrymen, today Vasa provides members a means to share their rich heritage with fellow Americans, and helps them to learn or remember the meaningful ways and values of the “Old Country.”

Julfest is a holiday visit like no other. Rare in a landscape sprawled with shopping malls and chain restaurants, authenticity is a commodity worth hoarding when you find it. Visit next weekend for the St. Lucia, the fluffiest of rice puddings, and the authenticity.

Here is a recipe from the Spiran Lodge newsletter. Cardamom, the cinnamon of Scandinavia, is a brilliant addition to the densely chocolate flour-less cake we’ve been making for years.



Dala horse



Spiran Lodge Flour-less Chocolate Cardamom Torte


11 ounces dark chocolate

2/3 cup unsalted butter

6 eggs, room temperature, separated

1/4 cup sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons ground cardamom, divided

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

2.  Line a spring form pan with parchment paper and butter generously.

3.  In 30 second increments, melt the chocolate and butter together in the microwave. Stir until completely smooth and melted. Alternately, melt the chocolate and butter gently over a double boiler. Set aside.

4.  Combine the egg yolks and sugar in the bowl of a mixer and beat on high until very pale and fluffy – about five minutes.

5.  Mix the vanilla, salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom into the melted chocolate. Then fold the chocolate into the egg yolks.

6.  In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites on high until they hold stiff peaks. Fold carefully into the chocolate mixture. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.

7.  When the torte has cooled, heat the heavy cream until near boiling. Add the chocolate chips and let sit for two minutes. Stir until completely smooth. Ad 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, and either serve immediately with the cake or pour over the cake and let set one hour.

Give “Cape Ann”

December 9th, 2014

Cape Ann is riddled with talented bakers, cooks, crafts people, and earnest organizations. Here is a list of wonderful ways to make your gift giving local, supporting our community, and promising delighted recipients.

1.  Atlantic Saltworks.  Everyone should be giving salt this year.  Atlantic Saltworks, started by friends Heather Ahearn and Alison Darnell, is based in Salem, MA, but the salt is hand harvested in Gloucester.  Not only are you giving a handful of natural Cape Ann, but Atlantic Saltworks is the ideal gift for cooks who loves a flakey finishing salt, Gloucester’s version of the famous Maldon.  Isn’t a salty, crusty finish the perfect symbol for this city?  Atltantic Saltworks are available at The Cave and Lula’s Pantry, among other venues.

2.  Af Klinteberg Nisu.  Grandaughter Carson Af Klinteberg has returned to Cape Ann to continue the Af Klinteberg nisu tradition begun by her grandmother fifty years ago.  Nisu, the cardamom-scented Finnish sweet bread meant to look like a young Scandinavian girl’s braid, represents the still active community of Finns who arrived here one hundred plus years ago to work in the quarries.  Sweet, tender, delicious with coffee, nisu is an easy way to take one’s history.  Call (978) 281-0928 to inquire about where Af Klinteberg loaves are available, or to order full batches.

Af Klinteberg



3.  Alexandra’s “Peace Bread.”  Extend an olive branch to a friend for Christmas.  Olives, the international symbol of peace, riddle a crusty Alexandra’s Olive Branch.  The ratio of salt to black kalamata richness to crusty baguette is so perfect it’s hard to know which is a vehicle for the other, bread for olive or the reverse.  Smear with fresh unsalted butter and the story ends not just peacefully, but happily ever after.  Alexandra’s Bread, 265 Main St., Gloucester.

4. Mortillaro’s Lobsters and Gift Certificates.  Send someone a lobster, or freshly packed lobster meat, and they will hear the boats chugging out of a foggy harbor at dawn, such is the relationship between Gloucester and these marine crustaceans.  Mortillaro Lobster is a Gloucester institution; their holding and processing practices are so well respected their lobster meat earned a place in the Lobster Mac and Cheese served backstage to Neal Young and Willie Nelson at the Farm Aid concert last year.  The caterers at Farm Aid are fussy.  They want local, organic, sustainable foods, or at least as close to those adjectives as possible. Mortillaro uses no chemicals in its tanks, and its meat is the freshest there is.  Mortillaro Lobster, located at 60 Commercial St. (on The Fort), looks like an imposing wholesale business, but they welcome retail shoppers.  Walk in the metal door to purchase live lobster, fresh meat, or gift certificates, all Willie Nelson approved.

Mortillaro Lobsters

5. Woodmans of Essex; five generations of stories, 100 years of recipes, by Winslow Pettingell. Give fried clams, or at least the recipe for famous Woodman’s Fried Clams, the ones for which flip-flopped crowds wait hours in a line.   Part cookbook, part nostalgia, Pettingell’s book covers one hundred years of Woodman’s fun and history, starting when Chubby Woodman first dropped a clam in hot oil.  “Woodman’s of Essex” is filled with old photos and stories that would make anyone affectionate with the Essex River’s unique clam-digging culture a little misty-eyed.  Available at Woodman’s in Essex and online.

Woodman's Cookbook

6.  Rockport Farmers’ Market T-shirt, tote bag, and coffee mug, designed by Darren Mason.  These goods are “good.”  The purchase any or all three of these cool Darren Mason designed provisions help keep local food in Rockport, supporting the weekly Saturday morning Rockport Farmers Market in Harvey Park July through October.   Also, these purchases support The Rockport Exchange, a non-profit group that organizes, along with the farmers market, Motif #1 Day and HarvestFest.  Orders can be placed online at RockportFestivals The Store or

Rockport Exchange goods



7.  Appleton Farms Gift Box.  Those cows.  Thirty-eight registered Jersey’s will be lined up blinking their doey eyes at you if you arrive at Appleton Farms in Ipswich around 2:30 in the afternoon, milking time.  You can give this Appleton Farms herd as a gift in the form of a rustic wooden box packed with Appleton Farms cheeses:  Broad Meadow – “an earthy nutty semi-hard cheese,” Sunset Hill Triple Cream – “a silky-smooth, brie-style cheese,” and Pinnacle – “a classic farmhouse table, tomme-style cheese.”  Appleton Farms has been working hard at building their cheese repertoire.  After good bread, a good local cheese is the foundation of a good local food culture.  We applaud them and thank the Jerseys.  To learn more about Appleton Farms’ Holiday Cheese Sampler and to order yours today, visit online: or  stop by or call the dairy store: 978.356.3825, located at 219 County Road, Ipswich , open Monday–Friday, 11AM–6PM, Saturday & Sunday, 10AM–4PM.

Appleton Farms Gift box

8. Jen’s Twisted Sauce.  Three jars of this thai-inspired peanut sauce from Bonne Bouche caterer Jen Sanford of Wenham should be in one’s pantry at all times.  You’re home from soccer practice at 7:30; you couldn’t bear one more stop at the grocery store, or another empty pizza box in your recycling.  Toss hot noodles in Jen’s Twisted Sauce.  Top it with some chopped mango, avocado, red onion and cilantro, and you have a fast, flavorful dinner that would please a both fussy pre-schooler and a foodie.  Jen’s Twisted Sauce is the magic that makes grilled chicken breast instantly delicious satay.   Jen’s Twisted Sauce is available at Willowrest and The Cave, among others.

Jen's sauce


Jen's noodles


9. Fudge Everything Caramel Sauce.  Last year we lost our chocolate hearts to the Fudge Everything Fudge Sauce; this year it’s caramel.  The local ladies (from Rockport and Manchester by the sea) of Fudge Everything can now say Caramel Everything.  I say, who wouldn’t? – on ice cream, on baked apples, on fresh pears, on shortbread cookies; caramel everything.

Fudge Everything



10. Brie Baker.  Lula’s Pantry is always great local giving, but this Brie Baker is $22 gift perfection.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to bake and transport that warm gooey brie to the party in one attractive, perfectly sized, dairy-farm-ceramic-evocative dish?  This is brilliant.  Include a jar of Wasik’s Chutney, the perfect oozing brie topping, and make it a Baked Brie Kit.   Lula’s Pantry 5 Dock Square, Rockport.

Brie Baker 2


11. Maple Paddle Knife from Lee & Co.  Lee & Company began when Vanessa Hobbs, 25, of Lanesville, wanted to start a project with her carpenter father, Russell Hobbs.  At a yard sale, father and daughter had found a box of old wooden tools made by a man named Lee.  The Hobbs’ first project thus began with a piece of maple and one of the yard sale tools as a prototype.  They made the tool a little larger, and graced it with curves so that it fit in one’s palm like another hand.  They sanded, and rubbed the tool with coconut oil until it gleamed; behold the Lee & Company Maple Paddle Knife.  Now Vanessa (whose middle name is also Lee) produces beautiful wood kitchen products, all rubbed only with coconut oil, including custom cutting boards.  For more information or to place an order go to

paddle knife


12.  Twelfth Night Riesling.  We don’t have a local winemaker, but we have a great local wine store always ready to educate.  Kathleen Erickson, owner of Savour Wine & Cheese, is a genius at walking someone through a wine crisis:  “What kind of wine do I bring to a potluck dinner party?!”  “I’m serving sole and my guests only drink red wine!”  “I don’t know anything about wine!”  You will leave her store calm without spending a fortune, and feeling a little more wine confident.   When I asked Erickson about a “local” recommendation, she suggested Twelfth Night wines from New Zealand; the couple who own Twelfth Night live in Arlington and chose to be married in Gloucester; that’s the local part.  Twelfth Night wines, from the southern portion of the South Island of New Zealand – almost in Antarctica! – are sustainably grown and hand-harvested.  Erickson taught me to appreciate the strengths and flexibility of a dry riesling, so I am suggesting you give Twelfth Night Dry Riesling, which Erickson describes as “spectacular with food, from seafood to turkey to roast pork and all spicy or salty dishes.” Savour Wine & Cheese, 76 Prospect St., Gloucester

This is a different giving category, but an important one.  A $25 Open Door Meal Basket provides a holiday meal that includes a 14-16 pound turkey, potatoes, stuffing mix, cranberries, gravy mix, dinner rolls, apples, carrots and squash for a struggling family in Gloucester, Rockport, Essex, Manchester-by-the-sea or Ipswich.  Download the gift certificate here: or pick one up at the Open Door offices.  The Open Door 28 Emerson Ave, Gloucester.

Girls Rule Gravlax

December 4th, 2014



Jason Grow Photography

Maisie Grow, as photographed by her professional photographer-father Jason, is one of three Grow daughters – Matilda, Jemima and Maisie. They are a talented bunch, who have never for one day not lived up to the words on the twins’ birth announcement – “Girls rule.”

Maisie recently brought a shining platter of gravlax to my home; (Jemima often helps make the gravlax, I’m told, but was not around that day.) This is basically Ina Garten’s recipe, and, like so many of her recipes, worth sharing as much as possible. This one should be “required” – not elective – on holiday menus.  About presentation, Maisie is ready for her own cooking show.

For more information on Jason Grow Photography, or just for a gorgeous tour of great portraiture, from Norman Mailer to Doris Kearns Goodwin, go to:


Garten Gravlax





3 pounds fresh salmon, center cut

1 large bunch of dill, plus 1/4 cup chopped dill for serving

1/2 cup kosher salt

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons white peppercorns, crushed

1 tablespoon whole fennel seeds

Pumpernickel bread, for serving

Mustard Sauce, recipe follows


1.  Cut the salmon in half crosswise and place half the fish skin side down in a deep dish.

2.  Wash and shake dry the dill and place it on the fish. Combine the salt, sugar, crushed peppercorns, and fennel seeds in a small bowl and sprinkle it evenly over the piece of fish.

3.  Place the other half of salmon over the dill, skin side up. Cover the dish with aluminum foil.

4.  Place a smaller pan on top of the foil and weight it with some heavy cans. Refrigerate the salmon for at least 2 and up to 3 days, turning it every 12 hours and basting it with the liquid that collects.

5.  Lay each piece of salmon flat on a cutting board, remove the bunch of dill, and sprinkle the top with chopped dill. With a long thin slicing knife, slice the salmon in long thin slices as you would for smoked salmon.

6.  Serve with dark pumpernickel bread and mustard sauce. You can also serve with chopped red onion and capers, if desired.

Mustard Sauce


1/4 cup Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon ground dry mustard

3 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill


1.  Combine the mustards, sugar, and vinegar in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the oil and stir in the chopped dill. Serve with the gravlax.

Still Lives & Thanks

November 27th, 2014


Still Life, oil on canvas, 30 x 34


With everyone’s pies baked, I’m stepping briefly out of the kitchen and into an art gallery.  Janet Rickus’s meticulous still lives offer just the right elements of stillness, fecundity, and grace that many of us will be considering today.

Represented by The Clark Gallery in Lincoln, MA, Rickus will be part of the Clark Gallery December Salon Show from November 25 – December 30th, with a celebratory reception at the gallery Saturday, December 6th. For more information go to:

Thanks to my friends and blog readers – and both! – for your support, humor, and recipes throughout the year; I wish for you all a joyful Thanksgiving, full of winter squash and pie.




One Year Old Pumpkin, oil on canvas, 16 x 16