Sullivan Maple Syrup Overnight Baked French Toast

July 23rd, 2014

Maple syrup does not traditionally list as one of Mid-July’s bounties, but it should, because almost all farmers’ markets across the region have a stand, or a section of a stand, dedicated to family-collected pints of this blue ribbon local food.  Only lobster, steamers, cod and maybe Jerusalem Artichokes can rival maple syrup for the longest local legs.

Tim Sullivan grew up in Pigeon Cove, lives in W. Gloucester now, and, most importantly collects maple syrup from maple trees with 400 taps in Weld, ME.  What began as a tiny evaporator on a wood stove evolved to a commercial evaporator in a Sullivan-built sugar house.  Sullivan and his wife, Ruth, decorate their Rockport Farmers’ Market table with maple leaves every Saturday, and set the liquid gold they collected all through that dark early spring out for people to buy.  (Sullivan is also the Rockport Farmers’ Market official bag-piper, and opens every market at 9:00 with a stroll through the vendors.)


Here is a recipe that reminds you to pick up an extra pint or quart of family farm maple syrup at a farm stand or farmers‘ market this week.  A make-the-night-before-bake-the-next-morning French Toast dish, this is a wonderful summer breakfast for a houseful of your favorite guests.   This looks and tastes golden and delicious, with a maple laced crust on the bottom.  If you’re feeling like upping the “local” ante, select a bread from your farmers’ market; Anadama bread would be delicious; just remember to lay it down in one layer, not over-lapping, so that all the pieces absorb the maple syrup.  Appleton Farm milk and local eggs would give you locavore bragging rights as this comes out of the oven, although after one bite of this warm, maple-crusted souffle, your family and guests will probably have stopped listening.



Sullivan Farm Maple Syrup Baked French Toast

serves 6-8


1 cup maple syrup

1 loaf French Bread, sliced 1” thick

3 eggs

3 egg whites

1 1/2 cups skim milk

2 teaspoons vanilla

3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, divided

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon, divided

3/4 cup slivered almonds


  1. Butter a 13”x9” baking dish.  Pour in the maple syrup, and distribute over the bottom evenly.  Place the dry bread, round-down, over the syrup.
  2.   In a bowl, combine the eggs, egg whites, milk, vanilla, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.  Beat until mixed; pour over bread, pressing to make sure it soaks in.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight or at least 6 hours.
  4.  When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Remove bread from refrigerator, and sprinkle with remaining nutmeg and cinnamon, and the sliced almonds.  Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until golden and puffy.


Galvanized Bluefish, or Vinha D’Alhos

July 7th, 2014


The word “galvanized,” with its steely, strong, clean implications, is a great word to use for anything on a hot summer day.  “Galvanized” is exactly the term cooks use when they marinate fish or pork in this famous Portuguese vinegar and garlic marinade; call it Vinha D’Alhos, or vinya thyle, if you’re Portuguese or Azorean, or if you happen to live in New Bedford.  In New Bedford, the Portuguese community is so vital the city is home to the largest Portuguese Festival in the world, The Feast of the Blessed Sacrament in early August, where Carne de Vinho e Alhos – “delicious pork cubes marinating in Madeira wine, garlic and Portuguese spices and herbs and cooked to perfection” is served to thousands.

Literally translated, Vinha D’Alhos means “wine of garlic.”  (Yes, the festival version translates as wine and garlic, but the original dish is wine of garlic.) The Portuguese were clearly aware of this fragrant allium’s promises.  Originally used to preserve fish and meats, the marinade’s resulting deliciousness has outlived its use as a preservative, according to Howard Mitchum in The Provincetown Seafood Cookbook.  The recipe was just too good to give up with the invention of the refrigerator.

This is truly a wonderfully simple if not transformative recipe to have on hand in the summer; an easy alchemy of vinegar, water (wine is a little more elegant) garlic, onions and some spices can reinvent a plain pork chop to a meltingly tender, garlic-infused grilled dinner, a “transcendental pork chop,” declares Mitchum.  The Portuguese love treating pork this way, and are free-wheeling with the marinade, letting the chops soak for up to three days.   This must be tried.

But the delicacy of sole, halibut, even redfish and very fresh bluefish seems particularly happy to dance with the staccato of vinegar, garlic and onions.  Marinate any of these fish for up to an hour; pat them dry, and broil or grill as you would.  Even breaded and fried a piece of “galvanized” cod is delicious.  If you are inclined to sauté the marinated fish in a pan, Mitchum recommends using salt pork or bacon fat instead of butter, which may curdle from the vinegar.

My fish of choice was a very fresh bluefish, which, fingers crossed, will soon be so plentiful we will be begging for a new way to prepare them.




Vinha D’Alhos

marinade for 4 pork chops or 2 pounds fish


2 cups water (or white wine)

1 cup vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 bay leaves, crumbled

5-6 well-crushed garlic cloves

1 medium onion, chopped

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 tablespoons commercial fish boil seasoning or pickling spice


  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl.  Pour into a glass baking dish or a plastic tub, something in which the pork or fish can marinate in one layer.  Marinate pork for up to 3 days.  Marinate fish for 1 hour, no longer.
  2.   Before cooking, blot the meat or fish dry.  Broil or grill the chops as you normally would.  Fish can be grilled, broiled, breaded and fried, or sauteed.  Feel free to drizzle marinade over all once cooked.




Farmers’ Markets and a great sausage recipe

June 25th, 2014



Farmers’ Market signs, from the rag-tag to the calligraphed, are popping up along curbs and in rotary gardens like dandelions.  For those of you who dismiss these pleas to purchase local produce as an inconvenient path to dinner, I’d like to underline the best part of a Farmers’ Market, the virtue that extends beyond the dusty park or parking lot in which they often plant their tents.

Community, community, community.  Almost more than the nutritional assets of fresh, local food, community ranks higher than freshly picked rhubarb when it comes to what a local Farmers’ Market offers.  It’s a place to bump into neighbors and friends.  In an age when it’s possible to remain for weeks at a time at our desks, stocking refrigerator and pantry online through sites like Pea Pod, chance meetings are becoming rare.  Unscheduled interaction isn’t extinct yet, but places for unplanned, therefore unrehearsed meetings that might accidentally brighten one’s day – or, yes, sadden it – are disappearing.  I don’t need to remind anyone in Rockport that lines like this:  “I saw Mary at the IGA this morning; I didn’t realize her mother had passed away…”  – just aren’t said anymore.  We have no IGA to which to run for a quart of milk.  Of course, there’s Ace Hardware, Rite-Aid, and the Transfer Station in which to learn where your neighbor’s son is heading to college next year, but, without a grocery store, Rockport can subtract one venue for that kind of fluffy – “nice weather today” -  conversation that may seem unimportant but that ultimately keeps the circuitry in a community alive.



And when a Farmers’ Market is in the heart of a city or town, its energy often spills into the surrounding streets, boosting traffic, creating a hum that can reenergize a quiet economy.   When you go to your local farmers’ market, you learn that the woman down the street bakes delicious Anadama Bread, or the guy you see at the bank on Monday mornings is actually a cattle farmer, and, yes, here is is grass-fed beef for sale right here!

Here’s just one great local food you can purchase at the Rockport and Cape Ann farmers’ markets:  Of all the local goodness we have on Cape Ann – lobster, wild blueberries in Dogtown, Lanesville Nisu – one of our best kept secrets is Trupiano’s Sausage.  Mike Ciaramitaro purchased the recipe years ago when he took over Trupiano’s Meat Market.  The Meat Market is long gone, but Ciaramitaro simply cannot retire; his sausage is that good.  The fresh, light character of the meat is the first, hot, crumbly taste you get when you lift a Trupiano’s sausage off a grill; the seasonings are a light touch, meant only to gently flavor.  So many boutique sausages today emphasize everything except the sausage – feta cheese, sundried tomatoes, pesto – with a little cheap pork added in.   Trupiano’s tastes like the good, old fashion kind of sausage.

The Cave on Main St. sells Trupiano’s Sausage, as does the Lanesville Package store, but, being the local food treasure that it is, Trupiano’s Sausage is available at the Rockport Farmers’ Market this Saturday morning.  Trupiano’s is also available at the Cape Ann Farmers’ Market Thursday afternoons.

This Saturday morning the Rockport Farmers’ Market will be featuring Fudge Everything chocolate sauce, coffee and lattes, Heath’s Tea Room scones and teas, Seabiscuit Bakery baked goods, Paul Franklin’s amazing guacamole and salsas, Rachel Potts’ too pretty to eat Vintage Greens, The Grant Family Farm, and First Light Farm,  and – THE PESTO IS BACK!!!!!  Paolo Laboa of Pride’s Osteria fame will be making pesto for sale only at the Rockport Farmers’ Market!

Here is a classic Umbrian recipe from the Italian cookbook author Julia Della Croce; it’s so simple it sounds impossible, but the results are delicious.  Of course, Mike Ciaramitaro would rather you saute a bunch of peppers and onions, and pile them over his freshly grilled sausage, and tuck all into a warmed hotdog roll.



Sausages and Grapes from Julia Della Croce

serves 4


8 sweet Italian pork sausages

1/2 cup water

3/4 pound seedless black or red grapes, stripped from their stems


  1. In a cast iron skillet or heavy saute pan put the sausages and water.  Bring to medium heat, and cook until the water has evaporated, about 12 minutes.
  2.   Add the grapes, and reduce heat to medium low. Prick the sausages with a sharp fork or knife occasionally to keep them from bursting.  Cook for about 20 minutes, turning the sausages occasionally, until the sausages are brown all over and cooked through.  Toss the grapes as you go.  The pan will get very dry, but don’t worry about that.  The grapes will begin to shrivel a bit, and the sausages release just enough liquid.
  3.   When the sausages are golden brown, pile them onto a platter, and pour the grapes around all.  Serve with warm, crusty bread as an appetizer, or a light dinner.

Scandinavian Mid-Summer Fest in Rockport, Saturday, June 21st

June 10th, 2014


Strawberries and cream, Swedish meatballs, fresh baked Nisu, and a dance around the Maypole.  That along with many other authentic Scandinavian treats – Bill Holmes’ homemade sausages? – will be offered at the Mid-Summer Festival June 21st at Harvey Park in Rockport.  There will certainly be good coffee to go with all that Nisu.

Spiran Lodge #98, the local order of Vasa, a national Scandinavian organization, was founded in 1906 by altruistic Rockport Swedes as a “sick and death” benefit society.  In its nascence the organization was protectively Swedish.  In 1949 the organization changed the language in which they did business from Swedish to English, making it easier for younger Swedes to participate.  Today, anxious again for people to learn and continue these fading traditions, Vasa is welcoming new members, any nationality.  I’m hoping to be a new member next fall.

Look for the Dala Horse in the park on June 21st!


Farmer’s Market Season Begins!

June 9th, 2014

The (outdoors) Cape Ann Farmer’s Market begins this Thursday, June 12

When:  Thursday afternoons from 3:00 – 6:30

Location:  Stage Fort Park


Rockport Farmer’s Market begins Saturday, June 21st 

When:  Saturday mornings 9:00 – 1:00

Location:  in Harvey Park right in downtown Rockport.  Harvey Park is the little park surrounded by hedges across from The Red Skiff restaurant.


Essex Farmer’s Market begins Saturday June 21st.

When:  Saturday mornings 9:00 – 12:00

Location:  Shepard Memorial Park, 24 Martin St., Essex, MA



Spiran Lodge #98 Nisu

April 21st, 2014



The fragrance of freshly ground cardamom fills the foyer of Spiran Hall in Rockport on the days the ladies of this Scandinavian Club are making Nisu.

Nisu.  Kaffeeleippaa.  Pulla.  By any name this cardamom-flecked buttery loaf means sweet, nostalgic comfort to Rockport and Lanesville Swedes and Finns.   Nisu and coffee are still the staff of life here; every Cape Ann cookbook includes at least three Nisu recipes.

Forty of these redolent loaves were baked by the team at Spiran last week.  Some of the loaf-braiders laughingly claimed they joined Spiran particularly to learn how to make Nisu; these forty loaves would be sold the next morning at the Swedish Pancake Breakfast, an event the Scandinavian club holds twice a year, in the spring and fall.

Spiran Lodge #98, the local order of Vasa, a national Scandinavian organization, was founded in 1906 by altruistic Rockport Swedes as a “sick and death” benefit society.  In its nascence the organization was protectively Swedish.  In 1949 the organization changed the language in which they did business from Swedish to English, making it easier for younger Swedes to participate.  Today, anxious again for people to learn and continue these fading traditions, Vasa is welcoming new members, any nationality.   You can contact Carolyn Rask by email if you’re interested:

Maybe there’s something in the cardamom; maybe making Nisu is so beautiful a process – old traditions literally rise up in a fragrant bowl of dough – the sense of joy was as thick as the cardamom among the Nisu bakers that day.  All that stirring, kneading and rolling of Nisu, not to mention the hundreds of Plattars – Swedish Pancakes – to be prepared, made Cape Ann Scandinavian culture appear to be happily proceeding into the 21st century.

On June 21st Spiran will hold their Mid-Summer Festival in Harvey Park in Rockport; Swedish meatballs will be served, along with strawberries and cream, and, of course, Nisu and coffee.

Jul Fest – when the blond, straight-backed girl walks the hall wearing a crown of candles – is in early December.  The most cherished Scandinavian classics will be served there.   Only thinning Scandinavian communities like the one on Cape Ann, or the Finnish settlement in W. Barnstable Mass, still make fruit soup, rice pudding (- maddeningly difficult to prepare properly; I’m begging for a Spiran lesson.) and grapenut pudding.  These will be served at Jul Fest, along with a Finnish charcuterie called “Sylta” prepared by Bill Holmes, the recipe for which came from his grandmother.  A time and a culture preserved in a festival, Jul Fest is a true Scandinavian feast of open-faced sandwiches, pickled herring, saffron buns, and, of course, Nisu.  Sniff the air for cardamom, watch for the orange Dala horse on the sidewalk; consider becoming a member.


Many people consider the Spiran version their favorite Nisu recipe; the dough is so flecked with cardamon it is almost amber; these braids shimmer with an egg wash that “cooks” on the hot bread which is then dusted with sugar.  The loaves sell out almost as quickly as they come out of the oven, and for good reason.  Not many sweet breads are as hauntingly fragrant, fluffy in texture, with that sweet crisp outer crumb.  Scandinavian or not, any baker should know this recipe.  Claire Franklin is generously sharing it.

In The Lane’s Cove Cookbook it says that when the Finnish people first came to Lanesville no one knew what the early morning hammering in the kitchen was for.  People learned it was mother, or “Aiti,” pounding the cardamom for a new batch of Nisu.


Spiran Lodge Nisu

makes 4 loaves


2 cups whole milk

2 sticks + 1/2 stick butter, divided

7 eggs

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 teaspoon salt

4 heaping teaspoons cardamom seeds, ground in a spice grinder or small coffee grinder

1 1/2 packages active dry yeast, or 3 1/4 teaspoons

15-18 cups all purpose, unbleached flour


  1. Heat milk and 2 sticks butter until butter melts.  Pour into a low 11”x13” pan to cool.  (leave remaining 1/2 stick of butter out to soften.)
  2.   Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water
  3.   In a very large bowl beat together 6 eggs, 1 cup sugar, salt and cardamon.  Add cooled milk mixture to egg mixture and beat with an electric hand mixer.  (This could be done in a stand mixer, but once you add the flour you will have to transfer the dough to a larger bowl.)  Add yeast and beat well, about five minutes.
  4.   Add flour a little at at time.  Use the mixer to work in the flour beating well after each addition, until the dough is too stiff.  Then continue adding flour, but use your hands (buttered) to work it in.  Keep scraping the bowl with a little bit of dough as you mix.  When dough no longer sticks to the bowl and it is smooth and elastic it is done.  But caution:  the dough will still be soft.
  5.   Using your hands, spread softened butter all over the top and sides of the dough, then turn the dough over in the bowl, and butter the bottom side.
  6.   Cover the dough with a cloth towel, and let rise until double in bulk about 2 hours.
  7.   Punch dough down and form into a ball again.  Using your hands, spread butter again all over the top and sides of the dough, then turn dough over in bowl and butter the bottom sides.
  8.   Cover with a cloth towel and let rise about 2 hours, or until double in bulk.
  9.   Beat remaining egg in a small bowl with a fork to create an egg wash.
  10.   Divide the dough into 4 equal portions by cutting with a large sharp knife.  Divide each dough in half.
  11.   Squeeze the air out of each portion; then roll them them into rolls about 15” long.  Repeat with all the sections.
  12.   Cross two rolls over each other at their centers, so it looks like an “x.”  Pick up each end of the bottom length of dough.  Holding each end in your hands, cross your hands over each other and drop the ends of the dough.  You should have made the bottom dough begin to “knot” the top dough.  Now pick up the other 2 ends of dough.  Holding each end, cross your hands over each other and drop the lengths where your hands arrive.  Now you have knotted the other length.  Now, pick up the lengths that you didn’t just touch, and cross your hands over each other, and drop the lengths.  A new knot.  Continue doing that, always picking up the lengths that you didn’t just touch, until the loaf is completely knotted.  Tuck the spare lengths under the loaf attractively.  Do this to create the remaining 3 loaves of dough.
  13.   Spray four 9”x5” loaf pans with cooking spray.
  14.   Put braided loaves in pan, and brush each loaf with egg wash.  Cover with cloth towel and let rise 1 hour.
  15.   Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  16.   Bake for 30 minutes, or until bread is golden and hollow-sounding when tapped.  Remove from pan to cooling racks immediately.
  17.   While loaves are still hot, brush again with egg wash and then sprinkle with sugar.  Cool for 10 more minutes, and remove from pan.  Finish cooling on racks.


Ricotta and Lemon Muffins

April 8th, 2014



As we sit on the edge of our seats waiting for spring to truly arrive, for the earth to nudge crocuses and daffodils out of their lightless hibernation, for the air temperature to release us from wool and fleece, here’s a recipe to help coax it in.

Not even spring can resist these Ricotta Lemon Muffins.  Irene Pickering gave me the recipe.  Irene also gave me a Meyer Lemon tree.  I picked two lemons from that tree to make these.  Lucky me.



Open one of these muffins warm from the oven; inhale the lemon draft; taste the ephemeral crumb.  This is what lemons want to grow up to be.  These muffins would be a beautiful addition to Easter brunch, but make an extra one, and set it out for Primavera.  We need to do anything we can to get her here.



Ricotta and Lemon Muffins

makes 12 muffins


1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

¾ cup granulated sugar

2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ cup part-skim ricotta cheese

½ cup water

1 tablespoon grated lemon rind

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Cooking spray

2 tablespoons Swedish Pearl or turbinado sugar


1.  Preheat oven to 375

2.  Spoon flour into measuring cups; level with a knife.  In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt; make a well in center.  In a separate bowl combine ricotta, water, lemon rind, lemon juice and egg.  Add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.

3.  Place 12 muffin-cup liners in muffin cups; coat with cooking spray.  Spoon batter into cups.  Sprinkle turbinado sugar over batter.

4.  Bake at 375 for 16 minutes or until a pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool 5 minutes in pan on a wire rack.

Viva, Gloucester!

March 18th, 2014



The sun came out last Saturday; thermometers showed a little red, and the cultural riches that make this city unique in the world literally shouted and sang.

Como siamo tutti mute?!”  “Viva, Jesus, Maria, Giu-seeeep-PE!”  The St. Joseph’s Day cheer rang out early in the morning at the Tarantino family gathering, where aunt Emma reigned over the preparations of the St. Joseph’s Day Pasta.


By 10:00 in the morning Jimmy, Laurel, Pauline, and Annette were just finishing rolling five pounds of dough through the pasta machine, and laying the fresh fettucini on clean fresh sheets in the far bedroom to dry.  Emma’s goranza, an enormous kettle of cauliflower, favas, chickpeas, split peas, lentils and fresh fennel, the sauce that would crown the golden strands of pasta for the final St. Joseph’s Day feast, simmered on the stove.

Sal arrived carrying great plastic bags bulging with fresh St. Joseph’s Day rolls – the large fluffy breads from Virgillio’s that bear a cross and sesame seeds; the sesame seeds represent St. Joseph the carpenter’s sawdust.

Relatives kept arriving, some in the back door, some through the front.  “Como siamo tutti mute?!”  “Viva, Jesus, Maria, Giu-seeeep-PE!” The cheer rang out with each arrival.  At 11:00, while the pasta finished drying, everyone took a break.   The table was spread with Octopus Salad, St. Joseph’s rolls, Martha’s antipasto, and oranges, the latter another symbol of the St. Joseph’s Day feast.

The actual St. Joseph’s Day is March 19th, but as that falls on a weekday, the Tarantinos chose to prepare their feast not on a working day.  Mid-march for some may mean “the ides,” but in Gloucester it means family crowding into a kitchen, happy about nothing more complicated than being together and carrying on the simple customs that thread years together.   Golden strands of fresh pasta drying all over the house, oranges, octopus salad, Virgillio’s St. Joseph’s Rolls, and St. Joseph standing at the top of the shining family altar.  These are the St. Joseph’s day customs that repeat each year.  As the pasta is rolled the stories roll, too – stories of when St. Joseph’s Day was down on the Fort, when the prayers to St. Joseph healed a husband or brought a fisherman home, and so a wife promised the saint she would make the pasta for his feast for every year until she couldn’t.  The stories get told, and the customs continue, and everyone connects what happened two generations ago to what may happen tomorrow.




That afternoon, down on the waterfront, a different kind of celebration was happening.  Geno Mondello at The Dory Shop had lit a fire in his woodstove; an over-turned clean wooden dory being built in the middle of his shop served as a table for all the great food that began arriving.



Geno Mondello’s enormous paella – yellow saffron rice glistening in between black mussels -  looked as beautiful as a Dutch painting; it warmed on the wood stove welcoming anyone to grab a bowl and serve themselves.  Celtic music, played by a continuous stream of fishermen and friends, shimmered out the front door, calling at passersby.  Come in; the fire is warm.


As long as the weather stays chilly, wander down to the Harbor Loop on a Saturday and listen for the music.  Mondello says anyone is welcome; bring something to eat, or something to drink, or something to play.

This past Saturday was truly a day to say Viva, Gloucester!

I’ve printed a recipe for St. Joseph’s Day pasta in the past, so this year I am offering a loose interpretation of Geno’s paella, told to me as I stood by the woodstove savoring the hot, saffron rice, listening to Herring Boat Captain Peter Mullens on the accordion.





Geno Mondello’s Paella

adapted to serve 6-8


1/4 cup olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 28 ounce can chopped tomatoes, drained

2 cups commercial rice with saffron

2 pounds mussels

1 pound cherry stones

2 cups chicken stock (additional if necessary)

1 cup seafood stock

a 10 inch section of linguica, sliced into rounds

2 cups frozen peas, defrosted

1 can cannellini beans, rinsed

1 can black beans, rinsed

1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

1 pound shrimp

1 tablespoon dried parsley

1 teaspoon dried rosemary

salt and pepper to taste




  1. Heat a paella pan, or the largest saute pan available, to medium.  Add olive oil and heat.  Add onion, and cook until it softens, 8-10 minutes.  Add tomatoes, and cook gently for 5 minutes.
  2.   Add the rice, and toss with the onion and tomato.  Cook over medium heat until the rice becomes shiny, about ten minutes.
  3.   Add the mussels and cherry stones, and cover the pan.  (Geno used aluminum foil, as his pan was so large.) Cook until all the seafood is opened, tossing the pan so the rice doesn’t stick.  With a slotted spoon remove the mussels and cherrystones to a bowl, and cover to keep warm while you continue with the rest of the paella.
  4.   With the pan over medium heat, add the stock, the linquica, peas, cannellini beans, black beans, and mushrooms.  Simmer for 20 minutes, or until the rice is cooked, adding more liquid if the pan gets too dry.  Keep the liquid in the pan about 1”, stirring regularly so the rice cooks but does not stick.  Add the shrimp and seasonings, and more liquid if necessary, and cook until the shrimp is pink.
  5.   If the pan is too dry, add more chicken stock or even white wine.  The rice and vegetables should be cooked, and very moist, like a good risotto.  Taste for seasoning.  Add the seafood back into the pan, and cover to warm all.



Finnish Kropsua – golden oven pancake

March 10th, 2014


The Finnish community on Cape Ann thankfully still cherishes their recipe boxes.  Besides Nisu, from some in our generous Finnish community I have recently learned about Sillisalaati, Kalalaatikko, and Vatkatto Marjapuuro:  A salad of cooked carrots, beets, and potato with lamb or other leftover meats.  A salt cod and potato casserole (delicious!).  A whipped pudding made with cranberries and farina, still to be tried.

Some cookbooks with local Finnish recipes are still around, but so beloved, they rarely leave their positions in local kitchens.  These Lanesville cookbooks – The Lanes Cove Cookbook and Recipes and Finnish Specialties – are treasures, filled with the dishes that came out of Finnish ovens in Lanesville a half-century ago, recipes prepared for hard-working husbands heading off for a day in the quarries, even artist husbands heading off to sculpt, for children running in from school, or for coffee with a neighbor.   The recipes in these cookbooks are not just heartbreakingly authentic, but together describe a happy if not hardworking community of artists, granite workers and fishermen.

Betty Erkkila recently offered me her mother’s recipe for Kropsua, the heavenly baked pancake that rises like a golden bowl out of a buttery pie pan.  The recipe is also in the Lanes Cove Cookbook.  What worked in Lanesville in 1954 works here now:  take this golden puff out of the oven in the morning; pour a little maple syrup over it, and make a cold March day less daunting.


Rachel Kielinen’s Finnish Kropsua

serves 4-6


3 tablespoons butter (or, reduce it to 1 tablespoon; both work, one is less rich)

2 eggs

2 cups milk

1 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Put the butter into a deep pie pan, and put the pie pan in the oven to melt the butter.
  2. In a mixer, beat eggs  Add milk, and beat together well.
  3.   In a medium bowl combine flour, sugar and salt.
  4.   Add the flour mixture to the eggs, and beat until smooth, about 1 minutes.
  5.   Pour batter into pie pan.  Butter will come up the sides, and on top of batter.
  6.   Bake for 35 – 40 minutes, or until the pancake is puffed and golden.
  7.   Serve immediately plain or with maple syrup


Cornmeal Crusted – Beer Battered Dogfish

February 23rd, 2014


Dogfish, Squalus acanthias, are Marine Stewardship Council Certified, meaning the fishery meets the three overarching principles that the Marine Stewardship Council requires for it to be declared a healthy fishery.  These are the “general” qualifications according to the MSC website:

Principle 1: Sustainable fish stocks
The fishing activity must be at a level which is sustainable for the fish population. Any certified fishery must operate so that fishing can continue indefinitely and is not overexploiting the resources. 

Principle 2: Minimizing environmental impact
Fishing operations should be managed to maintain the structure, productivity, function and diversity of the ecosystem on which the fishery depends.

Principle 3: Effective management
The fishery must meet all local, national and international laws and must have a management system in place to respond to changing circumstances and maintain sustainability.

Dogfish are sharks, which means, among other things, they are cartilaginous, only a spine of cartilage runs down their center, no bones.  Because they have no ribcage, out of water a dogfish would collapse beneath its own weight.  Dogfish are bottom-dwellers, and the longest lived in the shark family; some dogfish live to be centenarians.

Dogfish are delicious, firm flesh, abalone-white, mild to sweet tasting.  There is almost no fish recipe to which dogfish doesn’t kindly adapt.  They come in long thin fillets, about two inches wide, and almost 15 inches long, or the whole fish looks like a long wide tube, a little wider than the cardboard inside a roll of paper towels.


The meat makes feathery centers to a cornmeal crusted fried fish.  It sisters-up with caramelized onions and silken red peppers in a fish fajita; its mild taste and pearly meat are a happy counter to any slowly braised vegetables, or tomato-ey puttanesca, or a spicy cilantro and cumin laced taco.  Dogfish, in fact, given its name, is like the cheerful yellow lab of fish, happy to go along with just about anything you do to it, and lookin’ good all the way.

Fisherman and cookbook author Hank Shaw agrees that dogfish make the best “fish and chips.”

The meat is white as snow, very lean, and firmer even than halibut. And, eaten cold the next day, tastes astonishingly like cold fried chicken.”  

Most of Europe and Asia, the major dogfish markets, think so, too; for years the traditional English fish and chips was always made with dogfish, which leads to it being the poster chid for the whacky results of targeting a species to either save it or fish for it.

Dogfish were considered a threatened species after a glut of over-fishing – all those English fish and chips -  from 1987 – 1996.  NOAA (National Oceanographic Aeronautics Association) applied catch limits to the species in 1997.  In 2010 NOAA declared the dogfish stocks rebuilt.  Harsh quota restrictions lifted.

According to Kris Kristensen of Zeus, Incorporated, the first dogfish processor in Gloucester, 10 million pounds of dogfish were landed in 2011 – 2012, 1.5 million in Gloucester alone.

“And we could have landed a lot more,” Kristensen said.  So the fishery was protected, but the Zeus processor acknowledges that now there are an alarmingly huge bulk of (dog) fish; they consume a huge amount of resources that cod and haddock would be using.”

Gluts, overfishing, quotas, rebounds.  These are the fish tales told when regulations target a species rather than consider the sea’s balanced eco-culture.  Dogfish had a great market in Europe, got overfished, got protected, and now it’s back, trying to be the new darling.  And it SHOULD be the new darling – there’s lots of it, and it tastes good.  Many say that dogfish are the key to the survival of the small boats in Gloucester.  But many also see the absurd yo-yo-ing that comes from focusing on a single species, rather than treating the oceans as a balance of ecology, and applying good fishing practices to its harvest.

Look hard at the recently passed 2014 Farm Bill; Squalus acanthias has a small but nonetheless significant mention; it speaks volumes – Fish is Food! – that a fish is even mentioned on the Farm Bill.  Here’s what that mention looks like:


(c) U.S. ATLANTIC SPINY DOGFISH STUDY.—Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall conduct an economic study on the existing market in the United States for U.S. Atlantic Spiny Dogfish.

No one knows what this really means for the dogfish; will we be seeing it in school lunches soon?  Kris Kristensen, processor of dogfish and other “under-utilized” species like whiting, monkfish and skate, just shrugs when asked what this Farm Bill mention might mean.  In his thick Danish accent, he leans back in his chair, stretches, and says, “who knows…”  There’s a vocal fisherman for you.

The greatest dogfish irony is that dogfish, this star of the fish and chip plate, this Farm Bill face of fishing promise, with its weighty local landings and Marine Stewardship Council badge, is almost impossible to find in retail markets.   Ask, even beg, your fishmonger for some, and if you find it, first make fish and chips.



About cooking it:  the only tip is to first soak the fish for 10 minutes in a bowl of salted water, about 1/4 cup of salt to 3 quarts of water.  Like all sharks, dogfish can have an ammonia scent if not handled properly, meaning gutted immediately, on the boat.  But Kristensen warns says not to soak the fish longer than ten minutes or else the meat will begin to break down.

Disclosure, those are frozen “chips” in my photos, but the dogfish is the real thing.


Cornmeal Crusted – Beer Battered Dogfish

serves 4

2 pounds dogfish fillets


2 cups all-purpose flour + 1 cup flour, divided

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning

freshly ground pepper

beer – approximately 2 bottles of your choice – enough to make it the texture of “house paint”

1/4 cup cornmeal


  1. Salt the fish and set it aside at room temperature.  In a dutch oven or electric fryer, heat the oil to 360 degrees.  Preheat your oven to “warm.”  Prepare a cookie sheet with a wire rack on top, and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl mix the flour, seasonings, and beer together, stirring all the while.  Hank Shaw describes the texture you want as “the consistency of house paint, or melted ice cream.”  Let the batter rest for 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl mix together the last 1/2 cup of flour and the cornmeal.
  4. When the batter is ready and the oil hot, dredge the fish in the batter and let the excess drip off for a second or two.  Then roll the dredged fish into the dry flour-cornmeal mixture.
  5. Lay each piece gently into the hot oil.  Allow the end of the fish to fry for a second or so in the oil before you let the whole piece to drop into the oil  This helps prevent the fish from sticking to the bottom of the pot.  Dislodge any pieces that stick to the bottom with a long fork.
  6. Fry in batches until golden brown, about 5-8 minutes.  Remove each to the rack on the cookie sheet, and keep the cookie sheet in the warm oven until all the fish is prepared.