The Most Important Food Blog You Could Read

October 6th, 2014


a green crab


The good news here is that for pennies we have an almost infinite local source for making crab risotto, etouffee, gumbo, soupe de poisson, cioppino, and bouilliabaisse, any number of wonderful fish dishes made especially delicious with local crab stock at a cost of almost nothing.

More good news: the crab risotto you serve your family does the ocean a world of good.

The bad news is that the source of all this goodness – green crabs, Carcinus maenas – are an invasive species that threaten – possibly on one hand’s number of years – to destroy shellfish beds from Cape Ann to Canada. No more white cardboard boxes brimming with fried clams. No more plump steamers bathed in butter. No more wild mussels shining in white wine, parsley, and garlic.

Carcinus maenas, native to central Norway, the Baltic Sea, and a small part of Iceland, arrived here most likely as ship ballast as early as 1810. DNA tracing reveals subsequent invasions, maybe as ship ballast, or nestled into seaweed used for packing, or shipped aquaculture. The green crab now makes appearances around the world. They own the Eastern seaboard as far south as South Carolina and as far north as Nova Scotia. They have infiltrated the Pacific coast from Baja, California to Alaska, and far as Australia, earning the dubious accolade as one of the hundred most invasive species in the world.

At a green crab summit last year in Orono, Maine, Dr. Brian Beal, professor of Marine Biology at the University of Maine at Machias, declared there would be no shipment of Maine clam stock for 2015, as green crabs had that much compromised Maine’s soft shell clam beds. Our local Massachusetts market depends on Maine shipments, as there are not enough soft shell clams dug here to supply the appetite for fried clams, clam fritters, and steamers.

One green crab can eat forty half-inch clams a day, or thirty small oysters. A half-acre wild mussel bed in Plum Island Sound, that locals considered an easy visit for a bushel of mussels, is gone, according to Rowley Shellfish Constable Jack Grundstrom. Green crabs also destroy native eel grass, a critical nursery for marine life, by burrowing into the mud, thus shredding the grasses at their base. Grundstrom actually points his 83-year-old finger right at green crabs for the collapse of the entire fishing industry, as these voracious beasts are devouring the food chain at its base.

“Most of the food for the entire ecosystem comes from the North Shore’s Great Marsh, (The Great Marsh is the largest continuous stretch of salt marsh in New England, extending from Cape Ann to New Hampshire, including over 20,000 acres of marsh, barrier beach, tidal river, estuary, mudflat, and upland islands extending from Gloucester to Salisbury.) Once that food is cut off, as green crabs are doing, all of our fishing culture is destroyed.”

Dr. Beal, sites green crabs’ almost amazing tolerance for temperature and salinity fluctuations. Adult crabs can even live out of water for up to ten days at summer temperatures. On the crustacean’s awesome vitality, Beal’s green crab paper presented at the Maine summit, states, “Gregarious behavior encourages sexual encounter rates.” Green crabs reproduce like mad.

Shellfish Constable Grundstrom explained a popular theory on why the green crabs, after making trouble for centuries, are now such a critical problem.

“There had been a theory circulating for years that clams did very well after a harsh winter, believing that those hard conditions took a “skim” off the mud flats, making it easier for the clams to burrow.”

Now people believe that the clams did better after harsh winters because the green crabs didn’t, giving the clams a break for a couple of years. The current theory is, Grundstrom says, that a new strain of green crabs can withstand even lower temperatures. The new strain is crossbreeding with the old crabs, and able to survive harsher conditions.

While some fisherman trapping crabs this year actually believe there really are fewer, because of last winter’s heavy toll, most people in the industry anticipate disaster ahead, and soon.

Green crabs are currently being fished for bait. Ann Molloy from Neptune’s Harvest, the branch of Ocean Crest in Gloucester that produces fertilizer from fish products, says that currently the green crabs have too much sand in them for them to process.

“We tried, but they clogged our screens too fast. At some point if we open a crab shell drying and grinding plant here, we could take them all. We applied for a Saltonstall-Kennedy Grant for that, but we didn’t get it. We haven’t given up hope yet, and at some point we’re hoping to still move forward with that project.”

Senator Bruce Tarr recently secured $133,000 from the federal government as an emergency stop gap measure for just this year, buying back green crabs from fishermen, thus assuring someone will be catching them. But these measures aren’t enough at this point to control the population. The industry is looking for a market, a need, a great recipe for which the main ingredient is green crabs, a recipe people will want to make often.

Ideally, it would be great to have restaurants regularly making stock with these crabs; (Legal Seafood, are you listening? There’s a regular local supply of shellfish ambrosia on the docks not far from any of your restaurants.) Until then, I’m sharing my crab stock recipe, with which I went on to make crab risotto with some great locally harvested celery, onions, and peppers. This was honestly the most delicious stock I’ve made – sweet and complex, and loaded with a pleasant seafood flavor. I have 4 quarts of it in my freezer and can’t wait to cook more with it.

The risotto made with the stock received eye-rolls of praise. “This is amazing,” seemed to be the general declaration. Indeed, the risotto tasted authentically fresh and full of honest shellfish flavor, the kind of taste – with no exaggeration – I can attribute only to seafood dishes in Venice. For the record, Italians have been cooking with a relative of this crab for years; they’re considered a delicacy. We need to get these crabs into our stock pots.

If you are interested I have a source that will supply you – and even deliver them – for free.  Let me know.


green crab broth




Green Crab Stock

makes 6 quarts


4 tablespoons olive oil

2 bunches celery, with the leaves, about 1 pound, roughly chopped

1 large red onion, roughly chopped

1 small head fennel, cut into 1/2” slices

12 corn cobs (optional)

2 bay leaves


1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning

approximately 3 quarts water

2 cups white wine

2 dozen green crabs


1.  Rinse crabs well in cold water. I recommend doing this outside in a large bucket; just fill the bucket with water and throw your crabs in. Stir well, and leave them in the bucket until your stock is boiling.

2.  In a large stock pot or lobster pot heat the olive oil to medium. Add the celery, onion, and fennel. Lower heat, and cook until vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes. Add the corn cobs if using, the salt, bay leaves and Old Bay and stir well, tossing the vegetables well with the seasoning. Allow to cook for 5 more minutes, or until the onions just begin to darken.

3.  Add the water and wine, and bring to a boil. Let simmer for 10-15 minutes to integrate the flavors, particularly the corn cobs.

4.  Bring stock back to a hard boil. Bring the crabs into the kitchen, and scoop them into the boiling stock. Allow to cook at a strong simmer/low boil for 45 minutes. Let cool, and spoon out the cooked crabs and as much of the vegetables as you can. Strain the remaining cooled broth through cheesecloth. Pour into jars or plastic containers for storing or freezing.


green crab risotto



Green Crab Risotto

serves 6


6 cups green crab stock

1 T butter

1 T olive oil

1/2 red onion, chopped

3 small carrots, diced, about 4 ounces

1 small banana pepper, or 1/2 a green pepper, seeded and diced

1 small red cherry pepper, 1/2 ounce, diced (optional)

1 1/2 cups or 12 ounces Arborio rice

red pepper flakes

salt and pepper

3 small tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1 pound crab meat (1/2 – 3/4 cup reserved for garnish if you like)

juice from 1-2 lemons or to taste

1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds

1/2 cup chopped fresh dill


1.  In a medium sauce pan bring the stock to a simmer.

2.  In a large saute pan heat butter and olive oil together on medium heat. When butter is melted and bubbling, add onion, carrots and peppers. Let cook for 8-10 minutes over medium heat until softened. Add rice, and stir well, cooking until the rice begins to crackle and just begin to turn lightly brown. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.

3.  Ladle in 1 cup of the hot broth into the rice, and stir until it is all absorbed. Add the chopped tomato, and then ladle in another cup of stock. Stir until the stock is absorbed, and then continue to ladle in the stock, stirring each addition until it is absorbed. This usually takes 20-25 minutes.

4.  Taste the rice to make sure there is no “crunchiness” to it at all. You want it to be creamy, but not mushy. Stir in the fresh lemon juice. Serve in warm bowls garnished with the reserved crab, toasted almonds and chopped dill.

The Best Potluck Dish

October 5th, 2014

Sook's Lentils 2


As the apples fall from the trees so begins the potluck season – potlucks for the soccer team, the cross-country team, the PTO, the teacher appreciation luncheon, not to mention The Community House, the book club or neighborhood movie night.

Some people have their go-to macaroni and cheese, but a lot of people still fret over what to bring. A potluck contribution usually needs to feed 8- 10, must be easily transportable, and gets extra points if it’s vegetarian. Strangely the beautifully prepared vegetarian dish is often the one that the most devout carnivores return to for seconds. If it’s vegan and absolutely delicious the dish will be the talk of the night.

This lentil dish, all of the above, was a potluck dinner contribution from Sook-Bin Woo, a pathologist and Assistant Professor at Harvard School of Dental Medicine. This pile of legumes may look like something you’ve seen before, but read that list of spices in the vinaigrette. Not just the flavor superstar of the potluck evening, this salad rocks the Kasbah.

Who needs a new lentil recipe, you ask. You do, or you will learn you do after tasting this one.

Word of Woo’s culinary talents precede her. Her weighty resume, her brunette beauty, even her natural athleticism Woo’s friends acknowledge only after they’ve declared “Sook’s an amazing cook!”

When Woo brings a dish to a potluck, one pays attention. Here is her recipe, including her helpful tips.


Sook's Lentils 3


Sook’s Lentil Salad


1 pound Du Puy lentils, roughly 2 cups

1 cup dried currants (you could also use raisins or other dried fruit such as cherries or sweetened cranberries, coarsely chopped)

1/2 cup capers

1 medium red onion, diced


1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 tablespoon strong mustard

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoons pepper

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Optional add-ins: Arugula (Sook recommends this as it best balances out the sweetness of the dried fruit) Walnuts Goat cheese Fresh herbs: flat-leaf parsley, basil


1. Rinse lentils well, drain. Place in a pot and cover with a 3-4 inches of water, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer. Check lentils for doneness after 15 minutes, but they should take no more than 20 minutes in total. Overcooking the lentils is the death of this dish. Be careful!

2. While the lentils are simmering, make the dressing by placing all ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake vigorously to combine.

3. When the lentils are cooked, remove from heat, drain and place under cold running water to stop the cooking process (you don’t need to do this if you cook it 17-18 minutes). Place lentils in a large serving bowl and toss with dressing. Add capers and currants (or other fruit). If using other add-ins such as herbs, greens, or cheese, wait until just before serving. Otherwise, this salad keeps well in the refrigerator for a couple days.

The Best Thing To Do With Beets

September 29th, 2014

best beet recipe


Friends have recently brought a couple of dishes so delicious the recipes must be shared. I’m starting with posting this beet dip, which my friend Leslie first made for a picnic we had celebrating our birthdays. The tahini, the garlic, the toasted cumin, and the lemon all combine to make a sublime, middle-eastern inspired spread that re-fires what may be your dwindling enthusiasm for the season’s beets. Pull that scraggly beet bunch leftover from last week’s CSA share out of the back of your refrigerator, or race to the farm stand for a healthy half-pound of Chioggas, and make this. Invite over a girlfriend; add a few warm, toasted pita quarters and a glass of Vouvray. Put on your sweaters, go out on the porch, and enjoy the last of autumn’s evening light. This is easily dinner for a couple of women, but a fabulous appetizer for anyone. Even children hungrily plunge their crackers in.


beet and toast


The Best Thing to Do With Beets Dip

makes 2 cups

4 medium cooked beets, about 1/2 pound (Toss whole unpeeled beets olive oil, salt and pepper.w Wrap them in foil, and roast at 375 for about 45 minutes or until tender. The skins slip off easily afterward. Cut them into chunks.)

2-3 ounces stale bread, pulled into 1” pieces

2 tablespoons tahini

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup walnuts

5 tablespoons lemon juice

1 small clove garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon cumin seed, lightly toasted to aromatic

1 tablespoon lemon zest

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


1.  Place beets, bread and olive oil in a food processor and blend until all is a paste.  Add remaining ingredients, and blend until smooth. Taste to adjust seasoning. Chill, and then serve with toasted pita chips, crostini, or cucumber rounds.

HarvestFest Pie Jam and Jelly Contest

September 25th, 2014

RHFpiecontestENTRYEmail me @ with any questions; here’s the link to online registration:

Local Food wins in Rockport in October!

September 22nd, 2014

unnamed   For centuries October in Rockport has been cherished by artists, writers, and simply moms standing at the bus stop waiting for their children to return from school, having a blessedly quiet fifteen minutes to see the long slant of autumn light make Sandy Bay a purple plane, town glowing in the sunset like a trainset village along the bay’s rim. October in Rockport will always be known for its particular combination of autumnal quarry and seaside beauty – and the Boy Scout Haunted Hay Ride – but more recently October in Rockport has become famous for its local food.

Beginning with Spiran Hall’s Swedish Pancake Breakfast on October 5th and peaking with HarvestFest, October 18th, Rockport has become a destination for those who love a very specific kind of culinary moment. Call it real; call it authentic; call it local: Swedish pancakes, golden braids of cardamom-specked Nisu, the singular molasses and cornmeal taste of Rockport-born Anadama Bread, Grass-fed beef raised on South St. from Seaview Farms, Topdog’s award-winning fried clams, Sasquatch smoked cod. These are just some of the only-on-Cape-Ann, some only-in-Rockport, foods that will be served here in October; between Spiran Hall’s pancakes and HarvestFest’s bounty you will be able to taste the best of what’s flipped, fished, grown, and even brewed very close to home.

The people of Spiran Lodge #98, the Vasa Order of America, have been creating Scandinavian specialties for one hundred years, since the organization first served as an aid society for Scandinavian immigrants arriving on Cape Ann to work in the quarries. On October 5th, the large orange Dala horse will be placed on the sidewalk; the Spiran Hall doors will open to the public, and the coffee will begin to pour. Days in advance, just as they have been doing for years, and their mothers and aunts did for years before that, Spiran members will have started making the Swedish pancakes, Janice Ramsden’s family recipe, prepared in the special Swedish pans. A separate team, lead by Claire Franklin, will mix, braid, and bake the Nisu.

1200 pancakes will be ready starting Sunday morning at 8:00, served with lingonberries, sausage, fresh fruit, and coffee. The plump loaves of Nisu will be for sale.  Arrive early; they go fast!

But the Rockport food culture faces forward, too, away from history. On October 18th, in a designated “celebration section” near the Big Tent, HarvestFest will be tastefully pouring “Pretty Things Beer,” a hugely acclaimed artisanal brew produced by Martha and Dann Paquette out of Somerville. Also, exciting for anyone who enjoys a good glass of wine with their fried clams, nationally be-ribboned Westport Rivers Winery from Westport, MA will also be pouring. Frank McClelland’s five star restaurant, L’Espalier, commissioned Westport Rivers to create its own private label, 1996 Westport Rivers, “Cuvee L’Espalier,” brut. Not just local treasures, Westport Rivers Vineyards boast gold medals at the World Wine Championships, along with real estate on some of the country’s best wine lists.


Knead Dough Bakery, the Af Klinteberg family baking business from Lanesville, is just one of the many local vendors selling homemade baked lovelies at HarvestFest. When tragedy struck the Af Klinteberg family, no one wanted to make the bread anymore. Sten Af Klinteberg lll, the youngest child of Sten and Lila AfKlinteberg, died in 2011 at 40 years old; the Knead Dough Bakery, which had been producing sweets from Finnish Nisu to Congo Bars, withered to only a few loaves of bread baked for a few church fairs.

“My grandmother started this business in the 1970’s,” granddaughter Carson explained. “My grandfather had lost his job, and my grandmother needed to feed five children. They began accepting food from the Federal Surplus Program. ‘I’ll take what no on else wants,’ Lila said,” – meaning flour, cornmeal, molasses, and margarine, “and, we’ll make Anadama Bread.”   Sten, Jr., Lila’s husband, found work again, and the baking business became a way for the growing Af Klinteberg children to supplement their incomes in hard times.

When Stennie, III needed to stop fishing because of an injury, he began making Nisu beside his mother.

“The key to good Nisu is patience and attention to detail,” Carson said. “You have to love it, or else it gets sloppy and flat. – Everyone thought my grandmother made the best Nisu, but the family knew it was actually Stennie, the last of the Af Klintebergs to bake the bread.”

When Stennie was lost, Lila had no heart for baking. “It was something she did with her son, and he wasn’t there anymore,” Carson said. Lila died in 2013, and the Knead Dough business deflated to just a few loaves prepared by Sten, Jr. for the occasional church fair. This summer, the Rockport Farmers’ Market asked Sten to bake again. Even he seemed surprised at the speed with which his loaves disappeared. By 11:30 his boxes were empty.

“I sold out,” he would say, with a mystified shake of his head and a resigned crossing of arms on chest. No one had any idea how much Cape Ann missed Anadama, Onion Dill, and Nisu. After selling out three Saturdays in a row, even after doubling production, Af Klinteberg brought in the next generation to benefit from the bakery. Carson Af Klinteberg, leaving behind a job in prop design on Broadway, has returned to Lanesville to help her grandfather bake the bread. For Rockport’s HarvestFest, and for next year’s farmers markets, Carson will be bringing back the full line of Knead Dough baked goods, everything from congo bars to brownies. “It’s an honor and a joy to see Cape Ann respond once again to our bread. We’re just very proud and grateful.”

This year’s Seafood Throwdown will revive a short but golden moment in Rockport’s culinary history: for what felt like the blink of an eye, Parisian-born Fred Arnaud once stunned Pigeon Covers with the quality of his take-out dinners, sold from the refrigerator in the old Pigeon Cove Coop. This year Fred will return for the Seafood Throwdown, competing against Rosalie Harrington, chef and owner of Marblehead’s once beloved Rosalie’s Restaurant.

Pie-bakers, jam and jelly makers! – In the spirit of an agricultural fair, HarvestFest will recreate the pie, jam, and jelly contest. Bring entries to the Farmers’ Market Tent on the morning of HarvestFest; judging happens at 4:00.

Regional differences in cuisine are disappearing. Industrialized agriculture and national franchises threaten to homogenize America, leaving nothing but a museum in each town to memorialize the work people once did, the fish they caught, the breads they baked. In Rockport, people are still baking the bread and turning the pancakes, particularly in October.

This recipe is from an old Rockport church cookbook, an authentic Rockport dessert to prepare at home, in case you can’t make it to the HarvestFest or the Pancake Breakfast.

Swedish Apple Pudding Ingredients

1 cup diced bread 2 tablespoons butter

4 eggs

3 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup cream

1 tablespoon flour

2 cups diced apples

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon mixed with 2 tablespoons confectionary sugar for sifting


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 8” x 8” square pan or baking dish.

2.  In a medium skillet saute the bread cubes in melted butter until golden brown, about 10 minutes.

3.  In a medium bowl, beat together eggs, sugar, cinnamon, cream, and flour. Stir in apples and bread cubes.

4.  Pour into prepared dish, and bake for 1 hour or until custard is set.

5.  Mix together cinnamon and confectionary sugar, and sift over warm pudding.

Buried Baked Beans, Homemade Sausage, Gino’s Fishcakes, and Rockport Festivals.

September 10th, 2014

buried beans

 Last Friday night Tim Sullivan dug a large hole in his back yard. He backed a truckload full of lumber and firewood up to the hole, unloaded the wood into it, and threw in a match. A good, hot fire began spitting flames.     beans and hole


hot coals

beans ready to cook

just out of the ground

  Sullivan, the burly bearded bagpiper and maple syrup purveyor at the Rockport Farmers’ Market, then stirred together soaked kidney beans, maple syrup, onions and a few mystery ingredients in a large black caldron. He placed the lid on the pot, and set it down into the hole of now inferno-worthy embers. Grave-digger style, he shoveled the dirt back on top of all, burying the pot of beans within the glowing coals. Then he turned back into his house, had dinner, and went to bed.

That same Friday, I pulled out the best cod cake recipe I know, from Gloucester’s Gino Mondello at the Dory Shop. I made a bechamel, which mixes gently into a bowl of freshly steamed cod and potatoes. I tossed in an egg, and a few stray ingredients, mixed all, covered the bowl, and refrigerated it. Then I went to bed.

Early Saturday morning, Sullivan shoveled the soil off his sweet, bubbling, ruby-colored beans; I patted my mixture into fishcakes, rolled them in breadcrumbs and fried them in a pan shining with a shallow layer of hot olive oil. All this while, Mike Ciaramitaro was mixing together his Trupiano’s sausage, like he does every week for Saturday’s Rockport Farmers’ Market.

This – the steaming brew of smokey beans, the tender fish cakes and the grilled savory chunks of Trupiano’s sausage – we served for a very special breakfast at the Rockport Farmers’ Market last Saturday.

Beans and Cakes Sign



  Admit it, you’re sorry you missed it, right? Besides lumber camps in Maine, and maybe some history-serious boyscouts, nowhere in the world are people still making baked beans this way. Homemade sausage is the only kind to ever have. Gino Mondello will serve you fishcakes browned in a big copper pan on his woodstove, but you better know when he’s making them.

Proceeds from the breakfast went to benefit The Rockport Farmers’ Market. This is the kind of quirky event we do at Rockport Festivals, the group that manages the Rockport Farmers’ Market – events that blend old and new, always with a nod to the granite, ocean and history that is Cape Ann. Thanks to Tim Sullivan and Mike Ciaramitaro for donating their time and deliciousness.  – and thanks to Tim Sullivan for most of these photos.

Tim Sullivan

Laurie Lufkin’s Pickled & Twisted Spicy Pork Cemitas

September 1st, 2014

cemitas 5

The Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest – the World Cup of cooking contests – will be held this November 2nd-4th in Nashville, Tennessee, and Cape Ann has a local girl in the race.

An Essex native and front-of-the-house manager at Manchester’s Foreign Affairs restaurant, Laurie Lufkin has been sending Pillsbury entries since 2007, soon after she won her first blue ribbon at the Topsfield Fair. Hundreds of thousands of home cooks submit recipes, (any number is allowed) to “the Dough Boy,” hoping to be selected as one of the 100 Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest finalists. This year the finalists will travel from 32 different states, with California sending as many as 17. There are four men and 96 women, ranging in age from 28 to 89. The contest guidelines require at least one Pillsbury ingredient from their eligible list (not all Pillsbury ingredients are eligible), no more than 7 ingredients altogether, and the recipe must take no longer than 30 minutes to prepare.

This year, along with a batch of other recipes, Lufkin submitted this surprisingly simple cemitas recipe, which she developed researching 2014 food trends. Cemitas, traditional street food in Peubla, Mexico, are meat-filled sandwiches served on a special roll that is always sprinkled with sesame seeds; cemitas are hot right now. Baum + Whiteman, International restaurant consultants, list cemitas as one of 2014’s serious buzzwords.


chorizo and manchego


uncooked bun

baked bun sliced

Lufkin’s recipe uses fresh, loose chorizo, divided into portions and remade into patties. The small burgers are cooked in a skillet, then covered with melted Manchego cheese, and served with a quick-pickled slaw. Lufkin created the bun, the special Pillsbury ingredient, using Pillsbury original refrigerated breadstick dough, roping the uncooked dough together, strewing them with fresh cilantro, coiling them into a roll, sprinkling them with Watkins’ (a Bake-Off Contest sponsor) sesame seeds, and baking the buns to golden brown.

In years past, the call to the contest came by telephone; this year it arrived in an email which Lufkin received in one of those classically ordinary moments: she glanced at her phone, while running into Schooner’s Market to buy ice for her mother who has having a reception for state representative Ann Margaret Ferrante.

“I looked at my phone and saw another ‘official Bake-Off’ email; I figured it was another ad. I went into the store, got ice, and looked again when I got back in the car; it was a good thing I was sitting down!”


brushing dough


I recently watched Lufkin and her niece, Sarah Bethany Williams, affectionately known simply as “Chicka,” prepare this Pillsbury Finalist recipe. Chicka brushed water on the breadstick dough, while everyone in the kitchen tried to calmed Chicka’s worries about starting kindergarten at Essex Elementary School, where both her mother and aunt began their educations. When we all sat down to try the final cemitas, kindergarten fears had dissipated, and Chicka gave her Aunt her first blue-ribbon vote. I give the second vote.


Chicka and Cemitas


A new twist in this year’s Bake-Off Contest means that – just like American Idol – a percentage of the voting is public. After participants whisk, roll, and crimp their 100 recipes in their 100 little kitchens, judges choose winners in each of 4 categories: Simply Sweet Treats, Savory Snacks and Sides, Weekend Breakfast Wows, and Amazing Doable Dinners. The judges then vote on those four finalists for the final Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest winner. The judges’ votes account for a percentage of the final vote, but then the voting goes online, and the public chooses their winner out of these four.  The judges’ and public votes are added together to decide the winner.

Cape Ann, therefore, has a chance to make this region famous for not just lobsters and fried clams, but for being home to the 2014 Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest Winner, who brings home one million dollars, a truck-load of new GE appliances, and a lot of smiles.


 2nd cemitas


Laurie Lufkin’s Pickled & Twisted Spicy Pork Cemitas

serves 6


1 can Pillsbury refrigerated original breadsticks

36 fresh cilantro leaves plus 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon Watkins Sesame Seeds

1 cup tri-color coleslaw mix (from 16 ounce bag)

5 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 pound mild chorizo sausage, casings removed

6 slices (3/4 ounce each) Manchego or Mexican melting cheese (quesadilla)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a large cookie sheet with Reynolds Parchment Paper.

Unroll dough on work surface; separate into 12 breadsticks. Pinch ends of 2 breadsticks together to make 1 long breadstick. Roll into an 18” rope. Repeat with remaining dough to make 6 (18”) ropes. Lightly brush breadsticks with water.

Place 6 cilantro leaves evenly along each breadstick. Gently twist 2 to 3 times into a 22” rope. Coil each rope into a 3” spiral shape, tucking ends under and pinching to seal. Place 2” apart on a cookie sheet. Brush lightly with water. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake 13-19 minutes, or until golden brown.

Remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack.

Meanwhile, in small bowl mix coleslaw mix, vinegar, chopped cilantro, and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Set aside.

Shape sausage into 6 (3 1/2”) patties. In 12” skillet, cook patties over medium heat 5-6 minutes, turning twice, until meat thermometer inserted in center of patties reads 160 degrees F. Place 1 cheese slice on each patty. Cover; remove from heat.

Drain coleslaw mixture.

Cut each roll in half horizontally. Top bottom half of each roll with 1 patty, 2 rounded tablespoons coleslaw mixture, and top half of roll. Garnish with additional cilantro, if desired.


Chicka and Laurie

Upstairs-Downstairs on Cape Ann

August 18th, 2014


Cape Ann has its own upstairs-downstairs culture of “beloved servants” loyally attending the family on the other side of the kitchen door.

Recently, Lorralee Cotter, granddaughter of Annie Sanderson, who ran John Hay Hammond’s kitchen in his castle home in Magnolia for years, poured “County Cork” tea for me into her grandmother’s porcelain tea cups, so fine they were almost transparent.


(I recently wrote about The Hammond Castle Cookbook, which I subsequently learned from Cotter is dotted with Sanderson recipes.)  Cotter sliced into a loaf of her grandmother’s Irish Soda Bread, a just-sweet-enough textured bread studded with raisins and candied fruit, perfect with a soft swipe of butter.

Cotter and I sat and talked about her grandmother, who came to America from her family farm in Cork in 1905 when she was sixteen.  She began professionally cooking when, after raising her seven children, her youngest turned eleven.  From then on Sanderson worked as a cook six days a week for sixteen hours a day, first for Mrs. Twombley of Eastern Point, and eventually for Mr. Hammond.  She was able to purchase her own home on Rocky Neck, and to frequently escape to the Lenox Hotel in Boston for much needed breaks, and visits with Boston relatives.  Cotter, who adored her grandmother, describes Sanderson as the ideal self-sufficient, independent woman.


Piccalilli, haddock poached in butter, lemon and parsley, and swan meringues filled with ice cream were a few of the dishes Cotter remembers her grandmother cooking for Mr. Hammond and his frequent guests.  Sanderson purchased five pounds of fresh haddock each week just for the castle cats.

Cotter remembers Mr. Hammond fondly.  As her own mother, Sanderson’s daughter, became the 2nd cook, Cotter spent much time in the castle playing with Boris, the German Shepherd, and helping make the Hammond Castle salt, about which I wrote recently.  (Cotter didn’t remember the salt ever being warmed, and believes the herbal smell that wafted into the Great Hall was from the herbs her grandmother dried in the furnace room.)

Mutual respect seems be have been the main ingredient in Sanderson’s employment to Mr. Hammond.  Cotter has only one memory of her grandmother ever being irritated with her employer –  the day Sanderson walked into the kitchen holding a recipe clipped from a newspaper, and, in her Irish brogue declared, “he wants this.  It’s German.  It has beer in it, and it won’t work!”

Sanderson reluctantly retired at seventy-eight.  “Mr. Hammond didn’t want her to leave,” Cotter said.  The granddaughter visited her grandmother just weeks later, and found her pacing the floor and wringing her hands, saying, “I never should have retired; I never should have retired.  I wish I were seventy again!”

A frequent dieter, Mr. Hammond often slipped into the kitchen to retrieve a jar of individual eggs poached in consomme which Sanderson kept for him.  Soon after Sanderson retired, Mr. Hammond went on the “Metrecal Diet,” a popular diet product that eventually became “Slim-Fast.”  He died that year at seventy-seven; Sanderson always claimed it was the Metrecal that killed him.

Gloria Parsons, 63, once cook to nationally renowned Lanesville sculptor Walker Hancock, laid a slice of her airy, cinnamon-crusted sour cream coffee cake on my plate last week.   She poured coffee beside a pumpkin-shaped, sterling silver sugar bowl, a gift to her from  “Mr. Hancock.”



“Mr. Hancock was the sweetest man that ever walked, besides my father.  And when my father died, he (Mr. Hancock) took over.”

Parsons learned baking and sauces from her aunt, Mary Thibedeau, (“who hated to cook, but loved to eat!”) the kinds of recipes her mother wasn’t preparing at home.  Parsons began working outside of the home at fourteen, starting as 2nd maid to Roy Garrett Watson, president of the Christian Science Church, who had a home on Eastern Point, and eventually becoming their cook.  Formal dinners at the Watson household meant Parsons put on a black dress with the lace collar.  The chauffeur wore a white jacket and white gloves.

“But, it was like that then,” she says, “it was a different time.  I think it’s terrible that things have changed.  Things were nicer then.

“I wanted to be an architect, and design kitchens,” Parsons told me, but, through the entwined community of well-to-do on Cape Ann, she also spent time cooking for Walworth Barbour, American Ambasador to Israel.  In the Barbour home Parsons met Menachem Begin, Moshe Dayan, and Golda Meir, with whom Parsons sat and talked about children.  When Hancock’s wife passed away, someone suggested that Parsons cook for him.  Mr. Watson had been ill, and Parsons was given a month away, so she agreed to work for Hancock for that month.  Laughingly, she admits, “but I fell in love with him!”

Hancock had a rigid work schedule, but alway stopped for a large lunch, and later a very light supper, as was the custom in those years.
“I would make up little dinners and freeze them, something he could eat later; I didn’t want him eating processed foods.”

In either household, no one ever directed Parsons’ meals.  “”Surprise me,’” Hancock would tell her.  Mr. Watson’s preference was chicken and souffles.  Hancock ate anything except sweet potatoes, although his favorite was her Mulligatawny stew.   He was also very happy with a dish of leftover mashed potatoes, made into patties and fried.

“Mr. Watson’s food was much fancier than Mr. Hancock’s.  (At the Watson household) The table was always set and there were finger bowls at every meal,” Parsons explained.  At Walker Hancock’s interview Parsons asked about his finger bowls, to which he replied, “No one uses finger bowls anymore!”

Justice Warren Burger, an amateur sculptor, came to “play” with Hancock in the studio.  Parsons was at first intimidated, until he stepped out of the studio in baggy pants, and an untucked shirt, covered in clay.  Parsons was intimidated once more when it was announced that Julia Child was coming for lunch, but, ever gracious, Child later added that she would be bringing a picnic.

Parsons considered each of her employers family.   “Mrs. Watson taught me how to arrange flowers, and set a table properly…Mr. Hancock called me everyday when my father was sick.”  Later, as Walker Hancock grew older, he would spend Easter with Parsons in her own home.

“It was a wonderful life.  I was very lucky.  Everyone was very generous with me, with pay, holidays; they even thought of me in their wills.  I met amazing people from around the world, and learned about things going on around the world I would never have been exposed to.  It really was ‘upstairs downstairs.’”


Gloria Parsons’ Mulligatawny Soup – Walker Hancock’s favorite


2 tablespoons olive oil + more for browning chicken

1 medium onion, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

1 red pepper, chopped

3 stalks celery, chopped

3 carrots, peeled and chopped

3 boneless chicken breasts, cut in bite-size pieces

3 tablespoons flour

3-4 tablespoons curry powder (Madras is best)

1 tablespoon garlic powder

salt and pepper

2 quarts chicken stock

3 cans stewed tomatoes, 14.5 ounces each

2 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped into 1/2” pieces

1 cup cooked rice (optional – Mr. Hancock liked this without rice.)


  1. In a large Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil to medium.  Add onions, peppers, celery and carrots, and allow to cook slowly until transparent.  Remove vegetables from pan and set aside.
  2.   Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pot, and heat to medium.  In a medium glass bowl, mix together flour, curry powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Dredge chicken pieces in this mixture, and brown them in the hot oil, turning to brown all sides.
  3.   Return vegetables to pan, and add chicken stock, stewed tomatoes, and apples.  Cook on low for one hour.  When finished, add rice if desired, and heat through.



Annie Sanderson’s Special Irish Soda Bread

makes 1 loaf


2 cups King Arthur flour

3 tablespoons sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons caraway seeds

1 cup raisins

1/2 cup citron or candied orange and lemon peel

1 egg mixed with enough milk to make 1 cup

2 tablespoons melted butter + more melted butter to brush top


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2.   Mix first 5 ingredients together in a large bowl.  Add raisins and peel, and coat with flour mixture.
  3.   Beat egg in milk, and add to dry ingredients with 2 tablespoons melted butter.  Mix just enough to handle it.
  4.   Place dough in an ungreased 10” cast iron skillet or a greased round cake pan.   With a sharp knife, cut a cross in the crest of the dough.
  5.   Bake for 45 minutes, or until the loaf sounds hollow when you tap the bottom.
  6.   Butter the top of the loaf with remaining melted butter.  Remove from pan and allow to cool on a wire rack.
  7.   Serve warm with lost of butter and tea.














Salsa Marchigiana, a Hammond Castle favorite

August 5th, 2014


A friend who knows I’m interested in local recipes dropped off a bag full of cookbooks recently.  The most surprising among them is the Hammond Castle Cookbook.  I knew that John Hays Hammond had been an eccentric inventor, responsible for everything from a radio-operated captain-less “ghost boat” that circled Gloucester harbor, terrorizing Gloucester fisherman, to radio-dynamic torpedoes, the groundworks for modern intercontinental ballistic missiles. Who knew he was also an avid cookbook collector and recipe clipper?

His eminence, Richard Cardinal Cushing, the Archbishop of Boston and dear friend of Hammond’s, inherited Hammond Castle in Magnolia when the childless inventor died in 1965.  Cushing writes the forward to the cookbook, (actually written by Mrs. Corinne B. Witham, who had been the Castle’s director), saying, “he (Hammond) collected cookbooks as some people collect postage stamps.  He was a recipe clipper from papers and magazines receiving great delight in giving his cook new and unusual recipes to try.  Thereafter, he would alter or add some item to make the food more pleasing to his palate.”

Guests at Hammond Castle dined beneath 15th century Spanish wrought iron hanging lanterns; their chairs scraped on 13th century tiles.   Koussevitsky, Caruso, Thomas Edison, Jr. (son of the inventor), Roger Babson, Sikorsky, Stravinsky are just some from the gilded guest list that enjoyed Hammond’s hand-selected recipes over the years.

This little cookbook predictably reflects the tastes of a leader in 20th century scientific and engineering, someone whose circle of friends were literally the Who’s Who of the world’s most accomplished artists, musicians and scientists.  Therefore the cookbook is almost more interesting for its prosaic qualities; there are recipes for “Chicken Louisburg Square” and “Breasts of Guinea Hen,” but there are also recipes for “Brown Rimmed Cookies” and “Cottage Cheese Pancakes.”

Leagues ahead of his time, Hammond regularly had his cooks prepare “Hammond Castle Savory Salt,” a savory salt made from a pound of fresh parsley – then dried – to which is added 1/4 pound garlic, 1/4 pound ginger, 4 tablespoons cayenne, 1/2 pound celery salt, and 5 pounds salt.  The book says that when Hammond Castle Savory Salt was prepared “the fragrant aroma would drift up the stairs through the Great Hall.”

I have no context to place the following recipe, except that it’s one that Mr. Hammond picked up somewhere in the world – perhaps the Marche region of Italy? – and one that he had the excellent culinary taste to record.  No googling or cookbook browsing brings up a sauce or condiment by this name, but it is a wonderful thing to do with the beautiful, crisp, sweet onions piled high in farmers’ markets and CSA shares right now.



The raw onion slices are spread out on a platter, and covered with this anchovy, garlic and parsley vinaigrette.  The result is a sweet, sharp condiment for so many things.  Hammond suggests serving it with chilled fish or meats as an hors d’oeuvre.  It is as beautiful draped over a thick fillet of grilled Striped Bass as it is beside a grilled Trupiano’s sausage.

I’d love to hear from anyone who knows more about this condiment than the fact that it was an eccentric foodie-inventor’s favorite.

Salsa Marchigiana


6 anchovy fillets

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons parsley

1 teaspoon drained capers

2 tablespoons dried bread crumbs

1 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

salt and pepper

2-3 medium raw, fresh onions, thinly sliced into rings


  1. In a blender or food processor blend the anchovies, garlic, parsley, capers, and bread crumbs.  Slowly pour in the olive oil, and then add the vinegar.
  2.   In a shallow platter, lay out the onion rings.  Pour dressing over all, and chill.  Serve with chilled fish or meats.

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.