Thanksgiving “Musts” from In Cod We Trust

November 22nd, 2015


In case you are still creating a Thanksgiving menu, I offer these recipes from my book “In Cod We Trust.”  Three are Wampanoag Tribe member recipes; one is from the now closed Newburyport restaurant, Enzo, which focused on dishes using the best New England Ingredients.  All four would be special to “show-stopper” on a Thanksgiving table, while remaining loyal to the traditions.  All photos are by Allan Penn.

Brussels Sprouts Panzanella Salad-10404

Brussels Sprout Panzanella Salad with Candied Bacon

serves 4-6

This brussels sprout recipe, from the now closed Enzo Restaurant in Newburyport, answered the question, “how do we make a panzanella salad – the traditional Italian bread salad made with summery red tomatoes and fresh basil – in New England in the winter?” The result looks nothing like its parent, and should enjoy its own unique place at the table. Blanched Brussels sprouts tossed in a molasses-pancetta vinaigrette with roasted wild mushrooms, toasted bread, and finished with the deluxe pieces of candied bacon, this is North Shore Farm food; it says winter on coastal Massachusetts the way a panzanella says summer in Tuscany. There are many steps, but they’re easy, and each could be completed a full day ahead, the whole assembled quickly.   Ingredients

4 cups Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed, and the sprouts sliced 1/4”

3 cups mushrooms, a mix of shitake and button is good, cleaned and sliced

6 tablespoons olive oil – divided

salt and pepper to taste

3 cups cubed bread – semolina or a country-style loaf

2 slices good quality bacon, cut into 1/2” wide sections

2 tablespoons brown sugar 1 cup, or to taste,

Pancetta Molasses Dressing at room temperature


In lightly salted boiling water, blanch the sliced Brussels sprouts, dropping immediately into ice water. Spread the leaves out on paper towels to dry, padding the top layer with more paper towels. Try to get as dry as possible.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss the mushrooms with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and lay out on a baking sheet. Roast for fifteen minutes, or until the mushrooms begin to get brown and crispy.

Toss the bread cubes with the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil, or more if the bread does not look completely coated, and lay out on a baking sheet. Toast in the same oven until brown, about fifteen minutes, depending on your bread.

In a small bowl, toss the bacon pieces with the brown sugar. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil, lay the bacon, scraping the loose brown sugar on top. Still at 400 degrees, roast for fifteen minutes, or until bacon is brown and crispy; watch carefully that it doesn’t burn. Remove from oven and lay pieces out on a baking rack to “dry.”

To assemble the salad:

In a large bowl toss the sprout leaves with enough dressing to liberally coat. Distribute dressed sprouts liberally among large salad bowls or on one large platter. Distribute mushrooms on top of the sprouts. Toss croutons and the candied bacon all over.

Pancetta-molasses dressing

Yields about 3 cups

3 oz pancetta, sliced or cubed

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/2 cup molasses

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

1 cup oil (I use a blend of olive and canola oils)

Cook pancetta in a skillet until crisp and browned and the fat is rendered out.  Cool slightly and then place pancetta and all the rendered fat in the bowl of a food processor.

Add the mustard molasses, and vinegar to the processor bowl.  Turn the processor on and let it grind up the pancetta. When the mixture in the bowl looks semi-smooth, pour in the oil.  When the dressing looks cohesive and smooth, turn off the processor and check for seasoning. Taste for salt, or more molasses or vinegar: it should taste sweet, sour and salty together.

This dressing should be stored in the refrigerator and brought up to room temperature (or heated) before use.

Aquinnah Salad-10467


Aquinnah Autumn Salad: Blueberry & Butternut Squash Salad with Dried Blueberry Vinaigrette

4 dinner-sized portions

This dinner salad is a surprising, opulent composition of tastes, a delicious reflection of the high-key colors of a late summer day in Aquinnah. Roasted butternut squash, caramelized red onion, fresh blueberries, and toasted sunflower seeds lay on a bed of local greens, beneath the sweet dried blueberry and balsamic vinegar dressing. This “vinaigrette,” dried blueberries cooked down with balsamic vinegar, olive oil whirred in, is so unctuous and fruity it can accompany almost anything: venison, chicken, even salmon. The dressing amounts here make plenty, so try it everywhere. With a soup, particularly the Wampanoag Fish and Oyster Chowder, this salad makes a glorious meal. In any season it’s served, this looks like a late autumn bouquet, and tastes like a September harvest, the cusp of summer’s last berries and fall’s new squashes.

For the dressing

1 cup dried wild blueberries

1 cup balsamic vinegar

1 cup oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

for the salad

1 butternut squash, or 3 cups peeled and cubed

1 large red onion, cut into wedges

6 tablespoons olive oil, divided 1 teaspoon salt, preferably sea salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 large head Bibb lettuce, washed and torn into pieces

juice from half a lemon, or 1 tablespoon

2 cups fresh blueberries, washed and picked over

1 cup toasted sunflower seeds

more salt and pepper to taste


Make the Blueberry Vinaigrette: Place the dried blueberries and vinegar into a pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 – 10 minutes, or until the mixture is reduced by half. Cool briefly, and then put it into a blender or food processor with 1 cup oil and 1/2 tsp salt. Blend until smooth. This can be done a couple of days ahead and stored in the refrigerator, but it will thicken considerably. To soften, warm briefly in a small saucepan.

To prepare the salad:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the squash cubes and onion wedges with 3 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan, and bake until the edges are brown and crispy, about 45 minutes. These can be done ahead, and served on the salad at room temperature.

In a large bowl, toss greens with remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper. Drizzle lemon juice over all, and toss again. Lay greens on individual plates, or on a large serving platter. Mound the squash and onions over the greens. Toss the blueberries on top, and sprinkle half the toasted sunflower seeds over that. Pour dressing in desired amount over the salad. Sprinkle the remaining sunflower seeds on top.

Cranberry Crumble-10789

Wampanoag Cranberry Crumble

serves 6-8

Tribal elder Gladys Widdis prepares this dish for Cranberry Day on Martha’s Vineyard, the annual October Wampanaog Festival that honors their ancestors and the harvest, and particularly the cranberry which sustained tribe for over twelve thousand years, according to tribal history.


1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger

4 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen then thawed.

For the Topping

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup flour

1/4 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ginger

1/4 cup oatmeal flakes

6 tablespoons butter, cut in pieces

3/4 cup chopped pecans

Vanilla Ice Cream or Whipped Cream


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 8” x 11” glass or ceramic baking dish In a large bowl mix together sugar, flour, spices, and cranberries. Pour into baking dish. In the bowl of a food processor blend together the dry ingredients for the topping. Add the butter, and pulse lightly to cut it into the flour. (Alternately, put all the dry ingredients into a bowl, and cut the butter in with a pasty cutter or 2 forks.)

When the mixture is the size of small peas, add the nuts. Process or mix a little more, just until blended.

Top the cranberries with the streusel, and bake for 35 minutes, or until the crumble is brown on top and bubbling with juice. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Indian Pudding-1875


Earl Mills’ Indian Pudding

serves 6-8

There are hundreds of recipes for Indian Pudding, but anyone who ever dined at The Flume restaurant in Mashpee will affirm that Earl Mills’ Indian Pudding is the best. It doesn’t hurt to remind people when you serve your Earl Mills’ Indian Pudding that this recipe is that of Chief Flying Eagle, chief of the Mashpee Wampanoag Indians. A lovely twist of fate makes Mills not only a revered Indian chief, but also a respected chef. Mills has many wonderful, authentic recipes that represent the Cape Cod land, sea, woods, and fields – corn chowder, clam cakes, clam chowder, succotach; in its day The Flume was considered the best restaurant on Cape Cod. Among Indian Pudding recipes, Mills’ cannot be equalled. I was lucky enough to have lunch with Earl in Mashpee, and he shared his secrets.


4 cups milk

1/3 cup cornmeal

1/2 cup molasses

2 eggs

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon grapenuts

1 tablespoon tapioca

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon vanilla


Combine all of the ingredients in a double boiler, and whip over simmering water Continue to cook over a low flame for an additional 1 – 1 1/2 hours, whipping occasionally, until the pudding starts to thicken. Once it starts to thicken, remove the whip and allow the pudding to thicken naturally, and forma skin or crust on top. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. If serving later, refrigerate. Warm in a microwave or double boiler. Add milk if necessary.

Dogtown Dire Brew

November 16th, 2015

Dire Brew


Some of the best local food pours from a tap at the Cape Ann Brewing Company: Dogtown Dire Brew, created by Head Brewer Dylan L’Abbe-Lindquist, is a history lesson, a botany lesson, a cultural lesson, and a cold, molasses-y quaff worthy of Easter Carter.

Dogtown is a real and storied chunk of uninhabited land, about five square miles or 3,600 acres, in the center of Cape Ann. The colonial road from Gloucester to Pigeon Cove traveled straight across this boulder-strewn, rough-hewn farmland and pasture at Cape Ann’s center, once described by the artist Marsden Hartley as a cross between Stonehenge and Easter Island. First settled in 1693, Dogtown began as a respectable community. Some people say that the men all left for either the Revolutionary War or the War of 1812. Some say the Riverdale bridge created an alternate shore route to Pigeon Cove, and that drained the life from this plucky village. The children grew up and moved to the coast for work. By the turn of the 19th century, only a brambly crew of spinster women – women like Easter Carter, Granny Day, and Tammy Younger – considered either witches or healers – and a couple of freed slaves remained in this dwindling cluster of structures. Legend says the women kept dogs for protection and company. The women passed away; their houses crumbled but the dogs, then wild, roamed the moors and woods; the region was colloquially renamed “Dogtown.”

The book which best describes this once spirited village’s decline into a moss-covered secret is “In the Heart of Cape Ann or the Story of Dogtown,” by Charles E. Mann, published in 1896. The Dire Brew story begins on p. 31:

“‘Aunt Smith’ (Aunt Rachel Smith) used to make a ‘dire drink,’ brewed from foxberry leaves, spruce tops, and other botanical specimens, which she was wont to peddle in the village, saying as she entered a house, ‘now, ducky, I’ve come down to bring a dire drink, for I know you feel springish.’”

Gloucester resident Kitt Cox, a serious musician, a personal chef, (and a counselor at the North Shore Postpartum Depression Task Force), saw in these lines a way to rekindle a little of that legendary Dogtown moxie. One of Dogtown’s most zealous devotees, Cox has written and recorded songs about this haunting place, a point which gained him entry into the recently organized “Friends of Dogtown,” whose mission is “to conserve, interpret, and celebrate Dogtown’s unique historical and ecological heritage for the benefit of citizens of Cape Ann and the general public.” Check out their website, if only for a magical listen to a few Dogtown peepers.

Cox approached Dylan L’Abbe-Lindquist, who, born in a Rockport kitchen, and Head Brewer at Cape Ann Brewing Company, had the pedigree to start treading Aunt Smith’s path. He understood the spirit of Cox’s Dire Brew idea instantly.

A sort of brewing scholar, L’Abbe-Lindquist appreciates the history as much as the science to beer. “In the 1600, 1700, and 1800’s beer was much lighter in alcohol; it was basically a safe way to drink water,” he said; fresh water harbored all kinds of dangers.

“There’s no human pathogen that can survive in beer.”

L’Abbe-Lindquist knew that a beer produced in 1780 would have been dark. In the malting process, he explained, after the barley is moistened and allowed to germinate, it is thrown in a big oven, and heated to a certain temperature, depending on how light or dark your “malt” will be, and thus how light or dark will be your beer.

“Back then, they didn’t have access to technology that would make this process exact. They had no controls; the malting was done over a smokey, open fire, which resulted in a dark, smokey brew. L’Abbe-Lindquist reproduced this method for his Dire Brew, using a specifically “dark, smokey malt.”

The malted barley is then mixed with hot water. The liquid from that process is poured off, put in a kettle with hops, and brought to a boil. While he didn’t use foxberrry and spruce tops, L’Abbe-Lindquist did forage the important next ingredients. With his new baby in a backpack, L’Abbe-Lindquist and his wife went into Dogtown and collected staghorn sumac and winterberry for this Dire Drink. He also added rose hips, cranberries and juniper berries to his personalized Dogtown brew, certain that all these ingredients could easily have been one of the “botanical specimens” Aunt Rachel Smith foraged herself in 18th century Cape Ann.

Even hops were local then, L’Abbe-Lindquist told me, and they can still be spotted climbing discreetly in places on Thacher Island and in certain Rockport yards.

Aunt Rachel, L’Abbe-Lindquist knew, would certainly have been hoarding pricey refined sugar for much more special moments than a daily drink to cure “springishness.” And as sugar boosts the alcohol content, not something she would have wanted necessarily from a daily drink, the less expensive more available, lower-glycemic molasses would have been the sugar included in a 1780‘s brew. Thus, molasses is another critical component to Dogtown Dire Brew, and one that gives it not just Dogtown credibility but makes it a mellow drink crowded with character.

The results of this historical, local-centric study in brewing are available on tap at The Cape Ann Brewing Company in Gloucester for a limited time. A cold, chestnut-colored serving with a creamy head, a smokey molasses drink with herbal esthers, Dogtown Dire Brew is more than a fine 2015 cure for feeling “springish,” whatever that may feel like.


You Should Go.

November 8th, 2015


This is truly a spectacular end-of -the-most-beautiful-autumn event.  Just read on to see how a grand New England harvest will be celebrated by great local talent.  Three words: you should go.

From the Tigerlily website:  On November 14 and 15, Colby Farm will be turned into a pumpkin shaped arena for a farm to table culinary battle royale.
Colby Farm is raising heritage breed organic turkeys this year, and we could not miss the opportunity to showcase them in a Thanksgiving event. But we wanted to do turkey-day with a twist, so we came up with the Great Pumpkin Challenge.
Four chefs each day will fight head to head for the title of Mayor of Pumpkinville! At the end of the event, one worthy chef will receive the coveted Golden Pumpkin Trophy.
Guests and judges will vote for their favourite dish during each course made with the top ten Thanksgiving ingredients. Each dish will be paired with a locally crafted beer, cider or wine from Far From the Tree Cider, Riverwalk Brewery and Zorvino Vineyards.
As if that is not enough, we have Chef Angela from Market Square Bakehouse creating her own interpretation of a Thanksgiving dessert spectacular! A huge dessert buffet be the crowning glory for this event, accompanied by crafty coffees from One More Cup coffee. Just a hint, the Drunken Pumpkin is not to be missed!
What are the top ten ingredients, you ask? They are:
Sweet Potatoes
Butternut Squash
Brussel Sprouts
Green Beans

Of course, we added an 11th ingredient. Pumpkin. How could we have a Pumpkin Challenge without pumpkin?
Now for the amazing culinary talent that will delight your taste buds and take you on this delectable journey…


Chef Ryan Costigan of Woodland Catering
Chef Jeremy Glover of Ceia Kitchen & Bar, Newburyport
Chef David Stein of Stockpot Malden
Chef Nick Peters of Seaglass Restaurant at Castle Manor, also a top 5 contestant in Hell’s Kitchen.
Chef Rob Martin of When Pigs Fly, Kittery, ME
Chef Ryan McGovern of Foreign Affairs Bistro & Wine Bar, Manchester-by-the-Sea
Chef Michael Beers, Award-winning Private Chef
Chef Steve Asselin, Drynk Restaurant
We also have amazing judges on board to help critique the plates:
Steve Buckley, Boston Herald
Ilene Bezhaler, Edible Boston
Ann Reily, Newburyport Magazine
Heather Atwood, Gloucester Daily Times
Kelly Schetzle, Northshore Magazine
Carolyn Choate, TV13, Nashua
Full bios for chefs and judges (along with tickets for the dinner) are available at
Copyright © 2015 Tigerlily’s Events, All rights reserved. 

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Giving Superfoods: The Great American Milk Drive

November 5th, 2015

milk carton

I think a lot about how food systems have failed so many, about how good nutrition has become as much a privilege as two cars in a driveway.

For anyone who cares about these things, here is a way to INSTANTLY provide families with important nutrition. Here is something you can do RIGHT NOW that will have enormous impact on the health of people right in your community.

Give them a gallon of milk. You can do it easily online for just $5, Right NOW at this link: The Great American Milk Drive

But here is more to think about:  In Massachusetts, 1 in 8 people struggle with hunger.   Milk is the most requested but the least donated item in Food Banks.  To a family in need, milk can be a key ingredient, and it makes any meal or snack more nutritious.

Milk is an easy, relatively inexpensive way to provide servings of protein, Vitamin D, and potassium.

nutritional info

In partnership with Feeding America, The Great American Milk Drive is making this happen:  Your contribution at the link above is instantly turned into a coupon for a family IN YOUR COMMUNITY to use at the grocery store for a free gallon of milk.

Milk really is a superfood. I have written that if we named it something else athletes would (and should) be chugging it, promoting it, branding it. In my house, milk shares the refrigerator shelf with blueberries, the Superfoods.

Give this Superfood.

Local Ginger & Garlic from David Calvo

November 3rd, 2015

Calvo ginger, 1 pound

If there is an important New England building with some woodwork in it there is a very good chance that somewhere inside is a mantle, a sculpture, a plaque, or a capitol created by David Calvo’s fine woodworking studio in E. Gloucester, MA.

Trinity College Chapel, The Peabody Essex Museum, Holy Cross College, Wellesley College, Phillips Academy, Roxbury Latin School. Harvard University, all over. Seemingly, if Ralph Waldo Emerson visited a place, David Calvo ultimately designed a mantle for it.

But Calvo is almost as fine and serious a gardner as he is a woodworker. He is selling his fresh, Gloucester-grown ginger, and will soon also have garlic.

harvested ginger

(Calvo photo)

I am now a Gloucester-grown-ginger ambassador. Everything is better – from chicken soup, to sauteed carrots to tuna poke – with thin slivers of this crisp, peppery root stirred in, chopped in, or diced in. This is not like the brown-paper covered root we get at the grocery store; it’s moist but firm, and freshly spicy.  And it’s grown in a hoop house in Riverdale.


David Calvo's ginger, pickled


If you would like to purchase David’s ginger or his garlic (I will be racing you for the garlic.) you can reach him here: or on twitter and Instagram: @davidcalvo235

To see more of David’s woodworking click here:  Calvo Studio

Roasted Fresh Figs in a Cast Iron Skillet

November 3rd, 2015

roasted figs in a pan


“Figs in a Cast Iron Skillet” is not so much of a recipe as a good reminder that cast iron’s serving prettiness equals its emissivity.

Deconstruct your favorite “figs wrapped in proscuitto” recipe and put everything in a cast iron pan. There’s more flavor and more drama.

whole pan figs


According to Kenji Lopez Alt’s great blog, “Serious Eats; The Food Lab,” the thing about cast iron, besides its charm, is NOT actually conductivity; cast iron will heat where the flame is, but it might have cold spots where the flame isn’t. But, when the pan gets hot it stays hot, which makes it great for searing a steak. Emmissivity is another legitimate cast iron virtue. (- along with requiring small amounts of oil in a saute, so it’s supposedly “healthier,” and it is almost indestructible. Some people even claim extra iron leaches into your food when you cook with cast iron, so you can skip your daily vitamin that day, but I wouldn’t count on it.)

Emissivity is the ability to emanate heat above the surface. Imagine stainless steel, which basically has no emmissivity. If you hold your hand above a hot stainless steel pan it’s not that hot. If you hold your hand over a well-heated cast iron skillet, you feel the feet two inches up. All this is from Mr. Lopez-Alt.

I was inspired here by a Jody Adams pizza recipe printed years ago in Gourmet Magazine: fresh figs, fresh sage, prosciutto, honey, and Taleggio cheese. An amazing pizza, indeed. But I had no Taleggio, considered the Camembert of Northern Italy. With fresh figs on my counter, and 45 minutes before I needed to take something to my friend’s Actifio lunch, I created this. The Baley Hazen Blue Cheese (Jasper Hills) leftover from the weekend was too good to waste, but please grab that Taleggio if you can.

(About that bit of vinegar in my recipe, and the MYTH that cast iron cannot tolerate acid? – The vinegar adds enough balance to the sweetness of fig and honey, and Mr. Lopez-Alt says it’s ok to use a little bit of acid in a cast iron pan; he deglazes chicken in his,)

The beauty of this is also that the pan goes right to the table, or into your car and then to a table, just have a baguette ready. Serve the now soft fruit, bathed in sauce, onto a crust of bread, like jam. Don’t fret if the fruit cools; the flavors get better.

I used a 9″ cast iron skillet; of course, expand all the ingredients if you use a larger skillet, and have more figs.  Feel free to “roast” on top of a wood stove, over an open fire, in the woods, outside a tent, in a snowstorm.  This IS a cast iron skillet.  Again, this is not really a recipe; more of a concept, but it makes a heck of an appetizer, and a spectacular lunch.

Now I’m ready to “cast-iron” Seckel or Bosc pear halves, thinly sliced, and fanned in the pan, maybe drizzle with them with a champagne vinegar, thyme honey, and toss with small cubes of Fontina or Havarti cheeses, and more fresh thyme.

pan with crust of bread & fig

Roasted Fresh Figs in a Cast Iron Skillet


6 fresh figs

2 tablespoons honey (or to taste)

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 fresh sage leaves ribboned

2 tablespoons prosciutto, sliced into 1/4” ribbons (or more to taste)

about 10 whole walnuts

2 ounces cheese – Gorgonzola, Camembert, soft goat cheese (or more to taste)


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Slice the figs into quarters, but do not cut all the way through, so they can open like a flower. Drizzle all over with the honey, vinegar, olive oil.  Sprinkle with sage, prosciutto, and walnuts.  Roast for 15 minutes.

Common Crow, Common Thanks

October 19th, 2015



Even before they began talking delicious Common Crow foods, like Beef Cabbage-Roll Soup, owners Pat Towler and Kate Noonan began our interview thanking people, starting with builder Stanley Poole, who did everything he could to create an environmentally responsible building for his new tenants: all LED-lighting, state of the art, high efficiency refrigeration and HVAC systems. An example of the detail in this environmentally responsible pledge? – the heat generated from the refrigeration units is reclaimed to preheat hot water in the kitchen.

Poole had not even known the organic natural market existed in Gloucester, but confessed he always envisioned a “farm store” in his new Pond Rd. and Eastern Ave. space. From the beginning of their owner/tenant partnership Poole was as committed as Towler and Noonan to creating an environmentally responsible building.

“It’s really hard to find a contractor with that point of view,” Towler said. Building a grocery store, she added, is the third most complex kind of structure to build, right behind an airport or a hospital. With imposing refrigeration, a commercial kitchen’s hygienics, and the finesse of well-placed shelving, a grocery is part lab, part hospital, part general store. Environmentally responsible building means additional expenses, but a long return on investments for the community and the environment.

Towler and Noonan thanked the City of Gloucester, who provided a Community Development Block Grant intended to help small businesses grow, and which helped fund the new building. The new Common Crow created twenty-eight new jobs for the Cape Ann community. The store grew 60%, going from twenty-eight to fifty-six employees when it moved to Eastern Ave from downtown.

Speaking of downtown, Towler says the decision to leave their “nest” on Elm St. meant “some convincing” and “some heart-wrenching.”

“We had forty-five years of representation downtown,” she said, referring to a natural food culture that began with The Glass Sail Boat (now Alchemy), included the old Food Coop on Emerson Ave., and then the Crow’s shift to an independent natural food grocer, nested first on Pleasant St. and then on Elm.

“We always thought we’d be downtown,” Noonan admitted, but the parking and facilities necessary to support a larger downtown grocery store proved too hard to secure.

After some resistance, many of the downtown customers have found their way to Eastern Ave. For some “heritage” customers, the LED-bright expanse was “jaw-dropping.”

“Long-time customers have walked in the door and burst into tears,” Towler said, proving how poignant if feels to trust a food source, how strong and significant that bond can be.

Towler and Noonan thanked Bob Gillis at Cape Ann Savings Bank for allowing them to purchase more expensive, lower-emission equipment, again that investment in community and environment. These immense costs are almost invisible to the shopper focused on bulk oats and organic milk. These costs lumber unsexy, unseen in the walls and backrooms, but their impact on the environment proves how this group – Pat Towler, Kate Noonan, Stanley Poole, and Cape Ann Savings Bank – were committed to so much more than good groceries when they began to build.

Have you noticed a whole new look to the Common Crow, their bold, board sign with the modern, serif-less font? Rockport resident Stephanie Cornell, whose grocery resume includes helping run an eight million dollar renovation of the large Austin, Texas grocer, Central Market, has managed the Crow’s new version of their old message.  The font is new but the Common Crow message has not budged from its origins.

“Grocery stores are basically real estate arranged by large manufacturers,” Towler said. Cereal and soda companies, and vendors who can afford it, “rent’ shelves. While the new Common Crow is grander, brighter, and more energy responsible, the  integrity is the same.

“I bring real food to people in the community, food we trust, and believe in, food that is made the way we want all food to be made – with no chemicals, using fair trade practices, on a human scale. My space is not for sale,” Towler said with her singular quiet authority.

And how about the food? That kitchen is producing (from scratch!) all organic prepared entrees, wraps, and soups like, as mentioned, that Beef Cabbage Roll, Coconut Curry Vegetable, and Kale Sausage. Soup stocks are created, just like home, from simmering organic chicken bones. In fact, my favorite new addition to the new Common Crow might be their homemade chicken and vegetables stocks available in the refrigerator.  Cook Rung Mclean is in the kitchen preparing authentic Thai recipes like Panang curry and spring rolls. The gleaming stainless steel kitchen includes two full-time bakers (almost).

the store

There is just more room for more small producers, more possibilities for humanely sourced, organic, fair trade and local products now that the Crow has more shelves. Valle Sante pastas, Flying Bird Botanics, Grindstoneneck smoked fish, and of course Alprilla Farm local produce are examples of new products and old friends. Remember that heritage turkeys from Stonewood Farms in Orwell, VT can be ordered in advance through the Common Crow. And this year, Towler and Noonan have invested in Essex farmer, Liz Jaeger who has started a local heirloom, turkey business. To the very lucky, a few of these birds are available to order. About those well-stocked Crow shelves? – some of the Crow’s fixtures are original Glass Sail Boat pieces, practically Cape Ann heirlooms.

The last Common Crow thank you – in the shape of “Crow Fest” – goes out to the whole Cape Ann Community. An all-day celebration this Saturday, Crow Fest begins on your bike; join up with friends to ride your bike to the new Crow, where all kinds of Crow-ish fun like cider pressing, drumming, and a “family plant walk” will be happening, along with, of course, good local food and music. It is also, by the way, National Food Day.

Pat Towler offers this luscious, nutritious Smoky Chipotle Sweet Potatoes recipe,, which would “crow” beside slices of heirloom turkey on our favorite day to say thanks.


Pat Towler’s Smoky Chipotle Sweet Potatoes

Serves 6-8

4 large sweet potatoes

1/2 cup (1 stick) grass fed butter, salted

1/2 cup organic Grade B maple syrup

1 chipotle pepper in adobo, chopped

2 tablespoons reserved adobo sauce

2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced

10-12 cloves peeled garlic, smashed

1 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika

1 teaspoon paprika salt to taste


  1.  Preheat oven to 400ºF Wash the sweet potatoes and cut into 2-inch chunks. Parboil in salted water for 5-7 minutes; potatoes should still be firm. Drain and transfer to a large baking dish.
  2. In a saucepan over low heat, gently melt the butter with the maple syrup. When just melted, stir in the remaining ingredients all at once. Warm over a low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Pour the warm mixture over the potatoes and toss gently. Bake for 30 minutes, turning once, or just until caramelized.

Crow Fest Schedule of Events

  1.  9am Bike Brigade Road: Bikes meet Jim Dowd at Niles Beach, Gloucester for Guided Ride to Store.  Mountain Bikes meet Erin Canniff at Dock Square, Rockport for Guided Ride through South Woods
  2. 10am Crow Fest Begins Cider Press Demonstration and Fresh Cider Sampling by Essex County Greenbelt, Community Tables with Cape Ann Farmers Market, Rockport Exchange, Open Door, Cape Ann Fresh Catch, Salt Marsh Poultry Farm, Cape Ann Vernal Pools, Reptile Display, Vendor Demos and Storewide Samples & Giveaways
  3. 10-11 Music: Bonnie Barrish & Jane Shapiro
  4. 10-12 Kid & Family Art Activity: Coco Berkman & Rocky Delforge Printmaking Station
  5. 11am Wellness: Family Plant Walk with Dr. Nicole Andrade
  6. 12-2pm Wellness: Common Crow Medicine Show with owner Pat Towler
  7. 12-1pm Music: Drumming with John Holland & Lisa Bouchie
  8. 12-4pm Kid & Family Art Activity: Crow Mural painting with Tina Lamond
  9. 1-2pm Music: Brian King with Mike Leggio
  10. 1-2pm Ayurvedic Tour with Angela Corcoran
  11. 2-4pm Wellness: Complimentary Chair Massage by Karen Lohnes
  12. 2-4pm Wellness: Meet the Herbalist with Margi Flint
  13. 2-4pm Music: Treehouse Charlatans

Nick Peters, promising new Gloucester chef

October 12th, 2015


Nick Peters


By now Gordon Ramsay has burned a metaphorical sear upon the Cape Ann cooking community. A few years ago we watched local chef Christian Collins saucily stir and simmer his way to the #3 position on Fox T.V.‘s Masterchef.




Famously now, Collins departed the show as the season’s type-cast bad boy, tasting his own dish out of turn, trash-talking Jennifer, the season’s champion, and inflaming Gordon Ramsay with raw roux in a souffle and street arrogance, keeping the rogue Gloucester cliche alive on national television.

Cape Ann can now boast another graduate of Gordon Ramsay’s intimidating frown, a student with an entirely different profile than Cape Ann’s first, and one with a thoroughbred kitchen resume.




Nick Peters, the new executive chef at The Seaglass Restaurant at The Castle Manor Inn, rose to #5 in last season’s Hell’s Kitchen, Fox Television’s ultimate school of chef tough love, with Gordon Ramsay as the principal.

In measures equal to that of Collins’ hot-head swagger, which the television cameras loved, Nick Peters charmed the Hell’s Kitchen audience with doe-eyed, small-town boy.

“I don’t need to come off like I’m macho,” Nick Peters says in an online interview, explaining his sometimes elfin amiability on the show, “because I’m not.” He is not.

Nick Peters is handsomely sweet, gently affirmative. On the show he has the gangly elegance of a high school basketball forward, a smile that would melt an English teacher’s heart, and a strangely unflappable demeanor, given how young he appears.

But Peters’ arrival on the Hell’s Kitchen set was preceded by an already hefty kitchen resume, so it wasn’t Gordon Ramsay’s legendary temper that scared him when he found out he had been chosen for the cast; it was flying alone, being away from his family for five weeks, embarking on this whole adventure by himself. The kitchen stuff he knew, flying in a plane alone he didn’t.

Born and raised in Stonehame, MA, Peters attended Southern New Hampshire University, and then began his professional kitchen work at the Brattle St. Cambridge restaurant Harvest, described as “a fertile training ground for some of the country’s most celebrated chefs:” Lydia Shire, Chris Schlesinger, Barbara Lynch, Frank McClelland, and Sara Moulton, for example. Since the 1970‘s Harvest has been lauded “best of” in almost every category, from “Best Guaranteed Great Meal in Cambridge” to ample Travel & Leisure Magazine and Zagat Survey acclaim.

After Harvest, Peters move to the widely celebrated Somerville restaurant Bergamot, (which just happens to be owned and cheffed by Gloucester native, Keith Pooler.) Bergamot is happening; the kitchen executes ambitiously creative, vanguard dishes to a delighted, food literate dining room. At Bergamot, Peters was part of a kitchen team that kept hauling in the awards, including a Zagat rating of No. 9 in best New American Cuisine in the country. It was a hot place to be for a young chef, in the best ways, but Peters felt, after four rewarding years there, he needed to take a breath. He stepped away from the electric energy and grueling schedule of a successful restaurant to work in a private rehabilitation facility, serving lunch and dinner to a small dining room five days a week.

In this quieter schedule Peters wrote recipes and created a blog. This is where the Hell’s Kitchen production team found him.

As you watch the gentle boy with close-cropped hair, that makes his ears look just a little large, calmly face the churning, red-faced Gordon Ramsay, know that you are not seeing a novice. As young as Peters appears on the Hell’s Kitchen show, by this time he has already earned some extra-credit behind the line. (At Harvest itself, Peters rose to sous-chef in just a year, the first in the restaurant’s history to ascend so quickly.)

At 27, standing in the Seaglass Restaurant kitchen, Peters appears taller, older, more authoritative than his television appearance. The day I interviewed him Peters prepared scallops off the new autumn menu: seared sea scallops with a peppercorn crust, served over a vanilla-celery root puree with candied bacon and pickled apples.


scallops, Peters


It was a beautiful study in presentation, balance, and pointillistic flavors: that salt, that sweet, that creamy, that crunchy. The Inn’s gardens tumbled that day with rosy pink hydrangea and fading sedums. A thin blue strip of Annisquam River threaded through the view.


Castle Manor Inn

dining room

Castle Manor porch


Nick Peter’s story is already educated and celebrated. He is kind of famous. The dash, the discipline, the exposure to creativity and drive that Peters has experienced in his restaurant work already, and at the mercy of Gordon Ramsay, might make the Sea Glass dining room an important, relevant addition to the dining-out culture of Cape Ann.

For four years owners Laura and Donald Baker have been returning the Castle Manor Inn to its gleaming graciousness. Each of the three intimate dining rooms, all framed in shining oak, boasts a fireplace. These are quiet rooms that invite conversation, sometimes welcome alternatives to the loud-equals-fun restaurant point of view.

When you visit, ask Peters about his Hell’s Kitchen experience, what it was like to live dormitory style with his Hell’s Kitchen peers, to live with cameras running 24 hours-a-day everywhere but in the toilets and shower stalls. Ask him about the Beef Wellington incident that had him voted off the show by his peers, and how the heck he handled it with such poise. Thanks for being here, Nick. Thanks for your tough love, Gordon; you’ve made Cape Ann a richer food scene, in your way.


Octopus Lessons from Manny Lapa

October 5th, 2015


Any country worth its Baedeker Guide prepares delicious octopus. Japan, Portugal, Greece, Indonesia, Italy, France, in no particular order, each of these countries have at least one beloved way to prepare the sea’s most popular cephalopod.

Truly the “chicken of the sea,” octopus is able, resilient, and flexible, not to mention relatively inexpensive. Octopus’s tame, delicate taste welcomes extravagant flavors. Peppers, tomatoes, parsley, cilantro, garlic, hot sauce, chili sauce, soy sauce, the firm, white texture and mildly sea-ish character of octopus says, “bring it on.” Grill it. Stew it. Blacken it. Vinaigrette it. Take a strip of seaweed, and belt a small chunk of octopus over sushi rice.

For something that looks so much like a monster, octopus is a darling in the kitchen.

All that said, the initial preparation – the first and necessary procedure that cooks the meat entirely through, readying it for most of the above treatments – can be baffling to appalling if you’ve never prepared something something that has six legs more than a chicken. Untutored, I struggled. My googling efforts reported a wide range of what to do with a pot of water and an octopus first, from simmering for hours to plunging the monster into boiling water three times, making the sign of the cross over one’s chest each time, and calling it cooked. I tried both to unsatisfactory results, but I learned that it may not have been my technique – more about that later.

I needed an octopus expert. That expert for me was Manny Lapa, chef and general manager of The Azorean restaurant in Gloucester. The Azorean features Italian and Portuguese cuisine. Lapa was born in Lisbon, raised on his mother’s bacalhau and caldeirada. To my taste, the best dishes at the Azorean shine with the Lapa family lessons. The salt cod fritters, the porco Alentejana, the caldeirada, these sing with the Lapa genes, and make for honestly authentic, delicious food in Gloucester.

But the octopus – however Lapa prepares it, and it comes in a variety of ways on the Azorean menu – is always perfection: tender chunks of snowy white meat that carry a beautiful char, that twine between a bed of tender potatoes and a cover of silky caramelized onions. or mix into a great pile of diced peppers and vinegar as a salad.

octopus salad

Manny Lapa is our local octopus professional; it’s in the Portuguese genes.

Arranged by Jennifer Goulart Amero, a bunch of cooking friends who also felt challenged by this invertebrate, and whom the Azorean octopus had equally awed, got together for an octopus lesson/dinner with Manny, who came armed with Portuguese basics: pounds of potatoes, onions, olive oil, vinegar, the beloved Portuguese red pepper sauce Pimenta Moida, Portuguese wines, loads of Mediterranean generosity, a wide smile and, of course, octopus.

Manny Lapa

The first thing Lapa did was pull a 4-6 pound frozen octopus from its box. He filled a large stock pot with cold water, and cut a large onion into rough chunks, skin on. I asked about the skin, and Manny answered, grinning, “that’s just how my mother always did it!”

He put the frozen octopus in the cold, onion-scattered water, covered the pot, and put it on medium high. He did not add salt.

“The octopus is naturally salty from the ocean,” Lapa said, taste your dish for salt at the end, when the octopus is cooked, and the other ingredients are added.

“This will be completely done in about an hour and a half, but we’ll test it then. When a knife inserts easily through the meat, it’s done.”

I looked at the glistening purple mound of bulging legs and curling tentacles in the water, and remembered I had been confused when I prepared it before by the skin, this time the octopus skin.

“I leave the skin on,” Manny said. “It’s good. There’s a lot of gelatin in the skin. In fact, you can make a great rice with the leftover water, and the gelatin from that skin.”

I later read that, to some chefs, taking the skin off of octopus is the equivalent of removing the marrow from the bones in Osso Buco. One doesn’t do it, and it’s an important part of the dish’s character. When grilling, blackening, even braising octopus afterward the skin often just disappears. If it doesn’t, as in for the octopus salad, in which the boiled octopus is chopped, the skin adds nice color.

Once the frozen octopus was simmering, Manny went to work with octopus he brought previously cooked. He quickly assembled the classic octopus salad, a bright, colorful toss of diced peppers, chopped garlic, parsley, olive oil, lemon, crushed red pepper and Pimenta Moida. We sat down to enjoy this with a delicious, light, bright Portuguese wine – “Pegoes,” from a vineyard south of Lisbon on the Sardo River.

Then Lapa returned to the kitchen to make Octopus “Lagareiro,” a classic Portuguese dish of octopus sauteed in lots of garlic and cilantro, and then served over a pile of tender potatoes. The whole dish is finished in a hot oven until everything is crispy. With this Manny served “Esporao, Reserva 2012,” a creamy, full-bodied white Portuguese wine, a combination of Antao Vaz, Arinto, Roupeiro, and Semillon grapes, a winemaker from the Alentejo region of Portugal. A quick online search describes the wines of Esporao as, “a beacon of modernity in winemaking amalgamate with time honored Portuguese tradition,” – and a great value.

Manny Lapa has been living on Cape Ann since 2003, when he came to work with Aramark at Varian, but his heart fell for Cape Ann long ago. Lapa and his family arrived in Lowell from Portugal in 1977; his first snow was the blizzard of 1978. His first American beach was Good Harbor. Lapa’s family’s favorite day trip was to Cape Ann; they would return home to Lowell with pounds of harvested wild mussels, and make them Portuguese style, a recipe on the Azorean menu today.  Manny Lapa still loves “the island.”  He is at the Azorean almost everyday, and still relaxes with a night swim in the ocean after the restaurant has closed.

Here are a few more Lapa octopus tips: the brand of octopus matters. I think what went wrong with my original octopus is that it just wasn’t a good quality. The best octopus, Manny says, is from Spain and Portugal. Manny actually sources much of his octopus from Indonesia, but he says he knows his supplier well. Purchase your frozen octopus from a trusted source. Frozen octopus is good octopus, some say it’s better than fresh, as octopus spoils very quickly. Also, the frozen octopus is always completely cleaned, so there are no question marks there. Don’t be afraid of a large octopus; it shrinks considerably in cooking. The 4-6 pound octopus that Manny cooked in my home provided approximately 10 servings, which were distributed as meals through the week. I was very happy to have this much delicious, tender octopus in my refrigerator with which to play, for instance marinating it in a garlic and chili paste, and cooking it quickly in a hot pan, serving all over rice. Knowing how to properly manage this monster can lead to some happy kitchen fairy tales!

To prepare the frozen octopus:


4-6 pound frozen octopus.

1 large Spanish onion, chopped into wedges, skin on


1. Fill a large stock pot with cold water. Add onion and octopus. Heat to a simmer, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. The octopus is done when a sharp knife slips easily into the flesh with some firmness remaining, exactly like a potato.

Lagareiro in the pan

Octopus a Lagereiro “Polvo a Lagareiro


2 pounds small red, unpeeled, cut in half

2/3 cup olive oil

6-8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

2 pounds cooked octopus legs and tendrils, chopped into 1” pieces

1 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided


  1. Place potatoes in a large pot of salted water to cook until tender, or place in a steamer, and steam until tender. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a wide saute pan gently heat olive oil and garlic, being very careful not to burn the garlic. Add octopus chunks and 1/2 cup cilantro, and warm gently.
  3. In a roasting pan or oven-proof platter lay the cooked potato halves in a single layer. Distribute octopus and oil all over potatoes. Place in oven and cook for about 5 minutes, or until everything begins to get brown and crispy on top. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cilantro, and serve immediately.

Molho Verde Variation  – Molho Verde is a classic Portuguese sauce that is delicious over any grilled fish.


1 cup olive oil

1/2 cup cider vinegar

1 medium onion, chopped fine

1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon Pimenta Moida or Tabasco

1 cup chopped parsley

2 pounds red potatoes, halved and prepared as above

2 pounds cooked octopus legs


  1.  To make the Molho Verde whisk together the first 7 ingredients in a medium bowl. Prepare the potatoes as instructed above.
  2. Leave the octopus in larger chunks, 4-6” long. Brush the legs lightly with oil, and grill over high heat until black marks appear.
  3. Lay the potatoes out on a platter in a single layer. Lay grilled octopus over the potatoes. Give the sauce a good whisk together, and pour evenly over the octopus and potaotes. Serve immediately.

Vineyard Pesto (there are nasturtiums)

September 15th, 2015



Nasturtium vines may be browning and tangled, but they are still producing a prosperity of flowers, those orange, red and yellow banners of sunny days.

To me a pot of fluttering nasturtiums are the flags that refuse to be lowered by school buses or evenings requiring sweaters. Blackening basil is far too prissy a plant to be a good measure of how much Indian Summer we can still enjoy; nasturtiums are defiantly joyful, even when the darkness closes in on daylight from either end.

You probably have a pot of leggy vines tumbling off your porch as you read this. Quick – harvest a cup or two of flowers right now. That will take you exactly two minutes. Throw the flowers in a food processor with the ingredients below, and you will have a pesto unlike no other. Vaguely spicy (add more leaves to make it more peppery), vaguely sultry, this pesto tastes like it has relatives in Middle Eastern markets.


in processor



There are recipes for pesto everything, but this one, to me, has as much stature as the classic with Genovese basil. Toss 1/2 cup -3/4 cup of the paste upon a pound of drained pasta – the softness of egg noodles are particularly delicious.  Toss well, and serve hot or at room temperature.  (But don’t let the pasta sit too long, maybe 15 minutes at the longest; the flavor will fade.) – for a light pasta with a gentle, haunting spice.

This doesn’t have the whack of basil pesto. It is only “flowery” the way saffron is flowery, which is really more earthy and spicy, but all very oblique. This is pesto for gardeners and poets, but I think some children will like it, too.

The original recipe is in the Martha’s Vineyard Chapter of my book, “In Cod We Trust, the celebrated cuisine of coastal Massachusetts.” Martha’s Vineyard is an island saluted all over by nasturtiums.


bowl of nasturtium pasta



Vineyard Pesto

makes 1 1/2 cups

2 cups nasturtium flowers (for a spicier pesto, include 5-10 leaves)

1/2 cup toasted pistachios (substitute walnuts or pine nuts)

juice of one lemon

4 cloves garlic

1 cup olive oil

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


1. Place all the ingredients in the food processor and blend. Refrigerate in a glass or ceramic jar if storing, but use at room temperature.

two bowls