June at Rockport Exchange

May 20th, 2015

Seaview Farm

(From the Rockport Exchange site, we thank you and give you an update!)

A farm-to-table dinner fundraiser kicks off the 2015 Rockport Farmers Market. The summer season in Rockport gets underway with a ton of great activities in town!

Thanks for a great Motif No.1 Day!

2015_motif_color_flat_poster_B 2

A huge thank you to everyone who volunteered, sponsored, and attended Motif No.1 Day in downtown Rockport! From the kick off Raw Bar event at The Fish Shack in Dock Square to the Red Shed Film Fest to the incredible (ongoing) show at iartcolony gallery in Rockport, this M1D fest was a blast. Mark your calendars for May 21st of next year: M1D 2016!!! photo credit: Heather Atwood & logo design: Darren Mason
motif 2015

Bob Armstrong and Jill Whitney Armstrong of iartcolony in Rockport curated Out of Bounds, a fantastically well-received show last summer at the Rockport Art Association, and they are continuing to tell the story of art in Rockport (and beyond) with their newest show which opened on May 16th, Motif No.1 Day. The show features 15 artists reimagining the world-famous icon rendered fresh, original work. Don’t miss the opportunity to reframe your thinking about Rockport’s famous Motif.

Seaview Farm Dinner
Please join us on June 19th to kick off the Rockport Farmers Market with our first fundraiser: a farm-to-table dinner at Seaview Farm featuring Seaview Farm grass-fed beef, Mayflour Cake & Confection, cheeses from Common Crow Natural Market and more — all under the culinary direction of Chef Sheila Jarnes and Robin Swayze.

Proceeds go to support the work of Seaview Farm as Rockport’s 7th generation local food producer and the Rockport Farmers Market in its efforts to bring fresh, local food to Rockport residents and visitors. For more information or to make reservations at this limited event, please call Heather Atwood at 978-546-0190 or email us at rockportfestivals@gmail.com

The 2015 commemorative poster. Artist: Stefan Mierz. Available at The Art Nook, 58 Bearskin Neck. Many thanks to Stefan for contributing this lovely piece for our ongoing series!

Seaview Farm Dinner
June 19, 2015

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All of the above events are created and produced by Rockport Exchange, an all-volunteer non-profit committed to promoting Rockport culture through food and the arts.  For more information about Rockport Exchange – to join us as a volunteer,  committee member, to buy a t-shirt, or to make a donation – head here: http://www.rockportartfestivals.com/

Cooking with the Mayor of Gloucester

May 18th, 2015

Sefatia 2

 

This food writer loves that Sefatia Romeo Theken is mayor of Gloucester because she loves to cook.

“I cook for therapy,” Theken says. “I’m either not cooking at all, or cooking up a storm; both mean I’m working really hard at my job!”

A glance at Mayor Theken’s facebook page shows as many photos of braising chicken thighs and fresh vegetable omelets as photo-ops with senators. She describes herself as a working woman, trying to cook regular meals for her family, trying to pack healthy, economical lunches to eat at her busy work desk. In many ways, Theken bridges the old world Sicilian Gloucester with the modern working woman in Gloucester.

“As a child I loved waking up to the smell of garlic and onions frying in oil; that was Sunday morning in Gloucester, and I knew my mother was making the zuggo,” the basic tomato sauce upon which so many Gloucester Sicilian dishes are built.

One recent Thursday morning, Theken, in dark sunglasses, shining auburn hair flying, strode into the mayor’s office. She’d already been to an early morning meeting presenting the new city budget, with heavy ink on the minus side for snow removal, to the City Councilors. Gloucester’s proactive stance for treating opiate addiction – inviting addicts into the police department to turn in their drugs and equipment, no convictions, immediately connecting them with “angels” who will help them get clean, free over-dose treatments available in Gloucester pharmacies, all paid for with drug-dealer retrieved dollars – was just about to hit the national press.

Theken wore a black sweater, a long string of gold and crystal beads looped from her neck, her dark Sicilian eyes glamorously made up. As she spoke to me about cooking and her family, Theken occasionally pulled a light shift around her, as if wrapping herself from the cold, an unconscious protective gesture that reminded this woman was not just mayor of the City of Gloucester, but a mother to three daughters, grandmother to four, and godmother to twenty-eight. Before being elected interim mayor, for eighteen years Theken worked as the community liason to Addison Gilbert Hospital, guiding the uninsured or under-supported through the manacles of health care. In that office Theken was so beloved her clients claimed if she ran for mayor they wouldn’t vote for her because they didn’t want to lose her. (Theken says they have since changed their minds.) Elected by City Councilors to replace Mayor Kirk until the next general election, Theken has not yet declared she is running. The granddaughter and widow of Gloucester fishermen, Theken still serves as vice president of the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association, a position she’s had for twenty years.

“Zuggo,” a singular word from the Gloucester Sicilian community, isn’t gravy.

“Don’t ever call it gravy!” Theken warned. “Gravy” and “spaghetti and meatballs,” she explains, were born when Italian immigrants arrived in America, and needed to extend a meatloaf recipe to serve ten. The Italian arrivals added breadcrumbs to their meatloaf, which made the meat tough. To resolve the toughness they simmered the meatballs in tomato sauce. The sauce became known as “gravy,” and “spaghetti and meatballs,” a completely American phenomenon, was hatched.

In the Gloucester Sicilian community “Sunday meant pasta in Glosta!” Theken said. Sundays in Theken’s home still means two pots of simmering sauces. The first is the fundamental “zuggo,” Theken’s personal favorite, its simplicity so beloved it is almost biblical. (Theken sautes onions and garlic in olive oil, and adds four cans of crushed Pastene tomatoes, first processed in a blender. Simmer away.)

For the second sauce Theken adds meatballs and/or sausage to the zuggo, and one large potato cut into chunks. The last is Theken’s personal addition to a Sicilian basic; she loves the way the potato softens in the sauce, and binds the meat and tomato flavors. This sauce she gives away to her daughters, friends and family. Bob Whynott, City Councilor at large, regularly receives a gift of  Sefatia Meat Sauce.

Theken tries to grocery shop late in the evening because, as city mayor she would never make it through the store in regular shopping hours.

Like all seasoned cooks Theken has some wonderful kitchen tips, like processing those slipping cloves of garlic to a paste before they are completely un-useable, preserving them in olive oil, extending their life a week or so. It’s a gift to have a tablespoon of this ready to toss in a pan for an easy start to a quick weeknight meal. Add lemon juice and pepperoncini to the oil for an instant salad dressing.

Theken loves basil, but agrees that pesto can’t be used all the time. Instead, Theken preserves basil by finely chopping it, mixing it into a paste with olive oil, and salt and pepper, then freezing the paste. She will take out this mixture in the morning, bring home fresh fish in the evening, and toss the fish in the basil oil. Then she puts the fish in a baking dish, covers it with breadcrumbs, and bakes it – an easy, especially healthful weeknight dinner.

Here’s a Sefatia fish law: Anything ugly makes the best broth. Make stock from redfish, whiting, and monkfish, and then when you make a chowder or stew use the attractive but less flavorful fish like hake and haddock for the visible chunks; the broth will make all of it taste delicious.

“I love the tradition of waiting for things!” Theken shouts, almost leaving her chair with her signature passion. She’s referring to the days when meals were honestly determined by a food’s seasonality.

“In Gloucester the only dish we still wait for is the St. Joseph’s Day pasta, and that’s just because it’s such a pain to make.”

But the “Ricotta Man” helps keep patience alive. According to Theken, the Sicilian community has a friend in Detroit who comes four times a year with his fresh ricotta. He leaves his adored fresh curds and returns to Detroit with their fresh fish. Theken – and others – wait for the Ricotta Man to make this special pasta, one so simple – like so many well-balanced Italian dishes – its beauty depends on perfect ingredients: Saute six chopped cloves of garlic in olive oil just to soften. Do not allow to brown. Season with salt and pepper. Cook linguini as desired. Add three ladles of the pasta water to the garlic pan, to make a sauce. Drain the pasta but do not rinse. Add a pound of ricotta – the best quality you can find if you don’t know the man from Detroit – to the garlic and mix well. Add linguini and sauce to a large, warm bowl, and toss well, coating the pasta. Serve in warm bowls.

Leaning back in her deep mayoral chair, smiling softly, Theken says “I love the satisfaction of cooking for others,” an easy metaphor for this office.

I recently prepared this Theken recipe, and will be making it all summer long, well into September.

 

Sefatia's pasta 2

 

The premise is basic: a simple uncooked fresh tomatoes, garlic and basil sauce, but Theken’s edition has excellent tips: she grates six large beefsteak tomatoes into a bowl, and then grates a whole head of garlic over that.  Add chopped basil.  The sauce is unusually easy to prepare, but fabulously fragrant and lush. She says it’s also a wonderful sauce over grilled salmon or meats, especially lamb.

clean plate

 

The Mayor’s Fresh Tomato, Garlic and Basil Sauce

serves 4 for dinner

Ingredients

1 pound spaghetti or linguini (I used a long type of fusilli – from Virgillio’s – which was delicious.)

6 large ripe beefsteak tomatoes

1 whole head garlic

1 bunch fresh basil, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)

1/2 cup olive oil, or more to taste

salt and pepper to taste

freshly grated Parmesan cheese, if desired

Instructions

1.  On a wide-toothed grater, grate each of the tomatoes into a large bowl.

2.  Peel the head of garlic on the outside, getting rid of as much papery skin as possible, but keeping the head whole. On a smaller toothed grater, grate the whole head of garlic into the tomatoes. Add the basil, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste, and let sit for at least 10 minutes. (Theken used no amounts, but I like the olive oil to show a bit of “sheen,” and for the tomatoes to have a “fat” taste of olive oil.)

3.  Cook the pasta according to the directions. (Ladle out 1/4 cup of the cooking water.) Drain, but do not rinse the pasta. Toss pasta into tomato mixture.  (I added the pasta water, and it seemed to work well, but Theken did not mention it. I think if your tomatoes are very ripe and seasonal you will not need to do this, but mine were a bit watery.)  Toss very well.

4.  Serve in bowls. I don’t think this pasta needs to be piping hot, particularly if served in the summer time. The flavors are actually better at room-temperature. Pass the Parmesan if desired.

grating garlic

Romantic Outlaws, the extraordinary lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelly

May 9th, 2015

cover_romantic_outlaws

“Gordon’s style is warm and engaging and she has produced a fascinating and detailed analysis of two extraordinary women and how they lived their lives in a patriarchy as writers and reformers.”
— THE INDEPENDENT

“An impassioned dual biography…Gordon brings a rousing zeal to her pages…. She shows, in vivid detail, how mother influenced daughter, and how the daughter’s struggles mirrored the mother’s.”
— BOSTON GLOBE

“The relationship between Mary Shelley and the mother she never knew — Mary Wollstonecraft…is explored with remarkable insight and perspicacity in this exhilarating dual biography. …Gordon’s perceptive reading of both women’s published works illuminates their core ideas, including complementary critiques of patriarchy, and identifies the emotional fault lines caused by the drama in their lives. Her lucid prose and multifaceted appraisal of Wollstonecraft, Shelley, and their times make warm-blooded and fully fleshed-out people of writers who exist for readers today only as the literary works they left behind.”
—PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY STARRED REVIEW

“This excellent dual biography…examines the profound influence Wollstonecraft had on Shelley and the impact both women have had on women’s rights in succeeding generations. Gordon’s prose is compelling and her scholarship meticulous, her contention that both women led lives ‘as memorable as the words they left behind’ is brilliantly supported.”
—LIBRARY JOURNAL

“Charlotte Gordon has written a book about two women, a mother and her daughter, who changed not only the way we think, but the way we are…Skillfully entwining the story of two generations that spanned a century Gordon’s Romantic Outlaws enables readers to compare the different ways in which these two remarkable women confronted their tragically difficult destinies…[A] thoughtful, intelligent and deeply felt book.”
—LONDON SUNDAY TIMES

“The engrossing dual biography of the famous mother and daughter who never knew one another is told in alternating chapters so as to enable the reader to “hear the echo of Wollstonecraft in Shelley’s letters, journals and novels,” and to show how Wollstonecraft addressed herself to the future and to the daughter she planned to raise. Through this parallel portrait, Gordon shows how both mother and daughter attempted to free themselves from the stranglehold of polite society, while struggling to balance their need to be loved with their need for independence.”
—EDITOR’S CHOICE, CAROLINE SANDERSON
The Bookseller

“A fascinating, thoughtful and continuously absorbing book, one to which I know I shall return on many future occasions”
—MIRANDA SEYMOUR

“A new biography explores the outrageous lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelley.”
—WALL STREET JOURNAL

“In Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley, Charlotte Gordon interleaves the experiences of mother and daughter in alternating chapters. The result is an innovative dual biography that foregrounds the writing of two women who disregarded the moral codes of their eras and shaped their own destinies. Gordon’s parallel mapping of their lives reveals fascinating similarities in the ways writing sustained, and sometimes saved, them both.”
— FINANCIAL TIMES

“An excellent and poignant book whose heroines breathe in its pages…”
—”BOOK OF THE WEEK,” LONDON TIMES

“A most welcome deeper take on the women who scandalized Victorian England — and whose stories continue to resonate today.”
—VOGUE

“Mother and daughter shadow and reveal each other. The retelling emphasizes the extent to which Shelley’s life was shaped by her mother’s legacy but here is underlined in thought-provoking ways… In Gordon’s narrative, [Wollstonecraft and Shelley] appear at their best and bravest.”
—THE GUARDIAN

“Wordsworth and Byron must step aside
to make room for two brilliant women,
Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter
Mary Shelley, early and late Romantics
whose remarkable contributions to their
time and ours lend Gordon’s artfully
twined tale special significance.”
—MEGAN MARSHALL, Pulitzer Prize-winning
author of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life 
and The Peabody Sisters

 

 

The Homegrown Paleo Cookbook

May 9th, 2015

 

Homegrown Paleo

I present the wedding gift of the season: Diana Rodger’s Homegrown Paleo Cookbook. For newlyweds scheming new lives together gathering eggs from their own hens, brushing the dirt from their freshly dug beets, even milking that mooing Jersey in their dairy barn, The Homegrown Paleo Cookbook offers enough sound advice on homesteading 2015-style to probably get a farmhouse up and going. But, even if a young couple wants to keep bee-keeping to just a Pinterest board, the book has dozens of great recipes with Instagram good taste.

Diana Rodgers has been an earnest advocate of the Paleo lifestyle for years, selling us on the kind of low-glycemic nutrition that homegrown vegetables and grass-fed beef can provide, but do not consider this cookbook only for someone reducing carbs. These seasonal recipes are just the right mix of luscious and practical, like “Red Curry Mussels with Ginger and Cilantro,” one of the easiest suppers you will ever make, and yet one worthy of a special night by the fire.

mussels

The reading is lovely, including lessons on spiral slicers, sheep shearing (and everything else about raising sheep), soapmaking, and making stocks. Rodgers includes tips on producing Kombucha, Kefir, and clambakes. She tells you why to not eat farmed fish, why you should eat lard from pasture-raised pork. (It’s loaded with vitamin D, and makes the best piecrust.) She gives all-around instructions on raising bees, chickens, cows, goats, pigs, rabbits, and sheep. She explains gardens, foraging, fishing, and just healthy living: “Stay active…Get enough rest… Enjoy nature and free play…Spend money wisely…Find personal fulfillment.”

I would add to that list, buy this book.

 

mussels with wine

 

Red Curry Mussels with Ginger and Cilantro from The Homegrown Paleo Cookbook, by Diana Rodgers

Ingredients

1 pound mussels

1 cup homemade fish stock or chicken stock

1 cup canned, ful-fat coconut milk

2 teaspoons Tai red curry paste

1 teaspoon Sriracha (all-natural), or more, according to taste

2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger

1 tablespoon coconut aminos or wheat-free tamari

1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

Instructions

1.  Rinse the mussels under cool water and remove the beards, if any.  Set aside.

2.  In a large pot, combine the stock, coconut milk, curry paste, Sriracha, ginger, and coconut amines and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to mix well.

3.  Once the mixture is simmering, add the mussels and cover the pot.  Cook for 5 minutes, or until all of the shells open.  You may have a few that don’t open; this means they’re dead and should be tossed out.

4.  Transfer the mussels to a platter or individual shallow bowls and ladle some of the cooking liquid over the top.  Garnish with the cilantro.

5.  When you’re done, compost the shells or feed them to your chickens – they love picking at the shells!

Rockport Local – Seaview Farm

April 17th, 2015

Seaview Farm

 

The Seaview Farm fields – tilled for seven generations by the Lane Family – ripple with turned soil behind stone-wall lined lanes right in the middle of Rockport, hidden by the clusters of homes that have risen thickly over the years. A swath of Seaview Farm pastures still cuts right through town, through the densely settled neighborhoods off South St. and Marmion Way.

The Lane

 

The beautiful geometry of farmhouse, barns and silo make a classic sequence along one side of Lane’s Farm Way as it threads off of South St. and into the northernmost Dogtown woods. The south-east facing classroom windows of the Rockport Schools look out to Seaview Farm.  Like the sign declares humbly from the wooden farm porch facing South St., Sandy Bay’s waters break about a thousand feet north, up Marmion Way. When the first Lane began farming in 1838 there was certainly a view of the sea.

There are not many towns with such an accessible working farm. For a multitude of reasons – low carbon footprint, fresher less travel-worn food – “local” eating is the right thing to do. Rockport boasts not just a historical blessing – there are not many seven-generation working farms – but we now have more and more Rockport-grown food.  Ken Lane, the current Lane to run the farm, is slowly reversing his grandfather’s shift from farming to raising horses thirty years ago. Having been a dairy farmer in Maine, Ken Lane returned to the family homestead when his grandfather died, and brought farming with him.

 

 

Rockport cattle

Lane has a small herd of cattle which he pastures on grass, allowing us the luxury of locally raised grass-fed beef. He’s returning more and more lands to growing vegetables.

 

blue barrel

 

 

The Greenhouse

 

Ken & The Greenhouse

I met him a few days ago, when the snow banks had finally melted, and we hiked across South St. down a lane to his greenhouse, where a thousand seedlings were warming up. Shining crimson lettuce, soft spinach leaves, kale spears, and founts of sprouting beet tops rippled down the rows.

Ken Lane

 

All these are already for sale in the Seaview Farm “store” on the front porch Saturday mornings. This spring and summer there will be peas, green beans, swiss chard, peppers, celery, tomatoes, and butternut squash. The grass-fed beef is sold out of the freezer on the porch; just a reminder, it’s a little tougher than grain-fed beef, but the flavor is incomparable, a complex, herbal bouquet in this local protein.

Our own grass fed beef

About Rockport protein, Lane is raising chickens for eggs; the last carton I picked up at the store contained eleven earthy brown eggs and one blue.

Lane sells his beef and produce from his front porch store, at the Cape Ann Farmer’s Market, and the Rockport Farmer’s Market. Watch for announcements of a Seaview Farm Dinner (June 19th) with chef Sheila Jarnes from Short & Main, sponsored by the Rockport Exchange.

The Rockport Exchange, formerly Rockport Festivals, feels that food systems change the culture of a place; having a working farm with its locally raised meat and produce in our town, supported by the community, adds a significant value to a place; it nourishes us physically, spiritually, and economically.

Seth Moulton enjoys Sasquatch Smoked Fish, and more.

April 12th, 2015

Paul Lundberg, Sefatia Theken, Seth Moulton, Bob Stewart

City Counselor Paul Lundberg, Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Theken, Congressman Seth Moulton, and City Counselor Bob Stewart

(photo via Sefatia Theken)

Rookie Congressman, Seth Moulton came to The Hive in Gloucester today. Angela Sanfillippo reminded him that, even with NOAA’s first-ever nod in the fishermen’s direction, not much has changed. The recent cod allotments are incredibly low but they bump out the pollack allotments, making neither something a local fisherman could live on.

Sasquatch smoked salmon

Sasquatch smoked salmon pate

Paul Cohan, otherwise known as Sasquatch, brought a huge platter of his smoked salmon and smoked salmon pate, in which the congressmen sunk crackers as if he hadn’t eaten for days, which may have been true.  (Cape Ann Coffees provided the delicious pastries, quiche and coffee.)

Cohan eloquently reminded the congressman that Gloucester fishermen and NOAA need to really listen to each other to ever get anything done.  Moulton energetically agreed.

Now serving on the armed services committee, Seth Moulton may be the first congressman ever to decline Congress’s high-end health care services in favor of the VA system. Moulton will be receiving the exact care our vets do, and will thus experience personally what needs to change. When he first appeared at a VA hospital, the antiquated VA system didn’t even recognize him as a vet.

“I wanted to say, ‘google me,’ but I didn’t.”

Moulton is very interested in expanding what service means in this country, making “service” broader, but still including the armed services, something for which young people today can proudly enlist.

Moulton explained to the group at The Hive our country’s heavy responsibility as the world’s leader. We must choose carefully where we step, he said, and many countries are watching us, waiting to support our initiatives, but only after we act first.  Moulton had just returned from the Ukraine and eastern Europe, regions legitimately alarmed by Putin’s willful advances. When Moulton asked the president of Poland, who is nervous about his own country’s vulnerability to Russia, why Poland doesn’t initiate an effort in the Ukraine to build more resistance there, Bronislaw Komorowski (@Komorowski on twitter) responded, “We need the Americans to go first; then we’ll be right there.”

The event ended by Sasquatch singing a cappella his “Gloucester Anthem” to the congressman and the crowd.

If you want to eat what Seth Moulton is having for lunch, look for Sasquatch smoked fish at Willowrest, the Cape Ann Farmers’ Market, and the Rockport Farmers’ Market.

Turtle Alley Chocolates write a book!

March 30th, 2015

 

Turtle Truffle Bark!

That plain paper box printed with brown lettering, “www.turtlealley.com,” derails dinner parties, at best by distracting hungry guests who want to crack it immediately, at worst by making dessert taste second best.

box

 

Then there is that secret flush of greed that strikes when the white cardboard box arrives. You take the guests’ coat, smile, welcome them in, but you are are already plotting your own Turtle Alley Moment, when the soft caramel studded with salty pecans, wrapped in crackling chocolate is yours alone.

Now, you can secretly enjoy your “next day” truffles while flipping pages on how to make them.  With her open, raucous confection-loving style, Hallie Baker (they call her Turtle Hallie) shares the Turtle Alley rules of the road in her new book: “Turtle Truffle Bark!

Allen Penn's photo - turtles

“I’ve spent many hours on the phone trouble-shooting home cooks’ chocolate crises,” Baker says, those why-did-I-ever-think-I-could-make-chocolate-covered-cherries-at-home moments; “Turtle Truffle Bark!” is not only the ambulance to those chocolate emergencies but a primer on creating confections at home.

Hallie Baker working

Baker is a painter by education, a painter who worked in restaurants, candy and ice cream shops to pay for canvas. While kids in sandy bathing suits begging for soft serve did nothing for her, Baker fell in love with the chemistry of chocolate on the way to affording paints and brushes. After working in a Prides Crossing chocolate shop for eight years, Baker opened Turtle Alley chocolates in 2000.

“Chocolate is a highly satisfying medium to work with,” Baker says, eyes twinkling, “people who come in your store are happy, and then you make them happier. It’s an extremely rewarding way to live…I still eat chocolate everyday – and I’ve been making it for twenty-three years.”

Writing about chocolate making, not unlike painting creatively, was by Baker’s account a joy.

“I loved the process of writing the book, it’s a fugue state, like in painting – when you have something that you like – you want everyone to have it.”

For the uninitiated, Turtle Alley is not old fashioned chocolate. Those turtles’ squat lusciousness – “a chocolate, nut, and caramel sandwich” – are more free love than Whitman’s sampler. In her book Baker gives good, basic turtle-making tips, like making sure the caramel is completely cooled to the touch, or it will throw off the chocolate’s temper, and melting high quality caramels instead of making your own, a perfectly acceptable short cut.

About that temper, Baker opens the book with solid tempering guidance, the key to “beautiful, shiny chocolate that has a nice snap to it when you break it.” She trouble-shoots dull looking chocolate, crumbly chocolate, and chocolate that “blooms,” or acquires a white film. Tips for truffle making include being immaculate and patient: keep your tools very clean and allow the chocolate a little time exposed to air.

“Chocolate on your shirt? – Let it harden, flake it off, then spray it with window cleaner.”

In art school, Baker may have been more traditional than abstract, but in chocolate her flavors are more DeKooning than Whistler: White Chocolate Oreo Bark, Milk Chocolate Sesame Date Bark, Milk Chocolate Coconut Curry Truffles, Dark Mayan Truffles (with ancho chili powder, cayenne, and cinnamon). Baker does have rules, like fruits are generally best combined with dark chocolate; milk chocolate makes tart cherries or citrus flavors fall flat. That said, her White Chocolate Blueberry Orange Pecan Turtle – “these babies just say summer! – delicious with a glass of prosecco!” – break the rules with style.

For the record, Dark Chocolate Mocha Cherry Bark is Baker’s personal favorite. “Maybe too much going on?” in this bark, Baker writes, “perfect!”

“Turtle Truffle Bark!” is published by The Countryman Press, a division of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. Photographs are by Allen Penn, including the white chocolate turtle photographed above.  To order from Amazon go to this link: http://www.amazon.com/Turtle-Truffle-Bark-Indulgent-Chocolates/dp/1581572859/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1427728268&sr=8-1&keywords=Turtle+Truffle+Bark

 

Turtle Hallie!

 

Dark Chocolate Mocha Cherry Bark, from “Turtles Truffles Bark!” by Hallie Baker

Ingredients

1 teaspoon coffee extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract (secret weapon! Tell no one!)

2 pounds tempered dark chocolate

1/2-3/4 cup chopped dried tart cherries

Instructions Lay out a piece of parchment paper on the counter Stir the coffee and almond extracts into the chocolate, then the cherries.

Pour the chocolate in the center of the parchment paper. Scrape the sides down and start spreading the chocolate out to a uniform thickness with an offset spatula. Work fast – when you add ingredients to a bark it tends to set up fast. Use gloved fingers to spread out the cherries if they get bunched up. Spread to about 18×13 inches.

Let the bark sit until the chocolate has lost its wet look and starts to harden. When it’s just set, but not moist, cut the bark with a chef’s knife. Start the cut with the tip of the knife and rock the rest of the blade into the bark. Make sure you are completely cutting through the cherries so the finished pieces of bark are easy to separate. (Baker likes diamond shapes for this bark, as the cherries look like garnets.)

Store bark in airtight container layered with parchment paper. The extracts lose potency when exposed to open air too long, so pack them up quickly and well. Baker recommends this bark chopped up and sprinkled on ice cream or used in a cookie recipe.

Doves and Figs Preserves

March 24th, 2015

 

Robin Cohen

Preserves. The difference between a teaspoon of jelled, flavored sugar on one’s toast and a small grenade of taste so distinct you can hear the berries ker-plunking in the pail is always about the quality of the fruit. It’s not about the cute jar, or the homey name on the label; it’s about the fruit, just the fruit.

Robin Cohen, the creator of the Doves and Figs line of preserves and pickles, learned this as a child on Montauk, Long Island picking wild Concord grapes with her father. Her love affair with preserving abundance began then, and never waned. Years later, owning a computer company, in her free time Cohen delighted friends with gift jars of pickles and jams. With so many happy friends – and winning “Best In Show” two years in a row at the Topsfield Fair – she thought selling her preserves at a farmers market might be a nice thing to do: Cohen made eight cases of jam, the most she had ever jarred, believing that would be enough to sell at three or four markets that summer. She sold every jar of jam the first day. Stores were approaching her with contracts.

cooling jams

From the start Cohen was militant about sourcing fruit strictly from Massachusetts farms; today, with her product in dozens of small gourmet stores and Whole Foods, Cohen is just as strident about sourcing within a small radius. She is a gladiator for local foods. Ninety percent of her fruit is from Massachusetts; a tiny percent is from New Hampshire and Rhode Island. This means her preserves are made with fruit that has travelled a short distance immediately after it ripens, every raspberry or peach still bulging with all that sunshine-created sugar and flavor. Cohen points out there is a vast difference between locally sourced and “locally made.” Watch for that: jams that are stirred together here in Massachusetts with fruit shipped in from Chile and California are a very different product than those made with Massachusetts berries. To be clear, Cohen’s ingredient list includes figs, citrus, and nuts which she sources in the U.S., mostly California. (Cohen lives in Arlington, and cans either in her own kitchen or in a Dartmouth, MA grange which was savvy enough to build a commercial kitchen when remodeling after a fire.)

I’m writing about Doves and Figs in March for a couple of reasons, the first being that, after this soul-less winter, a taste of her “Peachy Keen” jam – caramelized peaches with pecans and a bit of Southern Comfort – or “Bramble Tea” – blackberry and Earl Grey Tea preserves – will restore your faith in nature. Packed with Proustian moments, all of Doves and Figs preserves offer tastes of the cloudless summer days in which the fruit ripened; you will taste plump blackberries so distinctly, you might feel the sting of their thorns while you pick.

Also, with Easter and Passover on the calendar, Doves and Figs offers unique gift ideas, should you be traveling to anyone’s home for either of these holidays. “Seder Sweetness,” an apple walnut, honey, and wine conserve, is the perfect gift if you’re invited to a seder. Cohen makes a preserve called “Spring!” (exclamation mark included), an apple, horseradish, and dill conserve uniquely wonderful over local goat cheese, spread on a cracker or matzoh. Cohen says the horseradish and dill here make Spring! also delicious paired with seafood and lamb. Spring! and Seder Sweetness would make you a cooed-over Passover or Easter guest.

 

gift package

 

 

Cohen makes an interesting Passover dessert with Doves and Figs “Chocolate Fig Sunshine.” True to her earnest localness, she uses Taza Chocolate – roasted, ground and produced in Somerville from direct trade cacao beans – in her line of fruit and chocolate preserves, like “Razzle Dazzle,” tart raspberries blended with Taza Chocolate. By the way, Doves and Figs chocolate and fruit preserves are Easter basket ready!

 

Preview-Matzoh Fig Bars

Ingredients

1 stick plus 2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 1/2 cups matzoh meal

pinch cinnamon

8 ounces Doves and Figs Chocolate Fig Sunshine (or any fig jam you like)

1 cup sliced almonds (or flaked coconut)

Instructions

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13” x 9” baking pan.

2.  Put matzoh meal in a medium bowl, and sprinkle with cinnamon. Pour melted butter over the crumbs, and mix well.

3.  Pat the crumb mixture into the baking pan. pour jam over crumbs, spreading it within 1/4” of the edges. Sprinkle with almonds or coconut, and press down gently. Bake for 20 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned. Allow to cool completely before slicing into bars.

The Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives’ Redfish Stew

March 16th, 2015

 

Angela and Sefatia

 

The New England Seafood Exposition opened this past Sunday at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. A vast expanse of hot spotlights and sleek-walled booths stationed with plush lounges for brokering things like Malaysian tuna deals, The New England Seafood Exposition felt part Disney, part massive Acura dealership. There were even long-legged brunettes passing sashimi samples.

sena15

 

Except the homier folks from the Chesapeake and Maine Lobster companies, whose booths photographically declared friendly expanses of their gentle waters, this event seemed fixed on making fish glamorous. Most booths had a tiny kitchen and a chef; samples were everywhere, from slick platters of steamed slipper lobster tail to teaspoons of glistening caviar in six different grades.

For the first time in two decades the city of Gloucester was represented at the event; what better way to declare the city’s unique heritage than to put aprons on Angela Sanfillipo and Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken, and have them show everyone how to cook like a Gloucester fisherman’s wife?  (Sanfillipo is President of the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association; Theken is a member.)

 
sefatia and angela

Repeatedly billed by the Mayor as a wonderful dinner, “if you’re a working woman like me,” Redfish Stew is a classically simple, inexpensive and nutritious – all that fish! – dinner for a family. Make it in a stockpot, and come home to a hot flavorful dinner. Sanfillipo and Thecken said don’t worry if the fish is soft and broken to pieces after hours of simmering; the flavors have melded and your family will taste a wholesome, mild-flavored stew.

 

serving stew

 

“Fish shouldn’t smell,” Sefatia declared. “This soup doesn’t taste like fish because fish shouldn’t have a taste!” – meaning fresh fish is so mild it barely has any flavor at all. That’s why fish loves a soffritto, like in this one, of onions, celery and carrots.

“And there are no rainbows!” Sefatia shouted to the audience. Hold your fish fillet up to the light or look at it carefully on a cutting board; if you see any sort of rainbow sheen, the fish has probably been treated with something – maybe bleach – to disguise its age.

Redfish, “the other white meat,” Sanfillipo and Theken called it, are landed in Gloucester in big numbers. They are a deep water fish caught on big boats, not day boats. They arrive in large quantities on the dock, and make delicious eating. As we watched the stew preparation, lobsterman Mark Ring told me that in the old days, restaurants would bread and fry a big batch of redfish for Friday night staff dinners. From the 1940‘s through the 1960’s redfish was the fish served in army canteens, school cafeterias, and prisons. It was mild and there was lots of it.

The one hundred pounds of redfish fillets that made Sanfillipo’s and Theken’s stew so delicious was landed in Gloucester, donated by Ocean Crest, The Fisherman’s Wharf, Cape Ann Seafood Exchange, and Steve Connolly. Samples were passed to the interested crowd from two large stockpots of warm Redfish Stew, prepared the previous day in the Snap Chef kitchens. (Watch for more Snap Chef news here. Todd Snopkowski, who started the Snap Chef culinary staffing business – think temporary work for sous chefs – is very interested in Gloucester.)

Sound, wholesome, warming, the Redfish Stew tasted like soulful home cooking after all the smoked salmon nibbles I’d had that day. I wondered what people in the Malaysian booths would think if they wandered upon this cooking show; I’m sure they would immediately recognize the simple, authentic virtues of this Gloucester stew, just the way, if I were attending a Seafood Exhibition in Singapore, for example, I would know I had found something very special if I wandered upon local women serving  bowls of warm, homemade Laksa.

 

 

stew

The Sanfilippo’s Red Fish Soup

Ingredients

2 pounds red fish fillets, cut into pieces

1 cup sliced onion

1 cup chopped carrots

1 cup chopped celery

2/3 cup kitchen ready tomato sauce

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

4 cups water

Instructions

In a sauce pan using moderate heat, saute onion, carrots, and celery in olive oil until softened and crispy. Add tomato sauce and cook for an additional 2 minutes by stirring it constantly.

Add 4 cups water, salt, pepper, and parsley. Stir, and bring to a boil. If too thick add more water.

Once it starts boiling, lower the heat and let cook for about 10 minutes. Add the red fish, stir, and bring to a boil by increasing the heat. Once it starts to boil, lower the heat and cook about 15 minutes.

Serve with toasted bread, crackers, and over white rice. Add grated Romano cheese if you wish.

Annie Sanderson’s Irish Soda Bread

March 14th, 2015

Sanderson's Irish Tea Bread

 

Sanderson’s Irish Soda Bread

It’s the week to reprint my favorite Irish Soda Bread recipe, from Annie Sanderson, who cooked professionally for John Hammond in Gloucester. Here’s Annie’s story (click on “story”), told to me by her granddaughter, published last year.

 

makes 1 loaf

Ingredients

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 orange and lemon peel

1 egg mixed with enough milk to make 1 cup

2 tablespoons melted butter + more melted butter to brush top

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix first 5 ingredients together in a large bowl. Add raisins and peel, and coat with flour mixture. Beat egg in milk, and add to dry ingredients with 2 tablespoons melted butter. Mix just enough to handle it.

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.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until the loaf sounds hollow when you tap the bottom. Butter the top of the loaf with remaining melted butter. Remove from pan and allow to cool on a wire rack. Serve warm with lost of butter and tea.