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

slaw

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

Ingredients

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)

Instructions

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

Ingredients

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.)

Instructions

  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

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 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

Instructions

  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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

 

Galvanized Bluefish, or Vinha D’Alhos

July 7th, 2014

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Vinha D’Alhos

marinade for 4 pork chops or 2 pounds fish

Ingredients

2 cups water (or white wine)

1 cup vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 bay leaves, crumbled

5-6 well-crushed garlic cloves

1 medium onion, chopped

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 tablespoons commercial fish boil seasoning or pickling spice

Instructions

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

 

 

 

Farmers’ Markets and a great sausage recipe

June 25th, 2014

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Sausages and Grapes from Julia Della Croce

serves 4

Ingredients

8 sweet Italian pork sausages

1/2 cup water

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

Instructions

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

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

June 10th, 2014

 

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

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

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

 

Farmer’s Market Season Begins!

June 9th, 2014

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

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

Location:  Stage Fort Park

http://www.capeannfarmersmarket.org/

 

Rockport Farmer’s Market begins Saturday, June 21st 

When:  Saturday mornings 9:00 – 1:00

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

http://www.rockportartfestivals.com/

 

Essex Farmer’s Market begins Saturday June 21st.

When:  Saturday mornings 9:00 – 12:00

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

https://www.facebook.com/EssexFarmersMarket

 

 

Spiran Lodge #98 Nisu

April 21st, 2014

 

 

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

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

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

Spiran Lodge #98, the local order of Vasa, a national Scandinavian organization, was founded in 1906 by altruistic Rockport Swedes as a “sick and death” benefit society.  In its nascence the organization was protectively Swedish.  In 1949 the organization changed the language in which they did business from Swedish to English, making it easier for younger Swedes to participate.  Today, anxious again for people to learn and continue these fading traditions, Vasa is welcoming new members, any nationality.   You can contact Carolyn Rask by email if you’re interested:   crask2@aol.com.

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Spiran Lodge Nisu

makes 4 loaves

Ingredients

2 cups whole milk

2 sticks + 1/2 stick butter, divided

7 eggs

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 teaspoon salt

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

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

15-18 cups all purpose, unbleached flour

Instructions

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

 

Ricotta and Lemon Muffins

April 8th, 2014

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

Ricotta and Lemon Muffins

makes 12 muffins

 

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

¾ cup granulated sugar

2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ cup part-skim ricotta cheese

½ cup water

1 tablespoon grated lemon rind

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Cooking spray

2 tablespoons Swedish Pearl or turbinado sugar

 

1.  Preheat oven to 375

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

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

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