Early Spring Soup, based on Kesakeitto

March 27th, 2013

 

This is a reprint of a recipe I love.  It looks like a painting and tastes like a spring garden.  Based on a Finnish recipe called Kesakeitto, or Finnish Summer Soup, this is a small mound of the most delicate spring vegetables pooled in a broth of hot, fresh milk, garnished with smoked salmon and peas.  My version of the dish crosses the Atlantic and backs up a season; I call it “Early Spring Soup in New England.”

 

Small parsnips, baby turnips, tiny yellow beets, broccoli florets, the tiniest baby potatoes, and a dice of carrots, all cooked quickly in boiling salted water, mound in the center of each bowl.

I looked for the best vegetables I could find.  I chopped the larger vegetables like parsnips and carrots, still looking for the smallest versions of them, into a tiny dice.  If a beet or turnip was small enough, I sliced them into rounds.   Along with a variety of vegetables, I wanted a variety of shapes, not just a pile of diced Birds Eye veggies.  The only vegetable I kept whole were the tiny potatoes.

I found a treasure of root vegetables at a Winter Farmer’s Market, but if seeking freshly dug produce isn’t on your to-do list this week, a keen eye at the grocery store will allow you a beautiful palette in your bowl, and probably a delicious one.

All the vegetables are cooked in boiling, salted water, beginning with the vegetables that make take the longest, (in my case it was the potatoes,) to the vegetables that will cook the fastest, using your judgement.  My order went like this:  potatoes cooked for two minutes, then I added the diced parsnip and carrots, then the beets and turnips, then the broccoli.

Half the deliciousness of this soup is the milk broth, simply the freshest, best milk you can find heated with a tiny bit of sugar and flour, and poured hot over the vegetables.  The thirty-eight Jersey cows at Appleton Farms in Ipswich can take a bow here.

I slit open a few snap peas, and saved the tiny beads inside for a garnish, along with some thinly sliced radishes, and fresh dill.  Rosy chunks of smoked salmon crumbled over the top.  I prefer the hot-smoked chunky kind for this, and used the locally cured Sasquatch smoked salmon available at Willowrest in Gloucester, but Steve Connolly also sells excellent hot-smoked salmon.

 

 

Early Spring Soup, based on the Finnish Kesakeitto

 

serves 6-8

Ingredients

4 cups organic whole milk, preferably local

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons flour

2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus 1 tablespoon for the vegetables

8 cups of tiny, fresh vegetables:  broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, new potatoes, zucchini, carrot, onion, asparagus tips, kohlrabi, beets, turnips, fennel, radishes,  and especially peas

water to cover

for the garnish:

1/2 pound hot-smoked salmon

fresh radishes, thinly sliced

fresh peas, or the tiny peas from inside 4-5 snap peas

fresh dill, chopped

fresh pepper, use white pepper if you want to retain the whiteness of the milk

 

Instructions

In a large saucepan stir together the sugar, flour and salt.  Slowly at first, stirring to blend, add the milk.  Whisk until mixture is smooth.  Gently heat the milk, whisking it occasionally to keep the flour from cooking on the bottom of the pan. Do not let it boil.

In a separate large pot, bring the salted water to a boil.

Prep the vegetables, peeling the potatoes, carrots, beets and turnips to keep them tender, and cutting all into roughly equivalent size.

When the water boils, drop in the vegetables that will take the longest to cook, like the potatoes, carrots, turnips, parsnips, etc.  Cook for 1-2 minutes, and then add the lighter vegetables like radishes, peas, and broccoli.  Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon or sieve, and distribute them evenly into heated bowls.  Pour the hot milk over the vegetables but not to cover.  Allow the vegetables to rise attractively in a mound out of the milk.

Crumble the smoked salmon over the top, and garnish with radish, peas, and dill.  Grind some pepper over all, and serve immediately.

 

“What boat landed this fish?”

April 28th, 2016

dabs

 

To ask the question “what boat landed this fish?” may be one of the most important environmental, social and political acts of 2016.

These are some names of Gloucester day boats, boats that make short trips to Jeffreys Ledge, Ipswich Bay & Middle Bank: the Maria GS, the Santo Pio, the Angela & Rose, the Janaya & Joseph, and Cat Eyes. And there are more. These boats land a mix of species that call the Gulf of Maine home, but they are primarily landing codfish, dab flounder, blackback flounder, yellowtail flounder, grey sole and some whiting.

These are some of the off-shore Gloucester boats currently fishing the northern edge of George’s Bank: The Miss Trish, The Midnight Sun, the Teresa Marie III, the Harmony, the Teresa Marie IV, and the Lady Jane. Again, there are more boats than this. Right now they are landing haddock, redfish, pollock, codfish, dab flounder, grey sole and some hake.

In port, these boats, and others, can be seen tied up at Felicia Oil, Rose Marine, Rocky Neck Railways & the State Fish Pier, wharfs along the inner harbor, many in clear sight of some Gloucester restaurants.

In an effort to celebrate and promote the quality seafood these boats land, Gloucester Seafood Processing in Blackburn Circle, Gloucester, stamps every issue of fish with the name of the fishing vessel that landed it.  They are hoping other processors will, too.

 

vessel labeling

 

Restaurants – particularly in Gloucester – should proudly be announcing to their guests, “this pollack was landed yesterday on the Angela & Rose!” – or the Janaya & Josesph, or the Santo Pio.

I had lunch recently at Hillstone in downtown Boston. The restaurant was mobbed with dining business people. There was a lot of fish on the menu, and I apologized to the server for even taking her time, but I had to ask, “do you know where any of this fish comes from?” The young woman immediately stood straighter, grinned, and declared, “yes, I do!” reciting to me exactly the body of water where each fish was landed and how it was caught. She didn’t know the name of the vessel, but she had clearly been educated. Not only did she and the restaurant take their seafood purchasing seriously, they enjoyed being able to educate their guests. Every Gloucester restaurant – and the North Shore, for that matter – should be doing the same. Every restaurant in this city should be serving only seafood landed and cut in Gloucester.

The alternative, the specious siren to a restaurant’s bottom line, is inexpensive imported fish. When there is no transparency in fishing, when you cannot name the boat which landed that fish, there is generous opportunity for horror.

The least offensive possibility is that fish was farmed with heavy doses of antibiotics. Then there are these very real possibilities: it has been well documented, particularly by microbiologist Michael Doyle with the University of Georgia, that animal waste (even human) is a primary ingredient in Southeast Asian seafood.  This is an extreme case, and certainly does not represent all imported fish, but it emphasizes the very real horrors of untraceable seafood.

Another gruesome and very real consequence of fish with no definitive provenance is slavery. The Associated Press received the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for their story exposing human slavery in Southeast Asian fisheries, fish that is regularly shipped to the U.S.

These are just some of the hidden costs of inexpensive, imported fish, not to mention the costs to local fishermen in losses.

American fishing is the most regulated fishing industry in the world, the curse and the blessing of the American fleet. American fishermen must comply to severe, onerous, and what sometimes seems like nonsensical regulations, but those rules make American fish the most responsibly landed fish in the world.

As mentioned, many Gloucester restaurants have dining rooms with views of the Gloucester fleet; it makes sense that diners from Iowa would simply assume the white fish in the fish sandwich they are having for lunch was landed by one of those picturesque boats tied up at the dock. If that fish is not Gloucester fish, if it’s an inexpensive “refreshed” imported seafood, that Iowan will walk away feeling nothing special about the taste of Gloucester fish. It’s the same when a restaurant claims to be serving local greens in their salad and it’s actually California lettuce. The brand the local farmers have worked so hard to develop is undermined. The Gloucester brand these fishermen have struggled to bring back is destroyed.

It’s almost criminal that when a local chef is asked why they are not purchasing the fish that is landed at their feet, the chef must respond, “show me a price list.” Gloucester-landed fish must still compete with the price of “refreshed” imported products, or whatever fish agrees with its bottom line. Again, the price of imported fish with no transparency is far, far more expensive than that restaurant realizes.

Another important but discreet value to local fish, something built into the dollar amount on that chef’s price list, is the promise of a clean product. Any sanitary questions are eliminated when there is complete transparency. For a look at good, local processing transparency, visit Gloucester Seafood Processing.

Gloucester Seafood Processing processes – or cuts – fish specifically caught in the Gulf of Maine, that means the boats listed above. I visited the facility to see a high-tech, immaculate operation, rooms filled with filleters – U.S. citizens (to be clear) originally from Guatamala, El Salvador, Honduras, Belize, Portugal, and Mexico. Everyone who works at Gloucester Seafood Processing is issued a pair of rubber boots and a pair of crocs. The boots never leave the processing area, and the crocs are for everywhere else in the plant. No dirt or dust from the outside ever enters the fish processing facility.

boots

 

Before anyone enters a processing room, they stand for a few seconds in a shallow trough of sanitizer, guaranteeing nothing is ever tracked in. They place their hands in a sanitizer equipped with a sensor that only stops whirring water when the hands register as “clean.”

A favorite detail: Gloucester Seafood Processing uses shaved ice rather than traditional chunks which may bruise or damage a fish. Also, the fish is not stacked in crates on ice; fish float in a saltwater slurry, even better preserving the quality.

Filleters at Gloucester Seafood Processing begin at $16 – $17 an hour, and are trained to cut fish, an important skill that has almost vanished from our work lexicon. From there cutters have the opportunity to develop that skill, and earn more within the company, as well as having the opportunity to move up within the company.

 

filleting

cutting redfish

 

Closing the sustainable loop, Gloucester Seafood Processing fish frames go to lobstermen for trap bait.

Frankie Ragusa, Director of Fresh Seafood at the plant, grew up in the fishing industry in Gloucester. He bemoans the fact that there are few local people working there. “It’s a good job and a skill. We would like to have a facility filled with local people!” he said, but there are not enough Cape Ann residents walking in the door to keep up with production.

With the decline in the fishing industry over the last twenty years, Ragusa says, Gloucester fishing has lost a generation. Gloucester High School once trained students in jobs associated with the fishing industry. Not only is fishing a fraction of what it was in the old days, but the shoreside industries that supported it are equally diminished.

And yet, with an intelligent, regulated fleet of local fishermen, and with thorough transparency from landing to processing, Gloucester fishing may be able to return as a vital, environmentally responsible industry. A shining new website, “Gloucesterfresh,” is part of the city’s full-on effort to make Gloucester a proud fishing town again.

As America’s oldest seaport, Gloucester has had its struggles. Today, the city stands at a crossroads: Will it be a tourist town with a little engineering thrown in, where the restaurants serve “refreshed” imported seafood, and guests visit the new wing of the Cape Ann Museum dedicated to yet another lost industry – fishing? Or will it be a city unique among others, that proudly goes fishing, where people come to eat its delicious seafood, where the fishing boats line up along Rogers St., maybe we have a waterfront festival once a year, and the seagulls still squawk overhead? (I recently heard Angela Sanfilippo, president of the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives’ Association, describing a visit to San Diego, no longer a fishing town. She sadly identified the strangeness of that place: to be standing by the ocean in a busy city, with the sky empty of seagulls.)

Ultimately, this fate hinges on whether or not Gloucester fishermen can afford to go fishing, and so much of that depends on whether their own city supports them. In response to over-fishing and fishing degradation around the world, people everywhere should be demanding to know what boat landed their fish, but in Gloucester, a city fortunate to have its own local seafood, it is even more poignant a question to ask.

Gulf of Maine Dab Flounder is currently my favorite seafood. These small, delicate fillets are so versatile you will never ask for cod again. Two pounds of Dabs at first may look like a daunting number of fillets, and they are if you imagine standing at the stove frying, but in the preparations below the fillets are simply layered and baked. Easy, easy. The Thai recipe is loaded with flavor, and proof that this fish can wear cilantro and chilis; I offer the butter and breadcrumb recipe so you can taste the singular delicacy and sweetness of this fish. It’s hard to say which recipe is better.

Thai Dabs

 

Thai Steamed Dabs, adapted from Jamie Oliver

serves 4-6

(note: This recipes makes a lot of rice, but it is so delicious you might want seconds. Cut the proportions in half if you do not.)

Ingredients

For the Thai Paste:

1 large bunch cilantro, stems removed

2” chunk of fresh ginger, peeled

3 cloves garlic

1 fresh red chilis, deseeded and roughly chopped

2 teaspoons sesame oil

5 tablespoons soy sauce

2 limes, juice and zest

1 can (400 ml) light coconut milk

For the Dabs and Rice:

2 cups basmati rice

sea salt freshly

ground black pepper

2 pounds Dab fillets

1 cup (roughly) sugar snap peas, ends trimmed and strings removed

1 cup spring onions, halved and thinly sliced in half-rounds, + green tops thinly sliced

1/2 a red chili deseeded and finely sliced

1 lime

1/4 cup cilantro leaves for garnish

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade process the cilantro, ginger, garlic, chilis, sesame oil, soy sauce, lime juice and zest, and coconut milk. Set aside.

Cook the rice in salted water as directed. (1 cup rice : 1 3/4 cups water) Stir processed paste into rice, and spread out on a 9” x 11” glass baking dish.

Lay Dabs on top of rice, over-lapping fillets as necessary. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Toss snap peas loosely over Dabs. Seal dish tightly with aluminum foil, Bake for 25-30 minutes or until fish is cooked through. Remove foil, and distribute spring onions and red chilies over the fish. Squeeze the lime over all, and garnish lightly with fresh cilantro leaves. Serve immediately.

dabs with mustardlemon butter and crumbs

Dabs with Lemon/Mustard Butter and Crumbs

serves 4-6

Ingredients

2 pounds Dab fillets

1 stick butter

juice from 2 lemons

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

sea salt

3/4 cup unseasoned bread crumbs (more or less)

lemon for serving

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Melt butter in a small sauce pan.

Add lemon juice, mustard, and Worcestershire.

Brush the bottom of a 8” x 8” glass baking dish, (or 7” x 11”) with the butter mixture. Lay down 2 or 3 fillets, depending on their size. Brush the fillets with the butter mixture, and sprinkle with salt. Then sprinkle breadcrumbs over fillets to cover.

Continue layering fillets this way: fish, butter, salt, and breadcrumbs. When finished, pour remaining butter mixture generously over top of breadcrumbs so they will brown well in the oven. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until fish flakes easily in center.

Potato Kugel

April 23rd, 2016

Kugel

 

Passover began yesterday evening (Friday, April 22nd), and will continue for another 8 days.

Last night I was asked to bring a potato kugel, one of the most traditional Jewish dishes, to my friends’ seder.  I had never made a potato kugel.  I had never eaten one either. I envisioned carrying a large rectangular glass baking dish brimming with crispy browned potatoes to this seder, but as I began to look for recipes, everything seemed dull. Potatoes, eggs, oil, salt and pepper. Period.

But I learned this: Kugel, according to food historian Gil Marks, is another dish created by clever people trying to figure out how to have a good meal by Saturday evening without cooking, because of the Sabbath, when no work can be done.

Cholent was the first answer to this meal conundrum. A very, very slowly cooked stew that Eastern European Jews set to simmer on Friday evening, cholent became the welcome ready-made dinner for Saturday evening after a day of prayers in the 12th century. Someone around that time also returned from a trip down the Silk Road, with dumpling lessons. Dumplings were dropped into the cholent, and discovered to be delicious after a good soak there. Someone in the German Jewish community then thought to put the dumpling or bread dough into a bread pan – a Kugelhopf pan – and set the pan into the pot of stew, where it cooked equally slowly, perfect for the Saturday evening meal. This Eastern European pudding-like dish became known as “kugel,” named for that pot, although in western Europe it became known as “schalet.”

Through the Middle Ages only the wealthy owned home ovens; people had to carry their breads and doughs to a community oven, and often had to pay for baking. So kugels, and so many other home dishes, remained something to be steamed by themselves, or steamed in cholent, where the temperatures could be best moderated over an open fire.

In the 17th century groups of European Jews took their kugel recipes with them to Jerusalem, where the dish integrated even more fully into Jewish culture. The ingredient list expanded. They added onions, gribenes, or cracklings. They made kugels with noodles, and added sugar. The basics remained the same: a starch, eggs, and a fat.

It was not until the 19th century that kugels left the stew/steaming situation completely, and arrived in a baking dish, to be baked in the home oven. That was the kugel I envisioned carrying to my friends.

I thought that kugel needed more regency than just potatoes, eggs, and oil after this long journey through history. I finally found Melissa Clark’s mother’s recipe, which adds garlic, rosemary, and crispy shallots. Clark’s mother adds the potato and egg mixture right into a thin layer of very hot oil in a very hot pan.

kugel in pan

 

She lets that sit on top of the flame for three minutes, promising a crispy golden bottom, which, when served, becomes the top. My kugel experts had all anticipated a glass baking dish affair; everyone declared this really a very large potato latke, which is probably true, but we also thought the flavors delicious. I thought the mosaic of browned potato gratings beautiful, a shining arrival out of the cholent.

 

Kugel side

Melissa Clark’s Potato Kugel

Ingredients

6 large russet potatoes (about 3 pounds) peeled and quartered

2 yellow onions, peeled and quartered

5 large eggs

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus additional for seasoning

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

3 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced

Instructions

  1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a food processor fitted with a grating blade, process the potatoes and onions into grated pieces.  Transfer the mixture to a dish-towel lined colander.  Wrap the mixture in the towel and squeeze out as much excess liquid as possible.
  3. In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, flour, 1/4 cup oil, salt, pepper, rosemary, and garlic.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil in a wide skillet.  Add the shallots in a single layer over high heat.  Let sit several minutes before stirring.  Continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the shallots are crispy and dark brown, about 7 minutes.
  5. Fold the potato mixture and shallots in the egg mixture.  Return the skillet to high heat and add the remaining 3 tablespoons oil.  Tilk the skillet to grease the bottom and sides of the pan.  Carefully press the potato mixture into the pan.  Cook over high heat for 3 minutes, this will help sear the bottom crust of the kugel.  Transfer the pan to the oven and bake until the potatoes are tender and the top of the kugel is golden browns.  1 to 1 1/4 hours.
  6. Place the kugel under the broiler for 1 – 2 minutes to form a crisp crust on top if it is not yet adequately crispy.  This is for crispiness, not appearances, as the bottom of the kugel becomes the top.
  7.   Invert the kugel onto an attractive serving dish.  Sprinkle with salt, preferably Maldon if you have it, and serve.

 

 

Will Mack, Still Sharpening Knives

April 17th, 2016

 

Artisans bag

 

Seeing the above, a small group of people will feel as if a firm hand from the past reached forward and grabbed them back into 1985.  In those days this primitive, happy eskimo was as powerful an image on Boston’s Newbury St. as the green and white Starbucks girl is today.

He represented a warren of store aisles where everything from beetlenuts to camel nose plugs (don’t even ask) was for sale. There were olive-wood wooden spoons, Swedish carpenter shirts, Japanese Fukagawa porcelain, kites, African masks, Kate Seidman’s porcelain earrings, Guatamalan worry people, and Eskimo art, thus our pleasing guy on the canvas bag.  (This bag, recovered from Judy Mack’s kitchen, is the last one any of us could find.)

The Artisans. Who remembers it? And Kitchen Arts? – the sister store, where all the copper pots and Le Creuset went because The Artisans shelves could no longer contain all that wonderful cookware and the woven African Kukuyu bags?

Remember Kukuyu bags? Do you still have one? You probably bought yours at The Artisans, because that’s what everyone did then. You sorted through the piles looking for just the right length leather strap, the right scratchy woven basket, and, most importantly, the proper width and color of the horizontal stripes.

Will Mack

And do you remember Will Mack? “The mayor of Newbury St.,” people called him. A striking man with a distinctively healthy head of white hair, Will probably sold hundreds of Swedish Carpenter shirts just by walking down Newbury St. wearing the blue and white canvas jacket to meet fellow shop owner, jeweler, John Lewis.

Will owned The Artisans. His father had founded the store. By expanding the inventory range to include everything from whacky gadgets to Scandinavian good taste, Will helped it swell to cult status. He was a born retailer. Ever cheerful, ever happy to be in his store, he seemed to love it all, from the customers to the game of selling.

This is one of my favorite Will Mack moments of retail genius: he had a large foam-core sign created, easily placed or removed from suction cup hooks on the plate glass window facing Newbury St. Whenever raindrops began falling, even lightly, the staff was directed to immediately go to the window and hang the sign –  “Umbrella Sale!”

And, Timbuktu? Guess who sold the first messenger bags? Will Mack, at The Artisans. Somehow he sourced those beautiful canvas bags, the exact precursor to the Timbuktu Messenger.  Mine was worn through from sharp book corners by the time I graduated from college.

Knife sharpening was Will’s signature service. The flush crowds of people newly interested in cooking in the 1980’s and a few once-gloved Beacon Hill ladies kept him very busy.

The Artisans became a Starbucks; that green and white, thick-locked girl really did replace the dancing Eskimo. Kitchen Arts stayed open for a few more years, but Williams Sonoma and online shopping finally defeated its sales completely.

I recently met Will and his wife, Judy, in Sudbury for coffee, and I am delighted to say Will is still sharpening knives. The grandfather of three bright and beautiful girls, Will is still infectiously cheerful, still enjoying his craft, and, being Will, expanding on it. Now, he, also, offers a service that, using materials from composite cutting boards, repairs and rebuilds riveted knife handles.

Prices vary from $20 and up.

You can contact Will at willjudymack@gmail.com or 978-857-8281.

If you show up on a rainy day he might just try to sell you an umbrella. Some things, happily, never change.

Ojala Farms Fruit Soup, from “In Cod We Trust”

April 8th, 2016

Swedish Fruit Soup and Rice Pudding-10627

photograph by Allan Penn

The Swedes have a great affinity for fruits and berries; they are a critical part of Swedish cuisine, and appear in both savory and sweet forms. Fruit soup in Sweden is considered both a true soup, to be served either warm or cold as a light meal, or as a dessert.

For the latter, it is served by itself or over rice pudding. It is pretty much heavenly when both rice pudding and fruit soup are warm, but it’s also delicious when both are cool. I cannot choose.

You could also lay a couple of tablespoons of this over a piece of toasted pound cake. It’s actually quite thick, much more like a compote than a soup. To keep a jar of Ojala Farms Fruit Soup in your refrigerator is like keeping a stash of gold.

 

Ojala Farms Fruit Soup

Ingredients

3/4 cup dried apricot

3/4 dried whole pitted prunes

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup currants

1 slice orange

6 cups water

2 cardamom pods, crushed with the side of a knife

1 cinnamon stick

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon finely diced crystallized ginger (optional)

1 apple, peeled cored and cut into thin slices

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 cup cold water

Instructions

In a 3 quart pan combine apricots, prunes, raisins, currants, orange slice, water, cardamom pods, cinnamon, and lemon juice. Cover and bring to a boil. Then remove from heat, and let sit for a 1/2 hour.

Add ginger if using and apples; turn heat to medium, and simmer for another 15 minutes. Stir occasionally to make sure fruit doesn’t stick to bottom of pan. Add extra water if necessary.

Strain the fruit through a strainer to reserve the juice. Pour the juice back in the saucepan, and set the aside the fruit. Mix cornstarch with cold water, and add to juice. Bring mixture to a simmer, and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the fruit back to the juice, and heat a little longer, but do not let it return to a boil. Pour soup into a large bowl, and remove cinnamon stick. Chill well. Serve alone, or over yogurt or rice pudding for breakfast, a light lunch, or dessert.

Gloucester, When The Fish Came First

April 4th, 2016

Nubar

a book of photographs by Nubar Alexanian

Retail Price: $295, Pre-publication price: $125. (Orders before May 6.)

500 copies available.

Gloucester, MA— Walker Creek Media and the Rocky Neck Art Colony announce the release of GLOUCESTER: WHEN THE FISH CAME FIRST, a limited edition beautifully reproduced large format book (14”x11.5”) of 67 photographs by celebrated photographer Nubar Alexanian from his Gloucester collection.

A New England native and Gloucester resident, Alexanian accompanied the Brancaleone family of Gloucester and their crew aboard the Joseph and Lucia II on four ten-day fishing trips to Georges Bank in the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s, just prior to the collapse of the fishing industry.  His photos from these trips form the heart of this book and reflect his deep connection to these Gloucester fishermen.  They record the last glory days of commercial fishing out of Gloucester harbor, and also life as it was lived in Gloucester over a forty year period. In his introduction Sandy Tolan writes: “This book is a love poem to Gloucester; it is, as Nubar says, a ‘historical document describing a way of life that will never ‘be’ again.’ ”

The public is invited to a celebratory “Meet The Author” and book launch party at the Rocky Neck Cultural Center, 6 Wonson St. Gloucester, on Thursday, May 5, at 7:30 PM. Copies of GLOUCESTER: WHEN THE FISH CAME FIRST are available to individuals at a pre-publication price of $125 from March 25, 2016 through May 5, 2016.  See the book’s official website, walkercreekmedia.com/gloucester.

GLOUCESTER: WHEN THE FISH CAME FIRST is distributed exclusively through the Rocky Neck Art Colony.

Resellers interested in carrying this limited edition title may order through the Rocky Neck Art Colony, 978-515-7004 or by emailing info@rockyneckartcolony.org.

————————————————————————–

CONTACT:

Suzanne Gilbert Lee

978-515-7004   617 872-7633 cell

director@rockyneckartcolony.org

——————————————–

The Cultural Center at Rocky Neck

6 Wonson Street, Gloucester, MA 01930

Gallery hours, Thurs-Sun, 12:00-4:00 PM

Cod a Braz, fresh cod with eggs and crispy potatoes

March 31st, 2016

Bac-2

This is a fascinating Portuguese dish that demonstrates that culture’s affection for a pile of crispy potatoes. Cooked cod is mixed with a warm pile of delicate homemade french fries, and then scrambled with a batch of eggs, a fabulous culinary study in texture. Probably born from a hungry fisherman with too many eggs on his kitchen counter, Bacalau a Braz has become a classic in Portuguese cuisine. In this recipe a “salsa” of roasted cherry tomatoes, lemon, olives and parsley adds a fresh garden finish to the dish.

The gleaming vegetables on top of a mountain of golden eggs, cod and potatoes looks magnificent. The soft texture of fish and egg mixed with the satisfying crispness of the potatoes is wonderful, and not something our often segregated plates of meat, vegetable, and starch usually offer.

Originally made with salt cod – “bacalau” – fresh cod is substituted for convenience here; the recipe is so delicious, and the principals of the composition so interesting, it would be a shame not to make it because one is daunted by soaking fish. That said, if you have the time and inclination to prepare this with bacalhau, the textures and flavors are wonderful in a new way.

Ingredients

2 cup cherry tomatoes

8 tablespoons olive oil, divided (perhaps more to fry the potatoes.)

1/2 cup pitted black olives

4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, divided

1 large or 2 small lemons, sliced, divided

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 lb. fresh cod

3 large baking potatoes, peeled and cut into thin strips like very skinny french fries

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon oregano

8 large eggs

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

1.Make the roasted cherry tomato sauce: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss tomatoes in olive oil, and spread in a baking dish. Roast for fifteen minutes, or until just beginning to crack and brown. Remove from oven, and allow to cool a bit.

Toss into a medium sized bowl, and mix in about 6 lemon slices (reserving at least 3 for the fish), 1 tablespoon olive oil, 3 tablespoons parsley, olives, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Stir gently together and set aside.

To make the gratin: Fill a shallow skillet with one inch of water. Bring to a simmer and add lemon peel, pepper corns, 1 teaspoon of salt, bay leaf and fish. Cover, and simmer for seven to ten minutes, or until fillets begin to flake. Remove fish from broth and cool. Flake the fish, checking for bones.

Heat four tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet and fry potatoes in batches until brown and crispy. Drain on paper towels, sprinkle liberally with salt, and start the next batch, adding more oil if necessary. Drain that oil, but then return one additional tablespoon of fresh olive oil to the same pan.

Add the onion and saute until golden brown, about ten minutes. Stir in the oregano, a sprinkle of salt, and reduce the heat to low Gently stir in the fish and fried potatoes, reserving a good cup of potatoes for garnish. Whisk together the eggs with salt and pepper, red pepper flakes, and one tablespoon parsley. Pour the eggs over the fish, onion and potato mixture, and stir very gently until the eggs are cooked, about 3 minutes. Do not let them stick to the bottom of the pan and brown. Serve hot with a healthy spoonful of tomato mixture piled on top, and then the reserved fried potatoes.

Kuku Sabzi, a star in the Persian New Year feast.

March 25th, 2016

Kuku

 

Kuku sabzi are just one of many stars of Nowruz, the Persian New Year for which a feast of beautiful dishes is prepared. Nowruz is a celebration of the vernal equinox, and marks the first day of the the Iranian calendar year.

Kuku can be a variety of frittata-like dishes heavier on the delicious fillings than eggs. “Sabzi” means herbs in Farsi, and this Kuku is densely packed with parsley, spinach, cilantro, dill, and leeks. Add to those saffron, barberries and fenugreek. Unlike a frittata, Kuku have a small amount of flour and baking soda, giving them just a tiny amount of elevation so that they are less flat and eggy than a frittata. Fragrant with herbs, that welcome verdure color, and slightly crunchy with walnuts, Kuku sabzi would be as appropriate at an Easter brunch as a Persian feast. (That little bit of leavening might eliminate them from a seder, unfortunately.)

saffron & barberries

greens & barberries

unbaked

baked kuku

I would say however you choose to celebrate an equinox (and it’s a little late for that now, but don’t let that stop you from making these) Kuku are the perfect dish to serve. I had them room temperature beside a pan of mustard and lemon baked Dabs from Cape Ann Fresh Catch on a cold spring Thursday night with spring bulbs still oomphing themselves out of frozen soil; the vernal equinox received a warm “thank you!”

Kuku

Kuku Sabzi

Ingredients:

4 strands saffron crushed

1 TBS hot water

1 small leek rinsed & chopped

1 cup chopped flat leaf parsley, packed (approx. 1 bunch)

1/4 cup chopped cilantro, packed

1/4 cup chopped dill, packed

1/2 cup chopped spinach, packed

2 tsp fenugreek or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh celery leaves

1/4 cup walnuts chopped

2 tablespoons barberries *

1 tablespoon flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

8 large eggs

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350ºF and adjust rack to upper-middle position.

In a small bowl combine saffron strands and hot water. In a separate bowl stir together leek, parsley, cilantro, dill, spinach, fenugreek or celery leaves, walnuts, barberries, flour, baking soda, vegetable oil, salt and pepper.

In a third bowl mix until just frothy the 8 eggs. Stir in the saffron.

Pour this into the herbs, and mix gently together. Spray 9-inch ceramic pie dish with cooking spray. Pour egg mixture into prepared pie dish. Bake for 40 minutes, until a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean. Let it cool for 15 minutes prior to serving, or let cool completely and serve at room temperature.

In Cod We Trust & The Wenham Tea House. This is happening –

March 23rd, 2016

tea house sign

Fresh Food Cooking Show
April 21, 2016,6:00-9:00pm
Fresh Food Cooking presents…“Fish Tales”

Please join us as we welcome local author/food blogger Heather Atwood and our Executive Chef Peter Capalbo (formerly chef and owner of Tryst, Beverly) from the Wenham Tea House Kitchen as they let you in “behind the scenes!” Learn how to prepare and cook some of the fishiest – and most interesting – recipes from Heather’s cook book “In Cod We Trust.”

Be the first to experience a casual behind the scenes cooking extravaganza as Heather narrates the history of the New England recipes and Chef Peter prepares them, putting  his own creative culinary twist on dishes from the cookbook, like Hingham Pickled Shrimp, Clams Bulhao Pato served with Portuguese bread, Bacalao a Braz, Browned Skate with Bacon Jam, and Grilled Octopus.

Christopher Keohane, owner of Fresh Food LLC, will be pouring wines to compliment the seafood. This is a novel opportunity to be in the kitchen witnessing the talents and humor of Chef Peter while tasting dishes as they slide right out of the pan or off the grill, all while enjoying the Portuguese wines selected especially for the night.

You will learn about the fishing industry on the North Shore and Coastal New England and walk away with an expanded palette on how to prepare a rich array of seafood.

The Wenham Tea House is delighted to bring passionate foodies together who know how to share great food, wine and laughter!

tea house

Date: Thursday, April 21st,
Time: 6:00-9:00
Price is $60 includes wine, food and dessert

Menu:

Hingham Pickled Shrimp

Clams Bulhao Pato (a classic Portuguese preparation of little necks with garlic and lemon)

Browned Skate with Bacon Jam

Bacalhao a Braz (a Portuguese favorite: salt cod with crispy potatoes)

Chef Peter’s Grilled Octopus

Quejeidas de Leite (milk tarts, a Portugese sweet custard)

 

Limited space available, make your reservation early! 978-468-1398

You can purchase your personal signed copy of “In Cod We Trust” during the night of the event.

About Heather Atwood
Heather Atwood is author of the blog “Food for Thought” and the weekly column by the same name syndicated in a number of Massachusetts newspapers. For the online cooking site Cook123 Ms. Atwood hosts cooking videos featuring regional Massachusetts chefs and cooks. This combined work has created a web of connections in the New England food community, allowing Atwood a prized familiarity with Finns in W. Barnstable who still make fruit soup, the Gloucester Sicilians who bake their own zeppole, and day boat fishermen who sell pearly scallops from coolers out of the back of their cars. She reveres the people who preserve and energize the New England food landscape.

Her cookbook, “In Cod We Trust, the Celebrated Cuisine of Coastal Massachusetts,” explores the cultures that have made this ragged coastline home, and the meals they prepare.

ICWT cover

About the book: When people think of dock-side dining in Massachusetts they imagine buttery toasted lobster rolls, steaming bowls of creamy fish chowder, and alabaster-white slabs of baked cod piled with bread crumbs, but its rich and varied cuisine reflects all who have come to call these seaports home. Cultures including, Sicilian, Portuguese, Finnish, and Irish that fished and worked the granite quarries there a century ago were so tightly bound that generations have stayed and continue to leave their culinary mark on coastline. In Cod We Trust features over 175 recipes that celebrate the area’s unique place in the culinary world, and is a photographic journey for both people who love the area and those who hope to visit one day.

Spiran Lodge Pancake Breakfast, March 20th.

March 20th, 2016

new Spiran signs

Spiran Lodge, a regional division of the Swedish American fraternal organization “Vasa,” is as much a part of Rockport’s history as quarries and Motif #1, and the Spiran Lodge Pancake Breakfast has become as much a sign of spring as the window boxes in town freshly planted in pansies.

There is a Pancake Breakfast in the fall, too, but in March that bright orange Dahala horse standing squarely on the corner of School St. and Broadway Ave. cheers like the first fat tulips in Harvey Park. The spring arrangements on the tables inside, the hum of Rockporters meeting over slices of Nisu and coffee, and those soft coins of pancakes dolloped with lingonberries feel that much more special after months closed in by winter.

Founded 110 years ago by Leonard Persson as an aid society for the many Swedes immigrating to Rockport to work in the quarries, Spiran Lodge began as a center for this strapping tribe, ready and able to break stone, but unable to speak English. These arriving Swedes needed assistance with housing, banking, and health care. Later in the 20th century Spiran allowed English to be spoken behind the Lodge doors. And later, as the Rockport Swedes and their families integrated, and no longer needed such a secure sanctuary, Spiran voted to include other Scandinavians, which opened membership to the Finns who had settled in the Lanesville area of Gloucester.

Today, the Spiran Lodge monthly meetings reflect the long roots of Rockport’s Swedish heritage as the grandchildren of those first immigrants reminisce about growing up in households where only Swedish was spoken at the kitchen table. Finns and Swedes tease each other amicably, referring to the now dissolved prejudices they witnessed between Lanesville and Rockport Scandinavians. But the meetings also reflect a new face of Rockport. Eva Korpi moved to Cape Ann after growing up in Sweden, and then living all over the world, including Hawaii. Eva has re-energized the Spiran Lodge singers; monthly meeting begins with not just the Swedish national anthem, but the Finnish, and the Icelandic. Asgeir Benedicktssen, a specialist in old world fish processing like smoking and salting, moved to Rockport with his family a few years ago from Iceland, to manage the Whole Foods fish smoking process. (Now Benedicktssen works for the fish processor Mazzetta.) He and his family are active new members of Spiran Lodge, and the Icelandic anthem, lead by Asgeir, is sung with pride. The Bennedictseen’s teenage daughter (along with mine!) participated in this year’s St. Lucia pageant.

As a non-Scandinavian but a Rockporter interested in the town’s authenticity, I belong to Spiran Lodge, too. Spiran lodge now opens its membership to non-Scandinavians, people like me who are interested in braiding Nisu, flipping Swedish Pancakes, and participating in events like Julfest that began as ways for an immigrant community to remember their departed land, but which have become distinctively important Rockport traditions.

The Spiran Lodge Pancake Breakfast is Sunday, March 20th from 8:00 to 11:00. An army of volunteers begin their mission mixing dough, braiding loaves, and turning the delicate pancakes (more like a crepe than a pancake) on Friday, a complicated set of tasks directed by Claire Franklin.

It has been noted at meetings this past winter that while some Vasa organizations are struggling to stay relevant and retain members, the Rockport order is not just thriving but growing, with new members joining every year. And they are adapting, willing and open to asking what will be the organization’s purpose heading into the 21st century.

That cheerful Dahala horse has been re-papier-mached and painted by Spiran member Jeff Rask and his daughter Erika. If you haven’t noticed, the Spiran Lodge clapboards have received a fresh coat of white paint. Jeff Rask also replaced the old Spiran Lodge sign, as faded as its Swedish aid society history, with two brightly painted ones, one for each side of the buildings corner. Spiran Lodge is ready to be a fresh face of Rockport culture.

If you can’t make time to attend the Spiran Lodge Pancake Breakfast, make time to make Lodge member Muriel Lovasco’s Swedish Apple Pie, published first in the Spiran Lodge monthly newsletter. Basically a “crumble,” this makes an emphatically crunchy, nutty topping to a pie dish layered with sweet, soft apples.

 

Swedish Apple Pie

Muriel Lovasco’s Swedish Apple Pie

Ingredients

About 5 Cortland apples, peeled, cored and sliced (about 3 cups)

1 cup flour

1 egg

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup chopped nuts

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup melted butter

salt

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Layer apple slices cylindrically into a buttered 10” pie plate. In a small bowl mix cinnamon, butter, sugar, flour, egg, nuts, and salt. Crumble over apples. Bake for 45 minutes or until the top is well browned.

Marinated Mussels, The Provincetown Seafood Cookbook

March 15th, 2016

mussel illustration

(illustration by Howard Mitcham, Provincetown Seafood Cookbook)

 

Howard Mitcham is the Herman Melville of cookbook authors; this is Mitcham on sea clams, or Spissula solidissima:

“Unlike the peaceful quahaugs and steamer clams, the sea clams love the wild pounding surf and the ‘live’ sand that moves and shifts around. They live on exposed outer beaches just below mean low water line, and love the channels that form between the small bars below low water mark.”

“You haven’t really begun to be a Cape Tip gourmet until you’ve learned how to make stuffed sea clams and that delicious classic, sea clam pie. All of the chowders and minced clams that you buy in stores are sea clam products, there aren’t enough quahaugs and steamers available anymore to keep a clam factory running. But the delicious clam loses so much of its sparkle in the canning process that they really ought to label the cans something else. You won’t find a recipe in this book beginning, ‘Take a can of minced clams…’

While Mitcham has a fine recipe for stuffed sea clams – (2 dozen large sea clams, 2 loaves hard bread, garlic, onions, green peppers, celery, parsley, saffron, Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, white wine, and sherry) – and a recipe for Sea Clam Pie, you won’t find them published in this blog. As I’ve written, I’m reprinting recipes from The Provincetown Seafood Cookbook to frame how much the seafood industry has changed since Mitcham published this book in 1975. Today, some people can find sea clams in a channel beside a sand bar just below the mean water mark, but most some clams come from the sea clam industry, in which the sea floor is hydraulically dredged, both a violent assault to the sea clam’s home and big money.

A January 15, 2015 article in the Cape Cod Times describes a battle over this practice being fought right off the shore of Mitcham’s beloved Provincetown: sea clam vessels dredging thousands of shellfish from a 2-square-mile area off Herring Cove Beach in a month, netting $120,000 on about 12,660 cubic yards of clams. The Provincetown Conservation Commission is trying to stop what looks like pillaging but is still authorized by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.

http://www.capecodtimes.com/article/20150112/News/150119877

The article quotes Provincetown harbormaster Rex McKinsey on dredging: “The practice of shooting 50 to 100 pounds of water pressure into the sand to release the clams disturbs the ocean floor and damages the habitat for fish, clams and other marine life.”

I’ve seen the conditions in a sea clam factory. The cold, wet, slimey work is done mostly by immigrant women. Now work is work, and I’m sure everything in this factory is legal, and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries gives hydraulic dredging its blessing, so this “industry” is all above board, but that’s not to say we should support it. When the scale of things gets multiplied by a factor of a thousand – thousands of pounds of sea clams are removed from the ocean, processed and shipped around the world every day – things get messed up. The environment gets assaulted and work conditions get ugly. This is not a pretty industry, in my eyes, but it’s a big one. Think about how often you see clam products – minced clams, frozen clam chowder, cans of clam chowder – and then remember China loves clams. This is a lot of clams being removed from that “live” sand.

I really couldn’t dig my own sea clam, and I wasn’t going to purchase any sea clam products – even fresh processed – to make Mitcham’s stuffed quahaugs, although I’m sure they’re delicious. So I skipped that chapter and went to blue mussels, or Mytilus edulis.

According to a U.S. Fish and Aquaculture website, mussel shells have been found in kitchen middens as far back as 6,000 B.C. They have been farmed from wooden poles called “bouchots” in France since the 13th century.

Mussels have been like the kale of the oceans; their resilience to salinity and temperature allow them to grow almost anywhere from warm brackish semi-fresh waters in intertidal zones to deep, cold seawaters, even able to survive long periods of sub-zero temperatures. Some mussels can live up to 18 – 24 years old. Wild mussels (once) settled in wide open spaces called mussel beds. But that “once” is the issue.

While farmed mussels are having their day, wild mussels, which once defined the Atlantic coastline, are virtually gone. An article from last summer in the Portland Press Herald discussed Maine’s drastically changed coast, void of gleaming ebony and purple mussel croppings.

http://www.pressherald.com/2015/08/30/where-have-maines-mussels-gone/

There are a number of villains in this tragedy, but the fattest, reddest arrow points to green crabs, Carcinus maenas, listed as one of the top 100 most invasive species in the world. Here’s a link to my own story on the green crab,

http://heatheratwood.com/blog/tag/green-crab-stock/  – but there are many more out there.

I knew it wouldn’t be difficult to purchase a package of commercially produced mussels for my Mitcham Marinated Mussel recipe; farmed mussels are everywhere from fish markets to large grocery stores. They are as easy to source as sandwich bread, the fluffy spongy kind. I purchased a net bag of mussels from Moosabec Mussels, Inc, a family owned business which claims to have “the largest single lease of ocean bottom for the aquaculture of mussels in the State of Maine.” But this company also claims to harvest “native, naturally grown” mussels, which must mean “wild.” My bag of mussels were tagged as “wild,” harvested from the Pleasant River on 2/22/16.

So, it may be a good thing that, while the wild mussels are mostly disappearing because of green crab infestation, companies like Moosabec Mussels – and many others  – are farming mussels, and finding ways to protect their crop from that biblical invasive species.

tag toothpick

farmed mussels

 

draining mussels

 

But, I will say I didn’t love these mussels. They were small and flavorless. I mean flavorless, as in if you tasted them blind you wouldn’t know what they were.  Also, Mitcham includes a small detail about how it’s important to remove a mussel’s beard, the stringy tendrils called byssal threads that allow mussels to attach to the ocean floor, to wooden posts, and to each other.  Those tendrils have been studied by scientists for their resistance to seriously harsh conditions; byssal threads are basically a fabric that will not degrade in moving salt water.  And yet, ocean acidification is affecting even byssal threads.  According to an article in Scientific American, byssal threads on mussels in Washington St. have weakened by as much as 40 percent when exposed to PH levels as low as 7.5, which scientists there have seen.  This isn’t good news for wild or farmed mussels.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/mussels-lose-footing-in-more-acidic-ocean/

The recipe itself – lots of onion, garlic, powdered mustard, and parsley – was delicious. This makes a bright, interesting appetizer or a wonderful sauce in which to toss rigatoni, as the small mussels catch in the tubes. Maybe you can find better mussels than I can; this would be an entirely different dish made with plump, orange wild mussels that have been declared history only in the last five years.

marinated mussels

Marinated Mussels Provincetown Seafood Cookbook

(I prepared 2 pounds of mussels, and basically quartered the recipe.  It still made plenty of marinade.)

1 ten quart bucket of mussels

1 cup vinegar

1 cup olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 cup fresh parsley.

4 cloves garlic, minced

dash of Tabasco

2 tablespoons powdered mustard

salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Instruction:

Steam the mussels and shuck them.  Beard them.  Soak then in a marinade made from the rest of the ingredients, combined.  Since the mussels themselves are so mild, this marinade should have the bong of a kettle drum.  Chill before serving ask an hors d’oeuvre.

shucked mussels