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.

 

Persimmon Pudding, the ideal early winter dessert

November 29th, 2016

persimmon-pudding-sliced

Persimmons are one of those fruits, like quince, starfruit and kumquats, that grocers shove onto a weird little shelf, wedged between pineapples and mangoes, this time of year.

persimmons

Fufu and Hachiya persimmons in a bowl

Fuyu persimmoms look like small, weirdly squat tomatoes. Hachiya are voluptuous, bright orange fruit shaped somewhat like an avocado.

In Italy this time of year persimmons are an almost comical vision. Persimmon trees can grow very large. By November they look like any other large, leaf-less tree, except they are covered in heavy, bright vermillion-colored fruit, looking like someone has decorated the bare branches in extra-large orange Christmas balls. People must keep a watchful eye upward, looking for the occasionally drop, avoiding the serious SPLAT! of a falling persimmon.

Most grocery stores in my Cape Ann region do not sell very good persimmons. They are old, wrinkled, and far too squishy or they are cement-hard and will probably never ripen. I was so forlorn this November, and so in need of something delicious to eat, I drove to the Chelsea produce market and picked up 3 crates of gorgeous persimmons, a combination of Fuyus and Hachiyas. The vendors in Boston’s Haymarket have loads of them, by the way. (Haymarket is open Friday evening and Saturday morning.)

Beautiful persimmons can be found, but you have to make the effort. I had enough persimmons for a high-impact Thanksgiving centerpiece, which meant I had too many even more me to eat afterward.

persimmons-on-table-2

 

This very simple dessert reflects all that gorgeous ripe persimmon moistness in a bar. The cake is low like a sheet cake but soft and moist like a pudding. It has a slightly fruity quality, the way applesauce adds moisture and sweetness in a cake, but the persimmon also makes the bar light.

persimmon-puree

 

This is one of those early winter desserts that still retains the light naturalness of a fleshy fruit, and is not yet heavy with pantry raisins and brown sugar.

Donna Glantz directed me to this recipe online.  She added the toasted walnuts, which I think make the recipe perfect.  (We both agreed to cut back on the sugar in the original recipe.)

persimmon-pudding-baked

 

Persimmon Pudding

makes a 9” x 13” pan

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups persimmon pulp
 (about 4 persimmons)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups white sugar

2 eggs, beaten

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder
 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 pinch salt

2 1/2 cups milk

4 tablespoons melted butter

1 cup chopped walnuts

Instructions

  1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine persimmon pulp, baking soda, sugar and eggs. Mix well. Add flour, baking powder, cinnamon, vanilla, salt, milk and melted butter. Stir to combine.
  3. Pour into prepared baking dish.
  4. Toast the walnuts for 5 minutes in the oven. Then scatter them over the batter. Bake cake for 55 minutes. The pudding will rise but will fall when removed from oven.

Turkey Mole Nachos, a better leftover

November 28th, 2016

serving-nachos

Make this recipe with the very last of your turkey. Prepared by Danielle Glantz, former Chez Panisse chef and owner of Pastaio via Corta, these nachos are hipper than turkey soup. No one doesn’t love the integration of crunchy and gooey that nachos deliver. But these nachos reserve a little of the the Chez Panisse “eat local” foundation; Glantz incorporates our locally grown, Cedar Rock farms cabbages for a little healthy body.

danielle-making-nachos

The mole is adapted from a Rick Bayless recipe; it’s a little less pure than his, but definitely more authentic than something from a jar. Yes, there are a bunch of steps – the toasting of almost everything separately, then cooking down the onions and tomatoes – but the process isn’t difficult, and that is basically all the cooking necessary for this meal. A suave, mysterious, sweet and nutty sauce that glues these nacho elements together, the mole is a shy but powerful back up singer here.

izzy-shredding-turkey

We made two pans of these nachos, and served 8 people for dinner. We had 3 bags of chips, but basically the same amount of the other ingredients. In the recipe below, I anticipate the nachos will be more loaded than ours.  Lucky you.

 

Danielle’s Turkey Nachos
serves 4-6 for dinner, 8 for an appetizer.

Ingredients for the nachos:
1 cup water
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno peppers, seeded and thinly sliced
1 bag of corn chips (or more if desired.)
2 cups shredded turkey
1/2 a small green cabbage, thinly shredded
2 cups mole
12 ounces queso fresca or mozzarella cheese, grated
1 cup guacamole (mashed avocado, lime juice, salt and pepper. Izzy added chopped cherry tomatoes)
1 cup fresh cilantro, leaves only

Ingredients for the Mole
makes about 3 cups. You will happily have leftover.

Ingredients:
12 dried chiles (ancho, guajilla, whatever you have.)
5 tbsp. sesame seeds
1 tsp. whole fennel seed
1 tsp. black peppercorns
1⁄2 tsp. whole cloves
1 tsp. dried thyme
1⁄2 tsp. dried marjoram or oregano
1 dried bay leaves, crumbled
1 (1 1⁄2″) stick cinnamon, broken into pieces
approximately 3/4 cup olive oil, divided
2 cups chicken or turkey stock
1⁄4 cup skin-on almonds
1⁄4 cup raw shelled peanuts
1⁄4 cup hulled pumpkin seeds
1⁄3 cup raisins
3 stale corn tortillas or approximately 6 ounces stale bread
7 cloves garlic
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/2 pound chopped fresh tomato
1 cup grated Mexican chocolate (or dark, unsweetened chocolate)

Instructions for making mole:
Soak chilis in scalding water for 1/2 hour.
In a small skillet over medium heat toast sesame seeds for 2 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder. Toast fennel, peppercorns, and cloves, and transfer to a spice grinder with the thyme, marjoram, bay leaves and cinnamon. Grind to a powder, and transfer to a bowl. (If cinnamon does not completely grind remove the last chunks.) Set aside.
Strain chilis, reserving liquid. Pat the chilis dry, and fry quickly in 2 tablespoons oil. Transfer chilis, oil, reserved liquid to a blender and process. Set aside.
In a 8” skillet over medium heat 1/2 cup oil. Working in batches, one ingredient at a time, fry the almonds, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, and raisins until each batch is toasted brown, about 20 seconds for each. Remove to paper towels to drain.
Toast the tortillas or bread in the same oil until brown and crispy. Remove to paper towels but reserve oil.
Strain the oil from above, to get rid of any burned bits, into a medium Dutch oven. Add a few more tablespoons, and heat to medium. Add the onion and fresh tomato and cook for 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes begin to break down and the oil and liquid begin to thicken.
Add all the nuts, seeds, raisins, bread and tomato mixture to the mixture in the blender, and process to smooth.
Return this mixture to the Dutch oven, and add the toasted spices, the grated chocolate, and turkey or chicken stock. Simmer for at least 15 minutes, or up to 2 hours, adding more stock if the mixture gets too thick.

Instructions for the Nachos:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil.
About 20 minutes before assembling the nachos, soften the onion and jalapeño by bringing the water, vinegar, and salt to a boil in a sauce pan. Simmer for 2-3 minutes, and then pour hot liquid over the onion and jalapeno. Let sit for 20 minutes. Drain well when ready to serve.
Spread 1/3 the chips evenly over the baking sheet. Cover with 1/3 each of the turkey, then cabbage, drained red onion slices, jalapeño slices, a few tablespoons of mole, and then cheese. Continue with two more layers, using all those ingredients and finishing with a good layer of cheese. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is well melted and the top chips beginning to brown.
Top hot nachos with guacamole and cilantro. Serve immediately.

Say thanks, then act.

November 24th, 2016

bw-pie

Thanks is far more examined this year.

As I was baking these pies in my kitchen yesterday, I went through the annual mental ritual of thinking what am I grateful for: my glowing healthy daughters launching into the world, my very funny and ever buoyant husband, the gaggle of wonderful cousins who have blessed my life from childhood, the truly great – in the most expansive sense of the word – friends who keep me thinking and laughing. I am grateful to live in a place with clean water and air, a place with enough nature around it for owls to find it home.

At the same time, with each thanks imagined in my head bent over a crumbling pie dough, I heard a grinding of gears.

“Don’t get complacent.”

“Don’t be resigned.”

“Don’t just accept; don’t stop there.”

Thanks for me, particularly this year, is the reason to act fast, strong, and often. Because I am grateful for all of the above, I need to write letters, make phone calls, stay vigilant. Our country’s fundamental purpose is to preserve the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness for all its citizens. My list above reflects 200 years of that fundamental purpose, (albeit for a white person.) I feel the poignancy of that this year, as I’m sure we all do. No one can take the United States Constitution for granted anymore.

Nothing is clear yet, but for the first time in my life I can imagine a world that threatens all of the above. I feel as if I must do much more than just hope that doesn’t happen. The thanks we have this year must be the reason to write congress people, to write letters, to support the ACLU, to not just hope everything will work out.

I am deeply thankful, and I am therefore louder and more political online than I have been in the past.  I am thankful for that freedom, too.

Earl Mills’ Indian Pudding from “In Cod We Trust”

November 16th, 2016

 

allan-penn-photo-indian-pudding

photo credit Allan Penn

My cookbook, “In Cod We Trust, from Sea to Shore, The Celebrated Cuisine of Coastal Massachusetts,” is full of wonderful Thanksgiving recipes, from the traditional Wampanoag stew, Sobaheg, to this recipe for Indian Pudding.

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

Earl Mills’ Indian Pudding
serves 6-8

Ingredients
4 cups milk
1/3 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup molasses
2 eggs
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon grapenuts
1 tablespoon tapioca
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla
Instructions
Combine all of the ingredients in a double boiler, and whip over simmering water
Continue to cook over a low flame for an additional 1 – 1 1/2 hours, whipping occasionally, until the pudding starts to thicken. Once it starts to thicken, remove the whip and allow the pudding to thicken naturally, and forma skin or crust on top.
Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
If serving later, refrigerate. Warm in a microwave or double boiler. Add milk if necessary.

Facebook Friend Pumpkin Bars

November 16th, 2016

mgb-full-bars

 

Michelle Goddard Black and I have been following each other on Facebook since I first signed on.

A Rockport resident, Michelle regularly posts nourishing meals and the kind of desserts that would inspire a kid to clean their plate. Michelle is a serious and dedicated cook, but what inspires me most, what keeps me energetically “liking” her photos, is the joy with which she cooks for her family.

Michelle definitively cooks with love. Even through the lens of Facebook I feel how much Michelle wants her children to thrive, to learn to eat balanced dinners, to run to the dinner table. All that rises off my computer screen like steam from Michelle’s homemade minestrone. Particularly when I have felt like a grumpy mom whose dinners aren’t appreciated, Michelle’s unwavering energy is a reminder to this home cook that it is really about the love.

This is Michelle’s recipe for Pumpkin Bars. Super moist with just the right prescription of pumpkin-ness and a not-too-sweet cream cheese frosting, these bars would be a great addition to the Thanksgiving table, particularly for those couple of guests (or kids) who can’t handle the “pumpkin-ness” of pumpkin pie.

mgb-bar-and-bowl

Michelle Goddard Black’s Pumpkin Bars

makes 12 bars

Ingredients for cake:

1 cup flour

2/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup canned pumpkin

2 slightly beaten egg whites

1/4 cup oil 1/4 cup water

Ingredients for frosting:

2 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese

2 cups sifted confectionary sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

the grated peel from 1/4 of an orange or lemon

Instructions for cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease (or spray) an 11” x 7” baking dish.

In a large bowl combine dry ingredients. In a medium bowl stir to combine the wet ingredients. Fold them completely into the dry ingredients, and pour into the prepared dish. Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Cool for 15-20 minutes, and remove from pan to a cooling rack.  Cool completely, and frost top with Cream Cheese Frosting.  Cut into bars.

Instructions for frosting:

1. Beat cream cheese, 1 cup confectionary sugar, vanilla and peel until fully. Beat in remaining 1 cup sifted confectionary sugar.

mgb-bar

Essential Habanero Hot Sauce

November 13th, 2016

 

essential-habanero-hot-sauce

 

These times demand hot sauce. Steve Lantner’s recipe for Essential Habanero Hot Sauce came to me via Roger Warner. It is a fire built on sweetness. Fresh habanero chilis are pureed with sweet cooked carrots and onion, all freshened with lime. The citrusy heat of the habaneros is tempered by the carrots’ sugars. This sauce is bright and fire-y, but those carrots and lime keep it stable and fresh. It is a beautiful bright orange color.  It is a great use for all those great local carrots in the markets right now.

Spoon it on eggs, on avocado toast, on briny oysters, on a rare steak.  It will be fabulous on that post-thanksgiving day turkey sandwich.  This is a happy sauce.

Essential Habanero Hot Sauce
Yield: 2 1/2 cups

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1/4 cup lime juice
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons salt
10 habanero peppers, seeds and stems removed, chopped

Instructions
1. Combine all the ingredients, except for the habaneros, in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes or until the carrots are soft. Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Strain for a smoother sauce. Pour in sterilized jars and store in the refrigerator.

Cranberry Cake Comfort

November 11th, 2016

cranberry-cake-slices

 

Jessica Fechtor, in her beautiful book “Stir, My Broken Brain and the Meals That Brought Me Home,” explains how the ordinary tasks of life are precious when your life is suddenly, maybe tragically, not ordinary. Fechtor suffered a brain aneurysm which required multiple brain surgeries. After a year of hospitals and hospital care, the commonplaceness of making toast on her own was reverential.

Fechtor also points out that baking is implicitly an act of generosity. You can make an omelet for one, a bowl of pasta for one, even a chicken of a few meals for one, but you cannot bake a cake for one. The act of baking a cake implies you will be sharing most of it. Baking is fundamentally a gesture that promises inclusion.

cranberry-cake-loaf

 

I felt all that on Wednesday when I baked this Cranberry Cake, although I can’t say I was excited to do anything at all. I was paralyzed by Tuesday’s news. Once I started the very simple gestures of organizing the butter, the eggs, and measuring cups, to bake this cake, I began to feel what Fechtor meant: the averageness of this effort felt incredibly special in the face of the abstract and real headlines streaming high speed, all-caps, through my head.

These simple acts connected me to an ordinariness I craved. I wanted the world to be ordinary again, and something about beginning to bake a cake made me remember that parts of the world – the ordinary parts – are still here. This cake was shared with friends, friends slicing it, slicing seconds, and then nibbling at the last crumbs on the cake plate with their fingers. Beautiful ordinary.

You should know that this Cranberry Cake is more like a macaroon with cranberries in it. It has a soft, sweet center, flavored with almond extract, and a slightly crackling surface. The cranberries are the perfect tart counterpoint.

I found this recipe on The Kitchn website, but it seems to be something well circulated. When you make it you will know why. The Kitchn added an optional pecan topping, but I loved the simplicity of almond cake and cranberries. (And they made the almond extract optional; for me it’s not.) Pecans challenged all that. I baked mine in two 9” x 5” loaf pans. They made a shallow loaf, but the slices were still very satisfying.

This is not your ordinary cranberry bread from the farmstand. In fact, I served it with ice cream and made it birthday cake. With cranberries coming into season, it is the ideal birthday cake for a Scorpio.

Cranberry Cake

Makes one 10-inch springform cake. Alternately: Four 4-cup loaves or 24 to 30 cupcakes.

3 large eggs

2 cups sugar

3/4 cup unsalted butter, cubed and softened at room temperature for 1 hour

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 cups cranberries (12-ounce bag)

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Lightly grease a 10-inch springform pan (or a collection of smaller pans. This make 10 to 12 cups of batter.)

Use a stand mixer or hand beaters to beat the eggs and sugar until very smooth and increased in volume.

Beat in the butter, vanilla and almond extract. Beat for 2 minutes or until the butter is smoothly incorporated.  Fold in the flour, salt, and cranberries. The batter will be quite thick.

Spread gently into the prepared pan.

Bake 60 to 80 minutes for the springform. For smaller pans, start checking after 30 minutes, but expect small loaves to take at least 40 minutes. Tent the cake with foil in the last 30 minutes of baking to keep the top from browning. Cool for 20 minutes then run a knife around the inside edge of the pan and remove the cake. Cool for an hour before serving.

The cake keeps and freezes well. To store, wrap the fully cooled cake tightly in plastic wrap and leave in a dry, cool place for up to 1 week. To freeze, wrap the fully cooled cake in plastic wrap and then foil. Freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight at room temperature, still wrapped.

Fishermen’s Wives Fundraiser

November 8th, 2016

joe-orlandos-boat

The Sea-To-Supper dinner this past August raised over $7,000 for David Wittkower’s important documentary on the state of Gloucester fishing, working towards the goal of $65,000.

There are some exciting initiatives happening in Gloucester fishing, but first we need to keep the fleet alive. David Wittkower’s film, while presenting the harsh facts of fishing, also illustrates the warmth and heart in this industry, and why it is so important to the Gloucester community. If completed, the film will end with hope, presenting the people who are working hard to innovate Gloucester fishing, leading it to being a sustainable 21st century fleet.  The film will be a plea to the country, asking them to understand the industry, and help save it. (We saved the family farm!   (We saved the family farm!  Now it’s time to save the family fishing boat.)

With help from The Linzee Coolidge Foundation and other generous benefactors, the Wittkower project has received $41,000 to date.

On December 1st we are holding a 50/50 raffle. Half of these funds will go towards the Wittkower documentary. The remaining funds go to a raffle. You have the opportunity to win one of four prizes: $5,000, $3,000, $1,000, $1,000. We need your help. Please consider purchasing a ticket, and/or helping to sell tickets.

tickets

The drawing will be held on December 1 at the Elks in Gloucester with a reception catered by the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives.

The tickets are $100 a piece.  To purchase a ticket call or stop by the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association at 2 Blackburn Center, Gloucester, call 978-821-1590 or email asanfilippo@gfwa.org.

p.s. You do not have to be in attendance to be a raffle winner!

Green Crab Taramosalata

November 3rd, 2016

green-crab-t

 

Green crab news: There is more to green crabs than stock, which I wrote about a few years ago. (For the horrifying green crab statistics, and for the stock recipe, here is that original piece:

http://heatheratwood.com/blog/tag/green-crab-stock/)

But there is green crab news. Many people are thinking about them, from state-funded studies at UMass to private citizens like Roger Warner, who wrote the Boston Globe piece about these biblical plague. For one, scientists and interested food people are trying to figure out how best to identify soft shell green crabs in the hopes of creating a culinary market that may rival the Maryland blue crab.  (And to undermine the freakish rate at which green crabs reproduce.)

This goal remains elusive, but you can find more information on this crew’s green crab go-fund-me page:

https://www.gofundme.com/green-crabs?ssid=748814069&pos=1

A Venetian crab fisherman, Paolo Tagliapietra, visited Jonathan Taggart of Georgetown, Maine this summer and introduced a Venetian method of controlling  this species:  masanete. (mazzanette, masenete, masanette, masanètes) “Masanete” is the name for the female green crab.  In the fall, her little body is filled with roe.  Apparently, this Venetian crab fisherman taught Taggart that this roe is delicious, beloved so well by Venetians. they have a festival for it, Sagra da las Masenetes.  
(Jonathan Taggart has also come the closest, with the help of Tagliapietra, of understanding the green crab’s molting cycle.)

Roger Warner came to my house with a load of cooked crabs, and taught me about masanete and the roe easily extracted from them.

(Here is a quick green crab fact summary: green crabs (Carcinus maenas) have the pathetic acclaim of being included in the world’s 100 most invasive species. They first arrived on U.S. shores as ballast from ships leaving France and Spain, warmer European waters, in the early 19th century. Those crabs landed in New England, ate up their share of soft shell clams, but were controlled by a cold winter. A season of frigid temperatures would decimate the green crabs, and allow the clams – and mussels, urchins, eelgrass, everything else in these small monsters’ way – a reprieve. Clammers once believed that the clams loved cold temperatures, but actually it was simply the fact that the green crabs didn’t, that resulted in a mast year for clams following a harsh winter.

In the 1990’s a second brand of green crabs arrived on U.S. shores, probably also as ballast, from the colder Norwegian waters. These crabs fared better in cold climates, and bred with those green crabs already settled here, creating a monstrously hardy species that eats everything in its way. No one has really determined whether or not the green crab has a predator. Wild mussels in New England have almost all been destroyed by green crabs. Green crabs have also destroyed many hundreds of acres of eel grass from Maine to Rhode Island. As eelgrass is important spawning grounds for groundfish, some people credit this environmental destruction with contributing to the collapse of the ground fish industry.)

As of November, 2016, soft shell (Mya arenaria) clams have two friends – the clammers who make a living from them and the winter of 2014-15. The clammers do everything they can to protect soft shell clams from green crabs, covering the beds in nets, but the brutal winter of 2014-15 finally brought the green crabs to their knees. The following summer saw clam flats almost free of green crabs for the first time in years. This past summer (2016) when that “recruitment” matured (recruitment refers to the year’s seedlings), clammers were dancing in the flats. The green crabs were not around to eat the seedlings of the 2015 summer, so those clams were allowed to mature to this year’s bounty.

But, the green crabs have returned and they are mad and hungry. This year’s recruitment will be seriously compromised by a new generation of large, virile crabs.

Here is something to consider. I recently asked why restaurants are not more concerned about green crabs destroying their fried clam plates. I was told that many restaurants are simply purchasing imported clams from their distributors. These business’s problems are easily solved, so they feel no impact from this invasive crustacean. Now, you really can’t blame a business for simply trying to solve their problems. My complaint is that by purchasing imported clams, and leaving the clam rolls and clam plates on the menu, the consumer is that much more removed from this truly biblical plague. No one realizes there is ever a problem because the fried clams have never left the menu, except those might be Indonesian clams, not Essex.

green-crab-remains

 

SO, let’s eat them.  While considering finding female green crabs and celebrating their delicious roe, remember this:  you are eating the next generation of green crabs.  Eating the eggs, means diminishing the next generation of green crabs.  As a tool to impact this devastating species, eating their roe is actually the most effective.

If you can find yourself some green crabs – (Contact Roger Warner at the above website; he can lead you to them.) – first throw them in a bucket of fresh water and rinse the sand out from them. Give the bucket a few stirs, and get them moving.

Then separate the males from the females (masanetes). Both male and female tummies have a pyramid shape on them. The female pyramid is wider, and has a little “blip” on the top of it.

green-crab-female

female

green-crab-male

male

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the females when the water is rolling. Cook them for about 10 minutes. Drain, and cool until you can handle them.

Meanwhile, if you are making stock, which you can do with the males, follow the directions in the original recipe, or simply bring a new pot of water to a boil. Add the males, and cook for twenty minutes. You can also add the female shells, once you have picked them of their roe and meat. Simmer that for a good half-hour or so. Even without the stock recipe, you will acquire a nice oceany-flavored broth.

To pick the females, do this: Locate the large top shell of the crab, not hard to do. Put your fingernails under the widest side of that shell, and flip it back. Hold that large, oval shell now upside down in your palm, take the wide end of a chop stick or a small spoon, and shovel out all the orange roe  tucked in the inside of this shell. Most of it will be at one side of the shell. Spoon the roe into a small bowl.  There will be other “stuff” with it; that’s ok.  Pick out anything slightly hard, as that might be the gills.

Now, pick up the remaining body of the crab. Identify that pyramid, which determined the sex of the crab, and pull that back starting at the narrow end. By removing this pyramid, you will expose a small cavity in the crab’s body. With that wide end of the chop stick again, poke it into the cavity, and use it to flip out all the roe. There should be more roe here than in the top shell. Spoon this all into the bowl.

green-crab-roe-and-meat

green-crab-roe

You are basically going for the roe, but you will get other crab contents, too, and all that is ok. It doesn’t exactlly look like “meat;” it is sometimes dark and goopy, but therein flavor lies. The good news is you are not trying to tediously needle out miniscule amounts of crab from the tiny legs. The idea of doing that is what has made green crab meat appear like a fool’s errand.

This roe and other stuff on the other hand, is relatively easy and satisfying to remove. I cleaned about 50 crabs the other day, yielding a solid cup of roe, et al, in about 20 minutes. Today I cleaned 20 crabs in 10 minutes, yielding a 1/2 cup, and plenty to make the following recipe.

green-crabs-freshly-cooked

Roger’s wife, Sook Bin, sautéed her roe with garlic, capers and lemon, and tossed it over pasta.  I suspect this was delicious.

I made taramosalata.  Taramosalata is a Greek or Turkish spread made with leftover bread or potatoes and salted or cured roe, dressed with an acid like lemon or vinegar. The green crab roe has an earthier quality than the salty roe normally associated with taramosalata, but it still works beautifully with the bread and lemon.

green-crab-taramasalata

 

Green Crab Taramosalata

Makes about 2 cups

Ingredients 8 ounces bread – any kind of white, crusty bread, Italian or French, roughly chopped

1/2 cup mix of roe and meat – the masanete –  from the female green crabs

1 small onion, grated

1/3 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup olive oil plus more for drizzling on top

salt and pepper

pinch red pepper flakes

Instructions

  1.  Put the bread in a medium bowl, and pour cold water over it. Drain immediately, and squeeze the excess water out of the bread.
  2. Put the bread in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the roe and onion, and process lightly. Slowly pour in the lemon juice and olive oil, allowing the bread to slowly integrate the olive oil. Taste for both lemon juice and salt, salt and pepper. Add red pepper flakes, and taste again.
  3. Remove to a bowl, and smooth out the top of the spread. Drizzle some olive oil over all. Serve with crackers, celery, radish, and carrots. This can be made 2-3 hours in advance. Store in the refrigerator, but take out 15 minutes before serving so it is not super cold.

April Bloomfield’s Butternut Squash -Coconut Tart (Pie.)

October 27th, 2016

butternut-squash-coconut-pie

 

Sometimes you just need one recipe to inspire to you into a holiday.

April Bloomfield’s Butternut Squash – Coconut Tart is my Thanksgiving 2016 inspiration. (She calls it a tart, but, the recipe requires a 9” or 10” fluted pie dish, 2″ deep. It’s a pie.) I loved this pie’s perfect crust and coy departure from tradition.

The sweet, friable pastry refuses to allow a butternut squash filling to soggy it even a day later. Even two days later. The coconut milk in the filling adds a creamy, luscious, mysterious flavor that never challenges the Thanksgiving-ness of the whole thing. There is no mistaking this as a great Thanksgiving dessert, but the coconut makes it better.

For those too busy cooking (or coming up with less fatigued Thanksgiving menus) to pay attention to the hottest new chefs, Bloomfield is the winner of Food and Wine’s “Best New Chef” in 2007, winner of the 2014 James Beard award for Best New Chef in New York City. She has cooked in the The River Cafe and Chez Panisse kitchens, and owns two Michelin stars, one for The Spotted Pig, the first-ever “gastropub,” and one for The Breslin Bar & Dining Room, both in New York City. Carnivores and cooks consider her first cookbook/memoir A Girl And Her Pig exciting bedside reading.

After reading and cooking from Bloomfield’s second book, A Girl and Her Greens. I’m a believer in the accolades. Her recipes are detailed in interesting ways, not “fussy” (her word), but she understands which small efforts really make a difference. For instance, this pie. Bloomfield grates the chilled Pasta Frolla into the pie dish. The result is that decidedly separate but equal pastry.

grating-pastry

baked-crust

Dollop whipped cream on a slice, and festoon it with toasted coconut; bring on the pilgrims.

All it took was one good recipe, and my enthusiasm for this holiday with too structured a template, is re-racked.  FYI, Bloomfield’s Slow Roasted Leeks with Walnut Breadcrumbs is also on my Thanksgiving menu. (p. 192, A Girl and Her Greens.)

 

in-saran-wrap

April Bloomfield’s Butternutsquash and Coconut Tart (Pie.)

– from A Girl and Her Greens

Ingredients:

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup powdered sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large egg yolks lightly beaten
For the filling:
a 3 lb butternut squash, halved lengthwise
1 1/2 cups well stirred unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup superfine sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk

Instructions:

For the tart shell:
Sift the flour into the food processor, then add the powdered sugar, butter, and salt. Pulse the mixture until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolks and pulse until a crumbly dough forms. Scrape the dough out onto a work surface and lightly knead just until smooth. Form the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.
Cut the chilled dough into 2 or 3 large pieces and grate it through the large holes of a box grater. Use your fingers to press the dough onto the bottom and up the sides of the pie dish to create an even layer. (I used a 9” pie pan, about 2” deep, and had some pie dough and filling leftover. I was able to make 3 very sweet small tarts with these.) Prick the bottom and sides randomly with a fork to prevent the crust from rising during baking. If you have the time put in freezer for 15 minutes. (Alternately, make this in advance and keep in freezer.)
Remove the dough from freezer and lay a piece of parchment down into it. Add rice or beans or marbles to the pan to weigh down the dough. Bake just until the edges turn golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove the beans and parchment and allow the crust to cool. (Leave oven on.)

For the filling:
Place the two halves of the squash flat side down on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast until the squash is very tender when pierced with a fork, about 45 minutes.
Transfer the flesh to a blender with the coconut milk, and puree until smooth. Add the sugar and cinnamon with the blender running. Add the eggs and yolk, one at a time. Blend well until all is incorporated.
Set the pie dish on a baking sheet. Pour the filling into the crust up to 1/4” from the rim. (Again, you will have leftover.) Bake until the filling is set, 45 minutes to 1 hour. If the crust begins to get too brown, cover the pie loosely in foil for the remainder of the time.
Remove pie from the oven, and let cool to room temperature. Serve with whipped cream and toasted unsweetened coconut.