Steamed Eggplant with Spicy Red Pepper Sauce

September 2nd, 2015

eggplant platter

Eggplants runneth over in farmers’ markets this time of year: Sicilian, Thai, Japanese, Indian. Listada de Gandia, Rosa Bianca, Violet of Florence. Small, plump orbs. Long, lolling digits. Squat white pillows flecked in violet.

I’ve discovered that there is more to eggplant than parmesan or brushing them with olive oil and grilling them to charred disks.

Steaming brings out the absolute creamiest possibilities in very fresh eggplant. I had doubts about this technique at first, which is no more difficult than plunking whole eggplant into a steamer, and leaving it for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on your nightshade’s size. (A genus of the Solanacae family, eggplant or Solanum melongena, share nightshade status with tomatoes, peppers, ground cherries, tomatillas and tobacco, to name some of thousands.)

I had been concerned steaming would preserve the bitterness, or at least make the fruit watery. Nope.

I tried using the small, ovals called Fairy Tale eggplant, and I tried steaming the large round Rosa Bianca. Both were beautiful: firm and creamy, no bitterness at all, even from the seeds.

The sauce I made is Shangri-la over these freshly steamed guys. It’s a blend of hot and sweet, the ideal match to creamy and firm. Serve a platter of these at room temperature as an appetizer, or as a side dish to almost anything.  If you are a Cape Anner, there is no hyperbole high enough for what these eggplant taste like beside Trupiano’s Chicken Sausages.

About that Pimenta Moida, a favorite ingredient in my book, “In Cod We Trust;” I promise, you really can find it in your local grocery store. I buy it at Stop & Shop by the two’s. It comes in a tall glass jar, and is in the Portuguese or Spanish section. Sometimes it is called “Malagueda.” It adds the slightest bit of freshness to this sauce, but if you truly can’t find it you can substitute your own hot sauce, even Tabasco. Just taste for the proper amount, although I think these hot sauces are generally best used in half the amount of Pimenta Moida.

 

eggplant with rose

 

Steamed Eggplant with Spicy Red Pepper Sauce

serves 6 as a side dish or appetizer

Listada de Gandia, Rosa Bianca, Thai types, or small fingerling types of eggplant, 2 large eggplant or 8 small

2 teaspoons finely diced garlic

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

3 tablespoons soy sauce, or Bragg’s liquids

2 tablepoons Pimenta Moida or 1 tablespoon (or to taste) hot sauce of your choice

2 tablespoons brown sugar

chopped cilantro or parsley

Instructions

1.  Place a steamer in a large sauce pan, and fill with water appropriately.  Lay the whole eggplant, including stem, no matter what the size, in the steamer, and cover.  If your eggplant are very round you may have to cover tightly with foil rather than a lid.  Steam until a fork passes easily through the eggplant, about 15 minutes for small eggplant, and as long as 30 minutes or even more for large ones.  When totally soft, remove cover and allow eggplant to cool completely.

2.  To make sauce, whisk together all the ingredients in a glass measuring cup.

3.  To serve, cut the stems off the eggplant, and then cut the eggplant lengthwise into appropriate serving sizes, depending upon their size.  Lay out on a platter, and pour sauce over all.  Sprinkle with chopped cilantro or parsley.

I used almost the whole amount of the sauce for 2 large round eggplant.  I think this is best served immediately, but it is also delicious, just a little soupy, and the eggplant softens more, served the next day as leftovers.

Cooking from the Farmers’ Market: Smokey Eggplant Platter

August 5th, 2015

smokey eggplant with feta

I’ve recently been making this recipe, from my cookbook “In Cod We Trust, from Sea to Shore, the Cuisine of Coastal Massachusetts,” because it is truly the ideal August dish: a platter of roasted eggplant puree festooned with every color tomato you can find, all dressed in a bright vinaigrette, lest that smoky eggplant get too gloomy.

But I have been showering the whole platter in more vegetables, and adding a healthy pile of briny feta cheese. This truly ramps the whole thing up to a summer dinner.

The original recipe is from Martha’s Vineyard resident Jan Buhrman, who describes this as “one of those dishes you whip up right out of the garden or just home from the Farmer’s Market.” Yup.

Smokey Eggplant Platter

serves 4-6 as an appetizer, 2 as dinner

Ingredients

2 medium-large eggplants cut in half lengthwise.

6-8 cloves garlic wrapped in foil for the grill with 2 tablespoons olive oil

1-2 teaspoon smoked paprika, or more to taste

2 medium heirloom variety tomatoes and 1 dozen colorful cherry tomatoes

1/4 small red onion thinly sliced (in arcs) or 1/4 cup chopped scallions

6-8 ounces good quality feta cheese, or more to taste

⅛ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

juice of one lemon

1/2 cup freshly chopped parsley or shredded basil

1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Instructions Light the grill, allow it to get hot. Place the eggplant skin side down on grill. (Alternatively, do this in a very hot skillet, with a tablespoon or 2 of olive oil, on the stove.)

Place foil package of garlic on the grill. (or roast in a 375 degree F. oven for 20 minutes) Remove the garlic from the grill after 5 minutes, but leave it in the foil as it will continue to cook.

Cook eggplant until the skin is charred, turning as needed, and each half completely collapsed. You should be able to stick a knife into all parts of the flesh with no resistance at all. Allow to cool.

Into the bowl of a food processor scrape the eggplant flesh out of its skin. Squeeze in the roasted pulp from garlic head. Add the paprika and process very lightly, not letting it get too smooth. Spread the eggplant onto the center of a platter, pushing it neatly around to the size of a dinner plate. Arrange tomatoes on top of eggplant. I like to use a variety of cuts: one tomato sliced. one tomato cut into edges, small cherry tomatoes cut into halves, etc for variety and interest. Sprinkle on the onions or scallions, and feta. In a small bowl or glass measuring cup mix together olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, chopped parsley (or basil), salt and pepper, and distribute all over the tomatoes and eggplant.  Serve with toasted pita wedges or sturdy crackers.

cooking from the farmers’ market: 1874 Nantucket Corn Pudding with Swiss Chard, Tomatoes and Smoked Cod

July 21st, 2015

Corn Pudding w smoked cod and vegetables

Arrowhead Farms from Newburyport brought their first homegrown corn to the Rockport Farmers’ Market last Saturday. Those extra June rainstorms, farmer Justin Chase told me, was just enough to send the coastal Massachusetts cornstalks skywards, and to plump the yellow kernels.

corn

I knew right away what I would make for dinner that night. Reminding myself of the treasures I found researching my cookbook, I’ve recently been cooking from In Cod We Trust, the Celebrated Cuisine of Coastal Massachusetts.” I will boldly say, in honest celebration of the coast of Massachusetts, that there are some wonderful recipes here that people would be proud to have in their repertoire.

This “1874 Nantucket Corn Pudding,” discovered on a hand-written card within a family file in the Nantucket Historical Society, may be antique, but it is the most wonderful thing to do with sweet, tender local corn. “Like corn-on-the-cob in a cloud,” 1874 Nantucket Corn Pudding elevates New England sweet corn from the farm yard to the throne.  A farmers’ market in June or August is exactly the place to look for flavors that will compliment this ethereal dish.

 

Arrowhead beets

 

Shopping at my farmers’ market in Rockport, I created a stacked dinner with the corn pudding as the centerpiece. My first layer began with swiss chard, stems removed and chopped separately, all sauteed for 15-20 minutes with olive oil and garlic. Upon the swiss chard I rested a healthy square of corn pudding, which is easily made ahead, and divine served at room temperature on a warm day. Over that I tumbled a salad of chopped fresh tomato, red onion, fresh basil, olive oil and salt and pepper. Meaty chunks of Sasquatch Smoked Cod came over the tomatoes, and a freshly whipped-together aioli was spooned on top as an added measure of decadence.

Feel free to adapt the stack with what you find in your farmers’ market; my basic rule is that crops arriving in the same season usually taste good together. Strawberries and rhubarb. Tomatoes and corn. Butternut squash and apples.

So, almost anything in your farmers’ market this month would love to cozy up to corn pudding, which, again, is delicious served at room temperature on a hot night. Like so many summer market recipes, this one begs aggressive adapting. My next corn pudding trial might look like this: sliced beefsteak tomatoes + corn pudding square + a Geno Mondello codcake (also in the cookbook) + crispy Seaview Farm bacon + red pepper mayonnaise. See?

But the cornerstone of this stacked recipe is that corn pudding, the simple virtues of which were already well known almost 150 years ago “away off shore.”

CP2

1874 Nantucket Corn Pudding with Swiss Chard, Tomatoes & Smoked Cod

serves 4

Swiss chard and Garlic (recipe below)

1874 Nantucket Corn Pudding  (recipe below)

Tomato Salad (recipe below)

1 large piece, about 1/2 pound, smoked cod

Aioli (recipe below)

For the Swiss Chard

ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil + more for drizzling

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 pound swiss chard, stems removed and diced, and leaves loosely chopped

salt and pepper

Instructions

1. In a wide skillet heat olive oil to medium.  Add garlic and cook for 3-5 minutes or until soft.  Add swiss chard stems, and cook for another 5 minutes or until stems begin to soften.  Add leaves, stirring all together well, and cook for 10-15 more minutes or until the leaves are soft and have lost their raw taste.  Add more olive oil if desired, and season with salt and pepper.

1874 Nantucket Corn Pudding (recipe from the “In Cod We Trust, from Sea to Shore, the Celebrated Cuisine of Coastal Massachusetts,” halved)

6 ears of fresh corn or 3 cups kernels

1 cup loosely crushed oyster crackers (not too fine)

1/2 teaspoon salt

black pepper to taste

2 cups whole milk

3 eggs, lightly beaten

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter a 2 quart glass baking dish.  With a food processor pulse the corn many times to achieve a mixture of half-ground and half-whole corn kernels.  Pour into a large bowl.

Stir in remaining ingredients, and mix together well.  Pour into a prepared dish.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until a fork inserted in the center comes out clean.  Serve warm or room temperature.

Tomato Salad

Ingredients

1 pound ripe red tomatoes, chopped

1/2 medium red onion, halved, and sliced into thin arcs

1 handful chopped basil

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Mix all together in a small bowl, and let sit for 10 minutes.

Aioli

Ingredients

2 egg yolks

1 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon wine vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

2 cups oil (I like 1 1/2 cups olive oil, and the rest either canola or walnut.)

Instructions

Place all the ingredients except the oil in a bowl, and stir with a wire whisk.  Add the oil slowly, whisking at the same time.  Keep mixing, adding the oil a little faster as the aioli begins to bind.  Remaining aioli will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.

To Assemble Dish

In shallow bowls, like pasta dishes or shallow soup bowls, put a layer of swiss chard, scattering the brightly colored stem pieces around the edges.  Lay a square of corn pudding on top.  Next divide the tomatoes among the dishes.  Put about a 1/2 cup of smoked cod, separated into chunks, on top of the tomatoes.  Top with aioli, and serve.

Rockport Farmers' Market

Broken Lasagna with Patty Pan Squash and Sausage

July 14th, 2015

Farmers' Market Pasta 2

I recently stood on the selling side of a small mountain of First Light Farms’ Patty Pan squash at the Rockport Farmers’ Market. These are the squash that look like a squat UFO with a ruffle around its tummy. Sometimes they are pale green and sometimes they are canary yellow.

Patty pan squash

 

“What do I do with these?” – I must have been asked thirty times that day. I tried to tell people that Patty Pan squash are sweet, firm and delicious when cut into wedges, steamed, and served with butter, salt and pepper. And they are. Unlike many summer squashes, Patty Pan squash do not reduce to water and seeds when cooked. But, this wasn’t enough of a recipe to convince my Patty-curious public. I knew there were also recipes that start with cutting off the top of each squash, and refilling them with buttered, seasoned breadcrumbs and some yummy cheese. But I also knew I probably wouldn’t make these myself this week. That was more of company thing. I would come home from this Farmers’ Market Saturday afternoon with bags of vegetables to organize and put away, and the last thing I would be doing for dinner would be stuffing small squashes.

When I did get home, and unpacked my Farmers’ Market bounty, I began to think what would I quickly do with these amusing squash besides decorate? My other Farmers’ Market purchases began to answer my question.

Sweet, lightly seasoned Trupiano tomato and cheese sausages would provide just enough rich, meaty background, tipping the flavors away from tasting too eat-your-veggies-virtuous, making the dish just a little bit prodigal. The earthbound honesty of First Light Farms onions and garlic would add much more flavor than their straight grocery store versions, I couldn’t go wrong with them. Big handfuls of aromatic fresh basil would unite it all, along with some Parmigiano-Reggiano from my refrigerator.

I realized early into the recipe-imagining that this was going to be pasta, and the pasta shape was important. I wanted to retain the squash as large chunks, preserving the fleshy character of those cute Patty Pans. What kind of pasta could be large enough to comfortably partner with a shard of squash? Rotini or shells might just “elbow” the squash away, threatening to become two dishes in the bowl: squash vs. pasta.

broken lasagna

 

I chose lasagna noodles broken up by hand into uneven shapes. Ultimately, the broad, wide noodles both hugged and carpeted the Dumpling nuggets. I tossed all with some very coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (Almost everything in this dish is in chunks), and a blast of fresh herbs.

The resulting dinner was beautifully balanced, a fine harvest of Farmers’ Market flavors and textures. It tasted even better cooled just a bit, almost at room temperature. If you make it, let the pasta sit in the pan for a few minutes, and go take a walk around your garden before dinner.

Most of my recipes are not complicated, but I’m about to begin a series on cooking from the Farmers’ Market, that will probably seem simpler than usual, because that’s the way summer home cooking with fresh local ingredients should be.

Farmers' Market Pasta

 

Farmers’ Market Pasta, or Broken Lasagna with Patty Pan Squash and Sausage

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil, more for finishing

3 links of Trupriano’s tomato and cheese sausage (or other sausage of your choice) cut into 3/4” pieces

6-7 small red onions, about 1/3 pound, halved and cut into wedges

2 teaspoons diced garlic

5 patty pan squash (about 1 pound) halved and chopped into 3/4” chunks

salt and pepper to taste

3/4 cup (or more to taste) coarsely chopped Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino cheese

1 cup chopped fresh basil, plus 1/4 cup for garnishing

1 pound lasagna, broken into large pieces

Instructions:

1.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

2.  Heat olive oil to medium in a large skillet. Add sausage, and cook for 10 minutes, or until almost cooked through. Add onions, and cook for 2 minutes to soften. Lower temperature, and add garlic. Cook for 10 minutes, or until onions and garlic are soft and clear.   Add squash, and toss well together. Cook for 20-25 minutes or until squash is soft and all begins to meld like a sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3.  Meanwhile, add pasta to pot and cook according to the box. Drain, and add pasta to the skillet with the vegetables. Toss gently. Add cheese and toss again. This pasta is almost better allowed to cool a bit, and not served piping hot, so leave in the uncovered skillet for 10 minutes, then stir in the basil. Drizzle in more olive oil, if the dish seems dry. Taste again for salt and pepper. Serve in bowls, garnished with more fresh basil, and salt and pepper.

A modern way with Salt Cod

June 30th, 2015

 

Asgeir

Asgeir Benediktsson was born and raised in Iceland. In his yellow clapboard Rockport home, speaking English framed in a sturdy Icelandic accent, he says “in Iceland there are two meals a day: one is fish and one is lamb. As children we may have complained about having fish once again, but our plates were always clean.”

At twelve years old Benediktsson, now 54, learned from his father to cold-smoke haddock and salmon. Soon father and son were smoking 500 to 1,000 kilos of haddock at a time. Cold-smoked haddock, warmed and served with mashed potatoes and butter, is as classic a child’s meal in Iceland as America’s hotdogs and beans. Benediktsson attended a four year college for fish processing, a degree that must certainly be unique to Iceland, such a fish-forward country. There he learned every method of safely extending a haddock’s shelf-life, from canning to making stockfisk.

Afterward, Benediktsson went on to have career in fish processing that mimicked the world migration of a school of tuna. In South Africa Benediktsson created a fish processing plant with 500 employees on the floor. Working in Portugal he saw the old method of salting and hanging cod, with strings hung over the racks to deter seagulls, still practiced.

A world traveling fish-lover, Benediktsson says, “everywhere I go, I go to the fishmarket.”

But it was those early years smoking haddock with his father, burning oak and lumber from a neighboring shipyard, that facilitated a move to the U.S. Two years ago, following a long held interest of living in this country, Benediktsson accepted a job as Head of Fish Smoking at Whole Foods.

As mentioned, Benediktsson calls Rockport home now, with his wife, Sigrun, and teenage daughter, Gudrun. (The Benediktsson have left three grown children and a flock of grandchildren behind in Iceland.) He has since left Whole Foods to work for the Gloucester fish processor, Mazzetta Company, LLC

I first met the Benediktsson and his wife when we were all inducted as new members into Spiran Lodge, the Scandinavian Society of Rockport. Over one of the diverse Spiran Lodge potluck suppers, Benediktsson and I learned we share a passion for salted cod, his life-long, mine nascent. In the process of writing my book, “In Cod We Trust, From Sea to Shore, the Celebrated Cuisine of Coastal Massachusetts,” (Globe Pequot Press), I learned not to not just appreciate salt cod’s singular texture and taste, but to be a cheerleader for it.

As Benediktsson says, “salted cod has more flakes; it has more flavor.” Again, with that definitive stamp of a language that sounds like king’s English pooled with Norwegian, Benediktsson says, “I prefer cod salted.”

He is not alone. The French and Spanish have no word in their language for fresh cod because they only eat their Gadus morhua salted. La morue in French, bacalao in Spanish, salt cod is revered in these countries; these countries consider the fresh version of cod insipid. Most Americans have little residual affection for salt cod, upon which fortunes were made in the not so distant past, and few even remember it, but Portuguese communities in New Bedford, and some Italians still adore it.

“In Cod We Trust” has a number of recipes for salt cod: a baked version slathered in a spicy Portuguese tomato sauce, a fritter with mint and parsley that makes a delicious cocktail bite, a Finnish recipe baked with potatoes and salt pork which results in a broth more fragrant than the best chowder, and a fluffy fish cake from Louise Kenyon, once a Folly Cove designer. Kenyon describes her fish cake as “very superior fish cakes.”

I confess that working with salt cod is initially tricky. It’s important to find high quality pieces, which means a thick chunk far from the tail. You should be able to see your salt cod; don’t buy it in the wooden box, no matter how cute you think it is. (I find that brand the worst.) Salt cod should not really have a smell, except of salt. It requires soaking for at least 24 hours, changing the water many times, and then I simmer it in milk for another ten minutes just to make sure it is tender. But the results are truly something worth trying. The preservation changes the molecular structure of the fish, resulting in something firm and distinctive, the way prosciutto is different than ham.

And yet, if that process seems daunting, Asgeir Benediktsson has taught me a simpler way to achieve these singular salted cod qualities. Benediktsson brines a piece of cod for 24 hours, rinses it, and it’s ready to cook. “This way fits much better into the modern world,” Benediktsson says. I have prepared cod this way a couple of times, and the results are wonderful. The fish adopts just enough of the salted cod character – the flakes becoming thicker and more defined, the flavor becomes slightly sweeter – without the erratic toughness that the old world salted cod sometimes produces.

Along with this brining technique, Benediktsson also provided me with two wonderful recipes for cooking the cod. Both are brilliant. The first results in what I call an “instant, machine-less sous-vide,” the modern method of cooking very slowly at low temperatures, retaining more flavor than food prepared at higher temperatures, and resulting in a velvety texture.

In this case, the salted cod is removed from the brine and rinsed. A pot of water is brought to a boil. At the boil, the heat is turned off, and the fish is put in, covered, for exactly 7 minutes. I have not had such a perfectly cooked piece of fish in years. I served this cod with a simple homemade aioli and steamed potatoes, Icelandic style. The flavors made a delicate little bagatelle of a meal, a perfect dinner. (The photo here shows halibut prepared this way. As it was a thicker than a cod loin, I left it in the water for a total of 12 minutes. Use your judgement for thicker, denser fish, but I find this worked beautifully.)

Icelandic meal

 

 

Benediktsson’s second recipe is more expansive, but equally perfect. The salted cod is removed from the brine, and placed on a baking sheet covered with a pistachio “salsa.” The fish is roasted, and then served over a pile of lime and chili flavored mashed sweet potatoes. This dish’s origins may have been far from Iceland and but the results, I’ll boldly say, are closer to paradise. Again, this wide range of textures and flavors united into a dish not short of a masterpiece. This should be your next “company” dinner.

 

cod with pistachio salsa and sweet potatoes

 

 

The Recipes, serve 4

For the brine:

Ingredients for 4 cod loins, about 2 1/2 pounds –  a 10 ounce loin per person

12 cups water 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon salt

Instructions

Mix together salt and water to dissolve. Place brine and fish in a securely covered plastic tub, and let sit for 24 hours.

Perfect Fish in 7-Minutes

Ingredients:

Brined cod from recipe above.

Instructions:

In a saute pan or skillet large enough to hold the fish, or even a stock pot, bring about 3 inches of water water to a boil. Remove fish from brine and rinse well. When the water boils, turn off the heat, and add the fish. Cover immediately, and let fish sit for exactly 7 minutes. Remove from pan, and serve immediately. This is delicious with aioli, or an herb butter.

Asgeir’s Cod with Sweet Potatoes and Pistachio Salsa

Ingredients:

Brined cod from recipe above

1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1” chunks

1-2 potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1” chunks (about 1/3 pound)

1 red chili, seeds removed (divided)

3 1/2 tablespoons lime juice, approximately (divided)

1 tablespoon butter, approximately

1/2 cup chopped pistachios

peel from 1 lemon

2 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup chopped parsley

salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

1.  To prepare the potatoes, place sweet and white potatoes in a pot of water to cover. Add 1/2 the red chili to the pan, and bring to a boil. Cook for 15-20 minutes, or until potatoes are soft. Remove the chili, and strain the potatoes. Return to the pot, and mash them with 1/2 tablespoon lime and the butter. (I used an emulsion blender for this.) Add salt and pepper to taste. You may need to add more lime and butter, also, at this point. Keep warm and set aside.

2.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Remove the fish from the brine, and rinse it. Pat dry, and lay on a foil lined baking sheet. In a small bowl mix together the pistachios, remaining lime juice, lemon peel, olive oil, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Distribute mixture over fish.

ready to bake

 

 

3.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until fish is fully cooked. (Do not overcook, but watch the pistachios carefully. If they look as if they might blacken too soon, cover with aluminum foil) Distribute the warm sweet potatoes among 4 plates. Serve each cod loin on top of the sweet potatoes. Serve immediately.

 

– first glimpse at my book.

June 28th, 2015

My cookbook is promised to be on shelves by mid-July, but thank you Boston Sunday Globe Magazine for featuring “In Cod We Trust, the Celebrated Cuisine of Coastal Massachusetts” in today’s paper.  Here’s the link if you want a preview, and a few favorite recipes:

http://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2015/06/27/recipes-from-new-coastal-massachusetts-cookbook/Qq4Xyo0gBJfWkH18skqZDM/story.html

All photos here by Allan Penn.

 

MAG0628_CookingClams

 

CLAMS BULHAO PATO

Serves 6 as a first course

Bulhao Pato was a 19th-century Lisbon poet, but everyone seems to remember only his clam recipe. If his verse were as simple and succinct as his clams, it, too, might be famous. Clams Bulhao Pato has exactly what is needed to make shellfish wonderful — a little garlic, a little hot chili, a little lemon juice, and cilantro. It is clam poetry.
48 littleneck or mahogany clams (about 5 pounds)

Salt, to taste

4 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons minced garlic

3 or 4 dried hot chilies, crumbled, or 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or more, to taste

1 small bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

Scrub the clams under running water, place them in a large bowl of salted water, and set aside for 30 minutes to help eliminate some of the sand. Drain.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the garlic and chilies or red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring, until soft and fragrant, taking care not to burn the garlic. Add clams, cover skillet, adjust heat to medium, and cook, checking the clams occasionally, until they are all open, about 10 minutes (smaller clams take longer to open). Add the lemon juice, replace the cover, and set the skillet off heat for about a minute, shaking a few times to distribute the juices. Divide the clams and liquid among heated serving bowls, sprinkle with cilantro, and serve at once.

We’ve been busy planning….

June 16th, 2015

prepping

We’ve been very busy –  sourcing vendors, planning menus, sending invitations.

At Rockport Exchange are very excited because this is our KICK-OFF weekend for the Farmers’ Market season (#rkptfarmersmarket)!

Friday Night, the first ever (SOLD OUT!) Seaview Farm and Rockport Exchange farm-to-table dinner will be served right beside the Seaview Farm barn. The meal will be prepared by chefs Sheila Jarnes and Robin Swayze, both from Short & Main in Gloucester.

Guests will sip a French 75 cocktail, while examining the porch view and vegetable fields of this seven-generation Rockport Farm.

Here’s the first we hope of many Rockport-born menus:

a cheese board created by our new neighbors, the folks at the Common Crow.

Swiss chard cakes with saffron aioli

smoked haddock rillettes

Seaview Farms soft-cooked eggs with aioli and anchovies

Nisu from Claire Franklin, the original Spiran Lodge recipe

Seaview Farm mixed greens with radishes, pea shoots, and green garlic vinaigrette

Braised Seaview Farms brisket, horseradish aioli, pickled red onion, & arugula on baguette

Braised Seaview Farms short ribs with salsa verde

Blanched asparagus, snap pea, mint and preserved lemon salad

Marinated potato salad with capers, olives, and herbs

Mayflour Confections Strawberry & Rhubarb Shortcakes

The VERY NEXT MORNING is the FIRST Rockport Farmers’ Market of the season, June 20th.

We hope to see all of our old friends there, and many new friends this year. We have many new vendors – but not THAT many – remember, we believe it’s possible to have a great farmers’ market with a couple of very good farmers, a loaf of bread, a bottle of wine, and thou.

About that bottle of wine? – Need a house gift for that evening?  A last minute bottle of wine to take out on the boat?  We’re very proud to be able to offer Massachusetts grown, acclaimed Westport Rivers wines, on menus in many five-star restaurants including Frank McClelland’s L’Espalier.

To find out about our new Ice Lollie vendor, our fabulous new coffee person who also sells quinoa, new pastry people, and more vendors attending this year’s Rkpt Farmers’ Market, go to this link: http://us8.campaign-archive1.com/?u=30742c81775084c225003f80b&id=3380156aac&e=7b853b9c09

ALSO!  Don’t forget that Spiran Lodge’s Midsummer Fest is also in Harvey Park this  Saturday morning!  – There will be lots of wonderful Scandinavian foods, music, dance, and handcrafted goods.

Nisu for sale

Cedar Rock Garden’s Best Kale Recipe

June 11th, 2015

 

cedar and rock

 

The rocks emerge around and within the stands of cedar trees, their piney breath fragrant on a hot day in May. The pale spring grasses of Walker Creek’s low tide stretch like a bleached wood beyond the forest-green limbs of the cedars. Among all this Elise Jillson and Tucker Smith are growing flowers, a list of eighty-two varieties from alliums to zinnias, annuals and perennials, and a healthy crop of vegetables.  Nettles are flying off the farm right now, destined for ravioli centers at Short & Main, and other local restaurants.  This is Cedar Rock Gardens in W. Gloucester.

 

CRF greenhouse

 

Elise, Tucker, Barn

Jillson’s flower-growing inspiration was born from her work with a local landscaper.

“Can we just farm flowers?” she began to ask, and planted a small flower garden of her owm.  With a local florist, Jillson studied making arrangements.  An earlier trip to Guatemala had made Jillson cognizant of local agricultural economies, and suddenly she saw one right here on Cape Ann in locally grown delphinium and sunflowers.

 

Tucker Smith

 

Tucker Smith’s family owns this rocky, cedar-generous acreage. Smith had graduated from the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at U Mass. After work in construction and masonry, after apprenticing on farms around the world, Smith landed back in Essex in 2010. For two years he partnered with Noah Kellerman of Alprilla Farm, but Cedar Rock Farm called.

Working at Alprilla, Smith knew his family’s property could be transformed to agriculture from the exotic animal farm it had been when Tucker’s father was alive, but Smith knew he needed to start soon.

“I knew if I didn’t start over here (meaning home) when I was young I never would.”

Clearing a New England field of boulders, barn-building with Kickstarter funds, wrangling family over an enormous oak in the middle of a potentially verdant field (for years planted with strawberries), these are missions for twenty-somethings.  Jillson is 26 and Smith 27.

 

Family Tree

 

Jillson’s and Smith’s first flower and young vegetable crops will be available in the Ipswich and Cape Ann farmers’ markets, Wednesday 3:30 – 6:30 and Thursday 3:00 – 6:30 respectively. Their just-cut-yesterday flowers and vegetables, raised using organic practices (although not certified organic) will also be featured in local restaurants.  Mostly, the Cedar Rock people are hoping that weddings and events all over the North Shore this year will feature glorious bouquets of flowers raised on Walker Creek breezes.  Plan your nosegays now.

 

garlic patch

(Tucker Smith and Noah Kellerman are still good friends, and collaborate on certain projects, but mostly they enjoy meeting in canoes in the middle of Essex Bay, far from each of their fields.)

To get in touch with Cedar Rock Gardens, or to place a flower order:

Elise Jillson:  978-471-9979

Ford Tucker Smith:  978-879-9592

CedarRockGardens@gmail.com

299 Concord St., Gloucester, MA  01930

Jillson promises there will be many bags of curly and lacinato kale for sale at the Cape Ann Farmers’ Market this Thursday. Here’s her current, favorite kale recipe;  I will have a bag of this in my refrigerator at all times, starting tomorrow.

I start with two bunches of kale (either type but I love the curly kale), chopped up with the stems removed in a 1 gallon ziplock bag. Squeeze a whole lemon into the bag with the kale, mince a few pieces of garlic and throw it in the bag. Then add about 1/8 cup of olive oil – add salt to your liking. Option 1: zip the bag up tight and shake it till everything is coated. Option 2: Stick your hand in there and stir everything around until it is coated. Put it in the fridge and enjoy all week! Each day it is in the fridge it will get more tender if you give it a shake or stir.

Bourbon Barbecue Ribs

June 9th, 2015

platter of ribs

 

For good reason, some people think the Cambridge grocer Formaggio Kitchen is Fromaggio Kitchen, if only because the cheese case there represents The Louvre of what happens when the world’s sweetest milk meets the world’s funkiest bacteria. Cheese reigns at Formaggio Kitchen. The staff speaks casually of ashen pyramids from obscure Dolomite villages, population 300. I once asked about a rare raw cow’s milk cheese, pressed with ferns, from Romagna.

“You mean Cacio Raviggiolo?” the Formaggio Cheese-ist asked without lifting head from cutting into a wheel of Harbison.

“Unfortunately, they make too little for it to ever cross a border.”

There is much more than cheese inside this small storefront on Huron Ave. (also in Boston’s South End and NYC). Whether it’s coffee or morels, “delicious” at Formaggio Kitchen is consistent, so, naturally, a barbecue package from Formaggio is worth a trial.

Barbecue condiments usually just blur in my eyes, the infinite variety of ketchupy sauces and the little bottles of fire-liquid that come with with chest-pounding challenges of Scoville-scored heat. Whatever.

But a Formaggio product makes me think twice. If anyone in that store knows even half as much about applying indirect heat to meat as they do about Comte, a Formaggio assortment of stuff to use when you’re making barbecue must be pretty good.

IMG_7640

 

Here’s their gutsy barbecue package:

1.  Cool, crisp and spicy McClure’s Pickles

2.  Rancho Gordo Yellow Indian Woman Heirloom dried beans

3.  Rancho Gordo Rio Fuego or Very Hot Sauce

4.  A small tin of Formaggio Dry Rub

5.  Sir Kensington’s Ketchup, a condiment born when Catherine the Great asked the British noble at his gourmet dinner party for some “ketchup” to go with the Wagyu Beef. Kensington went in the kitchen and made up this stuff, as the story goes. (Kensington was already a member of the National Geographic Society and the Guild of Pepperers.)

6.  A pale yellow, crumbly wedge of Cabot Clothbound Cheddar Cheese, Silver Medalist at the 2012 World Cheese Awards. It wouldn’t be a Formaggio package without cheese.

So here’s what happened. I made the Rancho Gordo beans the night before, soaking them, simmering them in sweated vegetables and water for a while, draining them and tossing with roasted poblano peppers, olive oil, red wine vinegar and lemon. They were pretty tasty.

Rancho Gordo beans

The Cabot Clothbound turned out to be a faultless bite of sharpness to have with a cold, dry beer while waiting for the ribs to grill.

The Ribs. We have made this recipe before, a recipe basically from the Backyard Barbecue Bible, which we adapted here to include the Formaggio Team: the Formaggio Dry Rub (mystery ingredients, but excellent) coated the ribs, and they marinated in that overnight. The next day the ribs were wrapped in foil and baked slowly at a low temperature for two hours. The meat is just wonderfully tender at that point, and the rub honestly penetrated. Then more rub is added, and the ribs are finished to crispy edges and still tender centers on the grill.

ribs off the grill

Our traditional Bourbon Barbecue Sauce got Formaggio-ed; instead of Heinz here we used the Sir Kensington Ketchup. Instead of Tabasco we used Rancho Gordo Rio Fuego.

We’ve made these ribs before, remember, but never have they had the depth of flavor, heat, and, it’s worth saying again, flavor. These were complicated ribs: sweet without tasting like molasses or corn syrup. Five different notes of heat – as in “do, me, so, ti, and la” – played up the scale. Coffee, berries, honey, charcoal – flavors like that, all lavished upon the fire-bitten sides and warm tender collapse of farm-raised pork.

The truest test of deliciousness came with a sip of Barbera D’Alba. Somewhere in their roots the words Barbera and Barbecue must be related, because rarely has a food and wine met with such holy potency. This was a Sunday Supper. 

platter on table

Bourbon Barbecue Ribs

Ingredients

4-5 pounds baby back ribs

Formaggio Dry Rub or dry rub of your choice (Make sure you set aside 2 tablespoons for grilling later.)

Bourbon Barbecue Sauce with Sir Kensington’s Ketchup

Instructions

1.  One day in advance: To prepare the ribs, strip off the thin membrane on the lower side. Make a cut or two into the membrane at one end of the rack, pushing the knife or your fingers under it to pull it off. It usually comes off easily.

2.  Coat the ribs well with the rub, and place in large plastic bags. Let sit overnight. (The rub and meat juices become a marinade.)

3.  The next day, at least 3 hours before serving time, preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Remove ribs from bags and wrap securely in foil. Place on baking sheets, and bake at this slow temperature for 2 hours. The meat should begin to shrink away from the ends of the bones, exposing them a bit. The meat should pull apart with no resistance.

4.  If you plan on grilling the ribs right away, fire up the grill, bringing the temperature to medium (4-5 seconds with the hand test). If you want to delay the grilling for more than an hour, cool the ribs, opening the foil to speed the process. Rewrap the ribs in the foil and refrigerate them until about 30 minutes before you plan to grill.

5.  Sprinkle the top side of the racks of ribs evenly with the remaining rub. Grill the ribs uncovered over medium heat for a total of about 20 minutes. Grill on each side for about 7 minutes to crisp. At this point, brush the ribs generously with the sauce and cook for about 6 minutes more, letting each side face the fire briefly. (Do Not be tempted to add the sauce earlier than this or the sugars in it will burn, and ruin your beautiful flavor.)

6.  The ribs are done when very tender with a surface that’s crisp in some spots and gooey with the sauce in others. Slice into individual ribs and pile on a platter. Serve with more sauce and paper towels!

Bourbon Barbecue Sauce with Sir Kensington Ketchup

Ingredients

1 cup Sir Kensington ketchup

1/4 cup molasses 2 tablespoons packed light or dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

3-4 tablespoons Jim Beam Bourbon

salt, optional

Instructions

1. Combine the ketchup, molasses, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, butter, mustard, onion powder, pepper, and chili powder in a saucepan with 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a bare simmer and cook for 5-10 minutes until thickened lightly. Stir in the bourbon and simmer another couple of minutes. Taste and add a bit of salt if needed, then cook for another minute or two. Sauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

 

SUnday dinner

Dressings for a Variety of Salad Moods

May 31st, 2015

 

greens

Recently, reader David Calvo charged me with a salad dressing column, saying, “with summer near, (and so many) farmers market greens, and a bounty of vegetables, salad dressing can be the glue that sticks it all together!”

That’s a perfect way to say it.

But the salad category is almost infinite, starting with potato and ending in pasta, so I chose five dressings that would coat lettuces alone. A bowl of locally grown mizuna, curly green leaf lettuce, Bibb lettuce, and handfuls of lemon balm and shiso from my garden was the basic canvas for my dressing trials. I wanted dressings that had enough flavor-packed “glue” to elevate leaves to something special, and to give people a roster of standby dressings they can turn to for any occasion.

Together this dressing collection represents a variety of salad moods: a light Asian themed dressing, a spare ingredient list but liberal flavor, would be delicious as a bed for Weeping Tiger marinated beef or simply beside a bowl of spicy peanut noodles. There is a classic Balsamic Dressing made a little more complex with the addition of Dijon mustard and walnut oil. There is a garlic-y cashew dressing with the heft of Caesar Salad dressing, but without the heaviness or – dare I say – predictability of the same old Caesar.  From my new cookbook, due out in weeks, there is a recipe from Rowley, MA for Bibb lettuces tossed in a warm bacon vinaigrette, a recipe that frames the classic Massachusetts spring moment when the first lettuces are ruffling in a stiff wind, and it’s too gray and damp outside to eat cold salad for dinner.

Calvo specifically asked for a homemade Red Pepper Dressing, which, after a couple of trials, I think I’ve found. This is the one dressing below that begs for a little more, so toss the greens amply in the cadmium-red dressing, sprinkle good quality feta cheese , some toasted walnuts, and it will taste like a deconstructed edition of the Turkish roasted red pepper and walnut spread, muhammara, an unusual but delicious dinner salad.

red pepper dressing

 

 

Most salad dressings are best used almost immediately after being mixed together, as the brightness fades over time. The cashew and avocado dressings here can be made ahead, but be sure to taste them for seasoning before using.

These salad dressings are excellent basics to have in the repertoire.   As David Calvo encourages, I entreat people to send their favorite salad dressing recipes, so the roster can be that much stronger; the possibilities are infinite!

Classic Balsamic Vinaigrette

Ingredients

1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

salt to taste

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons walnut oil

Instructions 1. In a small mixing bowl or large glass measuring cup, combine the vinegars with the mustard and salt, then whisk in the oils until emulsified.

Soy Sauce Vinaigrette

Ingredients

1 tablespoon soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid Amino Acids

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon canola or olive oil

Instructions

1.  In a small bowl, or the bottom of the salad bowl you will be using, whisk together the soy sauce and vinegar. Slowly drizzle in the sesame and canola or olive oils, and whisk until emulsified. If using the salad bowl, place the washed and dried greens on top, and toss well with the dressing. Otherwise pour dressing over greens and toss well.

Cashew Dressing

Ingredients

1/4 cup milk (or water if you prefer a vegan edition)

1/3 cup raw cashews

1 large garlic clove

1/4 cup olive oil

juice of 1/2 a large lemon

salt to taste

freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro (optional)

Instructions

1.  Heat the milk or water in a saucepan or microwave. Put the cashews in a food processor, and process, adding the warm liquid, until the nuts become a fine puree. If mixture is too thick to dress a salad, add more milk or water. You want it the consistency of a Caesar Salad dressing.

2.  Add the garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Taste for seasonings. Add cilantro if desired. This dressing can be made in advance, but taste it for seasonings before using. The acids tend to become less bright over time, so it will need more lemon juice.

Rowley Wilted Salad from In Cod We Trust, the Celebrated Cuisine of Coastal Massachusetts

3 slices good quality, nitrate-free bacon

8 cups Bibb lettuce, washed, dried well, and torn into 2” pieces

2 tablespoons chives

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

Instructions

1.  Cook bacon in a skillet until crispy. Drain bacon on paper towels when done, and set aside. Pour grease from bacon into a jar and reserve. Wipe clean the skillet. Toss lettuce leaves with chives in a salad bowl.

2.  Heat the skillet again, and return 3 tablespoons of bacon drippings to it. Add vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper, and whisk together. When the mixture is hot, pour over the greens and toss well. Serve immediately.

Roasted Red Pepper Dressing

Ingredients

2 fresh red bell peppers

1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon maple syrup

salt to taste

freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

Instructions

1.  Preheat broiler. Set peppers on a foil lined baking sheet, and place below the broiler. Allow each side of the pepper to become blistered and black, turning the peppers with tongs as necessary. Once the peppers are completely blackened, remove from oven, and place either in a paper bag or under a bowl. This allows them to cool, and the steam to remove some of the skin.

2.  Once cool, run peppers under running water to remove all the black skin, and pat them very dry. Place peppers in the bowl of a food processor with the balsamic vinegar, smoked paprika, maple syrup, salt and pepper. Process to a smooth paste. With the food processor running, drizzle in olive oil. Taste for seasonings.

 

roasted red pepper dressing salad