Bisq Brussels Sprouts – baked with Pears and Manchego

November 18th, 2014


Bisq Sprouts


Keith Pooler may be the chef/owner of Bergamot, the eminent Somerville restaurant, but his heart still beats unequivocally for Gloucester, where he grew up. In fact, when Pooler began scheming a dinner previewing his new restaurant (named “Bisq,” which means something like “Bergamot in Inman Square”), he imagined a long table set on Gloucester granite, Folly Cove waves breaking over the conversations of the Boston food press.

Well, that didn’t happen. If you think it’s hard for Cape Ann residents to drive over the A. Piatt Andrew bridge, it’s even harder to get the Boston food press to cross the Tobin.

But, Pooler did have a “we can’t wait for Bisq to open!” dinner for a few scribblers of cuisine – this time at Bergamot – framing the new restaurant’s alchemical wine menu and small plate versions of the parent restaurant’s “progressive American” cuisine. Dan Bazzinotti, currently sous-chef at Bergamot, will be retitled “chef de cuisine” at Bisq.

For the writers’ dinner Bazzinotti showed off his flare with house-created charcuterie – from sanquinaccio to homemade kielbasa to a deconstructed pig’s head. We also tasted house-smoked mussels in a yam and pear potage.and roasted skate wing with sunchokes, and pearl onion rissole.

This was dining to wow, lush combinations of local surprises like apple mostarda draping the sanginaccio and chicken liver-filled flatbread, but I also left with a recipe to recreate at home: Bazzinotti’s Brussels sprouts tossed with quince, pancetta, and almonds, just warm enough to soften the small cubes of manchego cheese tucked within.

I’ve adapted Bazzinotti’s recipe only because, while I adore quince, I know that I’m the only person on Cape Ann (along with the owners of my former house) who has access to them. I made the dish with Bosc pears, and nothing suffers.

This “peared” down version of Bisq Brussels sprouts would be a noble addition to the Thanksgiving table. But don’t stop the Bisq story there.  Watch the website to find out when Bisq officially opens. Be stronger than the Boston food press, and drive over the bridge. Visit native son Keith Pooler there or at Bergamot; Keith loves to talk Gloucester, particularly the best swimming spots. You will have an amazing meal, and Keith will feel a little closer to home.


Bisq Brussels Sprouts



Bisq Brussel Sprouts, adapted 

serves 6, easily doubled


2 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed of stems and halved

3 bosc pears, unpeeled, cut into 1/2” pieces

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

generous grinding of fresh pepper

1 tablespoon butter

3 shallots, diced

1/4 pound pancetta or bacon, diced

1/3 pound Manchego cheese, diced

1/2 cup almonds, roughly chopped and toasted

1/2 cup light cream


1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2.  In a large bowl toss together the Brussels sprouts, chopped pears, olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour into an oven proof dish or roasting pan, and roast for 25 minutes, or until sprouts are browned and just cooked through, but not soft.

3.  Heat a large skillet to medium high, and add pancetta or bacon, and cook until crisp, about 15 minutes.

4.  In a separate pan, cook shallots in butter until softened.

5.  When the parts are cooked, in a large bowl toss all – Brussels sprouts, pears, pancetta, shallots, manchego, almonds and cream – together lightly. Pour into a ceramic baking dish, and bake just to warm and melt the cheese, about 10-15 minutes.  Serve warm.

The Hale Family Marlborough Pie

November 11th, 2014


Marlborough Pie 2


In the late 20th century, when church was the week’s best entertainment, when ministers were rock stars, Edward Everett Hale, a Bostonian Unitarian and later Congregational minister, was Bono. He filled churches and sold books. His biggest hit was a work of fiction, “Man Without a Country,” which tells the story of Philip Nolan, found guilty of treason, and sentenced to spend the rest of his life on a ship, forbidden from setting foot ever again on United States’ soil, of learning any news of his former country, from even saying the nation’s name. He dies on the ship, desolate, the most loyal patriot of all as one who has known what is it to be without a country. “Man Without a Country” successfully advertised the Union defense of unity, and remained required school reading well into the 20th century.

Edward Everett Hale’s relatives are responsible for much of New England’s moral landscape; his great great uncle, the revolutionary martyr Nathan Hale, famously said, “I only regret I have but one life to give for my country.” Hale’s uncle, Edward Everett, an energetic scholar known all his life as “Ever-at-it,” taught German and Greek at Harvard; Ralph Waldo Emerson was his student; he ultimately became Harvard’s president, and a serious Union supporter. Hale’s mother-in-law was Harriet Beecher Stowe’s sister. He is even distantly related to Helen Keller. Almost every town from Rhode Island to Maine has a maple-lined Hale Street running through it.

But it’s Thanksgiving on Cape Ann; what do the Hales have to do with anything?

Edward Everett Hale’s daughter, Ellen Day Hale, a Boston painter educated in Paris at the end of the 20th century, built a summer home in Folly Cove. (Her self-portrait, painted for the Salon show in Paris’ Grand Palais, hangs in Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.)  Readers here will know this as my house now!



Ellen Day Hale self-portrait



Ellen Day Hale’s brother Philip Hale, and his wife Lillian, all painted together summers in this Folly Cove granite home; they made the start of a rich artistic community that would discover what light does with water and granite at the far northern tip of Gloucester.


Ellen Day Hale's home



About Thanksgiving, Edward Everett Hale, in his 1893 book “A New England Boyhood,” declares this Marlborough Pie a Hale family Thanksgiving requirement.

“To this hour, in any old and well-regulated family in New England, you will find there is a traditional method of making the Marlborough pie, which is sort of lemon pie, and each good housekeeper thinks that her grandmother left a better receipt for Marlborough pie than anybody else did.”

Here is the Hale family recipe; their pie is light and lemony, with just enough character from the applesauce. The 1/4 cup of sherry adds a little New England parlor to the taste.

Although their summer home was probably closed up by November, I would like to imagine that at some point the Hales, unable to wait for Thanksgiving, enjoyed this Marlborough pie on their Folly Cove porch, their eyes scanning Ipswich Bay for sailboats. Maybe the taste of the pie made them reminisce about Hale Thanksgivings past – “Remember the time Dad made us….”


slice of Marlborough Pie



Hale Family Marlborough Pie


Pastry for 1 crust

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce (preferably homemade with drops from a local tree)

1/2 cup sugar

2/3 cup light cream

grated rind and juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup sherry

3 eggs, well beaten


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

1.  Line a 8” pie plate with pastry.  Refrigerate while you make the filling.

2.  Combine applesauce, sugar, cream, and sherry. Stir in the eggs, and pour into chilled pastry shell.

3.  Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce oven to 325 degrees F. Bake for 45 minutes longer. Filling will not become firm until the pie cools.

The HarvestFest Preserve and Pickle Contest

November 8th, 2014



On October 18th, a group of jam, relish and pickle authorities, who also happen to work at Rockport’s Ace Hardware, judged the “preserve and pickle” contest at Rockport’s HarvestFest.





Jud Wilson, the self-declared Lead Jam Taster, critiqued spoonfuls of  submitted jams and relishes with an expert voice, as did each of the judges. Texture, viscosity, brightness, and ultimately flavor were analyzed in the jam category. Relish and pickle priorities were crispness, spice, and interest.  Wilson referenced his own backyard garden and a long personal history of stirring jams and relishes; we understand he makes an excellent mincemeat.

Rebecca Borden, sales staff at Ace, is described by Wilson as “a serious homecook.” Borden lives and cooks in E. Gloucester with her mother, Dot Batchelder, author of the “Fishmonger Cookbook,” and once owner of the Cambridge fish market by that name.  (The cookbook is still available in used copies on Amazon; buy it.)

Rebecca Borden and Jud Wilson

Rebecca Borden and Jud Wilson


Judge Timothy McTigue, the “steel man” at Ace, fixer of chainsaws, (sadly, unavailable the day I took the photo) judged with the certain authority of a person who knows what goes best on a warm slice of Anadama toast, or beside a ham sandwich. Fairly and firmly McTigue judged, our own steel man of preserves and pickles.

At first the participants seemed to be just part of the Harvey Park crowd, where the HarvestFest Preserve Contest, a nice agricultural component of the day’s farmer’s market, was held. But as the tasting began the shy jammer and picklers came out from behind tree and tent to where they could hear the judges’ every word. When the first jar was opened, the nervous participants leaned in. When the judges arrived at Grace Schrafft’s hot pepper jam submission, she waved her hands, and said, “Oh, I can’t take it!” and ran to the edge of Harvey Park where she couldn’t hear a word.

Stephanie Smith’s cherry vanilla preserves won first place in the jam category. (All submissions were unmarked; the judges had no idea they were declaring their boss’s wife’s jam the winner.)

Schrafft took first place in the relish category, and Myron Lapine’s Bread and Butter – “Ma and Pa’s Pickles” – won first place for pickles.

While it didn’t win –  its taste just slightly wild – like currant jelly with that “mossy” feel of concord grapes – the “Autumn Olive Jam” and “Autumn Olive Chutney” submitted by Lydia Sands, I would like to commend for its character and interest.

autumn olive

Autumn Olive, Elaeagnus umbellata, is that pale, succulent red berry that grows on long branches covered with pale green oval leaves. It’s invasive, and found all over Cape Ann. Lidia told me she harvests great bunches of them right along Blackburn Circle. Autumn olive is so vitamin-heavy her husband, owner of Annisquam Landcare, makes smoothies with them.

The Rockport Festivals crew loved this little contest, and would like to thank all who participated – judges to jam-makers. We hope you all come back again next year – pies included next time!



Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry – un-dowdy recipes for preserving foods.

November 3rd, 2014

Mrs. Wheelbarrow


My personal canning fears began with a stepmother who, with vicious Yankee frugality, processed green beans into dreadful, watery mush. Bad fairy tales aside, who now can relate to the white-aproned matron surrounded by tall pyramids of sterilized mason jars, the image punctuated by one terrifying looking pressure cooker and a scary box of pectin?

But, Cathy Barrow, food columnist for the Washington Post, The New York Times, NPR and more, I understand. Barrow has written “Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry,” W.W. Norton & Co. a contemporary treatise on all kinds of preservation techniques, with elegant, seriously un-dowdy recipes. This is the preservation book for people who, like me, have come to food preservation detouring home-ec class, arriving instead via the local farmers’ market: when faced with an irresistible flat of fresh local strawberries, memories of winter’s tasteless fruit still close, in spite of ourselves we sterilize jars.

Barrow’s book is filled with real lessons on creating a working, creative pantry, from water-bath canning to the more intimidating “pressure cooker” method. By the way, I wasn’t wrong to be scared of the pressure cooker; Barrow says, “If the water-bath method is the general education curriculum in the school of preserving, pressure canning is graduate school.”

On pectin alone these pages offer much, including a recipe for a homemade pectin made from gooseberries or underripe apples. Barrow also explains why the image of the matron I described above included so many jars: commercial pectin activates only with “copious amounts” of sugar; you therefore need to make a lot of jelly to get it to work.

As I said, there are many things about canning that have scared me over the years, including strangely brick-like jelly. Barrow has a long, clear discussion on naturally building firmness in low-pectin fruits like berries and cherries – use 1/3 underripe fruit, add kiwi, add green apple – but she also affirms my preference for not so stiff preserves.

“This book is filled with recipes for preserves that slump,” she advises.


pears in caramel


Speaking of recipes, how could you not want to make ‘Nectarine, Rosemary and Honey Preserves?” Or “Figgy Marmalade with Macadamia Nuts?” Or “Apricot Jam with Ginger and Rosemary?” And the following winter, with that jam jar on your shelf, you will make “Focaccia with Apricot Jam, Caramelized Onion and Fennel.” Barrow has not just preservation recipes but what she calls “bonus recipes,” delicious things to do with your pantry treasures. Or, if you didn’t make your own ricotta, just go buy some really good local stuff so that you can make her “Ricotta and Egg Pasta Pillows” anyway. The book is a wonderful see-saw of sublime recipes that will build a heavy-hitting pantry and equally sublime recipes of things to do with that pantry. Her recipe for miso-brined pork chop, “Spiced Pork Chops with Galicky Bok Choy,” alone is worth the price of the book.

“Cocktail Cherries with Maraschino Liqueur?” Fanny Farmer didn’t sterilize mason jars with artisanal cocktails in mind. Barrow recommends adding a few of these cherries to a sauce pan to serve with duck or pork, or skewer them with fresh peaches and grill, or stir into soft ice cream, “ribbon with bittersweet chocolate,” and refreeze. This is the new horizon of food preservation.

Of course, not all preservation is in a jar: Chapter Three is about preserving meats and fish – salt-curing, brining, smoking and air-curing. Chapter Four covers curds and whey – from making cultured butter (my current addiction), to creme fraiche, to that homemade ricotta mentioned earlier, to the black diamond of cheese-making expertise, Camembert.

With all this milk culturing going on Barrow includes a list of places to put the buckets of residual whey that go with: drink it, wash your hair with it, supplement your pets’ diets with it – including the chickens, and feed your roses. Whey seems to be the new all-purpose household ingredient.

Barrow first experimented with preserving dairy when, left with an excess of cream which she had forgotten to whip for the dinner party dessert (my kind of woman), she made butter. See what I mean? This is a woman I understand. Cheese making – even yogurt making – when writ in the tomes of Mother Earth catalogues has felt as if I just didn’t have the proper back-to-nature pedigree that cheese cloth and curds require. Barrow comes at all these preservation efforts through her Washingtonian D.C. garage door, which is to say the recipes are accessible, spirited, and modern. Mrs. Wheellbarrow’s pantry is not your mother’s.

There is how to smoke bacon, but also a recipe for Smoked Spiced Almonds. There is how to smoke a whole chicken, but there is also a recipe for comfort food 2014 style: “Smoked Chicken, Porcini, and Peas.” There is a recipe for Hot Smoked Salmon and Hot Smoked Trout, but don’t miss the bonus recipe: “Pappardelle with Smoked Salmon and Spinach.” Even if you never smoke a thing, and source your smoked salmon from a package, (just make sure it’s the hot smoked version, not lox), make this. That said, Barrow’s Gravlax recipe, a shining slab of glistening salmon carefully pressed in a toasted anise, peppercorn, lemon verbena, brown sugar, sea salt, and gin rub, is certain to be served in my house this holiday season.

Barrow calls it “the power of the pantry” – fighting words in an age of box stores and industrialized foods. Barrow sees the pressure cooker’s ability to safely preserve soups, stocks, and meats as equalling less dependency on commercially processed foods, and more local eating.

Some people, including Barrow, believe the apex of food preservation is duck confit, a recipe for which is here. Still, I am aiming at, and am willing to confront my pressure cooker fears for “Pressure Canned Tuna,” a recipe for preserving rosy slabs of line-caught wild tuna in olive oil, beauty that would make an Italian fisherman blush.

Here is a recipe from Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry that you can – and should – make right now. Then make vanilla ice cream.



caramel pear preserves



Caramel Pear Preserves

makes 5 or 6 half-pint jars


3 pounds firm slightly underripe Bosc or Seckel pears, peeled, cored, and cut into fine julienne

3 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon Quatre Epices

3/4 cup orange juice juice of 1 lemon


1.  Mix the pears, 2 cups of the sugar, the quartre epices, and orange and lemon juices in a bowl. Cover and let macerate while you make the caramel.

2.  Slowly melt the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar in your preserving pot over low heat, without stirring (you can shake the pan for even cooking), and cook until it becomes a caramel. Let it turn from golden to a deep amber color. Don’t rush the process, and watch it carefully. Do not walk away. Do not read your e-mail or fold laundry. Stand there and watch.

3.  Here’s the really scary part, the part that will make you think you’ve wrecked it all. pour in the pears and all their liquids. The caramel will seize and break. It will make you want to cry. It will look wrong. Don’t worry. just heat the whole mixture up again very slowly, stirring carefully and frequently to work the pieces of caramel off the bottom of the pot and incorporate them into the preserves. It’s a hellish moment. Then bring the preserves up to 220 degrees F., which will take at least 30 minutes, by which time will the caramel will have melted again and it will be heavenly. You’ll smell those spices. You’ll be happy again.

4.  Keep the preserves at a boil that will not stir down for about 5 minutes, then remove the heat and test the set, using the wrinkle test or sheeting test* to determine if the jam has set to a gentle slump. If not, heat it again and boil for 2 to 3 minutes, then test again.

5.  Ladle the hot preserves into the warm jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Clean the rims of the jars well with a damp paper towel. Place the lids and rings on the jars and finger-tighten the rings. Process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes. The preserves are shelf stable for 1 year.

*Sheeting Test: “When you believe the jam is ready, remove from the heat and let the boil settle down. Lift up the spatula or spoon you have been using to stir the jam, turn it sideways, and let the jam sheet off it. It should gather along the edge of the spatula and drop slowly back into the pot It should look like jam!

The Wrinkle Test: “Before starting to make the jam, put three small plates in the freezer. At the point in the recipe when the jam is set, or should be set, or you think it is set, remove from the burner. Take one plate from teh freezer, drop a bit of jam onto the plate, and let the cold take effect – a minute or two. The set you see on that plate is what you will get.”



The Most Important Food Blog You Could Read

October 6th, 2014


a green crab


The good news here is that for pennies we have an almost infinite local source for making crab risotto, etouffee, gumbo, soupe de poisson, cioppino, and bouilliabaisse, any number of wonderful fish dishes made especially delicious with local crab stock at a cost of almost nothing.

More good news: the crab risotto you serve your family does the ocean a world of good.

The bad news is that the source of all this goodness – green crabs, Carcinus maenas – are an invasive species that threaten – possibly on one hand’s number of years – to destroy shellfish beds from Cape Ann to Canada. No more white cardboard boxes brimming with fried clams. No more plump steamers bathed in butter. No more wild mussels shining in white wine, parsley, and garlic.

Carcinus maenas, native to central Norway, the Baltic Sea, and a small part of Iceland, arrived here most likely as ship ballast as early as 1810. DNA tracing reveals subsequent invasions, maybe as ship ballast, or nestled into seaweed used for packing, or shipped aquaculture. The green crab now makes appearances around the world. They own the Eastern seaboard as far south as South Carolina and as far north as Nova Scotia. They have infiltrated the Pacific coast from Baja, California to Alaska, and far as Australia, earning the dubious accolade as one of the hundred most invasive species in the world.

At a green crab summit last year in Orono, Maine, Dr. Brian Beal, professor of Marine Biology at the University of Maine at Machias, declared there would be no shipment of Maine clam stock for 2015, as green crabs had that much compromised Maine’s soft shell clam beds. Our local Massachusetts market depends on Maine shipments, as there are not enough soft shell clams dug here to supply the appetite for fried clams, clam fritters, and steamers.

One green crab can eat forty half-inch clams a day, or thirty small oysters. A half-acre wild mussel bed in Plum Island Sound, that locals considered an easy visit for a bushel of mussels, is gone, according to Rowley Shellfish Constable Jack Grundstrom. Green crabs also destroy native eel grass, a critical nursery for marine life, by burrowing into the mud, thus shredding the grasses at their base. Grundstrom actually points his 83-year-old finger right at green crabs for the collapse of the entire fishing industry, as these voracious beasts are devouring the food chain at its base.

“Most of the food for the entire ecosystem comes from the North Shore’s Great Marsh, (The Great Marsh is the largest continuous stretch of salt marsh in New England, extending from Cape Ann to New Hampshire, including over 20,000 acres of marsh, barrier beach, tidal river, estuary, mudflat, and upland islands extending from Gloucester to Salisbury.) Once that food is cut off, as green crabs are doing, all of our fishing culture is destroyed.”

Dr. Beal, sites green crabs’ almost amazing tolerance for temperature and salinity fluctuations. Adult crabs can even live out of water for up to ten days at summer temperatures. On the crustacean’s awesome vitality, Beal’s green crab paper presented at the Maine summit, states, “Gregarious behavior encourages sexual encounter rates.” Green crabs reproduce like mad.

Shellfish Constable Grundstrom explained a popular theory on why the green crabs, after making trouble for centuries, are now such a critical problem.

“There had been a theory circulating for years that clams did very well after a harsh winter, believing that those hard conditions took a “skim” off the mud flats, making it easier for the clams to burrow.”

Now people believe that the clams did better after harsh winters because the green crabs didn’t, giving the clams a break for a couple of years. The current theory is, Grundstrom says, that a new strain of green crabs can withstand even lower temperatures. The new strain is crossbreeding with the old crabs, and able to survive harsher conditions.

While some fisherman trapping crabs this year actually believe there really are fewer, because of last winter’s heavy toll, most people in the industry anticipate disaster ahead, and soon.

Green crabs are currently being fished for bait. Ann Molloy from Neptune’s Harvest, the branch of Ocean Crest in Gloucester that produces fertilizer from fish products, says that currently the green crabs have too much sand in them for them to process.

“We tried, but they clogged our screens too fast. At some point if we open a crab shell drying and grinding plant here, we could take them all. We applied for a Saltonstall-Kennedy Grant for that, but we didn’t get it. We haven’t given up hope yet, and at some point we’re hoping to still move forward with that project.”

Senator Bruce Tarr recently secured $133,000 from the federal government as an emergency stop gap measure for just this year, buying back green crabs from fishermen, thus assuring someone will be catching them. But these measures aren’t enough at this point to control the population. The industry is looking for a market, a need, a great recipe for which the main ingredient is green crabs, a recipe people will want to make often.

Ideally, it would be great to have restaurants regularly making stock with these crabs; (Legal Seafood, are you listening? There’s a regular local supply of shellfish ambrosia on the docks not far from any of your restaurants.) Until then, I’m sharing my crab stock recipe, with which I went on to make crab risotto with some great locally harvested celery, onions, and peppers. This was honestly the most delicious stock I’ve made – sweet and complex, and loaded with a pleasant seafood flavor. I have 4 quarts of it in my freezer and can’t wait to cook more with it.

The risotto made with the stock received eye-rolls of praise. “This is amazing,” seemed to be the general declaration. Indeed, the risotto tasted authentically fresh and full of honest shellfish flavor, the kind of taste – with no exaggeration – I can attribute only to seafood dishes in Venice. For the record, Italians have been cooking with a relative of this crab for years; they’re considered a delicacy. We need to get these crabs into our stock pots.

If you are interested I have a source that will supply you – and even deliver them – for free.  Let me know.


green crab broth




Green Crab Stock

makes 6 quarts


4 tablespoons olive oil

2 bunches celery, with the leaves, about 1 pound, roughly chopped

1 large red onion, roughly chopped

1 small head fennel, cut into 1/2” slices

12 corn cobs (optional)

2 bay leaves


1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning

approximately 3 quarts water

2 cups white wine

2 dozen green crabs


1.  Rinse crabs well in cold water. I recommend doing this outside in a large bucket; just fill the bucket with water and throw your crabs in. Stir well, and leave them in the bucket until your stock is boiling.

2.  In a large stock pot or lobster pot heat the olive oil to medium. Add the celery, onion, and fennel. Lower heat, and cook until vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes. Add the corn cobs if using, the salt, bay leaves and Old Bay and stir well, tossing the vegetables well with the seasoning. Allow to cook for 5 more minutes, or until the onions just begin to darken.

3.  Add the water and wine, and bring to a boil. Let simmer for 10-15 minutes to integrate the flavors, particularly the corn cobs.

4.  Bring stock back to a hard boil. Bring the crabs into the kitchen, and scoop them into the boiling stock. Allow to cook at a strong simmer/low boil for 45 minutes. Let cool, and spoon out the cooked crabs and as much of the vegetables as you can. Strain the remaining cooled broth through cheesecloth. Pour into jars or plastic containers for storing or freezing.


green crab risotto



Green Crab Risotto

serves 6


6 cups green crab stock

1 T butter

1 T olive oil

1/2 red onion, chopped

3 small carrots, diced, about 4 ounces

1 small banana pepper, or 1/2 a green pepper, seeded and diced

1 small red cherry pepper, 1/2 ounce, diced (optional)

1 1/2 cups or 12 ounces Arborio rice

red pepper flakes

salt and pepper

3 small tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1 pound crab meat (1/2 – 3/4 cup reserved for garnish if you like)

juice from 1-2 lemons or to taste

1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds

1/2 cup chopped fresh dill


1.  In a medium sauce pan bring the stock to a simmer.

2.  In a large saute pan heat butter and olive oil together on medium heat. When butter is melted and bubbling, add onion, carrots and peppers. Let cook for 8-10 minutes over medium heat until softened. Add rice, and stir well, cooking until the rice begins to crackle and just begin to turn lightly brown. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.

3.  Ladle in 1 cup of the hot broth into the rice, and stir until it is all absorbed. Add the chopped tomato, and then ladle in another cup of stock. Stir until the stock is absorbed, and then continue to ladle in the stock, stirring each addition until it is absorbed. This usually takes 20-25 minutes.

4.  Taste the rice to make sure there is no “crunchiness” to it at all. You want it to be creamy, but not mushy. Stir in the fresh lemon juice. Serve in warm bowls garnished with the reserved crab, toasted almonds and chopped dill.

The Best Potluck Dish

October 5th, 2014

Sook's Lentils 2


As the apples fall from the trees so begins the potluck season – potlucks for the soccer team, the cross-country team, the PTO, the teacher appreciation luncheon, not to mention The Community House, the book club or neighborhood movie night.

Some people have their go-to macaroni and cheese, but a lot of people still fret over what to bring. A potluck contribution usually needs to feed 8- 10, must be easily transportable, and gets extra points if it’s vegetarian. Strangely the beautifully prepared vegetarian dish is often the one that the most devout carnivores return to for seconds. If it’s vegan and absolutely delicious the dish will be the talk of the night.

This lentil dish, all of the above, was a potluck dinner contribution from Sook-Bin Woo, a pathologist and Assistant Professor at Harvard School of Dental Medicine. This pile of legumes may look like something you’ve seen before, but read that list of spices in the vinaigrette. Not just the flavor superstar of the potluck evening, this salad rocks the Kasbah.

Who needs a new lentil recipe, you ask. You do, or you will learn you do after tasting this one.

Word of Woo’s culinary talents precede her. Her weighty resume, her brunette beauty, even her natural athleticism Woo’s friends acknowledge only after they’ve declared “Sook’s an amazing cook!”

When Woo brings a dish to a potluck, one pays attention. Here is her recipe, including her helpful tips.


Sook's Lentils 3


Sook’s Lentil Salad


1 pound Du Puy lentils, roughly 2 cups

1 cup dried currants (you could also use raisins or other dried fruit such as cherries or sweetened cranberries, coarsely chopped)

1/2 cup capers

1 medium red onion, diced


1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 tablespoon strong mustard

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoons pepper

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Optional add-ins: Arugula (Sook recommends this as it best balances out the sweetness of the dried fruit) Walnuts Goat cheese Fresh herbs: flat-leaf parsley, basil


1. Rinse lentils well, drain. Place in a pot and cover with a 3-4 inches of water, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer. Check lentils for doneness after 15 minutes, but they should take no more than 20 minutes in total. Overcooking the lentils is the death of this dish. Be careful!

2. While the lentils are simmering, make the dressing by placing all ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake vigorously to combine.

3. When the lentils are cooked, remove from heat, drain and place under cold running water to stop the cooking process (you don’t need to do this if you cook it 17-18 minutes). Place lentils in a large serving bowl and toss with dressing. Add capers and currants (or other fruit). If using other add-ins such as herbs, greens, or cheese, wait until just before serving. Otherwise, this salad keeps well in the refrigerator for a couple days.

The Best Thing To Do With Beets

September 29th, 2014

best beet recipe


Friends have recently brought a couple of dishes so delicious the recipes must be shared. I’m starting with posting this beet dip, which my friend Leslie first made for a picnic we had celebrating our birthdays. The tahini, the garlic, the toasted cumin, and the lemon all combine to make a sublime, middle-eastern inspired spread that re-fires what may be your dwindling enthusiasm for the season’s beets. Pull that scraggly beet bunch leftover from last week’s CSA share out of the back of your refrigerator, or race to the farm stand for a healthy half-pound of Chioggas, and make this. Invite over a girlfriend; add a few warm, toasted pita quarters and a glass of Vouvray. Put on your sweaters, go out on the porch, and enjoy the last of autumn’s evening light. This is easily dinner for a couple of women, but a fabulous appetizer for anyone. Even children hungrily plunge their crackers in.


beet and toast


The Best Thing to Do With Beets Dip

makes 2 cups

4 medium cooked beets, about 1/2 pound (Toss whole unpeeled beets olive oil, salt and pepper.w Wrap them in foil, and roast at 375 for about 45 minutes or until tender. The skins slip off easily afterward. Cut them into chunks.)

2-3 ounces stale bread, pulled into 1” pieces

2 tablespoons tahini

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup walnuts

5 tablespoons lemon juice

1 small clove garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon cumin seed, lightly toasted to aromatic

1 tablespoon lemon zest

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


1.  Place beets, bread and olive oil in a food processor and blend until all is a paste.  Add remaining ingredients, and blend until smooth. Taste to adjust seasoning. Chill, and then serve with toasted pita chips, crostini, or cucumber rounds.

HarvestFest Pie Jam and Jelly Contest

September 25th, 2014

RHFpiecontestENTRYEmail me @ with any questions; here’s the link to online registration:

Local Food wins in Rockport in October!

September 22nd, 2014

unnamed   For centuries October in Rockport has been cherished by artists, writers, and simply moms standing at the bus stop waiting for their children to return from school, having a blessedly quiet fifteen minutes to see the long slant of autumn light make Sandy Bay a purple plane, town glowing in the sunset like a trainset village along the bay’s rim. October in Rockport will always be known for its particular combination of autumnal quarry and seaside beauty – and the Boy Scout Haunted Hay Ride – but more recently October in Rockport has become famous for its local food.

Beginning with Spiran Hall’s Swedish Pancake Breakfast on October 5th and peaking with HarvestFest, October 18th, Rockport has become a destination for those who love a very specific kind of culinary moment. Call it real; call it authentic; call it local: Swedish pancakes, golden braids of cardamom-specked Nisu, the singular molasses and cornmeal taste of Rockport-born Anadama Bread, Grass-fed beef raised on South St. from Seaview Farms, Topdog’s award-winning fried clams, Sasquatch smoked cod. These are just some of the only-on-Cape-Ann, some only-in-Rockport, foods that will be served here in October; between Spiran Hall’s pancakes and HarvestFest’s bounty you will be able to taste the best of what’s flipped, fished, grown, and even brewed very close to home.

The people of Spiran Lodge #98, the Vasa Order of America, have been creating Scandinavian specialties for one hundred years, since the organization first served as an aid society for Scandinavian immigrants arriving on Cape Ann to work in the quarries. On October 5th, the large orange Dala horse will be placed on the sidewalk; the Spiran Hall doors will open to the public, and the coffee will begin to pour. Days in advance, just as they have been doing for years, and their mothers and aunts did for years before that, Spiran members will have started making the Swedish pancakes, Janice Ramsden’s family recipe, prepared in the special Swedish pans. A separate team, lead by Claire Franklin, will mix, braid, and bake the Nisu.

1200 pancakes will be ready starting Sunday morning at 8:00, served with lingonberries, sausage, fresh fruit, and coffee. The plump loaves of Nisu will be for sale.  Arrive early; they go fast!

But the Rockport food culture faces forward, too, away from history. On October 18th, in a designated “celebration section” near the Big Tent, HarvestFest will be tastefully pouring “Pretty Things Beer,” a hugely acclaimed artisanal brew produced by Martha and Dann Paquette out of Somerville. Also, exciting for anyone who enjoys a good glass of wine with their fried clams, nationally be-ribboned Westport Rivers Winery from Westport, MA will also be pouring. Frank McClelland’s five star restaurant, L’Espalier, commissioned Westport Rivers to create its own private label, 1996 Westport Rivers, “Cuvee L’Espalier,” brut. Not just local treasures, Westport Rivers Vineyards boast gold medals at the World Wine Championships, along with real estate on some of the country’s best wine lists.


Knead Dough Bakery, the Af Klinteberg family baking business from Lanesville, is just one of the many local vendors selling homemade baked lovelies at HarvestFest. When tragedy struck the Af Klinteberg family, no one wanted to make the bread anymore. Sten Af Klinteberg lll, the youngest child of Sten and Lila AfKlinteberg, died in 2011 at 40 years old; the Knead Dough Bakery, which had been producing sweets from Finnish Nisu to Congo Bars, withered to only a few loaves of bread baked for a few church fairs.

“My grandmother started this business in the 1970’s,” granddaughter Carson explained. “My grandfather had lost his job, and my grandmother needed to feed five children. They began accepting food from the Federal Surplus Program. ‘I’ll take what no on else wants,’ Lila said,” – meaning flour, cornmeal, molasses, and margarine, “and, we’ll make Anadama Bread.”   Sten, Jr., Lila’s husband, found work again, and the baking business became a way for the growing Af Klinteberg children to supplement their incomes in hard times.

When Stennie, III needed to stop fishing because of an injury, he began making Nisu beside his mother.

“The key to good Nisu is patience and attention to detail,” Carson said. “You have to love it, or else it gets sloppy and flat. – Everyone thought my grandmother made the best Nisu, but the family knew it was actually Stennie, the last of the Af Klintebergs to bake the bread.”

When Stennie was lost, Lila had no heart for baking. “It was something she did with her son, and he wasn’t there anymore,” Carson said. Lila died in 2013, and the Knead Dough business deflated to just a few loaves prepared by Sten, Jr. for the occasional church fair. This summer, the Rockport Farmers’ Market asked Sten to bake again. Even he seemed surprised at the speed with which his loaves disappeared. By 11:30 his boxes were empty.

“I sold out,” he would say, with a mystified shake of his head and a resigned crossing of arms on chest. No one had any idea how much Cape Ann missed Anadama, Onion Dill, and Nisu. After selling out three Saturdays in a row, even after doubling production, Af Klinteberg brought in the next generation to benefit from the bakery. Carson Af Klinteberg, leaving behind a job in prop design on Broadway, has returned to Lanesville to help her grandfather bake the bread. For Rockport’s HarvestFest, and for next year’s farmers markets, Carson will be bringing back the full line of Knead Dough baked goods, everything from congo bars to brownies. “It’s an honor and a joy to see Cape Ann respond once again to our bread. We’re just very proud and grateful.”

This year’s Seafood Throwdown will revive a short but golden moment in Rockport’s culinary history: for what felt like the blink of an eye, Parisian-born Fred Arnaud once stunned Pigeon Covers with the quality of his take-out dinners, sold from the refrigerator in the old Pigeon Cove Coop. This year Fred will return for the Seafood Throwdown, competing against Rosalie Harrington, chef and owner of Marblehead’s once beloved Rosalie’s Restaurant.

Pie-bakers, jam and jelly makers! – In the spirit of an agricultural fair, HarvestFest will recreate the pie, jam, and jelly contest. Bring entries to the Farmers’ Market Tent on the morning of HarvestFest; judging happens at 4:00.

Regional differences in cuisine are disappearing. Industrialized agriculture and national franchises threaten to homogenize America, leaving nothing but a museum in each town to memorialize the work people once did, the fish they caught, the breads they baked. In Rockport, people are still baking the bread and turning the pancakes, particularly in October.

This recipe is from an old Rockport church cookbook, an authentic Rockport dessert to prepare at home, in case you can’t make it to the HarvestFest or the Pancake Breakfast.

Swedish Apple Pudding Ingredients

1 cup diced bread 2 tablespoons butter

4 eggs

3 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup cream

1 tablespoon flour

2 cups diced apples

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon mixed with 2 tablespoons confectionary sugar for sifting


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 8” x 8” square pan or baking dish.

2.  In a medium skillet saute the bread cubes in melted butter until golden brown, about 10 minutes.

3.  In a medium bowl, beat together eggs, sugar, cinnamon, cream, and flour. Stir in apples and bread cubes.

4.  Pour into prepared dish, and bake for 1 hour or until custard is set.

5.  Mix together cinnamon and confectionary sugar, and sift over warm pudding.

Buried Baked Beans, Homemade Sausage, Gino’s Fishcakes, and Rockport Festivals.

September 10th, 2014

buried beans

 Last Friday night Tim Sullivan dug a large hole in his back yard. He backed a truckload full of lumber and firewood up to the hole, unloaded the wood into it, and threw in a match. A good, hot fire began spitting flames.     beans and hole


hot coals

beans ready to cook

just out of the ground

  Sullivan, the burly bearded bagpiper and maple syrup purveyor at the Rockport Farmers’ Market, then stirred together soaked kidney beans, maple syrup, onions and a few mystery ingredients in a large black caldron. He placed the lid on the pot, and set it down into the hole of now inferno-worthy embers. Grave-digger style, he shoveled the dirt back on top of all, burying the pot of beans within the glowing coals. Then he turned back into his house, had dinner, and went to bed.

That same Friday, I pulled out the best cod cake recipe I know, from Gloucester’s Gino Mondello at the Dory Shop. I made a bechamel, which mixes gently into a bowl of freshly steamed cod and potatoes. I tossed in an egg, and a few stray ingredients, mixed all, covered the bowl, and refrigerated it. Then I went to bed.

Early Saturday morning, Sullivan shoveled the soil off his sweet, bubbling, ruby-colored beans; I patted my mixture into fishcakes, rolled them in breadcrumbs and fried them in a pan shining with a shallow layer of hot olive oil. All this while, Mike Ciaramitaro was mixing together his Trupiano’s sausage, like he does every week for Saturday’s Rockport Farmers’ Market.

This – the steaming brew of smokey beans, the tender fish cakes and the grilled savory chunks of Trupiano’s sausage – we served for a very special breakfast at the Rockport Farmers’ Market last Saturday.

Beans and Cakes Sign



  Admit it, you’re sorry you missed it, right? Besides lumber camps in Maine, and maybe some history-serious boyscouts, nowhere in the world are people still making baked beans this way. Homemade sausage is the only kind to ever have. Gino Mondello will serve you fishcakes browned in a big copper pan on his woodstove, but you better know when he’s making them.

Proceeds from the breakfast went to benefit The Rockport Farmers’ Market. This is the kind of quirky event we do at Rockport Festivals, the group that manages the Rockport Farmers’ Market – events that blend old and new, always with a nod to the granite, ocean and history that is Cape Ann. Thanks to Tim Sullivan and Mike Ciaramitaro for donating their time and deliciousness.  – and thanks to Tim Sullivan for most of these photos.

Tim Sullivan