File Under “i”

Power Bars for a Protest March

Sunday, January 8th, 2017

white_house_south_side_2011

I’m reposting this recipe in case anyone is looking for a good snack to take to a protest march.

Power Bars, nutrition bars, energy bars, fitness bars, meal bars, granola bars. They come wrapped in many packages under many names. Athletes eat them; people consider them a smart snack at work, and moms pack them in their kids’ lunches. How healthy are they, and should we just be baking our own?

Along with fish tacos and caesar salad, fitness bars (the term I’m choosing here) are perhaps one of the foods that could define the 21st century lifestyle, and were probably born in the 1970’s as muesli and granola entered our culinary vocabulary. Running, biking, workouts, fitness, and the gym became as much a part of our lives as going to the movies, and granola bars got fitter. Grocery store shelving is evidence of how healthy the industry is, at least in sales.

But what should a fitness bar be? It’s not a brownie. It should be low in fat and sugar, and high in carbohydrates, fiber, and protein. Most nutrition websites insist, like all prepared foods, we should be looking for a short list of ingredients we can pronounce. Sugar, even in the form of brown rice syrup, shouldn’t be the first ingredient. Isolates are promoted as an easy, digestible way to pack in protein, but they are controversial at best, demons at worst. Soy and whey isolates are manufactured proteins that, because of the process in which they are produced, create a highly acidic environment. Cancer loves an acidic environment; it’s an easy jump to why isolates are bad guys, but commercial fitness bars are often packed with them. Also, 90 percent of the soy in this country is genetically modified; all that soy in commercially produced fitness bars, even in the form of an isolate, is a GMO product.

There is a great site called “Fooducate,” which has an app that immediately provides nutritional information for a food. They have a long, hefty analysis of all kinds of nutrition/fitness bars. Once quick glance at these sites makes you realize homemade is a much better nutritional choice, if not a good economic one. Special K Protein Meal Bars, billed as a healthy “meal” bar,” for an example, is filled with transfats, sugar, inulin – not real fiber – BHT a possible carcinogen and TBHG which can cause nausea and delirium, artificial everything. Fooducate assigned it a D, the lowest score.

I grabbed a Cliff Bar and a Larabar off the shelves, took a bite of each without studying the ingredients, and tasted pure sugar. In fact, the Cliff Bar’s first ingredient is Brown Rice Syrup, but a further read made me think the bar was all cane syrup and soy, ingredients that repeated themselves in twenty different forms. The Larabar was nothing but cashews and dates, but it tasted like that. It was sweet, gummy, and not very satisfying.

I discovered Kate Baron and her Baron bars while working on this story. Baron is a competitive runner, an organizational psychologist, and a certified holistic health counselor. When the website “Trailblazer” published her regimen, the crowds demanded the recipe for her homemade fitness bars, something she calls Baron Bars. I’m now a fan.

Baron is loose with her recipe, but offers a scaffolding. I made my batch almost exactly as they are written here, using wheat germ instead of wheat bran, and equal parts cinnamon and nutmeg, which was absolutely delicious. Baron recommends Pumpkin Pie Spice, but I didn’t have any. I think mace might be a nice addition to the spice blend, too. She sometimes uses sunflower seeds, and recommends you be creative. These bars are definitely on the chewy side of a granola bar, but I like that. Some recipes use straight granola, which has a lot of oil in it, and some recipes have you toast the grains in oil in advance, definitely making them crunchier. The sweet, toasted taste of granola has its place, but, I eat these bars recognizing the halo of “fitness” that comes with them. I want a healthy taste, and I don’t want to feel like I’m eating candy or a brownie. These bars, extremely low in fat and sugar (1/2 cup of each distributed among 20 bars), and have the wholesome, healthy taste I want in something that nutritious. One bar contains 224 calories, 11 grams of fat, 29 grams carbohydrate, and 7 grams of protein.

My best baking test is how well something tastes with a cup of coffee; these are outrageous with a hot cup of French Roast in the afternoon. For those stronger than I, Kate’s husband, Michael, eats his bars slathered in peanut butter.

search-4

Baron Bars

Ingredients

4 cups whole oats (not quick-cooked)

1 cup wheat bran or wheat germ

1 1/2 cups chopped almonds (salted or not)

1 cup raisins or any dried fruit you like

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup honey

4 eggs

1/2 cup canola or olive oil

1 tablespoon cinnamon, nutmeg, or pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon salt (sea)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together until combined.

Line a 12” x 18” cookie sheet with parchment paper. (Kate says it’s fine to use other size sheet pans here, but you want the bars to be 1/2 inches thick.) Wet your hands, and press the batter around in the pan to be even distributed.

Bake for until toasty brown on top. Mine took about 15 – 17 minutes.

Remove from oven and cut into desired size squares. (Kate is generous; hers are 3” x 5”.)

Place in a tupperware container, and freeze. This helps the bars hold together, even after they have thawed. Enjoy right from the freezer or thawed.

Power Bars for The Women’s March on Washington 2017

Sunday, January 8th, 2017

 

I’m reposting this recipe in case anyone is looking for a good snack to take to a protest march.  I’ll be packing these for my bus ride, leaving Gloucester at midnight, January 21st, heading to Washington, D.C.  https://www.womensmarch.com/

white_house_south_side_2011

Power Bars, nutrition bars, energy bars, fitness bars, meal bars, granola bars.  They come wrapped in many packages under many names.  Athletes eat them; people consider them a smart snack at work, and moms pack them in their kids’ lunches.  How healthy are they, and should we just be baking our own?

Along with fish tacos and caesar salad, fitness bars (the term I’m choosing here) are perhaps one of the foods that could define the 21st century lifestyle, and were probably born in the 1970’s as muesli and granola entered our culinary vocabulary.  Running, biking, workouts, fitness, and the gym became as much a part of our lives as going to the movies, and granola bars got fitter.  Grocery store shelving is evidence of how healthy the industry is, at least in sales.

But what should a fitness bar be?  It’s not a brownie.  It should be low in fat and sugar, and high in carbohydrates, fiber, and protein.  Most nutrition websites insist, like all prepared foods, we should be looking for a short list of ingredients we can pronounce.  Sugar, even in the form of brown rice syrup, shouldn’t be the first ingredient.  Isolates are promoted as an easy, digestible way to pack in protein, but they are controversial at best, demons at worst.  Soy and whey isolates are manufactured proteins that, because of the process in which they are produced, create a highly acidic environment.  Cancer loves an acidic environment; it’s an easy jump to why isolates are bad guys, but commercial fitness bars are often packed with them.  Also, 90 percent of the soy in this country is genetically modified; all that soy in commercially produced fitness bars, even in the form of an isolate, is a GMO product.

There is a great site called “Fooducate,” which has an app that immediately provides nutritional information for a food.  They have a long, hefty analysis of all kinds of nutrition/fitness bars.  Once quick glance at these sites makes you realize homemade is a much better nutritional choice, if not a good economic one.   Special K Protein Meal Bars, billed as a healthy “meal” bar,” for an example, is filled with transfats, sugar, inulin – not real fiber – BHT a possible carcinogen and TBHG which can cause nausea and delirium, artificial everything.  Fooducate assigned it a D, the lowest score.

I grabbed a Cliff Bar and a Larabar off the shelves, took a bite of each without studying the ingredients, and tasted pure sugar.  In fact, the Cliff Bar’s first ingredient is Brown Rice Syrup, but a further read made me think the bar was all cane syrup and soy, ingredients that repeated themselves in twenty different forms.  The Larabar was nothing but cashews and dates, but it tasted like that.  It was sweet, gummy, and not very satisfying.

I discovered Kate Baron and her Baron bars while working on this story.  Baron is a competitive runner, an organizational psychologist, and a certified holistic health counselor.  When the website “Trailblazer” published her regimen, the crowds demanded the recipe for her homemade fitness bars, something she calls Baron Bars.  I’m now a fan.

Baron is loose with her recipe, but offers a scaffolding.  I made my batch almost exactly as they are written here, using wheat germ instead of wheat bran, and equal parts cinnamon and nutmeg, which was absolutely delicious.  Baron recommends Pumpkin Pie Spice, but I didn’t have any.  I think mace might be a nice addition to the spice blend, too.  She sometimes uses sunflower seeds, and recommends you be creative.  These bars are definitely on the chewy side of a granola bar, but I like that.  Some recipes use straight granola, which has a lot of oil in it, and some recipes have you toast the grains in oil in advance, definitely making them crunchier.  The sweet, toasted taste of granola has its place, but, I eat these bars recognizing the halo of “fitness” that comes with them.  I want a healthy taste, and I don’t want to feel like I’m eating candy or a brownie.  These bars, extremely low in fat and sugar (1/2 cup of each distributed among 20 bars), and have the wholesome, healthy taste I want in something that nutritious.  One bar contains 224 calories, 11 grams of fat, 29 grams carbohydrate, and 7 grams of protein.

My best baking test is how well something tastes with a cup of coffee; these are outrageous with a hot cup of French Roast in the afternoon.  For those stronger than I, Kate’s husband, Michael, eats his bars slathered in peanut butter.

 

 

Baron Bars

 

Ingredients

 

4 cups whole oats (not quick-cooked)

1 cup wheat bran or wheat germ

1 1/2 cups chopped almonds (salted or not)

1 cup raisins or any dried fruit you like

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup honey

4 eggs

1/2 cup canola or olive oil

1 tablespoon cinnamon, nutmeg, or pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon salt (sea)

 

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together until combined.

Line a 12” x 18” cookie sheet with parchment paper.  (Kate says it’s fine to use other size sheet pans here, but you want the bars to be 1/2 inches thick.)  Wet your hands, and press the batter around in the pan to be even distributed.

Bake for until toasty brown on top.  Mine took about 15 – 17 minutes.

Remove from oven and cut into desired size squares.  (Kate is generous; hers are 3” x 5”.)

Place in a tupperware container, and freeze.  This helps the bars hold together, even after they have thawed.  Enjoy right from the freezer or thawed.

 

 

“this pale blue dot,” words from Carl Sagan for 2017.

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016

2017

 

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

 

– Carl Sagan, from Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

sending love, health, peace, and good local food from Howlets & Woodbury Hill

Saturday, December 24th, 2016

2016-xmas-mantle

2016-wreath

2016-xmas-studio

2016-xmas-tree

2017-xmas-fruit

fruitcakes

little-xmas-tree

2016-martha

2016-limpa

2017-xmas-greens

2016-xmas-redfish-al-saor-feast-of-7-fishes

2017-xmas-window

2016-dove

Sasha’s shed on Woodbury Hill.  xoxo

Give Cape Ann, 2016, a list for great local holiday giving

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

gift-tomatoes-ribbon

Here is my “Give Cape Ann, 2016” list of great local gifts for cooking friends, dining friends, even any kind of friend.

Some dynamic little new small businesses have opened on Cape Ann in the past couple of years. These kinds of businesses bring immeasurable vitality to a community.

Pastaio via Corta offers fresh and dried handmade pasta, house-made cheeses, and the Italian staples that rival anything in Milan, forget Eataly. Not only that, owner Danielle Glantz, previously chef at Chez Panisse, then executive chef at The Market and Short & Main, gives out salient recipes as she weighs your pasta. Another plus, the pasta shop is becoming Gloucester’s best place to bump into a friend; the screen door just keeps banging with customers coming through.

Lyznariums on East Main St. is the East Gloucester place to hang out on Sunday mornings. Mayflower Confections is serving all-natural, crumbly scones. There is coffee. And there are succulents. All kinds of them. The vibe is fingerless gloves and flannels.

The Pigeon Cove Ferments people are changing the way Cape Ann eats winter vegetables. Their variety of sauerkrauts are really more like spicy winter salads, fresh and vibrant accompaniments to pork, turkey, even a fish taco. Made with all local cabbages and vegetables, even Atlantic Saltworks salt, these sauerkrauts are the creation of Rockport natives and husband-wife team Kristen and Dylan L’Abbe- Lindquist. Their two-year old son loves sauerkraut, too. Look for their sauerkrauts at The Common Crow, Willowrest, and now Tendercrop Farm.

We should support all the businesses on this list, and lists from previous years, for the energy and interest they are bringing to shopping on Cape Ann, but also because these businesses provide quality gifts that inspire the unique joy of handing someone just the right present.

1. Pastaio Via Corta  has dozens of gift options for people who love good food, including individually designed gift baskets. But, for the food-nerd friend you love best, just purchase a can of the impossible-to-find, Bianco DiNapoli organically grown, freshly picked California tomatoes. The stunning 6 pound can is $15; the 28 ounce can is $6. The painting on the label is so charming it looks like it has already been wrapped.  It is the perfect house gift. Add the Glantz-vetted Greek olive oil, a bag of her casarecci pasta made with Alprilla Farms whole wheat flour and Cedar Rock Gardens herbs, and you have a gift for the Mario Batali in your life.  11 Center St., Gloucester, MA.

gift-pastaio

 

gift-milk

(photo from Nectar & Green website)

2. Nectar & Green  The gift of small batch, pressed organic almond milk will flutter the eyelashes on the fussiest vegan in your life. Nectar & Green comes in the flavors Sea Salt + Honey, Vanilla Bean, Lavender, Cacao, Pure, Turmeric, and new for the season, Spice, all created with organic, mostly local ingredients. Nectar & Green shares a kitchen with Mayflower Confections (an alum of last year’s column), so you can match up the Spice Almond Milk with Mayflower’s spiced pecans for the most stylish food gift possible. Nectar & Green almond milk comes in retro glass bottles. Their deliveries (yes, they do that) come in chic black soft coolers. For the Gwyneth Paltrow in your life, give a subscription of Nectar & Green, to be delivered to your home or to be picked at their Rockport space in the Whistlestop Mall. (Just behind DD!)  A quart of almond milk is $14.  For delivery information and options go to their website.

 

gift-linens

(photo from the Good Linens website)

gift-towels

 

3, Good Linens   Owner Joanne Chirico is serious about the “good” part. As her website states, these simple, aesthetically glorious linen towels are also good for the environment. Compared to cotton terry bath towels, linen towels take a fraction of the time to dry. Not only is that less dryer time, but family might be more inclined to reuse the quick-drying towels if they are not still mushy from yesterday’s shower. Chirico sells her linen towels in all kinds of sizes for all kinds of purposes: from bath to kitchen. The same quick-drying, using-the-dryer-less virtues apply to all. Kitchen towels range from $20 – $26. Bath linens are $10 – $72.  130 Main St., Gloucester, MA.

But Good Linens has much more than beautiful towels to please the person who loves the kitchen, or someone who sees domesticity as an art form. From German brushes for every purpose imaginable, to this red digital kitchen scale –

gift-red-scale

to this teapot. (I have a version of this teapot, and swear something about that pour makes better coffee.) –

gift-teapot

Good Linens is a design lesson as much as it is a place to shop. Know an architect who likes to cook?

 

gift-eidolon

 

4. Cheeses from the Martha’s Vineyard creamery Grey Barns have swept into dairy cases as the American favorite. The Grey Barns cheese Prufrock won first place for an American Farmstead cheese at the American Cheese Society’s 2016 awards.

The Grey Barns has a cheesemaking goal: “use very nice milk and let it show itself, don’t get in its way.” The twenty-five Grey Barns cows pasture on the farm’s organic-certified grasses and W. Tisbury breezes. Nice start to a cheese right there.

Eidolon, a generous one pound bloomy-rinded cylinder of creamy Grey Barns cheese, will elicit triple its weight in gratitude should that be your Christmas party offering. Wrapped in white butcher paper with black script, it’s a beautiful cheese even before you open it. Find a chunky red ribbon, and leave it under the tree for your very favorite mouse. The Common Crow carries Grey Barns cheeses. Eidolon is $24.95.

 

gift-bamboo-utensils

gift-spoons

 

5. While you are at the Common Crow, pick up a package of these super-functional, more great design – bamboo spoons. Or forks. These little utensils are useful on someone’s kitchen counter for small tasks, on a charcuterie plate in the mustard jar, even in one’s purse for lunch at the desk. They are indispensable picnic tools. You can even purchase a to-go version that comes in its own little pack. A set of five forks or spoons is $8.99.

gift-petnat

6. There are all kinds of insider tags about “pet nat” wines: Grub Street calls it “Champagne’s hip little sister,” and the wine for the common man – “the common man in the know.” Pet Nat, short for Petillant Naturelle, refers only to the wine making method, an old European one that ferments the wine without adding the yeast and sugars of classic sparkling wine production. Pet Nat wines are captured and bottled (usually with a bottle cap, not a cork) in their natural fermenting process. That “natural” part leaves a wide breadth of quality, but it’s the kind of thing that gets oenophiles quivering – the guess factor of a living thing. I have tasted a few, like them all, from the cruder to the refined. There is definitely a “rough-hewn” quality to many of them. There is more fruit in between the festive bubbles. Some Pet Nats almost tilt towards cider. Because the results are varied, these wines are not usually considered “fine” drinking; they are fun drinking. Most Pet Nats are not that expensive; they are in the $18-$30 range, which makes them the perfect interesting gift wine. Any grape variety can be produced in the Pet Nat style; it’s an old method in Europe, but is catching on in California. Savour in Gloucester carries a Pet Nat from the Loire Valley, Montlouis sur Loire, Francois Chidaine for $19.99. This is hip giving.  76 Prospect St., Gloucester, MA.

 

gift-mary-r

 

7 & 8. The Pop-up shop Present has been a gift to local gift-giving for a bunch of years now. A cooperative of different Cape Ann crafts people and makers of things, Present pops up in different locations every year. This year they are sharing space with The Eastern Point Lit House. There are dozens of great, hand-created, local gifts available in Present, so you should just go there. I have two favorites, one has a food-related theme, the other is just so delightfully Cape Ann that I can’t resist.

Local artist and printmaker Mary Rhinelander has a cheerful collection of prints at Present that would be the perfect gift for the cook who needs nothing more but inspiration – framed images of lolling figs, a tumbling pomegranate, or jaunty radishes – some of nature’s most joyful creations, framed, not needing to be washed. Prices are in the $50 range.  The Lit House, 261 Main St., Gloucester, MA.

gift-rocks

Also at Present, in the “why has no one done this before?!” category, are the famous Babson Rocks of Dogtown reproduced in a filled, felted collection. These seemingly dull gray blobs, with blocky embroidered words like “save” and “love your mother” and “get a job” – just like the rocks themselves! – will produce the ultimate LOL moment for any friend of Dogtown. There is nothing food related about this gift, but it’s just too Cape Ann wonderful to omit. $12 each.

 

gift-spire

9. Lynzariums  has, of course, an artful tumble of funky succulents, but for the food person in your life, they also have a stunning collection of locally produced cutting boards. Imagine a cutting board for a surfer, these boards are made with the gusto and style of THAT kind of board. Lynzariums boards are made by two local makers. One board is made with a variety of woods and rubber from a lobster trap for the handle. The other board has an interesting shape and super fine finish. Beautifully handcrafted, these boards are Gifts with a capital “G.” All boards range in price from $85-$95.  186 East Main St., Gloucester, MA

gift-fish-market

10. The last gift on this year’s list is a book: “The Fish Market, Inside the Big-Money Battle for the Ocean and Your Dinner Plate,” St. Martin’s Press, 2016, by Lee Van Der Voo. Van Der Voo is not a local author (She lives in Portland, OR) but this is Gloucester’s subject.

A freelance journalist who has written for The New York Times, Reuters, USA Today, CNN, and Slate, Van Der Voo in this book explains the fisheries story that no one understands, the story that MOST impacts the fishing industry today, the story of Catch Shares. The Catch Share system is allowing big business, mixed blearily with environmentalism, to make the ocean just another place for Walmart to produce revenue. Catch Shares is the future of industrialized fishing and the end of the small family fishing boat. This is every fishing town’s story right now; it is Gloucester’s story. To understand what those small fishing boats in our harbor are up against, everyone should read this book. This is an important gift. $26.99

Happy All Of It, Cape Ann!

Say thanks, then act.

Thursday, 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.

Cranberry Cake Comfort

Friday, 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.

The Other Cape

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

the-other-cape

 

Welcome to The Other Cape, a new online magazine celebrating Cape Ann. (Click that link.)

Stories and beautifully curated photographs of Cape Ann’s best – the old, the new, and the fringe, The Other Cape is a kind of magazine-as-compass. If you don’t live here, you will want to visit. If you do live here, The Other Cape will remind you why.

As a local food writer who sometimes ventures into style, I think our “other” Cape is having a renaissance. I can’t keep up with the growers, makers, bakers, coffee roasters, picklers, and even gorgeous terrarium designers hanging signs (and posting websites) on Cape Ann everyday.

A small flock of young farmers has grown up in the last five years, and they are talented, tireless, and, as farming on rock demands, inventive. Today, you can find Cape Ann-raised eggs, chicken, turkey, pork – and in the spring Salt Marsh Farms in Essex will have lamb – for dinner.

Nationally prominent Boston chefs – you know who they are, and if you don’t you can read about them soon in The Other Cape – are not just calling Cape Ann a beautiful place to live, but they are betting on this to be the next great place to have a restaurant. They are putting Gloucester fish, Essex clams, produce from Cape Ann farms, pasta from our new pasta-maker, Danielle Glantz, on their menus.

The Cape Ann AirBnB business is busting out, a certain sign that people are discovering the unique culture on our granite peninsula, which, by the way, is supposedly a great chunk of North Africa left behind by a glacier on its slide to Canada.

Cape Ann has had its share of renaissance times; Gloucester is, after all, “America’s oldest seaport.” Post 1623, fishing and quarrying attracted immigrant communities that salted cod, braided Nisu and celebrated saints galore. A-list artists writing, painting, and chiseling on Cape Ann were once almost thick as fishing boats in Gloucester harbor. Almost. For heavens sake, we have an organ company! (C.B. Fisk, Inc.)

There are many stories to write about Cape Ann’s past, and more to write about its exciting future, the crafts people, the innovators, the renovators, the incubators. And there are hundreds of beautiful places to see, from the best Dogtown trails to the best works at the Cape Ann Museum.

“The Other Cape” will be an almost monthly way to check in on what’s new, what’s interesting, and what’s beautiful here.

About that “other” thing: Cape Ann is the other Cape, why? It has more granite than sand? It’s “uphill” from Boston? We have no Kennedys?

Or, maybe it’s because one of our best keep secrets is the sensual pleasure of lying on a warm slab of granite, not sand, beside the Atlantic ocean. Maybe it’s because, while we’re “uphill” from Boston, we’ve got a highway blessed by an orange dinosaur and the Rockport Line from North Station, not the Southeast Express Way, that links us to the city. Maybe it’s because we have no Kennedys.

We have Sefatia. Check out my piece on the mayor who cooks – or on Pastaio via Corta – in the first issue of The Other Cape.

Pig Roast Lessons, Mojo, Yuca, and Cuban Sandwiches.

Friday, October 7th, 2016

la-caja-china

 

We had a pig roast. It was great, but no one needs a review of someone else’s party, so I am just going to recite the lessons learned and three important recipes.

My pig roast started with another pig roast, years ago, at Rich and Janis Tester’s house. That’s when I first saw the “La Caja China,” which means Chinese box in Spanish speaking places. The Testers had one in their back yard. I was having wine, and visiting with people, kind of unaware, and then I saw Rich Tester rushing to his kitchen with a medium-sized perfectly roasted pig on a platter.  “That box,” I thought.

roasting-box

pig-roasting-instructions

 

La Caja China is a well insulated plywood box invented by a Cuban family to replace the way they roasted meats back home in Cuba. The pig is sandwiched between two grates, which makes it easy to turn (only turned once). Then a tray of hot coals is set on top of the pig.  The pig roasted tends the coals for 4-6 hours. If all goes well, you do that turning thing at about hour 3, to crisp the skin. If all goes well.

pig-quarters-in-the-la-caja-china

roasted-pig

guys-really-love-a-pig-roast

If you are us, the pig will be done in 8 hours. We started with a very large pig, 130 pounds live weight. Our pig, raised lovingly in Essex, MA at Salt Marsh Farms, was 100 pounds minus the head and trotters (pig language for feet.)

If you live on or near Cape Ann, here’s another thing you need to know: Salt Marsh Farms is providing Cape Ann residents truly local livestock and poultry options – pork, lamb, and poultry raised in Essex.  If you are longing for the chicken of your youth, chickens that taste not like marigold blossoms (did they ever taste like marigold blossoms?) but like chicken, find a Salt Marsh Farms chicken.

salt-marsh-farms-chicken

 

roasted-salt-marsh-farms-chicken

I am obsessed with them now, purchase them when ever I can, freeze them, even give them as gifts. They are not inexpensive, as chickens go, but this is no longer your everyday Tuesday night dinner; these are fine-dining chickens, chickens that will make chicken soup a 5 star option. These are chickens with which to make the perfect chicken sandwich:  sliced breast meat, a little mayo, salt and pepper on white toast. These are meaty, naturally moist, and just full of chicken-y flavor chickens.

For more waxing about Salt Marsh Farms poultry, read Bo Abrams’ letter, reproduced at the bottom of this post, written the night after her first Salt Marsh Farms Chicken experience this summer. If only for the beautiful sentences, read this testimony.

liz-and-edgar

Salt Marsh Farms owners Liz Jaeger and Edgar Foudray will be offering lamb, pork, and most importantly LOCAL TURKEYS for thankgsiving. Order now! You can email Liz and Edgar at saltmarshpoultry@gmail.com or call them at (617)-617-6171.  They are often at the Cape Ann Farmers’ Market.  On Wednesdays they sell their goods to Alprilla Farm in Essex and Cedar Rock Farms in W. Gloucester.

Returning to pigs, Liz and Edgar raised our chunky pig. They were helpful every step of the way, and the results were many, many gorgeous, charred, sweet, roasted porky pounds of meat, pounds which just took longer than anticipated because our pig had enjoyed his own dinners so much.

More pig roast data: Danielle Glantz, of the pasta shop Pastaio via Corta, came to our house two days in advance. Glantz has had some Cuban Pig Roast experience. Contrary to all the online videos which recommend injecting the meat with various concoctions, Glantz studded the pig all over with about a pound of garlic cloves, rubbed it well with salt, and then made a paste of more garlic, bitter orange juice, and dried oregano. Who knows how this method compared to the injections? As people pulled at the warm roasted meat in the dark, no one was complaining.

Another lesson: Mojo. Know it. Make it. Repeat.

Garlic, lime juice, oregano, cumin, and olive oil, Mojo is the crowning glory to all thinks pork, as far as I can tell. I made a great batch of it, and, in the dark (remember our pig was 3 hours late!) I ladled it over the warm meat. A few spoonfuls of that tucked into a warm tortilla (Brian Knowles just kept toasting them over the gas flame in the kitchen) would make a vegan stray.

roasted-yucca-with-mojo-and-onions

Yuca, a traditional Cuban Pig Roast accompaniment, was another revelation. Where has this starch been all my life? Apparently it has far more vitamin C than potatoes, and it is a great source of antioxidants, and phytonutrients. Yuca consumption is associated with healthy insulin and cholesterol levels. And, my is it good. Crispy, with far more toothsome character than a potato, our yuca was boiled, tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper, and then roasted. We took them steaming from the oven, comforted them with spoonfuls of translucent onions, and – tada! – a healthy ladle of mojo. Just fantastic.

cuban-sandwiches-and-yucca-fries

 

Cuban Sandwiches. When the La Caja China is degreased and tucked away for next year. When the yard is cleared of plastic cups and paper plates. When the refrigerator is bulging with roasted pork, have another party and make Cuban Sandwiches.

I happen to have had a loaf of homemade Portuguese Sweet Bread on my counter. To the state of Florida, which seems to have made the Cuban what it is, I say find yourselves a Portuguese bakery and remake your sandwich. I think the Portuguese Sweet Bread is all a Cuban roll wants to be and more: soft, sweet, tender sandwiching warm, salty, savory.

cuban-sandwich

Pig Roast Lessons in summary:

  1. The Floridian Cubans know their pork; La Caja China works.
  2. Salt Marsh Farms is raising pigs; you could get one of these for your pig roast if you live on Cape Ann. You just need to time your roast with their pigs’ lives.
  3. Salt Marsh Farms also has delicious chickens and turkeys, available for Thanksgiving.
  4. Mojo is the best sauce in the world. Make it in batches. Pour it on roast pork from your oven, yuca, Cuban Sandwiches, almost anything.
  5. Yuca is the new kale.
  6. Cuban Sandwiches are as good as their fame suggests, but they are better made with Portuguese Sweet Bread.
  7. Here are my recipes, very simple recipes that are important to know even if you are not having a pig roast.

Mojo Sauce

makes 1 cup

Ingredients:

8 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

2/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

1/3 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon (or to taste) ground cumin

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Instructions:

Place all ingredients in a blender, and taste for seasoning.

 

Roasted Yuca

Serves 6-8

4-5 yuca, about 8-10” long

3 tablespoons olive oil + more for tossing the yucca

3 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced into 1/2 rounds

salt and pepper

1/2 thinly sliced red chili or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 cup mojo sauce

Instructions:

Bring a very large pot of salted water to a boil. Peel the yuca. (Make a slice down the length of the yuca. At that slice take the point of a knife and get under the skin, beginning to pull it back. Once the skin begins to pull away, you can help it along with the blade of the knife, both cutting and pulling at the same time.) Chop the yuca into 5-6” lengths, and add to the boiling water. Reduce to simmer, and cook until a knife inserts easily into the yuca, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet saute onions and chilis in olive oil until softened and almost translucent. Season with salt and pepper. Remove cooked yuca from water.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. When cool enough to handle, cut each yuca piece in half lengthwise. Remove any tough inner fiber. Cut pieces into lengths again, so you have something that looks like yuca “fries,” about 1” in width. (They will shrink when roasted.) Toss “fries” in olive oil, salt and pepper, and spread them in a roasting pan. Bake for 25 -30 minutes, or until they being to turn brown and crispy.

Remove browned yuca to a platter, and distribute the onions over them. Ladle some mojo sauce over the yuca to “dress” it. Put remaining sauce in a pitcher to serve on the side. Serve immediately.

 

Cuban Sandwiches

Makes 6

Ingredients

12 slices Portuguese Sweet Bread or another slighty sweet, tender loaf

Dijon mustard

6 slices Swiss cheese

about 1 pound roast pork

Mojo sauce

6 slices boiled ham

6 garlic-dill pickles, chopped

Instructions:

Lay out 6 slices of bread. Layer first mustard, cheese, roast pork, about 2 tablespoons mojo sauce, ham, and fresh pickles. Top with 2nd slice of bread.

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.

Toast sandwiches in a large skillet to brown each side. Remove to oven to keep warm and completely melt cheese while you toast the remaining sandwiches. Serve warm.

 

 

Bo Abrams Love Letter to Salt Marsh Farms Chicken, reproduced with her permission

Hi Liz and Edgar,

Last night we had the most amazing meal because of the Kosher King heritage breed chicken we got from you.  Lately the sweltering heat has made me not want to do much of anything by the end of the day. Especially cook.  But I had our lovely kosher king chicken (which we nicknamed Bernie* because Kosher King Heritage Breed Chicken is a mouthful) and a very hot and cranky family that was going to start complaining that they were hungry so I decided grilling was the only way forward. 

Cooking a whole chicken on the grill takes a little more time than in the oven (at least on mine) but oh man was it worth it. I gave Bernie a jacket of a fresh garlic and rosemary and sea salt rub and while it roasted I made a simple but oh so sumptuous salad with baby greens and cucumber and heirloom tomato and I marinated grated carrots in a lemony vinaigrette to toss together when the chicken was ready. Then I prepped new potatoes and they went on the grill. And thick slices of multiple colors of beets brushed with olive oil? Yep. Them too on the grill.    

And because life is awesome I put together a blueberry buckle in a cast iron skillet.  AND Yesirree, that went on the grill too.  Can you picture this meal?  Sultry summer night on the porch with the soft glow of fairy lights in the civil twilight. A gentle breeze. Serenaded by crickets. Fragrance of roasted chicken mingling with the sweet smells of flowers all around us.

You know how sometimes you give thanks and then dig in to your meal and it is genuine but cursory and then the meal begins? Not this meal.  Our appreciation grew with each bite. Bernie was truly was the most delicious chicken we have ever eaten but there was more to it. 

We are always thankful for our farmers and our food, but on this night everything was enhanced. It was incredible to be able to taste the nuances of the flavor that comes from the hopes and dreams of starting a new crop and raising a new flock.  We could feel the camaraderie and the nuttiness of long days and broken machinery. The kinds of seasoning that only come from shared stories as weeds are pulled and birds are chased.  All of this and more showed up at our table, as if the laughter and tears and sweat had watered the soil in this long hot summer. 

My irritable family was transformed to a grateful group from the sustenance of hope as much as the deliciousness of the food.  Truly the meal was magical. But I do have one regret.  That I only got one chicken. I recommend making TWO. Same amount of work but then you get leftovers! Thank you for your hard work and commitment. 

Bo

*We named her Bernie for so many reasons but most especially because of this Portlandia Episode. 

Feather & Wedge, Rockport’s new place.

Saturday, September 17th, 2016

bar-at-feather-wedge

Feather & Wedge is open, and it’s even better than I could have imagined.

Its architecture and design are to restaurants what the Shalin Liu is to concert halls: petite but powerful iterations of their province. I walked into Feather & Wedge on Friday evening and felt as if I was walking into a chic, finely lit space, but also a restaurant so intimate and inviting that it seemed to have already been in Rockport for years.

The grand black and white graphic of Blood Ledge Quarry on the immediate wall instantly captured a mix of modernity and antiquity.  (Feathers and wedges are tools used to split granite, referring to Rockport’s once vital quarrying industry.) The room’s clear, punctuated lighting makes the room feel candlelit, effecting enchantment. At the same time Feather & Wedge could have borrowed – in a good way – themes from the main office of the Rockport Granite Company, the Pigeon Cove stoneworks that dominated the town economy at the turn of the 20th century: the high ceilings and over-sized, gently Victorian decorated mirror behind the bar.

 

fw-mirror

 

This is Rockport, our pin-prick of a town, so there were friends, of course, to greet right away. It was truly lovely to say hello, how’s it going, and sit down beside them at the bar, to enjoy the Italian wine,Vernaccia, in a long-stemmed, thin-rimmed wine glass with a proper size bowl. (I have a thing about wine glasses; the shape of the usual stubby restaurant goblet destroys nose and taste and in wine. Why have a good wine list if you are going to kill it in a crude glass?) The wine list is utterly compelling, with a lot of, “oh, they have that!” I couldn’t decide between the Vernaccia or a Loire Sauvignon Blanc so the bartender gave me a sip of the Loire wine, which was delicious, but had slightly more fruit than I wanted at that moment. My guest was instantly happy to see the Provencal Minuty Rose, one of her favorites on the list; I sipped hers which she described as gamey-forward rose, not too sweet, and pairing well with food – and ordered that for my second glass.

We sat at the corner table, one seamless window offered us Main St., and we could nod to friends passing by; the other wall window looked down to the Old Harbor; again, quintessential Rockport framed in new ways.

I am a fan of the limited menu, a few things done very well with the flexibility to highlight local ingredients as they are available. That’s the Feather & Wedge principle so far. I’ve been told the menu may expand a bit more, but never become a fold-out event. Last night we enjoyed a dish so local it deserves a photo on Google Maps: Pastaio Via Corta handmade spaghetti (Pastaio via Corta is the new fresh pasta shop on Center St. in Gloucester), tossed with fresh lobster and local corn. The lobster was as tender as the corn, and all a light, sweet drape over the perfectly al dente spaghetti.

The gutsier entree option was the roast leg of lamb with braised escarole and a half a head of roasted-to-butter- garlic.

 

patrick-steele-executive-chef

 

The executive chef, Patrick Steele, has a provenance with the venerable Barbara Lynch Gruppo. Steele cooked at the Lynch South End seafood restaurant, B&G Oyster, which specialized in small plates of inspired seafood creations. Feather & Wedge similarly offers a variety of small plates (not necessarily seafood) that will change almost daily, making it a nice way to order as a four-some; have the assortment of small plates and then share two entrees. May I say this makes perfect pre-Shalin Liu dining?

To be clear, this is not the local pub; prices reflect the quality of both the bar and dining menus. – A glass of wine is between $8 and $10. Small plates are $7 – $9; and entrees are $25.

At that table in the corner, I was acutely aware of how wonderful this seat, and this restaurant, will be with a light snow falling on Main St. Also, how beautiful it will be after the DPW have raised the small Christmas trees on the streetlights. And then how beautiful it will be in the spring, when the pansies start fluttering in Main Street’s window boxes. Feather & Wedge already feels like classic Rockport.

fw-window