Power Bars for The Women’s March on Washington 2017

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/

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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.

 

 

Early Spring Soup, based on Kesakeitto

March 27th, 2013

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Early Spring Soup, based on the Finnish Kesakeitto

 

serves 6-8

Ingredients

4 cups organic whole milk, preferably local

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons flour

2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus 1 tablespoon for the vegetables

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

water to cover

for the garnish:

1/2 pound hot-smoked salmon

fresh radishes, thinly sliced

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

fresh dill, chopped

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

 

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Fisherman’s Wife, by Stephanie Villani and Kevin Bay

August 20th, 2017

It’s high summer, and farmers markets from Maryland to Maine are finally showing crimson swaths of local tomatoes. Fragrant bunches of fleshy Genovese basil leaves poke extravagantly from CSA bundles. Even grocery stores have produce sections strewn with corn silks and husks, the detritus of excited customers looking for the sweetest, plumpest ears.

This is the season when – at least from the Mid-Atlantic to Down East – eating is finally easy. People are satisfied with platters of the simplest, fresh garden produce. A drizzle of olive oil and handfuls of fresh herbs are the only extra ingredients on almost anything, except if you score some local mozzarella, fresh ricotta, or a creamy burrata cheese. A grill and a cast iron skillet are all you need to cook, and everything goes on a platter family style.

Don’t forget fish.

This is high season for local fishing, too. The warm summer waters fill with stripers, blues, swordfish, tuna, halibut, butterfish, herring, whiting and squid. A fisherman’s life is never easy, but the blue skies and calmer seas of August, along with brimming buckets of shimmering catch, remind fishermen there is still a lot to love about what they do. August is a fisherman’s reward for enduring the year of dark 3:00 a.m. starts, iced Grundens and crippling government regulation.

Here is the cookbook you need right now: The Fisherman’s Wife, Sustainable Recipes and Salty Stories, by Stephanie Villani and Kevin Bay. I met Kevin Bay at one of NAMA’s Seafood Throwdowns last year in the Grand Army Plaza Farmers’ Market in Brooklyn, New York. Blue Moon Fish, the company Stephanie and her fisherman husband, Alex Villani, run, is a vendor in the Farmers’ Market, and supplied the local fish for the throwdown. I talked with Kevin Bay that day about how hard Stephanie and Alex work, and that Kevin and Stephanie had co-written a cookbook. Below is a portion of my story from that day in the Grand Army Plaza, a wonderful urban market with je-ne-sais-quois that can only say Brooklyn, and my first introduction to Blue Moon Fish. The cookbook addresses local fish the way the Villanis do: treating everything that comes out of local waters with environmental respect and culinary reverence. The chapters are divided sensibly into sections like “Round White Fish,” “Flat White Fish”, “Flavorful Fish,” and “Shellfish,” because this works best when you think about cooking fish; the basic techniques are going to apply to the shape of your fish, not the name of it. So smart.

 

So here is my little bit of local color on Brooklyn and a bit of story about Blue Moon Fish. Below is the recipe from the book for Kevin’s Fish and Scallop Ceviche, an indispensible summer recipe, and not just any old ceviche. The corn and cilantro make this the ultimate high summer recipe.

 

Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, 2016

The winged goddess of victory, flanked by her horse-leading, trumpeting attendants, marches in frozen glory high above the Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn, NY. Chariot, horses and gods lunge from their statuesque perpetuity on top of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’Arch that declares the entrance to Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. Designed in 1867 by Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux, the goddess-crusted arch is meant to echo the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, ours a triumph of the Civil War’s defenders of the Union.

The arch stands in the middle of the largest and busiest traffic circle in Brooklyn, where Flatbush Avenue, Vanderbilt Avenue, Eastern Parkway, Prospect Park West, and Union Street all converge. Ulysses S. Grant and Abraham Lincoln pose more soberly in relief from the arch’s sides. Within the assault of noisy speeding traffic and death-defying crosswalks, the massive Olmstead/Vaux structure feels like a footnote to a grander, quieter New York. It takes looking up to notice the drama on top – Victory lunging forth, her friends with their horses cutting loose from the sides. But the whoosh of traffic, and the need to cross an avenue safely keeps eyes closer to the pavement. Only tourists and visitors like me still lift their head to see what all that hooved drama is about above.

The Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket feels like a snug harbor away from all this monumental and noisy. It is a tented village of leaves, stalks, pods, blossoms, fruits and flowers underneath a colossal monument to those that kept the country united and ultimately slaveless, in and around the racing traffic. The white cloth tents, one after another, cover tables piled a foot deep with June produce: snap peas, English peas, spring onions, green garlic, garlic scapes, and rhubarb. The market smells like fresh strawberries and basil. Almost everyone is carrying bouquets of local peonies. Not only are there more dogs here than I have ever seen at a farmers’ market, but they are the best behaved. Leashes are as tangled as the garlic scapes, but the dogs stand calmly waiting for their owners to finish a purchase.

The Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket is run by GrowNYC, which began in 1976 with a dual mission: to allow small regional farms a way to sell their goods directly to the consumer and to provide New York “with the most nutritious, locally grown food the region can offer,” its website declares. “What began with twelve farmers July 16, 1976, in a parking lot on 59th Street has grown to over 200 farmers and producers in over 50 Greenmarkets throughout New York City.” Grand Army Plaza is also where gritty Flatbush Avenue meets Park Slope, a neighborhood which has an almost perfect quotient of baby strollers to bars. There are exactly 5061 trees in Park Slope, and probably an equal number of self-described Bohemians. Along with an excellent public school system, this data makes the neighborhood one heck of a good place to have a farmers’ market.

Blue Moon Fish Mongers are the very first booth to greet you from the Union Street side of the market.  Kevin Bay used to be one of the fishmongers in that stall.  Bay, a Manhattan fiction writer and band member, was pulled in, like so many artists, to the fresh food movement years ago. Bay met the Villanis who own and operate Blue Moon Fish at the Union Square Greenmarket. He said he knew right away, of all the odd jobs he had taken to support writing and playing music, “this was the right odd job for me.”

“Working with fish is addictive. It’s romantic. There’s a narrative there; as a writer I got sucked right in.” For eight seasons Bay stood under the Blue Moon tent at the Union Square, Tribeca, and Grand Army Greenmarkets, just like the six fishmongers working the stall that day. The Blue Moon fish cases are built with worn old wood boards painted Delft blue. That morning, the ice in the cases was snow-blind bright with the sun angling into the tent. Buckets of gleaming striped bass fillets, squid, flounder, and blues shone in the the ice as brightly as if they had just been landed.

Another case held a variety of hot-smoked fish, ruby and golden chunks of cured fillets. Stephanie Villani, wife of Alex Villani of the Blue Moon husband and wife partnership, smokes the fish herself twice a week. “It’s a good way to use up leftovers,” Stephanie said. She smokes bluefish, monkfish, tuna belly and eels when they can get them.

The sign above announced the fresh fish available along with that day’s fishmongers: Sally, Andew, Joe, Nick, Phillip, Patrick and Boaz. Smack in the middle of the sign a circle declared in red what Blue Moon Fish DIDN’T have that day: shrimp, salmon and crab, three species that Americans have come to expect for sale everywhere, whether or not there is even a body of water around. But Blue Moon sells the fish that Alex Villani lands in Long Island Sound. There are no salmon or shrimp in Long Island Sound, and he doesn’t catch crabs to sell. Blue Moon doesn’t sell lobsters either.

“There are no lobsters on Long Island. They all died in 1998 after the region was sprayed for West Nile virus. That, combined with the warming water temperatures, and the Connecticut and Long Island lobster industry got wrecked,” Stephanie Villani said. Many people have come to imagine that certain species are always available everywhere, forgetting that these are live animals that live in specific ecosystems. Many fish markets fill their cases not with fish being locally landed but what their customers want, and they all want the top four: salmon, scallops, shrimp and cod. Most fish markets today do business with fish dealers who are shipping fish around the world, so everyone has forgotten that there is no Gulf Shrimp in New England and no wild Atlantic salmon anywhere.

Why and how did this happen? How did we forget that there are one hundred other species being landed on New England and mid-coast Atlantic shores alone? – The rise of large fleet, corporate efficiency. It’s easier and ultimately more efficient to make a hundred thousand dollars from one load of one species of fish, ship it around the world, rather than manage many different boats and their diverse catch.

Alex Villani, 64, has been a commercial fisherman for forty-five years now. Going to the Greenmarket to sell his fish began as a way to make some extra cash, and now it’s become a ten-month-a year job. To become their own version of “efficient,” Blue Moon set up a separate business to land the fish, weigh it, report it to NOAA, and deliver it. Basically, Villani the fishermen sells his fish to his own business, which then manages the landing and distribution costs. It’s a lot of hard work, but also a brilliant way for a fisherman to use “efficiency” to his advantage.

That makes a huge difference in the price of fish, and a fisherman’s income. “It’s a lot of extra work for us. It takes two days to prep for a market,” Stephanie Villani says. Along with all the extra work, she says that most fishermen simply don’t enjoy doing all that talking and dealing with the public.

Emily Peterson, from Heritage Radio, was at the market that day.  She is also the daughter of a former commercial fisherman. Her favorite smell is low tide.  Peterson said, “like any other species, the best way to keep fish alive is to harvest and eat them. I grew up to be a chef, and I think having the opportunity to teach people how to eat fish is critical for keeping fish alive – it’s good for the species and good for our health.”

To that, I say find The Fisherman’s Wife, and then find some good local fish.

 

 

Kevin’s Fish and Scallop Ceviche

from The Fisherman’s Wife, by Stephani Villani and Kevin Bay

serves 4-6 as an appetizer

Ingredients

1 pound combination of scallops and fish white fish. (we used fluke fillet.)

7 limes, juices 1 orange, juiced

1 tablespoon salt

1 red onion, sliced as thinly as possible

1 red peper, diced

2 ears fresh corn, kernels cut from the cob, or 1 can of corn drained and rinsed

1 bunch of fresh cilantro, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced (optional)

Tortilla chips (optional)

Instructions:

1. Juice the lines and orange. Strain and refrigerate in a non-reactive bowl until ready to add ingredients.

2.  Remove and discard the tough muscle on the side of each scallop and cut scallops into cubes.  (about 1/2 ” to 3/4″).  Cut the fish fillet into strips, making sure the flesh contains no bones, and cut fish into cubes about the same size as the scallops.

3.  Combine the scallops and fish with the lime and orange juice; it should be swimming in get bowl.  If not, make more juice.  Add the salt, and then refrigerate for 3 hours.

4.  Add the onion, pepper, corn, cilantro and paprika.  (and garlic if using).  Continue to refrigerate for at least another hour.

5.  Srve cold or at room temperature with tortilla chips.

Note, if you double, triple or otherwise multiply the amount of fish in this recipe, don’t add more than two tablespoons of salt during the marination.

Plough in the Stars Dinners for Social Justice. You’re invited.

July 30th, 2017

“Dinner parties will save the world,” and women will be cooking.

This was Caitlin Kenney’s vision last winter, a vision born in January, 2017 with friends at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C.

The owner/farmer of Plough in the Stars Farm in Ipswich, Kenney, 36, grew up on Argilla Rd., a road which threads from Ipswich village down through the estuaries of Choate Creek to the wide white sands of Cranes Beach.

Argilla Rd. is flanked by grand vistas:  acres of cornfields hosting Canada geese through which the local hunt gallops on a fall day, abandoned apple trees long twisted into cryptic frames; new well-pruned fruit orchards, and passing glimpses of the Choate Creek estuary snaking through salt marsh.  Castle Hill, the Stuart-style mansion built in the early 20th by Richard Crane, punctuates the end of Argilla Rd. with surprising grandeur.  

Long before Richard Crane declared the view from that hill unbeatable, John Winthrop, Jr., son of the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, recognized this fertile land.  A succession of New Englanders farmed it for the next two hundred years.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries apple orchards stippled the Atlantic-swept fields of Argilla Road.  The memoir The Orchard, by Adele Crockett Robinson, describes the author’s efforts to save her family’s Argilla Farm orchard during the Depression.  It is a dramatic story of farming’s brutally physical demands, and a story of a woman answering those demands solo.  Of the three large orchards that once lined Argilla Rd. only Goodale survived.  Today, that farm is the flourishing Russell Orchards, to which Bostonians are programmed to drive on autumn weekends, answering an inner call for fresh air and cider donuts.

This is where Caitlin Kenney grew up.  This is where she farms, a culture steeped in the will to make New England soil and New England weather grow things, a road where some of Adele Crocket Robinson’s apple trees still grow, a road that raised strong women farmers.

Kenney has been farming here professionally for almost 10 years.  She went to college at the University of Massachusetts, and then spent time traveling the world, living in California, Australia, and Central America.  She returned home to Massachusetts wanting to plant, working at Brookfield Farm in Amherst, MA, Seeds of Solidarity in Orange, MA, and First Light Farm in Hamilton, MA.  With some mentorship and much trial and error, in 2009 Kenney put shovel to earth on Argilla Rd., and named her farm Plough in the Stars.  Today, the local restaurants The Market at Lobster Cove and Short & Main boast that they are using Caitlin’s greens, Caitlin’s leek’s, Caitlin’s carrots, etc.  There is almost always a line in her tent at the Cape Ann Farmers’ Market.  

But something happened to Caitlin and friends this past January.  As many women (and men) did, conversations happened on the long bus rides to march in Washington, D.C.  People had many hours to talk together, to review this country’s direction, and to ask themselves what – if anything – they could do to affirm the values of the march – acceptance, inclusiveness, support for the disenfranchised.  “What more can we be doing?” Kenney and her friends asked.

Others had answers that ranged from hours offered in Congressional offices to organizing local action groups.

 

Kenney envisioned dinner.  A long table with a diverse group of guests all dining on locally raised foods prepared by a talented local chef, with the ultimate goal of helping a local organization.  

In truth, the idea of dinner parties saving the world came from Dr. Jerome Burts.  Kenny met Burt at a dinner party this past March in Oakland, CA.  He was about to give a TedX talk in Nashville on “how dinner parties can save your life.”

Kenny would start with that.  She would start with what she could do, what she knew well, and with her community.

“I grew up here.  I love the vitality of this place, it’s dynamic.  As a small business I feel very well supported.  People are excited by my product – locally raised vegetables, but people are also hungry for interactions.  I see the dinners as a way to energize with community in a way that still involves good food and that shows off the talents of the chef.”

“I sent emails to five women chefs,” Kenney said.  Why women? Kenney said, “I feel like women chefs are under-represented in the field.  I like working with women better.  I like women better!” she said smiling, out of earshot from her boyfriend serving guests in the yard.  

Kenney created the Plough in the Stars farm dinner series, four dinners (there may be a 5th)  each created by an accomplished local woman chef, on the long screened-in porch of Kenney’s Argilla Rd. home.  Each dinner hosts a different local organization with social purpose.   100% of the proceeds goes directly to that organization.  All of Kenney’s and the chef’s time and effort is donated.  The purpose of the dinners is, in the short view, to support the work each organization is doing.  In the long view the purpose of the dinner party is to save the world.  

The sheltered back yard of Kenney’s cedar-shingled cottage opens in the rear to a majestic keyhole vista, framed by large white pines offering a view of that winding Choate Creek and verdant marsh.  The yard is cheerfully planted in herbs and bouncing annuals.  A tent covered in lights creates cover for the outdoor cocktail hour.  

The first dinner May 28th dinner was prepared by chef Paris Boice; the supported organization was the was Kestral Education Adventures, an outdoor science education program based in Gloucester.  The sold-out dinner raised $2,000 for the organization.  

Chef Sheila Jarnes prepared the meal on June 25th; Family Promise, an organization that helps homeless families on the North Shore get support and achieve independence, was the hosted program.  The dinner raised $2260 for the cause.

Answering questions over braising chicken in Kenney’s kitchen, Jarnes said, “I love that Caitlin is doing this.  I’m really proud of her and the farm, that she wants to do something working towards social justice.  I feel like we were all discussing in the winter what we could do; we wanted to make a difference.”

Jarnes learned to cook prepping at The Market Restaurant.  “The flavors, sights, and sounds of that kitchen really grounded my understanding of how to put flavors together. I also had the great fortune to intern in the kitchen at Chez Panisse, which was an incredible experience.”

Each dinner naturally highlights just what Kenney has harvested from her fields that day, the freshest, most seasonal produce.  In late June Jarnes’ snap pea & mint fritters with yogurt and urfa chili (a dried Turkish pepper) were a headliner appetizer, along with tender soft-cooked eggs with dukkah (a middle-eastern spice blend), and smoked haddock crostini.

For the plated dinner Jarnes prepared garden lettuces with chive flowers, a local goat cheese and spring onion, and squash tart, and braised chicken leg with paprika and creme fraiche.   

 

Dessert was strawberry-buttermilk cake with whipped cream and toasted coconut.  

About the farm dinner experience, Jarnes says, “It was so nice seeing everyone sitting together during the dinner, eating the food, and making connections with each other. I loved watching the night take on its own character. There really is something special about putting people together at one long table, especially in such a beautiful setting.”

 

 

 

Later, under her tent at the Cape Ann Farmers’ Market, Kenney said of the dinners, “I really like having this in my home.  When I was helping in the kitchen I was hearing everyone talking on the porch, laughing, having a good time; I live in a really quiet place!” she laughs.

“But I believe in the power of these events.  I think that just bringing people together who don’t know each other, they are having a good time together, and they are relaxing in a purposeful way, that feels really good.”  

“I tend to be alone in the field!  A part of farming is you are so hyper-focused on the farm.  Particularly in the heart of the season there is not room to think about other things.  This winter, with some time, I saw the dinners as a way to interact with the community.”  

The culture of strong farmers –  and strong women farmers  – on Argilla Rd. endures, and just may save the world one dinner at a time.  

 

For the most detailed information and to purchase dinner tickets go to Plough in the Stars Farm.

The next dinner is August 20th.  Stacy Apple from Short & Main will be the chef; the hosted organization will be Women’s Fund of Essex County.  

September 17th the chef is Amelia Monday, owner of The Market at Lobster Cove.  The Ipswich Refugee Program will be the hosted organization.  

Tickets are $100.  Again, all proceeds go directly to the organization.

 

Sandpiper Bakery, croissants in Gloucester!

July 15th, 2017

 

Susanne Clermont, 35, owner of the new Sandpiper Bakery at 65 Middle St. in Gloucester, has had her hands in flour for fourteen years, not counting the job she had at 10 years old when she was paid in creme brulee.   

For 7 1/2 years Clermont owned the Canto 6 bakery in Jamaica Plain, winner of Boston Magazine’s Best Pastry award in 2015.  Before that she had many years of flour-dusted aprons:  working at Dave’s Fresh Pasta, Clear Flour Bakery, Hi-Rise Bakery, and as pastry chef at East Meets West Catering.  And that’s just in Boston.  In Portland, Maine, Clermont worked at Two Fat Cats Bakery.  She studied at the Apicius International School of Hospitality in Florence, Italy, where she claims she really got a degree in “Europe,” eating her way through countries, learning how to be an Italian local.  In Florence she lived in an apartment above a  bakery that made crescent-shaped buttery brioche brushed with almond syrup.  After a long Florentine night drinking wine, Clermont would stop in for a warm pastry before heading upstairs.

She grew up in Austin, TX, where she had that first bakery job working for creme brulee.  “The creme brulees were really for my mother,” Clermont confesses.  The bakery owner was her mother’s friend.

After so many baking years, Clermont opened Sandpiper Bakery with a new perspective; this time she was a new mother.  Her daughter, Lucy, now almost 14 months, was born just a few months before Clermont closed Canto 6.  (Landlord issues and departing staff flagged a change.)  In that first year home with her baby, Clermont came to appreciate even more the simple pleasure of having a lovely place to go with a baby, to see a few people, to be served a good cup of coffee with something delicious beside it.  

Also, Clermont loves cafes.  

“My husband and I had sat in cafes all over Europe before we had Lucy – in Amsterdam, and London.  We would spend hours there; I would read and he would sketch.  We paid a lot of money to sit in cafes!”  

Particularly with new motherhood in mind, Clermont says she wanted her bakery to be special.  

“I wanted to create something beautiful.  I wanted a European Cafe, a place for people to commune, to relax, to read, and to meet friends.  And a place that highlighted local farms and produce.”

Along with granola, brioche, croissants, scones, cookies, canneles, tapos (chocolate bites shaped like a “tapos” which means “cork” in Italian.)  Clermont offers sandwiches everyday.  This week’s featured sandwich would be roasted carrots from Iron Ox farm with Dancing Goat goat cheese, pickled onion, arugula and cumin vinaigrette on ciabatta.  

This week’s quiche would feature cured olives, fresh corn and ricotta.  She would have raspberry cream puffs with Marini Farm berries, a wild Maine blueberry galette, and – if she can find local peaches – peach pie.  

A city that offers an honest croissant is a civilized place.  Sandpiper Bakery has inched the culture rating on this corner of Middle St. and Center St., across from the Temple, beside the YMCA, a little higher.  There are plenty of cafe tables, and smooth, rich coffee from Tandem Coffee Roasters in Portland, Maine.  If you don’t have a baby, invite a friend to meet you there.

owner Susanne Clermont (right) with Joanne McDonough, signage expert and flower arranger

This is the way to dare to eat a peach.

July 11th, 2017

 

My problem with fruit desserts is this: The cherry clafouti, the fresh fig tart, the peach pie should all be made with the ripest fruit at the peak of its season.

But their seasons are so short! We don’t get enough of these gifts simply in a bowl on the table!

I don’t want to poach, bake, or crumble them in anything else; I want to enjoy the pure fundamentals of each fruit as it enters its season. We just don’t get enough of them to exhaust their one ingredient deliciousness.  A bowl of cherries.  Three squat, gibbous figs.  A cold, dewy peach.

That’s why I love this recipe (really just assembly) from Gabrielle Hamilton’s cookbook Prune, the recipe box for the chefs in her East Village, NYC restaurant of the same name.

 

 

Find some really good butter.

Slather it “wall-to-wall” on rounds of baguette (untoasted).

Lay slices of peeled, fragrant peach over the butter.

Sprinkle with sugar.

Drizzle a 1/2 teaspoon of icy-cold (keep it in the freezer) Peach Schnapps (ideally peach eau de vie) over each serving.

Serve.

I have served this as a dessert and as an appetizer. Even with that Schnapps, you could have it for breakfast. This is a way to dare to eat a peach.

Gloucester’s Saints

June 25th, 2017

 

The older women, dressed in nice jewelry, holding heavy pocketbooks, begin arriving at the front door as early as 11:30 in the morning.  They take the first seats in the large room, built intentionally for this day, to honor St. Anthony, off the center hall of John and Angela Sanfilippo’s Gloucester home.  The room is lined with folding chairs all facing the broad far wall which is tiered with candles, fresh flowers and shiny vessels arranged to honor St. Anthony, the saint of lost things.

The women’s lined structured faces still bear the lees of being pretty young Italian girls.  The pretty young Italian girls arrive a little later, equally dressed-up, but late because they were at their jobs, and had to wait until noon to leave, or they had to put a baby down for a nap before the sitter arrived. The arriving men – young and old –  go right to the back yard, where the other men are grilling whiting, and already gathered in circled lawn chairs after having set up the tents, tables and chairs.  

In the formal parlor across the front hall, the priest is arranging his robes.  He is extremely tall and thin with dark trimmed hair and beard.  Reaching to fit the robes over his head, he fills the room like a long-limbed El Greco subject fills a canvas, reaching for the skies.  The priest’s expression is kindly and gentle.  He speaks Italian with melodic, fluidity, not the choppy Southern Italian dialect of the gathering crowd.  

Downstairs, Angela, her friends and family are finishing preparing the twenty or so dishes for the feast that will follow the mass.  Sixteen feet of table are completely covered in platters, pots, and bowls, each covered loosely in foil to keep the food warm through the mass.  

 

Angela’s husband and brother are fishermen, as was her father and all her family members back in Porticello, Sicily.  On this table there is freshly caught whiting, monkfish, haddock, scallops, and squid – breaded and baked, grilled, deep fried, barbecued, chilled in a salad, hot in a chowder.

This is Gloucester, where saints are prayed to, talked to, begged to for everything from lost keys to lost loved ones every single day.  Saints are taken as seriously in this city – heavily made up of Sicilians who came here to fish – as politics and the weather.     

Even if you don’t understand Italian, you know by his affectionate cadence that Father Andrea is not preaching today, but telling the St. Anthony stories, how the saint advised a young prince with paralyzed legs to marry the poor young girl who came alone to church every day and cried at the altar.  The prince married the girl, and walked on his wedding day.   Father Andrea is telling the story of how St. Anthony  raised a murdered friend from the dead to testify against the wrongly accused, and then repositioned the victim in Paradise on his return.  

Angela Sanfilippo has her own St. Anthony miracle.  At nineteen, her father was captured by the German Army in World War II.  Angela’s grandmother didn’t know where her son was or even that he was a prisoner, but she prayed every day to St. Anthony for his return.  Two years later, her son walked into the Sicilian village, and the mother’s lifelong vow to St. Anthony began.    For the rest of her life, although she was a comfortable woman, she went door-to-door in Porticello begging for donations to her St. Anthony’s feast.  At every year’s feast, she laid out her finest linen, china, and crystal.  Her first guests were always thirteen orphans selected from the local orphanage and a monk, allowing the poorest from the community to enjoy the riches of a king for a day.  

Angela came to America as a child with her family, first to Milwaukee and then they settled in Gloucester for fishing.  Angela’s grandmother stayed in Porticello, continuing her famous St. Anthony tradition.  When Angela had her own home she started the St. Anthony tribue on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

St. Anthony, St. Joseph and St. Peter are Gloucester’s saints.  Each saint’s feast day (the day they died, meaning the day they left their humanity behind and became a saint) is almost more important than Christmas and Easter.  The feasts days are like a birthday and a major holiday all wrapped up in one.  Like Angela, the Sicilian people have personal attachments to these saints; they ask them for favors large and small. Their pictures hang on walls and watch over the families like a beloved uncle.  St. Anthony, to this adoring crowd, is right there with them hearing their stories and prayers, laughing and crying, serving himself some antipasti.  At the same time his June death is as big as Christmas.  People in Gloucester travel around to each others homes saying novenas to him, sharing cookies and coffee afterward – for 13 days in advance.  On the actual feast day people take time off from work; they dress in their best; they go to mass, and they cook.   Friends, relatives, local dignitiaries skip breakfast that day knowing that fish from the Gloucester waters will be prepared fifteen different ways for lunch, and not one dish is to be passed over.

Most people imagine that St. Peter, the fishermen’s saint, the saint celebrated at fiesta with greasy pole walking, seine boat races, and amusement park rides, is Gloucester’s headliner saint, but there was a time when the entire city shut down on March 19th for the feast of St. Joseph.  Today, buses take crowds from altar to altar all over the city celebrating St. Joseph.  At Angela’s that day, St. Anthony drew a standing-room-only crowd.

At each saint’s feast, the bread is taken to the altar and blessed.

 

Jose Duarte’s Spring Squid Ceviche

May 25th, 2017

Calamari Season!

While woody Chilean strawberries continue to mock the seasons from their shelves in large chain grocery stores, more and more farmers are tilling local soil. More and more farmers’ markets are setting up on town greens and in parking lots allowing us to purchase local, seasonal food. The principle of eating from the calendar, eating seasonal local foods, has thankfully, at least in some communities, survived big supermarket’s grip.

Not so much for fish.

Rarely anymore does a fish market or the fish counter of a grocery store reflect what is seasonal and local. Most fish markets fill their cases with haddock, cod, Chilean sea bass, tuna, swordfish, and some shrimp and oysters all year long. Almost never do we feel either the absence of a fish out of season or the arrival of a fish in season because there is always Norway, Iceland, and Southeast Asia to fill the gaps. The local food movement is leagues ahead of the fish local movement, but the same principles apply.

In southern New England, late April – early May is squid season, as regular as lilacs. New England fishermen say that when the buds pop out on the trees the squid “come in,” and all the fish follow. Longfin Inshore Squid (Doryteuthis pealeii also known as Loligo pealeii) spend their winters in deeper waters along the edge of the Continental Shelf. Their arrival inshore – they come to spawn – marks the start of spring for those living close to the Nantucket Sound waters. For the fishermen, the squid are like the gunshot in the air declaring the start of the year’s fishing season.

In Nantucket Sound in early May, if the fishermen they aren’t landing squid they are landing fluke with bellies and mouths full of squid.

It’s described as “a sweet time,” because everything is coming in from off shore or coming North. The water temperatures are up. The Cape Cod and Rhode Island boats all head to Nantucket Sound, because the squid have arrived there, and with them everything else.

 

Jose Duarte’s Spring Squid Ceviche

With local spring ramps from the Boston Public Market and traditional Peruvian ingredients, chef Jose Duarte created a May in Boston edition of  “leche de tigre,” the classic Peruvian ceviche classically made with lime, salt, onion and garlic.  The cool freshness, the brightness of the sauce over the creamy squid makes this a winning dish for even squid-squeamish; sweet potato, a sweet, earthy counterpoint to the verdant sauce, confirms the win.  

“In Peru ceviche is cooked, marinated fish,” Duarte says, describing the process of flash scalding the squid as “scaring the squid.”  They are plunged into boiling water for just under a minute, then removed to an ice bath.  

No bow to Peruvian cuisine would be right without Ahi Amarillo, the Peruvian word for peppers, essential in that cuisine.  Peruvians have cultivated peppers for over 7000 years.  Over 300 types of chili peppers find their way into modern Peruvian dishes, but Ahi Amarillo, the Pervuian yellow pepper, is the most familiar.  

Duarte uses Ahi Amarillo Paste and Huacatay –  dried black mint paste, flags of his native land..  Ahi yellow peppers are a medium-to-high heat pepper with a unique fruity flavor.  Haucatay is a fragrant Pervuian herb described as a combination of basil, tarragon, mint, and lime.  They are difficult to substitute, and Duarte recommends you don’t.  The point of this dish is to frame this beautiful local squid in some Peruvian and New England tradition.  Both products can be found in ethnic grocery stores, and in some standard grocery stores with Brazilian ingredients.  

 

 

 

serves 4 as an appetizer, 2 as an entree, is easily doubled

Ingredients

For the Squid

1 pound cleaned, skinned squid, body cut into 3/4” rings, legs whole

boiling salted water

ice bath

 

For the Sauce:

4 limes

3 teaspoons ahi paste

1 teaspoons black mint

2 spring ramps or small spring onions (1 ounce)

1 bunch cilantro, leaves only

3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt

 

To Finish:

1/2 small red onion, diced

1 sweet potato, baked, allowed to cool (room temperature), peeled, and cut into cubes

2 tablespoons chopped roasted pecans (optional)

1 sliced radish to garnish

 

Instructions

  1. Clean squid, and cut into 3/4 “ rings, leaving tentacles intact.
  2.  Prepare ice bath beside boiling water.  Drop squid into boiling salted water for exactly 1 minute.  Remove immediately to ice bath.  After squid is cool, about 3 minutes, remove to paper towels and pat dry.
  3.  To make the sauce, put all the ingredients in a blender, and blend on high for 3 minutes, or until everything is highly processed.  Set aside.
  4.  Put squid in a medium bowl, and toss with diced onion.  Add 2-3 tablespoons of sauce at at time, and toss well.  Add more sauce to taste.
  5.  Serve squid in bowls or on small plates, placing cubes of sweet potato around.  Sprinkle pecans over all if desired, and scatter 3-4 radish slices around plate.  

About Frozen Fish:  Freezing can break down the cell structure in a fish.  The frozen liquid expands in the cell structure, slightly breaking down that structure.  When the  fish is defrosted, the water runs out.  Some suppleness is lost because your are left with mostly a connective-tissue like flesh, which results in either a mushy or tough texture.   Charles Draghi

 

 

To Prepare Squid:

  1. Lay your squid out beside each other on a cutting board.  They should be a beautiful gray-white-to pink color with no aroma.  Pick up the first squid, holding the body in one hand, and the tentacles in another.  Give a gentle tug, pulling the tentacles away from the body.  The guts should have pulled out of the body, remaining attached to the legs and tentacles.  
  2. Now you have the body and the legs and tentacles (with guts attached) in two parts.  Pick up the body, and remove anything left inside.  Feel the wider end of the body for the hard, plastic-feeling quill or pen, actually pointy at the end.  Find that, and give a tug.  The pen should pull right out of the body in one piece.  Discard.  
  3. There is a pink outer skin with flaps still on the squid body; simply pull that away and off, and discard.  The wings can be cut off at this point.  Reserve them.  
  4. The tentacle section is a length of parts:  guts (with ink sack within), eyes and then tentacles.  First cut off the tentacles right in front of the eyes.  Feel the top of the tentacles for a hard, white, 3/4” sphere.  That is the beak.  It pulls out easily with your fingers.  Remove and discard.

 

About Squid.

May 23rd, 2017

Longfin Inshore squid spend their winters in deeper waters along the edge of the Continental Shelf.  Their arrival inshore – they come to spawn – marks the start of spring for those living close to the Nantucket Sound waters.  For the fishermen, they are like the gunshot in the air declaring the start of the year’s fishing season.
After squid spawn, they return to deeper waters, retreating from the paths of rapacious striped bass and bluefish; almost all New England fish consider squid a favorite meal.
At night, attracted by the lights, squid will chase small bait fish, also attracted by light, into shallow waters around bridges and piers.  Many squid fishermen fish with lights at night to attract the squid.  Some simply drop glow sticks from the county fair, tied to a leaded weight, into the water.  Jigging this way for squid off docks is a springtime New England tradition, but it is considered very bad manners to leave squid ink on someone’s boat.
“The squid are cyclical but no one can remember the cycle,” Auerbach says.  “Some fishermen will say it’s every seven years there’s a great year, but no one can remember which year was the last great one!”
Fishmongers refer to squid that hasn’t been skinned or cleaned as “dirty squid,” but dirty squid means the added gift of ink, their defense mechanism, famous in Venetian dishes like the ebony squid-ink risotto or pasta.  That pouch lives inside the squid body.  Cleaning squid, look for it in the “guts” that come out of the body when pulling the legs and tentacles away.
Squid have a chitinous quill down their spine that looks like nothing more than plastic trash; it’s almost shocking how convincingly nature has mirrored plastic debris, or the reverse.
Longfin Inshore Squid have a healthy reddish-to-gray cast, but darker red means they are beginning to spoil.  Watch for that.  And squid spoil quickly, which is why they are often flash frozen.
Squid should be cooked with quick high heat to medium rare.  In these recipes Draghi uses a very hot pan and Duarte plunges them in boiling water for under a minute.
Watch the salt.  Squid have seawater in them, so taste the cooked product before adding more salt.
Draghi reminds that squid are a great foil for strong flavors – add calamari to a stew with mussels, or other strong flavored fish.  But they are also great prepared as simply as possible, with just a squeeze of lemon.
Squid ink can be added to sauces or seafood stews acting as a thickener.  Jose Duarte goes even farther, saying that raw squid can be pureed in a blender with a little stock, and used in seafood stews as a thickener.
People say the best tasting squid are the ones in Nantucket Sound and particularly off Point Judith, R.I., because they’ve been feeding on fish that have been eating blue-green algae, which sweetens everything.
The best testament, according to Charles Draghi, on squid deliciousness?
“Squid is the absolute favorite food of striped bass, and stripers have their choice of anything in the sea!”

How To Clean Squid

Lay your squid out beside each other on a cutting board.  They should be a beautiful gray-white-to pink color with no aroma.  Pick up the first squid, holding the body in one hand, and the tentacles in another.  Give a gentle tug, pulling the tentacles away from the body.  The guts should have pulled out of the body, remaining attached to the legs and tentacles.
Look carefully within the guts for an opalescent-black sack.  That is the ink sack.  As you clean, gently remove the guts to one bowl, so that you can later try to contain and harvest the ink sacks.
Now you have two parts:  the body is one part and the legs with tentacles (with guts attached) is the other.  Pick up the body, and remove anything left inside.  Feel the wider end of the body for the hard, plastic-feeling quill or pen, actually pointy at the end.  Find that, and give a tug.  The pen should pull right out of the body in one piece.  Discard.
There is a pink outer skin still on the squid body; simply pull that away and off, and discard.  The wings can be cut off at this point.  Reserve them.
The tentacle section is a length of three parts:  guts (with ink sack within), eyes and then tentacles.  First cut off the tentacles right in front of the eyes.  Feel the top of the tentacles for a hard, white, 3/4” sphere.  That is the beak.  It pulls out easily with your fingers.  Remove and discard.
In the photo you see 5 elements:  starting from the rear of the photo, the body (not yet skinned), the tentacles and legs, the eyes, the guts, and the beak.  Discard the beak and eyes, and reserve the guts to a bowl so that you have the ink. On a plate, pile the bodies and tentacles in two separate piles as you work.  Continue with the remaining squid; you will get the hang of it quickly, and this work should really take just 15 minutes, about a minute per squid.

Seared Squid with Black Olive & Saffron Sauce

May 23rd, 2017

This squid recipe was created by Charles Draghi, chef and owner of Erbaluce in Boston, at last spring’s Boston Public Market Seafood Throwdown, sponsored by NAMA.

Draghi says, “there is nothing I don’t like about squid; they are easier to breakdown than a lot of fish. I love their versatility, and their texture. They have a clean flavor and a creamy texture; it’s almost a latex-y bite, but it’s very pleasant.”

“When squid first come in shore there is a minerally taste to them. Then they start feeding on the inshore fish eating the blue green algae, and they become more flavorful – sweeter and creamier.”

Drag creates here a pungent black olive sauce, made with fresh herbs and one of his favorite ingredients, saffron. For a little added briny flavor, he pours a bit of the liquid collected at the bottom of the bowl holding the squid – a mixture of ink and squid “juice” – into the sauce.

Draghi says this sauce would be equally delicious over fresh grilled sardines, or whole scallops served with the roe. A dense, light fish like halibut or striped bass would also love this sauce, but for striped bass change the olive paste to green olives. Ironically, neutral flavored fish like strong flavors, Draghi points out.

“Halibut and rosemary are a great combination.” Olives, he says, are perfect with fish, and the black olives add an extra smokey flavor.

Uncleaned, squid weigh approximately a 1/2 pound a piece. Don’t rinse the cleaned squid too well; leave a bit of the ink on the surface.

“You want a little flavor of land and sea,” Draghi says.

Last words of wisdom from Charles Draghi: “there is no such thing as too much lemon.”

 

serves 4 as an appetizer Ingredients:

For Squid
1 pound cleaned, skinned squid (5-6 whole squid), body cut into 3/4” rings, legs whole pinch salt
pinch pepper
pinch sugar
drizzle olive oil
juice from 1/2 a lemon

For Sauce:
3 tablespoons black olive paste (tapenade) 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

salt to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
juice from half a lemon (or 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar)
dried anise hyssop (or tarragon) – optional
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
2 tablespoons juice and leftover ink from squid – the drips at the bottom of the bowl that held the squid

Instructions:

Put squid in a medium bowl, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and sugar. Toss well, then drizzle in olive oil, and toss again.

Heat a medium skillet to high heat. Place squid in pan in a single layer, and DO NOT MOVE. (This may be done in stages or use 2 pans at once to cook all the squid.) Leave still in the pan for a good 2 minutes, allowing dark caramelization to occur, and the edges to char.

After the bottom has achieved dark marks, begin to move around in the pan. Allow squid to cook go medium rare, about 3-5 minutes. Squeeze lemon half over all, and remove squid to a platter.

Mix together the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.

To serve, place squid on a platter, and drizzle sauce attractively around and over. Serve immediately, while squid is still warm.

Goodbye FFT, hello The Other Cape.

March 9th, 2017

 

 

 

 

Well, it’s ALMOST time for me to say goodbye to Food for Thought. The site will still stand, and I will post the occasional OMG Recipe, the recipe so good I just have to print it, or a really good fish story, but mostly I will be working as managing editor of The Other Cape.

If you haven’t already, check it out. Today’s story is once again about Lila Deluca, the 10-year-old Rockporter competing on this season’s MasterChef Junior Thursday nights at 8:00. The photography is gorgeous, and there is a bonus video in which Lila teaches how to make Slime. Upcoming stories will be on Mayflour Confections, Lynzariums Plant Shack, and Cape Ann winter surfing. Follow us!

Nordur, the Veuve Cliquot of salt

March 5th, 2017

salt nordur

There is enough swoonable romance surrounding Nordur salt to sell it on its story alone:  Nordur salt has been harvested from the same shallow Icelandic waters of Breiðafjörður bay by the same Danish salt-harvesting methods for 260 years.

The Nordur guys – an incredibly photogenic bunch of blond brawny Icelanders – are committed to sustainable production, and use from start to finish only the region’s natural geothermal energy:  to heat the seawater, and then again to heat the open-air pans and to dry the salt.  The first heating process is done in a tank under sub-atmospheric pressures.  The seawater thus boils at a lower temperature without scorching.  The Nordur people claim this best preserves the Breiðafjörður water’s estimable trace minerals.

The resulting pans of salt are hand-raked and harvested.  The azure-tangerine packaging has won design awards.  

salt box

This is the Veuve Cliquot of salts.  It has a feathery lightness, a sweet saltiness akin to English Maldon Salt, which is similarly produced with seawater and raked by hand, but Nordur has more of all those things – more feathery flakes, like the lightest, prettiest snowflakes.  More minerality.  If salt can taste sweet, Nordur does.  Even my husband, unaware of which sodium brand filled our salt cellar, recently seasoned a piece of chicken, took a bite, and commented, “wow! – even this salt is good!”

 

salt with vanilla ice cream and olive oil

 

A bowl of Nordur on the counter called for me to recreate one of our dessert standards:  vanilla ice cream served with olive oil and sea salt.  First discovered in a Jamie Oliver cookbook, this combination is sublime:  two editions of creamy – the ice cream and olive oil –  laced with the sparkling minerality of high quality sea salt.  Simply serve the ice cream in bowls, pour about a tablespoon of fruity olive oil over each serving, then sprinkle with sea salt.  Before you arch that eyebrow, try it.

Nordur makes a wonderful gift; don’t even wrap it, the box is so pretty.  Imported by Prestige Global Inc. who found the salt while combing the world for high quality, healthy products, Nordur can be found at Salt Traders in Ipswich, MA, and can be easily purchased from their website.