Posts Tagged ‘local foods’

Calamari Season!

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

dirty squid


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. Our children know better when and how strawberries grow. 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.

Enough preaching. Here is a great local catch we should all be eating right now!

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, or 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.

Jared Auerbach, CEO and owner of Red’s Best Fish Distributors, said that all the Cape Cod fishermen he dealt with are landing squid right now. If they aren’t landing squid they are landing fluke with bellies and mouths full of squid.

“This is a sweet time; everything is coming in from off shore or coming North. The water temperatures are up. The boats area all in Nantucket Sound, because the squid have arrived there,” and with them everything else.

All winter the fishing in Nantucket Sound has been punctual but not thrilling. The squid return every year to these waters to spawn, and every year the fish follow.

“From late April, early May to December we are shining!” Auerbach grins. And it’s dramatic:

“The squid light up and change colors in the water,” Auerbach said, “when they attack they are vicious! They come on deck and squirt you with ink, and I mean, they attack!”

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.  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 to squid deliciousness comes from the chef/owner of the Italian restaurant Erbaluce in the Back Bay, Charles Draghi. Draghi, who has a classical chef’s training, still approaches cuisine with the Old World Italian ways of his Peidmontese relatives; he sources produce almost exclusively from local farms and farmers markets, and calls his fishermen friends each morning to ask what they’re catching.

At a recent Seafood Throwdown Draghi seared local squid rings and tentacles in a hot pan, and then tossed them in a black olive, saffron and fresh herb sauce. Praising the flavor therein, Draghi said, “you know squid are delicious because they are the absolute favorite food of striped bass, and stripers have their choice of anything in the sea!”

My squid came from the FV Rimrack out of Portsmouth, NH.  Fisherwoman Amanda Parks met me in a Portsmouth parking lot with 60 pounds of freshly caught squid destined for a bunch of happy Cape Ann kitchens.  Parks was as happy about the squid season as Auerbach, and had already created a bunch of squid recipes right on the boat.

The recipe below is meant to be a super-quick way to tuck calamari into a dish that everyone loves: tacos. The mild, sweet taste of calamari welcomes the strong flavors of chilis and lime. Add some cool slaw and a toasted corn tortilla and this is an easy, light, and unusual vehicle for this great local seafood.

squid tacos 2


Chili Lime Calamari Tacos

2 pounds cleaned squid, bodies cut into 3/4” widths and tentacles

2 tablespoons olive oil (plus more for cooking the squid)

3 tablespoons minced garlic zest from

3 limes

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 teaspoons chili powder

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

1/2 teaspoon sea salt (or kosher)

4 cups shredded cabbage (a mix of purple and green is ideal)

1 cup cilantro leaves

1 tablespoon diced jalapeno

juice from 3 limes (about 3 tablespoons)

16 small corn tortillas

1 medium avocado, halved and cut into thin slices

sea salt more

chili powder for dusting


  1. In a large bowl toss together squid, olive oil, garlic, lime zest, red pepper flakes, chili powder, cayenne, and sea salt. Let sit for at least 15 minutes, but no more than 1 hour.
  2. In a separate large bowl toss together the cabbage, cilantro, jalapeno, and lime juice. Let sit for at least 15 minutes, or up to an hour.
  3. When ready to prepare the tacos, begin warming the tortillas: Preheat oven to “warm” or lowest temperature.  Lay out a clean dish towel in which to wrap the heated tortillas. Set out a bowl of water.
  4. Heat a large skillet to medium high. Add a shimmer of olive oil.
  5. Dip each tortilla in the water and then immediately into the hot pan. Allow them to get hot, and brown, and then turn over. Let cook 1 minute, and then remove to the dish towel.
  6. Wrap them, place them in the oven, and continue with the rest. Keep warm until the squid is ready.
  7. To cook the squid, heat a pan that will hold them in a single layer, or use two pans, to high heat. Pour a shimmer of olive oil in the pan, and heat to high. Add the squid in one layer, and do not touch! Let the squid sit in the pan on high heat for about 1 1/2 minutes. Once they squid has solid brown marks, move them gently in the pan, turning to brown the other sides.
  8. Cook like this for 3-5 minutes, but no more, until the squid are sort of scorched in places, cooked through, but not tough. The garlic may scorch in the pan by the end, but just leave that there. It has done its job of seasoning the squid.
  9. To assemble the taco, lay out a tortilla, top with a scoop of cole slaw, and then 4-5 pieces of squid. Lay a slice of avocado over the squid, and dust with salt and chili powder. Serve immediately.

Tangerine Macarons

Saturday, March 24th, 2012



French bakery windows glow with towering pyramids of candy-colored macarons, but the double-decker pastry that’s put France back on the cookie map, after a madeleine lull, was born in Italy.  Catherine de Medici apparently introduced French courts to her hometown favorite when she married the Duc of Orleans in 1533.  (afterward, Henry II).  The French apparently never looked back, and the Italians, dipping another zaleti in the prosecco, seemed ok letting macarons go.  (Macarons and macaroni share the same etymological root, meaning “fine dough.”)

Shauna Hinchen-Joyal and Linda Currier can attest to the magic of macarons, but when they describe the process, one wonders how on earth the pastry survived five hundred years of uneven oven temperatures and humidity.

Hinchen-Joyal and Currier own and operate Tangerine, makers of specialty cakes and fine pastries, in Hamilton, MA.

“It took us about a year to get them (macarons) right,” Hinchen-Joyal told me.  The egg whites have to “age” in the refrigerator.  Exposed to air, the egg white strands “strengthen” and some of the water in them evaporates.  Macarons need a very fine grind of nuts and sugar.  You have to use very good confectionary sugar because the cheap stuff has too much corn starch.

Then there’s the mixing of the nuts and sugar mixture into the egg whites, a process which has a name, “macronage.”

Over-mixed the macronage, the dough runs, and you have flat macarons. Too stiff a macronage, the dough sits up too high, and there’s no gleam to the macarons’ surface.

The oven is the next trial:  air, heat, humidity.  Hinchen-Joyal watches carefully, sometimes opening the oven door to let air flow in while the macarons bake.

“We make lots of these for weddings and events, and we can’t afford to screw up.”  But, she adds, “we still get a bust batch from time to time.”  Macarons are that mercurial.

Tangerine sources as locally as possible:  Taza Chocolate, Privateer Rum, and Cabot Butter for example.  They’re facebook page today boasts some gorgeous arauracana eggs.

Hinchen-Joyal says the flavors are the fun part; they’re inventing new ones everyday:  coconut with sea-salt caramel and ginger,  Meyer lemon with chocolate ganache, Taza Chocolate nibs with chai.

I sampled a box; the quality – the ratio of crack to soft center, of mildly flavored cookie to intensely flavored filling, their freshness, and the gorgeous springtime palette, all said “Ces macarons sont parfait!”   I say save your airfare and buy local macarons.

pssst:  Passover begins April 6; Easter is April 8th.  Macarons have no leavening.



P.O. Box 472

Wenham, MA 01984




Enzo Restaurant’s Brussels Sprout Salad

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

Re-inventing cuisines with uber-regional foods is a happy edition of eating locally; Enzo in Newburyport is mastering it.  Owners Mary and Dave Reilly have created a unique little restaurant with a Ligurian, trattoria stamp.  The menu is short, and everything on it is made from scratch – from the warm squares of focaccia to the pickled tomatillos that animate a fonduta, the bubbling, melted Taleggio and Fontina D’Aosta cheese appetizer.

The Enzo homemade handkerchiefs of fresh pasta floating in a light tomato sauce, dolloped with house-made ricotta cheese, taste like the best of Northern Italy, but the light-as-a-breeze homemade pappardelle is piled high with pale pink Gulf of Maine Shrimp and cannellini beans.  (Quick! – The shrimp season ends soon; this dish leaves the menu this week.)

Roasted Tomato Soup is an Italian grandmother standard; the Enzo version is as traditional as zuppa gets: smooth tomatoes graced with Parmigiana Reggiano and homemade croutons.  Farther down the appetizer menu is a Kale Salad with Roasted Squash, an Italian insalata remade with the best of a New England farm in February.

Golden, pan-roasted gnocchi nestle within a thicket of locally grown Shady Oaks mushrooms and threads of crispy leeks.   Along with the kale and kohlrabi delivery, Heron Pond Farm supplies Enzo with wheatberries, an American version of Italian farro, the grain which appears as soups and salads all over Umbria.  The Heron Pond Farm wheatberries, scented with saffron, welcome a filet of roasted, prosciutto-wrapped monkfish, a catch from the fishing vessel Hope + Sidney.

Chicken under a brick never leaves the menu; Reilly cooks each flattened chicken to order under about twenty pounds of weighted skillets.  Call it the restaurant’s chicken standard, until you taste the agrodolce focaccia stuffing, homemade bread seasoned with the classic Italian combination of sweet and vinegar, nothing standard about it; It’s novel and delicious.

This brussels sprout recipe is Enzo’s answer to the question, “how do we make a panzanella salad – the traditional Italian bread salad made with summery red tomatoes and fresh basil – in New England in the winter?”

The result looks nothing like its parent, but it has a brilliant future. A perfect arrangement of tastes and textures; it should be our winter salad paradigm as panzanella is a summer Tuscan one.  My teenage daughters declared it “the best thing they’d ever eaten,” and asked if we could have it every night.

There are many steps, but they’re easy, and each could be completed a full day ahead, the whole assembled quickly.


50 Water Street #304  Newburyport, MA 01950
(978) 462-1801



Enzo’s Brussels Sprout Salad


4 cups brussels sprout leaves (Cut the bottom off each sprout and then loosen the leaves off with your fingers. Keep cutting the core back as you peel the leaves off.)

2 oz thinly sliced pancetta

2 tablespoons sugar

2 cups cubed or torn bread (from a country-style loaf)

olive oil

3 cups mushrooms (oyster, shiitake, cremini or portobellp), sliced or torn into ½-¾” strips

Pancetta-molasses dressing (recipe below), at room temperature

4 poached eggs

Salt and pepper to taste


Heat your oven to 400 degrees.

Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil.  Lightly blanch the sprout leaves by dropping them in the water for about 30 seconds.  Drain and set aside on a sheet pan to cool. (this can be done a day ahead)

Lay the pancetta slices on a parchment or silpat-lined sheet pan and sprinkle them evenly with sugar. Roast pancetta in oven until sugar is melted and pancetta is crisp and brown. This may take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes, depnding on how thin your pancetta is – keep an eye on the oven and watch for burning pancetta! Set aside and let cool.  (this can be done a day ahead)

Toss the bread cubes with olive oil and place them on a sheet pan. Toast in the preheated oven until evenly browned and crisp, about 7-10 minutes.

Toss the mushrooms with olive oil and place them on a sheet pan. Roast in the preheated oven until evenly browned and softened, about 10 minutes.

Toss the drained sprout leaves with the croutons, mushrooms and a big dollop of dressing (you want to make sure the croutons are not dry).  Divide tossed salad on to four dinner plates.  Crumble the pancetta over the top of the salads, season with salt and pepper, and top each salad with a poached egg.


Pancetta-molasses dressing

Yields about 3 cups

3 oz pancetta, sliced or cubed

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/2 cup molasses

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

2 cups oil (we use a blend of olive and canola oils)

Cook pancetta in a skillet until crisp and browned and the fat is rendered out.  Cool slightly and then place pancetta and all the rendered fat in the bowl of a food processor.  Add the mustard molasses, and vinegar to the processor bowl.  Turn the processor on and let it grind up the pancetta. When the mixture in the bowl looks semi-smooth, pour in the oil.  When the dressing looks cohesive and smooth, turn of the processor and check for seasoning.  Depending on your pancetta, you might want to add a little salt, or more molasses or vinegar: it should taste sweet, sour and salty.  This dressing should be stored in the refrigerator and brought up to room temperature (or heated) before use.



Gulf of Maine Shrimp Cocktail

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

One problem with the small, sweet and extremely local, Pandalus borealis, or Gulf of Maine Shrimp, is calling them “shrimp,” a name which cannot come unattached to images of large, firm, fleshy arcs of meat seen breaded and broiled, or lolling off the rim of a bowl full of cocktail sauce.  We should call our native version “small, sweet local prawns.”  Or, make them exotic:  “Crevette Nordique.”


A true New England winter fishery, these pink little, bug-eyed insects are cheap ($2.95 a pound recently), and only available from late December through about March.  Yes, they’re tedious, because they’re so much smaller than their Gulf of Mexico cousins – about the size of a child’s finger once shelled – but these are the real local thing, so it’s worth making a few meals from them.  Just don’t expect them to do what the Jumbo versions do.

Think of our version of a prawn as a great local resource for flavor.  Their shells, along with some onion, celery and carrot, make an amazing stock.  Strain it, and throw in some pollock or hake for a delicious local soupe de poisson.


I’ve tossed Pandalus borealis with their shells into a very hot oil and spice-filled pan – chili pepper, oregano, cumin – and set them down Florida-style for everyone to peel and eat.  I haven’t done it yet, but certainly there’s a pasta dish waiting to happen, perhaps one involving parsley, lemon and garlic?

Again, these shrimp are small, but filled with sweet flavor, Gulf of Maine flavor rather than Gulf of Mexico.  Think wild Maine blueberries vs. cultivated Florida ones.

Lanesville resident and excellent cook, John Tulik, gave me this recipe for Pandalus borealis Cocktail.  The recipe is two parts:  First preparing the shrimp, which means peeling them, making that divine stock with their shells, gently cooking the bodies in the stock (John taught me to always cook fish by just bringing it up to 140 degrees; the fish will be perfectly cooked and still tender.), then shocking the crevettes in ice water.


Then, Tulik cools the stock, and returns the little guys to bathe in it, grabbing a bit more flavor before serving.



The second part of the recipe is the cocktail sauce.  John simply provided the ingredients, and left it to me to decide how much of each, but what I came up with was the freshest, spiciest cocktail sauce I’ve ever tasted.  We sponged the last of it up with bits of toast when the crevettes were gone.

Here is the recipe, basically in Tulik’s words, with his helpful notes:


Gulf of Maine Shrimp Cocktail



1 lb. Gulf of Maine shrimp in their shells

white wine (Sauvignon Blanc is best)

1 medium red onion

1 celery stalk

1 carrot peeled

salt (not too much!) and pepper to taste

1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil:  (Be careful as olive oil becomes rancid after three weeks once opened and three months unopened.  When buying, reach to the back of the shelf.  Trader Joes has a great Spanish olive oil at at high turnover.  Never buy “Light” olive oil!)



Peel shrimps and reserve heads and shells.

Dice celery –  you may include leaves – carrots, and onions.  Put all into a sautee pan with the reserved shrimp heads and shells.  Sautee until the skins turn red and the vegetables slightly caramelize. Stir so as not to burn anything.

Add 2 cups white wine, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for ½  to  ¾ hour.

Strain out solids, and bring stock temperature down to 140 degrees.  Add shrimps in small batches until they reach 139-140 degrees then shock them in ice water. (This will make them have an excellent texture).

Put stock in a container and put in freezer until temperature drops to 40 degrees.

Soak shrimps in this 40 degree stock for an hour prior to service.


Cocktail Sauce



pure horseradish (not fresh, but without preservatives.  Domans is best.  (Heather’s note:  I used Maitland Farm horseradish from Salem, MA.)

lime juice of 1/2 lime and all of the zest

celery leaves finely shredded

worcestershire sauce to taste

hot sauce to taste

tiny bit of sugar


black pepper to taste

garnish with fresh parsley and lime quarters

plate over large lettuce leaves