Archive for June, 2012

Marvin Roberts and a Fresh Raspberry Vinaigrette

Friday, June 29th, 2012

When giving a tour of his Witham St. garden, Marvin Roberts apologizes with a humility that reveals his northwest Ohio roots, “Geez, I’m sorry, I can’t remember the common name, but that’s Helianthus tuberosus.”

– Jerusalem artichokes.

Roberts identifies everything in his garden by their latin names; genus and species never fail; only his common English occasionally lapses.

Probably one of the most serious farmers north of Boston, Marvin Roberts doesn’t have a stand at the farmers‘ markets, nor is he hailed as a farmer hero by any local restaurant.  Still, his half-acre boasts Red Haven peaches, asparagus, rhubarb, cherries, blueberries, jerusalem artichokes, alliums from Walking onions to Egyptian onions, burdock, horseradish, kale, quinoa, herbs for any bouquet garni, and a raspberry patch as lush as a rain forest.




A couple of small pots by the door hold a watercress experiment.

There’s not a brown spot or a limp stem in the property.  Built upon fill – – for years, Roberts pedaled buckets of seaweed up from Good Harbor Beach – the garden is a mini-Findhorn, a fertile crescent in a densely packed Gloucester neighborhood.

I wrote about Roberts on my blog last year, and this year he kindly invited me back to visit.

With a Ph.D. in Botany, Roberts has taught in four different states.  His paper on the ballistic seed dispersal of the Illicium plant received international attention.  (Exploding llicium seed pods, the plant’s great evolutionary trick, can shoot 40 feet, a serious “ouch!” if you’re nearby.)

He keeps thermometers in his soil; most plants germinate at 60 degrees.  At one point in our tour, Roberts bent over with a tool to remove a rare thrust of what looked like common grass, almost lost to my eye between burgeoning horseradish and rhubarb.

“See this,” Roberts points, “ – sedge.  It’s a weed that’s driving me crazy.  I know exactly when it came here; I bought a bag of cheap potting soil from Shaw’s five years ago, ‘cuz it was on sale, and it was in the mix.”  Roberts went on to explain that sedge looks like a yellow grass but it’s not really a grass; it’s an aquatic plant. My point is that Roberts knows more about the provenance and botany of his weeds than most people, including myself, know of their summer squash.

Because he’s got both science and imagination (He referenced McGee’s great book on Food and Cooking, the Science of Lore of the Kitchen a few times in our conversation.) Roberts is a probably also one of the more inventive, adaptive cooks I know.  He told me about one thanksgiving he collected mussels from Plum Cove, and put them in his turkey stuffing.  Here’s my favorite story:  that same thanksgiving Roberts also collected red algae to make his own Blanc Mange.

Marvin generously gave me a jar of his homemade rhubarb, coconut, and almond topping for ice cream, which quickly disappeared, and he insists the recipe is just a jumble.  So I am including here a recipe from Amanda Hesser’s wonderful book documenting her year-long friendship with the gardener at the famous French cooking school, La Varenne.  This recipe is a wonderful use for all those quarts of raspberries for which Marvin will soon be fighting the happy birds.



Amanda Hesser’s Raspberry Vinaigrette


1 cup raspberries

coarse or kosher salt to taste

1/4 cup best quality olive oil (very important)


Crush the raspberries with a fork on in your fists and push them through a fine sieve to extract as much juice as possible.  This should yield 1/4 cup of juice.  In a small bowl whisk the juice with a little salt, and slowly add the olive oil, a drop at a time, whisking constantly.  As the dressing emulsifies and thickens, you can add the oil in a slow, steady stream, until all the oil has been added and is well incorporated.  Correct the seasoning with more salt if necessary.  Hesser recommends this on soft bib lettuces.

*note:  if the raspberries are bland, add a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar.


Chris DelGross and Risotto Milanese Mexicana

Thursday, June 28th, 2012


Chris Delgross’s culinary faith lies in two trinities:  the mirepoix with which so many Italian dishes begin:  celery, onion, and carrots.  – and the start of great Mexican recipes:  onion, tomato and chilies.  DelGross cooks “Mexitalian Cuisine,” a unique style he documents on The DelGrosso Food Blog.  (No, that final “o” isn’t a typo;  the DelGrosso family lost the “o” when they immigrated, but DelGross added it back to his blog. Watch his risotto video here:

A former U.S. marine, Chris DelGross lives in coastal Maine, and works for Rochester Electronics in Newburyport, MA as a test engineer.  Married with a seven-year-old daughter and a new baby almost here, DelGross is nothing if not ardent about cooking.  Whether it’s every day dinner, auditioning for MasterChef (He was called back, but didn’t make the final cut), or preparing the meal for his wife’s baby shower (caprese salad, homemade pizzas, baked shells with homemade bolognese), DelGross’s heart is one hundred percent present at the stove.

As a child DelGross woke up every Sunday to the smells of his father’s Italian sauce – a combination of meats – pigs feet, sausage, meatballs, chicken –  seared with garlic and onion, and then cooked with tomato paste.  Chris turned the handle on the pasta machine for the holiday raviolis.  Christmas Eve meant the feast of the seven fishes;  Easter was Shadone, an Easter Pie made with ricotta cheese, meats, and 14 eggs.


But, DelGross is zealous about his wife’s family cuisine.  The DelGross family travels every year to Mexico City, where DelGross says he almost never leaves his mother-in-law – Maria del Carmen’s – side in the kitchen.  Carmen has taught DelGross how to make bacalao vizcaina – shredded salt cod sauteed in garlic, onions and chilis, and served with fresh bollilos.  He’s learned about cooking tripe:  cleaned, boiled and stewed in gaujillos sauce.  And he’s learned the complex art of cooking with chilies.  The fundamental lesson, he says, is to always roast fresh chilies or toast dried chilies to evoke the flavors that make Mexican cuisine great.  The sugars emerge and the flavors transform when chilies are treated with heat; ancho chilies, for instance, smell like raisins when they’re toasted; guajillos smell like peanuts.


Along with impressing the people at MasterChef, Delgross recently won first place with his morel, wild ramp, poblano, and goat cheese soufflee in a contest sponsored by Marx Foods.  His culinary dreams include owning a Mexitalian food truck, serving dishes like gnocchi in a tomato poblano sauce, tacos with braciole, tortas with Italian meats, shells stuffed with chorizo.  (DelGross makes his own chorizo, along with his own ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, and of course pastas.)

DelGross designed this Mexitalian dish for another MarxFoods contest; a classic risotto Milanese made with saffron and butter, the dish crosses continents when DelGross adds with tequila, homemade chorizo, and manchego cheese.

He uses Integrale rice, a whole grain arborio rice with the bran still intact, but this dish can be prepared with traditional arborio rice, although it may need slightly less broth; just taste for doneness.

Integrale Milanese Mexicana



1 1/2 cups Integrale rice

1 clove garlic

1/2  medium yellow onion

1/3 cup Tequila Añejo

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon saffron

1 teaspoon salt

½ lb. Mexican Chorizo

¼ cup Manchego Cheese

5 cups Chicken Broth



Place the 5 cups of broth in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.

Add the saffron to the broth and keep very warm.

Meanwhile, take the chorizo and heat over medium heat and cook for about 10 minutes, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as it cooks.

Place 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.

Once it is hot, add the onion and garlic and cook until translucent, but not browning.

Add the rice and stir to combine.

Add the Tequila and cook until it is completely absorbed.

Start adding the stock about 1 cup at a time and stirring constantly until each cup of stock is completely absorbed before adding the next. After 4 cups of stock have been added, start tasting the rice (or about 20 minutes)

When the rice is al dente, remove from heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and the cheese and stir vigorously.

Plate the risotto and sprinkle with the chorizo. Garnish with fresh parsley or fresh oregano.

Beet Risotto with Garlic Scape Pesto and Flowers

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012


Lucky enough to be voted into the last round of the Marx Foods Integrale Gauntlet, I present my answer to the final challenge:  create the prettiest risotto, OR the prettiest photos of the prettiest risottos.

Is it cheating to use flowers?  Well, if my day lilly buds weren’t tense, ready to burst into bloom, perfect for saute-ing into a peppery mix-in, if my garden weren’t swaying with catnip, calendula, and chamomile,  I’d say it’s cheap.



But, every ingredient, except the wine and rice, is growing together in New England fields right now.  In fact, this dish could be called June Field Risotto.  The strewn flowers add a “grassy” flavor to the sweet, rich beet-y risotto.  The garlic scape pesto adds the bite of garlic and the savory unctuousness of Parmigiana.  The slightly earthy quality of the Integrale rice (risotto rice with the bran still intact) is fitting transport for beets, garlic and wild flowers.

New England fields and farm stands are beautiful right now; here’s one stirred into a risotto.  Thanks to the Marx people and Integrale participants for being so much fun to work with!



June Field Risotto


Beet Risotto with Garlic Scape Pesto and Flowers

serves 4


for the risotto:

2 cups Integrale risotto

5 cups or more homemade chicken stock

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter + 2 tablespoons butter to saute lillies

1/2 medium onion

1 cup white white

2 cups raw beets grated in a food processor

2 bunches lilly buds

4 tablespoons garlic scape pesto

edible flowers

for the garlic scape pesto:

10 garlic scapes

1 cup parsley leaves, arugula, or mizuna

3/4 cup sunflower seeds

1 cup grated Parmigiana

1 cup olive oil

salt and pepper








for the rice:

Pour the chicken broth into a large saucepan, set over medium heat, and bring to a gentle simmer. Adjust the heat as needed to maintain this simmer the whole time you are preparing the risotto.

Break off the lilly buds from the stem, and trim ends off any stalk.  In a small saute pan, melt 2 tablespoons butter until hot and bubbly.  Add the buds, some salt and pepper, and saute until wilted and brown.  Set aside.

Peel and finely chop the onion.

Melt the butter and oil in a 4-to-5-quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring regularly.

Add the onion and cook, continuing to stir, until it turns soft and translucent.

Once the onion is soft, add the rice and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes, until it begins to crackle.

Add the wine, and stir until it is evaporated.

Using a ladle, scoop up about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of broth. Pour it in the pan with the rice, stirring constantly with a spoon. After the first addition of broth, the rice mixture will look a bit soupy.

As the rice begins to cook, stir it constantly, making sure that you scrape along the bottom of the pan so that it does not stick.

When most of the liquid is absorbed into the rice and the rice begins to look a bit dry, add another ladle of broth to the pan and stir constantly, as before.

Continue to add the broth in 1/2-to-3/4-cup batches and stir the rice until you have used most of the broth.  When the risotto is close to done, but still slightly crunchy, after about fifteen minutes of stirring, add the grated beets.  (Traditional risotto usually takes 25 minutes for me.  The Integrale definitely took 30 minutes to become al dente.)  Keep adding broth, cooking both the rice and the beets.

When all is finished, stir in the lilly buds.

Spoon into bowls, dollop with garlic scape pesto, and strew flowers.

for the garlic scape pesto:

Put scapes into the bowl of a food processor and whir.  Add the remaining ingredients, and whir until blended.  Taste for salt, pepper, and balance.  Add more of anything that you think it needs.  If it’s too strong, add more oil or more of the greens beside scapes.






Dane Tullock’s Pan-Seared Trout

Thursday, June 21st, 2012


Give Dane Tullock a kayak, a fishing rod, a cast iron skillet, and a stout, and he promises you a soulful, powerfully spiced dish seasoned with the salt spray, the icy wind, the balmy breeze – the terroir – of the beach or river stream from whence Dane launched.

Tullock is the president and founder of “Cooking in the Great Outdoors,” a website which includes his wild recipes, but also videos of Tullock literally cooking in the great outdoors.

Watch him grill avocado halves on his Coleman stove, a spring salt marsh behind him just beginning to green, dunes of gray bare trees beyond that, and the sound of waves breaking over his voice as he teaches us how to make “Green Eyed Susans:” an egg yolk poached in the center of the avocado half, leeks sprinkled over all.  Tullock tells us a sprinkle of pecorino cheese is great on it, too.  There’s a rise and fall of music in his voice, a shadow of the Florida drawl he left behind when he came to New England.

On that Little Compton, RI Beach, Tullock prepares Tautog, cucumber, and kiwi ceviche with the fish he had loaded earlier into his kayak.  “Black and Tan” pork short ribs, marinated two days before in Guinness, ale, a little soy, garlic and fresh herbs, are cooking slowly on the Weber planted in the sand; ribs are Tullock’s favorite thing to make.  This is manly food made with love.  I call Tullock the Hemingway of cooks.

His southern drawl strengthening, Tullocks says his creative forces are outdoor recreation, great friends, and local foods, but it’s all a way to bring people together.

“We met in the kitchen, my family,” Tullock says.  “With my grandfather we caught the fish, cleaned it and cooked it.”  That’s basically what Tullock’s videos are about, an ultra-culinary version of cooking with his grandfather.  Tullock’s grandmother’s cast iron skillet, seasoned with years of her biscuits and fried green tomatoes, is his favorite cooking tool.

A marine biologist, Tullock worked as a consultant to the aquarium industry for years.  Now, fittingly, he works for REI, but his food is winning hearts nationally; he auditioned for the Fox MasterChef television show, and was noticed.  More recently he auditioned for “Chopped.”

Tullock also partners with local brewing companies to create recipes using their beers.  In a contest recently to create a dessert risotto, Tullock stirred into the rice Southern Tier Double Milk Stout Beer and coconut milk.  (He then filled arancini with cheddar and goat cheeses and served the deep fried rounds with a cherry and Jack Daniels Honey Whiskey sauce.)

Blue Hills Brewery has declared his Beer Bread Chicken their own:  Antimatter Single Malt Ale helps leaven the bread dough, and Blue Hills India Pale Ale marinates the chicken (along with lime, soy, and Worcestershire sauce.)  Follow this recipe through – roasted poblano peppers, fried prosciutto, dill, cilantro, and Swiss cheese are mixed with that marinated chicken to fill individual packages made from the malt-inspired bread crust.  Tullock is intuitive and fearless with flavor.

Here is his pan-seared trout recipe, the most important ingredient being that cast iron skillet.  We shot a video of him preparing this in my kitchen.

Pan-seared Trout by Dane Tullock


This dish combines fresh herbs, simple ingredients such as olive oil and garlic, and one of my favorite protein sources, trout, to create a hearty main dish that goes well with wild rice, grilled vegetables or even a simple salad. To truly make this dish shine, you will need a well seasoned cast iron skillet to cook your fish. The key is to produce medium to high heat and cook the fish quickly. If cooked properly, the result will be a layer of crispy, spice coated skin covering soft, flaky flesh and a aroma of garlic and fresh herbs that will have your friends and family racing to the dinner table.



4 heads freshly chopped garlic

3 – 4 dozen whole fresh sage leaves

6 – 12  sprigs fresh spicy oregano

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

4 cleaned and butterflied trout (any species)

¼ cup spice mix (Old Bay seasoning, lemon pepper, coarsely ground black pepper, garlic salt, ground cumin & Tony Chachere’s creole seasoning)



Your fish should be scaled, cleaned and butterflied. I prefer to keep the heads on for presentation. However, if this is a bit rustic for you or your family, you can use just the lower portions.

Place each trout skin side down and brush the flesh side liberally with olive oil, being sure to coat all the meat. Next, rub the spice mixture into the meat, ensuring that the spices are evenly spread over the entire inside of the fish. Sprinkle chopped garlic over the spices so that it is evenly distributed on both sections of the inside of the fish. Finally, lay 8 – 10 fresh sage leave inside each fish.

Fold the halves of the fish together and thread a wooden skewer through both sides to close up and hold the fish in place. Brush both sides of each fish with ample amounts of olive oil (this will keep the skin from sticking to the hot skillet) and coat one side liberally with the spice rub. Feel free to literally rub the spices into the skin as you will loose much of the coating when as the fish cooks and when you turn it over to cook the second side.

Preheat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat, ensuring that the cooking surface is nice and hot before adding your fish. A good way to test this is to drip a small amount of olive oil into the pan. It should sizzle loudly but not immediately burn off. Once the skillet has warmed up sufficiently, place the fish spiced side down into the pan. Depending on the size of your cast iron skillet, you should be able to cook two fish simultaneously. Brush the upper side of the fish with a fresh coat of olive oil and liberally sprinkle the exposed skin with more of the spice rub.

Cook one side of the fish for 2 – 3 minutes until the skin is nice and crispy, but not burned, on the bottom side. Since your cast iron skillet is nice and hot, it will not take long to cook the trout, so it is important to keep an eye on the skin touching the hot surface. This is where a nice fish spatula comes in handy. Fish spatulas are designed to be very thin with less surface area that a traditional spatula. This will allow you to maneuver the spatula between the fish and the pan while keeping the skin intact and free of the hot skillet surface.

Once the bottom skin is crispy and brown, turn the fish over to cook second side by holding onto the wooden skewer and gingerly lifting using the spatula to lift it out of the pan. Cook the second side for another 2 – 3 minutes until the skin is golden brown and crispy to match the previously cooked portions. Remove the trout from the skillet and place on a metal baking dish. Cover the cooked fish with aluminum foil to keep it warm while you cook the rest of your fish. Repeat the searing process with your remaining fish and serve warm over a bed of wild rice or beside a nice chilled garden salad of fresh greens.



If prepared correctly, your dinner guests should be able to remove the light, tasty flesh of the trout with a fork, releasing steam and the smell of fresh sage and garlic from the inside of the fish. The olive oil on the interior of the fish will have literally steamed the meat from the inside, infusing it with the taste of your spices, herbs and garlic. Now you can sit back with a cold craft beer and listen to the delighted sounds of your guests enjoying the fruits of your culinary labor. I suggest pairing this dish with a nice IPA or brown ale to compliment light, herby flavor of the trout.



Lastly, if you watch the video of Dane cooking, you can hear his dog, Jackson, barking none stop in the background; he spent the entire shoot hunting in our quarry for the lost blue-gill –  lost a year ago on some distant shore – that broke his heart.

Cedar Plank Salmon and a perfect summer menu

Monday, June 18th, 2012


On a cold, drizzly afternoon in early June, I had the perfect simple summer dinner:  cedar plank salmon, grilled bread, a green salad tossed with warm mushrooms and goat cheese, and blueberry crisp fresh from the oven.  This is a perfect meal for a beach, a lawn, or a deck, but it was delicious in this cozy Gloucester kitchen beneath cold, gray skies.


Elin DiAngelo prepared this gorgeous meal in her snug antique home.  Both Swedish and Finnish, Elin grew up in Lanesville.  Her family, The Af Klintebergs, have been running the Knead-Dough Bakery, specializing in Finnish Nisu and Anadama breads, for forty years.  (We hope there is soon good news to tell of the Knead-Dough Bakery, but that’s another story -)  A tall, vibrant blond, Elin grew up eating pickled herring, dancing in Swedish Folk dances in Gloucester’s 4th of July Parade, counting the smorgasborg’s dishes on her family’s table, and then sailed away – literally on a ketch in Mexico – from Gloucester for ten years or so.  She eventually returned with her powerful domestic and culinary style, and now lives in Bayview.  She rows, instead of sails.  (Elin rowed in the Nova Scotia International Dory Races the morning of her wedding in 2002.) At one point in the evening, as I stood in the kitchen and watched Elin prepare the salmon marinade, she reached for one of her hand-knitted dish towels, and told me her family calls her the Martha Stewart of Lanesville.

This menu is deep in flavors, has a short, simple list of ingredients, and can be prepared with everyone standing around a kitchen – and then the grill – drinking wine and Sangria together, as we did.



Elin’s neighbor, Karen McBain and husband came by with their daughter and a freshly stirred-up pitcher of Sangria.  The kids played.  Elin’s funny Japanese dog begged for carrots from the refrigerator.  A flock of neighborhood chickens visited for a while.



If the photos don’t say how delicious this salmon is, I declare it one of the moistest, most flavorful preparations I’ve had.  Elin says it’s her favorite.  The out-of-the-pan mushrooms tossed in balsamic vinegar softened the goat cheese, naturally making a warm dressing for the tender greens.  Easy, delicious and surprising.  Elin’s blueberry crisp warm from the oven is a classic beauty.



Elin’s Cedar Planked Salmon with Braggs and Ginger 

Serves: 4


2 pounds salmon fillet, whole

Soy Ginger Glaze:

2 T olive oil

2 T Braggs amino acids (or soy sauce)

3 T chardonnay, bourbon or whiskey

 2 t fresh ginger, minced

 2 T brown sugar

 Freshly ground pepper & salt to taste

1 T lemon juice


In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients except salmon , and blend thoroughly.

Set aside.

Inspect and remove any pin bones from salmon.

In a large shallow pan (I use a sheet pan) pour maranide and place salmon flesh side down. Marinate for 15-20 min

Set fish aside while barbecue heats to medium hot or about 400°F.

After soaking plank for at least 1 hour but preferably overnight, place salmon skin side down on plank and place on grill and replace cover.

Hot smoke fish for 10 to 20 minutes or until done.

Warm Mushroom Salad


4 cups mesclun greens

2 cups mushrooms (sliced)

1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese

salt and pepper

2 T. balsamic vinegar

1-2 T. olive oil


Heat  olive oil in a skillet over med high heat.  Add mushrooms, salt and pepper.

Add 1/4 c. water and cover mushrooms to sweat for 5 min.  Remove cover and cook off liquid.  Add 2 tbs balsamic vinegar cook until liquid gone.

Assemble salad

Put the greens, goat cheese and warm mushrooms in a bowl and toss.  Serve immediately.

There is no need for dressing as mushrooms have lots of flavor.

Blueberry Crisp


1/4 lb soft butter

1/2-2/3 c brown sugar

1/4 c flour

2-3 c rolled oats

1 tbs cinnamon

3 pints fresh blueberries



Cream soft butter and brown sugar in mixing bowl.  Add flour and cinnamon.  Add oats and mix until crumbs form.  Place rinsed blueberries in a baking dish and cover with oat crumbs

Bake at 350 for 30 min. or until bubbly.  Serve with ice cream.


Ultrarunner Scott Jurek and his new book “Eat and Run”

Friday, June 15th, 2012


Scott Jurek has run 135 miles across California’s Death Valley in 120 degree heat. Sometimes delirious, sometimes clocking 5 minute miles, the ultrarunner won that race two times, finishing in 24 hours once, and 25 hours the second time.  His team dragged along a coffin-sized cooler of ice water into which he occasionally plunged himself.

Among dozens of other victories, Jurek won the “Hardrock 100,” a hundred mile race in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains with more cumulative ascent than the distance up Mt. Everest from sea level.  He WON that race – pay attention here – he WON that race running with an ankle broken two days before while kicking a soccer ball with some school kids.

If you’re not impressed yet, In a conference room at Houghton Mifflin, I met Scott Jurek.  Tall, rosy-skinned, wearing jeans and a hipster-like short sleeved plaid shirt, Jurek at 38 is boyish with a broad smile and deep dimples.  He’s lean, but not too thin.  He had just arrived in Boston from New York where that morning he’d run 24 miles through the streets of Manhattan, just a jog.  The day before he’d run 31 Manhattan miles at an 11 minute-mile trot.  Houghton Mifflin had ordered lunch:  Pad Thai, Pad Ki Mow, ginger tofu, yellow curry with tofu and brown rice, and lemon grass stir-fry tofu.

“Competition helps with the pain,” Jurek told me when I remarked on the dichotomy between his obviously extreme competitive will and the endearing, open personality that emanates from his writing.  “It keeps you focused.”

Jurek easily expanded on the abstract of why he runs:  “Fear is what makes you come alive – the lure of the unknown – can I do this? – that’s where the growth comes from, the pain.  I don’t remember the running effortlessly; I remember the hard times; adversity breathes transformation.”

I asked Jurek why every top ultrarunner, observing his performances, isn’t vegan; he claimed the effects of the vegan diet are not necessarily in straightforward finish times.  Initially playing with veganism, Jurek saw immediate results not in speed or endurance but in recovery; his muscles recovered from a hundred-mile run much faster on a vegan diet.

“Recovery plays a big role in over-all health,” Jurek said.

He spurns western medicine and processed foods, mostly carrying his own prepared dishes like onigiri (rice balls and seaweed) or his homemade hummus and tortillas on long runs.  Instead of Ibuprofin, Jurek drinks tumeric soy shakes for pain (Turmeric is supposed to have anti-inflammatory properties.)  He won the Hardrock 100 chugging turmeric shakes, his broken ankle bandaged in a black pepper, turmeric, flour and water compress.

Jurek grew up on his mother’s meat and potato meals and trips to McDonalds.  Early on, hunting and fishing became ways to escape the increasing stress and sadness in his home; his mother had begun to descend into the crippling grip of MS when Jurek was just in elementary school and his father was an inexplicably angry parent.  A skinny, quiet kid, a good student in the buttoned-down shirts his mother insisted he wear, Jurek began distance training on his Minnesota high school cross-country ski team.  On a team retreat, he ate vegetable lasagna and home-baked whole wheat bread for the first time, and immediately recognized a change in his performance.  That was the beginning of Jurek’s connection to food as medicine.

Jurek is considered one of the world’s most elite ultrarunners.  I first learned of him, as perhaps many did, in the celebrated book Born to Run, by Chris McDougall, a book which examines human evolution and running.  Born to Run features the indigenous Tarahumara Indians, who live isolated in the Copper Canyons of Mexico, and who simply run.  Men, women and children run for tens if not a hundred miles.  In 2006, the recently deceased Micah True, who had left mainstream society to live with these people and learn their running secrets, finally succeeding in organizing a race between the Tarahumara and some of the world’s elite ultrarunners, including Scott Jurek. Jurek and the champion Tarahumara, Arnulfo, could not communicate but verbally recognized in the other’s eyes the sharp glint of competition; each knew the other was their rival.  In a Disney ending, the underdog wins, not the guy with the running shoes and years of professional training.  You can feel the heat through the pages when Jurek comes in 2nd to Arnulfo by 6 minutes.  Six minutes in a fifty mile race is like 10 seconds in a 5K.

In Eat and Run, Jurek retells the Copper Canyon story, and adds in a short last paragraph that he returned to the Tarahumara the following year and beat Arnulfo by 18 minutes.  That paragraph says everything about that competitive glint in Jurek’s eye.

Written with Steve Friedman, Eat and Run goes deep into the why?! of running those distances. Told with an honest voice and well-carved prose, Jurek’s endorphin-charged pursuit of a higher place easily becomes metaphor for anyone’s quest for anything.

His endurance inspiration began with his stern father’s simple words, “sometimes you just do things,” (as in chop mountains of firewood at ten years old) and matured to the buddhist desire to empty one’s mind.

“People see my life as two different extremes:  extreme racing events and an extreme vegan diet.  I don’t look at any of it as extreme; I don’t look at is as subtraction or deprivation.  It all shows the power of change; (the racing and the diet), that we all have the ability to keep learning.”

Here’s one of Jurek trail running recipes.  He recommends omitting the garlic if you’re eating it while running!



Kalamata Hummus Trail Wrap


3 cups cooked garbanzo beans

3 tablespoons tahini

2 tablespoons tamari, 2 tablespoons miso, or 2 teaspoons sea salt

1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice

1/2 garlic clove, chopped (optional)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

black pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

8 flour tortillas

chopped kalamata olives


Place the beans, tahini, tamari, lemon juice, garlic, and cumin in a food processor or blender.  Process until smooth.  Add a small amount of water to keep the mixture moving if needed.  Season to taste with black and cayenne pepper.


For each wrap, spread a thin layer of hummus on a tortilla and sprinkle some of the olives in a line down the center of the tortilla.  Roll the tortilla into a tight wrap and cut into two or three pieces, depending upon the size of the tortillas.


Pack the rolls in a small plastic bag and refrigerate overnight so they are ready for the next morning’s long run.  For a more substantial lunch, add lettuce, red bell pepper, and tomato before rolling wraps.










Maitland Mountain Farm

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012



The Maitland Mountain Farm family –  Heather, Holly, Andy, baby Jett, and Peter (not pictured)  – from Salem, MA  remind us that local foods can be extraordinary, exceptional, and worth tracking down.

Start with “Holly’s Spicy Pickles,” considered “menu worthy” by many local restaurants. Two years ago Holly Maitland began playing around with a bumper crop of Maitland Farm’s cucumbers, and developed a product beside which any sandwich should consider itself honored.   In fact, I think of lunch this way: “I’ll have a sandwich with my Maitland Mountain Farm Pickle.”  Just read this ingredient list, and imagine a fresh cucumber brined in red chilis, cinnamon, cloves, cardamon, ginger, mace, coriander and on.



The cukes crunch and pack a punch of flavor.  They’re so delicious I’m actually serving them, wrapped in wax paper, at a cocktail party this weekend.

Duckworth’s Bistro in Gloucester and the Blue Ox in Lynn both use Holly’s Spicy Pickles in their martinis.  Finz in Salem serves a relish made of Holly’s Spicy Pickles with their crab cakes.  The Lobster Shanty serves them on all their sandwiches.  Hunt them down:  Vidalias in Beverly Farms, The Meat House in N. Beverly and Milk & Honey in Salem all sell Maitland Mountain pickles.

In 1976 Peter Maitland bought two and a half acres of land in Salem. An entire neighborhood grew like weeds around him, but Peter built a barn, started a garden, and kept raising his family.



Now his two daughters, Heather and Holly, and Holly’s partner, Andy Varela, grow beautiful, unusual produce on those two and a half acres.  Set up in farmers markets this summer, the Maitland people will have sorrel (for now!), green zebra tomatoes, epazote, all kinds of beans and gorgeous little boxes of edible flowers – calendula, violets, coriander, nasturtiums, and a delicate little rabe flowers that tastes meaty, like broccoli.  They’ll have New England farm standards, too.



The Maitland folks will be at the Salem, Swampscott, Gloucester, and Marblehead farmers markets.  Come fall, they’ll be selling carnival-colored bunches of hard to find dahlias.


But plan ahead and mark your calendars;  In October, the Maitlands will harvest and prepare their own horseradish, making one of the most flavorful local condiments you can set on your holiday relish tray.


Strawberry Rhubarb Risotto

Sunday, June 10th, 2012


Move over pie, here comes Strawberry Rhubarb Risotto, my answer to Round #2 of the Marx Food Integrale Risotto Throw-down, in which contestants are challenged to make risotto become dessert with this whole grain version of Arborio.

(Nuts and bolts:  I was wrong about voting!  This time Marx foods and the participating bloggers vote for each other; thanks for all who supported me the first time!)

Friend and food blogger Chris Delgrosso, of the Delgrosso Food Blog, who’s tsunami of votes almost blew most of us out of the first round with his Risotto Milanese Mexicana (The video will be out soon!) coaxed me into a brilliant risotto dessert idea of using cajeta, the Mexican caramel syrup made with cooked goat milk, and fried plantains.


But I woke up this morning to the pint of local strawberries and bundle of freshly plucked rhubarb I had foraged yesterday.  Add a sparkling June sky and the smell of freshly cut peonies to that, and New England was just begging to be the star of my dessert.  So, with all due respect to the luscious cajeta, I began with what has long been a springtime rite from Massachusetts to Maine, the marriage of strawberries and rhubarb, and made a warm, creamy pudding no DownEaster would refuse.

This is rice pudding, served hot, laden with the honest sweetness of local berries, the tart love of those ruby red stalks, and almond paste, a little Vienna to sophisticate the ruddy New England basics.  Served warm with good vanilla ice cream on top, this risotto stopped the hearts of the first tasters, even a fourteen-year-old who in the past, out of loyalty to her dessert favorite, chocolate mousse, refused to speak the word “rhubarb.”  Whispering, she asked for seconds.






Strawberry Rhubarb Risotto



serves 4 for dessert

1 cup Integrale risotto or Arborio risotto

1 pint strawberries, sliced into quarters

2 cups rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 T. white sugar

2 T. almond paste

pinch salt

good vanilla ice cream

sliced almonds, toasted

a tea kettle full of simmering water


First, separately, stew the rhubarb and cook the strawberries into a syrupy compote.

Cook the rhubarb over low heat covered until juice begins to run.  Stir in the brown sugar, and simmer until the rhubarb is completely soft.  (You will probably have more stewed rhubarb than you need for this recipe.  Either add more or save it for another use.)

Put the berries in a separate saucepan with the white sugar, and cook over low heat until juicey.  Hopefully you will have lots of liquid to pour into the risotto as it cooks.

Now make the risotto.  Heat the kettle full over water.  Warm a saute pan over medium heat.  Add the rice and let it toast just a little.  Add the first cup or so of hot water, and stir until all the liquid is absorbed.  Watch the clock at this point, because almost without fail your risotto will be done 25 minutes from this point.

Continue adding the hot water, stirring until all is absorbed, and adding more.  Intermittently, stir in the liquid from the hot strawberries, using all of it in the 25 minutes.  (You will stir in the strawberries themselves at the end.)

At about the 20 minute mark, or when the risotto is almost done, stir in the almond paste, mashing it and whisking it to make sure it dissolves into the risotto.  This will take a little work, but eventually dissolves and makes the risotto creamier.

When the risotto is just al dente, stir in all of the strawberries and a cup of the stewed rhubarb.

Serve immediately in dessert bowls, and top with ice cream and toasted almonds.



Author Lee Natti, a Lanesville sketch, and blueberry cake

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

The village of Lanesville is shy Gloucester, quietly facing Northwest to Ipswich Bay, turning away from the open sea, away from the bars, restaurants, and squawking seagulls of Rogers St., instead facing sunsets, and cradling shadowy granite quarries in its woods.  Finns and artists lived in Lanesville together, married each other, and created a unique sauna-going, nisu-loving community more cultured at times than entire sections of Montmartre.

I talked to Lee Natti, 92, a patrician woman who first came to Lanesville as Virginia Lee Burton’s Houghton Mifflin book editor, and who is an emblem of this Athenian time.

Natti was born in Reading, MA, attended Smith College where she majored in English Literature, and then in 1944, at 24 years old, became editor to the Lanesville/Folly Cove author who had just won the Caldicott Award for The Little House.

Natti says Virginia Lee Burton impressed her so much when they first met she could barely speak to the author.  Houghton Mifflin subsequently sent Natti to Cape Ann for two weeks to study figure drawing with the sculptor George Demetrios, Burton’s husband, so that Natti could better edit children’s book illustration.

Natti was given a tiny cottage right on Folly Cove while she attended Demetrios’s drawing class, clearly a high point in the publishing industry, when editors were sent to beautiful New England settings to study life-drawing with great artists!

More and more often Natti came up to Cape Ann.  Being the editor for a woman who was probably the best known children’s book author at the time meant helping the author do the canning, which the two women did outside in an enormous copper pot, so that Burton would have more time to work on her books.

At one point Burton and Demetrios gave a party (they gave many parties, always a muti-national gathering; Demetrios would insist Russian, Greek, French and English guests all sing a song in their native language) which young Robert Natti, a local Finn on leave from the war for two weeks, attended.  Like many of the local boys, he’d been spending some of his leave posing for Demetrios.  Although he returned to the war, two years later Robert and Lee married, and Lee became a full-time Lanesville resident.  She subsequently joined Virginia Lee Burton’s Folly Cove Designers, a guild of the thirty or so local women – and some men – designing and producing high quality block printed textiles.



From 1941 to 1969 the group met once a month in Burton’s barn.

“As you worked on a design,” Natti explained, “the group would see it; ultimately a finished design was shown to a jury of the designers; if they approved, you could print it.”

Of the thirty or more designers, some stayed for two years, some stayed a long time, “but Ginny was the priestess.”

“She had very high standards,” the same standards, Lee Natti claimed, as any of the great artists living and working in Lanesville.

It was an amazing time:  local people, many of them Finns who had come to work in the quarry industry, not only posed for world renowned artists and sculptors, but swam with them in the quarries and sunbathed on the Folly Cove rocks together.  Walker Hancock, National Medal of Art and Medal of Freedom recipient, the sculptor who produced such significant national works as an altar at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. and the Pennsylvania Railroad World War II Memorial, Angle of the Resurrection, in Philadelphia, settled in Lanesville after coming here to study with Charles Grafly.  (as did George Demetrios and other prominent sculptors.)  Local young man Eino Natti posed in those first years for Walker Hancock, a bust which won the artist the prestigious Prix de Rome early in his career.

Hancock married Lee Natti’s sister-in-law, Saima Natti, and became, in spite of his national profile, a quiet resident of the far-north Gloucester community.  Hancock worked on sculptures with immense national significance, but he also designed the new spire for the Lanesville Congregational Church.

Lee Natti went on to be an acclaimed children’s book author herself.  A long shelf of her books, some illustrated by Barbara Cooney, published in English and Japanese extends over her desk, the length of it.




She has spent her adult life beside a beautiful quarry in Lanesville; her neighbor at the next quarry was her sister-in-law Saima and her husband Walker Hancock.  Lee Natti has two Hancock busts of her husband, one when Robert was a young man, and another when he was seventy-seven, both treasures, both monuments to the richly embroidered Finnish and artistic lives lived together in Lanesville.


Here is Lee Natti’s favorite recipe, a blueberry cake from yet another Cape Ann children’s book – and a cookbook – author, Ruth Holberg, who lived in Rockport.

As Natti says of the cake, “It may seem silly to use a roasting pan for a blueberry cake, but to take it to a potluck, it works very well.”


Cape Ann Blueberry Cake 

from 1700, originally from Ruth Holberg’s recipes

serves 32

(Makes large amount  Use roasting pan sprayed with Pam.  Use large bowl and big wooden spoon (easier than electric mixer!)


1 cup shortening

2 1/2 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 cup milk

5 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp salt

5 cups flour

3 cups blueberries



Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a roasting pan with Pam.

Cream shortening and sugar together.  Beat in eggs one at a time.  Add the milk.

Sift together the dry ingredients.  Add to the batter and mix well.  Stir in the blueberries.  Sprinkle all with cinnamon-sugar and bake for 50 minutes if berries are fresh and you are using a convection oven.  In a regular oven with frozen berries bake it for 55 – 60 minutes.

Esther Mathieu, photographer

Saturday, June 2nd, 2012

Occasionally on my blog I spotlight a member of the Rockport Creative Collective, a loose collection of diversely artistic people who live in Rockport, and are looking for that smokey cafe – albeit metaphorical – in which to meet:  to share pain, joy, good luck on a great sale, frustration at none, and maybe to collaborate. Deceptively petite and youthful, Esther Mathieu is a professional photographer with a definitive style.  Her portraits shine with the white cast of natural light on water in New England.  She loves to pose a family on a beach at sunset.  Dunes are good, she says, but she loves the smaller beaches, like Plum Cove.

She’s also a hard-working professional, struggling to build a modern business.  She shoots portraits, interiors, and would love to capture more families on vacation in Rockport, everyone rested and happy, the perfect time to grab a photographer for a portrait in a beautiful setting. Mathieu grew up in Quebec, Canada.  At sixteen, with absolutely no experience, she walked into Sears and applied for  – and got! – the photographer’s job, manning the portrait camera for baby shots and Christmas cards.  She continued to work for more creative photogaphy studios through college, but then Rockport snagged her, and defined who she was as an artist.


Mathieu first came to Rockport with her now husband in a Wrangler jeep, and she thought, “This is too beautiful to pass up; why would I live somewhere else?”  Photographer, husband, (an analyst for Timberland who once had a hard core band called “Guns up!”) and their 2 year-old son now live in a 19th century house on Granite St. “I’m always trying to show in my images,” Mathieu explained, “that it’s really beautiful here.”  Her point of view always starts there, Mathieu says.   “I have a very New England style.”



Esther Mathieu, photography: 

photo of Mathieu on the homepage by Samantha K. photography.