Archive for October, 2012

Fish Shack Chowder

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012


In the great tradition of barn-raising, volunteers in Lanesville have been assembling every Saturday morning since last spring in Lanescove to renovate The Fish Shack, one of the many fish houses that once lined the edges of the cove.   And, in the great tradition of community barn-raising, they needed lunch.



(“They’re called fish houses!” journalist Barbara Erkkila insists. The artists who arrived in Gloucester to paint the quaint harbor settings began calling them “shacks.”)

According to Nancy Gaines of the Gloucester Times, some of the Cape Ann fish houses date back two hundred years.  Some were constructed with materials from old shipwrecks.  The Lanescove Fish Shack is thought to be approximately 125 years old.  That was almost a finality when the City of Gloucester condemned the building, for years unloved, in June, 2011.  Still, when a December, 2010 storm lashed a great chunk out of the Lanescove seawall, toppling many tons of granite block, the Fish Shack stood, probably because the building was so riddled with holes that wind and seawater ran through it like a strainer.

In 2011 some Lanesville citizens rallied together, and petitioned the city to preserve this totem to bountiful fishing years, this nod to the grace of simple New England architecture, this Lanesville motif.

For a sum of $80,000, the group secured $20,000 in Community Preservation Funds, $3,000 from the Waterways Board, and $26,000 in private donations.  The difference has been finished in donated labor and materials, like the rough-hewn Lanesville forest lumber from Peter Natti’s sawmill.


Since last spring – or since Kyle Conant saw the crew working really hard and decided to order them pizzas –  generous lunch providers have come through.

Barbara Jobe, one of the instrumental figures in the “Save Our Shack” team, is loosely in charge of scheduling the Fish Shack lunches.  There has been three-bean chili with chicken, lentil soup with chicken, gazpacho on a hot summer day, pots of chowder, Smokin’ Jims pulled pork, Plum Cove Grind sandwiches, banana bread, brownies, carrot cake cupcakes, and something called “Milk Bread,” about which I’m dying to know more.

Some people order pizzas; some order sandwiches; everyone gets the community spirit of the whole thing, and wants to do what ever they can to help.

The Lanesville Bluefish Tournament even pitched together and gave $300 to the Fish Shack volunteers, money which has been escrowed into the official morning coffee fund.

I understand that Brian Church made the crew the best Fish Shack Chowder Ever, a thick creamy stew mounded with scallops, clams, shrimp, and great hunks of lobster.


My Saturday morning effort was a humbler chowder, served with pumpkin biscuits and the New England-branded Joe Frogger cookies.  Since Brian Church is keeping his recipe secret, I’m offering you mine, which doesn’t have lobster and scallops but is easy to throw together for a crowd on a hectic Saturday morning and, with the addition of clove, dill, and vermouth, makes a Yankee staple just a little bit sophisticated, just like Lanesville.  Joe Frogger blog and recipe coming soon.


You, too, could feed this happy crew!  Contact Barbara Jobe at



Lastly, while I was serving lunch, we all noted one more Fish Shack in Lanescove that might need saving:


Fish Shack Chowder


serves 6


2 pounds haddock or cod fillets

2 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced

3 tablespoons parsley chopped

2 1/2 teaspoons salt

4 whole cloves

1 garlic clove peeled and crushed

3 medium Bermuda onions, sliced

1/2 cup butter

1/4 tsp. dried dill

1/4 tsp. white pepper

1/2 cup dry white wine or vermouth

2 cups boiling water

2 cups light cream



Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Put all ingredients, except cream, into a 6 quart casserole.  Cover and bake for one hour.  Heat cream to scalding and add to chowder.  Stir to break up fish.








Quince Pudding

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012



Quince (Cydonia oblonga) are a fruit that most people on this side of the Atlantic at best consider old fashioned, at worst don’t notice at all.  They are loved by the French, mostly for jam and tarte tatin, but I just learned that quince were once equally adored in my own neighborhood, Folly Cove in Gloucester.  This recipe, discovered in an old Lanesville Cookbook on loan to me from Dona Shea, is certainly a local woman’s simple version of what to do with the heavenly scented yellow fruits growing in her back yard.  Having made my share of quince tarte tatin, I think this Folly Cove version – with meringue-like levity – the very best stage for the singular honey and jasmine fragrance of quince.


Unsolicited, quince have been working their way into my life for years.

My mother planted her first quince tree years ago; I was 20-something and not interested one bit in the seedling fruit tree with a short, cute name. I didn’t know what a quince was, and didn’t care.  I was twenty-something, and much more interested in the history of modern Art.

My mother planted more quince trees.  Jars of quince jam started appearing on her table, which I understood better than the trees themselves.  It confused me that a quince was not a fruit I could snatch off a branch, and munch on while reading poetry.  Mom, I’ll take your pears, thank you.

When my mother died this past winter, suddenly her quince trees became a symbol for my sadness.  Friends who knew her offered gifts of quince.  A painting of quince, a bouquet of quince branches, cards referencing quince, all these gave me something to touch.  Friends even joined together and gave me a seedling quince for my new house in Folly Cove.


This past week, my mother’s house sold, and I went over to harvest the last baskets of quince.  “All these years,” I thought, reaching for another fruit, “and I still don’t really know what to do with these things except make jam or tarte tatin.”

Just the next day, I found this recipe for Quince Pudding.  At the bottom of the page is this note:  “Quince trees used to grow wild at Folly Cove, according to the old-timers who cooked them.”


Today on my morning run, I eyed a small yellow fruit stuck in a scraggly shrub, a bush I’d been running by every day for a long time.  I’d seen the fruit before, thinking it some kind of wild apple.  This time I stopped, picked one and smelled.  The perfume was like nothing else; it had to be.  Wild quince.


Blubber Hollow Quince Pudding

(Folly Cove, supposedly an easy place to land whales years ago, was once known as Blubber Hollow.)



6 quinces

1 1/2 cups sugar, divided

1/4 cup lemon juice

5 egg yolks

1 cup cream

3 egg whites, beaten stiff



Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Wash quinces and cut in quarters.  Remove seeds, and chop.  Toss in lemon juice to prevent from browning.

Put chopped quince in a medium saucepan with 1/2 cup sugar.  Bring to a simmer and cook for five minutes, or until tender.  Allow to cool a bit.

In a mixer, beat yolks of eggs.  Add sugar and cream.  When well blended, fold in stiffly beaten egg whites, and the quince.

Pour into buttered pudding dish, and bake in a moderate oven until firm.


Japanese Farm Food Broccoli

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012


This is a fascinating recipe for a Japanese broccoli tossed in a dressing made with smashed tofu, miso, sesame, and vinegar.  (The recipe calls for yuzu, a relatively obscure citrus, which I replaced with a lemon.)  The whole blends into a meaty but velveteen vegetable dish ridged with nuttiness and citrus.  The tofu, all the liquid pressed out of it, becomes a warm stage for the very Japanese combination of tastes.  Tossed with fresh broccoli – or cauliflower, the author, Nancy Singleton Hachisu suggests – a recipe like this, like many from Hachisu’s new cookbook “Japanese Farm Food,” is a new horizon for a bowl of cruciferous veggies.  It’s a delightful alternative to aioli or hollandaise, which is as dressed up as broccoli gets west of The Silk Road.  Put this broccoli beside a bowl of sesame noodles and you have a beautiful vegan dinner.  Alone for lunch, this dish achieves alchemy:  a light meal with substance



Twenty-four years ago Atherton, California native Nancy Singleton flew to Japan to learn  the language and eat sushi.  Life took a sharp turn when she met a young, lanky Tadaaki Hachisu.  Today she is back in the U.S. to promote “Japanese Farm Food,” a gorgeous cookbook and fascinating testament to the life that unfolded for her after she married Hachisu, who had grown up on the family farm without running water, and who was as curious about food as Nancy was. (He had already planted the very untraditional basil because he wanted to know what it tasted like.)

Nancy’s sushi pursuit made her a Japanese farm wife; she and Tadaaki have run the family farm for twenty four years.  While raising and homeschooling their three sons, Nancy also started an English immersion school for local children.  In Japan, Hachisu makes her own miso, tofu, shoyu, vinegar, noodles; her husband grows their rice, the only rice they use.

“Japanese Farm Food” is not just beautiful; it’s a practical way to enter into Japanese cooking, as Nancy is cooking farm food for a family.  There may be some difficult-to-scavenge ingredients, but Hachisu is also an American writing for American needs; she knows what Americans don’t understand about working with Japanese ingredients.  Basically, her approach to Japanese farm cuisine is inspired by the deepest appreciation of local foods and home cooking, no sign of the sushi-platter school of spider rolls and quail eggs.

There’s tempura and shabu-shabu, but there’s also simmered chicken and miso meatballs.  There’s Napa cabbage salad with sesame seeds.  Steamed leeks with miso-mustard.  Spinach with walnuts and miso.  – and an array of dressing and sauce ideas:  walnut-miso dressing, for instance, and how to use them.



Hachisu visited Rockport’s HarvestFest this weekend to do a cooking demonstration, and book signing, and then came to my house the next day to make onigiri, rice balls tossed with bonito and seasonings, and sauteed celery and peppers.  (a tip:  fluff rice with two chopsticks to prevent gloppiness.)


“Heather, where’s your prepping station?” she asked.

“Never cut vegetables with a knife like that,” she scolded a guest who had begun to work on the carrots with one of my old knives.  Hachisu had brought her own from Japan; the lesson here  – and throughout the afternoon – was reverence for the vegetables, and for one’s food.  When one grain of rice fell to the counter, Hachisu’s quick eye caught it, and the whisked it back into the bowl.  This was her husband’s rice, afterall.


Broccoli with Tofu and Yuzu, from “Japanese Farm Food”



1 piece Japanese style “cotton” tofu

3 medium-sized heads broccoli

2 tablespoons unhulled sesame seeds

2 tablespoons brown rice or barley miso

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1/4 sea salt

zest of 1 small yuzu or 1/2 a Meyer lemon


Place the tofu on a cutting board propped up on one end, angled into the kitchen sink for draining.  Lay another chopping board or plate on top of the tofu to press out excess water for 1 hour.

Bring a large pot of hot water ot a boil and place a medium-sized bowl of cold water in the kitchen sink.  Slice off the thick stems of broccoli and pare around the perimeter of the stem to free the little florets.  Cut the tender stem into half or quarters so the pieces will cook at the same pace as the florets.  Drop the broccoli into the boiling water and cook for 3 miutes.  Scoop out the broccoli florets with a strainer and immediately plunce them into te cold water.  Turn on the tap and press the strainer gently on top of the broccoli so it will not flow out of the bowl.  Run additional cold water to cool.  Lift the broccoli out of teh bowl with the strainter and dump the water from the bowl into the sink.  Set the strainer back on top of the bowl to drain.

Toast the sesame seeds over medium-high heat in a dry frying pan until they are fragrant and just start to pop.  Grind the sesame seeds in a suribachi (Japanese grinding bowl) or mortar until most of the seeds have broken down.  Add the miso and vinegar to the mortar and blend.  Squeeze handfuls of tofu to express any lingering moisture and add to the dressing with the salt.  Continue grinding to emulsify all the ingredients until creamy.  Gently fold in the cooked broccoli florets with most of the yuzu slivers.  Serve in an attractive pottery blow strewed with the remaining yuzu peel.


“Running Ransom Road,” by Caleb Daniloff – and a pasta recipe

Monday, October 8th, 2012


My first impression of Caleb Daniloff is that there is nothing of the Kentucy-Fried-Chicken-bloated, slogging runner he describes himself as early in the book Running Ransom Road.  Daniloff strides into the Commonwealth Avenue coffee shop where we’re meeting, a lean athlete, his solid 8-minute-mile pace evident even in street clothes.  The skin across his cheek bones is taught, a runner’s complexion.

My second impression is that there is not one flicker of the addled addict, the young man desperately living only to bury deeper who he is beneath one more bender, to perhaps scorch his famous father, Nicholas Daniloff, the UPI Moscow correspondent arrested by the KGB in an international incident in the 1980‘s.


In his running/recovery memoir, Caleb observes his father almost always from away – from away at boarding school, from the finish line of his father’s own first marathon, from the other side of the glass in the Moscow prison where his father’s being held; the son always sees a small, gentle intellectual with heavy black-rimmmed glasses, an aloof man who assembles life in facts and deadlines, with whom the troubled teenager believes he shares nothing.

In fact, sitting calmly across from me in his denim shirt, gray-blue eyes as direct and examining as lasers behind wire-rimmed specks, his voice surprisingly tentative, Caleb Daniloff seems to be just like that quiet intellectual he had tried so hard with drugs and alcohol not to be.  Caleb courteously asks me if I found the place ok.  Whether it’s speaking of his wife (the relationship for which he became sober) his daughter, or even his parents, the man’s thoughtfulness pulses softly.  It’s easy to see how demons could easily have had their way with this gentle personality.

Running Ransom Road is Daniloff’s Dantean journey through the streets of the cities where addiction ruled him, where, almost always stoned and loaded he did terrible, awful, nasty things to himself and others.  The marathon route is Daniloff’s Virgil.  The exhaustion mile nineteen imparts is the lens through which Daniloff views Boston, Burlington, Mt. Hermon, Moscow and Washington, the cities where he was that other person.

Here’s just one of those loathsome tales:  At his boarding school, after years of warnings from authorities, Daniloff disappeared just before graduation to a motel room to get stoned with who-knows-who, sending the school into a panic search for a missing student, and finally giving them no choice but, on graduation day, to expel him.  Guess who was the commencement speaker? – celebrity journalist, Nicholas Daniloff.

That’s just the beginning; the stories are painful:  barely ever sober at the University of Vermont.  In graduate school at Colombia, waking up alone in his apartment on Tuesday, the last he remembered it had been Friday.

Daniloff says that through the dense fog of gone-ness there was always writing.  He was writing poetry all along.  It shows here in the book.

About mile twenty in Burlington, Daniloff writes, “My spit was so thick I could chew it and my legs felt like frozen sides of beef pummeled by a boxer.”

Back in Vermont, newly sober, he says, “there was a lot of empty space between now and then, and most of the time I felt like a plastic grocery bag skittering across a desolate parking lot.”

It’s a beautiful read of an incredibly bad Holden Caulfield.  But Catcher in the Rye ends before the self-awareness and the honesty.  In Running Ransom Road, Daniloff skewers himself on the honest blade again and again.

Daniloff has written for Vermont Public Radio, NPR, “The Boston Globe” and often in “Runner’s World,” where he wrote a piece about his own experience with disordered eating, when a runner takes the numbers game to meals, maniacally counting calories and carbs in the name of lighter and faster.  Daniloff tells of hoping the dirt he is showering off his legs from the morning run will bring him down to the magical 157 pounds, the weight he is sure will allow him to break the 4 hour marathon wall.  He’s always aware that running as “a sobriety tool” is often about trading one addiction for another.

I’m a runner, but that’s the least of why the pages turned in Running Ransom Road;  there’s voyeurism, there’s Schadenfreude – don’t we all like a recovering addict story? –  but mostly I read because Daniloff’s self-examination makes each of his marathons a heartbreaking novella of frailty and hope.

Here’s a favorite pre-race meal from Daniloff.  I’ve made it twice now;  in my house it’s simply a favorite, although I’m sure I run better the next day when this is for dinner. Daniloff likes Costco pesto; I confess I make my own, leaving out the garlic.


Pasta Daniloff

serves 4-6


1 package Trader Joe’s apple chicken sausage

1 large clove garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup pesto, or more to taste (Daniloff likes Costco’s brand)

1 pound spaghetti (I used penne)

1 heaping tablespoon salt


Heat a large skillet to medium.  Add the olive oil, and let it warm. Put in the garlic, and toss around until it just begins to brown.

Slice the sausages into 1/2 inch thick disks.  Add to the pan, tossing occasionally until both sides are nicely browned and the garlic is getting crispy.  Daniloff says not to worry if the garlic burns just a little.

Bring a pot of water for the pasta to a boil.  Add the salt, and then add the pasta.  Cook until al dente, approximately 12 minutes, and drain.

Stir in the pesto, and toss well.  Add the sausages and garlic, and toss again.  Serve immediately.


Coffee-Dusted Ice Box Meringue Cake

Thursday, October 4th, 2012


Discovered deep in the dessert section of “Recipes and Finnish Specialties,” assembled by the St. Paul’s Lutheran Guild in the Lanesville section of Gloucester, this meringue cake strikes me as something old that’s come around again.  It’s so light and airy, so tall and white, so easy to assemble and yet so dramatic, it could grace the pages of the hippest food blog.  Need I add that it’s gluten-free?


At first this seems like a Pavlova turned into a layer cake, meringue layered with whipped cream, but the forty minutes it spends in the freezer transforms the cake to something different.  It becomes an elegant, more unified pastry, almost Viennese in its symphony of textures and tastes, and that subtle whiff of coffee.

If you’ve stored this beauty in the freezer, take it out at least fifteen minutes before serving so it is not too cold; a little melted allows the tastes to better marry.






Coffee-Dusted Ice Box Meringue Cake

serves 10 – 12



for the cake:

8 egg whites

2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt


for the filling:

2 tablespoons instant coffee

3 cups whipping cream

4 tablespoon powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla



Preheat oven to 225.  Butter three 8 inch cake tins.  Line them with wax or parchment paper, and butter again.

Beat egg whites stiff and slowly add dry ingredients.  Mix in vanilla.  Divide evenly into tins and bake for 40 minutes.  Let cool.  Remove from tins and let dry on racks.

To make the filling, whip the cream to stiff peaks, and then stir in powdered sugar and vanilla.

Lay down the first layer of meringue, and dust heavily with coffee.  Spread a thick layer of whipped cream on top, and repeat with the final layers.  Spread the whipped cream around the sides, and let stand in the freezer until ready to serve.