Archive for December, 2012

Oyster Rockefeller Soup

Monday, December 31st, 2012



For the New Years Eve Undecided:

Tested in a simple presentation the other night, here’s a dish with which to say goodbye to 2012.  Borrowed from Emeril, a man who reliably transforms delicious to luscious, the stew is a last holiday richesse.  It’s warming, grown-up tasting, and begs for something sparkling beside it.


Emeril’s Oyster Rockefeller Soup

serves 8



4 slices bacon, cut into small dice

1 small yellow onion, cut into small dice

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 pint oysters and their liquor

4 cups heavy cream

1 pound fresh spinach, well washed and stems removed

4 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup Pernod or Ouzo

Crispy Gruyere Croutons, recipe follows



In a large heavy stockpot, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until brown, about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the onions and cook for 5 minutes, then the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the oysters, the oyster liquor and cream and bring the mixture to a boil. Remove the pot from the heat.

Using an immersion blender or in batches in a blender, puree the ingredients, adding the spinach in batches as you puree. Season with the salt and white pepper, and stir in the liqueur.

Serve immediately with Crispy Gruyere Croutons.


Crispy Gruyere Croutons:



16 (1/4-inch) slices french bread

1 large clove garlic peeled and smashed

1/2 cup grated Gruyere



Place the sliced bread in 1 layer on a large baking sheet and bake until just lightly brown on both sides, turning once, about 3 to 4 minutes per side.

Remove the bread from the oven and rub the garlic over 1 side of each slice. Top each slice with cheese and roast until the cheese is bubbly, about 4 minutes. Serve 2 croutons with each serving of Oyster Rockefeller Soup.


Raw Turnip Ravioli

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012



Add a low-grade concern for the world ending to Christmas landing on a Tuesday, and it feels like a long, confusing holiday season already.  I’m ready to start fasting, and yet, we still have New Year’s Eve for which to account, along with a number of parties unraveling throughout this in-between week.  (I’ll be at the James Beard House in Greenwich Village, NYC, on December 27th as a guest of the Newburyport restaurant, Ceia, who will be hosting a spectacular “European Coastal Celebration.”  Check out the menu here:


So here is a recipe that tilts so seriously to “healthy” it’s chic.  Raw, vegan, and surprisingly tasty with a glass of something sparkling, these turnip raviolis keep you in the party game but have leaner, cleaner culinary times in sight.  These are packed with vitamin C, anti-oxidants, and, like all cruciferous vegetables, isothiocyanates, which are believed to have cancer-preventive properties, but they have a sophisticated inventive feel to them.

Small local turnips – what you want to use here – are in stores and markets now, and a welcome alternative to mesclun and broccoli.  Serve these ravioli with drinks, or use them as the vegetable on a dinner plate.  I love the pale green filling peeking out between the thin, purple band left from the skin.



Raw Turnip Ravioli




1 cup pine nuts

1 cup macadamia nuts

1 cup walnuts

3 tablespoons Braggs (liquid aminos) (optional)

2 ½ tablespoons lemon juice

2 cloves garlic

1 cup fresh parsley


Instructions for making filling:

Blend the nuts in food processor until ground.  Add the rest of the ingredients and blend well, until creamy.


Ingredients Tomato Sauce:

1 clove garlic

6 dates, chopped fine

2 large tomatoes

½ cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil

¼ cup fresh basil

a dash of olive oil

Instructions for making Tomato Sauce:

Place garlic and dates in food processor and blend.  Add basil, both types of tomatoes, and blend until smooth.  Add olive oil if needed, but the sauce should be thick.


Instructions for the wrappers

2 Small Turnips

Slice turnips into very thin slices using a mandolin, spiral slicer or other vegetable slicer to make thin round discs.  These will be used as the wrapper and would normally be the pasta dough.

Remove a single turnip slice from the batch, place a teaspoon of filling on top and spread it out to the edges.  Put another turnip slice on top.  Place them in a single layer on a large plate.  Then top each Ravioli with a spoonful of Tomato Sauce.  Let sit for a few hours to allow the turnip to soften.

I served some with toasted macadamia nuts on top which added a nice crunch.



Poetry Interlude: A Little Bit About The Soul, by Wislawa Szymborska

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012



A Little Bit About The Soul

by Wislawa Szymborska,

translated by Joanna Trzeciak


A soul is something we have every now and then.

Nobody has one all the time

or forever.

Day after day,
year after year,
can go by without one.

Only sometimes in rapture
or in the fears of childhood
it nests a little longer.
Only sometimes in the wonderment
that we are old.

It rarely assists us
during tiresome tasks,
such as moving furniture,
carrying suitcases,
or traveling on foot in shoes too tight.

When we’re filling out questionnaires
or chopping meat
it’s usually given time off.

Out of our thousand conversations
it participates in one,
and even that isn’t a given,
for it prefers silence.

When the body starts to ache and ache
it quietly steals from its post.

It’s choosy:
not happy to see us in crowds,
sickened by our struggle for any old advantage
and the drone of business dealings.

It doesn’t see joy and sorrow
as two different feelings.
It is with us
only in their union.
We can count on it
when we’re not sure of anything
and curious about everything.

Of all material objects
it likes grandfather clocks
and mirrors, which work diligently
even when no one is looking.

It doesn’t state where it comes from
or when it will vanish again,
but clearly it awaits such questions.

just as we need it,
it can also use us
for something.

World’s Best Pesto, Prides Osteria, Beverly, MA

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012


When broad-smiling, Endicott College-grad Michael Magner, owner of Prides Pizza in Beverly Farms, needed a chef for his new restaurant he posted an ad on Craig’s List.  The one response that interested him, from Paolo Laboa, re-fashioned Magner’s venture from a “bar and grill” to an Italian “osteria,” and may soon place culinary stars on Rantoul St. in Beverly.

Paolo Laboa’s resume looked something like this:  winner of the 2008 World Pesto Championship in Genoa, Italy, where the basil grows on sunny hillsides fed with breezes off the Ligurian Sea, and where Laboa’s family has been putting a pestle to basil and pignoli for at least four hundred years.



Until late 2011, Laboa had been executive chef of Farina, the San Francisco restaurant, declared by Mark Bittman in The New York Times as one of  “my go-to places for regional Italian fare when I’m in San Francisco.”   Gwyneth Paltrow lists Farina on her blog.

Laboa showed up for his Magner interview holding a copy of “Farina, Old World New: Family Meals from the Heart of Genoa,” (M3 Media Group, $39.95, 188 pages), an exquisitely photographed book celebrating the California restaurant and Laboa’s authentic Ligurian recipes.

Mark Bittman describes Farina’s cuisine like this:  “foccacia di Recco, golden, poofy, cheese-stuffed dough made in a hill-town southeast of Genoa known for little else.  Pansotti, triangular pasta filled with chard, nettles or spinach, depending on the month, and served with a pesto of walnuts.  Mandilli, handkerchiefs of pasta served with classic pesto.  Raviolini with shrimp, butter and sage,” and then adds, “- in fact I have not had a pasta dish here that wasn’t perfectly cooked and well worth eating.”



Well, guess what’s on the menu at Pride’s Osteria?  I recently pulled apart the foccacia di Recco, the tenderest wafer of hot pizza, dripping its interior of hot, melting cheese.  We had it topped with prosciutto di Parma at first, and a second order bare; the former was divine, but the latter was “divine-er,” the delicately singed dough and cheese singing without distraction.


I’ve tasted the pansotti di sori con pesto di noci, handmade pasta with walnut pesto, and, had three orders of the mandilli di seta al vero pesto genovese at my table, pastas so light and well married to filling and sauce the dishes deserve a shelf in a museum as art, if not in heaven.

I gush, but Laboa is a very serious chef who also shares what every Italian Nonna believes, one must cook with one’s heart.  Laboa also cooks with a mastery of culinary science, skills, and Italian history.  We talked briefly about great Italian pastas, breads and pizza doughs, how the very best ones are allowed to rest for at least a day, allowing bacteria from the air to break down the gluten, making the products not only more tender but more digestible, which is why great pasta is readily accessible to people concerned about gluten in their foods; gluten is not an issue in artisanal pasta and bread made with time.

The Pride’s Osteria menu changes everyday, “with availability and the weather,” Laboa says.  He is not afraid of bringing honest Ligurian food to the menu; one night I was there we tasted a beautiful twice-braised genovese-style tripe, served with san maranzano tomatoes, olives, potatoes and herbs.



Magner, 28 years old, is all warmth and smiles, buona compagnia, as the Italians say; Magner only began to understand how good ingredients plus love can equal a whole different level of delicious cuisine after he purchased Pride’s Pizza, and brought his Italian grandmother in to teach him.  Now, Magner just beams about the Osteria, recognizing how kind was the karma or fate that have the two partners heading to  Marblehead together to dig out and re-fit a fifteen year old Italian pasta machine left in someone’s basement.  It has the two partners walking down Rantoul St. together to catch lunch at Gloria’s, Beverly’s fixture of an Italian grocery store.  Fate has the men traveling together to New York for Laboa’s cover story interview with La Cucina Italiana.

Laboa, 49, taught, muscular, his face all dark penetrating eyes above a short cropped beard, mixes English words into refined Italian sentences.  Of Rantoul St. in Beverly he says, “I love it.  I feel welcome, I feel it’s more my dimension; it looks more like Genoa (than San Francisco) with its little streets, the sea so close, the color and smells.  I feel like I’m home.”

“Michael is young, but strong,” Laboa says of his partner.  “- so many people I talk with – they’re scared.  They like the idea of my food, but then they say, ‘but how about chicken parmigiana?’”

Indeed, Laboa and his wife, Mercedes, left San Franciso to raise their two small children closer to her family. Mercedes’s father owns Halibut Point Restaurant in Gloucester.   Yet, placing an ad on Craig’s List for a bar and grill chef, and having Laboa respond, is a bit like looking for a pony for your child and getting Secretariat, but Magner – his earnest warmth, his joie de vivre, and his laughingly declared ego-less-ness  – might be just the partner for this racehorse.

Lastly, here’s an affectionate nod to the growing Beverly Food Community:  when Laboa mentioned that Pride’s Osteria would be a farm-to-table restaurant, that they already source vegetables from Alprilla Farm, Maitland Mountain Farm, meats from Blood Farm in Groton, and cheese from Valley View Farm, I asked how he had heard so quickly about these wonderful, small vendors.  Chive Events, the caterers who famously source as locally and sustainably as possible, are right next door to Pride’s Osteria, helping and guiding their new friends.

Brooklyn is old news; keep your eyes on Rantoul St. in Beverly.  (Coming soon:  true Napolitano Pizza baked in an artisanal Vesuvian Oven, the mortar Vesuvian sand and coarse salt.)

Prides Osteria, 240 Rantoul St., Beverly, MA  (978) 969-0083


You can watch Laboa prepare his world famous pesto in the Farina kitchen on this video:

A last tip:  Have the Basilico-cello with your handmade Baci di Dama.

Batter Up Macaroons, Santa Bait

Sunday, December 16th, 2012


Batter Up Bakery of Manchester makes all kinds of delicious, thick, small-batch cookies, but their macaroons –  coconut towers, delicately crispy outside and tenderly yeilding inside – are Santa-magnets.  If you have any naughty vs. nice jitters, I recommend you find a bag now, so that Santa’s offering is very, very nice.




Batter Up Bakery cookies are available at:

The Meat House, 15 Enon Street, Beverly, Massachusetts

The Grove Boutique & Cafe, 17D Beach Street, Manchester, Massachusetts

Vidalia’s Market, 9 West Street, Beverly Farms, Massachusetts

The Cave, 44 Main Street, Gloucester Massachusetts

Give Cape Ann

Thursday, December 13th, 2012


Today’s column is a list called “Give Cape Ann,” twelve local favorites that make wonderful holiday or hostess gifts.  Tape this list on the refrigerator or leave it in your glove compartment; have it ready to review when you’ve got a half hour to get to the next party.


Green Devils from Alexandra’s Bread.  Luxuriantly filled with green olives and red pepper, this uniquely spicy loaf is at first startling and then amazingly delicious.  One taste in the car on the way to the party might be trouble, as green devils are almost impossible to set down once pulled open.  Buy one for yourself, too.

Nisu from Brother’s Brew.  The gift of tradition, Nisu, the cardamon scented bread beloved by our local Finnish community, is both retro and local.  Wrap it in a placemat from the Sarah Elizabeth Shop for the ultimate Cape Ann present.

Cobrancosa Robust Intensity Olive Oil and Dark Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar from Cape Ann Olive Oil.  There are rows of beautiful olive oils and vinegars to try in this user-friendly shop, but these two are my particular favorites.  The olive oil is “olive-y,” which I like on a salad.  The Dark Chocolate Balsamic is a wonderful surprise, simply a heavier stroke of the chocolate notes already present in a good balsamic vinegar.

Trupiano’s Sausage.  Which was more important to Mike Ciaramitaro, the purchase of Trupiano’s grocery store over twenty years ago, or the recipe for the beloved sausage that came with it?  The store is gone, but Mike is still answering the clamor for sausage, a staple on so many Gloucester holiday tables.  The Cave and What’s Cookin’ both sell this local charcuterie.  Don’t forget to like Trupiano’s Sausage on facebook!

Luxardo Maraschino Cherries from Lula’s Pantry.  For the cocktail connoisseur or the ice cream sundae purist, these are the real Maraschino cherries from the Italian family that invented this sweet punctuation in the early 19th century.  Of course, Lula’s Pantry is chock full of gifts destined for a well-stocked bar, pantry, table, and cookbook shelf.

Tuck’s Candy Canes.  No candy canes are prettier than Tuck’s.  Handmade in the window downtown, these striped peppermint staffs are a beautiful creamy white with a matte finish, beautiful to look at and delicious to eat.

Turtle Alley Turtles.  Our friends in France have access to Europe’s finest chocolates, but beg us for Turtle Alley’s.  Need I say more?  Turtle Alley ingredients and craft are perfect.  A box of turtles from our local chocolate maker is truly a gift that earnestly declares, “Thanks,” or “Merci.”  Also, their handcrafted nonpareils have brought new life to a candy that for years made me just ask of the stale flat round, “why?”

Roero Arneis DOCG Recit, 2011 and Langhe Rosso, Cino, 2010 from Savour Wine Shop.  Here are two Italian wines, a white and a red that you should feel confident, if not inspired and proud, to hand to your hosts at the door.  The white is lusciously round with fruit, but well balanced and dry enough to match with an antipasto.  The red has guts and shape, ready to accompany cheeses or meats, but soft enough to enjoy by itself.  Savour’s signature is smart, well-balanced wines for a twenty-dollar budget; these two are great examples.


Lark St. Nicholas Cookies.  Lark Fine Foods – our local commercial baking company  – has succeeded in selling cookies that – no exaggeration – are the best cookies you didn’t bake yourself.  Each year Lark comes out with a Christmas cookie; this year it is a twee but ever so mod, green-striped box of a spicy buttery cookie with a crisp crumb, based on the Belgian Speculoos.  Speculoos became world renowned when Delta Airlines passed out packages of the cookies – known there as Biscoff – as snacks, and travelers began hoarding them.  Lark’s St. Nicholas cookies look, break, and taste like homemade, maybe even homemade in Belgium; Santa won’t know the difference with his milk.  You can find them in many places, but Lula’s Pantry, Willowrest and The Cave are certain.

Linquica, Chourico, San Miquel and Sao Jorge cheese from the Azores at The Cave.  Hard to find, authentic Portuguese meats and cheeses make an interesting gift for the foodie who has everything or the Azorean friend who can’t get enough.  We’re lucky that The Cave, along with their deep selection of cheeses and pates, includes these Portuguese staples.  Tuck into a basket a loaf of Virgilio’s Portuguese Sweet Bread for an unusual but authentically Cape Ann present.

Sasquatch Smoked Fish.  Locally produced, but sometimes fussy to find, these smoked mussels, salmon and whitefish are not always on the shelf when you want them to be, probably because admirers snatch them up quickly and often.  Willowrest and The Cave both sell Sasquatch products.  Everything about these smoked delicacies say “gourmet,” the perfect gift for your stuffy chef friends, but also for the family who relishes a breakfast of bagels and smoked fish.




Lanescove Fish Shack Cookies.  To honor the renovation of the Lanescove Fish Shack, Mary Lou Nye of Lanesville has produced an authentic Lanesville gingerbread cookie shaped like a shack.  Delicious, adorable, and authentically Lanesville, the cookies – order just one or dozens – make a wonderful gift from this far-northern Gloucester parish.  To order contact Nye at 978-282-4745.

There are many more possibilities:  a basket of blueberry oat scones from The Plum Cove Grind, a gift certificate for the famous Willowrest Blue-cheese-burger.


I hear the malted milk balls at the Candy House are pretty special, as is the seafood pate at Intershell.  Email me if you have more; there are never enough good gift ideas.




Cranberry Rum Sauce

Monday, December 10th, 2012


This sauce is like the chunky jewelry version of a dessert topping, and it’s knockout with a simple black dress version of a slice of chocolate cake.

By adding rum and vanilla to a traditional cranberry sauce, this uber-local ingredient’s possibilities extend far beyond November.



Cranberries are a kind of Cinderella story.  Stuck in a bog, allowed out only at Thanksgiving, cranberries have just a fleeting moment to impress upon anyone their dessert-worthiness.  Meanwhile, that trollop raspberry trounces around all year acting as if she were chocolate’s one and only.  Yet, excellent quality cranberries are available fresh for a good part of the year, and frozen all year.  Cranberries are almost one hundred times less perishable than raspberries, and at least ten times less expensive.



I say move over raspberries; cranberries have de-throwned you as the singular berry with which to top a flourless chocolate cake or smother a bowl of vanilla Haggen Daz.

Here are the paparazzi making this cranberry rum sauce famous.  Watch for the video in January.



Cranberry Rum Sauce


makes 2 cups




2 cups of cranberries

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup rum

1 teaspoon vanilla

pinch of salt


Put all ingredients into a medium saucepan, and bring to a simmer of medium heat.  Simmer five minutes, or until the cranberries are popped and integrated into the liquid.  Serve warm or at room temperature


Persimmon, Pomegranate and Hazelnut Salad

Monday, December 3rd, 2012



‘Tis the season of persimmons.  In Italy right now the persimmon trees, the genus Diospyros, have lost all their leaves, and stand like Gothic sculptures – bare, twisted black branches polka-dotted with orange, fleshy globes of fruit.


For people who know them, persimmons taste like Hannukah and Christmas, because they appear in markets – and even in our grocery stores – just when autumn has exhausted all apple and pear enthusiasm.  Fresh, sweet, luscious, persimmons suddenly arrive to taste like summer all over again in December.

No, they’re not local – I could define an optimal travel itinerary on where persimmons grow:  Italy, China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Mexico, and in the southern U.S.  – but if your holidays have known persimmons, they are a hard habit to break.

Something between a tomato and a mango,  two different cultivars make it to us:  the squat Fuyu, which can be eaten when still firm, and the oblong Hachiya, which has tannins in its skin that are meaningless if the fruit is soft and ripe, but taste wooly and prickly if not.

People unfamiliar with persimmons – like the check-out teenager at Market Basket – always ask what to do with them.  Besides sitting at my kitchen table enjoying plump wedges of them, I’ve made this salad recently, something Martha Stewart adapted from cookbook author Suzanne Goin.

After finally visiting the local treasure Cape Ann Olive Oil Company on Main St. in Gloucester, I adapted this recipe again.

Usually I’m an olive oil and vinegar purist.  I don’t like flavors, but all that changed when I tasted  the natural and beautifully balanced oils and vinegars at Cape Ann Olive Oil.  The store is sleek, warm, and extremely user friendly.  I tasted many, many oils and vinegars I liked, loved, and swooned for, but my biggest surprise was the All Natural Aged Dark Chocolate Balsamic Condimento.  The chocolate part is subtle, tasting more like the chocolate in a good balsamic vinegar that you always knew was there.


When that vinegar met the hazelnuts in this salad, something divine happened – the same thing that happened to the person who invented Nutella:  chocolate and hazelnuts are meant to be.  This salad is nothing like Nutella, but there’s an ephemeral whiff of “meant to be” here.  This is December’s salad.


Persimmon, Pomegranate, and Hazelnut Salad

serves 6


2/3 cup hazelnuts (blanched)

1 tablespoon hazelnut oil + 1 teaspoon

coarse salt

freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon shallots, finely chopped

2 small shallots, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons pomegranate juice

1/3 cup pomegranate seeds

2 tablespoons good quality balsamic vinegar, if possible Aged Chocolate Balsamic Condimento from Cape Ann Olive Oil

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 persimmons (Fuyu or Hachiya) thinly sliced

1/2 lemon (juicing)

1/2 lb arugula

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread hazelnuts on a baking sheet; toast, stirring once, until fragrant and lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool; coarsely chop nuts, and toss with 1 teaspoon hazelnut oil and salt.

In a small bowl, combine chopped shallots, pomegranate juice, balsamic vinegar, and salt; let stand 5 minutes. Whisk in olive oil and remaining 1 tablespoon hazelnut oil.

In a large bowl, toss persimmons, sliced shallots, and pomegranate seeds with dressing; season with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon. Gently toss with arugula. Arrange salad on a serving platter, and garnish with hazelnuts. Serve immediately.