Archive for June, 2013

Equality Fried Chicken

Thursday, June 27th, 2013


“Equal parts love and patience thinks me for fried chicken and marriage,” tweeted my friend @gregwdickinson (Greg Dickinson) this afternoon.

Feeling rosy about the Supreme Court decision today that sanctioned love, I say Greg’s right, but I’ll add brown paper bags, a cast iron pot, commitment, and time spent in hot oil are requirements, too.  And baking soda to put out the fires.

There’s something about both fried chicken and marriage, the uncomplicated gestures – ok, dull – required of each, repeated over and over again, that add up to something with potential to reshape the soul.

I recently met a couple who have a regular summer marriage tradition of getting fried chicken-take-out, a bottle of good wine, and heading to the beach for the sunset.  They don’t get goat cheese and fig sandwiches, or pesto pasta salad; they get fried chicken.  There’s something about that.

A glance down my facebook page at all the love that takes nothing for granted, including the law, has me smiling the rare kind of smile that stays.  I’ve just felt happy all afternoon.  Not only that, we’re having cold fried chicken for dinner.





Here’s my recipe, adapted from My Family Table by John Besh.  I recently prepared this using Einkhorn flour, an ancient version of wheat flour, available from Jovial Foods.  It was delicious – crispier and a beautiful mahogany color, but unbleached wheat flour is fine.

Equality Fried Chicken


serves 6 – 8



1 free-range, organic chicken, cut into 8 pieces


Freshly ground black pepper

1 quart buttermilk

3 cups flour

1/4 cup sweet paprika

Canola oil



Season the chicken pieces generously with salt and pepper. In a large bowl, soak the chicken in the buttermilk for at least 15 minutes. The idea is that the lactic acids tenderize the chicken. Sometimes my grandmother would even put the soaking chicken in the fridge overnight.

Mix the flour, salt, and pepper together and spread on a plate. Dredge each chicken piece in the seasoned flour to coat well.

Heat about 1 inch of canola oil in a cast iron pan until it reads 350˚ on a candy thermometer. In small batches, place a few pieces of the chicken in the oil at a time and fry for 6 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, turn each piece over, then cover the pan to cook for an additional 6 minutes. Drain on paper towels and salt well.


Banana Bread Brownies

Friday, June 21st, 2013



The name says it all, right?  The nicest people you know baked banana bread.  The smell of that kitchen is one of the most tangible, instantly sentimental memories you have.  It hits a place in your brain where butterflies, school vacation, swing-sets, pajamas, and ponies archive.

Brownies evoke picnics and the facile culinary muscle of cocoa and butter.   No wonder this recipe has gone viral.  It’s a sweet, nostalgic, sensuous, hug.




Banana Bread Brownies

makes approximately 30 bars


1-1/2 c. sugar

1 c. sour cream

1/2 c. butter, softened

2 eggs

1-3/4 (3 or 4) ripe bananas, mashed

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 c. all purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

3/4 tsp. salt

1/2 c. chopped walnuts (optional)

Brown Butter Frosting:

1/2 c. butter

4 c. powdered sugar

1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

3 tbsp. milk



Heat oven to 375F. Grease and flour 15×10-inch jelly roll pan. For the bars, in a large bowl, beat together sugar, sour cream, butter, and eggs until creamy. Blend in bananas and vanilla extract. Add flour, baking soda, salt, and blend for 1 minute. Stir in walnuts.

Spread batter evenly into pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Meanwhile, for frosting, heat butter in a large saucepan over medium heat until boiling. Let the butter turn a delicate brown and remove from heat immediately.

Add powdered sugar, vanilla extract and milk. Whisk together until smooth (it should be thicker than a glaze but thinner than frosting). Using a spatula, spread the brown butter frosting over the warm bars (the frosting will be easier to spread while the cake is still warm.)


Dessert Omelets

Monday, June 17th, 2013


In the billowing arms of a sweetened omelet, local strawberries leave shortcake for Escoffier.  A little lighter, a little more epicurean than strawberry shortcake, a dessert omelet filled with strawberries is as delicious as it is angelically light.  The texture is pillowy, a magnificent foil for the explosive sweetness of June strawberries.  Folding the egg yolks into the whites are the hardest part.

Call it a dessert omelet, a puffy omelet, this baked souffle folded over something – here, strawberries – is considered by cookbooks the second of two omelet methods.  Food writer M.F.K. Fisher writes, “The second school of omelet is roughly defined as belonging to those addicts who believe eggs should be separated and then beaten hard, and then brought together again.  Probably the main trick to remember in this technique is that the resulting foamy delicate mass should be cooked slowly instead of fast.”

Marion Cunningham in The Breakfast Book says this about the Puffy Omelet:  “I like these airy, foamy omelets – they look so grand and filling.”

If only to remind you what yellow really looks like, it is worth seeking out fresh, local eggs for this reclining structure of whites and yolks.   Not that grocery store eggs are bad, but they are really a different item than a local egg.   Commercially produced, grocery store eggs can hold cakes together and decorate a salad, with scant flavor.  Hard-boiled and sliced, commercial eggs are protein and visual cliche, but not much else.

“The best thing to do with aged eggs,” M.F.K. Fisher writes, “is not to buy them, since they are fit for nothing, and a poor economy.”

We don’t always have that luxury, but for this dessert omelet, I recommend finding the local ones; they’re fresher.  Quarts of crimson strawberries are shining on farm-stand counters and farmers’ market carts as I write this; local eggs are usually close by.



There is a bit of last minute work to do, but the omelet finishes its cooking in the oven, allowing a breather to assemble plates.  It doesn’t “fall” like a souffle, and in fact does best with a minute to relax once out of the oven, making the whole thing a quick, easy production.  Call it dessert, but, to the delight of my family, who has never had Breakfast for Dinner, we now have Dessert for Dinner when it looks like this.  Cut in half, this omelet serve two.  I used two pans, and, easily doubling the recipe, made two omelets at the same time, serving four.  Both pans fit in the oven fine, but you should check your pan sizes first if you try this.

I like a hefty dusting of confectionary sugar on my omelets – yes, even for dinner – but a warmed strawberry jam, laced with a little brandy, spooned over the top would confirm an omelet as dessert if you needed that authority.  And it would be delicious.

M.F.K. Fisher:  “Probably one of the most private things in the world is an egg until it is broken.



Strawberry Dessert Omelet


serves 2


3/4 cup sliced strawberries

1 tablespoon sugar or to taste

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

4 eggs, separated

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup cold water

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Powdered sugar for dusting

optional:  1/2 cup strawberry jam + 1 tablespoon brandy, warmed



Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl, whisk egg whites until foamy.  Add cream of tartar; beat until whites form stiff peaks.

In a small bowl, beat egg yolks with salt, sugar and water until light and fluffy.  Fold yolk mixture into egg whites.

In 10-inch ovenproof skillet, over medium heat, melt butter.  Add egg mixture and cook for 3 minutes, or until the bottom of the omelette is nicely browned.

Transfer skillet to the oven and bake for 7-10 minutes, or until the surface is barely golden and springs back when gently touched.

Remove skillet from the oven, and allow omelet to rest in the pan for a minute while you get organized.

Run a butter knife gently down the center of the omelette, cutting into it to create a fold, but NOT cutting through.

Loosen the entire omelette from the skillet, and slide onto a serving plate.  Pour the strawberries onto one side of the omelette, and fold the other half over it, using the slit as the crease.

Dust with powdered sugar, cut in half, and serve.

“The Food Less Traveled”

Friday, June 14th, 2013


We’re hoping farmers’ markets will mean a big cultural and gastronomic shift for Cape Ann.

In addition to the grand, festive Cape Ann Farmers’ Market on Thursday afternoons in Gloucester (3:00 – 6:30 at Stage Fort Park) both Rockport and Essex will be hosting Saturday morning farmers’ markets.

The Essex Market, featuring Frank McClelland’s Apple Street Farms and Aster B Flowers, will set up in the Ebb & Flow Interiors parking lot, 166 Eastern Avenue (rt. 133) on Saturday mornings.  “We’re small but mighty,” organizer Alison Taylor says.

The Rockport Farmers’ Market, “The Food Less Traveled,” will be a similar, small gem of a market.

Located in Harvey Park in downtown Rockport, the market should be the first ingredient to a recipe for a perfect summer Saturday.

Walk, ride your bike, drive if you must.  (It’s street parking, but park on a little side street and enjoy the local gardens you’ll pass on your walk to Harvey Park.)  Before you start shopping get a cup of Brothers Brew coffee, perhaps even a cappucino, a homemade donut or cannele, find a bench and enjoy seeing the kids racing off to their sailing lessons, the boats bobbing in the harbor,  Motif #1 still in shadow from the early morning light.

From your place on the bench you can eye First Light Farm’s produce, and begin planning your evening menu.

Your appetizer will be Sasquatch Smoked Fish.  Gloucester resident Paul Cohan chooses the plumpest mussels, the pinkest salmon, and smokes all the products himself.  This is the best smoked fish you will taste; nothing from a Zabar’s or Dean & DeLuca counter can compare to the sweetness and richness of this glorious Cape Ann product.

After your appetizer you will brag to your friends that you are serving the “Best Pesto in the World.”  Paolo Laboa, chef at Pride’s Osteria, won the Best Pesto in the World Competition in Genoa, Italy, Laboa’s hometown, and the city where pesto is king.  You can watch Laboa making his winning pesto on this video:

Laboa’s pesto will be featured on the cover of La Cucina Italiana in August.  Along with his silky fresh pasta, you will be able to purchase his pesto at our little Rockport Market.  Laboa lives in Rockport, and his wife, Mercedes Flavin, also a wonderful cook and baker, will have pies, cakes and breads on their table, too.

For your entree, you will be pick up Rockport-raised, grass-fed beef from Seaview Farms.  Seven generations of Lanes have run this farm since 1838; Ken Lane is continuing the tradition with his beef, and vegetable garden.  He has his own charming market at Seaview Farm, but the Rockport Farmers’ Market wouldn’t be right without a Lane presence.

Every week farmer Mike Raymond from First Light Farms will have a bounty.  This first week Raymond expects spring lettuces, kale, collards, small spring salad turnips, garlic scapes, herbs and more.

Pick up a loaf of Fish Shack Bread, a pie from Mercedes Flavin, and your dinner is complete.

At 11:00 every Saturday the Rockport Farmers Market will also host a short “Garden Talk” by a local expert.  The first week Marvin Roberts, who holds a Ph.D. in botany, will talk about Perennial Vegetable gardens.  Gardener Mary White will speak the following week.

(Read more about Roberts and see photos of his own garden here:

Finish your coffee, wipe the crumbs off your lap, pick up your dinner ingredients, stroll for a bit, visit with friends.  Isn’t that how shopping should be?  Beautiful local ingredients you won’t find everywhere else in the world, picked up in your town’s center, mixed in with a little socializing?

And then you go sailing, and forget everything until dinner time.

Here’s The Official Rockport Farmers’ Market menu; post it on your refrigerator; plan serving a variation of it every Saturday night from June 22 – September 7th.



Sasquatch smoked mussels served with toasted Fish Shack Bread croutons and salted First Light Farms spring turnips

Pride’s Osteria fresh fettucini and pesto

Seaview Farm Rib Eye Steaks

First Light Farm salad of spring greens and herbs

Homemade Pie from Mercedes Flavin 

or perhaps 

lavender cake from Mayflour confections



Marinated Tuna Salad

Friday, June 7th, 2013

This is one of my favorite warm weather dishes.  A recipe from Marcella Hazan, adapted a bit, this Italian preparation of fresh tuna, marinated in olive oil, lemon juice and capers, is probably the origins of the canned stuff in our pantries.  It’s at least related to the beautiful jars of tuna slabs packed in olive oil available in fine grocery stores.

While the latter is delicious, this is delicious-er.  Marcella poaches her tuna first.  Italians favor more cooked than raw in everything from vegetables to veal, but I happen to prefer the more modern preparation of tuna here.  I sear the steaks so that they are still blue in the center, slice them on the bias, and then lay in them in the marinade.  It makes a wonderful appetizer – if only because it is the ultimate do-ahead-dish.


But, use this as the tuna portion of a Salade Nicoise, with tender haricots verts and gently boiled farm eggs, and this will be your favorite summer menu for company, or just for you.



Marinated Tuna Salad


1 pound fresh yellowfin tuna steak, cut about 1 inch thick

1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic

3 flat anchovy fillets, finely chopped

2 tablespoons finely chopped capers

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon mustard

Freshly ground pepper


Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the garlic, anchovies and capers with the lemon juice, olive oil and mustard. Season with salt and pepper and beat with a fork to combine.

Remove the tuna from the skillet and pat dry. Slice it 1/2 inch thick. Choose a deep glass or ceramic dish that will hold the tuna in a single layer. Lightly spread some of the sauce over the bottom of the dish. Add the tuna slices, laying them flat, and cover with the remaining sauce, spreading it evenly. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 6 hours, then refrigerate overnight. Bring to cool room temperature before serving.


MAKE AHEAD The tuna can be refrigerated in the sauce for up to 2 days.

Scallops a la Grenobloise

Saturday, June 1st, 2013


“A la Grenobloise” literally means “in the style of Grenoble,’ a city at the feet of the French Alps, host to the 1968 winter olympics, home to a number of large universities and research centers, even a particle accelerator.  Grenoble is in the Rhone-Alpes region, and is capitol of the district, Isere.

Enough geography.  Why any dish that includes browned butter, capers, lemon and croutons is considered “Grenobloise,” is still unclear.

Anthony Bourdain makes a skate a la grenobloise in Les Halles Cookbook.  Martha Stewart has a sole version.  My grenobloise experiments were inspired Jaques Pepin’s scallops “of Grenoble.”  Each author/chef defines grenobloise – lemon, capers, blah, blah –  but no one says why Grenoble.  Elizabeth David, in French Cooking, says nothing about grenobloise, neither does Richard Olney in Simple French Cooking.  Even my beloved Auberge of The Flowering Hearth, the cookbook from the mademoiselles who once managed a hotel just miles from the city of Grenoble – where they marketed – say nothing of this supposedly “traditional” way to prepare fish.

I can only guess that sometime after the 1970’s when “Auberge” was published but before Martha Stewart went to jail, some chef in a popular Grenobloise restaurant branded this perfect combination of flavor and texture.  Lemons make it bright.  Capers make it briny.  Croutons make it crunchy.  Pepin covers all in a suave sauce of mushrooms and butter, sparing the recipe a fate of spa cuisine.  It’s a step not to skip.

I spent the long weekend buying scallops, trying various recipes and perfecting “the scallop sear,” before I finally prepared this.  It’s a little bouquet of tastes and textures.  Grenoble, be proud.


Scallops a la Grenobloise

serves 4 for a main course


3 slices white bread
2 1/2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
1 lemon
1 pound large scallops (about 16), rinsed under cold water to remove any sand
1 1/2 tablespoons butter + 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons drained capers
1/2 cup diced (1/2-inch) white mushrooms
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the bread into a 1/2-inch dice and toss the bread with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Spread the pieces on a cookie sheet and bake for 6 to 8 minutes, or until browned. Set aside.

Peel the lemon, removing the skin and the white pith underneath. Cut between the membranes to remove totally clean segments of lemon flesh. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces until you have about 2 tablespoons diced lemon flesh.

Remove any abductor muscles still attached to the scallops. Sprinkle the scallops with the salt, pepper and remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil. Heat a large nonstick skillet over high heat until very hot, then add the scallops. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 2 minutes.  Add the 1 1/2 tablespoon of butter to the pan, and allow it to swirl around the scallops.  Flip the scallops, and cook for another 2 minutes.  They should be nicely browned. Arrange 4 scallops on each of four serving plates and sprinkle on the lemon pieces, capers, and bread cubes.

Heat the butter in a small skillet and add the mushrooms. Cook for 2 to 4 minutes, or until the butter browns lightly (this is called noisette butter). Add the vinegar. Spoon the sauce over the scallops, sprinkle the parsley on top, and serve.