Archive for December, 2013

Winter Lasagna

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013



Holidays mean making those dishes that take a little more time, a little more care, a little more of everything.  Homemade pasta is exactly that dish for me.

My holiday list dragging to the floor like a cliched cartoon, I took the time yesterday morning to make this lasagna.  It was the best holiday medicine I could have taken.


Making pasta is one of the most satisfying culinary processes there is:  it’s beautiful from start to finish – rolling the butter-yellow dough through the chrome machine, all those trays of drying noodles, the stratified layers of pasta and fillings.  But it takes time – you can only crank so fast.   It takes space – everything else gets moved to the floor.  You shuffle, you move things, you shuffle again.  There are suddenly trays of noodles all over your house.


Whenever I make homemade pasta I think of Stefania, by best friend even though she lives in Italy and we rarely see each other.  Stefania taught me everything I know about making pasta, so it’s good for me to do it if only to recall the wonderful times we’ve shared making lasagna noodles together.

The lasagna process was all zen, requiring focus and calm, and allowing time for happy memories, exactly what my skittering pulse needed.

The lasagna itself was adapted from an Epicurious recipe:  my last CSA root vegetables sauteed to sweetness, then lifted from “earthy” to elegant with a few cups of toasted hazelnuts.   Feel free to use only butternut squash, as the original recipe required, or feel free to adapt with other vegetables; it’s begging for parsnips

I wish everyone a Merry Christmas, and hope you make just one dish this season that slows you down, makes you think about someone you love and the happy times you had together.


Winter Lasagna




For squash filling:

1 large onion, chopped

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 lb carrots, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

2 small celery root, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces (optional)

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

4 teaspoons chopped fresh sage

1 cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped, loose skins rubbed off with a kitchen towel, and coarsely chopped

For the sauce:

1 teaspoon minced garlic

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

5 tablespoons all-purpose flour

5 cups milk

1 bay leaf (not California)

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

To assemble lasagna:

1/2 lb fresh mozzarella, coarsely grated (2 cups)

1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (3 oz)

12 (7- by 3 1/2-inch) sheets no-boil lasagne (1/2 lb) or homemade lasagna noodles


Make filling:
Cook onion in butter in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes. Add root vegetables, garlic, salt, and white pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are just tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in parsley, sage, and nuts. Cool filling.

Make sauce while squash cooks:
Cook garlic in butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring, 1 minute. Whisk in flour and cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Add milk in a stream, whisking. Add bay leaf and bring to a boil, whisking constantly, then reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 10 minutes. Whisk in salt and white pepper and remove from heat. Discard bay leaf. (Cover surface of sauce with wax paper if not using immediately.)

To assemble:
Preheat oven to 425°F.

Toss cheeses together. Spread 1/2 cup sauce in a buttered 13- by 9- by 2-inch glass baking dish and cover with 3 pasta sheets, leaving spaces between sheets. Spread with 2/3 cup sauce and one third of filling, then sprinkle with a heaping 1/2 cup cheese. Repeat layering 2 more times, beginning with pasta sheets and ending with cheese. Top with remaining 3 pasta sheets, remaining sauce, and remaining cheese.

Tightly cover baking dish with buttered foil and bake lasagna in middle of oven 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until golden and bubbling, 10 to 15 minutes more. Let lasagne stand 15 to 20 minutes before serving.




FEAST & Brussels sprouts with chourico, New Bedford style

Monday, December 16th, 2013

This past snowy Saturday night, Sarah Kelly and I, along with Cynthia Roth and Anne-Marie Crotty of Flatrocks Gallery, presented FEAST, music and dinner benefiting The Open Door, celebrating the art work in the gallery and the spirit of the season.  Sarah Kelly will have more about the evening on her blog, TheRovingHome, but I’m offering a few images, the menu, and a recipe.

mulled wine

Roasted Brussels Sprouts “New Bedford Style” 

(roasted with chourico, shallots and thinly sliced potatoes)

Codfish Bocce 

(haddock and potato dumplings, served on a parsley, lemon & garlic sauce)

Cranberry Cheddar Cheese from The Cave

Radishes on ice with Parsley and Smoked Oyster Pesto – on the table


Fish Shack Rolls from Seabiscuit Bakery 

Daube with Olives and Capers

Roasted Root Vegetable Couscous


Quince, Greens & Gorgonzola


Oatmeal Crisps (recipe from Barbara Erkkila) and Ice Cream with “Fudge Everything” 

sugared grapes



We cooked a great pan of these Brussels sprouts over an open fire with a pot of mulled wine beside it.  As guests arrived and the snow began to rev-up, or rev-down, carolers sang on the edge of the garden, and arrivals were welcomed over to the fire.  Snow kept falling.  Hot wine was ladled, and guests were given forks to stab into the pan of roasting Brussels sprouts and chourico, which just got better and better as they roasted.




We ended up heating a few dishes on that fire.  Here are Paul Kelly and Gregor Gibson arriving from the flames with a successfully warmed kettle of hot fudge sauce.

Brussels Sprouts Roasted with Chourico, New Bedford Style


serves 8 as an appetizer, 4 as a side dish.




2 ounces salt pork or nice quality bacon

1 shallot, minced

2 pounds brussels sprouts, halved if large

1 large potato, peeled and thinly sliced

a six-inch chunk of chourico, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds




Heat a large skillet to medium high, and render (or melt) the salt pork.  Lower temperature to medium, and add the minced shallot.  Cook until softened about five minutes.  Add the Brussels sprouts, and toss them in the fat and shallots.  Cook for five minutes, and add the sliced potato and chourico.  Keep temperature at medium to medium low, and allow all to cook for 20 – 30 minutes, tossing often.  The Brussels sprouts should become charred and the potatoes cooked through.  Serve hot as an appetizer or a side dish.

Barbara Erkkila, July 11, 1918 – December 14, 2013

Monday, December 16th, 2013


Living in Folly Cove, driving rt. 127 through Lanesville and Bayview over and over, not a day passes that I don’t think of the spry, intelligent journalist Barbara Erkkila.  I last saw her at Christmas a year ago; I think of her clenching her fists then, almost punching the air with her frail arms, declaring, “I LOVE a story!”  Note cards were spread out on a small table that day, the work she was doing on her next book.

I first heard Barbara Erkkila’s name at the Bayview Methodist Church’s annual Nisu sale .  When I asked for a Nisu recipe, one of the many women in the church basement said solemnly,  “you should talk to Barbara Erkkila.”

“Barbara Erkkila?  Can you tell me how to get in touch with her?”  A reverential silence fell over the room, shiny loaves of cinnamon-sugar coated Nisu braids rising in pans all around.

“Barbara’s recipe is the best,” someone repeated, still not letting on who Barbara was or why she had such Nisu authority, and still not giving up the recipe that had produced this room full of Finnish bread.  Eventually Connie Mason gave me a Nisu recipe, but even she vaguely indicated Erkkila’s was better.

When I finally met Barbara Erkkila a couple of years later, our conversation spanned her long career as journalist for The Gloucester Times and The Boston Globe, including an award-winning story on the first Maine shrimp landing.  We covered her definitive histories of the Cape Ann quarry industry and Lanesville, Hammers on Stone, a history of Cape Ann granite, and Village at Lanescove.   She told me about the New York engineers reconstructing the opening to the Holland Tunnel calling her, and asking how to match the stone originally quarried in Lanesville.

“That comes from Blood Ledge quarry,” Erkkila said without pause.  She heard awe shaped as silence on the other end of the line, awe that someone would know exactly the quarry from which a piece of granite was taken.

With laughing eyes, more curiosity and humor in them at ninety four than many twenty-year-olds I know, Erkkila told me the story of how she measured the Lanescove breakwater opening and reported those numbers to the Coast Guard, because she had been horrified to learn that, although they brought ships back and forth through that breakwater regularly, the Coast Guard didn’t know its width.

Erkkila was neighbors with all the Lanesville artists – Hancock, the Manships, Kroll – but only told stories that upheld their dignity; life was approached with humor; individuals were approached with respect.


That Nisu  that had been so prized?  When I finally asked Erkkila about that, she said, “Nisu?  Oh, I don’t know – .”  It seems Erkkila had opened so many doors since her Nisu making years that she had almost forgotten the woman the ladies in the Methodist Church remembered.

When I went to see her last year she looked absolutely beautiful in a long tailored skirt and a bright pink sweater, a Christmas brooch pinned cheerfully to it.  She knew I would ask, and this time she had a recipe for me, a “macaroon” recipe clipped years ago from a 1927 Baking Powder ad.  I love these cookies; nothing like a traditional macaroon, they are thinner, crisper, and have more character than florentines.


I published that recipe in the Gloucester Times last year.  Just this week I made a batch of them, which I served with ice cream and hot fudge sauce at an Open Door benefit dinner at Flatrocks Gallery in Lanesville.  I think of Barbara often enough, but this week, preparing this dinner, baking her cookies, seeing her recipe written out in her hand again, I felt her even more clearly.

“She would love this Lanesville gathering,” I thought, “a blend of people interested in the Arts, all coming together in this distant but artist-thick end of the penninsula.”  That night I drove the short distance home after the party over snow-covered rt. 127, my car full of dirty dishes, thinking how beautiful winding Langsford St. and then Washington St. looks in the snow, the waves rolling into Folly Cove through the darkness.   Again, I thought about the long history of people coming together in Lanesville for Art, music, and a story; I thought of the long line of people who loved this end of Cape Ann; I thought I know so much of this because of Barbara Erkkila.

When I made it up my snowy driveway and brought the dishes into the house, I checked my computer to learn in an email that Barbara Erkkila has passed away.  These words still bring tears to my eyes.  I didn’t know her for long, and cannot even say I knew her well, but Barbara’s curiosity and passion – for the Fish Houses, for the derricks, for memories of jumping on the rocks with her sister when they were kids – is always with me here.

I will always imagine her petite frame in something tailored and a little bit stylish, strolling down into Lanescove, cheerfully greeting the men in the Fish Houses there, looking for that story.

For those who missed it, here is Barbara Erkkila’s cookie recipe, which, by the way, are gluten-free if you use gluten-free oats.

Barbara Erkkila’s Oatmeal Macaroons

makes 3 dozen


1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon melted shortening

2 eggs

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 cups rolled oats

2 teaspoons Royal Baking Powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Mix sugar with shortening; add salt, eggs, rolled oats, baking powder and vanilla.

Mix thoroughly.

Drop on cookie sheets lined in parchment paper about half teaspoon to each macaroon, allowing space for spreading.

Bake about 10 minutes in moderate oven at 350 degrees.  Let cool on parchment, as cookies will firm up when they’re not hot, and are thus easier to transfer.

Gift a Salem Food Tour!

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013


Salem Food Tours begin with the spice trade.  Starting at The Picklepot and Salem Spice, Karen Scalia, who leads the tours, walks hungry, curious visitors and residents through the streets of Salem, experiencing the city’s rich history through the beer brewed here, the wines poured, the bread baked, the oysters shucked, the fresh pasta rolled, the french fries sprinkled with bacon dust.  (yes, bacon dust.)

The lessons are detailed; the food is fabulous. Wear sensible shoes and come hungry; you’re certain to have a great time.

There are all kinds of ways to do a tour – family tours, ladies tours, bonding tours of any sort.  Scalia offers vegan tours, too.

A gift certificate to a tour is gift-genius, just right for at least three people you know.  Click here for more on that:  Salem Food Tour Gift Certificates

Photos here are all property of Salem Food Tours.

local giving

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

Here are some suggestions on how to give a little bit of Cape Ann and the North Shore this holiday season.


Seabiscuit Bakery.  This coy little Lanesville kitchen introduced Fish Shack Ginger Cookies, gingerbready cookies nipped with rum, and Fish Shack Bread, an anadama-inspired loaf, to Cape Ann’s baked choices.  Currently Seabiscuit Bakery is producing a holiday gift package:  Maple Almond Granola (a Rockport Farmers’ Market favorite), Fish Shack Ginger Cookies, French Chocolate Bark, and Almond Tea Biscuits.   The smart Seabiscuit packaging alone justifies pride-in-gift, but Seabiscuit’s signature serious flavors – cinnamon, molasses, homemade five-spice, and almond – rule.  A little bit Lanesville, a little bit Paris, the Cardamon Brioche is not to be missed, particularly fine served with Sasquatch salmon pate.   Tea biscuits and thumb-print cookies can be made gluten-free if you ask nicely.

Call to place an order –  978.282.4745 –  or watch for the “Bread today” sign at 1105 Washington St., Lanesville (corner of Washington and Andrews)


Nothing gets more to the heart of the local matter than a cookbook assembled by local keepers of the recipe boxes.  Cape Ann has three gems:

“A Circle of Recipes,” The Annisquam Sewing Circle Cookbook.   The contributors know for whom they write.  There are more tea sandwich recipes here than in Fannie Farmer.  Recipes like Poulet Grand’ Mere and Roast Leg of Lamb with Cranberry, Prune and Macadamia Nut Stuffing make this native treasure not only a solid collection of dressed-up New England recipes, but an homage to a community who values Cocktails on the Porch, Drinks before the Play, and Sledding in the Pasture, as chapter subtitles attest.  It’s a wonderful gift for those who live this way, or those who wish they did.  The book also contains some very old curiosities like “Chocolate Sea Moss Pudding,” which recommends harvesting sea moss after a storm.

The Temple Ahavat Achim Cookbook.  The Temple Ahavat Achim Cookbook, a local best-seller when it was first published by the Gloucester Temple in 2009, still represents the joyous cooks within Gloucester’s Jewish community.  From stylish recipes like Sweet Pea and Avocado Vichyssoise to brilliant innovations like eggplant latkes, to gilded brisket recipes, the temple cookbook is a treasure.  Mark the Persian Chicken Stew page, wrap a bow around the book, and leave it in your hosts’ foyer at the next holiday party.  That recipe – dried apples, cranberries, chives, parsley, mint and chicken – is a gift all by itself.  The Temple Ahavat Achim Cookbook can be purchased at the temple weekdays between 9:00 and 3:00.

“Gifts of Gold,” In a Sicilian Kitchen with Sista Felicia. Felicia Mohan has assembled many of her Sicilian-Gloucester family recipes into a cookbook of her own; “Gifts of Gold,” In a Sicilian Kitchen with Sista Felicia is available on the “Sista Felicia’s Kitchen” website.


Fudge Everything.  One pound of pure cane sugar and high-grade, dark Dutch-process cocoa, with a few other friendly ingredients, this jar of fudge sauce may be the easiest local gift to give.   Creators Anne Girian and Debra Bloomingdale produce it in Manchester, MA; they say it’s cheaper than therapy and works just as well.   In the spirit of chocolate-as-medicine, I say make sure there’s a jar in your own cupboard this holiday season, too.  You can find Fudge Everything in The Cave on Main St., Gloucester, Lula’s Pantry in Rockport, MA, or check out the Fudge Everything website for more availability.


Salt & Ayres, the new updated line of Harbor Sweets Chocolates is not for your grandmother anymore.  Almond buttercrunch toffee enhanced with chipotle sea salt, caramel sprinkled with Himalayan sea salt, crystallized ginger topped with Thai ginger sea salt, all wrapped in a minimally chic aqua box, are flavors your child’s hipster kindergarten teacher will declare, “cool.”  The equestrian line of chocolates, with a corgi photo-bombing itself on the back of the box, still makes me smile, as does the welcoming Colonial pineapple chocolate in a little Nantucket basket.  These touches declare this forty-year-old chocolate business squarely “North Shore,” beautiful examples of local giving.  Sold in Gloucester at Harbor Loop – Building Center or in Beverly at  Beverly Hospital Gift Shop,
Casa De Moda, Henry’s Market, and The Paper Store.

Dinner Dealer.  It looks like a deck of cards; it feels like a deck of cards, but it’s actually 52 deals to locally-owned – no chains allowed – North Shore restaurants from Swampscott to Newburyport.  $5 off your $20 meal, $10 off $30, or $20 of $50, these discounts actually pay for the $25 deck after three evenings out.  For the single brother-in-law who knows his way around a menu or the favorite teacher who appreciates local cuisine, Dinner Dealer is lots of local love.  $1.00 of each sale is donated to a local food pantry.  Sold at The Cave and sites listed on the Dinner Dealer website.

A Growler of Chili Stout.  Fresh-tasting. locally-brewed beer – as far from liquor store bottled beer as freshly baked bread is from a loaf of Pepperidge Farm Sliced White – is a gift, even for the six-pack estranged.  For those on the way to the party without a present, you can’t go wrong running into Cape Ann Brewing, Co. and filling up a Growler, a charming 64 ounce jug, with a freshly-brewed beer of your choice.  I particularly like the Chili Stout; if Taza Chipotle Chocolate were a cold, frothy, fermented beverage, it would be this.  Cape Ann Brewing Co., Rogers St., Gloucester.


M S Foley Stoneworks Granite Rolling Pins, and more.  Some of my favorite kitchen gifts this year are rocks:  local stone artist M S Foley is creating beautiful pieces for the kitchen: mortar and pestles, spoon rests and soap dishes made with granite and marble.  The granite rolling pin is a masterpiece, truly kitchen sculpture.  Foley makes cheese slates, too, all available at The Cave on Main St. in Gloucester.

Rosanne’s Biscotti.  Rosanne’s Biscotti are not the spare, subtly flavored Tuscan variety; these are biscotti gone Marie Antoinette.  Great slabs of homemade cookie gloriously bejeweled in coconut, cranberries, and various nuts, dripping in white and dark chocolate.  These magnificent creations belong on the silver tray beside the plum pudding and trifle.  They are baked by Gloucester’s Rosanne LeBlanc, and sold at The Cave or from Rosanne’s website.

Appleton Farm Sunset Hill Triple Creme Cheese.    This bloomy rind, brie-style cheese, named for a favorite Appleton Farms grazing location, is a gift of North Shore terroir:  local milk turned to buttery, peppery local cheese.  Or, simplify things and give the gift of milk and cookies:  a quart of Appleton Farms Milk and a box of Lark Foods Cha-Cha’s, the locally produced spicy, chocolate shortbread cookie, is a gift that cannot be improved.  Appleton Farms, Rt. 1A in Hamilton and Ipswich

Lobster.  Lobster is one of Gloucester and Rockport’s best commodities; don’t forget that it makes a great gift.  Think of sending Gloucester Lobster the way the rest of the world thinks of sending Omaha Steaks.  Choose your favorite aunt in Indiana.  Call your favorite fish market – Connolly’s?  Intershell?  Turner’s? – you choose.  Make Aunt Helen’s Christmas a little Cape Ann special.


More quick suggestions are “Baking by Hand,” the A&J King Bakery cookbook, French Market Baskets from La Provence in Rockport, and Manchester’s Batter-Up Bakery’s Frosted Snowmen Cookies.