Archive for November, 2014

Still Lives & Thanks

Thursday, November 27th, 2014


Still Life, oil on canvas, 30 x 34


With everyone’s pies baked, I’m stepping briefly out of the kitchen and into an art gallery.  Janet Rickus’s meticulous still lives offer just the right elements of stillness, fecundity, and grace that many of us will be considering today.

Represented by The Clark Gallery in Lincoln, MA, Rickus will be part of the Clark Gallery December Salon Show from November 25 – December 30th, with a celebratory reception at the gallery Saturday, December 6th. For more information go to:

Thanks to my friends and blog readers – and both! – for your support, humor, and recipes throughout the year; I wish for you all a joyful Thanksgiving, full of winter squash and pie.




One Year Old Pumpkin, oil on canvas, 16 x 16

Houle Family Meat Pie

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Pork Pie


Karen Houle Hunter is the dental hygienist at Rockport Family Dental. In between the “open wides,” we talk about food. Karen is from Rhode Island, and knows the best places there for clam fritters and clam chowder, not the Rhode Island brothy version but a Manhattan-style clam chowder with honest briny freshness. Beneath the glare of the hygienist’s lamp we talk about family recipes, what she’s making for dinner, or bringing to a school potluck. (A good potluck recipe is as valuable as a good pair of black pants.)

Karen’s first question on my last visit was “how’s the cookbook coming?” I gave her the update, including my regret that, although the manuscript is turned in, I never was able to find a Fall River meat pie, or an authentic recipe for it. Authentic meat pies apparently know no state lines; Karen’s Rhode Island family, living a crow’s flight across the Taunton River from Massachusetts, also call meat pie a family tradition.

In Fall River the meat pie is said to have arrived over a hundred years with French and English mill workers, a lunch that both nourishes a hungry cotton spinner, and is easy to carry.

Karen, bless her Rhode Island heart, brought me not only her family’s recipe, but, on a busy Saturday morning, she baked me an authentic Houle Family Pork Pie, which fed a bunch of hungry kids and their parents in my own home that Saturday night.

Everyone declared the pie delicious, and me incredibly lucky to have a friend who made such things. Thanks, Karen!



serving pork pie



Houle Family Pork Pie

Ingredients 1 pound lean lamb

1/2 pound ground pork

2 medium onions, chopped

5 celery stalks, chopped

salt and pepper

1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning

dash of clove

1 large baking potato, cooked and mashed

1 recipe double pie crust


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  In a large skillet saute the meat, adding water if the mixture gets too dry.  Simmer for a half hour, or until the meat is cooked through.  Drain off the fat carefully.

3.  In a separate skillet sauté the celery and onion with the salt and pepper to taste, the poultry seasoning and the clove.  Add to the meat mixture.

4.  Add the mashed potato to the mixture and stir carefully.

5.  Roll out half the pie dough, and line a 11” pie pan. Turn meat mixture into the dish. Roll out the second dough, and cover the pie. Crimp edges and cut vents in the top. Bake for 1 hour or until golden brown. Karen says this is especially good served with gravy.



slice of karen's pork pie

photo by Jemima Grow

Bisq Brussels Sprouts – baked with Pears and Manchego

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014


Bisq Sprouts


Keith Pooler may be the chef/owner of Bergamot, the eminent Somerville restaurant, but his heart still beats unequivocally for Gloucester, where he grew up. In fact, when Pooler began scheming a dinner previewing his new restaurant (named “Bisq,” which means something like “Bergamot in Inman Square”), he imagined a long table set on Gloucester granite, Folly Cove waves breaking over the conversations of the Boston food press.

Well, that didn’t happen. If you think it’s hard for Cape Ann residents to drive over the A. Piatt Andrew bridge, it’s even harder to get the Boston food press to cross the Tobin.

But, Pooler did have a “we can’t wait for Bisq to open!” dinner for a few scribblers of cuisine – this time at Bergamot – framing the new restaurant’s alchemical wine menu and small plate versions of the parent restaurant’s “progressive American” cuisine. Dan Bazzinotti, currently sous-chef at Bergamot, will be retitled “chef de cuisine” at Bisq.

For the writers’ dinner Bazzinotti showed off his flare with house-created charcuterie – from sanquinaccio to homemade kielbasa to a deconstructed pig’s head. We also tasted house-smoked mussels in a yam and pear potage.and roasted skate wing with sunchokes, and pearl onion rissole.

This was dining to wow, lush combinations of local surprises like apple mostarda draping the sanginaccio and chicken liver-filled flatbread, but I also left with a recipe to recreate at home: Bazzinotti’s Brussels sprouts tossed with quince, pancetta, and almonds, just warm enough to soften the small cubes of manchego cheese tucked within.

I’ve adapted Bazzinotti’s recipe only because, while I adore quince, I know that I’m the only person on Cape Ann (along with the owners of my former house) who has access to them. I made the dish with Bosc pears, and nothing suffers.

This “peared” down version of Bisq Brussels sprouts would be a noble addition to the Thanksgiving table. But don’t stop the Bisq story there.  Watch the website to find out when Bisq officially opens. Be stronger than the Boston food press, and drive over the bridge. Visit native son Keith Pooler there or at Bergamot; Keith loves to talk Gloucester, particularly the best swimming spots. You will have an amazing meal, and Keith will feel a little closer to home.


Bisq Brussels Sprouts



Bisq Brussel Sprouts, adapted 

serves 6, easily doubled


2 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed of stems and halved

3 bosc pears, unpeeled, cut into 1/2” pieces

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

generous grinding of fresh pepper

1 tablespoon butter

3 shallots, diced

1/4 pound pancetta or bacon, diced

1/3 pound Manchego cheese, diced

1/2 cup almonds, roughly chopped and toasted

1/2 cup light cream


1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2.  In a large bowl toss together the Brussels sprouts, chopped pears, olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour into an oven proof dish or roasting pan, and roast for 25 minutes, or until sprouts are browned and just cooked through, but not soft.

3.  Heat a large skillet to medium high, and add pancetta or bacon, and cook until crisp, about 15 minutes.

4.  In a separate pan, cook shallots in butter until softened.

5.  When the parts are cooked, in a large bowl toss all – Brussels sprouts, pears, pancetta, shallots, manchego, almonds and cream – together lightly. Pour into a ceramic baking dish, and bake just to warm and melt the cheese, about 10-15 minutes.  Serve warm.

The Hale Family Marlborough Pie

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014


Marlborough Pie 2


In the late 20th century, when church was the week’s best entertainment, when ministers were rock stars, Edward Everett Hale, a Bostonian Unitarian and later Congregational minister, was Bono. He filled churches and sold books. His biggest hit was a work of fiction, “Man Without a Country,” which tells the story of Philip Nolan, found guilty of treason, and sentenced to spend the rest of his life on a ship, forbidden from setting foot ever again on United States’ soil, of learning any news of his former country, from even saying the nation’s name. He dies on the ship, desolate, the most loyal patriot of all as one who has known what is it to be without a country. “Man Without a Country” successfully advertised the Union defense of unity, and remained required school reading well into the 20th century.

Edward Everett Hale’s relatives are responsible for much of New England’s moral landscape; his great great uncle, the revolutionary martyr Nathan Hale, famously said, “I only regret I have but one life to give for my country.” Hale’s uncle, Edward Everett, an energetic scholar known all his life as “Ever-at-it,” taught German and Greek at Harvard; Ralph Waldo Emerson was his student; he ultimately became Harvard’s president, and a serious Union supporter. Hale’s mother-in-law was Harriet Beecher Stowe’s sister. He is even distantly related to Helen Keller. Almost every town from Rhode Island to Maine has a maple-lined Hale Street running through it.

But it’s Thanksgiving on Cape Ann; what do the Hales have to do with anything?

Edward Everett Hale’s daughter, Ellen Day Hale, a Boston painter educated in Paris at the end of the 20th century, built a summer home in Folly Cove. (Her self-portrait, painted for the Salon show in Paris’ Grand Palais, hangs in Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.)  Readers here will know this as my house now!



Ellen Day Hale self-portrait



Ellen Day Hale’s brother Philip Hale, and his wife Lillian, all painted together summers in this Folly Cove granite home; they made the start of a rich artistic community that would discover what light does with water and granite at the far northern tip of Gloucester.


Ellen Day Hale's home



About Thanksgiving, Edward Everett Hale, in his 1893 book “A New England Boyhood,” declares this Marlborough Pie a Hale family Thanksgiving requirement.

“To this hour, in any old and well-regulated family in New England, you will find there is a traditional method of making the Marlborough pie, which is sort of lemon pie, and each good housekeeper thinks that her grandmother left a better receipt for Marlborough pie than anybody else did.”

Here is the Hale family recipe; their pie is light and lemony, with just enough character from the applesauce. The 1/4 cup of sherry adds a little New England parlor to the taste.

Although their summer home was probably closed up by November, I would like to imagine that at some point the Hales, unable to wait for Thanksgiving, enjoyed this Marlborough pie on their Folly Cove porch, their eyes scanning Ipswich Bay for sailboats. Maybe the taste of the pie made them reminisce about Hale Thanksgivings past – “Remember the time Dad made us….”


slice of Marlborough Pie



Hale Family Marlborough Pie


Pastry for 1 crust

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce (preferably homemade with drops from a local tree)

1/2 cup sugar

2/3 cup light cream

grated rind and juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup sherry

3 eggs, well beaten


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

1.  Line a 8” pie plate with pastry.  Refrigerate while you make the filling.

2.  Combine applesauce, sugar, cream, and sherry. Stir in the eggs, and pour into chilled pastry shell.

3.  Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce oven to 325 degrees F. Bake for 45 minutes longer. Filling will not become firm until the pie cools.

The HarvestFest Preserve and Pickle Contest

Saturday, November 8th, 2014



On October 18th, a group of jam, relish and pickle authorities, who also happen to work at Rockport’s Ace Hardware, judged the “preserve and pickle” contest at Rockport’s HarvestFest.





Jud Wilson, the self-declared Lead Jam Taster, critiqued spoonfuls of  submitted jams and relishes with an expert voice, as did each of the judges. Texture, viscosity, brightness, and ultimately flavor were analyzed in the jam category. Relish and pickle priorities were crispness, spice, and interest.  Wilson referenced his own backyard garden and a long personal history of stirring jams and relishes; we understand he makes an excellent mincemeat.

Rebecca Borden, sales staff at Ace, is described by Wilson as “a serious homecook.” Borden lives and cooks in E. Gloucester with her mother, Dot Batchelder, author of the “Fishmonger Cookbook,” and once owner of the Cambridge fish market by that name.  (The cookbook is still available in used copies on Amazon; buy it.)

Rebecca Borden and Jud Wilson

Rebecca Borden and Jud Wilson


Judge Timothy McTigue, the “steel man” at Ace, fixer of chainsaws, (sadly, unavailable the day I took the photo) judged with the certain authority of a person who knows what goes best on a warm slice of Anadama toast, or beside a ham sandwich. Fairly and firmly McTigue judged, our own steel man of preserves and pickles.

At first the participants seemed to be just part of the Harvey Park crowd, where the HarvestFest Preserve Contest, a nice agricultural component of the day’s farmer’s market, was held. But as the tasting began the shy jammer and picklers came out from behind tree and tent to where they could hear the judges’ every word. When the first jar was opened, the nervous participants leaned in. When the judges arrived at Grace Schrafft’s hot pepper jam submission, she waved her hands, and said, “Oh, I can’t take it!” and ran to the edge of Harvey Park where she couldn’t hear a word.

Stephanie Smith’s cherry vanilla preserves won first place in the jam category. (All submissions were unmarked; the judges had no idea they were declaring their boss’s wife’s jam the winner.)

Schrafft took first place in the relish category, and Myron Lapine’s Bread and Butter – “Ma and Pa’s Pickles” – won first place for pickles.

While it didn’t win –  its taste just slightly wild – like currant jelly with that “mossy” feel of concord grapes – the “Autumn Olive Jam” and “Autumn Olive Chutney” submitted by Lydia Sands, I would like to commend for its character and interest.

autumn olive

Autumn Olive, Elaeagnus umbellata, is that pale, succulent red berry that grows on long branches covered with pale green oval leaves. It’s invasive, and found all over Cape Ann. Lidia told me she harvests great bunches of them right along Blackburn Circle. Autumn olive is so vitamin-heavy her husband, owner of Annisquam Landcare, makes smoothies with them.

The Rockport Festivals crew loved this little contest, and would like to thank all who participated – judges to jam-makers. We hope you all come back again next year – pies included next time!



Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry – un-dowdy recipes for preserving foods.

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

Mrs. Wheelbarrow


My personal canning fears began with a stepmother who, with vicious Yankee frugality, processed green beans into dreadful, watery mush. Bad fairy tales aside, who now can relate to the white-aproned matron surrounded by tall pyramids of sterilized mason jars, the image punctuated by one terrifying looking pressure cooker and a scary box of pectin?

But, Cathy Barrow, food columnist for the Washington Post, The New York Times, NPR and more, I understand. Barrow has written “Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry,” W.W. Norton & Co. a contemporary treatise on all kinds of preservation techniques, with elegant, seriously un-dowdy recipes. This is the preservation book for people who, like me, have come to food preservation detouring home-ec class, arriving instead via the local farmers’ market: when faced with an irresistible flat of fresh local strawberries, memories of winter’s tasteless fruit still close, in spite of ourselves we sterilize jars.

Barrow’s book is filled with real lessons on creating a working, creative pantry, from water-bath canning to the more intimidating “pressure cooker” method. By the way, I wasn’t wrong to be scared of the pressure cooker; Barrow says, “If the water-bath method is the general education curriculum in the school of preserving, pressure canning is graduate school.”

On pectin alone these pages offer much, including a recipe for a homemade pectin made from gooseberries or underripe apples. Barrow also explains why the image of the matron I described above included so many jars: commercial pectin activates only with “copious amounts” of sugar; you therefore need to make a lot of jelly to get it to work.

As I said, there are many things about canning that have scared me over the years, including strangely brick-like jelly. Barrow has a long, clear discussion on naturally building firmness in low-pectin fruits like berries and cherries – use 1/3 underripe fruit, add kiwi, add green apple – but she also affirms my preference for not so stiff preserves.

“This book is filled with recipes for preserves that slump,” she advises.


pears in caramel


Speaking of recipes, how could you not want to make ‘Nectarine, Rosemary and Honey Preserves?” Or “Figgy Marmalade with Macadamia Nuts?” Or “Apricot Jam with Ginger and Rosemary?” And the following winter, with that jam jar on your shelf, you will make “Focaccia with Apricot Jam, Caramelized Onion and Fennel.” Barrow has not just preservation recipes but what she calls “bonus recipes,” delicious things to do with your pantry treasures. Or, if you didn’t make your own ricotta, just go buy some really good local stuff so that you can make her “Ricotta and Egg Pasta Pillows” anyway. The book is a wonderful see-saw of sublime recipes that will build a heavy-hitting pantry and equally sublime recipes of things to do with that pantry. Her recipe for miso-brined pork chop, “Spiced Pork Chops with Galicky Bok Choy,” alone is worth the price of the book.

“Cocktail Cherries with Maraschino Liqueur?” Fanny Farmer didn’t sterilize mason jars with artisanal cocktails in mind. Barrow recommends adding a few of these cherries to a sauce pan to serve with duck or pork, or skewer them with fresh peaches and grill, or stir into soft ice cream, “ribbon with bittersweet chocolate,” and refreeze. This is the new horizon of food preservation.

Of course, not all preservation is in a jar: Chapter Three is about preserving meats and fish – salt-curing, brining, smoking and air-curing. Chapter Four covers curds and whey – from making cultured butter (my current addiction), to creme fraiche, to that homemade ricotta mentioned earlier, to the black diamond of cheese-making expertise, Camembert.

With all this milk culturing going on Barrow includes a list of places to put the buckets of residual whey that go with: drink it, wash your hair with it, supplement your pets’ diets with it – including the chickens, and feed your roses. Whey seems to be the new all-purpose household ingredient.

Barrow first experimented with preserving dairy when, left with an excess of cream which she had forgotten to whip for the dinner party dessert (my kind of woman), she made butter. See what I mean? This is a woman I understand. Cheese making – even yogurt making – when writ in the tomes of Mother Earth catalogues has felt as if I just didn’t have the proper back-to-nature pedigree that cheese cloth and curds require. Barrow comes at all these preservation efforts through her Washingtonian D.C. garage door, which is to say the recipes are accessible, spirited, and modern. Mrs. Wheellbarrow’s pantry is not your mother’s.

There is how to smoke bacon, but also a recipe for Smoked Spiced Almonds. There is how to smoke a whole chicken, but there is also a recipe for comfort food 2014 style: “Smoked Chicken, Porcini, and Peas.” There is a recipe for Hot Smoked Salmon and Hot Smoked Trout, but don’t miss the bonus recipe: “Pappardelle with Smoked Salmon and Spinach.” Even if you never smoke a thing, and source your smoked salmon from a package, (just make sure it’s the hot smoked version, not lox), make this. That said, Barrow’s Gravlax recipe, a shining slab of glistening salmon carefully pressed in a toasted anise, peppercorn, lemon verbena, brown sugar, sea salt, and gin rub, is certain to be served in my house this holiday season.

Barrow calls it “the power of the pantry” – fighting words in an age of box stores and industrialized foods. Barrow sees the pressure cooker’s ability to safely preserve soups, stocks, and meats as equalling less dependency on commercially processed foods, and more local eating.

Some people, including Barrow, believe the apex of food preservation is duck confit, a recipe for which is here. Still, I am aiming at, and am willing to confront my pressure cooker fears for “Pressure Canned Tuna,” a recipe for preserving rosy slabs of line-caught wild tuna in olive oil, beauty that would make an Italian fisherman blush.

Here is a recipe from Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry that you can – and should – make right now. Then make vanilla ice cream.



caramel pear preserves



Caramel Pear Preserves

makes 5 or 6 half-pint jars


3 pounds firm slightly underripe Bosc or Seckel pears, peeled, cored, and cut into fine julienne

3 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon Quatre Epices

3/4 cup orange juice juice of 1 lemon


1.  Mix the pears, 2 cups of the sugar, the quartre epices, and orange and lemon juices in a bowl. Cover and let macerate while you make the caramel.

2.  Slowly melt the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar in your preserving pot over low heat, without stirring (you can shake the pan for even cooking), and cook until it becomes a caramel. Let it turn from golden to a deep amber color. Don’t rush the process, and watch it carefully. Do not walk away. Do not read your e-mail or fold laundry. Stand there and watch.

3.  Here’s the really scary part, the part that will make you think you’ve wrecked it all. pour in the pears and all their liquids. The caramel will seize and break. It will make you want to cry. It will look wrong. Don’t worry. just heat the whole mixture up again very slowly, stirring carefully and frequently to work the pieces of caramel off the bottom of the pot and incorporate them into the preserves. It’s a hellish moment. Then bring the preserves up to 220 degrees F., which will take at least 30 minutes, by which time will the caramel will have melted again and it will be heavenly. You’ll smell those spices. You’ll be happy again.

4.  Keep the preserves at a boil that will not stir down for about 5 minutes, then remove the heat and test the set, using the wrinkle test or sheeting test* to determine if the jam has set to a gentle slump. If not, heat it again and boil for 2 to 3 minutes, then test again.

5.  Ladle the hot preserves into the warm jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Clean the rims of the jars well with a damp paper towel. Place the lids and rings on the jars and finger-tighten the rings. Process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes. The preserves are shelf stable for 1 year.

*Sheeting Test: “When you believe the jam is ready, remove from the heat and let the boil settle down. Lift up the spatula or spoon you have been using to stir the jam, turn it sideways, and let the jam sheet off it. It should gather along the edge of the spatula and drop slowly back into the pot It should look like jam!

The Wrinkle Test: “Before starting to make the jam, put three small plates in the freezer. At the point in the recipe when the jam is set, or should be set, or you think it is set, remove from the burner. Take one plate from teh freezer, drop a bit of jam onto the plate, and let the cold take effect – a minute or two. The set you see on that plate is what you will get.”