Archive for December, 2014

Go! – Julfest at Spiran Lodge, December 13th

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014




Spiran Lodge flags


A few rich veins of authenticity still marble Cape Ann. One vein is the traditions behind Spiran Lodge, the local chapter of the Swedish order “Vasa,” an active preservation of the Scandinavian culture that brought song, dance and the haunting aroma of wafting cardamon to this granite promontory.

This Saturday is Spiran Lodge’s Julfest. On Friday, the Nisu team will work all day in shifts, lead by Claire Franklin, mixing, allowing to rise, pounding down, braiding, letting rise again, and finally baking the 120 glorious shining loaves of Cardamom Braid, or Pulla, or Coffee Bread; to each Scandinavian culture a different name for this delicious-with-coffee sweet bread mostly known on Cape Ann as Nisu. A pair of members (Peg Lecco and me) will drive to Crown Bakery in Worcester to pick up a brimming order of other Swedish breads and pastries to be sold at the festival, along with many Rockport-made Scandinavian treats.


rising Spiran Nisu


Nisu for sale



There will be pickled herring and the Swedish sausage, Korv. This year, for the first time, Karl’s Sausage Kitchen, a venerable source of Scandinavian and Germanic foods, will help to sponsor Rockport’s Julfest, thus offering an even wider selection of hard-to-find foods, the rich, hearty dishes meant to warm hearts through long, bleak winters, both in Sweden, Finland and Cape Ann.




Coffee and Nisu will be served for breakfast, and for lunch there will be traditional open-faced Scandinavian sandwiches along with choices of fish chowder, pea soup, fruit soup, and rice pudding.

Tables of freshly picked and arranged greens will be for sale, along with Scandinavian linens.  Serenaded by “Silent Night,” the chosen St. Lucia will walk the upstairs hall crowned by a wreath of candles. The enormous orange Dala horse will stand cheerfully on the Broadway Ave, sidewalk announcing “god jul!”

At Spiran Lodge Swedish and Finnish phrases still spring up in a sentence here and there. The members are earnest – and work incredibly hard – at keeping the traditions of their parents and grandparents alive. Matthew Rask describes Spiran Lodge as in transition from an aid society to a cultural center.

“Whereas in the past members looked to Vasa to help them learn the ways of the new country and provide them a means to share problems and solutions with their countrymen, today Vasa provides members a means to share their rich heritage with fellow Americans, and helps them to learn or remember the meaningful ways and values of the “Old Country.”

Julfest is a holiday visit like no other. Rare in a landscape sprawled with shopping malls and chain restaurants, authenticity is a commodity worth hoarding when you find it. Visit next weekend for the St. Lucia, the fluffiest of rice puddings, and the authenticity.

Here is a recipe from the Spiran Lodge newsletter. Cardamom, the cinnamon of Scandinavia, is a brilliant addition to the densely chocolate flour-less cake we’ve been making for years.



Dala horse



Spiran Lodge Flour-less Chocolate Cardamom Torte


11 ounces dark chocolate

2/3 cup unsalted butter

6 eggs, room temperature, separated

1/4 cup sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons ground cardamom, divided

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

2.  Line a spring form pan with parchment paper and butter generously.

3.  In 30 second increments, melt the chocolate and butter together in the microwave. Stir until completely smooth and melted. Alternately, melt the chocolate and butter gently over a double boiler. Set aside.

4.  Combine the egg yolks and sugar in the bowl of a mixer and beat on high until very pale and fluffy – about five minutes.

5.  Mix the vanilla, salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom into the melted chocolate. Then fold the chocolate into the egg yolks.

6.  In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites on high until they hold stiff peaks. Fold carefully into the chocolate mixture. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.

7.  When the torte has cooled, heat the heavy cream until near boiling. Add the chocolate chips and let sit for two minutes. Stir until completely smooth. Ad 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, and either serve immediately with the cake or pour over the cake and let set one hour.

Give “Cape Ann”

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

Cape Ann is riddled with talented bakers, cooks, crafts people, and earnest organizations. Here is a list of wonderful ways to make your gift giving local, supporting our community, and promising delighted recipients.

1.  Atlantic Saltworks.  Everyone should be giving salt this year.  Atlantic Saltworks, started by friends Heather Ahearn and Alison Darnell, is based in Salem, MA, but the salt is hand harvested in Gloucester.  Not only are you giving a handful of natural Cape Ann, but Atlantic Saltworks is the ideal gift for cooks who loves a flakey finishing salt, Gloucester’s version of the famous Maldon.  Isn’t a salty, crusty finish the perfect symbol for this city?  Atltantic Saltworks are available at The Cave and Lula’s Pantry, among other venues.

2.  Af Klinteberg Nisu.  Grandaughter Carson Af Klinteberg has returned to Cape Ann to continue the Af Klinteberg nisu tradition begun by her grandmother fifty years ago.  Nisu, the cardamom-scented Finnish sweet bread meant to look like a young Scandinavian girl’s braid, represents the still active community of Finns who arrived here one hundred plus years ago to work in the quarries.  Sweet, tender, delicious with coffee, nisu is an easy way to take one’s history.  Call (978) 281-0928 to inquire about where Af Klinteberg loaves are available, or to order full batches.

Af Klinteberg



3.  Alexandra’s “Peace Bread.”  Extend an olive branch to a friend for Christmas.  Olives, the international symbol of peace, riddle a crusty Alexandra’s Olive Branch.  The ratio of salt to black kalamata richness to crusty baguette is so perfect it’s hard to know which is a vehicle for the other, bread for olive or the reverse.  Smear with fresh unsalted butter and the story ends not just peacefully, but happily ever after.  Alexandra’s Bread, 265 Main St., Gloucester.

4. Mortillaro’s Lobsters and Gift Certificates.  Send someone a lobster, or freshly packed lobster meat, and they will hear the boats chugging out of a foggy harbor at dawn, such is the relationship between Gloucester and these marine crustaceans.  Mortillaro Lobster is a Gloucester institution; their holding and processing practices are so well respected their lobster meat earned a place in the Lobster Mac and Cheese served backstage to Neal Young and Willie Nelson at the Farm Aid concert last year.  The caterers at Farm Aid are fussy.  They want local, organic, sustainable foods, or at least as close to those adjectives as possible. Mortillaro uses no chemicals in its tanks, and its meat is the freshest there is.  Mortillaro Lobster, located at 60 Commercial St. (on The Fort), looks like an imposing wholesale business, but they welcome retail shoppers.  Walk in the metal door to purchase live lobster, fresh meat, or gift certificates, all Willie Nelson approved.

Mortillaro Lobsters

5. Woodmans of Essex; five generations of stories, 100 years of recipes, by Winslow Pettingell. Give fried clams, or at least the recipe for famous Woodman’s Fried Clams, the ones for which flip-flopped crowds wait hours in a line.   Part cookbook, part nostalgia, Pettingell’s book covers one hundred years of Woodman’s fun and history, starting when Chubby Woodman first dropped a clam in hot oil.  “Woodman’s of Essex” is filled with old photos and stories that would make anyone affectionate with the Essex River’s unique clam-digging culture a little misty-eyed.  Available at Woodman’s in Essex and online.

Woodman's Cookbook

6.  Rockport Farmers’ Market T-shirt, tote bag, and coffee mug, designed by Darren Mason.  These goods are “good.”  The purchase any or all three of these cool Darren Mason designed provisions help keep local food in Rockport, supporting the weekly Saturday morning Rockport Farmers Market in Harvey Park July through October.   Also, these purchases support The Rockport Exchange, a non-profit group that organizes, along with the farmers market, Motif #1 Day and HarvestFest.  Orders can be placed online at RockportFestivals The Store or

Rockport Exchange goods



7.  Appleton Farms Gift Box.  Those cows.  Thirty-eight registered Jersey’s will be lined up blinking their doey eyes at you if you arrive at Appleton Farms in Ipswich around 2:30 in the afternoon, milking time.  You can give this Appleton Farms herd as a gift in the form of a rustic wooden box packed with Appleton Farms cheeses:  Broad Meadow – “an earthy nutty semi-hard cheese,” Sunset Hill Triple Cream – “a silky-smooth, brie-style cheese,” and Pinnacle – “a classic farmhouse table, tomme-style cheese.”  Appleton Farms has been working hard at building their cheese repertoire.  After good bread, a good local cheese is the foundation of a good local food culture.  We applaud them and thank the Jerseys.  To learn more about Appleton Farms’ Holiday Cheese Sampler and to order yours today, visit online: or  stop by or call the dairy store: 978.356.3825, located at 219 County Road, Ipswich , open Monday–Friday, 11AM–6PM, Saturday & Sunday, 10AM–4PM.

Appleton Farms Gift box

8. Jen’s Twisted Sauce.  Three jars of this thai-inspired peanut sauce from Bonne Bouche caterer Jen Sanford of Wenham should be in one’s pantry at all times.  You’re home from soccer practice at 7:30; you couldn’t bear one more stop at the grocery store, or another empty pizza box in your recycling.  Toss hot noodles in Jen’s Twisted Sauce.  Top it with some chopped mango, avocado, red onion and cilantro, and you have a fast, flavorful dinner that would please a both fussy pre-schooler and a foodie.  Jen’s Twisted Sauce is the magic that makes grilled chicken breast instantly delicious satay.   Jen’s Twisted Sauce is available at Willowrest and The Cave, among others.

Jen's sauce


Jen's noodles


9. Fudge Everything Caramel Sauce.  Last year we lost our chocolate hearts to the Fudge Everything Fudge Sauce; this year it’s caramel.  The local ladies (from Rockport and Manchester by the sea) of Fudge Everything can now say Caramel Everything.  I say, who wouldn’t? – on ice cream, on baked apples, on fresh pears, on shortbread cookies; caramel everything.

Fudge Everything



10. Brie Baker.  Lula’s Pantry is always great local giving, but this Brie Baker is $22 gift perfection.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to bake and transport that warm gooey brie to the party in one attractive, perfectly sized, dairy-farm-ceramic-evocative dish?  This is brilliant.  Include a jar of Wasik’s Chutney, the perfect oozing brie topping, and make it a Baked Brie Kit.   Lula’s Pantry 5 Dock Square, Rockport.

Brie Baker 2


11. Maple Paddle Knife from Lee & Co.  Lee & Company began when Vanessa Hobbs, 25, of Lanesville, wanted to start a project with her carpenter father, Russell Hobbs.  At a yard sale, father and daughter had found a box of old wooden tools made by a man named Lee.  The Hobbs’ first project thus began with a piece of maple and one of the yard sale tools as a prototype.  They made the tool a little larger, and graced it with curves so that it fit in one’s palm like another hand.  They sanded, and rubbed the tool with coconut oil until it gleamed; behold the Lee & Company Maple Paddle Knife.  Now Vanessa (whose middle name is also Lee) produces beautiful wood kitchen products, all rubbed only with coconut oil, including custom cutting boards.  For more information or to place an order go to

paddle knife


12.  Twelfth Night Riesling.  We don’t have a local winemaker, but we have a great local wine store always ready to educate.  Kathleen Erickson, owner of Savour Wine & Cheese, is a genius at walking someone through a wine crisis:  “What kind of wine do I bring to a potluck dinner party?!”  “I’m serving sole and my guests only drink red wine!”  “I don’t know anything about wine!”  You will leave her store calm without spending a fortune, and feeling a little more wine confident.   When I asked Erickson about a “local” recommendation, she suggested Twelfth Night wines from New Zealand; the couple who own Twelfth Night live in Arlington and chose to be married in Gloucester; that’s the local part.  Twelfth Night wines, from the southern portion of the South Island of New Zealand – almost in Antarctica! – are sustainably grown and hand-harvested.  Erickson taught me to appreciate the strengths and flexibility of a dry riesling, so I am suggesting you give Twelfth Night Dry Riesling, which Erickson describes as “spectacular with food, from seafood to turkey to roast pork and all spicy or salty dishes.” Savour Wine & Cheese, 76 Prospect St., Gloucester

This is a different giving category, but an important one.  A $25 Open Door Meal Basket provides a holiday meal that includes a 14-16 pound turkey, potatoes, stuffing mix, cranberries, gravy mix, dinner rolls, apples, carrots and squash for a struggling family in Gloucester, Rockport, Essex, Manchester-by-the-sea or Ipswich.  Download the gift certificate here: or pick one up at the Open Door offices.  The Open Door 28 Emerson Ave, Gloucester.

Girls Rule Gravlax

Thursday, December 4th, 2014



Jason Grow Photography

Maisie Grow, as photographed by her professional photographer-father Jason, is one of three Grow daughters – Matilda, Jemima and Maisie. They are a talented bunch, who have never for one day not lived up to the words on the twins’ birth announcement – “Girls rule.”

Maisie recently brought a shining platter of gravlax to my home; (Jemima often helps make the gravlax, I’m told, but was not around that day.) This is basically Ina Garten’s recipe, and, like so many of her recipes, worth sharing as much as possible. This one should be “required” – not elective – on holiday menus.  About presentation, Maisie is ready for her own cooking show.

For more information on Jason Grow Photography, or just for a gorgeous tour of great portraiture, from Norman Mailer to Doris Kearns Goodwin, go to:


Garten Gravlax





3 pounds fresh salmon, center cut

1 large bunch of dill, plus 1/4 cup chopped dill for serving

1/2 cup kosher salt

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons white peppercorns, crushed

1 tablespoon whole fennel seeds

Pumpernickel bread, for serving

Mustard Sauce, recipe follows


1.  Cut the salmon in half crosswise and place half the fish skin side down in a deep dish.

2.  Wash and shake dry the dill and place it on the fish. Combine the salt, sugar, crushed peppercorns, and fennel seeds in a small bowl and sprinkle it evenly over the piece of fish.

3.  Place the other half of salmon over the dill, skin side up. Cover the dish with aluminum foil.

4.  Place a smaller pan on top of the foil and weight it with some heavy cans. Refrigerate the salmon for at least 2 and up to 3 days, turning it every 12 hours and basting it with the liquid that collects.

5.  Lay each piece of salmon flat on a cutting board, remove the bunch of dill, and sprinkle the top with chopped dill. With a long thin slicing knife, slice the salmon in long thin slices as you would for smoked salmon.

6.  Serve with dark pumpernickel bread and mustard sauce. You can also serve with chopped red onion and capers, if desired.

Mustard Sauce


1/4 cup Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon ground dry mustard

3 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill


1.  Combine the mustards, sugar, and vinegar in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the oil and stir in the chopped dill. Serve with the gravlax.