Archive for December, 2016

The Power of New Year’s Day Lentils – 2017 needs them.

Thursday, December 29th, 2016

Sook's Lentils 2

Almost every culture has their what-to-eat on New Year’s Day that promises the best for the new year.

Mine, borrowed a zillion years ago from my Italian friends, is lentils, greens, and pork – gastronomic code for luck, good health, and prosperity.

Grateful every day, I take my New Year’s Day lentils seriously.

2017 looks like the most lentil-challenged year in a while, maybe ever, so I am reposting the best lentil recipe I know, borrowed from Sook Bin, a dental pathologist and a great cook who has lived in Ipswich for a long time now.

Make a lot of these lentils. Double, even triple the recipe. We need the luck. Serve them on a large platter, and invite people in to share. Spread luck thickly.

On a bed of Bibb lettuce, the healthy greens are included. Put a pork roast beside it, grilled sausages, even a platter of prosciutto, and prosperity is covered.  Consider it duty; in 2017, we need the power of lentils.


Sook’s Lentil Salad


1 pound Du Puy lentils, roughly 2 cups

1 cup dried currants (you could also use raisins or other dried fruit such as cherries or sweetened cranberries, coarsely chopped)

1/2 cup capers

1 medium red onion, diced


1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 tablespoon strong mustard

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoons pepper

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Optional add-ins: Arugula (Sook recommends this as it best balances out the sweetness of the dried fruit) Walnuts Goat cheese Fresh herbs: flat-leaf parsley, basil


1. Rinse lentils well, drain. Place in a pot and cover with a 3-4 inches of water, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer. Check lentils for doneness after 15 minutes, but they should take no more than 20 minutes in total. Overcooking the lentils is the death of this dish. Be careful!

2. While the lentils are simmering, make the dressing by placing all ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake vigorously to combine.

3. When the lentils are cooked, remove from heat, drain and place under cold running water to stop the cooking process (you don’t need to do this if you cook it 17-18 minutes). Place lentils in a large serving bowl and toss with dressing. Add capers and currants (or other fruit). If using other add-ins such as herbs, greens, or cheese, wait until just before serving. Otherwise, this salad keeps well in the refrigerator for a couple days.

Almost every culture has their what-to-eat on New Year’s Day tradition that will promise health, luck, and prosperity in the new year.  Mine, borrowed a zillion years ago from my Italian friends, is lentils, greens and pork.  Mostly lentils.  This has worked really well for me for a long time now, but 2017 is promising to be the most lentil-challenged year I’ve seen in a long time, maybe ever.


“this pale blue dot,” words from Carl Sagan for 2017.

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016



From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.


– Carl Sagan, from Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

sending love, health, peace, and good local food from Howlets & Woodbury Hill

Saturday, December 24th, 2016














Sasha’s shed on Woodbury Hill.  xoxo

Harriet’s Un-Fruitcake

Thursday, December 15th, 2016



A bunch of years ago I knew a woman named Harriet, a semi-professional cook who worked on developing recipes. One of Harriet’s self-directed tasks was to rewrite fruitcake into a chunky, modern loaf that people begged to receive, instead of what it is, the opposite of all that.

Ingredient by ingredient, Harriet broke fruitcake down, eliminating the most heinous parts (green things) replacing the trademark ingredients with better (candied cherries with maraschino) preserving what worked – pecans. Then she added chocolate.


For the person who likes the idea of fruitcake but not the real deal, here is Harriet’s Un-fruitcake recipe.  I tripled the recipe, because I wanted some small loaves to give as gifts.  Tripling produced two 8″ x 4″ loaves and six individual loaves.



Harriet’s Un-Fruitcake

10 ounces pitted dates, whole
1 8 ounce jar maraschino cherries, drained and dried
1 1/2 cups whole pecans
1 ounce grated unsweetened chocolate
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups flour
3/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup honey for glazing

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease well a 9” x 5” loaf pan
In a large bowl put dates, cherries, and nuts. Sift dry ingredients, and add to dates. Add chocolate, and toss well, so that fruit and nuts are coated.
Beat eggs with extract until light and fluffy. Pour over fruits and mix well. Pack into loaf pan. Bake for 45 minutes or until a tester inserted comes out clean. If it starts to brown too quickly lower temperature to 300 degrees and cover the cake with foil.
Let cool in pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to finish cooling. Brush top with honey.

Olives Ascolana

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016


“The olives.”

“OH! The olives.”

“Oh. The olives. They are so much work. Should we make the olives? They are so much work.”

“But, ooooh, the olives, they are so delicious.”

I first heard about Olives Ascolana through a conversation at the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives that sounded something like the above. Rafaela Terzo and Angela Sanfilippo reckoned with them, fearful of their tediousness but tempted by their awesomeness.


Olives Ascolana were created in the Marche of Italy. They are a traditional dish made with the overly large pale olives native to this Adriatic-lined Italian region where Rafaela Terzo was born and raised. She has lived in Rockport for years now, raised her son there, but still speaks with a musical Italian accent. After hearing Rafaela and Angela assess them, I needed to make The Olives.





This is one of those wonderful old world recipes that slows clocks. It consumes time, demands focus, even asks for a little knife finesse. But, like embroidery or model building, it consequently creates its own bell jar of time and space. These olives ask for about an hour away from the world, an hour of carving the pits from their fruits, creating a stuffing, and frying in hot oil. In a world mostly delivered by tweets and posts, we could all use a slow hour.

The recipe should really include at least two people, one to pit the olives, and one to make the stuffing and talk to the person pitting the olives. Even better, do this with friends.

The result is a gorgeous bowl of olives Ascolana. The crunchy fried exterior shatters to fleshy, succulent olive and warm meaty centers. Serve this for a holiday party and you will be a star; your party writ as epic. Even smarter, make them in the hours of New Year’s Eve when everyone is waiting for midnight, certainly one of the slowest evenings of the year.

I made these with the largest olives from Pastaio via Corta on Center St. in Gloucester.  Pitting them is a bit of a thing.  I actually made a video, but lost it, so I have tried to write it out.  The Silvia Colloca site has a good video for explaining this.  Also, you can prep these olives right up until frying, and freeze them for a later date.  What a treasure to have in your freezer.

This recipe has been adapted from Made in Italy with Silvia Colloca, a pretty fabulous site for Italian recipes.



Olives Ascolana

makes 30 olives

For the Olives

30 large green olives,

4 eggs

2 cups plain flour

2/3 cup dried breadcrumbs

sunflower oil, for deep-frying

For the Stuffing:

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 small brown onion, roughly chopped
1 small carrot, roughly chopped

1 small celery stick, roughly chopped

2/3 cup pork sausage meat, removed from its casing

1 chicken thigh fillet, cut into cubes

1/4 cup diced mortadella

2/3 cup white wine
salt flakes

2 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs (see below)

2 tbsp freshly grated parmigiano or pecorino

1 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg

finely grated zest of ½ lemon

1. Place the olives in a bowl of cold water for 30 minutes to get rid of the briny flavor. Dry them and set them aside.

2.  To make the stuffing, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat, add the onion, carrot and celery and cook until softened. Add the pork, chicken meat, and mortadella and brown well. Pour in the wine and cook over high heat for 1–2 minutes or until the alcohol has evaporated, then reduce the heat to low.  Season with salt and cook for 15–20 minutes or until the meat is cooked through.

3.  Remove from the heat and stir in the breadcrumbs, then set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

4.  Transfer the mixture to a food processor and whir for 10–15 seconds or until it looks like a thick paste. Scrape the paste into a large bowl and add the cheese, parsley, nutmeg and lemon zest. Taste for salt and adjust accordingly.

5.  Beat the eggs in a separate bowl, then mix 3 tablespoons of the beaten egg through the stuffing (reserve the rest for later). Rest for 30 minutes.

6.  To prepare the olives: take a small paring knife. Working slowly, in one complete motion, start cutting across the top of the olive. Cut across, beneath the dimpled top. Keep the knife moving, and continue moving the tip of it slowly down the whole side of the olive. Now, under that olive flesh, set the length of the blade against the length of the pit, and move the knife to circle the pit that way, carving the pit out from under the olive’s flesh. You should come all the way around the olive, and then be able to just pull the pit away, leaving the flesh in one piece.  (I actually made a video of this, but somehow lost it; watch for a new video soon!)
7.   Using your fingers, roll 1-2 teaspoons of filling into a ball, and then tuck it inside the olives.  Depending on the thickness of your filling, you might end up just pressing it in, but you should be able to do this with your fingers.  They should be plump with stuffing.

8.  Roll the filled olives in the flour, then in the reserved beaten egg, and finally in the breadcrumbs. Roll them one last time in egg and breadcrumbs to create a super-crunchy double coating. You may need to replace the breadcrumbs halfway through rolling, as the wet egg mixture will inevitably make it a bit too sticky to be workable. Likewise, you may need to add an extra egg or two if the olives absorb more than you predict.

8.  Half-fill a large frying pan or deep-fryer with sunflower oil and heat over medium–high heat to 180°C or until a cube of bread browns in 15 seconds. Add the stuffed olives in batches and fry for 3–4 minutes or until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a plate lined with paper towel. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

To freeze, arrange the stuffed and crumbed olives on a tray without touching.  Freeze for about 2 hours, and then remove them to a ziplock bag for further freezing.   They keep for up to 4 weeks.

Any leftover stuffing mix can be turned into mouthwatering meatballs or filling for tortellini; Rafaela says that this mixture is the most traditional tortellini filling.


Give Cape Ann, 2016, a list for great local holiday giving

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016


Here is my “Give Cape Ann, 2016” list of great local gifts for cooking friends, dining friends, even any kind of friend.

Some dynamic little new small businesses have opened on Cape Ann in the past couple of years. These kinds of businesses bring immeasurable vitality to a community.

Pastaio via Corta offers fresh and dried handmade pasta, house-made cheeses, and the Italian staples that rival anything in Milan, forget Eataly. Not only that, owner Danielle Glantz, previously chef at Chez Panisse, then executive chef at The Market and Short & Main, gives out salient recipes as she weighs your pasta. Another plus, the pasta shop is becoming Gloucester’s best place to bump into a friend; the screen door just keeps banging with customers coming through.

Lyznariums on East Main St. is the East Gloucester place to hang out on Sunday mornings. Mayflower Confections is serving all-natural, crumbly scones. There is coffee. And there are succulents. All kinds of them. The vibe is fingerless gloves and flannels.

The Pigeon Cove Ferments people are changing the way Cape Ann eats winter vegetables. Their variety of sauerkrauts are really more like spicy winter salads, fresh and vibrant accompaniments to pork, turkey, even a fish taco. Made with all local cabbages and vegetables, even Atlantic Saltworks salt, these sauerkrauts are the creation of Rockport natives and husband-wife team Kristen and Dylan L’Abbe- Lindquist. Their two-year old son loves sauerkraut, too. Look for their sauerkrauts at The Common Crow, Willowrest, and now Tendercrop Farm.

We should support all the businesses on this list, and lists from previous years, for the energy and interest they are bringing to shopping on Cape Ann, but also because these businesses provide quality gifts that inspire the unique joy of handing someone just the right present.

1. Pastaio Via Corta  has dozens of gift options for people who love good food, including individually designed gift baskets. But, for the food-nerd friend you love best, just purchase a can of the impossible-to-find, Bianco DiNapoli organically grown, freshly picked California tomatoes. The stunning 6 pound can is $15; the 28 ounce can is $6. The painting on the label is so charming it looks like it has already been wrapped.  It is the perfect house gift. Add the Glantz-vetted Greek olive oil, a bag of her casarecci pasta made with Alprilla Farms whole wheat flour and Cedar Rock Gardens herbs, and you have a gift for the Mario Batali in your life.  11 Center St., Gloucester, MA.




(photo from Nectar & Green website)

2. Nectar & Green  The gift of small batch, pressed organic almond milk will flutter the eyelashes on the fussiest vegan in your life. Nectar & Green comes in the flavors Sea Salt + Honey, Vanilla Bean, Lavender, Cacao, Pure, Turmeric, and new for the season, Spice, all created with organic, mostly local ingredients. Nectar & Green shares a kitchen with Mayflower Confections (an alum of last year’s column), so you can match up the Spice Almond Milk with Mayflower’s spiced pecans for the most stylish food gift possible. Nectar & Green almond milk comes in retro glass bottles. Their deliveries (yes, they do that) come in chic black soft coolers. For the Gwyneth Paltrow in your life, give a subscription of Nectar & Green, to be delivered to your home or to be picked at their Rockport space in the Whistlestop Mall. (Just behind DD!)  A quart of almond milk is $14.  For delivery information and options go to their website.



(photo from the Good Linens website)



3, Good Linens   Owner Joanne Chirico is serious about the “good” part. As her website states, these simple, aesthetically glorious linen towels are also good for the environment. Compared to cotton terry bath towels, linen towels take a fraction of the time to dry. Not only is that less dryer time, but family might be more inclined to reuse the quick-drying towels if they are not still mushy from yesterday’s shower. Chirico sells her linen towels in all kinds of sizes for all kinds of purposes: from bath to kitchen. The same quick-drying, using-the-dryer-less virtues apply to all. Kitchen towels range from $20 – $26. Bath linens are $10 – $72.  130 Main St., Gloucester, MA.

But Good Linens has much more than beautiful towels to please the person who loves the kitchen, or someone who sees domesticity as an art form. From German brushes for every purpose imaginable, to this red digital kitchen scale –


to this teapot. (I have a version of this teapot, and swear something about that pour makes better coffee.) –


Good Linens is a design lesson as much as it is a place to shop. Know an architect who likes to cook?




4. Cheeses from the Martha’s Vineyard creamery Grey Barns have swept into dairy cases as the American favorite. The Grey Barns cheese Prufrock won first place for an American Farmstead cheese at the American Cheese Society’s 2016 awards.

The Grey Barns has a cheesemaking goal: “use very nice milk and let it show itself, don’t get in its way.” The twenty-five Grey Barns cows pasture on the farm’s organic-certified grasses and W. Tisbury breezes. Nice start to a cheese right there.

Eidolon, a generous one pound bloomy-rinded cylinder of creamy Grey Barns cheese, will elicit triple its weight in gratitude should that be your Christmas party offering. Wrapped in white butcher paper with black script, it’s a beautiful cheese even before you open it. Find a chunky red ribbon, and leave it under the tree for your very favorite mouse. The Common Crow carries Grey Barns cheeses. Eidolon is $24.95.





5. While you are at the Common Crow, pick up a package of these super-functional, more great design – bamboo spoons. Or forks. These little utensils are useful on someone’s kitchen counter for small tasks, on a charcuterie plate in the mustard jar, even in one’s purse for lunch at the desk. They are indispensable picnic tools. You can even purchase a to-go version that comes in its own little pack. A set of five forks or spoons is $8.99.


6. There are all kinds of insider tags about “pet nat” wines: Grub Street calls it “Champagne’s hip little sister,” and the wine for the common man – “the common man in the know.” Pet Nat, short for Petillant Naturelle, refers only to the wine making method, an old European one that ferments the wine without adding the yeast and sugars of classic sparkling wine production. Pet Nat wines are captured and bottled (usually with a bottle cap, not a cork) in their natural fermenting process. That “natural” part leaves a wide breadth of quality, but it’s the kind of thing that gets oenophiles quivering – the guess factor of a living thing. I have tasted a few, like them all, from the cruder to the refined. There is definitely a “rough-hewn” quality to many of them. There is more fruit in between the festive bubbles. Some Pet Nats almost tilt towards cider. Because the results are varied, these wines are not usually considered “fine” drinking; they are fun drinking. Most Pet Nats are not that expensive; they are in the $18-$30 range, which makes them the perfect interesting gift wine. Any grape variety can be produced in the Pet Nat style; it’s an old method in Europe, but is catching on in California. Savour in Gloucester carries a Pet Nat from the Loire Valley, Montlouis sur Loire, Francois Chidaine for $19.99. This is hip giving.  76 Prospect St., Gloucester, MA.




7 & 8. The Pop-up shop Present has been a gift to local gift-giving for a bunch of years now. A cooperative of different Cape Ann crafts people and makers of things, Present pops up in different locations every year. This year they are sharing space with The Eastern Point Lit House. There are dozens of great, hand-created, local gifts available in Present, so you should just go there. I have two favorites, one has a food-related theme, the other is just so delightfully Cape Ann that I can’t resist.

Local artist and printmaker Mary Rhinelander has a cheerful collection of prints at Present that would be the perfect gift for the cook who needs nothing more but inspiration – framed images of lolling figs, a tumbling pomegranate, or jaunty radishes – some of nature’s most joyful creations, framed, not needing to be washed. Prices are in the $50 range.  The Lit House, 261 Main St., Gloucester, MA.


Also at Present, in the “why has no one done this before?!” category, are the famous Babson Rocks of Dogtown reproduced in a filled, felted collection. These seemingly dull gray blobs, with blocky embroidered words like “save” and “love your mother” and “get a job” – just like the rocks themselves! – will produce the ultimate LOL moment for any friend of Dogtown. There is nothing food related about this gift, but it’s just too Cape Ann wonderful to omit. $12 each.



9. Lynzariums  has, of course, an artful tumble of funky succulents, but for the food person in your life, they also have a stunning collection of locally produced cutting boards. Imagine a cutting board for a surfer, these boards are made with the gusto and style of THAT kind of board. Lynzariums boards are made by two local makers. One board is made with a variety of woods and rubber from a lobster trap for the handle. The other board has an interesting shape and super fine finish. Beautifully handcrafted, these boards are Gifts with a capital “G.” All boards range in price from $85-$95.  186 East Main St., Gloucester, MA


10. The last gift on this year’s list is a book: “The Fish Market, Inside the Big-Money Battle for the Ocean and Your Dinner Plate,” St. Martin’s Press, 2016, by Lee Van Der Voo. Van Der Voo is not a local author (She lives in Portland, OR) but this is Gloucester’s subject.

A freelance journalist who has written for The New York Times, Reuters, USA Today, CNN, and Slate, Van Der Voo in this book explains the fisheries story that no one understands, the story that MOST impacts the fishing industry today, the story of Catch Shares. The Catch Share system is allowing big business, mixed blearily with environmentalism, to make the ocean just another place for Walmart to produce revenue. Catch Shares is the future of industrialized fishing and the end of the small family fishing boat. This is every fishing town’s story right now; it is Gloucester’s story. To understand what those small fishing boats in our harbor are up against, everyone should read this book. This is an important gift. $26.99

Happy All Of It, Cape Ann!