Garden Orzo Salad
Mint--Sesame--Lemon Marinade for Lamb
Traditional Valencia Paella
Red Lentils with Chorizo and Greens
Traditional Shepherd’s Pie
Smoked Bluefish Pâté
Asado Beef Rub
Cream of Asparagus & Leek Soup
Emily Dickinson’s Butternut Squash Bisque
Fresh Peach Salsa
Granny’s Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Hosea Hussey’s Spouter-Inn Chowder
Korean Beef Marinade
Lunenburg Pumpkins Seeds—Roasted
Lip-Smackin’ Lunenburg Corn Chowder
Mashed Turnips and Carrots (Yankee Style)
New England Apple Crisp
Old Fashioned Peas and Leeks
Pork and Plums
SUPER-Scrumptious Peach Crisp
- 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
- 1.5 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1.5 teaspoons sugar
- 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 lb orzo (cooked al dente)
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
- 1 orange bell pepper, diced
- 1 small package frozen peas (10-12 ounces)
- 1 small Vidalia onion, diced
- 1 cup pitted black olives, diced
- 1 cup golden raisons (or craisons)
- 1/2 cups chopped fresh parsley
- salt and pepper to taste
- Rinse the cooked orzo in hot water to prevent sticking
- Add the vinaigrette to the pasta while the pasta is still warm
- Don't be afraid to add or leave out different vegies depending on your likes or dislikes
- 2 medium apples, peeled and diced
- 2 cups fresh cranberries
- 1 medium bell pepper, chopped
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
Mix all the ingredients in a 2-quart saucepan. Heat to boiling and simmer, uncovered, about 1 hours, stirring frequently until mixture thickens.
1. Ginger can be peeled and placed in a blender with a little orange juice instead of grating. Use about a thumb-sized piece.
2. Fresh cranberries are generally available beginning in the fall through the holidays. They freeze well, or you can substitute 2 cans of whole berries instead. If you use canned cranberries, reduce the sugar to 1/2 a cup.
3. The chutney can be canned like jam or jelly using traditional processing methods; no pectin is needed.
- 1 Bottle White Wine
- 1 Bottle Peach Lambic
- 1 Bottle Cava
- 24 Ounces (3 cups) Peach Juice
- 8 Ounces (1 cup) Orange Juice
- Red Sangria
- 1 Bottle Red Wine
- 1 Bottle Raspberry Lambic
- 1 Bottle Cava
- 10 Ounces (1.25 cups) Black Cherry Juice
- 8 Ounces (1 cup) Orange Juice
- 3-4 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs.
- 1 cup plain yogurt.
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1 tsp cayenne
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp tumeric
- 1/2 tsp ground cordamom
- 1 tsp salt (optional)
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper.
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Cut chicken thighs in half. Combine yogurt, spices and oil ( I like to use a blender to liquify the garlic and ginger, but you might have to add some water to make it cream into a paste.) Combine with chicken and marinade for at least 2 hours at room temperature, or up to 24 hours in the fridge. Barbecue over a medium grill abotu 15 minutes per side.
- 1/2 cup Tahini paste (I actually substituted 1/2 cup toasted sesame oil)
- 1 cup loosely packed mint leaves
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 1/2 cup lemon juice (3-4 lemons)
- 1/2 extra virgin olive oil (I just put in a drizzle because I used sesame oil instead of Tahini paste
- 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
- 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- salt to taste
Put all the ingredients in a blender with 1/4 cup water and process until smooth--add more water if too thick to process.
Coat 3 - 3 1/2 pound butter-flied leg of lamb (shank half works) with marinade and let stand at room temperature for one hour, or refridgerate overnight. I like to use a large zip lock bag supported in a bowl to marinade the lamb.
Remove excess marinade from lamb and grill over medium heat until well browned--about 12-15 minutes. Turn and repeat for the other side, or until meat thermometer reads 140 in thickest part. Transfer to board and let set for 15 minutes. Slice into 1/4 inch slices for serving.
Of course, I followed the same marinade recipe for our wine tasting but substituted cubed lamb for making shish kabobs because it was more user friendly for the wine tasting format. I purchased my lamb all cut and trimmed from Romano's in Fitchburg for $5.99 a pound (I think that was the price), and it was excellent, just as is everything that Romano’s sells.
The word “paella” comes from the Latin patella which means “pan.” The dish originated in the Valencia region on the eastern coast of Spain. Paella is not a single dish, but a endless variety of different combinations of ingredients—the only two ingredients common to all paellas are rice (short grained) and olive oil. Cooks in Spain do not mix meat and seafood in the same paella, except in some big city restaurants that cater to American tourists.
Socarrat, the crisp rice that sticks to the bottom of the pan, is considered a delicacy. If you are not cooking your paella over an open flame, you might be able to get a socarrat by placing the completed paella over very high heat until it begins to stick to the pan and turn crisp. Some recipes give specific instructions for making socarrat, but it is appropriate with any paella.
The recipe I am following (with some modifications) is from Penelope Casas’ excellent book Paella.
- 2+ cups chicken broth, preferably homemade (recipe below)
- 6 sprigs rosemary
- ¼ teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
- 1 three pound chicken, cut into pieces
- 8 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 medium Italian green peppers, finely chopped (Italian peppers are much milder than Bell peppers)
- 1 sweet red bell pepper, diced
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ pound Italian green beans, cut in half
- ½ pound peas or snap peas
- 4-6 artichoke hearts
- 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
- 2 tablespoons minced parsley
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 3 cups Arborio short-grain rice
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
Heat the broth, rosemary, salt, saffron and 4 cups water in a covered pot over low heat for 20 minutes. Remove the rosemary.
Heat the oil in a paella pan and sauté the chicken until brown. It should not be fully cooked, about 5 minutes, turning once. Add the peppers, onion, garlic and chook until they begin to soften. Add green beans, peas and artichokes and cook on high for another 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and parsley and cook one more minute. Stir in the smoked paprika. Stir in the rice and coat well with the pan mixture. Pour in the hot broth and bring to a boil. Taste for salt and continue to boil for about 5 minutes, stirring and rotating the pan occasionally until the rice is no longer soupy, but enough liquid remains to continue cooking the rice, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the oven and cook, uncovered, until the rice is almost al dente, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit, covered with foil, until the rice finishes cooking, 5-10 minutes. Return the paella to the stove top over high heat and cook for 3-4 minutes until a crust forms at the bottom of the pan—be careful not to burn it!
1. If using a whole chicken, I sometimes buy one of the cooked rotisserie chickens from the supermarket. The fat has been cooked away, and the bones and scraps, when boiled, make an excellent chicken stock. If you get one from the previous day in the cooler section, the cost is $5 or less and you have the benefits of having chicken without the greasy chicken fat.
2. To make your own chicken stock, remove the meat from the chicken and place everything that is left in a pot. (I usually crush the leg and thigh bones with a pair of pliers because the marrow makes the broth even richer.) Cover with water and add a couple of carrots, 2-3 stalks celery, 2-3 bay leaves, a half teaspoon of whole peppercorns, several sprigs of rosemary, a half teaspoon of thyme, and salt to taste. Simmer for 2-3 hours and then strain. The remaining stock will be rich and flavorful with little fat.
3. Traditional recipes often call for snails, but they are expensive, difficult to find, and unappealing to some diners. While I love them, I prefer to serve them on their own rather than in my paella.
4. In Spain, rabbit is often used along with or in place of chicken. I like to use boneless chicken thighs as the flavor is similar enough to rabbit to fool all but the most discerning diners. Don't hesitate to increase the amount of chicken in your paella to make it a more hearty meal.
5. Smoked paprika, rather than regular paprika, adds a nice flavor to the finished dish.
6. Do not attempt to substitute long grain rice for short grained—it will not cook properly. Buy the Arborio rice that is used for making risotto.
7. A turkey roasting pan works just as well as a traditional paella pan.
8. In Spain, paella is often cooked outdoors and eaten by diners directly from the pan. It taste just as good cooked in the oven and served on dishes. The main difference is the challenge of getting the crispy socarrat on the bottom of the pan, which is considered a delicacy.
Heat in large soup pot:
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
Add and cook until softened but not browned:
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
- 3 celery ribs, diced
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves
- 4 slices bacon or 2 ounces pancetta, diced (optional)
- 8 cups water (or low sodium chicken stock)
- 2 cups red lentils (any lentils will work)
- One 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 tablespoon fresh thyme)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.
- 1 large potato peeled and diced
- 6 ounces Chorizo or Andouille sliced
Simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 8-10 minutes
- 1 bunch of dandelion greens, cup in to 2” strips (or kale or chard)
Cook until the greens are wilted but still bright green.
- Beef, Barley and Mushroom Soup
In a large soup pot heat:
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound stew beef cut into 1” cubes
Brown the beef and remove from pot
- 1 ½ pounds sliced mushrooms
- ½ cup chopped shallots
Cook until mushrooms are wilted, about 5 minutes
- 3 tablespoons dry sherry or Madeira
- 1 tablespoon chopped thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
Reduce heat to low and simmer for another 5 minutes
- 5 cups low sodium beef stock
- ¾ cup pearl barley
Salt and pepper to taste.
Bring to a boil and simmer, covered until the barley is tender, about 1 hour.
Serve garnished with chopped parsley
In a large pot of cold water add:
- 1 ½ pounds potatoes, peeled and quartered
Bring to a boil and cook until soft, about 15 minutes
Drain and save 1 cup of the cooking water
Mash in large bowl with 2 tablespoons butter and desired salt and pepper
Beat until fluffy
In a large skillet add:
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 1 large celery rib, chopped
Cook over low-medium heat until the vegetables are tender, but not brown
- 1 pound raw ground lamb (when made with ground beef it is called Cottage Pie)
Cook until the meat loses its pink color, about 5-10 minutes
Drain off excess fat
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 cup beef (or chicken) broth
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 ½ teaspoons fresh)
- ½ teaspoon dried rosemary (or 1 ½ teaspoons fresh)
- Pinch of ground nutmeg
- Salt and pepper to taste
Reduce the heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 5-10 minutes
Transfer to a greased casserole (8” x 8” baking) dish
Spread the mashed potatoes over the top, making peaks with a fork
Bake until the potatoes are browned and the dish is heated through, about 30-40 minutes
Serve directly from baking dish.
Elena and I caught dozens of very large Bluefish this past summer in the Merrimac River out of Newburyport, and I smoked most of them. Smoked Bluefish is great to nibble on, but I was able to take it to the gourmet level when I came across this recipe in the September 2008 issue of Food & Wine. The recipe comes from chefs Gabriel Frasca and Amanda Lydon from the Straight Wharf Restaurant in Nantucket. If any of you ever go there to eat, thank them for me.
- 8 ounces softened cream cheese
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- ½ medium red onion minced
- 4-6 dashes Tabasco
- ¼ cup chopped fresh chives
- ½ pound boneless, skinless smoked Bluefish fillets, flaked.
In a bowl, blend the cream cheese with the Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, parsley, onion, hot sauce and half of the chives. Fold in the smoked Bluefish. Sprinkle the remaining chives on top and serve on toast or crackers.
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 3 tablespoons fennel seeds
- 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon white peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon hot red pepper flakes
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
Place all the seeds in a dry pan and cook over medium heat until they just begin to brown, about 1 minute. Once cooled, place seeds and peppercorns in a spice grinder (or blender) and grind to a fine powder. Mix with remaining ingredients and coat beef on all sides. Let stand for 15 minutes before grilling. Great on flank steak or London Broil. Rub will keep for several months in a jar on your spice rack. Of course, you can do almost as well by buying your spices pre-ground.
- 6-8 thick stalks asparagus (approximately ½ pound), cut into 2” lengths.
- 1 large leek (approximately ½ pound), sliced into pieces
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 2 Tbsp. each butter and flour
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup cream
- Salt and pepper to taste
Sauté chopped onion in butter for 3 minutes. Stir in flour. Add chicken broth slowly. Add asparagus and leeks and simmer covered until tender, about 20 minutes. Puree mixture in blender until smooth. Add cream and salt and pepper, and reheat.
I use two cans of chicken broth and add ½ can of water.
This recipe can also be made using just asparagus or leeks, or any combination of the two.Total weight should be about 1 pound.
I like using Stillman’s cream for cooking—it really is the very best!
You can substitute milk for cream to reduce calories, but this also reduces richness.
White ground pepper makes a better presentation than black pepper.
Taste it before you add salt, as some chicken broth is already salted.
I awoke last week to find that Jack Frost, that mischievous imp of autumn, had swooped in under the cover of darkness and transformed my sumptuous, flourishing vegetable garden into a tangle of colorless and leafless, skeletal stalks. My beloved garden, massacred overnight! No Geneva or Hague Convention operative here. Our own native genius and poet extraordinaire experienced a similar violation and expresses her outrage thus:
I had some things that I called mine –
And God, that he called his,
Till, recently a rival Claim
Disturbed these amities.
The property, my garden,
Which having sown with care,
He claims the petty acre,
And sends a Bailiff there.
The station of the parties
But Justice is sublimer
Than arms, or pedigree.
I’ll institute an “Action”—
I’ll vindicate the law –
Jove! Choose you counsel –
I retain “Shaw”!
After my initial dismay at the first heavy frost, however, I found, amidst the carnage, some cause for joy. Butternut and acorn squash dotted the battlefield and held under their impervious, armored shells both the flesh for exquisite repast and the seeds of next year’s plenty. Under their collapsed, lifeless tents, potatoes lay suspended in the black loam waiting for me to ease them to the surface. Two bastions of curly parsley, from which I had mercilessly whacked sprigs all summer, remained emerald and indifferent to the cold. “And indeed,” I thought to myself, “surely this lusty, fertile ground from which I have harvested for months deserves a rest, especially if it is to be ready to leap into productivity when Mr. Frost is finally routed from the region next spring.”
One of the many great joys of post-frost fall in New England is the abundance of winter squash. I especially like butternut and acorn, but Flat Hills Orchard boast several unusual varieties that I am anxious to try as well. Here is a great New England soup recipe for butternut squash.
Emily Dickinson’s Butternut Squash Bisque
- 1 large squash
- 2 large carrots
- ½ cup white wine
- 2 apples, cored and peeled
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 small yellow onion
- ¼ cup flour
- ½ stick butter
- ½ cup maple syrup
Cut the squash into cubes and remove seeds. Peel carrots. Place squash and carrots in a saucepan with about a quart of water and simmer until soft (about 30-40 minutes). Remove from heat to cool and strain off and save the stock. When cooled, scoop the squash from the skins using a spoon or dull knife. Peel and slice onions and apples, and sauté with 2 tablespoons of butter and ¼ cup white wine until soft. Blend the onion, apple, squash, carrot, nutmeg, and cinnamon in a food processor (or vegetable press) until smooth. Bring the stock saved from cooking the carrots and squash to a boil and thicken to a roux by adding the flour and ¼ cup of butter. Combine the puréed vegetables and the roux and simmer on low heat for 5 minutes, stirring continuously. Add the maple syrup and the remaining ¼ cup of wine, mix well, and serve.
- Winter squash peels easily after it is cooked.
- Be flexible with the ingredients—any kind of winter squash works well; you can use 1, 2 or 3 squash, depending on their size; the number of carrots is also arbitrary; try leeks instead of onions, celery instead of carrots, or both; honey or brown sugar may be substituted for maple syrup; chicken stock makes a richer base than water (use “Better than Bouillon” to make the stock); Crème Fréche thickens as well as a roux and makes a richer soup;
- This soup need not be served hot: It is excellent served at room temperature.
I doubt that there is any produce more characteristically identified with Massachusetts than cranberries (even though most are now grown in the Midwest). I love them, and keep a jar of canned whole cranberries open in the fridge year-round. On the back of Ocean Spray packages of cranberries found in any supermarket there is a recipe for whole cranberry sauce that is easy and delicious, but I believe that the addition of a little orange zest (or orange juice) makes it even better. Here is the way I make cranberry sauce for my family every November—it takes just a few minutes! (recipe posted below)
My mother grew up in Mississippi and her mother (my grandmother) lived with us most of my childhood. Even though our home was in Massachusetts, and my father’s family was Italian, our home-cooked meals were classic southern cuisine. When it came to fruit, my family’s favorite delicacy was peaches.
When the peaches arrived in the supermarkets from Georgia each summer, my Grandmother would prepare them every way imaginable. We had peach pie, peach cobbler, peach bread, peach muffins, peach jam, peaches baked with pork, peaches and catfish, peaches and cream, peach salsa, homemade peach ice cream, and peaches on our cereal. She would buy them by the bushel, and what we didn’t eat, she canned. “There is no peach like a Georgia peach!” she would exclaim enthusiastically, as she used a paring knife to slip the thin skin off a large ripe peach without wasting an ounce.
Imagine my surprise upon returning to the area after a long career in the Army to discover the best peaches I’ve ever tasted in my life growing right here in Lunenburg! If you have not tried the local peaches, available at Flat Hill Orchards and Lanni’s, then get over to one of these great local establishments this week and try some. A ripe peach is pure ambrosia. Here is an easy recipe for peach salsa, and a fast, simple way to make delicious peach crisp.
- 3 or 4 ripe Red Haven peaches from Lanni’s or Flat Hills, or Gove Farm, peeled and
- diced into ¼ inch chunks (very ripe peaches can be mashed)
- 1 small Vidalia onion diced (about ¼ cup)
- 2 or 3 tablespoons finely chopped basil
- 1 medium sized red or green hot pepper
- (Dick’s and Gove both have lots of great hot peppers.)
- 1-tablespoon limejuice
- ¼ teaspoon salt
Toss together all the ingredients in a bowl, cover, and place in the refrigerator for several hours prior to serving. If you like medium salsa, remove all the seeds from the hot peppers. If hot is your preference, then include the seeds. Be careful dicing the hot peppers as the capsaicin (the oil that makes peppers hot) can easily be transferred from your hands to eyes or other sensitive areas. Vidalia onions are more expensive than Spanish onions and, when used in cooking, are not any better. However, in dishes that call for raw onions, Vadalias are preferable. Additionally, they can be diced without any tears. This salsa is excellent on grilled chicken or fish, or simply as a dip with black bean tortillas. Either way, this spicy summer salsa calls for a cold bottle of flavorful white wine, such as Les Rias or Sauvignon Blanc.
- Pie Crust
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 ounces fresh local butter
- (Stillman’s butter comes in 8 ounce containers, which equals 2 sticks. Use half of one container.)
- 4 to 8 tablespoons cold water.
Use two knives to “cut” the butter into the flour. Don’t try to mix the butter and flour completely, but rather leave the butter in small, corn-sized chunks throughout. These little pockets of butter are what makes pie crust flaky. Add cold water to the flour and butter mixture one tablespoon at a time and mix by lifting from the bottom of the bowl. Avoid fast stirring or beating, as this would crush the butter particles. The goal is to add just enough water so that the flour coheres under slight pressure. Divide the dough in two pieces (one slightly larger than the other), wrap in plastic wrap and return both to the refrigerator for 20 minutes so that the butter stays firm. I like to roll my pie dough between two large pieces of wax paper or freezer wrap so that no extra flour is required and there is less to clean up. The pie crust should be approximately 1/8th inch thick on the bottom, and a little thinner for the top. Put the larger crust on the bottom of your pie pan and trim excess dough from the edges with a sharp knife. Even though you can find prepared pie crust at the supermarket, homemade is superior.
Strawberry Rhubarb Filling
- 2 generous cups of local rhubarb cut into pieces of one inch or less
- 2 cups (one pint) freshly picked local strawberries with tops removed (Later in the summer, you can substitute blueberries for the strawberries and make another wonderful pie.)
- One and one-third cups granulated sugar
- One third cup of flour
- 2 ounces Stillman’s lightly salted butter
Put the pie crust in a 9 inch pie pan. (If a 10 inch pan is used, increase the rhubarb and strawberries to 3 cups each, and add an additional two-thirds cup of sugar and a couple of extra tablespoons of flour.) Spread the rhubarb evenly in the pie pan. Mix the sugar and flour together and sprinkle about half over the rhubarb. Place the strawberries evenly on top of the rhubarb. I leave the strawberries whole except for the very large ones, which I cut in half. Sprinkle the remaining sugar and flour mix over the top, add the butter in small chunks, and cover with the remaining pie crust. Flute the top crust to the bottom with a pie tool or a fork and pierce the top to allow steam to escape while cooking. I sprinkle a teaspoon of granulated sugar on the top crust in order to give it a brown caramel color. Be sure to cover the edge of the crust with strips of aluminum foil to keep it from burning. Four strips of about 4 inches wide should cover the edges of a 9 or 10 inch pie. Cook the pie in a 425 degree oven for 45 minutes, or until you can see the filling bubbling through the slits in the top crust. Be sure to remove the aluminum foil from around the edge during the last 10-15 minutes of cooking so the crust browns. Serve with vanilla ice cream, which I also buy at Stillman’s Dairy Farm.
As an aside, I recommend you consider Stillman’s for all your dairy products. Bud and Colleen Stillman (and their five children) are lifetime Lunenburg residents who are committed to maintaining superb quality at this third generation establishment. They only milk purebred Jersey cows which are noted for the outstanding quality of their milk (and significantly lower production). All of their dairy products are world class.
In lieu of ice cream, a great match for a fresh baked fruit or berry pie is a cold glass of Moscato D’Asti from Italy. This is a summertime, dessert wine with very low alcohol and a slight frizzante —a perfect complement for strawberry rhubarb pie.
As a boy growing up on the North Shore of Massachusetts, one of my favorite excursions was digging clams in the ocean towns of Ipswich and Winthrop. “Digging” is not really accurate, except for when we were after steamers in the mud flats, because the large sea (or surf) clams we prized were only available several days a year during the winter months, and then only for about an hour each day, when the tides and the light were just right, by “feeling” for them in waist deep water while wearing chest waders and wielding a long-handled stone fork.
On those rare occasions when 11+ foot low tides occurred during daylight, no matter how cold the weather or how strong the wind (strong westerly winds were actually preferable because they caused the low tide to be even lower), three generations of my family along with several other local Italian families, clad in heavy winter coats, rubber gloves and knit caps, and wearing chest waders held up with suspenders and cinched tightly around the waist with a belt, and with a large mesh onion sack suspended by a canvas strap slung over one shoulder, would begin to pace restlessly along the water line about an hour before the ebb. When the tide was almost at its lowest, we would wade out just past the breakers and “feel” for the hard shells of the sea clams in the sand. There were no stones along these beaches and any impediment to the prodding of the fork tines had to be contact with a clam. One located, a gentle and gradual lifting motion eased the prize from its bed.
These actions required a certain deftness with the stone fork (so named as it was used by New England farmers to hurl softball sized stones from their fields), because one had to let movement of the water wash away the sand, while shifting the direction of the curved lap of the stone fork either toward shore or seaward, matching the direction of the waves, so that when the clam broke free of the of the suction of the bottom, it would wash into the “pocket” of the stone fork and not drift away. Once cradled in the tined “spoon” of the fork, one carefully raised the clam to the surface with one hand so that it could be nabbed with the other and dropped into the mesh sack.
All this happened while standing waist deep in the frigid January/February waters of the Atlantic, waves alternately pushing and pulling one toward the New World or the Old, while the splash and spray of the breakers soaked everything above the tops of our boots. Of course the best (i.e. biggest) clams were the farthest from shore, so there was great enticement to inch oneself deeper and deeper past the breakers until, inevitably, one great wave would break about shoulder high, soaking outer garments and cooling any more adventuresome ardor.
But these were no ordinary clams! They were light gray/sand in color (without smaller size and blackish shells of the less-desirable Quahogs) and measured between 6 and 10 inches across. And the flesh! Picture the beautiful white, almost translucent, color and smoothness of a sea scallop but with a heartier texture and much greater flavor. I have never seen them for sale, anywhere.
We ate sea clam many ways: with pasta, stuffed and baked in their shells, and sautéed in olive oil with garlic and wild mushrooms. My favorite dish, however, was chowder. Hot clam chowder on a cold winter day has got to be one of the great treats of New England, if it is made right. While most of us don’t have access to sea clams, fresh cherry stones serve almost as well, as is apparent from the following chowder description from Moby Dick.
In Melville’s great classic, Ishmael and Queequeg, after a long, cold, journey to Nantucket, arrive at the Try Pots Hotel where they expect the worst possible dinner fare, but are pleasantly surprised to discover Hosea Hussey’s classic New England chowder. In Ishmael’s words: “. . . , a warm savory steam from the kitchen served to belie the apparently cheerless prospect before us. But when the smoking chowder came in, the mystery was delightfully explained. Oh, sweet friends! hearken to me. It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuit, and salted pork cut up into little flakes; the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt. Our appetites being sharpened by the frosty voyage, and in particular, Queequeg seeing his favorite fishy food before him, and the chowder being surpassingly excellent, we dispatched it with great expedition.”
Hosea Hussey’s Chowder
- 1 pint shucked clams, diced into bite-sized chunks
- 4 ounces salt pork
- 3 cups potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 2 ½ cups whole milk
- 1 cup light cream
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
Drain clams and reserve the liquid. If you shuck your own clams, do so over a bowl to catch the any liquid from inside the shells. Add enough water to the liquid from the clams to measure 2 cups. In a saucepan, cook the pork until crisp and then remove it from the fat. Add clam liquid, potatoes, and onion to the drippings and simmer covered until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in the clams, the salt, 2 cups of milk and the cream. Combine the remaining milk and flour and stir into the chowder. Simmer until thick and bubbly. Add Worcestershire sauce and cook 1 minute more.
- 2 or 3 slices of bacon can be substituted for the salt pork.
- If you decide to add ground pepper, use white peppercorns instead of black.
- Some like to add a hefty dollop of butter when they add the milk.
- Don’t substitute oysters for clams as they are too soft; clams are chewy.
- If you are able to locate some sea clams (a.k.a. surf clams), be sure to dice them extra fine as they are quite chewy.
My favorite wine to serve with clam recipes is sauvignon blanc. You should be able to find an excellent one with an elegant bouquet and sans any citrus undertones for under $12. I trust when you serve the above delicacy with a chilled glass of good wine, your guests will, like Ishmael and Queequeg “dispatch it with great expedition.”
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 1/3 cup chopped green onion
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1/ 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
Combine all ingredients and mix until the sugar is dissolved. Cut beef into serving size pieces (or use flank steak) and marinade at least 2 hours (overnight is okay). This recipe makes sufficient marinade for 1.5 pounds beef—or servings for four adults. Grill flank steak and slice thin, or stir fry the beef in the marinade until just barely cooked, and then serve the entire concoction over brown rice.
- One or 2 large pumpkins
Remove the seeds and separate from the thin membrane. Toss the seeds with about ¼ cup olive oil and spread evenly on a cookie pan. Raise the top oven rack to the highest position and roast under the broiler for 10-12 minutes. Turn the seed frequently with a spatula so all are lightly browned. Salt seeds lightly and serve in a bowl like popcorn or pretzels. Munch this treat with a light Gamay wine, such as the 2001 Château de la Terrière Brouilly.
- Don’t be too fastidious if small pieces of the membrane that holds the seeds together makes its way to the roasting pan, as it will evaporate when cooked.
- The amount of olive oil depends on the amount of seeds. Use enough so that all the seeds get a very thin coat before roasting.
- Don’t let young children cut pumpkins, even when making jack-o-lanterns, as the shell is thick and hard to cut. Instead, have them draw the face they want cut on the pumpkin (you cut it out) and let them help with the pumpkin seeds—more fun, less dangerous.
- Select a few large seeds and save them on a folded paper towel to plant next spring. Pumpkins are wonderfully easy to grow and kids will have a ball trying to get them to reach prodigious proportions. (Hint: lots of sun, lots of water, lots of compost, and only one female flower per plant.)
- Visit local farm stands after Halloween and shop around for good buys on pumpkins just for the seeds, especially if you are willing to buy several at a time.
- Every October, this region transforms our lives into a veritable cornucopia of wonderful sensory stimuli—a perfect reason for celebrating our fall harvest with a special New England holiday: Thanksgiving.
Not too long ago, New Englanders would put the water on to boil prior to picking fresh corn. This was because the natural sugar in our native corn began to convert into starch almost immediately after picking. The fresher the corn, the better it tasted, and knowledgeable Yankees shunned day-old corn like month-old milk. How things have changed. The new corn hybrids available at local farm stands keep their sweetness far longer than their predecessors. Nevertheless, some habits die hard, and I admit to an obsession with sweet, freshly-picked, native corn. When it is in season, I buy at least a dozen ears a week from one of the local farm stands, and I switch around between them in an effort to discover which I like the best.
Fresh corn is superb either boiled or roasted in its husks on the grill and served on the cob with butter and salt, and I encourage you to enjoy it regularly during the short season when it is available. Here is a special corn recipe that I guarantee will delight your palate.½ pound bacon or fatback, diced,
- 1 Spanish onion, diced
- 1 cup diced carrots (3-4 large carrots)
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 2 cups diced potatoes (3-4 medium spuds)
- 1 clove garlic
- 6-8 ears sweet local corn
- 2 cups half and half
- Salt and pepper
- ½ stick of butter
In a large saucepan, sauté the bacon or fatback until crispy. Remove the meat with a spatula so that the fat remains in the pan. Add the onions, carrots, and garlic to the fat and sauté until the onions are transparent (but not brown). Add the flour and continue cooking over low heat for 10 minutes so the all the fat is absorbed into the flour. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil, stirring so that no lumps remain. Reduce to a simmer and add the potatoes and salt and pepper. While the potatoes are simmering, cut the corn off the cob and add it to the soup. Continue to simmer until the potatoes are soft. Add the half and half and return to a simmer. Serve in soup bowls with a dollop of butter on top. This dish is hearty enough to make a full meal for four people. It matches perfectly with a domestic or French pinot noir.
Tips and variations: 1) Celery may be substituted for the carrots; 2) If using bacon instead of fatback, save it for BLTs that can be served on the side with the chowder; 3) The onions and garlic are not browned in order to keep the color of the chowder creamy white. Using ground white peppercorns won’t change the flavor, but is more aesthetically pleasing than black pepper; 4) This recipe makes a rich thick chowder: Additional chicken stock may be added if it seems too thick. 5) Better-than-Bullion makes a great, instant substitute for chicken stock, is easy to use and is available locally; 6) Cut enough fresh corn to freeze for use later. Simply blanche it in boiling water for 20 seconds, plunge it back into cold water, and freeze immediately. Piping hot corn chowder from freshly frozen local corn will prove an enormous hit when the New England winter sets in.
By the way, regarding my comparison of the varieties of local corn: After all my research, I have discovered that the one I prefer is the one I happen to be eating at the time.
- 1 large or 2 medium turnips
- 3-4 large carrots
- 1 table spoon butter
- salt and pepper
Peel turnips and carrots and cut into chunks. Simmer in covered saucepan with about one inch of water for 20 minutes or until tender. Drain and add butter, salt and pepper. Mash well and return to very low heat without cover until ready to serve.
- Carrots are a perfect accompaniment to the robust flavor of turnips; I suggest approximately equal amounts of each;
- Instead of carrots, one or two tablespoons of sugar will sweeten the dish just as well, especially if there are going to be those at the trough who shy away from the slightly bitter flavor of turnips.
People’s tastes change, and even if you made up your mind many years ago that you “don’t like turnips,” it is time to give them another chance. Maybe you can even get your teenager to give them a try. They are available at local farm stands right here in town.
No place on earth has the intensity of foliage that we enjoy for several weeks each autumn here in New England. The crimson and sunset of our treasured maples, the lemon and meringue of our supple birches, and the russet and ginger of our majestic oaks still dazzle me even after all these years. As if inspired by the arboreal explosion of colors, local residents join in the celebration and place colorful mums and pumpkins decoratively on porches and front steps. What a joy to live in the Northeast. Speaking of this region, Henry David Thoreau noted that “heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads,” and taking a little liberty with his words—“I would rather sit on a pumpkin in New England than a velvet cushion anywhere else.”
And the region abounds with other sensory delights as well. The local farm stands feature a plethora of fall produce. Here are a couple of recipes that make great use of our local harvest.
Eve’s Garden of Eden Apple Pan Dowdy
- 4-6 large apples
- 1-tablespoon sugar
- 1-teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¾ cup melted butter
- ½ cup sugar
- l cup flour
- 1 egg
- ½ chopped walnuts
Core and peel apples and cut into slices. Mix with one-tablespoon sugar and a teaspoon of cinnamon, and spread in a baking dish. Combine flour, melted butter, remaining sugar and chopped nuts and pour over apples. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
- I prefer Cortland apples (available at all the local farm stands), because they hold their color and have a nice amount of tartness when cooked. Brenda sold me 20 pounds of what she called “B grade” Cortlands at Flat Hills last week for $7.00. Frankly, they looked perfect to me.
- Granola may be substituted for the chopped nuts.
- Brown sugar may be substituted for granulated sugar.
- I like it plain, but for an extra fancy touch, serve it with vanilla ice cream.
- Make more than you think you will need—it goes fast.
Besides sitting on pumpkins (as Thoreau suggested), or turning them into Jack-o-lanterns (as most of us do) pumpkins are the best (and only) source for another of my favorite fall delicacies—roasted pumpkin seeds. This classic New England fare is quick, easy, nutritious, delicious, and fun to make with the kids (or grandkids). I make 5 or 6 batches a year, and always wish I had made more.
One of the great delights of living in rural Massachusetts is having access to exquisite, seasonal local foods. This morning I visited one of our local farm stands in Lunenburg and purchased fresh local leeks and peas.
- 4 large leeks
- Approximately one pound of fresh peas unshelled
- One dollop of fresh butter, preferably from Stillman’s Dairy on Lancaster Road.
- Salt and pepper
Trim the roots and green tops from the leeks, cut the white section into slices approximately 1/8 of an inch thick, and place in a pan with the butter over low heat. You should cook the leeks just enough so that they soften without browning them. Next gather one or more young children (or grandchildren) and have them help shuck the peas. This is a great activity for all involved. Stir the leeks so that they come apart into rings, then add the peas, cover pan, and cook over low heat for 10-12 minutes. The peas are done when they “pop” in your mouth—no mushy peas, please. Serve hot with salt and pepper and, if desired, 2 tablespoons of extra-aged balsamic vinegar. Fabulous.
I like to have a light, white, summertime chardonnay with my peas and leeks. I prefer imported chardonnays as they are aged in stainless steel and don’t have the dominant oak component that is pervasive in those from California. The light, crisp, herbaceous flavors of a Macon chardonnay pair wonderfully with the combined flavors of fresh garden peas and sautéed leeks.
Although I have my favorites, there isn’t any vegetable that I really don’t like. This was not always the case. In my distant unruly youth I, like many of today’s teenagers, shunned real vegetables in favor of fast food fries and other questionable, trans-fat enhanced, sugar-ridden, culinary creations. Even meat dishes, if they were to please my narrow, unsophisticated palate, had to be burgers, hot dogs, meat loaf or a similar unimaginative dish that could be counted on to improve with a healthy serving of ketchup, Tabasco or raw onions. How things change with age. Today, if I saw a table at which I was about sit set with the favorite dishes of my youth, I would run for my life.
Here are a couple of my favorite, healthy New England recipes that complement one another well--pork loin with a plum glaze and mashed turnips and carrots. Both are easy to make and serve four.
Jack Horner’s Pork Recipe
- 1 pound fresh local plums (get them at Dick’s, Flat Hills, Gove's or Lanni’s in Lunenburg)
- 1 small yellow onion
- 2 large cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons peeled ginger
- 1 cup brown sugar
- ½ cup cider vinegar
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 pork tenderloins (about 1 pound each)
Pit plums and cut into chunks. In a food processor, combine plums, onion, garlic, and ginger until finely chopped. Pour into saucepan, add brown sugar, vinegar, cinnamon, salt, and pepper flakes. Simmer, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes until thick. Remove from heat and let cool. Place 1 cup of plum glaze into plastic bag or container with pork, add soy sauce and refrigerate until time to cook. Remove pork from marinade and cook on grill. At medium heat, I cook pork loins about 10-12 minutes per side. Remove from grill and let set for 10 minutes. Serve in domino array of slices with a dollop of the remaining marinade drizzled over the top.
Fall is the season for light red wines and nothing goes better with pork loin that a glass of pinot noir. An little less expensive alternative might be a Beaujolais village (NOT Beaujolais Noveau) which is another light fall red (gamay grape) that marries well with pork loin. Both are excellent light red wines.
Tips. a) With new standards or inspection and government regulation, historical concerns about “cooking pork thoroughly” are no longer relevant—pork tenderloins are done when there is a hint of pink in the center; b) Preserved ginger can be substituted for fresh ginger; c) it is okay to marinate the pork in the plum glaze overnight for additional flavor; d) don’t use the glaze left over from the marinade to drizzle over the sliced tenderloin prior to serving; instead, divide the plum glaze into two portions and use half for a marinade and the 2nd half when serving; e) this dish can be prepared in a broiler about 4 inches from the heat for 18-20 minutes (temperature @ 160 degrees) instead of on the grill.
- ¼ cup dark brown sugar
- 2 tbsp kosher or coarse salt
- 2 tbsp paprika
- 1 tbsp ground black pepper
- ½ tbsp ground coriander
- ½ tsp dry mustard
- ½ tsp onion powder
- 1 boneless pork butt, (3-4 pounds)
- 1½ cups apple cider
- ½ cup water
- Soft sandwich rolls
Mix brown sugar and dry spices together in a bowl and rub thoroughly over pork. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Lay pork on a rack insert fitted inside a roasting pan. (Use the smallest pan you can find that will accommodate the butt.) The roasting rack should be high enough so that the spiced butt is sitting above the cooking liquid. Pour in the apple juice and water, cover the pan tightly with foil, and roast for 5 hours. Remove foil and cook another 30 minutes, until the pork is brown outside and the meat is very tender, basically falling apart. Remove from oven, transfer to a large platter and let set for about 10 minutes. While still warm, shred the pork into small pieces using two forks or your fingers.
Discard the fat from the pan drippings and mix the remainder of the drippings back into the shredded pork.
- 6 large ripe peaches, peeled and sliced
- juice of one lemon (3-4 tablespoons)
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ¾ cup flour
- ¾ cup dark brown sugar
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup old-fashioned oatmeal
- 1-tablespoon ground cinnamon
- ½ cup (1 stick) butter
Mix the peaches, lemon juice and ¼ cup granulated sugar in a bowl and spread in an 8-inch square-baking dish (or equivalent). Combine the flour, brown and granulated sugars, oatmeal, cinnamon, and butter and mix until it forms into crumbly chunks. Spoon this topping over the peaches and bake at 375 degrees for 55 minutes. I like to serve this warm with vanilla ice cream. If you prepare it ahead of time, you can warm it with just 20 seconds in the microwave before serving. When entertaining, this dessert goes wonderfully with a chilled glass of Moscato d’asti.
Now that the local fruits are coming into their own, you will also want to sample a few of the plum varieties that Lanni grows—they make a great snack and the kids don’t mind the skins—and whatever you do, try some of the white peaches that Gordon and Brenda have over at Flat Hills Orchard.
Tom and Chriztine’s Lunenburg Cranberry Zauce
- 12 ounces fresh cranberries
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- juice from one orange
- 1 teaspoon orange zest (grated orange peel)
Bring the water to a boil and dissolve sugar. Add orange and cranberries; bring to a boil; reduce heat; and simmer for 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat and keep cool until ready to use.
- I always make a double batch and preserve some to use throughout the year. Boil several pint-size, wide-mouth, canning jars for 15 minutes; fill to within ½ inch of the rim with cranberries; and seal with a new “vacuum” lid. Then place jars back into the boiling water for 30 minutes. Remove and let cool for a couple of hours. Jars are properly sealed when the center of the lid does not move when pressed. (As they cool you will hear a “click” as the contents of the jars contracts).
- One fresh orange will provide all the juice and zest necessary for this recipe.
- I make it every year in early November when fresh cranberries are available locally. I can 3 or 4 pint-sized jars to use during the year, and refrigerate the remainder to have with Thanksgiving dinner. A double or triple batch is the same amount of work and my kids like to take a jar home with them to have with chicken, etc., all year long. It also serves as an outstanding jam for toast or PB & J sandwiches.
Even though conventional wisdom generally gives the nod to Beaujolais, my favorite wines to serve at Thanksgiving are Pinot Noir and Gewurztraminer. A good domestic Pinot Noir, such as Saintsbury or Morgan, has more body and complexity than a Beaujolais but is still on the soft side for a red. It goes well with turkey and retails for around $22. A top Alsace Gewurztraminer will exhibit hints of roses on the nose and lychees and spice on the palate. It sells for anywhere from $15-$30.
By the time you read this, both Dick’s and Stillman’s farm stands will have closed for the winter. Flat Hills stays open until the end of the year and, fortunately for Lunenburg, Lanni’s stays open all winter. I recommend you go and see Brenda and Stacy at Flat Hills Orchard before they close and get some of their lovely “designer” squash to make for Thanksgiving or the holidays—Stacy is great at helping to pick one out to try.