Fresh Pasta

Mandilli de Saea, photo by Richmond Talbot

What a treat is fresh pasta! When we toured Italy in July 2015, our most memorable meal was a plate of fresh ravioli in Rome. The story is rather longer than this page requires, but the bottom-line result was that fresh home-made pasta is work exploring, so I did.

In this case, it was for Annette's Genoese Birthday, so I made silky-smooth, super-thin Genoese Mandilli de Saea (Silk Handkerchiefs) with fresh pesto.  It was fun and delicious!

Savoy Cake

Savoy CakeThis beautiful, light sponge cake works well in a fancy mold, and it accompanies berries, preserves, or chocolate sauce wonderfully. Unlike the similar Genoise Butter Cake, this one uses no butter.

Bondir

Type of Post: 
What's on my Mind?
Bondir

There is something to be said for a restaurant where you order your favorite dish every time you go, and it always tastes the same. It’s as comforting as the pillow upon which you lay your head, but Bondir isn’t that sort of place. Oh it’s comfortable enough, and the staff is welcoming, and there are no snooty waiters peering down their noses to see which fork you choose. We entered the premises at 279A Broadway in Cambridge on a chilly evening and were offered a seat by a warming fire. We sipped Spanish cava and enjoyed the homelike atmosphere.

But as soon as they brought the bread basket, what we thought of as reality began to twist and bend. There was “sea bread” in which black squid ink ranged across the slice like the negative of a photo of the Milky Way. The bread also contained shrimp and seaweed. I think the shrimp may have been dried and ground to a powder. The bread had the heartiness of wheat and a briny flavor that reminds you of the scent of the ocean when you walk in the froth of waves in the cool of a summer sunrise. I ate it in fascination tinged with disbelief.

New England Rum

Type of Post: 
What's in my Glass?
Destination: 
New England
Best of Show: 
Medford Rum from GrandTen Distilling
14 New England Rums compared with some island rums

New England has a long relationship with rum, dating back to colonial times. Rum was invented in the Caribbean in the 17th century, and in the years just before the Revolution, over a hundred and fifty distilleries were making rum throughout New England, mostly wherever molasses was imported. In those days, American colonists drank more than 5 gallons of rum per capita annually.

The pot still and column stills at Privateer Distillery, Ipswich

Today I count 23 distilleries actively making rum in New England, with a handful of them that have not yet aged enough product to release an amber rum.

This article is an exploration of what is known about colonial rum and rum made today to see if we can identify the characteristics of a New England Rum. I'll start with a brief discussion of the steps in producing a rum, and then I will highlight four areas where New England's climate and economy would contribute to making a distinctive style that can be called New England Rum.

Finnan Haddie

Finnan HaddieOne of our favorite breakfast or lunch dishes on a cold rainy day is this old Scottish favorite made from smoked haddock in a white sauce, with the white sauce made from milk in which the fish was cooked.

Finnan haddie is smoked haddock. You can sometimes find it frozen at your fishmonger. That's OK - Finnan haddie is said to have been invented by a penurious Scot who wanted to salvage a load of haddock damaged by smoke in a warehouse fire. Rather than let it be discarded, he claimed it was the Irish ("Fennian" or "Finnan") style and sold it for food. So this recipe was never developed to use the purest, freshest, local ingredients - it came from a salvage operation!

Finnan Haddie can be a tricky dish. In general, people that like it like it the way they like it (follow that?) and any deviation is simply wrong. For example, one of our favorite restaurants used to make it one way, and Lorna loved it. Then the new chef changed the recipe and she won't eat it any more. It wasn't a big change - he didn't add pickles or substitute mussels for haddock - he just makes it thinner.

So this recipe is for a thicker version. It's easy to thin it by adding cream, but it's a little more work to thicken it up again.

Braised Green Cabbage

Braised Green CabbageThis is an easy recipe, good for when you have a cabbage from your CSA and you really don't want any more cole slaw...

It's a savory dish, good with homey fare like meatloaf or hamburgers. The flavors mingle over two hours of slow cooking to become something unexpected and delicious.

I did this in a heavy Le Creuset braising pan. If you do not have one of those expensive kitchen luxuries, don't worry! You can do this just as well in a glass or enameled baking dish covered tightly with aluminum foil; the secret is to confine all the flavors in a small volume with enough area to spread out.

Blueberry Slump

Blueberry Buckle

This easy crowd-pleaser is known variously across New England as Blueberry Buckle, Blueberry Cobbler, Blueberry Slump, and Blueberry Grunt. The basic idea is simple: a bed of berries topped  with sweet biscuit dough and baked until the berries burst into a delicious sauce for the tender biscuits.

This is great hot with ice cream, or cool with whipped cream.  Make it with wild Maine Blueberries if you can, especially while they are in season in August.

Blueberry slump is very easy to make; this one was made at work in the Actifio Food Truck by my friends Debbie Goswami and Chandrika Venkatraman.

Strawberry Pie

Strawberry PieThis is a delightfully light celebration of late spring.

It's easy, and it's a good choice when strawberries go on sale at the supermarket because you have to use them fast before they spoil.

This one was made by my friends Debbie and Sonali at work. We used a frozen pie crust because rolling out a homemade pie crust is not very difficult, but it is a good way to get your work clothes dusted with flour! 

Italian Meal 2: Lake Garda

Sirmione, in Lake Garda

The second discovery meal of the trip was in Sirmione, a beautiful resort town on a skinny peninsula that juts northward in gorgeous Lake Garda somewhat like Nantasket juts into Massachusetts Bay. 

We had not planned to visit Sirmione, although a drive to Lake Garda was one of the optional drives we had hoped for.  But we slept late after the opera and the preceding night's late dinner, so a long drive in the mountains and lake would have taken too much time from Venice. 

The castle

Sirmione is a resort town, with basically one road in and out, little parking, fine hotels, beautiful beaches and a castle at the end of the peninsula. The northern half of the lake is surrounded by great mountains, and the eastern shore is covered with vineyards growing grapes for Valpolicella, Bardolino, and Amarone wines. It reminded us of a cross between Provincetown and Santa Cruz, with the wine country and a castle thrown in for good measure.  

In Cod We Trust

, by Cape Ann food columnist Heather Atwood, is both a comprehensive practical record of Massachusetts coastal cuisine and an affectionate, humorous, thoroughly enjoyable coastwise journey from the Rhode Island border to the border of New Hampshire.

Atwood maintains the Food for Thought foodie blog, and does much more than that online, in print, and on video. Here's a bit that I stole from her website; I'll add more about the book below the quote:

 


Heather Atwood is author of the blog "Food for Thought" and the weekly column by the same name syndicated in a number of Massachusetts newspapers. For the online cooking site Cook123 Ms. Atwood hosts cooking videos featuring regional Massachusetts chefs and cooks. This combined work has created a web of connections in the New England food community, allowing Atwood a prized familiarity with Finns in W. Barnstable who still make fruit soup, the Gloucester Sicilians who bake their own zeppole, and day boat fishermen who sell pearly scallops from coolers out of the back of their cars. She reveres the people who preserve and energize the New England food landscape.

 

Her cookbook, "In Cod We Trust, the Celebrated Cuisine of Coastal Massachusetts," explores the cultures that have made this ragged coastline home, and the meals they prepare.


 

Back to my review:

In Cod We Trust is a beautiful and useful book. It's set up geographically, from south to north along commonly known areas: South Coast, Cape Cod, each of the islands, South Shore in two parts, etc. Each section opens with a full-page photo and a couple of pages about the region's unique foodways, then a mini-table of contents to the recipes in that section. I've bookmarked those.

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