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.

Italian Meal 1: Emilia-Romagna

Hayfield in Parma

This was our first locavore meal in Italy. It was at the  Hotel Sole in the town of Busseto, in the province of Parma, in Emilia-Romagna in north-central Italy's agricultural heartland. Busseto was the hometown of my favorite composer, Giuseppe Verdi.

Culatello, a premium cut of Prosciutto di Parma

Emilia-Romagna is dominated by the rich agricultural flatlands around the Po river valley. The climate is mild and the growing season is long. This long-settled region is home to a lot of familiar foods that we see in supermarkets all the time: prosciutto and Balsamic vinegar, Reggiano-Parmigiano and Grana Padano cheeses, Lambrusco wine, and many pastas.

Strawberry Bavarian Cream

Strawberry Bavarian Cream with Chocolate SauceWhat a treat! This early summer dessert is easy to make and it looks and tastes like something special. 

There's not much to this, so the focus must be on the berries and cream. The flavor can really sparkle with fresh local berries, but more than that is the problem of watery berries. A pint of those enormous supermarket strawberries has less flavor than six or ten natural berries, the flavor is simpler, and the berries are full of water too. 

This simple dish responds well to a variety of garnishes, from chocolate sauce to mint leaves to sour cream and even balsamic vinegar. 

Yankee Fish Dinner for June

A Sunday June Dinner by the ShoreIt was a June Sunday and I had some nice produce from farmstands in Maine, so I made this nice old-fashioned Sunday dinner with all local and seasonal ingredients.

The haul included three pounds of fresh peas in the pod, a pound of new red potatoes, broccoli raab, strawberries, and a pint of super-fresh local heavy cream. That would surely inspire any cook!

We opened with the delightful Chilled Mint & Pea Soup. That recipe has French roots, but so did some of our colonist forebears and everything in it was local to New England and it's great for June when the peas are just ripe, so I included it.

We had:

Chilled Mint & Pea Soup

Chilled Mint & Pea Soup Here's another gem from Jasper White's Cooking from New England. I love to make this every June when the peas come available at the farm stands and farmers markets.

This can be made a few days ahead. Like many soups, it improves with a day of rest so the flavors come together.  

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