Saturday, December 31, 2011


The leaves are raked and the gardens are put to bed but not yet covered with snow. Some local apples, beets, squash, celeriac, carrots and potatoes remain at the few local farm stands that are still open. Time to scour the winter garden and woods for Andromeda, holly, rose hips, pine cones and evergreens for holiday decorations and think about the holiday menu.

This year featured some of the old favorites: a reprise (from Thanksgiving) of Roasted Almonds, then Hot Potato Salad and Strawberry Shortcake for Christmas Eve, Cranberry Stollen and Cranberry Bread for Christmas morning and Cranberry Pudding  for Christmas Dinner.

Remembering comments and preferences from last Christmas, there was a shake up in the cookie department.  When I could not get the requisite dried pineapple for Fruit Cake, I decided that while this might have been one of my Dad's favorites, recently this has not been as popular as other offerings. So instead of Fruit Cake, I used one of my grandmother's recipes and made Date Nut Bars. The Molasses Cookies/Gingersnaps which were not best-sellers last Christmas either, were replaced by Spicy Gingerbread. Christopher's favorite Nut Puffs and Mexican Chocolate Meringues rounded out the cookie plate, served with clementines.

Then as the house empties out (still no snow),  I use the last of the holiday ham to make a double batch of Pea Soup. I follow the recipe, sort of, taking the liberty to tidy the veggie drawer and throw in all of the carrot and celery sticks left over from the hummus dip, the sliced fennel left over from salads, the minced parsley, scallions.....

For Christmas we gave Christopher a cast iron wok to try in lieu of his teflon coated wok.  After Christmas, Chris and I seasoned it and totally smoked the kitchen in the process. A Tale of Two Woks as well as recipes for Date Nut Bars and Spicy Ginger Bread will be among my first posts of 2012.   Happy New Year!

Reviewed 9/19/2017

Friday, November 18, 2011


In eastern Massachusetts, November is squash, root vegetables, cranberry, spinach and bitter greens time; it's dark early and fire and comfort-food time: more pumpkin and time for Cranberry Apple Crisp.

It's also the beginning of the holiday season and time to make Roasted Almonds, Cranberry Ice, Cranberry Relish, and Creamed Onions, also Cranberry Bread for holiday breakfasts and Pumpkin Pie and Apple Tart for Thanksgiving desserts.  Though Ed's family always served Hot Potato Salad for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, we tend to save it for Christmas and/or New Year's and have whipped potatoes or Mashed Potatoes with Parsnips for Thanksgiving.

As the holidays approach I aggressively "prune" our Andromeda and add rose hips for color as a centerpiece for our table.

For a cozy dinner by the fire, we take advantage of the many varieties of mushrooms now available and have Mushroom Risotto with Winter Squash and Sage accompanied by a salad of Bitter Greens with Mustard Maple Dressing.

Reviewed 9/19/2017

Bitter Greens with Maple Mustard Dressing

It's getting to be that time of year, not too much local stuff around.  Lots of squash and lots of kale. I've never used kale in salad before but tried it last night with a sweet dressing.  I really liked it, Ed declared it a bit "scratchy" and suggested I blend it with more conventional salad greens or use more spinach next time. Trick is to cut the greens into small strips.

Make the dressing:

Mix together in salad dressing carafe or glass jar:

2 T Dijon-style mustard (I use Grey Poupon)
1/3 c tarragon vinegar
1 T maple syrup
1/3 c olive oil

Shake very well.

Prepare the greens:

Remove center stems/veins and very thinly slice a selection of winter greens such as

Kale (the more varieties the better), collard greens and spinach...

Toss with the Maple Mustard Dressings and top with:

Maple Walnuts
Pomegranate seeds (or dried cranberries)

Reviewed 6/18/2017

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Maple Acorn Squash

This is a fall favorite I remember my Mom making when I was growing up in New Hampshire. It is so easy to make and ideal to stick in the oven when roasting chicken or meat.

1 squash serves 2

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut squash in half and clean out all the strings and seeds.

Place squash in a baking pan with enough water to cover half way up each piece of squash.  Place in each squash:

1 small piece butter (to taste)
1 T maple syrup (more if squash is large)

Place in preheated oven and cook 45 minutes to one hour, depending on size of squash, until flesh is soft and easily pierced with a fork.

Oven temperature may be adjusted to accommodate another recipe cooking simultaneously; if temperature is higher and edges of squash begin to burn, cover with aluminum foil.  Add more water if necessary.

Reviewed 8/23/2017

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Sesame Crusted Tuna with Scallions and Ginger Sticky Rice

This recipe owes three big thank-yous to Alex and Dan: first, for giving me The Paley's Place Cookbook for Christmas last year; second, for suggesting we eat at the Moonstone Grill when Ed and I were recently in Trinidad Bay (CA) and third, recommending we order the tuna.  The tuna* was sesame crusted, seared rare and served with ginger sticky rice, fried leeks and a trio of sauces: Sriracha aiolo, chive oil and beet emulsion. Ed and I seldom order the same thing, but this time we did, a double good choice.  When I asked how the tuna was cooked I was told it was rolled in sesame seeds and then pan fried. However, for my first two tries I chose to try a technique found in the Paley's Place recipe for Poppy Seed-Crusted Albacore Tuna with Chickpea Puree and Fennel Salad: rolling the tuna in seeds, poppy in their recipe, sesame in mine, then wrapping it in aluminum foil.

Serves 2

In a small skillet over medium high heat, toast until they are golden brown:

1/2 c sesame seeds

Stir constantly.  If the seeds start to pop, lift the pan off the heat and continue stirring until popping subsides.

If planning to use Ginger Sticky Rice make recipe below.

Cut into two equal strips with a ~ 1 1/4"  x  ~ 1 1/4" cross-section

2/3 #  yellow tail tuna (keep strip size in mind when buying tuna)

Roll the tuna pieces in the sesame seeds.  Do not use all the sesame seeds at once; there may be more than enough.  In this case, if they have not touched the tuna they can be saved for future use.

Tightly wrap the tuna pieces in one layer of aluminum foil.


6 small scallions with
Sesame seed oil

Heat a large dry skillet over high heat (we do this on a skillet on the grill) until very hot, about 5 minutes.  Sear the tuna, still wrapped in foil on all sides, about 5 minutes altogether. Cook the scallions for approximately the same time, until wilted and tender. The tuna will cook fairly fast and keep cooking after being removed from heat. Unwrap each piece right after cooking to reduce speed at which it will continue to cook. To also reduce further cooking slice in 1/2 thick pieces. I serve with wasabi, wasabi butter and pickled sushi ginger.

Ginger Sticky Rice

Serves 3 (quantities for 2 servings shown in parens)

In a rice cooker or small pot with cover combine:

1 c (2/3 c)  sushi rice
3 t (2 t)  crystalized ginger, finely chopped
1 5/8 c (1 c + 1 T) water
2 T (1 T + 1 t) preserved lemon**, include juice (optional - water may be substituted)

Cook until all water is absorbed; keep warm until tuna is ready to serve. I form rice in ramekins and then unmold on individual plates.

If you go to the Moonstone Grill site and see Big Eye Tuna (not one of the more sustainable tunas) on the menu please be advised the menu is from when the Moonstone Grill opened in 2003. Chris Smith, the restaurant's owner told me that Moonstone no longer serves Big Eye but first grade tuna - the best that they can purchase that is safe catch. 

** Preserved Lemon Peel

This recipe is from The Paley's Place Cookbook

"Makes 2 tablespoons

The conventional way of preserving lemons can be time consuming, I devised this quick and easy alternative.

1 lemon, washed and dried
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 t sugar

With a paring knife, remove the peel from the lemon in large pieces, then cut it into julienne strips.  In a small saucepan, place the peel and enough cold water to cover and cook over high heat until water boils. Drain and repeat this process twice.

Juice the peeled lemon and strain into a small bowl; add salt and sugar, then the blanched peel.  Let the peel macerate at room temperature for 1 hour so the flavors marry. Store, refrigerated, in a tightly sealed plastic [I would use glass] container. It will keep for about a week." (page 219)

VARIATION:  This works with salmon too. Top some Salmon with Red Miso Sauce with roasted sesame seeds, wrap tightly in aluminum foil and grill approximately 5 minutes on a side until temperature reaches 125 degrees F. 

Reviewed 5/22/2017

Sunday, October 30, 2011


We spent part of October on the West Coast where Alex and Dan introduced us to a new (for me) fall veggie - celeriac, or celery root. We bought it at the Portland Farmer's Market and Alex prepared it much like mashed potatoes: peeled it, cut it into chunks and then boiled it until it could be easily mashed using a potato masher. Finished with salt and pepper and a bit of butter or olive oil, it is an interesting substitute for mashed potatoes. I've since found it at our farm stands, and used it instead of potatoes when making Cod with Carmelized Onions and Mushrooms.

At the Farmer's Market we also got a stalk of Brussels sprouts, abundant in the East this month too.

Although not local to New England, I look forward to figs which, unlike many fruits and vegetables, are only available to us for one short season.  In addition to using them as a garnish on Almond Olive Oil Cake,  I top local fall arugula with figs and pomegranate seeds and dress with just a bit of very good quality balsamic vinegar.

October is also apple month. Now that Alex and Chris are grown, we no longer make the trek to Harvard, MA to pick apples but rely on the local farm stands that offer an ever increasing variety of apples - one stand boasting "19 kinds of apples". It was particularly fun shopping for apples at the Portland Farmer's Market where vendors offered tastes of the various varieties. Interestingly, one variety that Alex had found sweet and crisp the previous week was not so tasty when we sampled it the following week. Time for Apple Raisin Muffins and Apple Tart and later in the month as cranberries are harvested, Cranberry Apple-Crisp.

And the pumpkins.... For recipes see Pumpkin Time Again.

Reviewed 9/19/2019

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Farmer's Market Huevos Rancheros

One of my most favorite things to do when visiting Alex and Dan in Portland (OR) is to visit the Saturday Farmer's Market.  The awesome mushrooms, the roasted peppers, toasted hazelnuts, not to mention all the fresh veggies, fish, meat, cheeses, breads, flowers....  Now I have one more good reason: breakfast.  There was a line, but we decided it was worth a wait to get breakfast at Verde Cocina (a stand in the Farmer's Market but now also a cafe).  Ed and I ordered Huevos Rancheros  (photo below, right) and Alex and Dan ordered Buenos Dias Breakfast (photo below, lower left) .  While we waited, we watched the "lots of market veggies" cook on the huge skillet.

The Huevos Rancheros - inspired by all the local veggies - were awesome .  When we returned home I picked up some of my neighbor's eggs and decided to give this a simplified try.

This is a very flexible recipe and "market veggies" means whatever is in season when you make it. This recipe is nominally for 2-3 but of course the number of eggs and amount of veggies and cheese can vary according to taste and appetite. As reflected in the ingredients used, I made this for a late October breakfast in Massachusetts.


1 oz sharp cheddar cheese (1 oz shown in photo)

In a medium size skillet, saute:

1 T olive oil (heat first before adding veggies)
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 medium red onion, peeled, and cut in bite sized pieces
1 carrot, cut in small strips
2 small poblano peppers, seeds removed and cut in bit sized pieces

8 leaves of kale, coarsely chopped

When veggies are warm and wilted add:

1/2 c pinto beans, drained
1/2 c garbanzo beans, drained
1/4 c salsa

Cook, stirring constantly until beans and salsa are heated through.

While veggies are cooking poach

1 egg per person in water to which

And warm (I use microwave)
2 tortillas per person

When all ingredients are ready, assemble by placing one warm tortilla on each plate and dividing half the vegetable mix to top the tortillas, top with 1/2 the grated cheese divided among the plates, then add second tortilla to stack and repeat topping sequence.  Finish with poached egg and

Cilantro, coarsely chopped.

VARIATION:  Fill soft taco shells with market veggie and bean mixture, grated cheese and coarsely chopped cilantro and a mix of:

1 avocado cut in thin bite sized pieces
1 t lemon juice
Salt to taste
Cumin to taste

This is especially good for lunch.

Reviewed 5/12/17

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Almond Olive Oil Cake

When Ed and I were in San Francisco last week we were served a delicious almond cake with raspberry coulis  When I told our hostess how much I enjoyed it, she told me the recipe was from Chez Panisse. She also told me it contained a lot of eggs and butter :-(   Another very special occasion cake.

Soon after,  Casa Moro, requested from the library upon our return from the Alpujarras, arrived, and I found Pastel de Almendras - Almond Cake from which I loosely adapted this recipe.  I used half white and half dark brown sugar, instead of light brown;"egg product" instead of eggs, and added 1/2 t almond extract.  Perhaps, because I did not use real eggs, the cake was not as light as I hoped it might be so I subsequently added 1 t baking powder.  This did not make any appreciable difference.  I'm waiting for a special occasion to use real eggs. Meanwhile, this recipe makes a dense but very good cake.

In their preface to the recipe the authors write: "We find many Spanish puddings very sweet, but we could not finish this chapter without some kind of almond cake.  This one is very simple, but delicious and is made by Hilde ... who lives above our village [in the Alpujarras].  She prepares her almonds by soaking them in boiling water until the skins loosen and can be easily popped off. Almonds prepared this way do have a better flavor, which is preferable for this cake, though not essential."

Line a 9 inch spring-form pan (Casa Moro calls for 26 cm, or 10.2 inch, flan or pastry tin) with a piece of wax or parchment paper buttered on both sides (or do this while eggs and sugar are mixing). When locking bottom piece in place, be sure it is absolutely level.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a food processor, using the steel blade chop, adding a third at a time so some almonds are ground fine, some medium and some coarse for bite and texture:

7.2 oz blanched almonds

Remove from processor bowl and set aside.  Wipe processor bowl clean and place in bowl with mixing blade:

1/2 c + 2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 c "egg product" (for lighter cake use 4 medium eggs - I do this for company/special occasions)*
2.9 oz dark brown sugar
2.9 oz white sugar
1/2 t almond extract (optional)

Beat until mixture is pale and fluffy and bubbles form, about 5-7 minutes.  The Casa Moro authors comment, speaking, however, of real eggs, "This whisking is important as it beats air into the mixture and makes it light." Then gently fold in (taking care not to knock out any air) all but 2 handfuls of the almonds (First time I did not reserve any almonds (top 2 photos); I now mix in 5 oz and reserve 2 oz) and

3.6 oz white flour, sifted.

Place in the  prepared pan and cook for 20 minutes or until the cake is firm and golden brown.  Remove and cool on a rack.  I like this served with fresh figs, pomegranate seeds, rosemary and thyme. Ed prefers frozen yogurt and Dark Chocolate Drizzle.

*November 2011 Update:

A dinner party last night gave me the occasion to try this recipe with real eggs.  The cake was delicious, a bit higher and lighter, not appreciably better than the cakes I made with "egg product", but enough so I will now use eggs for special occasions. I served it with vanilla frozen yogurt topped with a few drops of Aromas Olive Oil and Orange I had gotten at La Oliva in Granada and garnished with figs.

Reviewed 5/11/17

Thursday, October 6, 2011


In early September we savored the corn, tomatoes, basil and peppers that were so bountiful at our local farm stands. Ed and I then took off for Spain where we enjoyed among other things more tomatoes and figs that were in full season as well as blackberries that we picked along the hiking trails.

Stay tuned for future posts on tapas surprises, a very special evening at La Oliva in Granada, and hiking and dining in the Alpujarra and Sierra Nevada. One thing I took away from this trip is that the Moorish-Spanish/European fusion found in Andalusia applies not only to architecture (Mudejar) but also to food. Starting with notes from the dinners we had at Las Chimeneas in Mairena, Nevada and the reading I am doing in Sam and Sam Clark's  (Moro) cookbooks, I hope to further explore this hybrid in my own kitchen in the months ahead.

Olives and "black" tomatoes fresh from the barkeep's garden served as tapas at a small restaurant/bar in Mairena.

September 2017:  The closest to "black" tomatoes I have been able to finlocally are the Black Prince tomatoes  which are dark green on the outside but as the tomatoes in the photo, red inside.  These have been our favorites for several years

Trail-side blackberries. It's fine to scrump the figs and berries our inn keeper told us, but don't take any almonds.  The almonds are a market crop while the figs and berries along the Alpujarra trails are not.

Revised 9/19/2017

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cruising the Farmer's Markets

As I mentioned in "About Cook's Cache" food shopping, especially for fresh ingredients, while cruising in Maine can be challenging. Good grocery stores within easy walking distance of harbors are few and far between; and stores which used to be at least marginal now dedicate most of their shelf space to beer, wine and snack food to be purchased at high prices by the passengers the windjammer crews bring ashore.

The emergence of farmer's markets have brought all sorts of wonderful food within easy walking distance of our anchored or moored boat, particularly in Hancock and Knox counties. This year, we first replenished our galley at the Northeast Farmer's Market.  A friend got there early and brought me a huge bag of field greens and another of arugula as well as beets, spring onions and scallions.  Ed grilled the spring onions and we shared them with our friends that evening. When we arrived in Northeast about eleven o'clock, I went to the market to see what was left.  I got some chicken, beef and goat cheese from Sunset Acres Farm and Dairy.  Though the Chicago Tribune article praising their Sea Smoke cheese was prominently displayed, none was left. I purchased some Gaurdian goat cheese which was excellent. I also purchased a box of raspberries from one of the few remaining vendors.

Our real "stock up day" came the following week at the Stonington Farmer's Market.  It opens at ten but lines for various vendors form well before then. We stood in line at the Hackmatack Farm stand where we purchased excellent field greens, very fresh and with some bite similar to the ones (same vendor?) from Northeast Harbor, tiny zucchini and wild Maine blueberries.  Since we came well stocked with maple syrup and Arrowhead Mills Buttermilk Pancake and Waffle Mix (just add water and oil) we not only had blueberries for dessert but on pancakes for several breakfasts. 

While standing in line we inquired about the various bread vendors and were directed to Tinder Hearth where we purchased some excellent sourdough white bread and some sourdough spelt bread. We ate the white bread first and, as the baker promised it would, the spelt bread lasted well for several days as we travelled down the coast.

For eggs, chicken and beef we returned to Sunset Acres Farm and Dairy.  When I inquired about the Sea Smoke goat cheese I had missed at Northeast, the farmer quickly grabbed the last piece of this cheese from a display and handed it to me.  It was indeed delicious. We remembered the great fish truck from last year and returned to get crabmeat (from The Lobster Shack, Stonington, Maine), and local swordfish and tuna.  The vendor told us the crab was very fresh would last for several days; she was correct. Since I had brought miso and wasabi from home we were able to use two of our favorite recipes for the fish:

Tuna Steaks with Wasabi Butter and Salmon with Red Miso Sauce

Our bags full, we walked the mile back to Billings Marine where we had left Condor for our hour and one half round trip excursion to the market.

Reviewed 9/20/2017