Sunday, November 19, 2006

Carrot, Parsnip & Celery Root Soup
This soup has its "roots" in the Chantenay Carrot Soup made by chef Gabriel Frasca of Straight Wharf in Nantucket (and formerly Spire and Radius in Boston). His soup has a gorgeous, almost Day-Glo orange color and an equally amazing taste. The first time I had it, I found it to be so rich that I was sure it was filled with butter and cream. To my surprise, it contains neither and its richness is purely the concentration of carrots. I learned how to make the soup at home, and it came out just as luscious as when Gabriel makes it. Although I love the purity and simplicity of the original recipe, I couldn’t resist tinkering. This recipe is the results of my experiments. It trades off a little of the bright color and simplicity of flavor for more depth and complexity and slightly more sweetness from the parsnips. Both versions are great, it just depends on your mood and what you have on hand. Be forewarned, this recipe takes a little effort and special equipment (unless you have a source for vegetable juice), but it is so worth the effort! It floors everyone who tries it! This recipe makes six servings.


  • 5 pounds chantenay or other great quality carrots

  • 2 pounds of parsnips

  • 1 medium celery root

  • ¼ cup canola oil

  • 1 large (1 pound) Spanish onion

  • 1 ½ teaspoons curry powder (I use Sun Brand Madras Curry Powder)

  • Salt and black pepper to taste

  • Cooked lobster meat for garnish (optional)

  • Finely shredded parsley

Peel the carrots, parsnips and celery root, removing any discolored spots. Use 3 pounds of the carrots, 1 pound of the parsnip and half of the celery root for juicing. I have a Breville Juicer that I recommend highly! This effort will produce a little over 2 cups of juice.
Slice the remaining carrots, parsnips and celery root into thin slices and reserve. Peel and thinly slice the onion.
To cook, use a wide, heavy-bottomed pot with a lid. I use a large round La Creuset pot. Add the oil and onions to the pot and cook, covered over medium heat until translucent. Add the reserved sliced vegetables and curry powder. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently to keep the vegetables from browning. After 10 minutes, season the mixture to taste with salt and pepper and add the vegetable juice. Cover and cook for 25 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
In small batches, puree the soup in either a bender or food processor. Strain the puree through a fine strainer (I have a large chinois with a wooden pestle for this purpose, but I’ll bet the soup would still taste great even if it were less finely strained.)
You can make the soup to this point ahead of time and reheat it before serving. When reheating, don’t let it boil as it degrades the silky texture. Just get it hot.

To serve, put in bowls and sprinkle with the parsley. Adding lobster meat puts the dish over the top! You don’t need much, a half pound of meat is plenty for six servings. In the picture, I had a little bright red roe from the cooked lobster that I also sprinkled over the soup.
For wine, try an Alsatian Gewürztraminer to pick up on the curry nuances, or a German Riesling Spatlese or Kabinet.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Toasted Corn Risotto

It’s Sunday night with pouring rain, chirping crickets and I’m back on the blog again. I admit I’ve been a little (well maybe more than a little) slack on keeping up with my blogging responsibilities. I definitely feel the pressure to post, especially after being bailed out last week by a guest writer. Given the size of my backlog of recipes and pictures, lack f materials is no excuse. It just a matter of discipline. Well, here’s a recipe that should make up for my slackness. Toasted Corn Risotto. It’s my own recipe so you can only get it here! It’s sweet, rich, satisfying and can be vegetarian, or be match with anything from fish to grilled steak. Better yet, it’s prime corn season.


  • 4 ears of farm fresh corn

  • 2 tablespoons of butter

  • 2 tablespoons of butter

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1/3 cup finely chopped onion (preferably a sweet variety such as a Vidalia)

  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced

  • 3 tablespoons of finely chopped celery

  • 5 cups of stock, preferable homemade (I used chicken, but a vegetable or corn cob stock would work equally well)

  • 1 ½ cups of Arborio or Carnoli rice

  • ½ cup heavy cream

  • ¼ cup grated parmesan

  • Salt and pepper

Prepare the corn by peeling and cutting the kernels off the cobs using a sharp knife. I like to cut them in a large metal bowl to keep corn kernels from flying everywhere. You can keep the cobs (and freeze them if necessary) to make a really great corn cob stock (which incidentally, would be perfect as the stock base for this recipe). Split the corn kernels into two batches of about 1/3 and 2/3rds. Put the smaller batch in a food processor and puree. It will look a lot like scrambled eggs! Set aside for the moment.

Heat a sauté pan with the first batch of butter. Add the larger batch of corn and cook on moderate to low heat, tossing regularly until nicely toasted. Season with salt and pepper to taste set aside.

Heat the stock in a separate pot, and keep at a low simmer.

Begin the risotto by heating the second batch of butter and oil a decent-sized sauce pan. Add the onions, garlic and celery, and sauté over low heat until softened (about 5 minutes). Add the pureed corned and cook for another minute or two. Add the rice and toss until nicely coated. Mixing with a wooden spoon, add a ½ cup of heated stock. Stir over low to moderate heat until the stock is almost completely absorbed. Repeat with additional ½ cup portions of stock. Stir regularly to prevent sticking. The trick is to adjust the heat to ensure the rice doesn’t cook too fast or too slow. It should take about 18 minutes to absorb almost the entire 5 cups of liquid. Save about ¼ cup for the end. The rice should be tender but still firm (al dente) at the end. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

About 5 minutes before the rice is ready, re-heat the toasted corn. Add the heavy cream, heat through and season to taste. Remember that Parmesan cheese is salty, so it is better to go a little light and add more salt later if necessary.

When the rice is ready, add the remaining stock, the toasted corn mixture and the parmesan cheese. Toss well and serve immediately.

To serve
We had it with grilled, marinated shrimp (as shown) and followed with grilled stripped bass. Both worked extremely well with the risotto. For a wine, choose a really good, oaky, chardonnay. We had a 2002 Kistler, Vine Hill Vineyard, but any high end, barrel fermented chardonnay should work fantastically. The sweetness of the corn mixed with the pan toasting emphasizes the toasty oak barrel flavors of the chardonnay while boosting the fruit flavors. It is a match made in wine heaven!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Simply Succotash.

Thank you to Ian. After weeks of wheedling, he has agreed to allow his first guest writer – ME! (Anne)

When August arrives, and local corn is as plentiful as mosquitoes, you know the time has come for succotash. Besides being an odd word, succotash is a tasty, immensely satisfying dish. Courtesy of the Aztecs and Native Americans, succotash features corn, typically paired with beans – lima beans, green beans or, my favorite, sugar snap peas (bean-like but certainly not lima beans!).

This version of succotash is perfect for an elegant dinner party, or a quick, mid-week meal with the family. It is easy to make, but tastes so good that you’d swear it must have taken hours!

To give this succotash context, today was one of those brilliant mid-to-late summer days – cool, sunny and just on this side of crisp. The ideal day to head to the coast. We started out in Gloucester at Café Sicilia, our favorite place for a great cup of cappuccino and an Italian pastry. This morning, Paul (owner, baker and quite a character) informed us that we would be having Italian croissants for breakfast. Who were we to argue? (He is one big guy! And the croissants were magnificent…) Besides, at 10:30 am we were able to score a couple of delicious loaves of semolina bread straight out of the oven! Fortified with carbohydrates, we ambled along Eastern Point admiring the mansions and speculating which ones we would be able to live in. The ocean glittered. The roses smelled great. Life was good.

Back to the succotash… This version appeared in the Boston Globe Magazine in 2001. To complement the rich scallops and butter, Ian reached way back into the wine cellar to retrieve a 2004 Kistler, Sonoma Coast, Les Noisetiers chardonnay (from our friends Kurt and Sabrina at Beverly Wine and Beer). This wine is outstanding, not at all like the over-oaked, overly sweet chardonnays that California is producing nowadays. It paired wonderfully with the meal, making the succotash sing!

Corn, Zucchini and Sugar Snap Pea Succotash with Seared Scallops

  • 4 TBSP butter

  • 4 small zucchini, quartered and thinly sliced

  • 4 ears of fresh corn, kernels removed from cobs

  • ½ lb. sugar snap peas, cut diagonally in thirds

  • 3 TBSP chopped fresh thyme

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • 1 ½ lbs sea scallops, muscle flap removed

  • ½ cup heavy cream

  • Extra thyme (for garnish)

In a skillet, melt two tablespoons of the butter and cook the zucchini, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until the zucchini begins to soften and turn brown at the edges.

Add the corn and sugar snap peas. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes or just until they are very hot and the sugar snap peas are still quite green and crisp. Season with thyme, salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, in a heavy-based skillet, heat the remaining butter and add the scallops. Sear the scallops on both sides over medium-high heat, for 1 to 2 minutes on a side, or until they are golden brown and cooked through.

Stir the cream into the corn mixture and heat the mixture just until it is very hot. Taste the mixture for seasoning and add more salt or pepper if you like.

Spoon the succotash onto each of 4 dinner plates. Garnish the succotash with scallops and thyme and serve at once.

Serves 4.

The succotash turned out great. It was bittersweet, however, to read my notes scribbled on the recipe. We had last made this dish on 9/11/01.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Grilled Pizza.

This summer has being rushing by and I’ve been a bad blogger, very remise in doing my postings. I have a big backlog of posts to put out! But for now, let’s focus on the most requested post – Grilled Pizza!

Sorry that there is no photo. For some reason the shot didn't record on my camera!

This dish is very easy to make, but does take some practice and fast moving to get it right. But the results are more than worth the effort!

Pizza Dough
This recipe will make four pizza crusts. You can half it, or freeze the unused portions in plastic bags. To use frozen pizza dough, let it defrost and reach room temperature before rolling out.

  • 1 package of active dry yeast

  • ½ cup warm water (105 to 110 degrees)

  • 6 cups of white bread flour (I use King Arthur). You can also replace some (up to about 1/3) of the white flour with whole wheat for more flavor.

  • 2 ½ teaspoons of salt

  • 1 ½ cups of cool water

  • Olive oil

Proof the yeast by mixing it with the warm water and letting it stand for about 5 minutes.
Combine the flour and salt. I use the manual method of making a pile of flour with a well on a counter top and placing the yeast liquid and water in the center. I use a fork and pastry scraper to move and mix flour into the water until I get a sticky dough. But, you can use a mixer if you prefer. Knead the dough, dusting it with flour as needed, until you get a smooth, shiny, elastic dough that is not sticky. I usual knead it for 7 to 10 minutes.

Brush the sides of a large bowl with olive oil. Put in the dough, brush its top with olive oil as well. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place (not a problem in the summer!) for 2 hours. Punch down and knead a little more. Return to the bowl and let it rise for another 45 minutes. Punch down and divide into 4 balls.

Grilling the Pizza
    A small bowl of good olive oil for brushing and drizzling
  • A few cloves of fresh garlic finely minced

  • A couple of balls of mozzarella (8 to 12 ozs) cut into very thin slices

  • Grated parmesan or even better Pecorino Romano (about ¼ cup)

  • About ½ cup of well chopped canned Italian tomatoes n heavy puree

  • Lots of shredded basil leaves.

Get all of the ingredients together in small bowls and put on a tray next to your grill. For utensils grab tongs, a long handed spatula and a pastry brush for the olive oil.

Start the fire or heat the grill.

Roll out a ball of dough into a 10 to 12 inch free form circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Even thickness rather than shape is the key. Don’t make a lip. Put the crust on a pizza peel or a flat baking sheet. Dust the crust with flour (or cornmeal) for easy sliding.

When the fire is good and hot, slide the crust onto the grill. It may take a little practice to get it right. Within a minute or so, the dough will begin to puff up, the underside will stiffen and grill marks will start to form. At this stage, use the tongs to flip over the crust. If your grill is large enough to have a cool side, slide the crust there to buy you a little time. Working very fast, brush the top of the crust with olive oil, sprinkle some garlic, add some of the cheeses and lightly spoon a little tomato on top. LESS IS MORE!!! The pizza should not be totally covered or it will get soggy and hard to handle. Speed is critical to keep the bottom of the crust from burning. Move the crust over the hot part of the fire and heat until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Check and rotate often to keep the bottom from burning. To serve, sprinkle the basil over the top, and cut into slices!!!

Variations: Any number of ingredients can be put on top. Two rules: 1 – less is more! and 2 precook any ingredients that need more than heating for edibility (such as shrimp).

Wine: Montepulciano D’Abruzzo!!!!

Sunday, June 25, 2006


I’m in Phoenix as I write this entry, and it was over a hundred degrees today. Yes, it’s dry heat, but well over a hundred is still hot by any standard! But, at least I got a little preparation over the weekend when summer finally arrived in Boston. We reached the upper 80s and my thoughts turned to summer wines and foods. It’s rosé time!

A couple of Wednesdays ago (flag day!), we attended a wine dinner at
Sel de la Terre in Boston titled "Rosé Colored Glasses," which of course, featured rosés. The restaurant throws regular “Wine Wednesdays” that match reasonably priced wines with a fixed price meal for $45. It’s one of the greatest dinner bargains in Boston. Erik Johnson, Wine Director for both Sel de La Terre and L’Espalier is the enthusiastic host. He explains the wines and the matches thoroughly and engagingly. It’s a great way to try a series of new wines matched with perfect food combinations.

The menu:

first course
Louis Bouillot, Rosé, Crémant de Bourgogne, Burgundy
Rosé poached shrimp and andouille terrine with grilled focaccia and pipérade

My favorite match of the night, the terrine was an unusual and successful combination of shrimp and sausage that really brought out the best in the wine. This wine is made in the Champagne style and in addition to the cranberry and floral notes of a good rosé, it had a honeyed richness in the finish.

second course
2005 Houchart, Rosé, Côtes de Provence
Duck rillette and confit beet with arugula pine nut pesto

Another successful match, the duck was the favorite dish for many of my fellow dinners and its richness combined well with the earthiness of the beets and pesto. The wine, a classic French Provencal rosé has earthy and herbal notes that match well with the flavors, but enough fruit and crisp acidity to provide contrast.

main course
2005 Crios de Susana Balbo, "Rosé of Malbec", Argentina
Roasted prime rib with twice baked fingerling potatoes and caramelized shallot jus

Perhaps the most surprising match of the night, this course proved that the right rosé can indeed stand up to, and complement a classic meat dish. The full red version of an Argentinean Malbec is a well-known match for roasted and barbequed beef, and the rosé version lightens its body and adds a dose of food enhancing acidity. A dark and deeply colored rosé, this wine offers intense red fruit flavors and is powerful enough to convert red wine zealots into rosé drinkers.

cheese course
2004 Château d'Aquéria, Rosé, Tavel, Rhône
Crater Lake Blue, Oregon

Tavel is the quintessential French rosé, and Château d'Aquéria is one of its best producers. Bone dry and salmon-pink in color, this wine has floral and fruit fragrances along with requisite acidity to contrast the richness and salty bite of the blue cheese.

special dessert à la carte
White chocolate crème caramel with port cherries and croquant 2004 Rosa Regale, Brachetto d’Acqui, Piedmont, Italy
The wine dinner does not include dessert, but a $7 supplement brings this special dessert and another $9 adds a glass of Brachetto d’Acqui. In this dish, the white chocolate adds a wonderful silkiness and mouth feel to the crème caramel (instead of the cloying sweetness that is all too common with white chocolate), the port cherries provide the flavor bridge to the
Brachetto d’Acqui.

A Rosé Recommendation
While the list above provides a good group of rosés for initial exploration, I’d like to close with a new find. It’s Bastianich 2005 Rosato from Friuli-Venezia-Giulia in Italy. This winery is owned by Joseph Bastianich who is the son of Lidia Bastianich (restaurateur and TV chef) and partner of Mario Batali (another restaurateur and TV chef). He also wrote the book “Vino Italiano,” which in my opinion is easily the best book on Italian wines on the market. I’ve been a fan of his wines since I first tried them and I especially like his “Vespa” super-Fruilian blend of white grapes. 2005 is the first vintage for his stellar Rosato. It’s made from Refosco, an obscure red grape found in northern Italy. The result is a medium-bodied, intensely colored rosé with a complex and extremely attractive nose of rose petals, violets and plums. On the palate, plumy red fruit flavors predominate in a long finish of surprising depth and complexity. It’s the perfect wine to match with an antipasti plate when sitting on the back deck!

I first found the wine at the Wine Bottega at 341 Hanover Street in Boston’s North End. The Wine Bottega is a great source for unusual Italian wines and its staff is very knowledgeable, friendly and informative. Closer to home,
Beverly Wine and Beer Company carries the Rosato for $14.99. Beverly Wine is run by Kurt and Sabrina Reming, and I highly recommend them as a source solid reasonably priced wine. (They also carry some wonderful high end bottles). Kurt and Sabrina host wine tastings every Saturday afternoon, and Sabrina writes a great weekly newsletter that has stories and recipes along with their weekly wine specials. You can find out more at their web site:

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Cooking Smells
Over the past few months, I started walking to and from work a couple of times a week. My office is about two and a half miles from my house, long enough for good exercise, short enough to be reasonable. I try to vary my route so I can explore sections of Beverly where I might not otherwise go. It’s fascinating on many levels, and I walk through some areas that are densely populated and others that are almost rural. One night as I walked back around 6 PM, I smelled the distinct sweet and savory aroma of tomato sauce cooking. It made me hungry! But then it suddenly hit me – it was the first and only time I noticed cooking smells on any of my evening walks. Was I just unobservant or are people no longer cooking? Since then, I’ve paid special attention and I’ve varied my return times in case I was missing common dinner hours. The result? Outside of the downtown restaurants, cooking smells are virtually non-existent. I smelled outdoor grilling one night and hot dogs on a frying pan on another, but considering I walk past hundreds of houses, people must not cook often. Don’t say the windows must be closed, I can hear dozens of TVs every walk!

When I was young, I remember walking down my parent’s street and smelling all the different dinners on the stove. Our Italian neighbor’s house had scents of tomato sauce, sausages and garlic wafting in the air, but other houses had smells of macaroni and cheese, pan fried steaks and other common foods of the time. But, apparently no more. It’s fashionable to build houses with bigger and bigger kitchens and people spend megabucks on granite countertops and the fanciest equipment. Yet the extent of their cooking is heating pre-prepared foods in the microwave. The biggest irony is that kitchens have grown larger because people like to be around the warmth, smells and action of cooking!

On Lidia’s Kitchen (Lidia Bastianich’s cooking show on PBS), her son (and restaurateur) Joseph Bastianich remarked that when he was growing up, it was the poorer houses that smelled of cooking. To which Lidia pointed out, “Ah, but which houses did all your friends want to hang out in?”

Here’s a recipe that always smells great to me. If you make it, I guarantee it will perfume your neighborhood.

Grilled Sardines

  • a dozen fresh sardines

  • olive oil

  • a couple of lemons

  • Salt and pepper

  • A few sprigs of chopped parsley

Rinse and clean the sardines. Slit the bellies and remove the entrails. You can leave on the heads and grill them whole, or remove the heads and butterfly the fillets (to get the result shown in the picture). Put the cleaned sardines in a dish, sprinkle with the olive oil, some fresh squeezed lemon juice and salt and pepper. Allow them to marinate while you start your grill. I prefer grilling over hardwood charcoal, but regular briquettes or a gas grill will work too.

When the fire is ready, throw on the sardines. I have a fish grilling basket (on sale at store that carry grills) that simplifies cooking fish. The fish is cooked in the basket, and when you are ready to flip, you just turn the basket over! Otherwise, just cook the carefully on the grill. The sardines cook quickly, no more than a couple of minutes per side if your fire is hot. The skin side will have some blistering and charring. But let the aroma be your guide!

Serve with lemon wedges and sprinkle with a little more olive oil and the chopped parsley. They are especially great with a crisp white wine such as a Sancerre, Pinot Grigio or Spanish Albariño.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A great sandwich after a splendid walk.

The north shore of Boston is an incredibly beautiful and interesting place to explore. It has a rich mixture of history and nature, with old farms, quaint village centers, and of course, rocky coast. On a recent Saturday, we went for a walk at the Coolidge estate in Manchester-by-the-Sea. The property is in the care of the Trustees of the Reservations. The old mansion is long gone, but a short walk along the marshes gets you to the Great Lawn which provides a sweeping view south across Salem Sound towards Boston. The Lawn would be an incredible spot for picnicking. On this day, however, it was early and we wanted a brisk walk along the edge of the shore. The coast is high and rocky and the colors are spectacular, with the grey blue of the ocean contrasting with the myriad of colors and textures of the lichen covered granite, lawn and trees. On the rocks below, a group of harbor seals frolicked and tussled over sleeping spots on a favored pinnacle. A magic morning!

On the way back, we stopped at our local foodie paradise, Beverly Farms. A tiny village center, the “Farms” boasts a number of food and wine related stores. There is the Fruitful Basket, a gourmet grocery store, two bakeries, The Farms Bakery and DeFusco’s, and a wine store, Cork & Cask. The Farms Bakery is a favorite Saturday morning stop for coffee and croissants (real ones!). We follow with visit Mark Solomon at Cork & Cask to see if anything new has come in. Next its off to the Fruitful Basket. On this day, Bob Viel had some cured Tuscan Ham along with his usual stunning array of ripe cheeses. A quick taste inspired lunch. To set off the ham, I chose a relatively young Sainte-Maure de Tourraine, an artisanal French goat cheese. A momentary inspiration led to the purchase of a bottle of Matiz Vasco Piparras. Piparras are a traditional Basque pepper with a sweet and spicy flavor. Preserved in a brine, they would be our pickles! Finally, we stop at Defusco’s to buy some crusty, freshly baked bread. Now we’re ready for lunch!

Great Sandwich

  • A loaf of crusty bread

  • Slices from a flavorful ham

  • A tangy goat cheese

  • Piparras

Cut a couple of thick slices of bread. Spread both pieces with goat cheese. Layer on the ham. Serve with Piparras on the side. Life is wonderful!

* on a sad note. A Dunkin Donuts franchise is moving to Beverly Farms (as if we need another donut shop in Beverly…) The owner appears to be doing a nice job setting up the premises to fit the locale, but the damage is done. The other bakeries are not profitable enough to survive the expected hit on their businesses. DeFusco’s is closing in mid-May and is moving to North Andover. And The Farms Bakery is up for sale. Such is progress. Why have unique when you can have chain?