Monthly Archives: April 2014

Herring Run

This time of year, with the herring running in Town Brook – and lots and lots of other fresh-waterways on the Eastern Seaboard – I have fish on the brain. Good thing it’s brain food!herring watercolor

….a cup of ale without a wench, why, alas, ’tis like an egg without salt or a red herring without mustard.”

Thomas Lodge and Robert Greene A Looking Glasse, for London and Englande (1592)

Which I found quoted in

Red Herring without Mustard - Alan Bradley - a Flavia

Red Herring without Mustard – Alan Bradley – a Flavia de Luce Mystery Novel

I love mystery novels. I read this one last week.

This week I’m reading a memoir: “Shucked”

 Shucked: Life on a New England Oyster Farm Paperback by Erin Byers Murray

Shucked: Life on a New England Oyster Farm
by Erin Byers Murray – so far only oysters have died – but not without a fight

It was also Herring Fest weekend at the Plimoth Grist Mill at Jenney Pond.

herringfest bigFriday night there was a herring documentary film and panel discussion at Plimoth Cinema.

Nancy Carol - Arts Activist - and Shervin Arya of Herring Migration documentary

Nancy Carol – Arts Activist – and Shervin Arya of Herring Migration documentary at the Plimoth Grist Mill at Jenny Pond

The film was very good – and I’m not just saying that. Frankly, most of these sorts of things are not usually described in terms of cinema, but rather as the sort of thing that is accurate or complete or not a complete and total snooze…this was beautiful, thoughtful, provocative…I seriously want to see the full 6 hour series.

And although I appreciate the place of herring in the Natural World, I just don’t like them all that much on my plate.

I don’t mind anchovies…the all natural little dose of fish. Please rinse the salt off before you put them on top of that pizza.

Still Life with Anchovies - Antonio Sicurezza 1972

Still Life with Anchovies – Antonio Sicurezza 1972

I also love mackerel.

Van Gogh - Still life with Mackerel and tomatoes 1886

Van Gogh – Still life with Mackerel and Tomatoes 1886

But herring I could take or leave…mostly leave.

Smoked fish – like finnan haddie – take.

Finnen Haddie with peppers and onions

Finnan Haddie with peppers and onions

Red Herring – smoked and salted – probably take

Red Herring (kipper)

Red Herring (kipper)

but herring, fresh and sweet?

Herring - Clupea harengus

Herring – Clupea harengus

Not so much. Since the moratorium on river herring continues, just as well.

It’s probably not coincidence that when the herring are running I eat more tuna salad, fish and chips, anchovy pizza then at any other time of the year. And wish I had a Donegal tweed jacket to toss on on my way over to the brook….

Donegal Tweed, a herringbone tweed pattern

Donegal Tweed, a herringbone tweed pattern

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Pizza measures up

I decide a few weeks ago to write more on pizza, because there’s more then one good pizza, and pizza just needs more attention.  Because it’s so common and easy to come by, I think that pizza gets overlooked.

Unless it’s being made far too much of by certain foodie sorts, who want it to ‘authentic in every detail.’ Usually meaning tricky, difficult, expensive, exclusive. All the things that pizza is not.

Plymouth has several places that offer really good – and really varied pizzas. There is Italian pizza and southern Italian pizza  and  Greek pizza and even Brazilian pizza as well as not one, but 2, chain  pizza places all in the general downtown area.

And there’s still more pizza to make at home.

Last week the New York Times jumped my pizza story by 2 days because the food pages come out on Wednesdays, with Sam Sifton’s  story “A Little Homework” which is about – you guessed it – making pizza at home.

Here’s the link: A Little pizza Homework   on the website they added pizza to the article title.The video about making the dough is very good. Notice that Falco uses only his hands to mix the flour and water to make up the dough – no spoons to wash up!

Sifton’s right – making pizza dough is easy peasy. And it can keep in the fridge for days, so you can find the time. It’s the special flour that I have a problem with. If you don’t have any 00 Italian flour on hand – make the dough anyhow. If you’re hot to try it, you can order it on line. King Arthur Flour has an Italian Pizza blend that’s like 00 flour, if Italian Pizza blend flour isn’t on your grocery store shelves.kaf Italina flourThere’s another video on pizza at How2heroes which calls for bread flour instead of 00…

What I like about all this is that the sauce is simplicity itself – canned tomatoes, olive oil and a little salt, blenderized.

waring blender

Time to pull out the blender…sometimes I just use crushed tomatoes on pizza.

The other thing I like is that he weighs out the ingredients, which with flour ESPECIALLY makes a world of difference, although with this small amount and for this particular items, eyeballing it will work. But if you don’t have a kitchen scale…here’s the one I’m lusting after now, and if I remember – someday will be the replacement for the perfectly fine but takes up too much room scale that I have now.


The Tri fold Folding Scale

Another version - the scale folds up

Another version – the scale folds up


This is the scale I have now - it has plenty of measuring left in it

This is the scale I have now – it has plenty of measuring left in it

The other, other thing I like in the paper was a sidebar on what to drink with pizza. The answer is – Drumroll, please –

Just about everything!

To quote Eric Asimov:

One thing never worth fretting about is what to drink with pizza. What could be bad? Nothing. (Please pause and reflect here. Talk among yourselves) The Italians seem to prefer beer or cola (Note: in my family, orange soda) I think anything with bubbles is delicious. Dry Lambrusco is great. So is Champagne, believe it or not, especially with the Green and White Pies. …..and there are more and more recommendations and the last line is 

What to drink with pizza? Whatever you like.


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Popcorn put me through college

More specifically, MAKING popcorn….

The Kingston Drive In Theatre - c. 1977. I was there then.

The Kingston Drive In Theatre – c. 1977. I was there then. The R didn’t always light up on the sign, so it was also the Dive In Theatre…..

But I also ate my fair share. Not from a package, please. Fresh. Hot. If it’s not hot, it isn’t really fresh.

Popcorn popping

Popcorn popping – kernel to delightful!

The popcorn I was raised on was the occasional Jiffy Pop. Jiffy Pop Popcorn and I are the same age. Frederick C. Mennen developed Jiffy Pop in 1958. But it wasn’t until the 1970’s that Harry Blackstone, Jr.  was telling us that Jiffy Popwas the magic treat, as much fun to make as it is too eat.

The Jiffy Pop story in pictures

The Jiffy Pop story in pictures

This is what I use at home now :

The Whirley Pop

The Whirley Pop – maybe it’s not as far from Jiffy Pop as I thought….

And then there are Pilgrim and popcorn stories….

It's emphatically NOT TRUE that there was popcorn at the first Thanksgiving

It’s emphatically NOT TRUE that there was popcorn at the first Thanksgiving

But Popcorn and Movies DO go together. Plimoth Cinema has popcorn – and I’ve made popcorn for them, too. The proof is in the pudding – I mean commercial – but I made Indian Pudding for them, too. Check out the commercial on their page…but don’t blink or you’ll miss me!

Plimoth Cinema is also raising money for a new projector – no new digital projector, no more movies. There’s a Kickstarter campaign at Plimoth Cinema Kickstarter.  One of the updates is another great video made by some modern day Pilgrims… pop some popcorn and start watching.

S’mores Popcorn

talk about your lily gilding…..

6 tablespoons butter
5 cups mini marshmallows

4 quarts fresh popped popcorn
1 cup honey graham cracker cereal
1 1/2 cups  chocolate chips

Honesty minute: I first saw this recipe on Martha Stewart Radio blog site, when Patrick  Evans-Hylton was a guest, which is how I discovered his Popcorn book, which I adore. I often (usually) just mix a batch of fresh popcorn with a half bag of mini marshmallows, half a box of  mini graham crackers (which I’m not sure were even being made in 2011, instead of the cereal) a half a bag of chocolate chips (the sort can vary – I love the dark, but white is nice and a mix is heavenly), toss the whole thing with melted butter (salted butter is important here) and then munch straight from the bowl without s’moring…..OR

  1.  Butter a 9-by-13-inch pan; set aside.
  2. Melt the butter over low heat. Add the marshmallows, stirring, until they are all melted.  Pour the marshmallow mixture over the popcorn to coat.
  3. Stir in the cereal and one cup of the chocolate chips.
  4. Transfer the popcorn mixture to the prepared pan. With buttered hands, press the mixture evenly into the pan; allow to cool slightly.
  5. Melt the remaining chocolate chips according to package instructions and drizzle the chocolate over the popcorn mixture. Allow to cool completely, 20 to 25 minutes, then cut into squares.

MSL radio Morning Living June 28, 2011

popcorn PHE

Popcorn – Patrick Evans-Hylton





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Homemade Ricotta

This is seriously easy and exceptionally good.

For REAL, authentic in every detail ricotta, first you milk your cow…..

Woman milking a cow - Karel Dujardin - 1650 Dutch

Woman milking a cow – Karel Dujardin – 1650 Dutch

or your sheep or water buffalo OR you could got to your favorite market and pick up a gallon – whole milk, please, regardless of beast of origin.

Modern Day Milk Jug

Modern Day Milk Jug

What I’m going to suggest isn’t EXACTLY ricotta, but 1,000 times better then anything in a plastic carton

The particular brand is not important - if you ave a local dairy that is making fresh cheeses, you may stop here and then there. Otherwise, keep reading.

The particular brand is not important – if you have a local dairy that is making fresh cheeses, you may stop here and then go there. Otherwise, keep reading.

I’ve been working a lot with curds and whey lately, partly as part of my job and partly because it’s the fresh dairy time of year.

A small time out before I go any further.



First you have milk, then you add rennet,then you have curds and whey, then you take the whey and with THAT you make ricotta (at last!)

Like other whey cheeses, it is made by coagulating the keratin proteins that remain after the casein has been used to make cheese, notably albumin and globulin. Thus, ricotta can be eaten by persons with casein intolerance.

Thus speaketh Wikipedia, the most complete and least technical explanation I could find. In English. True ricotta is more complicated and involved than what I’m about to suggest.

Two simple truths:

  1. It is easy to curdle milk.
  2. Fresh is better then packaged, especially for dairy products.

Cook’s Illustrated to the rescue.

Because I keep back issues, and because I’ve been reviewing them, I rediscovered  simple, easy homemade ricotta.

Cook's Illustrated September 2009. Influencer

Cook’s Illustrated September 2009. Influencer

The reason I LOVE Cook’s Illustrated  and consider them an Influencer?

Things like this:

This technique will yield 3 1/2 cups of a superior-tasting ricotta facsimile (true ricotta is made from whey created as a by product  of cheese-making) that can be used in recipes from lasagna to manicotti to cheesecake and ricotta pie.

And if this isn’t a lasagna/manicotti/ricotta pie time of year, when is?

Homemade Ricotta

1 gallon whole milk

1 tsp salt

2 lemons, juiced,  for 1/3 cup lemon juice plus another tablespoon (1/3 c lemon juice = 5 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon. 2 lemons = approximately  6 T)  OR 1/3 cup white vinegar

2 lemons should give you enough juice for this ricotta - wash them first so you can use the zest after. Warm them for 10-20 seconds in the microwave before squeezing and you'll get more juice out.

2 lemons should give you enough juice for this ricotta – wash them first so you can use the zest after for something else. Warm them for 10-20 seconds in the microwave before squeezing and you’ll get more juice out.

thermometer (or trust your impeccably clean fingers )

cheesecloth (flour sack towels work even better, cost less and wash up more easily, if you’ve got them. If you’re going to be making cheeses at home, you’ll want some of these. K-Mart, Vermont Country Store – they’re everywhere)

Flour-sack towels - evidently they're quite the thing with the cloth baby diaper crowd...You can also use them to boil up a Christmas Pudding or two.....or dry a dish.

Flour-sack towels – evidently they’re quite the thing with the cloth baby diaper crowd…You can also use them to boil up a Christmas Pudding or two…..or dry a dish.


  1. Juice the lemons and put the juice aside.
  2. Heat the milk and salt to 185° over medium high heat in a heavy bottomed pan. If you’re doing this  Old-School and not using a thermometer, the milk should be at a simmer, not a boil and not still still. Use your impeccably clean finger, dip it in and the milk should be hot  – not warm, hot, but not boiling. Heating helps, boiling hinders.
  3. Remove from heat.
  4. Add the lemon juice, stir it in.
  5. Allow it to stand, undisturbed, for 5 minutes.
  6. Solid white curds should now be visible above  liquid translucent whey.
    Curds and whey - where's Miss Muffet?

    Curds and whey – where’s Miss Muffet?


  7.  IF it is not setting up, add another tablespoon of lemon juice, stirring gently and let stand for another 5 minutes.
  8. Once there are curds,gently scoop them up with a slotted spoon and place them in a cheesecloth lined colander (over a pot or a bowl or in the sink; there will be more whey dripping).

    If it's very drippy, hang it over the sink till it slows...but get it into the fridge before to very long long. This is food prep, not science experiment.

    If it’s very drippy, hang it over the sink till it slows…but get it into the fridge before to very long . This is food prep, not science experiment.

  9. DO NOT try to speed things up by dumping the whole pot of curds into the colander – the weight of the whey will destroy the beautiful, delicate curds, you’ll have a mess and be stuck with buying packaged ricotta.
  10. Drain without pressing (which will essentially give you paneer, a soft cheese that can be sliced) or squeezing. Let drain overnight in the fridge over a bowl (do I really have to say that out loud? Since I’m the one not always good with The Obvious….at least for one)

    Ricotta draining baskets - you could invest or you could improvise....

    Ricotta draining baskets – you could invest or you could improvise….

  11.  Keep refrigerated and use within five days.
  12. Makes about 3 1/2 cups of ricotta.

 adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, September/October  2009, p. 31.


Go to University of Cincinnati Clermont College ricotta making site for Real Ricotta .


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Thought For Thursday…

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Homemade Pizza

In order to create order, there was a time when different days of the week had a different food…like Chili Wednesdays or Meatless Mondays, there were also Pizza Fridays.

Pizza also was a food I associated with being easy to make (and fun) because when we went to my Aunt’s there was almost always pizza, in a big baking sheet, on standby, should somehow we prove too famished to be able to wait for the incredible and enormous meal that was waiting for us. It was, after all, as much as an hour from our house to hers.

If you don’t happen to have dough on hand, pizza could take a while to have ready. Yeast takes a certain amount of time to grow and prosper; if you make it a head and freeze it, a frozen lump of dough needs to thaw before you can make a pizza from it, and if you forget to take it out of the freezer in the morning before you go to work, all you’ve got is a frozen lump of dough and not an actual pizza. And a hungry boy.

Don’t ask me how I know this.

Nika Hazelton to the rescue. I started reading Italian cookbooks in the ’70’s so I could learn to spell the names of the foods that I had been eating all my life.

I discovered that Italy had many of dialects, not just of accents, but also words and foods. Nika was one of the first authors I found. She also wrote VOLUMES. This will not be the last visit to Nika.

Nika Hazelton

Nika Hazelton

(Pizza Fatto in Casa)

1 cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon baking powder
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup water
Olive oil
Toppings of your choice – you know what you want – don’t nibble it all before you make up the dough.
1. Preheat the oven at 450°.
2. Whisk or sift the flour, salt and baking powder together.
3. Combine the 3 tablespoons olive oil with the water and stir into the dry mixture until well mixed – this should take about a minute.
4. Turn out on a lightly floured surface and knead for another minute, until it is a ball.
5. Place the ball of dough in the middle of a greased baking sheet (or use a silpat) Pat the dough flat into a circle, starting in the center and working out. It should end up between about 1/8 inch thick in the middle and closer to ½ inch at the outer edges.
6. If the dough tears, just push more dough over it to close them up.
7. Brush olive oil at the edges of the circle.
8. Top with toppings
9. Put in the HOT oven for 10 – 15 minutes until the dough is browned and the toppings are melted and bubbly.
Makes 1 11-inch pizza.
Adapted from Nika Hazelton. The Regional Italian Kitchen. M. Evans and Company, Inc. New York: 1978. p. 162.

Regional Italian Kitchen

Regional Italian Kitchen

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Olive You More

The  sauce uses, at best, a half a can of basic black olives.

What to do with the rest?

This is not me, and yet it was me....olives are very philosophical, as well as tasty

This is not me, and yet it was me….and sometimes still may be me…..

Winter is full of citrus fruit, and Red Grapefruit seems to be the harbinger of Spring citrus.

The fruit that made Texas famous....not really, but not a lie, either. A Story for another day.

The fruit that made Texas famous….not really, but not a lie, either. A Story for another day.

This is why they're called GRAPE- fruit

This is why they’re called GRAPE- fruit

Add some mint – a breath of fresh air.Mint-leaves-2007


1 large red grapefruit, peeled and sectioned
1 cup pitted black olives
1 cup fresh mint leaves
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice (if the grapefruit is very juicy, I sometimes skip this)
Salt to taste (it SOOOOOO depends on the olives)

1. Mix it all together.
2. Adjust salt.
3. Eat.
It says 4 servings…but it’s more like 2. Four servings if you put it over salad greens.

Marion Cunningham. The Supper Book. p. 196.

The Supper Book - also fantastic

The Supper Book

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Olive U

Oh, yes I do.

Little olive, I love you.


Olea eurpaea Kobler

Olea eurpaea Kobler

Although in my kitchen, they often look more like this:Pastene_pitted_black_olivesThe problem is, once I open a can, I can eat a can full.  In a very short time. Let’s just say, there isn’t a storage issue…often not even a serving issue….

So I buy olives when I planning to sue them IN things, and then I can enjoy them over several days, which in the end, is more enjoyable.

Olives in a sauce, and some olives in a salad….

Here’s a story for a sauce, according to wiki:

According to Annarita Cuomo, writer for Il Golfo, a daily newspaper serving the Italian islands of Ischia and Procida, sugo alla puttanesca was invented in the 1950s by Sandro Petti, co-owner of Rancio Fellone, a famous Ischian restaurant and nightspot

In the February 17th, 2005 edition of the newspaper, Cuomo says the moment of inspiration came, when near closing one evening, Petti found a group of customers sitting at one of his tables. Petti was low on ingredients and told them he didn’t have enough to make them a meal. They complained that it was late and they were hungry. “Facci una puttanata qualsiasi (Make any kind of garbage),” they insisted. In this usage, puttanata is an Italian noun meaning something worthless. It derives from the Italian word for whore, puttana.

At the time, Petti had nothing more than four tomatoes, two olives and some capers; the basic ingredients for the sugo. “So I used them to make the sauce for the spaghetti,” Petti told Cuomo.

Later, Petti included this dish on his menu as spaghetti alla puttanesca.

Some versions include anchovies, but I usually make this without the little fish.

Pasta Puttanesca

Olive oil (two swirls around the pan)
4 smooshed garlic cloves
1 small onion, diced
1 28 oz can whole tomatoes (I like lots of chunky bits – use crushed tomatoes if you don’t OR if you’re topping spaghetti or another finer pasta shape)
½ cup pitted, chopped black olives (or more….)
1 Tablespoon capers
1 tsp red hot pepper flakes (more to sprinkle on top, if you like it hot – it keeps getting hotter, so don’t over-do if you’ll be saving some for another meal)
1/3 cup chopped parsley (or half a supermarket bunch, which seems to vary with the season and how much rain wherever THAT bunch of parsley was grown) OR 6-8 fresh basil leaves, shredded
1 # penne – or another sturdy pasta with nooks and crannies
Grating cheese

1 Put on the pot of water to cook the pasta in.
2 Swirl the olive oil in another pan; bring to medium heat and add the onions
3 When the onions begin to soften, add the garlic.
4 Add the tomatoes, squishing them through your fingers to make good sized chunks. Pour in the liquid from the can.
5 Season with salt, and simmer on low.
6 When the pasta water comes to the boil, salt that and boil the penne until al dente.
7 Add the olives, the capers, the parsley (or basil) and the red pepper flakes to the tomatoes.
8 Save out 1 cup of the pasta, drain the penne.
9 Add the penne to the sauce (or vice versa, depending on your pot/pan situation). Add some of the save water if the sauce needs thinning.
10 Serve with grating cheese.

Pasta Puttanesca

Pasta Puttanesca

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Chili con Carne

“In Texas, where the dish originated, strong men have been known to do battle over the proper way to cook chili con carne. This recipe can be made with ground beef, but the cubed beef has more character. Serve in the traditional manner, with red pinto beans and fluffy rice.”

Marion Cunningham, The Fannie Farmer Farmer Cookbook

cowboys7aSomewhere, Marion Cunningham has a longer article on Cowboy Beans, which is never to be confused with chili, which is always meat. This is a report, not an argument. Some would argue that the spicing is what makes the chili. They are not from Texas.

Cowboy beans always make me think of Mel Brooks…you know the scene from the movie.

Blazing Saddles

So get ready for Wednesday, because  it’s chili night. This one meat and more meat. MC recommends chuck, but I’ve used the on-sale marked-down  stew meat….really good.

2 pounds beef chuck in 1 inch cubes
2 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons bacon grease
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 cup water.
1. Roll the beef cubes in flour.
2. Heat the grease in a heavy pot with a lid.
3. Brown the floured meat – don’t crowd or it will steam – turning it to color it on all sides. Start with as much as will cover 2/3’ s of the bottom of your pan, letting the first batch sit undisturbed for 2 minutes to get good color. As you turn to side 2, add some more in the empty spaces. It’s worth the 15-20 minutes to be fussy with the browning. Don’t hurry it and don’t crowd it.
4. Add the garlic and the chili powder and stir through for another minute. It should smell heavenly.
5. Add 1 cup water. Stir around to loosen up the good bits on the bottom.
6. Cover and simmer for 2 hours. If it gets too thick for your tastes, add more water.
7. Add salt to taste.
8. May be made ahead and reheated.
From The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. Edited by Marion Cunningham with Jerie Laber. pp. 167-8.


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