Linguine with clams

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With summer’s end approaching it's time to celebrate local seafood.  This simple, classic combination of clams with pasta stays close to its Italian roots: Cook only a few very good ingredients and quit while you’re ahead. Scrub the clams well rather than soaking them, and deal with sand at the end of cooking by straining the broth. Many available clams do not have much sand, unless you are digging them yourself.

Lay out all the ingredients before you start cooking. While the pasta cooks, you have just enough time to sauté the pancetta, garlic and chilies, add wine to the pan and cook the clams. As they release their delicious juices, the salty, smoky pancetta and heat from the chili combine to make a flavorful sauce. Just toss and enjoy.

Posted on August 22, 2017 .

Slow roasted salmon on a bed of greens

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The season for wild salmon from Alaska ranges from mid-May until September, so now is great time to enjoy it with the fresh herbs of summer.  Because wild salmon is lower in fat than farm-raised, it is easy to overcook it. The solution? Roast it slowly so it doesn’t dry out.

Slow-roasting fish isn’t new, but it’s a technique that can be applied to almost any fish that you want to cook in the oven. Instead of cooking it at high heat for the usual maxim of ten minutes per inch, turn down the oven and cook it for slightly longer; the total time expended is still minimal. Ask the fish seller to remove the skin and place the salmon on a bed of herbs so the flavors permeate the fish as it cooks. Salmon has pin bones, and the job of removing them is most often the cook’s. To facilitate locating them, try this trick: lay the salmon on top of an upside-down bowl so it is convex, run your fingers along the fish to find the bones, and firmly grasp them with tweezers or needle-nose pliers. The rest is as easy as summer living.

(Previously published in the Boston Globe)

Posted on August 18, 2017 .

A cranberry cookbook from me to you

I haven't made much of this. It came and went so fast my head is spinning. But, after a long break, I finished another cookbook. And it's in bookstores now!

One day last summer I told a friend I probably wouldn't write another cookbook, and she said, never say never. You don't know what is going to happen.

And that is the lesson learned, my friends. We don't like to acknowledge how little control we actually have over our lives. It is just too damn scary--especially for us the-sky-is-gonna-fall anxiety types. The upside is that what is right around the corner might be a good thing, a challenge we can embrace and celebrate. 

Which brings me to this book. It came to me from a friend who passed on it, but recommended me to the publisher (Globe Pequot Press in Connecticut.) I had no ambitions to write a single subject book, or another book for that matter. This one was to be a quick turnaround, no time to wait for cranberry season, but I decided to go for it. One of the best challenges for me was that I would be able to shoot all the photos myself. So it's a first, but not the last, as it turns out. More books are in the works, but I'll let you know when I sign on the dotted line.

This cake recipe is a sleeper, but one you must have in your pocket over the summer. Cranberries (frozen are fine) are tart and fabulous in this cake, but substitute other fruits as the summer progresses: apples, pears, plums, especially plums, peaches, even grapes would be good in this cake.

Cranberry Almond Skillet Cake
Makes one 10-inch cake

Butter (for the pan)
2/3 cup whole, unblanched almonds
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into slices
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (4 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries
Confectioner’s sugar (for sprinkling)

1. Heat the oven to 350ºF. Generously butter a 10-inch skillet with a heatproof handle.

2. In a food processor, grind the almonds and 1/4 cup of the sugar until fine. Set aside 1/4 cup of the almond-sugar mixture for the topping.

3. In a bowl, whisk the remaining almond-sugar mixture, the flour, baking powder, and salt until blended.

4. In an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and the remaining 1/2 cup sugar together for 3 minutes, or until fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl when necessary. Beat in the vanilla.

5. With the mixer set on its lowest speed, gradually add the flour mixture until the batter is smooth. The batter will be thick. Scrape it into the pan, spreading it evenly with the back of a spoon.

6. Distribute the cranberries over the cake and sprinkle with the reserved almond sugar.

7. Bake the cake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out with only a few crumbs still clinging to the skewer. Set on a wire rack to cool to room temperature.  Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and cut into wedges.

 

Find the cranberry cookbook on Amazon THE CRANBERRY COOKBOOK

Posted on April 30, 2017 .

Breakfast quiche recipe for the first day of Spring

It’s spring! Finally. The snow may still be on the ground today, but there’s hope in my heart, friends, when the sun is shining and the day is longer.

I’ve been making these lately because:

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Protein gets you off to a great start.

Summer is coming.

(Forget about the bathing suit, I just want to fit into my jeans again.)

You can make them ahead.

They’re great to have on hand when company comes for the weekend.

Have them for lunch with a salad, no regrets.

Once you’ve made these, you’ll want to try different fillings. Leftover vegetables come to life when combined with different cheeses, cherry tomatoes or sautéed vegetables. Whip up the eggs in a blender—a little flour keeps the eggs from weeping.  If you’re not a fan of ham, you can substitute cooked bacon or just leave it out.  Make the basic custard and pour it over whatever combination of vegetables and cheese that pleases you. (I have omitted salt in the egg mixture because of the ham, so when improvising, be sure to sprinkle some into the custard.)

 

Crustless quiche recipe

Oil or cooking spray (for the ramekins)
6 ounces Gruyere or Emmenthal cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large leek, finely sliced (white part only)
1 1/2 cups small ham cubes (from an 8-ounce ham steak)
3 cups packed baby spinach leaves (6 ounces)
4 eggs
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon flour
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil six 1-cup ramekins. (Cooking spray works the best). Have on hand a baking sheet.

2. Grate 1/2  cup of the cheese. Cut the remaining cheese into small cubes.

3. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the leeks and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the ham and spinach, and cook for 2 minutes, or until the spinach wilts. Set aside to cool, and stir in the cheese cubes.

4. In a blender, pulse the eggs, milk, flour and pepper, until smooth.

5. Set the ramekins on the baking sheet. Divide filling evenly among the ramekins. Pour the egg mixture over the filling and sprinkle with the grated cheese.

6. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Happy spring, friends!

 

 

Posted on March 20, 2017 .

Sweets for the sweet: Chocolate fruit and nut bark for Valentine's Day

It's snowing outside and we're hunkered down during another storm. We need chocolate.

Luckily, that is always something I have in my pantry, along with an assortment of nuts and dried fruit, so this is going to be easy.

The possibilities of toppings for these bars are open ended.  The choices run the gamut: whole almonds, pecans, walnuts, cashews, peanuts, pine nuts, pistachios, cranberries, chopped apricots, chopped candied ginger, or whatever strikes your fancy will do. Make sure to finely chop the chocolate, and don’t forget a smidgen of salt.

Happy Valentine's Day no matter where you are and who you are with. Maybe you are your own best friend right now, and in that case,  I'm sending you a big virtual hug.

Eat some chocolate, friends, and spread a little love this week. 

Chocolate fruit and nut bars
Makes 18 (4 1/2-by-1-inch) bars
8 ounces dark, bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups mixed, unsalted, raw nuts and seeds such as pistachios, cashews, and pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup dried cranberries, raising or chopped dried fruit of your choosing

1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with a parchment paper rectangle that is 9 inches wide and slightly longer than the pan. The parchment should fit on the bottom and extend up the two short sides of the pan. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

2. Spread the chocolate evenly over the bottom of the lined baking pan and bake for 3 minutes, or until the chocolate melts. Remove from the oven, and use a small offset spatula to spread it in a thin layer over the bottom of the pan. Cool for 5 minutes. Freeze for 10 minutes, or until firm. Remove from the freezer.

3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix the maple syrup, oil, vanilla and salt. Add the nuts and stir to coat them. Spread them on the parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the nuts are browned and fragrant. Remove them from the oven and cool for 2 minutes.

4. Sprinkle the warm nuts and the dried fruit evenly over the chocolate. Place the parchment sheet you used for the nuts on top of the bars and press firmly with your hands to embed them into the chocolate. The chocolate will start melting from the heat of the nuts. (If it does not, return the pan to the oven for 1 minute.) Freeze for 10 minutes, or until the chocolate hardens.

5. Using the parchment paper ends as handles, lift the chocolate out of the baking pan in one piece and place it on a cutting board with the short side parallel to the edge of the board. Use a sharp, heavy knife to cut the chocolate in half lengthwise. Make 1-inch cuts across the halves to make a total of 18 bars. Store in a cool place in an airtight tin between layers of waxed paper.

Posted on February 13, 2017 .