Monday, December 7, 2015

2015 Gift Guide, Holiday Foods with Sweet Paul Magazine, Where Women Cook, and The New York Times

This year's gift guide is streamlined. Just the essentials. I curated these objects with the idea you could use them on a daily basis.  Nothing better than living a truly functional and beautiful day-to-day life.  

I'm still on the ceramics kick that seized me a year ago, but what has really come to the foreground is the human, animal, and earth issues which need us more than ever. If any of these appeal to you, they are certainly worthy of your help. 

1. Farm Sanctuary - factory farming is a terrible fate for any animal. What they experience in industrial "farms" is actually torture and imprisonment. Their treatment is so despicable, I stopped supporting that industry as soon as I learned what the animals endured. The Farm Sanctuary rescues these animals and gives them an opportunity to live out their days in beautiful pastures and meadows, as Nature would have intended. You can adopt an animal, make a visit to volunteer, or donate to their general operations - lots of ways to give!

2. Marité Acosta ceramics - this potter makes delicate, organic pieces. No two are alike. Marité often includes little details of spontaneous gesture in her glazes and textures. Her work is a regular favorite in my stories.  

3. March carafe and glass set - I discovered March while on the hunt for props for a shoot a while ago. I love their unfussy and timeless designs. This handblown duo says "drink!" What you fill it with is up to you… ;)

4. Food52 coddlers - I make and store sauces in these, as well as bake eggs to custardy perfection. This coddler design is one of those which has stood the test of time - since the Bauhaus, in fact. Smart, functional, great.

5. Sea Legacy - Sea Legacy uses incredible imagery to awaken us to the urgent calls of climate change. These astounding images, used with conservation and science, can help hold off further destruction if we participate. The oceans are one of the first places to measure what has and what will continue to transpire: disappearing sea ice. Flooding of low-lying coastal areas. More frequent super storms. Less than 2% of the oceans are currently protected. Preservationist and photographer  Paul Nicklen is the founder of Sea Legacy, and renowned contributors such as Cristina Mittermeier, Brian Skerry, and David Doubilet visit the farthest and remote areas to document climate-caused change in hopes it will trigger us all to act. Be a part of the growing numbers of people who say "We must change. We must all live differently in the hope to share a livable future."

6. Doctors Without Borders (Medecins San Frontiers) - Heeding the call for urgent care in war and disaster zones, Doctors Without Borders work in austere circumstances to save the lives of people too remote or poor to receive the life-saving care they need. The recent bombing of their facility in Kunduz is just one more reason to offer your support to these incredible and hard-working people who give their lives to help others.

7. Jessie Lazar ceramics - A NY native, Jessie's hand thrown pieces are easy to love. Her work is bright, functional, and pleasing to hold…I keep her pour spouted bowl nearby for making pesto and sauce, and I even use it as a bowl to eat soup. You'll definitely want to make these vessels central in your life. 

8. Jord watches - I was a watch-lover a long time ago and opted against wearing a timepiece for the last 20 years or so. I liked being left with more wrist space to accessorize with treasured family heirlooms and jewelry pieces I’d made in my days as a metalsmith…However, the stunning appearance of Jord’s modern, handcrafted watches brought me back. I love their designs. Each showcases a different richly-hued wood that, over its life, gets conditioned with your specific skin chemistry. Jord also makes a lifestyle statement in bringing us back to the physical object, and places an importance on craftsmanship with their precision Swiss movement. As an added bonus, they custom sizing for your own wrist so that when you receive your new piece, it's ready to wear! It’s easy to fall in love with both men’s and women’s lines - see for yourself.

9. Dwell Design totem candles - These made in the USA candles are iconic and yet super simple. I love that they are made from natural beeswax - both for their hue as well as their scent. I've become more sensitive to the blaring notes of synthetic fragrances over the years, and the earthy scent of beeswax is subtle and inviting. Plus, they enhance any space: whether lit, or simply as sculptural forms. 

10. Colleen Hennessy ceramics at Quitokeeto - I discovered Colleen's work a while back through a Quitokeeto shop update and have been in love since. Simple forms, clean lines, easy care It is fun weaving her work in with others' whom I treasure. I especially like finding the similarities which make them all a "family" of pieces as I produce new stories for my clients, or eat from them after a long day's work. 

Before the full throttle of the holidays sets in, we strolled around our neighborhood this weekend, soaking in the brisk day and warming sun. Photo by sweet husband and fellow photographer, Jim.

Whatever your tendencies as the year winds down, I hope there is something special here for you and your loved ones. The individual makers - as well as the animals, and the Earth - thank you.


Out now, I produced a new and delicious story in the Holiday issue of Sweet Paul Magazine. It started with an interest to produce Julia Child's beef bourguignon and grew into a heady mix of savory layers, to be displayed upon antique books and objects I collected over the years. In addition to the delectable beef bourguignon,  I made a fantastic crispy skin porchetta (tied before cooking into a bundle, below), as well as juniper-encrusted venison backstrap with a dried cherry-green peppercorn beurre rouge, an umami ragu with fennel, anchovies, and nutmeg, and cornish hens roasted with tiny onions and lemons. 

You can see the full story by purchasing the PDF version, here

And, just before our over-the-top-epic long distance move (thankfully, now behind us!), I produced eight stories in the lead-up to Thanksgiving for the New York Times: two turkeys, three stuffings, and a creamed spinach! NBD.

I can assure you each and every one was quite edible, worthy of any special meal. 

This terrific bone-in turkey breast

Simple and great cornbread

Pierre Franey's creamed spinach (I doubled the nutmeg and loved it)

An intoxicating, buttery dressing

Perfect way to use that cornbread? In this delicious stuffing...

Cranberry jelly with Lillet and juniper berries

Juicy spatchcock turkey from Mark Bittman

Sourdough morel stuffing with dried cherries and walnuts
Perhaps one of these will make an appearance on your Christmas menu!

The winter 2016 Where Women Cook contains the first of a new column I am producing.  It is called Creating from the Bounty. To soothe and nourish you, I made a savory winter strata - it's an excellent holiday brunch to serve guests, and versatile enough to make for a simple weeknight dinner.

I also produced a feature with Kristen Farmer Hall, of Birmingham's Baking Bandits. It was so much fun to showcase her pastries and highlight another woman doing it right. 

Here's to making quality time, even if a few moments at a time, to slow down and be with the ones we cherish. Our challenge seems more than ever to allow the holidays to actually replenish our spirits. Doing it, though, makes all the difference. Thanks for your love and support! xxx

Friday, October 23, 2015

Brown Butter Rosemary Apple Pie at Anthology and Some Big News!

I've made a pie for my Anthology column today. Worth all the pieces of its meditative effort. An excellent crust for people who love both flaky dough and a little chew, the sugared shingled layers do the trick. It's so good.

Another swooner: brown butter adds nutty depth to go with the spiced flavors imparted by the likes of rosemary, nutmeg, and cinnamon. It was a stroke of genius to put these together for this pie. Click here for the full story and recipe, out now.

With very little added sugar in this recipe, I'd say this pie could easily double for breakfast. Yes, I just said pie for breakfast. And with a dollop of creme fraiche, it's even better. Try it and see for yourself...

This time is busier than ever for me. I move next week, long distance, back north. It's a long story, but my sweetheart and I lived apart for nearly a year as we navigated new developments in our careers. This move represents us reuniting. We cannot wait. Our home is entirely in transition and the movers come this weekend. 

In other news, I am making a cookbook!! It will be filled with fantastic recipes and gorgeous images, and all kinds of tips and tricks for success. I am thrilled about this project. Producing a cookbook is something I've been considering - and then trying to plan for - for a while now. That is all I will share for the moment, as I must return to dusting, consolidating, and packing. But oh what good things await, around every corner!

Have a beautiful weekend. Enjoy the crisp days of fall. Eat this pie and share it with friends. Thanks so much for being here for the journey.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Maine New Shell Lobster Tour

I received an invitation for a Maine lobster tour. How could I say no? Gratefully, we were blessed with pristine weather the whole time.

herring, which serve as bait in lobster traps

magic hour lobster boat experience

new arrivals at the Clam Shack, these lobsters will be cooked for lobster rolls and whole lobster meals

fried clams, scallops, and haddock on the back deck at the Clam Shack

their unique lobster rolls include claw, knuckle, and tail meat, and a smear of both mayo and butter

tasting at Oxbow brewery - a delicious and pastoral experience
Oxbow brewery beehives
A couple weeks ago, I was invited by Lobster from Maine to get better acquainted with Maine's lobster industry. I had no clue about a lot of things, including what distinguishes "new shell" lobster from just lobster.

This trip was highly educational. I left with new understandings about the treat that "new shell" lobster specifically is, and the rigorous measures implemented to ensure the lobster population remains healthy and prolific.

Lobsters outgrow their shells mid- to late-summer, shedding them for new ones. These new shells are much softer as they re-calcify, and lobster meat during this time is sweeter and more tender. Bonus, you won't need as many tools to properly enjoy a delicious lobster meal.  One way to identify new shells: they are redder in hue than hard shell lobsters, which are a deeper brown, with flesh that is more briny.

I was part of a guided tour of the MSC certified processing facility which handles lobster for all of the Luke's Lobster locations. Here we saw the machinery, as well as the man - and woman! - power required to dispatch, shuck, and process 35,000 pounds of lobster per day.

The rate at which the people work, shucking knuckles and claw meat in front of various bins lined up on long steel tables, in a (very!) chilled room, was astounding. Their speed and deftness was the work of millions of minutes fine-tuning this highly specific process. Which makes sense since they are paid by the volume they deliver each day.

The sprawling machinery throughout the plant was equally amazing. Some machines instantaneously froze uncooked lobster to ship, some which cooked the lobster, timed at graduated temperatures to retain maximum flavor and tenderness. Even the sanitary measures taken to keep quality standards at their best were rigorous…. We went through four rounds of gloves/booties/hairnets/hand sanitizing/etc just to enter! It really was an incredible experience. Thanks Mike, for your hospitality and thoroughness.

From there, we were shuttled to the famous Clam Shack for their unique take on lobster rolls and tasty local beer, as well as a selection of their house specialty, the crunchy-juicy fried scallops, clams, and haddock.

Stools at the Clam Shack, painted the buoy colors of their prized lobstermen

Steve educating the group on what he looks for in fresh lobster

Did you know the length of a lobster's antennae reveal how fresh a lobster is? Lobster don't like each other (one reason why their claws are banded once captured) and will clip or chew each others' antennae once in captivity. The longer a lobster has been in a holding tank, the less likely they will have their full antennae, which should be almost as long as their bodies.

And, did you know that lobsters are left- or right-handed, and their dominant claw is the larger one? This is also referred to as the "crusher" claw, while their non dominant claw is the "pincher" or "shredder." Being pinched by the crusher claw can feel like having your finger broken, delivering up to 100 lbs of pressure. Yikes.

Boiling or steaming lobster in seawater is considered the best cooking method
I loved this stone-filled pail, which served as the counterweight to the trap-door style steamer lid

our crew knows how to feast...
We could have lazed about all afternoon after this meal, but our drivers had a lobster boat outing next on the list

filling the bait bags

flocks of seagulls kept us company, diving for leftover bait tossed overboard 

Kelly Rizzo of Eat Travel Rock hamming it up
author Rowan Jacobsen striking a pose

Here's the scoop on sustainability: all Maine lobstermen use this tool to measure the lobster carapace. Any lobster smaller or larger than 3.25-5 inches gets released to continue populating. That's more than two-thirds of the lobsters brought from the traps on our brief ride out. In addition, any "berried" females trapped - those bearing eggs - get a notch made in their tail to denote "not to be caught" and are also released.

How can you tell the difference between male and female lobsters? In the below photo, the more delicate swimmerets (mid-body and down) on the right lobster denote female. This is also the region where females store their eggs. See photo following….

On the next day our crew of chefs, authors, bloggers, and journalists took a drive to the pastoral oasis that is Oxbow Brewery.

the resident cat, who by all accounts made everyone fall in love with him as he enthusiastically rolled around….

the brewery gardens include many berry varietals, which they often incorporate into their ferments

the honey harvest is also incorporated into some of the beers

the practice at Oxbow is to do it well, which often means slow

we sampled a smoky and terrific barrel-aged oktoberfest

brewer Mike Fava obliging sustainable fish advocate Michael-Anne Rowe for the camera

an al fresco lunch and beer included many tastes - even their special Dell'Aragosta, a beer made using lobster (it was amazing!)

at brief stop at a lobster dealer on the harbor, I captured the load-in of bait

we went for a private tour of the Maine State aquarium and witnessed some extremely unusual lobsters - this split color lobster is extremely rare, they say one in 50 million

this lobster has just molted - its shell was just a thin membrane
albino lobsters are the most rare of all - one in every 100 million!

cobalt lobsters are gorgeous, a one in a million occurrence and the result of proliferation of a special protein…this one was just brought in by a lobsterman and will now be part of the educational program at the aquarium

Our last stop was a lobster-chef food competition - 19 different creations for everyone to judge

The Boothbay Harbor Claw Down has sold out every year 

I came, I ate, and I was wowed. One thing I couldn't help but wonder was how climate change is affecting this industry. They, like many industries, communities, and ecosystems, are no doubt being impacted. It is a very tricky subject to navigate with enough merchants of doubt planting non-truths throughout media to complicate the discussion, and no easy answers.

I did learn that during some recent seasons, lobstermen have to travel into deeper waters to find the same volume of lobsters as in previous years. Time will tell if their sustainability practices are enough to maintain healthy stocks - of lobsters, and of the fish on which lobsters sustain themselves.

Forage fish such as herring which commonly serve as bait to trap lobsters are often fished by means of trawling. This disruptive practice essentially rakes the ocean floor and destroys much life along the way. It isn't the only practice, but trawling inflicts exponential damage to an increasingly fragile marine ecosystem, and will have to change in order to keep the health of the ocean intact.

Right now, the ocean is currently overfished 25-35% worldwide and we are experiencing vanishing fish populations in large areas off many shores. This human-caused impact adds another layer to the climate change issue already in play. How can the Maine lobster industry keep its sustainable edge as other ocean populations face strain?

Since it is all one ecosystem, it appears we must address the ocean as a whole. Not easy, I know, and it certainly doesn't help matters that industry standards vary so widely from one fishery to the next. This is an essential consideration as we continue to consume, given that we want to make informed choices.

I hope Maine lobster thrives and that their diligent practices are used as a model for the greater fishing industry, so that our oceans can return to a healthier place.  It will take public pressure in order to do that.

to slow down before the return back home, I took a day out on the coast and soaked in nature 

low tide wandering the rocks

still perfect weather

I hope this collection inspires you as much as it did me. 

Travel. See Maine. Sample delicious new shell lobster and see for yourself. Bring your best self and take it all in…

And then when you return home do something. It will take all of us.