Tag Archives: marthas vineyard


vacation tales, tender fishcakes and german chocolate cake

CalmDayWe slipped away for a week on Martha’s Vineyard,  and it feels so long ago now that this is more memoir than blog post.

VineyardRosesWhile it might sound like a busman’s holiday, I always make our meals when we’re on a beach vacation. I plan for it, packing a few key things to make cooking easier and more delicious. Because we’re driving, these few things take up very little room.

A cast iron pan
A baking sheet and a few sheets of parchment paper
A couple of zip top bags, large and small
A chef’s knife
A paring knife
Good finishing salt
Pepper grinder
Excellent olive oil
One lovely vinegar
A big jar of granola
Some sort of hot sauce
A good sized hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano
Coffee and a French press
Simple syrup 

CaptNortonHouseThis time, having planned some meals ahead, and intending to make a birthday dinner,  I included in the cooler 1 pound of homemade Mexican chorizo, some homemade butter and a few wedges of nice cheese. For the birthday cake, I packed organic flaked coconut and bittersweet (baking) chocolate.

Naturally, when we go somewhere for a week, I grab a few jars – crushed tomatoes for pasta, pizza or shakshushka. A jar of jam has a place on breakfast toast, pb&j’s, pan sauce, barbeque glaze and a cocktail. Pickles fit beachy eating, so there is always a jar of something salty.  Pickle relish is great on a hot dog and when mixed with mayo makes tartar sauce. A quart of chicken stock, just because. 

GreenIslandFarmWith those provisions in place, and access to a fish market, farm stand (we stopped to visit Susie Middleton at Green Island Farm for wonderful fresh eggs, kale, lettuce and a walk around the pretty property), a basic grocery store and  a source for liquor/wine, here’s some of how we eat while  on my favorite island.

Breakfast is simple. Granola and yogurt. Bread for toast. Farm eggs.  I usually make my blueberry corn cake at some point. It’s a tradition.

TheBiteLunch is a scavenging affair. While Dennis is happy with leftovers or a wrap of some sort, I go foraging for lunch at Edgartown Seafood grabbing their very generous lobster roll or a dozen steamers.  You can bet I savored a brown bag filled with fried belly clams from The Bite. That moment, the hot salty clam, the smell of the ocean, the blue blue sky – that is my heaven.

Most dinners start at Edgartown Seafood. We depend on this pristine, well stocked shop for local cod, fluke, bluefish. Sometimes there is tuna or swordfish that’s line caught. The lobsters are hard shelled and properly steamed then tucked in a foil lined bag ready to take home and devour.

One night, I was inspired to jazz up Pasta Seca, that delicious Mexican pasta dish from Pati Jinich, adding seared scallops to the spicy chorizo. It was delicious and I plan to do that again and again.

It was Katrin’s birthday, so I made her favorite rack of lamb, the meaty chops from Edgartown Meat & Fish, the perfect half rack trimmed from the full rack by their butcher. I’m always happy to see a butcher. (Dennis had cod.)

GermanChocolateCakeAnd, as seems to have become a tradition for birthdays spent in Edgartown,  I baked a German Chocolate Cake. The classic one. I recommend you do the same. In truth, there is nothing fancy about this cake and because the three cake pans in the Edgartown kitchen are different sizes, not perfect. I’ll tell you a little secret. Even if it’s a homely cake it will be delicious.

BackoftheBoatAt last, the weather broke and Tamar and Kevin brought their fishing boat across Vineyard Sound from their home on Cape Cod. I met them at the boat and we had a wonderful day fishing, catching, releasing and catching again, keeping just enough fluke for dinner. Glorious to see the island from the water.  (Yes, I did barf twice. I consider it a badge of honor.)

OystersThat night we ate so many oysters (Kevin and Tamar have an oyster farm.) These were the freshest oysters ever! So delicious. Tamar has some serious fileting skills and she prepped beautiful fluke for our fish fry. I made roasted potatoes, always welcome. We four spent the next day on dry land enjoying the island.

FlukeFiletWe were leaving the next day, so I cobbled together a dinner with what was left in the house. As it turned out, the Tender Fishcakes were sensational and so delicious, we ate them all before a photo could be snapped.

Two recipes today. To make up for being so absent.


Tender Fishcakes
Serves 4

18 Club crackers or similar butter cracker (Social Something from TJ)
6-8 fluke or flounder filets, about 1-1/2 pounds
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 egg or 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1/3 to 1/2 cup heavy cream or creme fraiche
1/4 cup chopped chives
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup grapeseed or canola oil

Heat the oven to 350°F. Break up the crackers and blitz them in the blender or food processor until crumbly. Place the filets in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush the fish with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until just done, about 9 minutes.

Flake the fish into a medium bowl. Add the cracker crumbs, the egg or mayonnaise and add the cream until just moistened. Add the chives. Stir together very gently with a fork. Taste and correct for salt and pepper.

Spread the flour out on a small plate. Add the oil to a heavy sauté pan and heat until smoking. Using an ice cream scoop, measure out the fish, placing the scoop in the flour. Lift, gently form a cake, and flour the other side. Drop into the hot oil and cook until brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Place cooked fishcakes on the baking sheet and keep the cakes warm in a low oven until ready to serve.

Serve with tartar sauce and wedges of lemon. Plan on two or three cakes per person. Leftover cakes can be reheated and topped with an egg for breakfast.

German Chocolate Cake

Classic Kraft recipe fiddled with a bit
Serves 16 pieces because it’s very rich
(Pro-tip: freeze slices wrapped in plastic and then in foil. Thaw as needed.)

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate*
1/2 cup water
4 large eggs, separated
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk

Butter the bottom and sides of three 9-inch round cake pans, line with parchment and butter the parchment.

Melt the chocolate and water in a bowl set over a small saucepan of boiling water. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted.

In the bowl of the stand mixer or with a hand mixer (or by hand God bless you) whip the egg whites until stiff. Scoop into another bowl, wipe out the bowl and set back on the mixer.

Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about five minutes at high speed. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating each until fully incorporated. Scrape the chocolate mixture into the bowl, add the vanilla, and beat until smooth.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add one-third of the flour mixture to the batter, stir together at the lowest speed on the mixer until combined. Alternate adding the buttermilk and the remaining flour mixture and stirring at the lowest speed just until there are no streaks remaining in the batter. Fold in the egg whites until there are no streaks remaining.

Divide the batter evenly between the three pans. Bake until a straw comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool five minutes.

(HERE IS A VERY COOL TIP STRAIGHT FROM THE TOUGH COOKIE GAIL DOSIK) Turn the hot cake rounds out of the pans as soon as possible. Using a serrated bread knife, cut away the dome on the top of the cake, making a flat surface. This will keep your layers stacked up straight and tall. Wrap each layer airtight in plastic wrap while still warm, then wrap in foil. Repeat with the remaining two layers. Freeze the layers for at least three hours, preferably overnight. Remove from the freezer and place in the refrigerator a few hours before finishing and frosting. This makes the cake especially moist and manageable.

For the Pecan-Coconut frosting

1-1/2 cups pecans, chopped
4 egg yolks
12 ounces evaporated milk
1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
7 ounces flaked coconut (not toasted)

Toast the pecans in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 7 minutes.

Whisk egg yolks, milk and vanilla in a 3 quart saucepan. Add the sugar and butter and turn the heat to medium. Bring to a rousing boil and cook until thick and golden brown, about 12 minutes.

Stir in the coconut and pecans. Cool before frosting the cake.

To finish, remove the layers from the freezer. Spoon about one third of the frosting on each cold layer, not on the sides of the cake. (The frosting is so rich and so heavy it won’t stay on that vertical plane. It will slide down the cake. Trust me.)

I like to chill the cake for about an hour to set the frosting. 






We took Louie on his birthday trip. (He shares a birthday with Dennis.)

The three of us in a packed car, the bike on top, drove to Martha’s Vineyard. We visited my friend Katrin’s ancient cottage, built in 1680, where I have had many meaningful times in our multi-decade friendship. This is not a photo of her cottage (below.)

Dennis has been there a few times, too, but not for two years, when we escaped during our renovation, when Louie was a brand new member of the family.

We walked in Oak Bluffs among the cottages.

We wandered to the Edgartown Lighthouse.

We walked barefoot on Katama Beach where Louie chased sticks and dug up clamshells. It was a good time away.

For Dennis’ birthday, I made a giant brown butter pastry pop tart, inspired by Abby Dodge’s #BakeTogether for September. I just have to share the gorgeous pastry and this easy project. It’s the easiest thing in the world if you happen to have spiced apples on the shelf (if you don’t, and want to, now is the perfect time to can a few pints. Here’s the recipe link.)

Abby’s brown butter pastry is fantastic and caramel-y and rich. With the all-ready apple filling in a jar, carried up to MV, I knew I could get this pastry on the table. Finding some large crystal sanding sugar on Katrin’s shelf? That was a bonus.

Now we’re home and I’m a little under the weather (my sinus infection married my allergies) but there is still so much preserving to do before the season is over. I decided to make my life easier. I bought myself a new toy.

Meet my steam juicer. This is the way it works.

Get a box of grapes.

Pile in the washed fruit, stem and seeds and all.

Put water in the bottom portion. About 5″ deep, 2/3rds full. Get it boiling, then turn down the heat to medium high.

When the steam comes through the fruit, start your clock. It takes between 45 and 60 minutes of serious steaming to suck the life out of  grapes, leaving skins, stems and seeds behind.

Eight quarts of grapes makes one gallon of very concentrated juice.

Stream the juice into jars via genius tube that runs from middle (juice collecting) section. This requires a lunatic set up to get the jars at the right height. (Any of you experienced juicers have a hint about set up? This is crazy and kinda Rube Goldberg, right?)

Process in a waterbath 15 minutes.

Voila. I am in love. I’m sure I’ll work out the kinks.

Apple juice. Pear juice. Cranberry juice. Try and stop me.


charcutepalooza december challenge. showing off.

This is it. The last challenge. It’s time to show us what you’ve learned. You’ve had a year of experimenting and practice. You’ve had the benefit of this exceptionally creative and daring Charcutepalooza community. And ‘tis the season.

What better reason to gather your friends and family than a celebration of all things charcuterie? It’s exciting to serve up these homemade lovelies. No reason not to crow a little. You’ve earned it.

Cassoulet is a natural. Choucroute garnie, as well. Perhaps Schweinshaxe? Or a long simmered Italian “Sunday Gravy?” A tapas offering? What about dim sum? We’ve looked cross culturally for so much of the year, the possibilities seem endless with a little internet research and a dollop of imagination.

Create a menu, a meal, a dish, a platter. We challenge you to create a celebration.

Use at least three items (Apprentice Challenge) or four items (Charcutiere Challenge) from the following list.

•Smoke, cure, or brine a whole cut of meat, poultry or fish (for instance, ham, duck proscuitto, roulades, pastrami, smoked salmon)
•Dried, cured sausage (for instance, soppresata, saucisson sec, salami, landjager, chorizo)
•Pork belly, any preparation (for instance, bacon, pancetta, ventreche, red cooked, braised)
•Sausage (for instance, bulk, in casings, smoked, emulsified)
•Pate, terrine, or mousseline, en croute, if you wish
•Rillettes or confit

Your deadline is December 6, 2011. Yes, this is different than the date first announced, for a very good reason – the details are revealed at the end of this post.

Good luck and have fun. We can’t wait to see what you do.

It’s just a fancy name for franks and beans.

I love my friend Katrin. She has been my BFF for many many years. She’s witty and warm, with a huge heart. Her Martha’s Vineyard home, circa 1680, the second oldest home on the island, sports low hanging doorways and wonky windows. This wonderland has been the site for a gathering of ‘girls’ for the last fourteen years. Some years there are over a dozen of us, and some years, it’s just six. But every year, this weekend recharges my spirit.

So when I set about planning the final challenge for this extraordinary Year of Meat, Martha’s Vineyard seemed the perfect spot. I wanted to share a Camont recipe for cassoulet and all the new knowledge from Girls Meat Camp with these dear friends. Katrin’s response? “Cassoulet? I’m not a fan. It’s just a fancy name for franks and beans.” I was determined to change her mind.

Start with the Best

To prepare, I engaged in some crazy suitcase packing, again. Noix de jambon, rillettes, fresh saucisse de Toulouse, ventreche and couenne snuggled in next to garlic, thyme from the garden, and some kitchen tools. I secured it all in ziplock bags, and tucked the bags in between my clothes. Hello, TSA!

Our friends at D’Artagnan had everything, shipping the remainder of what was needed for the perfect cassoulet, duck legs and duck fat, and a real treat – prunes stuffed with foie. (They’re called French Kisses. Rhapsodically good.)

D’Artagnan also carries the official bean of cassoulet – the Tarbais. This bean is like no other, and sports a great back story. It cooks perfectly, with some beans shedding their skins and softening to create a thick backdrop for the meats, and other beans magically remaining whole, but meltingly tender. A perfect texture for cassoulet.

(I also ordered a good sized roasting chicken, air chilled. This bird was delicious and chicken-y. I stuffed D’Artagnan’s outrageous truffle butter under the skin of the breast and legs, then served it with duck fat roasted potatoes and green beans.)

Take note. This month, for our last Charcutepalooza challenge, D’Artagnan will offer a remarkable discount on their entire product line. Watch your email for the code. You must call to get this discount, and talk to the sales reps. They are so knowledgable and will steer you in the right direction every single time. It’s a rare opportunity for this access – imagine, game birds, wild mushrooms, every cut of pork and lamb, wagyu beef and foie gras.

Constructing the Cassoulet

The beauty of cooking something like cassoulet is the minimal hands on time.

Soak the beans the night before. Sauté the ventreche and couenne, and the aromatics, then cook the beans for an hour or so in plenty of water. Just do this in the morning while the rest of the household wanders in and out of the kitchen for coffee and bagels imported from Brooklyn.

There was more than enough time for a walk through Edgartown, unearthing a new charcuterie shop as well as the divine baker, Rickard’s.

In mid afternoon, with the help of one able assistant (thank you, Jessie!) we added the browned duck confit and rope of saucisse de Toulouse. This concoction cooked for three plus hours. Occasionally, I would reach into the oven and stir everything around a bit. It was dinner time when a nice crust had formed on the top and the smells were so intoxicating we simply had to dig in.

I was a little sad that I couldn’t bring the traditional cassoulet pot Kate gave me, but the suitcase was already absurd. In the Vineyard kitchen, we unearthed an enameled cast iron dutch oven from the back of a kitchen cabinet and it was perfect.

The divine recipe and some tips from Kate:

The couenne, or rolled, tied, pork skin, adds a silky, delicious feel to the simmering beans. Add it with the ventreche, at the start.

Later, when adding the meat, untie and unroll the couenne, dice it the same size as the beans, and add it to the pot. These little pieces of goodness will rise to the surface and add a crispy je-ne-sais-quoi to the cassoulet crust.

The ventreche, carrots, and onions should be diced the same size as the beans.

Cook the beans in a full two quarts of water per pound. Don’t panic if there is a lot of liquid left when the beans are soft. Just add the browned meats and sausages and get the mixture simmering and hot. It will all work out.

Cook the cassoulet in a 325° oven, uncovered, and make sure it keeps the simmer. The cassoulet will develop a rich brown crust in good time. Be patient.

Serve with a very acidic, crunchy salad and a rough, earthy red wine.

Celebrating Charcutepalooza

While waiting for the cassoulet to finish, we enjoyed bourbon manhattans and a charcuterie board of jambon de Camont, pork rillettes, duck rillettes, cornichons and pickled asparagus. It should come as no surprise that we watched Bridesmaids.

And oh, it was a marvelous cassoulet, with duck confit, saucisse de Toulouse, ventreche, couenne and Tarbais beans. As authentic as it could be, from this side of the pond. Kate, I hope you approve!

Cassoulet is a food made for celebrations, and sharing it with good friends feels like a great big hug.

Charcutepalooza, Food52 and The Grand Prize

The Grand Prize will be awarded in just a few weeks. Kate Hill, Trufflepig, and The Antiques Diva have been dreaming up amazing fun for our lucky winner.

The dates are now firm – the winner will fly to Paris on March 2nd and fly back on March 10th, 2011.

There will be one night of fun in Paris, then off you go on a fast train to Agen, the Lot-et-Garonne town near Kate’s Camont.

You’ll spend four days in Gascony experiencing charcuterie at the source, then you’ll hop back on the train to Paris, where you’ll have an afternoon to explore the city. Friday, March 9th will be packed with fun: start your Paris day with a visit to the historic Ham Market with The Antiques Diva and then wrap it all up at Friday night’s blogger cocktail party. A true Charcute-folie!

Eligibility and Entries

We’re beyond thrilled that FOOD52 has agreed to host the Charcutepalooza final competition. Watch the FOOD52 site for details about the Charcutepalooza contest that will close up the year. That’s right, from December 29th and ending January 4th, 2012, the two finalist’s entries will be featured on FOOD52. Are you ready for your close up?

For now, this is a good time to review the eligibility requirements for your entry, and to begin to gather your thoughts.

We’ll be looking for quality writing, beautiful photography, and an original recipe, so scan your posts for the best example(s) of your charcuterie skills.

Your entry, due no later than Midnight EST, December 6th, 2011, must include

•your name, blog URL and email address
•a profile photo (jpg format)
•50 words describing your Charcutepalooza experience
•links to the 12 Charcutepalooza monthly challenge posts on your blog
•links to no more than two of your Charcutepalooza blog posts that you wish to nominate for the grand prize competition

Send this information in an email to Charcutepalooza at gmail dot com by 12/6/2011.

Kim and I will review all the entries. It’s up to us to whittle them down to the best six and we already know it will be tough – you all are so awesome.

The semifinalists’ posts will be forwarded to the judges, who will whittle the six down to two. The two finalists’ blog posts will be presented on FOOD52, where the community’s vote will decide the winner.

It’s all very exciting. And it’s coming right up.


Waste Not: Cider Doughnut Bread Pudding

Spending a four day weekend on Marthas Vineyard, off the coast of Massachusetts, is always delightful. On a sparkling cool and beautiful October weekend, surrounded by your best friends, it’s nearly perfect.

A glorious weekend. Great food. Great friends. Great times.

I always am the one who does the cooking, and somehow I know you won’t be surprised to hear that. And while this past weekend had many culinary high points (boudin blanc, chicken and dumplings, spaghetti carbonara), the one dish I’m not likely to forget soon was made on a whim, simply because I hate waste.

Cider doughnuts are a New England fall staple. In my memory, they’re served on a chilly morning, as you set off to pick apples at an orchard or decide on your Halloween Jack-O-Lantern at a pumpkin patch. There’s really nothing like them, and they’re best warm. And exceptionally fresh.

And that’s where the problem started. You see, we went to a farm stand to pick up produce for the weekend, and there was a bag of six cider doughnuts. They weren’t warm. They were packaged up. But there was nothing I could do to ignore that siren call.

Of course, I immediately regretted the purchase. Dry and stale. But the flavor was there and it was good. The next day, with a few basic staples, I pulled together this delicious dessert.

The next time I see stale cider doughnuts, I expect I’ll pick up two bags, because this was delicious and we all could have eaten a second helping.