Recipe: Braised Monkfish with Bacon and Tomatoes (modified)

5 01 2009

I made this recipe from my Williams Sonoma Fish cookbook, but changed it a bit.

Before you head to the recipe,  here are my modifications.

I used a handful of cherry tomatoes per person.  I used pancetta instead of bacon because that is what I had in the fridge.  You could also try to use proscuitto and crips it in the oil, just allow less time.  Oh and I didn’t have any basil so I just left it out.

Once the dish was done, I left a little of the sauce in the pan after plating our dinner and added


Shop Like a Chef: Fish

4 01 2009

When I shop for fish I have a couple things in mind when I head to the fish counter.  My requirements are:

  1. Must be fresh
  2. Must be local (we live on the coast for goodness sake)
  3. Must be under two digits a pound.
  4. Must be fish I like

Must be fresh

I am not a fan of frozen foods except peas and ice cream.  I really dislike fish that has been frozen.  I know some of it is practically frozen on the boat, my husband watchesDeadliest Catch,  but really deep-freeze frozen or previously frozen fish just doesn’t taste good or feel good on the palate.  Be sure to read the signs carefully, and if you have questions ask!  The fish mongers are usually more than happy to answer.  You can ask to see the piece of fish and go ahead smell it if you like.  Fish that is fresh has a clean scent not a “fishy” smell.

Must be local

When it comes to fish, it’s quite easy for us to be locavores.  We live near the ocean.  Of course, you can decide how far your locavore zone goes.  There was a great story by Mark Bittman about Monkfish in The New York Times last October tracking it’s ridiculous journey from Monkfish to Lotte.  We’re having local monkfish, purchased at Whole Foods Market tonight as well as mussels from Maine.

Must be under two digits a pound

There is a little refrain in our household that states, “We have to start buying cheaper fish.”  This goes back to a time when my husband and I had just started new jobs and the dot com market was dying a rapid death.  My husband wasn’t sure where his company stood.  I had always firmly believed in buying organic food and I refused to buy farmed fish having had several roommates from British Colombia who knew the fish farms quite well.  My husband wasn’t quite on board.  So one day he came home, glanced at the grocery bill and said, “We have to start buying cheaper fish.”  I refused to back down, if you know my family you understand, and pointed out that perhaps the many bicycles he owned and maintained and the cable bill are better things to cut back on than things we put in our body.  In any case, we kept our jobs, we kept the bikes and we do buy cheaper fish, we just don’t buy salmon that often, and we don’t buy farmed fish.

Mussels and baguette with salted butter make up one of my favourite cheap feasts.  You can get mussels from 3.69/ bag.  A baguette is a couple of dollars, and if you’re lucky you have a stick of local butter in the door of your refrigerator.

The monkfish just made it at $9.99 a pound.  I bought a little less than a pound for the two of us because it’s quite a hearty fish.

Must be a fish I like

I like a lot of seafood.  I really don’t like swordfish and I’m not a fan of fish that seem to have more bones than flesh.  I love flounder and any other delicate white fish.  I love trout and other lake fish, but those are hard to find at the store.  My dad used to take my brother and I fishing every summer in the Muskokas.  We would catch and eat Pike and I think rainbow trout as well.  To this day, it is the best fish I have eaten.  I really like salmon but I can live with just having it a couple times a year.  I love scallops and steamers.  I make clams every once in a while with pasta because my husband loves clam sauce.  As you can see, I’m not too picky when it comes to fish.  I even recently bought a whole fish (I think it was flounder) and had the fish monger fillet it for me.  I’m not ready to handle the entire thing alone even though, as I learned at dinner with one of my dad’s students, the cheeks are one of the best parts of the fish.

So if you want to shop for fish like a chef then be sure to have some things on hand at home:  leeks, onions, lemons, and perhaps some tomatoes or peppers, bacon or pancetta is good too.  Head to the store and see which fish looks fresh with the right price.  Ask a few questions if it’s new to you:  What does it taste like? How do I prepare it?  Then bring it home and look through your cookbooks while the kids do their homework or play or look it up online to find an easy preparation.  I’ll post my monkfish recipe soon.

Bon appetit. ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: Luxury for locavores (Boston Globe), 
Do We Really Need a Few Billion Locavores? (New York Times)

Crescent Ridge Dairy: Knocking on the Milk Door

3 01 2009

I’ve never been a milk drinker and we just were not brought up drinking milk.  That’s not to say that we are a “no dairy” family.  We have milk in the fridge that we use primarily for cereal, cooking, and coffee.

There was one time when I remember drinking milk.  When my family was staying in a te in France and across the way was a dairy farm.  My brother and I would cross the street with our milk jugs and bring home the milk straight from the farm.

Some of you may be old enough to remember seeing a milk door, but for those of you who haven’t seen one it’s a little door on the side of the house where milk was traditionally delivered.

In England, when I did a year of University in Lancaster, milk is still delivered.  You can get up early in the dorm and open your door and you’ll see little bottles of milk and occasionally orange juice lined up neatly in front of the doors of those who ordered milk.

If you are interested in having milk delivered you can: Milk door not required.  Crescent Ridge Dairy will deliver hormone-free milk.  They will also deliver a variety of other dairy products and groceries from coffee cake to ice melt.  Although their milk is not organic you can order Horizon’s organic milk for delivery.  The delivery areas are far and wide.

A votre santé. ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info:More milk doorsWestern MA delivery,From Dairy to Doorstep

Start the Year Off With a Little Help From “Your Friends”

30 12 2008

Perhaps you’re planning to organize your kitchen cabinets this year.  Maybe, you want to start your children’s scrapbooks this year.  You might be commiting yourself to a weekly workout at the gym with a personal trainer this year.  Whatever your plans are, you might need to take some time from somewhere to put it towards something new.

For a little help with this, maybe you can start getting some groceries delivered to your door.  I am starting off the new year with a nice bi-monthly delivery from Boston Organics.  This is a service we used when my daughter was quite young, but it didn’t quite have what we wanted.  Now that our CSA is done and Boston Organics has added more to their “menu” of delivery items, we’re excited to be back with them.  I can’t wait to open my first green box.  I wonder if my daughter will remember emptying them with me when she was only a year old.

I wrote about several delivery options in the past and here is a review of what those options are.  The only one that may not be useful until next spring is In Season (since we’re out of season at the moment).  I definitely recommend visiting the site and getting on their email list so you will have the details once they start up again.  So enjoy a little less time shopping for groceries and a little more time on something new.  Here are some of your options:

  1. Grocery Store Delivery
  2. Boston Organics
  3. In Season

Bon appetit.  ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

Here’s to having time for the new you in the new year!

2008 Year in Review: A Year of Seasonal Produce in New England

23 12 2008

It’s no secret that our growing season in the northeast is a short one.  New England has its last frost some time around the end of April by the coast and early June in the mountains and first frost can be any time from early September to the end of October.  This year many crops were hurt by some early ice storms.  Other crops did very well with the many days of rain early on in the season.

Here is a look at what a year’s worth of New England climate can give us for seasonal produce.  You will eat better and more “budget-friendly” if you eat seasonally.  Don’t let that stop you from an occasional indulgence in strawberries mid-winter.  We have a couple jars of freezer jam in the fridge from our fabulous crop of strawberries that grew early this summer.

I have linked some of the produce below to recipes for your enjoyment.


Vegetables: asparagus , beets , broccoli , cabbage , cauliflower , fiddleheads , garlic greens , greens , arugula , beet , bok choy , chard , collard , cress , dandelion , kale , mizuna , mustard greens , sorrel (the French make a great sorrel soup), tat soi , turnip , lettuce , mushrooms , parsnips , peas – snap and snow (the other favourite spring treat especially English peas) , radishes , rhubarb (one of my favourite spring treats) , spinach ,  sprouts

Fruit: apples , strawberries

Herbs: chives , cilantro , dill , marjoram , mint, oregano , parsley , sage , thyme


Vegetables: beets (Patricia Wells has a fabulous raw beet salad), broccoli , cabbage , carrots , cauliflower , celery , cucumbers , eggplant endive , fennel , garlic , green beans , kohlrabi (early in the season), lettuce , mushrooms , okra, onions – red and yellow , peppers – hot and sweet , potatoes – new , radicchio , scallions, sprouts , summer squash , sweet corn , tomatoes,tomatillos

Fruit: apricots (delish on puff pastry for a tart) ,blackberries , blueberries , cherries , currants , elderberries , gooseberries (great for jam), melons , nectarines , peaches , plums (also great for a puff pastry tart), raspberries

Herbs: basil , cilantro (also known as coriander), dill , marjoram , mint , parsley , rosemary , savory , tarragon


Vegetables: beets , broccoli , brussels sprouts , burdock (gobo) , cabbage , carrots* , cauliflower , celeriac , daikon*, fennel , garlic*, greens : arugula , bok choy , chard , collard , kale , mustard greens , mizuna, tat soi , and turnip , horseradish*, kohlrabi , leeks , lettuce , mushrooms , onions – red and yellow*, parsley , parsnips , potatoes*, pumpkins , radishes , rutabaga , scallions ., shallots*, sprouts , sweet potatoes ,  turnips , winter squash*

*This is the peak season for vegetables and fruit marked with a *, however they can be stored fairly long term in the proper conditions to be eaten throughout the seasons.

Fruit: apples* , apple cider*, Asian pears , cranberries , grapes , pears*, quince , raspberries

Seasonings: Hopefully you dried herbs from the spring and summer harvest to use for winter and fall.  You can also keep some herbs growing in a sunny window inside for a good part of the fall and winter.


Vegetables: beets, burdock (gobo), cabbage, carrots, celeriac, daikon1, garlic, horseradish, Jerusalem artichoke,, Early in the season:  kale, kohlrabi, and leeks, mushrooms, onions – red and yellow, parsnips, parsnips, potatoes, rutabagas, shallots, sprouts, sweet potatoes, turnips, winter squash

Fruit: apples*, apple cider*

Seasonings: Hopefully you dried herbs from the spring and summer harvest to use for winter and fall.  You can also keep some herbs growing in a sunny window inside for a good part of the fall and winter.

Recipes:  grilled seasonal vegetable pizzaoven roasted ratatouillealmond apricot tart,strawberry freezer jamrhubarb crisppotato gratin

For more info: The Northeast Regional Food Guide,Eating Seasonally

The Winter Pantry: Surviving a New England Winter

21 12 2008

I am not a weather junkie like my husband so I don’t usually plan for a snow storm or bad weather.  I try to check the weather periodically so my children are dressed properly for school/daycare, but even then I am not so consistent.  So what do I do to avoid dirty looks from my children’s teachers and my hungry family?  I keep well stocked cubbies, backpacks and pantries.

At school, my daughter has extra everything, clothes, hats, gloves, shoes and a pair of slippers.  That pretty much covers her.  I did learn this past week, however, that clothing has to be replenished since her mittens were wet and she had put them in a pocket of a different coat so one day her teachers had the great idea to put socks on her hands for recess (desparate times call for desparate measure).  I do the same for my son when he goes to family daycare.  I try to keep his backpack stocked with all the right gear for the worst possible weather rain, sun, sleet and snow.

To avoid dirty looks at home when the hibernating bears and cubs have rumbling tummies, I have a well-stocked pantry.  Given that this is our first snow storm and I didn’t check the weather, I have a relatively well-stocked pantry but it needs a bit more winterized.  The next time I go shopping I will be fully stocking my Winter pantry.  In my pantry, I have some of my  basic items that can get you through several meals in a pinch.  For me all the necessities are:

Starches & Grains
dried pasta of all shapes and sizes (usually chosen by the kids)
barley (or whatever grains you like to eat)
matzoh ball mix

Tomato Goods
tomato paste
crushed or diced tomatoes
pizza sauce
pasta sauce
sundried tomatoes

I am not a fan of canned vegetables but there are three that I like to have on hand.
artichoke hearts
hearts of palm
green chiles
In jars, I will also usually have:
marinated artichoke hearts
roasted red peppers

black beans
garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
kidney beans
cannellini beans
chili beans

(Any kind of beans are good, but definitely start with the top three beans and then add whatever other beans you like or would like to try.)

From the Sea
canned tuna
smoked oysters
canned salmon

(I know one should make one’s own broth, but I never have and I prefer to fake my own broth.  I buy the good tetra-pack broths preferably low in sodium and I saute some carrots and onions and add some herbs and pour the broth over it.  When I don’t have enough I refill the box with water and add it to my faux home-made stock)
free range chicken broth
no-chicken stock
vegetable stock

Seasonings & Mixes
onion soup mix
taco seasoning
falafel mix
salad dressing mixes (for marinades)
dried herbs & spices

The Snack Shelf
tortilla chips
water crackers (such as Carr’s)
family favourite crackers (Stoned Wheat Thins)
granola bars
fruit leather (such as fruitabü)
graham crackers

In the Fridge Long-Term
Vietnamese fish sauce
hoisin sauce
oils: canola, olive, peanut, sesame
soy sauce
worcestshire sauce

In the Fridge Less Long-Term
cheese (many cheeses if wrapped correctly will last a long while in the fridge)
sour cream (full fat or low fat)
corn tortillas
citrus: lemon, limes, grapefruit
milk (if you are a bit milk drinking family or you cook a lot with milk, you can buy UHT milk that has a pretty good shelf life in the pantry.  For your fridge though non-UHT milk is much better and tastier.)

In the Freezer
fresh ginger root
organic frozen vegetables: spinach, peas, green beans, corn
frozen garlic in mini ice cube trays
frozen leeks that I sauteed this summer from the farm
frozen puff pastry
frozen ground meat (beef, buffalo, chicken, turkey)

In the Root Cellar
(No, I don’t have one…but I wish I did.  I have a small basket with a lid that I bought at Pottery Barn that works fairly well as a mini root cellar.  Air can flow in and out while the roots are in the dark.)

In the Baking Cupboard
rolled oats
flour (whole wheat, unbleached white, gluten free)
baking soda
baking powder
kosher salt
chocolate chips
baking chocolate
cornmeal for baking
sugar: white, brown, dark brown

Ok, so now you have your pantry stocked.  What do you do with all of this?  I will try to write a weekly recipe that you can make straight from your pantry.  I usually work the other way from a recipe, to my grocery list, to my kitchen.  I find that if I have some ingredients in my pantry that I need to use because I can’t get out to go shopping or I don’t want to go out and buy groceries, then I just do a search or For example if I have frozen corn, some beans, and a can of chopped tomatoes then I will find this recipe:  Taco soup.  If you don’t have ground beef in the freezer just skip it.  If you’re stuck inside with the kids you can bake a loaf of bread or some cookies.  So for dinner you have soup, crackers or fresh-baked bread, some cheese from the fridge, cookies from the oven or the pantry for dessert.  If you are a fairly carnivorous family be sure to have frozen ground beef, buffalo or chicken in the freezer to round out the meal.

Bon courage.  ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: Teri’s PantryThe Well-Stocked Pantry(Mother Earth News),Tips for buying and keeping food in bulk (Martha Stewart), Martha Stewart’s Winter Pantry(includes recipes), Fresh Start for a New Year?  Let’s Begin in the Kitchen (Mark Bittman – NY Times)

Last Minute Gift Ideas: Forgot the Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick Maker

19 12 2008

I can say it is officially crunch time.  As we walk to the car around the puddles, there are little tiny ridges of crunchy white snowy ice.  School is having it’s all-school sing and pot-luck.  In a couple days the children will be home for the holidays whatever they may be in your home.  Some people have already started there travels and it sends off a domino effect of families hopping in trains, airplanes, cars, and bicycles traveling to a party somewhere.  Others are pulling their blankets up around them and staying put.

If you’re not a naturally gifted shopper or you’ve had a busy year then perhaps you’re not quite where you’d like to be on the shopping and/or making gift front.  Perhaps you forgot about your favourite librarian, the man who serves you coffee every day, the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker.  So here is a quick list of last minute gifts.

Get a gift certificate to a favourite restaurant.  Some suggestions might be:  Rialto, Chez Henri, Oleanna, the Blue Room, Ole, Craigie on Main, Upstairs on the Square, Small Plates, T. W. Food, EVOO, the Elephant Walk among many others.  If you want some guidance you can check out chowhound, ask someone at your favourite foodie market or store.  You may be able to get some great deals on restaurant gift certificates at  You don’t have to go to the restaurant, as mentioned in this thread on Chowhound, you can often call the restaurant and have the certificate mailed to you or to the recipient.

You can also get gift certificates to boutique foodie stores such as Formaggio Kitchen, Savenor’s, even local little stores.  Just make sure that it’s not a drag for the recipient to go to said store and that they actually would use the certificate otherwise it is not much of a gift.

If you’re feeling creative, you can put together a gift basket.  I purchased some baskets from China Fair this week and my daughter’s classmates all contributed something special to put in it store bought, home-made, hand-sewn and hand-written.  I think this would be a perfect gift from any group.  If you don’t feel like making your own, Wilson’s farm makes some great food baskets, as do Winston Flowers, and Pemberton Farms

Finally, for the chocolate lovers you can’t beat the offerings at local chocolaterie L.A. Burdick.

For more info:, Formaggio Kitchen
Petsi PiesWilson’s Farm ,  Winston FlowersSavenor’s MarketBakers’ BestFlour BakeryVicki Lee’s,
Verill FarmPemberton FarmsCardullo’s L.A. Burdick Chocolate