Gravlax with Rye Crackers & Honey Mustard Dill Sauce

Gravlax can be the centerpiece of any appetizer buffet served during the holiday season, or really any time you want to serve something special. I have scaled down the size of this recipe to make it more accessible. Many recipes start with a 7 to 10 pound fish—I find that’s a little more than I generally need. I used a fillet of wild caught Coho salmon weighing a little over a pound. It is more expensive than farm-raised salmon, but is worth every penny. Serve gravlax thinly sliced on crispy, homemade rye crackers and top with a spoonful of honey mustard sauce into which you have stirred some fresh dill. Continue reading

Shrimp Stuffed with Spinach and Mozzarella

These are some of my favorite foods all combined in one dish. Breaded shrimp coated with air-dried breadcrumbs sautéed till golden brown in olive oil, spinach blended with pancetta, garlic and onions, tomato sauce, all covered with melted mozzarella. Serve with creamy polenta. You can make this ahead of time. After friends arrive, just bake until warm and bubbly. Have one of your friends stir the polenta so you can take the night off. Continue reading

Grilled Salmon Fillets with Fresh Tarragon Sauce, Swiss Chard and Raisins

This fresh tarragon sauce includes the same flavoring agents as classic Béarnaise, but uses olive oil as the medium. In this case it serves as both the marinade and sauce. Fresh tarragon tastes of licorice and is a natural partner to the rich, gamey character of salmon. Serve this with rice or boiled potatoes tossed with butter and chopped parsley. Pour a young Viognier with its floral and fruity aromatics, or a plumy Pinot Noir if you prefer a red. A crisp pilsner is a nice brew to compliment the flavors from the grill. Continue reading

Stuffies: Quahogs with Linguica

Stuffed quahogs, otherwise known as stuffies in southern New England, are one of those “must have” treats when you visit the area. Many recipes include bacon and various seasonings, spicy versions include the addition of chorizo sausage and copious amounts of crushed red pepper. This recipe features the briny smack of the clams accented by the milder Portuguese sausage, linguica.  A country-style, coarsely-ground sausage, linguica is often smoked and is milder than chorizo, but still redolent of garlic and paprika. An informal appetizer or meal, stuffies are best accompanied by cold beer, lemon wedges, and bottled hot sauce so everyone can spice them to their desired degree of heat. If you are looking for party food, look no further than stuffies. The perfect beer to wash down stuffies is the Alchemist’s Heady Topper, an American Double India Pale Ale brewed in Waterbury, Vermont. It is extravagantly hopped, and best drunk from the can to preserve the intense hop flavors. Continue reading

Crab and Corn Cupcakes with Red Pepper Jelly

I intended this to be an appetizer, but if you’re like me you might make a meal of them. Lighter than crab cakes and served with a dollop of warm, slightly spicy red pepper jelly, these cakes combine the briny flavors of the sea with the toothsome qualities of sweet corn. Serve these cupcakes with mixed greens or baby spinach and lemon wedges. I like a glass of Prosecco with these flavors. The tiny bubbles and citrus quality of Italian Prosecco enhance both the crabmeat and the red pepper jelly. Well-hopped India Pale Ale works with this dish for the same reasons. Continue reading

Grilled Shrimp with Cheddar-Jalapeño Polenta, Chipotle Sauce, and Scallions


A good friend of ours stayed for a few days, and for her last dinner I wanted to make something special and a little different. I also didn’t want to make anything that required time away, or a lot of preparation. It had to be cooked and served quickly. Nobody wants to be the galley slave while everyone else is at the party. Except for stirring the polenta occasionally for 15 minutes, the total cooking time for the grilled shrimp is no more than 2 minutes. The marinade, sauce, and putting the shrimp on skewers can all be done well in advance—the few ingredients are quickly prepared, but nobody knows that except for you.

The shrimp combined with spicy flavors of jalapeño and smoky chipotle pair well with a slightly sweet Reisling Spätlese. A good beer pairing would be a malty, copper-colored Altbier.

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Lobster Salad with Corn, Peas, and Radishes, Lemon Dill Dressing

Like so many summer meals, the goal was to use up some leftovers. Yes, this is way better than what we usually have in the back of the refrigerator. Sometimes you just get lucky. A friend from Falmouth, Maine showed up with a cooler full of the local critters. We didn’t finish them, and who wouldn’t want to have lobster two meals in a row. We had some useful remnants kicking around: corn, peas, radishes, sourdough bread, and salad fixings. It was the best kind of summer supper–a cool meal on a hot day, the delicious flavors of fresh produce, and the only cooking involved was to toast some croutons, and boil peas for 5 seconds.

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