Category Archives: The Recipes

And We’re Off! Simple Green Suppers is Live!



Just a quick update to let you know that Simple Green Suppers is off and running. We had a really awesome launch party at Morrice Florist. And we’re getting some great buzz! This week I’m guest-hosting the Instagram feed of my publisher @Roostbooks so please follow along to ogle some of @randibairdphoto‘s amazing photos. You’ll even get a glimpse at some great photos (like the one above of Little Gem and baby red Romaine lettuce, and the one of cherry tomatoes below) that didn’t make it into the book. (We took a ton of photos.) And while you’re at it, be sure to follow my Instagram feed @sixburnersue. If you’ve gotten the book and are enjoying it already, we’d really appreciate a 5-star (!) review on Amazon!

Just published this week–a great feature in Martha’s Vineyard Magazine (photo below) highlighting some of the recipes from the Toast chapter (with my, ahem, opinionated viewpoint on the best way to make toast!). And a feature blog on MindBodyGreen using leftovers from the Baby Potato, Greens, and Chickpea Hash in dishes throughout the week.

I’ve been doing some radio interviews and tomorrow I’ll return to my favorite–The Food Schmooze with Faith Middleton on WNPR.  Back in my Fine Cooking days, I used to ride up to New Haven every few weeks to be on the show with Faith and Chris Prosperi, and it was so much fun. 

In just a few weeks, I’ll be at the Grand Tasting at the Martha’s Vineyard Wine Festival (Saturday, May 13), so if you happen to be going, stop by my table! And I promise I’ll let you know about other events and news coming soon. (Garden is getting going too.)

In the meantime, I leave you this teaser from today’s Instagram activity. Quick Roasted Beet, Arugula, and Wheatberry Salad with Strawberry-Balsamic Dressing. (That would be on page 40 in the book!)

All photos here by Randi Baird Photography.

A Stack of Books, a Double-Launch Party, and Five Island Women

Yes, okay, I admit it, I am getting a little kick out of this pile of books on my desk. Those copies of Simple Green Suppers are “author” copies to give to all the many people who contributed to the creation of the book.

But I am just going to stare at them for a while.

I have them stacked up that way so that I can see the beautiful spine that the talented book designer, Toni Tajima, created. And also, of course, just to remind myself that somehow I’ve managed to write (and deliver to my publishers) four books over these last nine years. I never would have predicted that when I left my job as editor of Fine Cooking magazine in January of 2008.

Heading into my tenth year of living on the Vineyard—and the publication on April 11 of that fourth book—I am feeling ridiculously nostalgic and grateful for this supportive, energetic, talented, and yes, tight-knit community I live in.

Take, for example, this launch party we’re having next Sunday afternoon, April 9.

First off, you have to know that my editor at Roost Books (in Boulder, Colorado; they are an imprint of Shambhala Publications), grew up on the Vineyard. Her name is Jennifer Urban-Brown. As it happens, Jenn offered me a contract for my fourth book not long after she offered another Island author, Sarah Moriarity Waldman, a contract for her second book. (Sarah’s first book, Little Bites, was with Roost, too.) Then as it happens, both Sarah and I chose (with Roost’s approval) to work with talented photographers, Elizabeth Cecil (Sarah) and Randi Baird (me), who are based on Martha’s Vineyard, but work and publish nationally as well.

Then, the folks back at Roost Books decided that they would publish both Sarah’s book, Feeding a Family, and my book, Simple Green Suppers, on the same day. This seemed like a fun and exciting way to double publicity efforts, though I doubt this would happen in another place. As it happens, Sarah and I have become friends, and though she is younger than I am, we also share many mutual friends in the food and farming community on Martha’s Vineyard. (Just so you know, we have a year-round population of 18,000, and yes, there are days, like yesterday, when the ferries stop running, and we are marooned. Winter is long. Friends are key.)

One of those friends is another published author, editor, and radio host who happens to be the first (well, second) person I ever met on this island. Her name is Ali Berlow. Ali was the founding Executive Director of Island Grown Initiative, a non-profit supporting local farmers, (Randi Baird is a long-time board member and director as well) and founder of Edible Vineyard. And she is the author most recently of The Food Activist Handbook and is working on a new radio podcast, The Gleaning.

When Roost suggested that Sarah and I do a panel discussion for our party, we both agreed that Ali was the perfect person to moderate. We asked her, and she said yes. We agreed that the panel should include Randi and Elizabeth so that we could all answer questions about the process of making a cookbook. So there we had our quintet of Island women in food and publishing. (Yay.) (Left to right: Sarah, Elizabeth, Ali, Susie, Randi.)

Two weeks ago, with the event mostly planned, we learned we would need to change locations, as our bookstore, Bunch of Grapes, was going to be moving (only down the street, fortunately.) So we began to quickly look around for another space—the Ag Hall, the libraries, a theatre. Then we thought of a special place that happens to be owned by none other than our editor Jenn’s sister. (I told you the Island was small—forget six degrees of separation, it’s more like two.) Emily Coulter is the owner of the most enchanting floral shop you could imagine—Morrice Florist.

 And Morrice Florist also has a big solarium space—big enough to fit a crowd. Emily was happy to accommodate us, and Roost has ordered up chairs and refreshments.

Now all Sarah and I have to do is make several dozen nibbles from our books, and arrive on Sunday ready to talk and sign. Randi and Elizabeth will be there, of course, as will many friends and artists in the community who worked directly or indirectly on our photo shoots or on recipe testing. Bunch of Grapes will be there selling stacks of books. And I will probably get a lump in my front and tears in my eyes when I see all the other friends spilling through the doors, friends who’ve made living on this Island, for me, a much bigger deal than a stack of books—no matter how alluring they are.

 

 

A Few Small (and Big) Ways to Use Miso In Recipes

 

When I tiptoed over the mostly-vegetable line into the all-vegetarian world, I finally got friendly with miso. So when I wrote Simple Green Suppers, I took advantage of miso’s deep flavors in several different ways. Probably my favorite recipe is a simple Lemon Miso Butter (great on sautéed vegetables or in grain dishes), but I also use miso in a delicious Crystallized Ginger-Miso Dressing (on an asparagus and grapefruit salad, and more), and in soups and broths, including the wonderful Spring Miso Broth with Stir-Fried Asparagus, Romaine, Scallions, Tofu, and Mint recipe pictured above.

If you’re not friendly with miso yet, here’s a little background: Miso is a nutritious fermented bean paste, and making it is an ancient Japanese craft. Usually, fermentation begins with soybeans, salt, and koji (a fermenting fungus); sometimes grains or legumes like barley, rice, or chickpeas are added. The miso is aged for varying lengths of time; generally older misos will have more umami flavor and the saltiness will have mellowed somewhat.

The color of miso will tell you something, too. Generally, the lighter colored misos are the mildest (and most versatile). I use white (sometimes labeled yellow) shiro miso most often, especially for dressings and sauces (top right in photo below). But I also like the darker misos—in broths and soups especially. Great miso is now made in the U.S. In fact, my favorite miso is made right here in Massachusetts, by the South River Miso Company in Conway. I especially like their one-year azuki bean miso (bottom right below) and their three-year barley miso (middle bowl, below), but all of their varieties are delicious and worth seeking out.

However, you don’t have to go out of your way to find miso. Most major supermarkets and all natural food stores carry at least a small variety of misos. All misos have an alluring sweet-salty-funky flavor that’s hard to beat for flavor-boosting.

It’s fun to try out a range of misos; just know that you may need to use a little less of a darker miso or add a little more water (or other ingredients) to taste. A good starting point for soup is one tablespoon per cup of water. If you like, you can strain your broth if using a chunky artisan miso. Keep in mind that all miso pastes destined for soups should be dissolved in hot water, but never boiled. Boiling can destroy flavor and nutrients.

So now, time for you to get friendly with miso, too—though maybe you already are! Either way, I think you’ll enjoy these two recipes. (And you’ll have to get a copy of Simple Green Suppers for the soup recipe above. I know, what a tease. But just a friendly reminder if you haven’t pre-ordered the book–well, you could certainly do it now.)

Lemon-Miso Butter

Make this handy flavor-booster ahead; cover and keep in the fridge for up to a week. In Simple Green Suppers, I use this butter in a recipe for Stir-Fried Black Rice with Baby Bok Choy and Asparagus, and in a recipe for Parsnips and Creminis with Wheat Berries. But you can use it on any stir-fried or sautéed veggies or with rice; be sure to add the butter to the recipe while the veggies or grains are still hot. Double this recipe if you like. (If you need to soften butter quickly to make this, cut it into a few pieces and microwave for a few seconds, but don’t melt it.)

Makes ¼ cup

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

2 tablespoons white (Shiro) miso

1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

In a small bowl, combine the butter, the miso paste, and the lemon zest. Use a small silicone spatula or wooden spoon to mash together until well combined.

Recipe copyright Susie Middleton, from Simple Green Suppers: A Fresh Strategy for One-Dish Vegetarian Meals (Roost Books).

Crystallized Ginger-Miso Dressing

I have to admit this dressing is one of my favorite recipes. It features crystallized ginger with assists from lime, maple, and miso. I love it on an Asparagus, Grapefruit, and Sushi Rice recipe in Simple Green Suppers, but it is equally good with broccoli, green beans, cabbage, or lettuce. Double or triple if you like.

Yields about 1/3 cup

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced crystallized ginger

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 tablespoon minced cilantro

1½ teaspoons white (Shiro) miso

In a small bowl, combine the rice vinegar, the lime juice, the crystallized ginger, the maple syrup, the cilantro, and the miso. Whisk well.

Recipe copyright Susie Middleton, from Simple Green Suppers: A Fresh Strategy for One-Dish Vegetarian Meals (Roost Books).

Top Photo by Randi Baird, Randi Baird Photography

 

 

Chickpeas, Meet Smashed Potatoes

I’m not done with you yet, chickpeas! (Sorry folks, next week we’ll move on to miso and ginger and butter and some quick little sauces!) In my last blog, I talked about how versatile chickpeas are, because you can actually sauté or roast them—and turn up their flavor at the same time by browning. I included an Indian Curry recipe from the new book. But with Simple Green Suppers now just four weeks away from bookstores (Yippee! And I may have the first copy in my hands within days!), I thought I’d give you one more teaser recipe with chickpeas, which also happens to make use of, yes, smashed potatoes.

Those of you who’ve been following me since Fine Cooking days will realize that I just can’t leave these little crispy flattened red potatoes alone. Ever since I first developed the recipe more than 10 years ago (and here it is on FineCooking.com), I’ve been re-imagining them as components of other dishes. In Simple Green Suppers, I’ve included them in a simple and delicious hash with greens, chickpeas, and, of course, garlic. And they don’t even have to go in the oven; in this dish, instead of roasting, the boiled potatoes get smashed and sautéed. A lot of yummy things happen in this sauté pan!

But honestly, I also wanted to run this recipe because I love the photo (by my very talented co-conspirator, photographer Randi Baird) that runs with it. Stand by for a lot more amazing photos, great strategy, and delicious recipes in Simple Green Suppers: A Fresh Strategy For One-Dish Vegetarian Meals.

And if you live on Martha’s Vineyard, save this date: Sunday, April 9, 4 pm. Official book launch party at Bunch of Grapes bookstore—yay!

Baby Potato, Greens, Garlic and Chickpea Hash

A simple, comforting supper with just a few ingredients, this was inspired by a freshly dug batch of Red Gold potatoes from the garden. Nutty-tasting yellow-fleshed Red Golds are delicious, but of course not required in this recipe—any baby potato will do! The potatoes get boiled first, then crushed and sautéed with the other ingredients for a delicious crispy finish. I also love that this recipe showcases another tasty way to use chickpeas as a protein—in a rustic “hash.” Sautéing the chickpeas until golden is the trick to giving them extra flavor. It even works with canned, drained chickpeas. Choose your favorite tender greens for this, and be generous with the garlic, too.

Serves 2

10 baby red potatoes (preferably yellow-fleshed), about 10 ounces

Kosher salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1  1/3 cups cooked chickpeas (well-drained if canned)

1 (generous) tablespoon minced fresh garlic

3 cups chopped or sliced stemmed tender greens (such as Swiss chard, spinach, broccoli greens, or young kale)

Fresh black pepper

Hot sauce or vinegar

1/4 cup sour cream

Chopped fresh chives

 

Put the potatoes and 2 teaspoons salt in a large saucepan and cover with a generous amount of water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until just tender, about 25 minutes. Drain the potatoes.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large (12-inch) nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the chickpeas and cook, shaking or stirring, until golden brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the greens and ¼ teaspoon salt and cook, tossing or stirring, until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Move the greens and chickpeas to one side of the pan and add the remaining tablespoon of butter. Let it melt and add the boiled potatoes. Using a potato masher or spatula, crush the potatoes into large pieces (you don’t want to mash them completely, just break them up) and sprinkle them with 1/2 teaspoon salt and several grinds of black pepper. Turn the heat to medium high and stir everything together. Press down on the mixture with a spatula and cook until the bottom is somewhat browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Flip the hash over in pieces and cook again until the other side is somewhat brown, 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove the hash from the pan and taste for seasoning. Add more salt and pepper and a splash or two of hot sauce or vinegar. (Or serve with a bottle of hot sauce alongside.) Serve right away, garnished with the sour cream and chives.

Copyright Susie Middleton, 2017. From Simple Green Suppers (Roost Books). Photo by Randi Baird.

 

 

Best Veggie Sides for Thanksgiving, Revisited!

DSC_2822_01Here I go again reposting–so sorry, but once again, no time to create some new recipes for you for Thanksgiving, and time is flying. (And,  of course, the new book recipes are TOP SECRET…just kidding, I’ll start posting a few of those as pub date nears.) Anyway, I thought you’d appreciate a reminder of some of these amazing veggie side dish recipes on sixburnersue, so here goes. So while, yes, you’ll recognize most on this list, if you’re like me, you may have forgotten some. Reminders aren’t all bad!

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday with dear friends and delicious food.

Okay, here are our favorites from past Thanksgivings.

1. Crispy Smashed Potatoes (photo above)

2. Roasted Butternut Squash with Cranberry-Ginger Butter and Toasted Walnuts.

3. Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Orange Butter Sauce

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4. Mashed Yukon Gold Potatoes with Roasted Garlic

5. Thanksgiving Gratin of Butternut, Corn, Squash & Leeks

6. Potato Galette with Fresh Rosemary & Two Cheeses

RoastedBeetJewelsPg.2057. Roasted Beet Jewels with Cranberries, Pecans & Balsamic Butter

8. Roasted Turnips & Pears with a Rosemary Honey Drizzle

9. Potato Gratin with Gruyere, Thyme & Horseradish

10. Caramelized Turnips, Potatoes, & Carrots with Onions & Thyme

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Tart Art: Recipes for Sweet or Savory Rustic Tarts

DSC_0626I’ve been looking for a great excuse to repost this blog on rustic tarts. Well, it being the eve of you-know-what, I don’t thing I even have to mention why you might want to totally distract yourself with an incredibly delicious cooking project. (Perhaps you don’t have a TV or the internet in your kitchen.) But even if you don’t feel like cooking today or tomorrow, chances are that either a sweet or savory tart might fit perfectly into one of your holiday menus. So, Ta da! A repost of where to find directions to all my yummy rustic tart recipes.

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Sweet or savory, these open-faced pies can be everything from appetizer to dessert—and even breakfast. A couple years back, I wrote and photographed a story called “Tart Art” for Martha’s Vineyard Magazine, and now the recipes are all online. It’s a great place to go for my all-purpose, buttery, flaky dough recipe—and to find recipes for both my versatile fruit filling (apples, pears, or plums) and for two different savory fillings.

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The fruit fillings work for sweet rustic tarts that are as delicious for dessert as they are the next day for brunch or an easy leftover breakfast. And if you’ve got a copy of Fresh from the Farm on hand, you can find one of my favorite variations in the recipe for Little Pear Crostatas with Hazelnut Crisp Topping. (Rustic tarts go by the name crostata in Italy and galette in France.)

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The savory fillings I did for Martha’s Vineyard Magazine—Savory Cabbage, Apple & Cheddar and Savory Roasted Butternut, Pear, and Cranberry—are variations on the fillings I did for my tart chapter in The Fresh and Green Table. Not only are these savory tarts deeply flavored and satisfying (great with soup or salad), but they are a lot of fun to put together.

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For step by step assembling instructions, you’ll want to look back at the directions and the photos I included in a previous blog, which includes a link to one of the recipes from The Fresh & Green Table. (The Seven Treasure Roasted Winter Veggie Tart is also a favorite in The Fresh & Green Table.) And over on the Martha’s Vineyard Magazine website, you’ll see that I’ve given you options for dividing the dough into either two or four pieces to make two bigger or four smaller tarts.

So you’ve got options.

And when summer comes around (we can be hopeful, right?) don’t forget about my most favorite tart of all—the Roasted Tomato Rustic Tart in Fresh from the Farm!

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Simple Green Suppers Is Available for Pre-Order!

9781611803365My fourth cookbook, Simple Green Suppers, is now available for preorder (see links below). There, I’ve said it. Seems unreal, really, in many ways. First, that the whole selling and promotion thing gets started more than six months ahead of time. (The pub date is April 11, 2017.) Second, that it is actually happening—When I wrote my first cookbook, Fast, Fresh & Green, in 2010, I was pretty jazzed about that. Then came The Fresh & Green Table in 2012 and Fresh from the Farm in 2014. Meanwhile, I am farming and growing vegetables and, well, you’d think I’d get tired of vegetables. Not!

As some of you know, I also skipped over the line into full-time vegetarian eating a few years ago, so that gave me the ultimate fun challenge for a new book—how to cook vegetarian suppers every night.

Simple Green Suppers: A Fresh Strategy for One-Dish Vegetarian Meals is the very delicious, very beautiful result of that challenge. (Sorry about the “very”s but I am as excited about this book as I was about Fast, Fresh, and Green, which I believe continues to sell well because it is useful. Simple Green Suppers is super-useful. And inspiring. It is being published by Roost Books after all, and they make beautiful books!! Plus, I collaborated with talented photographer Randi Baird on a monster-sized effort on the photos. Okay, I’ll stop.)

Though my mission has always been to make vegetables more accessible and appealing for all kinds of eaters, I don’t think this full-on vegetarian book will exclude anyone, as most of the recipes will appeal to non-vegetarians and part-time vegetarians, too. I’ve never been one to go in for fake foods and I’m also not particularly into soy-based meat substitutes, so the recipes are based on familiar ingredients, with plenty of exciting flavor boosts.

The premise is this: Think of one-dish veggie suppers as “Veggies + 1.” The “1” is a staple ingredient from your pantry or larder. The chapters are divided thus:

Noodles, Grains, Leaves, Toast, Eggs, Broth, Beans (and Legumes), Tortillas

Each chapter offers you lots of strategy about how to shop for, store, and cook with the best and most versatile of these items (and the flavors that go well with them.) Each chapter, in addition to multiple yummy recipes (there are 125 in the book), has versatile mini-recipes for little sauces and salsas, infused oils, dressings, toppings and more that can be used many different ways. I’m encouraging you to nudge yourself just a bit towards the make-ahead mindset. Because if you’ve got Quick Lemony Tahini Sauce or Spicy Peanut Sauce or Whipped Lemony Thyme Feta in the fridge, and/or a batch of cooked short-grain brown rice or chickpeas around, you can bring that broccoli or cauliflower or spinach home and make a delicious supper in no time, with a little support from your pantry.

Just to be clear, everything winds up in one bowl or on one plate or platter. Though I’m not a nutritionist, I have thought ahead about protein and a balance of flavors and textures so your one-dish recipe is a complete supper. Some suppers are heartier than others, and I admit that I don’t eat huge amounts of anything in one sitting anymore, so portions, while filling (and rest assured, cross-tested by real families!!) are not huge. But they can be flexible.

Here’s a sample list of recipe titles:

  • Crispy Tortillas with Watercress, Peas, Avocado, Sprouts and Smoky Chile Broth
  • Roasted Butternut “Smash” on Whole Wheat Toast with Cranberry Citrus Butter and Crispy Shallots
  • Grilled Naan Pizza with Quick-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Whipped Lemon-Thyme Feta, Cucumbers and Basil
  • Grilled Peach, Red Onion and Arugula Salad with Sungold Tomatoes and Grilled Croutons
  • Indian Curry with Chickpeas, Cauliflower, Spinach, Tomatoes and Coconut Milk
  • Autumn Farro Salad with Quick-Roasted Root Vegetables and Lemon-Sherry Dressing
  • Green Rice with Brussels Sprouts, Crispy Shiitakes, and Crunchy Pepitas
  • Spicy Egg Tacos with Salsa Verde, Sharp Cheddar and Pickled Veggies (cover recipe)
  • Yukon Gold Potato and Brussels Sprouts Hash with Parmesan Fried Egg
  • Red Quinoa and Baby Kale Salad with Sweet Potato Fries and Blackberry Dressing.
  • Stir-Fried Black Rice with Baby Bok Choy, Asparagus, Shiitakes, and Lemon-Miso Butter

Now I just have to say a word about pre-ordering. I know how easy it is to order on Amazon, and certainly for authors this seems to be a good thing, to a certain extent. The more pre-orders, the more your book shows up in rankings and searches, etc. But the more we order on Amazon, the less we contribute to the well-being of our independent bookstores and our local communities, and ultimately that’s not great for anyone, especially book authors. (Also, discounted books earn back advances at a slower rate.)

As you may know, I work part-time in an independent bookstore, Bunch of Grapes, so I am particularly interested in supporting independent bookstores. Our book buyer has already placed a generous order for copies of my book (this is a normal practice—ordering the books months in advance), but you could visit your own local bookstore and ask if they’d be willing to stock Simple Green Suppers, and you can also pre-order your book from a list of independent sources (including Powell’s bookstore and IndieBound.org) through my book’s distributor, Penguin Random House. So you have choices!

Click here to check out options listed on Penguin Random House’s site.

And Click here for the Amazon link.

But just so you know, pre-ordering is a good thing as it helps build buzz and in some cases might actually affect the numbers of the first print run. A book has to build momentum before publishing day arrives or it won’t be able to take off running. So thank you in advance.

And yes, you’ll be hearing more about Simple Green Suppers in the next few months!!

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Simple Green Suppers cover photo by Randi Baird. Food styling by Susie Middleton and Amy Miller.

Ready, Set, Go: Put Yourself in the Way of Beauty

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I have been reading a little book by Cheryl Strayed called Brave Enough. It’s a collection of quotes. I like it. Them. Many of them. All of it.

But my favorite is this very simple thought: “Put yourself in the way of beauty.”

This is really just another way of saying do something joyful. But beauty is (in my view) a very specific kind of joy. It is sensual and tactile, visual and aromatic. Calming in its distraction.

For me, beauty is almost entirely owned by the natural world.

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So I have been doing this—putting myself in the way of beauty. On our foggy morning walks in the woods across the way, Farmer and I are deliberately pausing (he to sniff, granted) to watch the limey-green ferns seemingly unfurl before our eyes. Blueberry blossoms—at our feet on the wild scrubby plants that hug the foot path and up in the sky on decades-old highbush plants—are everywhere. I am noticing the little white clusters of flowers on the bare-branched shadbush and the soft pink apple blossoms on our way back down the driveway.

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DSC_0096On the wooden steps outside my back door, I have set up a little mini potted-plant garden of fresh herbs and annual flowers and things that smell good and look pretty. Lemon thyme and scented geraniums. Dwarf dahlias and pink dianthus. A little piece of beauty.DSC_0078

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Lilacs. A big, fragrant, fresh-picked bouquet from my friend Judy is now on my kitchen counter and everything is right with the world.

DSC_0089My biggest pleasure, though, is unpinning the fabric row cover over the greens I’ve planted in my new market garden. The baby kale and mizuna and ruby streaks mustard with their toothy leaves look like puzzle pieces nestled together.

DSC_0109 DSC_0111The new pea plants are sending tendrils out to grab on and start climbing.

DSC_0101The ruby chard I transplanted has settled in and taken off.

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These beautiful vegetables are gifts to me from my own hard-working self. Every year I have a fear that I am going to suddenly forget how to grow things. Or that all the inherent risks will conspire to prevent anything from growing. This year especially, when I didn’t know where I was going to be growing until a few months ago, I am so relieved and grateful to have this beauty to turn to. Sometimes I think I grow vegetables as much for their looks as their taste.

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Right now, with the help of friends and fellow farmers, I am building the pieces of my new little market gardening operation. It is exhilarating and exhausting and full of beauty. It is tempting to get fixated on making progress, on getting enough beds planted and the fencing done, to get to the point where there is enough to harvest and sell.

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But I realized this morning, during a beautiful, misty ride up to Allen Sheep Farm (the grey, the green, and then the unexpected blue of the sea) to pick up my fence posts, that what I like best about this whole thing is the process, not the destination.

Maybe today you can find three or fours ways to put yourself in the way of beauty. Ready, set, go.

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What One Vegetarian Really Eats (and Cooks)

DSC_0189A year ago this January, I hopped a very short fence. I went from eating not a lot of meat, to eating no meat at all. Technically, I became a vegetarian, though I have eaten the occasional fish or shellfish when it has been offered to me.

Now that I am in the thick of writing and editing the text and recipes for my vegetarian cookbook (which will come out in Spring 2017 from Roost Books), I am thinking hard about strategies and tips for readers. But I am also thinking about what fun I have had developing the recipes—how the creative challenge for this book has been the best yet, because it is has essentially given me a blueprint for eating.

I can’t wait (though I must—and, ahem, I must also finish the manuscript, complete the last photo shoot, and a list of other things…before it even gets to my editor!) for the book to come out so that I can cook from my own recipes every night. And sadly, I won’t be able to share any of those recipes with you until we get close to publication.

But I thought for those of you who are contemplating a shift, it might be interesting to share with you what one vegetarian really eats. (And I say really or actually, because this is not theoretical. Since I, like most year-round Islanders, cook the vast majority of my food at home, this is truly what I eat.) Remember, I’m not a nutritionist—my gig is cooking technique—and I’m only one person, so take it for what it is.

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I will say, though, that cooking vegetarian truly is a blast (if you like to cook), because the creative possibilities are endless. I never come at it from the “what can I replace the meat with” (in fact, I’m not big on meat-replacement type proteins); I always come at it from the “how I can turn these vegetables into a delicious, filling meal?”

Here are some of the things I eat and cook with on a regular basis (in addition to the obvious—vegetables!):

DSC_0197Nuts. Toasted. Toasted nuts have an almost cocoa-like umami thing going on, so they taste delicious and are very filling. Almonds are at the top of my list, with pecans and walnuts next. I stock pine nuts, hazelnuts, and, of course, peanuts and natural peanut butter. (Pepitas, too, which are seeds, not nuts.) I use nuts not just in salads, but in grain and bean dishes, too.

Chickpeas. Sheepishly, I have to admit that, like a lot of vegetarian converts, I have fallen totally in love with chickpeas. (I’m simmering a pot on the stove right now on this first snowy day in January, though I stock canned chickpeas, too.). In addition to the great flavor and rich texture, chickpeas have a distinct advantage over most other beans and legumes—they hold up well in all kinds of cooking. In fact, you can even brown them by sautéing or roasting; and as you know, I love browning because that means caramelization and extra flavor!

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Lentils. While I eat all beans (always soaked first before cooking, or canned), I’ve become more of a fan of lentils in the last year. For one thing, they cook very quickly—in less than 20 minutes in many cases. Secondly, you can now find black Beluga lentils and small French green (DuPuy) lentils in many more grocery stores, and I find the firmer texture of these more pleasing than that of the larger common brown lentils. Red lentils are also quick and delicious in soups and porridge-like dishes. And all lentils have assertive flavors that go well in soups, salads and sautés.

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DSC_0186Avocados. Yes, I know we think of avocadoes as a vegetable, but they are really something unto themselves (and technically a fruit), and I have to mention them because they have that uniquely rich and filling thing going on (good fat, don’t you know?). And, I eat a lot of them. On toast, in salads, with tortillas, in egg sandwiches. Alone with lemon and olive oil and salt. With chickpeas! And nuts!

Grains. I’ve always been a fan of grains, but I like them and use them even more now that I’ve figured out I can cook them ahead and hold them in the fridge or freezer, and that I can use them sometimes almost like a condiment, or as one of many ingredients in a dish. Sitting down to a big bowl of grains can get monotonous. Putting some grains in a salad, a soup, a taco, whatever, is much more interesting. My favorites are wheat berries, farro, short grain brown rice, and oats (granola for breakfast!) but I stock lots of (gluten-free) quinoa, as well as millet and many different kinds of rice.

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Eggs. I’m not vegan or dairy-free, so I still turn to eggs for some of my protein. (That may change at some point, but for now, I’m an egg eater.) The best thing about an egg (like a lot of these ingredients that play well with others) is that you can add one to just about anything. Sure, you can make a meal just on eggs, but you can also add an egg to a grain or bean dish, a broth or a sauté.

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Those are the things that I most often pair with vegetables to make my meals. (Remember, vegetables have protein, too.) I do eat pasta and bread , too, though I choose whole-grain when I can. And again, I often use these carbs in smaller amounts rather than in starring roles. But there’s nothing like a great piece of artisan multi-grain toast for transporting any number of veggie toppings to a great destination.

As for the vegetables themselves, I eat leafy greens every day. They are the easiest, quickest, and most flavorful vegetables to make a meal with. (The arugula in this picture was taken from plants still growing under hoops outside.) Alliums of all kinds (onions, shallots, garlic, scallions) make their way into almost everything I cook, and my fanaticism for tomatoes extends to this time of year with roasted tomatoes in the freezer and sundried tomatoes in the fridge. This time of year I also gravitate towards colorful root and winter vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash. Along with the aromatic ingredients I always keep around—citrus, fresh ginger, vinegars, hot sauces, spices, maple syrup and honey, miso, tahini, tamari, parmesan cheese—and any fresh herbs I can procure (my rosemary pot is indoors, still alive, for now!), I eat well.

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Happy eating and cooking to you, too, in this new year. And don’t forget the daily chocolate imperative. (My little bowl of chips, always by my side!)

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Walking the November Road with The Farm Dog, and Other Clever Ways to Procrastinate and Contemplate

photo-539Now that our second photo shoot for the new cookbook is behind us, I am back to work in the kitchen and at the computer developing the last batch of recipes for the book. This means, of course, that (as with any self-propelled creative endeavor) there is some clever procrastinating to accomplish every day. You simply must get up from your computer or get out of the kitchen a few times a day to reboot your creativity!

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I’ve been spending an hour or two every day cleaning up and mulching the market garden, hauling the tomato vines out of the hoop house, ripping the twisted dried green bean vines off of the trellising, and moving strawberry plants around (they’re everywhere).

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Incredibly, there are still things growing in the garden. Every year I am amazed at how temperate the Island is in late fall, with the warm ocean waters still surrounding us. But this year it has been especially warm.

DSC_0108Since I topped off the Brussels sprouts plants, the little buds have grown bigger, and I’ve popped enough off the stalks to sell a pint or two at the farm stand a few times a week.

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And I just pop the baby ones in my mouth, too; they are sweet, nutty and crunchy.

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I even managed to grow a few kalettes; I was very excited about trying this new vegetable (a cross between kale and Brussels sprouts) when I got the seed, though I did read that they would take four months to mature. Unfortunately, I was late getting my plants in the ground, so the vegetables really only started to take shape a few weeks ago. I don’t know how much they will grow once the daylight seriously wanes, though I imagine they are pretty frost-hardy.

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We’ve got a last patch of salad greens under cover, and there are a half dozen magnificent and terrifying Ruby Streaks mustard plants that I never cut back sprawling three-feet round in a spiky pinwheel of purple teeth.

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So once a week or so I can make a small batch of salad mix.

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The parsley patch is epic.

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And, I have a bunch of flowers in my little secret side flower garden that seem to have no idea that winter is approaching.

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The calendula and snapdragons couldn’t be happier. I have to remember that—it really is cheering to have fresh flowers in November.

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Cheering is good, as I find November a bit foreboding and contemplation-inducing. Unlike my favorite month, October, when the buzz of summer is gone but the sky still swims with sun, November, with its spackle-grey horizon, its sticky wet leaves, its frisky wind gusts, is decidedly Act I of winter. I know how the rest of the play goes, and last year sitting in the seats until the curtain went up was torturous.

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But I am trying not to project, as the best thing about November, as opposed to real winter, is the walking. I can still get outside, it’s relatively warm, and actually, all those sticky leaves on the ground are a gorgeous kaleidoscope of texture and patterns. My favorite procrastination activity is walking with Farmer along the Land Bank path behind the farm, down across Mill Creek and over to Old Courthouse Road.

Technically, the path is closed for hunting season, so there is a point when we get to a locked gate and we both stop and stare at each other. Should we turn around? Go around? Jump over? And if we do, should we take the right hand fork, or the left?

Every time we are there, I can’t help thinking of Robert Frost’s classic poem, The Road Not Taken (which can be interpreted several different ways). So I leave it with you today, in case you’re walking the November road, or just contemplating winter.

The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.