Category Archives: The Recipes

Surprise! I’m Writing a New Cookbook!

book covers with typeI know, I know, I’ve been a little quiet here on Sixburnersue, but I promise I have a good excuse. It isn’t just that the farm work has kept me really hopping. I’ve had, well, a little something else to occupy the rest of my “free” time—developing recipes for a new book.

But wait, before you get all ants-in-your-pants-when-can-I-get-one excited…(which of course I am just assuming you will be!), this new cookbook won’t be released until the spring of 2017. But my deadline is in less than four months. That’s why I haven’t even brought it up until now, since it is usually hard for folks to wrap their heads around the way this whole publishing thing works. It takes at least a year for the editing, design, layout, printing…and then the advance marketing to happen once you turn a manuscript in.

But do hold on tight, because this is gonna be a really good one. I am absolutely over the moon that the book will be published by Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications (which I have long admired) and the creator of some of the best looking (and tasting!) cookbooks I’ve seen in the last few years. In fact, Roost just published my fellow islander-cook Sarah Waldman’s first cookbook, Little Bites, and it is smashing. Roost also published the award-winning At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen by Amy Chaplin, and La Tartine Gourmande, by Beatrice Peltre, among others. I am lucky to have a great editor there, and you can’t have a great book without a good editor.

_F3A4361So what’s the book about? “Do tell, do tell!” you say. Well, you know I would have to kill you if I did that. I can tell you that it is a great evolution of my vegetable cooking—from veggies on the side of the plate (Fast, Fresh & Green) to veggies in the middle of the plate (The Fresh & Green Table) to veggies across the seasons (Fresh From the Farm) and now…And now…well, veggies as the driving force in my diet. That’s right (gasp!), in January I transitioned practically seamlessly to a vegetarian diet.

I’m not a big label person, and I also can’t predict the future, so I wouldn’t absolutely say that I will be a 100-percent Vegetarian for the rest of my life. But other than one or two good pieces of fish that have come my way, I’ve not had any meat in 10 months. (I do, of course, still eat eggs). (So technically, I am a pescatarian!) My reasons and thinking on all this are enough to fill another blog and then some, so I will just leave you with this very simple and completely personal concept—I just stopped wanting meat. (This hash’t happened yet with sugar or chocolate.)

But don’t worry, if you know me and my cooking, you’ll know that this new book is still going to be about flavor and technique and enjoying cooking. (And lots of strategy and tips…and, well, okay, I must stop before I give it away.) No fake food or contrived recipes.

 

_MG_1021_MG_0968_MG_1059_MG_1086And I have to tell you the best part—amazing photos! Roost hired Randi Baird (at right), a very talented and versatile photographer who also happens to be a foodie and a veggie lover (and a Vineyarder!). She and I have worked together on food stories on and off over the years, and we are having a total blast creating the look and feel of the photos for this book. Randi’s been shooting vegetables at the farm over the summer—some really stunning shots that I so wish I could show you (teaser above)—and we just completed our first week of shooting finished food shots for the book.

The week of shooting reminded me of the many, many shoots I was present for while I was editor of Fine Cooking, and just like then, this week I had some very nice people to work with, including Randi’s assistant Mary Shea (who took these photos), and my super-cook friend Amy Miller (with me in shots below) who made practically all the food for the photos, while I fussed with the props (and eventually “styled” the food on the plate. And yes, I have that curious concentrating “susie frown” on my face in every photo that Mary took!).

We have another shoot coming up in a few weeks, which is why I wanted to tell you about the book now; then we’ll be able to show you some production action on Instagram during the next shoot.

No matter how you look at it, the most important part of a cookbook, of course, is the recipes. Developing them is not as easy as you might think—which is why I’m most grateful to have my best friend Eliza Peter cross-testing the recipes again—I can’t believe she said yes for a fourth time around! We are over the halfway mark at this point, but wow, still a lot to go in a short amount of time.

There’ll be much more to tell you about the book as the months go by (and do they—so quickly!) but it was time I fessed up about why I haven’t been keeping up with my blogs.

Happy fall!

(Veggie basket photo by Randi Baird. All others below by Mary Shea.)

 

Of Eggs and Cherry Tomatoes

DSC_0003Summer creeps up and then whizzes by here on the merry Isle of crazed vacationers. And I mean crazed. More like frenzied, now that it is August. There are an extraordinary number of people here. Normally our population swells from 20,000 year-round to 100,000 in the high season (August), but I think each person has brought four more friends with them this year. And they are hungry. (Plus the President arrives in a couple days. Traffic? Oh, my.)

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Grocery store shelves are empty at noon time. Our own farm stand customers race each other to the refrigerator to grab the last dozen eggs (by 11 am they’re all gone) or the last six ears of corn (we have a lot of back-up there, thanks to Morning Glory Farm). Cherry tomatoes are disappearing like M&Ms at midnight.

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Keeping up with the vacationers is exhausting (add heat plus little sleep and you have cranky farmers), but of course we wouldn’t have it any other way.

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And there are those moments—the ones when you see how happy people are with their goodies. And I mean really happy. Beaming, grateful, excited. I totally did not expect that when I got into this.

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Or this: One of our farm stand customers, who’s been shopping here since the very beginning, is spending her last days (cancer) at home with her family up the road. She is a lovely lady, and she came by a month ago to tell me this news and to see if we had any of her favorite green beans, and eggs. Last week her daughter came by and said that what her mother is mostly feeling like eating right now is our eggs. Wow.

That’s all.

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Deviled Eggs and Popovers, Bread Pudding and Frittata Recipes–Happy Easter Eggs!

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With hundreds of chickens (how many exactly, we’re not sure, as witnessed by a heated argument last night about this statistic), Easter eggs take on kind of a special importance around here. I started my day off washing eggs, and Roy will wash more when he gets home. The farm stand will be busy all weekend, with lots of seasonal residents on Island and, of course, eggs on everyone’s mind.

So since we’re busy here today, I am doing a quick round-up of some of my favorite egg recipes on Sixburnersue.com, and also giving you, right here, our farm recipe for deviled eggs, which happens to feature a yummy spinach-basil pesto recipe. (Recipe is from Fresh From the Farm: A Year of Recipes and Stories.) I hope you have a joyful—and delicious—Easter weekend. (And, oh, we have somewhere between 400 and 500 chickens, with 200 more on the way…we think.)

Here are my family’s favorite, popovers.

Here’s a nice asparagus bread pudding for a crowd.

Here’s a lovely leek, spinach, thyme, and gruyere frittata with more egg ideas, and here’s another delicious frittata with fingerling potatoes and goat cheese. 

And one of my very favorites–the Green Island Farm egg sandwich.

And here are those delicious deviled eggs:

Deviled Eggs with Spinach, Basil & Toasted Pine Nut Pesto  

Recipe copyright Susie Middleton, from Fresh From the Farm (Taunton Press, 2014) Photo at top by Alexandra Grablewski.

Even if you don’t live with 557 hens and a man who’d be happy eating meat loaf and deviled eggs every day, you should still have a great recipe for deviled eggs in your repertoire. Our favorite version goes green (and tasty) with a little Spinach, Basil & Toasted Pine Nut Pesto (recipe below) and a touch of lemon zest. No fancy piping required, though we do like to garnish with a tiny basil leaf and a pine nut. Wait to garnish until just before serving.

Makes 12 deviled eggs

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6 Hard-Cooked Eggs (see note below), peeled and sliced in half lengthwise

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 1/2 teaspoons Spinach, Basil & Toasted Pine Nut Pesto (recipe below), drained of excess olive oil

1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

12 tiny fresh basil leaves, for garnish

12 whole toasted pine nuts, for garnish

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Gently scoop or squeeze out the yolk from each egg half. Arrange the whites on a plate.

In a small bowl, mash together the yolks, mayonnaise, pesto, lemon juice, lemon zest, a pinch of salt, and several grinds of fresh pepper until you get a smooth, pale-green filling. (I use a small silicone spatula.) Using a small spoon or mini spatula, spoon or dollop the mixture evenly back into the egg white halves. (I like to let the mixture sort of fall off the spoon, but do whatever works for you!)

Garnish each half with a basil leaf and a pine nut.

 

Spinach, Basil & Toasted Pine Nut Pesto

Recipe copyright Susie Middleton, from Fresh From the Farm (Taunton Press, 2014)

Lovely green spinach leaves are my inspiration for a greener basil pesto.    Together with toasted pine nuts and lots of Parmigiano, they make a delicious, versatile sauce, which I use not only in deviled eggs, but over grilled veggies, in vinaigrettes, and even as a burger mix-in. Don’t forget to toast the pine nuts before you make the pesto.

Yields 1 1/3 cup 

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1 large clove garlic

1 1/2 cups packed fresh baby spinach leaves

1 1/2 cups packed fresh basil leaves

1/3 cup toasted pine nuts

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil; more if needed

1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

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In the bowl of a food processor, process the garlic clove until it is minced. Add the spinach, basil, pine nuts, and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Process, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary, until finely chopped. Add the Parmigiano, 1/4 teaspoon salt, several grinds of fresh black pepper, and the lemon juice and process until well-combined. With the motor running, gradually pour the remaining olive oil through the feed tube and process until you get a nice smooth pesto. If the pesto is too stiff, add a bit more olive oil, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you get the right consistency.

 

To Hard-Cook Eggs: To cook eggs for salads or to use as deviled eggs, put them in a saucepan wide enough to hold them in one layer and cover them cold water (that comes up an inch over the eggs). Bring the water to a slow boil over medium-high heat and once the water is boiling, immediately remove the pan from the heat. Cover the pan and steep the eggs for 12 minutes. Carefully drain off the hot water and run cold water over the eggs until they are cool to the touch. (Or plunge into an ice-bath.) Refrigerate until completely chilled before peeling.

 

Our First Chicken Coop on Wheels

DSC_0016A few weeks ago, I mentioned that Roy had started building our latest chicken coop in the snow (photo below). This was obviously not ideal, and fortunately, we were able to get our chicken delivery (200 16-week-old pullets) postponed to the second week in April. Nevertheless, with so much to do around here (and seemingly so few nice days), Roy went to work last weekend and built the thing in about a day and half.

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We are excited because this is our first coop on wheels. Roy has now built 8 coops for us. The original one, built for our little flock of 8 ladies, was my favorite, because you could reach into the nest boxes to collect eggs from outside. (That design is in Fresh From the Farm, if you are considering getting a small flock of hens.) The next coop, for our first “big” group of 50 layers, was (is) pretty cool, too, because it has a divider with a storage area on one side. But when you start to build housing for 500 or more chickens, the coops have to get bigger and more efficient at the same time, so Roy’s coops have evolved. (Don’t worry, the 500 don’t all live in one coop!)

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This coop is what Roy calls his “super coop” design. It’s the biggest of our larger coops and the second one of this size he’s built. It houses 100 to 125 hens comfortably, with roost bars, nesting boxes, and hanging feeder–plus plenty of room for humans to navigate when collecting eggs.

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The chicken door on the front (photo above) has a door that easily slides up and open and is held in place by pegs. While the chicken door allows the chickens to go out to a protected, fenced grazing area, the human door on the back (photo below) opens outside of the fencing to allow us to easily get in and out to collect eggs or clean the coop without entering the chicken yard. (You can also shoo any birds in the coop out to the yard and shut the chicken door while you’re inside cleaning.)

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All of our older coops are stationery, raised up on blocks, so our chicken yards are created with permanent fence posts and deer fencing. Every summer, we open and close parts of the fencing to get the chickens on to fresh grass, but it’s awkward, as we can never entirely close the main chicken yard off or the chickens wouldn’t be able to access their coops.

But Roy lucked into snagging an old trailer frame not long ago and decided to build the latest coop on it, so that we can try moving this coop around every so often to different areas of the eight acres we have in the back now. That way the chickens will have fresh grass much more often, and we can use them to clear some planting areas! We’ll be investing in portable electric poultry fencing to create protected grazing areas .

After staining the coop and putting the hardware on, Roy took the coop for a test-spin with the truck, moving it part of the way (successfully-yay!) towards the back field.

9I was photographing the whole thing from behind, obviously!

DSC_0012Pretty cool. So far, so good!

When the new chickens arrive, we’ll keep them in the coop for a week or so to get familiar with their new home. Then they’ll head outside to enjoy their first fresh grass, weeds, bugs, and other delicacies. All good stuff for making delicious eggs. Bon apetit!

Pea Shoots, Blue Skies & Crispy Potatoes

DSC_0105Just to add some levity to this already hilarious February (More snow tomorrow! Then rain! Then ice! Then a deep freeze again! Hurrah!), I am currently developing recipes for asparagus and crookneck summer squash. Yes, ‘tis the season for out-of-season recipe development. On the bright side, at least it isn’t fresh basil or beefsteak tomatoes.

I have total sympathy for magazine editors, having nearly pulled all of my hair out trying to get the magazine I edited to produce its stories a year in advance so that recipes could be developed in season. Sometimes, it just isn’t possible. So when I am asked to work on recipes out of season, I oblige.

When duty calls, I saddle up my cheery red Honda and head out for the round-the-Island grocery-store crawl, hoping by hitting every store we have out here, I’ll manage to scare up what I need. Booking a ferry passage to drive to a Whole Foods or some other bigger grocery store is not in the budget.

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Yesterday, Farmer and I were pretty happy to get out of the house and go for a drive. Farmer loves a car ride, because usually it involves a trip to either the bank, the dump, or the gas station, all of which hand out biscuits to doggies. None of that yesterday, but plenty of opportunities to sniff the sea air as we made a point to take the route past both State Beach and Vineyard Haven harbor to see the frozen sea water. The sky was a joyous deep blue, and a reminder that summer will come eventually.

I found just about everything I needed, plus I stumbled upon something beautiful—something truly fresh, grown right here on the Island, in the month of February, no less! Fresh pea shoots.

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HoM_Poster_Pea-Shoots_February_2015_WEB-291x450When I saw them, I remembered that Island Grown Schools, which highlights a different vegetable or crop every month in its “harvest of the month” series, had chosen pea shoots for February. The “harvest of the month” series is a great way to introduce kids to different fresh foods and to bring attention to how they are grown and the best ways to cook them.

DSC_0022This month, the spotlight was on farmer Lloyd Hart, who has created a successful micro-green business on the Island called Martha’s Vineyard Organics. In addition to pea shoots, he grows all kinds of micro-greens (from arugula and kale to sunflower and spicy mixes) year-round in his greenhouse.

I snapped up the pea shoots, thinking it would be fun to develop a recipe with them in honor of  “harvest of the month”—even though tomorrow is March 1, and we’ll be on to a new crop! When Farmer and I got home, I eagerly tasted the shoots, and they were delicious, with that familiar nutty, sweet flavor of the peas I’m hoping to get planted myself in less than a month (yikes).

I didn’t have to think long about how I wanted to use the shoots. Thinking lofty and lovely, I envisioned a pile of them on top of something crispy, yet sturdy—something that would act as a kind of edible platform for the shoots and that would also offer textural contrast. My Crispy Smashed Potatoes (always a hit) jumped to mind and I thought of avocado as a bridge between the potato and pea flavors. My avocadoes turned out to be under-ripe, though, so I used a little guacamole instead—and added a dollop of my simple limey dipping sauce.

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Farmer sighed audibly with approval when he began to smell the potatoes roasting.

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Once we had all our components together, we plated up our lunch, and an extra platter for Roy to have when he got home.

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I decided to finish the whole thing off with a sprinkling of my favorite Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt—another uber-local product from my hard-working friends Heidi Feldman and Curtis Friedman.

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Being on a frozen island in the winter does have its limitations. But it never ceases to amaze me how hard everyone works to make the most of it all, and to keep the good stuff coming year ‘round out here. It almost makes February bearable. Almost.

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A Recipe for Sunshine: Roasted Golden Beet Jewels with Clementine Butter

DSC_0137Thursday morning I managed to get out of the house for a coffee date, before it started snowing—again. I detoured on the way home (despite big fat furry flakes already falling from the sky) to go into the “big” grocery store down-Island. I headed for the produce department and went straight for the brightest looking thing I could find, which happened to be orange beets. I still have some Clementines at home, I thought. I’ll make sunshine: Yellow + Orange.

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My apologies for still being citrus- and color- obsessed. When I first wrote about the snow (specifically, chicken farming in the snow) three weeks ago, I had no idea we had four storms and below-zero windchills just ahead of us. Not that cold isn’t invigorating and grey skies aren’t interesting. In fact the color of the sky is fascinating; one minute it looks like a collection of dull dust bunnies, the next it’s a deep tarnished pewter platter, and then it turns blank, like a nearly colorless piece of cheap copy paper. But sunshine is scarce. And it does get to you after a while.

scale 2Back at home, I pulled up my Beet Jewel recipe from Fresh from the Farm and decided to tweak a  a little variation with golden beets, almonds, Clementine juice and zest, and a touch of vanilla.

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I zested my clementine and then squeezed a bit of juice out of one half.

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Then I sliced my beets (no peeling necessary) into slices about 1/2-inch thick. I used a piece of brown paper to protect the board from beet stains, but the yellow beets really don’t stain like the red ones do.

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Then I cut the slices into 1/2-inch cubes, tossed them with oil and salt, and spread them out on parchment-lined sheet pans.

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I roasted them for about 25 minutes at 450°F, until browned and tender.

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Then I dressed them with the clementine butter, and took pictures, of course.

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And then I ate my beets, standing up, looking out the kitchen window at the giant icicles dripping off the mudroom gutters, growing longer every day, like Pinocchio’s nose.

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I watched Roy pull the chicken feed bags down to the coops on a sled. (We can’t get the truck down to the feed shed, so the bags have to be carried down one at a time, or loaded on to the sled, two at a time. We have a little toboggan run through the deep snow that both the sled and Farmer will charge right down.)

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And I watched for egg customers in the driveway so that I could run eggs out to them (too cold to keep the eggs in the farm stand fridge). It was sort of an egg drive-thru (no French fries or milkshakes, though).

Kind of fun, really; but, hey, fun has its limits.

Apparently a mix of sleet, snow, freezing rain, and ice is next on the docket. Whatever.

DSC_0128Golden Beet “Jewels” with Cranberries, Almonds & Clementine Butter

You’ll love this method for cooking beets—no peeling necessary, and the small-diced beets cook in only 25 minutes. If you don’t have clementines, try a mix of orange and lemon zest and juice. You can also replace the honey with maple syrup, and use whatever nut you like.

Serves 3 to 4

 

1 1⁄2 pounds golden beets topped and tailed but not peeled

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil

Kosher salt

1 tablespoon fresh clementine juice

(scant) ½ teaspoon fresh clementine zest

2 teaspoons local honey

1 teaspoon white balsamic vinegar

½ teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces and chilled

1⁄4 cup very finely chopped dried cranberries

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

1⁄3 cup toasted sliced almonds, lightly crushed

Small fresh parsley leaves, for garnish

Heat the oven to 450°F. Cover two heavy-duty sheet pans with parchment paper. Cut the beets into medium-small dice (no more than about 1⁄2 inch) and toss with the olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt in a bowl. Transfer to the sheet pans, and spread in one layer. Roast until the beets are tender and shrunken, about 25 minutes. (Rotate the baking sheets to opposite racks halfway through cooking for more even cooking.) Transfer to a mixing bowl.

Put the clementine juice and zest, the honey, and the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir or whisk until the honey is dissolved and the mixture is hot (it may be steaming but it should not boil), 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and immediately add the vanilla and the cold butter. Swirl the pan until the butter is melted and the sauce is slightly creamy. Add the cranberries and thyme and stir. Pour and scrape the butter with the cranberries over the roasted beets and mix and toss gently. Add most of the almonds and stir gently again. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the remaining nuts and the parsley.

 

 

 

In the Winter Kitchen: Grains, Greens, Citrus & Sunlight

cit 4My pal Barney and I have been in the Laboratory all morning, mad-sciencing up creations to satisfy my winter cravings. For some reason, I am fixated on dark green vegetables, grains of all kinds, and citrus in every color. Plus, crunchy stuff. (My new love is roasted chickpeas). And then, I am putting them altogether for lunches and dinner. (My other new fixation is cooking grains ahead.)

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So first Barney and I had a nice cup of coffee.

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Then we snacked on the roasted chickpeas I made yesterday. Honestly, these are better fresh out of the oven, but they do keep okay for a day or two.

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Here’s how you make them: Rinse, drain, and thoroughly dry a can of chickpeas. Toss with enough of a neutral oil  (I like grapeseed) to coat well and season with about ½ teaspoon kosher salt. Spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast at 400°F until browned and shrunken, 30 to 35 minutes.

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Then Barney and I par-boiled some broccoli raab. If you’re not familiar with raab (aka rapini) it’s actually a turnip relative and has a distinct bitterness which is highly satisfying, especially when paired with lemon or anything spicy. (Goat cheese is another good companion for raab, as are garlic and ginger.)

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You all know how much I love to roast most vegetables, and that I’m not much for boiling them, but broccoli raab is an exception. I almost always cook it in boiling salted water for about 4 minutes—even before finishing it in a sauté pan with garlic, as I did today. I also cut the thickest parts of the stems off and then split the stems down the middle so that the pieces are all about the same thickness.

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Meanwhile, on the back of the stove, a big pot of boiling water was going. I plunked a cup of black rice in it, stirred, lowered the heat just a tad (still boiling) and let the rice cook in the boiling water until tender. (About 28 minutes for me today.) Then I drained it and spread the rice on a sheet pan to cool.

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I refilled the pot, brought it to a boil, and cooked a cup of farro the same way. I overcooked the farro today because I forgot to look back at one of my own recipes and thought I remembered the cooking time was about 40 minutes. In reality, it’s only 30. (There is also such a thing as par-cooked farro that cooks in 10 minutes.)

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That mistake aside, this boiling water method (as opposed to the pilaf method with a measured amount of water) is really a great way to cook grains in big amounts that you want to store and eat throughout the week. You don’t have the frustration of finding all your liquid simmered out and your grain undercooked; simply use a spoon to fish out a few grains every so often to see if they’re done. They should still be just a tiny bit toothy when you bite into them, and with some grains, just beginning to split open a bit.

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You can store them (after thoroughly cooling them) in plastic containers in the fridge. (You can also freeze cooked grains.) One note on salt: I don’t salt the water at first but tend to add some halfway through cooking. That said, the grains will still need to be generously seasoned when prepared for eating.

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Next Barney and I pulled out all the various citrus fruits I’ve been stockpiling—a Meyer lemon, a blood orange, a Minneola orange, a clementine, a navel orange, a regular lemon, and a lime. Mostly I just wanted to cut them open, take pictures of them, and then eat some…but I also wanted to dress my grains with some juice and zest.

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I am a citrus zest freak and put it in everything.

Lastly, I put everything together to make lunch (which wound up being dinner, too, though I did make pork chops for Roy, since he does not appreciate the meatless meal the way I do!). I put a cup of cooked black rice and a cup of cooked farro into a microwavable bowl and reheated them for a minute and a half. (Remember this, as it is easy to do on a weeknight if you’ve got grains already made and stashed in the fridge.)

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I juiced ½ of the blood orange and ½ of the Meyer lemon and added about a tablespoon of each to my grains. I seasoned with plenty of salt, too. In a little skillet, I heated up a bit of oil and a tiny bit of butter and softened ½ teaspoon or so of minced garlic in it. I tossed most of the softened garlic in with the grains and added 4 ounces of the broccoli raab to the skillet, tossing to warm it through in the garlic-scented oil. I stirred up the grains, tasted, and piled in a serving dish, arranging the raab and a smattering of roasted chickpeas alongside. I squeezed the other Meyer lemon half over the raab, and at the last minute, decided to cut the blood orange segments out of the unused half and toss them in, too. Often I used dried fruit and toasted nuts with grains, but it was a nice switch to have the crunchy chickpeas and the fresh citrus segments.

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There are lots of ways to turn grains into filling meals (think beans, roasted veggies, sautéed mushrooms), so I encourage you to do your own mad-scientist experimenting. Just be sure to season with plenty of bright ingredients (vinegars, fresh herbs, Asian condiments, as well as citrus).

But don’t be surprised when your trusty assistant loses interest in the experiment—especially if there are birds outside the window to keep an eye on.

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Keep Warm and Cook Something Delicious

DSC_0048Wherever you are, I’m sure you’re cold. If you’re in Minnesota, God bless you. Roy spent his elementary school years in Duluth and he has vivid memories of walking to school through snow banks much taller than he was. Martha’s Vineyard is downright tropical compared to that.

DSC_0011DSC_0027Thought you might like to see our thermometers here. It was 0° when Roy first went out, but by the time Farmer and I got our gear on, it was  8° on the farm stand (right) and 24° in the hoop house (left). The hoop house was warming up pretty rapidly in the sun, too. Inside, the greens are covered by both a layer of fabric row cover and a layer of plastic, so they should be okay. Lettuce actually withstands very cold temps (due to a sort of anti-freeze effect) as long as it doesn’t get direct frost or cold wind. We have kale, broccoli, and arugula under cover, too. I’m hopeful.

In the garden, the parsley seems to miraculously radiate a green glow, despite everything.

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Heading back Inside, I rifled through the freezer and pulled out some of our own tomatoes—roasted and frozen in September—and our own pesto, made with the last of the basil in October, I think. Making baked pasta tonight, a memory of warmth on a cold night. A few days ago I made split pea soup (a Roy favorite) and pulled out my old Joy of Cooking to see the notes I made years ago on how I like to make this classic. I noticed (maybe for the first time), that Irma Rombauer suggests to serve the soup with “croutons, or sour black bread and Jellied Pig’s Feet (p. 511).” How interesting!

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I also made creamy polenta (for myself, not a Roy favorite) last week, poured it into a baking dish, and cut pieces out several nights running. I pan-fried them and served them with sautéed broccoli greens and kale from the hoop house. By the way, last year when I blogged about broccoli greens, I had no idea they’d be making their way into grocery stores this year. The current edition of Fine Cooking magazine has an article about how Foxy Organics is now growing and selling broccoli leaves (under the name Broccoleaf) to grocery stores. (I wrote about this and other new veggies on The Huffington Post yesterday). You can check out Fine’s Cooking’s info on broccoli leaves here and a great recipe for Broccoli Leaf Tortellini Soup here. Oh, and I almost forgot—that new issue of Fine Cooking also has a feature by yours truly on roasted winter vegetable salads. To get the full effect of the gorgeous photos and layout (and flexibility of the master recipe), you’ll want to pick up the magazine. But many of the recipes are online, too. Click here for the Roasted Winter Vegetable and Pear Salad with Cheddar and Almonds recipe. (Photo of salad below is by Scott Phillips, courtesy of FineCooking.com.)

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Undoubtedly, you are concocting something delicious in your own kitchen to keep warm. Regardless, I hope you’re staying inside, unlike our chickens and ducks, who have the option of huddling in their coops, but prefer to roam around and eat bits of snow on a day like this—crazy!

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Even crazier is that I am on egg-collecting duty today (I just remembered—yikes!) and now I have to layer-up (two of everything) and go down to the (7) coops and collect (hundreds of) eggs. Can’t wait.

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Feeling Cookie-ish, Part 2: Dark Chocolate Crackle Cookie Recipe

DSCN0945Chocolate and orange—Love it or hate it? This is one of the (grueling) debates we used to have in the Fine Cooking magazine test kitchen when it came time to test recipes for the holiday issues. There was always a chocolate soufflé or chocolate something that had orange zest or oil added to it. Some of us were firmly on the side of “no orange in my chocolate!” Me, I happen to be a fan. That bright, citrusy tang adds complexity by bringing out the fruity side of a good bittersweet chocolate.

But, yeah, in the scheme of things, these are not the kinds of debates that are going to keep us awake at night. (Although they are a good diversion from things that are!) And really, the one thing they remind me of this time of year is what a gift those test kitchen tastings were. After eight years at Fine Cooking—and hundreds of recipes tasted—I had this huge collection of taste memories to refer to whenever I needed a recipe for a special occasion (or any time, really). Of course the memories were tied to recipes printed in the magazines, and I still have all 130+ regular issues on the bookshelf right behind me. But lucky for you, they are all (mostly) online at this point (and available in a CD). And better still, recipes have been collected into specially themed magazines which are easy to reference. So when it comes time to start baking cookies in December, I just pull out my Fine Cooking Cookies issue. (You can purchase it for $7.49 in the Taunton Store right now).

Most of my favorite cookie recipes are from my favorite baker, Abby Dodge (the author of several outstanding cookbooks, including The Weekend Baker). I got to know Abby when we were mere children (ha!) in the early days of Fine Cooking. Abby was the magazine’s first test kitchen director.

She is a chocolate genius.

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So even though I realize this is supposed to be a blog about cooking and growing vegetables, I am going to share Abby’s Dark Chocolate Crackle Cookie recipe with you today. I simply have cookie-brain right now. After posting the Giant Molasses Crinkles recipe last week, I thought, well, I’ll just keep on cookie-ing for now! Since my Dad is arriving today and he is a fellow-chocolate lover (he used to secretly steal bites out of my chocolate Easter bunnies), I figured it was a good time to make what may be my favorite holiday cookie (at least in the top three).

And yes, there is orange zest in this chocolate recipe. But the wonderful news is that the cookie is delicious with and without it. I’ve used the suggested 2 teaspoons, occasionally 1 teaspoon, and sometimes none. All have been wonderful. There is a lot of cocoa and chocolate here, but the investment is worth it since the recipe yields a lot.        

photo-277Dark Chocolate Crackle Cookies

Recipe by Abigail Johnson Dodge from Fine Cooking Magazine Issue 89

These deeply flavorful chocolate cookies have a light, cakey, almost-brownie-ish interior. They are fragile when hot, so let them cool for several minutes on the cookie sheets before moving. You can freeze balls of dough for up to 1 month instead of cooking them all right away. Thaw them overnight before proceeding with the recipe.

Yields about 5 dozen cookies

 

 11-1/4 oz. (2-1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. table salt

8 oz. (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar

2 oz. (2/3 cup) natural, unsweetened cocoa, sifted if lumpy

2 tsp. finely grated orange zest

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

3 large eggs

8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled until barely warm

3/4 cup (4 oz.) chopped chocolate (white, bittersweet, or semisweet)

1/3 cup granulated sugar; more as needed

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350ºF. Line three large cookie sheets with parchment or nonstick baking liners.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer), beat the butter, brown sugar, cocoa, orange zest, and vanilla on medium speed until well combined, about 4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating briefly between additions. Add the cooled chocolate and mix until blended, about 1 minute. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until almost completely blended, about 1 minute. Add the chopped chocolate and mix until blended, about 15 seconds.

Shape the dough into 1-1/4-inch balls with a small ice-cream scoop or two tablespoons.

Pour the granulated sugar into a shallow dish. Dip the top of each ball in the sugar and set the balls sugar side up about 1-1/2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Bake one sheet at a time until the cookies are puffed and cracked on top, 11 to 12 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the sheet for 5 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.

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The Swirl of Winter and A Cookie for a Cold Day

photo-261It feels a bit swirly here in my world. I know swirly isn’t really a word (or at least not the right word), but often I need to merge two or three words to find something that sounds like what it is. Swish, whoosh, whorl, curl, squirrel. I’m looking for a word that says I’m feeling a little squirmy and wind-blown and short of breath. Partly because every time I walk out the door, the wind, the relentless wind, is cranking up again. Sending leaves scampering and tearing a thousand tiny branches from the trees. It’s getting dark so early, too, and even on the sunnier days, the skies seem to be the color of stone and riddled with buckshot clouds. Ominous, in a not very subtle way. In the short window of daylight, there’s not nearly the time we need to clean the fields, mulch the beds, gather tools strewn near and far. And those are not even things at the top of the list. How did it get to be December?

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Time is not slowing down the way I thought it would come winter. (Ha! Yet another reminder that I am not in control.) I clear my desk of one thing and four more piles show up. I go into the kitchen to test a recipe and come out with four more things I want or need to cook. There are cookbooks and magazines piled everywhere. And books I’ve been meaning to read. Farm paperwork to do.

I have a bad habit, too, of worrying about the future, especially on dark, cold, windy days. Like everyone else on the planet, I go from feeling like I’m absolutely going in the right direction to wondering what in the world I’m doing. I especially like to have self-debates about the merits of writing cookbooks as part of one’s income plan. Yesterday evening I found out that Fresh From the Farm: A Year of Recipes and Stories was chosen to be on NPR’s list of great reads for 2014. An honor and a total surprise. I let myself be very excited about it, just because you have to do that to be good to yourself. What does it mean? Will it help sell more copies? Who knows!

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But I know it is good to be back in the kitchen cooking now. And I see, looking back at some of my recent Instagram photos, that apparently swirly things are not all bad in my world. (I’m coming to the end of my second 100 days straight of farm photos on Instagram.) I take a lot of comfort in the concentricity of say, a sweet potato-parmesan-goat cheese galette I made for Thanksgiving (top photo). (And, believe it or not, concentricity is a real word). Or the curly life lines of a freshly sawn tree trunk.

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Or the uber-familiar circle of a favorite cookie. Like the giant molasses crinkles I made today, just because. Because December means cookies to me. Lots of cookies. (Cookies are the antidotes to grey days, don’t you know?) And because these giant molasses cookies are a recipe from Fresh From the Farm, part of a bigger pear dessert. (This is where I am supposed to remind you that cookbooks make great holiday gifts… And that cookbook authors will be eternally grateful to you for your purchases…) And because the cookies remind me of my best friend Eliza, to whom I wish I lived closer. And of my mom, who is coming to visit (with my Dad, of course) next week. It will be their 60th wedding anniversary this month.

I bet they wonder where 60 years went. Me, I look at the shiny splotchy warm patina of my metal tart pans and baking sheets in these photos, and I wonder where 20, even 30 years went. I’ve had these things that long. Clearly my memory bank is swirling around a lot these days, too, circling back.

Tonight we’re celebrating Roy’s birthday. With freshly caught bay scallops a friend dropped off for us. And a simple vanilla cake I made this afternoon. And cookies, of course. Here’s the recipe.

DSCN0858Big Molasses Crinkle Cookies

This is a softer, chewier version of a childhood favorite. It’s also a bit bigger (as in diameter), since I roll the dough into fairly large balls. They bake out at between 3 and 4 inches across. The dough needs to be chilled for 45 minutes to an hour, but it can also be chilled overnight if you like. The cookies freeze well, too.

Makes 16 four-inch cookies

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2 1/4 cups (10 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Table salt

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup dark brown sugar

6 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 large egg

1/4 cup unsulphured molasses

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

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In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter, brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of the granulated sugar, and a pinch of salt. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about a minute. Stop the motor and scrape the sides down. Add the egg and beat on medium speed until combined. With the motor running, slowly add the molasses and the vegetable oil and beat on medium-low speed until well combined. Stop the motor and scrape the sides down. With the motor running on low, spoon in the dry ingredients gradually and mix until just combined (you’ll still see some flour). Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a silicone spatula to finish gently mixing the last bits of flour into the dough.

Chill the dough in the refrigerator for an hour or so.

Heat the oven to 375° F degrees. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Put the remaining 4 tablespoons granulated sugar in a shallow bowl. Put a small bowl of water out. Roll the dough into big balls that are about 1 1/2-inches (or a smidge bigger) in diameter. Dip each ball in the sugar and roll around to coat. Put each on the baking sheet. Sprinkle each dough ball with a little water. Repeat, spacing dough balls 4 to 5 inches apart on the baking sheets. (You’ll get 4 to 5 cookies on a sheet pan.)

Bake until the cookies are set around the edges, slightly puffed (they will collapse as they cool), and crackled on the top, 11 to 13 minutes, rotating the baking sheets to opposite racks halfway through cooking. (Smaller cookies will cook in about 10 minutes.) Cool on the baking sheets. Repeat with the remaining dough, putting new parchment on the baking sheets.

Keep the cookies well wrapped in plastic inside of a zip-top bag in the freezer or well wrapped at room temperature for a day or two. To warm cookies, place on a parchment-lined baking sheet in a 350°F oven for 2 to 4 minutes.