Tag Archives: EGGS

Otters (Yes, Otters) Like Eggs, Too: A Short Tale, Plus A Recipe for Breakfast Tostadas

DSC_0050Of course I wasn’t home. I had left at sunrise to get an early ferry over to the mainland. By the time Roy called I was halfway to Hyannis.

“I think I know why Farmer has been agitated lately,” Roy said when I answered the phone. “I just found an otter in the yard, not too far from the house.”

“An otter? As in o-t-t-e-r?”

“Yes, he’s probably a yearling. Very cute. He was right outside by the maple tree. He’s in the dog crate now. I’m heading for Gus Ben David’s.”

Understand this: Roy loves otters. He wants to write a children’s book about otters. He has seen them here on the Vineyard on many occasions, and he is enchanted. I, on the other hand, have caught a distant glimpse of a couple otters only once (below–photo taken on a walk with Roy).

DSC_3868_01

Although I was really bummed not to be there, it made perfect sense to me that the otter revealed himself only to Roy. And when I told this story to a group of my friends last night, they immediately agreed. There is something between Roy and animals; he is certainly very calm around them, which I think they pick up on. And when Roy put the dog crate down in front of the otter, who had scooted under a propped-up palette, the otter hopped right inside.

On the way down to Gus (who is our resident Island wildlife specialist extraordinaire), Roy stopped at Alley’s General Store and told a friend who works there about the otter in the truck. The friend, who is a member of the Wampanoag Tribe of Aquinnah, took a look and later told some other folks in the Tribe about the otter. Turns out otters are totems—animals of spiritual significance. When one crosses your path, it may be a message to relax and enjoy the small things in life, to be joyful and playful, to reawaken your inner child! I have no idea what this means for Roy, but there you have it.

egg washWhen Roy got down to Oak Bluffs, Gus Ben David was relieved to see that the otter was perfectly healthy, and he told Roy that likely the youngster hadn’t been on his own for too long (the mother otter kicks the young ones out when she’s getting ready to have another litter) and was most certainly looking for food since the Mill Brook and Albert’s Pond which  are not too far from us (about ¼ to ½ mile) have been mostly frozen lately. And it turns out otters love chicken eggs (who doesn’t?), and for that reason, should probably not be hanging around a chicken farm.

Roy followed Gus back to a body of (unfrozen) water where other otters live, and together they let the otter go. Green Island Farm’s January visitor dove in and swam off joyfully with hardly a look back. Of course, we’ll be keeping our eyes open—it constantly amazes us what shows up on the farm, from baby skunks and box turtles, to stray kittens and turkey chicks. Maybe Ollie will come back for another visit.

My only regret—other than not getting to meet Ollie—is that we don’t have a picture of him. When Roy called me, I of course said, “You’ve got to take a picture!” But digging the cameras out of my office was not high on his priority list, since of course he had a morning of work waiting for him after otter care.

DSC_0013

In honor of Ollie, who probably didn’t manage to get much in the way of chicken eggs while he was here (he was actually closer to our household trash cans than the chicken coops, so likely he enjoyed something!), I made egg tostadas this morning. This is a recipe from Fresh From the Farm that I usually make with fresh corn and summer home-made salsa. But I have been craving these, so I stubbornly went out to the garden and actually picked some frozen cilantro, covered with a light dusting of snow, and I defrosted some of our frozen sweet corn from the summer that I have stashed away. (The cilantro was pretty good!)

Cilantro 1

 

DSC_4020It was a most excellent breakfast. (So good, in fact, that I might make the tostadas again for supper.)

Farmer approved. He is still missing Ollie, though, who he got to meet only from a safe distance while on the leash.

Now he keeps telling Dad, “I told you there was a visitor out there—maybe next time you’ll listen to me!”

DSC_0026

Breakfast Tostadas with Scrambled Eggs, Sweet Corn, Cilantro & Salsa

Recipe copyright Susie Middleton, Fresh From the Farm: A Year of Recipes and Stories (Taunton Press, 2014)

Nothing beats egg and tortilla combos, and the one we like best has fresh corn kernels, fresh cilantro, and fresh salsa layered on top of a crisped-up corn tortilla. We sneak a few refried beans in (and sometimes a dollop of guacamole), but overall this is a breakfast (or supper) treat that feels light but is still filling. We heat the tortillas in a cast iron pan in a little bit of oil so that they get just a bit crunchy. Made to order, these are a farmhouse kitchen classic. If you want to make just one or two, just whisk up a couple eggs and reduce the other ingredients by a third. Makes 6 tostadas

_____________________________________________________________

1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels (from about 2 ears)  

8 to 9 large eggs

Milk or cream

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese

1/2 cup refried beans

2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 to 2/3 cup salsa (spicy is good here)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Extra-virgin olive oil

6 small (5 1/2-inch) corn tortillas

_________________________________________________

Put the corn kernels in a small microwavable bowl with a few teaspoons of water. Cover with a damp paper towel and microwave for 30 seconds. Beat the eggs with a splash of milk or cream, a couple big pinches of salt, and several grinds of fresh pepper. Arrange two skillets—one small nonstick for cooking eggs, the other heavier (such as cast iron)—on your stovetop. Arrange the beaten eggs, corn, cheese, refried beans, cilantro, and salsa near your stove.

Heat 1 to 2 teaspoons butter in the small skillet over medium heat. Add a portion (about one-sixth) of the eggs to the pan and scramble until just cooked through (they should still look glossy.) Meanwhile, heat 1 to 2 teaspoons of oil in the heavier skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add one tortilla and cook until lightly browned and a little bit puffy or bubbly, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip and cook the other side for a minute.

Transfer the tortilla to a warm plate and smear a few small spoonfuls of refried beans (2 to 3 teaspoons) over it. Sprinkle a couple teaspoons of cheese over the beans. Arrange the scrambled eggs on top of the cheese and beans and sprinkle 2 tablespoons of cheese and a portion of the corn over them. Top with a generous sprinkling of cilantro and 1 tablespoon or a little more of fresh salsa. Serve the tostada right away. Repeat with the remaining eggs and tortillas and serve hot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Farm Eggs+Spring Greens= Green Island Farm Egg Sandwich

Egg Sandwich pic monkey

When I’m away from the farm, one of the things I miss most are our delicious eggs. (Well, I miss the egg farmer, too.) So as I leave today for a week, I’m indulging myself and posting one of my favorite egg recipes from Fresh from the Farm: A Year of Recipes and Stories. It’s a glorious open-faced egg sandwich, meant to challenge you to find as many local ingredients as you can when you put it (or something similar inspired by it!) together. (Recipe below.) In addition to the eggs, locally baked bread, local bacon, and Massachusetts-made cheddar, I also toss in a few of our own early Asian greens like mizuna and tat soi and drizzle with some honey gathered just up the road.

Since I’ve lately become seduced by Instagram, and one of my favorite subjects is our eggs, I thought I’d collect those eggy still-lifes and post them here as well. (You can see my daily Instagram photos here on sixburnersue.com as well, on the home page and at the bottom of the sidebar at right.)

Now, while I’m away, I only have to pop over to the blog to visit our eggs!

photo-12

The wash room. Roy does this twice a day. No joke.

 

photo-13 Hate to scramble this; it’s so lovely.

 

photo-16 This was our first duck egg.

 

photo-17

This morning Roy put out the chalkboard sign to market his duck eggs.

 

hard boiled pic monkey

Twelve minutes.

 

Note:  Lovely sandwich photo at top taken by Alexandra Grablewski and styled by Michael Pederson for Fresh from the Farm.

Green Island Farm Open-Faced Egg Sandwich                                        with Local Bacon, Cheddar & Asian Greens  

I love this sophisticated take on a breakfast sandwich, because it’s possible to include so many local ingredients in it. These open-faced sandwiches are a bit like giant crostini, so eat them out of hand and eat them right away!

Serves 4

4 slices bacon, preferably local

Four 3/4-inch slices peasant bread (from an oblong loaf) or challah bread (either way, pieces should be around 2 1/2 inches x 5 inches in diameter)

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons unsalted butter, softened

2 to 2 1/2 ounces aged sharp Cheddar cheese  or any good local or regional semi-hard cheese, sliced thinly (about 10 to 12 small slices total)

4 fresh, local large eggs, preferably at room temperature

1 tablespoon heavy cream

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 to 2 teaspoons tender herb leaves (such as chives, chervil, cilantro, or parsley) or chive blossoms, plus 4 small tender sprigs or edible flowers for garnish (optional)

12 to 16 mizuna leaves (or other baby greens such as mustard, tat soi, arugula, or kale)

Honey, preferably local, for drizzling

Sea salt (optional)

Cook the bacon using your favorite method and drain on paper towels. Snap each piece in half so that you have 8 shorter strips of cooked bacon.

Arrange an oven rack 6 inches from the broiler and heat the broiler to high. Put the bread slices on a baking sheet and toast lightly. Turn the slices over, spread the untoasted sides with about 1 tablespoon of the butter, and put the baking sheet back under the broiler. Broil until the tops are golden brown. Arrange the cheese slices on top of the bread and broil until just beginning to melt.

Meanwhile, in a medium (10-inch) nonstick skillet, heat the remaining 2 teaspoons butter over medium heat. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, a generous pinch of salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Stir in the herb leaves or chive blossoms. When the butter has melted and is foaming, pour in the egg mixture. Let it sit until the edges start to set and then, using a silicone spatula, gently pull the edges of the egg toward the center, letting uncooked egg run underneath (tilting the pan if necessary). Continue to cook the egg this way, gradually gathering the soft folds of eggs together into a rough circle, about 6 to 7 inches around. (This is really just scrambled eggs with a little less scrambling.) When the eggs are mostly set, flip (use the spatula to divide the eggs in half first for easier flipping) and let the bottom side cook and brown up a bit. Transfer the egg to a cutting board and cut into four portions.

Arrange a few mizuna leaves on each of the bread pieces and top with a portion of egg. Top each with 2 pieces of bacon, another leaf or two of mizuna, and the herb sprig or flowers(if using). Drizzle all with honey, sprinkle with a little sea salt if desired, cut each piece in half, and serve right away.

mizuna tat soi plate picmonk

Mizuna is the spiky green; tat soi is also known as “spoon cabbage.”

 

Summer Farm Frittata with Fingerlings, Fresh Herbs, Greens & Goat Cheese

Late at night, after I’ve spent an entire day fooling around with vegetables, what do I do but curl up on the couch with a book about—vegetables! My new favorite cookbook is River Cottage Veg by the unstoppable British food writer, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. I must admit, I’m fond of his pro-veg (rather than anti-meat) philosophy, because, well, it’s pretty much the point of view I offer in The Fresh & Green Table. But it’s more than that. I just plain like his food—honest and sensible but inspiring too. Somehow, this big hefty book, its thick matte pages covered from ear to ear with colorful but homey food photos and whimsical illustrations, feels like just the right thing to plunk on your lap at the end of a long day.

I only got to page six before I saw the thing I wanted to make for supper the very next day.

And I did.

Only I didn’t exactly follow Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe. I know, I know. (Insert sheepish look here.) But I’m really in the mode of “use what we have around” so into this lovely early summer frittata went all kinds of interesting things from the garden.

I started with 9 little pullet eggs. These are the smallest eggs our new chickens are laying (many of them have already upgraded to medium and large eggs). We don’t sell a lot of them, so they wind up as house eggs. Voila, 9 into a frittata—way to use those eggs up, Susie!

Next I went out to the garden with my home gardener/home cook hat on. (Not my market gardener/professional cook hat). And I picked little tiny bits of interesting odds and ends that happen to hang around when you grow a few of your own vegetables. I get a huge kick out of these things that you never see in a grocery store—cilantro flowers, pea greens, little tiny potatoes the size of marbles, spring onions, squash blossoms, garlic chives. I picked some flowering oregano, too. A few sprigs of mint. A couple stalks of Swiss Chard. Mature pea pods. A sprig of Purple Ruffles basil. Calendula flowers. Yeah, never in a million years could I get away with publishing a recipe like this in a book or a magazine. (I can only imagine the car trips one would have to make in search of that list of ingredients.) But once in a while, it’s fun to indulge myself, and to give a little not-so-subtle boost to the idea of growing just a tiny bit of your own food. If you like to cook, there’s no better way to become really familiar with an ingredient than growing it.

The two non-local ingredients I used were fresh goat cheese (about 4 ounces) and unsalted butter (a couple tablespoons). Oops, and a splash of heavy cream. (You could omit.)

I got out my 10-inch slope-sided nonstick skillet and melted the butter over medium heat. I preheated the oven to 350°, and put my potatoes in a saucepan of water to boil. I sautéed the spring onions, then the chard and the pea greens, in the butter.

I whisked the eggs, cream, salt, pepper, and all the herbs (chopped) together. I crumbled the goat cheese and added that to the custard. I transferred the cooked potatoes to the skillet with the greens and added just a touch more butter. Turned up the heat to a sizzle and poured in the custard. I scooted everything around with a spatula to evenly distribute it, scattered on the calendula petals, and nestled the nasturtiums in last. I turned up the heat ever so slightly and waited for the edges of the frittata to set. Then I carefully transferred it to the oven and set the timer for about 18 minutes. When it was puffed, firm in the middle, and lightly golden, I took it out to cool on a wooden board. (Frittatas are tastiest warm, not hot.)

I took a picture of this concoction before it went in the oven, thinking the final product might look a little muddled or faded—or something. Well, it actually looked rather comely in the end. And it had great flavor—a big boost from the herbs and goat cheese, and those fingerlings really made it feel filling. Roy ate three pieces—and leftovers for lunch–which is saying a lot, in his language. I thought with all those flowers and herbs he might find it a bit too frou-frou.

The thing is, you can make this frittata with any greens and herbs you can find—no calendula petals or cilantro flowers needed! So take a cue from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (and a couple of budget-minded farmers who live on an Island where meat is very expensive!) and have an all-veggie supper once or twice a week. Next on my list (though I know better than to promise that I’ll follow the recipe) is his “Vegeree”—a spicy rice dish with roasted eggplant. Yum.

Christmas Morning Popovers: Which Pan To Use?

This Christmas especially I am wishing we could be with my Mom and Dad and sister in Delaware. But it is not to be, so I will have to make do, recreating the traditional Christmas morning breakfast we’ve cooked year after year. Popovers are the star, with scrambled eggs and scrapple on the side. Scrapple might be a bit hard to find in Massachusetts (!), but I will definitely be making my Dad’s famous popovers. Only I’m not sure which pan I’m going to use.

When I was a very little girl, my job was to stand on a stool, dip a paper towel into a can of Crisco, and grease the cast-iron muffin pan with the stuff. The Crisco kind of went by the wayside, but for some reason, that cast iron pan wound up with me, and has traveled around the Northeast for the last 25 years or so. I’m not sure how old the pan is (it’s marked “Griswold, Erie PA,” so I know for sure that it was made before 1957, when the Wagner company absorbed Griswold. But it is likely much older than that). But I think it is due a little more respect than I have given it lately.

The cast-iron pan got the cold shoulder when the groovy new deep-cup nonstick popover pans came along several years back. Even my Dad got one of those. And we all smiled smugly when our popovers popped as high as the weeds in August. These popovers are so light and airy that I featured a version of them in The Fresh & Green Table. And in their defense, these airy popovers are perfect for filling with a veggie ragout or dipping in a bowl of tomato soup.

But more air means more crust—and less eggy-custardy filling. That custardy stuff happens to be my favorite part, especially when it is slathered with butter. And if your popover is supposed to be the star of the breakfast plate, well, it just makes sense to have more of the eggy stuff. At least that’s what I decided yesterday after (literally) dusting off the old cast-iron pan and baking a test-run of popovers. (Deciding to do this the same week that I was developing both waffle and crêpe recipes might not have been the best idea. Taste-testing was fun at first but then I started to feel like I was going to explode!)

The cast-iron-pan popovers popped perfectly respectably (photo at right) but left a delightful amount of silky stretchy custardy filling to savor. Roy and Farmer both concurred that these were delicious and each had second and third helpings. (To be fair, these were Farmer’s first popovers, so he was pretty excited to be in on the taste-testing. His tail thumped a lot and he gave us that crooked smile of his with one tooth hanging over his lip. And the look—you know that look. And he got another taste.)

The good news is that the batter recipe I included in The Fresh & Green Table works fine in either pan, with some adjustments for greasing the pan (included in the recipe below). My cast-iron pan has 11 cups, so I distributed the custard between them (though not very evenly so some were kind of squat.) The nonstick popover pans have only 6 cups, so they hold a lot more custard (hence the mega-poofing). But no matter what pan you use, you’re safe to fill the cups up at least 3/4 full and even a bit more than that. If you think of it, take your eggs and milk out of the fridge before you go to bed Christmas Eve, so you’ll have room-temperature ingredients in the morning. And if you’re resurrecting an old cast-iron pan, you, uh, may need to buy a can of Crisco.

Popovers


I think popovers are best straight out of the oven, but they will keep for a day in a zip-top bag and can be reheated in a 350°oven, wrapped in foil, for 10 minutes.

_________________________

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled, more softened butter for rubbing the pan and for serving

Vegetable shortening, such as Crisco (if using cast-iron pan)

4 large eggs, at room temperature

1 1/4 cups whole milk, at room temperature

1 1/4 cups (5.6 ounces) all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon table salt

_____________________

Heat the oven to 425°F. Arrange a rack in the center of the oven.

Grease the cups of a nonstick (6-cup) popover pan very generously with softened butter or the cups of a cast-iron pan generously with vegetable shortening.

Combine the milk, flour, and salt in a blender and blend thoroughly. Add the eggs to the blender and blend until smooth. Lastly, blend in the melted 2 tablespoons butter.

Pour the batter into the cups (they will be about 3/4 to 7/8 full), dividing it evenly. Put the pan in the oven and do not open the oven door for the entire baking time.

Bake for 20 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 325°F and continue baking (without opening the oven door) until the popovers are very puffed and a deep golden brown, about another 10 to 12 minutes for the cast-iron pan popovers and about 15 minutes for the popovers in the nonstick popover pans.

Serve right away with lots of butter or split and filled with roasted or braised veggies.

 

Photo at top by Annabelle Breakey from The Fresh & Green Table

 

 

 

Could You Have Nest-Box-Checking Disorder?

Anyone who works at home should have a chicken coop. Forget rummaging through the refrigerator, surfing Facebook, or even sneaking a spell on the couch to flip through catalogues (I never do that)—checking the hens’ nesting boxes for eggs is the best procrastinating maneuver ever. I should know. I’ve been getting up from the computer about 12 times a day to go outside and look for eggs. I guess I have Nest-Box-Checking Disorder, because I can’t help myself. Finding an egg in the hay—especially when it is still warm and I can hold it in my cold hands like a little hot water bottle—is like Christmas morning, over and over again. (Much better than Groundhog Day.)

During the darkest days of winter, we were only getting a couple of eggs a day. Now that the days are growing longer (we’ll have a whopping10 full hours of daylight on Feb. 11), the ladies are laying more. (Some gals were molting, too, so they were redirecting their energies towards changing their feathers rather than laying.) Sometimes when I go to check, there are three or four eggs lying together—almost always in the same box, as these girls have a strange preference for crowding. We keep a special bowl in the mudroom for collecting the day’s eggs, so that anyone can add to it. (Roy often checks the boxes first-thing when he comes home from work, as he has Nest-Box-Checking Disorder, too. The hardest thing to do for both of us is to refrain from checking when Libby is here, because, after all, it’s not a very nice thing for an adult to usurp this especially kid-friendly activity.) At the end of the day, we count up the eggs, ooh and ah over the different shapes and colors and speckles, and refrigerate them.

Even if there aren’t any eggs in the boxes, I still get a kick out of visiting with the ladies. They make all kinds of clucking noises and rush from their outer pen to greet me, as they know I often have lettuce or hamburger buns or leftover roasted vegetables for them. It’s a good life these gals lead; we just got them a special heated chicken-waterer so their water isn’t frozen over in the morning. (Actually, the present was more for us, as walking back to the house to change the water every morning is a pain.)

While I love checking on the ladies, I have elevated the art of procrastination to include all of the animals on the farmette. Cocoa Bunny literally runs circles around her cage if you bring her a green treat (like these Brussels sprouts), and Farmer is up for a good walk about a zillion times a day. Most mornings, and usually almost every evening around dusk, Farmer and I track the wild bunnies, which thrive here in a Watership Down kind of way. God knows how many there are—maybe thousands? There were so many tracks in the snow this morning that Farmer’s nose was snow-encrusted with all that sniffing.

If all else fails, my last procrastination technique is to look out the window right next to my desk. If there aren’t birds snacking at the birdfeeder Roy has kindly hung within my sight, then a group of six or eight wild turkeys is often strolling by, just a few feet away. They’re good for a glance or two. But I don’t think I’ll ever get Bird-Watching Disorder. After all, looking out the window is not half as much fun as actually getting up from the computer and walking outside. And coming back in with something good to eat.

Armchair Farming

This winter I am home-schooling myself—about farming. This started out as a light-hearted endeavor. I figured I’d brighten up the dark days of winter by reading memoirs; you know—funny, it-changed-my-life farming stories. Couples who fell in love on farms, worked 26 hours a day, and lived happily ever after. (Oh, and had a thriving, profitable, vegetable growing business at the same time!) Surprisingly, there are actually a few books like this out there. (Try this one.) Perhaps the authors are not being completely truthful, but they’re charming, nonetheless. After finishing these books, the expected wet-blanket effect did not occur. The whole farming idea seemed strangely more appealing, not less.

Next and just for fun, I bought myself this adorable book, Farm Anatomy. Julia Rothman is a New York illustrator married to a farm boy, and her colorful depictions of everything from how to shear a sheep or milk a cow to the history of the tractor and the basic steps of cheese-making are fascinating and easy to absorb. Eye candy and fun facts all in one. Did you know that a cow drinks 10 to 25 gallons of water a day? Or that there were so many different kinds of chicken combs? (See Rothman’s illustration, above, and for more great books about country living, visit Storey Publishing.)

But lately things have gotten serious (and so has my reading). At night Roy and I look at our expanded garden design for this coming season—our third already!—and talk about where things will go. (I’ve now ordered all my seeds and am working on the potato and onion orders.) Even with our plan to double the growing space to supply the farm stand, that’s not enough room for everything we want to do. Roy wants to grow gladiolus like he did two years ago, so my zinnia bed has now shrunk (on paper, at least). We’re slowly gathering the parts for a hoop house, and I’m beginning to think about when (and where) we’ll start all the seeds, and how much of a jump I might be able to get on lettuce and greens. My mind races ahead to the succession plan, too—what will fill the beds when early crops, like peas and spinach, are done.

Meanwhile, Roy has introduced the idea of getting (a lot) more laying hens and building a second, bigger coop. The goal, of course, would be to sell more eggs. But creating a viable egg business requires more than just extra space for the hens, so I’ve been on the phone with our friends at Free Bird Farm in upstate New York, talking with them about economics—everything from grain prices and pasturing hens (that’s one of their hen tractors in the photo at left) to the wisdom of buying pullets vs. baby chicks. And of course, all my chicken books are now strewn all over the living room floor.

And up on the couch lies my serious homework. I’ve started a self-designed Eliot Coleman tutorial that features a trio of his books—The New Organic Gardener, The Four-Season Harvest, and The Winter Harvest Handbook (thank you, West Tisbury Library!). This guy would drive me crazy (he’s so logical and efficient) except that he reminds me of my father, who I happen to like. Actually, his whole discussion of crop rotation reminds me of the IQ tests my father used to give me from Readers’ Digest when I was a little girl. Apparently I was much smarter then, because when Eliot Coleman starts in on the various permutations of crop rotation (which would number in the zillions if you let your brain go there), I freeze. I’m taking lots of notes, but clearly this is the kind of thing that only works into your bones with years of practice.

Which is why, as much fun as reading is, it is frustrating not to be able to act immediately on new-found knowledge. So this week I did the only thing I could do after reading A LOT about season extension—something I’m particularly interested in. (Having our own salad at Christmas dinner was awesome.) Eliot Coleman grows through the winter in unheated hoop houses by choosing cold-hearty crops and putting them under row cover within the hoop house. A gardener I know here on the Island uses this same double-insulating, heat-trapping idea, by placing cold-frames within her hoop house. All I have right now is the little cold frame Roy built for me, but it is situated over a patch of very rich soil in the garden, and currently radicchio and mustard are still limping along in it. (The arugula outside of the cold frame is still thriving too, thanks to the mild weather and a double-thickness of row cover.)

So I decided to experiment with the plants in the cold frame to see if I can get them through February and March using this layering principal. I surrounded the existing plants with hay and covered them with fabric row cover, then popped the glass back on the cold frame. It’s a very moist environment, so I don’t expect to have to water much, and we’ll see if they survive and grow slowly in the next few weeks.

If nothing else, this little project gave me something to do outside in the garden this week—other than cleaning the chicken coop. What the heck, learning about growing food is totally stimulating, both for the brain and the body. Works for me, anyway.

Veggies for Breakfast or Eggs for Dinner? Here’s A Frittata Plus A Dozen Other Eggy Ideas

Lest you think I’m completely crazy for devoting so much cyber-ink to birds in my last blog, I thought maybe I should come clean about a couple of things. First, I think the whole bird thing is part of my effort to be more in touch with nature (goofy as that sounds, I know). Mostly because observing nature requires slowing down. In my old life, I did everything on one speed: Fast. (Oh, dear, now I’m starting to sound like Charlie Sheen.) I barely made time to tend a pot of herbs on the windowsill or take a walk around the neighborhood—I certainly didn’t don the binoculars to wait for a bird to fly by.

Secondly (and much more practically), one of the reasons I’m truly excited about having our own hens is because we eat so many darn eggs around here (see below). Okay, I admit, there’s also a deeper meaning to the hen thing. To be completely honest, I still have a little fear that someone is going to snatch me away from the Island, return me to the office, to the suburbs, to I-95, and to a whole lot of other noise that I now happily live without. I figure raising hens gives me one more toehold on Vineyard terra firma. If the Old Life Aliens come to snatch me away, they will have to take my hens, too!

Okay. So about those eggs. Because I don’t eat a ton of meat anymore…and because I figured out a long time ago that I won’t get hungry mid-morning if I eat eggs for breakfast… and because Roy loves having breakfast for dinner… and because Libby loves anything that involves mixing a batter—we eat a lot of eggs. We are very fortunate to have a regular supply of eggs from local farms available to us (even in the grocery stores); their plump golden yolks and perky whites have spoiled me. (The yellow color comes from the  higher amounts of beta-carotene these birds ingest.) When I’m developing recipes, I’ll try to use non-local eggs to make sure the recipe will taste good regardless—but for our everyday eating, we love our local eggs. Here’s what we do with them:

1. We scramble them with fresh herbs (especially cilantro and mint), a dash of cream, a little cheese (cheddar, aged gouda, Monterey jack, goat cheese), and plenty of salt and pepper.

2. We make waffles and buttermilk pancakes, sometimes for dinner. (Favorite recipes at finecooking.com).

3. We make all kinds of different egg sandwiches; here’s a recipe for one of my favorite creations, which I nicknamed “The Local.” Yes it has a bit of (local!) meat on it.

4. We make my Dad’s famous popovers. (See King Arthur Flour site for pans.)

5. We make savory bread puddings, especially when we have the amazing challah bread from our local Orange Peel Bakery. (Popover and bread pudding recipes coming in Fresh & Green for Dinner.)

6. We make French toast with a dash of vanilla and maple in the custard, and we top it with a homemade concoction of fresh berries warmed in maple syrup and slightly mashed in the skillet. (Love to use the challah here, too.)

7. We make omelets with leftover roasted veggies or roasted tomatoes.

8. We make a rif on pasta carbonara with spring asparagus or garden peas.

9. We make thin, quiche-like tarts; my favorite is with fresh corn, basil, and tiny tomatoes.

10. Of  course, we make cookies and quickbreads and the occasional coffee cake, too. (Most often we use recipes from my favorite baker, Abby Dodge.)

11. We make veggie fritters or pancakes—sometimes with grains, too, or leftover mashed potatoes. We also make spoonbread, a favorite from my Dixie days.

12. But probably our favorite thing to do with eggs is to make a veggie frittata. Usually I make one big one, but sometimes I’ll make little ones in a mini-muffin tin. Frittatas (like the leek and spinach one below) are incredibly versatile; you can eat them for breakfast, lunch, snacks or dinner. And they always taste better after sitting a bit (even overnight); I guess the flavors have more time to penetrate the custard. The method I learned years ago at Al Forno restaurant is easy to follow, and you can make up your own veggie combos, too. (I also love potatoes, mushrooms, corn, arugula, scallions, and broccoli in frittatas.) Just be sure to cook most veggies first to concentrate flavor and to reduce excess moisture. Be generous with fresh herbs and don’t forget the salt and pepper in the custard.

Leek, Spinach, Thyme & Gruyere Frittata

This easy frittata method starts out on the stovetop and finishes baking in the oven—but there’s no tricky flipping involved. After cooling, I like to cut the frittata into small squares, rather than wedges, so that bite-size snacks are easy to grab. It’s also a great way to go for a potluck, book group meeting, or other casual gathering.

_______________________________

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 medium leeks (white and light green parts), sliced about 1/4-inch thick (about 2 cups) and well washed

Kosher salt

2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic

3 ounces baby spinach leaves

6 large eggs at room temperature

2/3 cup half ’n half

1 tablespoon roughly chopped thyme leaves

big pinch nutmeg

freshly ground pepper

1 cup (3 oz.) coarsely grated Gruyère

_______________________________

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Make sure one of your oven racks is positioned in the center of the oven.

In a 10-inch heavy nonstick (ovenproof) skillet, melt 2 Tbsp. of the butter over medium-low heat. Add the leeks, season with a big pinch of salt, and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are softened, 5 or 6 minutes. Uncover, raise the heat to medium, and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the leeks are browned in spots, another 8 to 11 minutes. (Don’t worry if they get a little overbrown in places—that’s just great flavor.) Add the minced garlic and stir well. Add the spinach and 1/4 tsp. salt and, using tongs, toss and stir the spinach with the leeks until it is all wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and let the veggies cool a minute.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, half ’n half, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, the thyme, the nutmeg, and several grinds of fresh pepper. Stir in the Gruyère.

Return the skillet to medium-high heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter to it. When the butter has melted, pour and scrape all the custard mixture into the skillet.  Using a silicone spatula, gently stir and move the contents of the pan around so that everything is evenly distributed. (You may have to nudge clumps of leeks and spinach apart.) Let the pan sit on the heat until the custard is just beginning to set all the way around the edge of the pan, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake until the frittata is puffed, golden, and set, 22 to 24  minutes.

Before unmolding, let the frittata cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Shake the pan a bit, tip it, and use a spatula (silicone works great) to get under the frittata and slide it gently out onto a cutting board or serving plate.  Cut into wedges and serve warm, or wait for a bit longer and serve at room temp. Refrigerate leftovers; this is even better the next day.

Serves 4 to 6