Category Archives: publicity

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



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 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!!








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

Blue & White and Read All Over: A Blizzard & A Book Party

DSC_2934The snowflakes that began to fall Saturday afternoon were particularly pretty—billowy and crisp and determined. They came on fast and steady, only an hour before we were due to pile all the food in the car and drive down to Bunch of Grapes bookstore. The forecast had said rain first, starting around 6. It was not even 2 o’clock and it was snowing.

Canceling the Fresh from the Farm book party wasn’t an option. Bunch of Grapes in downtown Vineyard Haven (a nice walking town) would stay open through any snowstorm, anyhow. I had made five different recipes to taste, and we’d sent all kinds of invitations out for the event. Both the Martha’s Vineyard Times and the Vineyard Gazette (as well as the Point B Realty blog) had published nice articles during the week about the book, the farm, and the signing event.


As Roy drove, I let those little negative thoughts come into my head, “Oh, no. No one will want to come out in the snow!” I said to Roy. And he chastisted me. “You wait. You’ll see.”

By the time Dawn Braasch stood up at the front of her bookstore to introduce me, every chair was full and folks were standing around the bookcases. I saw so many friendly faces, and I realized it was very bad of me to underestimate what an incredible community I stumbled into almost six years ago now. Not only did all these folks come to the event, but they withstood listening to me jabber on while a torrent of snowflakes fell outside the big glass windows behind me! Well, at least it was cozy inside (nothing like stacks of books to make you feel safe and warm), and there was food—and wine. But I still have to say thank you (here on sixburnersue is a good place, as I know some of you who were there will be reading this) to everyone for coming out in a snow storm.


DSC_2910Thinking about all this, I walked around the farm on Sunday morning with my camera. The “blizzard” did not leave us 14 inches—maybe only 6 to 8. And more importantly, it didn’t blow out power, though it did leave a lot of branches down. It also left a plucky aquamarine sky and a cool blue reflection everywhere I looked.


DSC_2920Beautiful or not, the winter is wearing on everyone. But all over the Island, and I’m sure in lots of other small communities across the snow-splattered country, there are gatherings like the one we had on Saturday, where the lights are on, the hugs are forthcoming, and the snacks are abundant.


And when all else fails, curling up at home on the couch with a good book is an antidote to all those icicles and chapped cheeks. After the event, a friend of mine, who had bought her 12-year-old daughter her first cookbook at the signing on Saturday, posted a picture of her daughter stretched out on their couch, reading Fresh from the Farm. Looking at that photo, I felt so privileged to be the author of a little girl’s first cookbook. What an honor! I hope that sweet girl has many fun and delicious cooking experiences ahead of her. But I’m pretty sure she does.

DSC_2879 P.S. If you are looking for a signed copy of Fresh from the Farm, please visit or contact Bunch of Grapes. If you want a personalized copy, I can sign it at Bunch of Grapes and they will send it to you, no matter where you are.

BOG susie demo photo 6 1200 wide

 Photo above courtesy Barbara Welsh





New Video, New Logo, New Ducks—New! New! New!

screen shot back and front covers

Waiting for a new book to come out is anxiety-producing, at least for me. T minus 30 days and counting for Fresh From the Farm. Until the official pub date (Feb.11), that is. But actually, the very first advanced copies have arrived at The Taunton Press in Connecticut, and one is on its way to me via Fed Ex. So this morning I have been clicking on and off the Fed Ex tracking site, following the package. (It’s currently in Middleboro, Mass.) Even if it gets to the Island tomorrow, that’s no guarantee it will get to me. But if I keep tracking it, once I see it’s on-Island, I could always go over to the airport, where the Fed Ex office is, and terrorize them, hoping not to get arrested. But I’d have to beat Roy over there, as he’s the one who told me to call them this morning! He’s excited too. (Screen shot above is galley of front and back covers).

corn fieldBiding my time, I walked a few laps around the cornfields out back (each is about the length of 5 or 6 football fields, so the fact that I am circling is not too obvious.) That took care of some of my energy.

So now I am back to my desk, doing “my job”—the only job an author with a book coming out in a month can do: Working on promotion. Honestly, it’s not nearly as much fun as writing the book, as I hate having to put myself out there. But I am fiercely determined to do what I can with this book. (The whole getting-to-write-books-for-a-living thing is huge incentive. And that all goes away if your books don’t sell well. Hence, you get off your butt and promote yourself. Right, Susie?)

This time around, putting myself out there also meant doing a promotional video. As with a lot of things, it had to come together pretty quickly last fall before the vegetables all went away. But that was a good thing, as it didn’t give me time to fret, or do things like hire a makeup artist or wardrobe consultant. (It’s a farm, after all and it is what it is!) But the whole experience was very positive because I did it with two wonderful friends, Katie Hutchison and Chris Hufstader. Thankfully, this wife-and-husband duo has experience filming and editing videos. (See architect Katie’s many talents on her website. And here’s a video Chris worked on as part of his job in communications with Oxfam America, which takes him all over the world.)

Now I have finally managed (overcoming my technological limitations) to get the video to go live on YouTube and here on Sixburnersue. (You can watch the short version by clicking below, or the longer version, which includes more about the food in the book, in the sidebar of the blog, at top right.)

I’m also happy to report that some nice early press has come in for Fresh From the Farm already, including a recommendation from Country Living magazine in the February issue (see p. 10!) and a mention on this list of Ten Exciting Books to Look For in 2014 from Wall St. Cheat Sheet.

I’m planning some fun book signing events in Washington, D.C. and a bunch of other places so please visit my events page to stay posted. I’ll soon have a date for a great local event at Bunch of Grapes Bookstore, too. By the way, if you are a social media person, please visit and like my FaceBook business page, Susie Middleton Cooks, and follow me on Pinterest and Twitter @sixburnersue. (Sorry, I had to ask—just doing my job!)

Unsaved Preview DocumentBook or no book, life moves forward on the farm, and there are, in fact, new things here to celebrate, too. The first is our very own Green Island Farm logo. Roy and I wanted something very simple and iconic (an egg!), and my old friend and former Fine Cooking Art Director/now-fine-artist Steve Hunter was incredibly accommodating and refined our thoughts for us. (Tilting the egg was his idea, which I love, and which is very Steve.) We picked the blue-green color of our Aracauna eggs because, of course, it is so pretty. So there you have it. Tee-shirts to come!

And lastly, we have 5 new additions to the farm—ducks! These beautiful creatures—three black Indian Runner ducks and two Welsh Harlequins—are a belated birthday present for Roy, who grew up with ducks and has wanted some here on the farm for awhile. It was Libby’s idea to get them for his birthday (which was in December, but the weather has stalled us). And our dear friend Elizabeth Packer at Springmoon Farm made the whole thing possible.

ducks square

Last weekend, while Libby was here, we all (including Farmer) piled in the car, popped a hay-lined dog crate in the way back, and drove down to Liz’s place in Vineyard Haven. We got a chance to see all the beautiful birds that she and her daughter Lucy Thompson are raising, included Royal Palm and Red Bourbon turkeys (gorgeous), peacocks, and several kinds of ducks and chickens.

DSC_1437We wrangled the ducks (4 females, 1 drake) into the crate and into the car, and Farmer hung over the back seat the whole way home, wagging his tail. Back at the farm, Roy unloaded them into their new pen, where they paraded around and around like a proper flock. Lovely.

Lastly, not to be outdone by a book, the farm got its  own piece of press (its first) courtesy of Martha’s Vineyard Patch, a couple weeks ago.

Now if we could just get Farmer on the cover of Lab Monthly, I’d feel really good about all our promotional efforts around here. With his bad teeth and crooked ears? Not happening.



A New Cookbook, with A Side of Memoir: Fresh From the Farm, by Susie Middleton (yup) — coming soon!

Keeping a secret for more than a year is hard, you know. And I can’t say that I didn’t hint here and there—I couldn’t help myself. But now, with only about 5 months to go until pub date, it’s the right time to let the cat out of the bag. Otherwise I might bust. So…here goes: I have written my third book! Okay, so maybe that doesn’t sound so monumental or exciting when you see it written down on paper (or read it on a screen). But I have to tell you, this book rocks. It’s totally awesome.

Here’s why:  It’s called Fresh from the Farm: A Year of Recipes and Stories, and yes, you guessed it, the “farm” is our farm, Green Island Farm. And not only is this book a cookbook (125 recipes), but it’s a story too—the story of how the little farm came to be. (So, yeah, I got to write the story, so I’m pretty psyched about that.) Now add more than 100 photos of the farm and absolutely gorgeous finished-food photos to go with the recipes (Thank you, Alexandra Grablewski). Just for good measure, add an appendix of farm design ideas (by none other than RR). And put all that in a 256-page hard cover book. And then thank The Taunton Press (and especially my editor Carolyn Mandarano) for deciding to publish this book—and executing this cool concept so assuredly. (Breathe, Susie. Really, this is all so fabulous, as my friend Katie would say, so I get a little worked up.) There are even a bunch of my own photos in the book—woo-hoo!

Fans of Fast, Fresh & Green and The Fresh & Green Table will be happy to know that the seasonal recipes in Fresh from the Farm are just as carefully crafted and cross-tested as in my first books. (Thank you Jessica Bard and Eliza Peter.) And while each one makes happy use of a veggie or fruit we grow on the farm (or eggs, of course), this time I got to do everything from breakfast to dessert—and even meatloaf! Here are a few teaser recipe titles:

Roast Parmesan Crusted Cod with Baby Potatoes, Bell Peppers, Onions & Thyme; Chinese Grilled Chicken and Bibb Lettuce “Wraps;” Spicy Thai Shrimp and Baby Bok Choy Stir-Fry; Grill-Roasted Fingerlings with Rosemary, Lemon, Sea Salt and Fresh Corn Vinaigrette; Farmhouse French Toast with Backyard Berry Syrup; Libby’s Lemon Blueberry Buckle; Lobster Salad Rolls with Fresh Peas; Curry-Coconut Butternut Squash Soup; Baby Kale and Blood Orange Salad with Feta and Toasted Almonds; Autumn Pot Roast with Roasted Root Veggie Garnish; Honey-Vanilla Roasted Pears. 

So you can see that Fresh from the Farm is firmly in the cookbook camp. But as you make your way from early spring to late fall, from Bibb lettuce and fresh peas to blueberries and butternut squash, you’ll also be traveling through the first couple years of our garden-to-farm journey. (The text runs around the recipes on every page.) How we landed our little farmstead, how we started with 8 chickens and wound up with 550 laying hens, how Farmer came to be the Farm Dog, and how a hoop house, a free tractor, and four acres sealed our fate.

I won’t tell you any more now. Don’t want to spoil the fun you’re going to have when you get this gorgeous book in your hands! But I will try to give you a few more details in the upcoming months. But for right now, believe it or not, you can already pre-order Fresh from the Farm on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. It’s also listed with the Indie booksellers, and since we love to patronize independent bookstores, I’d encourage you to go ask your bookstore to pre-order it for you if you like. Or you can just be patient and wait until February 11, 2014. But I wouldn’t know anything about patience!

Sleepless on State Road, Plus Twenty Reasons to Buy Cookbooks for Christmas

Lately I have been waking up in the middle of the night. I have trouble falling back asleep, so I play the alphabet game that Libby, Roy and I do on the ferry rides back and forth from Falmouth. It takes on a different guise every night. Sometimes I start naming our (ever-increasing) chicken coops in alphabetical order—an idea we’ve thought of to help identify the groups of chickens. So far we have the Aquinnah Ladies, the Beach Road Babies, and the Chilmark and Chappy Chickens. I have imagined a future of 26 chicken coops (God forbid!) with names that go all the way up the alphabet to Menemsha and No-Man’s Land and Quitsa and Wasque, too. These are all places on the Vineyard, of course.

The other night I got tired of naming chicken coops (but not tired enough to fall asleep) so I began to make lists. Lists of my favorite recipes in my first two books. Okay, I will just have to be honest and admit that I did fall asleep partway through this task, so it works. I hope, of course, this doesn’t mean that thinking about recipes is boring—I prefer to think of it as comforting and satisfying! (Actually, I got kind of boggled by all the choices and couldn’t quite make up my mind.)

I thought of this because I get asked a lot—especially on radio—what my favorite recipes in my books are. Of course everyone knows you’re not supposed to play favorites with your own children, but, um, recipes aren’t really children so I think it’s okay.

Also, I have been thinking a lot about shopping locally for Christmas and about supporting independent bookstores. This is really a make-or-break time of year for brick-and-mortar bookstores, so it is extra-important to patronize them. (On the Island that means Bunch of Grapes in Vineyard Haven, and Edgartown Books in Edgartown, where I will be signing books on December 8.) Besides, for whatever few extra dollars you spend there (which then goes into the local economy), you get the free experience of browsing in a cozy, friendly bookstore—looking at all those books, seeing friends, perhaps having a cup of cider—and just enjoying the whole experience.

So in that spirit (and because I feel guilty that I sometimes don’t promote my own books as much as I should—ah, but that’s a whole other story!), I’m giving you 20 reasons (10 each from Fast, Fresh & Green and The Fresh & Green Table) to visit your local bookstore, buy cookbooks for holiday presents, and have something to think about and savor if you wake up at night during the stressful holiday season! Here goes (And let me tell you, in the end it was NOT easy to narrow down to 10 for each!):

Top Ten Favorite Recipes from Fast, Fresh & Green:

  • Sweet Potato Mini-Fries with Limey Dipping Sauce and Spiced Salt
  • Harvest Gratin of Butternut Squash, Corn, and Leeks
  • Caramelized Plum Tomatoes in an Olive Oil Bath
  • Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Orange Butter Sauce
  • Vanilla and Cardamom Glazed Acorn Squash Rings
  • Braised Fingerlings with Rosemary and Mellow Garlic
  • Corn Sauté with Chile and Lime
  • Bacon and Rosemary Sautéed Brussels Sprouts and Baby Bellas
  • Crisp-Tender Broccoflower with Lemon-Dijon Pan Sauce and Toasted Parmigiano Bread Crumbs
  • Grill-Roasted Bell Peppers with Goat Cheese and Cherry Tomato Dressing

  Top Ten Favorite Recipes from The Fresh & Green Table:

  • Chile Rice with Green Beans & Toasted Pecans
  • Spaghetti with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes & Spicy Garlic Oil for Two
  • Grilled Zucchini, Bell Pepper, Goat Cheese & Grilled Bread Salad
  • Warm Winter Salad of Roasted Root Fries
  • Spicy Noodle Hot Pot with Bok Choy, Ginger, Lime & Peanuts
  • Crisp Red Potato Patties with Warm Asian Slaw & Limey Sauce
  • Savoy Cabbage, Apple, Onion & Gruyere Rustic Tart
  • Warm Wheatberries with Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Toasted Walnuts & Dried Cranberries
  • Walk-in-the-Woods Grilled Pizza
  • Potato Galette with Rosemary & Two Cheeses


A Radio Tour and One Very Special Garden

This week I started my “radio tour” to promote The Fresh & Green Table. I do this from home, which is very cool because I do not need to dress up, put on makeup, cook tasting samples, or make ferry reservations.

In fact, except for the 15 to 20 minutes I’m on air (and the fact that I have to pay very careful attention to the special Google radio calendar the PR folks have set up for me so that I don’t miss a time switch), I can still forge ahead with all the projects I’ve got swirling around at home.

The biggest challenge so far is getting Farmer not to bark (usually when a farm stand customer comes down the driveway) or play with his squeaky toy while I’m recording. I have to sit in the living room with the land line and the book in my lap (no multi-tasking for those few minutes), but Farmer doesn’t quite understand that I haven’t plunked down on the couch to play with him. Most of the spots so far are in the morning so I try hard to not only get the harvesting and farm stand set-up done before hand, but to also get Farmer’s special field walk in, too.

Still, radio is fun—especially if the hosts are engaging—and I enjoy it. But we’ll see how I feel after a few weeks since I’m supposedly on the hook for 15 to 20 hours of this, which my friend Katie kindly pointed out adds up to between 60 and 80 radio spots! Yikes. I’ll post a partial schedule of spots on the home page here, as I will be on all over the country.

We are still madly trying to keep up with things in the garden—especially the tomato staking, turning beds over for second season crops, watering (rain is nonexistent), weeding, and pest warfare. But every time I let myself go out there (it’s so hard to concentrate on all my desk work and recipe deadlines when the garden is calling), I feel like I’m entering the Magic Kingdom. I continue to be fascinated and amazed by little seeds germinating, blossoms turning to fruit, berries ripening; how it all happens when you’re not looking is the essence of the magic show.

To that end, the very best thing I did all week was to help Libby plant her garden. At long last, we finally got every other bed and path laid out, shaped, planted, mulched, irrigated, etc. so that we could concentrate on her little plot. Since the new part of the garden tumbles down a gentle slope, we laid out the beds running across the slope, but with a big center path cutting through them down to the lower gate. We worked down one side of the slope, making beds as we went, and then came back up the other, which left us with the last bed actually right back at the center of the garden—where the hoses, the buckets, the tools, and our feet usually meet. There Libby’s garden came to rest. I am so glad of this, as originally it was planned for the bottom of the garden—a place that seems very far away now. I love the idea that her space is right in the thick of things, and that amidst all these business-like rows of market vegetables lies a comely patch of flowers and seedlings with a lovely little brick path right up the middle of it.

Libby laid the bricks and chose her garden stars from a stash of tomatoes I saved, from a trip to the nursery to look at flowers, and from some of the existing rows of veggies. From the beginning she’s had her eye on the Bright Lights Swiss Chard—especially the pink stalks–and in fact has been nursing a “sick” chard  in a small “plant hospital” she created several weeks ago. Despite the heat, we successfully transplanted that chard and another, as well as some cosmos for her flower row. She also picked out a pale pink primrose and a stunning candy-striped geranium at the nursery. We sowed carrot seeds (her favorites), several kinds of lettuce, and a few Ring of Fire sunflowers from a seed packet Dad picked up. She chose a Sun Gold and a Juliet plum tomato to plant (she’s hoping to bring her mom plum tomatoes later in the summer), and best of all, at the nursery we found one of those charming Alpine strawberry plants with the teeny tiny strawberries dangling off it. We gave that a place of honor right between the carrots and lettuce. The two chards flank the entrance, which is marked by a very cool glass-embedded cement stepping stone that she and I made from a kit her grandmother Peg (Roy’s mom) thoughtfully gave her last Christmas.

I wasn’t sure at first how excited Libby was going to be about having her own garden. She is, first and foremost, an animal and living-creature lover. (Dad got her a butterfly net last week and she trailed around with this all over the place.) I thought to myself that maybe I was just trying to hand the keys to the Magic Kingdom over to her for selfish reasons. But I watched her enthusiasm build as she realized the garden really and truly was all hers. I watched her run to the truck when Dad pulled into the driveway and drag him out to see the garden. I listened to her ask if we could go out and finish planting the second day. And I listened to her (a girl who holds her emotions close) say, “This is so awesome.” More than once.

While we were planting and chatting, she told me, out of the blue, that she plans to be the first woman president of the United States. But first she is going to be a veterinarian, she said. I had to smile, because only that morning I’d been giving her a little spiel (while we were playing Gardenopoly and she was raking in the money, as usual) about her future, how she should be sure and look after herself, develop special skills and a good career, work hard and save her money, etc. etc. I know, I know, she’s only nine.

But tomorrow she turns 10. And four days later I turn 50. And from where I sit, I see a very smart little girl with an entire world of possibilities and opportunities ahead of her. And while I know that I have Grace and luck to thank for many things, I’ve also pursued what I love with a passion and never shut the door on learning. I’ve had amazing teachers along the way who’ve taught me the thrill of planting the seed and watching it grow—no matter what kind of “garden.” It’s an honor to get to pass that thrill on.

Beauty and The Book

Yesterday two good things happened: I spotted the first pea blossoms in the garden, and my new book, The Fresh & Green Table, was chosen as one of NPR’s Top Ten Cookbooks for Summer, 2012. You might wonder that I put those two things in the same sentence, that I seem to weight them equally on the make-your-day meter.

Honestly, I did dance around my office when I saw the NPR list—I was very excited. Two years ago, Fast, Fresh & Green received this same honor, and I couldn’t believe my second book would also get a nod. I have tremendous respect for the reviewer, who is very thorough, so this is something to be proud of. (For anyone wanting to write a cookbook—or another cookbook—you’d be well-advised to read the list of 7 questions she asks herself when considering new books.) She had a ginormous stack of books to look at and to cook from this season, too.

I didn’t dance around the garden when I saw the pea blossoms. But my heart sang. Sheer beauty. It’s hard to describe—the complex emotions that come from pausing on a quiet, foggy morning to witness this crazy miracle of nature. There’s an element of relief, too, knowing you’ve managed to coax something along, that you’re actually growing food that you can eat and feed to others, too.

There’s a much less romantic reason to be grateful for good reviews and pea blossoms in the same breath. Quite simply, I know if I can sell books and sell peas (though neither actually makes me much money and both take an enormous amount of energy), then I can continue to get away with calling what I do a career, or a job, or something official. Ha! When really I’m just having fun. Some time back I decided that life is too short not to enjoy what you do every day. Sure, there are tradeoffs, but as long as I can keep this (old) roof over my head, I’m good.

The farm stand opens tomorrow!

So Much for the Simple Life: A Second Book & A Date with Martha Stewart

I moved to Martha’s Vineyard three years ago for a Simpler Life, and I got it. Granted I wasn’t any Paris Hilton, but I did have a lot of pointy-toed high-heeled shoes and frilly skirts. These days, I am most comfortable (and most often) stomping around in my muck boots and my blue jeans. For me, these boots have come to symbolize the freedom and peace I feel on the Island.

This past Saturday was a great example of what I love about my new life. We woke up, pulled on our boots, and trotted over to the Ag Hall (the big barn-like structure where the Fair and lots of other cool local events are held) to check out the indoor Winter Farmers’ Market. (We live right across the street from the Ag Hall now.) The indoor market, only in its second year, has already worked itself into the fabric of the year-round community, and it’s a great place to go to see friends, get a cup of coffee and stand around the fireplace, maybe buy a bar of Island-made goat soap or a quart of Island-made yogurt or even a piece of Island-made chocolate. And there are veggies like nobody’s business, since our warm Island fall extends the growing season right through to December. I restrained myself and walked out with only one bunch of beautiful turnips. (On a typical Saturday morning in my old life, I’d be in the car racing up and down Route 1 or I95, trying to cram in errands I couldn’t do during the week.)

So I was going to blog about the market and the turnips this week, but then, since there was an even cooler event that happened Saturday night (at the Ag Hall again, of course), I thought for a moment I might write about that! Our local nonprofit, Island Grown Initiative, held a pig- and chicken-roast fundraiser called “Local Meat is Good to Eat—But There’s More to Life than Chicken.” The group, which has been very successful in introducing a mobile poultry processing unit to the island (and increasing the number of chickens raised here), has received a state grant to do a feasibility study for a potential USDA four-legged humane slaughter facility on the Vineyard. The fundraiser was planned as a way to bolster the grant money. The food was amazing, but the community spirit even more affecting. IGI had expected 150 to 200 people—and 400 members of the community showed up! (And $12,000 was raised.) I felt really proud and grateful to be part of that community. But truthfully, showing up at a delicious pig roast for a good cause might fit well with my idea of a simpler life, but what these folks are doing for the farming (and entire community) on this Island is anything but simple. But that’s the way life goes; the good stuff only comes with hard work and a fair dose of complication.

So ultimately, after procrastinating on writing this blog, I decided not just to focus on the market or the fundraiser. Because life, no matter where you live and how you approach it, is never all that simple. This is very much on my mind right now for two reasons.

First, a month or so ago, I was asked to write a new book—quickly. The publishers of Fast, Fresh & Green, Chronicle Books, were so happy with this first book of mine that they figured why not publish a follow-up book (sort of a sequel—though I keep thinking that I hope this one is better than Jaws 2!) in the Spring of 2012. So I gave them a proposal for Fresh & Green for Dinner, a collection of vegetable-driven main dishes, and lo and behold, I got a February 15 (2011!) deadline. Yikes. This of course, is both great and scary at the same time. And anything but simple. I am now pushing myself at a pace that I don’t really like—working day and night to get recipes written, developed (which means several tests on my part), cross-tested, and edited. (Grilled pizza, anyone?) I’m feeling just a little bit like I did in my old life—speedy (though that could be from all the coffee I drink). But that’s okay. Because I’m grateful that I have a job (crazy as it is) that lets me live where I want to—in this beautiful place.

Secondly, there’s another not-so-simple reality to being a cookbook author: Publicity. And when you get an opportunity to appear on a national TV show—especially one that’s hosted by a fabulous cook—you don’t say no. So on the morning of Wednesday, November 24—the day before Thanksgiving—I’ll be standing next to Martha Stewart, telling her (like she doesn’t already know!) and a live studio audience, about quick-roasting vegetables. It’s a prime spot for a cookbook author, since Thanksgiving is the number one cooking holiday, and I’m excited that I’ll be able to talk about something that really is easy to pull off on Thanksgiving. (Quick-roasted vegetables can pop in the oven after the turkey comes out and cook in the amount of time the turkey needs to rest.) I’ll be cooking the popular Vanilla and Cardamom Glazed Acorn Squash Rings, and yes, turnips! (Roasted Turnips & Pears with Rosemary-Honey Drizzle), as well as Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Orange Butter Sauce, all from Fast, Fresh & Green. (You can get the first two recipes online here, from a recent article in Martha’s Vineyard magazine.) If you want to watch, I’ll be on the 3rd and 4th segments (the show starts at 10 a.m. on the Hallmark Channel and I believe repeats at 1 p.m. Oops–no I’m wrong about that. It repeats at 2 pm that day. The 1 pm show is a repeat of the day before!). Roy and I will be taking Libby down to New York for the night, and the two of them will get to be a part of the live audience (and maybe visit backstage, too!). Somebody is pretty excited, let me tell you…

In the past, I dreaded TV appearances. But I’m in a different spot now and am really anticipating this with joy, not in small part because I know my friends and family will share in the excitement. But also, the producers of The Martha Stewart Show are real pros, and I feel lucky to be on a quality program that values home cooking. So while it wasn’t in my plans to get on the ferry, drive down I95, and put on my public face (no pointy-toe shoes, though) the day before Thanksgiving, I’m there. It was, afterall, a simple decision.