Tag Archives: Edible

A Recipe for Roasted Cauliflower—In a Gratin

The savage weather has reached Biblical proportions. Yes, I am exaggerating, but today it is blowing so hard that I am fully expecting Auntie Em to ride by my window on her bicycle at any time. Frankly, I’d rather look out and see her than some random farm item that was once tethered to the ground.*

Well, there is no antidote to all this other than good warming winter food. (And chocolate—I have my new favorite, a 77% percent cocoa bar from Chocolove, by my side.) In the kitchen today I am making a cauliflower gratin, because I am still having cruciferous cravings. Don’t worry, I am not eating the chocolate and the cauliflower at the same time.

Because of my sweet tooth, I prefer cauliflower roasted, rather than prepared any other way. So today I was thinking about taking the extra step of putting roasted cauliflower into a gratin with Gruyère and rosemary—and then I realized I’d already developed a recipe like this for The Fresh & Green Table. (Yikes, sometimes I forget these things, which is a little scary.) That recipe spans the seasons a bit, since it includes green beans and potatoes as well as cauliflower and mushrooms. I decided to simplify a bit and stick to the colors of winter, partly because I had a monochromatic photo in my head. (I love shades of white. In the end the photos turned out yummy, but not so monochromatic.)

Anyway, the version I made today is just cauliflower and mushrooms. I call it a gratin but really it is more like gratinéed veggies. No major deep-dish casserole-y kind of thing here—just roasted veggies sprinkled with cheese, a little cream, and plenty of breadcrumbs and baked until bubbly. Rustic and delicious. The rosemary winds up being pretty fragrant, so sub in thyme if you’re not in a piney mood.

Tip: And here’s something to keep in mind when roasting cauliflower or broccoli. Cut through the florets (at least in half, or in thick slabs if they’re large) so that they have a flat side that can have full contact with the sheet pan. Glorious caramelization will occur where floret meets heat. (Witness photo above; floret has been flipped up after roasting.)


*P.S. I wrote this yesterday but was unable to get it posted until today. I am happy to report that Auntie Em and Toto did not fly by the window. However, one of the doors off the gas grill, some tree limbs, and a plastic tarp are all tangled up outside my window.

Roasted Cauliflower, Cremini , Gruyère and Rosemary “Gratin”

Take this idea and run with it—use whatever roasted veggies you like, sprinkle with a bit of cheese, cream, and breadcrumbs, and bake until bubbly.


3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil (plus more for rubbing pan)
3/4 cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs (I use an English muffin for this)
1 1/4 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
kosher salt
Florets from 1 small head cauliflower (about 14 ounces), each about 1 1/2 inches long and cut to have one flat side
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered if large, halved if small
1/2 cup grated Gruyère cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream


Heat the oven to 450°F. Line a large heavy-duty rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper. Rub a little olive oil all over the inside of a small shallow gratin or baking dish. (I used a 9-inch round, but something about 1 1/2 quarts in volume works well.)

In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, 2 teaspoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon chopped rosemary and a pinch of salt. Mix well and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, toss the cauliflower and mushrooms with the 3 tablespoons olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Spread the vegetables out in one layer on the sheet pan (flip the florets so that they are cut-side down). Roast until the veggies are nicely browned and tender, about 28 to 30 minutes. Let the veggies cool for a few minutes and transfer them to the baking dish, arranging them in one snug layer.

Reduce the oven temperature to 425°F.

Sprinkle the remaining rosemary and the cheese over the vegetables in the pan. Drizzle the cream over the vegetables. Scatter the breadcrumb mixture over the top, leaving some vegetables peeking out.

Bake until the crumbs are well-browned and the cream has bubbled and reduced, leaving a thin brown ring around the edge, about 18 to 20 minutes. Serve hot or warm.

Serves 3

Chicken Farming Runs in the Family

Roy and I spent about 20 hours in the car this weekend, driving down to Delaware and back for a very quick visit with my family. We made the trip to attend the funeral service for my Uncle Rodney, my Dad’s older brother (far right, above). I was glad that Roy had gotten a chance to meet Uncle Rodney a couple years back. Despite the fact that Rodney wasn’t well then, he still had that sparkle in his mischievous eyes and Roy immediately related to his fun-loving spirit—something that both my sister, Eleanor, and my father, Bob, spoke about at the service at St. Peter’s church in Lewes.

And I was glad Roy got a chance to meet more of my cousins and aunts and uncles (although I know he was having trouble keeping them all straight—there are a lot of them!). The summers we spent together at the beach, the family gatherings with lots of good food—always crabs and corn and tomatoes—are just memories now, as we don’t come together much outside of funerals these days.

With Rodney gone, my Dad and his brother Val are the last of their generation. In the photo above, taken at my parents’ wedding in 1954, that’s my grandmother Honey (the one who was such a great cook) flanked by her sons—Val and Bob on the left, and Doug, Bill and Rodney on the right. (Val and Doug were still teenagers then.) There had been six boys, but Honey’s firstborn, my Dad’s oldest brother Jack, died in the war, commended for his bravery on a Merchant Marine vessel bombed near the Sea of Murmansk. Their father, an officer in the Navy, had also died before this picture was taken.

It’s a big family and an interesting family. Uncle Rodney was named for his father, Donald Rodney Evans, Sr., who carried his mother’s family name. The Rodneys arrived in Delaware from England in the 1600s and spawned generations of politicians, including U.S. senators, congressmen, attorney generals, Governors of Delaware, and, most notably, Caesar Rodney, who signed the Declaration of Independence. Many of these family members are buried in the graveyard of St. Peter’s church, where we celebrated Uncle Rodney’s life.

It turns out our Rodney ancestors weren’t just politicians and seafarers, but farmers, too (wheat and barley, mostly). And many years later, my Uncle Rodney did some farming as well—chicken farming! Though Rodney would eventually work for the Delaware Pilots Association and was, in our eyes, most famous for his sailing prowess, he and a friend, as young men, had a broiler bird business. My Dad, who spent a few summer vacations working for his older brother “processing” chickens, couldn’t help bringing up a few chicken stories at the funeral. I noticed he didn’t tell the one about the hundreds of baby chicks they had one year in his grandmother’s attic though. That was during the Depression, shortly after the whole family (10 people under one roof) had moved back to Lewes. Everybody had gardens and chickens in those days.

So maybe Roy understands my farming urges a little better now. Certainly I know where his come from, and he can blame his family, too. I thought it all started with the summer he spent on his uncle’s sheep farm in Scotland when he was 16. But when I asked Roy today what his farmer uncle’s surname was and he said “Fowler,” I got curious. I checked and it turns out the origin of the name Fowler is the Old English word fugelere, which literally means bird-catcher (fowl-er!). Ahh, now, this explains why Roy is so enchanted with all birds, not just chickens.

And here Roy and I thought we had hatched this whole farming scheme all by ourselves. Who knows? Families are with us, inside and out, no matter how far or close.


Favorite Soups and A Recipe for Zesty Tomato-Ginger Bisque

Apparently I jumped the gun a bit on posting about the weather last week, but it’s just as well. You really don’t want to hear about (or see) the nasty slush, mud, snow drifts, ice floes, and dangerous flying detritus (icicles, tree branches, etc.) we are dealing with here as we lug food and water to the chickens and cart their eggs back.

Fortunately, on a much more pleasant note, an artist friend of ours who has smartly vacated the Island for Santa Fe, New Mexico, is painting by day and cooking from Fast, Fresh & Green and The Fresh and Green Table by night. Don McKillop has been posting on my Facebook timeline about his favorite dishes, and the other day he mentioned the Zesty Tomato-Ginger Bisque. It seemed to provoke a lot of yums and mmmms from other Facebook friends, which just reminded me how much everybody (including me) loves soup. And that of course, tomato soup is a quintessential chill-chaser. (I’ve shared the bisque recipe below.)

Over the years I’ve developed a lot of soup recipes, and it’s kind of fun to look back and see the variety. At Finecooking.com (where several of my soup recipes reside!) you can take advantage of a cool “Create your own recipe” format and make one of my creamy soups with your favorite vegetable and favorite pantry ingredients. (Or you can go straight to Carrot-Ginger Soup, Butternut Squash Soup with Garam Masala, Yogurt & Lime, or Broccoli Soup with Bacon.)

If you’re in the mood for a hearty chowder but are cooking for a vegetarian crowd, visit Vegetariantimes.com for a story I did last year. Recipes include Roasted Butternut, Squash, Apple, and Farro Chowder; Many Mushroom Chowder with Yukon Gold Potatoes and Rosemary; Caramelized Onion and Savoy Cabbage Chowder with Thyme; and Root Veggie Chowder with Collard Ribbons. And right here on Sixburnersue.com, I’ve posted a few of my favorites from The Fresh & Green Table, including Asparagus & Leek Bisque, Spicy Noodle Hot Pot with Bok Choy, and a variation on my Farmers’ Market Minestrone. I’ve been working on more soups over the winter, too, and I have to say, they’re as satisfying to make as they are to eat.

A tasty soup builds layers of flavors by starting with lots of aromatic vegetables (onions, carrots, leeks, garlic, ginger, celery, fennel—sautéed until golden, of course) and finishing with a few bright herbs and a splash of acid (vinegar or citrus). In between, broths get savory flavor from bits of meat, earthy green veggies and roots, bright tomatoes, hearty beans and noodles, and even the occasional rogue ingredient like a Parmigiano rind or a whole star anise. Understand where the flavor comes from, and you’re more than halfway to making a brilliant soup. And to forgetting about the damp and cold outside!

Zesty Tomato-Ginger Bisque

Recipe copyright Susie Middleton from The Fresh & Green Table (Chronicle Books, 2012)

I have made tomato soups every-which-way, and honestly, they’re all pretty comforting. But this one has a special zing and warmth to it that I love. I start with leeks and fennel, add lots of ginger and a bit of garlic, and then season with a combination of orange, coriander, honey, and balsamic (just a small amount) to give those bright tomatoes a sturdy backbone. The magic of the blender produces a smooth, comforting puree, and just a little half-n-half gives the soup a silky finish. Garnish with crunchy rustic croutons or a dollop of crème frâiche.

Serves 4, Yields 8 cups 


2 tablespoons orange juice

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon tomato or sundried tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

2 28-ounce cans whole, peeled tomatoes (I like Muir Glen)

1 cup water

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups (5 1/2 ounces) thinly sliced leeks (about 3 medium or 4 small leeks), well-washed

1 1/2 cups (5 1/2 ounces) thinly sliced quartered and cored fennel bulb (about 1 small fennel bulb)

Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

Freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup half ‘n half


In a small bowl, combine the orange juice, honey, tomato paste, and balsamic vinegar. Set aside.

Empty the contents of both tomato cans into a mixing bowl. Gently break up the tomatoes into smaller pieces with your hands (effective but messy!) or a pair of scissors. Add 1 cup water to the tomato mixture and set aside.

In a 4- to 5-quart Dutch oven or other wide saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium-low heat. Add the leeks, fennel, and 1 tsp. salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 to 10 minutes. Uncover, raise the heat to medium, and continue cooking, stirring frequently and scraping browned bits off bottom of pan, until the vegetables are all browned in spots and the bottom of the pan is browning a lot, another 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the ground coriander and stir well. Add the garlic and the ginger, and cook, stirring, until softened and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the orange juice/tomato paste mixture and the tomatoes and stir well to incorporate. Bring the soup to a boil and immediately reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 17 to 18 minutes. (You will notice on the inside of the pot that the soup has reduced a bit.)

Take the pan off the heat and let the soup cool for 15 to 20 minutes.

Puree the soup in three batches (fill the jar only about half way or just a little more) and cover the blender lid partially with a folded dishtowel (leave a vent opening uncovered to let steam out) to prevent hot soup from splashing on you. Combine the three batches in a mixing bowl, then return to the (rinsed) soup pot. Whisk in the half ‘n half. Taste the soup for seasoning and add more salt or pepper if needed.

Reheat the soup very gently. Serve hot garnished with the Rustic Croutons.


All photos by Susie Middleton except asparagus soup, Annabelle Breakey; tomato soup, Jessica Bard

White-Out Weary, Cruciferous Cravings, Limey Green Slaw

At this point I am willing to admit that living in a drafty, un-insulated old farmhouse loses a bit of its appeal in early February. While I have been busy telling my friends out in the rest of the world that winters on Martha’s Vineyard are relatively mild and that we don’t get much snow, it seems that the tables have turned. Most days now it’s more like Duluth, where Roy spent some time as a toddler—swaddled in a snowsuit, 24-7. Here, we are swaddled in a succession of all-weather boots, a smorgasbord of hats and eternally wet gloves, and two heavy, fleece-lined canvas farm jackets. With Roy wielding the axe to crack the ice on the chicken water every morning, we are pretty scary looking. And that’s just when we’re outside! Inside the cold (yes, cold) house, our triple-fleece, double-thermal lounging attire makes us look like rejects from a bad L.L. Bean catalogue photo shoot.

The snow is beautiful. And I longed for it in December. But now that I hear we are going to get a bazillion inches of it (not to mention scary wind) on Friday, I’m thinking, enough, already. This will require even more creative thinking on how to keep the chickens supplied with unfrozen water. And about how to keep our frequent farm stand customers supplied with eggs without making them shovel a path to the back door. Perhaps we could put the wild bunnies to work. Every morning after fresh snow, there’s a virtual Etch-a-Sketch of rabbit tracks all around the yard, from coop to garden to barn to woods to fields and back. Drives Farmer crazy.

Also, we have to brush the snow off of the hoop house, lest it get too heavy, and, well, you can imagine what might happen. And that hoop house is my winter savior, so I’m very protective of it. I am so darned excited about what we’ve already got going in there, that I can barely stand it. My little baby bok choy and lettuce transplants are just cruising along. On sunny days, when the temperature inside the hoop house can get up to between 70 and 80, I can practically see the little green plants doing jumping jacks. On grey, drizzly, snowy, ice days, it takes most of the daylight hours just for the plants to unshrivel from the night’s cold. They’re under two layers of plastic, but still, cold is cold.

I’m longing to snatch some of those greens but I’ve held off to let them mature.  Fortunately there is still something green growing in the garden, under no cover at all. That would be miracle plant (and wonder food) kale, of course. A ridiculous plant, this kale. But a convenient one. Convenient because I’ve been messing around with kale salads lately. (I’ll let you know when I really and truly warm up to raw kale salads—I’m not quite there yet, but I’m working on it.) And also because this wicked February cold seems to be giving me strange cruciferous cravings. I only to want to eat Brussels sprouts or cabbage or kale every night. And even for lunch.

In fact, today I knew exactly what I wanted to do with a beautiful head of Savoy cabbage I saw at the grocery: Make one of my crunchy, limey slaws—and add a few of those sweet baby kale leaves from the garden to it. I happened to have a ripe avocado on deck, too, so a new variation on my original recipe was born. Green, green, green. Really green. Strangely refreshing on a cold day. I think it’s the antioxidants. Or maybe just the hopeful color. Or maybe it just tastes good. Whatever it was, I think I’d better go eat some more of it (and hope that it has magical powers) now that I’ve heard the latest forecast: Blizzard. Not just snow, but lots of it and lots of wind. Just what we love to hear on a farm. Stay tuned, and make some limey savoy and avocado slaw!

Savoy Slaw with Lime, Cilantro, Avocado & Toasted Pecans

Some groceries are now carrying baby kale leaves—snatch them up if you see them. If not, you can pluck tiny leaves from bigger bunches (even right off the stems of bigger curly kale) or very finely chop bigger leaves to add to this salady slaw. Or leave the kale out all together—or add more. Your choice!


8 ounces very thinly sliced cored Savoy cabbage or regular green cabbage

1 ounce (about 1 cup) baby kale leaves or finely chopped or sliced large kale leaves (deribbed)

3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon maple syrup, more to taste

1 teaspoon fresh lime zest

Kosher salt

1 firm-ripe avocado (2 if you like)

3 to 4 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh cilantro

3 to 4 tablespoons plain nonfat Greek yogurt

3 to 4 tablespoons finely chopped toasted pecans


In a mixing bowl, toss together the cabbage, the kale leaves, the 3 tablespoons lime juice, the 1 tablespoon maple syrup, the lime zest and 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Let sit, tossing well with tongs every 5 to 10 minutes, for about 30 minutes.

Peel and slice the avocado. Then cut the slices into smaller pieces. In a small bowl, toss the avocado gently with the remaining teaspoon of lime juice and a pinch of salt.

To the cabbage mixture, add 3 tablespoons of the cilantro, 3 tablespoons of the yogurt, and 3 tablespoons of the pecans. Toss well and taste. Add a teaspoon or two more of maple syrup to balance the tang a bit, if you like. Add up to a tablespoon more yogurt for a slightly creamier slaw, and add a pinch more salt, if needed. Mix well and transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with more cilantro and pecans.








About Those Piglets, Honey

We talked to a man about a pig the other day. At the grocery store. Not in the pork section, but over by the front door, where the newspapers and flower bouquets are. It may seem an odd place to discuss livestock, but our town is small, there’s only one grocery store, and in the winter, you know or recognize most everyone in there. Business happens between the curly kale and the navel oranges.

When we walked in, I veered right to look at O magazine, while Roy moved on down the produce aisle to talk to someone. I looked up and saw that it was the pig man. “We’ll take four,” I heard Roy say. Luckily, I put the magazine down in time to walk over and say, “He meant two.” More is always better, if you ask Roy, but if we are going to raise piglets for the first time, then I say start with two, not four. We’ll get them in the spring and it will take six to seven months to raise them to slaughter weight (250 pounds). They’ll need a pen and shelter, not to mention food. A lot of food. And a lot of water. And then of course, we will need a big freezer, which we don’t have. (One can only hope that our luck with free appliances continues.) These are Berkshire pigs (like the black sow above, right), known for very tasty bacon.

It is no secret that I am crazy about pigs. (That’s me in the  top photo, five—yes, five—years ago in my first few months on the Vineyard. I was developing recipes for my first book and feeding leftovers to some friendly sows owned by my new friend Liz Packer. I subsequently went around taking photos of pigs all over the Island. My favorite is below.) So this is surely going to be interesting. Both Libby and I have suggested that maybe one of the piglets should be a female. You know, just in case we decide to keep a breeding sow. I’m really not sure who is crazier, me or Roy. It’s kind of a dangerous combination. Will keep you posted.

In the meantime, just to gear myself up for all this, I’m going to make these delicious spareribs from Fine Cooking magazine for the Super Bowl. Or maybe these meatballs. Or this ragu. Yeah, I know, yikes.


Otter Spotting and The Peace of Wild Things

Yesterday morning I played hooky. Roy called from his jobsite and said, “Grab the dog and come take a walk with me.” I hemmed and hawed, mentioned it was Monday morning, I had editing to do, I was right in the middle of something, etc., etc.” He said, “Well, okay, but it sure is beautiful up here,” and started to say goodbye. “Wait,” I said. “I’ll be there in ten minutes.”

Roy’s current “jobsite” is the Captain Flanders House, a sprawling 60-acre farm high up on a hill in Menemsha overlooking Bliss Pond and miles of fields and stone walls. If you have to repair a roof on a cold January day, this is the place to do it. On Monday, Roy was the only soul around—but for Farmer and I, who arrived bundled up, camera in tow, and ready to explore.

Intrepidly, Roy led us down towards the pond, over a lichened stone wall, across a stream, around a cattle gate, under some barbed wire and along a path beside the water. He stopped to point out otter poop. Yes, otter poop. Now, having spent the weekend helping Roy clean the chicken coops, I just might not have been too interested in this. Enough already with animal leavings (in this case, fish scales). But here was proof that otters were nearby. Perhaps very nearby. And I have never seen these mythical Martha’s Vineyard river otters that supposedly traverse the ponds and streams all over the Island, in search of tasty snacks. At least mythical to me—plenty of other people, including Roy, have seen them, mostly in the wee hours of the morning.

Roy had stepped away from the path with Farmer when suddenly I heard a snortling noise. And then splashing. I turned around and across the pond I saw two little black heads bobbing up and down, then the shadowy hint of sleek bodies slipping across the water. “Otters! Otters! Roy, look!” I shouted.

We watched them. They watched us. They put on a show for us. Farmer was fascinated. I tried to take pictures but was a little too far way to get anything good (see above!). But watching them was delightful and exciting and silly and fun all at once. They swam away, a smattering of ducks lifted off from the pond, and we trekked back up the hill past the old farm buildings, our fingers beginning to feel the bite of a pre-snow chill.


Farmer and I agreed that it was a most excellent walk, one we certainly wouldn’t have taken if Dad hadn’t called on a whim. And we might never have seen an otter.

It’s impossible not to feel present and unfettered on a winter walk. It’s impossible not to feel humble and joyful when encountering wild things. And still I need to be reminded that I am free to take this cure whenever I like, every cold and clear and simple winter day of my Island life. No matter my state of mind, I can always benefit from stillness and clarity—and the peace of wild things, as Wendell Berry wrote in one of my favorite poems:


The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s live may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

—Wendell Berry

Midwinter Midweek Mahogany Mushrooms

Except for an ill-fated attempt to grow mushrooms in a box last winter and the occasional mini-fungi that pop up in the garden mulch, we do not grow mushrooms here on the farm. I guess that’s one of the reasons I’ve neglected writing much about this most meaty of vegetables.

But yesterday I was paging through Fast, Fresh & Green, looking for appropriate recipes for two classes I’ll be teaching at Stonewall Kitchens in Maine in May, and I stumbled upon these Mahogany Mushrooms. Oh, I’d forgotten how much I love cooking mushrooms like this. Chunky, fast, hot, browned, glazed–yum. Wan, undercooked, undercolored mushrooms are not my thing. If you follow this technique, that fate will not befall you.

Just to check, I made a batch this morning and Farmer and I ate them for lunch with some scrambled eggs. He gave the mushrooms ten licks (his rating system—it has to do with how much he licks his chops after sampling a dish). We did have a little problem with a slightly smoky kitchen since the front door is taped up for the winter and of course there is no ventilation hood in our antiquated kitchen. So when Roy got home from roofing, he was kind of wondering what Farmer and I had been up to. But he wonders that most days.

Seriously, I think Mahogany Mushrooms are a perfect side dish or antipasto for this time of year and that’s why I’m sharing them with you. Great with hamburgers or roast chicken or sautéed winter greens, or yes, eggs.

Mahogany Mushrooms

Sautéing over pretty high heat keeps these mushrooms juicy while getting them brown at the same time. A tangy glaze gives them a beautiful sheen, too.


1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons ketchup

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound Cremini (or baby bella) mushrooms, quartered if large, halved if small

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic


In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, lemon juice, brown sugar, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and 1 tablespoon water and set the bowl near the stove. Put a shallow serving dish near the stove as well.

In a 10-inch straight-sided sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter with the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted, add the mushrooms and the salt and stir right away. Continue stirring just until the mushrooms have absorbed all the fat.

Let the mushrooms sit undisturbed and cook for 2 minutes, then stir once. Don’t worry; the pan may look crowded and dry, but keep the heat up at medium high. Let sit and cook again, stirring infrequently (they will “squeak” when you stir them), until the mushrooms are shrunken, glistening, and some sides have developed a deep orange-brown color,  9 to 10 minutes (the bottom of the pan will be very brown).

Turn the heat to low and add the garlic and the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Stir and cook until the butter is melted and the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Whisk the soy sauce mixture again and very carefully add it to the pan. You’ll need to scrape out the brown sugar, but don’t stand directly over the pan as there will be sputtering. Stir and cook just until the liquids thicken slightly and coat the mushrooms, another 15 to 20 seconds. Quickly transfer the mushrooms to a shallow serving dish, scraping all of the sauce out of the pan with a rubber spatula. Let sit for a few minutes and serve warm.

Serves 4


This Business of Eggs: Green Island Farm Grows Up

Four years ago, Roy and I (newly besotted), rented a little plot of land on a Vineyard farm. We grew vegetables and sold them at the farm’s roadside stand. Living in a tiny apartment over a general store, we shuttled back and forth to tend our plot.

That fall, our friend Joannie tracked us down one day, took us by the hand, and led us to a little farm house on two acres of land. Right on the spot, she introduced us to the owners and insisted that they rent the farm house to us. I’m not sure if the owners knew what hit them, but in about an hour, we had all shaken hands and Roy and I were packing up the apartment. Our new landlords said, “Sure, grow whatever you want here.”

We moved into the little (uninsulated) 1895 farm house a few weeks later, and by spring we were turning over the soil and putting up the fences for our first vegetable plot. Roy built a little farm stand, and we stuck a sign out by the road. One summer, then two summers went by. We got 8 laying hens, and then 50 more. The garden doubled in size, and we built a hoop house. We made a tiny bit of money off our tiny farmette, keeping the farm stand open almost every day while writing books and building houses (our real jobs), too.

Then one day Tom came by. Tom and Roy talked, like men do, standing next to their trucks, arms folded. I watched from the kitchen window, my hands covered in olive oil and salt. Tom and Roy walked down to the fence line at the bottom of the farmette and looked out over the fields beyond, fields that have been in Tom’s family for hundreds of years. Tom and his mother Druscilla (yes, our landlords) lease some of that land to Morning Glory Farm to grow corn and squash. But there are eight grassy acres spiked with pines and cedars right behind us that long to be farmed.

After a spell, Roy and Tom walked back up to the house. I wiped my hands and stepped outside. “We’re going to be chicken farmers, dear,” Roy informed me, Tom smiling beside him. They’d made a deal.

At that moment, our fuzzy dream snapped into focus and took on the shape of reality.

With the extra acres Tom would lease us (four to start), we’d be able to turn the farm into a real business. Roy knew he wanted to spend less time on big building projects and more time farming, and we knew from a bit of number crunching that laying hens would be profitable. We played the numbers out a bit more and decided to make a phone call. To our surprise, we hung up the phone with (gulp) an order of 200 16-week old pullets scheduled to be delivered to the island in only a few weeks time. That was late October.

While Roy and our friend Scott quickly built the new coops and erected the huge (60′ x 90′) initial yard for the pullets, I worked up a real business plan, shopped around for insurance, filed the LLC paperwork, got a Tax ID number—and ordered a whole lot more egg cartons!

Since the day the pullets arrived, Roy has worked feverishly to get all the systems in place—watering and feeding, cleaning the coops, haying the nest boxes, collecting the eggs, washing the eggs, packaging the eggs, marketing the eggs, delivering the eggs. He is Mr. Egg Man. (I have been conveniently “on deadline,” though I am told that when the next 200 chickens arrive this spring, my duties will be, ahem, changing.)

Mr. Egg Man and I are celebrating today, celebrating the end of our first real week in business. All our paperwork is complete. Nearly all of the pullets are laying, and Roy collected more than 1300 eggs this week. We have new customers—a restaurant, a grocery store, and a market; the farm stand cooler is stocked every day. Best of all, not a single one of those 1300 eggs is left in the fridge. All sold. Today, there will be 18 dozen more to pack up. And 18 dozen more tomorrow. Whew. Well, you can’t have a farm business without a farm product. Which is why I am off to transplant lettuce seedlings in the hoop house. This is the coolest part about the dream—coloring in the lines you’ve sketched for yourselves.




Forty Days on Green Island Farm: A Year of Moments

January 22, 2012

February 9

February 23, 2012

March 17, 2012

March 18, 2012

March 19, 2012

April 6, 2012

April 11, 2012

April 29, 2012

May 4, 2012

May 10, 2012

May 28, 2012

June 14, 2012

June 16, 2012

June 17, 2012

June 20, 2012

June 28, 2012

June 29, 2012

June 30, 2012

July 18, 2012

August 2, 2012

August 5, 2012

August 21, 2012

August 24, 2012

August 30, 2012

August 31, 2012

September 6, 2012

September 7, 2012

September 9, 2012

October 6, 2012

October 22, 2012

October 23, 2012

October 24, 2012

October 28, 2012

November 10, 2012

November 22, 2012

November 23, 2012

November 24, 2012

December 13, 2012

December 16, 2012

Happy 2013 to everyone, from Susie, Roy, Libby, Farmer, Cocoa Bunny, Ellie the Love Bird, and 254 hens!