Tag Archives: The Book

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





It’s Pub Day! Celebrating Fresh from the Farm with a Winter Green Market Meatloaf Recipe

FFF square black sm collage b

This is it—Fresh from the Farm: A Year of Recipes and Stories is now officially published, as of this morning. Yippee!

I have no idea what this actually means. But I just learned that pub dates are apparently always on Tuesdays. Who knew?

My secret source revealed that the “pub” date is a date set in order to back up and create a “release” date, when the books begin to ship from the distribution warehouse. The scheduling masters try to work everything out (considering distance-to-travel, etc.) so that most of the books are in most of the outlets they’re supposed to be in by the “pub” date.

I like the idea of hundreds of boxes of Fresh from the Farms hopping on trucks and traveling far and wide to get to their destinations.

DSC_2568So to celebrate their safe arrival, I’m offering up what really and truly is one of my favorite recipes in the book—Winter Green Market Meatloaf. I named it that because I first made it with the goodies I got at our Winter Farmers’ Market—including onions, carrots, kale (yes, kale), local feta cheese, and local ground pork and beef. The meatloaf is terrifically moist and tasty, and the sauce on the outside has a great zing to it.

I also chose this recipe, because of course, it’s February, and meatloaf makes a little more sense than say, a corn sauté, or a strawberry crisp. But the cool thing about Fresh from the Farm, which is arranged seasonally in three sections, is that it spans almost the entire year, and the recipes in the fall section (like the meatloaf) are plenty appropriate for mid-winter, too.

I made the meatloaf yesterday so that I could take pictures of it (it’s not photographed in the book), and wound up sending half of it off with a couple of newspaper reporters who were here visiting the farm and talking with me about the book. (We have our big author event at Bunch of Grapes bookstore this Saturday at 3 pm, which I’m really excited about. Libby will be here and able to come with us, and I’ll be cooking up a storm this week to bring along plenty of recipe samples.)

For me, pub day is exciting, but considering the travel and the radio spots and all the other efforts coming up to promote the book, there’s no easing back. I am just looking ahead with an eye towards keeping my energy level up—while Roy and I also seriously begin to prepare for the growing season. Yikes. And while at first I thought it was a little strange to bring a book like this out in February, now I am really thankful that it gives me the window of opportunity to promote it this spring by doing some traveling before the farm gets really busy. Next stop: Washington, D.C., my hometown: A great event at La Cuisine on March 1, and the Dupont Circle Farmers’ Market on March 2. Maybe I’ll see some of you there!

Enjoy the meatloaf, and by the way, if you really want to make somebody happy on Valentine’s Day, this is a decidedly comforting way to do it. You could serve these mashed potatoes with it, or even the crispy smashed potatoes.


Winter Green Market Meatloaf Recipe
Yes, there’s actually kale in this incredibly moist and flavorful meatloaf. (Feta cheese, too!) Tossing the veggies and plenty of garlic into the food processor makes a finely minced mixture perfect for lightening up meatloaf. I always eat at least a nibble of this warm out of the oven, but resting for a few minutes is a good idea; it will be easier to slice. It’s also delicious leftover, reheated or even cold, pâté style. Recipe copyright Susie Middleton, 2014, from Fresh from the Farm: A Year of Recipes and Stories (The Taunton Press, 2014.)
: main dish
Serves: 4 to 6
  • ¾ cup fresh breadcrumbs (about 1 English muffin)
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 large carrot (about 3 ounces), coarsely chopped
  • 1 small onion (about 4 ounces), coarsely chopped
  • 4 large cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 small serrano pepper, cut into 3 or 4 pieces
  • 2 cups (packed) coarsely chopped kale (about 2 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound 80 to 85% ground beef
  • ½ pound ground pork
  • 3 ounces crumbled good-quality feta cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons (lightly packed) chopped fresh oregano
  1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Line a large rimmed heavy-duty baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Put the breadcrumbs and milk in a small bowl and mix. Let sit. In a small bowl, whisk together the ketchup, Worcestershire, brown sugar, soy sauce, and Dijon.
  3. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the carrots, onions, garlic, serranos, and kale. Pulse until very finely chopped, scraping down the sides as necessary to incorporate the kale.
  4. In a medium (10-inch) nonstick skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the chopped veggies and ½ teaspoon salt. (The pan will be crowded.) Cook, stirring, until gently softened and very fragrant, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool (about 10 minutes).
  5. In a large mixing bowl, combine the veggies, beef, pork, feta, egg, several grinds of pepper, the oregano, ½ teaspoon salt, the breadcrumb mixture, and 3 tablespoons of the ketchup mixture (reserve the rest for brushing on the loaf). Using your hands, mix all of the ingredients together thoroughly without mashing too much. Transfer the mixture to the baking sheet and shape into a long, narrow loaf about 9 inches long and 4 inches wide. Spoon the rest of the ketchup mixture down the length of the top of the loaf and gently spread or brush it over the sides.
  6. Bake the meatloaf until an instant-read thermometer registers 160° to 165°F, 55 to 60 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.


Please note: The terrific finished food photos in the collage at top were taken by Alexandra Grablewski for Fresh from the Farm: A Year of Recipes and Stories (The Taunton Press, 2014).


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.



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.

One Thing At a Time

Yesterday, Farmer escaped his harness, Houdini-like, and galloped down State Road against oncoming traffic with me running behind him shouting and waving. (He’s okay.)

I drove to Connecticut and back for a meeting on Tuesday.

I planted 50 tomato plants last night.

Roy hurt his back lifting a staircase (don’t ask). His clients want to move into their remodeled house in two weeks.

Our friends Scott and Angie came and helped us with the garden and the farm stand last Sunday because they could see what we couldn’t: We needed help.

Today a farm stand customer, a lovely lady who I barely know, came down the driveway with a loaf of challah bread she had baked for the Jewish Sabbath (which begins Friday evening) and wanted to share with me. A very special kind of challah called Chernowitzer, named for a once beautiful Austrian (now Ukrainian) city devastated in World War II, its many inhabitants sent to Auschwitz. Farmer and I ate two slices of this amazing bread for breakfast.

My new book was officially released this week (early). My publisher, Chronicle Books, pushed the date up after the positive review from NPR and went ahead and ordered a second printing.

I went down to Bunch of Grapes bookstore to sign 50 copies.

The Splendid Table excerpted this recipe (Greek Spinach-Salad Pasta with Feta, Olives, Artichokes, Tomatoes and Pepperoncini) from the book, and suddenly blog posts popped up all around from folks making the salad. Amazon put The Fresh and Green Table on its June list of editors’ favorite cookbooks.

I am developing recipes and taking pictures for a new project.

Every morning, I harvest chard, arugula, lettuce, baby bok choy and greens for the farm stand. I pulled the first carrots this morning. The peas—hundreds of them—are just days away.

The peppers and eggplants are not in the ground yet. Many beds to weed and mulch. Irrigation is a bad word. New chicken pens for both ladies and girls still to be built.

I ran into my friend Mary in the post office yesterday. She is a landscaper and garden designer…on Martha’s Vineyard…in June. Yikes. “Everything’s compressed. It’s like there’s no time, it’s all just a little too much. But at the end of the day here we are. So lucky.”

Yes, lucky. And when it all seems like a lot, I take it a little at a time. And I have Farmer to remind me to take it easy and pay attention.

I cinched up his collar extra tight and let him sniff all the daisies he wanted on our walk through the field this morning. (He slept on the bed last night, too. ) A warm soft breeze and bright sunshine made us both stop for a minute and look around. A turkey hen crossed our path with her single baby toddling behind her.

We walked home past the garden gate that Scotty built, stopped to pee on Roy’s potatoes (sorry!), checked on the blushing blueberries, and smiled at the shovel left speared on a mound of dirt. Shovels remind me of my Dad. Always. I know what he’ll be doing on Sunday, and it won’t be sitting down, waiting for the world to come to him. Thanks Dad. It’s all good, even when it’s all a bit much.

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!

Asparagus-Leek Bisque for Mom; the Gift of a Child for Me

If my mom were here on Martha’s Vineyard with us this Sunday, this is what I would cook for her: Asparagus & Leek Bisque with Crème Fraiche & Tarragon and Classic Maryland Crab Cakes.

The silky soup (photo at right, recipe below and coming in The Fresh & Green Table) is delicious, easy to make, and would take advantage of the fabulous asparagus we’re now getting at Morning Glory Farm.

The crab cakes, well, they’re a family thing. When I developed that recipe for Fine Cooking magazine several years ago, I had to consult each of my family members to make sure I did not adulterate any nostalgic memories. The recipe really should be called Evans Family Classic Delaware Crab Cakes, because we spent a lot of time crabbing, picking crabs, making crab cakes, and eating crab every summer in Lewes Beach, Delaware. And for us, a crab cake is all about the crab (the blue crab!).

But my mom’s not visiting this weekend (she’s in Delaware), and since I picked on her last mother’s day by writing about her, I’m letting her off the hook this year. (Besides, she just got a brand new teeny tiny poodle puppy named Shortie to play with.)

Instead, I have to share this strange feeling I now get on Mother’s Day. I’m not a mother—well, at least, not an actual, bona fide legal full-time one. I always wanted to have kids, but it wasn’t to be. After I safely navigated my midlife crisis, I did briefly think about how I might still pull it off, but I never pursued any of the options. But God was looking out for me, I know now. Because into my life skipped Libby. She was seven, almost eight when I met her for the first time (all maybe 40 pounds of her—hence her father’s nicknames for her – “Noodle” and “Peanut”). I spent just a few hours with her, but the next time she came out from Falmouth to visit her father, she said, “Daddy, can we go over to Susie’s house?” That was the start of a very good thing. For both of us (actually, all three of us), I do believe.

Libby is blessed with an awesome family life in Falmouth—her mom Kelly totally understands her daughter’s personality and I admire how she nurtures it and encourages Libby’s unique strengths. (And I am especially grateful to Kelly for her generosity in welcoming me into Libby’s life.) Libby has two loving grandparents who live right next door to her—and a protective older brother to watch out for her, too. And when she comes out to the Island, she gets special time with the Dad who not only looks so much like her, but shares her love of nature and animals and everything outdoorsy. (And, oh, just happens to adore her, too.) And then there is Susie Time—in the kitchen cooking, over a board game, out for a walk with the dog, futzing around in the garden, or shopping at the farmers’ market. (That’s our feet in our farm boots, below.)

Last year, Roy bought me a plant (a beautiful lupine) on Mother’s Day and Libby brought me a necklace she’d made. I was so surprised and blown away, really. Kelly told me this week that Libby had something for me this Mother’s Day, but since Libby’s got an “away” soccer game, we won’t see her until next week. Honestly, it is hard to describe how I feel about the fact that Roy and Libby honor me as the Mom in our little family unit, even though we are only all together for part of every month. We do make the most of our time together, though, and I guess that’s what counts. But having the gift of Libby in my life is not something I will ever fully grasp in a tangible way. It’s not to be analyzed, just appreciated. Nothing short of a miracle—and a real privilege to watch this amazing girl grow up.

I will miss Libby this weekend. If she were here, we just might make that Asparagus Bisque and the Crab Cakes (she loves both). And I have something to give her, too—her very own copy of The Fresh & Green Table (I just got my early author copies). After all, it is dedicated to her and her Dad. And that’s pretty cool—how many nine-year-olds can walk into just about any bookstore and see their name in print? Well, this may be the first time for Libby, but I’m guessing it won’t be the last.

Photographs in this post: soup, Annabelle Breakey, from The Fresh and Green Table; crab cakes, Scott Phillips from finecooking.com. Boots by Roy Riley.

Asparagus & Leek Bisque with Crème Fraiche & Tarragon

This is a lovely, satisfying soup with the light flavors of spring, but the hearty back-up of earthy sautéed leeks. I love how well the crème fraiche, tarragon, and lemon work with the asparagus at the end. When you’re shopping for asparagus, you’ll probably want to go ahead and buy 4 bunches (of medium-thin stalks; bunches are about 1 lb. each) to be on the safe side (unless you find much bigger bunches!). You’ll be trimming all the tough ends to wind up with 1 1/2 pounds for the soup; plus you’ll be cutting up a few stalks to blanch and use as garnish. This soup would be lovely with a few crostini on the side, topped with warm goat cheese and maybe a little smoked salmon. This recipe is from The Fresh and Green Table (Chronicle Books, June 2012, Susie Middleton).


2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 cups thinly sliced leeks (about 5 ounces, from about 2 large leeks)

1/2 cup thinly sliced celery

kosher salt

2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger

1/4 cup dry white wine (such as a Sauvignon Blanc)

1 1/2  pound trimmed asparagus (from about 3 bunches of medium-thin asparagus) cut into 1/2-inch pieces; plus 3 trimmed stalks, sliced on the diagonal, about 1-inch long

1/4 cup crème fraiche

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon


In a 4- to 5-quart Dutch oven or other large sauce pot, heat the butter and the olive oil over medium heat. Add the leeks, the celery, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Stir, cover, and cook, stirring once or twice, until the vegetables are mostly softened, about 5 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are shrunken and the leeks have taken on some golden color, about 7 to 8 minutes more.

Add the ginger and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the white wine and cook until mostly reduced (this will happen quickly). Add the (1 1/2 lb.) asparagus, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 5 1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the asparagus are just tender, about 7 minutes.

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

Meanwhile, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Drop in the extra asparagus pieces and cook until firm-tender but still bright green, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and reserve.

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 batches in a mixing bowl, then return to the (rinsed) soup pot. Whisk in the crème fraiche, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the tarragon, and the lemon zest. Taste the soup for seasoning and add more salt or the remaining 1/2 teaspoon tarragon. (If you plan to eat the soup right away, you will most likely want to add the last 1/2 teaspoon tarragon. If you plan to eat it later, hold back, as the tarragon intensifies just slightly over time.)

Reheat the soup very gently. Serve hot garnished with the reserved asparagus pieces.

Serves 4, Yields 8 cups

And Now For the Sequel! Coming Soon, Susie’s Second Book, The Fresh & Green Table

“Never look a gift horse in the mouth.” A goofy saying maybe (definitely something I could hear coming out of my mother’s mouth), but who can argue with the message: When good stuff comes your way, be grateful, and don’t question it.

Something good came my way at the end of the summer of 2010. Fast, Fresh & Green, my first cookbook, had hit a high note, fresh off the presses earlier that spring. It found an enthusiastic audience (that’s all of you—talk about gratitude!), prompting my editor at Chronicle Books to call me up one day in August. We had a nice chat while I sat in the parking lot of Alley’s General Store, watching the President’s motorcade go by, on his way to the “summer” White House.

My editor asked me if I thought I might have a “main-dish” Fast, Fresh & Green up my sleeve. I told him I’d definitely been thinking about all the ways to move veggies to the center of the plate, and that I could work up a proposal for him. “You do that,” he said. Alrighty then. Yeah, just in case I was wondering what I was going to be doing with myself for the next several months (!)…the upshot of that conversation, and several that followed, was that I signed a contract to write a “sequel”—due in February (2011). It was October by the time we actually signed on the dotted line, but fortunately I was well underway with recipe testing, since I had gotten a hint that the deadline would be short and I knew that completing a cookbook in that window of time would mean an all-out sprint.

But just because you turn in a book manuscript in February doesn’t mean you get to hold a finished book in your hands by spring time! Doing a book right—great photography, solid copy editing, careful and creative design, and lots of proofing and fitting—takes time, and then the book has to go to the printer. In the meantime, a particular seasonal “release” date is chosen for the book, a date when the bulk of the first printing will have arrived in the warehouse and will be ready to ship out. At several points during this whole process, the author gets to see (and make edits to) the updated manuscript. And at each stage, the author gets a stronger and stronger sense of what the finished book will look like, which is very exciting. (Especially for me this time around, as The Fresh & Green Table is stuffed with beautiful photographs by San Francisco photographer Annabelle Breakey, like the couple I’ve included here.)

But while I’ve had a good idea about how my book is shaping up at every step of the way, the process has been puzzling to other people (like my mother, sister, best friend, and oh, a few others) who are anxious to see the book. So I am very happy to now say that though The Fresh & Green Table is still months away from its official pub date (June 20, 2012), it has, in fact, gone to the printer, and is therefore available for preorder on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Indie Bound (please support independent bookstores whenever possible!). And likely there will be some sneaky early copies let loose, perhaps like the copies of Fast, Fresh & Green that Anthropologie displayed last time around. And just yesterday, my favorite PR and marketing guru guys at Chronicle Books gave me the thumbs up to start promoting The Fresh & Green Table (see beautiful cover above). Yay! So, first, please do me a favor and hop on to Facebook and “like” my new page “Susie Middleton Cooks.” I’m going to phase out the Fast, Fresh & Green Facebook page now that there will be two books! You can also follow me on Twitter @sixburnersue.

Okay, now for the good stuff—what’s in the book? The short answer is this: Main-Dish Salads, Hearty Soups, Veggie Pastas, Frittatas & Savory Bread Puddings, Gratins & Galettes, Rustic Tarts, Sautés, Ragouts, Pizzas (Baked & Grilled), Main-Dish Grains, and even a chapter on sides for veggie main-dishes, like polenta, popovers, and pilafs. Every chapter focuses on two or three types of dishes (that feature veggies in a big way) that I think you can easily add to your repertoire—by following the detailed recipes I’ve given you until you begin to improvise on your own. I chose each of these kinds of dishes to showcase veggies because they are broadly appealing (especially to non-vegetarians, though most of the recipes are meatless) and because they are the kinds of things I’ve learned to cook over the years that make me giddy with joy. (Grilled Pizza—my number one favorite!) To me, cooking from scratch has to be fun and full of “a ha! moments.” I think this—the fun and delicious factor—is the secret to convincing folks that vegetables can star at the center of the plate.

I also had a blast pairing vegetables with “bridge” flavors and other main-dish ingredients to help bring veggies into focus in important ways without turning folks off. Dishes like “Warm Wheatberries with Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Toasted Walnuts & Dried Cranberries” and “Chile Rice with Green Beans & Toasted Pecans” as well as “Seven Treasure Roasted Winter Veggie Tart” and “Spaghetti with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes & Spicy Garlic Oil” do this particularly well. (I promise everything in the book is not roasted!) But my very favorite chapter (softie as I am when it comes to all things leafy) is the Main-Dish Salads. For winter, I pair roasted veggies (yes!) with hearty greens; for summer I pair grilled veggies with lighter greens. And always with interesting vinaigrettes and fun extras like grilled bread. The result? Recipes like “Warm Winter Salad of Roasted Root “Fries” with Shallot & Sherry-Maple Vinaigrette” and “Grilled Zucchini, Bell Peppers, Goat Cheese & Grilled Bread with Double-Tomato Dressing.” Yum.

I need to stop there as I am getting hungry, but there is so much more to tell you about The Fresh & Green Table, and I promise I will post about it (and preview a recipe or two) in the coming months. In the meantime, yes, preordering is something to be grateful for!

My Gig as a Dream Girl (and How I Got a New Camera)

When I die, my obituary will be juicy I’m sure. There’s that time my picture appeared in the National Enquirer (no kidding). And those television appearances on Romper Room and The Martha Stewart Show. And of course, my double life (just kidding—sort of).

And now I get to add Dream Girl to my resume. I got “sold” at an auction. Not into slavery or anything. Far from it. In truth I was part of a package deal offered at last year’s Possible Dreams charity auction on the Vineyard. My dream partner was Dawn Braasch, owner of Bunch of Grapes bookstore in Vineyard Haven—and of a fabulous old sea captain’s house that she has restored beautifully. Our package was dinner and a cooking class for six by Susie Middleton in the spacious and lovely kitchen of Dawn Braasch’s home (with house tour).

The couples who offered the winning bid for us agreed on a dinner date when everyone could get together, and it turned out to be this past Saturday night.

Farm Girl has been a little cranky lately, having had very little time to spend in the garden, what with road trips, book galley and magazine deadlines, book signings (PR Girl is not my favorite hat to wear), and general summer-on-the-Vineyard craziness. And my natural inclination might have been to be suspicious of cooking dinner for complete strangers. But from my first email with Joann Frechette, my point-person on the guest list, I had a good feeling. This was going to be fun; I just knew it.

So I put on my Dream Girl hat, prepped in my tiny hot kitchen, zipped around the Island to get great ingredients (the best being two locally raised chickens from Jeff Munroe’s The Good Farm), and arrived at Dawn’s. (Actually, I should say, arrived at Dawn’s with Roy, who helped restore Dawn’s house and was enlisted to join in the fun.) Dawn’s table setting (not to mention the cool icy pitchers of Pimm’s Cup and whiskey sours she’d made for the guests) took my breath away.

When Joann and the other guests (Bob Nash, Sandy Miller, Don McKillop and Susan Davy) arrived, we chatted a bit—and then went right to work. And that’s when I knew for sure what a great group they were. I did a quick demo of making free-form rustic summer fruit tarts from a great food-processor dough, and then each guest got a chance to roll, fill, shape, and top his or her own blueberry tart. Not only did everyone pull this off, but they did it in short order—and the tarts looked stunning.

For the rest of the dinner, we made the Caramelized Plum Tomatoes, the Corn Saute with Chile and Lime  (similar recipe here), and the Grilled Shiitake Mushrooms from Fast, Fresh & Green along with grilled bread, a nice green salad, and the chickens (butterflied and roasted and served with jus and lemon-rosemary drizzling oil). Dawn had chosen great red and white wines to go perfectly with everything. Of course as I sat down at the table, I had a litany of “oh, nos” dancing in my head as I realized my salad dressing didn’t taste the way I wanted it to, the mushrooms and bread were both a little extra toasty…and all those kinds of thoughts that go through a cook’s head. But in truth, the food, the wine, and the setting were just props for a fun and relaxed meeting of old and new friends. Our Dream winners couldn’t have been lovelier people.

In fact, the story ends with an incredible gift. Susan Davy (who along with artist husband Don owns the Dragonfly Gallery in Oak Bluffs) emailed me Sunday morning with an offer. She’d heard me talk about needing a new camera (mine was stolen in New Jersey and I have been wringing my hands over the cost of buying a new one, especially since I know I have to take the opportunity to move up to a SLR camera—finally.) She explained that she had a Nikon D40 she hadn’t been using since she’d bought a new camera, and that she would like to loan it to me to use for awhile. And that she’d talk me through operating it. Amazed, I thought about this offer all afternoon, and then, of course, said yes. And thank you. And, is this a Dream?

P.S. I haven’t had much time to play with the new camera yet, but couldn’t resist sharing a few photos (top and below) I took around the farmette, since I am so tickled that I actually get killer depth of field (that artful blurry background!) with the D40. (And I unfortunately don’t have any photos from the Dream dinner to go with the blog.) Now I wish I just had a few weeks to do nothing but take pictures. Yeah, keep dreaming Susie.