5.14.2015

GREY BARN FARM // the local food report


If you have a moment, click on over here to listen to this week's Local Food Report on Grey Barn Farm. In a nutshell? Eric and Molly Glasgow raise cows on grass, gather the milk, have their cheesemaker Jacqueline Foster curdle it, and turn the curds into high-end cheese. Then they feed the whey to their pigs, which eventually get turned into pork. It's a pretty cool closed-loop system.

Oh! and Molly's a designer, and takes stunning photos of the operation, as you can see above and below.


Next week: we'll talk cheese!


5.05.2015

ASPARAGUS & ARUGULA SALAD // elspeth


The other day the girls and I were in the car, going to meet Alex at the Shack so that he could take over kid duty and I could go to work. Sally was dressed up so that she could "help" for a few minutes before they went home to have dinner and take a tub. As we were crossing Railroad Ave, she piped up from the back seat. 

"Sorry, Mama," she said. 

"Why are you sorry, Sal?" I asked.

"Sorry, Mama. You have two kids!" I asked her why this made her sorry. "Well right now Nora's a baby, Mama," she explained. "But when she grows up you're going to have two kids! Two kids is a lot of work."


I have no idea if she came up with this on her own, or if she overheard this sort of refrain from me or another adult. Either way it was a good reminder: two kids is a lot of work, and it is also exactly what I've always wanted. 

I told myself this story again this morning, after a night when Sally wet the bed and Nora spiked a fever and my Tuesday that was planned for daycare and working on a new radio show turned into a day that is sure to be filled instead with nursing and laundry and drying tears. But I have two sweet, healthy girls, and nothing is more important. 

I don't have long before Nora wakes up again. But before I go there's one more thing I'd like to share. The asparagus is up, and we've picked it twice. It is everything that winter is not: green, snappy, pungent. Blanched and salted and cut into two-inch lengths, then tossed with peppery arugula, creamy Parmesan, and a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice, it tastes like relief. I think spring is finally here, friends.

ASPARAGUS & ARUGULA SALAD

This is so simple it seems a bit silly to call it a recipe, but here it is. It really only works with very fresh asparagus—we cut it right before dinner, so the stems are still snappy and supple. 

a handful of asparagus spears (about half a bunch that would be sold in a store or market)
several handfuls of arugula (about 1/4 pound)
Parmesan, for shaving
juice of 1/2 lemon
good, strong olive oil (I like unfiltered best)
sea salt and pepper to taste

Cut the asparagus into two-inch lengths and place in a shallow saucepan with water. Bring the water to a boil and steam for 1-2 minutes, or until the asparagus is barely fork-tender. Drain and plunge into ice water.

Meanwhile, arrange the arugula in a salad bowl. Use a carrot peeler to grate Parmesan ribbons over top. Add the asparagus, squeeze the lemon juice over top, and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, then toss gently and serve at once.

4.23.2015

BUTTERNUT SQUASH WITH TAHINI SAUCE // elspeth


We have recovered ourselves. It helps that is it spring; somehow the fact that the peas and asparagus and rhubarb are up if not anywhere near harvestable makes it okay that we keep eating butternut squash and storage onions and kale. The light at the end of the tunnel and all that.

It also helps to do it up right: to cut the squash into wedges and roast it with red onions in the oven and serve it all with a side of kale and fried eggs and douse everything in a sauce made from lemon and tahini. In other words, it helps to consult the great Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. As usual. 

The recipe in question here is from Jerusalem, a few pages over from the spiced chickpea and summer veggie salad I couldn't stop talking about last week, only more seasonal. I went right by the squash the first time I paged through, but once I got that summer fever out of my system, I started noticing that there were all kinds of excellent (and new and exciting) looking recipes for late winter/early spring dishes in the veggie section too. 

And so I pulled out a lingering butternut squash, pared it down and cut out the seeds, and went through the process of preparing yet another yolk-orange fruit. I did the same for the red-sprouting-green onions, and then I cranked the oven as high as it goes and cooked them down until they were caramelized and slightly burnt. 

The sauce was easy: whisk tahini, lemon juice, water, garlic, and salt. I skipped the parsley garnish, skipped the topping of toasted pine nuts with za-atar (though it sounded good), and served the squash and onions as they were: piping hot, with thick tahini sauce on top. The next morning we did it all again, only with eggs and kale and toast. 

My advice? Do it both ways, and do it soon. The asparagus and rhubarb will be here soon enough.

ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH & RED ONIONS WITH LEMON-TAHINI SAUCE

This recipe is adapted, or more accurately pared down, from the excellent Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. It serves four.

1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 3/4" by 2 and 1/2' wedges
2 red onions, cut into 1 and 1/4' wedges
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, plus more to taste
4 tablespoons tahini paste
scant 2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
1 large clove garlic, minced

Arrange the squash and red onions on a baking sheet, drizzle with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, and season with salt to taste. Toss well and roast for 30-40 minutes, or until the veggies are tender and have taken on some color. 

Meanwhile, make the sauce by whisking together the remaining olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, water, garlic, and salt to taste. You want the sauce to be the consistency of honey; if it's too thick, add water, if it's too thin, add more tahini. Serve the veggies hot, drizzled with the sauce. If you don't eat them all in the first sitting, they reheat nicely. 

P.S. (When the rhubarb and asparagus do arrive, I will be ready. Next up the in kitchen: this rhubarb almond cake where you keep the stalks whole for dramatic effect, and some sort of pan seared fish with this fennel and asparagus salad. )

4.16.2015

WITH RECKLESS ABANDON // elspeth

Suddenly the snow melted, and we no longer light a fire every morning. Instead we're skipping naps left and right to play at the park after school, to plant peas, to drive to Eastham to get an ice cream. Sixty degrees and sunny feels like a birth right. It feels owed, exhilarating. 


It also makes me feel like cleaning. As the weather warmed up I went through every drawer, every shelf, every closet. In the process, I found a lot of interesting and not particularly useful things (seven pairs of goggles, anyone?!). I also found an old polaroid camera—a minolta instant pro I haven't used since Sally was a baby, a camera I love. I stopped using it because getting film was expensive, then impossible, then possible again but not quite the same, and then better but wildly expensive, and so I finally stopped shelling out. Somehow, though, I did so without using up my last two boxes of expired film. I found them, along with the camera, in a box tucked away on my office shelves last week. We used up an entire box in an hour, and it felt like a spending spree, something akin to emptying a bank account or eating chocolate cake with reckless abandon. It felt good. 



We've had the same attitude toward meals recently. Since Nora was born, I've been meal planning. Because of the season, most of these meals have centered heavily on things like grains and beans and potatoes and kale. And frankly, I am sick of grains and beans and potatoes. I am even sick of kale! I want mint and tomatoes and cucumbers and eggplants. And so this week, we cheated. I went to the grocery store and bought tangelos and eggplants and the fixings for a spiced chickpea salad from Jerusalem and a cilantro-avocado salad from Smitten Kitchen. (Holy shit good.) The tomatoes were grown in a hothouse in Maine, but I suspect had they been from Mexico, I would have bought them anyway. We needed some spring.


The last winter farmers' market is this Saturday, and I fully intend to hit it up, bags and baskets and (wintery) shopping list in tow. But I am glad it is the last one. The Orleans summer market opens May 9, and the Wellfleet Market opens with a plant sale May 20th. The Shack opened last night, P.J.'s opens today, and the Flying Fish will have pastries and coffee starting Saturday. We're almost there.

SPICED CHICKPEA, EGGPLANT, & FRESH VEGETABLE SALAD

You could wait until the cucumbers and tomatoes and radishes and cilantro start showing up at the markets or pouring out of your garden to make this. In all likelihood, it will taste better then. But you could also go ahead and make it now. It's been a long winter, friends. I am not in a position to judge.

This recipe is adapted from Jerusalem by Sami Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi. It serves 2 in my house, though is says it serves 4. Maybe that's as a side dish?

1 small cucumber (about 1/3 lb)
2 large tomatoes (about 3/4 lb)
a handful of romaine lettuce, chopped
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1 red pepper, diced
1/2 bunch cilantro, leaves and stems, finely chopped
a handful of parsley, finely chopped
8 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 and 1/2 tablespoons balsamic or red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1/2 large or 1 small eggplant, diced
Greek yogurt or sour cream, for serving
sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

Toss together the cucumber, tomatoes, romaine, red onion, red pepper, cilantro, and parsley in a serving bowl. In a jar, combine 5 tablespoons olive oil with the lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, and sugar. Shake well and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour over the salad and toss gently.

Warm up the remaining olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, combine the spices in a wide, shallow bowl and mix well. Add the eggplant and chickpeas and stir to coat. Add the whole mixture, beans, eggplant, spices and all to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until the eggplant is tender.

To serve, put a scoop of salad and a scoop of eggplant mixture side by side in a salad bowl. Top with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt and dig in. Pita bread makes a nice accompaniment.


4.09.2015

IN BRIEF // elspeth

I miss being here. Things have been hectic, and I'm very much looking forward to a quiet hour when I get to sit down and write. I'm not sure yet when that's going to happen. In the meantime, I have been taking pictures: Nora's decided she likes food after all (especially coconut curried chicken with sweet potatoes and raisins), the girls and I took a trip to the Vineyard to learn about cheese and rare ducks (hear all about it on this week's Local Food Report!), we made hot cross buns for Easter, and the restaurant opens next weekend. Be back soon. xx







3.30.2015

P'TOWN BEAN SEEDS // elspeth


Do you remember Uncle Phil's P'Town Beans? Peter Burgess has seed available again. He wrote me an email this morning:

"Hello Elspeth,

I have several gallons of the P'Town beans available for seed. They have a 94% germination rate, and have been grown properly to avoid hybridization. I'd be happy to give them away again. I ran out last time because they flew away all around the country. If you'd like to promote them again, it's $2 and SASE to: Peter Burgess PO Box 212 North Truro MA 02652.


' . . . it's been a long cold lonely winter . . .
it seems like years since it's been here . . .
Here comes the Sun - dah dah dah dah . . .
And I say, 'It's all right'.'"

I couldn't have said it better. Happy Monday, friends.

3.29.2015

HEN STOCK // elspeth


We pruned the fruit trees today. Big lops off all the upper branches, then thinning out in the middle, then a rather aggressive full body haircut all around. I'm not sure how it will pan out—whether this year there will be more fruit or none—but I'm at peace with whatever happens. "PRUNE FRUIT TREES" has been on my list of things to do for almost a year, and it's finally done.

That's how I've been feeling about things in general recently—let's get them done! And never have to do them again! Specifically, it's how I've been feeling about going to the dump.


I mentioned here a few weeks ago that I've been reading Bea Johnson's blog, Zero Waste Home. (Synopsis: she and her family produce a mere quart of trash a year. She talks about the nitty gritty details, like wrapping-free holidays and wooden toothbrushes.) Soon after I delved into the archives I read the book, and it's reminded me of why I got interested in local food in the first place. I don't want to be part of the problem I spent my entire education learning about. I want to be part of the solution.

Today, inspired by Bea, I did my first intentional zero waste grocery shop—brought bags and jars I already owned, marked the tares and prices of bulk items on them with a washable marker, and emptied all the food into the crisper or more jars when we got home. I was happily surprised with the unpackaged selection: I even found bulk organic jelly beans at our little local natural foods store. 

The feeling I got from bringing home no plastic bags or containers or things that needed to be dealt with once we finish the food was the same as the feeling I get from washing and rewashing the diapers we used for Sally and now Nora. It was a feeling of immense satisfaction, of closing a loop. I realize that to some people that may sound incredibly odd, but there it is. I am the rare breed of person who finds happiness in baby poop.


Also, and a little more normally, I find it in chicken soup. When Victoria sent out an email about buying some of her old laying hens the other day, I ordered four. She dropped them straight from the slaughterhouse to my fridge, and yesterday morning I pulled out the big stock pot and loaded in the birds along with four of Marie's onions, thyme from the recently unearthed plant out front, and carrots that overwintered under the snow in the big garden behind the shed. 

I was counting on the meat being too tough to eat, but even after the birds had simmered for hours, it was good enough for enchiladas or stew. And so in the freezer we have eighteen quart jars of rich, yellow chicken stock and five pints of meat pulled and cut, ready for soup.

Nora just started eating, and so far it's nothing like Sally's rushing, joyful fist after fist. Our second sensitive little soul has now tried and cried over red peppers, avocado, sweet potatoes, roasted chicken, crab cakes, eggs, chicken liver mousse, thawed peaches, whole milk yogurt, a lone French fry, apple slices, and a tiny drop of homemade hot cocoa. I can't tell if it's the process or the flavors that overwhelm her, but she starts out happily grabbing for it, then tasting, bewildered, and finally frustrated, in tears. I keep thinking maybe she's not ready, and that we should stop, but when we don't give her anything off our plates to taste she's equally dismayed.

Perhaps the answer lies in chicken soup.

HEN STOCK

I am by no means an expert on this topic, but here's what information I've gathered about using old hens to make chicken stock. First, they're fatty. We were going to skim our stock but ultimately couldn't get it to congeal quite enough, so we left the fat in. Victoria says it's good for cooking, just like lard, so if you do manage to get it off the top in solid form, set it aside for your morning eggs and toast. Second, don't discount the meat—based on some recipes I'd read, I figured the meat would be inedible after making stock out of it—flavorless and tough—and while the former was somewhat true, the latter was not. The meat wasn't bursting with flavor, but it certainly didn't taste bad, and chopped up and used for chicken salad or pulled chicken for enchiladas or chicken soup or really anything with some seasoning, it'll do just fine. For our stock we put:

three whole chickens
12 carrots
four halved onions
a handful of thyme sprigs
5 celery stalks
and a handful of peppercorns

into our big lobster pot (16 quart, I believe?) and filled it with cold water almost to the brim. I brought the stock just to a boil, then turned the heat all the way down and let it simmer for the better part of the day—after breakfast-ish until we stopped for a mid-afternoon snack. Then I strained it, let it cool, attempted to let it congeal, gave up, and filled 18 quart mason jars about 2/3 full with beautiful liquid gold. Tomorrow we're going to use the fourth hen to make jerk.

3.26.2015

TRIPLOID OYSTERS // the local food report

Like humans, most oysters have two sets of chromosomes (diploid). But what happens when instead, they have three?


You might expect disaster. After all, triploidy happens occasionally in all species, and as we know all too well, for people, it's almost always fatal. But for oysters (and amazingly, all kinds of other foods—think bananas and seedless watermelons), something different happens. The animal doesn't die. In fact, it does the opposite. It grows really, really fast. 

The thing is, regular diploid oysters put a lot of energy into reproduction. Starting in their second year, anytime the water temperature climbs above about 60 degrees F (mid-May through mid-September on the Cape), they're working to spawn. They can spawn multiple times over the course of the season, and each spawn requires a tremendous amount of energy. It can also affect their meat, making it watery and somewhat tough. On this traditional schedule, it takes 3 to 4 years for an oyster to grow to market size.

But triploids aren't worried about spawning. Which means that all the energy a diploid uses to spawn, a triploid can put into growing. Andrew Cummings, whose triploid seed you see up there, says his triploids reach market size in 18 months. In addition to being an economic boon, especially during our busy season, this also helps with disease management. Most diseases around here are cumulative, which means they take time to kill an oyster. The less time oysters are on the grant, the less time they have to get sick.


Andrew is one of the first local oystermen to embrace triploids. In other parts of the country—Virginia, for example—as much as 90 percent of hatchery seed sold is triploid. It's popular. But here, our our wild industry is still so robust that very few people are growing triploids. Because they grow so fast, they require extra handling, which means extra work. 

Also, the science of the process is fairly complicated. It took me an hour long conversation with Andrew, nine emails, a phone call to our local hatchery owner, and a phone call to the inventor of the process to understand exactly what goes on. 

To start with the basics, oysters are broadcast spawners. This means they send sperm and eggs out into the water column, these meet, and make a new organism. Sperm and eggs are both haploid (one set of chromosomes), so when they meet, they make a diploid organism.

To get a triploid, you need to spawn a tetraploid (four sets of chromosomes) with a diploid. There are only a few labs in the world producing tetraploid oysters, and they're made by interrupting regular meiosis using a variety of different techniques ranging from heat to cold to chemicals. Labs interrupt meiosis first in a diploid to get a triploid, and then in a triploid to get a tetraploid. 


This sounds confusing, because the whole premise of triploid oysters is supposed to be that they're sterile. It turns out that rarely, a triploid oyster can produce eggs. But they produce maybe 50,000 to a diploid oyster's 20 or so million—not enough to make the oyster "ripe" and trigger spawning. In other words, these animals have eggs, but they're not fertile. They have to be spawned surgically, in a lab, in order to get a tetraploid.

The hatchery on the Cape, ARC (the Aquaculture Research Center in Dennis), keeps about 20 male tetraploid oysters on hand and spawns these with female diploids that growers bring in for brood stock. I talked with the owner, Dick Kraus, and he said only about 10 to 15 percent of seed sold on the Cape right now is triploid. 


If you love oysters, it's likely you've eaten a triploid at some point. Besides the fact that they tend to appear big and exceptionally healthy, they don't look any different from a diploid oyster. I'm curious to hear—what do you think? And if you have questions, fire away. I asked quite a few, so hopefully I have an answer.

Photo credits for this post go to Ralph Alswang. Thank you to Andrew Cummings for sharing.

3.24.2015

FARM CITY // elspeth

Back soon. Very soon. In the meantime, excited about and wanting to share this:

I can't be at the reading—the restaurant opens April 17th, so I'll be there instead—but I will be at the workshop Sunday. See you there?

3.09.2015

ON MY TOES // elspeth


Hi there. I've been wanting to stop by, but the girls have kept me on my toes lately. Besides, I don't have much new to share: all we've been making in the kitchen is wilted kale, fried eggs, this bread, this granola, and pot after pot of minestrone soup. Now that I've gotten on board, I can't seem to stop.

We did make a killer batch of peanut butter cookies, which I wrote about for this week's column in the Banner, and in the mornings we're stuck on this buttermilk smoothie with berries from the freezer. Wednesday we leave for Tahoe with my parents, my sister, and her boyfriend (WAHOOO!), so in the meantime we're eating the last strange items from the fridge. (One olive, anyone? Half a soft, mushy apple?) 

While we pack—for temperatures that seem to range from 19 to 65 degrees, which is a challenge all in itself—I've been thinking a lot about this amazing woman. What would it be like if your whole wardrobe fit in a carry-on? Nice, I think, once you got it right. The more people I'm responsible for, the more things we have to take care of, and the less I enjoy the process. I like the idea of downsizing. 


What do you think? Could you live with cocoa as bronzer? Bringing jars every time you go to the market? One quart of annual waste? I'm guessing there is no one size fits all, but I'm curious to hear other people's experiences.

P.S. The arugula is up! We'll see if it ever makes it to salad-cutting size.

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.