Good for me

If I knew what was good for me, I would stop creating chocolate desserts. But because I don't, and because I come from a gene pool that created this:

I will be doing no such thing. Instead, I will continue to do things like what I did yesterday, which was to open a cookbook about whole grains and wind up arguing with my niece about who gets to lick the bowl where we mixed the chocolate and honey and eggs. 

The cookbook in question is by Maria Speck—Ancient Grains for Modern Meals. It is a very good cookbook, and it is not Maria's fault that I paged straight to the chapter called Sweet Endings. There are, in fact, lots of absolutely delicious looking recipes for things like lamb stew with wheat berries in red wine sauce and homemade spelt fettuccine that I have bookmarked for another day. But yesterday I had no choice but to inaugurate the book with a rendition of her dark chocolate truffle tart with walnuts.

Where are the whole grains? you ask. In the crust! It's not the book's most adventurous recipe—many use the whole berry and call for grains like rye and barley and amaranth—but the whole wheat and butter tart crust is easy and delicious. 

The chocolate filling caught my eye because it is sweetened mainly with honey. I find dessert recipes with honey hard to come by in American cooking, but Maria seems to use it in all of her sweets, crediting Greek heritage. It also calls for milk and butter and walnuts and eggs, all of which we have been eating a lot of around here (walnuts because they're tasty and good for Sally's brain).

So without further ado, I'd like to introduce the dark chocolate walnut tart of your dreams. If you know what's good for you, you'll make it without delay.


Maria manages to make this all whole-wheat by using "white whole wheat flour" and "whole wheat pastry flour," but frankly I don't have the patience or the pantry for these sorts of things. I used part whole wheat flour that I ground myself from our grain CSA and part all-purpose, and the crust came out wonderfully. Do what you please.

3/4 cup whole wheat flour (Maria calls for white whole wheat)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (Maria calls for whole wheat pastry flour)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
7 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4-6 tablespoons ice water

Pulse together the flours, sugar, and sea salt in a food processor. Add the butter and 4 tablespoons of the water—give this mixture 8-10 pulses. If it seems to be coming together, stop. If it doesn't, add more water and pulse a few more times. 

Dump the mixture out onto a lightly floured work surface. Form it into a ball, then work it into a disk about 1-inch thick. Use a rolling pin to roll it into a 12-inch circle, roughly 1/8-inch thick. Carefully transfer the dough to a 9 and 1/2-inch fluted tart pan (you know, the type with a removable bottom), and press the dough against the edges. Use your fingers to press off and trim any excess dough from the top, prick the dough about a dozen times with a fork, cover it with plastic wrap, and put it in the fridge to chill. Leave it alone for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Put the tart pan on a cookie sheet so it doesn't drip butter and start a fire in your oven. Cut a circle of parchment paper roughly the size of the pan and place it in the middle of the crust. Fill it with pie weights or dried beans.

To partially bake the crust, put it in the oven for about 15 minutes, then check it. If the edges have started to pull away from the pan and crisp up, take out the parchment paper and pie weights (carefully! they get hot!) and return the crust to the oven for another few minutes. When the bottom is a little more crisp, take it out and let it cool to room temp.


On to part two! It is rare that things I make at home actually look just as good as the pictures in the cookbooks, but this one came out as promised. It is beautiful, delightfully rich, and all around a chocolate-lover's winner.

1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup honey (I used a spring honey, which is fairly mild and runny)
6 ounces dark chocolate (70% cacao), chopped
1/2 stick butter
2 tablespoons nice liqueur (Maria suggested Grand Marnier; I used Chambord and kicked myself afterward for not thinking of the homemade pear liqueur we have downstairs!)
1 tablespoon freshly grated orange or lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla 
2 large eggs plus 1 yolk, beaten together
2/3 cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts
12 toasted walnut halves, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 

Whisk together the sugar and milk over medium heat. When the sugar is dissolved (about 5 minutes), add the honey and whisk another minute until this dissolves too. Turn off the heat and set aside.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler; then set aside to cool for five minutes. 

Meanwhile, stir the liqueur, zest, and vanilla into the honey/sugar/milk mixture. Stir this into the chocolate, then whisk in the eggs—the mixture will thicken slightly and look like chocolate pudding.

Layer the chopped toasted walnuts over the bottom of the tart crust and spoon the chocolate filling over top, making sure to spread it evenly around. Bake the tart for 15 minutes, then pull it out to arrange the 12 toasted walnut halves around the edge (like clock numbers). Cook another 8-10 minutes, or until the filling is puffy around the edges and just jiggly in the center. Pull it out and let it cool completely before serving (at least an hour and a half). 


Check the archives

Ha! This recipe archive is great. I have had a bee in my bonnet about making some sort of kale and pinto bean soup all weekend, and I just sat down at the computer to browse recipes online. I was thinking this or this or this, when suddenly I thought—haven't we made a kale and farro and bean stew around here before? I checked the archives, and would you look at that! We have. 

It isn't quite what I want to make right now, but it's nice to know where to find it when that time comes around. So thank you Anna, yet again, for pushing me to do this. (And thank you Sally, for learning to take longer naps. That was a big help.)

Hope you are having a wonderful Saturday, everyone!


The Local Food Report: hunting ducks

When I was about Sally's size, my mother used to call me her puddle duck. I had no idea that this was a real term until the other day, when I started researching duck hunting.

(Photo courtesy Chris Benesh)

It's duck hunting season, and that up there is a black duck, a type of puddle duck. Puddle ducks are also called dabbling ducks, and they spend most of their time feeding in shallow water. They're also local hunters' favorite, because they're the best ducks for eating. 

The other kind of ducks you can hunt around here are sea ducks. Hunters don't like these as much. Why? They're divers, which means they eat lots of fish, and so their meat tastes fishy. My friend Dave Townsend, who's been hunting and eating ducks around here for years, says he's ruined a lot of perfectly good spices and herbs and sauces trying to mask the taste, and the sea birds just aren't worth cooking.

Not everyone agrees. Some people say they don't mind the taste of sea ducks. I suspect this has something to do with the fact that they shot the duck and therefore feel compelled to come up with a tasty way to eat it, but hey, I understand. Unsurprisingly, most sea duck recipes come from hunting websites (there are some good-looking ones over here and one hilariously titled Keith's Practically Edible Sea Duck over here), or chatrooms where experienced cooks and hunters share their tips (this thread on Chowhound is especially good).

When it comes to the better-tasting ducks—puddle ducks like blacks or mallards—the recipes sound much more appealing. Dave says he would soak his black duck breasts in milk before pan-searing them, which seems to be a common technique. Hank Shaw of Hunter/Angler/Gardener/Cook has a great basic tutorial for how to cook wild duck breasts, which you can find over here

But the best-looking recipe I've found is for duck breasts with orange sauce. Duck and orange are a traditional pairing—think Duck a 'lOrange from the sixties—and this recipe from ducks.org for Duck Breasts with Grand Marnier Sauce seems in line with the recommendations I've read. Most people who've cooked wild duck say to add plenty of fat (note the 3/4 cup butter) and to not to over-cook the meat (this recipe says to sear it medium rare). 

I've never shot a duck, but Alex has his license, and every year, he says he's going to go hunting. Shotgun season is over for the year—you can find the Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife regulations for migratory bird hunting over here—but falconry season goes until February 9th. Maybe, just maybe, one of these days he and Fisher will bring home a bird.


Recipe archive

I have finally put together a recipe archive for you. My sister has been urging me to do this for months, maybe even years, and at long last, it's here. You get there via the tab up top that says Recipe Archive, all the way to the right.

I discovered a few strange things along the way. Apparently, I have a serious thing for roasted beet salads. Also, I noticed I don't post many seafood recipes, even though we eat a lot of seafood! This is probably because Alex is so good at these that I often let him do the fish cooking. I'll try to work on that. Lastly, I make an absurd amount of dessert. But who am I kidding? That's been going on since I was at least twelve. 

At any rate, I hope you'll find this new archive useful. It's there for you, after all. Happy cooking!


Still warm

A few weeks ago, my friend Tracy gave me three dozen eggs and a tart pan. Today I repaid her the best way I know how: with a Breton Buckwheat Cake baked with six of her eggs in my brand new pan.

The cake is a stunner. I made my first one a few days ago in an effort to work my way through some of the buckwheat flour in our freezer from last year's grain CSA, and it certainly did the trick. We worked through our cake FAST. The fact that it was only vaguely sweet and very eggy and moist and made with whole grain flour meant that we justified a little sliver after breakfast and two more in the wake of dinner and lunch. 

The recipe comes from David Lebovitz, via 101cookbooks. I believe it is French. If it's not, it's everything French cakes tend to be—not overly sugary, simple to make, and deeply satisfying without being too rich. There's also no frosting—it feels very much like an every day peasant cake.

The excitement is in the sea salt that you sprinkle into the batter and then on the top just before you bake. It brings out all the nuances of the flavors that go into the cake—the undertones of dark rum, a hint of vanilla, the toothsome, earthy taste of buckwheat. I used light brown sugar in place of granulated, which I think gave it even more depth. 

After we devoured ours I made it again and delivered it to Tracy, still warm in a greasy paper sack. Thank you Tracy, again.


adapted from David Lebovitz, The Sweet Life in Paris

We got buckwheat last year with our grain CSA, and I milled it all into flour. For reasons I don't fully understand it is much lighter than most buckwheat flours—in color at least—but otherwise, it seems the same. Either way, it's delicious in this cake, which is moist, eggy, and only a little bit sweet. Think of it as a snacking cake.

for the cake:
1 scant cup buckwheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon plus 1/3 teaspoon fleur de sel
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
4 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons dark rum 

for the glaze:
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon milk

Grease a 9- or 10-inch tart pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 

In a small bowl, whisk together the buckwheat flour, the all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and the cinnamon.

Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until smooth. Beat in the egg yolks one by one and then add the whole egg. Add the vanilla and rum in a slow dribble, beating the whole time. Beat on high speed until the mixture is very airy.

Finally, mix in the dry ingredients until the batter just comes together. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top as flat as possible (it is a thick dough so this takes a few swipes).

Make the glaze by whisking together the egg yolk and milk in a small cup. Brush it generously across the top, then take a fork and rake it across the batter to create three parallel lines in one direction and three in another to make a criss-cross pattern. Sprinkle the remaining 1/3 teaspoon of salt over the cake. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the inside of the cake is still moist. 

Note: be careful not to overcook, as the cake seems like the type to dry out.


Dear Mama,

Remember that cookbook Anna was going to get you for Christmas? Whole Grains Every Day Every Way, the one I recommended? Did it ever come in? I hope so—I just used it to make a top-notch pilaf recipe.

I think you have your share of the grain CSA by now—Joe piled it into the back of his pick-up when he was Maine-bound the other day—and I wanted to tell you that I tried an oat recipe. I don't know if you've had a chance to read the CSA handout yet, but the oats this year are different—they're called live oats, and they're hull-less. Apparently they grow without hulls, which means they're easier for the farmers to harvest and easier for us to cook with and clean. Yay!

We tried them in a pilaf recipe yesterday. We had friends coming over and an engagement and a pregnancy to celebrate, and I wanted to make a side that would go nicely with salad and fish. Some people say oat berries cook up similarly to rice, so I figured I'd look them up in the index of the Lorna Sass book and give whatever I found a try. What I found was on page 206: oat pilaf with carrots and thyme. It was delicious! Alex added some extra butter and salt (surprise!) and it needed a slightly longer cooking time than called for, but otherwise we didn't change anything. 

I know you always plan out dinner in the morning, so you probably won't cook this tonight. But I think you'd love it, and Papa would too. Let me know if you give it a try.

Sally says coo, and we miss you.


This makes a nice side dish with fish and salad. We've adapted it slightly from Lorna's version—hers calls for only 1 tablespoon of butter, and we didn't think that was quite enough. 

While we're on the subject of butter—what kind do you buy? We were able to get it through our milk coop for a while, but they stopped making it because they were throwing too much buttermilk away. So then we bought Kate's of Maine, but when I got pregnant I got very careful about eating butter that was pastured. So these days we're buying the Organic Valley pasture butter, which they sell at Whole Foods. It's the best balance I've been able to find between local and healthy, which has become more and more the question I'm asking these days. I'd love to hear what you think.

Back to pilaf! Okay.

3 tablespoons butter, divided
1 cup finely diced onions
1 cup finely diced carrots
1/2 cup finely diced celery
1 and 1/2 cups whole oat groats, rinsed
2 cups boiling water
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon sea salt, or more to taste
freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and put a kettle of water on to boil.

Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and sauté until soft, about five minutes. Add the oats and stir until they are coated with butter, then pour the boiling water over top. Add the salt and stir well. 

Cover the Dutch oven and put it in the oven for 35 minutes. Lorna's recipe says the oats should be cooked at this point, but ours weren't. They needed another 10-15 minutes. So just keep checking after this point, adding more boiling water as needed, and pull the pot when they're done. Now stir in the fresh thyme, the remaining butter, and season with more salt and pepper to taste. 

If you're not going to eat right away, toss the pilaf with a fork just like you would rice. Enjoy warm, if not hot.


3 & 93

Good morning. We are just back from a trip to Richmond, Virginia. We took Sally there to meet her great-grandmother. Here's three months looking at ninety-three:

It was pretty neat. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the Logan parking garage last night we had a flat tire, and we got home very late. I don't have a recipe for you, much less a clean pair of pants or an unpacked suitcase. I'm sorry. But we did manage a trip to the farmers' market last week and a stop at Whole Foods last night, so we'll see you soon, with eats.



The Local Food Report: pretzel baguette

I know everything I need to know about Tim Cleland. And that is that he and his wife Lisa are geniuses, geniuses who make pretzel baguettes.

I found this all out within about two minutes of meeting him. I was at the Sandwich Winter Farmers' Market, shopping around, wandering from stand to stand with my bags and cash and microphone in hand. I stopped to talk to Tim, and he started telling me about his wife's business, a bread delivery service called Honey I'm Home, and I confess I had totally tuned him out by the time he was about thirty seconds in. I was too busy staring at the loaf you see Alex breaking in to up above, a golden, salt-crusted baguette that looked moist and chewy and like it was in serious need of a side of golden mustard dip. I interrupted Tim. WHAT IS THAT? He said it was a pretzel baguette, inspired by one of his favorite sandwiches, which was, get this:

                 A pulled BBQ chicken breast 
                 with cheddar cheese and fried onions 
                 on a pretzel bun

Enough said. Clearly, I needed to find out how to make this. So I asked Tim about his process. Basically, he makes a yeasted bread, lets it rise twice, and then boils it for two minutes on each side in a pot of boiling water spiked with baking soda. The baking soda is alkaline, which makes the water very basic, and a chemical reaction takes place which gives the bread a golden crust and a chewy texture. 

Then I asked him for his recipe. And he and Lisa very graciously agreed to share it.


Tim and Lisa were nice enough to share their recipe with us. Tim recommends using the baguette to make his favorite sandwich: a toasted pretzel baguette with BBQ pulled chicken breast, cheddar cheese, and fried onions.

1 tablespoon instant yeast
2 and 3/4 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon organic sugar
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 cup warm water
1/3 cup baking soda
kosher salt for sprinkling
coarse cornmeal for sprinkling

Combine the yeast, bread flour, organic sugar, salt, and warm water in an electric stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix until the dough comes together; then knead with the dough hook for 6 minutes. 

Place the dough in a greased bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes, or until the dough ball doubles in size.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Prepare a parchment lined baking sheet and dust it with cornmeal. 

Punch down the dough and on a lightly floured surface and flatten it into a rectangle. Fold the short sides in and shape it into two baguettes by tucking in the sides and gently rolling and coaxing the dough. (You can also make rolls. To do this, divide the dough into even pieces and flatten each into a disc. Create a gluten skin on the top of the rolls by gently folding the edges into the bottom center and working your fingers around the edges a few times.)

Score the baguettes (or rolls) with a razor and place them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Let them rise in a warm place for 20 minutes. 

Bring a pot of water to the boil. (An oval shaped pot works best for baguettes.) When the baguettes have risen, carefully pour the baking soda into the boiling water and gently place the baguette in the water. Boil for two minutes on each side.

Remove the baguettes from the water (a flat metal strainer or two slotted spoons work well here). Place the baguettes on the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with kosher salt. 

Bake the baguettes for 15-20 minutes, or until they turn a deep brown color. Place them on a cooling rack. Enjoy!


It's that time of year...here are details on the ones near us:

Every other Sunday 10am to 2pm 
(1/22, 2/5, 2/19, 3/4, 3/18)
349 Rt. 6a, East Sandwich

Saturdays 10am to 3pm
1/7 through 5/12
Waquoit Congregational Church, Rt. 28, Falmouth

Saturdays 10am to 2pm
1/7 through 3/17
Mahoney's Garden Center, 958 Rt. 28, East Falmouth

1/12, 2:30 to 6:30
Plymouth Plantation
future dates unsure (to read why, go over here)


Pho at home

I'd like to talk pho today. Have you ever had it? I had my first taste of the Vietnamese noodle soup with my sister, at a small Cambridge noodle shop. And I've eaten it dozens of times with Alex. He spent six months in Vietnam during college, and he says there it's street food—not something you would make at home, but something you always eat out—sort of like French fries in the U.S. And apparently, it's a breakfast dish.

Well, we've turned those rules on their heads. We've been making pho at home, lots of it, and we've been eating it for dinner and for lunch. Super daring! I know. 

In all seriousness though, pho is good. And while we used to get our fill of noodle soup from the Thai shops in Eastham and Orleans, both are kind of a trek and we are lazy and we like to make our broth with local meats and bones from farmers we trust. Plus, pho is the kind of food we like to eat when we're sick or in our pajamas or just in from a chilly walk on a Sunday afternoon, and we don't want to have to get in the car for that. So we started making broth at home—big, huge batches. We eat a quart or two and put the rest in the freezer. It's sort of like having emergency Ramen on hand when you're a kid, only much, much better.

Up until yesterday, we were making broth with a beef, pork, chicken, or turkey base. The recipe I use for infusing the broth comes from James Peterson's Splendid Soups, and you start with one of these basic broths and add cinnamon, cloves, ginger, a bit of sugar, white peppercorns, onion, and star anise. We also add a little bit of nuoc-mam and salt, give the broth a few hours to simmer, and then strain everything out. It's delicious.

The only thing is that Alex always says that real pho is made with oxtail. Peterson says that too, but since we never had any, we went with his other acceptable options. I was buying beef bones for more stock yesterday from Joe Beaulieu, and explaining to him what I was doing with them, when suddenly, he pulled a few packages of oxtail out. Huzzah! So starting today, we'll be making real, honest-to-goodness oxtail broth. I can't wait.


As Peterson states, you can use all kinds of broths for the base. So far, we've sampled beef, turkey, and pork. I liked beef the best, then pork, followed by turkey. That said, we seem to accumulate a LOT of pork in the freezer, and this is a great use for any less desirable cuts. Also, when it comes to toppings, get creative! 

for the broth:
10 cups chicken, beef, pork, turkey, or oxtail broth
4 star anise
1 cinnamon stick about 2 inches long
2 whole cloves
about 2 inches of fresh ginger root, cut into 8 slices (no need to peel)
2 tablespoons brown sugar, plus more to taste
1 medium-size onion, peeled and quartered
1 teaspoon white peppercorns
a fair amount of salt—taste as you season!
1-2 tablespoon nuoc-mam (fish sauce), to taste

for the noodles:
2 pounds rice noodles

garnishes (use any or all, depending on what you have and the season):
fresh cilantro leaves
fresh mint leaves
fresh basil leaves (note: E & T Farms sells these at the Sandwich winter market!)
finely chopped Thai chilies or a dash of hot chili sauce/dried chilies if you put some up
lime wedges
chopped scallions, green parts included
hoisin sauce
mung bean sprouts (you can make these at home although I confess I have not)
shredded meat or poultry used to prepare the broth

Put the broth in a large stock pot and bring it to a boil. Crush the anise, cinnamon, and cloves with the back of a sauce pan against a cutting board and add the spices to the broth. Throw in the ginger, brown sugar, onion, and white peppercorns, and turn the heat down to low. Let the broth simmer for 1-2 hours. 

If it doesn't taste flavorful enough, add some salt (we used a good deal) and some fish sauce, and if you feel like it needs more sweet, a little more brown sugar. If you still feel like the flavors aren't coming out and the broth has plenty of salt, let it simmer a little longer. Be careful while you're salting—give the broth five minutes or so on the stove in between each salting, and taste as you go. Salt will bring out the flavors, but you don't want to go overboard.

When you like the broth, pour it through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Pour the strained broth back into the pot and bring it to a boil. Add the noodles and cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender. Ladle the broth and noodles into bowls and garnish as you please. Yum!


From Sandwich

We're just home from the Sandwich Winter Farmers' Market, and I wanted to stop in and say how much fun we had. There aren't a ton of vendors—Joe Beaulieu selling pastured beef and pork and even the ox tail we wanted for pho!—along with a vineyard, two produce vendors, a woman selling homemade Greek and Lebanese food, a woman with beautiful soaps and art and jams and jellies, and two bakers. 

All in all, a lovely time. Stop by some time—they're there every other Sunday for the rest of the season. See you all soon. xo


The Local Food Report: pitting oysters

Jim O' Connell has a root cellar. Like most root cellars, it's underground. It has a dirt floor, concrete walls, and a concrete slab for a ceiling. There are four little windows just above ground level that Jim can open to regulate the temperature, and at the entrance, there's a chute to send things down.

It's pretty normal. Only instead of being full of root vegetables, it's piled with oysters, floor to ceiling:

This practice is called "pitting." Apparently it's a pretty old tradition—Wellfleet oystermen were doing it back when Thoreau visited the Cape back in the 1840s and 50s. (The book was published in 1865, three years after his death. Thank you, Ed!) The man told Thoreau that he kept his oysters in the cellar all winter:

"Without anything to eat or drink?" I asked.

"Without anything to eat or drink," he answered.

"Can the oysters move?"

"Just as much as my shoe."

This is how Jim's oysters spend the winter, too. He brings them down around this time of year—the exact timing depends on the weather. He watches the forecast constantly, every morning and every night, and when it looks like its going to be 20 degrees or below for four nights in a row with not a whole lot of wind, it's time. That's because that kind of weather, with the salinity in Wellfleet harbor, means ice. And ice means mangled gear—moved and heaved racks and bags and baskets of oysters scattered all over, maybe even dragged over someone else's grant, maybe broken. 

In fact, it's really not an issue of the oysters—wild ones survive winter in the harbor just fine. It's a gear thing. Jim's oysters sit in bags and baskets on racks 18 inches off the flats, which makes them very susceptible to things like high winds and ice. And while it might sound crazy to move a living thing into a root cellar, the oysters don't mind. They don't eat during the winter, and surprisingly, they don't even need to be in the water. They just need to be moist and around 35 degrees F. 

Growers have been pitting oysters since Thoreau's time at least. Jim says he read somewhere about Wellfleetians packing oysters into the banks of Duck Creek using salt hay. Even when they weren't using so much gear, Jim says, it made sense, because if you were farming oysters in a specific part of the harbor, an iceberg could come and scatter them all over.

When the first big tides in March roll around, Jim brings his roughly 250,000 oysters back out of the cellar and onto his grant. It's a lot of work, but for someone like him—who welds his own racks—its worth it. Most growers agree, but not everyone pits. Some people leave their gear out and take the risk, and others grow their oysters on the bottom. So if you're eating Wellfleet oysters this time of year, most likely, they're either bottom culture or wild. We'll have to wait until spring to get a taste of what's in the pits.


Lo and behold

This is embarassing. But we're all friends here, so no laughing please. This is the state of my Brussels sprouts' leaves:

A nice way to describe them would be forlorn. A more honest way would be pathetic. But! Hope springs eternal, and despite their tattered appearance (which, since we're being honest, they started sporting around mid August when I stopped being able to comfortably lean over to pick the worms off), I left them in the ground. 

And over Christmas, a miracle occurred. I went out to pick some arugula, and lo and behold, when I bent down to check on the Brussels sprouts, there were actual buds on the stalks. Big ones! Edible ones! Happy New Year!

I'm not sure if this is an argument for lazy gardening or just a lucky accident, but I'll take it. Any year.


Who loves bacon fat? Brussels sprouts. And of course, I do. Whenever we cook bacon, we save the fat in a jar for later. Walnuts add a nice crunch to this dish, while red onions bring together the flavors with a little bit of sweetness.

1 stalk Brussels sprouts, rinsed, trimmed, and halved (about 1 pint)
1 small red onion, peeled and chopped
a handful of walnuts
1 tablespoon bacon fat
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Toss together the Brussels sprouts, red onions, walnuts, bacon fat, and olive oil in a small roasting pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste and roast for 10-15 minutes, or until the nuts are nicely toasted and the Brussels sprouts are just tender. Serve hot.


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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.