I was standing in the kitchen the other night, pressing garlic to add to a pan of mashed potatoes, when I realized everything for dinner had come from our garden.
There was garlic—I planted two long rows last fall, just after Sally was born. I pulled the heads a few weeks ago, when the tops started to yellow and fall over, after we cut the scapes, and dusted them off and brought them in. I cured them in the basement next to the dehumidifier, and this week, I trimmed them and peeled off the purple- and dirt-bruised skins.
There were potatoes—new potatoes from the patch we planted in mid March. They were leftovers, boiled and put in the fridge, and now mashed and pan-fried with butter and garlic.
There was also zucchini—from last year's garden, pulled from the freezer upstairs to make room for this year's batches. It was shredded for zucchini bread, but we had company and I was worried we wouldn't have enough potatoes, so I mixed it in to stretch them.
There was a salad of arugula, carrots, and radishes.
And it was all ours! It made me grin.
PAN-FRIED POTATOES WITH ZUCCHINI AND GARLIC
There is nothing fancy about this dish; it's comfort food, through and through. I made it with leftover boiled new potatoes and very fresh garlic. If your garlic is older, you may need to use more—I find the flavor is stronger when it's fresh.
3-4 tablespoons butter
2 pounds potatoes, diced, cooked til fork-tender, and drained
1/2 cup shredded zucchini
2 large cloves garlic, minced
sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
Melt the butter in a large, cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the potatoes and squish them a bit. (I used a pastry cutter, but you probably have a better tool.) Mix in the zucchini and the garlic and turn the heat down to low. Cook, stirring every once in a while, for 15-20 minutes. The potatoes should get a little bit crispy in spots, but mostly stay soft—like underdone homefries. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve hot.
Their names are Sheldon and Egglantine. They're Susan Knieriem's baby chicks—Miss Scarlett's—and they came Saturday to the market in Orleans. They were only a few days old—Silver Sussex or Wyandottes—Susan wasn't sure. They got their names from Heather's girls—Heather who sells the healthy baked goods, the muffins and scones. Those two toted the chicks around all morning, opening up their basket of sawdust and feed and water for people to peek.
I am kicking myself for not bringing my camera with me.
If you can picture it though, they were palm size, pale gray and fluffy. Tiny beaks. Here's Susan, to give you something.
She and I got to talking, and I learned a lot about raising chicks like Sheldon and Egglantine.
Susan does it using an old-fashioned incubator—can you hear her?—a fabulous old antique. The trays come in and out and it looks like an old wooden icebox, she says, and it holds about 100 eggs. She collects the fertile ones—which is most of them since she's got roosters—and dates them and lays them on the trays. There's a bit of water for moisture—temperature is important, and so is humidity—and the incubator keeps things around 100 degrees. After 21 days the eggs hatch. Susan's in the barn, doing something else, and suddenly she hears it. peep. Peep. PEEP. PEEP! Babies.
She raises different varieties for eggs and meat. There are dual purpose birds—birds that are good layers and good for eating—but Susan prefers to choose most of her varieties very specifically. For layers she likes Araucana and Rhode Island Red and White Leghorn and Polish and Cuckoo Marans—these give her blues and whites and chocolate browns, so she gets a good color variety—and Label Rouge (which is a method) for meat.
I'd like to get hens here eventually. I like the idea of dual purpose birds—breeds that we could raise as layers and for meat. And I like the idea of going for an old breed—one that hasn't had the mothering instincts bred out of it, one whose hens would sit on the eggs, who are broody.
Harvey Ussery—have you ever read him?—recommends keeping a few broody hens in with more productive layers. The old-fashioned, broody breeds will take care of anybody's eggs (he recommends Old English Game, Kraienkoppes, and Malay, to name a few) so you can easily incubate and hatch all sorts of different varieties of chicken. You don't have to do the work of incubating and mothering, but you can still keep a good number of more productive layers (a hen who is broody won't lay while she's incubating, or even while she thinks she's incubating) around for consistent egg production.
I'm just getting into this. I'm guessing many of you know more about keeping chickens than I do—my sister-in-law, for starters—but I'm curious. Do you keep hens? What breeds do you like? Do you have a rooster? Do you get your chicks in the mail, or do you raise your own flock from eggs? Do you feed them cereal? Keep them in a chicken tractor? I'd love to hear.
It's high season at the market. Say hello to:
Garlic, baked goods, peaches, cucumbers, leeks, chard, onions, garlic, beans, honey & bee balm, cut flowers, squash, eggs, mint, kale, carrots, beets, mixed greens, arugula, basil, parsley, all sorts of seedlings, blueberries, the first cherry tomatoes of the season, and possibly even blackberries.
It's going to be a good week.
Those dark sweet berries on the old dirt road. Sally and I walk over every afternoon with the dog; we bring old strawberry-stained quart containers in a basket and a hat to keep the prickers from my hair.
I am allowed to leave the stroller parked on the edge of the gully and venture down under one condition; I must come back sporadically, every handful or two, and feed the beast. One berry at a time, stains on her face and thighs. Now she's squeezing juice down her fists; now she's sucking seeds from her toes.
What have your afternoons been like?
Did you know that Queen Anne's Lace is a carrot? The carrot, really, the original one. The fancy reds and yellows and purple hazes we've got today were all pulled slowly, carefully out of that gene pool.
Darnell Caffoni grows quite a few of the newer varieties at Boxwood Gardens in Orleans. She sells at the Orleans Farmers' Market, and the other day she told me about all the carrots she's growing. She orders her seed from a company in Maine called FedCo (the same one where we get our seeds), and she has a nice line up.
Sugar Snax: "Witches Fingers," Darnell calls these. They're long and thin and orange and they look like big scraggly fingers. They're also super sweet.
Danvers: An old fashioned heirloom from Danvers, MA. Growers there intercropped it with their onions to up production, and the onions kept the carrot fly away. They're stocky and 7-8 inches long with a nice, classic orange carrot appearance and shape.
Purple Haze: A carrot with color and flavor! Orange on the inside, purple on the outside—stunning in stir-fries or salads, though it does lose some color vivacity when cooked.
Atomic Red: Another beauty—red and purplish on the outside, rings in when sliced going red to orange to yellow at the core. Good flavor; Darnell says better for roasting than eating raw.
White Satin: These look like parsnips but are true carrots, Daucus carota. Darnell says they're sweet and crisp, and also good for roasting.
I also talked with Caleb Lemieux from Crooked Farm in Orleans about his carrots the other day. He's selling a variety called Carnival that has all the colors, and he said he soaks his seed before planting it to help it germinate. He also recommends sifting your soil really well—he says any rocks will stop the carrots in their tracks. Both Darnell and Caleb say Cape Cod is a good place for growing carrots—plenty of sand!
Caleb had the first ones I've seen this season, and Darnell's will start coming in the next few weeks. I haven't had any luck with germination, but I'm going to sift my soil, soak my seeds, plant another round for fall and hope for the best.
What varieties are you growing?
Last week we got together after the farmers' market—all the vendors and I and a few musicians—and we talked about what we want the market to be. We talked while we ate—Tracy had made a sesame pasta and a few farmers had thrown in greens for a salad and Anna was making something she called vegetarian oysters out of purple basil and hummus and peas—and we sat for over an hour. There was some healthy disagreement, but by the end of it, we came out with a pretty clear vision of what we'd like the market to be.
First and foremost, we want it to be a producers market. This means we want the food and flowers and jewelry and plants sold to be grown or produced by the person selling them, and we want to keep it local—Barnstable County. Within that framework we're looking for hyper local—Wellfleet, Truro, the Outer Cape, Orleans.
We also want it to stay relatively small—to stay downtown, and for the time being, not to outgrow its place. We want it to be reliable and consistent, and we want you all to count on us for good food and a good vibe every week.
There was even talk of a winter market—maybe this year, maybe next. It would take time, but there are vendors interested, and inside the Hall, maybe even a home, a space.
Now that we've got our heads on straight, though, we want to know what you think. What do you look for in a market? Are there things you're missing? Things we need? Tell us here, or stop by and say hello Wednesday morning. We'll be there, 8 to noon, with the following:
—Coffee ! and lemonade. Let's start with the important things.
—Baked goods, including pies (blueberry & strawberry rhubarb!), breakfast goodies, and this week's specials: lemon/lime tarts, rhubarb crumb cake muffins, veggie quiche with garlic scapes, roasted zucchini & gruyere, zucchini bread & strawberry rhubarb pie jars!
—Eggs, from Ron & Victoria's hens,
—Honey & Bee Body Balm (from Wellfleet beeswax!),
—Summer squash, blueberries, haricot vert, purple beans, shelling peas, snow peas, vegetarian fugu (you'll have to ask Ron), green & red onions, mixed beets, Swiss chard, kale, basil, mints of every sort, hyssop, lovage, purslane, Massachusetts raised peaches, & more—
—Bouquets, lavender, sunflowers, gladiola,
and prepared humus (plural), Greek goodies, garlic scape pesto, and chocolate mint jelly.
Come early, beat the heat—we'll see you there.
It's hot. The grass feels like burnt toast under our toes, and Sally now takes a cold shower every afternoon after lunch. It's easier than cleaning her up in the sink, and she laps and slurps and slaps at the hose.
The shower is our version of air conditioning. It's been hot and we've been baking—Easy Little Bread twice a week, and yesterday Marion Cunningham's Custard-Filled Corn Bread. I was getting ready to write my column for this week when the news broke; my mom wrote to tell me Marion had passed away at 90. One article I read described her as one-part America's grandma and one-part culinary godfather, which I think is a nice way to be remembered.
At any rate, I started paging through her book. There are many, but I only own one—Lost Recipes—her most recent. It's a call to home cooks, to everyone, really, to get back in the kitchen and start feeding our own.
"Bringing ready-cooked meals home is not the same as cooking something in your own kitchen, she writes in the introduction, "where you are in control of the ingredients you use, where you fill the house with good cooking smells, and where you all share a single dish, taking a helping and passing the platter on to your neighbor. Nothing can replace that."
It's a good quote. A lot of the baking recipes in the book are a little too white-flour and sweet for my taste, but I like the soups and salads and entrees. They capture another era—the years when my grandmother was cooking for my mom and my uncle, in the fifties and sixties, when beef stroganoff was in its prime.
That up there is the Custard-Filled Corn Bread from page 36. The headnote says it came from Marjorie Kinnan Rawling's Cross Creek Cookery, published in 1942. It's everything the title says. I've been wanting to make a fresh-corn cornbread for a while, and since we got our first corn of the season at the Orleans Farmers' Market Saturday, I decided that it was time despite the heat. Marion did not disappoint. The bread is billowy, soft—creamy and a little bit decadent.
I think it's meant to be eaten hot and plain, but we've been eating ours cold, straight from the fridge, with a little drizzle of maple syrup or honey. It's incredible. In fact, I'm eating it as I type. Sally's still napping, the house is quiet, and I don't have to be at work until 3. I'll put the bowl in the sink before I leave.
CUSTARD-FILLED CORN BREAD
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons honey
3/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
2 cups milk
1 and 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 cup flour (the recipe calls for all-purpose; I used and like whole wheat)
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup corn kernels (about two ears)
1 cup heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish about 2 inches deep. Put the dish in the oven to preheat.
Here's what I learned today: if it weren't for war, we would never have started pickling in sugar and vinegar. We'd still be doing it the old fashioned way, the way Dan Rosenberg and Addie Rose Holland do it, by fermenting.
Lost? I hear you. Here's the deal:
In 1795, the French government offered a 12,000 franc reward to anyone who could come up with a new method for preserving food. They had wars to fight, but they couldn't make much progress, because they could only fight during the summer and fall when there was plenty of readily available food. Nicolas Appert came up with canning, and the pickle's fate was sealed.
Dan and Addie are trying to change that. There's nothing wrong with a good bread and butter pickle, but they think it's a shame people have forgotten about good old fashioned fermented pickles.
Here's how it works. You combine vegetables—not just cucumbers, but things like beets or carrots or radishes or cabbage for sauerkraut—with salt and a little bit of water. Lacto bacteria (same family as the little guys that help make yogurt) are naturally found on the vegetables' skin, and they get to work fermenting. Pretty soon the liquid gets cloudy. You taste the veggies. They're starting to get sour, salty, pungent. You decide they need a few more hours, maybe a few more days. Maybe they're done.
When you're ready, you put them in the fridge. The cool temperatures bring the fermentation to a halt (the reason your grandmother kept her pickle crock in a cool root cellar or basement) and you can eat them whenever you're ready. (Dan says months, even years.) Voila! Pickles, without any vinegar or sugar.
Pretty neat, huh? The other cool thing about lacto-fermenting, as this pickling process is called, is that it has all sorts of great digestive and health benefits. And what's cool about Dan and Addie's company is that they buy all of their vegetables locally, they're all organic, and they are so committed to the idea of a regional foodshed that they'll only sell their products in the northeast.
Around here, you can find Real Pickles (spicy dills, garlic dills, tomatillo hot sauce, sauerkraut, garlic kraut, pickled beets, ginger carrots, dilly beans, and more) at all sorts of great markets.
Our cucumbers aren't ready yet, but when they are, I'm going to try lacto-fermenting for the first time. You in too?
LACTO-FERMENTED CUCUMBER PICKLES
This recipe comes from a great book—Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning. It's a compilation of recipes done the old way from the gardeners and farmers of Terre Vivante, a non profit founded in 1980 to promote a way of life that is respectful to the natural environment. This particular recipe comes from a D. Mary of Belgium.
2 and 1/2 tablespoons sea salt
2 quarts of water
2 cups unchlorinated water
a few black peppercorns and fennel seeds
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
5-6 cloves garlic
a few onion slices
2 pounds medium-sized cucumbers, freshly picked and well washed
1 horseradish root, sliced (to keep cucumbers firm)
a few dill (or fennel) flower heads and leaves
1 horseradish leaf (optional)
You will need a container for mixing brine and a 1 and 1/2 quart sterilized jar with a rubber seal and fastener.
Mix the sea salt and water to make a brine. Meanwhile, place the peppercorns, mustard seeds, and fennel seeds in the bottom of the jar with the garlic and the onion slices. Pierce the larger cucumbers with a toothpick or fork to help the brine penetrate. Layer the cucumbers into the jar upright with the horseradish, mustard seeds, and dill leaves, packing them tightly. Place the flower heads on top of the last layer of cucumbers to keep the cucumbers from floating above the brine. Cover everything with a piece of horseradish leaf that you have cut to the fit the size of the jar.
Fill the jar with brine, making sure that all ingredients are covered, and stop 3/8 of an inch below the rim so the brine doesn't overflow during fermentation. Close the jar tightly; the rubber seal will release any gas produced during fermentation. Starting the next day, bubbles will appear and a sort of foam will form on the surface; fermentation has begun. Leave the jar in the kitchen for a few days; then store it in a cool place when the brine becomes cloudy. Wait about six weeks before eating. If you want to keep the pickles longer, put the container in the fridge.
Blueberry pie is good. You should come to the Wellfleet Farmers' Market tomorrow and get some of Anna Henning's blueberries, because they're good on their own (ask Sally) or in crisp (see my Banner column this week). Equally good. Also, I am a big fan of blueberry pie.
And in case you're wondering what else will be showing up this week, here's what I've heard:
All sorts of lovely hummus (hummi?), baba ganush, taboulli, baklava, spanakopita, fresh lavender bundles, lemon lavendar marmalade, eggs, garlic, pepper plants (Hungarian Black, Corno de Toro, Sweet Chocolate), heirloom tomato plants, cut flowers, raspberries, Wellfleet-made Bee Body Balms, honey, rhubarb, radishes, fava beans, baked goods, coffee, all sorts of greens, and I'm gonna go out on a limb here—summer squash.
Also! FYI the Orleans market is adding a late afternoon Wednesday market to their summer rotation...first one is up tomorrow, 4-7. The usual faces will be there.
Happy High Summer, everyone.
Simple is good. As I am sitting here typing, Sally is sitting next to me on her potty, playing with a stuffed caterpillar and talking to Fisher. What she is supposed to be doing is napping, but she has decided that napping is not much fun. So instead she is working on the potty and I am working up here at the desk, and neither one of us has made much progress. That's kind of how things have been going these days.
Which is why simple is good. Simple plans, simple days, simple food. In particular simple garlic scape pasta.
The recipe comes from The Farm. The garlic scapes came from our garden, and the garlic is now in too. It's drying downstairs on a clothes rack, so that every time you open the door to the basement, the smell of fresh garlic hits you like a wild, pungent perfume.
I'd tell you more, but there's now a tiny and very loud person climbing up my legs. Just know that you should make this, again and again. It's good.
GARLIC SCAPE PESTO PASTA
Ian Knauer's new book is beautiful. This recipe struck me immediately for its simplicity and genius. It's always hard to know how to use all the beautiful scapes you see this time of year at the market. This is good on everything—toast, sauteed zucchini, crackers—and I've also made a few batches to stick in the freezer.
10 large garlic scapes
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup shelled pistachios
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1 pound pasta (we used whole wheat spaghetti)
salt and pepper to taste
Whirl together the garlic scapes, olive oil, pistachios, and Parmesan in a food processor until they come together into a thick, pesto-esque paste. This is your sauce. Now cook your pasta, and reserve a cup of the cooking liquid. Toss the pasta with the reserved liquid and the garlic scape pesto; season with salt and pepper to taste.
Remember back in January when I talked with Jim O'Connell about pitting oysters? Well, it's time for another oyster job.
That up there is a tumbler. Its job is to knock the oysters around—to chip off the bills and the beaks and any other brittle shell around the edge, and to channel the oysters' energy into growing a cup that is thick and deep and round.
This is what wholesalers are looking for. This is what restaurants want to buy and oyster lovers want to eat, and this is why every July, Jim spends the month hauling bags of oysters into his truck and back home to his tumbler from his grant. He has 500 bags, and each bag is filled with about 200 oysters. He can tumble about 20 bags in a day, which means that the whole process takes about 3 weeks, start to finish.
This year, he started early. Everything's been early this year, and oysters are no exception. You want to start tumbling when the oysters start throwing an edge—when they start sending out shell fast, when they start really growing.
The tumbler itself is an 18-inch diameter barrel 9 feet long. You put different size stainless steel panels on it depending on how big your oysters are, and it knocks them around and then sorts them by size. This means that when it comes time to harvest a bag for sale, the oysters are already organized.
Jim says not everyone tumbles their oysters with a machine. Some people do it manually, shaking the bags out on the racks on the grant, and he does this too. A little of it gets done by mother nature with the winds and the currents and storms and the tides. But Jim likes to use the machine, he says, for the look and the cup and the feel of the sides.
He grows a nice oyster. That up there is one of his, and you can see how the cup and the width are about half the length—this is what's considered ideal. It doesn't change the taste, but it can make for a bigger meat—something to think about next time you're oyster shopping.
P.S. For a little bit of history on oyster tumbling, click on over here.
This week at the market: organic Wellfleet raspberries, pickled white turnips from Halcyon Farm, snow peas, pea tendrils, snap peas, spring garlic, chocolate & mojito mint, basil, sage, cilantro, lettuce, zucchini, radishes, cabbage, lavendar, kale, spring onions, eggs, pies, muffins, coffee, quiche, cut flowers & more. Plus, a PARADE! live music, and many smiling faces.
Come see us, 8 to noon, on Wellfleet Main St. behind Preservation Hall.
Alex, Sally, and I went to Dyer Pond just before the thunderstorm yesterday. We splashed and checked out the almost-frog tadpoles and read the paper for a bit and then the clouds rolled in. As we were walking back through the woods—me with the bag and Alex with the baby and the thunder just starting to rumble—I said the word clapping. We weren't talking to Sally or about her, but she looked up and burst into applause.
She's had a pretty big few weeks. She's started clapping and waving and one-legged crawling, and she's also done a lot of traveling. My sister took that picture up there, of Sally on the swings in Portland looking over Casco Bay. There's a very neat grassy park up on a bluff that looks out over all the sailboats, and Anna and Andy took her there the other day before we left while I went grocery shopping. Every other swing on the set is blue, and Anna said she'd been imagining Sally on the one yellow swing for days.
That's kind of how life's been, these days. One minute we're imagining what's next; then suddenly, it's happening.
Happy 4th, everyone.
ANNA'S CILANTRO-LIME VINAIGRETTE
Anna made a wonderful kale, tomato, and bacon salad with this while we were visiting. She got the idea from a recipe on Epicurious, but she added the yogurt, which gives it a nice creaminess and a little more zing. It is good on just about everything, but she says it's especially nice on taco salad.
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
2 tablespoons EVO
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
3-4 tablespoons plain yogurt
Whisk together all the ingredients. Keep refrigerated, but take out about 30 minutes before you want to serve, as it needs to come to room temp before drizzling.