I hope your holidays have been happy and bright. Ours certainly have been—and still are. We've always loved celebrating all 12 days of Christmas, meaning the days between Christmas Day and Epiphany, or Three Kings Day, on January 6. That means we're still feasting with family, albeit with fewer than the 16 of us who sat down together on Christmas Night.

In that spirit, here's a recipe that's perfect for a crowd: easy to make, feeds a lot, and tastes even better on the second day than the first. I was especially pleased that I could make it with almost all local ingredients: the last sweet potatoes from our CSA share, chicken from Maine-ly Poultry, red peppers that I diced and froze last fall, and onions and garlic from the farmers market. The sweet potatoes make the chili lusciously creamy and also absorb the spices well.

There are so many directions you can go with this recipe. I've made it with leftover cooked turkey instead of the chicken, and I often replace as much as half of the sweet potato with butternut or another nice winter squash. My friend Loraine—who gave me the recipe—replaces the water with chicken stock and also adds chipotle chilis. For a vegetarian version, you can omit the chicken and use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock. And what about a little drizzle of lime juice just before serving? I've never done that before, but I bet it would be great.

Happy feasting!


This recipe is fairly spicy, but it doesn't need to be. If hot food isn't your thing, just cut back on the amounts given for the spices, especially the red chili flakes and cayenne pepper. This serves about six. I always double the recipe, in hopes of having leftovers.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 large red pepper, seeded and diced
1 or 2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast (slightly more if using boned breast), diced
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed—or the equivalent amount of cannellini beans you've cooked yourself
1 cup chicken stock
2 1/2 cups cold water (or chicken stock)
2 pounds sweet potato, peeled and diced (about 6 cups)—I often use half butternut squash
2 teaspoons crushed red chili flakes
2 fresh serrano chilis, diced very small
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 bunch scallions, minced, for garnish
1 bunch fresh cilantro, minced, for garnish
sour cream, for garnish

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the onions, red pepper, and garlic until soft.

Add the chicken and sauté about 2 minutes, until opaque. Add the beans, stock, water, sweet potatoes, red chili flakes, serrano chilis, cumin, chili powder, and cayenne. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered—stirring occasionally—for about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Serve with a garnish of scallions and fresh cilantro and a dollop of sour cream.


WINTER GARLIC // the local food report

Garlic is one of those rare, easy but also incredibly rewarding plants. Raspberries are like this, and arugula. I can't think of many others. The thing about garlic is that it requires your attention in the fall. After the tomatoes are ripped out and the potatoes have been dug and all that's left are greens and maybe a few beans drying on the vine, that's when you plant. You tuck tiny cloves into the ground, cover them with mulch, and wait. There's nothing else to do til harvest time.

Peter Burgess farms about a quarter acre in Truro. This year he planted 6,000 bulbs of garlic—almost all of them rare or unusual varieties. Some of them he tracked down on eBay, others through growers in Washington and Oregon. It's taken him months. Now that they're in the ground, he's in the waiting phase—musing over the delight of having something all ready to go come spring. These are his garlic beds, a mosaic of green sprouts and dark seaweed and bright snow.

While we all wait for planting time, Peter shared his notes on garlic with me. I've posted the varieties he's growing below. You can plant in the spring, Peter says. It's better to plant in the fall, because your bulbs will be bigger, but it's not too late. As he put it, it's better to plant in the spring than not to plant at all. 

PYONGYANG: From North Korea. 6-8 cloves per bulb. Exceptionally fine flavor, hot and crisp raw, nutty and richly flavorful sauteed. Pleasant and nutty baked.

AJO ROJO: Beautiful red-burgundy color. Excellent sweet, strong taste, particularly after storage. Harvest late for best flavor.

BURGUNDY: As beautiful as the name implies. Bulb wrappers are a lovely deep rose color. Prefers a warmer climate than most garlics. Excellent sweet, rich flavor.

KEEPER: Longest storage quality of all the hardnecks. Tan skin on the outside, but beautiful crimson color inside. Excellent garlic flavor.

AYACUCHO: Extremely rare, from Peruvian Andean Plateau. Averages 7 cloves per bulb.

KAZAKHASTAN: One of the earliest varieties to mature. From central Asia...tall, strong plants with 7-8 large cloves each.

OREGON BLUE : "A real producer." Good yield, and good storage variety. Hot, pleasantly spicy.

GEORGIAN CRYSTAL: Robust flavor that's mild raw and buttery roasted. Originates from the Republic of Georgia between the Black Sea and the Aral Sea.

ROMANIAN RED: 4-6 "monstrous" cloves. Medium hot raw...very flavorful. Will store well up to 6 months.

VOSTANI: Classic bulbs, white with a pink overaly. Collected from an elderyly farmer living near the Washington-British Columbia border. Lively and pungent.

ZEMO: Large cloves, 3-4 max per bulb. One of two favorites in Cook's Illustrated America's Test Kitchen. Powerful raw.

PSKEM: Originally collected by Seed Savers Exchange member John Swenson in 1989 from the Pskem River Valley in Uzbekistan. Hot when raw...good depth of character.

CHESNOK RED (SHVELISI): Excellent for baking. Late season harvest, characterized by beautiful purple stripes. One of the best all-around cooking varieties.

TURKISH GIANT RED: Great for storing. Bright red bulbs. Robust garlic flavor.

PESCADERO RED: Also called "Fisherman's Garlic." Mild, mellow, sweet and rich flavor. Long storing.

ESTONIAN RED: Large bulb with purple stripes. Nice smooth garlic flavor . . . tingly on tongue raw".

VEKAK: Particularly rich sautéed...a mainstay in Peter's kitchen. From the Czech Collection of New York grower, Dr. Boris Andrst.

BOGATYR: Fire extinguisher hot. Large bulbs. Spicy!

HNAT: Very hot...great in salsa."

MONTANA GIANT: Strong lively flavor, easy to peel.

ONTARIO GIANT (PUSLINCH): Complex full flavor with rising heat. Very rare.

RUSSIAN RED: Peter's favorite...deep character with sweet, full taste. Intense flavor when raw. Heat is long lasting.

SPANISH ROJA: One of the best garlics, ranked in top two or three. Large, flat bottomed cloves. A vigorous grower with large foliage. No other garlic surpasses its flavor.

YUGOSLOVIAN: Strong garlic aroma. Very popular.

THAI FIRE: Makes excellent garlic powder. Clove skins are dark nut brown. Complex flavor with rising heat.

KITAB: Closest to wild garlic...wholly unique.

Finally, if you find yourself getting garlic obsessed, he wanted to recommend this book. It's called The Complete Book of Garlic, and as Peter observes, "It's complete all right." It profiles nearly 150 cultivars and covers the natural history of garlic, the history of garlic cultivation, therapeutic benefits, plant structure, and tips on how to cultivate, cure, and store garlic, and a whole lot more. Happy reading, everyone.



Well, there are officially two days until Christmas.  TWO DAYS!  If you're like me, you're probably finishing up the last of your Christmas baking and doing some meal planning for the upcoming festivities (maybe, hopefully, sipping some eggnog too!).  Even though the holiday season is filled with cakes, cookies, pies, and candies, we all gotta get our veggies somewhere in there, right?  This kale makes a quick and easy side dish if you are looking to get some greens on your Christmas table.

I've never roasted kale before.  I do, however, have a documented obsession with this crispy kale and coconut bowl which I used as a jumping-off point.  Tossed in a little olive oil and grated parmesan or pecorino the kale becomes perfectly wilted with a few crispy pieces around the edges of the baking sheet.  Like other greens, it's best to use much more kale than you think you need because the leaves will shrink down as they roast.  

Merry Christmas! 


Any hard cheese like parmesan, romano or pecorino will work for this recipe.  If you are using a less salty cheese, feel free to add a sprinkle of sea salt.  I found that I did not need to add any salt when I used pecorino.

1 big bunch kale (I used curly, but lacinato would work just as well)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup grated hard cheese
Sprinkle salt and pepper as needed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

Separate the kale leaves from the stalks and tear into medium-sized pieces, roughly 3 inches long.  Place in a large bowl.  Add olive oil and mix well, until all leaves are coated.  Add parmesan and salt and pepper as needed and mix well again.  Spread kale evenly over a large baking sheet - you may need to use two baking sheets depending on how much kale you use.

Bake for 10 minutes, until kale is wilted but not crispy.  


REFLECTIONS ON SLAUGHTER // the local food report

These days, we don't often interact with the animals we eat. This week on the Local Food Report, I talked with three people who've raised pigs, then gone on to slaughter and finally butcher the animals. Their stories were similar in logistics and in sentiment. As one put it, Killing your own is gut wrenching. But raising them is outstanding. I hope you'll give it a listen.

There are a number of wonderful essays that reflect on livestock slaughter, and I wanted to share links to two of those here. It is something most of us don't have to think about often, but something I think we should. 

The first piece is by E.B. White. "The scheme of buying a spring pig in blossom time, feeding it through summer and fall, and butchering it when the solid cold weather arrives [...] is a tragedy enacted on most farms with perfect fidelity to the original script," he writes. "The murder, being premeditated, is in the first degree but is quick and skillful, and the smoked bacon and ham provide a ceremonial ending whose fitness is seldom questioned." He goes on to write about a pig who didn't followed the script—who instead got sick. It's a beautiful essay, and well worth reading. You can read the full text here.

The next piece is by New York Times journalist Marnie Hanel. It's on a woman named Camas Davis—the same woman Steve Junker mentions in this week's radio piece putting together YouTube videos on how to butcher a pig. The focus of the article is a class she teaches for high school kids where they meet, help slaughter, and finally butcher a pig. Davis says, "I don't feel guilty, and I don't feel bad. It is a pure and intense experience, but it is the most complicated experience you can have in terms of living and dying." You can read the whole article here.

I'd love to hear more from those of you who've had a related experience. I gutted and plucked a wild turkey once, and the thing that struck me most was that the animal was still warm. This shouldn't have been surprising, but it was. It made it feel closer to life somehow. 

And to anyone sick of talking meat, hang on. We'll be on to veggies and stew soon. Thanks for stopping by, everyone.


GINGERSNAPS // elspeth

The sugar this time of year...it can be a bit overwhelming. Whaddya say we throw a whole-wheat, muscovado gingersnap into the mix? One that has all the crisp and stretch that a gingersnap should?

It won't be entirely junk-free. We'll use some granulated sugar for rolling, and a whopping cup and a quarter of crystalized ginger. (What's in there? Unclear. It is Christmas time and I vote we don't want to know.) We'll load a bowl up with cinnamon and cloves and nutmeg and ginger, and then we'll use $3 worth of that fair trade deep dark barbados sugar and beat it into a thick batter with olive oil, molasses, and an egg. We'll chop the ginger up into fine little pieces, then mix it in to give stretch to the dough. 

And what will emerge will be these: thick, snappy cookies that are stiff around the edges and give in the middle. Perfect for giving, and hostess gifts, and eating on the couch beside the tree, dipped in milk.


I found this recipe on the website texanerin.com two years ago. I finally got around to trying it for the first time this weekend. While I wanted to believe that a whole-grain gingersnap could be all I dreamed it might, I wasn't convinced. I am now. These cookies are everything a gingersnap should be—earthy, sweet, and stretchy in the center, with a good bit of snap around the edges. I haven't tried it, but they would be excellent for making ice cream sandwiches. This recipe makes 12-16  good-size cookies.

2 and 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2/3 cup muscovado or dark brown sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup molasses
1 egg
1 and 1/4 cups chopped crystallized ginger
granulated sugar, for rolling the cookies

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt in a large bowl. Combine the sugar, olive oil, and molasses in the bowl of a standing mixer and beat for 5 minutes on medium speed. Add the egg and beat another minute, then scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat another minutes. Slowly add the dry ingredients. Mix for another two minutes on medium, then add the ginger and mix until just combined.

Roll the dough into balls slightly smaller than golf balls. Flatten them slightly with your fingers, then roll them all over in the granulated sugar. Bake on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper for 13-15 minutes, until the cookies are almost but not quite set. They will keep cooking after they come out of the oven, and you don't want them overdone. Cool the cookies for 1-2 minutes on the cookie sheets, then use a spatula to move them to a wire rack to cool completely.



Today we're going to switch it up from talking about eating locally to drinking locally.  When I moved to Portland three years ago, I knew about the amazing local food scene, but I had no idea how many local breweries there are in the area (and all over Maine).  In addition to the bigger breweries like Shipyard, Allagash, and Peak Organic, there seem to be new smaller breweries opening all the time.  Today I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite local beers.  Beer also makes a great hostess gift for all those holiday parties coming up, and a mix of different beers is the perfect gift for the beer-lover in your family.

My ability to describe the complexities and variations in beer tastes is very similar to Michael Scott's ability to describe fine wines, so bear with me.  If you are looking for a more detailed description, I suggest clicking the links which will take you to the brewery's website.

Stowaway IPA - Baxter Brewing, Lewiston, ME - 6.9% ABV

Hoppy, slightly more bitter than your average IPA.

Ursa Minor Weizen Stout - Rising Tide Brewing, Portland, ME - 6.7% ABV

Dark, rich, perfect for a cold winter night.

Coal Porter - Atlantic Brewing, Bar Harbor, ME - 5.6% ABV

Rich, smoky, slightly bitter.

Nut Brown Ale - Peak Organic Brewing, Portland, ME - 4.7% ABV

Classic and hearty brown ale.

Phantom Punch Winter Stout - Baxter Brewing, Lewiston, ME - 6.8% ABV

Thick stout with a chocolate-y twist.

Farmhouse Pale Ale - Oxbow Beer, Newcastle, ME - 6% ABV

A classic farmhouse ale, light but not boring.

These are all Maine beers, but I know there are tons of great beers all over New England as well.  What are your favorite local beers?  Will you be giving the gift of beer this holiday season?


LAMB CHILI // elspeth

It's chilly outside. There's chili in here. Do these statements cancel each other out? I hope so.

The chili in here is lamb chili, a riff on this lamb-and-white bean chili from the New York Times. I finally caved and paid my $3.95 a week just so I could print it out, and so far I am feeling good about that decision. I am Supporting Good Journalism and Eating Good Food. I came to lamb chili the same way Melissa Clark did: I unearthed a pound of frozen ground lamb in the freezer. I couldn't find any ground beef. I already had the beans cooked and I wanted to make chili.

So...lamb chili it is! And it's good. Really good. In fact, I think I like it better than beef chili. I made it with lamb stock, too, and peppers and a mix of three kinds of beans and plenty of cilantro and yogurt as a topping. I added the usual spices. I forgot to take a picture. Sally and I just finished it for lunch.

So without further ado, here's the recipe. I hope you're staying warm tonight.


I love the earthy taste of lamb. It pairs especially well with beans for a rich, wintery dish that's easy to prepare and can be made for a party several days in advance. The leftovers also freeze well. This recipe serves 4-6.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground lamb
sea salt and pepper
1 onion, chopped
2 bell or poblano peppers seeded and diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup crushed tomatoes
3 and 1/2 cups cooked beans (I used a mix of kidney, cannellini, and black)
4 cups lamb stock, beef stock, or water
whole milk plain yogurt, for serving
lime wedges, for serving
cilantro, for serving

Warm up 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large heavy pot. Add the lamb and sauté over medium heat until browned, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a plate.

Add the remaining oil, the onion, and the peppers to the pot. Cook until soft, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another couple of minutes. Stir in the chili powder, coriander, cumin, crushed tomatoes and beans. Return the lamb to the pot along with the lamb stock and bring everything to a simmer.  Cook for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the chili thickens to your taste. Taste and add salt as needed.

Serve hot with dollops of yogurt, a squeeze of lime, and chopped fresh cilantro. 


ACORNS FOR PIGS // the local food report

Good morning. That up there is my friend Drew Locke's pig, digging into a tote of veggie scraps from the juice bar at 141 Bradford Natural

Drew raised five pigs this year. He raised a few last year, too, as did my friend Tamar Haspel. George Mooney raises twelve on his farm in Truro every year. And Steve Junker just slaughtered his first two this fall. This week, I asked all four of them the same question: What should a pig eat?

I was all ramped up after my research on grass-fed beef. It was so clear! So to the point. COWS SHOULD EAT GRASS! It's better for everyone that way. Turkeys and chickens seemed pretty straight forward, too: some bugs, some pasture, a lot of running around and scratching in the dirt. Some kitchen scraps and supplemental feed if you like.

Well. Not so with pigs. Some things about local pigs are uniform: apparently just about all of them come from a farm in Bournedale, from a man named Bob Flynn. They are all pink, all regular-looking. Everyone I talked with who's raising pigs is pretty health conscious. But they all feed their pigs different things. Pigs, it turns out, are the classic omnivore's dilemma for farmers. 

In the wild, pigs exist mainly on a diet of plant material. About 10 percent of their food comes from animal sources, but the rest is roots and seeds and leaves and nuts. Plants make good eating for pigs. But pigs are also referred to as "opportunistic scavengers." In plain English this means that if they happen upon a bag full of jelly donuts or a corn cache, they will stay until they've eaten every last bite. They remind me of black labs and toddlers in this respect. And, as with black labs and toddlers, just because a pig likes something doesn't necessarily mean it's good for them. 

That said, most diets treat a pig just fine. Most pigs don't live much longer than six months, which means there isn't time for diet to cause the kind of chronic diseases it does with some humans. But there are certain diets that can make pigs taste better, and also certain diets that can make the pigs' meat and fat better for us nutritionally. Thankfully, these diets tend to line up.

The best is acorns. Let loose in a forest, wild nuts are pigs' favorite food. They like them all: beechnuts, hazelnuts, hickory nuts, and especially acorns. The Spanish have figured this out. For jamón íberico de bellota—jam from black Iberian pigs raised on acorns—they raise the pigs to slaughter size on 7 million acres of "dehesa," mountainous meadows populated by oak trees. Here the pigs forage on grass, fruit, and most importantly, the acorns that fall to the ground. Some growers finish the pigs free roaming, others on a specialized diet of acorns and olives, and others on acorns alone. The jams reputedly taste amazing—they sell for upwards of $50 a pound, and even more in the United States, where they weren't allowed to be imported until 2008.

But wait. We have acorns, right? That's what some local farmers are thinking. Three of the four people I talked with had heard of the Spanish jams, and two actually tried finishing their animals on local tree nuts. The tough thing is that the Spanish farmers allow about 6 acres for each animal—not exactly a workable model on the Cape, where land is at a premium. So instead, Tamar and Drew collected acorns and brought buckets of them to their pigs. Drew says his weren't so sure about them; Tamar says hers ate them up like candy. Both said the resulting meat was delicious, and based on the findings of numerous studies, it was also probably healthier.

With all the oak trees we have on the Cape, it's something to think about.

P.S. If you're interested in finding local pork, there's a list of producers here. You can change the zip code to search closer to home!


THE SQUASH // elspeth

I got so taken up in the photos of it—this beastly, un-named squash!—that I forgot to photograph the pie. It took me almost an hour to process the squash—Alex helped me hack in, then I had carve and seed and peel and cube. Finally, I steamed and pureed.

It made enough for two pies, a soup, and several sides of squash with butter and maple syrup. We made toasted seeds, too. I've got three more to carve up.

So today, here's some winter squash inspiration from around the web:

—Anna's making a variation on this Stuffed Squash with Moroccan Spiced Lamb using small winter squash in place of the zapallitos,

—I have my eye on this handsome Winter Kabocha Squash Pie from the Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook,

—We like the looks of this Roasted Squash, Chile, and Mozzarella Salad from Liz's favorite blog, 101cookbooks.com,

—And last but not least, here's an interesting piece in Edible Cape Cod from Veronica Worthington on storing winter squash.

Check out our Pinterest page for more!


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