Archive for the ‘an edible life’ Category

backyard hens

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Rhode Island Reds

It has been very interesting to notice how hens are spreading through our countryside.  When we first got birds, back in 2008, only our neighbors across the street had them.  The other neighbors looked at us as some sort of throw backs.  But now when we drive down the road from home to work we see many many houses with hens scratching around the yard.  Everyday it feels like someone else has birds.  Is it because of the economy? Is it due to the rise in knowledge of what industrial food means in terms of quality of life, both for us and the chickens? I am a firm convert.  In fact eggs anywhere else just don’t taste as good.  I am an egg snob.  Happy to see others jumping on the bandwagon.



may breakfast

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

40 cents for breakfast. And a good breakfast at that, with corn fakes and fruit, fried potato, bacon and eggs, pan cakes, maple syrup, rolls, doughnuts and coffee. It seems the Ladies of the Universalist Society were inclined to include as many possibilities  as they could in their menu. A universalist approach to breakfast indeed.

The verso includes pencil notes on the divvying up of chores for the breakfast, with a special crew assigned to the pancakes. This broadside is from Hillsdale, New Hampshire, circa 1930.


planting the garden

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

garden beds

It occurred to me last night at 3:00 AM, when I had to run outside in the thunder and lightning in my nightgown to put my tools away, that I have been very lucky with the planting of our garden this year.  After each major planting session we have had a couple of days of rain. I left my tools exposed to the elements because when I went in for the day there were no signs of inclement weather. I usually put them away at the end of a session, unless I know for some certainty that rain is unlikely. Spring in Maine can be pretty wet, sometimes for weeks on end. This year we have had some pretty hot sunny days early in the season, including a week long stretch of 80 degree temps in March. I have no doubt that global climate change is a reality. In just the past seven years that we have been growing here we have seen some pretty distinct changes in the timing of seasonal changes.  Every year Spring comes a little earlier, and Fall stays a little later. This year I have been confused about my planting schedule due to the extreme temperature swings since March.  Should I plant the peas?  The potatoes? Is it too early for cucumbers? Zucchini? Am I late for planting my Sweet Peas? I spent three hours yesterday planting a second round of beets and carrots (the bed with the checkerboard mulch above), a bed of shell beans, the pole & bush beans, and a bed with assorted greens- chard, Dinosaur kale, radicchio and (new this year) cumin.  I was going to seed the cukes and zukes, but stopped myself.  Even though it was probably in the mid-70’s yesterday, those cucurbits like it even warmer-say in the 60’s at night- to germinate.  So while I could have planted those seeds, they would have sat miserably in the ground while we have this cool wet rain that we’re having today.

young taters

So I’ll wait another week, or more depending on the weather, before seeding those guys.  But I’m betting the beans and greens I planted yesterday are mighty happy about all this wet today. And the second round of carrots will germinate much better in the damp.  Carrots are always a challenge to keep damp enough to sprout in the Spring warmth. Our garden is down the slope from our house, far enough away that I have to remember to check on sprouters with a trip down the hill. Needless to say, it doesn’t always happen.  So I have had some bad luck with carrots.  The potatoes that were planted about ten days ago are poking up, as are some weeds… Last year out of sheer laziness we planted potatoes that we bought at a local garden center. They were not organic. They were not good. This year I went back to our usual source, Moose Tubers, and am happy to be back with our friends. We’ve got the bed netted to keep the chickens from digging up the little taterlets.  So in order to weed I’ve got to disassemble the protection.  Bit of a deterrent to the humans as well as the chickens.  When this rain stops I will climb in and weed that bed.  By then all of the potatoes should be up, and I can apply the first layer of mulch.  Vegetable garden season is here!


dinner with friends

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

A couple of bottles of wine, some pink, some red.

Nettle soup, stingless.

Ottolenghi chicken with hazelnuts, honey and Orange Blossom water.

Pan roasted fennel.

Asparagus with homemade mayonnaise.

Maple Pineapple upside down cake.

A lovely Sunday late afternoon meal with good people.  The outdoor season has begun. Praise be.


dinner at Hugo’s

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Yesterday was our anniversary and we set our sights on a meal at Hugo’s with our friends Arlin, Andrew and the rest of the crew.  They bought the business from Rob Evans and Nancy Pugh just a couple of months ago.  The transition has been seamless and we are very proud to call these talented professionals our friends. Dinner was sublime.  As always.  Arlin showed us the work they have been doing to get their new venture, Eventide- a raw bar of which Portland was in great need- and we were thrilled to see what has become of our old space.  Yes, Eventide is at 86 Middle Street.  We couldn’t have picked a better business to take over our old space.  They plan to open their doors sometime in mid-June.  Keep your eyes peeled, this is sure to be the newest hot spot in Portland.


good friends

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

are a good thing to have.  This luscious loaf of Slavic style bread was gifted to us from our dear friend Anna last Saturday.  We are trying hard not to inhale it in one sitting.  As I believe I have mentioned in the past, I am not much of a bread baker.  Being a stone’s throw from Standard Baking in Portland absolved me of trying.  We are a shred further from that blessed Portland institution now, so I make sure to include a stop on Commercial street to any trip to ‘town’.  So when we get a gift like this, it is truly precious…

Bread from AnnaSamantha


Thursday, April 5th, 2012

That’s what this time of year is all about. Waiting for fresh produce to appear again at the market.  We are lucky here in Maine to have many farmers who make it a personal (and probably professional as well) mission to fight the seasons and grow as much as possible under cover.  Many of them are quite successful at it, and we thank them hardily for allowing us to eat fresh greens all Winter.  When it gets to be this time of year Spring is on the calendar, yet Mother Nature is slow to wake.  The ground is still cold and germination is tricky. This is when I really start to crave fresh vegetables. I find myself buying eggplants that I know have been trucked here from at least Florida and while they approximate the flavor of their in-season relatives, they are still a pale comparison.  Longing for the smell of fresh soil, the feeling of the sun on your back while you dig around in the garden, and the taste of the fruits of those labors.  The wait does make it all taste that much better.  I just wish it would hurry up and get here.



Monday, March 26th, 2012

Blood Orange syrup.  I loves me some bubbly water but do not appreciate the over sweetness of most commercially made sodas.  We have one of those home soda system available these days, with a charged canister that delivers the bubbles.  I have been squeezing citrus into my glass but it tends to be more watered down that I desire.  So I decided to make myself some syrup.  Basically it’s zest, juice, sugar and a little water reduced on the stove by about half. The juice/water sugar proportions are about 2:1 liquid to dry.   A good tablespoon or so gives me a delicious soda with just the right blend of bubbles and tang. Ah, refreshment!

Temperate days

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Mother Nature is one confused broad these days.  She has been showering us with hot sunny days at a time of year when we should be wet, muddy and grey.  I think it will all go back to normal this weekend, but for the past week we have been playing at Summer, before having gone through Spring.

garlic sprouts

The garlic has sprung from it’s cold Winters bed.  We may need to close the garden back up so the chickens can’t get in to scratch at the tender shoots.  My chicken wire defense only partially works. But the green is a welcome sight.  Someone asked me at yoga the other day if I had planted my peas on St. Patrick’s Day.  This is common wisdom further South in New England, I have planted peas this early in other gardens, in other lifetimes.  Here in Maine we wait until Patriots Day, a holiday I was fully unaware of until we moved up here.  It comes right around tax day, a full month later than St. Patty’s.  I suppose if one was bold one could try putting some peas in the ground now.  Our soil was too frozen in the beginning of this week.  By now it has probably warmed up enough for an attempt.  For me however, that entails plotting out where I will plant what for the whole season, as I try to rotate my crops (!?) as much as possible to keep down disease and pests.  Somehow I am just not there yet.  Perhaps in another week or so, after it has gotten cold again, and I am longing for days planting with the sun on my back.  Then I will plot it all out, so the next time it gets even close to warm enough, I can run right out and plant those darling peas.

birthday cake In the meantime, we spent Thursday at home, having made an executive decision to enjoy its lovely weather and forgo our usual Sunday off, as rain is forecast for that day.  Our friend Peter came over for lunch and we sat on the patio, eating, talking and staring out at the still brown field.  We grilled some Scup, or Porgys as our fishmonger compared them. They were delicious.  Just brushed with olive oil, salt & pepper and a few slices of lemon in their cavities. The crackling skin was marvelous, the meat sweet and tender.  Accompanied by a Cauliflower and Red Pepper salad (because it is still March and here in Maine we have fewer fresh vegetable options this time of year) it was a tasty afternoon meal outdoors. The only thing missing was some green, no leaves anywhere with those temps was just plain queer.

We finished up with my new favorite cake, the Brown Sugar Lightning cake from The Improvisational Cook by Sally Schneider.  It is just as it sounds, brown sugary goodness that comes together lightning fast.  Split, filled with some Mangoes that had been macerating with brown sugar and lime juice, and frosted with whipped cream laced with Greek yogurt (full fat, thank you) and, wait for it, brown sugar.  It was dreamy.  Turns out it was Peter’s birthday, so we didn’t have any candles, and we didn’t sing at him, but it was his birthday cake.

John Dory

Monday, March 19th, 2012

Last nights dinner was a foil roasted John Dory bought from Harbor Fish, one of our all time favorite seafood purveyors.  Have you been there?  If you live in Portland, Maine, it is probably on your circuit.  Even if you are a summer visitor to Maine, you have been to Harbor Fish.  If not, add it to your itinerary.

I had a craving for some fish on Saturday, but only after the possibility for securing such raw ingredients was past.  Sunday morning after yoga I drove over to Custom House wharf.  Arriving at Harbor Fish at 10:30 on a Sunday morning was a new experience for me.  The place was empty, I had it all to myself.  And what an array of choices to be had.  Taking my sweet time, I surveyed all offerings and decided on the whole John Dory which they gutted for me. It is an ugly fish no doubt, spiny and flat with an enormous mouth. But man, was it delicious.

We buttered a big piece of tin foil, lay the fish on it with a couple cloves of garlic, some slices of lemon, salt/pepper, a sprig or two of thyme and a generous lashing of vermouth. In the oven at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes.  Served with some sauteed spinach and eggplant (a vegetable drawer combo if ever there was one) and whole wheat cous cous to soak up the juices form the fish.  Oh my….

I do love living somewhere where this kind of raw ingredient is so fresh, tasty and readily available.