Archive for August, 2009

When we got to the Hanover Farmers’ Market yesterday, thunder was rumbling in the not-too-far distance.  We wouldn’t be able to linger.  I went straight for the Cedar Circle Farm booth, where I was almost overcome by the vivid colors spread before me!

I spent all the cash in my pocket on this pile of (always organic) beauty:

cedar circ vegs

When we got back to my parents’ house at the far end of Turnpike Road in Norwich, it was still too hot to turn on the oven or even think systematically about a meal.  I pulled out a tub of hummus, and we used it as dip for the celery (the most celeryish celery I’ve ever tasted!) and the sungolds.

In spite of the sky–another storm brewing after some hot sun–we decided to cook out.

dark clouds over the back hill

dark clouds over the back hill

We had some grass fed ground beef from Hogwash Farm, so we decided to do burgers, corn on the cob, and a big chopped salad combining the tomatoes, some peppers, radishes from Killdeer, and cucumbers and herbs from our garden.  Dressed with a bit of mustard vinaigrette, it was flavorful, cool, and perfectly satisfying.

This is the only season when a raw salad like that, with little adornment or special treatment, tastes so vivid.


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It’s Queen Anne’s Lace season, which always brings to mind my favorite verbal convergence of food and sex: “Queen Anne’s Lace,” a poem by the famously philandering family doctor and truly great American modernist poet, William Carlos Williams.

Queen Anne’s Lace

Her body is not so white as

anemony petals nor so smooth—nor
so remote a thing. It is a field
of the wild carrot taking
the field by force; the grass
does not raise above it.
Here is no question of whiteness,
white as can be, with a purple mole
at the center of each flower.
Each flower is a hand’s span
of her whiteness. Wherever
his hand has lain there is
a tiny purple blemish. Each part
is a blossom under his touch
to which the fibres of her being
stem one by one, each to its end,
until the whole field is a
white desire, empty, a single stem,
a cluster, flower by flower,
a pious wish to whiteness gone over—
or nothing.

Mmm….  It’s an incredibly sexy poem.

On another note, is wild carrot edible?  The skinny yellowish root, which smells like carrot, is edible, but is not to be confused with its poisonous impostor, Hemlock, the wild edible long associated in literature with murder and suicide, and about which another great poet, John Keats, wrote these well-known lines:

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk […].

The ecstatic, painful longing for the death Keats knew was fast coming–when he was 25–expressed in “Ode to a Nightingale” brings Thanatos together with Eros and the wild desire we have for the wild and the succor, sustenance, pleasure, or oblivion it may bring.

Photo credit. (Thank you.)

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Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie


For the crust, check out my post of June 7, 2009, but make a double portion, since you’ll need extra pastry for the lattice. Make the pastry, shape into two discs, and chill for several hours.

For the filling, you’ll need 3 cups fresh cut strawberries and 2 cups fresh or frozen chopped rhubarb.  Mix these with 1/2 c. flour, 1/2 c. sugar, and 1 tsp. corn starch.

Preheat oven to 375.  Roll out two 11-inch rounds of pastry, put one in a 9-inch pie plate, and cut the other into strips.  Pour in filling, and construct an over-under lattice with the pastry strips.  Bake (with a cookie sheet underneath in case of drips) for 45 or so minutes, until the crust is golden.

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It’s summer.  It’s hot.  The fruit is ripe.  But what the heck, let’s fire up the oven.

We have Shiro plums, the mild little yellow variety which grew originally in Japan, and now grows all over the place here.


These plums are from Dummerston, Vermont.  (The name brings to mind Fort Dummer, near Brattleboro, where we used to go cross country skiing, and where my Dad would release the squirrels he’d caught in his “Have-a-Heart” trap.  These were crazed, ferocious squirrels that chewed our wooden siding and clung to the screens of our dining room windows while we ate dinner.)

Back on topic here… plums make a scrumptious rustic galette.  I had a helper this morning making pastry.  A pinch of salt:

J baking

And a demonstration of the frissage technique, which spreads and flattens those yummy bits of butter, providing the basis for flakiness (push with the heels, fold with the fingertips, repeat):


We also have chopped rhubarb and strawberries in the freezer–remains from an earlier season.  My sister, Bridget, has always loved strawberry-rhubarb pie.  We always thought her red hair and freckles predestined her to be a strawberry lover: strawberry ice cream, strawberry shortcake, strawberry-rhubarb pie, strawberries on cereal, strawberry lip balm, the list goes on.  She’s moving to North Carolina this week, where strawberries and rhubarb will be distant memories.  I think I’ll make her that pie.

And serve it warm with local vanilla ice cream, of course.

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Mmmm… I have such a craving for a luscious tomato tart.  Roasting brings out such intense flavors.  And melted cheese: the deliciousness of the thought speaks for itself.

However, it’s pushing 90 today, and I won’t be turning on the oven.  How to celebrate high tomato season with something a little simpler, more “rustic” and conducive to lazing around than the pretty spiral of tomato, mozz, and basil (though I have nothing against that salad!)?

Panzanella!  A bread salad made with summer’s basics: stale bread, tomatoes, basil.

panz ingreds

The structure of this basic flavor combination provides a strong background for additions, if they come in as accents.  Have some leftover anchovies or olives?  A wedge of lemon?  Toss in a few capers, too, from that bottle that always seems full.  Some other backyard herbs would be nice too, as long as the basil sets the tone.

We’ll have this tonight, with grilled chicken.  Killdeer folks: see you soon.

For the cooler nights later this week, though, I’ll be turning to the tart.  I think I’ll try this recipe, recently posted in the Times.

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Back in Vermont, now, where we’re having the hottest night of the summer.  Haze turned the Green Mountains graduated shades of blue-gray today, on our long drive home.  Our last day on Nantucket was a full one–from bikes and beach in the morning to a wedding party in the evening.  Blank from a day of travel, I’ll just post the highlights.

ubiquitous blue hydrangea

ubiquitous blue hydrangea

Jack and the tree that was probably a sapling when our ancestors, the Rodmans, Rotches, and Husseys were on this island worshiping the whales:


Waiting for waves at Cisco Beach:


And boogie boarding:


Then, we were off to the celebration in Siasconset.  Ginger ale or Veuve?

Jack liked the “shrimp lollipops.”


Jeremiah liked the Boston lettuce:


And everyone liked the chocolate-espresso pot de creme:

choc. pot

And, since I did more body-surfing than web-surfing or researching of any kind, I’ll put in a link to an article on “Slow Fish” on a related island, Martha’s Vineyard.

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I’ve eaten much more fish in the past two months than I normally eat in a year.  I’ve been lucky enough to visit these seafood capitals of the northeast.  Eating locally on an island is pretty easy at this season.  For Nantucket, in particular, striking a balance between conservation and sustainability on the one hand and the inevitable conspicuous consumption of a resort island on the other, is especially important, and tricky, because people come for the timelessness of its beaches and weathered shingle cottages, but also come to vacation and to do all of the spending and  consuming that entails. My Nantucket Quaker ancestors rode the wave of one tide of American capitalism centuries ago, and helped to whale nearly all of the sperm whales out of the Atlantic.  The great white whale is now a threatened species.   Bluefish are abundant, due to regulated sport fishing, and stripers are vulnerable, so I’ll savor them when they’re fresh and local.  We’ve come too late in the year for Nantucket Bay scallops, the sweetest, smallest morsels in the sea.  When I worked at a restaurant in Somerville, near Boston, those of us in the kitchen snuck a couple of raw ones when the small, highly priced shipment came in.   They have a brief season, anticipated by seafood lovers, and hopefully protected by sustainable harvesting practices.

We saw some small-scale fishermen working quickly the other night, just before the dinner hour, to clean and portion these tunas.

fish cutting


A large vegetable and flower farm here has turned to sustainable energy,


but I also saw some spray tanks attached to the tractors.  Their seasonal produce, displayed in a bountiful tumble of color, is wonderful, though.   There were at least four kinds of eggplant; I bought bunches of the Japanese and the “Fairy Tale” varieties, along with a pile of pattypan squash, and roasted them last night (it was chilly outside).  (Olive oil, salt, pepper, fresh rosemary, 425 for 40 or so minutes.)



Another local institution I like to frequent when I’m here is the bread bakery and sandwich shop, Something Natural.  They bake hundreds of loaves daily, and construct hundreds of jumbo sandwiches for a steady stream of people.  Their chocolate chip cookies, with dark chocolate chunks and a chewy-crispy buttery crumb, are the best.

something nat.

When the endless possibilities for people watching turn tedious, it’s fun to find the animals.  We watched swallows gathering on the wires, and the flock seemed to grow by the hundreds every few minutes.




even more

even more

Bunnies hop out of the bushes, and scurry back in when they see Jack coming.


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