4.14.14 Sprouting Garlic + Planting Peas and Favas

4.14.14 Sprouting and Seeding: Garlic, Peas + Favas

The last clove of Music garlic, sprouting, an intimation of what’s happening in the garden.

4.14.14 Sprouting and Seeding: Garlic, Peas + Favas

When we poked through the garlic bed, we found the ground still frozen. The top mulch was removed to give it a chance to thaw, and we found the garlic well on its way. With near freezing overnight temps expected in the week ahead, the garlic will get another protective covering of mulch. Above: Music garlic sprouting.

4.14.14 Sprouting and Seeding: Garlic, Peas + Favas

According to biodynamic methods, the second quarter phase of the moon is an ideal time to plant above ground crops such as peas. It also coincides with our removing the snow stakes from the driveway. Above: Green Arrow shell peas.

4.14.14 Sprouting and Seeding: Garlic, Peas + Favas

In the ground they go, the first planting of the season. Alongside the Green Arrow, we’ve also planted Coral shell peas, an early pea that we’re trying out this year and is meant to be harvestable before the 4th of July.

4.14.14 Sprouting and Seeding: Garlic, Peas + Favas

Above: Cascine and Superaquadulce favas. Like peas, we never seem to have enough, and we’ve been incrementally increasing their allotment of space in the garden.

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Roasted Mushroom Soup with Potatoes and Leeks

Roasted Mushroom Soup with Potatoes and Leeks

The thing we like best about soup is how well it takes to improvising, and a recent visit to the farmers’ market had us imagining a rustic mushroom soup, almost chowder-like, with chunks of potatoes and curly leeks rounding things out. The appearance of a new vendor, the New Hampshire Mushroom Company, and the wide selection of mushrooms they brought provided the inspiration, and we couldn’t resist buying up a sampling of several of their different varieties on display.

Roasted Mushroom Soup with Potatoes and Leeks

Above: Oyster, Blue Oyster, Elm Oyster, King Oyster, and Bears Head (or Lion’s Mane) mushrooms. We’ve grown shiitake mushrooms in the past, but weren’t able to produce enough to satisfy our needs, and are thrilled to see New Hampshire Mushroom Company filling in the gap in local supply. Specializing in both cultivated and foraged varieties, their mushrooms are frequently featured on the menus of Seacoast restaurants, and can be found at Golden Harvest and Rising Tide Natural Foods in Kittery, or Philbrick’s Fresh Market in Portsmouth. Of note, their Tamworth, NH, facility is open to the public every Sunday, with tours on the half hour from 12 to 3:30 pm.

Roasted Mushroom Soup with Potatoes and Leeks

To start off, we tore the mushrooms into large but still bite-sized pieces — NH Mushroom recommends no smaller than 1/2″ thick — and keeping in mind they will shrink by half. If need be, anything still too large after roasting can be torn into smaller pieces later.

Roasted Mushroom Soup with Potatoes and Leeks

Once the mushrooms are roasted, nibbling is hard to resist. This medley gave us a chance to taste the different varieties, each with its own delicate notes of earth and forest air. We were glad to be able to use thyme from the awakening garden, just be sure to pull out the twiggy sprigs before adding the mushrooms to the soup. The roasted mushrooms were scooped out and put aside, and the pan deglazed with stock to pick up the caramelized bits. Seriously, though, we could stop here and be perfectly happy eating the mushrooms straight from the pan, on a toasted piece of crusty bread, or even topping a salad.

Roasted Mushroom Soup with Potatoes and Leeks

After the soup is combined and left to simmer until its contents have just reached the point of tenderness, you can decide to puree or not. We like a soup with a robust texture, and blend a cup or two to thicken the rest. To finish, we had just enough crema leftover to add a hint of creaminess, a dollop of creme fraiche or mascarpone, or even thick yogurt would also do; either way, this is entirely optional if you want to keep it vegan. In adjusting the seasonings, it may need a freshening shot of fortified liquor, or a splash of lemon to balance the richness. If you have the time and patience, you will be rewarded by letting the soup sit overnight, and garnishing with foraged chives adds an extra touch of spring.

Roasted Mushroom Soup with Potatoes and Leeks

1½ pounds mushrooms, torn or cut into pieces
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
Good olive oil
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 to 3 leeks, or an onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 to 3 potatoes, peeled and diced
½ cup Madeira, Marsala, or dry sherry
Creme Fraiche or Mascarpone, to taste
Lemon juice, to taste
Minced chives for garnish

- Heat oven to 400°F. Toss mushrooms with the thyme and enough olive oil to lightly coat. Season with salt and pepper, place in a large roasting pan, and roast for around 20 to 30 minutes, stirring midway, until the mushrooms begin to brown. Turn off the oven, remove the mushrooms to a separate bowl and set aside. Pour the stock into the roasting pan, scraping up the bits, and place back in the oven to deglaze in the residual heat.
- Take a heavy soup pot and add enough olive oil to slick the bottom. Saute the leeks or onions until soft, add the garlic, and continue cooking until fragrant but not browned. Stir in the potatoes, then deglaze with the Madeira. Add the stock and reserved mushrooms, and simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the potatoes are just cooked.
- To finish the soup, adjust the seasonings with extra Madeira and a spritz of lemon juice. If desired, blend 1 to 2 cups for a thicker consistency, or add more stock for a thinner one.

Local ingredients: Mix of mushrooms from New Hampshire Mushroom Company; Yukon Gold potatoes from Riverside Farm; leeks from Two Farmers Farm; crema from Wolf Meadow Farm; homemade chicken broth; garlic, thyme and chives from the garden.

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4.7.14 Growing Duborskian Upland Rice in Maine

3.31.14 Duborskian Upland Rice

“Whether grown with Western machinery or Eastern backbone, rice is not the easiest grain to produce. It prefers a long growing season and warm humid weather. It is grown profitably in our country only in the Southwest, mostly in Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, and California. However, rice could probably be grown farther north, at least for home use. The Japanese have learned how to grow it successfully as far north as Hokkaido, which has a climate similar to our southern New England.”
— Gene Logsdon, “Small-Scale Grain Raising”

We’d heard rumor that rice was being grown successfully in New England, and went on alert when we spotted it on the menu at T.J. Buckley’s while passing through Brattleboro a few years back. After a sumptuous dinner skillfully prepared from local ingredients, we had the chance to speak with chef-owner Michael Fuller. He told us that the rice was from Akaogi Farm, and that if we were still in town, we’d be able to find them at the Brattleboro Farmers’ Market. It was our chance meeting there with Linda Akaogi that launched our interest in growing this semi-aquatic annual ourselves.

3.31.14 Duborskian Upland Rice

Following Logsdon’s observation on growing rice in northern climes, the Akaogi’s began experimenting with a short-grain rice from Hokkaido. To accommodate this grain’s need for water, they built up a model system of paddies that’s the focus of a series of annual conferences held there.  As a way of duplicating this condition at home, we planned to grow rice in buckets. After some research, however, we read about Roberta Bailey’s experience with growing Duborskian Rice (Oryza sativa) in Maine, and how this upland variety offered a more manageable approach than paddy rice in that it doesn’t require flooding in order to grow. Even more compelling, the resulting grains were being offered through Fedco Seeds, which would ensure a head start on adapting to local conditions.

3.31.14 Duborskian Upland Rice

Mid-May (above): Seedlings started indoors under lights, and beginning to form first leaves. Rice can be direct seeded, especially in warmer climes, or transplanted. Our first year’s batch failed soon after transplanting, and we learned to plant only one seed per plug to lessen the shock. Though we didn’t pretreat, it’s recommended that they be soaked for 12 to 24 hours before planting, and started 4 to 5 weeks before transplanting into warm soil, which, here in Maine, isn’t until early June. According to Sara Pitzer in Home Grown Whole Grains, rice needs at least 40 continuous days with temperatures above 70°F, a challenge in our short season.

3.31.14 Duborskian Upland Rice

Mid-August (above): With a little experience, our second attempt last year brought us better luck. Out of the 9 seedlings transplanted, 3 survived, and two of them long enough  to set multiple stems called tillers, each destined to produce a seed head, or panicle. Though Duborskian is referred to as a dry-land rice, it still needs constant moisture and plenty of it, which we helped along with a thick layer of mulch.

3.31.14 Duborskian Upland Rice

End of August (above): The panicle towards the end of flowering, with some stamens still attached. As the rice plant flowers and sets seed, this is especially the time to ensure the plant has enough moisture to keep its energy up.

3.31.14 Duborskian Upland Rice

Early September (above): Though it may have been little more than watching grass grow, we are ridiculously excited to finally have something recognizable as rice. Seeing these seed heads nodding as they mature made the entire effort worthwhile.

3.31.14 Duborskian Upland Rice

Early October (above): By the first week of October, we harvested the rice by clipping the tillers and hung them to finish drying. On further reading, we found that rice is ready to harvest when the seed heads look brownish gold and look heavy. These probably should have been left longer before harvesting, and, though they can tolerate a light frost, we’d didn’t want to run the risk of having them rot on the plant.

4.7.14 Duborskian Upland Rice

Upland rice may not be as productive as paddy varieties, each plant can average up to as much as 18 tillers each, and our two rice plants produced over a dozen tillers total. After drying, the grains are separated out, usually through threshing and winnowing to produce what is known as rough rice. At this point, the rice is still encased in a hull, and can be saved as seed for 10 years.

4.7.14 Duborskian Upland Rice

Next to growing it in the first place, the biggest obstacle to home growers is extricating the rice from its notably tough hull. Unless you have access to a mechanical huller, one of the traditional methods is to pound the grain with a mallett. We opted for a more domestic approach by baking the rice for 1 hour at 180°F, letting it cool, then rubbing the hulls off each individual grain.

4.7.14 Duborskian Upland Rice

Hulling rice by hand is a painstaking process, for sure. One tiller produced about a half teaspoon’s worth of grain (above), and gives new meaning to the phrase “every grain of rice,” of which we’ll never think of quite the same again. It’s not enough to make a meal, however, it’s given us a more intimate understanding of what it may take to produce it locally. With last season’s success, we now leave growing it to our local farmers, such as our friends at Stout Oak Farm who have plans this coming season to grow out several varieties of rice, including Duborskian, as part of a regional effort to increase and expand the supply of available seed.

4.7.14 Duborskian Upland Rice

Resources
• Fedco Seeds: Duborskian Rice — Organic seed grown in Central Maine; 115 days from transplanting.
• Sherck’s Heirloom Vegetables, Plants & Seeds: Duborskian Rice — Seed from Northern Indiana, includes link on growing it out.
• Kitazawa Seed Co.: Koshihikari Rice — May be also grown as an ornamental; 128 days.
• Ecological Rice Farming in the Northeastern USA, Cornell — Collaboration between Akaogi Farm and Cornell to support small-scale rice growing in the Northeast; annual summer conference. 
Harvest Kitchen: Growing Rice in Central Maine, MOFGA — Roberta Bailey’s account of growing Duborskian rice from seed sourced from Seed Savers Exchange.
• Homegrown Whole Grains by Sara Pitzer — Accessible information on growing rice and other grains for the home gardener, plus instructions for growing rice in a bucket.
• Small-Scale Grain Raising by Gene Logsdon — More in-depth information on growing rice and other “pancake” grains for the small-scale grower.

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Daily Bread: Cider Molasses Quick Bread

Cider Molasses Brown Bread

Essentially a quick version of brown bread, this hearty loaf is a beautiful expression of local ingredients, and has become one of our favorite ways to use the grainy whole wheat flour and nutty cornmeal being produced around us. We’ve gotten in the habit of substituting boiled cider for when molasses is called for, particularly in baking, which adds its own fruity fragrance and mineral notes. This traditional New England syrup is made by evaporating fresh apple cider, and we either make our own or pick up a ready-made supply when our travels take us to Vermont; both Wood’s Cider Mill and Champlain Orchards will ship. We like thick planks of this bread toasted for breakfast, either on it’s own or paired with cheddar. As of late, we’re indulgently slathering it with the rich, buttery crema from a recent visit to Wolf Meadow Farm.

Cider Molasses Quick Bread

Butter for greasing the pan
2½ cups whole wheat flour
½ cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1⅔ cups buttermilk or yogurt
½ cup boiled cider or molasses

- Heat oven to 325°F. Grease an 8×4-inch or 9×5-inch loaf pan. Sift together the whole wheat flour, cornmeal, sea salt and baking soda; this will remove any coarse bits from local flour, and ensure the baking soda is evenly distributed. Mix the buttermilk and boiled cider together, then stir it into the dry ingredients, just enough to combine. Immediately pour the thick batter into the greased loaf pan, and quickly smooth out the top as best you can. Place in the oven and bake until firm, about an hour. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes before removing from the pan.

— Adapted from “How to Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman, via Food52.

Local ingredients: Whole wheat flour from Maine Grains; flint cornmeal from Songbird Farm; boiled cider from Wood’s Cider Mill; sea salt from Maine Sea Salt; butter from Casco Bay Butter; and homemade buttermilk from Harris Farm milk.

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Slurry Noodles

Following our first attempts at making noodles, we came across this video of a street vendor in China preparing sweet potato starch noodles while at the same time demonstrating some lesser understood laws governing non-Newtonian fluids. If you’ve ever mixed cornstarch with water into a slurry to thicken a sauce, a combination scientists call by the Seussian name Oobleck, you’re probably familiar with how the cornstarch can settle into a hard mass at the bottom of the bowl. Something similar to that is happening here. From Modernist Cuisine, which offers a fuller scientific explanation, and Cooking Issues, who figured out that these are the same noodles used in the Korean dish Japchae, and also known as glass noodles.

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3.31.14 French Marigold Seedlings

3.31.14 French Marigolds

O Such a commotion under the ground,
When March called, “Ho there! ho!”
Such spreading of rootlets far and wide,
Such whispering to and fro!
“Are you ready?” the Snowdrop asked,
“Tis time to start, you know.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Flower Chorus”

As always, it is with faith, optimism, and hope that we plant the first seeds of the season. The French marigolds have emerged, beating their companion alliums only barely. It’s still a complete mystery to us how their feathery seeds transform themselves into these tender seedlings.

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Winter Squash Carbonara with Bacon and Sage

Winter Squash Carbonara

After it appeared in Bon Appetit last February, this recipe for Winter Squash Carbonara was quick to gain popularity, and deservedly so. It reminded us of when its sister publication Gourmet ran a column of tempting weeknight recipes that were known for their ease of preparation and with readily found ingredients, yet with some tantalizing combination or technique slipped in that also allowed the cook to expand their kitchen knowledge. We found this silky preparation of braised winter squash, with its balance of salty, smoky and sweet notes, all that and made even more appealing by its adaptability. For our localized version, we swapped bacon from Top of the Hill Farm for the pancetta, some fresh Farro Casarecci pasta from Valicenti Organico, and an aged cheese called Primo Sale from Wolf Meadow Farm for the Pecorino. Exchange a red onion in place of the pancetta and vegetable broth for the chicken, and this readily converts into a vegetarian dish, and because there aren’t any eggs, it may even be suitable for vegans. And for our nightshade-intolerant friends, this provides a satisfying alternative to tomato sauce.

Winter Squash Carbonara

The most obvious advantage of Winter Squash Carbonara is that it gives us a new way to deploy the slumbering squash we have remaining in storage. These
Tromboncino squash (above) have a quality unusual among Cucurbita moschata in that they’re dual purpose, and can be eaten as both a summer and winter squash. Also known descriptively as Serpentine Squash or Zucchetta Rampicante, we grew this Italian heirloom for the first time last season, and found it responded well to our microclimate. More importantly, it’s also resistant to pests and disease, and to squash vine borer and powdery mildew in particular, two of our biggest challenges in growing winter squash successfully.

Winter Squash Carbonara

Tromboncino resides in the same family as butternut squash, and we’re pleased to see how well it’s lasted through the winter. Though we haven’t taken it through all its kitchen paces, its dense flesh lends itself to steaming, grilling, baking, and even pickling. In its mature state, the flavor is mild and said to be reminiscent of artichokes. Since preparing this dish, we’ve learned that it should be peeled even further, reaching down to where the flesh turns orange. With another yard of Tromboncino still leftover, we’re left with plenty of opportunity to make this again.

Winter Squash Carbonara with Bacon and Sage

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces bacon (or pancetta), chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
2 pounds winter squash (such as butternut or kabocha), peeled, seeded, cut into ½” pieces (about 3 cups)
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 pound dried pasta, such as fettucine or linguine
¼ cup finely grated Pecorino, plus shaved for serving

- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon, reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 8–10 minutes. Add sage and toss to coat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon and sage to a small bowl; set aside. Add squash, onion, and garlic to skillet; season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, 8–10 minutes. Add broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until squash is soft and liquid is reduced by at least half, 15–20 minutes. Let cool slightly, then purée in a blender until smooth; season with salt and pepper. Reserve skillet.
- Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid. Combine pasta, squash purée, and ¼ cup pasta cooking liquid in reserved skillet and cook over medium heat, tossing and adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until sauce coats pasta, about 2 minutes. Mix in ¼ cup Pecorino; season with salt and pepper. Top pasta with reserved pancetta and sage, shaved Pecorino, and more pepper. Makes 4 servings.

Adapted from Bon Appetit.

Local ingredients: Bacon from Top of the Hill Farm; onions from Black Kettle Farm; Farro Casarecci pasta from Valicenti Organico; Primo Sale cheese from Wolf Meadow Farm; homemade chicken stock; tromboncino winter squash, sage, and garlic from the garden.

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