New Year’s Cotechino Sausage with Lentils

Cotechino Sausage with Lentils

We began our New Year’s celebration early, and cooked up a luscious Cotechino sausage to serve with a potful of nutty lentils, and a side of winter-sweetened braised carrots. Many thanks to Rook, the talented butcher at Maine Meat, for his house made version of this Italian specialty. As with many foods traditional to New Year’s, this simple dish symbolizes prosperity and good fortune — wishing you all a Happy New Year’s, we’re feeling lucky already.

New Year’s Cotechino Sausage with Lentils

2 cotechino sausages, about 1 pound each
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 rib celery, very finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
1 pound lentils, rinsed
Salt and pepper
Red wine vinegar, to taste
Minced parsley, for garnish

– Place the two sausages in a large pot, and fill with enough water to cover the sausages. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover. Poach the sausages until they are heated through (around 160°F internal temperature), about 45 minutes to 1 hour. When done, turn off heat.

– Heat the olive oil in a medium pot, add the onions, carrots, and celery, and cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, nutmeg, red pepper flakes, and bay leaf, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the lentils and 5 to 6 cups of the cotechino poaching liquid. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and continue to simmer until the lentils are tender, about 20 to 30 minutes. Add a little more liquid to the lentils as they cook, if necessary. Season to taste with good olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper.

– Remove the cotechino from the liquid, peel off the casing, and slice thickly. Serve over a platter of lentils, garnished with parsley and last drizzle of good olive oil.

Adapted from “Canal House Cooking, Volume No. 7: La Dolce Vita”.

Local ingredients: Cotechino sausage from Maine Meat; onion from Black Kettle Farm; carrot, cutting celery, garlic and parsley from the garden.

Posted in cooking | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

A time of counting…

A time of counting...
“December is … often a time of counting. Making it count, checking our list, watching the short hours of daylight. The year end knocks persistent on our doorstep, our growing children and aging elders continue on their time-bound journeys…. If we slow, who is to say those we love will slow with us?”
— Marada Cook, Crown O’Maine Organic Cooperative

Happy Solstice, dear friends — on this longest night of the year, the lengthening light of day is a most welcome thought.

Posted in interlude | Tagged , | 5 Comments

11.25.14 Rossa di Sulmona Garlic

11.25.14 Rossa di Sulmona Garlic

Late November may be pushing it but, as long as the ground is workable, it’s not too late to plant garlic. Of the 3 varieties of we grow, the Rossa di Sulmona from Seeds from Italy is my favorite — a terrific balance of pungency and sweetness, and its distinctive pink color never fails to bring me cheer. Have a delicious Thanksgiving, dear friends — there’s always so much to be grateful for.

Posted in garden | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Fall Foraging: Horse Chestnuts

Fall Foraging: Horse Chestnuts

Learning to forage is a way of naming the world. Little by little, what was once unknown becomes known, and as familiar as picking a loved one’s face out of a crowd. In the process, we become aware of what’s edible and, just as importantly, recognizing what’s not. While shopping at Maine Meat earlier this fall, co-owner Shannon showed me the satiny smooth chestnuts littering the ground around the tree out back. I scooped up a few to take home and, though tempting as these were to sample, I held off until friend John Forti could identify them. Much as these reminded me of ones I ate in Italy, these were horse chestnuts (Aesculus hippocastanum), inedible and to be avoided for the toxic saponins they contain.

Fall Foraging: Horse Chestnuts

Telltale signs: The horse chestnut is rounded in shape with only one side flattened, and the absence of a pointed tip. Though there are medicinal uses for the nut, leaves and bark, horse chestnuts are known to be especially toxic if eaten raw. I’ve read that slow cooking does render these safe to eat, if not perhaps exactly palatable — the meat will be bitter, in complete contrast to the edible sweet chestnut.

Fall Foraging: Horse Chestnuts

The leaves are another way to identify the horse chestnut, which are palmate, with three to seven leaflets fanned out in the shape of an open palm. Lastly, if the squirrels won’t eat them, neither should you.

Resources
Chestnuts vs. Horse Chestnuts, Washington State University Extension
Chestnuts, horse chestnuts, and Ohio buckeyes, University of Minnesota Extension
Chestnut FAQ, Badgersett Research Corporation

Posted in local food | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Fall’s Bounty from Orange Circle Farm

Fall Bounty from Orange Circle Farm

As we face shorter days and cooler temperatures, there’s something comforting about having a well-stocked kitchen. Though it’s that time between the end of our outdoor farmers’ market season and the beginning of the indoor one, Orange Circle Farm offers a way to help bridge the gap. Organic farmer Jeff Benton makes local food accessible through online ordering, a choice of three pick-up days and locations — either at the farm in Stratham or through Yoga on the Hill in Kittery, depending on day — and a generous order deadline of the night before desired pick-up. Order from what’s currently available or, for those who can’t decide, Jeff also offers a variety box.

This week’s variety box (above) contained braising greens, two heads of lettuce, Kennebec potatoes, onions, carrots, rutabaga, and a spaghetti squash. As a supplement, my order also included some baby kale and chard, red kuri, butternut, and delicata squash, sweet potatoes, more carrots, dried black beans, and a couple dozen eggs. If you hurry, you can still get an order in for this Saturday’s pick-up in Stratham.

Posted in local food | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Seaside Foraging: Beach Lovage, Sea Beans & Sea Plantain

Fall Foraging

Fall finds — just a handful of the edibles discovered with local forager Jenna Rozelle, who shared her wealth of knowledge with us on a recent walk (clockwise, from top left): parsley-like beach lovage or wild celery; crunchy sea beans or glasswort; and salty sea plantain or goose tongue. As an extra treat, she brought us Kousa dogwood berries. Though the rind is edible, Jenna showed us how to pop off the stem as the quickest way to the rich, custardy interior.

Posted in field trip | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

10.6.14 National Noodle Day: Soba Master Tatsuru Rai

In answer to the question “What is Cooking?” Soba master Tatsuru Rai choose to demonstrate making soba noodles by hand. Though he remains silent, the process itself is far from it. His rhythmic movements beat out a precise rhythm, resulting in a kind of auditory performance as much as a visual one, and reminds us of how cooking demands the use of all of our senses — touch, smell, taste, sight, as well as hearing. Happy National Noodle Day! (Video link here.)

Posted in cooking, interlude | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments