Salad Days: Rhubarb Vinaigrette

Rhubarb Vinaigrette

This refreshingly tart rhubarb vinaigrette was inspired by having a couple of stalks leftover after making a rhubarb galette. Beyond dressing salad greens, it’s slightly fruity flavor pairs well with grilled meats, such as pork, chicken or fish; with sautéed duck breast or a confit; or in a chunky chicken or summery bean salad.

Rhubarb Vinaigrette

Simply simmer the rhubarb until falling apart, then blend with the remaining ingredients until emulsified. We choose a local cider vinegar, though red wine, rice or even raspberry vinegar would also do. For this batch, we used a grainy mustard; creme fraiche makes for creamier version, or omit them altogether for a lighter one. And if you have a couple of strawberries on hand, throw them in for an extra fruity punch.

Rhubarb Vinaigrette

½ cup chopped rhubarb (1 to 2 stalks)
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons grainy mustard or creme fraiche (optional)
¼ cup vegetable or mild olive oil

– In a small saucepan, bring the rhubarb and water to a simmer, and cook until very soft, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool; should make about ¼ cup cooked rhubarb.
– Place the cooked rhubarb, honey, cider vinegar, and mustard or creme fraiche (if using) into a blender or small food processor. With the motor running, slowly pouring in the oil to form an emulsified vinaigrette. Makes about 1 cup.

Adapted from Dinner with Julie.

Local ingredients: Honey from Victory Bees; cider vinegar from Sewall Orchard; mustard from Cheshire Garden; sunflower oil from Coppal House Farm; rhubarb from the garden.

Posted in cooking | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

6.16.14 Auspicious days

6.16.14 Auspicious days

“And what is so rare as a day in June? Then, if ever, come perfect days.”
— James Russell Lowell

Above: Sea kale in full flower, more than enough to produce seedpods.

6.16.14 Auspicious days

According to the lunar calendar, the week’s full moon gave us an favorable planting period leading up to it and following. Above: Lichen.

6.16.14 Auspicious days

Before the full moon, we planted seeds for those bearing above-ground: Masai filet beans (from saved seed); boothby blonde cucumbers; costata romanesco and zephyr summer squash; delicata, tromboncino, and spaghetti winter squash. Above: Lupines.

6.16.14 Auspicious days

After the full moon, we planted for underground vegetables: Potatoes, Tokyo turnips, and more radishes. Above: Favas in flower.

6.16.14 Auspicious days

Above: Coral shell peas, a member special from Fedco, is proving to be an early one, and started forming pods long before the Green Arrow peas began flowering.

6.16.14 Auspicious days

Harvesting: Asparagus, rhubarb, salad greens, arugula, kales.

6.16.14 Auspicious days

It was also an auspicious time to hang a new prayer flag overlooking the garden.

Posted in garden | Tagged , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Rhubarb Buttermilk Pie

Rhubarb Buttermilk Pie

“Each Pie Maker is called to a particular type of pie. It is a deeper, more profound relationship than a favorite pie or one’s specialty. It is closer to destiny or fate.”
— Anne Dimock, “Humble Pie”

We heard the calling, and Rhubarb Buttermilk Pie was the answer. Though we may waver between apple and rhubarb, with rhubarb now coming into peak season, it’s rosy hue and tangy taste is what we crave this moment. We based our latest version on an Amish classic that falls in a category of pie that relies on a rich mix of cream and eggs to bind the fruit. In this case, tart chunks of softened rhubarb are enveloped in a smooth custard, melding with a toasty pre-baked pie crust. It’s like having pie and ice cream wrapped into one, especially when served cold.

Rhubarb Buttermilk Pie

We paired this with an Amish No-Roll Pie Crust, one that’s mixed directly in the pie pan, then pressed out by hand, no rolling pin necessary. Cold vegetable oil and milk take the place of butter, and ease the process of mixing. Much like making pasta dough, the wet ingredients are worked into the dry until the soft dough comes together.

Rhubarb Buttermilk Pie

The pie dough is then smoothed out and pressed into place. Blind-baking the crust before filling sets it, and gives the crust a chance to caramelize and develop a hint of butteriness. Here, we used a freshly pressed local sunflower oil, which added it’s own rich, nutty notes. We replaced a portion of the flour with local whole wheat to give it character, and imagine a finely ground cornmeal would also do nicely.

Rhubarb Buttermilk Pie

Though it’ll be tempting to add more, 3 cups of diced rhubarb fills the shell to capacity, especially once the rest of the filling is poured in. A smudge of piquant ginger, entirely optional, adds some warming spice in counterpoint to the tartness of the rhubarb. It’s suggested that this pie is best served cold, especially in the heat of summer, but don’t refrain from sampling it warm and deciding for yourself.

Rhubarb Buttermilk Pie

2½ to 3 cups diced rhubarb, about 1 pound, or 4 to 6 large stalks
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons flour
¼ teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
3 eggs, beaten
½ cup buttermilk
2½ to 3 cups diced rhubarb, about 1 pound or 6 stalks
1 single pie crust, pre-baked

– In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and ground ginger. Whisk in the eggs, mixing thoroughly, before whisking in the buttermilk. Scatter the diced rhubarb evenly across the bottom of the pre-baked pie crust. Pour the buttermilk mixture over the top.
– Place the pie in a 375°F oven, and bake until filling is set, about 30 to 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Serve warm  or cold.

Amish No-Roll Pie Crust

 cups flour
1½ teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons cold milk

– In a 9-inch pie pan, mix together the flour, sugar and salt. In a measuring cup, beat the vegetable oil and 3 tablespoons milk together until it looks creamy. Pour the oil mixture into the flour, and stir with a fork until the flour is completely moistened. If dough feels dry, sprinkle and mix in extra milk, a teaspoon at a time. Pat the dough out until it covers the bottom and sides of the pan. Crimp or flute the edges. Refrigerate the pie crust for at least 20 minutes.
– To pre-bake, heat oven to 425°F and blind bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool before filling.

Local ingredients: Pastry flour from Nitty Gritty Grain Co.; whole wheat pastry flour from Brookford Farm; sunflower oil from Coppal House Farm; homemade buttermilk with milk from Harris Farm; sea salt from Maine Sea Salt; eggs from Mona Farm; rhubarb from the garden.

Submitted to Novel Food, hosted by Simona at Briciole — Anne Dimock’s memoir, “Humble Pie: What Lies Beneath the Crust”, is generously sprinkled with wry observations, pie-making tips, and personal recipes that have become part of our own repertoire. A perfect summer read now that pie season is upon us.

Posted in cooking | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

Kale Salad with Harissa Vinaigrette

Kale Salad with Harissa Vinaigrette

Inspiration for this boldly spiced Kale Salad with Harissa Vinaigrette comes from Joinery in Newmarket, New Hampshire, which recently opened with Chef Brendan Vesey heading the kitchen, and Black Trumpet’s Evan and Denise Mallett at the helm. We were there for Slow Food Seacoast’s launch of Slow Sips — a new series of events with establishments that support good, clean, fair, and local food — and discovered it on the menu when we stayed for dinner. The restaurant serves their kale salad warm with almonds and chickpeas, and we’ve been riffing on this invigorating fusion of zesty flavors ever since.

Start by grabbing a fresh bunch of kale, then zip off the stems, and chop the leaves well. We added thin slivers of red onion — the last one from winter storage — and toasted pine nuts in the latest version, other improvisational options include:

- toasted pine nuts, walnuts, pepitas, or sunflower seeds
– thinly sliced red onion or scallions
– julienned or grated carrot or kohlrabi
– thinly slice red radishes or salad turnips
– oil-cured or brined black olives
– cannellini beans, lentils, or roasted chick peas
– cooked grains such as wheat berries, bulgur, or barley
– crumbled feta or ricotta salata

As for the stems, we recommend chopping them up, and sautéing with some cooked dried beans until the beans become soft and crusty, to accompany the kale salad.

Kale Salad with Harissa Vinaigrette

We like this as a cold salad, and dress the kale about a half-hour before serving to allow the leaves to relax and better absorb the vinaigrette. For the warm version, gently heat up the vinaigrette before tossing with the salad.

Harissa Vinaigrette

¼ cup harissa
2 to 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
¼ cup lemon juice or red wine vinegar, or half and half
½ cup olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper

– Whisk together harissa, garlic, lemon juice or red wine vinegar, and olive oil. Season with salt and black pepper. Makes about 1 cup, about half is enough to dress the salad, with enough leftover for the next salad opportunity.

Local ingredients: Red Russian kale from Osprey Cove Organic Farm/Stonewall Farm; red onion from Black Kettle Farm; and garlic from the garden.

Posted in cooking | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

6.9.14 Spring seedlings and thinnings


“How insignificant our effort beside that of a seed.”
— Marada Cook, Crown O’Maine Organic Cooperative

Above: Agretti seedlings.
Seeds planted this week: Carrots, fun jen; second round of favas, radishes, arugula, salad greens. 


Above: Comparing transplanted fennel (left) with directly seeded (right).
Seedlings transplanted: Fennel, cucumber.


Still in the wings: Basil, tomatoes, eggplant, celeriac, leeks.

6.9.14 Garden thinnings

Thinnings: Salad greens (above) and kale.


Harvesting: Asparagus, rhubarb.


Preserving: Freezing rhubarb.

Posted in garden | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

2 Spring Pizzas: Asparagus + Arugula

2 Spring Pizzas

 Authenticity aside, pizza is a personal thing. It’s why, with so many places to choose from, we still make our own. In keeping with the season, we made up a pair of what we call spring pizzas, topped with pillowy soft mozzarella and whatever’s fresh in the garden — in this case, asparagus and arugula. For the first round (above), we layered dollops of basil pesto with thin slices of mozzarella, and scattered a couple of handfuls of chopped green garlic and asparagus on top. Tip: Cutting asparagus into bite-sized rounds allows it to cook with the rest of the pizza. If it’s too early for basil pesto, another such as pea greensgarlic scape or sorrel, will do; and if garlic greens aren’t available, scallions make a fine substitute.

2 Spring Pizzas

The second pizza was covered with a layer of mozzarella and grated parmesan, baked, then topped with a tangle of arugula that was lightly dressed with lemon and olive oil. The residual heat is just enough to wilt the arugula so it melds with the rest of the pizza. Tip: Toss the arugula with the lemon juice before adding the olive oil; coating the leaves with an acid first protects the cell walls and keeps the leaves from wilting too soon.

Lately, we’ve been using the recipe for Roberta’s Pizza Dough, which comes with an excellent video. There’s only a minimal amount of kneading, and, if you choose, an overnight rise in the fridge allows it to develop additional flavor. The mix of all purpose and 00 flour gives a thin, airy, and lightly chewy crust, with enough integrity to support the toppings, in keeping with the spirit of Roberta’s intent: “A true Neapolitan pie is so waifish that you have to eat it with a fork and knife. We think eating with your hands beats eating with a fork.”

Local ingredients: Mozzarella from Wolf Meadow Farm; green garlic from Meadow’s Mirth; asparagus and arugula from the garden.

Submitted to YeastSpotting.

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

6.2.14 Kitchen garden herbs

6.2.14 Kitchen herbs and garden thinnings

“…there is nothing more inspiring than walking into a kitchen that is full of the aromas of herbs as their essential oils mingle with the food.”
— Jekka McVicar

By now, the herb garden’s had enough time to allow for any latecomers. After taking stock, we gathered up replacements for those that didn’t make it through the winter. There are the usual suspects, like parsley and basil, but we also take this as an opportunity to get familiar with some new ones. Into the garden this week:

Angelica (Angelica archangelica) — Perennial. History of use for magical purposes, from which it derives its name. Licorice-like flavor, stems often candied, and young leaves for salads. This is a new herb for us, and accompanies the recent planting of sweet cicely, another anise-like herb from the family Apiaceae that we’re still learning about.

Basil (Ocimum basilicum) — Annual. This fragrant, tender herb doesn’t travel well as the leaves are easily crushed, but earns its place in the garden both as a companion plant to tomatoes and as an essential in summer cookery. Though it comes in many tempting varieties, we always make sure to put in a sizable planting of the classic Sweet Genovese. 

Holy Basil (Ocimum basilicum sanctum) — Annual. Also known as Sacred Basil or Tulsi; originally from Thailand, where its grown around Buddhist temples. Our first time with it, we found it at The Herb Farmacy.

Spicy Globe Basil (Ocimum basilicum minimum) — Annual. Also known as Greek Basil, this bush variety grows in a compact mound, and is popular its size, flavor and tender stems. Its spicy sweet flavor lends punch to salads, vinegar, pasta, as well as pesto. We’ve struggled with different varieties of basil, and are trying to plant them later and when the weather is assuredly warmer. This is a new variety to us, and we can easily imagine a whole row of them edging a bed, forming an aromatic miniature hedge.

Thai Basil (Ocimum basilicum ‘Horapha’) — Annual. More pungent than its Italian relative, Thai basil brings its own fresh brightness to such dishes as summer rolls and rice noodle salads, without which something would seem missing.

Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium) — Annual. Usually replace every several years, reseeds in between. Part of the French classic fines herbes, blended with tarragon, parsley and chives. Use fresh to enhance eggs, fish, green vegetables, and chicken.

Vietnamese Cilantro (Polygonum odoratum)  — Perennial. Also known as Asian mint, Vietnamese mint, smartweed, fragrant knotweed, laksa leaf and rau ram. Flavorwise, Vietnamese cilantro falls somewhere between cilantro and mint, and is considered a warm weather substitute when it gets too hot to grow cilantro. Though we grew this last season, we only recently became familiar with its culinary uses. It can’t tolerate temperatures below 32°F, and we treat this as an annual.

Green & Bronze Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) — Perennial. This non-bulbing herb is worth growing in addition to Florence fennel, as the fronds have a more concentrated sweet flavor. It’s sporadic as a perennial, and we’ve been replanting as necessary.

Hidcote Blue Lavender (Lavandula augustifolia) — Perennial. Our original planting of lavender has declined, and we’ve been replacing them with ones more suited for culinary purposes. We look for augustifolia varieties, which have a sweeter taste due to lower levels of camphor.

Marjoram (Origanum majorana) — Perennial. When forced to choose between marjoram or oregano, we prefer marjoram for it’s finer, more delicate flavor. However, it’s not as hardy and we seem to need to replace it annually.

Flat-Leaf Parsley (Petroselinum crispum neapolitana) — Biennial. We never seem to have enough of this herb, and start the season with at least a dozen seedlings. One plant managed to overwinter this year in a place where it’ll establish a self-seeding patch. We especially like to use flat-leaf parsley combined with thinly sliced red onion, and dressed with red wine vinegar and good olive oil, for a salad-like condiment for grilled or roasted dishes.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) — Perennial. The herb for remembrance, we recently learned that “officinalis” in the latin name marks this useful for medicinal purposes. The piney, resinous flavor marries well with boldly flavored foods, and we especially love the fragrance it brings to a table strewn with sprigs of it. We’re envious of places were rosemary can be grown as a perennial, and where it can take on it’s fullest expression in the garden; here, we make do with annual plantings.

Summer Savory (Satureja hortensis) — Annual. Like a more pungent thyme, summer savory adds a peppery, slightly piney flavor. It marries well with meat and other strongly flavored dishes, and we often use it as a change from marjoram.

Winter Savory (Satureja montana) — Perennial. Similar to its summer twin in flavor and use, we save this one for cooler weather cooking and when the herb garden begins to fade.

French Sorrel (Rumex scutatus) — Perennial. Also known as buckler-leaf sorrel, this variety has a shorter, rounder leaf, and a less astringent flavor than the broad-leaved variety. We added sorrel after enjoying cooking with it this spring.

French Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus sativa) — Perennial. Another of the anise-like herbs that when it’s in season dresses up a range of summery dishes, especially cold salads such as egg or potato. It’s struggled to get established, and added another as reinforcement.

Golden Lemon Thyme (Thymus x citriodorus) — Perennial. We think of thyme as the Miss Congeniality of the herb garden — it’s friendly and never seems to mind where it’s placed; attractive enough to shine on its own with a warm, woodsy flavor; and gets along well with others, complementing all wherever it goes. Since lemons remain a challenge to grow here, lemon-like herbs like this one can take their place.

Silver-Edged Thyme (Thymus ‘Argenteus’) — Perennial. It’s hard to resist the many tantalizing varieties of thyme, and we confess that this was an impulse buy. Where the lemon thyme offers some clear culinary advantages to having it in the garden, we liked this one purely for the pretty, silvery color it brings to the herb garden. 

Lemon Verbena (Aloysia triphylla) — Half-hardy perennial. We’re unable to grow lemon verbena to its full shrub-like expression, but its fragrant citrus flavor puts it on our annual list. It favors sweeter applications, however, it contains the compound citral, same as found in lemongrass, and we use it in much the same way — chopped finely for savory dishes, a little bit goes a long way.

6.2.14 Kitchen herbs and garden thinnings

We come to herbs from their use in the kitchen, and, though we may pick up a tip or two about their medicinal value, this remains our primary love for them. Here’s a small selection of references and links to resources we’ve found helpful in deepening our understanding and making the most of our herb garden.


Herbs: River Cottage Handbook No. 10 by Nikki Duffy — One of our favorite of the series and the one we first consult for general information; terrific advice on culinary varieties.

Wild Flavors by Didi Emmons — Learning from Eva’s Garden, a well-known source of herbs as well as foraged foods in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, from a cook’s point of view.

Cooking with Flowers by Miche Bacher — The flowers of herbs are another edible expression of the plant, and this is packed full of ideas on what to do with them.

Herbs & Things and Jeanne Rose’s Herbal Guide to Food by Jeanne Rose — While Jeanne Rose’s Herbal Guide to Food more specifically covers culinary uses, we’ve a sentimental attachment to Herbs & Things, which was our first introduction many years ago to herbs and their various uses.

How to Move Like a Gardener by Deb Soule — Though more oriented towards medicinal uses, this well-known herbalist offers advice specific to growing herbs in Maine, where she’s based.

Culpeper’s Color Herbal — Charming drawings and opinionated notes, this reference for traditional medicinal uses is especially informative for foraged plants.

Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs by Claire Kowalchik — A standby, we consult this for herbs not covered in other references.

The Complete Herb Book by Jekka McVicar — Along with Herbs: River Cottage Handbook, our go-to book for culinary herbs, which the well-known McVicar grows on her herb farm in the UK.


The Herb Garden at Strawbery Banke Museum — Just across the river from us, we use this local gem as a study garden when in season. The exceedingly knowledgeable and talented John Forti, Curator of Historic Gardens & Landscapes, is aided by the Seacoast Unit of the Herb Society of America in the maintenance of the garden as a teaching tool and community resource. A selection of references are available online, including Heirloom Herbs and their Uses, and a list of John’s Favorite Herbs.

The Herb Society of America, NorthEast Seacoast Unit — The NorthEast Seacoast Unit of this national organization is an active one, and offers an annual series of presentations. See the national website for an online guide to a selection of individual herbs, along with other resources.

• New Hampshire Herbal Network — A gathering of herbalists, herb growers and herb enthusiasts, their upcoming 5th Annual Herb & Garden Day on Saturday, June 7th, offers workshops, plant sales, and delicious food.

The Herb Farmacy — Recently selected Best Herb Nursery in New England by Yankee Magazine, Rita and Brooke offer a wide selection of organic herbs, vegetable starts, flowers, and native plants at their Salisbury, Massachusetts, location.

Posted in cooking, garden | Tagged , | 10 Comments