Unfurling

Unfurling

It’s as if we’ve all been unconsciously waiting with our breaths held, and the arrival this week of more temperate weather has allowed us to finally exhale, open the windows to let in the air, and stretch towards the springtime sun. The trees responded immediately to the change by quickly uncurling their leafy tips, the new foliage forming a lacy pattern in the bordering woods. Across the neighborhood the hum of lawn mowers could be heard, everyone rushing to catch up after what seemed like endless days of rain. I could swear that my own grassy patch sprouted at least another inch between the morning’s shearing and day’s end.

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First signs of spring

First signs of spring

No matter how dark or optimal the storage conditions, roots somehow know the changing of the season. Though the bulbs may be spent in the effort, their newly emergent greens are a welcome addition in my kitchen — chopped up, they’re sure to add a hint of spring to a soup, sauté or salad. As the light brightens and the days lengthen, happy vernal equinox, dear friends.

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Pan-Fried Noodles with Curried Chicken & Tofu

Noodles with Curried Chicken & Tofu

I meant to make longevity noodles to celebrate Chinese New Year’s and, with time running shorter than expected, instead threw together some kitchen staples for a bowlful of pan-fried noodles with curried chicken sausage and marinated tofu — a dish that cooked up so quickly, it almost qualifies as take-out. The noodles are thickish udon, boiled than pan-fried to crisp the edges. Next, a couple of links of Vernon Family Farm‘s curried chicken sausage were removed from their casings, and browned until the meat became crumbly and fragrant. Some baked and marinated Heiwa tofu found residing in the fridge added heft, while a dose of chicken broth simmered with a bit of cornstarch completed the sauce. All it took to finish was a gentle toss with the noodles and a squeeze of Anju’s Son-Mat hot sauce for extra heat. As untraditional as this dish may be, it feels like an auspicious start. Gung hay fat choy, dear friends, may the year of the Monkey bring you many good things.

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And many miles to go

Many miles to go

“The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”
— Robert Frost

A late fall walk among the woods at Pawtuckaway State Park brought this poem of Robert Frost’s to mind, the words echoing in my head with each step. It’s a place Frost frequented, and I leave newly inspired each time I travel the same paths he may have.

Many miles to go

The year’s gotten off to a fast start and, as I continue to revisit this place, making my way down these increasingly familiar trails is like winding through a labyrinth, a kind of moving meditation to slow things down and a reminder to pay attention to the present.

Many miles to go

I look forward to your continuing company and have much to share in the time to come. Meanwhile, Happy New Year, dear friends, let’s make the most of it.

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New Traditions: Christmas Eve at The Franklin Oyster House

New Traditions: Christmas Eve at The Franklin

The many changes of the past year calls for new traditions, and one of them is having oysters on Christmas Eve at The Franklin Oyster House. There’s always a large selection to choose from and, to make it easy on the undecided, they offer a Shuckers Dozen. Tonight’s selection ranged from clean and light Whalebacks from Maine, sweet Barnstables from Massachusetts, and plump North Havens also from Maine. There’s usually something unexpected included in the mix, and the surprise of the evening were buttery Ruisseaus from Nova Scotia. These hard to come by bivalves are grown where freshwater mingles with the Atlantic to produce a succulent, meaty oyster with a crisp and briny finish — I can’t wait to taste what else this part of the Gulf of Maine has to offer.

New Traditions: Christmas Eve at The Franklin

In honor of the holiday, The Franklin offered a special menu, and the Duck Egg Hash with  house-smoked brisket proved a richly satisfying choice for my non-oyster eating companion. Many thanks to the two Chef Matts and their excellent crew for not only making this holiday special, but for providing an always welcome home away from home. Next year we promise to arrive in time for the caroling. As the saying goes, “As goes Cbristmas Eve, goes the year.”  Happy holidays, dear friends, light-filled days are ahead.

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Putting Up: Pressure Canning Chicken Stock

Putting Up: Canning Chicken StockJars of double-rich chicken broth made from Orange Circle Farm‘s flock, will serve as the basis of many a warming meal this coming winter. Along with canned tomatoes, these are a must for stocking my pantry with. Canning tips: Add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar to the pressure canner to prevent the filmy build-up of minerals from hard water on your jars, also known as scaling; defat the stock before filling jars to ensure a better seal and avoid rancidity; and make sure to remove the rings after processing and that the jars are clean before storing. After that, it’ll be like having my shelves filled with gold.

Resources
Chicken Stock (pressure canned), Ball
Vegetable Stock (pressure canned), Bernardin
Meat Stock (beef, chicken or turkey), National Center for Home Food Preservation
Using Pressure Canners, National Center for Home Food Preservation

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Stewing Hens and Storage Onions from Orange Circle Farm

Stewing Hens from Orange Circle Farm

Stewing hens are a natural part of the cycle of keeping layers, and the ones that Orange Circle Farm currently have available produce a pure, clean broth that can only come from chickens that have led a well-cared for life. I’ll can up the nutritious broth to stock the pantry with, and freeze the silky meat for salads, soups and stews. If you do choose to can the stock, remember that it needs to be done under pressure, 20 minutes for pints and 25 minutes for quarts, at 10 psi. Should you add more vegetables to your broth than the recipe calls for, accommodate for their longer processing time: 30 minutes for pints and 35 minutes for quarts.

Pantry Security — Storage Onions

Along with stewing hens, Orange Circle Farm is currently offering a variety of greens such as spinach, kale, Brussels sprouts, and mesclun. There’s also beets, carrots, potatoes, winter squash, radishes, and storage onions, with what’s available changing weekly and as supplies allow. Online orders are accepted up to the night before, with no minimum and several options of pick-up day and location, making eating locally not only accessible but easy to fit in this busy season of shortening days.

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