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Quote of the Day: Ruth Reichl

December 5th, 2017

“Alice would have snickered derisively at the notion, but she was the first person I ever met who understood the power of cooking. She was a great cook, but she cooked more for herself than for other people, not because she was hungry, but because she was comforted by the rituals of the kitchen. It occurred to her that others might feel differently, and I was grown before I realized that not every six-year-old would consider it a treat to spend entire afternoons in the kitchen.” 

-Ruth Reichl in Tender at the Bone

Recently, I read this book at LOVED it. My childhood was filled with all sorts of delicious and exotic food. Since I grew up in South America, I was able to taste all manner of strange and wonderful things: plantain, fresh coconut right off the tree, yucca, guanabana, and so much more. Thankfully, pickiness was not in my blood, I loved food–all food.

Naturally, since I loved eating and food, cooking became an passion early in life. When I was Jr High and High School, I did the majority of the cooking for my family.

For me, cooking in a creative outlet and it’s comforting. Spending a day in the kitchen making good meals is very enjoyable, and relaxing. I always joke that cooking is my spiritual gift.

Do you enjoy cooking? Do you enjoy eating? What’s your favorite exotic food?

The End of the Season

November 24th, 2017

Last weekend I harvested the rest of the brussels sprouts from the garden. This year, I both grew ‘Churchill’ and ‘Diablo’. (I got my seed from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, a great local seed source for me here in Maine).

‘Diablo’ came out way ahead, it’s a much better variety for my garden. I like the sprouts much better as well, they’re tight sprouts and are more evenly sized. I also found that they had fewer issues with late aphids. If the plants were attacked, the sprouts are easily rinsed off and eaten since they’re so tight. It also held better in the field, without sprouts becoming overgrown and huge. Cold tolerance is also a big bonus for this variety, we regularly had temperatures in the teens and it didn’t mind at all.

The stalks will be left in the garage for a few weeks, then any remaining will be moved to the basement. Most likely, they won’t last long. We’re big fans of Brussels sprouts, our favorite way to eat them is with a balsamic cream sauce, which we had at a local restaurant. Lucky for us, the restaurant chef published a cookbook and it contains the recipe. If you’re interested, see the ‘Brussels Sprouts; The Disregarded Vegetable’ in Comfort Food. I’ll try to share the recipe in December sometime.

Are you a fan of Brussels sprouts? What’s your favorite way to cook them?

Book referenced above, every recipe I’ve tried has been fantastic, which is not a surprise since it’s my favorite restaurant.

Quote of the Day: Robert Farrar Capon

October 29th, 2017

“The world does not need another cookbook, but it needs all the lovers–amateurs–it can get. It is a gorgeous old place, full of clownish graces and beautiful drolleries, and it has enough textures, tastes, and smells to keep us intrigued for more time than we have. Unfortunately, however, our response to its loveliness is not always delight: It is, far more often than it should be, boredom. And that is not only odd, it is tragic; for boredom is not neutral–it is the fertilizing principle for unloveliness.”

Robert Farrar Capon in The Supper of the Lamb





I’m very happy that winter is approaching. While I still enjoy cooking in the summer, my schedule makes it difficult to really immerse myself in cooking big meals, in trying new recipes, baking bread, etc. Summer is about quick cooking vegetables from the garden, winter is about spending hours in the kitchen, braised meats, long simmered soups…

Do you consider yourself an amateur cook? Do you enjoy the process of cooking?

Making Tomato Conserva

September 19th, 2017

Many years ago, I purchased the book ‘Cooking by Hand’ by Paul Bertolli. This book is part cookbook, part biography, part cooking theory; recipes are interspersed with stories of how they came about and recommendations and theories for making food even more delicious. While reading through the section on tomatoes, I came across the recipe for Conserva and immediately knew I wanted to make it. It’s not a difficult recipe, but it does take some time. The final product makes it worth every single minute, you won’t find a better way to preserve tomatoes.

This rich, concentrated tomato paste (though calling it paste is a bit derogatory as it’s nothing like canned tomato paste), is like a ripe summer tomato intensified in a jar. Because it’s not cooked at a really high temperature, it has a completely different flavor than many cooked tomato sauces. The sugars seems to intensify and the fresh tomato flavor comes through quite clearly. Overall I’d say it’s much brighter than other cooked and canned tomato products, which almost end up with a heavy bitterness from the heat of cooking. Conserva is a bit of summer tomato heaven in the middle of our long Maine winters. It is such a versatile pantry staples; a small spoonful can be stirred into sauces to add a richness and depth of flavor, add it to canned tomato sauces to make it thicker, a spoonful in broth will add another layer of flavor to soup. We really enjoy it spread on sandwiches made of olive bread, eggs, arugula, bacon, and cheese (a bit of a BLT with conserva taking the place of fresh tomato).

In the book his recipe starts with 5 pounds of tomatoes, I find this size of a batch to be way to small. The final product is only about a cup of concentrate. I always double it, both because I want lots of it in my pantry, and because I like to maximize my time. If I have the oven on for 7 hours, I may as well have it full. Typically, my batches start with 10 pounds of tomatoes (though I make two 5 lb batches separately and put them in the oven together), from this amount I end up with a pint of conserva. Generally, I make 3-4 batches each summer. I also add a branch of a tomato plant in the pan, it adds a wonderfully deep tomato flavor to the final product. Contrary to popular belief, the stems and leaves of tomato plants are not poisonous.

Here’s the basics recipe:
Dice 5 pounds mixed tomatoes, some paste, some canning, into small pieces. Add a splash of good olive oil to a large pan, pour in tomatoes, add a small tomato branch with leaves, sprinkle with a teaspoon or so of sea salt. Bring them to a rapid boil and cook for 2 minutes. Put through smallest plate on a food mill, there should be no seeds in the final puree. (If you’ve been looking for a nice stainless steel food mill, I highly recommend this one from Matfer. I bought mine 7-8 years ago and LOVE it. Previously, I was using an old aluminum Squeez-O and wasn’t super keen on my food coming into contact with the aluminum. I use this one all the time, for making applesauce, pumpkin puree, tomato puree, and pureeing soups.)

Lightly oil a large casserole dish, I prefer to use glass since tomatoes are very acidic. (My favorite are these borosilicate glass pans from Marinex, I have several of them and use them constantly.) Pour puree into pan, place into a 300 degree oven, convection is best, but not necessary, but it will take longer in a regular oven. Cook for 3 hours, if not using convection add another hour or two to the time. Stir occasionally with a spatula, when you notice the surface start to darken, reduce heat to 250 and continue cooking for another 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until it is thick, shiny, and brick-colored. Your final amount will be about 1/10 of what you started with, 1 cup of paste is about what you will end up with this batch (which is why I always double it).

Put conserva into a glass jar carefully pressing out any air pockets, cover with 1/2 inch of good olive oil. Paul recommends keeping the conserva in the pantry if you have a cool, dark space. As long as you maintain the 1/2 inch layer of olive oil on top it should keep. I keep mine in the fridge because my pantry isn’t always cool. Mine always lasts a year in the fridge if I am careful to maintain a layer of olive oil on top.

It seems a little complicated, but it’s not at all. In fact, most of the time is spent waiting and occasionally checking on the conserva in the oven. I make 3-4 double batches each year, it’s a staple in our pantry.

What’s your favorite way to preserve tomatoes for winter?

Friday Favorite: Filling the Larder

September 8th, 2017

One of my favorite things time of of year is filling the freezer and the pantry with homegrown goodness. I’ve been making small batches of interesting things: pickled beans with garlic and basil, pickled garlic, pickled nasturtium pods, figs in brandy, minted onions, spiced peaches, and many more. The freezer is pretty much chocked full and the pantry shelves are starting to look lovely.


I have a few favorite canning books, most that provide small batch recipes, which are perfect for small amount of produce and small families. These books are constantly on my table, I leaf through them and read through recipes trying to decide what to make. A few recipes have become favorites and are used yearly, some are made every so often.

A few of my go-to books this time of year:
The River Cottage Preserves Handbook by Pam Corbin
Preserving the Taste by Edon Waycott
Well Preserved by Eugenia Bone

I don’t can much, but the things that I do are throughly enjoyed in the middle of our long winters here in Maine. Every time we crack open a jar of pickles or preserves we are reminded of the delicious bounty from the garden.

What are you preserving from the garden this year?

Seeds and Sundries
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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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