Archive for the ‘Southern New England’ Category

Every other year, the Master Gardeners of the University of Rhode Island host “Gardening with the Masters,” a tour which showcases over 2 dozen home gardens. Some big, some small, these gardens are the passion and obsession of 26 Master Gardeners in Rhode Island and nearby Connecticut.  This year, 14 gardens on the tour have never been on the tour before…including mine!

The Gardening with the Masters tour happens from 10AM to 4PM on June 24 and 25, rain or shine, so make plans to visit our area and get some great ideas and tips for your own home garden.

You’ve just got 2 weeks to buy your tickets online!

Your ticket to the event is a booklet that lists all the gardens on the tour, along with maps that help you get to each location. Tickets are $20 (good for both days) and can be purchased at: www.uri.edu/mastergardener up to June 15. They will be mailed out. Call 401-874-2900 for details.

I gave my garden the title of “Space, the Final Frontier,” because my particular garden challenges include managing an almost 2-acre yard backed by 6 acres of forest and protected wetlands. You’ll see stands of bamboo, fruit trees, native plants, a vegetable and herb garden, a greenhouse, and my wife’s art studio (http://farmcoast.com/blog/tag/bow-house-studio/) will be open to the public that weekend as well. We’re right down the road from historic Tiverton Four Corners, featuring shops, art galleries and restaurants.

URI Master Gardeners (and others who know their stuff) will be on site to answer questions about plants, composting, and good gardening practices.

Ask questions, bring your camera, bring a picnic lunch, take notes, but most importantly enjoy the beauty created in these gardens!

My garden and yard is accessible for the handicapped in most areas.

 

 

We stumbled upon the Grange one Sunday while looking for a place to have brunch. After a rich dinner the night before at Persimmon in Providence, RI, we really didn’t want to go the route of eggs, sausages, and other heavy stuff. What a great surprise to find a vegetarian restaurant with a great atmosphere and surprisingly flavorful food!

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My kale Caesar salad was super-fresh and absolutely delicious. But the real winner was the “carrot pastrami” reuben sandwich. Served on French rye, it’s got the kraut, Swiss and Thousand Island…but carrots filling in for the pastrami…and you just don’t miss it! Full of flavor and texture, I don’t know what they do to the carrots, but it rocks! My wife had the roasted veggie bowl: delicious and big enough to take half of it home to enjoy again.

Reuben sandwich with "carrot pastrami."

Reuben sandwich with “carrot pastrami.”

They’ve got a full bar for those that crave a cocktail…though their house-made juices are fantastic.

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We will be back!

Here in New England, the best brand of chicken salad you can buy is called Willow Tree. It’s been here for over 50 years, and people crave it like crack. But I don’t like anything whose ingredients are a well-kept secret, so my task was to make something that was a reasonable Willow Tree facsimile. I got close…real close! As always, I use pastured chicken and organic veggies when possible. I found that boiling the chicken breasts in stock instead of water keeps the meat more flavorful.

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1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 pints salt-free chicken stock (I use home-made)
1/2 cup mayonnaise (I live on Hellman’s)
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
2 tablespoons finely chopped Vidalia onion
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

 

Heat the chicken stock in a large pot. Bring to a boil and add the chicken breasts. Bring to a boil again, then simmer uncovered for about 7 minutes. Turn the heat off, cover the pot with a lid, and let the breasts sit in the pot for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the breasts to a cutting board and allow them to cool. Save the chicken stock for another use, like soup. (See below.)

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, celery, onion, brown sugar, granulated garlic, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly to combine.

When the chicken has cooled, shred the breast meat into bite-sized pieces and then transfer it into the bowl with the mayonnaise mixture. Mix thoroughly and chill before serving.

I love my chicken salad on a Martin’s Long Roll.

 

BONUS: I don’t waste the chicken stock left over in the pot. I chop some carrots, celery and onion and throw it in there. I reserve some of the chicken breast meat–just a bit–and throw it in there, too. I add a little salt and pepper, and a pinch of dried Bouquet Garni. I bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the veggies are al dente. Pasta or potatoes optional.

Makes an awesome chicken soup!

 

 

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the dining experiences I’ve had at Persimmon’s former location in Bristol, RI. But it was clear that the place was too small. The opportunity to buy the former Rue de L’Espoire at 99 Hope Street on the east side of Providence came up, and James Beard nominee (for best chef Northeast) Champ Speidel and his wife, Lisa, went for it. It’s just what they (we) needed!

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The space holds almost 3 times more people, and the vibe is upbeat and exciting. The dining experience rivals the best of New York City. But there’s no stuffiness here. This is fine dining they way it should be: small plates with incredible flavors, all while you enjoy the company of friends in a casual atmosphere. The suits are here…but no one feels out-of-place in a pair of jeans.

Oysters 3 ways.

Oysters 3 ways.

My wife and I sat at the chef’s table (a front-row view of the workings of the kitchen) and enjoyed small plate after small plate of incredible bites: from deviled quail eggs with sturgeon caviar to crispy chicken skin. Oysters 3 ways: fried, raw, and chips were mind-blowing. Pasta carbonara with earthy black truffles was the carbonara I’ve always dreamed about. Tempura rock shrimp weren’t heavily battered, but lightly crisp with a highly addictive sauce. Boneless stuffed chicken wings, deconstructed, re-constructed and filled with Asian flavors, was an unexpected hit out of the park.

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Watching chef Champ at work was a real treat. It was great to talk to him, his wife, Lisa, and their enthusiastic staff. We learned a lot.
I’ve always told my friends that Persimmon in Bristol was Rhode Island’s best restaurant. Now, in its new Providence location on Hope Street, just a stone’s throw from Brown University, it has truly arrived. http://www.persimmonbristol.com

Once again this weekend, I’ll be at the annual Providence Art Club Founder’s Day celebration, raising a glass in their honor. The cool thing is that I got to decide what went in the glass!

First, some history…

The Providence Art Club is the third-oldest art club in the United States. The Philadelphia Sketch Club was founded in 1860. New York’s Salmagundi Club, founded in 1871, came next. But they were both founded by an all-male board. The Providence Art Club is the oldest art club in the nation that also included women. And that was back in 1880! That’s especially huge when you see what’s going on in the country even today.

Now through April 22, the Providence Art Club is featuring “Making Her Mark, the Women Artists of the Providence Art Club 1880,” an exposition featuring the works of the women artists that founded the art club over 130 years ago.

 

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My wife is an artist member of the Providence Art Club. That’s how a zhlub like me got in! Several years ago, they asked me to come up with a cocktail for their first Founders Day celebration. One hundred glasses were raised to honor the founding fathers of the Providence Art Club. This year, we’re expecting up to 150 people to be there for the celebration.

Silhouettes of past art club members line the walls of the Providence Art Club, so my wife came up with the name of the cocktail: The Silhouette. I decided to base my cocktail on the Boulevardier, an awesome drink that substitutes bourbon for gin in the classic Negroni.
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2 oz. Eagle Rare 10-year bourbon
1 oz. Antica Formula sweet vermouth
1/2 oz. Campari
2 shakes Regan’s orange bitters

In a cocktail shaker with ice, stir the ingredients and then strain into a rocks glass with one large ice cube.

Garnish with an orange twist.

Cheers!

Despite almost universal opposition to the cruel way calves are treated, the Humane Society says the veal industry shows little signs of changing. That’s why many people simply refuse to eat veal. I was one of them.

The veal industry is a by-product of the dairy industry. To get the dairy cows to produce milk, they are impregnated every year. Half of their offspring are male, no use to the dairy business, and those are the calves that become veal.

I said I was one of the people who didn’t eat veal. What changed was my source. A few years ago, Sweet and Salty Farm (www.sweetandsaltyfarm.com), a dairy farm down the road from me in Little Compton, Rhode Island, began selling their own line of yogurt and cheese. And like most dairies, when calves are born, they have no use for the males. But rather than taking them away from their mothers and caging them for their short lives, they allow the calves to stay with their moms, nursing for up to four months before weaning. Then they graze in the fields by their mothers’ side, living a stress-free life. And when the time finally comes, they are dispatched humanely.

The result is incredible grass-fed veal I don’t feel guilty about eating: a rich, red in color…nothing like beef and a far better option than conventional veal. I also buy the veal bones from the farm to make a rich, flavorful veal stock, roasting the bones on a baking sheet with onions, carrots and celery…then moving them all to a large pot of water that cooks for 24 hours.

Traditionally, veal saltimbocca consists of veal medallions rolled with prosciutto and sage leaves. Often it is served with a marsala sauce. I got rid of the marsala–too sweet–and substituted a chardonnay. I added fontina cheese. And a guest’s aversion to spinach gave me the option to use kale…with bacon, of course!

By the way, if you’re not lucky enough to have a farm that humanely raises veal (or you’re still queasy about veal in general), this recipe works with chicken breasts, too.

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1 1/2 lbs. grass-fed veal, pounded thin and cut into medallions about 3″ around
1/2 lb. prosciutto, sliced paper-thin
1/2 lb. fontina cheese, sliced thin
1 cup all-purpose flour (I use Cup4Cup gluten-free flour)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
olive oil
butter
2 cups veal stock
1 cup un-oaked white wine (I like to cook with Alice White chardonnay)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
12 oz. baby portobello mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 lb. spaghetti
2 bunches organic kale
3 strips bacon, finely chopped

 

Place the veal cutlets on a cutting board between a few layers of plastic wrap. Pound the cutlets to about 1/8″ thickness. Cut them into pieces about 3″ around, which will make them easier to handle.

Place the flour in a bowl and add the teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Mix well.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and butter in a pan. Drop the veal medallions in the flour and coat both sides of the meat, shaking off any excess. Carefully lay the veal in the pan and cook the veal until it’s just barely browned. You don’t want to cook it all the way through. When the medallions have cooked, place them on a baking sheet. Cook the medallions in batches, adding more olive oil or butter to the pan if needed.

When you’ve cooked all the medallions, use the same pan to sauté the onion until translucent. Add the mushrooms and cook them down. (You can add a little of the veal stock to help the mushrooms release their liquid.) Add the rest of the veal stock, wine and sage. Cook over medium heat until it’s reduced by half. If the sauce looks a bit thin, make a quick roux in a separate pan by heating equal parts melted butter and flour until it forms a paste. Stir this paste into the sauce, making sure there are no lumps.

Back to the veal medallions: place a piece of prosciutto on top of each medallion, and then a slice of fontina on top of that. Keep the baking sheet with the medallions in a warm (150 degree) oven.

Boil the spaghetti in well-salted water until al dente. Strain and toss in a bowl with unsalted butter. Season with a bit more salt.

Hand-tear the kale and remove all the tough, woody stems. Wash the kale thoroughly in cold water, making sure you get all the dirt and sand that can be caught in its leaves. Heat some olive oil (and bacon fat, if you have it!) in a pan, and toss in the chopped bacon, just to warm the bits up. Working in batches, place a handful of kale in the pan, and when it wilts down a bit, place another handful in, and so on until you’ve got all the kale in. Season with salt and pepper, and keep tossing the kale until it has wilted to its desired doneness. (I like it to still have a bit of a crunch.)

When you’re ready to serve, turn the oven on broil and place the baking sheet with the veal medallions on the top rack. You want the cheese to melt, but you don’t want it to burn, so keep an eye on it!

Serve a few medallions on the plate, with spaghetti, kale and sauce on the side.

 

 

 

Here in New England, oysters are plentiful. We don’t just slurp ’em down: we go out and dig our own…we have our favorite buck-an-oyster bar for any given day of the week…and we debate over the best variety, from east coast to west, north to south.

So when a friend of ours who lives on Cape Cod dropped off about 5 dozen Barnstable oysters she just dug that morning, it was cause to celebrate.

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Fresh oysters deserve an amazing cocktail sauce, and my recipe kicks butt: lots of horseradish, lots of flavor, and a secret ingredient: vodka. Not only does it give it a kick, it keeps it from freezing solid, so I can keep the cocktail sauce in the freezer until I need it.

2 cups ketchup
4 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Frank’s Red Hot, or other hot pepper sauce
5 grinds of fresh black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon good quality vodka, like Tito’s

Combine all the ingredients. Store in a tight plastic container in the freezer.

Fresh shucked oysters with pickled red onion ice.

Freshly shucked oysters with pickled red onion ice.

 

When I’m in Portland, Maine, I visit one of the best oyster bars in the country: Eventide. Besides some wickedly creative dishes, they consistently have a fantastic variety of fresh oysters to choose from. And they offer a variety of “accoutrements” to go with them: anything from a red wine mignonette to kimchee ice. My favorite is the pickled red onion ice. All you need is a shot glass with a freshly shucked oyster inside, a half-shot of chilled vodka on top, and some pickled red onion ice, and you’ve got the best oyster shooter on planet Earth. I even suggested the shooter to the manager at Eventide. It has yet to make it to the menu. (But I remain hopeful!)

 

An oyster shooter with pickled red onion shaved ice. Bottoms up!

An oyster shooter with pickled red onion ice. Bottoms up!

 

I’ve managed to come up with a pretty good version of the pickled red onion ice at home, and I serve it alongside my cocktail sauce.

2 large red onions
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

 

Peel and quarter the onions. Drop them in a medium-sized pot and cover with about a quart of water. Bring it to a boil and cook it down until it has reduced to a cup of concentrated onion water after straining.

Bring the strained onion water back to the stove, and on medium heat, add the sugar and vinegar, stirring. When the sugar dissolves, remove it from the heat and let it cool to room temperature before pouring it into a container and placing it in the freezer.

When it’s time to eat oysters, remove the block of red onion ice from its container, and, using a fine cheese grater, shave the ice over the top of the freshly shucked oysters and devour immediately!

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It may be the end of November, but the kale in my  garden is still growing! As the nights get longer and colder here in Southern New England, the first thing I go for is a great bowl of soup.

When I first posted my recipe of Portuguese kale soup, I was told by many Portuguese friends that my soup wasn’t authentic so I couldn’t call it that. Fair enough. Well, my Portuguese pal, Paula, has a great soup recipe that has been passed down from her Mom. Her Mom even adds chicken feet to the stock, which Paula chooses to leave out. Like most Portuguese soup recipes I’ve seen, there’s a ton of carbs: often potatoes with pasta with a lot of beans. But damn, it’s good! My version follows.

Paula’s Portuguese Soup

3 cans garbanzo beans
2 cans white cannellini beans
1 can pink beans
1 fennel bulb
Large bunch of kale
5-6 potatoes
1 cabbage
2 sticks hot chourico
Beef ribs
1 cup dry macaroni (elbows)
Red crushed pepper wet-optional

Drain and puree  3 cans of garbanzo beans in a food processor. Put the puree in a large pot with about a gallon of water.  Chop the chourico, and add it to the puree along with the ribs. Boil for 20 minutes. Chop the fennel bulb and cabbage into 2 inch squares.  Add the fennel and cabbage to soup and boil for 30 minutes.  Add the chopped kale, and boil for 30 minutes. Add the cubed potatoes and before the potatoes are done, add the remaining drained cans of beans. Add macaroni and cook for a short time at the end.

My version of the classic Portuguese kale soup.

My version of the classic Portuguese kale soup.

Here’s my version: carb-friendly and gluten-free, but still packs a lot of flavor.

4 cups home-made chicken or beef stock
4 cups water
1 cup lentils, rinsed in cold water
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, through a press
1 lb. chourico, peeled and chopped into small cubes (I use Mello’s, out of Fall River, Mass.)
1 large bunch organic kale
salt and pepper

Add the stock and water to a large pot. Heat until boiling. Add the lentils.

In a saucepan with a little olive oil or bacon fat, saute the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic for a few minutes. Add the chopped chourico and saute a few minutes more. Add the contents of the saute pan in the pot.

Wash and de-stem the kale, tearing the leaves into smaller pieces. Add the leaves to the pot and stir. The stems go in your compost pile. (You can also use them in a juicer.)

Cook the soup until the lentils are al dente. Taste and season for salt and pepper before serving.

Chourico is as important to the Portuguese as bacon is to us Lithuanians. Here in Southern New England, they pronounce it “sha-rees,” not the exaggerated Spanish “chaw-reezo,” like you hear on the Food Network.

I was joking with a friend the other day that if I won the lottery, I could buy a lifetime supply of chourico at my favorite store: Mello’s in Fall River, Mass. His response was: “Is there such a thing as a lifetime supply of chourico?!”

Good point!

If you’ve had really great chourico, you’re always looking for new ways to include it in your cooking. And arugula is one of the easiest greens to grow in the spring or fall garden. Even now, in November, I’ve got lots of it growing, just waiting to be turned into pesto.

Inspired by chef Chuck Hughe’s recipe, this is a great chourico appetizer that’s really easy to make. Whip up the arugula pesto ahead of time and keep it in the fridge. Then when guests come, just slice the chourico, saute it in a pan until brown, and serve.

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3 cups fresh baby arugula
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup + one tablespoon grated Parmigiano Reggiano or other good quality parmesan cheese
2 lbs. chourico, sliced into 1/2″ pieces

Combine the arugula, walnuts, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and the 1/2 cup of cheese in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Set the tablespoon of cheese aside for garnishing later.

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Remove the casing from the chourico and slice it into 1/2″ thick pieces. Saute the chourico in a pan until both sides are caramelized and golden.

Place the chourico on a plate, topping with some of the pesto. Sprinkle a touch of the grated cheese to garnish. Serve immediately, while the chourico is still hot!

 

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