The Story of Our Tasty Tromboncino

It is not actually a butternut, this squash. It is long, curvy and unruly...

It is not actually a butternut, this squash. It is long, curvy, unruly.

Read more…

No Spring Chicken – A Warm Recipe for Chicken Waldorf

There are a lot of things to love about September. Read more…

The Fruits of Our Labor

There are few things more rewarding than growing fruit. Read more…

Season to Taste

Pea season on the Cape is short and sweet. You get three weeks, give or take a few days for a bad or good year. It’s not very much time to eat your fill. There are so many good local varieties—Lincoln and Coral and Sugar Snap and Early Frosty. It makes me a bit frantic.

The thing is, I like peas in all sorts of things. First of all, I love them plain, blanched, and eaten hot and sweet. I like them both fresh and cooked tossed into salads with butter lettuce and herbs, and I like them pureed with thick Greek yogurt and tossed as a sauce with garlic and orrechiette pasta. I like them over linguine with bacon and wilted arugula. I like them straight from the garden and out of the freezer in the middle of December.

Season to Taste

We grew them in our home garden this summer for the first time. I’ve planted them before without any luck, but this time Sally helped me do a thick, early sowing. I was planting too late before; this year, they went into the ground on Saint Paddy’s Day. It snowed three times in the next week, but the peas germinated and flourished all the same.

Now that the pods are ripe, I’ve been eating the peas in soup. The recipe I like comes from a Darina Allen cookbook, Forgotten Skills of Cooking. It’s a newer cookbook, but it has an old-fashioned philosophy: Allen thinks we ought to teach every generation to cook, to eat in season, to cook with thrift, and to learn from our elders. I haven’t had a single recipe disappoint me.

This soup is a lovely introduction to Darina’s philosophy. You start with fresh peas, scallions, bacon, and butter—cooks like Darina aren’t afraid of a little animal fat. You sweat the bacon in the butter and sauté the scallions, then add lettuce, mint, chicken stock, sea salt and pepper, and a tiny pinch of sugar to taste. The icing on the cake is a few spoonfuls of heavy cream.

What you get is a soup that tastes very much of summer. You can serve it hot or cold, though I prefer it warm even on the hottest days. Everything gets pureed, and the soup is incredibly smooth and velvety. It’s also beautiful—a perfect pastel green—and if you want to really knock a guest’s socks off, you can serve it in white bowls with a garnish of pea tendrils and a few fresh peas.

We’ve made it three times this season already. I hope you’ll get to it—hurry! But if you don’t—there are, after all, only three short weeks—don’t worry. It’s best with fresh peas, but still quite good with frozen ones in the depths of winter.

Happy pea season, everybody.


Summer Green Pea Soup

This soup tastes like a hot July day, and it’s best eaten on one too. That said, peas freeze well, and frozen ones will make a very good version any time of year. Be sure to read the note below about cooking time—overcooking will cause the soup to lose its beautiful green color.

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 slice bacon, chopped fine
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 and 1/2 pounds peas, fresh or frozen
  • a few leaves of lettuce, shredded
  • a sprig of mint
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • sea salt, freshly cracked pepper, and sugar to taste
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • optional: pea tendrils and a handful of fresh peas for garnish

1. Warm up the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. 

2. Add the bacon and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes. Add the scallions and cook another few minutes, until they start to get tender. Add the peas, lettuce, mint, and chicken stock, and season with salt, pepper, and sugar to taste.

3. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the peas are just tender.

4. Puree the soup and stir in the cream. Serve warm, and if you like, garnished with fresh peas and pea tendrils.

If you make the soup ahead, reheat it with the cover off and serve immediately. If it simmers too long it will lose its bright green color.




Comfort Food

Recipe for Cucumber-Lime Slushie

Some years are hard. You lose a grandmother, a job. For five months you are expecting a baby, and then one day you are not. You grieve and grow angry, then find your strength and begin the work of moving on.  Read more…

Rustic Rhubarb

I am writing this on March 4th. The sun is out, albeit faintly. Nature is still spinning in subdued monchromatic hues: burnt orange, army green, gray. Spring seems almost close enough to reach, but not quite touched down. Read more…

True Cape Roots

Eastham turnips—those savory, violet-tinged staples of the holiday dinner table—have origins deeper than the soil.

Abbott Schafer Knowles started farming turnips just about as soon as he could walk. He was born in one of the old farmhouses on Locust Road in Eastham in 1905, and he came from a long line of Knowles men—farmers, mostly, and a few nefarious characters dabbling in moonshine. The Knowles farmed turnips. So did the Nickersons and the Kings and the Bracketts. Especially the Bracketts. Until suddenly, they didn’t. Read more…

A New England Dish to Celebrate

Sometime before I was born, my parents were celebrating Christmas Eve. My dad was still a carpenter back then, and my mom worked at L. L. Bean. Her shift got off at 6:15 p.m. They were having their friends over for dinner (my soon-to-be godparents), and my mom wanted to serve pot roast to celebrate. She asked my dad to cook, and he agreed.

A New England Dish to Celebrate

When she walked in the door at 6:30, the house was curiously devoid of scent. My dad was standing in the kitchen, peeling and chopping, and she asked him what had happened to the plan. Slightly insulted, he informed her that he was making it! Couldn’t she see?

The thing about making pot roast is it takes three hours, maybe four. (I should say in my father’s defense that he has since come a long way.) My mother and father spent the next few minutes furiously chopping vegetables and cutting the meat into teeny tiny pieces, and by keeping the pot at a rolling boil, they managed to have dinner on the table at 7:15. While this is not recommended, it is certainly a nod to a long history of Yankee ingenuity and resourcefulness.

Pot roast is very much a New England dish, delicious despite its base of monotonous winter vegetables and inferior cuts of meat. There have been boiled meats and vegetables for centuries, but pot roast as we know it dates back to 1881, according to the Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink.

The recipe my mother makes is from an older Joy of Cooking cookbook. It calls for a chuck, rump, or bottom round roast—tough, fatty cuts with excellent flavor that will eventually tenderize with heat. You dredge the meat in flour, brown it, and then throw some vegetables in.

What my mother uses varies depending on what she has on hand, but generally it’s the usual cast of carrots, potatoes, garlic, onion, or celery. Turnips are nice, as are parsnips, and she likes to add a bay leaf. Then it’s just red wine, water, and a pinch of salt, and dinner is on the stove.

A Prolonged Arrival

My daughter and my husband were due a day apart: September 26th and 27th, respectively. He arrived on the 20th in September of 1978.

A Prolonged Arrival

Sally took her time. She was due on a Monday. Tuesday I was out running errands, getting coffee, my shirt no longer able to span the ever-growing gap between my shorts and my belly. When are you due? people asked.

Yesterday, I said.

At 4 p.m. on Friday, the first contraction finally hit. I’m not quite sure how I knew it apart from the months of practice ones, but they say you will, and I did. I called Alex. It’s time, I said.

That night we drank smoothies and ate an entire tomato-ricotta pizza, and every hour or so I’d sit up with a gasp from the bed. The contractions were long and slow, stretching five or even six minutes, but by the next morning they’d quieted down.

We decided to take a walk to get things started again. We walked out on the road to the bay—down the pavement toward Bound Brook, off the road at the Atwood-Higgins house that winds toward the beach through the woods. We made it out to the water, then threaded our way behind the dunes to Duck Harbor, where the next parking lot cuts in. We followed the cars out to the road and then veered off onto another path, the one that cuts through to Pole Dike and High Toss and finally to the road and home again. It was a long walk, two hours, and by the time we got back, the contractions had started up again. They came erratically all day—first two minutes apart, then an hour’s rest, then fast and furious again.

We finally left for the hospital Sunday around 3 a.m. My parents and my sister showed up at 7 a.m. and Alex’s family not far behind, and finally, at 6:42 p.m., we welcomed an eight-pound, 21-inch Sally Elizabeth. I have never been so happy or exhausted.

This year we get to celebrate together at home for the first time. Alex will be 34, Sally will be one—twelve days apart. I’ll be out picking raspberries and tucking away the fruit, making what I always make for late September, early October occasions: homegrown, homemade raspberry pie.

A Prolonged Arrival

Elspeth Hay lives in Wellfleet.

Headache-Free Ice Cream

I have made a brilliant discovery. It is not the cure for cancer or a method for getting strawberry stains out of white baby shirts, but it is pretty revolutionary. It is a formula—1 part milk to 2 parts cream to 1/2 part sweetener. It is the secret to incredibly easy and delicious homemade ice cream.

Most homemade ice creams are laborious. First, you make custard, which is a tricky business. You have to heat milk and temper eggs, neither of which is easy to do correctly. One misstep and you have curdled yolks or custard that is thin and watery. The custard is also hot, which means you have to wait patiently for it to get down to 40 degrees before you can finally churn and freeze. Even if you do it right, there is a lot of anxiety.

Headache-Free Ice Cream

No more! I have found an ice cream recipe that is easy.

It comes from a Patricia Wells recipe. Tucked into the pages of The Paris Cookbook, there is something called “Maison du Miel’s Heather Honey Ice Cream.” It calls for vanilla beans, heavy cream, milk, and honey. It says to steep the beans in hot milk and cream, then to strain out the seeds and whisk in honey. Chill the mixture like a custard, right down to 40 degrees, and then to pour the thin runny syrup right into your ice cream machine. There is no custard making, no thickening. And the way I make it, there is not even any chilling. This means we need only 30 minutes from ice-cream dreams to reality.

Here’s how it works:

I like my ice cream sweetened with maple syrup. Honey’s okay, especially a very light honey, but you have to heat up the milk to get it to blend, and when the honey is dark it has a very strong flavor. Maple syrup mixes easily with milk and cream, and the taste is subtler. So I stir together 1/2 cup maple syrup, 2 cups heavy cream, and 1 cup milk. That’s it. I pour this into the ice cream maker. It hums away. Twenty-five minutes later we have homemade ice cream! What could be better?

Of course, it’s fun to play with the flavors. This time of year you could do just about anything: blackberry, peach, raspberry. You could steep the milk with rosemary or ginger or even coffee. Whatever you choose, you can’t go wrong. In a few minutes you’ll be digging out a bowl and a spoon, and tucking in to your very own sweet cream flavor.

Headache-Free Ice Cream
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