Archives for March 2012

Dark Eyed Junco Resting in the Snow

I'm hoping we're done with snow for the year - not that we got that much anyway. This is a photo I took one of the few times we did get some.

Sauteed Scallops with Spiced Couscous and Preserved Lemon-Curry Sauce

Remember those Preserved Lemons I made just before going away on vacation? Well, they’re ready now!

This is the recipe I made them specifically for, so last night I made it for Jim and my friend Cyrena. (I don’t eat shellfish, so I just got to enjoy the beauty of the dish.) The recipe came out of the book Cooking My Way Back Home by by Mitchell Rosenthal which is an inspiring new cookbook by the chef/owner of the San Francisco restaurants Town Hall, Anchor and Hope, and Salt House.

I love to cook for Cyrena because she makes a lot of what I call “yummy noises”. A true appreciator of food is always a joy to cook for, and she made a lot of yummy noises over this dish. I almost took a picture of her chasing the last grain of couscous around the plate and then licking the plate clean.

I’m not going to lie and say this isn’t a complicated recipe. It’s not something you’re going to throw together in 30 minutes, and not something you’re likely to make on a school/work weeknight (unless you’re an idiot, like me). That said, it is a lovely and impressive dish and one that should be made on a weekend or for your next dinner party. You could even serve it in miniature as an appetizer portion (maybe with one or two scallops and small portions of couscous and fennel salad).

I had every intention of making my own shrimp stock, but I couldn’t find shrimp with their head’s on, which is what the recipe called for. In the end I purchased frozen fish stock, which I figured was close enough, but use shrimp (home made or purchased) stock if you can. I also didn’t have any fresh dill for the couscous, so I used a few shakes of dried. Prepare all of your ingredients prior to cooking as things come together pretty quickly once you start cooking and you won’t have time to stop and chop vegetables in the middle of cooking.

Jim felt a little short-changed with just 3 scallops for his meal, so you  might want to up your scallop count if you’re serving hungry men.

Sauteed Scallops with Spiced Couscous and Preserved Lemon-Curry Sauce

Curry Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/2 carrot, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise
  • 1/2 celery stalk, sliced
  • 1/2 leek, white and tender green parts, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise
  • 3-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 green onion, white and tender green parts, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 1/3 cup miring
  • 1/2 cup dry vermouth
  • 2 cups Shrimp Stock
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons

Spiced Couscous

  • 1-3/4 cups (1/2 pound) Israeli couscous
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1/3 cup fennel, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup finely diced preserved lemon
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill (I didn’t have any fresh dill so I used a few shakes of dried dill)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 5 ounces mustard greens, trimmed, parboiled for 3 to 5 minutes, drained, squeezed dry, and coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Fennel salad

  • 1/2 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 pounds dry-packed scallops

Canola oil, for sautéeing

To make the sauce, in a small, dry frying pan, toast the curry powder over medium heat, stirring often, for about 1 minute, or until fragrant. Set aside. In a saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the carrot, celery, leek, ginger,and green onion and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables start to soften. Stir in the curry powder, turn down the heat to low, add the vinegar, and deglaze the pan, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the pan bottom. Cook until the vinegar evaporates, then add the mirin and simmer for 2 minutes.

Add the vermouth and simmer for 2 minutes, then add the stock and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the mixture reduces slightly and the flavors are well blended. Add the cream, season with salt and pepper, and then cook for a few more minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat, strain through a fine-mesh strainer, and then return to the saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and whisk in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking after each addition until fully incorporated. When done, remove from the heat and keep warm.

to prepare the couscous, cook the couscous according to the package directions, then toss with the olive oil and set aside. Rinse off the prepared lemons in cold water (I used about 1-1/2 to get 1/4 cup), and using a knife, scrape away and discard the pulp. I also scraped away the very top layer of the white inside as it seemed a little spongy and unappetizing. Dice the lemon finely. In a large sauté pan, heat the canola oil over low heat. Add the fennel and preserved lemon and cook, stirring, until the fennel is soft. Add the dill and cayenne pepper and stir well. Add the prepared couscous to the fennel mixture and stir to combine. Remove from heat.

Season couscous with 1 teaspoon salt and the mustard greens. Mix well and season with salt and pepper. Cover and set the sauté pan aside for finishing up just before serving.

to prepare the salad, in a bowl, combine the fennel, oil, and lemon juice and toss to coat the fennel evenly. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

to cook the scallops, heat a large sauté pan over high heat. When the pan is hot, add a thin layer of oil and heat until it shimmers. Add the scallops and cook, turning once, for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until nicely caramelized on the exterior and medium-rare at the center.

While the scallops are cooking, finish the couscous. Return the sauté pan to medium heat and re-heat the couscous over medium heat, stirring frequently. Cut the butter into 1/4-inch cubes. When the couscous is heated through, add the butter and stir gently until melted and evenly distributed.

To serve, divide the couscous among individual plates. Arrange some of the fennel salad and 3 scallops on top of each serving. Pour some sauce around the edge of the couscous on each plate, then drizzle some on top of each scallop.

Serve immediately.

Print This Recipe Print This Recipe Pin It

Eggs for Sale

I haven’t posted about the farm since before vacation mostly because there isn’t that much going on at the farm lately. Also because until yesterday my kids were still home on vacation and I always find having them home messes with my normal farm cadence. I love my family, but I have to admit that after 9 days of my entire family 24/7 rolling right into an additional 8 days of the 3 younger kids 24/7, I’ve frankly been teetering on the brink of sanity for the past few days. I am too much of a loner to spend that much time with anyone.

I’ve mentioned before that I normally sell my eggs through an email list I’ve put together. I call it “Free Range Friday at Crafty Farm Girls”, and I send the email out on Thursday nights, listing eggs and any other things I have available for sale. Early Friday mornings I put everything out at the lemonade stand I made a few years ago, and people come if they want anytime during the day.

I am now getting so many eggs that Free Range Friday’s just isn’t providing enough sales. The local gourmet cheese store has offered to sell them for me, but I’d really rather keep the sales in-house if I possibly can. I finally thought of a plan. I have this great rolling cooler that I’d bought at Home Goods last year that I often use to hold the eggs on Free Range Fridays. I took an old wooden box I had and cut a hole in the top for people to put the cash into, screwed on a latch with a padlock, and then screwed holed in it and bolted it on to the cooler. While I can’t be sure everyone will be honest and actually pay for their eggs, I can at least try to prevent them from taking the cash with them (unless they want to stick the whole damned rolling cooler into their car).

But in case you were worried about her, here’s Gracie, still smiling.

And since I don’t have much to say about the farm today, I’ll show you some other animal-related things.

I went riding this past Friday up in Kent, Connecticut. Although Kent is over an hour’s drive from where I live, I get up there as often as I can to train with Tammy Hoefer. She was the 2008 World Champion in the National Reining Horse Association’s Rookie Professional division. Finding a trainer in the western discipline in my neck of the woods is really difficult. I feel incredibly lucky to have found someone with such credentials and the drive is well worth it.

Evan and Maia came with me and Maia also took a lesson.

My saddle sat on the fence while Maia took her lesson.

Of course while we were up there we went real-estate hunting for the future farm. Litchfield County is one of the few areas of Connecticut where there are still some working farms. We saw lots of wild turkeys while driving around. Didn’t they know it’s chickens that are supposed to cross the road, not turkeys?

This handsome fellow was putting on a show for his ladies.

But then he realized his ladies weren’t paying the slightest bit of attention and instead were hi-tailing it out of there, so he started running to catch up to them.

There was some land for sale that had cows on it…do you think they come with the property?

Picture Perfect

I don't think a farm could look more picture perfect than this one did last week in the rolling hills between Kent and Washington, Connecticut. Even the twins were impressed by it's beauty, and it forced me to slam on my brakes and back up the hill a bit so I could take this photo.

America the Beautiful

This is the barn next-door to where I ride up in Kent, Connecticut. The red barn with the American flag and the budding leaves was pretty I thought.

Famous Icebox Cake

This cake is what most people know as Famous Chocolate Wafer Cake, made by sandwiching Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafer cookies in whipped cream and letting it sit for a few hours. I had never had this cake until my father married my stepmother, Donna. After that, it became the featured birthday cake at every household celebration. I don’t know how somebody couldn’t like this cake. It’s not too heavy, it’s chocolate and whipped cream together, it’s easy to make, and it’s delicious. I made one this week just to show my family how much I loved them.

While my stepmom always makes this cake free-form by stacking them vertically in rows, I decided to make mine inside a large loaf pan that was 10″ x 5″, but you can use any size you have on hand. You also don’t have to make it into a loaf shape, but can stack them into any pan you have. If you surf the internet you’ll see all kinds of variations of this cake, so you can get as creative as you’d like.

Famous Icebox Cake

2 boxes Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafer cookies (you’ll have extra)
4 cups whipping cream (you may need more, depending on the size of the cake you make)
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar (or to taste)
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Whip the cream with sugar and vanilla to firm peaks. Line pan with plastic wrap, overlapping edges so that the plastic wrap hangs out over the sides of the pan on all sides. Line bottom and sides of pan with whipped cream covered cookies, icing both sides.

Start stacking cookies with whipped cream on one side, vertically, with the whipped cream side facing the same direction on each cookie. Continue stacking cookies and whipped cream until you fill the pan.

I filled in the spaces between the stacks with additional whipped cream and then put a final layer of cookies on the top (bottom) of the came. Ice this with a thin layer of whipped cream, lay the edges of the plastic wrap over the cake and refrigerate for 3-4 hours.

I used a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip because it’s a fast and easy way to make the cake look extra special You certainly don’t have to use a pastry bag and can simply put a final layer of whipped cream around the outside of the cake using a large offset spatula like my stepmom always does.

Because of the fresh whipped cream, this cake is best within the first day of making that, after that it may get a little weepy and soggy, but it will still taste good!

Print This Recipe Print This Recipe

Framed Linoleum Prints

In the hopes of selling the house we’ve lived in for the past 16 years in the near future and moving to a place with more land, there is much to be done to get our house market-worthy. There is also endless amounts of de-cluttering that needs to be done.

While we were away in Mexico for 8 days we managed to have some work done around the house. We had the floors refinished in the kitchen and family room. Although it needed to be done about 5 years ago and was literally worn down to the bare wood in places, refinishing your floors is one of those things that is never convenient to do – we are always in those two rooms and I don’t think we could live without them. But, I couldn’t avoid it any longer, so with some advanced planning and the help of my trusty and reliable carpenters, we had it done while we were gone.

The tiniest bedroom in our house is called “my office”. I don’t know why it’s called this because, although it has a desk in it, I NEVER use it and it really should really be called “my closet”, as I use it to store my shit in. It also has a small pull-out couch that serves as a guest bed on the rare occasion that we have guests. This ‘office’ was also going to be painted, along with some other areas, while we were away as well.

I wish I’d taken a picture of it the day before I went to Mexico. You literally could barely walk in the room. Because it was being painted, we were shoving thing in boxes and stacking them in the garage so they could actually reach the walls to paint them. It looks lovely now, but unfortunately I still need to go through all of those boxes and somehow get a lot of that stuff back into this room in some organized fashion.

Keeping “market ready” in the forefront of my mind, I decided to put together a series of my linoleum prints that I’ve done over the past year or so. I had bought these frames at a really good sale at the local art store.

Because I had to keep all of the prints horizontal, some of my favorite prints couldn’t be used. I may do another series on a different wall of my favorite vertical prints.

Measuring and hanging a series of prints like this is something that takes patience, careful math, and accurate measurements – especially when I only had 1″ between each frame. It didn’t come out perfect, but it’s close.

Stone Wall with Orange Flowers

I love stone walls, but I thought this one was particularly lovely with the green vines and orange flowers running down it.

My Chicken Coops on

My chicken coops were featured on the website this week!

I absolutely love this site for decorating ideas. Their bi-weekly emails are a terrific source of inspiration. The article features other people’s coops as well. I love looking at how other people designed their coops, and although I’ve had chickens for years, there are always new tricks you can learn from other chicken owners.

Bald Faced Hornet Nests

Having just returned home very late last night, I do not have a farm update quite yet, so I’ll leave you with one last look at some of the animals of Mexico.

While we were at the Cenote Dos Ojos outside of Akumal I noticed one of these nests hanging on the ceiling of the cenote cave overhang. It didn’t look like any wasps nest that I’d ever seen, and the first one I saw was unoccupied, but it was quite beautiful.

When I started looking around while taking some photographs I came across several more nests that were inhabited, but they were too far away to tell what kind of bee-like creature they were. Upon researching it tonight I have determined that these were nests of the Bald Faced Hornet, which I’d never heard of before but we do have them here in the United States.