Recipe Thursday: Rock Bottom Bacalao – Salt Cod Stew with Potatoes, Chorizo, & Aioli

I love Salt Cod – spending some teenage years in New Jersey I was marvelously introduced to many kinds of food (unlike my simple food childhood which was working-folk and hunter-folk based) – lots of Italian, Jewish, Thai, Haitian, all kinds of Indian, regional (think Taylor Ham/aka porkroll), Portuguese, and Puerto Rican (likely others but these stand out for me). My Mom became particularly adept at making dishes and ingredients from the latter – sofrito, pasteles, empanadas, tostones, sopa de fideo, and bacalao…so many yummy things. After she moved away from jersey sourcing some of her favorite ingredients became harder but since she still works from NJ (but at home from wherever she is) – and has to visit the home base every now and again, she is able to get some goods when she is there.

Sometimes she brings back Portuguese rolls (there’s nothing like them here), culantro, chorizo, porkroll, and salt cod though I tried to get her to snag me some Zeppole while she was down there this time (to no avail) – most of those things she brought back and shared with us recently. So, I decided to make them all pretty much into one delicious dish – a spicy and sassy Bacalao. This term really just designates it as a Salt Cod stew – Nordic areas have a tradition of this, Portugal, Brazil, Puerto Rico and likely everywhere in between. This is Maine-by-way-of-NJ Bacalao with our own Rock Bottom flair (but not 15 pieces of flair – we would never require so many…just a bit…).

Think garden in September, with some magickal Salt Cod and Chorizo, and Stone Broke Bread – sounds like a hearty picnic in the waning light.

Rock Bottom Bacalao
Serves 4-6

1 lb Salt Cod, rinsed then soaked in milk (or water) overnight, rinsed again, sliced
1/2 lb Chorizo (any kind, though I am using Portuguese), sliced (if not ground)
1/2 cup Olive Oil
2 Garlic cloves, sliced thinly
1 Large Vidalia or other sweet onion (10 shallots?), sliced thinly
1 Red Bell Pepper, sliced thinly lengthwise
2 lb ripe Tomatoes (heirloom are great, but 28 oz Fire Roasted can are good, too), chopped coarsely
16 small waxy potatoes (not floury) or 10 medium-sized, I’m using a mix of red and white since that’s what my garden provided at this time), cut in half or 2″ pieces
5 oz fancy Olives like Kalamata or Green (pitted or not, up to you, just be careful if not)
A handful of Flat-leaf Parsley or Cilantro (or a mix), stems removed, leaves chopped (I put mine in a cup and chop them with scissors)
Fresh Ground Black Pepper, to taste
Aioli to serve, optional (see Note)

Add the Olive Oil to a wide frying pan, add sliced Chorizo and gently fry until browned on both sides or if ground, until just browned then add Garlic and fry for 2 minutes.

Add Onion and saute for 5 minutes with the Chorizo and Garlic, shaking the pan from time to time. Then add Red Pepper strips and cook until slightly softened.

Add the tomatoes and boil gently with the lid on.

Add Potatoes to the pan and continue boiling for 1 hour, still with the lid on. Make sure the potatoes are covered in sauce.

When the Potatoes are almost done, add the sliced Cod. It is better to add the fish later, than sooner. Continue boiling gently for about 15 to 20 minutes.

When 5 minutes remain, add the Olives.

Add Freshly Ground Black Pepper and scatter chopped Parsley (&/or Cilantro). Serve with crusty Bread and Aioli!

Garlic Aioli
Adapted from the Joy of Cooking

1 Garlic clove
pinch of Sea Salt
2 Large Egg Yolks
1/2 cup Grapeseed Oil (or Avocado Oil)
1/2 cup Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Lemon Juice (or to taste)

Crush the garlic finely with the salt. I like to do this with the flat end of a large knife so that it forms a paste.

Add the crushed garlic to the egg yolks in a medium sized bowl and whisk by hand until thick. You can also do this in a stand mixer or small processor.

Slowly drizzle in the oil while whisking vigorously until the mixture thickens.

Finally add in the lemon juice and whisk thoroughly, adding more to taste.

Duendesday: Woodland Faerie

{life with a curious and crazy 12 yr old}

When we start going for Fall woods walks, Duende dresses like Ronja or Swiss Family Robinson – she’s a fan of both, see – she’s got her knife at the ready to save any tied up rabbits or trim mushrooms, or carve a spoon, and a basket for acorns, leaves, birch paper, snacks, or random ephemera. If we go far enough she can visit the old car in the woods, the quartz ledge, or hone mica from the rocks on Monkey Lane. Many quizzes and conversations happen in the woods about tree identification, birdsong, fungi foraging, and humus soil. The other day she got to see some deer in her path, it was then she understood the delicacy of quietness in the woods (if she ever wanted to see them again). We found coral, ghostpipe, and lobster mushrooms (many amanita – don’t eatya!), mosses and lichens, and patches of lovely down rattlesnake plantain (a woods orchid), and we hunt for galls (ever since we used to go to the Insect festival and she made ink from oak galls, she searches).

And then we went to the treasureland of the Swap Shack and found new (old) bikes! We have a fantasy of rolling down the bike path and Water St of Gardiner (maybe delivering bread?) in our fancy old bikes – so she’s working on bringing hers back to its glory. Many days of caring for fruit trees, snuggling with the pup (and cat), noticing the seasonal changes are happening and are to come – Happy Fall!

Happenings: Common Ground Fair

We had a wonderful festival week – a couple of mushroom/woods walks, meets with friends, amazing weather, with a culmination of goodness at the Common Ground Fair. We almost didn’t go – and we would have been so sad. The weather for our day was grey, cool, and kinda windy. But it was nice – we were glad we made the trip. It hasn’t happened in a couple of years (in person) so just being there, knowing that we were amidst at least some folks with similar interests and values was uplifting. The Common Ground Fair is nice because it gives us a space to feel – well, grounded in other communities – in a larger community.

The Common Ground Fair does just that for us – it lets us know there is some common ground, even if we don’t know each other. So, with that, we ate some snacks (thank you Heiwa Tofu!), managed to go to a couple of great workshops/talks (Herbal Revolution with Kathe Langelier, Backyard Grains with Will Bonsall, Apples with John Bunker, The Wild Seed Project) and the gal got to roam free a bit, get her face painted, eat some popcorn and ice cream. I got to visit the Greenhorns and pick up an Almanac, Taproot Magazine, the Farmer-ish journal folks, and buy some goodies from Frontier Sugarworks (like bourbon maple syrup!), Meeting House Farm (herbs!), Fedco Seeds (I like to pick up my Fall cover crop there when I can – Common Oats!), the Scott Nearing table (of course!), and snag some more seed garlic. We roamed the gardens, the orchard, and admired the adorable Angora rabbits, draft horses, snuggly pigs, curly sheep, and marvel at the juxtapositions of the really large goats to the dwarfs, and the huge horses to the pony, and some beautiful cows with their beatific faces. Duende loved the spinners (so nice to meet you Gayle!) and the harpsichord player, the sheep dogs, and people with tiny dogs (ha!).

It was an invigorating seasonal change. A time to focus on what works and what does not – Happy Fall!

Recipe Thursday: Planters Cottage Pie

The Harvest Party Menu was a big success – particularly for me, an experimental vegetarian shepherd’s pie was a huge hit! I loved it. If you tried it, I hope you loved it, too. There is something so satisfying about the savory butternut and white pumpkin topping with the green beans, mushroom, and chickpea filling, and though the gravy was flour-based (which I think you could easily exchange tapioca or arrowroot to thicken sans butter – just use a Tbsp or so with cool water to mix into hot broth until set like gravy), the whole pie was vegan (we use plant butter for the fats). Divine, if I do say so myself.

All the rich savoriness comes from a little carmelization of a bit of onion and the mushrooms in the beginning (truly, that’s all vegetarian fare really needs to create body – a little carmelization…or fermentation…those are my veg secrets), and veg is so good for the body. I like to be able to make clean food – to clean out, to feel clean, to have food without the common inflammatory markers. This really fits the bill (though, again, especially if you change the wheat to a different thickener, rice flour works too, but if you use organic whole grain wheats, you are better by a mile). And it’s homey, in the transitional – Hey! It’s now Fall!-kind of way. Which we are feeling in a big way today with the rain and drop in temperatures. We’ll still have a few warmer days but it’s time to shake out the sweaters, wash and prepare the Fall blankets, and know where my woolly hat is for cool mornings.

I think you could substitute – I’m all about knowing how to adapt recipes for what is on hand – any kind of squash or pumpkin for the topping, potatoes/yams, or even any root vegetable. The green beans could be swapped for a good firm greenery like broccoli/broccolini/cauliflower or maybe asparagus or seeded zucchini or peas, the mushrooms could be replaced by carmelized eggplant (any kind but Italian, think smaller firmer eggplants) or cauliflower or carrot or just more onion/shallot, and the chickpeas could be subbed with another soft but firm bean or tofu/tempeh fried or roasted a little beforehand. I feel like the veggies are pretty playful in that regard. Though I suppose you could add something like chopped or shredded chicken to this, as well. Shepherd pie type things are very adaptable. But I didn’t want to forget this one. Happy Autumn!

Planters Cottage Pie
Serves 6-8 as a main dish

2 Big Squash (I used 1 big Butternut and 1 big White Pumpkin), seeded, peeled, and chopped into 2″ cubes, boiled until tender (about 20 min), set aside
2 Cloves Garlic, smashed and roughly chopped
1 # Mushrooms, any kind (I used Baby Bellas), chopped into 1/2″ pieces
1 Large Vidalia Onion, or 4 decent size Shallots, or 1 Med Leek, etc, sliced
20 oz can/box/bag Chickpea/Garbanzo Beans, drained, rinsed, skins removed if desired
1 # Green Beans, any kind – if fresh: trimmed, halved
32 oz Vegetable Broth (homemade, can/box – whatever)
6 Tbsp Plant Butter (roughly)
1/2-1 cup AP Flour (roughly) (or Brown Rice Flour works well, too)
1-2 Tbsp Chopped Fresh Herbs – Thyme, Sage, Rosemary, Savory, Parsley, Marjoram (or 1-2 tsp of dried herbs)
Sea Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper
A little Olive Oil or more Plant Butter to mix in with Squash, to prepare the pan, and to cook mushrooms

Preheat an oven to 375 degrees. Butter or oil a 9×13″ baking dish (on bottom and sides). Set aside.

Mash tender Squash until smooth with Sea Salt & Black Pepper and a pinch of the Herbs. Set aside.

In a cast iron pot or other heavy bottom pot, add a glug of Olive Oil (or Plant Butter) over Med-High heat, add Onions and cook until translucent, stirring occasionally, then add Garlic, cook for 1 minute, then add chopped Mushrooms. Stir less occasionally to let the Mushrooms start to carmelize but still retain some of their juices. Season with Sea Salt & Pepper, add a little more butter to coat thoroughly, stir in Green Beans, Chickpeas, and Herbs then transfer to your 9×13″ baking dish.

Dry Roux process for Gravy: Returning to your heavy bottom pot, add the 6 Tbsp Plant Butter over Med-High heat. The Butter should be sizzling – add 1/2 cup Flour and whisk quickly in, you want it to be crumbly like biscuit dough – if still moist, add another 1/4-1/2 cup Flour (all flour is different so it will react a little different, until it comes together like crumbly biscuit dough) – cook roux for almost a minute adding just a bit of color. Add Broth little by little (1-2 cups at a time, enough to coat bottom of pan but no floating lumps), whisking vigorously until smooth with each liquid addition (after the 3rd addition, lumps should not appear), add extra water if needed. This should be of gravy consistency, cook down, whisking gently until desired effect. Remove from heat. Season with Sea Salt & Ground Black Pepper to taste.

Stir into vegetables in baking dish thoroughly. Top with big spoonfuls of Squash, smoothing out overtop (but not too smooth, the best bits happen in the grooves) the gravy mix and drizzle with a little Olive Oil or dot with Plant Butter. Bake at 375 degrees with a sheetpan underneath (gravy may bubble up and out a bit) until Squash is set and bits are browning up (about 30-40 min or until well-browned and heated through). Let sit 10 minutes before serving. Great with Bread and a light Vinaigrette Salad for balance.

Stay Cozy!

Duendesday: Happy Equinox!

{life with a curious and crazy 12 yr old}

We wytches around here love our festivities – a time to connect with one another, make special food, and focus on the seasonal changes. We’re off on a Woods Walk today – to see how the terrain is changing, look for mushrooms, listen to birds, collect some goodies. The sun is shining, it is a stunning day!

As for our growing pea, she’s been working on skooling nicely (with some bumps, of course) – gave a presentation on mummification last week and building one this week on biomechanics. She’s opted to find her topics via Science News and then researches further from there. Our family short story group has read Sherwood Anderson’s ‘The Egg‘ and now Ray Bradbury’s ‘The Sound of Thunder‘. Meanwhile, she’s running off to her new Crow’s Nest treefort to read a copy of The Princess Bride that she found at the Swap Shack.

Duende has also been on a creative streak – busting out a couple of Gryffon’s the other day, just for fun, and crocheting, beading, painting. She’s been outside a lot and was a marvelous hostess at the Harvest Party. She’s excited for the Common Ground Fair – and rewatching her Victorian Farm series (getting her ‘Ruth on’). Looks like it’s going to be a wonderful Fall!

Tuesday: Wind-Down and Wind-Up!

So, the Harvest Party was a blast – maybe not as many folks as we were hoping but those that came were generous and enjoyable. The food was great, the weather was amazing, the band AstroPlanet was fantastic. The raffle was a nice sucess – gave away T-shirts, Maple Syrup, a CSB Membership, and of course Bread! My brother offered his gorgeous wooden (lathe-turned) bowls, and our friend Mira brought her super charming hand-tooled earrings! A beautiful friend from Vermont made the trip to join the family folk, valued customers, ReVision peeps, and new faces that appeared. It was really a lovely day.

Tonight/tomorrow is the holiday for us! Happy Autumnal Equinox! I was going to make something special but we might just eat party leftovers and play some games – we love our game night! It’s a real together evening, records on the hi-fi, sparkly lights, lots of laughs. Maybe a pumpkin pie to celebrate – mmmm, pumpkin pie.

And Friday is the Common Ground Fair! Yay!! It hasn’t happened in-person for a couple of years and though the first year online was pretty good, it’s not the same as being able to feel connected to others with similar values. Even though I struggle to make a lot of friends/acquaintances in these growing cultures, I love to feel a part of something. It’s inspiring and encouraging. But this year we do have actual friends going! So it will be nice to see familiar and lovely faces.

After 14 years in Maine, we are starting to feel like we belong here.

Recipe Thursday: Party Menu

I have to say I love party menus. I love planning for parties, cooking for parties, and enjoying parties. Yes, it gets crazy and I get crazy in the midst of it sometimes (so many things going on!) but I still love it overall. This year’s Harvest Party 2022 is going to be lovely. The weather has cooled – which makes a perfect entrance into Fall – because really, even though we’re a week early, this party is also our Equinox celebration. And this year, it is also a fundraiser for the new space! We’re so excited to embark on a new chapter of Rock Bottom Homestead and Stone Broke Bread & Books. So many ways to connect and grow. We love our growers, farmers, and friends.

We’re on party prep – J & C building a grape arbor, making Carrot Jam (which I love with warm brie or as a filling/topping on Carrot cake, or just on toast, like a normal human), foraging, cleaning, trimming, finessing as best we can.

I had a moment where I wanted only pies at this party, but then backtracked when I couldn’t figure out how to get a salad comfortably in a pie (ha!). But there will still be many pies. Raised Meat Pie (filled with delicious slow-cooked various meats from Morton Brook Ranch and Olde Haven Farm), Spanish Tortilla, Planters Cottage Pie (which I think may be the accepted term for a veggie Shepherd’s pie), Ground Cherry and Blueberry Pie (we grew so many ground cherry seedlings from Dig Deep Farm), Rumpkin Pie (yes, a little rum and pumpkin!), a Vermont Hample Pie (Apple pie with cheddar and ham, one of J’s favorites, from our apples) – I might have to recipe those up in the future here-, and then yummies like Maple Baked Beans (with hocks and our maple syrup), Rock Bottom Veggie Lentils, Chicken Pot Pie (from our lovely last batch of meatbirds), Olde Haven Green Chili Corn Pudding, Farro Salad with Roasted Veg, J’s simple but sexy Bread Salad, a Big Salad (with Pumpkin Vine Feta, olives, and chickpeas and fresh salad greens from Andrews Farm), Homemade Ricotta and Weedy Foraged Pesto with our naturally leavened #75 Bread. If I get a little more ambitious, maybe I’ll throw in some Maine Grains Oatmeal Cookies for some hearty run around food for the kids, Goldenrod Cornbread (yes, with fresh goldenrod), and a Peach Crisp (from our peaches). Rounded out with sprouted Popcorn and local Watermelons, friends might brings some Mac n Cheese and I hear rumors of Tourtiere Pie.

As for drinks – I made some bubbly Dandelion Wine early in the season, as well as a batch of Red Clover Cottage Wine. We’re hoping for some aged Cider tastings from the Rock Bottom basement. Some fruity Fermented Sodas (Blackberry and Cranberry are quite delicious, and we picked so many Blackberries…ha!), Duende’s famous Lemonade (and perhaps some herby spiked lemonade, as well, for the adults). I can’t wait!

I like to have something for everyone – many food preferences and concerns are addressed (veg, gluten and grain free, onion free, etc) and all of our goods are responsibly sourced if not organically grown and processed. Now, I must get on it – party in 2 days! Let the food preparations begin!

Happenings for a Tuesday

As we get ready to invite lovely folks to the homestead, we wander and tweak the wild spaces. We’re not wanting to tame all these spaces but maybe tidy them up a bit. We had a wonderfully generous philosopher come to the house a couple of years ago who was smitten with the cultivated versus the wild spaces: intriguing shadows, bursts of nature’s expressions, soft soothing spots…and that’s why we invite you. To show us what we miss sometimes in our desires to ‘get things ready’, and ‘get things done’. We get distracted by the work and forget the edgy beauty – the edges, where songbirds like to peek out and nibble at berries, and where wildflowers reach for the sunshine.

I have patches I love – the blackberry patch which winds around what we call ‘the seep’, a birch-wooded area where a natural spring eeks out and is sort of a magickal little forest, open enough to see tall blueberries, and forest mushrooms. I love the new Jewelweed patch that fills the undercanopy of the willow tree in the drive. I love the ferny path where we seeded ramps last year (for a harvest next year!). Tiny vignettes of change and beauty. I know where there is a small patch of phlox that likes to appear behind the garage, where the juniper lies low and bushy, where the watercress makes it’s Spring debut.

We’ll be ready for Fall mushroom walks soon (waiting on this rain!), and the changing of the leaves (our Silver Maple always turns first), the saving of seeds and planting of garlic. I used to always think that early Summer was my favorite but as many in New England are wooed – Autumn truly shows a side that invites. Invitation extended.

Monday’s Muse

Pronoia excerpts…~ Rob Brezsny

If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll confess that there are few glories more sublime and more freely available than taking a walk in nature. Simply to imagine it can fill you with sacred joy. Close your eyes and visualize yourself sauntering along a wide dirt path in a meadow bordered by the woods. Feel the resilient strength of your leg muscles. Relish the freedom of swinging your arms in rhythm with your stride. The sun’s rays are so sweet you can almost taste them. The ever-shifting qualities of light and temperature resemble caresses. What’s that rustling in the bushes? Maybe a lizard or gopher informing you that you’re not alone.

At a certain point, the breeze becomes stronger. Branches of nearby trees begin to wave, unleashing a tremulous whoosh. Instinctively, your heartbeat quickens. Your flesh prickles with a reflexive alertness. But of course there’s no danger. What you’re experiencing is spontaneous excitement at the rising energy; a heightened awareness of the teeming aliveness that surrounds you.

Gaze slightly upward. Welcome in the far horizon and the sweep of the ancient sky. Give names to the clouds. Shout out praises to the birds, saluting them for being so skilled at soaring through the air. If you can see a pale slice of moon, thank it for its artistry in managing the tides.
Up ahead on the trail is a tree that wants your affection. Be empathetic. Try to remember all that it remembers, and sing a song to it as you pass. The dust and dirt deserve your kind attention, as well. Pick up a rock that catches your eye, announce to the world that it is a magic talisman, and marvel at its unique shape and heft as you roll it around in your hand.

One more gift to bestow: Under your breath, just loud enough to be heard, tell the Earth that you can hear the sound of its turning, and it’s making you giddy. Say, too, how much you love the fact that in all eternity, this moment will never be repeated. Though you may drink in the delicious atmosphere with a trillion trillion more breaths, this special dispensation of air molecules will never fill your lungs again.

To your surprise, the Earth replies to you in your native tongue, rising above the thrum of its whirling with a more familiar tone. It quotes the poem by Charles Baudelaire, as translated by Louis Simpson. “Ask the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock, everything that is flying, everything that is groaning, everything that is rolling, everything that is singing, everything that is speaking … ask what time it is, and wind, wave, star, bird, clock will answer you: ‘It is time to be drunk! So as not to be the martyred slaves of time, be drunk, be continually drunk! On wine, on poetry or on virtue as you wish.'”