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A jungle of Ronde de Nice squash blossoms and their developing squashlets

Nothing is as ephemeral or as potetially banal as summer squash.  As a teenage cook, working in not-so-fine-dining restaurants on this island I cooked a lot of zucchini every summer.  I think the chef I worked for chose zucchini as our perpetual “vegetable of the day” because it was inexpensive and easy to cook.  Trucked in from California, it was sort of fresh, and by that I mean it wasn’t frozen and it wasn’t canned.  And we certainly didn’t show it a lot of love:  We would make up a mixture of sauteed red onion, canned tomato and “Italian seasoning” and saute it all up together.  Zucchini came to represent to me the thing you put on a plate because you had a space to fill, the thing that you gave to your guest because you hadn’t thought about it very hard or because you didn’t know what else to do or because  you thought it was good enough.

I hated zucchini by the time I was 18. (more…)

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Seasoning the legs and wings, prior to pressing.

Late night, last night I pulled out the two turkeys I had harvested on Saturday and started preparing them for thanksgiving.  The thing that was so striking about them was how beautiful the birds are.  I have prepared heritage birds for a number of years, but those came from other producers.  As a result they had been killed a couple of weeks prior to Thanksgiving and arrived to me sealed in plastic.  While they were perfectly fine, and certainly better than frozen, commercial birds, nothing benefits from being sealed in a bag for a couple of weeks.  (more…)

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Our 2010 crop of Narragansett Turkeys, the oldest breed of turkey there is.

While I have been buying Heritage Breed turkeys for the past eight years, this is the first time that they are making the very short trip from our back lawn to the oven, never having left our sight.  We got a bit of a late start, the birds having hatched out in the first week of June, so we will be culling two of the smaller hens rather than the big toms, which we will retain for breeding next years crop. (more…)

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The way it should be. My buddy Chuck Tessaro's home made Pancetta, made from Berkshire or Kurobuta pork, will give you faith in pork again.

We had the opportunity to spend a long weekend in Seattle last week.  For country mice like us this is a pretty big deal.  On my agenda for the visit – along with taking the girls to see the lights at Westlake and visit the Zoo – was getting some of the food we cannot find at home on Whidbey.  Itineraries and priorities are almost always set by our stomachs in this family.

Pork is one of the things I have been missing.  I will not buy factory farmed meat, especially not pork.  I know how fully sentient pigs are and I am not going to eat something that I know has led a miserable existence, especially not if it was aware of it.  I have found a source for pork from a small farm on Whidbey, but it is only available by the half or quarter animal, and since we lack of a big freezer that is not really an option for us.  So the trip to the city was our chance to visit a good meat shop and get turned on to some fine swine.  Boy were we in for a disappointment. (more…)

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The Real Thing

I wish I could say that making real eggnog at Christmas time was a Nattress family tradition.  It was not.  We had the Dairygold variety out of the box when I was a kid.  Oh sure, we grated a little extra nutmeg on the top of it and my parents added some booze, but it was pretty pedestrian stuff.  Then I married a Mayflower Princess and Fanny Farmer came into my life.  And once you have had Fanny’s nog, there is no going back. (more…)

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I have yet to find a beach on which I can forage for oysters.  I still haven’t figured that one out.  But Tyla and I are blessed, living here in Coupeville in that our local grocer carries oysters live in the shell.  At least once a week this fall our lunch has consisted of a dozen of the bivalves.  We like them simply topped with our compound butter du jour and broiled just long enough for them to plump and release their love.   (I have included a couple of our favorite recipes at the end of this post.)

Oysters are equally delicious and nutritious, but you may be unaware just how important they are to marine ecology.  They provide both a literal and a metaphorical foundation for aquatic ecosystems. (more…)

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The humble Italian Prune Plum has been on Whidbey Island since the time of the first generation of settlers.  I love them for baking and preserving and they are happening right now.

The humble Italian Prune Plum has probably been on Whidbey Island for over a century. There is nothing better for baking and preserving and they are happening right now.

If I am going to eat a fresh plum, then a Santa Rosa Plum, with its super fragile, water-balloon-like flesh is my hands down favorite.   But when it comes to making jam, jelly or a plum tart, they cannot hold a candle to the much less sexy but ever more versatile Italian Prune Plum.  It just so happens that we have a bumper crop Italian Plums this year in Coupeville.  Here is what you can do with them. (more…)

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