Category Archives: Food for the Soul

Roasted leek and Tomato Soup by the Fire

Yesterday, Clif bought a fire pit for our backyard. It’s something I’ve been wanting for a while. On our bike rides along Memorial Drive and the lake, we often see people grouped around fire pits as dusk comes and the temperature drops. Somehow, there is something so cozy and satisfying about sitting around a fire. I suppose it takes us back to our tribal days, when the fire was a source of heat, companionship, and sustenance. Do we have ancestral memories? I don’t know, but fire in a pit or in a fireplace or in a wood stove still has an irresistible pull.

Naturally, we wanted to use the fire pit immediately. For dinner that night, I had planned a roasted tomato soup and corn bread.

“How about if we eat soup and bread by the fire?” I asked Clif.

“Sounds good to me,” Clif replied, and we did just that.

In the morning, I roasted the tomatoes, as well as some leeks. When they were cool, I whirred them in the food processor and then stored the mixture in the refrigerator. When we got back from our afternoon bike ride, I chopped some garlic, sizzled it in a bit of oil, added the tomatoes and enough water for a nice consistency, and let it all simmer for 45 minutes or so. Then, a bit of milk to smooth the soup and a cup of small pasta to give it a little bulk.

As we slurped soup around the fire, I asked Clif, “What do you think?”

“Pretty darned good,” came the response. “Smooth and fresh tasting.”

The dog, in Sheltie fashion, circled the patio until the night came, at which point he settled down beside us by the fire. Dog and people by the fire. How primal is that? The night became chilly and damp, but the crickets sang their fall song. We stayed outside until the fire burned to embers, and then we reluctantly went inside.

Clif, with Liam behind him, by the fire

I expect sitting around the fire pit will be one of our favorite things to do this fall. Along with bike riding, of course.
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VISITING A FRIEND

Keepers of the rocks

This afternoon, I went to Cushing to visit my friend Terry. Her house overlooks the St. George River, which is so tidal that the air has a lovely, salty smell. The day was everything a summer day should be—warm but not too hot with a bright blue sky. Terry bought lobster rolls that were chock-full of lobster meat with just a hint of mayonnaise to hold it together. I brought grapes and sparkling water. As we ate our feast outside, we talked about her parents, who were farmers, and gardening and growing old. Her three cats swished around us. One of them, a big orange tiger, nearly caught a red squirrel.

“Go!” I said to the squirrel.

“Good!” Terry said when I told her the squirrel had gotten away.

For his part, the orange cat let out one frustrated yowl and sharpened his claws on a nearby log. You could almost hear him saying, “Next time, you little fiend!”

After lunch, we walked around the house and admired the many gardens that Terry’s daughter tends. Here are some of the photos I took:

The view from the front yard
Poppy pod against yellow
Blue and green
A serene place to rest

 

IN MY BACKYARD: CRITTERS, VEGGIES, AND A FLOWER

In spring, summer, and fall, our backyard is one of my favorite places to be. It is not large—only a half-acre or so—but it is surrounded by trees, there are flowers and birds, and there is always something to notice. Here are some photos from yesterday—Wednesday, July 11th.

Ms. Watson on her favorite perch---the compost bin

 

An unexpected visitor

 

The fair Juliet

 

Infant cucumbers

 

Beautiful bee balm

JUNE 1, 2012

Today is the first day of June, and what a beautiful day in the neighborhood. The sun is shining, and in our backyard, there are layers and layers of green as our lawn—and I use this term loosely—meets the woods. Patio days are back, and every day that the weather allows, I eat my lunch outside. The hummingbirds, dragon flies, and, yes, the mosquitoes have returned, bringing with them the rhythm of summer.

Sometime between last night and this morning, one of my favorite irises bloomed. (In fact, irises are one of my favorite flowers.) So today, on this first day of June, I thought I would post this beauty in honor of some of my favorite people who have June birthdays—Sybil, Kate, Andrea, and my mother.

What a lovely month in which to have a birthday!

 

MOTHER’S DAY

Stuffed French toast, strawberry bread, and a cheese square

On Sunday, my husband, Clif, our dog, Liam, and I headed to South Portland for Mother’s Day, to our daughter Shannon and her husband, Mike’s, home. Shannon prepared a lovely brunch, which included strawberry bread, an egg and cheese dish with quinoa, and stuffed French toast with fresh raspberries and cream cheese. What a feast! And what a lucky mother I am. (The only way I could have been luckier would have been if our eldest daughter, Dee, who lives in New York, could have been there, too. Ah, well.)

Gail, Mike’s mother, joined us as did Gail’s daughter (and Mike’s sister), Liz. We had a jolly time around the dining room table with its yellow table cloth and two pots of begonias—one for me and one for Gail. We talked about the things we love to talk about—food, movies, and books. Liz told us about a recent trip to New York City, where she saw Peter and the Starcatchers.  Liz gave it a “stellar” review. Was I jealous? Indeed I was. Unfortunately, our budget did not allow for a play when we went to visit Dee last month. However, I plan on reading the book sometime soon. And who knows? Perhaps the play will still be there when we visit Dee in October.

The pretty table

After lunch, most of us went for a walk in a large wooded park with ponds and bridges. Lovely hostess that she is, Shannon stayed home to prepare the grand finale, a chocolate fondue with lots of dipping options—pound cake, marshmallows, strawberries, pineapple, and bits of ginger. It certainly was a delicious way to end the meal. You might even call it gilding the lily.

Liam on the move at the park

But who cares? It was Mother’s Day, a time to feast and to be happy. Sunday was my cheat day, my day to eat as much as I wanted, and eat I did, until I was contentedly full.

OUR WEDDING ANNIVERSARY WEEKEND: 35 YEARS!

For some reason known only to the gods, my husband, Clif, and I decided to get married in mid-March. Now, March in some states might be delightful, but in Maine, mid-March is usually a discouraging mess that brings such weather delights as snow, mud, cold, sleet, and fields that look like shredded wheat. (This last description I borrowed from my dear, late friend Barbara Johnson.) However, this year March has been very different, with weather so warm that most of the snow is gone, and the roads are bare. Yes, there is mud—where there is frozen ground thawing, there is mud—but it almost seems like an afterthought rather than March’s usual big event.

I realize only too well that this abnormally warm weather is probably due to climate change. At the same time, I must admit I enjoy the warmth. All week long, the meteorologists had been promising grand things for the weather for our anniversary weekend, and when Saturday came, we were not disappointed. The day was sunny and warm, and for Clif and me, this could only mean one thing—a bike ride, the first of the season, on March 17th, and the earliest we have ever ridden our bikes.

We went along our usual route along Maranacook Lake, and how odd it seemed to be biking while there was still ice on the water. There were even a few brave (or foolish) souls ice-fishing—complete with little shack— not too far from shore. With the way spring is progressing, the days of ice-fishing will soon be coming to a close, and I expect the ice will be leaving the ponds and lakes early this year.

Clif and I weren’t the only two on our bikes, and there were plenty of walkers as well. Even when the winter is mild, people are sick of it by the end and are ready for the weather to be warm enough so that being outside is pleasant.

We stopped at Mia Lina’s for some of their delicious Lina bread—pizza dough with melted cheese and served with a marinara sauce for dipping. A good way to kick off spring and to celebrate our anniversary.

More culinary delights were waiting for us at home. I had bought scallops. My, they are expensive—$16 a pound. As the man at the fish counter weighed and packaged them for me, I observed philosophically, “It’s cheaper than eating out.”

“It sure is,” he replied. “You can be spend $16 for two on a meal at McDonald’s.”

And it hardly needs to be said that the McDonald’s meals wouldn’t be anywhere near as good as those scallops.

Both Clif and I really like Scalloped Scallops, a recipe I’ve adapted from an old Fannie Farmer cookbook. (Click here to get the recipe.) It’s one of those perfect celebratory dishes—really special but very simple to make, which means the cook gets to enjoy herself, too, in the course of the day. (We also made homemade s’mores ice cream for dessert. Another easy but delicious dish to make.) Over the years, Scalloped Scallops has come to be the centerpiece of our anniversary meals.

More treats were in store for Sunday. Our daughter Shannon and our son-in-law, Mike, live in South Portland, and they invited us over for a meal of roast chicken with the fixings and homemade chocolate cake for dessert.

As Sunday was even warmer than Saturday, before going to Shannon and Mike’s house, Clif and I nipped over to Crescent Beach State Park for a picnic and a walk on the beach. I found a lovely shell and a pearl-like rock to commemorate our anniversary. Very appropriately, Shannon and Mike had put together a snappy three-photo grouping of our dog, Liam, enjoying himself on Crescent Beach. A perfect present.

Today, the actual day of our anniversary, is another beauty. Clif only works half-days on Monday, which means there will be yet another celebratory bike ride.

What a great three days!

 

 

 

A TRIBUTE TO MY MOTHER

Recently, I received an email from my friend Kate Johnson, and I have her permission to reprint it in this post.

“I’m making your mom’s biscuit recipe this evening.  Roasted a chicken last Thursday and have leftovers.  Chicken and gravy with a bit of asparagus over those biscuits will make for a delicious dinner when we get home from our indoor cycle class. Best biscuit recipe ever!”

A wonderful tribute to Mom, who was a fabulous baker. (Better than I am, in fact.) From pie crusts to cookies to cakes to fudge, everything she baked was utterly delicious.

Biscuits go with many things, with chicken and gravy and a bit of asparagus. With any kind of soup. With eggs for breakfast. A little peanut butter on a biscuit makes a tasty lunch. Biscuits are one of those homely foods that never go out of style, and Kate is right. My mom’s biscuit recipe is the best biscuit recipe ever. (Here is a link to my mother’s biscuit recipe.)

 

 

 

 

 

WARMING UP THE DAY WITH SEE’S CHOCOLATES

A very cold February day in central Maine. With the wind chill, it’s not much above zero outside, and here is the view from my kitchen window.

But lucky me! My husband, Clif, came through yet again. He knows all about my unflagging enthusiasm for See’s Chocolates, which makes chocolates exactly the way I like them: sweet and old-fashioned with nary a hint of bacon, thyme, or red pepper.

What a way to warm up the day!