Garden Dinner FAQs

Rain barrel

Rain capture

A lovely couple staying at the inn came down to the vegetable garden this morning to see “Kingsbrae [F]Arms where we’ve been getting the salad greens, radishes, pea shoots, Speckled Trout turnips and tat soi blossoms they’ve been eating during their stay. The rain was steady and I commented about what good sports they were trudging through wet grass and ducking dripping vines. They said “there is no such thing as bad weather…just bad clothes.” Good point. We soldiered on. MizunaFrankly the weather has been about as good as it gets for gardening. Plenty of precipitation to fill the rain barrel where we steep comfrey tea bags to produce a powerful organic fertilizer. Plenty of intermittent sunshine for steady growth. It’s crazy to think that much of the ground now filled with spring vegetables was buried by snow drifts just two short months ago.

Lovage Polenta & ScallopsWe get a lot of questions about our dinners. The simple fact is that we don’t have a restaurant so much as a dinner party open to all who’d like to come each evening. When we get asked for a menu, all we can show are some menus from the past because we never serve the same thing twice. Afternoon callers will find there’s a good chance that Chef Ciaran Tierney is out in the garden thinking about combining lovage with corn polenta for the Bay of Fundy scallops or grilling tender green onions to drape over cod. Grilled onions over codHe might be doing a rainbow Rainbow Saladappetizer salad of speckled trout, purple mizuna and red giant mustard greens or deciding to harvest some early new potatoes so he can whip up a batch of puffy pommes dauphines to accompany the short ribs. Ribs & Pommes DauphinsIt’s a bit of…errrrr….a crap shoot, but we love it and hope our guests do as well. You never know what you’re going to get, but in the talented hands of Ciaran, the food will be honest, well seasoned and true to its flavorful origins, so you’re in good shape. If we have to put up with trendy dictates, the ones from the garden and sea are certainly inspiring us with ideas for our summertime dinners.

Here’s one. Whoever was the first to say, “o look, oysters…let’s eat’em,” must have been thinking about our Kingsbrae Arms “oysters & pearls” prep. OysterPrince Edward Island Malpeque’s with garden chamomile & lavender infused tapioca mignonette.  Salty, savoury & sensual on the tongue. We know that now. Must have taken a bit of courage back then.

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Spring Comes to Kingsbrae [F]Arms

2-22A2-15Despite the snow drifts of such immense proportion this season that they defied measure, spring is only about one week behind last year. As the last of the snow ebbs, tulips, daffodils and crocus waste no time piercing the soil. Crocus

Cultivation is another matter. Some of the raised beds which should already be planted are still buried under the last layer of snow and frozen sold. Meanwhile, others are sunning themselves with a fresh coat of organic composted manure. The trick is figuring out the Copernican angle of the sun in combination with the ancient hedge shadows. Still the winter recedes and spring comes steadily on with all of the promise it holds every year at this time.4-19

Gardening is an act of faith. Tiny seeds seem so helpless in the friable soil. Lettuce seedlings even more so with their translucent first true leaves. We had to talk ourselves into removing these seedlings from their greenhouse protection.4-16 (2) ‘Bring your jacket and come along,’ we murmur. You love cold weather and can even survive a light frost. [Spring definition: light frost occurs when the temperature drops below freezing, but the ground has warmed and is no longer frozen. Hard freeze occurs when both temperature and ground are frozen.] Hard freeze is pretty much curtains for most vegetables except the hardiest like the Brassicas, which include the super foods like kale, collards & turnips. Tough guys in the garden.4-17A

Today we completed tilling and manuring all friable areas of the garden and then planted peas, broad beans [favas to “Silence of the Lambs” lovers]  a few rows of turnips, carrots, beets, radishes, green onions. We also planted out some lettuce and mizuna seedlings. Returning indoors for the evening we bid them good luck. But we think they’re on to us. They know we’re hedging our bets and haven’t yet stored the snow blower for the season.

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2015 Kingsbrae [F]Arms Crops

2-16AThis last blizzard day kitchen sink pizza got us thinking about our garden and greenhouse crops for the coming season. Maybe it was the thick armor of onions and their golden caramelized finish we craved—or sinking our teeth into the crunch of charred kale, arugula and mustard greens underneath. Doesn’t matter. The pizza sustained us and put us to work. Final seed catalog decisions were made after reviewing the results of last season and performing a kind of Mendelian Darwinism of those that performed and those that did not. 2-16

As you can imagine from the winters we’ve been experiencing, this is a tough garden spot prone to everything from gale force winds to freak frosts & hail to blight blowing in from the sea. Notwithstanding, all is idealized at this time of year when failures are merely a figment of the future and indoor micro green crops stand in stark contrast to the piles of snow outside. Here then are the crops we’ll be growing in garden and greenhouse and serving on our table this year. 2-16B

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Beat the snow

Cauliflower ParmIf you’re looking for something to get you through the next blizzard [or the one after that for that matter] check out this Parmigiana recipe from the New York Times:

It is infinitely adaptable and can be made with any number of ingredients. In our first effort, we made the cauliflower shapes look like meatballs. In the next, we layered Norland red potatoes, kale & broccoli to the cauliflower.

2-12Our tip to good health is roasting the vegetables rather than frying them. Now don’t get us wrong. We still dredge, but in chickpea flour rather than all-purpose, coat the bits with egg and cover them with panko. But instead of dropping them into a half inch of scalding oil, we spread them on an oven tray and pop them into the oven @ 425 for 30 minutes. Out they come, golden and crunchy. [We were tempted to stop there and chow down, but we had already made the sauce.] And of course, sauce is a very personal thing. We use bacon and two kinds of paste for the base: anchovy and tomato. Then sauteed onions, shredded carrots, two cans of San Marzano tomatoes and plenty of seasoning, spice and a dash of 2-3Fvinegar & sugar. Your call. Shred mozzarella. Grate Parmesan and do the layering in a big glass Pyrex pan starting with sauce, cheese, bits, sauce, cheese, kale, sauce, cheese bits and top with more Parmesan, maybe some nutmeg. You get the idea. This will get you through the snow if there’s no Caribbean in your near future and your four foot picket fence is a thing of the past.

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Skillet Corn Bread

corn bread[NEW YEAR’S UPDATE. Serve this golden cornbread with a heaping helping of Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day for a healthy and prosperous year filled with luck. Unfamiliar with this Southern dish? Just mix up a batch of savory black-eyed peas, serve over rice and your good fortune chances increase exponentially. Check out a detailed David Tanis recipe on the New York Times site. ]

We’ve been eyeing that well seasoned cast iron skillet on the shelf lately and decided it was time to pull out the corn bread ingredients. There are so many variations. This is our favorite, but as with all our recipes, we encourage a variety of optional added savory ingredients that will have you coming back to the base recipe over and over again.

  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • heaping teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil [more or less depending on how moist you want your result]
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 stick cooled melted butter
  • [Optionals: your favorite spice profile, whole corn kernels, chopped jalapenos for heat, crispy bacon, diced ham, grated cheddar…keep going]

Stick your skillet with some butter into the oven while pre-heating to 425F. Keep an eye on it. Mix dry ingredients in one bowl and wet in another. Then pour wet into dry and mix till just combined. Spread batter evenly in hot skillet and bake about 25:00 minutes. Cool on rack if you have that kind of restraint. Otherwise slather pieces with butter and eat while piping hot. If you’re having a dinner party, try to save some for your guests.


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Preserved Lemons

001Our Mediterannean tagines have been spot on with spicing, but truth is, our lemon ingredient was roasted, not preserved. The result…the random hit of concentrated lemon without the acidic throat attack was judged agreeable. And yet, we’ve been impressed with the versatility of preserved lemons stirring the rinds [not the juice or pulp] like canary yellow candy bits or ribbon strips into mashed potatoes, cauliflower puree, hummus, rice, couscous, quinoa, a dizzying array of applications especially welcome in the winter months and quite authentic in your next tagine.

When we looked, recipes for preserved lemons were varied, but you get the idea if you think lemons, lemon juice, flaky salt [kosher will do nicely] and time. Simply rinse your lemons, cut into attached quarters, salt liberally and squeeze into a mason jar. Fill to the brim with more lemon juice. Now wait. Store in the pantry for several days, then in the fridge for up to six months. When ready to use, simply rinse off the salt of what you need, chop or julienne the rind and add like seasoning a la minute. Fragrance and flavor will develop in the heat of your dish. Worth the wait.

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Chowder Reconsidered

ChowderWith all the early winter horrors or news of it upon us, we yearn for comforting nourishment. Chowder comes to mind. We’ve got an arsenal of tried and true recipes, but have been really impressed with substituting chickpea or “gram” flour for all purpose wheat flour. Here are four simple reasons to give it a try. Roux made with chickpea flour is luscious and velvety; it doesn’t separate; there is no gluten; and chickpea flour contains a higher proportion of protein than any other flour.

So let’s get started. This is not a specific recipe. It’s more of a departure point to encourage your own explorations.

Begin with a saute of seasoned savories in some EVOO. Onions, mushrooms, fennel, celery. For smoke add some chopped bacon or pepperoni…whatever you fancy. When the savories are limp/translucent/done, add a few tablespoons of butter with a few tablespoons of chickpea flour and toast the roux for a few minutes. The beauty of chickpea flour is that you can add more later to thicken the chowder. You don’t have to be as precise about amounts at this point as you have to be with wheat flour. Add hot milk [or substitute almond, soy or rice milk to avoid lactose if you like] stirring with a whisk. You will be impressed that there are no lumps. Then add an equal amount of stock bringing all to a gentle boil. Here’s where you decide if your chowder is thick enough or if you need to add more chickpea flour. If you need more, just toss it in and stir. No need to make a slurry, but you can if you like. 

Now it’s time for the chowder ingredients. Add your choice of vegetables. Note: Rather than boiling our vegetable ingredients, we prefer to oven roast them. Bite size cuts of potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, peppers [we add items like peas or corn with the seafood at the end]. Our go-to temp/time is 450F/20:00. You get a deeper, richer flavor. Bring this mixture to a gentle boil, toss in your raw seafood [for this recipe, we used squid, clams, mussels & shrimp], shut off the heat and let the pot rest covered for ten minute. The seafood will be perfectly cooked. When you remove the lid, you’re in for a treat. But remember, just one of an infinite number of seafood & vegetable combinations. 

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Risotto No-Stir Redux

Risotto ScallopsSomewhere in the early dawn of everything digital we downloaded a 2000 New York Times article titled “Minute Risotto [Almost]” by Melissa Clark @goodappetite on behalf of master chef Christian Delouvrier @DelouvrierChef. Our pack-rat tendencies are to organize recipe downloads, scribbles, scratches, notes & shreds in loose-leaf binders [we have several] and when we’re not so organised tossing them into plastic task baskets for random retrieval. Seems like risotto is getting a bump in popularity lately and we think it’s time to revisit the no-stir method from the archives. Chef Delouvrier’s was an elegant iteration with black truffle foam and as decadent as you can imagine. But for us…and for you, the real reveal was the time saving shortcuts we haven’t seen in print lately. Let us unpack these secrets for you.

  • Ingredients:
    • 3/4 cup of arborio rice
    • 1/2 cup dry white wine
    • 1-1/4 cups stock/broth [your choice of meat, poultry, vegetarian…depending on your ultimate flavor profile. Remember, risotto is essentially a delivery system.]
  • Method
    • Saute [or not] rice in a bit of butter/oil to toast
    • Combine rice and wine and simmer until wine is absorbed. Let cool. [This is important. Suggest doing this step in the morning to ensure a cool mixture by lunch or dinner time.]
    • To finish: heat stock/broth, blend into the rice with a wooden spoon breaking up the chunks of inebriated rice and simmer till liquid is absorbed [about 6 minutes.]
    • No need to stir except to perform the biblical parting of the rice mixture at the bottom of the pan to test for proper consistency.

That’s it. Honest. You now have a creamy risotto, which you and your imagination can tease, coax, supplement, flavor & enrich with infinite combinations of butter, cheese, cream, creme fraiche, sour cream, sauteed vegetables, purees, seafood, caramelized savories…[preferably not all at once]. This is where you shine with unique possibilities. 

001Who needs to stand over a stove for 20 minutes stirring? This no-stir result is as traditional as chestnuts [how about roasted chestnut risotto?] and just perfect as we enter the season of holiday excess & pleasure with so little time for any of it. Besides, if you’ve ever eaten restaurant risotto, you’ve probably eaten this version many times.


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Marrakesh Meandering

TagineCruciferous vegetables, chicken suprême, lemons, tomatoes, olives…unlikely combinations, but legit ingredients all in Daniel Bouloud’s tagine recipe. We were wondering about a mid-autumn Sunday dinner when thanks to Sam Sifton’s recent New York Times article, everything fell into place. By early afternoon the kitchen filled with toasty aromas of spices, a heady mix of cardamom, garam masala, 5-spice, allspice [not the same] turmeric, ginger,coriander seed. Lots of paprika, of course. Along the way we got bold with the ingredients and added some of our own. Pickled red peppers, pepperoni & apricot studded Israeli couscous. We love these collaborations. One idea begets another. We’re always testing and taking new avenues that can be explored with flavor. Our “tagine” was considered a success. Sort of a color wheel hedge against the certain monochromatic monotony to come in the snowy months ahead. The recipe will be re-used and revised and the palate will dance on our tongues as our eyes look forward to the hews of spring. This is a worthy effort.

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So what’s in the bowl?

001We chose our salad greens [and reds and magenta’s and ruby’s and copper’s]  for taste, color & texture. Starting at the greenhouse, there’s lots of cruciferous fireworks with arugula, tat soi & mizuna. Magenta spreen is a favorite and just around the there’s a burst of ruby orach. Dappled lettuce leaves are a favorite. Speckled trout, perfectly named. And deer tongue, very anatomically correct if you’re a deer, but not invited to this banquet. Stay out please. [Truth is we leave little goodies in pots outside the greenhouse for these night time foragers. Call us softies.] And then beet greens & kales give the crisp textures. Tickly Russian red and reptilian skinned Italian lacinato. 7-21A little of this. A little of that, and each evening at Topside Tavern comes an ever changing palate to temp eye as well as tongue. Dressing secret ingredient? 7-16AMaple syrup that over the winter was mere sap in a local stand of trees. It’s all finished with a pickled egg, edible day lily, sprinkle of pumpkin seeds [the pumpkins come later], candied pecans, cranberries & a buttery crostini.  Tutti a tavola…[Did we say we love Lydia?]

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