Saturday, December 31, 2011

Kinda boring

The season has been relatively boring. So far. Suits me fine.

A year ago the river had been frozen over for almost 3 weeks and we didn't see open water again until March.

31 December 2011 9:00 am

Here the second week of Winter and we've only had a couple of really cold days. One of those days left some ice along the river's edge but it's gone.

The weekend forecast is for unseasonably mild weather and even with rain I'm ok with this.

Clam chowder is a favorite any time of year but it's especially good this time of year. I checked and I can't believe I haven't blogged my clam chowder recipe. New England Clam Chowder. Of course. Anyone can prepare a killer clam chowder quickly and easily.

I've tried more clam chowder recipes than I can count and found simply: It's all about the clams. Herbs are conspicuously absent from my recipe.

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped celery. I like to get some celery leaves in the mix.
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 8 oz. clam juice. I like Snow's.
  • 1 small Yukon Gold potato, peeled and cubed
  • 8 oz. chopped cooked clams. Canned clams are excellent for this.
  • Half cup of half and half
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
There's a lot of latitude in this dish within certain limits. Clams? Use more. Use less. Steam them fresh or use canned. Minced or chopped. Sometimes I use whole baby clams. I haven't tried razor clams yet. I intend to one of these days.

Like your chowder thick? Use more flour. Not so thick? Use less. Hard as it is to believe you can even use powdered non fat milk instead of half and half and *still* make a perfectly delicious creamy clam chowder. You do have to use butter though.


Melt your butter in a saucepan. Add the chopped celery and sweat it for 8 to 10 minutes. Until it's soft and semi transparent. It's important the celery be chopped as finely as you can chop it.

Add the ground pepper and onion powder, stir into the butter, add the clam juice.

When the clam juice comes to a boil add the cubed potato and reduce the heat, let that simmer until the potato is tender, 10 or 12 minutes. When the potatoes are done I take the half and half and, in a small jar, mix in the all purpose flour and give it a good shake. The I add it to the chowder and bring it back to a boil. It has to come back to a boil. Sometimes I add a little more butter here. That helps it thicken and makes it more silky. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for a few minutes to cook out the fresh flour flavor.

Remove the chowder from the heat.

Stir in the clams and any juice that might be with them.

Oyster crackers are traditional with New England Clam Chowder. I like a rustic bread with it myself.

A small bowl is a wonderful first course for a large meal and a big bowl is an excellent main course.

Every once in a long while I add a pinch of thyme to my chowder but otherwise I don't mess with this recipe much.

Sunday, December 25, 2011


From the back of my horse. Riding with the owls.

Christmas Day 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Time, determination...

And the right tools...

22 December 2011

I decide to decorate L's stall with a poinsettia garland. Actually, the plan is when it snows I'll drape this around her neck for next year's Christmas card picture. But meanwhile I thought I'd drape it around her tack hook for a festive appearance for the holidays.

Sure..they look like flowers. And.. what are flowers to a horse? Treats!

I didn't get it. Until I was cleaning her stall and found 3 red flowers in her bedding. Good grief! She chewed threw her wall to get at the flowers! She ate 3 of them and spit them out.

I'm amazed. Just amazed. How on earth did she put such a precise bead on the wall?! There. Now you know why some say she's smarter then me. I couldn't have done a better job with carpenter's tools. Speaking of carpenter's tools. Now I have to fix that wall...

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Rhythm of life

I live in a village. No really. Officially, we're a village. Thirty one miles from downtown Boston.

25 June 2011, 5:50 pm

I've wanted to put that picture up ever since I took it. There, that's our "Main St." looking east. It's almost 6:00 pm and I'm standing on the double yellow line taking pictures. Not a lot goes on here. The village common is directly behind me. The town hall is to my right and the village church is to my left. I live a block down that street on the right. The whole area is an historic district and the neighborhood has a lot of charm.

The population was less than 10,000 when I first came here and last year it was close to 13,000. I didn't plan on being here. It was sort of a happy accident I landed here some years ago and I didn't plan on staying. It's just kind of worked out that way.

There's a whole "rhythm of life" thing going on here that, while it's not for everyone, I've really come to enjoy. I guess it's a kind of stop and smell the flowers sort of thing. I've used the same "rhythm of life" expression to describe barn life and handling horses but it's different. Village life is mostly...slow, while barn life has a certain cadence moving through the day. In both cases I use the expression to describe the whole of it as a pleasant thing. I like it here.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Speaking of smoked salmon

I never liked smoked salmon much.

Smoked wild Sockeye salmon

Then several years ago some friends of mine, one of whom is from Alaska, visited Fairbanks and brought back some salmon his dad smoked in the back yard. That's common in Alaska. Smoking salmon in the back yard. And this stuff was just *delicious*. That inspired me to try some smoked salmon from Harry and David. Which was very good but it wasn't like the homemade stuff. It was enough to make we want to try some less expensive, more easily available stuff.

Smoked salmon is complicated. I've come to generally like smoked salmon. But "Smoked Scottish Salmon" is *not* "Scottish Smoked Salmon" which, by the way, is *not* "Salmon smoked in Scotland". Which is not the same as "Scottish Style Smoked Salmon". Which is dry brined and hardwood cold smoked.

Surprisingly I find I generally like the Ruby Bay products. They're near the East River in Brooklyn! Who ever would have thought. They have a broad selection of smoked salmon products.

Ruby Bay smoked salmon

In this case, it's "Norwegian Style" Smoked Salmon. The salmon is sugar cured with spices and cold smoked over fruitwood smoke. Usually.

Turns out over time and testing I like "Irish Style" smoked salmon.

Irish Style Smoked Salmon (lower half of the frame)

Which is cold smoked over peat smoke. It has a lovely texture. See how shiny that salmon is? It's not at all wet. The top half of the frame there is a maple cured hot smoked salmon. With cracked peppercorns. Obviously I couldn't decide what I wanted. I like dill with salmon and smoked salmon is especially good with hard boiled or scrambled eggs.

Or with cucumber and red onions..and...pickled herring?

Smoked salmon and inlagd sill

I prefer wild salmon and Alaskan salmon (Coho, Sockeye and King) is just about the only wild salmon left. Norwegian, Irish, Scottish and even Nova Scotia salmon is almost universally farmed. It's extremely rare to find wild salmon in Europe.

I'm not sure I'm ready for smoked salmon mousse but a little piece of smoked salmon fillet is excellent on a cracker. With a slice of avacado.

Oh! And have a nice Pinot Noir with your smoked salmon!

Love this Pinot Noir!

Edited (18 December 2011) to add: I've learned more about smoked salmon! It turns out that an awful lot of smoked fish products (not just salmon) come from Brooklyn. Brooklyn is highly regarded in the smoked fish business. The smokehouses around the East River supply the greater New York City area with tons and tons of smoked fish. The quality whitefish, bluefish, mackerel, herring, salmon and trout get consistently good reviews. I had no idea really. Even the peppered mackerel I've enjoyed for years comes from Brooklyn!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Tofu? Again?!

I like tofu. No, no, I don't do tofu hot dogs and tofu burgers.

I like the cheese like blocks of firm tofu. I dry them with paper towels, cut them into cubes or planks and marinate them. Tofu has no flavor so it really has to be marinated. I usually marinate tofu overnight.

Tofu cubes in sweet and sour marinade

Marinated tofu is excellent with salads or noodles which can be an appetizer, a side dish or a main course. Plain tofu is good in soups.

Ponzu marinated tofu with soba noodles

I think Asian flavors work best with tofu. Soy. Teriyaki. Sweet and sour. Ponzu.

I want to try some more western flavors with tofu. I wanted to do something Mediterranean with tofu. Oh, some sort of olive oil and vinegar marinade. Maybe with some mustard and honey. Add some Mediterranean herbs. But I slipped right back to a teriyaki marinade when I decided this:

Ming Tsai did something like this on Simply Ming

Would be perfect with smoked salmon!

Teriyaki tofu salad and smoked salmon

Marinades I use all the time:

  • Soy sauce (oh, 2 tablespoons maybe)
  • Honey (a tablespoon or so)
  • Chopped garlic (not a lot, maybe 1 clove)
  • Ginger (a tiny bit, finely minced or run over a grater)
I have variations that I think of as "teriyaki based". Sometimes I add the juice from half a lime. Sometimes I use ponzu instead of soy sauce. Sometimes I add a big splash of oyster sauce.

Sweet and sour:
  • White vinegar, 1/3 cup
  • Honey, 2 or 3 tablespoons
  • Ketchup, a couple of tablespoons
  • Soy sauce, a tablespoon or two
I add a generous amount of sriracha to these and their variations. I often use some sesame oil, maybe a tablespoon, and I'll sometimes add finely chopped red onion. And green onion. And chili peppers.

These make good dipping sauces as well. The teriyaki based sauces are good with seared tuna. I withhold the honey for the marinade because it burns if you're not careful.

If I'm stir frying I'll mix these up and add a tablespoon of corn starch in some water and use it to finish the stir fry. You can add corn starch and water to these and simmer them to give them a slightly thick and silky quality that make good dressings.

So if you haven't tried tofu you have to try it!

Sweet and sour tofu stir fry

Sunday, November 27, 2011


I like fancy tack as much as the next guy. But sometimes one has to improvise.

My improvised crop

L started messing with me and I decided I needed a whip. That was the best I could do. It started off longer than that but I actually had to use it. It broke. Still worked as well as the ones you buy...

Pretty horse!

I'm going to have to clean that bridle.

See how she's all kinds of alert? The chickens were wandering about the yard and, for some reason, that always causes her much concern. I'd love to get in her head even for just a minute.

What a sensational weekend. Mild and pleasant. Well in to the 60s on Saturday. I'd be ok if the winter was like this all season.

I prepared a modest, very light Thanksgiving dinner this year. I was in a little distress over squash. Thanksgiving dinner without squash just isn't right. Then I had an idea!

First course: butternut squash soup

I loosely followed this recipe. I almost always "loosely" follow recipes.

I used vegetable broth. I didn't use cream. I used a little bit (maybe a teaspoon) of finely chopped fresh ginger and I served it with some dried sage. Fresh sage would have been better. It was *delicious*.

Earlier in the week I checked and I had Swanson's vegetable broth in the cabinet. Then I read the label. 1920 mg sodium per can?! High fructose corn syrup?! MSG?! Disodium Guanylate?! What the? I threw it away. Fat free sure I still wouldn't even give that stuff to anyone. America's Test Kitchen taste tested vegetable broth (10 samples!) and said basically, I'm paraphrasing here, it's all crap.

So I made my own. I was very proud of my broth!

Homemade vegetable broth

I chopped up an onion, a couple celery stalks, a carrot, garlic and any other vegetable that looked like I'd probably throw away in the next few days. Some broccoli about to turn yellow. A turnip going a little soft. I sautéed them in olive oil for about 10 minutes on high heat. With a tiny pinch of salt. And some cloves and whole peppercorns. Then I added 8 cups of water and threw in a half a bag of spinach that was just waiting for my next trip to the dumpster. I boiled the vegetables vigorously for about 30 minutes. After straining I had a nice rich flavorful broth. There's some solids in there. Tiny pieces of vegetables and chopped garlic. I could have strained it again but I decided that was flavor and besides, I like "rustic".

It made a delicious butternut squash soup!

But I think the real test will be when I use it to make minestrone.

Product Review!

Hands down - Best. Brownies. Ever.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


I always think of milestones with L on Thanksgiving.

There are milestones. The "firsts" with your horse. Whether you're training a baby or just brought home an old "been there done that" trail horse. These are big things.

L's very first saddle ever - 14 February 2004

Backed, first time ever, 18 July 2004

Holy crap I've lost a lot of weight!

It's easy now, years later, to forget the countless hours of training it took to bring a young horse along. Tying, manners, lungeing, round penning, showmanship. L didn't even know what an apple was when I brought her home.

Long lining

Giving and Bending


I kept good notes. Our very first bareback ride was 4 August 2005. I have something of a sentimental streak.

And I have lots of pictures.

And then, sometimes, you have milestones of a different sort. Things that change your whole understanding of what you do and after which there's no turning back.

I remember the day after Thanksgiving, 2005 like it was yesterday. It was cold and damp and the fog was so thick you could barely see 40 feet. I saddled up L and we'd been leaving the ring for weeks so I felt she'd outgrown being lunged before every ride. So off we went into the fields. A very short time later a truck came by out in the street. It rumbled and rattled in the fog and L just melted down. She leaped and she spun and she was outta there. My very first thought was to bail and hand walk her back to the ring and lunge the beans out of her but she let go a couple of bucks and started another spin. I really didn't think I'd get to the ground safely and then I realized I wasn't going to stop this. And trying to stop it was just going get someone hurt. She *needed* to do this and my only choice was to get us both through this safely. So I pushed her. Hard. I put her in a circle to get a little bit of lightness in her front and after a couple of big circles I put her straight out in the field and I pushed her hard. If she wanted to act like a nutbag, fine, but we have to do it my way.

I knew she could do this and pay attention too. When we made the tree line I turned her around and we went back the way we came.

That completely defused the situation and we went on to enjoy one of the best rides ever.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Not again

Tying troubles redux.

Cross tie

She'll never outgrow this I guess. Someone did me a favor recently cleaning L's stall for me. They put her on hard cross ties rather than her sliding cross ties and I guess they didn't last a couple of minutes. Someone reached over a stall door to bite L's butt and "plink"..."plink"...bye bye cross ties. Both of them. Then I guess she just stood there quietly with the snaps hanging from her halter.

Those things are hard to break and she breaks them like it's nothing. The thing that worries me the most is one day having a loose end or broken buckle snap back into one of her eyes.

I always clean her stall with her in it rather than tie her. When the weather's too bad to put her out. I found it's a great training exercise actually. My trainer always told me controlling the feet is controlling the horse and I have to control her feet and her position to clean her stall. I maneuver her around. She makes ugly faces but she does exactly what I tell her and it's very funny sometimes.

And from time to time she'll give me "the look" which, unless I bark at her first, will be immediately followed by her abruptly and deliberately stepping right in my way. It's ridiculously transparent. It's not a simple careless move. If it gets that far I smack her butt good and she's just mortified.

When I first started doing this I noticed handling her was easier and controlling her position in her stall had everything to do with that.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Abject failure

Last season one of my objectives was to mount from the ground bareback. I never pulled that one off.

Sunday I decided I've been running since February, I've been working out, I've been lifting weights, I'm not a half bad horseman, I can do this.

Well. Down. In. Flames. L however put in a stellar performance. She was such a good sport. After bouncing off her barrel and flailing around 4 or 5 times while she stood there quietly looking over her shoulder I decided she'd had enough amusement for one day. I led her over to a nearby mounting block and we went off for a very pleasant ride. Mostly. I wasn't wearing spurs for obvious reason. Of course she knew that and took some advantage. So I had to get a stick.

No pictures. My assistant was busy.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The path

How on earth did I get here?!

Sushi - Mandarin Garden Platter

I first tried Sashimi maybe 30 years ago in California. I didn't care for it much. I vaguely remember trying Sushi maybe 10 or 12 years ago locally. I didn't care for it much.

Then while having Chinese food some weeks ago I had a view of the Sushi bar and the chefs were fixing some of the most beautiful things.

My date and I had uni for dessert.

Uni. Delicious.

I had to go back for more.

Our Sushi was exquisite and I swear I could have nibbled on Sushi all night long.

Tempura shrimp maki. Crab. Tuna. Nigiri.

The salmon Sashimi? There on the right. It was flavorful and just melted in my mouth. It's up there with the best things I ever ate. The white fish behind the salmon is white tuna. I'd never heard of white tuna before last night. I liked the red tunas better.

My tastes have changed or my fondness for seafood has really taken over my palate. It wasn't always this way.

Up until about 3 years ago I don't think I'd eaten fish 3 times in 10 years. It sort of started here:

Not really from Gloucester any more

After losing a lot of weight I became more mindful of healthy eating habits and I wanted to improve my diet. I decided to try the Gorton's breaded fish fillets. I got the parmesan crusted fillets and I liked them. So I tried some others. I liked them too. I think everyone would agree they're probably better for you than Hamburger Helper. I love Hamburger Helper.

After eating the Gorton's stuff for a while I decided I'd try my hand at preparing fish. No wonder I didn't like fish much. I didn't know how to cook it.

Pan seared halibut fillet

Once I learned how to cook fish I found I liked pan seared halibut, oven baked haddock and Flounder Meuniere better than Gorton's! It's not hard. Use the 10 minutes per inch rule.

I'd always liked pickled herring.

Re-discovered herring tidbits

And with my new found confidence even took to liking smoked salmon.

Have crackers and yogurt with this

I even think this is a treat!

Here I'm a greater Boston native and I never liked fish much up until about 3 years ago. Thanks to Gorton's? I sometimes eat seafood for weeks at a time. And I thoroughly enjoy every single bite!

Oh. And I think now I'm going to have to practice using chop sticks!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Squid soup

My (loose) interpretation of this.

Squid soup

I sautéed half a red onion in olive oil for 6 or 8 minutes with some chopped garlic, a teaspoon of red pepper flakes, a couple of bay leaves and a pinch of salt.

I added 5 or 6 oz. calamari with some tentacles and a cup of vermouth. When the vermouth was reduced by about half I added a 14 and a half oz. can of diced tomatoes and a can of fish stock. I let that simmer gently and after about 40 minutes I turned the heat off and let it sit for a while. I do that a lot with soup.

It needed a tiny bit more salt before serving. And I removed the bay leaves.

It also needed more calamari and more tentacles but it was a delicious soup. One I'll make again. And again.

And it was a great first course for some seared sea scallops!

Seared sea scallops with some spinach

Sunday, November 6, 2011

My first time

First waffle ever!

A year or so ago I decided I wanted to make waffles. So ever since then I've been shopping around for a waffle iron. I live in a shoebox and I swear I hardly have room for one more pan never mind a waffle maker, so I didn't want an electric waffle maker.

So I find cast iron waffle irons. Camp cookware, basically. But I like the looks of them. I *love* cast iron. Nothing cooks like cast iron. But the cast iron waffle irons are surprisingly expensive. So I've been waiting for a bargain. I finally decided one of these days I'm gonna drop dead without having made a waffle trying to save 3 bucks.

So I got a waffle iron off the web.

Rome's #1100 Old Fashioned Waffle Maker

This is a basic 6 inch cast iron waffle iron. It doesn't come pre-seasoned. Because of the obvious way in which batter will stick here I was very careful to season it well.

How do you season cast iron?

I scrubbed it good with soapy hot water. Twice. Then I dried it thoroughly. Then I heated it up on the stove top just a little bit. Then I painted it liberally all over with canola oil. I let the excess drip off and put it in a 350 degree oven for an hour. I turned the oven off and took it out the next day.

Seasoned waffle iron

I based my batter on this recipe. I used half all purpose flour and half whole wheat flour, I used canola oil instead of butter and I used powdered buttermilk instead of milk.

I had no idea how to evenly heat both sides of my waffle iron. I decided to put it in a 400 degree oven. When it was well heated I painted the cooking surfaces with canola oil and used maybe a cup of batter. I lightly oiled it every other waffle.
  • Cast iron tip: oil a hot pan. Always wait until your cast iron is hot before oiling it.
  • Another cast iron tip: oil the food. When I do steaks, chops or fish I usually rub the food lightly with some oil before I season it. Then I put it in a hot dry pan.
I baked it for about 7 minutes and got good waffles. I'm sure butter would have made better waffles! Butter makes everything better. And nothing came close to sticking. I got 5 waffles from that recipe. They freeze really well.

Ready for Winter

Product review: Love the waffle iron!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

More snow?!

Of course it's all about the snow. Real snow - not just a few minutes of flurries.

Saturday 29 October 4:05 pm

And it's accumulating...

4:10 pm

What a most perfect night for soup. I *love* pea soup!

Pea soup on the stove

Thanks a million to my friend M for that bone! Everybody knows I want their bones.

From a lifetime of fiddling I have the most perfect pea soup recipe:
  • 1 Ham bone
  • Water
  • 1 bag of split peas
Put the ham bone in a stock pot. Cover it with water. Bring the water to a boil. Add the split peas, reduce to a vigorous simmer, cover it. When the bone falls apart it's done. That's usually about an hour and a half.

That's it. No onions, no carrots, no salt, no nothing. I have messed with pea soup recipes for years. Decades. And as far as I'm concerned I just wasted perfectly good bones. Skim the fat off the top before serving and maybe, just maybe, for something really special, add some chopped fresh mint leaves when serving it. I don't know how well this soup keeps or freezes. It's so good I always eat it all.

It was all over Sunday morning.

Sunday 30 October 7:20 am

Well. The storm was all over. Of course we had no power. It was pretty enough but it would have been prettier if I didn't have to drive over to the next town for a cup of coffee.

I can't really complain. I spent the morning reading cook books and we got power back later in the day. There are people that *still* don't have power and a little old lady froze to death in her bed without power Thursday night. What a sad thing. Apparently every time trees fall down now we could be without power for a week or two.

As much as I hate the cold and the snow and everything the barn property was really pretty and the horses enjoyed their first good snow roll of the season.

Run in shed

The barn was without power for most of the week. We melted snow in the sun to fill water buckets and when the clean snow ran out the fire department filled a tank for us. They were very good about that.

And remember this? Here's the same place on Sunday afternoon.

30 October 2011

I wanted to ride in the worst way Sunday afternoon but the wind was just awful. It was cold biting wind as bad as any we have in January.

North wind!

Such an unusual sight. The corn stalks are usually long gone by the time there's any snow. The wind hardly ever blows from the north here. When it does it's always bad no matter what the time of year.
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