Grown-Up Tomato Basil Soup and Grilled Cheese


A few weeks ago we finally watched the movie Chef. I know many of you may have already seen it – we tend to be a little behind the curve when it comes to what’s new, which is what happens when you sail on a boat for half the year. No worries, though, by the time we get around to seeing a movie at the theater, it’s gone and another new and hot cinematic triumph is in its place. Never-the-less, we do get to the good ones eventually and Chef did not disappoint.

The food scenes were so beautifully shot and inspiring that all I wanted to do when the movie ended was don my apron, pick up my knife, and get cooking.

I think all artists of any craft, whether it’s food or fiber, wood or paint, find themselves in moments of needing to go inward to silence the competing voices, no matter if it’s for a moment or a year.  In those moments, I find I must simply breathe, relax and trust that this gift of mine for creating food will again flow freely and with joy.  And it does.  Always.  When creativity begins to flow again, it’s the sweetest of places.

As I watched “Chef” and reveled in the crispy crust and gooey, dripping, melting cheese of a grilled cheese sandwich that he makes for his son, I thought of how evocative the simplest of meals are. How the simplest things sometimes require attention to detail to make them great. The bread was a brioche or a beautiful sourdough, buttered liberally all the way to the edges. The several different kinds of cheese were layered thickly. The heat was low enough to allow the cheese to melt all the way through and the bread to brown into crispy perfect.

And then I NEEDED to make grilled cheese.  Right then.

And what goes better with grilled cheese than tomato soup – making us happy for something warm to wrap our hands around.

The quality of the tomatoes in this recipe matter a good deal as they are the centerpiece. If you have home-canned tomatoes, this is the place to use them. If you have frozen whole tomatoes, this is the place to use them (skins removed). If not, good-quality canned tomato like San Marzanos are lovely and work perfectly well. Don’t attempt to use fresh tomatoes this time of year, not worth the cost or effort.

Grown-Up Tomato Basil Soup and Grilled Cheese
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups diced onions; about 1 large onion
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Several grinds of fresh black pepper
2 tablespoons dried basil
1 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons minced garlic; about 6 cloves
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken broth
6 cups whole or quartered tomatoes

1 cup minced scallions
1/2 cup crème fraiche

Heat the oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for 7 to 10 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Add the salt, black pepper, basil, paprika, garlic and sauté for another 2 minutes or so, stirring frequently. Add the flour and stir until well incorporated. Add the white wine and chicken broth and again stir well. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. For grownups, garnish with scallions and crème fraiche.

Serves 4 to 6

Grilled Cheese
1 stick salted butter, softened
8 slices peasant bread or sourdough bread
8 ounces sliced extra sharp cheddar cheese Cabot or other good quality cheddar
4 ounces sliced Monterey Jack cheese
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Heat a large griddle over medium-low heat. Meanwhile, butter 1 side of each of the slices of bread. Make sure the butter reaches all of the edges. Place 4 slices on the griddle, butter-side down and place the cheese slices on top, dividing evenly. Top with the second slice of bread, butter-side up.

Grill for 4 to 6 minutes each side or until the bread is golden brown and crispy and the cheese is completely melted and gooey in the center. Remove from griddle and slice in half. Serve with Dijon mustard.

Serves 4

Creative and happy

Knitting a Baa-ble Hat

If you read last Friday’s post, then you know that somewhere in there, Chloe had to have a handmade knit item from me as well.  Don’t worry, fair is fair, and hers came in the middle of the two sets of socks knit for Ella.


Chloe’s hat, called the Baa-ble Hat because it has the most adorable sheep on it, was made with Quince and Co yarn purchased at our LYS, Over the Rainbow Yarn.  Mim Bird, proprietor and knitter extraordinaire, is also the instructor of our June 8-11, Sheep to Shawl Maine Knitting Cruise, where we’ll get to see yarn from beginning to end.  Beginning at Bittersweet Heritage Farm, we’ll see sheep shorn (That was fun to write!).  We’ll then gather back at the Riggin for 4 days of spinning with Heather Kinne of Highland Handmades and knitting with Mim of the above-mentioned Over the Rainbow Yarn.

Back to the hat at hand, this super fun pattern was made with Quince and Co colors – Birds Egg; Split Pea; and Bark.  (The white we already had on hand.)  The pattern calls for the sheep feet and noses to be black, but we found that color to be way too stark with the rest of the palette.  Even though the pattern is actually, at times, a four-color pattern, I found it to be really easy and approachable.

Knitting is what Maine winters are for

Pan-seared Cauliflower with Kale Pesto

While initially I created this dish as a side to some sort of healthy protein, the more I snacked on it (while plating it up), the more I decided that this could be the highlight of a meal.  Served over polenta or quinoa and with a salad, I’d be a happy camper.  Only those major meat-lovers would be sad to not have their mainstay.  The rest of us, though?  Yum.



Pan-seared Cauliflower with Kale Pesto
Did you know that the green leaves on the bottom of the cauliflower heads are edible? Use them for kimchi, a small slaw, garnish or in a stir-fry. Think about them as you would cabbage.

1 head cauliflower
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Several grinds of fresh black pepper
2 anchovies, minced
1/2 cup kale pesto
2 tablespoons pine nuts

Remove the green leaves from the cauliflower. Make slices 3/4-inch thick beginning at one end as you would bread. When you reach the core, turn the flat side down and repeat until you have cut all four sides. Discard the harder and more fibrous core.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. Add the cauliflower, salt and pepper and cover with a lid. Check often to stir and reduce heat to medium if the pieces begin to darken too much. Break any large pieces with a wooden spoon. When the cauliflower begins to soften, about 10 minutes, add the anchovies and mix in well. Add the kale pesto, mix well and transfer to a bowl or platter. Sprinkle with the pine nuts and serve.

Serves 4 to 6


Kale Pesto
This pesto is slightly milder than the perfumy basil variety, with a minor bitter note. It’s a star in our house and is used in soups, pastas, sandwiches and pizzas – all the ways you would consider for a traditional pesto. Also, if you have someone with a pinenut allergy, sunflower seeds are an excellent substitute.

8 ounces kale leaves, stems removed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Several grinds of fresh black pepper
2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese; about 1/2 cup
1/4 cup pine nuts
3 teaspoons minced garlic; about 3 cloves

Combine all ingredients in a food processer. Freeze what you won’t use within a few days.

Makes 2 cups

Lovin’ my veggies

Stirrup Socks – A Purl Soho Pattern

As every good mama should, I alternate between making something for one and then the other.  This project is one for Ella and one that was a joy to do – in part because she chose carefully – the pattern, the yarn, and the size – which meant that she was happy with the end result.

It’s been a while since I’ve made things for the girls as there was a long time when anything I made was too itchy, too big, too small, too something.  So there my loving, homemade, hard work would sit.  In the drawer.  Eventually to be out grown.  So I stopped making things for the girls.  Until one day last summer, Ella ASKED me to make some socks for her.  I did so with a little trepidation, but also with a good measure of letting-it-go.  I told myself that making a gift is not about how someone receives it (although it sure does help) but that instead it’s about the person doing the making.  How it’s made, the care you give it, the thoughts while you create with fiber.  This is what I told myself and mostly it worked.


These are the first pair of socks after a long, gift-making hiatus.  Made with sock yarn purchased at Over the Rainbow Yarn, our LYS and also sponsor/instructor of our June 8-11, Sheep to Shawl, Maine Knitting Cruise.  Go Mim!


This next gift was made with Berroco Vintage DK, Black Current #2182.  I adjusted the Purl Soho Stirrup Sock Pattern to accommodate the yarn and Ella’s thinner-than-adult legs.  I knit really loosely, so typically I have to go down 2 needle sizes to get the correct gauge.  Knitting with size 2 needles, I cast on 68 stitches rather than the 96 the pattern calls for.  I then adjusted accordingly, wrote down what I did (key to success here, right?), and did the same on the other sock.  Just wove the ends in yesterday!  Wahoo!

Back to making handmade things for my girls

Roasted Butternut Squash and Tomatoes with Lemon Risotto and Farmer’s Cheese

For the first time in 18 years, Jon and I took a vacation. Together. By ourselves. For the first time in 18 years I had a series of days strung together where my only thoughts were about naps, walking on the beach, or reading the third book in my stack. Days. In a row. Not being responsible for meetings, communication, the other wonderful beings in my life. All of it left behind for a while. What an absolute gift.

It got me thinking about our trips on the Riggin and how we are able to offer this same gift to those that sail with us. But really, we can only offer and provide it for those who give it to themselves – by choosing their time, by allowing their rest, by being good to themselves. We are honored to offer it, but also honored that you choose it for yourselves.

While we were in warmer climes, we also had a chance to eat out – and be inspired. One restaurant in particular had an array of menu items laden with vegetables served in all sorts of creative ways and topped or melded with a dash of carbs and a smattering of protein. I came away with food ideas overflowing in my head. Wait, does that mean I can write off that meal? In any event, I’ll be sharing some of the so-called fruits of that inspiring meal over the courseof the next few weeks. Here’s the first – tangy roasted tomatoes and creamy roasted squash combined with the acerbic bite of fresh spinach surrounded by comforting risotto and farmer’s cheese.SpinachRisottoButternutSquash

Roasted Butternut Squash and Tomatoes with Lemon Risotto and Farmer’s Cheese
1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks; about 4 cups
2 tomatoes, cut into at least 8 wedges each; about 3 cups
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
Fresh black pepper
4 ounces farmer’s cheese
2 cups lightly packed spinach leaves

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss the squash and tomatoes separately with olive oil, salt, and pepper on a baking sheet with sides. Roast the tomatoes for 30 to 35 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. Remove them from the pan and continue roasting the squash until it begins to brown on the edges and is completely cooked through, about another 20 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the risotto. When the risotto and squash are done, assemble by laying the spinach leaves on a platter and topping with risotto. Follow with the roasted tomatoes and then the squash and farmer’s cheese. Serve immediately.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup diced onion; about 1 medium onion
2 cups Arborio rice
1/3 cup white wine
4 to 5 cups low-salt chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch of white pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon lemon zest; zest from about 1 lemon
2 tablespoons lemon juice; juice from about 1/2 of a lemon

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. If the onions begin to brown, reduce heat to medium low. When the onions are translucent, add the rice and stir for one minute. Add the salt, pepper, lemon zest and 1 cup of the broth and stir. Bring to a simmer and wait until the liquid is absorbed before adding more broth. Continue to add the broth, one cup at a time, as needed, stirring frequently. The rice is done when the liquid is completely incorporated and the grains are just the tiniest bit al dente in the center. Add Parmesan cheese and lemon juice.

Serves 4 to 6

Veggies galore!


Red Potatoes, Baby Kale, and Preserved Lemons

Preserved lemons are still a favorite of mine and especially this time of year when fragrant, floral Meyer lemons are available.  I preserve a bunch over the winter and then use them as little bursts of flavor in salads and sauces all summer long on the Riggin.  Not wanting to wait until the summer to have these beauties, this recipe with red potatoes and baby kale was born.

Preserved Meyer Lemons
The remaining oil is also be lovely in salads or for dipping bread.

5 to 6 Meyer lemons
1/2 cup coarse sea salt
4 sticks of cinnamon
8 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
1 quart-sized Ball jar with lid
extra virgin olive oil

Make sure the jar you are using are very clean and sterile – as you would for jams and jellies. The salt is a preservative as well, but it’s better to be safe. Cut all of the lemons into 8 wedges each or slice them cross‐wise. Toss the lemons with the salt and place them in the jar.  Add the cinnamon sticks, cloves and bay leaves and cover with the lid. Shake once daily for 10 days to coat the lemons with the salt. You don’t need to refrigerate them at this point. After 10 days, cover the lemons with extra virgin olive oil and refrigerate for up to one year.


Red Potatoes, Baby Kale, and Preserved Lemons
If you don’t have preserved lemons in your pantry, salty, umami-rich black olives are a good substitute.

2 pounds small red potatoes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups sliced onions; about 1 large onion
8 ounces baby kale
1/4 teaspoon salt
several grinds of fresh black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup preserved lemons

In a large stock pot, cover the potatoes with 1-inch of salted water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are just tender when pierced with a fork. Drain and return the empty stock pot to the stove over medium-high heat while the potatoes remain in the strainer. Add the olive oil and onions and sauté for 12 minutes or so or until the onions begin to brown. Add the potatoes back to the pot and combine gently with a wooden spoon the rest of the ingredients. Serve immediately.

Serves 6 to 8

Have a bright, sunny day

Fun Photo Friday – Pasta Party with a Valentine’s Day Theme

While Valentine’s Day can be just for lovers (xo to my husband), I also like the idea of spreading the love a little further – to friends, family, guests, and beyond.  This little photo essay is from a pasta party we hosted at the house last weekend for in-town and out-of-town guests.

Initially an auction item supporting Trekkers, an adventuring mentor group in which both girls are involved, the party became a celebration of food, friends, and Maine.  A guest of the Riggin bid on the party, Jon and I hosted, and we all ate and made merry.  What a wonderful afternoon.









Love to you all

Five-Spice Snickerdoodles

So, Snickerdoodles, huh?  Comforting, homey, simple and… swanky when made with five-spice powder instead of simple cinnamon.  These are the grown up version.  The have-with-Darjeeling-tea version.  They are a taste of home with a party dress on.  I don’t often make cookies on the boat because they are touchy to do in a wood stove with lots of turning and watching, but I could be talked into it for these pretty gems.

SnickerdoodlesFive-Spice Snickerdoodles
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 eggs
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

To Roll:
1 tablespoon five-spice powder
2 tablespoons sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cream the sugar and butter; then add the eggs one at a time. Sift the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt and mix with the creamed mixture. It comes together nicely with a strong mixer, but if you are mixing with a wooden spoon, you may need to work it a little with your hands as the dough is fairly stiff. Mix the sugar and five-spice in a small bowl. Shape the dough into 1-inch balls and roll in the sugar and five-spice mixture to coat. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes.  Remove from baking sheet to cooling rack and store in an air-tight container.

Make 2 to 3 dozen