Take a moment to think about some of your most beloved teachers. What makes them stand out from a crowd? I don't think it's a coincidence that my most memorable teachers all seem to possess an insatiable sense of curiosity and love of learning. As the Farmbelly Cooking School continues to grow - and I find myself in the role of teacher more often than not - a big goal for 2017 has been to invest more time into my own education. Because if I've learned anything this year, it's that being a good teacher means being an even better student.
I'm happy to say that so far, I've made good on this promise to myself. I recently returned home from an adventure to Ireland, where I attended the 2017 Lit Fest hosted by Ballymaloe Cooking School - aka the (heavenly) place where my culinary education began. The weekend was teeming with inspiring chefs, farmers, artisans, authors, artists + teachers - and the schedule was action-packed with panels, demonstrations and book signings... not to mention lots of mingling, dancing, sipping Irish hard cider, and consuming oh so much CHEESE. I walked away from the weekend inspired to tackle new skills, read more books, and to be more engaged with food + social justice issues impacting my local community.
Continuing on this quest to keep learning, growing & experimenting... I'm attending a Meat Butchery Workshop this June at Salt Water Farm, located on the coast of Maine. Salt Water Farm has long been an inspiration for me, and I'm thrilled to finally visit in person and learn from founder Annemarie Ahearn. After several years working in the food industry in New York City, Annemarie moved to her family's land in Maine and started her cooking school in 2009, with a mission to teach home cooks how to grow a kitchen garden, to cook instinctually with the seasons, and to emphasize resourcefulness + confidence in the kitchen.
Not only does Annemarie run a bustling farm and cooking school, she also just released a stunning cookbook, Full Moon Suppers. Salt Water Farm is well known for their monthly "Full Moon Suppers" which brings together friends, family, and guests to Salt Water Farm for a thoughtful meal to celebrate Maine's seasonal bounty on the night of every full moon. Full Moon Suppers is organized by twelve monthly menus featuring Annemarie's favorite dishes curated from more than one hundred Full Moon Suppers, and each chapter shares helpful kitchen notes, seasonal inspirations, and tips on how to gracefully feed large groups. Annemarie's recipes are elegant, vibrant, and refreshingly honest - and the thoughtfully composed menus will inspire you to gather friends + family around your kitchen table to share simple, seasonal meals together all year long.
In celebration of the release of Full Moon Suppers, today I'm honored to share a new Eat Like a Farmer Interview with Annemarie. Read on to learn more about Annemarie's daily routine on the farm, her favorite ingredients, as well as a recipe from her beautiful new cookbook!
Where is your farm located and what to you grow? Salt Water Farm is located on the coast in Lincolnville Maine, between the mountains and the Penobscot Bay. A salt water farm (by definition) is a farm located on the ocean that harvests food both from the land and the sea. At Salt Water Farm, we grow over 100 varieties of herbs, edible flowers and vegetables, several kinds of fruit trees and perennial berry bushes. We have a little chicken coop out back filled with laying hens and fresh eggs. We also collect mussels, periwinkles and urchin on the beach. There are a dozen lobster traps just a stone’s throw off shore.
Walk us through a typical day on your farm and in your kitchen (ie what do you eat on a typical day)? Depends on the season, so we’ll stick with early summer. I wake up early and turn on all the irrigation to water the crops. Then, I head down to the ocean with the dogs and if it’s high tide, they go for a swim. Then a bit of breakfast, typically a chive omelet, as chives are coming up everywhere. Then I spend some time in the greenhouse, seeding, potting and watering. If we have class at the cooking school, I teach from 10am-2pm with a lovely lunch my from food from our farm. If there is no class, I typically write and edit recipes. In the early evening, I make a stiff little cocktail and light up the grill. Usually, my husband takes over the cooking at that point and I play with the dogs. We eat the simplest things for dinner and often cooking school leftovers.
What is your favorite fruit or vegetable grow, and what's your go-to method to cook it? That’s a hard one. Asparagus. No, apples. We have the most beautiful Honey Crisp and Cortland apples. I mostly just love picking them from our adolescent trees and taking a crisp, bite out of them. And the asparagus, well, they simply need to get tossed on the grill.
What kitchen tools could you not live without? Mortar and pestle, a few sharp knives, cast iron pans and Dutch ovens for baking bread.
Name the top three ingredients used most in your kitchen that don't come from your farm. Sea salt, good olive oil, lemons
Favorite cookbook? Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries II
Do you have go-to methods for preserving your harvests through the year (ie jamming, pickling, freezing)? We use a steam extractor to pull the juice from aronia, elderberries and beach plums. We also make quite a bit of quince paste in the fall. I am a total sucker for tomatoes and love to cook down hotel pans brimming with mixed variety tomatoes, fresh garlic and bay. After 5 hours of reduction, the sauce goes into mason jars for Sunday Suppers in the wintertime.
What advice do you give folks for cooking with your produce, especially when using ingredients they may not be familiar with? Put it in your mouth and chew it and you will be able to answer most of the questions you are about to ask.
How has living on a farm in rural Maine influenced your relationships with family, friends, and your local community? Not sure you want me to answer this in full. It’s complicated. While running a business on my family’s property has been a blessing in so many ways, its posed many operational challenges. We’ve mostly figured it out after about 8 years of hiccups. But then I opened a restaurant in a town of less than 1,500 people. That was its own challenge. Everyone in town had a different idea of what they wanted from the restaurant, my restaurant. I’m a crowd pleaser with a thin skin when it comes to criticism, so it was a real challenge. As it turns out, I’m a much better teacher than restaurant owner. But sometimes, you’ve got to learn the hard way. There’s a great article in DownEast Magazine that tells that story.
Please share a favorite recipe for a simple, straight from the farm dish that you are craving this summer. Below is a recipe from Annemarie's newly released cookbook, Full Moon Suppers. This recipe comes from her June Full Moon Supper Menu.
Cast-Iron Halibut Steaks with Herbed Compound Butter, Radishes, Arugula, and Peas
FOR THE COMPOUND BUTTER
- ½ pound unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons minced chives
- 1 tablespoon minced sorrel
- 1 tablespoon minced thyme
- 1 tablespoon minced parsley
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- sea salt for sprinkling
FOR THE HALIBUT
- 1 bunch radishes, tops removed
- 7 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 cups shelled English peas
- 2 large (or 4 small) halibut steaks (2½ pounds total) on the bone
- fresh ground pepper
- 2 cups loosely packed arugula
- 1 squeeze of lemon juice
TO MAKE THE COMPOUND BUTTER: In a medium-size bowl, gently mix butter, herbs, and kosher salt until blended. Press the mixture into a small crock and sprinkle with sea salt. Store in the fridge for use within the week or freeze for up to 6 months.
TO MAKE THE HALIBUT: Slice radishes in half. In a medium pan, sauté them with 4 tablespoons of the butter and salt to taste over medium heat until they soften, about five minutes. Set aside.
Fill a medium saucepan with water, salt well, and bring to a boil. Pour peas into the water and cook at high heat until just tender, 2 to 3 minutes. While they cook, prepare an ice bath. With a slotted spoon, transfer the peas to the ice bath to shock them. Drain the peas.
Season halibut steaks with salt and pepper to taste. Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in a large cast-iron frying pan to coat the bottom. (For smaller steaks, you will need two pans, each with 1½ tablespoons of butter.) Place the halibut steaks in the pan and cook over medium heat until they are golden brown on the bottom, about 8 minutes. Gently flip with a fish spatula and cook for an additional 4 to 5 minutes. Be careful not to overcook.
In a medium bowl, toss the arugula with a pinch of sea salt and a squeeze of lemon. Arrange arugula on a platter. Take the halibut steaks and separate the meat from the bone, then divide each half steak into two portions. Each steak should yield four portions (or two portions from each small steak). Array the halibut steaks over the arugula and put pats of compound butter atop the hot fish. Pour the peas and radishes on top. Serve family style along with new potatoes with chive butter.
Place arugula in a bowl. Dress with a pinch of sea salt and a squeeze of lemon. Arrange arugula on a platter and the halibut steaks on top. Place pats of compound butter atop the hot fish. Pour the peas and radishes on top of the halibut. Serve family style.