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The Steuben Courier Advocate
  • Jim Hillibish: Life-changing fantasies? She did it

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  • She awoke one morning with a random thought. She inventoried what she really likes to do: cooking, writing, gardening and photography.
    The urge was so strong, she thought “what if.” She quit her city job as editor of Fine Cooking magazine, sold her fancy work clothes and high heels at a consignment store, bought some work boots and put money down on a decrepit farm on Martha’s Vineyard off Cape Cod.
    Many of us think about it. Suzie Middleton did it.
    “One day you wake up, and your fantasy has become a reality, and you are more surprised than anyone at what you managed to pull off,” she says.
    She shares the results in her new book “Fresh from the Farm, a Year of Recipes and Stories” (2014, Taunton Press, 249 pages, $28), which encompasses one year of her new life.
    The organization is simple. Her newfound farm recipes are on one side of the page and her short stories on the other. This cements the tight relationship of the food she grows to the new life she lives. Dozens of her cooking and growing tips are sprinkled throughout.
    The whole package is a comforting read. Arriving in winter, the recipes fire anticipation for the coming farmers’ market season and our own gardening adventures.
    A few of the 125 simple recipes include butternut squash and black bean burritos, pesto burgers with roasted tomatoes, fresh corn vinaigrette, turnip-apple-sweet potato sauté, roasted root medley and on and on.
    She found a carpenter to restore her old farmhouse on the island, and he stayed. Come spring, he built her a roadside stand from old wood.
    “We put it at the end of the driveway, and neighbors and friends and visitors came shopping for lovely lettuce, skinny string beans and glossy cherry tomatoes from our market garden,” she said.
    There’s more. Soon to arrive were baby chicks and soon after fresh eggs “with a taste like Sunday morning itself.” Then turkeys. The gardens kept expanding, four acres were added to the farm, berry bushes were planted, a farm dog and a bunny arrived plus rope swings and a hoop greenhouse. Oh, and she had time for Libby, “a very special little girl.”
    “Libby informed me recently when she grows up, she wants to be a veterinarian and then the president of the United States,” Middleton said.
    Cookbooks are handy, but few are impossible to put down. And few ignite our own fantasies of quitting our routine and doing what we really like. This one does. Five stars here.
    QUICK-ROASTED TOMATOES
    • 1/3 cup plus 1 T extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 T balsamic vinegar
    • 2 t honey
    • 2 to 3 t chopped fresh thyme
    • Kosher salt
    Page 2 of 2 - • 12 small tomatoes (4 or 5 ounces each) or 12 plum tomatoes
    Line a baking sheet with foil and then parchment paper. Brush olive oil on the parchment. Combine remaining ingredients except tomatoes. Slice each tomato in half. Clean out seeds and place cut side up on parchment. Lightly season with salt. Pour the dressing over the tops. Roast at 425 F for 55 to 60 minutes or until brown around the edges. Cool before serving.
    Makes 24 tomato halves.
    Jim Hillibish is a columnist at The Repository in Canton, Ohio. Reach him at jim.hillibish@cantonrep.com.

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