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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Of scares and sunshine, sole and seafood chowder.

Today I got up early, around  6:30 AM to let the dogs out and got a bit of a scare when I saw that the greenhouse door had blown open sometime during the night.  Fortunately, the temperature didn't get too low last night and all the plants looked OK, although  goodness knows how  hard the poor little heater had to work- - or what our electric bill will look like as a result of trying to heat the  entire back yard! I did notice that the heating cables in the seed box didn't seem to be working well- the temperature was   just below  60°F in the box.  It's a good thing lettuce  germinates in lower temps! I'll have to buy new cables before  starting more seeds.

As I  stepped back up on the deck I looked up at the  western sky and saw the moon still hanging in the pale blue morning sky. It was a very  nice boost to the day, especially after the greenhouse door mishap. The sky got bluer as the day wore on and the temperature climbed to  69°F.  We drove across town mid morning and had to turn the air conditioner on in the car as the sun beating down on it all morning had made it uncomfortably warm.  And to think that last week we   had  to keep the heater running to keep from freezing!  Our trip was  a search for some local honey.  Our usual source, a  small   store up the road a piece,   has been closed for some time, and most of the local  beekeepers are out of honey at this time of year.Luckily we found some and  bought a big jar.  Hopefully it will last  us  for awhile. We also bought some lovely  local eggs from free range chickens, so it was a worthwhile trip.

After lunch we took the  dogs out for a walk . They sniffed and investigated every tree, every pole, every blade of grass and every clump of pine straw along the way, and Agatha  marked her  trip every five feet it seemed. There was a big  dog we'd never seen before wandering the neighborhood a day or so ago and I'm pretty sure the girls sniffed out his entire life history during our walk! If he comes back  any time soon  I'm sure he'll  sniff out a lot of information on Agatha and Victoria.  I just hope they didn't leave him a message to come visit them next time he comes around.

 All the activity today  tired me out so I took a nap and woke up much later than I'd planned.  I needed to come up with something  fast for supper, so I turned to one of the recipes on this week's  list from  Jacques P├ępin's  More Fast Food My Way: seafood chowder.
The recipe uses   shrimp,  fish fillets,  mushrooms, leeks , garlic and zucchini cooked in a delicious chowder  based on clam juice, thickened with  instant potato flakes and  enriched with  a  small amount of half and half.  I had bought some faux Dover sole on sale at Publix yesterday along with some Gulf shrimp, so we were all set. Now, I am under no delusions that the Dover sole sold so cheaply at Publix is actually the Dover sole that  impressed  Julia Child and changed her career path. The sole that  Julia ate was   probably solea vulgaris or solea  solea, the European sole.  The sole sold  in Publix and  Whole Foods is Microstomus pacificus,  actually not a sole, but a member of the flounder family.  It is also known as the (Pacific) Dover sole, slime sole or slippery sole because of the mucous it excretes which makes its skin quite slippery  It ranges from Baja, California  to the Bering Sea. It's really a very nice fish in its own right, with  firm flesh and a nice mild taste. I like to cook it  as paupiettes in a mushroom sauce.  I imagine it sells much better as Dover Sole than it would as slime sole! Anyway, back to the chowder- it is quick to prepare and is quite filling, not to mention delicious without being too heavy.  With a nice loaf of French bread it makes for a very satisfying meal.

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