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Filtering by Tag: Chickens

Our first egg!


I found our first egg yesterday!

It was such a surprise as it wasn't laid in the nesting box and we were not expecting eggs yet. Chickens start laying their first eggs after five and half months so the eggs were due next week. When we  let the chickens out this morning  we found our second egg!

The second egg is a little bigger than the first egg but neither is quite to size yet. We don’t know which chicken is laying the egg; any idea how to figure that out?

We couldn’t wait to have our first egg for breakfast; we compared it to the organic, free range eggs that I buy at the farmers' market, which is at the bottom of this photo. Our egg is at the top.

Our egg was small, but otherwise it looked just like the eggs that I grew up eating in Calabria. The yolk was an intense orange and the taste …well what can I say? There was no comparison. I fixed it the way I always loved to eat them when I was a kid, fried in extra virgin olive oil, sunny side up.

Here is a picture of our chickens, all grown up now.

Our challenge now is to teach the chickens to lay their eggs in their cozy nesting box!  Any suggestions?

Bruschetta with Fresh Fava Beans


My garden is a little behind from last May. The weather has been unusual for California this year, with lots of rain and cold. We have planted all the tomatoes, eggplant and romano beans, but have not planted our peppers yet. Fresh peas are still on the vines because they were late coming out this year.

And of course we have been picking lots of fava beans on a daily basis.

Eating fava beans every day prompted me to write about them. We plant the variety of beans that we brought over from Calabria. The bean pods are very long compared to the ones that you find here at the farmers' market. Typically fava bean pods are about six inches long with 5 or 6 beans inside, but our variety is 10 to 12 inches long with 8 to 10 beans inside the pod. Each plant produces lots of pods.

Here are the beans inside the pod.

The beans themselves have an outer skin that most people here in the United States always remove, making for lots more work. Calabrians usually leave them on when making pasta or minestra with fava beans  but I do remove them for certain dishes. The recipe for a fava bean "spread" that I will show you is one of these. You can put it on top of bruschetta or serve it with grilled fish, toss it with pasta, or fold it into a risotto. It is so easy to make that you can just follow the photos below to make it at home.

To make enough for six people you will need about four pounds of fava bean pods. Shuck the beans from the pods,  blanch the beans in boiling water for about a minute, put them in cold water to stop cooking, drain them and then remove the outer skin.  Place them in a skillet with a good amount of olive oil, three cloves of  minced garlic and a sprig of fresh thyme.  Cook until soft for about  20 minutes, adding a little water if dry. Remove the thyme sprig and mash with a potato masher. Add some lemon juice to taste.  If the puree is still dry add some good extra virgin olive oil at the end.

While it is still warm spread it on top of bruschetta and top it with some shavings of ricotta salata or pecorino.

The next time you go to the farmers' market grab the fava beans because their season is short. Look for bright fresh pods. If they are wrinkly or brown don't buy them. And remember to buy lots of pods. Five pounds of pods give you only about 2 pounds of shelled beans.

P.S.  Here is a formal portrait of my chickens. They have finally lost their fear of open spaces and have become proper country chicks. This photo was as hard to take as one of kindergarten children (they just wont stand still). I managed to corral all four of them in one corner of the yard.  They love being outside and eating greens. Can't wait for that first egg!


Bruschetta con Fave Fresche (Bruschetta topped with fresh fava bean spread)


4 pounds fava beans
1/4 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
One small sprig rosemary
One small sprig thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of one lemon
Six slices of grilled country-style bread

1. Shell the fava beans and discard the pods.

2. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the shelled fava beans. Cook the beans for about one minute. Drain and place in a bowl of ice-cold water, to cool. Drain them again. Using your thumbnail, break the outer green skin and squeeze the pod between your thumb and forefinger - the bright green bean inside will pop right out. Discard the tough, outer skin.

3. Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a medium size skillet. Add the fava beans, garlic, rosemary and thyme sprigs, salt, pepper and 1/4 cup of water.

4. Cook over low heat until the fava beans are soft and absorb the flavors of the garlic and herbs, about 20 minutes. Add more water if the beans are drying out. Remove from the heat. Remove the herb sprigs and mash the mixture to a coarse puree or use a food processor and briefly process the mixture, if you prefer a smooth paste. Taste for salt and pepper. Add more olive oil and the lemon juice to taste. If the mixture seems dry, add more olive oil.

5. Spread the bean mixture on the grilled bruschetta. You can finish the bruschetta with a drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil and topped with some shaved, fresh pecorino cheese or ricotta salata if you like.

Copyright 2005, Rosetta Costantino. All rights reserved.

Chickens in my backyard


According to my mother, the only thing that was missing from my backyard was chickens. I am always talking about the eggs that I used to eat when I grew up in Calabria: the yolk was as orange as the sunrise and the eggs were so tasty that she would often whip a raw egg yolk with sugar and coffee for me as a snack. A couple of weeks ago she came up with a brilliant idea: the area below the staircase leading into the garden was unused and right next to the fruit trees, where we don't grow any vegetables. We could build a coop there! This would give the chickens lots of room to roam around, would use wasted space, and they could fertilize the trees.

It became a family project and since none of us knows anything about carpentry it was an interesting adventure.

Here's the unused area under the stairs where we decided to build the coop:

The bottom floor is made with extra bricks that my parents had in their garden.

Framing the second level:

The nesting boxes:

Our chickens' new villa. Not quite finished, because it still needs some trim and maybe a coat of paint.

We finished the coop on the very day we had made an appointment to pick up some chickens. We decided that we would get four hens so we could have eggs right away, and each hen of a different breed so that we could have a colorful mix of eggshells. It was difficult to find a farm that sells hens--most people buy chicks that are few days old. After looking around I found TruNorth Farms, which sold us ten-week-old pullets. Because they are so young it will be three to four months before they will lay their first eggs.

Meet our chickens:

Violetta, a Blue Wyandotte

Fluffy, a Buff Cochin with feathered feet

Favetta, a Barred Plymouth Rock

and Gelsomina, an Ameraucana

I can't wait till that very first egg shows up in the nesting box!