An Abundance of Strawberries and Apple Strawberry Ginger Crumb Tea Cake!

Thompson Finch Farm- Ancramdale, New York

Early June is one of my favorite times of the year; the days are sunny and not too hot and best of all it’s time to pick the sweet and full of flavor organic strawberries from Thompson-Finch Farm in Ancramdale, New York!

Thompson Finch Farm- Ancramdale, New York

I sit cross legged on the ground and as a fresh cool breeze washes over me, I look around and I am completely contented. As I pick, I listen to the happy voices of people in the surrounding rows discussing what they plan to do with their bounty; strawberry jam and scones, chocolate mousse with strawberries and I start to concoct my own recipes. I am thinking of a coffee cake with apple, strawberries and a ginger crumb topping.

There are so many berries that in less than 40 minutes I pick over 9 pounds!

After picking strawberries, I returned home and thought that I had just enough time to make the tea cake before my haircut appointment. And, here the saga of the under baked tea cake begins!

I realized after I put the cake in the oven that there was no way the cake was going to be done before I needed to leave. I asked the hair dresser if there was any wiggle room in their schedule; not an option. I decided to take the half baked cake out of the oven and then see if I could finish baking it later. I can report that this did not work very well- the double baked cake had a strange heavy gluey texture and when I cut it, the cake crumbled and looked ugly and misshapen; a real cooking disaster!

I thought that maybe I could gather it all up and make a bread pudding out of it. But, somehow the cake tasted delicious and it disappeared before it could be transformed into a pudding! I baked the cake again a few days later and can say with confidence, this recipe works if baked properly- see picture below!! This is not a sweet cake and it is perfect with yogurt and fruit for breakfast!

Apple Strawberry Ginger Crumble Tea Cake

Ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup monk fruit sweetener

1/4 cup coconut sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

1/3 cup canola oil

3/4 cup soy or almond milk

1/2 cup thinly sliced apple

1/2 cup thinly sliced strawberries

Crumb Topping:

1/4 cup oats

1/4 cup flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour)

1/4 cup toasted pecans

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1 1/2 teaspoons ginger powder

1/4 cup coconut sugar

pinch salt

1/4 cup kefir

Make Crumble:

Place oats, flour, coconut sugar, pecans, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until nuts are in small pieces. Add kefir and pulse until mixture forms small clumps- you may need to add a bit more kefir. Add small bits at a time. Set mixture aside.

Pre heat oven to 375 degrees

Line a 5×9 loaf pan with parchment paper with the paper hanging over the sides. Butter the paper lightly.

To make cake batter:

In a large bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, monk fruit sweetener, coconut sugar and cinnamon.

Add egg, vanilla, canola oil, soy or almond milk and mix together just until the batter is smooth. Add fruit and stir to combine.

Pour batter into the prepared baking dish and then scatter the crumb topping over the top. Bake in the pre heated oven for about 15 minutes and then cover the top loosely with foil so the top will not brown too quickly. Bake for about an hour until a toothpick comes out cleanly.

Remove from oven. Lift cake out of pan leaving paper on the cake. Let cool completely on a rack before slicing with a serrated bread knife. This is a very soft crumbly cake, the longer you let it cool the easier it is to slice. This is hard to do, so enjoy the first very crumbly pieces if you can’t wait!

ENJOY!!

AND: Here is the “Tree of the Week”

“Is He Really Running Again??”

Devil’s Paint Brush- Bryant Homestead Cummington, MA

HAPPY SUMMER!

Wild Roses, Bobolinks and Crispy Cauliflower ala Siciliana!

Wild Rose: Buttercup Farm Audubon Sanctuary- Standfordville, New York

Yellow Billed Cuckoo, Indigo Bunting, American Redstart, Yellow Warbler, Wood Thrush, Emerson Collard Dove, Gray Catbird, Red Wing Blackbird; strolling through the gentle hills and meadows of the Buttercup Farm Audubon Sanctuary in Stanfordville, New York; we were serenaded by a symphony of bird song.

Buttercup Farm Audubon Sanctuary- Stanfordville, New York

A friend had told us about an app created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology called Merlin. It quickly identifies the bird call and a picture appears next to the name of the bird. For the amateur birder, this is simply quite amazing!

Buttercup Farm Audubon Sanctuary- Stanfordville, Vermont

The Buttercup Sanctuary is a haven for the many species of birds that flourish in the tall grasses and meadows.

Buttercup Farm Audubon Sanctuary

Buttercup Farm Audubon Sanctuary

We stand still and listen carefully to the delicate bird calls; breathing in the lightly perfumed air, is that wild honey suckle? We are drawn into the beauty that surrounds us.

Buttercup Farm Audubon Sanctuary

Buttercup Farm Audubon Sanctuary

Buttercup Farm Audubon Sanctuary

At the top of Kite Hill in Ancram, New York, we sat in the rustic gazebo that over looks the Catskills and the Taconic Range. We turned on the merlin app and there it was; a bobolink with its reverse tuxedo and light yellow capped head, singing its distinctive throaty song!

On another cloudy day at Kite Hill, we caught a quick glimpse of a bobolink sitting on a bird house.

Wikepedia mentions that an old species name for Bobolinks is Rice Bird, because of the grain that they like to eat. The English “Bobolink” is from Bob o’ Lincoln, describing the call. I came across this lovely poem written by William Cullen Bryant titled Robert of Lincoln.

Robert of Lincoln

Merrily swinging on briar and weed,
Near to the nest of his little dame,
Over the mountain-side or mead,
Robert of Lincoln is telling his name:
Bob-o’-link, bob-o’-link,
Spink, spank, spink;
Snug and safe is that nest of ours,
Hidden among the summer flowers;
Chee, chee, chee.

Robert of Lincoln is gaily drest,
Wearing a bright black wedding-coat;
White are his shoulders, and white his crest;
Hear him call in his merry note:
Bob-o’-link, bob-o’-link,
Spink, spank, spink;
Look what a nice new coat is mine,
Sure there was never a bird so fine.
Chee, chee, chee.

Robert of Lincoln’s Quaker wife,
Pretty and quiet, with plain brown wings,
Passing at home a patient life,
Broods in the grass while her husband sings:
Bob-o’-link, bob-o’-link,
Spink, spank, spink;
Brood, kind creature; you need not fear
Thieves and robbers while I am here.
Chee, chee, chee.

Modest and shy as a nun is she;
One weak chirp is her only note,
Braggart and prince of braggarts is he,
Pouring boasts from his little throat:
Bob-o’-link, bob-o’-link,
Spink, spank, spink;
Never was I afraid of man;
Catch me cowardly knaves, if you can !
Chee, chee, chee.

Six white eggs on a bed of hay,
Flecked with purple, a pretty sight!
There as the mother sits all day,
Robert is singing with all his might:
Bob-o’-link, bob-o’-link,
Spink, spank, spink;
Nice good wife, that never goes out,
Keeping house while I frolic about.
Chee, chee, chee.

Soon as the little ones chip the shell,
Six wide mouths are open for food;
Robert of Lincoln bestirs him well,
Gathering seeds for the hungry brood.
Bob-o’-link, bob-o’-link,
Spink, spank, spink;
This new life is likely to be
Hard for a gay young fellow like me.
Chee, chee, chee.

Robert of Lincoln at length is made
Sober with work, and silent with care;
Off is his holiday garment laid,
Half forgotten that merry air:
Bob-o’-link, bob-o’-link,
Spink, spank, spink;
Nobody knows but my mate and I
Where our nest and our nestlings lie.
Chee, chee, chee.

Summer wanes; the children are grown;
Fun and frolic no more he knows;
Robert of Lincoln’s a humdrum crone;
Off he flies, and we sing as he goes :
“Bob-o’-link, bob-o’-link,
Spink, spank, spink;
When you can pipe that merry old strain,
Robert of Lincoln, come back again.
Chee, chee, chee.

– William Cullen Bryant

Kite Hill- Ancram, New York

Kite Hill-Ancram, New York

Kite Hill- Ancram, New York

Organic cauliflower was on sale at our local food coop and I thought it would be nice to try to recreate the Sicilian cauliflower from Gigi’s Trattoria an excellent Italian restaurant in Rhinebeck, New York. I cut the cauliflower into small florets and parboiled them for a few minutes. I sliced some onion thinly, heated some extra virgin olive oil in a heavy cast iron pan and caramalized the onion. I tossed the drained cauliflower in a bit of flour and then added this to the onions along with some lemon juice, capers, salt and pepper. You can also add a handful of golden raisins. I put the pan into a hot oven and let the mixture cook until the cauliflower was crispy and nicely browned. The dish is good as a side with roast chicken or served over whole wheat pasta sprinkled with grated pecorino cheese and more freshly ground pepper.

ENJOY!!

Crispy Cauliflower ala Siciliana

Ingredients:

1 small parboiled organic cauliflower cut into small florets

1/2 medium onion sliced thinly crosswise

1/2 lemon

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup capers

1/4 cup golden raisins (optional)

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 tablespoon flour

To Make Cauliflower:

Pre heat oven to 425 Degrees

Cut cauliflower into small florets and add to a medium pot of boiling water. Cook for a few minutes and softened a bit and then drain well. Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a heavy cast iron pan. Add sliced onion and cook until the onions start to color and caramalize.

Toss cauliflower with 1 tablespoon flour and add to pan. Add fresh lemon juice, capers and salt and pepper to taste.

Place pan in hot oven and cook stirring occasionally about 1/2 hour until mixture is crispy and nicely browned.

AND: Here is the “Tree of the Week”!

“Humph”!

Happy Summer and Stay Safe!

“Wolf Trees” and New Hiking Boots With a Curious Name!

Road’s End Wildlife Sanctuary- Worthington, MA

Road’s End Wildlife Sanctuary- Worthington, MA

The trail at Road’s End Wildlife Sanctuary in Worthington, Massachusetts starts off on a straight path that was once a farm road. Gnarly old trees line the edges of meadows where farms once flourished; known as “wolf trees”, we were curious to learn more about the origin of the name. Here is a very interesting article from Berkshire Natural Resources Council interspersed with pictures from our walk.

Debunking the “Wolf Tree”

During the early 19th century a vast portion of the New England landscape was cut and cleared for agricultural use. At the peak of deforestation, 60 to 80 percent of the land was cleared for pasture, tillage, orchards and buildings. However, some trees remained in pastures as shade trees for livestock, along boundaries, or grew later along rocky outcrops and fences.

Road’s End Wildlife Sanctuary- Worthington, MA

During farm abandonment, primarily from the mid 19th century to the early 20th century, pastures and fields developed rapidly into forests and the old, wide-spreading pasture trees were encircled by young trees. Many of these older trees are still prominent features of our forests and are commonly known as wolf trees. This terminology came from foresters in the late 20th century who believed that the wide-spreading, old trees were exhausting forest resources and should be eradicated to make way for profitable wood, much as wolves had been eradicated from the landscape because they were viewed as harmful predators that exhausted forest resources

Road’s End Wildlife Sanctuary- Worthington, MA

As forestry practices transitioned to more integrated methods, the perception of “wolf trees” began to shift. Today, best forestry practices reflect the need to keep many of these pasture trees in the landscape because they are very important to wildlife.

These giants provide a location for animals to communicate via scent marking, and have attractive features like large limbs, decaying limbs, wide branching patterns, wrinkled bark, and cavities. The relatively young surrounding forests don’t have these diverse characteristics, proving that these relics from another time are truly anchors to the forests we experience today.

Road’s End Wildlife Sanctuary- Worthington, MA

Like the wolf trees now being appreciated for all their contributions to ecological health, the wolf is also being more deeply understood and appreciated.

For further reading about this topic visit northernwoodlands.org/articles/article/a-place-for-wolf-trees

Road’s End Wildlife Sanctuary- Worthington, MA

Full of character, this tree was the inspiration for a recently featured “Tree of the Week”in my last blog.

Road’s End Wildlife Sanctuary- Worthington, MA

“Oh Gee, Feeling a Bit Silly Today”!

If all goes well, in a few weeks, I will be traveling to Reykjavik for an adventure with my dear friend Carol. The weather there at this time of year is cold, rainy and windy. I decided to treat myself to a new pair of water proof hiking boots. After trying on a pair of hiking shoes with the brand name Oboz, the young and helpful salesman at LL Bean asked how they felt. I told him that they were extremely comfortable but also being an oboist, it was quite a surprise to find the brand name of a shoe seemingly, if not intentionally named after my instrument! He may have been amused or confused; I am not sure which!

I plan to break the shoes in the for the next few weeks on our hikes and then my Oboz will travel to Iceland; I will look forward to writing about our adventures and discoveries!!

I was inspired to offer a short musical interlude!!

Enjoy a rendition of “Gabriel’s Oboe” by Ennio Marricone

Sometimes the inspiration for a new dish will come together from a few left over ingredients. In this case it was mashed potatoes made with kefir and vegan butter and a surplus of sourdough breadcrumbs made from an old loaf of Hungry Ghost Bakery whole grain bread. I imagined a kind of a vegetarian shepherd’s pie with a crispy potato topping. In a large pot, I sauteed some onion, garlic and leeks in olive oil and then added whatever vegetables were in the bin; carrots, zucchini and lacinato kale. I added a small can of diced tomatoes with their juice, a small can of rinsed organic garbanzo beans and a small bag of corn from Howden Farm that I froze last summer. Seasoned with curry powder, turmeric and ground coriander, I placed the mixture in a baking dish, topped it with the mashed potatoes and sprinkled it with the sour dough bread crumbs. I poured a few glugs of love oil on top and baked it until it was bubbling and the top was golden brown and crusty. It was delicious with a green salad and slices of fresh crusty sour dough bread!

Curried Vegetable Shephard’s Pie

Ingredients:

2 carrots cut into small pieces

1 medium zucchini cut into small pieces

1 onion finely chopped

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

1 medium leek rinsed carefully and finely chopped

1 cup lacinato kale- finely chopped, tough ribs removed

1/2 cup frozen corn defrosted

1 small can garbanzo beans, rinsed

1 small can diced tomatoes

2 teaspoons curry powder

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon ground coriander

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and more for top of casserole

2 cups mashed potatoes

1 cup sour dough bread crumbs (any bread crumbs would be fine, panko crumbs would also be good.)

To Make Shephard’s Pie:

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot. Saute onion until soft, add leeks and cook a few minutes more, add garlic and cook one more minute. Add spices and cook about 4 minutes.

Add carrots and zucchini and cook about 5 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook about 10-15 minutes. Pour mixture into a casserole dish. a Cover top with the mashed potatoes and then the bread crumbs. Pour a few glugs of olive oil over top and cover with foil. Bake about 30 minutes until mixture starts to bubble. Remove foil and cook about 15-20 minutes more or until the top starts to brown and crisp up.

ENJOY!!

AND: Instead of a the usual “Tree of the Week“, Here is the “Most Unusual Squirrel of the Week”!! This little fellow held still long enough on my patio to get a close pic-I have not seen him scampering through the woods again!

HAPPY SPRING AND STAY SAFE!

Spring Woodland Wildflowers, Yellow Violets and Lemon Fennel Almond Biscotti!

There they were– our little patch of yellow violets; waiting for us to rediscover them and coo over their delicate beauty! Last year, we went on a prolonged search for the seemingly elusive flowers and they turned out to be right under our noses; just across the street from the trailhead to the Pine Loop Trail at the William Cullen Bryant Homestead.

With so much uncertainty and turbulence in our times, the predictable cycle of seasons is comforting and small observances are a delight!

During the pandemic when we were sequestered in place and could not perform in public, I found inspiration and a creative outlet by playing short improvisations in woodland and other outdoor settings. This past year, I have been back to playing indoor concerts and it is wonderful to once again communicate with live audiences; case in point, a performance of the Mozart Coronation Mass that I performed in this past weekend. Written in 1779 in Salzburg, the composition became known as a preferred piece of music for the Imperial Court of Vienna to commemorate royal and imperial coronations. The entire mass is in the cheerful key of C major; full of lively and at the same time poignant oboe duets with lovely lyrical lines.

Enveloped by the sounds of Mozart’s ethereal music with violins, viola, cello and double bass along with two resonant oboes playing in close harmonies was an intense aural experience; one that I realized I had missed dearly.

Even though this was a heartwarming and wonderful experience, I realized that I also missed my solo impromptu concerts! When we went on our yellow violet exploration, I brought along my alto recorder. Although playing outside alone was a very different, I enjoyed hearing the sound of the recorder waft off gently into the distance. Here is a short “Ode to the Yellow Violet” inspired by William Cullen Bryant’s poem:

The Yellow Violet

BY WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT

When beechen buds begin to swell,

  And woods the blue-bird’s warble know,

The yellow violet’s modest bell

  Peeps from the last year’s leaves below.

Ere russet fields their green resume,

  Sweet flower, I love, in forest bare,

To meet thee, when thy faint perfume

  Alone is in the virgin air.

Of all her train, the hands of Spring

  First plant thee in the watery mould,

And I have seen thee blossoming

  Beside the snow-bank’s edges cold.

Thy parent sun, who bade thee view

  Pale skies, and chilling moisture sip,

Has bathed thee in his own bright hue,

  And streaked with jet thy glowing lip.

Yet slight thy form, and low thy seat,

  And earthward bent thy gentle eye,

Unapt the passing view to meet

  When loftier flowers are flaunting nigh.

Oft, in the sunless April day,

  Thy early smile has stayed my walk;

But midst the gorgeous blooms of May,

  I passed thee on thy humble stalk.

So they, who climb to wealth, forget

  The friends in darker fortunes tried.

I copied them—but I regret

  That I should ape the ways of pride.

And when again the genial hour

  Awakes the painted tribes of light,

I’ll not o’erlook the modest flower

  That made the woods of April bright.

“An Ode to a Yellow Violet”- William Cullen Bryant Homestead

On our walks we were excited to see the return of many beautiful woodland wildflowers from last season and we also made a few new discoveries.

At the White Memorial Conservation Center in Litchfield, Connecticut, columbines lined the forest floor.

White Memorial Conservation Center- Litchfield, CT

A gentle brook flowed down a hillside that led to a marsh area with beautiful yellow flowers.

At the Steeple Top Preserve in New Marlborough, MA, speckled trout lilies lined the trail.

Steeple Top Preserve- New Marlborough, MA

Tiny daisy like yellow flowers nestled next to rocks in a stream.

Steeple Top Preserve- New Marlborough, MA

At the D’Alton Preserve in the Ellsworth section of Sharon, CT, we happened upon flowers we had not seen before; white star shaped flowers and delicate pink flowers capped with yellow tops. On a rainy day I plan to look up all of their names!

D’Alton Preserve- Sharon, CT

D’Alton Preserve- Sharon, CT

A pert line of flowers at the Lime Kiln Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Sheffield, Massachusetts……..

We often find ourselves in Northampton, MA and have become addicted to the sourdough bread at the Hungry Ghost Bakery. Made from excellent ingredients, it has an delicious sourdough flavor and if we are lucky, we arrive when fresh wholegrain sesame loaves have just come out of the oven. We take our treasure back to the car and break off crusty hunks of piping hot bread; so good it is almost enough for dinner! They also sell scones, cookies and biscotti. I tried an irresistible lemon fennel almond biscotti that was rich with butter and sugar. I decided to try to create an equally good biscotti that was guilt free. I used the same basic recipe that I created for Gingerbread Biscotti featured in my Ol’ Stoney Lonesome Blog. I swapped out the warming winter spices; ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom and star anise and used lemon zest, fennel seeds and toasted almonds. They were delicious and they quickly disappeared! The biscotti would be good dipped in iced coffee or with a bowl of fresh strawberries. I hope you enjoy making these!!

Lemon Fennel Almond Biscotti

Ingredients:

  • 1 large egg plus 1 large egg white, at room temperature 
  • 1/4 cup monk fruit sweetener
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • teaspoons fennel seeds 
  • 1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
  • zest from one organic lemon
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • ¼ teaspoon lemon extract or orange extract
  • cup whole wheat pastry flour 
  • 1 cup whole grain spelt flour

PREPARATION

  1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the egg, egg white, both sugars, salt, baking soda, almond extract and lemon extract. Beat on medium speed just to combine, scrape down the bowl and beater, then increase the speed to high and beat for a full 90 seconds or until the mixture is slightly paler, thick and ribbon like.
  3. Add the flour. Beat on low speed until mostly combined, stopping the beater just before all the flour is incorporated so you don’t overmix. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to incorporate any remaining dry bits into the dough. Add fennel and almonds.
  4. Gather the dough with your hands, kneading lightly in the bowl just to bring everything together into a cohesive mass. Place the dough on the center of the prepared sheet, then dampen your hands with water and mold the dough into a 9-by-4-inch log about 1 inch tall. Bake until the log puffs and spreads a little, turns golden brown at the edges and is firm to the touch, 40 to 45 minutes.
  5. Remove the loaf from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Transfer the loaf to a cutting board and, using a serrated knife, cut at a diagonal into 12 (¾-inch-wide) slices. Turn the slices on their sides and return to the oven.
  6. Bake, flipping the slices halfway through, until slightly browned and dry in the centers, 10 to 15 minutes. Bake longer for drier, crunchier biscotti. Remove from the oven and cool the biscotti on the sheet. Turn the slices top sides up.
  7. The biscotti will last for a couple of weeks in an airtight container at room temperature- well maybe!!

ENJOY!

AND: Here is the “Tree of the Week”!

“Oh Gee, Feeling a Bit Silly Today”

HAPPY SPRING!!

A Misty Walk at Dark Hollow and Ramp Mushroom Ravioli!

Dark Hollow Trail: Salisbury, CT

A slow steady rain was starting- undeterred, we put on our raincoats and water proof hiking boots and set out for a misty early spring hike on the Dark Hollow Trail in Salisbury.

As we walked up the trail, the air was damp and fragrant with pine and rich humus and we saw many early woodland wildflowers peeking hesitantly out of the soil.

Enthralled, we saw the first trilliums of the season!

Fiddlehead ferns were slowly unfurling on their stalks and tiny leaf buds glistened with moisture.

Through the mist from a vantage point high on the trail, we could see a home in the village.

Early spring is the time of year for wild ramps.

Wild Ramps Next to Trillium Flower

I had always heard about ramps and their delicate onion/garlic flavor, but had never tried them. Luckily, our dear friends Thomas and Fran are avid ramp foragers and they offered to take us to harvest ramps from one of their sources.

According to Spruce Eats:

Ramps–a cousin of onions, leeksscallions, and shallots–grow in low mountain altitudes from South Carolina to Canada. In many areas, they’re considered a spring delicacy and a reason for celebration. Harvesting ramps has a long tradition in the Appalachian region of the United States, with West Virginia particularly well known for its many festivals and events. Ramp festivals are also held in Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina. There are many ways to enjoy ramps: raw, sautéed, roasted, grilled, and pickled too.

On Mother’s Day we set off for a beautiful hike at the New Marlborough Land Trust- then we went off to find ramps at an undisclosed location!

New Marlborough Land Trust

Not far from the side of the road, we came upon a sizeable patch of ramps. Next to a swampy area, thousands of ramp plants were clustered together in the woods. Paul called them a “run of ramps”!

Paul had found a recipe for vegan ramp ravioli from Meatless Makeovers and I decided that this would be a perfect use for our foraged treasures. When we returned home in the late afternoon, I thought I might make the pasta dough and then prepare the filling and form the ravioli the next day. But, after the inspiring walks and ramp adventure with our friends, I found myself full of energy and decided to make the raviolis for dinner. I listened to Stile Antica on Pandora and found myself in cooking heaven.

The original vegan recipe calls for pasta dough made with ground flax seed instead of egg, but I decided to go with rich golden organic egg yolks, a wise decision; the pasta was tender and full of flavor! I also added mushrooms and a few seasonings: dried thyme, nutmeg, red pepper flakes and salt & pepper to taste. The flavor of the ramps was just as I had imagined; subtle and delicate and they blended beautifully with the mushrooms and vegan ricotta. I think that you could also make the raviolis with leeks and scallions for a similar flavor.

These are definitely a dish for company. We will serve these soon for a group that includes our favorite ramp foragers!

ENJOY!!

Wild Ramp and Mushroom Ravioli (almost vegan)

FILLING:

  • 3 cloves garlic (Minced)
  • 1 bunch ramps (chopped with white stems separated from leaves)* Note
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 4- or 5 mushrooms finely chopped
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Vegan Ricotta ( I used Kite Hill plant based ricotta)

SAUCE:

  • 2 Tbsp vegan butter (I used Kite Hill Vegan Butter and it had a nice flavor, although you could just use unsalted butter)
  • 3 cloves garlic (sliced)
  • 15–20 sage Leaves
  • 2 Tbsp walnuts (chopped)
  • 1 ramp (chopped with white stems separated from leaves)

Ingredients for Pasta Dough

Makes enough dough for 24 ravioli or cappellacci

1 cup cake flour (not self-rising)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 large egg yolks

1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup water

Blend together all dough ingredients in a food processor until mixture just begins to form a ball. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface, incorporating only as much additional flour as necessary to keep dough from sticking, until smooth and elastic, 6 to 8 minutes. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature 1 hour.

Cooks’ note:

Dough can be made (but not rolled out) 1 day ahead and chilled, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap. Bring to room temperature before rolling out.

  1. Prepare the Ramps: Meanwhile chop the ramps completely, separate the chopped leaves from the white ends. Mince the garlic.
  2. In a skillet over medium heat, add 1 Tbsp olive oil. Place the chopped white part of the ramp first and allow to cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Next, add the chopped ramp leaves, mushrooms and the garlic. Cook, stirring frequently for 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  4. Making the Ravioli: Once the dough has rested, cut it into 8 equal pieces. Working in batches roll out the dough on a floured surface. Your dough should be about 3mm thick after rolling.
  5. Dollop 1 tsp vegan ricotta cheese about 3 inches apart along your rolled out dough. Place 1 tsp of the ramp filling onto each dollop of ricotta.
  6. Place another rolled out piece of dough over the filling piles. Carefully press out any trapped air and seal your ravioli tightly using your finger and cut them out with a knife or with a ravioli cutter. Dust your fresh ravioli with flour and set aside.
  7. Put a large pot of water on the stove to boil.
  8. Make the sauce:  In a skillet over medium/low heat, melt the butter. Stir the butter frequently until it has a slight golden brown color. Approx. 4 minutes.
  9. Add the garlic, white part of the ramps, and the walnuts. Cook stirring constantly until garlic begins to brown. Approx. 3 minutes.
  10. Remove the sauce from the heat, add the ramp greens and sage leaves to the sauce and set aside.
  11. Once your water is boiling, place a few ravioli into the water at a time. Allow them to boil for 3-4 minutes.
  12. Serve: Plate the ravioli and spoon the sauce over them. Garnish with red pepper flakes, black pepper, or grated vegan parmesan, if desired. Serve immediately and enjoy!
  13. Store uncooked ravioli in the fridge for up to 3 to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
  14. * Note: Make sure to wash ramps very well with plenty of cold water. They are quite gritty! After I washed the ramps, I spun them dry in a salad spinner.
  15. ENJOY!

AND: Here is I think, an appropriate “Tree of the Week!”


“I think I Smell Something Good”!

HAPPY SPRING!!

High Ledges and a Passover Delicacy

High Ledges- Shelburne, Massachusetts

It was a windy chilly early spring day with the unusual occurrence of Easter, Passover and Ramadan taking place over the same weekend. We took a walk with breath taking views on the High Ledge Wildlife Sanctuary Trail in Shelburne, Massachusetts. From the top of the trail one can see the Deerfield River weaving gracefully through the hills with Mt. Greylock in the distance.

The trail climbed gently through peaceful pine woods and passed a gentle gurgling stream. In no rush, we stopped to listen to the beautiful sounds.

From the vantage point at the top, looking down almost 1,000 feet, we were treated to a cookie cutter view of the village of Shelburne Falls. To the left of the village not too far off, nestled in the hills, is our newly purchased land!

This year was our first in person Passover Seder since 2019. What a wonderful feeling to get out our fancy tableware and set the table for our guests! Although, I had lost track where the serving platters and large bowls were stored away. I needed to recalibrate how much food to prepare; I had gotten so used to cooking for two people!

One of the best things about hosting a Passover dinner again was that I could prepare Smoked Whitefish Gefilte Fish! When you mention gefilte fish to most people, there is a bit of eye rolling; we have a collective memory of cold gloppy fish that came from a jar with a strange after taste complete with an unappealing gooey gelatin. Mostly I think we ate it because we were starved after the long Seder service!

I found the recipe several years ago on Epicurious from an April 2002 issue of Bon Appetit Magazine. I love it when a person tastes the dish; skeptically the first time and then a look of delight crosses their face! A request has been made for a summer version of the dish; perhaps with a glass of chilled rose wine and served with tender baby lettuce with fresh peas from a local farm stand!

Each year, a few weeks before Passover, I make my annual pilgrimage to Zabars on Manhattan’s Upper West Side to purchase the freshest smoked whitefish; one of the ingredients for the gefilte fish. I do believe this is what makes the dish so special. I always enjoy watching the rude irreverent countermen carefully slice nova and other smoked fish. As I stand in a long line waiting for my turn, Mozart is playing softly in the background accompanied by the aroma of smoked fish and freshly baked bagels in the air. I listen to the back and forth banter between the customers and countermen. Then, I take my treasure home and keep it in the freezer for a few weeks until it is time to prepare the dish. The fish can be made up to 2 days before serving.

It had been several years since I had made the recipe and I needed to read the directions carefully. This recipe is a bit of a slog, but the result is well worth the effort! I hope you will try this recipe!!

Smoked Whitefish Gefilte Fish with Lemon-Horseradish Sauce

Ingredients

Makes about 24 dumplings

Gefilte fish

3/4 cup thinly sliced peeled carrots

1/4 cup matzo meal

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped green onions ( reserve a small amount to garnish the fish)

4 large eggs

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 pounds mild white fish fillets (such as sole or flounder), cut into small pieces

2 cups flaked smoked whitefish (about 8 ounces), carefully boned

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Sauce:

2 garlic cloves

1/4 cup prepared white horseradish

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 cup mayonnaise ( I use vegannaise)

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

For gefilte fish:

Step 1

Cook carrots in pan of boiling salted water until very tender, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water in small bowl. Stir matzo meal into water; let stand 10 minutes. Place carrots in processor. Heat olive oil in heavy medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add green onions and stir 1 minute. Add onion mixture to carrots in processor. Add matzo meal mixture; blend until mixture is pureed and smooth. Using electric mixer, beat 3 eggs and lemon juice in large bowl until foamy and slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Stir in mixture from processor; do not clean processor bowl.

Step 2

Blend fish fillets, smoked fish, salt, and pepper in same processor bowl until fish is finely chopped. Add remaining egg and blend to coarse paste. Add fish mixture to matzo meal mixture and mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate until very cold, about 2 hours.

Step 3

Line large baking sheet with waxed paper. Using wet hands, shape 1/4 cup fish mixture for each dumpling into egg-shaped oval. Place on prepared sheet. Cover with waxed paper and chill before steaming.

Step 4

Set vegetable steamer rack in large pot. Fill pot with enough water to meet, but not cover, bottom of rack. Line rack with parchment paper. Arrange 8 fish dumplings on parchment paper. Bring water to boil. Cover pot and steam dumplings until cooked through and firm to touch, about 25 minutes. Steam remaining dumplings in 2 more batches. Cover and refrigerate gefilte fish until cold, at least 6 hours. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.)

For Sauce:

Step 5

Mince garlic and place in small bowl. Mix in horseradish and lemon juice. Gradually whisk in mayonnaisse. Season sauce with salt and pepper. Adjust seasonings adding more lemon juice or horseradish to taste. Cover; chill up to 1 day. The flavors develop overnight!

Serve fish on a large platter sprinkled with remaining chopped scallions.

ENJOY!!

As is the tradition, at the end of the Seder, we opened our door to let Elijah enter. As dusk was falling we could hear the sounds of the birds tucking in for the evening and peepers calling from the pond across the street. I always imagine at this time of the year that a hungry bear enticed by the aroma of smoked whitefish gefilte fish, matzo ball soup and roast chicken may enter the door instead of Elijah! What a joy it was to be gathered around our table with dear friends once again!

AND, here is the “Tree of the Week”:

“It’s been a whirlwind of a year so far!”

HAPPY SPRING AND STAY SAFE!

The Return of the Fungi and Chicken Pesto Meatballs!

Bray Road Buckland, MA

March 28th– Walking through our land in Buckland, Massachusetts, the snow has all melted away and I am amazed to see a colorful show of fungi that seems to have reappeared like magic!

Fountain Pond State Park: Great Barrington, MA

Many years ago our land was originally a sheep farm, then it was logged; a good deal of brush was left behind. As the wood decayed, a moist fertile environment for mushrooms and fungi was created. I love walking through the land; although I have to be careful stepping over the brush so I don’t fall! Moving slowly this way, my attention is drawn towards the ground and I discover strange, colorful and intricate fungi!

Bray Road Buckland, MA

An interesting fact from an article written from bountea.com: “Life in the Winter Soil.”

 “With soil rich in humus, bacteria can hibernate through the cold weather well protected within their carbon habitats. Soil that drains well and has humus content around 10% is an ideal environment for overwintering microbes.

Spring arrives slowly in the Northeast.

Sheffield, MA

The other day on a walk at Hunger Mountain in Monterey, MA, the blue grey sky was spitting snowflakes. We were treated to views of the distant misty mountains peeking through the still bare trees.

Hunger Mountain: Monterey, MA

As I get ready to publish this blog, it is greening up rapidly outside, but there are still weeks of cool weather left to make hearty dishes that simmer for hours on the stove!

For many years, I watched my late mother- in-law Dolores DePaolo make her legendary meatballs and tomato sauce. As she cooked, she regaled me with stories from her rich Italian American family history, always complete with a demonstration of a rude hand signal; a dismissive fleck of the hand in the air to use if someone was being disrespectful. I listened carefully as she showed me her techniques to coax the most flavor out of a sauce and to make the meatballs tender. As she aged, others in the family started to cook more; then at one holiday meal, the ultimate compliment was made; a smile and a look of approval! To mix up cultural references a bit here; in her eyes, I had become a true balabusta (a Yiddish expression for a good homemaker.)

I remember clearly a few tips: 1. mix the ingredients for the meatballs thoroughly and when you form them into balls handle the mixture gently, don’t over pack them. 2. Heat the olive oil in the pan to a high temperature then and brown the meatballs all over. 3. Place the meatballs into the sauce, add water to the pan and stir up all of the browned bits in the pan. Add this to the sauce. 4. Simmer the sauce and meatballs gently for hours.

I have experimented making meatballs with ground beef, ground turkey and adding other ingredients like chopped kale. I have made vegetarian meatballs with ground nuts, onions, garlic, egg and breadcrumbs. My latest rendition is with ground chicken, pesto, garlic, egg, bread crumbs and kale. I hope you enjoy Chicken Pesto Meatballs!

Chicken Pesto Meatballs

Ingredients for Sauce:

1 large can organic crushed tomatoes

1 small can organic tomato paste

1/2 onion finely chopped

2 large garlic cloves finely chopped

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 teaspoons dried basil

2 teaspoons dried oregano

a good glug of red wine

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

water

To make sauce:

Heat olive oil in a large heavy pot, add onion and saute for about 5 minutes until onions are soft and translucent. Add garlic and cook briefly.

Add all other ingredients except wine and bring to a boil. Add wine, let it cook down for a minute and then reduce to a simmer. Cover pot and cook over a low heat while you prepare the meatballs.

Ingredients for Chicken Pesto Meatballs:

1 pound ground chicken

1 egg

1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

2-3 tablespoons basil pesto

1/4 cup finely chopped lacinato kale ( you can also Italian parsley, I used dandelion greens one time!)

1 teaspoon salt

freshly ground pepper

pinch of red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

To make meatballs:

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients well together.

In a large non stick pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil.

Wet hands and add loosely formed meatballs to hot oil. Saute on all sides until nicely browned.

Place meatballs into sauce.

Place about 1/2 water into pan where the meatballs were browned and stir up any loose bits. Add this to the sauce.

Bring the sauce to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook about 2 hours.

I like to serve the meatballs with whole wheat spaghetti and a side of steamed broccoli with lemon and extra virgin olive oil. Serve with either freshly grated parmesan or pecorino cheese and a good Italian red wine!

ENJOY! Or, as my mother-in-law would say MANGIA!

AND, Here is the Tree of the Week!

“So you say!!”

HAPPY SPRING AND STAY SAFE!!

The New Museum: An Excellent Art and Food Adventure!

While driving to teach at Hofstra University a few months ago, I heard an interview on WNYC about an art exhibit by the African American artist, Faith Ringgold at the New Museum in Lower Manhattan. Her work and life story sounded fascinating and compelling and I made a mental note to visit the museum soon!

Faith Ringgold: American People

Recently, I had a free Saturday morning before an afternoon rehearsal and saw that Faith Ringgold’s exhibit was still at the New Museum. I headed down in my car to the Lower East Side and ended up parking not far from one of my all time favorite places DiPalo’s Fine Foods, also close to the venerable Italian pastry shop Cafe Roma; this was going to be a wonderful food and art expedition!

The New Museum opened in 1977 and was the first museum devoted to contemporary art created by New York City artists. The mission statement of the museum says: “the museum is a catalyst for a broad dialogue between artists and the public by establishing an exhibition, information, and documentation center for contemporary art made within a period of approximately ten years prior to the present.”

Designed by Tokyo-based architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa/SANAA the museum is a seven-story, eight-level structure located at 235 Bowery between Stanton and Rivington Streets in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

Faith Ringgold at 91, has enjoyed a long career as an artist, writer, educator and activist. She was at the center of the Harlem Renaissance and her works document her struggles for social justice and equality.

I found the exhibit to be inspiring on many levels; as I viewed the works of art, I felt the rich legacy of black history. I also learned about the activism that Ringgold engaged in during her life in New York City.

I chatted briefly with one of the guards, a middle aged African American woman; she seemed eager to talk about the art work with me and seemed to show a special pride for the exhibition. She also shared information about a recent visit that Ringgold had made to the museum for a reception held in her honor.

Faith Ringgold: American People

I enjoyed viewing a series of works called story quilts that depicted the stories of important figures in the 20th century.

The Sunflowers Quilting Bee at Arles- Faith Ringgold

In “The Sunflowers Quilting Bee at Arles”, a quilt is surrounded by famous black luminaries including Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman. To the right stands Van Gogh holding a bunch of sunflowers!

In the story quilt, “Dinner at Gertrude Stein’s” from the French Collection, Part #9 991, the black writers Langston Hughes and Richard Wright sit along side Toklas, Gertrude Stein, Picasso and Ernest Hemingway.

“Dinner at Gertrude Stein’s from The French Collection, Part #9 1991: Faith Ringgold

Bessie’s Blues- Faith Ringgold

“Bessie’s Blues” portrays the jazz singer Bessie Smith. For this exhibit, the work is own loan from the Art Institute of Chicago. I was drawn to the bold colors and patterns and found this description talking about the parallels between art and music compelling:

Faith Ringgold employed thick lines and forms to portray the singer Bessie Smith, also known as “Empress of the Blues.” The deliberate dissonance between Smith’s melodies and their musical accompaniment finds a visual echo in Ringgold’s pared-down portrait of the glamorous Smith (known for bespangled dresses and sparkly jewelry). The subtle variations among the repeated portraits hint at the variations in pitch and rhythm in the choruses of Smith’s songs“. Art Institute of Chicago

There was a stunning view of Lower Manhattan from the 7th floor of the museum with the Freedom Tower in the distance. I reflected on our fragile democracy and on it’s resilience. Even with all of it’s flaws and challenges, change is possible; made so clear this past week with the confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson!

After experiencing such a beautiful and uplifting exhibit, my spirits were soaring and I was full of energy; ready for the well anticipated culinary part of my expedition!

I headed towards Grand and Mulberry Streets and to Dipalos Fine Foods, which has served the freshest Italian cheeses since 1925.

I love the homey atmosphere of the store; customers range from ultility workers, tourists and fellow foodies! On this particular day, owner Lou Dipalo’s wife brought out a tray of freshly made riggatoni, Italian sausage and tomato sauce. A delicious aroma wafted into the air and there was a collective sigh of appreciation by all of us customers standing in line.

Big hunks of cheese line the counters. Before the pandemic, customers were often treated to tastes of each cheese that they ordered. I ordered my usual; parmesan reggianno and freshly grated pecorino.

The next step was to get a Bubble Tea across the street from DiPalo’s at Ya Ya’s Tea. Often times Bubble Tea is too sweet for my taste, but here they made freshly brewed camomile tea sweetened with a bit of honey. I ordered a large with plenty of ice and with the addition of chewy pearl tapioca bubbles it was irresistible!

My next stop was to Mimi Chengs Dumplings on Broome Street. The plan was to get some dumpling to take home for dinner; I ordered chicken and zucchini and vegetable dumplings; some made it home!

Almost directly across the street is one of the best Italian pastry shops in the city; Cafe Roma. The day had gone so well, I thought I would treat myself to a pastry to eat on the way home.

As I entered the cafe, I was greeted by the heady scent of espresso and pastries. There was quite an assortment of Italian delicacies, but this day I was drawn to the flaky sfogliatelle that sat on top of the counter.

There is a story that the pastry originated on the Amalfi coast and was created by a nun at convent with left over semolina, lemon liqueur, sugar and dried fruit.

Driving home, I enjoyed my sfogliatelle immensely. I bit into the crispy buttery crust; filled with ricotta cheese, semolina and flavored with vanilla and small pieces of lemon citron, it was one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted! I have to say, I did make a bit of a mess; the front of my jacket was covered with powdered sugar and bits of crisp flaky pastry!

Often times when I am walking, my thoughts turn to what I might make for dinner that evening. I will think about what ingredients are on hand and then go from there. On one cold blustery early spring day, I was thinking of making a middle eastern fish stew. I had a nice piece of cod and some oil cured black olives. But when I started to cook, my mood started to shift towards Italian spices and a way to use some of my pungent grated pecorino cheese that I had just purchased from DiPalos. I saw a jar of capers in the fridge and imagined my stew served over whole wheat linguini and in a flash Fish Soup ala Pantelleria was born!

Fish Stew Ala Pantelleria

Ingredients:

1 pound cod

1 can diced fire roasted tomatoes

1 medium red potato cut into small pieces

1 onion finely diced

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

4-5 mushrooms sliced

handful of green beans cut into small pieces

handful of lacinato kale, tough core removed and cut into small pieces

1/4 cup pitted oil cured black olives

1 bay leaf

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup capers , rinsed and drained

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried thyme

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

red pepper flakes to taste

water to cover casserole

1/2 box whole wheat linguini

freshly grated pecorino cheese

To Make Fish Stew:

Rinse cod and cut into medium size chunks- set aside.

In a large heavy cast iron pot, add olive oil and heat. Add onions and saute until softened and then add garlic, cook briefly for a minute or so.

Add all other ingredients except the fish and then cover with water. If you have a good white wine on hand, you could add a cup or so here! Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook about 30-40 minutes until the vegetables are soft.

Add fish and cook just a few minutes more until fish flakes easily. Do not overcook the fish!

Prepare linguini.

Serve with freshly ground pepper and grated pecorino.

ENJOY!!

AND: Here is the “Tree of the Week”

” Oh My, What a Crazy World”

HAPPY SPRING AND STAY SAFE!!

A Sunny Trek at Thousand Acre Swamp and Ukrainian Dried Fruit Strudel!

March 14, 2022 Thousand Acre Swamp- New Marlborough, MA

Winter really is over, the sun felt warm on our faces and the sky was a brilliant blue; a lovely day for an invigorating walk with friends at Thousand Acre Swamp in New Marlborough , MA. The trail meanders gently through a forest of hemlock and black cherry trees with views of Thousand Acre Swamp.

How quickly the weather changes this time of year. We returned yesterday and the landscape was completely different; although a brisk chilly wind reminded us that winter has only just left us!

Thousand Acre Swamp- March 21, 2022

We crossed a rickety suspension bridge. The strong wind whipped the water underneath into interesting patterns and made the bridge sway back and forth with a motion that was a bit unsettling to say the least!

In my last blog entry, I talked about the family history on my father’s side. They came from the section of Russia that at the time included Poland and Ukraine; around 1914. My Grandpa Sam wrote a detailed and poignant account about growing up in a small poor town rife with antisemitism and their eventful trip to the United States. I don’t have the same documentation for my Grandma Bella, who came from the same area of the Ukraine. But, I do have rich memories; I remember her deep throaty voice with a heavy Russian accent. She had intelligent bright brown eyes and she rubbed her tiny worn hands energetically together as she listened avidly to other’s conversations. She did not have much formal education and spent her life taking care of a small dark apartment in St. Louis; I remember the plastic covered sofa and the scent of mothballs and schmalz in the air. I imagine that in different circumstances she would have been an excellent journalist or lawyer.

Grandma Bella

Her life revolved around her family and she often sent us packages of her homemade strudel. I regret that I never watched her prepare the pastry; I was an impatient teenager. I didn’t have the chance to listen to her family stories about the old country, although perhaps she would not have been comfortable talking about the hardships that she had endured.

I have never tasted any other strudel like my grandmother’s. Most strudels that I have tried had a flaky almost phyllo like pastry and were filled with either apples, cherries or poppy seeds. Grandma Bella’s strudel had a pastry covering that was very thin, more like the pastry for rugelach or a thin pliable pie crust. The filling had dried apricots, raisins and walnuts and was flavored with cinnamon.

I did a google search for Ukrainian/Russian strudel and although some of the ingredients were different, the recipe sounded a great deal like her strudel. I decided to make strudel and this is what I came up with. It was remarkably similar and was delicious. I liked it way too much and tried to give away as much as possible. I think Grandma Bella would have approved!!

Ukrainian Dried Fruit Strudel

Ukrainian Dried Fruit Strudel ( from Food Network; based on a recipe by Wayne Harley Brachman)

Sour Cream Pastry:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter cut into pea sized bits

1/2 cup sour cream

Dried Fruit Filling:

1 cup pitted organic prunes

1/2 cup organic prune juice

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup dried cherries

1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

cinnamon for dusting top of strudel

1 egg

2 tablespoons water

Directions

  1. Put the flour in the bowl of an electric mixer. On slow, mix in the butter until it looks like very coarse meal. Mix in the sour cream until it masses together to form a dough. Pat into a rectangle, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.

Dried Fruit Filling:

  1. Filling:
  2. Coarsely chop the prunes. In a small saucepan, cover the prunes with the prune juice and sugar. Bring to a simmer for 3 minutes. Place in a food processor with the vanilla and puree to a paste. Mix in the raisins, cherries and walnuts. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a square 16 by16 inches. Place the filling in a log running along the bottom and roll up. Pinch the ends closed. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet, seam side down. Mix the egg and water together to form a wash and paint the strudel. Dust lightly with cinnamon. Bake for 30 minutes until crisp and golden. Let cool on a rack, then slice into 1 inch pieces. Wait until very cool to slice; use a serrated bread knife.

This week, I have strayed from my trusty “Tree of the Week” and morphed to stone! No fear, the trees will be back shortly. This rock caught my eye and I imagined a face with a crooked sly smile and one tooth sticking out the corner of it’s mouth!

Thousand Acre Swamp New Marlborough, MA

HAPPY SPRING!!

Ukrainian/Russian Roots

From: The Dansker Family Memories by my grandfather Sam Dansker

It is always terrible and disturbing to hear news about war torn countries. Learning about the horrific invasion of Ukraine brought up intense feelings of outrage and disbelief. I realized that this was especially difficult because these are my roots. This morning I received an email with an urgent update from the the World Union for Progressive Judaism from a rabbi that is presently in Kyiv.

My father’s family is from Russia; I have heard stories my whole life and this is what I know: the family was very poor, my grandfather had 9 siblings; they all made it to America except one child who died at the age of 3. They were devout orthodox Jews and were constantly under the threat of attack by Russian Cossacks, they were able to leave in 1914.

From The Dansker Family Memories

This week, I reread a memoir that a cousin helped my grandfather Sam put together in the 1980’s and this is what I have discovered: I knew that both of grandparents were born in Russia, but I never knew from what part of the country. Grandpa Sam was born in a small town in Ukraine called Bazalya, not far from Kyiv. I learned that in the 1900’s, Volhynia Province in Ukraine was part of the former Russian Empire that included Lithuanina and Poland. I learned that my great grandfather played the fiddle and that in addition to Russian, they spoke Yiddish. Between 1910 and 1914 all Jews were expelled from their villages; my grandfather was 13 at the time. They were lucky to have family in St Louis and passage was bought for their harrowing trip to America.

Cleaning out my vegetable bin, I was trying to decide what to toss out and place in our compost bin. In the back of the vegetable drawer was a sad bag of red beets with the greens rotted and an old ignored head of cabbage with the core starting to mold. I thought about our family before they left Russia and how food insecure they were; I didn’t want to waste any food. It was easy to wash away the old leaves and I decided a hearty Ukrainian Borscht would be the thing to cook!

It was interesting to me that this week the NYT Cooking Column said they were getting a lot of requests for Borsht recipes. Sam Sifton said in his article: “The letters are a reminder that cooking is a cultural act: a way to feel connected, to support, to acknowledge the world and perhaps to understand it better.” NYT Cooking

I listened to Bach Cantatas as I chopped up the vegetables; making the soup was deeply soothing and seemed to be best way to channel my thoughts and prayers for the Ukrainian people.

Ukranian Borscht

Ingredients:

1 stalk celery chopped

1 medium onion chopped

3 or 4 red beets- peeled and cut into small cubes. The beets are easier to peel if you cook them in a pot of water for about 20 minutes. Save the liquid they were cooked in and use in the soup pot. Make sure to wear an apron, this is a messy job!!

3 garlic cloves peeled and finely chopped

2 red potatoes cut into small pieces

1/2 head cabbage cut into thin slices

2 carrots peeled and cut into small pieces

2 bay leaves

Serve with chopped fresh dill and sour cream

1/2 small can diced tomato

honey to taste

1-2 tablespoons white vinegar to taste

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Serve with chopped fresh dill and sour cream– I used plain yogurt.

To Make Borscht:

Heat a large soup pot and add olive oil. Saute onions until soft, add garlic and cook briefly.

Add all other vegetables and other ingredients.

Cover ingredients with water, chicken or beef stock (use enough water or stock to come up almost to the top of the pot.)

Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cover pot and cook for about 2 hours.

Adjust seasonings.- add more vinegar or honey to taste. The soup is best if it sits for a day before eating to let the flavors meld together.

Serve with plenty of chopped fresh dill and a big dollop of yogurt or sour cream.

The soup is wonderful with fresh buttered rye bread!

ENJOY!!

My grandma Bella made a strudel that I have never seen elsewhere in Europe; Austria, Germany, Hungary or the Czech Republic. The pastry was not flaky, but more like a pliable soft dough that would be used for Rugelach. The dough was rolled out thin and I remember that it was filled with chopped dried fruit, raisins, walnuts and it was dusted with cinnamon sugar. I regret that I never made strudel with her. I went on a google search and found a Russian style mixed/dried fruit strudel. It sounds very similar and this will be my next baking experiment. Stay tuned!!

AND, as always, here is the “Tree of the Week”! I imagine that the caption is being read by a strong Ukrainian woman!

“Don’t Even Think of It!!”

Stay Safe and Warm!!