Oboe Boot Camp + Inspiring Respites= A Joyous New Recording!

The week before my group Hevreh Ensemble began our new recording project at Oktaven Audio in NYC, I cleared my schedule, arranged substitutes for my students and dove headfirst into Oboe Boot Camp! I wanted make sure that I had enough time to make reeds; my normal practice routine of about an hour daily was extended to 3 hours. This was to insure that I had enough endurance on this most aerobic of instruments. I was accomplishing my goal, but felt that was getting what I like to call, “Oboe Brain”, loosely translated as feeling a bit loopy, unfocused and spacey. Nothing a cup of tea and a good walk would not cure!

The perfect respite was to take a few hikes, some familiar and my husband Paul happily researched a few new locations.

The weather that week was glorious; cool and sunny with the trees in their last blaze of fall color!

Overlook Tail- Great Mountain Forest: Norfolk, CT

We headed up to Great Mountain Forest in Norfolk, CT for a lovely walk on the Overlook Trail. The path climbed gently uphill with views of Tobey Pond peeking through the trees. I discovered this idyllic pond years ago as a student at the Yale Summer School of Music!

Overlook Trail- Great Mountain Forest

Next, we scouted out Woodcreek Pond, not far from the center of the village of Norfolk. We thought this might be an excellent place to kayak next spring!

Woodcreek Pond, Norfolk, CT

Another day we returned to one of our favorite walks at the Overmountain Conservation Area in Ancram, NY. The Kite Hill Loop Trail winds through a large meadow with distant views of the Catskills and the Taconic Range. A rustic gazebo graces the top of the meadow with glorious views.

Kite Hill-Ancram, NY
Kite Hill, Ancram, NY

On a cloudy slightly overcast day, I took a solo walk at another favorite in Sheffield, MA on Kelsey Road. The peaceful dirt road, where one can stroll for miles, has distant views of the Taconic Ridge and passes by a beautiful marshland area.

Kelsey Road- Sheffield, MA
Kelsey Road-Sheffield, MA

All of the walks were very calming and centering, preparing me for the intensity of the next few days.

The morning of the recording, I woke up earlier than usual and was treated to golden light filtering through the woods near our house. Perhaps a sign of good things to come??

I arrived early at Oktaven Audio, about a two hour drive from our house to warmup, just as the affable and talented engineer Ryan Streber co-owner of the studio was setting up. One option was to be in the large room with sound baffling on either side of the musicians or to be in a small isolation booth. The big room had a direct view into the control room, where the engineers and our producer would sit. I felt a bit of trepidation; as if I would be a guppy in a fish bowl. I volunteered to be in the small booth, with no sight line to the control room. I immediately felt that I had made the right choice. With a rug on the floor, enough room to lay out my reed tools; the lighting was dark but with a stand light, I could see perfectly and I felt cozy and protected!

Then the work began; three days of continuous recording with the sessions starting at 10:30 AM and ending at 8:00 PM- talk about Oboe Brain!!

Our colleague and violist Ralph Farris, who is a member of the acclaimed string quartet ETHEL, is producing the album. He has an incredible ear, a seemingly endless supply of energy along with creative and innovative ideas. Combined with a quirky and irreverent sense of humor, I think he would be the ideal orchestral conductor, if only!!

Ralph Farris & myself

During one of our sessions when I was not playing, I listened as Ralph gently teased the others; to Shane Shanahan our wonderful guest artist on percussion: “Shane, you’re making us angry in here- that take was so good it was offensive!!” Or, to Jeff Adler, Hevreh group member and composer- Jeff had an improvisation section on bass clarinet in one of the pieces- it was going to be over dubbed at a later time, so there was silence during the take. From the control room Ralph said loudly over the speaker, “that’s the best you’ve ever sounded!”. Or, he would share a self deprecating viola joke with the humor (being a violist) turned toward himself. All of this made us feel relaxed but also kept us razor focused on our playing. Ralph mentioned that he believed that 98% of performing well is psychological; I believe that his unorthodox methods created a supportive, safe and creative environment for all of us.

When we finished the recording sessions, I felt a sense of elation and accomplishment, BUT…..I was completely exhausted! I was hoping that the adrenalin that was rushing through me would last for for the long drive home, but what really did the trick was the snack that I had squirreled away into my bag! Rooting around in my freezer, I had found a few slices of Cardamom Streusel Zucchini Bread that I had made for our Prentice Barn concert this past summer. Spiced with ginger and cardamom with a crunchy streusel topping, the flavors danced around in my mouth and helped keep me alert! The recipe is from the June 2021 Bon Appetit magazine. I left out the turmeric called for in the recipe. Now, we can look forward to the release and distribution of the album by our amazing record label PARMA sometime in the late spring- stay tuned for updates!!

Cardamom Streusel Zucchini Bread from Bon Appetit Magazine

Ingredients

Makes one 9×5″ loaf

STREUSEL

⅓cup (42 g) all-purposeflour

2Tbsp. plus 1½ tsp. (30 g) dark brown sugar

¼cup (24 g) old-fashioned oats

½tsp. ground cardamom

½tsp. ground ginger

½tsp. ground turmeric

¼tsp. baking powder

Pinch of kosher salt

2Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly

Nonstick vegetable oil spray

2½medium zucchini (about 1 lb.), trimmed

¾tsp. vanilla extract

1½cups (300 g) granulated sugar

Zest of 1 lemon

3large eggs

¾cup grapeseed oil

1¾cups (219 g) all-purpose flour

2¼tsp. ground cardamom

2¼tsp. ground ginger

2tsp. baking powder

1¼tsp. Diamond Crystal or ¾ tsp. Morton kosher saltBlueberry jam and/or crème fraîche (for serving; optional)

Preparation

STREUSEL

Step 1

Whisk flour, brown sugar, oats, cardamom, ginger, turmeric, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl to combine. Drizzle butter over and, using your fingers, work into dry ingredients until butter is absorbed and clumps form. Set streusel aside

BREAD

Step 2

Place a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 350°. Coat a 9×5″ loaf pan with nonstick spray and line with parchment paper, leaving a generous overhang on long sides. Using the grater attachment of a food processor or the large holes of a box grater, grate zucchini. (You should have about 3 cups.) Wrap shredded zucchini in a kitchen towel and wring out as much excess moisture as you can. Transfer to a small bowl and mix in vanilla extract (adding the vanilla here means the zucchini will take on more of its flavor).

Step 3

Place granulated sugar and lemon zest in a medium bowl and, using your fingers, work zest into sugar until sugar starts to clump and mixture is very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add eggs and oil to bowl and whisk to combine. Add grated zucchini and whisk again to incorporate.

Step 4

Using a fine-mesh sieve, sift flour into another small bowl. Add cardamom, ginger, baking powder, and salt and whisk to combine. Add dry ingredients to zucchini mixture and gently fold with a rubber spatula until there are no visible flour streaks remaining and batter is homogeneous. Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth surface. Scatter reserved streusel evenly on top.

Step 5

Bake zucchini bread, rotating pan halfway through, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 1 hour 30 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let zucchini bread cool completely in pan.

Step 6

Run a small offset spatula or paring knife around sides of zucchini bread to help loosen, then turn it out onto rack.

Step 7

To serve, cut zucchini bread into thick slices and divide among plates. Top with jam and crème fraîche if desired.

ENJOY!!

AND- here is the Tree of the Week!

I may have developed a bit of a double chin!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!! 11/26/21

The Amazing Guest, Fantastic Fungi and Spooky Sounds!

I read a recent New York Times article that talked about how excited a couple was to host a guest for the weekend. They were determined to fill the planned itinerary with as many activities as possible, after being denied time together for so long. The guest went home feeling tired and overwhelmed. Our dear friend Carol was planning to meet us for some well deserved R & R; first at our home and then at a Bed and Breakfast in Cummington, Massachusetts. My husband Paul and I talked for weeks about all of the places we would take Carol; among them, many of our favorite hikes. And, although we wanted to avoid the same pitfalls of over booking, we were not sure this would be possible!

We started our glorious fall weekend at the Ashintully Gardens in Tyringham, Massachusetts.

Ashintully Gardens Trustees of the Reservation

We walked up a hill through a field of dried wildflowers standing at attention like soldiers in a row and quickly realized that Carol was the perfect guest- she was delighted and engaged with everything we showed her and being a visual artist, she innately understood my love of close observation.

Before our dinner reservation on the patio at the excellent restaurant, John Andrews in Hillsdale, New York, we squeezed in a short walk at Parsons Marsh in Lenox, MA. The late afternoon sun was beautiful as we walked on a boardwalk that wove gently through the woods to the marsh.

Parsons Marsh-Berkshire Natural Resources Council
Parsons Marsh

After a delicious dinner at John Andrew’s, we returned home, watched an episode of Only Murders in the Building on Netflix and then fell into a deep slumber! The next day we were eager to show Carol our land that we recently closed on in Buckland, MA in the hill towns above Northampton. Our big news is that in a few years we plan to build our dream house there! On the way, we made a stop in Northampton to the Woodstar Cafe to pick up a picnic (that included their yummy vegan peanut butter cookies) and headed up into the hills! Near Buckland, is an old cemetery that was a perfect location to make a creepy Halloween video.

We put on our hiking boots and traipsed uphill on our land. Carol bravely joined us in a bit of bush whacking!

On the land, the trees are beautiful with many tall evergreens, but our eyes were drawn close to the ground. The patterns of autumn leaves, fungi, rocks and twigs made beautiful collages.

Carol came up with an interesting concept-along with photographs of my recipes, we could make natural place settings with leaves and twigs and photograph them with a woodland backdrop; perhaps a cottage industry was born!!

Continuing on our walk, we saw some incredible and unusual fungi.

Back in the car, we took a short five minute jaunt to the charming village of Shelburne Falls; complete with art galleries, cozy cafes, bookstores, restaurants, an artisanal bakery and the beautiful Bridge of Flowers, the site was created in 1929, when the old trolley bridge was no longer used.

Bridge of Flowers-Shelburne Falls, MA

On a bit of a schedule, we moved on to our next activity; a beautiful fall drive through the country roads to Cummington, MA where we were guests at The Upland Meadows Farm B & B. The quaint old farmhouse was full of character with cozy rooms and the surrounding area was quiet and peaceful. And, it was right down the road from our beloved William Cullen Bryant Homestead. We could walk through a pasture to reach the Sugar Bush Trail!

Upland Meadows Farm B & B

We took a short walk and then headed down towards Chester for our dinner reservation at the Chester Common Table. I was not sure what to expect, but we were pleasantly surprised. Tucked away in the small town of Chester that borders the Berkshires and the Pioneer Valley, the small restaurant opened in 2016 and is housed in a charming vintage house. We sat on the covered front porch and inside a folk group with mandolin and guitar played gentle Appalachian and bluegrass tunes that wafted softly through the open window. It started to rain, but with our jackets on and a cozy space heater next to us, we were totally comfortable. I enjoyed a tall glass of a local IPL draft beer brewed in MA, called Jack’s Abbey “Hiponius Union”. The light lemony flavor of the beer was perfect with a big plate of Coconut Curry Noodles that was lightly spicy. The dish included rice noodles, grilled chicken, crunchy bits of broccoli, red peppers, zucchini and red onions. Along with a few pieces of homemade corn bread, I was a happy camper!

Sunday morning, we took a misty early morning walk on the Rivulet Trail at the Bryant Homestead. I had been wanting to show this trail to Carol and she was enthralled by the tranquility and peacefulness of the fragrant pine woods.

Rivulet Trail- William Cullen Bryant Homestead

On the trail, we came upon one of my favorite trees that I call “The Wise Man”.

And, then after coffee and brunch at the Shelburne Falls Coffee Roasters, it was time to hug tightly and say goodbye. All in all, an incredible weekend- hopefully with not too much packed in for our amazing guest!

Shelburne Falls Coffee Roasters

When I was little, my mother often made a favorite fall dessert; a sticky, gooey, very sweet dessert called Apple Brown Betty. It was rich with melted butter, brown sugar, graham crackers, raisins, lemon juice and spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves. The recipe was from Erma Bombauer’s, The Joy of Cooking. I found myself craving this dessert, but wanted something much lighter. I decided to make an almost sugar free healthy version. I am happy to say, I may have found it!! I had a loaf of stale whole grain sourdough bread from Berkshire Mountain Bakery hanging around. I cut it into pieces and made bread crumbs in my food processor. I toasted them in the oven until they crisped up. Instead of using butter I substituted fresh apple cider for the liquid and I used Monk Fruit instead of sugar. It has a very low glycemic index and it can be used the same way as granulated sugar.

The dessert is even better the next day and perfect to eat sitting curled up on the couch with one of the first woodstove fires of the season; perhaps watching an old Hitchcock film- I think Psycho might be too scary, maybe something along the line of The Trouble with Harry, still with a macabre theme, but with plenty of black humor and a great film score by Bernard Herrmann or maybe something dark and atmospheric like Rebecca. Happy Halloween!!

Apple Brown Betty Redux

Ingredients:

Topping:

3 1/2 cups toasted bread crumbs ( preferably from whole grain bread- I just made another version and used Rockhill Raisin and Cinnamon bread that was also really good!)

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (from an organic lemon)

1/8-1/4 cup Monk Fruit sweetener (you could also use granulated sugar)

1 cup apple cider

1/2 cup raisins

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon all spice

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Apple Filling:

4-5 large apples peeled and cored (try to use a combination of firm local apples for the best flavor).

1-2 teaspoons cinnamon

To Make Apple Brown Betty:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Place 3 1/2 to 4 cups bread crumbs on a baking sheet. Bake and crispy and lightly browned.

Place breadcrumbs in a medium sized bowl. Add grated lemon zest, lemon juice, spices, raisins and monk fruit sweetener. Slowly add 3/4 apple cider until absorbed. The mixture should feel lightly moistened when squeezed.

Cut apples into quarters, peeled and then thinly slice them. Place in a medium sized casserole dish. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon and stir.

Sprinkle bread crumb mixture over apples in baking dish and pour remaining 1/4 cup apple cider over the top. Cover tightly with foil and bake until apples are tender when pierced with a fork. Remove foil and bake about 5-10 more until bread crumbs crisp up a bit. Let cool briefly- Enjoy!!

AND of course here is the: The Halloween Tree of the Week!

BOO!

Late Summer Sounds and Kenetic Sculptures!

Artist: Tim Prentice

At the end of August, on a hot summer afternoon, I met the kinetic sculptor Tim Prentice at his West Cornwall, Connecticut barn to make plans for an upcoming concert. The bucolic landscape is dotted with his sculptures that float gracefully in the gentle breeze.

My group Hevreh Ensemble was getting ready to perform a concert at this idyllic and serene place. We have played there several times in the past, but this was our first concert since the pandemic began.
I love playing here- in large part because of our connection with Tim Prentice. It was heartwarming to see his welcoming face and his warm and engaging presence once again! The barn is filled with many of Tim’s sculptures that ripple and weave gently in the crosscurrents of air. Rays of sunshine catch the edges of the works accentuating the bright vibrant colors.

Artist: Tim Prentice

We had a wonderful socially distanced concert and even an unexpected rain shower could not dampen our spirits! The masked concert goers quickly moved their chairs into the barn and we soldiered on!


I had left a box of our CD’s after the concert and this gave me the excuse to make a return visit.
A few weeks later on a warm September afternoon, I stopped by the barn and was joined by Tim and the sculptor David Colbert; he became Tim’s artistic and business partner in 2012. We sat on a cool shaded porch, next to Tim’s house that once was part of a barn and had a wonderful conversation about art and music!

Since the mid 1980’s, Tim has lived in a large colonial era house that sits on a gentle slope of a hill across from the barn. I asked him what he knew about the house and the surrounding area.
The first part of the house was built around 1790 with an addition added in 1850 in the Greek revival style. His family bought the farm in the 1960’s and was only the 3rd family to live in the house! Next to the house is a small pond and the studio that is now Tim and David’s workshop was an Ice House. Tim showed me a menacing looking antique saw that he found in the old barn that was used to cut ice.

Tim with antique ice saw

I asked both Tim and David what inspired them when creating their art. Both men answered almost in unison that all of nature surrounding us played a large role in their work. Tim said, “I observe the reflections of the sun on water, plants agitated by the wind and especially murmurations of birds.”

I thought that David’s description on his website was beautiful:

“I find inspiration most of all in nature. Witnessing: radiant light deepening in mountains with darkness coming on; thick drifting sunlit mist slowly burning off serene lakes; swirling clouds nearly hiding jagged mountain peaks; desert sand dunes at dusk reflective as etched glass; heavy snow; fog; barely seen mist rising up a valley. Is it there or is it not”- David Colbert

Artist David Colbert “Square Wind Frame”

To hear these words from two incredible artists was music to my ears. On my walks I have found much joy from closing observing nature. The week of our conversation, I was transfixed by intricate thistles being tossed about by the wind.

Kite Hill: Ancram, New York

This week on a late afternoon walk at the Steeple Top Preserve in New Marlborough, MA, the exquisite reflection of light on the water made me stop in my tracks, catch my breath and murmur softly, “ohhhh my”!

Steeple Top Preserve: New Marlborough, MA

Since Hevreh Ensemble has started performing at the Prentice Barn, I have observed that Tim also deeply loves music and seems to enjoy and relish our music. I asked him about his musical background: in the 1960’s along with his late wife Marie Prentice, they received a State Department grant to perform folk music with guitars and voice. One of the mains purposes of the grant was to collect songs from their host countries. Tim recalls being in Thailand when President Kennedy was shot- they also performed in Nepal, India and Kenya!

I asked Tim if there are certain qualities that he finds compelling in our music, which are all original compositions by our group member and composer Jeff Adler. I wondered if there was a connection between the energy and motion in his work and the edgy jazzy rhythm in many of our pieces? His answer was: “both exist in time and create or use patterns to set up expectation.” He told me that one of the things he enjoys the most is that in our work, “he hears music from many different cultures that give the music a timeless quality that sounds like no other group”. He loves the blend of keyboard, wind instruments and Native American flutes and the deep sonorous sound of the bass clarinet.

By now, it was almost early evening; starting to cool off and as we sat and talked on the old barn porch, the dulcet and lovely tones of water rippling gently on the old ice pond accompanied us. We stopped and listened- these sounds made us feel complete!

AND: I leave you with a delicious savory treat that we served at our Prentice Barn concert: Black Pepper and Parmesan Biscotti from the Smitten Kitchen blog! This a large recipe and leftovers freeze beautifully! After a long day, take out a few, crisp them up briefly in a hot oven and enjoy with a glass of red wine!

Parmesan Black Pepper Biscotti from Smitten Kitchen
Adapted from Gourmet, December 2006

Makes 5 to 6 dozen biscotti.

1 1/2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
4 cups (520 grams) all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 1/2 ounces (130 grams) Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated (2 1/4 cups)
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup, 6 ounces, or 170 grams — now corrected) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 large eggs
1 cup (235 ml) whole milk

Special equipment: an electric coffee/spice grinder

Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 350°F. Pulse peppercorns in grinder until coarsely ground.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, 2 cups cheese, and 1 tablespoon ground black pepper in a large bowl. Blend in butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Whisk 3 eggs with milk and add to flour mixture, stirring with a fork until a soft dough forms.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and quarter dough. Using well-floured hands, form each piece into a slightly flattened 12-inch-long log (about 2 inches wide and 3/4 inch high). Transfer logs to 2 ungreased large baking sheets, arranging logs about 3 inches apart.

Whisk remaining egg and brush some over logs, then sprinkle tops of logs evenly with remaining 1/4 cup cheese and 1/2 tablespoon ground pepper. Bake, rotating sheets 180 degrees and switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until logs are pale golden and firm, about 30 minutes total. Cool logs to warm on sheets on a rack, about 10 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 300°F.

Carefully transfer 1 warm log to a cutting board and cut diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices with a serrated knife. Arrange slices, cut sides down, in 1 layer on a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining logs, transferring slices to sheets. Bake, turning over once, until golden and crisp, 35 to 45 minutes total. Cool biscotti on baking sheets on racks, about 15 minutes.

Do ahead: Biscotti keep in an airtight container at room temperature 2 weeks.

A Sweet and Healthy New Year!

Rosh Hashana was early this year and I was feeling ambivalent about sitting with a large group of people in a synagogue or staring at a Zoom screen for hours. A friend mentioned that she was going to spend the holiday communing with nature; an excellent idea. This seemed to be exactly what I was seeking!

Paul found a beautiful trail right down the road from Tangle Wood in Lenox, MA run by Mass Audubon called Pleasant Valley. The day was warm and sunny with a beautiful breeze. We took a trail that meandered through marshland, ponds and pine forests.

The trail crisscrossed over several burbling brooks that rushed over mossy rocks. During Rosh Hashanah a tradition is observed called Tashlich. Small stones are thrown into the water to cast off one’s sins. I remember being at a service once where the cantor said that the ritual might also be used as a way to cleanse one’s self of unwanted grudges or to create intentions for positive change. I chose this route and as I tossed a few stones into the water, I felt an immediate sense of lightness.

I had brought my recorder along thinking I might play an improvisation that sounded slightly Hebraic and pastoral at the same time. I was hoping to find an inspirational location and was not disappointed!

Now the only thing needed for a perfect Rosh Hashanah was a delicious dessert with apples. I looked through a few of my old blogs and found a recipe I had included for apple kuchen, from Smitten Kitchen. This moist dessert reminds me of the apple kuchen we had in Germany when my daughter and I were on our “Following in Bach’s Footsteps” journey a few years ago! When baking this cake, your house will smell heavenly as the rich aromas of butter, vanilla, cinnamon and apples fill the air!

Apple Kuchen (from Smitten Kitchen)

Topping
4 tiny-to-small apples, halved, peeled and cored
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Batter
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (125 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (6 tablespoons) granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey (any variety you like to eat)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs, separated
2 good pinches of salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Glaze
1/4 cup honey
A good pinch of sea salt

Heat oven: To 350°F. Coat a 9-inch springform with butter or a nonstick spray. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper.

Prepare apples: Place peeled, halved and cored apples cut-side-down on a cutting board. Use a knife to create parallel thin slices, but only cut halfway through each apple so that the apples stay intact. Don’t fret if you cut through, however; you can just reassemble the halves on the cake in a few minutes.

In a bowl, toss apples with lemon juice and 2 tablespoon granulated sugar.

Prepare cake base: Beat butter and 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar together in a bowl with electric beaters until fluffy. Add honey and beat until combined. Add vanilla and egg yolks, beating until just combined. Sprinkle salt and baking powder over cake batter, and mix for just 5 seconds, until they disappear. Add flour, half at a time, mixing only until just combined.

In a separate bowl with cleaned beaters, beat egg whites until stiff. Stir 1/4 of them into the cake batter, to lighten it a little. Fold in the rest in three additions. It will seem impossible to fold in at first because the batter is so stiff, but it will loosen with careful folding. Only fold the last addition of egg whites until it has mostly disappeared (a couple faint streaks of egg white are fine).

Spread cake batter in prepared cake pan, smoothing the top. Arrange apple halves facedown over the cake batter. To warn, 4 tiny/small apples will definitely fit over the cake batter. When I made it with 4 small-almost-medium apples, I could only fit 3 1/2 of them. No need to press the apples into the batter. You can pour any extra lemon juice and sugar in the bowl over the apples.

Bake cake: 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick or skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let rest on a cooling rack for 5 minutes, then cut around the cake to make sure it’s not sticking to the pan at all, and unhinge the sides. Let cake cool completely. You can store it at room temperature at this point, or after you add the honey, for up to 5 days 3 days at room temperature. After that, a fridge is best for longevity. The cake is lovelier on day 2 than day 1.

Before serving, if you’d like the glaze to look glossy, or whenever the cake is cool, if you don’t mind if the honey sinks into the cake: Warm 1/4 cup honey and a good pinch of sea salt until it liquefies to the point where it makes a thin glaze — this will take less than 30 seconds. Brush honey-salt mixture over cooled cake.

I added a sprinkle of cinnamon on the top of the cake before baking.

ENJOY!

This was a perfect Rosh Hashanah! Best Wishes for a Happy and Healthy 5782!

Carol’s Feast and a Multitude of Recorders!

A recent trip to Boston to visit our dear friends Carol & Hal was truly a feast for the senses; art, music and food! We had not seen them since before the pandemic; except for ZOOM visits and numerous phone conversations. Carol often wistfully said that she missed my cooking. I told her that when we could visit safely, I would make a special dinner for her called “Carol’s Feast.”

On cold snowy nights last winter, I imagined what I might make for our dinner; maybe a Mediterranean dinner with Baba Ganoush & hot buttered homemade pita breads and Tahdig- Crispy Persian Rice filled with leeks and cilantro and perfumed with saffron?
Or, a rich Beef Bourgionion with Tagliatelle and Roasted Garlic Brussel Sprouts?
Or, a simple roasted lemon rosemary chicken with potatoes mashed with goat cheese & chives?? My musings kept me going during the cold dark nights.

It was so lovely to be able to finally be in person. The first afternoon after we arrived, we hugged for long time and with huge smiles on our faces, we said ” Hi, Hi, Hi”!!! I had missed so deeply the special warm intelligent sparkle in Carol’s eyes, Hal’s keen sense of observation and the collective silliness that seems to always occur when we are together. Hal is a talented writer with a wonderful sense of humor. He has been dealing with the indignities of Parkinson’s Disease for over ten years with seemingly insurmountable challenges but his wit and incredible attitude were just as I remembered. We sat on their breezy second floor screened porch and over iced tea, we talked and talked!!

The first evening of our visit, we went to a favorite neighborhood haunt called Menotomy Grill. Sitting on the outside terrace we enjoyed salmon burgers with avocado, spicy wasabi aoli and pickled red cabbage with a side of delicious sweet potato fries.

I had brought a blueberry pie for our “Carol’s Feast” dinner, but when we returned from our dinner out, we decided that blueberry pie was needed at the moment and that we would enjoy it over the next few days!

Since our dinner was taking place in the summer, I decided to cook something light & came up with an Asian themed menu. Here is “Carol’s Feast”!

Appetizers:

Arugula salad with slivered red peppers, shredded daikon & carrot, toasted sliced almonds & orange slices with an orange ginger miso salad dressing.

Crispy Pan Fried Veggie Dumplings filled with bok choy, tofu, shitake mushrooms, scallions and rice noodles with a tamari, ginger, scallion and sesame chili oil dipping sauce.


Main Course:

Pan Fried Soba Noodles with scallops, bok choy, napa cabbage and shitake mushrooms.

Stir Fried Sesame Green Beans with garlic and scallions

Cold Cucumbers and Shredded Chicken with Peanut Sauce

The morning of our feast, Carol helped me prep the food and then we were treated to our own incredibly beautiful private art show. Carol had just finished an online art retreat that she has attended for many years in person, at Bennington College. Every summer I am constantly amazed at what she creates in the space of a week. We viewed over 18 pieces that she called “improvisations”. The works of art conveyed a deep sense of emotion with brilliant colors and strong bold lines. Images full of energy seemed to jump off of the page with both depth and movement. She kindly offered to let me share one of her works titled: “Pandora’s Box”. I thought this work was appropriate for our feast; I see patterns of different foods and also maybe blueberries??


“Pandora’s Box” Artist: Carol Ober

In the afternoon my husband Paul and Hal were happily engaged in a conversation about new books they were reading. Carol and I set off to have iced tea and biscotti at a neighborhood Cafe to catch up on more about each other’s lives and to dream about a possible trip to Southern France next March- if all goes well!

That night, sitting around Carol and Hal’s cozy dining room table, we enjoyed our feast and afterwards, happily sated with food and conversation, we even were able to find room to finish the blueberry pie!

Crispy Pan Fried Veggie Pot Stickers

Ingredients:

1 package small wonton wrappers

Filling:

4 medium size shitake mushrooms finely chopped

1 small skein of thin cellophane rice noodles

2 scallions diced

1/4 piece from a package of firm tofu crumbled

3 pieces baby bok choy finely chopped

sesame oil

salt to taste

1 tablespoon canola oil

Note– you can experiment with other fillings and the amounts do not have to be exact. Leeks, cilantro, daikon or carrots would also be good.

Dipping Sauce:

4 tablespoons tamari

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger

2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions

hot sesame chili oil to taste

To make the dipping sauce:

Combine all of the ingredients, stir and set aside. Feel free to adjust amounts to taste!

To make pot stickers:

Place cellophane noodles in a bowl of very hot water. Let noodles soak until they soften and then cut the noodles into small pieces.

Heat canola oil in medium sized saute pan.

Saute scallions about one minute, then add bok choy and shitakes. Cook stirring often about 2 minutes.

Add rest of ingredients and cook about 2 minutes more. Set filling aside.

To fill dumplings:

Fill a small bowl with water.

Place a few wonton wrappers on a large flat plate. Dip your finger in the water and moisten the edges of the wonton wrappers.

Place a heaping teaspoon of the filling and fold the edges of the wonton wrapper over. Seal the edges firmly and place on another place lined with wax paper or parchment paper. Continue filling dumplings. You will have about 20 -25 dumplings.

Note: If not making the dumplings right away, sprinkle with a small amount of cornstarch, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

To pan fry dumplings:

Heat about 2 tablespoons canola oil in a large non stick pan until the oil is very hot.

Add a layer of dumplings, don’t crowd pan and cook until browned in one side. Flip and cook the same on the other side. If the dumplings are browning too quickly, you can adjust the heat. Cook remaining dumplings.

Serve immediately with the dipping sauce.

ENJOY!!

Our trip to Boston also included a long awaited trip to the Von Huene Workshop and Early Music Shop of New England. I was excited to meet the owner and extraordinary recorder maker Patrick Von Huene. I had a few old recorders to bring for repair and thought I would just try a few of Von Huene’s instruments with a purchase planned for the future. But the minute I played one of Von Huene’s hand made instruments, I was smitten. Plus, I had the chance to try over 15 instruments.

I ended up taking home two low pitch alto recorders on approval and realized that I could sell an old oboe to justify the purchase; now I am the proud owner of a new instrument! The sound is mellow and responsive with a beautiful high register. We were also treated to a tour of the workshop and Patrick’s young assistant showed us how the recorders were crafted.

I learned that the recorders are made from Grenadilla wood (this is the same wood that my modern oboe is made from)and they are also made from European boxwood that comes from Turkey.

Patrick Von Huene was also very generous with his time, showing us around the workshop and shared information about the different styles of recorders that he makes.

Patrick Von Huene

The Danish film Babette’s Feast was the inspiration behind the creation of “Carol’s Feast.” In the film, the main character Babette says,”En kunstner er aldrig fattig. ” (“An artist is never poor!”) With such a wealth of riches surrounding us on this trip, this sentiment rang true!

AND, here is the Tree of the Week:

” I think I ate too much at Carol’s house!”

STAY SAFE!!

An Update: Hal just sent me a limerick that he wrote about our recent visit:

Carol’s Feast

For us who let Dumpling Day lapse
There were dumplings to fill in the gaps,
Plus improve the environment,
celebrate C’s retirement,
And resist further wristy mishaps!

Our favorite flavors and foodles?
Tough call! Peanut sauce, soba noodles?
But then there’s the joy
Of scallops, bok choy…
Let’s just praise the whole kit and kaboodle!

Saving last for the best dish of all
(after hat tips to Judy and Paul),
We make room for—oh, mah!—
That there blueberry pah!
 Not forgettin’ th’ obligatory drawl!

THANK YOU HAL!!

Between the Lakes Road and a Cool Summer Treat!

An all time favorite summer walk is on Between the Lakes Road in Salisbury, CT. Even on hot humid days there is often a refreshing breeze. Unsettled with all of the news from our crazy world, walking along the lake on this peaceful dirt road never fails to make me feel centered and calm.

My first stop is at a tiny mountain stream where the water gurgles gently over the rocks into a small pool. I stand still and listen to the soft rhythmic sounds of the water; my breathe slows down perceptibly.

I continue along the road and breathe deeply; the cool clean air smells slightly salty and I feel like I am on vacation in Maine.

Around a bend of the road, I see one of my favorite maple trees, gnarly and full of character. It has been the subject for several of my “Trees of the Week”; it stands guard in front of an old white colonial house.

The house on Twin Lakes Road looks to be about 200 years old and I find myself wondering about the people that lived in this house. The house seems to have been expanded over the years for growing extended families. I don’t know the present owner, but would love to see the inside of the house and look out one of the windows that has a view of the lake. I would like to breathe in the musty air that old houses possess and I imagine the joys, sorrows and family dramas that occurred here.

I continue on; my walk on this day is not aerobic, more of a leisure saunter where I am mesmerized by the reflections of the sky and wild flowers on the water.

During my calming and centering walk, I think about what might be a light and cool side dish for dinner; I think about some cucumbers that a friend gave me from her garden. Sliced into thin strips, they are perfect with a crunchy slightly spicy peanut sauce made from Teddies Crunchy Peanut Butter, brown rice vinegar, tamari, diced fresh ginger, sesame oil and hot sesame chili oil. This is also delicious with cold shredded chicken and maybe a cold glass of Rose wine!

Sliced Cucumbers with Peanut Sauce

Ingredients:

1 large cucumber peeled and cut into julienned strips

Peanut Sauce:

1 cup crunchy peanut butter

2 tablespoons tamari

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon hot sesame chili oil

water

  • Note- all ingredient amounts can be adjusted according to taste! Keep adjusting freely!!

To Make Peanut Sauce:

Combine all ingredients in a medium sized bowl and whisk together.

Add a small amount of water, whisk until smooth and keep adding water until you get a smooth consistency.

Place cucumbers and if you are using shredded chicken on a platter, spoon sauce over and ENJOY!!

AND: Here is the “Tree of the Week” straight from Twin Lakes Road!

“Let Me Tell You”

STAY SAFE AND COOL!

After the Rain: Joffey Preserve

Joffey Nature Sanctuary-New Marlborough, MA

This summer our lives have once again become busy; dinners with friends, visits to museums, traveling, rehearsing and performing concerts and perhaps best to all, having the freedom to plan spontaneous excursions. I am thankful and feel blessed that we have come through this part of the pandemic. The only thing that I am wistful for are the daily hikes and walks that we took this past year. With no other distractions and the only safe activity, it developed into a joyful distraction. Not wanting to lose this precious connection to nature, I have had to make a conscious effort to allot time for walking.

The other day, in between all of the soggy rainy weather, the sun peeked out briefly. The perfect place for a short walk was the Joffey Nature Sanctuary in New Marlborough, MA. The one mile trail winds around a pristine micro ecosystem that includes a marsh and woodlands.

As I entered the woods, I was surrounded by the damp pungent scent of pine needles and saturated tree bark. The pine needles underfoot felt like I was stepping on a soft pillow.

Because of the extra moisture, tiny fungi and mushrooms had sprung up and dotted the forest floor.

Algae covered much of the marsh, creating delicate patterns on the water that looked like abstract paintings.

A few benches are placed along the path; we plan to return with books and iced tea on a hot day!

This summer, it’s also once again a great pleasure to visit farm stands and farm markets. One of my favorite places is the Silamar Farm Stand in Millerton, New York. The other day, I bought sugar snap peas, cucumbers, dill, red beets and Sky Farm mesclun mix. With my delicious bounty, I made a summer salad with grilled salmon and creamy hummus. Made with canned chickpeas, garlic, lemon and tahini, the hummus comes together in under 5 minutes. I made a simple salad dressing with olive oil and Carr’s Cider House Cider Vinegar. The vinegar is sweet, not too astringent and tastes almost like a good balsamic vinegar. This along with some crusty French sourdough bread, made a light and delicious summer dinner.

Quick Hummus

Ingredients:

1 can chickpeas drained and rinsed

1 clove garlic minced

2 tablespoons tahini

freshly squeezed lemon to taste

1 teaspoon ground cumin

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

water

To Make Hummus:

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor.

Blend for about a minute. The mixture will be crumbly and rough looking.

Add water a bit at a time and blend. When the mixture looks smooth, blend for about another minute more until creamy and very smooth. Adjust seasonings and enjoy!

AND: with my bounty of red beets it was time to make Summer Borscht! This is absolutely one of my favorite things about summer. Made with plenty of crunchy cool radishes, cucumber, scallions, dill and a big dollop of yogurt, it is refreshing and delicious alone or better yet with a slice of fresh rye bread. It is also great topped with a sliced hard boiled egg!

Summer Borscht

Ingredients:

4 or 5 large red beets

1/2 cup diced cucumber

1/2 cup diced radish

1/2 cup minced dill

1/4 cup diced scallion or chives

salt and pepper to taste

brown rice vinegar to taste* see note

1 or 2 tablespoons honey to taste

1/2 or more plain yogurt

Prepare Borscht:

Scrub Beets well and if large cut in half

Cover with water in a medium sized pot

Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer

Cover and cook until tender

Save water that beets were cooked and strain into a large bowel

Let beets cool completely

Peel Beets and cut into small dice

Add diced beets along with cucumber, radish, dill and scallions or chives into reserved beet liquid

Add brown rice vinegar to taste- start with a small amount and add more as desired.

Stir in yogurt and honey

Add salt and pepper to taste

Refrigerate for at least a day to let flavors meld

Serve with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream

Add a sliced hard boiled egg on top if desired

Note: I do not specify exact amounts of brown rice vinegar, honey or yogurt. After the borscht sits for a day or two, you can add more seasonings to your taste.

ENJOY!!

AND: Here are “Two Trees of the Week!” I was uncharacteristically at a loss for their captions- any takers??

STAY SAFE AND ENJOY THE SUMMER!!

Resonating Sounds from Silver Bay!

My group Hevreh Ensemble’s first live indoor concert– it couldn’t have been a more wonderful experience! I wrote part of this blog sitting on an Adirondack rocking chair on the porch of the Victorian era Silver Bay Inn that overlooks Lake George.

This past weekend, we performed a concert for a small, warm enthusiastic audience of fully vaccinated people in the historic Auditorium at The Silver Bay YMCA Conference Center. The hall had a high wooden ceiling and the acoustics were vibrant and at the same time mellow. I felt as if I was enveloped in a cozy blanket of sound; I felt totally safe and enjoyed a wonderful sense of connection with our audience.

For the next two days, as guests of the Silver Bay YMCA, we relaxed and enjoyed the beautiful site; kayaking, taking walks and a good deal of sitting on the inn’s porch, reading and talking together!

My husband Paul was able to accompany the group on our trip and he and I enjoyed a trail that wound around a section of the lake.

We also discovered a lovely wildflower close to the water.

AND: then there is the backstory of what took place before the idyllic concert and beauty of the Silver Bay area!

As an oboist who carves my own reeds, I have come to believe over the years, that there must be a special Reed Muse. Often times, I whittle and carve and adjust and readjust a recalcitrant piece of cane and the result is horrid!! Then, seemingly out of the blue, with almost no effort, a reed will play beautifully almost immediately and then- I know that this might sound eccentric- I look up at the sky and say softly, “Thank you”! But hey, I am an oboist after all!!

There is also another protector that I think of the Travel and Parking Muse. It seems that more often than not, I travel to rehearsals and concerts and especially when I come into Manhattan for rehearsals, I will find a parking spot easily. The members of Hevreh Ensemble often remark that I have special parking karma. My little bright blue Impreza can squeeze into the most unlikely of spots!

Well, recently I believe that the Travel and Parking Muses thought I was getting a mite too cocky and decided that it was time for a little comeuppance! I imagined that there was a hastily held committee meeting and the consensus was to “play with this one a little bit!”

A few blogs ago, I wrote a true life story that is akin to a modern day Yiddish Folk Tale! So, here is Part 2 of a true life experience that once again illustrates the old Yiddish proverb: “Mann Tracht, un Gott Lacht”- “man plans and god laughs!”

Driving into Manhattan for a rehearsal with Hevreh Ensemble last week, I made sure to allot plenty of time for any extra traffic; the ride should take about 2 1/2 hours. I left my home in Northwest, CT at 1:15 with the rehearsal set to start at 4:30- plenty of time, right?? I also felt that I was getting my “sea legs” back driving into New York, adjusting to the noise and large numbers of people.

I encountered traffic jams in 4 locations, The Hutchinson Parkway, Cross County Parkway, West Side highway and the usual Manhattan tie ups and finally arrived to Adam’s Hell’s Kitchen studio (appropriately named) at 4:45. I thought that I might put my car for once in a garage on West 38th Street, but not so fast!

A broken down delivery truck was blocking the street, so I made a very slow slog around the congested and almost completely blocked streets. I finally found a garage 5 blocks away and by the time I made it back to West 38th Street, I was an hour late for the rehearsal.

The rehearsal was great; amazingly after a year of not playing together, we are sounding tight and unified. BUT: the Travel and Parking Muses had plenty more in store for me!!

After the rehearsal I returned to the garage to retrieve my car and was met with an outrageous charge for parking and the rude attendant ignored me at first and then could not find my car keys for 20 minutes.

Luckily I am easily placated with food and I found a cozy little bakery and cafe on the corner of 38th Street and Ninth Avenue. I was fortified with a frosty smoothie that was made from coconut milk, chocolate protein powder, peanut butter and banana and also a hefty turkey, cheddar, onion, pesto, tomato sandwich on a French baguette. I happily munched and slurped on this in my car as I wound my way through a few traffic jams and up the West Side Highway getting out of the city. I was treated to a beautiful sunset view of the lights twinkling on the George Washington Bridge as my car inched ever so slowly forward. And then, after just a few more snarls of traffic, a broken down car blocking a lane, road construction, a small bug that kept biting me and dodging deer on the Sawmill Parkway, I made it safely and more than a bit dazed, back home at 10:30 PM! The saying: “Mann Tracht un Gott Lacht” (“man plans and god laughs”) I believe that the Travel and Parking Muses made their point!!

Here is the “Tree of the Week” that I thought fit the bill perfectly!

“I feel like I have a hole in my head!!”

Postscript: We made it safely home from Silver Bay and found time in the late afternoon to enjoy a short walk to the Drury Preserve in Sheffield, MA. Although muggy and very buggy, the sun shining through the trees was beautiful!

Mosaics and Linden Trees

I had originally meant to write a blog this week about birdsong, particularly Mozart’s starling and my own talented Cockatiel Lucy. This will have to wait! I got waylaid as I was thinking about what recipe I wanted to feature.

I love anything that includes poppy seeds: bagels, strudel, hamentaschen or cake. I remembered an amazing vegan raspberry poppy seed tart that I had in Vienna a few years ago. After we returned home from the trip, I became obsessed with recreating it!

Here is the back story……

My group Hevreh Ensemble traveled to Poland in 2018 where we presented concerts for the Jewish Cultural Festival in Krakow and concerts in Lublin and for the POLIN Museum in Warsaw. We were fortunate to collaborate with the amazing photographer Loli Kantor in a project together.

Polin Museum of Jewish History- Warsaw, Poland: Video presentation by Loli Kantor

After the tour, my husband and I traveled to Budapest and then to Vienna. Following is a blog that I wrote about the trip and the poppy seed dessert for Hevreh Ensemble’s website in 2018. Since we will not be taking any long trips for yet awhile, I reread the blog with both nostalgia and envy. We took our freedom to travel and go on adventures so for granted. I plan to make the poppy seed tart again and will bring it to a barbeque or other gathering soon!

Mosaics and Linden Trees- 9/28/18

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After our concerts this past summer in Poland, my husband Paul & I had the wonderful opportunity to travel for an extra week to other destinations in Europe. We took off by train from Warsaw for a trip to Budapest and Vienna. We had been to Vienna a few years ago and were impressed by the creative and cultural energy of the city. It was wonderful to be able to return to Vienna and to find new neighborhoods to explore.

Our hotel Altwienerhof was in the 15th District of Vienna and was reached by an underground stop that was easy to remember- Gumpendorfer Strasse! I have never been an early riser, so on our trips, Paul often leaves early around 6:30 or 7:00 AM to find coffee and to do a bit of exploring. This particular morning he decided to walk in the residential neighborhood near our hotel. He observed that there were a few placards on the walls and almost by chance came to a small clearing on a tiny street called Turnergasse.

It turned out this was the site of a memorial for the Turner Temple that was destroyed in 1938 during the terrible Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass).The synagogue was an important symbol and a center of the district’s Jewish life. The Turner Temple Memorial was opened on November 16, 2011.

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A web of black concrete beams were chosen as the central design element. Mosaics form a bridge between the past and present and they show fruit and plants that are mentioned in the Torah. There is a row of Linden trees that were integrated into the design and according to the community organizers for the memorial, they symbolize the horrors of the past but also look forward to a future full of hope.

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Later that morning Paul showed me the site and we also looked at some of the placards- one included a picture of a Jewish Kindergarten that was housed at 21 Herklotzgasse.

We looked down the hallway of the building and discovered a small sign that said Turnhalle. We walked down the narrow passageway and saw that the building that housed the former kindergarten was now occupied by a vegan restaurant run by a group of earnest and dedicated young cooks. We strongly felt the caring and effort of the community to remember and honor the past, but also were encouraged that the spaces emptied because of distant terrible horrors, were being used in a positive and caring way.

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The next day we returned to the Turnhalle Cafe for lunch, The day before my purse had been stolen in the center of Vienna at the historic Cafe Mozart. After a frantic morning of visits to the consulate to obtain new passports and take care of other missing documents, it was time for a good dessert treat! There was a delicious looking cake and the young server explained it was one of their favorites- a vegan raspberry poppy seed cake. It was excellent and of course when we got home, I felt a craving for the cake. After quite a bit of experimentation and although It was a bit different, It brought back sweet memories of our recent trip. I brought the cake to share with my daughter and her partner for Rosh Hashana. Best Wishes for a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Here is my reconstructed version!

Raspberry Poppy Seed Cake with Streusel Topping

Ingredients:

8 ounces fresh raspberries

Filling:

¼ cup soft white semolina

¾ cup sugar

1 ½ cups poppy seeds

½ tsp. vanilla

¼ cup almond or soy milk

2 tsp. cornstarch

Crust:

¼ cup powdered sugar

½ cup butter

3 tablespoons shortening

½ tsp. salt

2 Tsb. ice water

Streusel Topping:

½ cup sugar

¾ butter (8 tablespoons)

1 cup flour

½ tsp cinnamon

Cover outside of 9 inch spring form pan with heavy duty foil to prevent leaks

Make Crust:

In food processor combine butter, shortening, flour, salt and powdered sugar until mixture has small lumps the size of peas. Add 2 tablespoons ice water and process until mixture forms a ball. Chill dough for at least 1 hour.

Make the Filling:

Grind poppy seeds in several batches in a small spice grinder. The poppy seeds may clump together- this is fine!

Mix together all ingredients except poppy seeds and cornstarch over low heat. Whisk until sugar is completely dissolved. Combine cornstarch with a small amount of water and stir until smooth. Add to mixture and bring to a boil. Add poppy seeds, stir thoroughly and let sit for 5 minutes until poppy seeds swell. At this point if the mixture is to thick, add up to ¾ cup more almond or soy milk. The mixture should form a loose pudding.

Make the Streusel Topping:

IMG_0175.JPG

Combine all ingredients in bowl of food processor until mix until large clumps form.

Preheat oven to 350 F

1.Roll out dough and fit into bottom of spring form pan – dough should come up the sides a few inches.

2.Pour in poppy seed filling and smooth with a spatula

3. Place raspberries evenly over filling

4. Place streusel clumps evenly over top.

5. Bake aprox. 45 minutes until the top is a light golden color.

6. Let cool completely before serving.

7. The cake is excellent the next day, refrigerates well and also can be froze

Enjoy!!

Back to the present! The afternoon I started to compile this blog, Hevreh Ensemble was getting ready to present our first concert in over 15 months. I felt myself getting a case of the jitters; it had been so long since I had performed with others. Writing the blog helped to center me and calm my nerves.

I believe that this “Tree of the Week” expresses perfectly how I was feeling!!

“Yikes”

AND: A postscript: Our first Hevreh Ensemble concert was a huge success and it felt wonderful to be playing again!

STAY SAFE!

Lots of Hugs and Cicadas!

We finally made it to Alexandria, Virginia to see our beautiful and amazing daughter Alicia and her equally adored, beautiful and amazing partner Katie. We tend to kvell about them at each and every opportunity! After more than a year, we could finally hug to our heart’s content! We were filled with joy to see the warm, cozy and inspirational life that they have created together; of course with Benji the irresistible cat!

I was reminded quickly that the “apple does not fall far from the tree”; over the next few days as we caught up on lost time, we were treated to Alicia’s creative and delicious food!

The evening we arrived, we had a picnic outside with a roasted vegetable, eggplant and spiced crispy chickpea salad with yogurt and tahini dressings.

There was a delicious dinner with roasted ginger salmon glazed with a fermented chile Korean sauce called gochujang and spring vegetables based on a recipe from a cookbook called Flavor written by the Israeli- British chef Yotam Ottenlengi.

L

For lunch the next day, leftover salmon was magically transformed into sesame seed coated salmon cakes with sauteed vegetables and quinoa brown rice pasta! It was served with more of the spicy tangy gochujang sauce that I am now addicted to!

While Katie is studying at the Virginia Theological Seminary towards ordination in the Episcopal Church, Alicia works as a professional singer and as a Jewish educator. They live on the historic campus of The Virginia Theological Seminary, which is celebrating it’s 200th anniversary this year.

I was heartened to hear on a recent NPR segment, that the school has just initiated one of the first reparations programs for descendants of enslaved people.

On a walk through the campus, Katie showed us the ruins of an old chapel built in 1881 and destroyed in a fire in 2010. In the middle of the ruins was a beautiful sculpture by Margaret Adams Parker, artist and adjunct instructor at VTS. The work of art illustrates the visitation between Mary and her cousin Elizabeth and the figures in the sculpture are depicted as African women.

Paul and I enjoyed walking around the campus looking at the historical architecture and observing the southern trees and plants. We saw a majestic willow oak….

Cicadas were just starting there journey up from the earth and we could hear their chorus swelling in the distance, like a repetitive composition by Steve Reich. I found the sound meditative and soothing. A lone cicada perched on a leaf posed for us!

As I was taking a video of Alicia’s garden, I realized that we had unknowingly captured a soundtrack of the cicadas!

The week before, the Smithsonian Museums had reopened in Washington, D.C. and Alicia was able to get us timed tickets at the National Gallery of Art!

It was an incredible feeling as we stepped into the cool, enormous and majestic hallway of the museum. Rather than feeling overwhelmed by the massive amount of art work, and having only one hour timed tickets, we decided to visit beloved old favorites: Rodin, Dega and Saint Gaudins sculptures and then the Impressionist Wing. As I gazed happily at works by Van Gogh, Renoir, Cezanne and Monet; surrounded by vivid colors and patterns, I felt like a plant that had been deprived of water and was once again slowly absorbing moisture. What a balm for the soul! The guards also seemed to be happy to be back at work. A tall guard approached us and asked how we were enjoying our visit and had we seen the da Vinci painting yet? He proudly gave us some background on the painting; it is the only da Vinci in the Americas and dates back to the 1470’s; and then he pointed us in the right direction. We found the small exquisite painting and noticed unusual markings on the reverse side of the masterpiece: a painted wreath with three plants: juniper: a play on Ginevra’s name; palm: it represents moral virtue and laurel: it symbolizes Ginerva’s artistic side. A scroll surrounds the wreath with a motto written on it: “Virtutem Forma Decorat,” or “beauty adorns virtue.”

As we were leaving the museum, we passed by the same guard and he asked if we had enjoyed the da Vinci painting and would we like to buy it?? I found out later the painting was sold by the Royal Lichtenstein family in 1967 (they were having cash problems!)After a few failed bids the National Gallery of Art was able to purchase the painting for a mere 5 million- today a similar work is valued at over 450 million!

Alicia’s birthday was in a few weeks, so we decided to celebrate it early. She asked if I would bake her favorite carrot cake. This is a cake that is totally worth indulging in; based on a recipe from a 1994 Bon Appetit magazine, the cake is incredibly moist and spicy, flavored with cinnamon and nutmeg. I add crushed pineapple to the batter and also for the rich cream cheese frosting.

This past year, Alicia has been leading Sabbath services on ZOOM. It kept us connected when we could not see each other. She is often joined by Katie and they sing beautiful and haunting duets together. This time we were going to be watching the service live from the comfort of their living room! They were rehearsing Friday afternoon and as I iced the cake with creamy tangy frosting-some of which made it to my mouth- their rich sonorous voices transported me to a magical place of peace and absolute delight! Benji the cat who also loves music hopped down from his cat tree and laid on the floor on his back next to them with his feet up in the air!

Indulge and enjoy a big slice of this cake!!

Triple Layer Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 cups finely grated peeled carrots (about 1 pound)
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts- more is fine!
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup crushed pineapple

Ingredients for Frosting:

  • 2 cups powdered sugar- (add more if desired for extra sweetness)
  • 2 eight-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup crushed pineapple or for another flavor, I sometimes use the grated zest of a lemon.

For cake:

Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly grease three 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides. Line bottom of pans with waxed paper. Lightly grease waxed paper. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and vegetable oil in bowl until combined. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg into sugar and oil mixture. Stir in carrots, chopped walnuts and raisins.

Pour batter into prepared pans, dividing equally. Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean and cakes begin to pull away from sides of pans, about 40 minutes. Cool in pans on racks 15 minutes. Turn out cakes onto racks and cool completely. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap tightly in plastic and store at room temperature.)

For Frosting:

Using electric mixer, beat all ingredients in medium bowl until smooth and creamy.

Place 1 cake layer on platter. Spread with 3/4 cup frosting. Top with another cake layer. Spread with 3/4 cup frosting. Top with remaining cake layer. Using icing spatula, spread remaining frosting in decorative swirls over sides and top of cake. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cover with cake dome and refrigerate.) Serve cake cold or at room temperature.

ENJOY!

We have been back home for a few weeks and I am slowly adjusting to our new normal, traveling to rehearsals in NYC, meeting friends for dinner, teaching students in my house and attending our first outdoor jazz concert with people actually dancing together! It all is a bit overwhelming to me, so I find particular comfort in the peace and continuity on our walks and hikes. The beauty and intricacy of early summer wildflowers enthrall us- we came upon Lady Slipper flowers that lined a path along a lake at the Dubuque State Forest in Plainfield, MA.

On a sticky and humid day, thunder clouds were rumbling in the sky. Lovely clusters of small wildflowers dotted the lush meadows at the Lime Kiln Preserve in Sheffield, MA.

AND: Here is our Southern Tree of the Week!

” I can see right through you!”

i

STAY SAFE!