Taproot Commons Farm

Broken Oven Zucchini Lasagna

My Recorder was safely stowed away in my husband Paul’s backpack along with snacks, water, a tree book and a new railroad cap prop. I had several melodies ready for improvisation, circa 1830’s Early Americana style and was eagerly looking forward to our visit to the Keystone Arch Bridges Rail Trail in Chester, Massachusetts. Nestled in the woods are several architectural wonders-stone railroad bridges perched on steep hillsides that were constructed in the 1830’s. The day was cloudy, misty, a bit humid and I thought that the trail would not be too busy.

SADLY, when we arrived after an hour and twenty minute drive, the parking lot was full and there was no place to park along the steep roadside. Besides, a state trooper was right behind us…. so, no KAB Rail Trail for that day! I complained a bit and swallowed my disappointment and luckily Paul, who has become something of a map and hiking genius, found a trail with a small waterfall in Cummington, MA about twenty minutes away! We went with the flow and took a circuitous route to find the trail. At the top of a steep road, we saw that we had come to Jameson’s high Meadow Farm, where we pick blueberries in the summer; a bit of serendipity to find ourselves at this beautiful spot. The farm was established in 1955 by Craig and Brenda Jameson and it luckily has been passed on to the next generation.

We drove through the quaint village of Worthington, MA and were heartened to see early voting taking place in the Town Hall. Across the street was a beautiful old church; maybe a good spot for a concert after the pandemic is over!

Taproot Commons Farm (formally Warner Farm) is a 131-acre privately-owned property in Cummington, Massachusetts, with an active maple sugaring farm.

The Taproot Commons Farm Waterfall Trail leads to a small waterfall on Tower Brook. Although the land remains in private ownership, the landowners allow hikers to use the trail. It was great fun to duck under and cross over a maze of maple sugaring lines!

It has been a dry season; the waterfall was a gentle stream, a lovely spot to make a video using my circa 1830’s aforementioned Early Americana theme!

Part of the day’s plan was to go one of our favorite cafe and lunch spots; The Woodstar Cafe in Northampton, and here, everything went as planned. Our pre-ordered curbside pick up was ready at 2:00 and we eagerly devoured our custom made sandwiches on crusty homemade multi grain bread with turkey, horse radish cheddar, pesto, red onion, tomato and sliced pickles. No pics, the sandwiches disappeared too quickly! I treated myself to spicy iced chai tea with oat milk and a vegan peanut butter cookie made with maple syrup, ground flax seed, peanut butter and almond flour. They are delicious and addicting with a soft chewy interior and crispy on the outside. I am going to try to duplicate these cookies, but our oven recently gave up the ghost! Results and a recipe will follow in a future blog!

Our oven may be broken but the stove top and broiler still work. I wanted to make a zucchini lasagna and the theme of adapting and “going with the flow” worked well. SO, here is “Broken Oven Zucchini Lasagna“!

Ingredients:

2 or 3 large zucchini thinly sliced lengthwise

5 or 6 turkey meatballs (recipe below)

1/4 cup finely grated pecorino cheese

2 cups tomato sauce (that the meatballs were simmered in- recipe below)

1/4 cup grated pecorino cheese

Equipment: medium cast iron pan

Turkey Meatballs

I learned to make meatballs from my Italian American mother in-law. When we first met many years ago, I encountered a proud strong woman. As she sized me up with sharp judgement on her face, she surprisingly said, “you have beautiful eyes”! Over the years, in what was sometimes a difficult relationship, what brought us closest together was our mutual love of food and family culture- this did the trick! I loved to listen as she described her family when they lived in Brooklyn and the dishes that her mother and grandmother made. I had the opportunity to peer over my mother in-law’s shoulder as she made her famous meatballs and sauce and I carefully observed the many things she did to bring out the best flavor. In her later years, as her eye sight started to fail, she would come to our house for holiday meals and I would describe the food that I had made to her. She would smile appreciatively and her face would light up with joy to be surrounded by her family. The “food” mantle was almost passed to me!

Turkey Meatball Ingredients:

1 pound ground turkey (use freshly ground turkey from dark meat) *see note

2 large garlic cloves finely chopped

1 egg

1/2 cup breadcrumbs (you may need to add more if mixture is too soft- I like to use whole wheat breadcrumbs)

1/4 cup finely chopped kale

1/4 cup finely grated parmesan or pecorino cheese

salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon each of dried basil, thyme and oregano

Tomato Sauce:

1 large can pureed tomatoes

2 cloves garlic

1 small onion finely chopped

1 teaspoon each of dried basil, thyme and oregano

1 large bay leaf

a good glug of red wine!

To make tomato sauce:

Heat 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a large heavy pot

Add chopped onions and saute over medium heat until onions soften slightly.

Add pureed tomatoes and aprox. 1 can full of water- you can always add more later.

Peel and lightly smash the garlic cloves and add to pot.

Add rest of ingredients and bring to a boil- lower heat to a simmer.

To make meatballs:

Place ground turkey in a large bowl.

Add rest of ingerdients and mix thoroughly with a fork.

Heat 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a large non-stick pan and turn heat to high.

Wet hands with cold water and very loosely form into balls, dropping into pan as each ball is formed.

Let brown completely on all sides- turning with a spatula.

Place in tomato sauce

Put a bit of water in pan the meatballs were sauteed in and scrape up browned bits. Add this to the tomato sauce.

Add red wine and bring to a boil- reduce to a simmer and cover.

Cook over low heat for about 2 hours, checking a few times to see if sauce has become too thick, or if it seems to thin, move cover over halfway to reduce sauce a bit.

Check seasoning and add more salt and pepper if desired.

The meatballs can be used immediately, but the flavor will continue to develop overnight!

Enjoy!!

* My mother in-law used ground beef. I like the texture of ground turkey more and I add chopped kale. I also add red wine to my sauce.

I end with hopes for the election results and peace for our divided country. I am finishing this blog on Election Eve to distract myself; one tree that I encountered in the woods the other day expressed my emotions very well!

Author: Judith Dansker

Professional oboist and chamber musician- member of Hevreh Ensemble and Winds in the Wilderness, Professor of Oboe Hofstra University; observer of people, art and nature; passionate food and travel explorer.

One thought on “Taproot Commons Farm”

  1. Wonderful. Loved what you did when you discovered a filled parking lot. It sounds as if the alternate hike was well
    worth it. Thank you for the lovely, lively tune with the sound of running water. Beautiful!

    Like

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