In past winters we did not take many hikes through the woods and fields. Most likely we would have been visiting museums, dining out, going to plays and visiting friends! I would also be rehearsing and performing concerts with my groups Hevreh Ensemble and Winds in the Wilderness. This challenging year, our main activities have moved outside and we have become more adventurous. Armed with my trusty shillelagh, new warm and sturdy hiking boots and fleece lined pants, we are prepared for the outdoors!
A return trip to our beloved Rivulet at the Bryant Homestead in Cummington, Massachusetts was in order! This is the childhood home of the poet, journalist and editor William Cullen Bryant( 1794-1847). After the recent warmer weather and torrential rain, most of the snow cover was melted and the icy water flowed more forcefully through the small stream.
We have walked on many trails this past year, but there is a unique quality of serenity and peace that we feel strongly each time we return to the Bryant Homestead. The tall evergreens reach towards the sky and as you enter the woods, they encompass you with their sweet musty pine scent. It is also the gently sloping and winding trails that loop around the rivulet, the reflection of light on the water and woods and the sense of history that makes this such a special, almost sacred place. If it was spring or summer, I would be inspired to play an improvisation on the spot. That will have to wait! For now, I thought a piece from the renaissance period with lyrics about water; played in my warm study would be lovely to include. Luckily, I had just the person to ask; my good friend and colleague, lutenist extraordinaire and musicologist Christopher Morrongiello! He suggested a composition by the English lutenist and composer John Dowland; “Weep you no more, sad fountains”. The sweet and plaintive melody seemed perfect for the oboe and in the second half of the piece, the melody flows ever so gently downwards and ends with stillness.
Weep you no more, sad fountains;
What need you flow so fast?
Look how the snowy mountains
Heaven’s sun doth gently waste!
But my sun’s heavenly eyes
View not your weeping
That now lies sleeping
Softly now, softly lies
Sleep is a reconciling
A rest that peace begets;
Doth not the sun rise smiling
When fair at e’en he sets?
Rest you, then, rest, sad eyes!
Melt not in weeping
While she lies sleeping
Softly now, softly lies
After I finish my morning practicing, I find myself day dreaming about what I might like to make for dinner that night. I have to admit, this also often happens while I am still practicing. I glance over at the computer screen and find that I have become engrossed in the daily NY Times food blog! I reluctantly stop reading recipes and pull myself back to concentration and work! Recently I was in the mood for a savory pot pie. I have always loved potpies; as a child, a big treat was my own small Swanson chicken potpie filled with gooey gravy, tiny pieces of pebbly chicken and frozen vegetables. I always saved the salty crunchy crust for last!
This morning, I thought that a vegetable pot pie might be good. I was looking for something not too rich and decided to make the crust with olive oil instead of butter. Using olive oil made the crust very easy to handle and roll out. I added a bit of grated parmesan, a pinch of herb de provence and freshly ground pepper- the resulting crust was full of flavor and made me want to save the crust for last! Since the pandemic, our shopping habits have changed and I try to use what is on hand, so the filling for this pot pie turned out to be: onion, green beans, kale, cannellini beans, feta cheese and diced tomato; seasoned with dried dill and thyme. The final result turned out to be almost Greek in flavor. I think any combination of vegetables that you have on hand would work here! I had made a curried butternut squash soup a few days before. This was a perfect addition to the dinner plan- I topped the soup with a few caramelized shallots and a drizzle of thinned yogurt and a feast was made!
Vegetable Pot Pie
Ingredients for Filling:
1 medium onion finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup green beans- stems removed and cut into small pieces
1 cup kale finely chopped
1 can cannellini or white navy beans drained and rinsed
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
1 small piece feta
1 teaspoon each dried dill and thyme.
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
To Make Filling:
Steam green beans and kale until they soften a bit.
In a large pan, add olive oil and saute onion over medium heat until it softens.
Add other ingredients and cook mixture down on low heat covered until mixture softens. Adjust seasoning.
Ingredients for Crust:
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup whole grain spelt flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried herb de provence
2 tablespoons grated parmesan
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup cold ice water
1 egg yolk lightly beaten for egg wash to brush over crust
To Make Crust:
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix together both flours, salt, herbs, pepper and grated parmesan.
Slowly mix in water and stir together with a large spoon until it forms a shaggy mass. ( you may need a bit more water).
Pour onto a light floured work surface and work the mixture until it forms a ball. Cut in half.
Roll out one piece of to fit inside a pie plate or shallow baking dish.
Prick dough in pie dish all over with a fork and pre-bake the dough for about 8 minutes and then remove from the oven. This will keep the bottom of the crust from getting soggy.
Place filling in pre-baked crust and crumble feta over the top of the filling. Pour a bit of olive oil over the top of the filling. Roll out the second piece of dough. Fit over the top of the filling and crimp the edges with a fork.
Brush egg wash over the top of the pie and make a few slits in the top to let steam release.
Bake about 40-45 minutes until the top is golden brown.
Let cool for about 15 minutes and enjoy!!
Curried Butternut Squash Soup
1 package peeled and chopped butternut squash
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 medium apple peeled, cored and finely chopped
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 bay leaf
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
for garnish- 2 or 3 shallots sliced thinly.
To Make Soup:
In a large pot, saute onion until it softens, stir in curry powder and cook about 1 minute more.
Add rest of ingredients to pot and cover with water.
Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until squash, apple and onion is very soft -about 1 hour.
For a thicker soup, remove cover partly while cooking.
While soup is cooking heat a bit of olive oil in a small pan and saute shallots until they are crisp and caramalized.
When soup is done. remove bay leaf and puree with an immersion blender until creamy.
Garnish with shallots and yogurt.
AND NOW, I will curl up on my couch with an excellent murder mystery that one of my students recommended Berlin Noir by Philip Kerr (it is set in 1930’s Berlin) and a wonderful cookbook that my daughter gave me for the holidays; Flavor by Yotam Ottolenghi!
AND of course, here is The Tree of the Week!
Happy New Year! Please Stay Safe!