Late Afternoon Light at the Joffe Preserve and Venetian Stuffed Chicken

Joffe Preserve- New Marlborough, MA

I had just finished playing an inspiring faculty chamber music concert at Simons Rock of Bard College. The performance ended in the late afternoon; just enough time to enjoy the late afternoon light at nearby Joffe Preserve in New Marlborough, MA. Melodies from the concert were pleasantly dancing around in my head and as we entered the tiny marshland that surrounds the Joffe Preserve, we encountered another performance. Thousands of frogs were creating an antiphonal early spring concert with bright colorful back and forth calls; we stood still and listened, enchanted by the sounds.

Joffe Preserve- New Marlborough, MA

The late day light created beautiful reflections and patterns on the water.

Joffe Preserve- New Marlborough, MA

Joffe Preserve- New Marlborough, MA

Joffe Preserve- New Marlborough, MA

Joffe Preserve- New Marlborough, MA

Planning the menu for a dinner with friends, I thought about a recipe that we recently saw on America’s Test Kitchen for turkey breast stuffed with a filling of sage, garlic, fennel, rosemary, parsley and black peppercorns; a normal seasoning used for Italian Porchetta.

As we sat musing about the delicious sounding filling, we concocted a slightly plausible story about how a Jewish Venetian recipe might have been created in the 1500’s:

In 1555, Jews were ordered to live in a section of Venice next to a foundry that made cannons. The Italian word for cannon is giotto and some think that this may be the derivation of the word ghetto.

On a chilly early spring day, an elderly Jewish woman was hurrying through recently restricted Venice. She drew her woolen scarf closely around her shoulders and face to stay warm and at the same time trying not to attract attention to herself. She had been visiting a friend who had been in ill health and was anxious to get home. From a high window of a house on a crowded narrow street, an enticing aroma wafted through the air; fennel, garlic, herbs and spices mixed with the delicious smell of roasting pork.

According to Kosher law, eating pork was strictly forbidden but thinking about the rich and heady smells made her mouth water. When she returned home, she started to prepare Sabbath dinner and looked in her meager larder to see what was available. They had been lucky enough to have money to get a freshly slaughtered kosher chicken and she found fennel seeds, parsley and garlic. She took a few branches of rosemary from a pot on her window sill and pounded this together with olive oil in her worn and ancient mortar and pestle. She spread the mixture over the chicken and lit a fire in her wood burning oven. As the chicken roasted, the same smell she had happened upon earlier filled the air; a new dish was born!

Here is our version of Venetian Stuffed Chicken! Paul remembered the Italian roast chicken and potatoes that his mother and grandmother made with plenty of garlic, black pepper and lemon…. this was a starting point for our creation.

I marinated boneless chicken breasts overnight with minced garlic, lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper, dried thyme and chopped fresh rosemary. I whirred together fennel seeds, dried thyme and plenty of black peppercorns in a small coffee grinder and then I placed the ground spices in a food processor with fresh sage leaves, parsley, garlic, salt and enough olive oil to make a loose pesto like mixture.

I cut the chicken breasts open and spread generous amounts of the mixture over the chicken and then rolled them up into neat packages. I let them marinate in the fridge for a few hours and then roasted them in a hot oven; the result was heavenly! I hope you enjoy making our invention: Jewish Venetian Stuffed Chicken! We served the chicken with roasted baby potatoes and fresh fennel along with bright green asparagus that a friend contributed to the dinner.

Venetian Stuffed Chicken

Serves Six


6 split boneless chicken breasts with skin left on

Marinade for chicken breasts:

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

2 teaspoons salt and freshly ground pepper

Pesto Mixture:

4 cloves garlic

small bunch Italian parsley

8 sprigs fresh sage

2 teaspoons dried fennel seeds

1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns (more to taste)

1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

To Prepare Chicken Breasts:

Pre-heat oven to 380 degrees

Place chicken in a large bowl and add rosemary, thyme, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and salt & pepper. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Make pesto filling:

Place black pepper mixture from spice grinder into bowl of food processor along with parley, sage, 1 tablespoon rosemary, garlic cloves, olive oil and salt. Process until mixture is finely chopped- add a bit more olive oil if needed to make mixture thinner and smoother.

Cut chicken breasts open and spread mixture on the inside of the chicken. Fold up the chicken into packages and lay seam side down in a large roasting pan. Sprinkle tops with the remaining chopped rosemary and more olive oil.

You can roast the chicken right away, but if you can let the chicken marinate for a few hours, this is even better!

Roast chicken about 45 minutes until the center of the chicken reaches 170 degrees. Place under a broiler for a few minutes to crisp up and brown skin. Let chicken rest a few minutes before serving. ENJOY!!

AND, Here is the “Tree of the Week“!

“Not sure what to think here!”


Kite Hill- Ancram, NY

Spring in Sonoma/ Music and Foodie Explorations: Part 1

Under the auspices of a generous Professional Development Grant from Hofstra University, I recently traveled to California to meet with the legendary jazz oboist, Paul McCandless. I have listened to his lyrical and soaring improvisations for many years with the group Oregon, The Paul Winter Consort and countless other groups. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to meet together in person.

Reed maker extraordinaire Chris Philpotts and excellent English Hornist with the Cincinnati Symphony had given me Paul’s contact info.

Not sure what to expect or how our sessions would develop, I took a deep breath and decided to plunge into the experience with an open mind and much humility.

I was accompanied for the sessions with my dear friend Carol who is a gifted and talented visual artist. She offered to take pictures and videos and to take notes. As Paul opened the door to his beautiful warm home, I immediately sensed his gentle and intelligent nature. He had set up two chairs next to his bass clarinet and soprano sax and I realized that his intention was to share his knowledge with me. I took out my oboe and he asked me to improvise a simple melody. Over the next two days, he offered tips and advise on the art of improvisation and how he envisioned the use of the oboe as a jazz instrument. His comments were always carefully phrased, insightful and full of useful intention. I came away from our sessions together invigorated and motivated. I will always treasure this short time that we spent together.

I also enjoyed greatly talking to Paul; discussing our careers in music and sharing stories about teachers from our past. It turns out that we both studied with the legendary oboist Robert Bloom. He played tracks from some of his favorite improvisations, including a piece from a recording that he made with The Paul Winter Consort and the exquisite Brazilian singer, Renato Braz. Listening to Paul’s lyrical and soaring lines along with the singer’s soulful voice was moving and inspirational beyond words.

At some point, almost inevitably, the conversation turned to food. Paul asked where we had dinner the night before and we described the excellent Butternut Squash Gnocchi with sage brown butter topped with crushed Amaretti cookie crumbs that we had a cozy small restaurant in Healdsburg called Spinster Sisters.

As we described the flavor and texture of the dish, Paul’s eyes lit up in recognition. His group Oregon had been on a tour to Italy, traveling through the part of the alps that borders Austria and Italy. A local restaurant owner was a fan of their group. To honor the group, he created an entire menu with dishes inspired by some of his favorite compositions; one of the entrees was butternut squash ravioli; a magical blend of music and food!

After our all too short time together, Carol and I set off on a planned foodie exploration in the surrounding Napa Valley.

Our base was the small unpretentious town of Santa Rosa; home of Charles Schultz, the creator of the Peanut’s comic strip. We flew into the tiny Santa Rosa airport, nick named the “Snoopy Airport”; the bathrooms walls were lined with Peanut themed mosaics!

Statues from the Peanuts comic strip were placed throughout the town of Santa Rosa.

One of our favorite lunch spots was a charming plant-based restaurant Little Saint in Healdsburg. We shared an artfully arranged salad dressed with winter citrus and herbs and dressed with a delicate Meyer lemon vinaigrette.

Along with a mug of frothy hot chocolate made with almond milk, I enjoyed a grilled cheese sandwich made with cashew cheddar on crunchy sour dough bread flecked with sea salt; with a side of marinated carrots and spicy home made whole grain mustard it was a perfect combination of tastes and textures!

Carol had an equally delicious black bean burger, but it was the dessert that was the unexpected star of the day. We shared a small vegan chocolate tart made with whipped ganache, almond paste and candied orange. It tasted rich and decadent; hard to believe that no butter, cream or eggs were involved. I asked if it might be possible to get the recipe, the answer was the expected polite “sorry, but, no”!

After lunch we had a short rest at our lovely small hotel, the historic Hotel La Rose built in 1907. The staff was friendly and helpful, the building was charming and full of character, the rooms spacious and clean with the price of the rooms surprisingly affordable.

Hotel La Rose- Santa Rosa, CA

Courtyard Hotel La Rose- Santa Rosa, CA

And then, it was time to head out to our dinner destination, the Glen Ellen Star in the idyllic small town of Glen Ellen which is nestled in the hills of Sonoma Valley. Glen Ellen is the home of the American novelist Jack London, who wrote Call of the Wild. He lived there from 1905 until his death in 1916.

On the way to Glen Ellen, we stopped often to take pictures and to admire the stunning landscape. Because of the long drought that California has endured, the hills would normally be rusty brown. This year in early March, as a result of the abnormal rainfall, the landscape was a verdant green.

The Glen Ellen Star Restaurant was a little gem, with an excellent farm to table menu. We started the meal with a round of freshly baked sour dough bread topped with grated parmesan and served with herb butter.

This along with roasted cauliflower with a sauce of tahini, dukkah (an Egyptian spice blend of nuts,sesame seeds, coriande and cumin) and sunflower seeds would have made a complete meal!

But the menu was too tempting, so we soldiered on and ordered tender roast chicken served over creamy polenta made with sweet red cornmeal.

We managed to find the room to share one dessert; delicate Panna Cotta with salted caramel sauce. It was cool, smooth and not too sweet- a perfect ending to a beautiful day!

I did find a few California candidates for “Tree of the Week. This is one of my very reptilian like favorites!

Part 2 of our California Foodie Exploration coming soon!

Montini Preserve- Sonoma, CA


Hamlin Bear Trail and Colombian Empanadas!

I am back from my trip to California where I collaborated with the legendary jazz oboist Paul McCandless. It was an amazing and life changing experience and now I am happily sorting through pictures and notes. While I am getting everything organized into what will probably be a two or three part blog, here is a shorter post from this past week.

After my usual Friday commute to teach at Hofstra, I stay over in Manhattan; the next morning I decided to find a new neighborhood to explore. I thought that the Morris Park neighborhood in the Bronx might be interesting. First, I headed up to Columbia University for a delicious breakfast treat at one of my favorite haunts, Community on Broadway between 112th and 113th Streets. I enjoyed the Veggie Scramble: egg whites, market vegetables, with avocado wedges and 7-grain toast served with crunchy home fried potatoes mixed with shredded carrots along with a steaming mug of Earl Grey tea.

Across the street, with views of the imposing Cathedral of Saint John the Devine, is a branch of the excellent bookstore, Book Culture. I was looking for a copy of MFK Fisher’s classic, How to Cook a Wolf and ended up buying sale copies of a collection of short stories by Edith Wharton and Tocqueville’s classic, Democracy in America. At the corner of West 113th is a tiny bubble tea cafe. I ordered a lightly sweetened Chai Bubble Tea with almond milk for later in the day. Fortified, I was ready for my exploration!

Several years ago I traveled on small tours with a flute, oboe and guitar ensemble called Trio Sonata; the group had an old style manager who always offered this sage advice: “When you arrive at your destination, before you go to your hotel or eat anything, make sure that you secure the location!” This directive has served me well, and on this day, the location I wanted to secure was an empanada restaurant in Morris Park that I had read about called La Masa. I found the restaurant and parked my car nearby.

Whenever I go to a new area, I like to walk slowly around and see what catches my eye. The side streets were filled with tidy one and two story homes with a feeling of a solidly working class neighborhood. The main street was lined with small mom and pop businesses; I entered the tiny Morris Park Meat Market and enjoyed listening to the heavy thick New York accents in the easy going banter between the owner/butcher and longtime customers. When the butcher saw me looking at the display case he asked me what I would like to purchase. I was curious about the coils of parley flecked sausages. He described the different kinds of sausage and I said I would return in the near future with my cooler, he said, “Smart Lady”- or as I heard it- it sounded like “Smat laydee!”

Across the street, I saw an Italian bakery that looked inviting; Faglione Brothers.

In the display case, I saw some curious looking crackers; the counter person told me they were called Taralli. I had never seen this particular cracker and asked what part of Italy they were from; they were not sure. I found out later that Taralli is a peculiar Italian bread from the region of Puglia. They were created in the 8th century by poor workers in Puglia from leftover scraps of dough. The crunchy cracker is typically made from just flour, salt, olive oil and white wine. I bought a few to take home and also could not resist a delicious crispy sfogliatelle pastry filled with lemony ricotta- one almost made it home intact!

Taralli and Breadsticks- Faglione Brothers Bakery

Sfogiatelle- Faglione Brothers

My next stop was for Columbian Empanadas from the restaurant La Masa. I entered the bright and welcoming space and was greeted by the effusive owner.

I ordered several different empanadas to eat on my way home; chicken lime cilantro, roasted vegetables and shrimp salteados (onions, green pepper and pureed potato). The covering for Columbian empanadas are made from masa corn flour; called masarepa and are deep fried. I took a bag of piping hot empanadas and enjoyed them as I headed home. The cornmeal covering was light, not at all greasy and was crunchy and slightly chewy inside. All of the fillings were delicate and delicious. Just 2 1/2 miles from the New York Botanical Gardens and 2 minutes from the Hutchinson Parkway North, this is a place that I will definitely return to many more times. A great discovery and a few empanadas did make it home for my husband to try!

Empanadas from Masa

This particular day, it was sunny with a bright blue sky; spring was in the air! As I neared home, it was late afternoon and there were beautiful clouds- maybe time for a short walk? I turned onto a dirt road that leads to the Hamlin Bear Trail in Sharon, CT and luckily I had my waterproof hiking boots in the car.

Hamlin Bear Trail- Sharon, CT

I headed down the muddy, very slushy trail, hoping that I would not end the day slipping and coming home covered in mud! After sitting in the car for a few hours, I was rewarded by the fresh cold air, brilliant blue sky and billowy clouds.

Hamlin Bear Trail- Sharon, CT

Hamlin Bear Trail- Sharon, CT

Hamlin Bear Trail- Sharon, CT

A perfect ending for this day!

AND: Here is the “Tree of the Week” which I am proud to say that my husband Paul found this one!

” I do have a lot to say on the subject”

California blog coming soon!


A Frosty Winter Walk and Spiced Apple/Sour Cherry Cobbler

It’s hard to believe that three years have gone by since the beginning of the pandemic, when we searched for places to walk where we would encounter few other people. My husband Paul had come across an article in an old New Yorker magazine that was about to join the recycle pile. The writer Alan Weisman, who wrote the book: The World Without Us, was waiting out the pandemic at his home in rural Cummington, Massachusetts. He took daily inspiration from his walks at the bucolic William Cullen Bryant Homestead in Cummington.

We decided to seek out the site and discovered a place of great natural beauty; it had a timeless air of peace and solitude. Since then, we have returned countless times during all of the seasons. One of our favorite trails is the Sugar Bush Trail that winds through an old maple sugaring farm. A few weeks ago, we bundled up to take a walk there on a cold and frosty day. At the beginning of the trail one of Bryant’s poems is posted- “Stranger, if thou hast learned a truth which needs no school of long experience, that the world is full of guilt and misery and hast seen enough of all its sorrows, crimes and cares. To tire thee of it, enter this wild wood and view the haunts of nature. The calm shade shall bring a kindred calm.”

So fitting for our time with the devastation in Turkey and Ukraine and our current climate of political divide and mistrust. Nature continues to be a balm for the soul!

Make a cup of hot tea and join us on a virtual walk through the woods!

And as always, thinking about food and particularly cooking and dreaming up delicious combinations of flavors is centering and calming.

I have been using a vegan recipe for spelt biscuits from Erin McKennas’s Baby Cakes Cookbook for several years; the biscuits make a great topping for either savory potpies or fruit cobblers.

We enjoy fruit cobblers with strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and peaches, whatever is in season. Recently Paul asked about mixing cherries and apples and at first, I admit that I turned up my nose at the idea. But, we had a bag of frozen sour cherries in the freezer and I decided to give it a try. I placed the frozen cherries and a few peeled and sliced apples in a medium pot. We have gotten used to desserts without any added sugar, but if you desire a sweeter taste, feel free to add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar to the fruit as it cooks. I thought that some warming spices might be nice; cinnamon and a pinch each of allspice and ground cloves. I cooked down the mixture until the fruit softened and added a slurry of cornstarch mixed with water. The mixture quickly thickened and bubbled up with a lovely aroma and with the addition of vanilla extract it smelled even better. And, it turns out that the combination of cherries and apples was delicious!

Next week I travel to California for a collaboration with the jazz oboist Paul McCandless. I will be accompanied by my intrepid travel buddy Carol and after the sessions with Paul McCandless, we are going on a foodie road trip to nearby Sonoma county; we were lucky enough to snare a reservation at the famous restaurant, Chez Panisse in Berkeley! I have been eagerly reading the menu and lo and behold, a featured dessert is apple and sour cherry Galette! Much more to come from our California culinary adventures…..

Spiced Apple and Sour Cherry Cobbler

Pre- heat oven to 350 degrees


1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 cup whole grain spelt flour

1/4 cup coconut sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/3 cup canola oil

1/3 cup hot water

To Make Biscuits:

In a large bowl, combine flours, salt, baking powder. Mix well.

Add oil and hot water, stir to combine and knead mixture gently a few times with your hands.



3-4 large apples peeled and thinly sliced

8 ounces frozen sour cherries (a mixture of sweet or sour cherries is fine)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with about 2 teaspoons water- more if needed.

Make the Filling:

Place frozen cherries in a medium sized pot and cook over a low heat until cherries soften and start to release a bit of their juice.

Add apples and cook mixture until apples start to soften slightly.

Add cornstarch mixture and whisk mixture until it thickens and the cornstarch turns clear. Stir in vanilla.

Place mixture in bottom of a baking dish and form biscuits on top.

Bake about 40 minutes until filling bubbles up and biscuits brown nicely.

Serve with vanilla ice cream if desired.


AND: Here’s the Tree of the Week

“It’s really cold out here, but the sun does feel good!!”

Parsons Marsh- Lenox, MA


“Joyful Mountain Landscape” and Lemon Curd/Chia Pudding Parfaits!

“Heiterre Gebirgslandschaft”- “Joyful Mountain Landscape”: Paul Klee- Swiss 1879-1940
Yale University Art Gallery

The holidays are past us and as we start the new year, I am looking forward to my group Hevreh Ensemble‘s album release concert in February at the Soapbox Gallery in Brooklyn. I realize that I need to get into shape with a regular practice routine. And, if all goes well, I am scheduled to travel to California at the beginning of March for a collaboration with the iconic jazz oboist Paul McCandless; made possible by a professional development grant from Hofstra University- all very exciting! This is made all the more fun because McCandless lives in the middle of wine country in Sonoma County and I will be accompanied by my intrepid travel companion Carol!

Not bad things to have plans on the horizon as we slog through the rest of the winter. And, on a particularly gray, cold and raw Sunday, we thought of a trip to New Haven and the Yale University Art Gallery and maybe takeout from the wonderful ramen restaurant Mecha Noodle Bar!

The Yale University Art Gallery is one of our favorite places to visit. The collection and special exhibits are excellent, the size of the museum is perfect; not too large, but big enough that you leave feeling full and satisfied and there is always free admission.

For this visit, we headed up to the Modern and Contemporary Art Collection. As were entered the large gallery our eyes were drawn immediately to a beautiful and familiar work by Pierre Bonnard- “Interior at Le Cannet”.

Pierre Bonnard- “Interior at Le Cannet”

I often become visually overwhelmed when visiting art museums and have found it helps if I stroll slowly through the galleries, not trying to see everything at once, my eyes become accustomed to all of the richness and beauty of the art; then I am drawn into a few works that I can focus on.

This particular day after a few minutes of walking together, we took off in opposite directions. I enjoyed the bold lines and brilliant colors of works by Kadinsky, Pollack and Picasso.

Wassily Kadinsky-“Abstract Interpretation”

Jackson Pollack- “Burning Landscape”

Pablo Picasso- “The Painter in His Studio”

I was most taken with works created by artists that I was not familiar with including Dora Bromberger’s Village Street.

Dora Bromberger born in 1881, was a German artist who painted expressionist landscapes. She was born in Germany into a Jewish family and in 1941 was deported to a concentration camp where she was killed in 1942.

Sara Bromberger-“Village Street” 1916

I was most taken by a work by the American painter Sam Gilliam (1953-2022) titled “Haystack”.

Sam Gilliam- “Haystack”

I sat on a nearby bench and was mesmerized by the beautiful intricate patterns and rich imagery.

Paul and I met up and we showed each other some of our favorite paintings. We both were taken by Paul Klee’s “Joyful Mountain Landscape”.

Paul Kee-“Joyful Mountain Landscape”

Perhaps it brought to mind the joy that we have experienced surrounded by the beauty of nature during our walks.

Ashintully Gardens- Tyringham, MA

Recently, dear friends from Toronto stopped through on their way to their daughter’s wedding in Boston. We had not seen them since the beginning of the pandemic. After their long drive, we wanted to make something nice for dinner. For dessert, I was thinking of something light but satisfying; lemon curd came to mind. Combined with chia pudding and fresh fruit, it looked pretty and after the holidays, was a guilt free pleasure. This could easily be enjoyed for breakfast!

Lemon Curd/ Chia Pudding Parfaits

Yield: 5 servings

Low fat Lemon Curd


  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg whites 
  • ¾ cup granulated monk fruit sweetener ( I used 1/4 cup for a very tart flavor, you could also use regular sugar)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • ⅔ cup lemon juice

To prepare lemon curd: Whisk whole egg, 2 egg whites, granulated sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice in a medium nonreactive saucepan. Cook over low heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture is thick enough that drawing your finger across a coated spoon leaves a mark, 5 to 12 minutes. Do not let the sauce come to a simmer. Pour the hot curd through a fine-meshed sieve into a small bowl, pressing on the solids. Let cool slightly and refrigerate until chilled, about 4 hours.

Chia Pudding

  • 2cups unsweetened almond milk
  • ½cup coconut milk
  • 85grams chia seeds (½ cup)
  • 1-2 tablespoons maple syrup (or to taste)

In a quart container with a lid, combine almond and coconut milks, maple syrup and a pinch of salt. Stir thoroughly so that seeds are evenly hydrated. Let rest at least 20 minutes or until pudding has a rich, creamy texture. Seeds should be fully hydrated. (Pudding will keep for up to 3 days but may require rehydrating with more almond or coconut milk as the seeds continue to absorb liquid.

1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed and dried on a paper towel

1 cup fresh raspberries, rinsed and dried on a paper towel

Assemble Parfaits

Place 1/2 of the chia pudding at the bottom of 5 wine goblets or clear glasses

Layer raspberries on top.

Place lemon curd on top.

Add a layer of blueberries.

Finish with a layer of the remaining chia pudding.

Refrigerate for a few hours .


AND: Here is the “Tree of the Week”!

“Whoo Boy”!


A Snowy Day at the Killarney Bridge and Warming Red Curry Thai Chicken Stew

Extreme weather dominated the holiday season with catastrophic amounts of snow and disrupted travel plans. Just a few days before, we experienced a normal amount of snow- the kind that softly blankets everything, muffles sound and makes one want to walk slowly through the woods, breath in the cold fresh air and enjoy the pristine surroundings.

Barbour Woods, Norfolk, CT

We drove to nearby Barbour Woods in Norfolk, Connecticut with trails that wind through old carriage roads, one of which leads to an old stone arch bridge built in 1908. The Killarney Bridge built by Norfolk resident Frederick Shepard, takes it’s name from a similar bridge in Killarney, Ireland.

The woods were peaceful and perfectly still with the snow weighing down the branches and with the trail a bit slippery in spots, I trod carefully. Through the trees, we could see the crumbling foundation of the abandoned bridge and it felt as if we were on a treasure hunt. In 1908, this area of Norfolk was a bustling industrial center manufacturing knitting cotton and included several tanneries and an iron works. Broad swaths of the forest were cleared and the lumber produced charcoal to smelt iron ore.

When we return in the summer, it will be possible to walk almost underneath the bridge. For now, the path down to the edge of the bridge was icy and slippery; the day raw and chilly. It was time to return home for hot chocolate and start to put together the ingredients for a warming Red Curry Thai Chicken Stew!

The dish is based on a recipe from NYT Cooking, Brothy Thai Curry with Silken Tofu. I swapped out boneless chicken thighs for the tofu and the dish was the perfect thing for a cold winter’s night. We served it over brown rice, sprinkled with chopped peanuts and it was aromatic, piping hot and delicious!

Red Curry Thai Chicken Stew


  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2shallots, peeled and minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 1(1-inch) piece ginger, scrubbed and grated
  • 3 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 1(14-ounce) can cherry tomatoes or fresh cherry tomatoes
  • 1 quart water
  • 1(13.5-ounce) can low-fat coconut milk
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1½cups mixed fresh herbs, such as cilantro, basil.
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges, for squeezing


Heat a medium Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high.

Add the oil and shallots, and stir until softened, 2 minutes. Add chicken and brown on all sides.

Add the garlic, ginger and curry paste, stir, and cook until fragrant and the paste turns deep red, 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, stir and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the tomato juices thicken slightly, 4 minutes.

Add the water and coconut milk and bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook about 1 hour until chicken is very tender.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Stir in cilantro and basil.

Serve with lime wedges.


AND: Here is the first “Tree of the Week” for the New Year! For those new to my blog, I love photographing old trees and greatly enjoy imagining various facial expressions. A definition of the word pareidolia recently featured in the Word of the Day aptly described my fixation: “the tendency for perception to impose a meaningful interpretation on a nebulous stimulus, usually visual, so that one sees an object, pattern, or meaning where there is none.” This may be more common then I might have thought. Last spring, I was strolling through Flushing Meadow Park in Queens, New York. I had stopped by an old gnarly cherry tree and was looking closely at it. An elderly Asian woman walking by, observed me and said softly: “Do you see the smile?” Case in point!

“So you say??”


Winter Light and the Ultimate Comfort Food: Twice Baked Potatoes

Kite Hill- Ancram, New York

The days are short and the late afternoon sun slips quickly into darkness. I have a break from teaching with just enough time to take a walk at nearby Kite Hill in Ancram, New York. The light is beautiful with rich shades of brown and dark blue clouds; the cold air is brisk and invigorating.

Kite Hill: Ancram, New York

All to soon, the light starts to fade. I anticipate returning home after teaching to make a fire in the wood stove and sit with a cup of hot tea while I think about what to make for a quick dinner. Comfort food comes to mind- maybe baked double stuffed potatoes. This could turn into one of my favorite dinners that we call “German Night”; assembled with whatever ingredients are in the freezer or refrigerator. This evening’s feast includes sauteed apples spiced with cinnamon, cardamom and allspice, stone ground German mustard with organic chicken/mushroom sausages, Hosta Hill spicy Crimson Sauerkraut and twice baked potatoes.

Potatoes are baked in a hot oven until the skin is crisp and the insides are soft. I scoop out middle of the potatoes and usually mash the mixture with butter and milk. I decided to try a less rich method using extra virgin olive oil, kefir and plenty of salt and pepper. This gave the mixture a tangy rich taste. Topped off with grated parmesan cheese and baked until the cheese is melted and browned, they are the perfect comfort food to eat in front of a hot fire!

Baked Double Stuffed Potatoes

This really is a no-recipe dish. I usually make 2 potatoes, but you can make as many as you want.

Pre heat the oven to 375 Degrees.

Rinse off potatoes and make a few slashes with a sharp paring knife in each potato.

Bake about an hour until the skin is crisp and the inside of the potatoes are very soft.

Cut around the circumference of the potatoes, scoop out the middles and place in a medium pot. Pour in a few glugs of olive oil and enough kefir so that when you mash the mixture you get a soft filling. You could also use yogurt or buttermilk. You can’t go wrong here- any amount of oil or kefir will make a delicious filling. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Place filling into potato shells and sprinkle tops with plenty of grated parmesan. Bake in oven about 30-35 minutes. The potatoes should be steaming hot and the parmesan will be brown and crispy. ENJOY!!

At this time of the year, I often take stock of how fortunate we are in our neck of the woods and I am so grateful that music and art is such an important part of my life. When I look at the sweet earnest faces of the members of my Recorder Ensemble from Hofstra University before a recent concert, all of this is brought home to me!

Hofstra University Recorder Ensemble

AND: Here is the “Tree of the Week”

“I may have eaten too many baked stuffed potatoes!”

Best Wishes for Happy and Safe Holiday Season!

Lime Kiln Preserve: Sheffield, MA

Dried Fruit Cream Scones, Sour Cherry Pie and Great Stories!

What a pleasure it was to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with our daughter Alicia, her partner Katie and both of our families! We spent a few magical days gathered around a large table, as we shared Thanksgiving dinner and other meals together. We enjoyed leisurely conversations filled with family stories and collective memories.

Katie’s grandparents owned a dairy farm in New Jersey and I loved hearing stories about the taste of the rich milk that the cows produced and this led to a conversation about making clabbered milk; naturally fermented raw milk that her great grandfather enjoyed every day. He attested that this habit was part of his remarkable longevity, he lived until almost 102 years! The word “clabber” comes from the Irish language, and it means “to thicken.” If clabbered milk is allowed to thicken long enough, it becomes clotted cream, a popular spread for scones in many parts of the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Alicia cooked an incredible meal with the most delicious turkey ever that she spatchcocked (the backbone is removed to make the turkey lay flat), brined and rubbed with an herb mixture of parsley, rosemary, thyme, onion, lemon juice and olive oil. Roasted quickly in a hot oven, the turkey had crispy burnished skin and incredibly tender flavorful meat. I made a large chicken with this same method the other night and I will never make a chicken or turkey any other way ever again. The recipe will appear shortly in another blog post!

As always after a Thanksgiving feast, we were happily full and contented, but after a few hours we could start to think about dessert. We had a quite a lineup that included a beautifully decorated key lime cheesecake and apple cranberry pie made by Alicia.

I made a sugar free apple pie and oft requested Kabocha Squash Pie; the recipe will also appear in another post! The recipe comes from the NYT Book of Desserts by the dessert chef Pichet Ong.

The Dessert Line!

The next morning, we gathered for brunch with smoked salmon and bagels from Zabars in New York. Katie’s father, Mark who is a wonderfully talented baker and cook decided we could use some of his dried fruit scones and we all happily agreed!

Quite simply, these are the best scones I have ever tasted. They have a delicate texture with a crispy sugary top and irresistible flavor. I asked Mark for the recipe and here you go. He said that the most important thing is to use heavy cream; don’t be tempted to use anything lighter. The cream is used instead of butter in the recipe and is what makes the scones so light.

Dried Fruit Cream Scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
1 1/4 cups heavy cream

3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Use an ungreased baking sheet.

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a bowl, stirring with a fork to mix well. Add the dried apricots. Still using a fork, stir in the cream and mix until the dough holds together in a rough mass (the dough will be quite sticky).

Lightly flour a board and transfer the dough to it. Knead the dough 8 or 9 times. Pat into 2 circles about 6 inches round. For the glaze, spread the butter over the top and side of the circle of dough and sprinkle the sugar on top. Cut each circle into 8 wedges and place each piece on the baking sheet, allowing about an inch between pieces.

Bake for about 11 minutes, or until golden brown

Yield: 12 scones

We had more than enough leftovers for the next day and plenty of desserts! At one point , the conversation turned to summer fruit and Alicia lamented that for the last several years, she had missed the short sour cherry season. She wistfully talked about making sour cherry pie. Somehow, even with extra desserts on hand, it was suggested that if we could find a good source of frozen sour cherries, that maybe Alicia would like to make a cherry pie! Katie’s mother Kathy looked up sour cherries online at the venerable grocery store Wegmans and the parents in the group made the executive decision that cherry pie should be made; if Alicia was willing! Mark, Paul and I headed off to Wegmans on a mission to find sour cherries. Mark had a Wegman’s app on his phone; we quickly located the frozen fruit section and purchased flash frozen sour cherries that came from Wolcott, New York near Lake Ontario.

We got 2 bags, so Alicia would have come cherries for another time. The pie was delicious; the bright red sour cherries had been picked at their peek and were packed full of flavor. The pastry crust was buttery and tender with a beautiful pattern that Alicia had created; served with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream, it topped off a perfect holiday; with stomachs and most importantly, our spirits full!

AND: Here is the Tree of the Week:

“I think I may have eaten too much pie”!

Merwin Road, Millerton, NY


Plum Torte and Jackson Heights

The past week was one of minor miracles. My husband recovered quickly from covid and knock on wood, I never succumbed! I have to confess that I was rather glad when it was time to commute to New York to teach at Hofstra; escape from the germ zone!

As a treat to Paul, I thought I would bring some Indian takeout back home; this would give me the opportunity to explore the vibrant Indian community in the New York City borough of Queens. I had heard about the neighborhood for years, but never had chance to visit the area.

A kindly cab driver motioned me into a parking spot that he was leaving and I took a picture of the street signs; no getting lost this week! From this point of reference, I started to slowly walk around the neighborhood, taking in all of the sights.

As I neared the entrance of the subway at 74th Street and Roosevelt Avenue, I was met by the sounds of popular Indian music blaring from a loud speaker in front of a store. As people pushed by me on all sides, I felt as if I could be in the middle of a bustling and vibrant movie set!

Enjoy this short video in front of the 74th Street subway station!

There were many thriving family businesses and clothing stores that displayed bold colorful fabrics.

The streets were lined with small grocery stores selling a wide variety of Indian spices, dals & grains and outside the stores, exotic vegetables were displayed on stands including Thai eggplants, small round purple eggplants, Bengali squash, gourds, and heaping boxes of hot green chilies. As I walked slowly through the neighborhood, a delicious aroma of garlic and spices wafted through the air.

Thai Eggplant

Bengali Squash

There were numerous cafes and Indian pastry shops with enticing displays of sweets.

The colorful and fragrant small desserts were like eye candy; I succumbed and selected a few small pastries to sample on the way back home.

I discovered that Jackson Heights is also one of the most culturally diverse neighborhoods in the United States with over 167 languages spoken, including Mexicans, Ecuadorians, Columbians, Argentinians, Tibetans and Nepalese. As I walked down the streets and looked at all of the different faces of the people, I sensed the beautiful mix of cultures with everyone seeming to comingle peacefully!

I started to look for an Indian restaurant to order our takeout dinner and was distracted momentarily by a display of colorful cakes in the window of a Mexican bakery and of course I had to go inside. The counter person was a lovely young woman who proudly showed me the different breads , cakes and pastries.

Just down the street I saw a Tibetan restaurant that looked interesting and decided that maybe some momos (Tibetan dumplings) would be good instead of Indian food. I made a rather large order to take home along with a few other dishes. Often my instincts are on the mark when choosing restaurants, but alas not in this case. The food was greasy, lacking in flavor & the momos were filled with tough pieces of meat. So, this restaurant will remain nameless! The good news is the I will definitely make more trips to Jackson Heights and I know the next time I will find great Indian or Tibetan food!!

Back in the car, heading home, I took out one of the Indian pastry treats and took a bite. The flavor was delicious with hints of cardamom, but shockingly sweet and it made my teeth ache; time to think about a dessert that was guilt free but also delicious!

In my blog, I made a decision not to dwell on health issues, but I will make an exception for this post. More then 15 years ago my husband was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and this caused us to make major changes to our diet. You may have noticed that many of the dessert recipes in my blog are made either without sugar and if a recipe needs a sweetener, I use either small amounts of monk fruit sweetener, stevia, or coconut sugar; all with a very low glycemic index. I find that now when I taste recipes that use regular sugar, they taste way too sweet and I enjoy the fresh taste of apples and berries without sweeteners.

Recently, I reinvented a plum torte that was made famous by the NY Times food writer Marian Burros. The original plum torte is rich and buttery and very sweet. For my guilt free version, I used the same batter that is in my Apple Strawberry Ginger Crumble Tea Cake, with the addition of almond extract and for an extra treat, I made a glaze for the top of the torte with a small amount of honey that I microwaved with cinnamon. You could also use sliced apples or apricots when they are in season. I hope you enjoy this recipe!!

Plum Torte


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 almond extract

1 egg

1/3 cup canola oil

3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla soy or almond milk

10-12 Italian plums or you can use sliced apples or apricots in season- cut plums in half and remove pits.


1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon cinamon

stir together honey and cinnamon and microwave for about 30 seconds until honey becomes liquid.

Pre heat oven to 375 degrees

Lightly butter a tart pan or large pie dish.

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.

Pour batter into the prepared baking dish and place plum halves cut side down in a decorative pattern over batter.

Drizzle glaze over top of the batter and fruit.

Bake until fruit starts to bubble and a cake tester comes out clean, about 30 minutes.


This fall I have been watching a spider outside of my study window. It distracted me nicely as I avoided working on my oboe reeds! I was fascinated to watch how during stormy weather or heavy rain, the spider would retreat to a corner of the window and the web would be torn apart. When the weather cleared, the spider would slowly climb back out, repair it’s web and carry on; much like the resilience that our fragile democracy has recently exhibited!

AND: Here is the “Tree of the Week”!

“That was a close call”!!


“Mann tracht un Gott Lacht”* and Baked Apple Cider Donuts

* “Man plans and God Laughs”- The old Yiddish expression took on new meaning this past week. The plan was this-my Birthday week was crammed full with students, an early rehearsal in NYC for a Salisbury Four Christmas concert, teaching at Hofstra University and getting ready for the release of my group Hevreh Ensemble’s new album, Meserole Street. I thought that I would be too busy to write much in the way of my blog and the idea of a guest blogger appealed to me. My husband took a walk at the Keystone Arches in Chester, MA and returned with beautiful photographs- he would be the perfect guest!

“Keystone Arches”- Chester, MA- photo Paul DePaolo

But as it happened, too much transpired that I needed to write about. I will look forward to featuring a Keystone Arches guest blog soon!

This year, my birthday fell on a Friday, the day I travel to New York to teach; Paul suggested waiting until Sunday to celebrate. The plan was to attend an Orchestra ONE concert at Bard College’s Fisher Center. A group of my talented Advanced Ensemble students from the Indian Mountain School were planning to meet us at the concert; being kindly driven by another IMS faculty member. After the concert, Paul and I would drive to nearby Rhinebeck, New York and have dinner at one of our favorite restaurants; Gigi’s Trattoria. I returned home Saturday night; tired but happy and inspired by the rehearsal I had that afternoon. Exquisite melodies from works by Schutz and Monteverdi were still dancing around in my head and for a brief time all felt right with our crazy world. At the rehearsal, we had all talked about the soothing power of music.

Then, Sunday morning after I woke up late, I came downstairs and my husband ominously said that his throat hurt and it felt scratchy. We both took Covid rapid tests and his came back with the dreaded 2 stripes! Quickly all plans were scuttled and we were thrust into the place where no one wants to go….

Feeling frustrated with the sudden change in direction, I decided to take a hike by myself. I made sure that Paul was comfortable with plenty of tissues and herbal tea nearby and I am so glad that I decided to tell him my planned destination!

I set out for The Drury Preserve in Sheffield, Massachusetts for beautiful solitude. My car was the only one in the small lot and this suited my mood just fine. Kicking leaves, I strode off on the trail that led through a pine forest. My thoughts were full of frustration, anger, worry about Paul and plenty of self pity! The trail leads gradually down into a swampy area with narrow planks of wood over the small marsh; the entire round trip is about 3 miles. As I tramped through the woods, gradually my mood began to lighten and I thought there might even be enough time to get back to The Bistro Box in Great Barrington to bring home chicken and falafel burgers and a salad with the freshest organic greens. Things were beginning to look brighter!

I crossed the last wooden plank over the marsh and looked forward to reaching a small idyllic pond with a small wooden bench that has a lovely view of Race Mountain in the distance. Somehow I got off the trail without knowing it, but I saw the pond in the distance and climbed up a small hill and then down to the pond.

Drury Preserve- Sheffield, MA

I sat for a few minutes on the bench, breathing in the fresh fall air deeply and then started to head back. Very quickly I realized that I could not find the trail. The ground was covered with leaves and there were no blue blazes on the trees to mark the way.

I started off in one direction, realized it was not leading to the trail and went the other way. This did not work either, but I saw the pond peeking through the trees and headed back to the pond.

After a few mores tries to orient myself to the trail, I knew that I was completely lost and as the sun sank lower in the sky, a small amount of worry trickled into my mind and I decided to call my sick husband. With one bar of power on my phone, the call miraculously connected and I said “I think I am completely turned around, please come!! I had a good 45 minutes to wait for my rescuer and went back to the lovely bench by the pond; plenty of time to “cool my heels”, mediate and take pictures of the beautiful surroundings.

I even took a picture of a possible candidate for a “Tree of the Week”!

As I heard Paul’s voice calling out to me through the woods, I felt palpable relief. I bounded down the path towards him; Paul was so relieved to see me that he did not pay close attention to the way back and soon enough both of us were lost! Our friends Peter and Caroline were also coming to my rescue. Luckily, Paul remembered Peter’s advise to “cross the marsh and head east” after Peter had checked a map of the preserve. With great relief we soon saw the wooden slats of the trail in the distance and we headed back to our cars just as the sun was setting!

And best of all, my dear friend Carol created a beautiful piece of artwork, “Tree and Bird” for my birthday; this could not be a better birthday treat! To see more of her extraordinary artwork: Carol Ober.

As I write this post, Paul is recovering nicely and I wait to see if I will develop symptoms.

In the Fall, I often pass by farm stands that sell Apple Cider Donuts and I resist eating them because they are greasy, overly sweet, full of calories and I am often disappointed with the lack of apple flavor. I set out to find a recipe for Apple Cider Donuts that were baked and full of cider flavor and I think I may have found the trick! I adapted a recipe that I found online from Sweet Cayenne. The recipe calls for apple cider that is cooked down into a syrup and with the addition of allspice, cinnamon and ground cloves, they tasted light, delicious and best of all are guilt free! I liked them plain, but they could also be glazed or dipped in coconut sugar and cinnamon.

Baked Apple Cider Donuts- adapted from Sweet Cayenne


For the donuts:

  • ⅓ cup neutral-flavored oil (canola, avocado, grapeseed, walnut)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup monk fruit sweetener
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 cup applesauce ( I did not have a jar of applesauce on hand, so I just cooked down a few apples and mashed them up with some cinnamon).
  • ½ cup  apple cider, boiled down to about 2 tablespoons of syrup
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

For the glaze:

  • 1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons milk or enough to make a spreadable glaze


Making the donuts:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a non-stick donut pan with cooking spray. My pan makes 6 donuts, so I had to fill it twice.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs, sugar, applesauce, cider syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder until smooth.
  • Add the flour, stirring until just smooth.
  • Fill a pastry bag or a sturdy gallon-sized plastic bag with the batter. Use scissors to snip off the tip of the bag, creating about an ½”’ hole.
  • Pipe the batter into the wells of the doughnut pan nearly to the rim. Or, just carefully spoon in the batter.
  • Bake the doughnuts for 12 to 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean. .
  • Remove the doughnuts from the oven, and loosen their edges by running a knife along the outer circle.
  • ENJOY!

AND: Here is the “Tree of the Week”

“Oy Vey”