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”!
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.
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??
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
1 package small wonton wrappers
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
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.
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.
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.
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:
An Update: Hal just sent me a limerick that he wrote about our recent visit:
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!!