Savory Tomato Bread Pudding and Mountain Meadow Preserve

Mountain Meadow Preserve- Williamstown, MA

A bucolic sunny afternoon on Labor Day weekend …..one of our last summer forays! My husband Paul, the intrepid trail blazer, found a walk at the Mountain Meadow Preserve in Williamstown, Massachusetts complete with stunning views of Mt. Greylock in the distance.

Mountain Meadow Preserve

The sun was strong and bright; a hot day. We walked slowly uphill through a fragrant meadow.

Mountain Meadow Preserve

Even with the warm temperature, we saw signs of fall; milkweed pods hung languidly from their stalks and we were delighted to come across late summer wildflowers. The air smelled sweet; at the edges of the field we peered into the cool woods. Ferns were starting to turn brown and gave off a slightly nutty aroma; almost like coconut.

Mountain Meadow Preserve

Mountain Meadow Preserve

We have been gifted with yet one more talented gardener’s summer bounty. We also had a rather large amount of stale sourdough bread hanging around from the Hungry Ghost Bakery in Northampton, MA; our new addiction!

Stuffing is one of my favorite cold weather comfort foods. I came up with a dish that combines my love of stuffing. It was a good use for stale bread and also for a surplus of cherry tomatoes. The combination of the crunchy savory bread moistened with chicken stock and vegetables full of flavor was irresistible; even better with a glass of chilled rose!

Enjoy!

Savory Tomato Bread Pudding

Ingredients:

3 cups stale sourdough bread cut into medium cubes

1 medium onion chopped finely

1/2 bunch lacinato kale chopped, tough center stem removed

5 mushrooms chopped

1 medium zucchini chopped into small pieces

1 cup chicken stock (more if needed) If you have home made stock on hand, this would be great.

1/2 cup feta cheese crumbled

12-13 cherry tomatoes halved

2 teaspoons dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried basil

extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

To Make Bread Pudding:

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy saucepan.

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

Add dried herbs and salt and pepper to taste.

Add mushrooms and zucchini and saute about 5 minutes until mushrooms release their liquid and zucchini starts to soften.

Add kale and cook a few minutes.

Remove pan from heat and add bread cubes. Add chicken stock a bit at a time to let the bread absorb the liquid slowly. If the bread mixture seems to dry, you can always add a bit more stock.

Pre heat oven to 375 Degrees Farenheit

Place mixture in a lightly greased casserole dish.

Place tomatoes on top of the bread/vegetable mixture and sprinkle feta cheese over the tomatoes.

Pour a good glug of olive oil over the mixture and bake about 35-40 minutes until the tomatoes start to burst, the mixture bubbles and the bread is crunchy and browned around the edges of the pan.

ENJOY!!

AND: Here is the “Tree of the Week”!

“Feeling a bit long in the face!”

William Cullen Bryant Homestead Cummington, MA

HAPPY END OF SUMMER!

Foodie Heaven, Continued: Iceland Part 4

Tryggvaskali Restaurant- Selfloss, Iceland

On the second night of our Iceland adventure, we had dinner in the small town of Selfloss about an hour from Reykjavik. The charming Tryggvaskali Restaurant is housed in a historic building that was built in 1880 and since 1900 has been in continually in operation; either as a store, inn or restaurant.

The building even has it’s own ghost. According to local lore: “On September 30, 1929, there was a loud knock on the west door of Tryggvaskála, and when Óli J. Ísfeld, a restaurateur, opened the door, he saw a tall and thin woman with an 8-10 year old child with her. This vision disappeared from the restaurateur as quickly as it appeared. Testified later that it was a maid who was supposed to start at Tryggvaskála that day, but had died during the summer, without it being reported in Selfoss. She had been paid in advance for the work, and throughout the years the staff of Tryggvaskála have felt that they have been helped at times of stress.”

From our table by the window we looked out at lupines hugging the shore of the pristine Olfusa river.

Selfloss, Iceland

The fish in Iceland was incredibly fresh with many meals featuring either cod or salmon. At the Tryggvaskali restaurant I noticed an unusual appetizer on the menu; whale tataki with garlic soy wasabi and sesame seed. I had to try this, I wasn’t sure when I would have the opportunity to sample whale again! The fish was lightly grilled and similar to sashimi. The texture was a tiny bit rubbery but the flavor was delicate and briny.

Whale Tataki

For entrees we enjoyed beautiful presentations of pan fried ling cod served with garlic potato salad, grilled corn and honey glazed carrots and salmon with pesto and charred broccoli over barley.

We had many excellent meals, but one simple lunch stands out. We found the Geirabakari Kaffihus totally by accident. Once we left Reykjavik, the landscape changed dramatically, stark and atmospheric with waterfalls cascading down mountains that at one time were covered with trees.

On a cloudy overcast day, we drove down a desolate road and approached the small town of Borgarnes. We were looking for a place to have lunch, not setting our sights too high.

Geirabakari Kaffihus stands next to a few nondescript small businesses, slightly run down around the heel. But when we entered the bakery, we were met by the yeasty aroma of freshly baked goods and the cafe was filled with local people queued up to the counter. Keeping with the plan of the trip to indulge in whatever we wanted to eat, we chose flaky buttery croissant sandwiches filled to the brim with ham, cheese, cucumbers, lettuce and tomato; all covered with a creamy dill sauce. This was accompanied with mugs of rich steamy hot chocolate- simply delicious!

Geirabakari Kaffihus Borgarnes, Iceland

Way too soon, our Iceland adventure was coming to an end. On our last day of the trip, we returned to Reykjavik. For dinner that evening we had made a reservation at the Public House, a trendy gastro pub with Asian influences. The best way to describe the eclectic menu would be Asian Tapas. We ordered probably too much food: vegetable dumplings; crispy tacos with roasted beets, goat cheese, fig jam and truffle mayo and grilled lamb kebabs with miso, ginger and pickled cucumbers with sesame seeds. I am not a great fan of lamb, but this was the most tender and full of flavor lamb that I have ever tasted. The spicy and assertive flavor combinations from the various dishes were perfect with mugs of frosty Icelandic beer!

We left a tiny bit of room for two desserts: skyr panna cotta with coconut and salted caramel and strawberries with oat crumble and strawberry sorbet; then it really was time to travel back home!

Many of the restaurants and cafes that we visited offered excellent fish chowders; all unique and equally delicious. What they all had in common is that they were not thick and gluey like some New England fish chowders.

This past week I found myself with a surplus of sweet fresh corn and fish chowder came to mind. I channeled all of the Icelandic chowders that I had tasted and came up with up with a chowder filled with corn, cod, leeks, potatoes, celery and onion; garnished with crisp bits of prosciutto, scallion and parsley. This would also work with shrimp or chunks of salmon. You can also add a few pieces of fresh kale; I was lucky to be given the most tender kale from a friend’s garden. We ate this with hunks of rosemary sourdough bread from the Hungry Ghost Bakery and a salad of fresh greens and local tomatoes with balsamic dressing. A glass of chilled rose would also be lovely with this! Enjoy!

Summer Fish Chowder

Ingredients:

1 /2 pound cod cut into chunks

3 medium red potatoes cut into small pieces

1 onion finely chopped

1 medium leek, rinsed well finely chopped

4 ears fresh corn

2 stalks celery finely chopped

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 bay leaf

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

few pieces fresh kale torn into small pieces (optional)

For garnish:

a few tablespoons of finely chopped parley

2 scallions finely chopped

1/8 pound prosciutto

2 tablespoons flour

Make Stock:

Bring a large pot of water to boil and add corn. Cook briefly for one minute and remove corn from pot.

With a sharp knife, scrape corn kernels from cobs and place in a small bowl. Put corn cobs back in pot and simmer for about 1/2 hour. Strain liquid and reserve stock.

In a clean soup pot, heat olive oil over and add onions.

Saute until onions soften slightly.

Add leeks and celery- cook for about 3-4 minutes. Sprinkle flour over mixture and combine well.

Add potatoes, thyme, bay leaf.

Add stock- it should come to about 1/2 way up the pot.

Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.

Cover pot and simmer until potatoes are soft and then add corn and pieces of fish. Cook only a few minutes, just until fish flakes easily.

Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

In a small pan heat 1 teaspoon olive oil. Add prosciutto and cook until crisp. Drain on paper towel and break into small pieces.

Add garnishes of scallions, parsley and prosciutto if desired.

ENJOY!

AND: Here is the “Tree of the Week”!

“It’s safe in here- I’ll just stay a little while!”

HAPPY END OF SUMMER! STAY SAFE!

Kite Hill- Ancram, NY

Foodie Heaven! Iceland: Part 3

Tryggvas- Selfloss, Iceland

When planning our recent trip, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the restaurant scene in Iceland. I had heard that the food was boring and not very creative; I decided to plan with an open mind and with not very high expectations. What I discovered was a vibrant food scene that has changed greatly in the last few years. We found restaurants that used the freshest, often locally sourced ingredients; the food was creative and lovingly prepared.

The first day of our trip was spent in Reykjavik; we arrived early in the morning and dropped off our bags at the charming Apotek Hotel. We asked the desk clerk to recommend a good bakery and her eyes lit up. She said, “You must try Baka Baka for the most delicious pastries”. We decided early on that for this trip there were no holds barred; we were going to enjoy as much sugar and rich food as we wanted! We headed down the street, walked up a small hill and saw the open door of Baka Baka beckoning to us.

As we entered we were welcomed with the rich smell of coffee and freshly baked pastries. We ordered a yeasty fragrant Cardamom Bun filled with almond paste and enjoyed it with coffee and a pot of herbal tea that had the light delicate taste of currents.

The plan for our first day was to explore Reykjavik and at the the same time try to stave off jetlag. We spent the next few hours walking slowly around the quaint streets and adjusting gradually to the lovely cool windy temperature of 50 degrees F!

The time flew by and we were ready for our first lunch reservation at Hosilo, a small unpretentious restaurant on a quiet side street. The other diners were young Icelanders and as we waited for our food to arrive, we enjoyed listening to the lyrical sounds of the Icelandic language. The food was creatively presented; I started with an appetizer of “watermelon” sushi-cool, rosy slices of fruit in a savory gingery sauce. Expecting the taste of raw fish, my taste buds were jolted awake- a good remedy for my sleepy mind!

I had some of the freshest and most tender shrimp I have ever tasted with house made pasta, basil, tomato and roasted garlic.

It was all bathed in extra virgin olive and served with a slice of crunchy parmesan toast.

We were starting to fade quickly, but thought a walk down the hill to the harbor and to the Harpa Concert Hall might revive us.

Harpa- Reykjavik, Iceland

Luckily for us, we discovered that there was a short interactive visual installation offered; Circuleight. As we entered a large gallery, we were surrounded by animations that were inspired by eight natural elements: lava, glacier, water, algae, micro organism, flora, basalt, and volcanic gas. If you waved your hand or came close to one of the images, the image would respond to the motion; it gave the effect of the artwork improvising. The installation was accompanied by a score written by the Icelandic composer Hogni Egilsson. I found a place to curl up, leaned against one of the walls and immersed myself in the experience; although I confess, I fell briefly asleep! It was time for a short nap at our hotel.

Circuleight Installation- Harpa

Just an hour of sleep and we were refreshed and ready to continue on our culinary adventures of the day! For dinner, I had a made a reservation at The CooCoo’s Nest. From our hotel, we walked a few miles to the quirky, newly developed section of the waterfront with art galleries, specialty food shops and restaurants. CooCoo’s Nest was opened in 2013 by Anna and Lucas Keller.

The CooCoo’s Nest- Reykjavik, Iceland

A passionate chef, Lucas is originally from California and trained and worked in Italy. Since opening, the restaurant has gained a loyal local clientele.

It was Taco Tuesday, so we ordered the sampling menu of 3 different tacos that included tequila marinated fish with guacamole, shredded cabbage and spicy sour cream; slow cooked lamb, salsa verde and pickled raddish; and a vegetarian taco with sweet potato, charred broccoli and a spicy romesco sauce. They were delicious and the flavors danced in our mouths.

The CooCoo’s Nest- Reykjavik, Iceland

We ate our dinner outside the restaurant at a picnic table and watched young families strolling by; several of which were licking ice cream cones. Glancing to our right we saw an inviting ice cream shop- well one more treat for the day!

An interesting flavor was listed on the wall that looked very similar to my last name- “Danskur lakkris”. I asked for a taste and the young clerk told me that the flavor was Danish licorice. Very nice, but I settled for a double dish with dark chocolate and lemon ginger crunch and then enjoying our ice cream, we walked oh so slowly back to our hotel; the sky still bright blue in the late evening. Shortly after we returned to our room we fell into a deep slumber!

Thus ended our first day in Reykjavik. Coming soon…. one more Icelandic blog detailing the other food highlights of our trip; some from restaurants where the food was simply but expertly prepared in lovely peaceful settings.

Silfra Restaurant- Nesjavellir, Iceland

AND: Here is the “Tree of the Week”!

“Well, THEY sure ate a lot!”

Twin Lakes- Salisbury, CT

HAPPY SUMMER-STAY SAFE AND COOL!!

Spring Woodland Wildflowers, Yellow Violets and Lemon Fennel Almond Biscotti!

There they were– our little patch of yellow violets; waiting for us to rediscover them and coo over their delicate beauty! Last year, we went on a prolonged search for the seemingly elusive flowers and they turned out to be right under our noses; just across the street from the trailhead to the Pine Loop Trail at the William Cullen Bryant Homestead.

With so much uncertainty and turbulence in our times, the predictable cycle of seasons is comforting and small observances are a delight!

During the pandemic when we were sequestered in place and could not perform in public, I found inspiration and a creative outlet by playing short improvisations in woodland and other outdoor settings. This past year, I have been back to playing indoor concerts and it is wonderful to once again communicate with live audiences; case in point, a performance of the Mozart Coronation Mass that I performed in this past weekend. Written in 1779 in Salzburg, the composition became known as a preferred piece of music for the Imperial Court of Vienna to commemorate royal and imperial coronations. The entire mass is in the cheerful key of C major; full of lively and at the same time poignant oboe duets with lovely lyrical lines.

Enveloped by the sounds of Mozart’s ethereal music with violins, viola, cello and double bass along with two resonant oboes playing in close harmonies was an intense aural experience; one that I realized I had missed dearly.

Even though this was a heartwarming and wonderful experience, I realized that I also missed my solo impromptu concerts! When we went on our yellow violet exploration, I brought along my alto recorder. Although playing outside alone was a very different, I enjoyed hearing the sound of the recorder waft off gently into the distance. Here is a short “Ode to the Yellow Violet” inspired by William Cullen Bryant’s poem:

The Yellow Violet

BY WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT

When beechen buds begin to swell,

  And woods the blue-bird’s warble know,

The yellow violet’s modest bell

  Peeps from the last year’s leaves below.

Ere russet fields their green resume,

  Sweet flower, I love, in forest bare,

To meet thee, when thy faint perfume

  Alone is in the virgin air.

Of all her train, the hands of Spring

  First plant thee in the watery mould,

And I have seen thee blossoming

  Beside the snow-bank’s edges cold.

Thy parent sun, who bade thee view

  Pale skies, and chilling moisture sip,

Has bathed thee in his own bright hue,

  And streaked with jet thy glowing lip.

Yet slight thy form, and low thy seat,

  And earthward bent thy gentle eye,

Unapt the passing view to meet

  When loftier flowers are flaunting nigh.

Oft, in the sunless April day,

  Thy early smile has stayed my walk;

But midst the gorgeous blooms of May,

  I passed thee on thy humble stalk.

So they, who climb to wealth, forget

  The friends in darker fortunes tried.

I copied them—but I regret

  That I should ape the ways of pride.

And when again the genial hour

  Awakes the painted tribes of light,

I’ll not o’erlook the modest flower

  That made the woods of April bright.

“An Ode to a Yellow Violet”- William Cullen Bryant Homestead

On our walks we were excited to see the return of many beautiful woodland wildflowers from last season and we also made a few new discoveries.

At the White Memorial Conservation Center in Litchfield, Connecticut, columbines lined the forest floor.

White Memorial Conservation Center- Litchfield, CT

A gentle brook flowed down a hillside that led to a marsh area with beautiful yellow flowers.

At the Steeple Top Preserve in New Marlborough, MA, speckled trout lilies lined the trail.

Steeple Top Preserve- New Marlborough, MA

Tiny daisy like yellow flowers nestled next to rocks in a stream.

Steeple Top Preserve- New Marlborough, MA

At the D’Alton Preserve in the Ellsworth section of Sharon, CT, we happened upon flowers we had not seen before; white star shaped flowers and delicate pink flowers capped with yellow tops. On a rainy day I plan to look up all of their names!

D’Alton Preserve- Sharon, CT

D’Alton Preserve- Sharon, CT

A pert line of flowers at the Lime Kiln Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Sheffield, Massachusetts……..

We often find ourselves in Northampton, MA and have become addicted to the sourdough bread at the Hungry Ghost Bakery. Made from excellent ingredients, it has an delicious sourdough flavor and if we are lucky, we arrive when fresh wholegrain sesame loaves have just come out of the oven. We take our treasure back to the car and break off crusty hunks of piping hot bread; so good it is almost enough for dinner! They also sell scones, cookies and biscotti. I tried an irresistible lemon fennel almond biscotti that was rich with butter and sugar. I decided to try to create an equally good biscotti that was guilt free. I used the same basic recipe that I created for Gingerbread Biscotti featured in my Ol’ Stoney Lonesome Blog. I swapped out the warming winter spices; ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom and star anise and used lemon zest, fennel seeds and toasted almonds. They were delicious and they quickly disappeared! The biscotti would be good dipped in iced coffee or with a bowl of fresh strawberries. I hope you enjoy making these!!

Lemon Fennel Almond Biscotti

Ingredients:

  • 1 large egg plus 1 large egg white, at room temperature 
  • 1/4 cup monk fruit sweetener
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • teaspoons fennel seeds 
  • 1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
  • zest from one organic lemon
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • ¼ teaspoon lemon extract or orange extract
  • cup whole wheat pastry flour 
  • 1 cup whole grain spelt flour

PREPARATION

  1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the egg, egg white, both sugars, salt, baking soda, almond extract and lemon extract. Beat on medium speed just to combine, scrape down the bowl and beater, then increase the speed to high and beat for a full 90 seconds or until the mixture is slightly paler, thick and ribbon like.
  3. Add the flour. Beat on low speed until mostly combined, stopping the beater just before all the flour is incorporated so you don’t overmix. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to incorporate any remaining dry bits into the dough. Add fennel and almonds.
  4. Gather the dough with your hands, kneading lightly in the bowl just to bring everything together into a cohesive mass. Place the dough on the center of the prepared sheet, then dampen your hands with water and mold the dough into a 9-by-4-inch log about 1 inch tall. Bake until the log puffs and spreads a little, turns golden brown at the edges and is firm to the touch, 40 to 45 minutes.
  5. Remove the loaf from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Transfer the loaf to a cutting board and, using a serrated knife, cut at a diagonal into 12 (¾-inch-wide) slices. Turn the slices on their sides and return to the oven.
  6. Bake, flipping the slices halfway through, until slightly browned and dry in the centers, 10 to 15 minutes. Bake longer for drier, crunchier biscotti. Remove from the oven and cool the biscotti on the sheet. Turn the slices top sides up.
  7. The biscotti will last for a couple of weeks in an airtight container at room temperature- well maybe!!

ENJOY!

AND: Here is the “Tree of the Week”!

“Oh Gee, Feeling a Bit Silly Today”

HAPPY SPRING!!

A Misty Walk at Dark Hollow and Ramp Mushroom Ravioli!

Dark Hollow Trail: Salisbury, CT

A slow steady rain was starting- undeterred, we put on our raincoats and water proof hiking boots and set out for a misty early spring hike on the Dark Hollow Trail in Salisbury.

As we walked up the trail, the air was damp and fragrant with pine and rich humus and we saw many early woodland wildflowers peeking hesitantly out of the soil.

Enthralled, we saw the first trilliums of the season!

Fiddlehead ferns were slowly unfurling on their stalks and tiny leaf buds glistened with moisture.

Through the mist from a vantage point high on the trail, we could see a home in the village.

Early spring is the time of year for wild ramps.

Wild Ramps Next to Trillium Flower

I had always heard about ramps and their delicate onion/garlic flavor, but had never tried them. Luckily, our dear friends Thomas and Fran are avid ramp foragers and they offered to take us to harvest ramps from one of their sources.

According to Spruce Eats:

Ramps–a cousin of onions, leeksscallions, and shallots–grow in low mountain altitudes from South Carolina to Canada. In many areas, they’re considered a spring delicacy and a reason for celebration. Harvesting ramps has a long tradition in the Appalachian region of the United States, with West Virginia particularly well known for its many festivals and events. Ramp festivals are also held in Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina. There are many ways to enjoy ramps: raw, sautéed, roasted, grilled, and pickled too.

On Mother’s Day we set off for a beautiful hike at the New Marlborough Land Trust- then we went off to find ramps at an undisclosed location!

New Marlborough Land Trust

Not far from the side of the road, we came upon a sizeable patch of ramps. Next to a swampy area, thousands of ramp plants were clustered together in the woods. Paul called them a “run of ramps”!

Paul had found a recipe for vegan ramp ravioli from Meatless Makeovers and I decided that this would be a perfect use for our foraged treasures. When we returned home in the late afternoon, I thought I might make the pasta dough and then prepare the filling and form the ravioli the next day. But, after the inspiring walks and ramp adventure with our friends, I found myself full of energy and decided to make the raviolis for dinner. I listened to Stile Antica on Pandora and found myself in cooking heaven.

The original vegan recipe calls for pasta dough made with ground flax seed instead of egg, but I decided to go with rich golden organic egg yolks, a wise decision; the pasta was tender and full of flavor! I also added mushrooms and a few seasonings: dried thyme, nutmeg, red pepper flakes and salt & pepper to taste. The flavor of the ramps was just as I had imagined; subtle and delicate and they blended beautifully with the mushrooms and vegan ricotta. I think that you could also make the raviolis with leeks and scallions for a similar flavor.

These are definitely a dish for company. We will serve these soon for a group that includes our favorite ramp foragers!

ENJOY!!

Wild Ramp and Mushroom Ravioli (almost vegan)

FILLING:

  • 3 cloves garlic (Minced)
  • 1 bunch ramps (chopped with white stems separated from leaves)* Note
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 4- or 5 mushrooms finely chopped
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Vegan Ricotta ( I used Kite Hill plant based ricotta)

SAUCE:

  • 2 Tbsp vegan butter (I used Kite Hill Vegan Butter and it had a nice flavor, although you could just use unsalted butter)
  • 3 cloves garlic (sliced)
  • 15–20 sage Leaves
  • 2 Tbsp walnuts (chopped)
  • 1 ramp (chopped with white stems separated from leaves)

Ingredients for Pasta Dough

Makes enough dough for 24 ravioli or cappellacci

1 cup cake flour (not self-rising)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 large egg yolks

1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup water

Blend together all dough ingredients in a food processor until mixture just begins to form a ball. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface, incorporating only as much additional flour as necessary to keep dough from sticking, until smooth and elastic, 6 to 8 minutes. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature 1 hour.

Cooks’ note:

Dough can be made (but not rolled out) 1 day ahead and chilled, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap. Bring to room temperature before rolling out.

  1. Prepare the Ramps: Meanwhile chop the ramps completely, separate the chopped leaves from the white ends. Mince the garlic.
  2. In a skillet over medium heat, add 1 Tbsp olive oil. Place the chopped white part of the ramp first and allow to cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Next, add the chopped ramp leaves, mushrooms and the garlic. Cook, stirring frequently for 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  4. Making the Ravioli: Once the dough has rested, cut it into 8 equal pieces. Working in batches roll out the dough on a floured surface. Your dough should be about 3mm thick after rolling.
  5. Dollop 1 tsp vegan ricotta cheese about 3 inches apart along your rolled out dough. Place 1 tsp of the ramp filling onto each dollop of ricotta.
  6. Place another rolled out piece of dough over the filling piles. Carefully press out any trapped air and seal your ravioli tightly using your finger and cut them out with a knife or with a ravioli cutter. Dust your fresh ravioli with flour and set aside.
  7. Put a large pot of water on the stove to boil.
  8. Make the sauce:  In a skillet over medium/low heat, melt the butter. Stir the butter frequently until it has a slight golden brown color. Approx. 4 minutes.
  9. Add the garlic, white part of the ramps, and the walnuts. Cook stirring constantly until garlic begins to brown. Approx. 3 minutes.
  10. Remove the sauce from the heat, add the ramp greens and sage leaves to the sauce and set aside.
  11. Once your water is boiling, place a few ravioli into the water at a time. Allow them to boil for 3-4 minutes.
  12. Serve: Plate the ravioli and spoon the sauce over them. Garnish with red pepper flakes, black pepper, or grated vegan parmesan, if desired. Serve immediately and enjoy!
  13. Store uncooked ravioli in the fridge for up to 3 to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
  14. * Note: Make sure to wash ramps very well with plenty of cold water. They are quite gritty! After I washed the ramps, I spun them dry in a salad spinner.
  15. ENJOY!

AND: Here is I think, an appropriate “Tree of the Week!”


“I think I Smell Something Good”!

HAPPY SPRING!!

High Ledges and a Passover Delicacy

High Ledges- Shelburne, Massachusetts

It was a windy chilly early spring day with the unusual occurrence of Easter, Passover and Ramadan taking place over the same weekend. We took a walk with breath taking views on the High Ledge Wildlife Sanctuary Trail in Shelburne, Massachusetts. From the top of the trail one can see the Deerfield River weaving gracefully through the hills with Mt. Greylock in the distance.

The trail climbed gently through peaceful pine woods and passed a gentle gurgling stream. In no rush, we stopped to listen to the beautiful sounds.

From the vantage point at the top, looking down almost 1,000 feet, we were treated to a cookie cutter view of the village of Shelburne Falls. To the left of the village not too far off, nestled in the hills, is our newly purchased land!

This year was our first in person Passover Seder since 2019. What a wonderful feeling to get out our fancy tableware and set the table for our guests! Although, I had lost track where the serving platters and large bowls were stored away. I needed to recalibrate how much food to prepare; I had gotten so used to cooking for two people!

One of the best things about hosting a Passover dinner again was that I could prepare Smoked Whitefish Gefilte Fish! When you mention gefilte fish to most people, there is a bit of eye rolling; we have a collective memory of cold gloppy fish that came from a jar with a strange after taste complete with an unappealing gooey gelatin. Mostly I think we ate it because we were starved after the long Seder service!

I found the recipe several years ago on Epicurious from an April 2002 issue of Bon Appetit Magazine. I love it when a person tastes the dish; skeptically the first time and then a look of delight crosses their face! A request has been made for a summer version of the dish; perhaps with a glass of chilled rose wine and served with tender baby lettuce with fresh peas from a local farm stand!

Each year, a few weeks before Passover, I make my annual pilgrimage to Zabars on Manhattan’s Upper West Side to purchase the freshest smoked whitefish; one of the ingredients for the gefilte fish. I do believe this is what makes the dish so special. I always enjoy watching the rude irreverent countermen carefully slice nova and other smoked fish. As I stand in a long line waiting for my turn, Mozart is playing softly in the background accompanied by the aroma of smoked fish and freshly baked bagels in the air. I listen to the back and forth banter between the customers and countermen. Then, I take my treasure home and keep it in the freezer for a few weeks until it is time to prepare the dish. The fish can be made up to 2 days before serving.

It had been several years since I had made the recipe and I needed to read the directions carefully. This recipe is a bit of a slog, but the result is well worth the effort! I hope you will try this recipe!!

Smoked Whitefish Gefilte Fish with Lemon-Horseradish Sauce

Ingredients

Makes about 24 dumplings

Gefilte fish

3/4 cup thinly sliced peeled carrots

1/4 cup matzo meal

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped green onions ( reserve a small amount to garnish the fish)

4 large eggs

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 pounds mild white fish fillets (such as sole or flounder), cut into small pieces

2 cups flaked smoked whitefish (about 8 ounces), carefully boned

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Sauce:

2 garlic cloves

1/4 cup prepared white horseradish

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 cup mayonnaise ( I use vegannaise)

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

For gefilte fish:

Step 1

Cook carrots in pan of boiling salted water until very tender, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water in small bowl. Stir matzo meal into water; let stand 10 minutes. Place carrots in processor. Heat olive oil in heavy medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add green onions and stir 1 minute. Add onion mixture to carrots in processor. Add matzo meal mixture; blend until mixture is pureed and smooth. Using electric mixer, beat 3 eggs and lemon juice in large bowl until foamy and slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Stir in mixture from processor; do not clean processor bowl.

Step 2

Blend fish fillets, smoked fish, salt, and pepper in same processor bowl until fish is finely chopped. Add remaining egg and blend to coarse paste. Add fish mixture to matzo meal mixture and mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate until very cold, about 2 hours.

Step 3

Line large baking sheet with waxed paper. Using wet hands, shape 1/4 cup fish mixture for each dumpling into egg-shaped oval. Place on prepared sheet. Cover with waxed paper and chill before steaming.

Step 4

Set vegetable steamer rack in large pot. Fill pot with enough water to meet, but not cover, bottom of rack. Line rack with parchment paper. Arrange 8 fish dumplings on parchment paper. Bring water to boil. Cover pot and steam dumplings until cooked through and firm to touch, about 25 minutes. Steam remaining dumplings in 2 more batches. Cover and refrigerate gefilte fish until cold, at least 6 hours. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.)

For Sauce:

Step 5

Mince garlic and place in small bowl. Mix in horseradish and lemon juice. Gradually whisk in mayonnaisse. Season sauce with salt and pepper. Adjust seasonings adding more lemon juice or horseradish to taste. Cover; chill up to 1 day. The flavors develop overnight!

Serve fish on a large platter sprinkled with remaining chopped scallions.

ENJOY!!

As is the tradition, at the end of the Seder, we opened our door to let Elijah enter. As dusk was falling we could hear the sounds of the birds tucking in for the evening and peepers calling from the pond across the street. I always imagine at this time of the year that a hungry bear enticed by the aroma of smoked whitefish gefilte fish, matzo ball soup and roast chicken may enter the door instead of Elijah! What a joy it was to be gathered around our table with dear friends once again!

AND, here is the “Tree of the Week”:

“It’s been a whirlwind of a year so far!”

HAPPY SPRING AND STAY SAFE!

The New Museum: An Excellent Art and Food Adventure!

While driving to teach at Hofstra University a few months ago, I heard an interview on WNYC about an art exhibit by the African American artist, Faith Ringgold at the New Museum in Lower Manhattan. Her work and life story sounded fascinating and compelling and I made a mental note to visit the museum soon!

Faith Ringgold: American People

Recently, I had a free Saturday morning before an afternoon rehearsal and saw that Faith Ringgold’s exhibit was still at the New Museum. I headed down in my car to the Lower East Side and ended up parking not far from one of my all time favorite places DiPalo’s Fine Foods, also close to the venerable Italian pastry shop Cafe Roma; this was going to be a wonderful food and art expedition!

The New Museum opened in 1977 and was the first museum devoted to contemporary art created by New York City artists. The mission statement of the museum says: “the museum is a catalyst for a broad dialogue between artists and the public by establishing an exhibition, information, and documentation center for contemporary art made within a period of approximately ten years prior to the present.”

Designed by Tokyo-based architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa/SANAA the museum is a seven-story, eight-level structure located at 235 Bowery between Stanton and Rivington Streets in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

Faith Ringgold at 91, has enjoyed a long career as an artist, writer, educator and activist. She was at the center of the Harlem Renaissance and her works document her struggles for social justice and equality.

I found the exhibit to be inspiring on many levels; as I viewed the works of art, I felt the rich legacy of black history. I also learned about the activism that Ringgold engaged in during her life in New York City.

I chatted briefly with one of the guards, a middle aged African American woman; she seemed eager to talk about the art work with me and seemed to show a special pride for the exhibition. She also shared information about a recent visit that Ringgold had made to the museum for a reception held in her honor.

Faith Ringgold: American People

I enjoyed viewing a series of works called story quilts that depicted the stories of important figures in the 20th century.

The Sunflowers Quilting Bee at Arles- Faith Ringgold

In “The Sunflowers Quilting Bee at Arles”, a quilt is surrounded by famous black luminaries including Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman. To the right stands Van Gogh holding a bunch of sunflowers!

In the story quilt, “Dinner at Gertrude Stein’s” from the French Collection, Part #9 991, the black writers Langston Hughes and Richard Wright sit along side Toklas, Gertrude Stein, Picasso and Ernest Hemingway.

“Dinner at Gertrude Stein’s from The French Collection, Part #9 1991: Faith Ringgold

Bessie’s Blues- Faith Ringgold

“Bessie’s Blues” portrays the jazz singer Bessie Smith. For this exhibit, the work is own loan from the Art Institute of Chicago. I was drawn to the bold colors and patterns and found this description talking about the parallels between art and music compelling:

Faith Ringgold employed thick lines and forms to portray the singer Bessie Smith, also known as “Empress of the Blues.” The deliberate dissonance between Smith’s melodies and their musical accompaniment finds a visual echo in Ringgold’s pared-down portrait of the glamorous Smith (known for bespangled dresses and sparkly jewelry). The subtle variations among the repeated portraits hint at the variations in pitch and rhythm in the choruses of Smith’s songs“. Art Institute of Chicago

There was a stunning view of Lower Manhattan from the 7th floor of the museum with the Freedom Tower in the distance. I reflected on our fragile democracy and on it’s resilience. Even with all of it’s flaws and challenges, change is possible; made so clear this past week with the confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson!

After experiencing such a beautiful and uplifting exhibit, my spirits were soaring and I was full of energy; ready for the well anticipated culinary part of my expedition!

I headed towards Grand and Mulberry Streets and to Dipalos Fine Foods, which has served the freshest Italian cheeses since 1925.

I love the homey atmosphere of the store; customers range from ultility workers, tourists and fellow foodies! On this particular day, owner Lou Dipalo’s wife brought out a tray of freshly made riggatoni, Italian sausage and tomato sauce. A delicious aroma wafted into the air and there was a collective sigh of appreciation by all of us customers standing in line.

Big hunks of cheese line the counters. Before the pandemic, customers were often treated to tastes of each cheese that they ordered. I ordered my usual; parmesan reggianno and freshly grated pecorino.

The next step was to get a Bubble Tea across the street from DiPalo’s at Ya Ya’s Tea. Often times Bubble Tea is too sweet for my taste, but here they made freshly brewed camomile tea sweetened with a bit of honey. I ordered a large with plenty of ice and with the addition of chewy pearl tapioca bubbles it was irresistible!

My next stop was to Mimi Chengs Dumplings on Broome Street. The plan was to get some dumpling to take home for dinner; I ordered chicken and zucchini and vegetable dumplings; some made it home!

Almost directly across the street is one of the best Italian pastry shops in the city; Cafe Roma. The day had gone so well, I thought I would treat myself to a pastry to eat on the way home.

As I entered the cafe, I was greeted by the heady scent of espresso and pastries. There was quite an assortment of Italian delicacies, but this day I was drawn to the flaky sfogliatelle that sat on top of the counter.

There is a story that the pastry originated on the Amalfi coast and was created by a nun at convent with left over semolina, lemon liqueur, sugar and dried fruit.

Driving home, I enjoyed my sfogliatelle immensely. I bit into the crispy buttery crust; filled with ricotta cheese, semolina and flavored with vanilla and small pieces of lemon citron, it was one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted! I have to say, I did make a bit of a mess; the front of my jacket was covered with powdered sugar and bits of crisp flaky pastry!

Often times when I am walking, my thoughts turn to what I might make for dinner that evening. I will think about what ingredients are on hand and then go from there. On one cold blustery early spring day, I was thinking of making a middle eastern fish stew. I had a nice piece of cod and some oil cured black olives. But when I started to cook, my mood started to shift towards Italian spices and a way to use some of my pungent grated pecorino cheese that I had just purchased from DiPalos. I saw a jar of capers in the fridge and imagined my stew served over whole wheat linguini and in a flash Fish Soup ala Pantelleria was born!

Fish Stew Ala Pantelleria

Ingredients:

1 pound cod

1 can diced fire roasted tomatoes

1 medium red potato cut into small pieces

1 onion finely diced

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

4-5 mushrooms sliced

handful of green beans cut into small pieces

handful of lacinato kale, tough core removed and cut into small pieces

1/4 cup pitted oil cured black olives

1 bay leaf

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup capers , rinsed and drained

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried thyme

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

red pepper flakes to taste

water to cover casserole

1/2 box whole wheat linguini

freshly grated pecorino cheese

To Make Fish Stew:

Rinse cod and cut into medium size chunks- set aside.

In a large heavy cast iron pot, add olive oil and heat. Add onions and saute until softened and then add garlic, cook briefly for a minute or so.

Add all other ingredients except the fish and then cover with water. If you have a good white wine on hand, you could add a cup or so here! Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook about 30-40 minutes until the vegetables are soft.

Add fish and cook just a few minutes more until fish flakes easily. Do not overcook the fish!

Prepare linguini.

Serve with freshly ground pepper and grated pecorino.

ENJOY!!

AND: Here is the “Tree of the Week”

” Oh My, What a Crazy World”

HAPPY SPRING AND STAY SAFE!!

A Sunny Trek at Thousand Acre Swamp and Ukrainian Dried Fruit Strudel!

March 14, 2022 Thousand Acre Swamp- New Marlborough, MA

Winter really is over, the sun felt warm on our faces and the sky was a brilliant blue; a lovely day for an invigorating walk with friends at Thousand Acre Swamp in New Marlborough , MA. The trail meanders gently through a forest of hemlock and black cherry trees with views of Thousand Acre Swamp.

How quickly the weather changes this time of year. We returned yesterday and the landscape was completely different; although a brisk chilly wind reminded us that winter has only just left us!

Thousand Acre Swamp- March 21, 2022

We crossed a rickety suspension bridge. The strong wind whipped the water underneath into interesting patterns and made the bridge sway back and forth with a motion that was a bit unsettling to say the least!

In my last blog entry, I talked about the family history on my father’s side. They came from the section of Russia that at the time included Poland and Ukraine; around 1914. My Grandpa Sam wrote a detailed and poignant account about growing up in a small poor town rife with antisemitism and their eventful trip to the United States. I don’t have the same documentation for my Grandma Bella, who came from the same area of the Ukraine. But, I do have rich memories; I remember her deep throaty voice with a heavy Russian accent. She had intelligent bright brown eyes and she rubbed her tiny worn hands energetically together as she listened avidly to other’s conversations. She did not have much formal education and spent her life taking care of a small dark apartment in St. Louis; I remember the plastic covered sofa and the scent of mothballs and schmalz in the air. I imagine that in different circumstances she would have been an excellent journalist or lawyer.

Grandma Bella

Her life revolved around her family and she often sent us packages of her homemade strudel. I regret that I never watched her prepare the pastry; I was an impatient teenager. I didn’t have the chance to listen to her family stories about the old country, although perhaps she would not have been comfortable talking about the hardships that she had endured.

I have never tasted any other strudel like my grandmother’s. Most strudels that I have tried had a flaky almost phyllo like pastry and were filled with either apples, cherries or poppy seeds. Grandma Bella’s strudel had a pastry covering that was very thin, more like the pastry for rugelach or a thin pliable pie crust. The filling had dried apricots, raisins and walnuts and was flavored with cinnamon.

I did a google search for Ukrainian/Russian strudel and although some of the ingredients were different, the recipe sounded a great deal like her strudel. I decided to make strudel and this is what I came up with. It was remarkably similar and was delicious. I liked it way too much and tried to give away as much as possible. I think Grandma Bella would have approved!!

Ukrainian Dried Fruit Strudel

Ukrainian Dried Fruit Strudel ( from Food Network; based on a recipe by Wayne Harley Brachman)

Sour Cream Pastry:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter cut into pea sized bits

1/2 cup sour cream

Dried Fruit Filling:

1 cup pitted organic prunes

1/2 cup organic prune juice

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup dried cherries

1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

cinnamon for dusting top of strudel

1 egg

2 tablespoons water

Directions

  1. Put the flour in the bowl of an electric mixer. On slow, mix in the butter until it looks like very coarse meal. Mix in the sour cream until it masses together to form a dough. Pat into a rectangle, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.

Dried Fruit Filling:

  1. Filling:
  2. Coarsely chop the prunes. In a small saucepan, cover the prunes with the prune juice and sugar. Bring to a simmer for 3 minutes. Place in a food processor with the vanilla and puree to a paste. Mix in the raisins, cherries and walnuts. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a square 16 by16 inches. Place the filling in a log running along the bottom and roll up. Pinch the ends closed. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet, seam side down. Mix the egg and water together to form a wash and paint the strudel. Dust lightly with cinnamon. Bake for 30 minutes until crisp and golden. Let cool on a rack, then slice into 1 inch pieces. Wait until very cool to slice; use a serrated bread knife.

This week, I have strayed from my trusty “Tree of the Week” and morphed to stone! No fear, the trees will be back shortly. This rock caught my eye and I imagined a face with a crooked sly smile and one tooth sticking out the corner of it’s mouth!

Thousand Acre Swamp New Marlborough, MA

HAPPY SPRING!!

Vibrant Colors and Albanian Bureks!

New York Botanical Garden- September 2021 Exhibit KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature
Beaver Dam Road Salisbury, CTFebruary 2022

The contrast could not be more stark. The colors on a recent walk were mono chromatic; I felt as if I was in an old black white film. Time to write about a trip to the New York Botanical Garden in September 2021, when I viewed the eccentric, whimsical and boldly colorful work of the contemporary Japanese artist, Yayoi Kusama.

Yayoi Kusama New York Botanical Garden

Pre-pandemic, my usual routine was to commute to New York on Fridays to teach at Hofstra University and then if I did not have a rehearsal scheduled for Saturday, I would excitedly plan a food/art/ethnic neighborhood exploration. I had great fun finding unusual places and small out of the way Mom and Pop ethnic restaurants. This all ended abruptly in March of 2020.

Last September, during a lull in the covid case rate, I started teaching in person again at Hofstra and felt safe enough to go on one of my Saturday excursions. I decided to return to an area of the Bronx and The New York Botanical Garden that I had last visited in 2019. I had the wonderful fortune to view Yayoi Kusema’s featured exhibition. Before I headed up to the Bronx, I made a visit to Zabars, a beloved Westside fancy food store selling the freshest cheeses, the best smoked fish, coffee, breads, etc.; complete with rude but skillful countermen at the smoked fish counter. I loved listening to their sarcastic banter as they expertly sliced nova lox, whitefish and sable; I had missed the aroma of lox and freshly baked bagels mingling in the air with Mozart playing softly in the background.

Kusama: Cosmic Nature

When I arrived at the Botanical Gardens, proof of vaccination was required and we were asked to wear masks at all of the indoor locations. I felt completely safe and even though there were crowds of people, it felt almost normal!

Yayoi Kusama’s wildly colorful and playful sculptures were placed throughout the gardens; some outside and others inside galleries and the Haupt Conservatory.

The artist wrapped trees with dotted fabric and this moved in perfect lockstep with my love of anthromorphizing trees, one of which became a favorite “Tree of the Week”.

” I felt like getting dressed up today!

I was also touched by the artists’s compelling bio; this is from her website:

Yayoi Kusama dazzles audiences worldwide with her immersive “Infinity Mirror Rooms” and an aesthetic that embraces light, polka dots, and pumpkins. The avant-garde artist first rose to prominence in 1960s New York, where she staged provocative Happenings and exhibited hallucinatory paintings of loops and dots that she called “Infinity Nets.” Kusama also influenced Andy Warhol and augured the rise of feminist and Pop art. She has been the subject of major exhibitions at the Museum of Modern ArtCentre PompidouTate Modern, and the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo. In 1993, Kusama represented Japan at the Venice Biennale. Today, her work regularly sells for seven figures on the secondary market. Throughout her disparate practice, Kusama has continued to explore her own obsessive-compulsive disorder, sexuality, freedom, and perception. In 1977, Kusama voluntarily checked herself into a psychiatric hospital in Tokyo, where she continues to live today.

Continuing on my walk through the gardens, I was also fascinated by plants and giant lily pads in the pond outside of the Haupt Conservatory.

After walking quite a distance through the gardens, not wanting to miss any of the installations, I became quite hungry. It was time to revisit Dukagjini Burek, I had last been there in 2019. Only a five minute drive from the Botanical Gardens, I was delighted to discover that the small Albanian restaurant located at 758 Lydig Avenue had made it through the pandemic! I was also heartened to learn that my aggressive instinct for finding parking spots in NYC had not disappeared! As I entered the small restaurant, that for the time being is only open for takeout, the hard working counter person and a few customers were speaking Albanian. To my ear, the soft lilting sounds fell somewhere between Greek and Slavic.

Counter Worker cutting Bureks

The small menu includes three kinds of bureks; meat, spinach and cheese. I ordered a slice of the spinach burek and a small plastic container of plain yogurt; nothing fancy here! I took my treasures back to my car a few blocks away and had a lovely picnic. The crisp buttery crust of the burek had the texture of phyllo dough with a bit more heft to it and the spinach filling was mixed with bits of soft onion, feta and herbs. The yogurt complimented the richness of the pastry and filling; simply put- totally delicious! I think it would be well worth a trip to the Bronx just for bureks!!

The days are visibly brightening up, the sun is stronger and I hear the sweet sounds of bird song ; some hearty souls that have made an early return!

Kelsey Road- Sheffield, MA

Still, the weather is cold and bracing and calls for hearty comfort food. Paul recently showed me a recipe that he saw on a website called Little Spice Jar for Pesto Chicken Meatball Soup. It sounded delicious and this is the version that I came up with! If you have the time to make a batch of home made chicken broth, this is great, but store bought will also work in a pinch.

Pesto Chicken Meatball Soup

Ingredients

2 quarts chicken stock

6-7 pieces of lacinato kale- tough centers removed and cut into ribbons

1/2 cup small dried pasta (any small shape is fine)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Chicken Meatballs

  •  1 pound ground chicken
  •  ½ cup panko breadcrumbs (add more if mixture seems too soft)
  •  1 large egg
  •  2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
  •  2 tablespoons prepared pesto
  • 2 small garlic cloves finely chopped
  •  1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • few grinds of freshly ground pepper

To Make Meatballs:

Combine all of the above ingredients and mix well.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet.

With wet hands, form mixture into medium size meatballs and saute in olive oil until nicely browned on all sides.

To Make Soup:

Place chicken stock in a large pot and bring to a simmer.

Add meatballs, kale and bring to a boil.

Lower hear to a simmer and cook for about an hour.

Make Pasta

To Serve Soup:

Place a serving in each bowl, add desired amount of pasta

Top with grated percorino cheese and freshly ground black pepper

ENJOY!!

AND, here is the “Tree of the Week”!

Spring really is coming, I promise!!”

STAY SAFE AND WARM!!

Winterscapes and Lots of Chocolate!

Bray Road- Buckland, MA

I have never been the most athletically talented person, but I think I may have found my true winter calling- snowshoeing!! A friend suggested trying it out. I put on a borrowed pair the other day and duck footed, glided off! My own bright turquoise and gold pair will arrive next week. The snow shoes give me great balance; no fear of careening out of control down a hill on cross country skis and best of all I can traipse to my heart’s content through deep snow in the woods taking photos!

Bray Road- Buckland, MA

Walks on the last few weeks have been glorious, even with frigid temperatures. The contrast of light and shadows on the snow, water and sky has been breathtaking; some days with brilliant blue skies and others cloudy, misty and atmospheric.

I have picked some of my favorite photos for a slideshow:

SKY:

WATER:

SNOW:

All of this cold weather has made me crave chocolate even more than usual and put me in the mood for chocolate cake! I wanted to find a recipe that tasted fudgy and rich; without the fat and calories. I found this simple one bowl vegan chocolate cake recipe from allrecipes.com. For a low glycemic cake, I swapped out the sugar with Monk Fruit Sweetener and Coconut Sugar. To fancy up the cake, I made a dark chocolate pudding filling to sandwich between the layers and for the topping. I adapted the recipe for the chocolate pudding from a treasured old cookbook called fittingly, Chocolate Cake by Michele Urvater. With the addition of Lily’s Stevia Chocolate Chips and some toasted pecans for decoration, it was irresistible!

Snowy Day Chocolate Pudding Vegan Chocolate Cake

Cake Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour 
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup monk fruit sweetener
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar*- see note
  • 1 cup water

To Make Cake:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease and line one 8×10 cake pan with greased wax or parchment paper.
  • Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Add the oil, vanilla, vinegar and water. Mix together until smooth.
  • Pour into prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for about 25-30 minutes. Do not overbake, the cake should remain soft and fudgy. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  • Remove cake from pan, peel off wax paper and place on rack to cool.

Chocolate Pudding Filling– adapted from Chocolate Cake by Michele Urvater

Ingredients:

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/3 cup monk fruit sweetener ( this makes a very bittersweet pudding, feel free to add up to 1/2 to 3/4 sugar.)

1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond or soy milk

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

4 ounces dark chocolate chopped (I used Equal Exchange Extremely Dark chocolate, but you could semi or bittersweet chocolate for a sweeter taste)

To make the pudding:

In a small mixing bowl, with a fork or small whisk, combine the cornstarch with 1/2 cup of the milk.

In a small saucepan over low heat, bring the remaining 1 cup milk to a simmer with the sugar, stirring occasionally so the milk does not boil over. Remove the saucepan from the heat.

Whisk the cornstarch and milk in the bowl again to make sure the cornstarch is dissolved, and add this to the hot milk and sugar mixture. Return the saucepan to the heat and bring to a simmer until the mixture thickens, whisking constantly. Remove from the hear and add chocolate, stirring until chocolate melts into the mixture. Stir in almond extract. Put pudding in a bowl and refrigerate until cold.

To fill the cake:

Carefully slice cake with a serrated bread knife in half and place one piece on a plate. Spread half of pudding mixture and place other half on top.

Spread remaining pudding on top and sprinkle with Lily’s Stevia Chocolate Chips. Decorate with toasted pecans. This would also be nice to decorate with sliced strawberries or raspberries.

* I was curious to find out why vinegar was called for in the recipe. For the kitchen science geeks, it turns out that vinegar reacts with baking soda to create a chemical reaction that makes the crumb of the cake light and tender!

ENJOY!!

I have become more than a little obsessed with the Great British Baking Show and in one installment the contestants made rich molten chocolate puddings filled with peanut butter. I decided to make my own lighter version with the vegan chocolate pudding batter and they were delicious- also addictive!!

Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Muffins

To make muffins:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

Lightly grease a muffin tin ( this recipe will make about 8 muffins)

1 recipe of vegan chocolate cake batter

Fill each muffin cup with the vegan chocolate cake batter about 2/3 of the way.

Place a heaping teaspoon of peanut butter in the center of each muffin.

Top each muffin with remaining batter.

Bake about 10-12 minutes. The centers should jiggle slightly and it’s better for these to be slightly under baked!

ENJOY!!

The other day as I sat carving oboe reeds in my study, my husband called excitedly from the living room. He had just come upon a poem, very appropriate for our time, by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Published in 1818, the famous poem describes how powerful men are destined to fade into oblivion. Very cheering to think that one un- named boastful tyrant we know only too well, will follow this route!!

Ozymandias

Percy Bysshe Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

AND: Here is the “Tree of the Week!

“Have I Got a Story for You!!”

STAY SAFE AND WARM!!

Bray Road- Buckland, MA