A Sweet and Healthy New Year!

Rosh Hashana was early this year and I was feeling ambivalent about sitting with a large group of people in a synagogue or staring at a Zoom screen for hours. A friend mentioned that she was going to spend the holiday communing with nature; an excellent idea. This seemed to be exactly what I was seeking!

Paul found a beautiful trail right down the road from Tangle Wood in Lenox, MA run by Mass Audubon called Pleasant Valley. The day was warm and sunny with a beautiful breeze. We took a trail that meandered through marshland, ponds and pine forests.

The trail crisscrossed over several burbling brooks that rushed over mossy rocks. During Rosh Hashanah a tradition is observed called Tashlich. Small stones are thrown into the water to cast off one’s sins. I remember being at a service once where the cantor said that the ritual might also be used as a way to cleanse one’s self of unwanted grudges or to create intentions for positive change. I chose this route and as I tossed a few stones into the water, I felt an immediate sense of lightness.

I had brought my recorder along thinking I might play an improvisation that sounded slightly Hebraic and pastoral at the same time. I was hoping to find an inspirational location and was not disappointed!

Now the only thing needed for a perfect Rosh Hashanah was a delicious dessert with apples. I looked through a few of my old blogs and found a recipe I had included for apple kuchen, from Smitten Kitchen. This moist dessert reminds me of the apple kuchen we had in Germany when my daughter and I were on our “Following in Bach’s Footsteps” journey a few years ago! When baking this cake, your house will smell heavenly as the rich aromas of butter, vanilla, cinnamon and apples fill the air!

Apple Kuchen (from Smitten Kitchen)

Topping
4 tiny-to-small apples, halved, peeled and cored
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Batter
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (125 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (6 tablespoons) granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey (any variety you like to eat)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs, separated
2 good pinches of salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Glaze
1/4 cup honey
A good pinch of sea salt

Heat oven: To 350°F. Coat a 9-inch springform with butter or a nonstick spray. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper.

Prepare apples: Place peeled, halved and cored apples cut-side-down on a cutting board. Use a knife to create parallel thin slices, but only cut halfway through each apple so that the apples stay intact. Don’t fret if you cut through, however; you can just reassemble the halves on the cake in a few minutes.

In a bowl, toss apples with lemon juice and 2 tablespoon granulated sugar.

Prepare cake base: Beat butter and 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar together in a bowl with electric beaters until fluffy. Add honey and beat until combined. Add vanilla and egg yolks, beating until just combined. Sprinkle salt and baking powder over cake batter, and mix for just 5 seconds, until they disappear. Add flour, half at a time, mixing only until just combined.

In a separate bowl with cleaned beaters, beat egg whites until stiff. Stir 1/4 of them into the cake batter, to lighten it a little. Fold in the rest in three additions. It will seem impossible to fold in at first because the batter is so stiff, but it will loosen with careful folding. Only fold the last addition of egg whites until it has mostly disappeared (a couple faint streaks of egg white are fine).

Spread cake batter in prepared cake pan, smoothing the top. Arrange apple halves facedown over the cake batter. To warn, 4 tiny/small apples will definitely fit over the cake batter. When I made it with 4 small-almost-medium apples, I could only fit 3 1/2 of them. No need to press the apples into the batter. You can pour any extra lemon juice and sugar in the bowl over the apples.

Bake cake: 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick or skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let rest on a cooling rack for 5 minutes, then cut around the cake to make sure it’s not sticking to the pan at all, and unhinge the sides. Let cake cool completely. You can store it at room temperature at this point, or after you add the honey, for up to 5 days 3 days at room temperature. After that, a fridge is best for longevity. The cake is lovelier on day 2 than day 1.

Before serving, if you’d like the glaze to look glossy, or whenever the cake is cool, if you don’t mind if the honey sinks into the cake: Warm 1/4 cup honey and a good pinch of sea salt until it liquefies to the point where it makes a thin glaze — this will take less than 30 seconds. Brush honey-salt mixture over cooled cake.

I added a sprinkle of cinnamon on the top of the cake before baking.

ENJOY!

This was a perfect Rosh Hashanah! Best Wishes for a Happy and Healthy 5782!

After the Rain: Joffey Preserve

Joffey Nature Sanctuary-New Marlborough, MA

This summer our lives have once again become busy; dinners with friends, visits to museums, traveling, rehearsing and performing concerts and perhaps best to all, having the freedom to plan spontaneous excursions. I am thankful and feel blessed that we have come through this part of the pandemic. The only thing that I am wistful for are the daily hikes and walks that we took this past year. With no other distractions and the only safe activity, it developed into a joyful distraction. Not wanting to lose this precious connection to nature, I have had to make a conscious effort to allot time for walking.

The other day, in between all of the soggy rainy weather, the sun peeked out briefly. The perfect place for a short walk was the Joffey Nature Sanctuary in New Marlborough, MA. The one mile trail winds around a pristine micro ecosystem that includes a marsh and woodlands.

As I entered the woods, I was surrounded by the damp pungent scent of pine needles and saturated tree bark. The pine needles underfoot felt like I was stepping on a soft pillow.

Because of the extra moisture, tiny fungi and mushrooms had sprung up and dotted the forest floor.

Algae covered much of the marsh, creating delicate patterns on the water that looked like abstract paintings.

A few benches are placed along the path; we plan to return with books and iced tea on a hot day!

This summer, it’s also once again a great pleasure to visit farm stands and farm markets. One of my favorite places is the Silamar Farm Stand in Millerton, New York. The other day, I bought sugar snap peas, cucumbers, dill, red beets and Sky Farm mesclun mix. With my delicious bounty, I made a summer salad with grilled salmon and creamy hummus. Made with canned chickpeas, garlic, lemon and tahini, the hummus comes together in under 5 minutes. I made a simple salad dressing with olive oil and Carr’s Cider House Cider Vinegar. The vinegar is sweet, not too astringent and tastes almost like a good balsamic vinegar. This along with some crusty French sourdough bread, made a light and delicious summer dinner.

Quick Hummus

Ingredients:

1 can chickpeas drained and rinsed

1 clove garlic minced

2 tablespoons tahini

freshly squeezed lemon to taste

1 teaspoon ground cumin

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

water

To Make Hummus:

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor.

Blend for about a minute. The mixture will be crumbly and rough looking.

Add water a bit at a time and blend. When the mixture looks smooth, blend for about another minute more until creamy and very smooth. Adjust seasonings and enjoy!

AND: with my bounty of red beets it was time to make Summer Borscht! This is absolutely one of my favorite things about summer. Made with plenty of crunchy cool radishes, cucumber, scallions, dill and a big dollop of yogurt, it is refreshing and delicious alone or better yet with a slice of fresh rye bread. It is also great topped with a sliced hard boiled egg!

Summer Borscht

Ingredients:

4 or 5 large red beets

1/2 cup diced cucumber

1/2 cup diced radish

1/2 cup minced dill

1/4 cup diced scallion or chives

salt and pepper to taste

brown rice vinegar to taste* see note

1 or 2 tablespoons honey to taste

1/2 or more plain yogurt

Prepare Borscht:

Scrub Beets well and if large cut in half

Cover with water in a medium sized pot

Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer

Cover and cook until tender

Save water that beets were cooked and strain into a large bowel

Let beets cool completely

Peel Beets and cut into small dice

Add diced beets along with cucumber, radish, dill and scallions or chives into reserved beet liquid

Add brown rice vinegar to taste- start with a small amount and add more as desired.

Stir in yogurt and honey

Add salt and pepper to taste

Refrigerate for at least a day to let flavors meld

Serve with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream

Add a sliced hard boiled egg on top if desired

Note: I do not specify exact amounts of brown rice vinegar, honey or yogurt. After the borscht sits for a day or two, you can add more seasonings to your taste.

ENJOY!!

AND: Here are “Two Trees of the Week!” I was uncharacteristically at a loss for their captions- any takers??

STAY SAFE AND ENJOY THE SUMMER!!

A Search For Wild Yellow Violets

Lately we have been seeking out violets; in particular the illusive wild yellow violet. Our inspiration came from a walk that we took last summer at the William Cullen Bryant Homestead. Throughout the trail, there are placards that include some of Bryant’s most famous poems. Originally his childhood home, he summered at this idyllic spot in rural Cummington, Massachusetts.

We were touched by the romantic and lyrical stanzas of the poem, The Yellow Violet; where Bryant recalls finding the tiny and secretive violet that bloomed in the spring on his property.

On a visit a few weeks ago to the Bryant Homestead, we set out to find yellow violets; not sure where to look. At first, we thought they might be a woodland plant and possibly be where the placard of the poem was; deep in the woods, near a gurgling rivulet stream. But alas, no luck! I thought that the plants might need more sunlight and we walked back up the trail closer to road. We found several early wildflowers and a field of lovely purple and white violets, and some white violets; but no yellow flowers!

A week or so later, I was in Torrington, Connecticut. For those not familiar with the Northwest Hills of Connecticut, Torrington is a small scrappy city with a population of about 40,000. It was once a bustling factory town and it is now a bit rough around the edges and like many older American cities, there are sad boarded up abandoned buildings lining the streets. Somehow, even though the city feels worn down and tired, I often sense an air of possibility; either inspired by a tireless and innovative arts organization, a children’s chorus or a good small new restaurant that opens.

The day I was in Torrington, I had a small oral surgery procedure and then I went to change my snow tires. As I walked into the tire store, the novicane in my mouth started to wear off and a throbbing pain started. I thought that while waiting for my car, a walk might be a good way to distract me from the discomfort. My husband Paul had traversed the same route a few days before when he changed the tires on his car. He mentioned finding a few interesting sites. So, off I went!

Having spent so much time this past year observing nature, one of the first things that I noticed on a busy noisy street was a small patch of white and purple violets thriving in gravelly soil close to the sidewalk.

Shortly after that I came upon the 9/11 Memorial that Paul had mentioned. Next to a firehouse, a metal beam from the Twin Towers juxtaposed with the American flag made a poignant statement. Normally, I would have missed this entirely, driving quickly by. This day, I sat for a few minutes on a nearby stone wall and quietly paid my respects for the souls that lost their lives on 9/11.

Very close to the memorial, I found the next site that Paul had discovered. Torrington was home to an innovative guitar maker, James Ashborn and on this site there was once a guitar factory. Ashborn, who was English, opened the factory in Torrington around 1850. The area was ideal because it had plenty of water power and an abundance of wood to make guitars.

I spent over an hour walking, happily distracted; almost forgetting completely about my discomfort. I was excited that I had found inspiration and new discoveries-when at first glance, it seemed as if there was nothing new to be seen!

A few days later, undeterred, Paul and I decided to return to the Bryant Homestead to continue our quest for the illusive yellow violet. We thought that perhaps some of the violets might be in the field near Bryant’s childhood home.

Again we found white, striped and purple violets, but no luck. It was like finding a needle in a haystack! At the edge of the field, something made me walk near a tree a few feet away and there it was, a lone yellow violet peeking tentatively through a few blades of grass! “AHA” I crowed excitedly to Paul. And, then nearby, we saw a small group of yellow violets clustered together!

This stanza from the Yellow Violet poem so fittingly described what we saw:

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.

So delicate and beautiful!!

Often when I am walking, my thoughts not surprisingly turn to food. One particular day, I was in the mood for veggie burgers. I thought about what ingredients I had on hand; some cooked mixed grain quinoa, toasted walnuts, onions and garlic. When I got home I sauteed onion and garlic until it softened. A friend had mentioned a good substitute for egg using ground flax seed. I followed her directions and the ground flax magically emulsified into an egg like substance. I whirred this together in my food processor with the quinoa, onion and garlic, walnuts, a can of black beans, bread crumbs; seasoned with ground sage, thyme, oregano, cumin and salt & pepper to taste. I formed the mixture into patties and let them firm up in the fridge for a while. I heated a cast iron pan until quickly sauteed the veggie burgers in a bit of olive oil until they were crisp and lightly browned.

Served on toasted brioche buns from Berkshire Mountain Bakery, topped with caramelized onions and sauteed mushrooms, excellent homemade garlic pickle slices that a friend gave me, a quick sauce made with vegenaise and ketchup and some sauteed radish greens, they were delicious!

I served a salad of firm bright red radishes with arugula simply dressed with lemon and olive oil; along with some oven roasted sweet potato fries, the feast was complete! A tall glass of frosty beer would also fit the bill!

Black Bean/Quinoa Veggie Burgers

Black Bean/ Quinoa Veggie Burgers

Ingredients:

Flax seed Egg Substitute

1 tablespoon ground flax seed

3 tablespoons hot water

Rest of Ingredients:

1 cup cooked mixed grain quinoa

1/2 cup toasted walnuts

1/4 bread crumbs

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 small onion finely chopped

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon ground sage

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon ground cumin

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 tablespoon olive oil

To Make Flaxseed egg substitute:

Place ground flaxseed in a small bowl and pour hot water over the flaxseed. Stir and let sit for a few minutes. Whisk and let sit until thickened- the mixture will look emulsified when it is ready.

To Make Veggie Burgers:

Heat olive oil in small pan. Saute onion until it softens and then add garlic. Cook for a minute or two.

Add sauteed onion and garlic along with flaxseed egg substitute to bowl of food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients and process until the mixture is smooth.

Form into patties (makes about 6-7 burgers) and chill for about an hour to firm up.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a heavy skillet and saute burgers until brown on one side. Flip over and brown other side. Enjoy!!

AND, I end with Paul cradling a yellow violet in his hand…….

AND- of course, here’s The Tree of the Week:

” I feel like I have a hole in my head!”

Hidden Gems: Solo Walks

Fox Brook Preserve-Goshen, CT

The past few weeks my husband Paul could not accompany me on our walks and explorations because of medical issues and true to Paul’s form, he sent me out on several solo walks to explore new locations! It all went well, except for one walk at the Lime Kiln Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Sheffield, MA. where we had actually been before. I belatedly realized that I was too busy taking pictures to watch carefully where I was going.

Lime Kiln Farm Wildlife Sanctuary

I often do not pay close attention to the trail markers and just follow Paul. At this particular walk, which should be about 1 mile, I felt like a mouse in a maze and until I found my way, walked over 3 1/2 miles! It was late in the afternoon and the weather was chilly and a bit threatening; I was very happy to see my bright blue car in the distance! Since then, I can happily report Paul is recuperated and thankfully back with me on the trails!

One of my solo walks was at the Fox Brook Preserve in Goshen, CT. on Route 4. I have driven by the tiny entrance to this walk for years on my way to chorus practices and doctor’s appointments in Torrington, CT. Very easy to miss, the trail is a hidden gem complete with a pine forest, large boulders, stone walls, a babbling brook with a suspension bridge, a grove of mountain laurel, a serene pond with hummocks and a small beaver dam!

As I entered the woods from the busy highway, this time paying close attention to where I was headed, the trail sloped up gently and transitioned to a peaceful pine forest with large glacial boulders strewn about. The noise of the road faded away quickly.

I walked through a grove of mountain laurel and felt as if I was in a private chapel, embraced gently by the plants. Near the end of June we will be surrounded by a fragrant blaze of color.

Holding tightly onto a thin guard wire, I traversed over a slightly rickety bridge. The late afternoon sun reflecting on the water was both mesmerizing and peaceful.

Approaching the pond, I saw a small knoll that seemed like a beautiful place to play one of the first improvisations of the season. We will return soon with a recorder and Native American flute in hand!

My next solo walk was at the Buttercup Farm Audubon Sanctuary in Northeastern Dutchess County, just south of Pine Plains, New York. The day I visited, I saw only one other person the whole time.

 There are six miles of trails throughout the sanctuary on over 641 acres. The preserve has over 80 species of birds including Great Blue Herons, Wood Ducks, Bobolinks and both Golden-winged and Lawrence Warblers.

Although I am happily vaccinated and can safely walk where there are more people, I revel in the solitude of walking alone peacefully with the birds and nature for company!

After my walk, I traveled on to Rhinebeck, NY to pick up bread from the wonderful artisanal bakery, Bread Alone. My online order included an organic whole wheat sour dough boule, a sourdough raison nut bread and a dense loaf of sourdough rye bread. I also had made an online order for Indian food from one of our favorite restaurants, Cinnamon. In addition to ordering Chicken Chettinad and Chana Gobi Masala, my big treat was a large Masala Dosa.

Dosas are made with a tangy crispy crepe with ingredients that include fermented rice and dal. Filled with seasoned mashed potato, sauteed onion, dal, cashews, mustard seeds and fresh curry leaves, it is both delicious and addicting!

I arrived early to Rhinebeck and my order at Cinnamon was not ready for another 40 minutes. I thought this might be a opportune time for a bit of people desensitizing! The Poet’s Walk is a few minutes away and is always filled with visitors. For most of the pandemic, we would drive by and see the parking lot filled with 40 or more cars and we would both say together,”No Way”!! This day, I decided to go for it! I saw signs asking people to wear their masks and most complied. The path winds gently through fields and the woods and at the top of a hill you can see the Hudson River and the Catskills off in the distance. I felt reasonably safe, although when a boisterous family without masks, came bounding down the path from the other direction, my protective instinct kicked in rather strongly and I moved quite a distance away into a field!

Poet’s Walk: Red Hook, NY

The other day, rummaging around in the freezer trying to find something for lunch, I came upon a container of lentil soup that I had made a few months ago. I sometimes find lentil soup a bit bland. I remembered when I had made this batch of soup that I added chicken chorizo sausage, smoked paprika and a small can of diced tomatoes. Along with kale, onion, carrot and celery; that did the trick! A bowl of this soup along with a slice of leftover dosa made an excellent lunch!

Lentil Soup

Ingredients:

2 cups dried lentils

1 chicken chorizo sausage cut into small pieces

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup chopped kale

2 carrots cut into small pieces

1 medium onion finely chopped

1 stalk celery finely chopped

1 small can diced tomatoes with juice

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon dried thyme

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

To Make Soup:

In a large pot, heat the olive oil.

Saute onion until it softens.

Add lentils, carrots, chicken chorizo sausage, celery, kale and diced tomatoes with the juice.

Cover with water and add bay leaf, smoked paprika, dried thyme and salt & pepper to taste.

Bring to boil and then cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook about 1 hour until vegetables are very soft and lentils are tender. If the soup is too thick, add a bit of water. Or, if it is too thin uncover the pot and cook the soup down until it is a thicker texture. This soup tastes even better the next day and freezes beautifully!

Enjoy!

This past Sunday, Paul showed me a map of the Great Mountain Forest in Norfolk, CT. and we took a short walk on a new trail. At the top of a hill we could see Tobey Pond peeking through the woods. I remember swimming there as a young music student at the Yale Summer School of Music. Perhaps it will be possible to swim and take my kayak there soon! Happy Spring!

Tobey Pond: Norfolk, CT

AND, I have two favorites this Trees of the Week that I saw on our walk.

Humpf!
Really?

Stay Safe!

Happy Spring from Parsons Marsh!

Parson’s Marsh- Lenox, MA

It was the second day of spring; the wind was brisk and the air had a chill to it, but the sun was shining brightly as we walked through Parsons Marsh Trail in Lenox, Massachusetts. The site, just down the road from the main entrance to Tanglewood, was designed and built by the Berkshire Natural Resources Council in 2018. The short trail winds through an open meadow, forested upland and ends at a large marsh. It is home to over 75 nesting bird species, white tailed deer, black bear, bobcat, red and grey fox, and the marsh also houses beaver, mink and otter!

Parson’s Marsh
Parson’s Marsh

In a few weeks the landscape will change dramatically; the trees and vegetation will be green and lush. Every year I am newly amazed at the rapid transition. Near the edge of the water at Parson’s Marsh, I saw the last small ice formations of the year.

Directly across from the trail is an old Berkshire “Cottage”that is now The Stonover Farm B&B. Built in 1890 by John Parsons, the existing cottage served as a farm house for the estate. The idyllic grounds stand on a spring fed duck pond and 10 acres.

Next to the main cottage is an old barn that houses a contemporary art gallery. This looks like it might also be a beautiful space for chamber music concerts!

A few weeks before Passover, I always make a large pot of chicken stock as a base for Matzoh Ball Soup; I cook a whole chicken along with onion, carrot, celery, bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns and dill. After simmering for a few hours, the resulting broth is rich with full depth of flavor, but the remaining chicken is very soft and tastes like cotton! Trying to avoid food waste, I tried to think of a use for the leftover chicken. I was in the mood for Italian cannelloni and came up with an idea for a filling. I removed the chicken from the bones and added this along with sauteed onion and garlic, lightly steamed broccoli rabe and a handful of toasted walnuts to the bowl of my food processor. I pulsed the mixture just a few times so the chicken would not get too pasty and then seasoned it with dried thyme, a pinch of both nutmeg and red pepper flakes and salt & pepper. Tasting the crumbly mixture, the texture of the chicken reminded me of dry ricotta cheese. So far so good!

I had purchased a few fresh lasagna sheets from Guido’s Fresh Marketplace in Great Barrington, MA. I cut the pasta into long strips, spread some filling in the center of each and rolled them up. Along with fresh tomato sauce, I have to say the result was delicious. I used no cheese, but feel free to top the dish with fresh grated mozzarella! There were 12 rolls and I thought this might be too much for two people, but they disappeared quickly! Hence the name of the dish-“Can’t Leave Them Aloni Cannelloni”!

“Can’t Leave Them Aloni Cannelloni”

Ingredients:

1 large sheet fresh lasagna pasta

For Filling:

leftover chicken from stock

1 small onion finely chopped

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

1 cup steamed broccoli rabe (the taste was slightly bitter, you can also substitute kale or baby spinach- if you use spinach, make sure to wring it out in a paper towel to remove extra moisture.)

handful of toasted walnuts- more or less will work just fine!

1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1 teaspoon dried thyme

pinch of red pepper flakes to taste

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 tablespoon olive oil

For Tomato Sauce:

1 large can crushed tomatoes

1 small onion finely chopped

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried sweet basil

1 bay leaf

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

splash of red wine (if you have an open bottle hanging around!)

To Make Cannelloni:

Make Sauce:

In a large pot, heat olive oil.

Saute chopped onion until it softens slightly.

Add chopped garlic and cook briefly.

Add crushed tomatoes and remaining ingredients.

Add about 1 cup water- you can always add more later if the sauce seems too thick.

Bring sauce to a boil and then cover and simmer for about 45 minutes. The sauce can be made the day before.

Make Filling:

Heat olive oil in a medium sized saute pan.

Add onion and cook until softened.

Add garlic and cook briefly.

In bowl of food processor, place chicken, steamed broccoli rabe, onion and garlic, walnuts, nutmeg, thyme and red pepper flakes.

Pulse a few times until mixture is crumbly. Do not over process as the texture will get pasty.

Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Assemble Cannollini:

Pre-heat oven to 365 Degrees.

Put 1/2 of the tomato sauce on the bottom of a large casserole dish.

Place a pasta sheet on the counter. Cut lengthwise into 6 even strips. Cut each strip in half. You should have 12 pieces of pasta.

Place a dollop of the filling in the center of each pasta piece and roll up.

Place the filled cannelloni seam side down over the sauce.

Put the remaining sauce over the top of the rolls.

Cover tightly with foil and bake about 35 minutes. When you insert a small paring knife in the center of a roll, it should feel soft and the sauce will be bubbly and fragrant! Uncover and cook about 5-10 minutes more and the rolls will brown up a bit. Remove from oven and let sit about 5 minutes before serving.

See how long it takes to finish these! Enjoy!

AND: Here is The Tree of the Week:

“Put that in your pipe and smoke it”

STAY SAFE!!

Kite Hill and Galumpki!

Watching hawks soaring freely and effortlessly on thermals at Kite Hill in Ancram, New York gave me hope that we will soon have more freedom-I have just had my second vaccine!

In the next few weeks, I will spread my wings and I can rehearse again with my group Hevreh Ensemble and we will be able to invite couples over for dinner and maybe even go to a museum! On our Kite Hill walk with distant views of the Catskills, my spirits began to soar!

Kite Hill- Ancram, NY
Kite Hill- Ancram, NY

At the top of the field is a small rustic gazebo that overlooks the distant mountains. This will be the site of my first outdoor spring musical improvisation!

Kite Hill- Ancram, NY

But, perhaps not so fast! The recent events that happened to a good friend’s daughter, brought to mind the kind of experiences that the famous Yiddish novelist Issac Bashevis Singer wrote about; characters that are often victim to cruel and unusual twists of fate!

Here is a true life story (with fictional names) that is akin to a modern day Yiddish Folk Tale!

Rena Hilfemacher is a gifted and accomplished photo journalist who works for several top New York City publications. During the pandemic she has ridden her bicycle tirelessly (no pun intended) on assignments throughout the city; many of them potentially exposing Rena to the covid virus. This past year, she has taken over 10 covid tests, thankfully all negative. When the vaccine became available in New York for certain age groups, she became somewhat of a maven in finding hard to get appointments for her parents, uncle, her parent’s friends, etc.- she was an online dervish- nothing could stop her! She thought wistfully that it would be wonderful if she too could get vaccinated. Rena had heard from a friend that if one volunteered with a soup kitchen, you would be eligible to be vaccinated; so this is what she did. She spent an afternoon, masked and socially distanced helping out in a soup kitchen; it was very rewarding and then at the end of the day, she received the document that she needed to sign up to get vaccinated.

This is where it starts to get interesting. A few days before Rena volunteered at the soup kitchen, one of her assignments was to photograph a family in their home and to document their struggles during the pandemic. The family was masked and she had on a double mask, but the thought had been at the back of her mind, that maybe she should get tested, just to be safe.

As she walked down the street, she saw an ominous looking black van with the following lettering, Covid-19 Testing: Lab Q and a placard next to it said, “Skip the Line.” A small voice of reason in her head, said “Walk away, now!” But then, her impetuous side took over, “Why not-what could it hurt, I’ll know quickly if I was exposed and then I can go get my vaccine!!

The result came quickly and unfortunately the test was positive. In shock and disbelief at this disturbing news, upon the advice of her mother she decided to get another test. This thankfully, came back negative and she breathed a big sigh of relief. However, unbeknownst to Rena was that her first positive test had been reported to contact tracing and soon after, she received a text stating that she needed to receive two negative tests and in the meantime she was required to quarantine for 10 days. Contact tracing recommended that she go to Bellevue Hospital for a test, as the tests done there are reported to be trusted and accurate.

She followed this advise and went to Bellevue, took the test and then went back home to her cozy quarantine to await the verdict. The results came back and said she was negative- great news- but not so fast!! They texted her shortly afterwards and said that the vial had been dropped and the contents had been contaminated, so could she come back for another test??

Again, luckily the result was negative, but in the meantime, contact tracing reached out to Rena and asked that she fill out an online report 2 times a day and the last I heard, Rena is finishing up her quarantine. In the meantime, her friends hearing about her prowess at getting vaccines for people, have been texting her-“Can you find me an appointment?” She did have a bit more free time for the next few days, so why not!! I am reminded of the old Yiddish proverb: “Mann Tracht, un Gott Lacht”- “man plans and god laughs!”

*Good news update: Rena finished her quarantine and was able to get an appointment for the Moderna vaccine at the Jacob Javits Center this weekend for herself and also for a friend who is a reporter!

This short story put me in the mood for some Eastern European comfort food and I thought of a big casserole of stuffed cabbage or in Polish, Galumpki!

Galumpki is a satisfying but very heavy dish; often made with pork or beef and smothered in sour cream. It might also be served with sauerkraut that has been cooked with crunchy bits of meat and mashed potatoes. Just imagining all of this makes me feel like a stuffed cabbage!

Thinking about a making a lighter version, brought to mind a quirky, very creative vegan restaurant that we visited a few years ago in Pittsburgh, called Apteka. The cuisine features food from central and eastern Europe. The food is entirely vegan and we came away after a meal feeling satisfied but not overfull. I checked out their current menu and this week the dishes included: Koltlet Selerowy- a celery root schnitzel with dilly potatoes, dressed beets, cabbage slaw, leek and apple and horseradish sauce! Another special this week is roast endive with black currant raisins, sour cherry vinegar and toasted hazelnuts. They also offer potato pancakes with celeriac remoulade, smoked cabbage and prune paste.

I decided to create light and healthy stuffed cabbage that also would fit in the category of comfort food. Cabbage rolls appear throughout central and eastern Europe with different names and versions. The name golabki means “little pigeons” in Polish referring to the roll’s rounded shape. The Czech and Slovak rolls are called holubky and Serbian and Croatian rolls are sarma- all unique and delicious! I am not sure what category my cabbage rolls would fall under, but I channeled my eastern European roots and carried on!

I made a tomato sauce with lots of vegetables including onion, garlic, zucchini, carrot and kale seasoned with dried thyme, paprika and hot pepper flakes. I cooked it all up and then pureed it with an immersion blender. For the filling, I had some leftover parsley pesto(that I made with parsley, toasted walnuts, garlic and olive oil), brown rice, sauteed shallots and mushrooms- seasoned with dried sage and thyme, a pinch of cayenne pepper and salt and pepper to taste. I stuffed the mixture into cabbage leaves, poured tomato sauce over it and baked it all until the cabbage rolls were tender and the sauce was bubbling and aromatic. To serve the dish, I thinned a bit of non-fat yogurt with water and poured this over the top of the cabbage rolls.

So, here they are! This would be great with a glass of cold frosty beer and some really good dark rye bread smeared with softened butter! I hope you enjoy making these!!

Vegetarian Galumpki

Vegetarian Galumpki

Ingredients:

6 cabbage leaves from 1 small green cabbage

For parsley pesto:

1 bunch organic Italian parsley

1/2 cup toasted walnuts

1 clove garlic

extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Rest of ingredients for filling:

1 cup cooked brown rice (I used organic brown basmati rice)

2 shallots finely chopped

3-4 mushrooms finely chopped

1 teaspoon ground sage

1 teaspoon dried thyme

pinch of cayenne pepper or more to taste

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Ingredients for Sauce:

1 large can whole tomatoes

1 carrot finely chopped

1 small zucchini finely chopped

1 medium onion finely chopped

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

1 /2 cup kale, stems removed, finely chopped

1 bay leaf

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste

To make Galumpki:

Prepare cabbage:

Remove core from cabbage and run hot water into the cored area to help in removing outer leaves. Remove 6 leaves and remove any thick ridges, this will make it easier to fold the rolls into packages. Keep remaining cabbage for other use.

Make Sauce:

In an large pot, add 2 tablespoons olive oil and over medium heat, saute onion until it softens, add garlic and saute a few minutes more.

Add chopped zucchini and carrot- saute for a few minutes.

Stir in tomatoes and add kale, bay leaf, thyme, paprika and red pepper flakes.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 45 minutes. This can also be made the day before.

Remove bay leaf and blend with an immersion blender until the sauce is smooth. It’s fine for small chunks of vegetables to remain!

Adjust seasoning and set aside.

Make Parsley Pesto:

Wash parsley thoroughly with cold water, cut off ends of stems. Don’t worry about drying the parsely, the extra moisture is good!

Place in food processor with garlic, toasted walnuts and olive oil.

Process until mixture is coarsely chopped.

Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

If mixture seems too stiff, add a bit more olive oil.

For this recipe, use 1/2 cup. You will have leftover pesto for another recipe!

This can be made a few days before, keeps well and is also great over whole wheat pasta!

Make rest of filling:

In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil, add chopped shallots and saute for a few minutes until softened. Add chopped mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms release their juices.

Add brown rice to onion mixture. Stir in 1 cup of the parsley pesto, 1 teaspoon ground sage, 1 teaspoon dried thyme and a pinch of cayenne pepper or to taste.

Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Assemble Galumpki:

Pre-heat oven to 350 Degrees

In a medium size casserole dish place half of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the dish.

Divide filling into 6 portions. Place a cabbage leaf on a plate and place a portion of the filling in the center. Fold both sides of cabbage leaf in towards each other and then fold from bottom to top. Place seam side down in dish on top of tomato sauce. Continue stuffing rest of rolls. Pour remaining sauce over the top of the rolls.

Cover pan tightly with foil and bake about 45 minutes until cabbage is easily pierced with a sharp paring knife. Uncover and bake about 10-15 minutes more.

Yogurt Sauce:

1 cup non-fat plain yogurt

mix yogurt with water until the consistency is pourable, but not too thin!

Let sit for a few minutes and then pour yogurt sauce over the top of the galumpki.

ENJOY!

AND: I leave you with The Tree of the Week!

“I’m grumpy because I didn’t get any galumpki!

STAY SAFE!

Hummocks, Flarks and A Vegetarian Indian Feast!

Kelsey Road: Sheffield, MA

This week I had planned on writing Part Two: Provence Revisited, but I was sidetracked by pristine fresh snow; a brilliant white palette for animal tracks and reflections of light. Provence can wait, for now it’s back to winter!

Our invigorating walks in the cold have been mostly on side roads and our steps are careful; plodding and heavier. Between wearing sturdy winter hiking boots and the snow covered roads, it feels as if my feet carry me along like the thick and heavy tread of snow tires! The slower pace gives one the advantage of noticing more and I am enthralled by the patterns of light and shadows on the snow.

Wild Turkey Tracks

A small puddle of water on the side of the road is transformed into an exquisite ice sculpture.

On Kelsey Road in Sheffield MA, we walked by a small marsh and Paul remarked that he thought that the tiny bumps and indentations covered with snow were called hummocks. I thought that they looked like a magical colony of snow elf dwellings! After checking on Wikipedia, we read that shallow wet depressions in swampy areas are also called flarks.

Walking along the road, we had a good deal of fun making up silly word combinations, but quickly realized that we needed to call on our dear friend Hal Ober, an amazing poet and writer. He writes a blog called The Old Hatchery. We asked him to come up with a fitting limerick and he willingly complied. Here it is!

Hummocks and flarks. Hummocks and flarks.
It’s enough to flummox the Brothers Marx!
Compounding the task with a limerick ask?
Why, I’d sooner recline in a hammock with sharks!


AND, then Hal also wrote a poem!

Boggier(but not a limerick)

A hummock’s a hollow,
A flark is a mound.
No, sorry! 
I’ve got that the wrong way around.


If you slog through a bog
Here’s a field note to savor:
A hummock’s convex
And a flark is concaver. 

Or picture a sine wave.
Why? Just for a lark.
The crest—that’s the hummock.
The trough is the flark.

Thank you Hal!!


AND, According to Wikepedia

In geology, a hummock is a small knoll or mound above ground.[1] They are typically less than 15 meters (50 ft) in height and tend to appear in groups or fields. It is difficult to make generalizations about hummocks because of the diversity in their morphology and sedimentology.[2] An extremely irregular surface may be called hummocky.[3]

An ice hummock is a boss or rounded knoll of ice rising above the general level of an ice-field. Hummocky ice is caused by slow and unequal pressure in the main body of the packed ice, and by unequal structure and temperature at a later period.

Hummocks in the shape of low ridges of drier peat moss typically form part of the structure of certain types of raised bog, such as plateaukermipalsa or string bog. The hummocks alternate with shallow wet depressions or flarks.

Strange as it may seem to some, especially this week with the whole country in crisis with a deep freeze, I love the cold weather. I find I have more energy and focus. After a long walk, I am ready to come back indoors and cook to my heart’s content. With a fire blazing in the woodstove, food can simmer on the stove for hours while I practice, plan for future concerts, read and write. In the summer, I feel languid and lazy. I am always trying to keep the house cool and cooking in general suffers.

While walking the other day, I passed a small farm that raises Highland cattle. Originally from the Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland, their heavy fur is suitable for strong winds and colder temperatures. I was able to get quite close and could see puffs of steam come out of their noses as they exhaled. They seemed very contented in the snow; I think I might have found some kindred spirits!

**********************************

Safely back inside, I began to think about dinner. For the holidays, my daughter gave me a cookbook by the Israeli/English chef Yotam Ottolenghi called Flavor. Well known for his innovative recipes using a wide range of flavor combinations, his most recent book features plant based recipes. This is perfect for us. These days we are leaning towards a mostly vegetarian diet for a number of reasons: health, environmental concerns and I also happen to love the many different cuisines that use vegetables in flavorful and creative ways; Asian, Middle Eastern, Indian; the possibilities seem endless. Looking through the book, I saw a recipe for Tofu Korma that sounded delicious. Luckily the day I made it, we were snowed in- it took most of the day to prepare! The recipe with instructions will appear at another time!

Tofu Korma from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Flavor

I decided to make an Indian vegetarian feast that was a bit less labor intensive. I made the following dishes over two days: Day One- Curried Vegetables, Kidney Bean Dal and Brown Rice. Day Two – Indian Pan Fried Cauliflower and Whole Wheat Naan along with leftovers from the previous night! A true feast!

Curried Vegetables
Kidney Bean Dal
Indian Pan Fried Cauliflower

The pan fried cauliflower, seasoned with cumin and black mustard seeds, turmeric, ginger and garlic is based on a recipe by David Tanis who is a contributor for the NYT Cooking column. Tanis has worked as a chef for many years at the renowned Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse; on my wish list to visit! I found the cumin and black mustard seeds in out of way container of Indian spices that I had purchased a while ago from a wonderful store called Kalustyan’s in Manhattan. Ideally spices should replaced after a year and I know that my supply is getting a bit old. Kalustyan’s has a great online store to order spices, but I think I will hold out until I can visit Curry Hill, the area between Lexington Avenue and 25th to 30th streets. I will also plan to visit Pongal an excellent vegetarian Indian restaurant in the neighborhood and will most definitely order a dosa!

Whole Wheat Naan

The naan was surprisingly easy to make; the only ingredients were whole wheat flour, yeast, salt and yogurt. I kneaded the dough in my mixer with a dough hook and they cooked very quickly on a hot griddle. The fun part was holding them over an open gas flame with tongs and they puffed up!

Curried Vegetables

Ingredients:

2 carrots cut into diagonal slices

1 zucchini cut into diagonal slices

1 cup frozen green beans

6-8 cherry tomatoes

1 medium onion diced

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger

1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic

2 teaspoons curry powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

To Make Vegetable Curry:

In a large saucepan pan, heat olive oil.

Add onions and saute until they soften and turn light brown.

Add garlic and ginger and saute about a minute.

Add cumin, salt & pepper to taste and curry powder and saute for two minutes.

Add vegetables and saute for two minutes.

Add a bit of water and cover pan. You can always add more water if the mixture gets too dry and the vegetables are not soft enough.

Reduce to a simmer and cook until vegetables are soft about 30 minutes.

Remove cover from pan and cook for a few minutes. You want a thick mixture-if there are bits of caramelized onion, garlic or ginger on the bottom of the pan this is good! Stir them up into the mixture.

Enjoy!

Kidney Bean Dal

Ingredients:

2 cans organic kidney beans drained and rinsed

1 small onion finely chopped

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon garam masala

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 bay leaf (if you have fresh curry leaf, this would be great!)

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro for garnish

To Make Kidney Bean Dal:

In a medium sized pot, heat olive oil.

Add onion and saute until it softens.

Add garlic and ginger- saute one minute.

Add turmeric, cumin, salt and pepper to taste.

Cover with water and bring to a boil.

Reduce to a simmer and cook until onions are soft and liquid is almost gone.

Uncover and cook a bit more until all liquid is gone.

Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve.

Enjoy!

Indian Pan-Fried Cauliflower

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small cauliflower, cored and sliced into 1/2 pieces

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger

2 garlic cloves finely chopped

1/2 cup frozen peas

To Make Cauliflower:

Heat a large saute pan or cast-iron skillet over medium to high heat.

Add the oil and when it is hot, add cauliflower in one layer. Let it brown and then stir. Season with salt and pepper and cook about 5 minutes more.

Push cauliflower over to one side of the pan and add a bit more olive oil.

Add cumin seeds, mustard seeds and tumeric and when the mixture begins to sizzle, add ginger and garlic.

Add peas and stir well.

Add water to almost cover vegetables, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.

Cover pan and cook until the cauliflower is tender and the liquid is evaporated, about 10-15 minutes, the timing can vary.

At this point, you can cook the mixture a few minutes more to brown and crisp things up.

Enjoy!

Whole Wheat Naan

Ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

small pinch of sugar

2 tablespoons non-fat yogurt

1 teaspoon salt

lukewarm water

To Make Naan:

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, pinch of sugar, salt and yeast.

Place the yeast and salt on opposite sides of the bowl, this is because salt will adversely effect the yeast if the are mixed together while still dry.

Add yogurt and a small amount of water and knead briefly to make a smooth dough. You can continue kneading by hand for 5 minutes, but I used the dough hook on my mixer for 5 minutes and it was fine!

Cover the dough and let it rise in a warm place for about 2 hours until it is doubled in size.

This is one of the fun parts- punch the dough down and knead for a couple more minutes.

Make 6-8 portions of the dough into balls and allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes. The dough will rise again a bit more.

Lightly dust a working surface with flour and roll the balls into ovals or circles, do not roll out too thin.

Heat a skillet on medium-high heat, place the rolled whole wheat naan over the heated skillet and cook on both sides. You will notice brown spots come on the top and the naans will puff up with air pockets. 

This was my favorite part. If you have a gas flame, you can optionally cook it directly over the flame once it is partially done on the skillet and let the breads puff up over the open flame!

You can smear some butter over the hot breads if desired!

ENJOY THE FEAST!!

Happy Rest of Winter! For the warm weather lovers, spring will be here soon! Stay warm and safe!

An addendum: hummocks and flarks on today’s snowy walk on Kelsey Road!

The Bullitt Reservation and Andre Soltner’s Roast Chicken!

A few weeks ago on a visit to the Bullitt Reservation in Ashfield, Massachusetts, there was so much snow on the ground that we could not access the trials.

We walked along a dirt road near the trial and as we looked off into the woods, we saw an owl perched high in a snowy tree. The brown and white markings on the bird blended in with the stark winter landscape. The owl sat majestically observing all around him and then suddenly his wings opened into a wide span and he flew off through the still air; effortlessly and smoothly without a sound.

This past year, my husband Paul has become a maverick trail sleuth and I have become the guinea pig in chief; sometimes complaining a bit about mud, heat, losing our way on the trail, the steep elevation; but in the end, always willing! He has found many unusual and out of the way trails and nature preserves. The Bullitt Reservation is one of his new excellent finds! The gentle trail is nestled between mixed woodlands, farm buildings, streams and fields on 3,000 acres of protected land. We often only encounter a few other people on the trail and feel the lovely stillness in the air.

Paul enjoys delving into the historical background of the various sites that we visit; it enriches our appreciation for each trail or land trust and it creates a sense of place. In Pauls’ words:

William Christian Bullitt Jr. was a controversial figure. Bullitt was at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, working for Woodrow Wilson and resigned after reading the resulting Treaty of Versaille. He was the first US ambassador to the Soviet Union in 1933 and then Ambassador to France until 1940. On June 14, 1940, Bullitt refused to leave in the evacuation and stayed in Paris as the Germans attacked. He escaped with his life to return to a very disappointed President Roosevelt, who had hoped he would continue working with the French temporary government in Bordeaux. Bullitt co-wrote a book about Wilson with Sigmund Freud: Thomas Woodrow Wilson: A Psychological Study.
The Ashfield property was a Poor Farm for 50 years until 1874. William Bullitt bought the property in 1920, which has since been sold privately. The Bullitt Foundation provided the funds to develop the preserve that the public can enjoy today.
New England towns borrowed the idea of Poor Farms from England, where the practice had been put into statute as part of the Elizabethan Poor Laws during the
1600’s”.

And, we could not resist inserting a bit of Roaring Twenties soap opera details!

The following is from the Wikipedia entry about Bullitt:

Bullitt married socialite Aimee Ernesta Drinker (1892-1981) in 1916. She gave birth to a son in 1917, who died two days later. They divorced in 1923. In 1924 he married Louise Bryant, journalist author of Six Red Months in Russia and widow of radical journalist John Reed. Bullitt divorced Bryant in 1930 and took custody of their daughter after he discovered Bryant’s affair with English sculptor Gwen Le Gallienne. The Bullitts’ daughter, Anne Moen Bullitt, was born in February 1924, eight weeks after their marriage. Anne Bullitt never had children. In 1967, she married her fourth husband, U.S. Senator Daniel Brewster
During that period, he was briefly engaged to Roosevelt’s personal secretary, Missy LeHand. However, she broke off the engagement after a trip to Moscow during which she reportedly discovered him to be having an affair with Olga Lepeshinskaya, a ballet dancer.
[21][22]

Probably more than one needs to know, but a good diversion!!

Last weekend, we returned to the Bullitt Reservation, most of the snow had melted, so it was possible to walk on the trails. Lately, I have become transfixed not only by trees, but also by the amazing variety of rocks and boulders.

Here we encountered a boulder that seemed to be hugged by trees. It is very tempting to anthropomorphize expressions on various rocks!

While I was practicing this week, and with my aforementioned habit of glancing over at the daily New York Times Food Column on my computer screen, I saw an intriguing method for roast chicken by the celebrated French chef Andre Soltner. He was the chef and owner of the acclaimed New York City restaurant Lutece, that was open for more then forty years, closing in 2004.

Seeing Soltner’s name, brought back sweet and delicious memories. I was a young music student attending Juilliard in NYC and a good friend of mine was a student at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Lutece was located in a fancy townhouse on East 50th Street and we were completely out of our league. We decided that we should go there and started to save our pennies; besides this was research for culinary school! I studied the menu for days, dreaming about what I might order. The day of the reservation, we changed out of our blue jeans and scrubby student clothes and got dressed up. As we warily entered the elegant restaurant, we were greeted warmly by the hostess (Andre Soltner’s wife). She showed us to our table, not tucked away in a corner near the kitchen door, but in the middle of the room. We were giddily enjoying our appetizers, when we noticed a wealthy patron observing us with amusement. His order of a complete caviar service had just been was placed before him; he summoned the waiter back to his table. I clearly remember him saying to the waiter: “please bring this to the young couple across the room, they seem to be enjoying themselves immensely”. We happily accepted his offer complete with a complimentary glass of champagne!

My friend had ordered braised pigeon; the solemn and very correct waiter placed it before him and with a deadpan manner and thick French accent said: ” Here you are monsieur, Central Park West!” At the end of the meal, Andre Soltner the chef, stopped by our table and asked how our dinner was- I think we might have made a bit of an impression at this highly refined shrine of fine dining!

Back to our challenging times! After looking at Soltner’s recipe for roast chicken, I decided to give it a try. Fair warning: this does involves a bit of high heat; I did have to put on the exhaust fan full blast and open a door to air out the smoke! I think this recipe is probably more conducive to a professional kitchen; but it was definitely worth it!! The result was a perfectly roasted chicken with crispy skin, full of flavor and very tender. The recipe calls for sprigs of fresh thyme and tarragon. I had neither, so I substituted fresh rosemary and dried herbs de provence. I think any dried herb would be fine!

Andre Soltner’s Roast Chicken

Ingredients:

1 small whole chicken rinsed and patted dry

2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary chopped finely

3 teaspoons herbs de provence or dried thyme

1 small onion halved

2-3 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil

2 sprigs fresh parsley

1/4 cup white wine

1/4 cup chicken broth

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1 tablespoon butter

To Make Chicken:

A few hours before roasting chicken, rub salt and pepper and herbs on the outside and inside of chicken. Place onion and rosemary and parsley sprigs in the cavity of the chicken.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees- turn exhaust fan to high

On the stove, heat a roasting pan over high heat- this will be one of the most smoky parts! Add the oil and the chicken-brown on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from heat and roast in oven until a meat thermometer reaches 170 degrees when inserted in the thigh. I put the roasting pan on the bottom shelf.

Immediately drop 2 teaspoons of water into the bottom of the roasting pan, close the oven door and turn off the heat. After 3 minutes, remove pan from the oven and place the chicken on a platter. Let it rest at least 10 minutes before carving.

If you have good home made chicken stock and a nice bottle of white wine, proceed with the recipe for a quick sauce. I had neither and the plain roasted chicken was delicious on it’s own!

To Make Sauce:

Drain fat from roasting pan and place on top of stove over medium heat. Add the wine and using a wooden spoon, scrape up browned bits from bottom of the pan. Add the chicken stock and chopped tarragon and parley. Whisk in the butter and pour over chicken.

Enjoy!!

With a few sides of wild rice with shallots, toasted walnuts and cumin and sauteed carrots and zucchini we had a perfect comfort food feast!

Here is the “Tree of the Week”!

AND this week, Paul became a tree hugger with “The Tree of the Week!”

” That feels good! Can you hug me a bit tighter!”

Please stay safe!!

The Joffe Sanctuary and More Potpies!

Woah! What a week! I started to write this blog thinking that the certification process would have gone smoothly and all was now on a relatively even keel! As the next few weeks unfold, we will be need to take solace from music, nature and comfort food more then ever- so here we go!

The Joffe Sanctuary in New Marlborough Massachusetts, is a beautiful ecosystem with wetlands and upland habitats. The small trail loops around a vernal pond; a shallow body of water that is usually devoid of fish. With no competition, amphibians and insect species can thrive. This past summer, we were treated to a full length antiphonal symphony between the frogs and insects. Now the stillness is lovely and the patterns of twigs and branches on the ice and water are mesmerizing.

Since this is a short loop, on our way home we stopped by to walk on Kelsey Road in Sheffield MA, which also crosses over a few marshes.

At this time in history, our democracy seems as fragile as these ice crystals on the ground!

Kelsey Road- Sheffield, MA.

I love and admire many composers, but find that I always return to Bach. His music inspires me in a profound way and even when I play a slow melody in a minor key, I find Bach’s music uplifting and centering. This morning, I pulled out the Larghetto from Bach’s Concerto in A Major for Oboe and Strings. It seemed so appropriate for this time. I look forward to playing this piece in it’s entirety with harpsichord and strings- maybe soon?? Here is an excerpt:

And then of course, we can turn to comfort food! What could be better than a bubbling hot Chicken Pot Pie!

For Christmas dinner this year, our menu was based on beloved traditions that included chicken breasts filled with a sour dough stuffing made with pecans, shallots, mushrooms, celery and onion. With just two of us, there was plenty of leftover chicken. I froze a few chicken breasts until needed and this was certainly the week! I cut up the chicken and discovered there was also the added treat of small chunks of leftover stuffing! This along with onion, celery, carrots, mushrooms and some frozen green peas, dried thyme and sage, made a tasty filling; although shitake mushrooms or green beans would also be good! I made a quick lightly thickened sauce with chicken stock, butter and flour and topped the pot pie with spelt/whole wheat pastry flour biscuits. With a salad of mixed greens, dried cranberries, shaved parmesan and pecans, it almost felt like a holiday! I hope you enjoy making this!

Chicken Pot Pie

Ingredients:

Filling:

1-2 cups cooked chicken cut into small pieces

2 carrots diced into medium pieces

1 stalk celery diced into medium pieces

1 onion finely chopped

5-6 mushrooms, stemmed and cut into small slices

1/2 cup frozen peas defrosted

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried sage

salt and pepper to taste

Sauce:

3 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup white flour

1 1/2 cups chicken broth (home made if possible, low sodium canned organic broth may be substituted). * Note

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Biscuits:

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 cup whole grain spelt flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (optional)

1 scallion finely chopped(optional)

1/3 cup canola oil

1/3 cup hot water

To Make Filling:

In a medium saucepan heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and saute onion until it softens. Add carrots, mushrooms ,celery, thyme and sage. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Cook about 10 minutes until vegetables soften a bit and are lightly browned. Add peas and set aside.

To Make Sauce:

Over medium heat melt butter in a small pot.

Stir in flour and cook briefly.

Slowly whisk in broth and continue to stir until mixture comes to a slow boil and thickens. If sauce is too thick, you can always a bit more broth. Adjust seasoning.

* Note- If you are using canned broth, I sometimes add a few dashes of Tamari to boost the flavor.

Pre-heat oven to 375 Degrees

To Make Biscuits:

In a large bowl, combine flours, salt, baking powder and if you are using parmesan cheese and scallion. Mix well.

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

Assemble the Pot Pie:

Place filling in a medium oval or square baking dish.

Pour sauce over filling.

Form biscuits with your hands and place over the filling, (they can be any size, I usually make about 8-10 biscuits). These biscuits are very forgiving and do not need to look uniform, the shaggier the better!!

Bake uncovered for about 40-45 minutes until the mixture bubbles and the biscuits are lightly browned. At this point, everything starts to smells heavenly and all troubles are forgotten!!

ENJOY!!

AND of course, here is “The Tree of the Week”!

“Watching with eyes wide open!!”

Please be Safe!!

Winter at the Rivulet

In past winters we did not take many hikes through the woods and fields. Most likely we would have been visiting museums, dining out, going to plays and visiting friends! I would also be rehearsing and performing concerts with my groups Hevreh Ensemble and Winds in the Wilderness. This challenging year, our main activities have moved outside and we have become more adventurous. Armed with my trusty shillelagh, new warm and sturdy hiking boots and fleece lined pants, we are prepared for the outdoors!

A return trip to our beloved Rivulet at the Bryant Homestead in Cummington, Massachusetts was in order! This is the childhood home of the poet, journalist and editor William Cullen Bryant( 1794-1847). After the recent warmer weather and torrential rain, most of the snow cover was melted and the icy water flowed more forcefully through the small stream.

We have walked on many trails this past year, but there is a unique quality of serenity and peace that we feel strongly each time we return to the Bryant Homestead. The tall evergreens reach towards the sky and as you enter the woods, they encompass you with their sweet musty pine scent. It is also the gently sloping and winding trails that loop around the rivulet, the reflection of light on the water and woods and the sense of history that makes this such a special, almost sacred place. If it was spring or summer, I would be inspired to play an improvisation on the spot. That will have to wait! For now, I thought a piece from the renaissance period with lyrics about water; played in my warm study would be lovely to include. Luckily, I had just the person to ask; my good friend and colleague, lutenist extraordinaire and musicologist Christopher Morrongiello! He suggested a composition by the English lutenist and composer John Dowland; “Weep you no more, sad fountains”. The sweet and plaintive melody seemed perfect for the oboe and in the second half of the piece, the melody flows ever so gently downwards and ends with stillness.

“Weep you no more, sad fountains”- John Dowland 1563-1626

Weep you no more, sad fountains;
What need you flow so fast?
Look how the snowy mountains
Heaven’s sun doth gently waste!
But my sun’s heavenly eyes
View not your weeping
That now lies sleeping
Softly now, softly lies
Sleeping

Sleep is a reconciling
A rest that peace begets;
Doth not the sun rise smiling
When fair at e’en he sets?
Rest you, then, rest, sad eyes!
Melt not in weeping
While she lies sleeping
Softly now, softly lies
Sleeping

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After I finish my morning practicing, I find myself day dreaming about what I might like to make for dinner that night. I have to admit, this also often happens while I am still practicing. I glance over at the computer screen and find that I have become engrossed in the daily NY Times food blog! I reluctantly stop reading recipes and pull myself back to concentration and work! Recently I was in the mood for a savory pot pie. I have always loved potpies; as a child, a big treat was my own small Swanson chicken potpie filled with gooey gravy, tiny pieces of pebbly chicken and frozen vegetables. I always saved the salty crunchy crust for last!

This morning, I thought that a vegetable pot pie might be good. I was looking for something not too rich and decided to make the crust with olive oil instead of butter. Using olive oil made the crust very easy to handle and roll out. I added a bit of grated parmesan, a pinch of herb de provence and freshly ground pepper- the resulting crust was full of flavor and made me want to save the crust for last! Since the pandemic, our shopping habits have changed and I try to use what is on hand, so the filling for this pot pie turned out to be: onion, green beans, kale, cannellini beans, feta cheese and diced tomato; seasoned with dried dill and thyme. The final result turned out to be almost Greek in flavor. I think any combination of vegetables that you have on hand would work here! I had made a curried butternut squash soup a few days before. This was a perfect addition to the dinner plan- I topped the soup with a few caramelized shallots and a drizzle of thinned yogurt and a feast was made!

Vegetable Pot Pie

Ingredients for Filling:

1 medium onion finely chopped

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 cup green beans- stems removed and cut into small pieces

1 cup kale finely chopped

1 can cannellini or white navy beans drained and rinsed

1/2 cup diced tomatoes

1 small piece feta

1 teaspoon each dried dill and thyme.

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

To Make Filling:

Steam green beans and kale until they soften a bit.

In a large pan, add olive oil and saute onion over medium heat until it softens.

Add other ingredients and cook mixture down on low heat covered until mixture softens. Adjust seasoning.

Ingredients for Crust:

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 cup whole grain spelt flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon dried herb de provence

2 tablespoons grated parmesan

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup cold ice water

1 egg yolk lightly beaten for egg wash to brush over crust

To Make Crust:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix together both flours, salt, herbs, pepper and grated parmesan.

Slowly mix in water and stir together with a large spoon until it forms a shaggy mass. ( you may need a bit more water).

Pour onto a light floured work surface and work the mixture until it forms a ball. Cut in half.

Roll out one piece of to fit inside a pie plate or shallow baking dish.

Prick dough in pie dish all over with a fork and pre-bake the dough for about 8 minutes and then remove from the oven. This will keep the bottom of the crust from getting soggy.

Place filling in pre-baked crust and crumble feta over the top of the filling. Pour a bit of olive oil over the top of the filling. Roll out the second piece of dough. Fit over the top of the filling and crimp the edges with a fork.

Brush egg wash over the top of the pie and make a few slits in the top to let steam release.

Bake about 40-45 minutes until the top is golden brown.

Let cool for about 15 minutes and enjoy!!

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients:

1 package peeled and chopped butternut squash

1 medium onion finely chopped

1 medium apple peeled, cored and finely chopped

2 teaspoons curry powder

1 bay leaf

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

for garnish- 2 or 3 shallots sliced thinly.

To Make Soup:

In a large pot, saute onion until it softens, stir in curry powder and cook about 1 minute more.

Add rest of ingredients to pot and cover with water.

Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until squash, apple and onion is very soft -about 1 hour.

For a thicker soup, remove cover partly while cooking.

While soup is cooking heat a bit of olive oil in a small pan and saute shallots until they are crisp and caramalized.

When soup is done. remove bay leaf and puree with an immersion blender until creamy.

Garnish with shallots and yogurt.

Enjoy!!

AND NOW, I will curl up on my couch with an excellent murder mystery that one of my students recommended Berlin Noir by Philip Kerr (it is set in 1930’s Berlin) and a wonderful cookbook that my daughter gave me for the holidays; Flavor by Yotam Ottolenghi!

AND of course, here is The Tree of the Week!

“Leave Already!!!”

Happy New Year! Please Stay Safe!