A Song of Joy!

Election Day Lentil Soup

What a week this has been; awaiting election news, hoping for the best and dreading possible outcomes!

My best coping strategy was to take long solo walks on Kelsey Road in Sheffield, Massachusetts. It is surrounded by mountains on one side and a protected nature preserve with wetlands on the other. On Election day, I tried to create a “news blackout” policy and after teaching my online students, headed out to Kelsey Road in the late afternoon. I found myself drawn into closely into the idyllic beauty encompassing me. It was deeply calming.

After a mostly sleepless night, the day after the election was a challenge. I was thankful to have the distraction of my online students and in the late afternoon headed out to Kelsey Road again. I noticed that the tamarack trees were just changing color and in the late afternoon light, they seemed to take on a golden glow.

I walked briskly for about three miles; forgetting the shorter amount of daylight, and on my return, was treated to a beautiful sunset.

After this, it was time for some serious comfort food! Earlier in the day, between students, I started a big pot of Lentil Soup; with carrots, onions, celery, diced tomatoes, kale, bay leaf, coriander, cayenne, cumin and chicken chorizo sausage. When I arrived back home, I heated up the soup, removed the bay leaf and with an immersion blender pureed a bit of the soup to make a creamy texture. Served with toasts made from an old loaf of multi-grain bread rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil, it was the perfect antidote! I hope you enjoy this recipe!

“Election Day Lentil Soup”

Ingredients:

2 cups dried lentils-rinsed and picked over

1 medium onion finely chopped

1 large carrot finely chopped

1 stalk celery finely chopped

6 large pieces kale, stems removed and torn into small pieces

1 small can diced tomatoes

2 chicken chorizo sausages, cut into small pieces

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon dried coriander

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper- more if desired

salt and pepper to taste

To Make Soup:

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot.

Saute onions until they soften slightly.

Add spices and cook a few minutes more.

Add vegetables and lentils

Cover with water, about 2 inches over the vegetables and lentils.

Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer.

Cover pot and cook about 1 1/2 hours until vegetables and lentils are very soft.

If you would like soup to be thicker uncover pot and cook a bit more until soup thickens.

At this point you can let the soup sit on the stove for a few hours to let the flavors meld- this is where the walk comes in!

To serve: bring soup back to a simmer, remove bay leaf and using an immersion blender, puree a part of the soup. This will give the soup a nice creamy texture.

Adjust seasoning, adding more salt and pepper.

Take a big breath and ENJOY!!

BUT, it was Saturday November 7th, that was historic and remarkable. Paul and I were about to enter the Mass Pike, heading out for a hike, when an announcer from NPR interrupted Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me and said there was a special message. I was driving and looked over at Paul with hope and as the announcer said that Biden had just flipped Pennsylvania, I started to sob with joy, squeezed Paul’s hand way too hard and made the wise decision to pull the car off to the side of the road!! I took a few deep breaths of relief and I think the whole world has also done so!

My Hevreh Ensemble colleague and dear friend Laurie Friedman says it all in this video! The joyful sounds of the Shofar rang loud and clear from Laurie’s Brooklyn rooftop!!

Hidden Treasures in the Woods

Salmon Cakes

The woods of New England are filled with old stone walls & foundations of long deserted homes and farms. I often feel that I am on a treasure hunt or an archeological exploration and I wonder what the houses, fields and farms looked like a few hundred years ago. All of the trees would have been cut down and instead of quiet woods, there would be bustling activity all around.

Recently on a walk at the Goodnow Preservation, part of the New Marlborough Land Trust, we discovered the site of an old paper mill; The Lower Carrol Mill. According to the New Marlborough Land Trust; using local wood pulp, the mill made newsprint and manila paper for the New York City market from 1855-1887. As we walked down a path towards the Konkapot River, the late afternoon sun filtered through the trees.

Through a light mist we could see remnants of the old paper mill; moss covered stones were stacked haphazardly on top of each other-time stood still. On a small knoll a lone piece of rusty machinery stood by itself. I imagined how the mill would have looked and sounded in the 1860’s with the tremendous noise of the machinery and sawdust flying as local wood was turned into pulp. The Carrol Mill, operated by water power, was one of nearly a dozen small industries on the Konkapot River.

Just a mile down the road from The Goodnow Preserve is another treasure; the Joffe Nature Sanctuary, also run by the New Marlborough Land Trust. It includes a lovely short walk that loops around a peaceful marsh.

There are several wooden benches throughout the trail- a perfect place to bring a book!

On one of our walks, I brought along my oboe. The previous day I had listened to a virtual online concert of Bach Cantata BWV 199 that our daughter, the singer Alicia DePaolo had just presented. It was a beautiful performance; the cantata is emotionally stirring and deeply satisfying on so many levels. It gave me the inspiration for this improvisation:

Joffe Nature Sanctuary

Since the pandemic started and we have been fortunate to spend more time in nature, I have felt myself becoming more attuned to the surroundings. I have come to appreciate the intricate patterns and designs in the trees, plants, roots, water and sky.

I see abstract images that often remind me of the Austrian painter, Egon Schiele.

“A Tree in Late Autumn”-Egon Schiele

This is the week of “Salmon Three Ways” from a mistakenly large order of salmon. So far, we have had Asian Soba Noodles with Crispy Salmon, Salmon Cakes and we are supposed to have Tandoori Salmon tonight. But, truth be told, both Paul and I are more than a bit tired of salmon! The Tandoori Salmon will be frozen and we are going to have Swedish Meatballs! Yes, there is a Swedish Meatball story, but it will be saved for another blog!

Asian Soba Noodles with Crispy Salmon
Salmon Cakes
Tandoori Salmon

Salmon Cakes

Ingredients:

1/2 to 3/4 pound salmon fillet

1 egg

1/4 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs

1 teaspoon sesame oil

few drops of hot chili oil

1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger root

1 large garlic clove finely chopped

salt and pepper to taste

Prepare Salmon Cakes:

Remove skin from salmon and cut fish into a few pieces.

Add all other ingredients into the bowl of a food processor.

Blend until mixed, don’t over process.

Form mixture into four salmon cakes. The mixture is quite sticky. I line a large plate with wax paper and drop spoonfuls onto the plate. Form the patties with a small spatula.

Chill until firm.

Heat medium size cast iron pan or non-stick skillet.

Add a tablespoon of olive oil.

Brown on one side and flip over. Cook a few minutes more.

Sauce:

2 tablespoons Veganaise

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Mix ingredients together in a small bowl.

Serve with lemon slices and sauce

ENJOY!!

Update: Autumn at Bryant Homestead

Asian Soba Noodles with Crispy Salmon

This weekend my husband and I decided to visit one of our favorite places, The William Cullen Bryant Preserve in Cummington, Massachusetts. I wrote a recent blog about our visits this past summer: https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/musicianstravels.com/146

It was a perfect fall day with a chill in the air. As we drove up to the homestead, the sun was shining on a field near the old barn on the estate- a lovely spot to play my recorder!

https://youtu.be/E945Xy-AvMw

From the meadow, we stepped onto the trail that winds through the woods. As we looked up, the late afternoon sun filtered through a canopy of leaves and we both felt a familiar sense of comfort and tranquility.

The woods were noticeably quiet-no chirping of birds; only the small gurgle of the rivulet stream; a few chipmunks and squirrels scurried across the path carrying nuts in their mouths.

I looked down on the forest floor and saw a perfectly composed still life; a pine cone perched on a mushroom next to to tiny red leaf.

On the way back home, we stopped at a store in Great Barrington to pick up a food order. When we got back to our house, I saw that we were mistakenly given a very large piece of salmon. SO, this week there will be “Salmon Three Ways”. Tonight, it’s Asian Soba Noodles topped with chunks of crispy broiled salmon, ginger, sliced cucumber, julienned carrots and chopped peanuts. More recipes to follow for Tandoori Salmon and Salmon Cakes!

Asian Soba Noodles with Crispy Salmon

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

1/2 to 3/4 pound salmon fillet seasoned with salt, pepper and sprinkled with dried thyme

1 package buckwheat soba noodles

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger root

1 small cucumber peeled and julienned

1 small carrot peeled and julienned

Ingredients for Sauce:

2 tablespoons tamari

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar

few drops of hot sesame oil to taste

1/3 cup finely chopped salted peanuts

Instructions:

Preheat broiler

Broil salmon until crispy on top and it is just done- do not overcook.

Let cool slightly and cut into small pieces- discard skin.

Bring a medium pot of water to boil and cook soba noodles until done.

Drain and rinse thoroughly with cold water.

Place in medium bowl and stir in 1 teaspoon of the sesame oil, so the noodles do not stick together.

Stir in chopped ginger- you can also add chopped scallions if desired.

Make sauce:

Mix together tamari, brown rice vinegar, remaining sesame oil and hot sesame oil.

Pour over noodles and stir.

Add julienned cucumber and carrot to noodles.

Place salmon pieces on top.

Garnish with chopped peanuts.

Enjoy!!

Threnody* for RBG

After hearing about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing and her quick and ruthless replacement, thoughts and emotions flowed through me faster than I could process them: grief, anger, frustration, helplessness, more fury, fear, trepidation for what is to come; my surge capacity was almost ready to spill over! I learned about the term for the first time as I listened to a beautiful online Erev Yom Kippur service from Shir Tikvah Synagogue in Winchester, MA. The wonderful and insightful Rabbi Cari Bricklin-Small talked about how all of us have surge capacity, a set of adaptations that we draw on in stressful situations and that at times this can be depleted. But then, I remembered RBG’s tenacity, her strength of character, her passion for the arts, her love of country and her family and her willingness to really listen and respect other’s opinions. As an email popped up on my computer screen reminding me to keep making phone calls in Battleground States, I realized clearly that it is now our turn to carry her torch forward to continue the fight for equality for all people- then I felt gratitude and thanks for what she accomplished.

Bear Swamp-Ashfield, MA

Yesterday we took a hike to a bucolic and peaceful pond; Bear Swamp in Ashfield, Massachusetts. Luckily my Native American Flute was stowed safely in my husband Paul’s backpack. As I walked through the pine woods and saw a pond, the perfect melody came to me. Yom Kippur started the next day; the melody is partly to commemorate the observance of Kol Nidre and it also a piece of music to honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg. As I started to play, I poured all of my turbulent emotions from the last few days into the short intervals of the piece.

After I played, I felt peace, resolve and determination. I hope that this music will help to honor her memory and for the moment my surge capacity was renewed!

* Threnody-a wailing ode, song, hymn or poem of mourning composed or performed as a memorial.