Monday, May 14, 2018

Springtime in the Berkshires

Ghent Alterpiece, Hubert and Jan van Eyck 1432

Springtime in the Berkshires

We have thus far exhausted trillions of winters and summers,
There are trillions ahead and trillions ahead of them –

--Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

To taste the creamy center of Camembert in spring is to taste the essence of the season of rebirth. In young cheeses, the grassy meadow fed upon by grazing livestock can be tasted. And lamb in spring, spring lamb, to be specific, takes the journey.

In South Egremont at John Andrews Farmhouse this coming Tuesday on May 15, a six course wine dinner with ingredients inexhaustible pedigree will feature such a cheese. Local spring lamb, succulent and surrounded by accolades in the form of fish, fowl, greens and dairy will be at the center of the feast.

With the exception of diver scallops, trout, duck, California wines and a cheese that must travel south from Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, it can be said that this meal is as local as the weather can be glorious at this time of year.

Spring lamb is lamb of a diminutive stature, the lamb in question, about 30 pounds. This main course marks a fifteen-year relationship between livestock farmer Lila Wilde Berle, and chef Dan Smith. Lila grew up on the land where cows pasturing at Highland Farm in Lee Massachusetts will provide the milk for cream used a ragu served with the main course, grilled lamb and braised lamb belly with sun chokes from chef’s kitchen garden.

Other farms bringing food to the table are Rock City Farm, Ghent, NY, which is providing oyster mushrooms for the pasta course. Trout smoked on the premises will be served with fresh baby greens coaxed into this world by the indefatigable Ted Dobson of Equinox Farm.

The aforementioned Camembert, a goat’s milk Bloomy rind cheese from Miracle Spring Farm in Gallatin NY will make up the cheese course along with a raw cow's milk cheese with a washed rind called Berelberg of Berle Farm's in Hoosick, NY, and a Bayley Hazen Blue, gentle in its veiny sumptuousness and caved at Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont. Finally, a jam made of caramelized black mission figs will sound a redolent yawp of sweetness to end the meal.

Somerston Wine Dinner
Tuesday, May 15th 2018

John Andrews Farmhouse Restaurant
224 Hillsdale Road (Route 23)
South Egremont, MA 01258
(413) 528-3469

For more information and to make a reservation: 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

RECIPE: Feeding the Beast

Hat Trick from Hungry Ghost in Northampton MA

Hungry Ghost's Hatrick Bread of three ingredients, two that are local: Malted Barley, Bolted Wheat*, Oats....

Make it yourself with clear intent and a well-fed starter.

Day 1 Wake up, feed starter, wait a day..
Day 2 Wake up, feed starter, wait a day
Day 3 Wake up, feed starter, wait a day
Day 4 Wake up, stir up starter, begin ....

*Bolted Wheat means some of the bran is removed to give the gluten room to move. The germ and other nutrients remain.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

How Local is Local at Nick's Nest?

Plain dog with mustard, local server.

Nick's Nest, Holyoke MA
May 1, 2018

"Nick, where do you get your dogs?"  I ask. 
A fair question, I think. He just gives me a look. I don't tell him one ccan get local dogs at a farm in Hardwick. But you have to be a member to buy them. 
"Nick, what about the buns, local?" 
He gives me the look. They could be make with local grain grown in Hadley or even Northfield, local wheat nothing to sneeze at, just mix it up with some white to, you know, make it more like the usual bun. 
Again, Nick gives me a look, the look that says, "You're not worth the $3.50 I could have made in the last sixty seconds. 
"Right, but Nick, can you where the onions are from?"
"You orderin?" he says, his patience, clearly tried at this point. 
 "Sure, I'll take a plain dog," I say.
"Chowder?" he inquires.
"No, just the dog," I say. How ridiculous, chowder, but I am silent on the point.
Nicks Nest has been a fixture on Route 5 since 1921. The dogs are famous and anyone can stop in and see them on display on rollers in oil. Delicious with a nice snap to the casing.
I share with Nick that I like my dog with raw onions and ask, because how hard it it to have local onions from Hatfield or Hadley, where you can purchase for cheap at the end of the season? 
But I curtail my comment to, 
"Nick, I mean the soil here in the Valley is the absolute best...can you tell me if the onions are local?"
"I'm not Nick," he says. 
And before i can say anything he goes, "Nick is dead." 
"Ah yes, of course, since 1921, but I wonder if you can tell me where the oil comes from?" I ask. 
"The distributor," he says.
"Right," of course it does, perhaps the same distributor from the 20's and no doubt not local oil but that would be...
Nick hands me the dog wrapped in a plain white napkin. I give him the money and then go to sit down. But before I do,  I turn to him, the guy who isn't Nick, and say, "hey, did you know the upstairs is haunted?"
"Yeah, we know," says the guy. 
 It must be mentioned that the ghosts upstairs are local, plus perhaps the servers. Which is a good start.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

RECIPE: Krispy Kale Nest with Fried Egg

RECIPE: Dino Kale Sunnyside Up 

Winter kale is sweet when it grows in snow because it releases starch to stay warm. This recipe calls for a nest of crispy kale with a fried egg.

1. Grab some kale out of the snow or off the shelf at the store or off a dusty table at your deep winter storage CSA. 

2. Cut it up into ribbons, discarding the ribs. If it is at all possible, get what is called "Dino" kale - so named because of its wrinkled form. Take the ribbons of kale and drop them directly into a fry pan of almost, but not quite smoking oil. 

3. Remove after around a minute. The kale will be almost, but not quite, brown, yet nice and crispy. Blot to remove oil using a cloth (any old cloth, nothing special like the shroud of Turin) and salt lightly. Fry an egg and gently place it on top of the nest of kale.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Recipe for a Demonstration

Sat 12 PM EDTPennsylvania Avenue between 3rd street and 12th street NW
NataliaJennifer and 2 friends

Recipe for Revolution: Shoes

14K empty shoes outside the US Capitol, to represent every child killed with a gun since the Sandy Hook Massacre:

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

For Best Results: Make Friends with a Forager

Photo by Aggie Nelen


Food can be such a minefield, even something simple like mushrooms have myriad nooks and crannies when it comes to figuring out which ones to eat, where to get them and how to be polite.

Lets face it mushrooms are free. Wild mushrooms are all over the place. The prized morel mushroom grows in cow pies. It’s odd that something that sells for $75 an ounce can be found in cow pies but that’s how it is with some wild food.

You have to know where to look. Mushrooms look for trees to host their growth. They get their life force from other life forms rather than by photosynthesis. That means rotten logs, or trees, or on straw bales which means the woods.  But where in the woods?

Of course a guidebook is of help but who wants to go to the woods alone with a guidebook? The best thing to do is to make friends with a recent immigrant or somebody with strong ties to the old world. There isn’t much difference between mushrooming in Poland or Italy or Puerto Rico than there is in mushrooming in the woods of western Mass.  

The Chanterelles pictured here can be found in mid-summer according to  forager friend. These beauties have a fruity, woody flavor and require a gentle hand in preparing. 

Chanterelles appear on menus at an expensive restaurants but only on days when the forager shows up at the back door.

My forager friend brought me a bunch of yellow and bright orange chanterelle mushrooms, right out of the blue. When I asked where his bounty came from, he changed the subject.

The chanterelle is delicate in form and flavor. Never wash a mushroom. They are quite porous and you would be too if you spent all your time in the woods. The best thing to do is to brush the dirt off with a cloth or a mushroom brush. Traditional cooking technique suggests sweating the water from chanterelles in a pan over low heat. By extracting the water, the subtle flavor of woody combined with fruit is revealed.

Chanterelle’s are known for having an apricot flavor, their color even matches the fruit. Foragers claim that when searching for this rare delectable, they can pick up the apricot scent right there in the woods. I wondered, aloud, if my forager friend was alerted by their scent when he happened upon the chanterelles. “No,” he said.

We were sharing a glass of rose wine. The mushrooms were so delicious we didn’t speak for a time and instead nibbled on some crusty bread. I asked again about where he found the chanterelles and he responded that foragers all have secret spots. If everybody knew about them, there would be nothing left. 

But I asked again anyway, because what would it hurt if just one more person knew about the secret spot? His answer was slow to come. He looked at me and then out the window.

After a long pause, he shook his head and said,
 “Mt. Tom.” 

Mt. Tom is vast, an entire mountain with lots of rotten logs and trees everywhere you look. I would have to marry the guy to find out his secret spots and he still he might not tell.  

RECIPE: Sauteed Chanterelle Mushrooms

Mushrooms are very porous (you would be too if you spent your life on a rotten log) so avoid getting them wet. Begin by rubbing the mushrooms gently with a cloth or a mushroom brush to clean them. 

Trim the stem to eliminate the blunt end of the stem. Leave them whole and heat in an earthenware or enameled pan on low heat with the lid on.  Cook until the liquids evaporate and prevent the mushrooms from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add a couple of tablespoons of butter with salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes until tender.  Just before serving, stir in about a half a cup of heavy cream and pour into a dish.        

Recipe influenced heavily by Patience Grey's description of mushroom treatment in "Honey from a Weed."