Tuesday, December 29, 2009

This Week's Farm 2 Fork Show - December 29, 2009

Jack Kittredge of NOFA (Northeast Organic Farm Association and editor of The Natural Farmer) will be on the show to discuss the upcoming Food Safety Bill. He has worked as an organizer in anti-war, tenant, and community organizing in the midwest, Washington DC, and Massachusetts. He now lives in a passive solar house incorporating a root cellar and using only wood for our hot water, cooking and house heat.

In 2007, Kittredge started the Many Hands Sustainability Center, a certified organic farm  for learning and teaching sustainable living. Picture above, the Center is located in Barre, Massachusetts

Also on the show will be Claire Morenon of CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture). Claire is heading up a group of volunteers to launch Winter Fare, an event that will take place January 9 at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School in Northampton from 10 am to 2 pm.

Local food from area farms, honey, maple syrup and soups will there for sale and for those interested in barter, a swap fest for canned goods. The Northampton Winter Fare is a spin off of the Greenfield Winter Fare which last year drew people from as far away as Connecticut and Vermont. This one will be a little closer to home for those who live in Hampshire and Hampden Counties.

Listen in tonight, on Farm 2 Fork from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30, streaming at Valley Free Radio. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tonight on Farm 2 Fork Radio: Wild, wild western Mass.

Marlene Morin, horse woman and attorney has been riding on the Bean Farm for years and is well acquainted with the land. She will weigh in on the controversy surrounding the city's intent to purchase of the land and review her interpretation of the Conservation Preservation Act.

Molly Merritt, a employee and  co-owner of Valley Green Feast will be on the show to discuss the company's winter offerings (instant holiday meal of local foods, in a pretty basket) and the mechanics behind the worker-owned enterprise.

Hunter and culinary maestro Myron Becker will reveal his inspiration behind a widely distributed line of Asian and Wild Game sauces. It started when he was stationed in Yokohama Japan and his culinary education continued during visits to Nam, and ports in the Pacific Rim and South America. Now the results of his wanderings are consumed by Amherst College Students, people eating fast food in cars and wild game aficionados.

Tonight, on Farm 2 Fork. 6:30 p.m. to 7:30, streaming at Valley Free Radio. 

Photo of Marlboro Man appropriated from appropriation artist Richard Prince

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Bean Farm & the Fertile Floodplains of the Mill River

Hear about what the City of Northampton wants to do with this property tonight on Farm 2 Fork....6:30 p.m.

Photo provided by Grow Food Northampton, a self described as a grassroots citizens group of dedicated parents, farmers, soccer & baseball players, local historians, and life-long Northamptoners. 

Bean Farm: Broccoli or Boys Soccer? Farm 2 Fork Radio Tonight

The fate of the Bean Farm,
a 61-acre hunk of land in the middle of Northampton hangs in balance as we speak. Tonight on Farm 2 Fork Radio we will be speaking with Wayne Fieden, Director of the Office of Planning and Development.

Should the city buy the land?  Will we, as citizens, become a collection of farmers or will the land be used for athletic fields. If we become farmers, is the soil any good? If the land goes to athletic fields, is Northampton High School on board? Or should the city let the land go to developers? How much does 61 acres of prime real estate in one of the priciest communities in western Mass cost anyways?

Tune in tonight at 6:30 to find out. Farm 2 Fork airs on Valley Free Radio. Streaming is available at the station's website. For information about tonight's other guests, go to Farm 2 Fork radio website.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Spelt snacks & bread, wood fired and true

Tell your Uncle Lew that he looks great in plaid and offer hard cider, the new wine, to all. West County is from Colrain, nice and sold in most area liquor stores like liquors 44 and ryan and casey. Spelt crackers (left) are the perfect foil for cheerful cheeses brought by guests.
The kids over at Hungry Ghost in Northampton are also firing up sourdough rounds in their stove. Bread made with Wally's wheat from Hadley is good for sopping up gravy and this year's cranberry entry.
Last year it was cranberry sauce in a jello mold shaped like a human brain. The year before, jalapeno and tequila cranberry jelly. This year, cranberry will be in the manner of the pilgrims. This recipe is from an open hearth cooking demonstration at Old Deerfield: Wash and stew your cranberries in water; add almost their weight in clean sugar, just before you take them from the fire.

Fresh bread baked in a wood fired, hand made beehive oven, and crackers with local grains available at Hungry Ghost in Northampton on State Street all day Wednesday.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Holiday Sale @ Small Press Apple Orchard

Small batch cider, pesticide free, is made at Small Ones and this time of year they have cider, apple cider vinegar and lovely pies made by a relative in Vermont -- nice gifts to oneself and others. 

The annual holiday sale is Sat/Sun/Mon (11/21-23/09) at the farm stand from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

 To place an advanced order contact them at smallonesfarm@att.net or call 413-253-6788.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Recipe of the Week: Polenta Cheddar Squares with Cranberries

Forage for:

1-C fine or coarse cornmeal
2-C milk
1/2 -C cranberries, raw and sliced in half
1/2 stick butter
3/4 C cheddar cheese
1/2 hand fresh sage

Make polenta the way you typically do (2C water, 2 C milk, 1 C cornmeal at med. boil till hard to stir--around 30 min). When cooked, place in loaf pan. Gently blend in 3/4 cup cheddar cheese and around 1/2 cup split-in-half cranberries, (Paradise Cranberries from the Cape are nice and full, not too sour.)

Let sit in fridge until set. When ready to serve, cut into slices and saute in butter or olive oil and top with fresh sage in brown butter.

The cheddar from Granville, MA and cranberries from the Cape can be purchased at Bashista Farm in Southampton, MA, an orchard open throughout the winter.

Wild Turkey

Not all turkey's are meant to be eaten. Wild turkey may not have been eaten at the original Thanksgiving at Plymouth Rock. Accounts vary about what was actually consumed in the 1600s. Some say corn, which we obtained from the natives, and oysters, as well as clams since they were on the Cape. Turkey came along as part of the story. If early settlers did ingest turkey with or without the help of natives Indians, they might have used a brine on the turkey, after shooting it with a musket or wrestling it to the ground.

To brine is to take an entire bird, sans feathers and head, and submerge it into salty water before roasting. A wild turkey is almost all dark meat and as we know, dark meat needs to cook a bit more. This is a good method, the salt submersion, for local turkey as well because it brings out the inherent flavor of the bird and insures that it will cook evenly.

Turkey is a big creature. White and dark meat that respond to different cooking times. If the dark meat is succulent, the white could be compromised. The opposite is true if the white is cooked to perfection. Some cooks get around this by guarding against too much heat with a protective tent of tinfoil over the breast or they inject the white breast meat with liquids such as wine and then some begin the roasting process cooking the turkey with the breast side down (don't even ask about the stuffing) all so that the dark meat gets its chance to cook. Then some cook in a plastic bag but that seems to have gone out of favor. To have a harmonious roast, where white and dark meats are treated equally in the oven, brine ahead of time. The result is a big, juicy bird that will please all of the carnivores at your table.

Chef Deb White of Blue Heron brines a lot of the meats served at the restaurant. On Thanksgiving, all of the birds served as part of the Thanksgiving feast at Blue Heron in Sunderland are prepared in the following manner:

How to Brine a Turkey
by Deb White, Blue Heron Restaurant

15-20 pound free-range all natural turkey, giblets removed and washed

8-10 quarts water
2 cups kosher salt
2 cups maple syrup
1 cup dark brown sugar
8 cloves of garlic, split in half
6 bay leaves
2 bunches of thyme
10 sage leaves
6 bay leaves
1 TB black peppercorns, crushed
2 TSP allspice berries, crushed
1. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.
2. Line a 5 gallon bucket or bowl with two turkey bags. Place turkey in bags.*
3. Pour brine over the bird, and draw up the bag to remove as much air as possible then secure with tie.
4. Brine for 24 hours.

*Be sure to use food safe bags.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hard Cider Hangover

This hangover was the result, and complete fault of a tasting a couple of weekends ago
at the Cider Salon in Old Deerfield where I volunteered to give samples away. The
Salon was in an old white church where vendors were offering a swallow of fermented cider. Over 50 outfits showed up with their wily offerings. Hard cider is a sub culture of fans who treat it with wine-like reverence. It is made in small batches and sold mostly where it is produced. As a result, the proof and the content are as vast as the Mt. Tom Range.

At one of many hard cider laden tables for tasting, I stood in a
bright yellow "Cider Days" T-shirt next to Joey, also wearing the "Cider Days" T-shirt
and pouring three Oregon ciders that come from a company named after a Yates poem.
We looked like dorks and followed direction. We were instructed to taste and analyze the ciders,
to properly display their qualities. The Wandering Aengus had three offerings; the Heirloom (good nose), the
Oregon Dry, (hardly a finish) the Oregon aged in whiskey barrels,
(fruity, intense, profound, inspired but without pretense.) The place was
packed like a keg party yet with a more discriminating crowd. A guy from Boston came by and photographed one of the bottles
to text a tweet.

I took a break and went around to check out some of the
other talent. There was a "Perry" (made from pears) which was delightful and a hard cider
made with hops by a brewer with a safety pin in his ear. His
provenance, Nantucket. "Where exactly is your
orchard?" I asked, listing starboard. There are no orchards
on Nantucket. They bring in the juice.

Back at our pouring station, Joey was filling glasses and
talking up the Yates. When the crowd
drifted off to dinner, I learned Joey is a graduate of the first class of a
Tibetan Medical School. There was no one
left in the place, just other tables with boxes. Were we allowed at
least one bottle for our efforts? "What would a Buddhist do?" I asked him.
Without hesitation he responded,______

This is as far as I got when I heard from the Valley Advocate that they would no longer be using columnists.....just staffers from here on in. So much for ValleyLocavore in print, at least in the form of that column. Blogs, on the other hand....not so dependent on advertising.

"Enjoy!" he responded and we walked out into that Old Deerfield good
night carrying two bottles each in our coats.

Monday, November 2, 2009

It's What's For Dinner

Inventory for winter with housemate includes 24 jars tomato sauce, 12 jars peaches (some strange looking) bag onions, bag potatoes, squash, frozen goat meat, wheat (Hadley) for bread, cornmeal (Hadley), also for bread, apples in basement, (not that you can't get them all winter....), membership in the 'garlic of the month club,' membership in co-op, frozen blueberries but not enough, and frozen beans plus eggs from the boyfriend of housemate.

Believe it or not, that will keep us going. I know, I tried it last year with a lot less.

The Store-Free Life.

We only go to the store now for paper stuff, olive oil, booze, coffee and batteries. This here, the homey scene pictured above with actual steam coming off of the bread, is dinner. So the j-chokes on left will become "Jerusalem Artichokes Roasted in Garlic with Thyme and Cranberry Vinegar," and the turban squash will be "Autumn Root Cream of Turban Soup" and the pear will go with curly red lettuce from the Farmers' Market, goat cheese feta and some nice fat sprouts somebody gave me will be, Fall Field Salad au Poive." For desert, the apple will be served in the form of "Baked Orchard Apple Collapsed with Chestnut Filling."

Recipe of the Week: Baked Orchard Apple Collapsed

Apples, as many as you have people for dinner, cored out. Fill with chopped chestnuts (Amherst or Ashfield), butter, thyme, just a sprig, and grade b. maple syrup. Bake at 372 until they collapse, around 55 minutes. Enjoy with vanilla ice cream or fresh raw milk ricotta.

100-Mile Thanksgiving, November 6, 2009

Ashfield is all things to some people. Last
week, Senator Kerry's staff saw fit to cross the worn threshold with the intent to find out, what the
people want, according to an in-store announcement. If Kerry's team
choose to show up early, they would find
regulars discussing a one car traffic jam, (reason: cow)
tourists having the pancakes made famous by Yankee Magazine and a
woman writing a novel or a very long love letter.

An active bulletin board does a lot of the talking for a town:

"Wanted, a home for two fuzzy brothers: 11 month old
kittens," "Pet Portraits, Painted," "Yoga at the Ashfield Library,"
"Yoga at Kripalu Center," "Massage Therapy for Women" and "Drum
Lessons," "Drum Repair," and "Elmer's First Annual Grateful Harvest,
100-Mile Thanksgiving. Reservations only."

The food at Elmer's is good, famous in certain respects, and when they get revved up for a party, they swing for the fences. This menu will be interesting because the 1-horse town is rife with grass fed cows, heirloom pigs, foraged mushrooms, chestnuts, pears and other specialty delights. Also, the famous, only in Ashfield, Chocolate Chevre Truffles. Amazing. Click here for the Thanksgiving Menu at Elmer's.

ValleyLocavore Interview with Elmer's owner Nan Parati:

VL: So why the local Thanksgiving Dinner?

Nan Parati: The whole country is trying to claw its way back to
something authentic and we live it every day right here in Western
Massachusetts! That's why I decided to call it "Grateful
Harvest"--because I am so grateful and happy that we have the means to
grow all this food and can harvest it and appreciate it actually quite
easily! Easy for me to say because I have a restaurant with a chef!

Why are you hosting Grateful Harvest two weeks before (11/6/09)
two weeks before the actual date of Thanksgiving? Catering to folks who want to beat the traffic?

Nan Parati: One of the things I'm grateful for is that we close on
Thanksgiving Day. Running a restaurant, even one the size of Elmer's
takes about 100 hours/week and so we did not want to do this on
Thanksgiving the Day, itself. We also wanted to do this to give
people ideas about local foods they can cook for their own
Thanksgiving dinners. I think we should all wear big hats with buckles on them during the dinner.

How might have noted Ashfield residents have spent Thanksgiving in
the old days?

Nan Parati: I think that all of those notable nineteenth century scholars who
came to Ashfield for their recreation time would have sat around by
the fire philosophizing while their womenfolk were outside wringing
the necks of their pet turkeys and being not as grateful that they had
to cook the food from absolute scratch by themselves. In the
un-insulated house.

What are some of the farms contributing food to your locavore menu?

Nan Parati: We get a lot of our dinner food (and what we sell in our retail
section) from Paddy Flat Farm, Sangha Farm, Springwater Farm, Sidehill
Farm, Williams Farm, Manda and Steady Lane Farms. Then there are a
number of people like Tom and Sandy Carter whose farms I can't
remember the names of, but we get food from them, too.

What is your favorite dish on the locavore thanksgiving menu?

Nan Parati: Jim could cook local truck tires and they would be good. I am
serious! That boy can cook! So I look through the list and, not even
knowing how he's going to prepare these things, I am all warm and
happy just anticipating what he might do. The only thing on that list
that I don't care for in the real, non-Jim world is mushrooms----but
just a couple of weeks ago he did a whole dinner out of various
mushrooms, specifically Hen and Chicken of the Woods and I could not
believe that was how mushrooms actually tasted! So I don't care what
he cooks. I'm going to eat it and dream about it later on.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Farm News: Gossip

This summer at the farms in the Valley there were two marriages and a
baby born in one of the worst seasons for blight and bad weather we've
seen in a long time. Although that might sound like a Natalie Merchant
song, with the dust from wagon wheels coming up next, it is all true.
Ryan Voilard and Sarah Ingraham of Red Fire Farm got married at their
barn in Granby as did Meaghan Arquin and Rob Lynch, up at Riverland
Farm in Sunderland. Last month, at The Kitchen Garden, Caroline Pam
gave birth to Oliver, her second child. These young farmers run
membership driven farms, also known as CSA's (Community Sponsored
Agriculture) and for several years now are making a go of it despite
inconsistent weather and economic patterns. The Food Bank Farm of
Hadley has hung in there since 1991 as one of the first CSAs in the
country. Things have changed since shareholders were invited to share
the ups and downs of a farm by investing in it at the beginning of the
season in return for a share of the harvest in good times and in bad.
Now farmers are tracking fickle weather patterns with a Blackberries
strapped to their jeans and the number of CSAs in the region has gone
from two in '91 to a total of 17.

A press release issued last month from The Food Bank of Western Mass
announced that The Food Bank Farm would be no more. The reasons are
more complicated than 'it was a tough couple of years for the harvest'
because this farm is unlike the others in the area or the country. The
way Food Bank Farm works is like a typical CSA in that shareholder
dollars shelled out at the beginning of the season, pay for the
operation of the farm. The exception with Food Bank Farm is that food
is grown not only for shareholders but for the Food Bank of Western
Mass in Hatfield to distribute to agencies--200,000 pounds of it this
year. In a deal struck with Docter back in 1991, The Food Bank of
Western Mass in Hatfield bought a 32 acre farm in Hadley. Docter could
farm it and realize his dream of providing fresh produce to the hungry
but it was up to him to pay all expenses, including the lease. The
money would come from shareholder dollars. This unique model has been
operating for almost twenty years. In Hadley, Docter has been both a
fixture, driving all manner of farm machinery on Bay Road, and the

Farm News: Let the wild rumpus begin!

Docter farmed organically back in the day when UMass
extension was just beginning research on pesticide farming. There was
some organic farming going on but not on a large scale. There was too
much at stake. For traditional potato and tomato farmers, no spraying
meant vulnerability to blight and unpredictable weather. But Docter
managed to pull if off. The farm's roster of crops included corn, many
kinds of greens, melons, garlic, and other root vegetables, along with
experimental crops. A bakery that produced cookies, pies and corn
muffins made from the corn grown on the farm was built and when the
place was in full swing, hens and roosters dotted the barn yard, a sea
of red poppies could be plucked from rows of flowers and lunch was
being cooked up outside under a little tent. Food Bank Farm was so
popular that no one ever left. An added element of bliss was the
interns, a tanned subculture of laborers, many of whom trained under
Docter. Rob Lynch and Meaghan Arquin started Riverand after working at
Food Bank Farm. "There was a lot coupling going on that summer," said
Arquin. "I think there were at least four who got married."

The last time I visited the farm, it was late in the season. The
flowers were mowed down and the only crops left were rows and rows of
kale. As I drove in and pulled around a lake sized puddle in the
parking lot, a cat came across my path with a dead mouse in its jaws.
Farm life as usual. Inside, things were not as usual. Inside the barn,
Docter was surrounded by a potatoes, winter greens with five kinds of
apples and a group of shareholders surrounding him. Michael's Maurice Sendak universe was closing in. "Can't we just write some letters?" inquired one person. Docter said he was
sorry but it was truly the end. His eyes were red. Someone else asked
if there was anything at all that they could do to which he replied,
"No, it was final, a mutual decision..." he said shaking his head and
looking down. Meanwhile at the register up front, Sherrie munched on
an organic, chocolate chip oatmeal cookie. She has been with the Farm
since its inception. "It's a combination of things," she said as she
rang people up and commiserated. "Some of this land has to lie fallow
for a while...."

After farming at the pace Docter was farming, it could be that more
than just the land needed to lie fallow. Two years ago, Docter asked
former intern Ben Perrault to take over as farm manager of the Food
Bank Farm. Perrault and his wife Liz own Mountain View Farm in
Easthampton across the river. While Ben and Liz handled the farming,
Docter managed the farm store at Food Bank Farm in Hadley.

Typically a farm will sell some products from local sellers of eggs,
milk, pickles and some cheese. The Food Bank Farm store, on the other
hand, featured local producers of grass fed beef, cheese, dairy, eggs
and all at prices that would put Whole Foods to shame. Wild caught
bluefish, Atlantic cod, responsibly farmed salmon were for sale as
were chickens from small producers at the Crazy Eddie price of $1.99 a
pound for thighs.

In the span of two decades, Docter went from hunger maverick to
organic farmer to uber grocer. It was a sweet ride for Food Bank Farm
shareholders, while it lasted. Now they are being given the choice to
either stay with Docter and join his new CSA or hook up with Mountain
View and pick up their food in Easthampton. Food Bank Farm will continue to oversee the operation and distribute food as always.

Last year Docter and his wife Lynne purchased some property abutting the Food Bank and have hired Ray
Young, another former intern, to run a new CSA. Docter says he is
scared to be starting from scratch on his own but is more concerned
about shareholders. "Things change, and yes, to everything there is a
season," he said. "I just feel bad about this community we created."
He looked around the barn at the people milling about and said, "Oh
well, I guess we just move the community up the road..." The name of
his new CSA is, "Next Barn Over." Let the wild rumpus begin!

Friday, October 16, 2009

"I'm here for the grain....."

Locavore Journal: October 15, 2009

Picked up 2-50 lb bags of spring wheat from Allen at Lazy Acres farm
in Hadley. I was sent by Jonathan at Hungry Ghost in Northampton. My
job was to fetch wheat berries from last years growing experiment and
bring them back to the bakers. For my trouble I would get some local
wheat to make my own bread. The timing couldn't be better. The day
before I lost my source for local cornmeal. The guy over at Food Bank
who used to grind local corn for me on his bicycle was moving on to
greener pastures. Hello? This stuff is not available anywhere else.
The key to eating locally is to make your own bread whether it be corn
bread or wheat bread. Without that, being a locavore is no more a
matter of being a discerning shopper.

I stood next to my in the mud filled driveway of his house and waited
for Allen to come out. A tall guy with a felt hat, he walked very
slowly to my car and held up his hand in greeting. We gave each other
the once over. "I'm here for the grain," I said. "Stay here," he said
and strode over the to the barn and pulled a large board off the door.
It fell open. (So that's what those boards are for...) A boy stood
beyond the barn in front of a field of oats. Cover crop. The boy and I
gave each other the once over. The day was pretty gray but when Allen
came out of the barn carrying the sack, my mood improved. "That's
really it?" I said. This has been a long time coming, this local
wheat. "Yep," he said and tossed the sack in the back seat of my car,
seeds flying all over. I heard this crop was pretty good. Allen came
out with a second bag. I tried to take it from him to put into the car
myself but he shouldered past and tossed it in there, right next to
the other one. Another stream of grain. I asked him about the gluten
content. "Oh it's springy alright," said Allen. "It passed the chew
test really well." With the rain, the cool summer, the lack of sun and
the heretofore near impossible task of growing wheat in western Mass,
Allen's accomplishment is nothing short of a miracle.

Back at Hungry Ghost, one of the bakers was chewing away on a piece of
bread made from this very grain. This bakery is famous for its
opinionated help, wood fired stove, superior bread and flour all over
the place. The combination of the mud on my shoes from Allen's farm
and the flour on the floor at the bakery created a tsunami effect.
Coming through the screen door, I fell to the right and then to the
left. It was the smell of bread and this little wonderloaf on the
cutting board that kept me aloft. After an experimental taste I had
steady myself once again. Plenty of flavor, nice gluten content making
it airy and soft with, then, the lovely bite of sourdough. Now, at least as of
this writing, a perfectly local bread can be eaten by all. Bread is the heart of everything whether the grain be corn or wheat. From the Mayans to the Europeans in one short, historical week in the Pioneer Valley.

Fall To Do List - Stalking the Bag of Spuds

All over the world, gleaners are busy during the harvest collecting the remaining carrots, tomatoes and kale that has been overlooked at the end of the season. This is free to the taker and appreciated by the recipients.

Gleaning takes many forms. The next couple of weeks are ideal for gleaning without getting all dirty. Take a drive along routes 5 and 10 to scout out large 50 lb bags of the region's finest onions and potatoes. Stock up on roots for the winter when prices for local sacks of spuds are as low as 20 cents a pound. Local onions and potatoes are on sale at various farms, farm shares (CSAs) stores like Atkins and Serios and other small stores. Store out of the light to prevent sprouting. The cooler the environment the better. Temperatures should range from 34 to 60 degrees. Keep dry. If you don't have a root cellar, any dark cool place is good. Use paper or cloth sacks to prevent light from getting to the vegetables. In addition, try to keep somewhat ventilated. There is nothing like rooting around for a local spud in January and finding exactly that, with many more to spare, to keep going through out the winter. Saves quite a bit on gas, going to the store and money, of course.

Recipe of the Week: Shishigatani Pumpkin Soup

This recipe is made from a pumpkin given to me by seed saver and grower Dan Botkin of Laughing Dog Farm. Known for its flavor, the Shishigatani Pumpkin has no rival but can be approximated. See recipe below. For more information about getting seeds for the Shishi and to learn about seeds in general, Laughing Dog, a farm in Gill, is a good repository of information. A former commune, Laughing Dog is now a place where fig trees, goats, Shishigatani Pumpkins and other exotic forms of flora and fauna exist in harmony all year round.

2- Medium onions, peeled & sliced thinly
1- Stick butter
1- Small/Medium potato, peeled and quartered
1- Half a hand of sage leaves, fresh and shredded
1- Half a hand of thyme, dried
1- Exotic Japanese (or Butternut) Squash
1- Dried red pepper skin, fingernail sized, cut up
S&P (salt & pepper)
1/2 to 1 heavy cream (fat is where the flavor is) or whole milk yogurt

Cook onions in butter with sage and thyme until caramelized (cooked slowly until the sugars are released, around 20 minutes.)
Peel squash, cut in half, remove seeds and place in baking dish, skillet, what have you.
Cover with olive oil or butter and bake at 350 until soft (around 40 minutes)
Boil potato in sauce pan until soft but not too soft. Reserve the water.
Add squash pieces and potatoes to onions and all allow flavors to meld
Add some of the potato water to thin soup
Season with dried red pepper and salt, as well as ground black pepper
Mix together in a food processor, blender or one of those immersion wands
Put back on to heat and add cream or yogurt.
Heat until blended and serve with spot of cream on top and sage leaf, if you have one.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Farmer Chic

Have your Locavore Lunch and Eat it Too

Harvest is the arc and the aggregate of food in the Valley. Suddenly the summer food spectrum is spread before you. Even with a blight on tomatoes and potatoes and a very bad season for tobacco leaves (no survivors due to wetness, lack of sun and cool temperatures) we are rich in food that goes beyond traditional fall fare. Extended growing initiatives such as moving hoop houses are getting some produce out earlier and later than the three months of summer.

The ancient tradition of making a big fire and dancing to a full moon continues in the Valley. In New York at a relatively new "Farm to Table" establishment, they are just getting the hang of the harvest. At the Tarrytown-based Stone Barns, over 2500 city types showed up to get a little taste of farm life in early October. My friend Chef Donna Fisher and I went to check it out and enter the pie bake off. We got there early as hoards of people jumped off the train and into taxi cabs to check out the harvest at this combination of a non-profit farm and Blue Hill, a for-profit restaurant.

It was the usual harvest stuff except bigger and more dramatic. There wasn't just one but many pigs roasted over a spit and there was a demonstration of butchering and evisceration. Kids squealed and parents pleaded for just one shred of crispy fat. Dress was farmer chic. One woman wore Chanel rain boots over her jeans and her girls sported black muck boots. Food vendors from the City sold scones and croissants and pulled pork sandwiches from the sacrificial pigs were going fast.

Roasted Roots

Also, besides the ever rotating pig, there were gardening workshops and lectures. In Covered Barn B, Chef/owner Dan Barber held forth on the superiority of New England root vegetables. "The cold weather makes beets something amazing in winter. To stay warm, the plant turns its own starch into sugar....such sweetness! You only get this in New England and we never say anything about it! All the plants in California do is have sex over and over again." (The menu at Blue Hill at Stone Barns consists of a list of food that is in season, most of it grown on the farm, and many courses are served. Such items as house made ricotta, tomato flavored salt, lardo, tomato water cubes with okra flour with an okra floret as garnish, lardo on slate, chicken hearts on a stick and other novelties are brought to the table with extensive introductions. It is not cheap but it is not average either. When is the last time you had marrow on the thigh bone of a deer with a tiny line up of fish eggs on top?

Barber shared his roasted root vegetable technique for Jerusalem Artichokes. "Get the moisture out of the J-chokes first in a fry pan on top of the stove with olive oil and garlic," he said. "Then blast them in the oven at at least 450 or as much as your oven can take..." At the end of his roasting demonstration, he told the crowd that he believed the rutabaga is going to be "very, very big" this fall. Chef Donna didn't win the pie bake-off. She got third place although her pie was perfection with local MacIntosh Apples and a butter crust. The winner's entry was a recipe from Cordon Bleu and the crust was pate brisee--about as American as a Pugeot.

In the Valley, food fairs continue to be very big, beginning with the Tomato Festival in August, the Garlic Festival, myriad town fairs and of course the Big E, an agricultural extravaganza complete with the Craz-E burger, 1500 calories of bacon, cheese, beef and a glazed donut. The donut acts as a bun. (The Big E Craz-E made national news. Isn't it bad enough that legislators are promoting the Fluffernutter as the state sandwich?)

The Forager and His Take....

At the Garlic Festival, I ran into a forager who was holding a plastic bag with what looked like a massive brain inside of it. It was a healthy haul of "Chicken of the Woods," (Laetiporus Sulphureus), a mushroom typically found on rotted tree stumps in the forest. The forager and I were standing at the top of the hill taking in the spectacle that is Garlic Fest. The aroma of fried sausage mingled in the air with the scent of roasted coffee beans. We exchanged pleasantries and as usual his behavior was somewhat furtive. He stopped talking and looked to his right and then to his left. When the coast was clear, he reached into the bag and handed over a substantial chunk of the mushroom. I couldn't believe my luck. Chicken of the Woods is not easy to come by. Strange things happen at Garlic Fest, what with the music on solar powered acoustical systems, belly dancing, a riot of exotic foods and fairway spectacles such as Apollo, the guy who grows figs and has arms that seem as though they can squeeze sap right out of a tree.

I examined my gift through the filmy plastic he offered and the forager whispered a recipe. "My step daughter makes chicken fingers by breading and deep frying the mushroom. This part," he said pointing to the stem of the mushroom, "acts like a little handle." He recommended I eat the mushroom soon. "Today is best." he said. I went home and tried his step daughter's recipe and it was nothing short of a revelation. Essentially this mushroom, in the guise of fast food, becomes a protein with the flavor of lobster but none of the sacrifice.

The ultimate locavore lunch is one that is completely local and seasonal. Even the plate for this lunch, a paper bag from the Leeds Package Store, was foraged within a mile of my house. Kale is in the garden and the eggs are from my friend's boyfriend's house in Belchertown. Chicken of the Wood mushroom fries are a matter of provenance. Not are they only available in late summer and early autumn, unless you are a skilled forager, the best shot you have at getting the fungus is to go to the Farmer's Market in Northampton behind Thornes on a Wednesday and ask for Paul. If he is there, he might sell them to you, if he has them.

Recipe of the Week: Locavore Lunch

Dino Kale Sunny Side Up with Chicken of the Wood Fries


5-leaves dino kale
1-farm egg
1-head (size of your brain) of Chicken of the Woods fungus, sliced into 1/2" strips length-wise


julienne kale by rolling it up and slicing to ribbons
sear in olive oil or butter till crisp but not dark brown
remove and replace with egg
fry until white is cooked through
remove egg from pan and melt 2 tablespoons butter
fry up the fungus fingers until somewhat softened and very slightly browned

create little nest of kale and top with fried egg
arrange fungus next to the kale

enjoy with home made ketchup!

Friday, October 2, 2009

An Author, A Mayor and A Plan

Hunger Summit at Mass Mutual
Several weeks ago at the Mass Mutual Center in Springfield, a New York
author and political activist stood up in front of a crowd of around
150 people to speak his mind about the state of hunger in the U.S. and
the state of things in the Valley. Joel Berg, formerly in the Clinton
Administration as a member of the USDA and currently heading up the
New York City Coalition Against Hunger was keynoting at the first
annual Hunger Summit. "The poor will always be with us," he said. "It
is referenced many times in the bible." Berg is author of "All You Can
Eat, How Hungry is America?"

Sponsored the The Food Bank of Western Mass, Berg was on hand to
provide a big picture on hunger situation in the U.S. Berg's solution
to the 36.2 million Americans living in homes that can't afford enough
food. He comes to this after many years in the field, beginning with
going door to door working with people. His conclusion from early on
has been to get government involved. "Pantries and charity and rock
and roll stars can't fight this alone. The problem is too big," he
said comparing charity to old fashioned bucket brigades, designed to
put out fires. "When is the last time you heard about an entire city
burning down?" he said. "The way we are handling hunger with charity
is not effective." He advocates a $24 billion infusion from the
government to effectively solve the problem. That solution includes an
increase in minimum wage and more money for food stamps. "There need
to be more dignity in this system," he said.

Most of the people witnessing Berg holding forth have seen hunger
first hand. The assembled included people who work for places like
Kate's Kitchen, Rachel's Table, The Center for Sustainable Living,
Holyoke Health Food and Fitness Policy, area Salvation Armies and other organizations. In addition
to those on the front lines were Springfield Mayor Dominic Sarno and
other politicians. Berg took a moment to praise not only the Red Sox
and Francis Perkins, a Mt. Holyoke alum, for her early research on
poverty in Hell's Kitchen in New York. "Those conditions were nothing
like you see now," he said adding that small children were hired to
climb into small areas for construction work, often losing limbs in
the process.

No stranger to the myriad food banks across the country, it is Berg's
impression that The Food Bank in Hatfield, one of more than 200
certified food banks affiliated with Feeding America, is among the
most progressive. "Growing their own food means a focus on nutrition,"
he said and added that initiatives to develop food policy at the state
level is also key to its success. Every year 200,000 lbs of organic
food from The Food Bank Farm in Hadley goes to 400 member agency
programs. Recent numbers show one in every eight residents in
Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire Counties seek food
assistance through the emergency food network, according to The Food
Bank documentation.

Before Berg spoke, Sarno announced a The Springfield Food Policy
Council, a new alliance. According to Food Bank's Executive Director
Andrew Morehouse, the council will bring a diverse group of relevant
stakeholders together on a regular basis. "Youth, seniors, the faith
community, community-based organizations, municipal government and
food-related businesses." Ultimately the collaboration will lead to
affect policy at the state level and access resources. "This will
strengthen the local food system so that all residents will have
access to affordable and nutritious food," said Morehouse. In
Springfield's Mason Square, close to 60% of the K-12 population is
overweight and obese.

Currently the State House leadership is considering a bill to
establish a Massachusetts Food Policy Council that will serve the same
purpose at the state level as the Springfield (and Holyoke and
Worcester) food policy councils. Getting the bill (H. 1138) passed by
the House Ways and Means Committee will require such initiatives as
the Springfield Food Policy council and support from state
representatives. The Food Bank's recent work with Mason Square put a
grocery store in the neighborhood is at a standstill. "The Food Bank
and now the Mason Square Health Task Force are continuing to explore
this option even though the economic crisis has put a damper on this
project," said Morehouse. On Sumner Avenue in Springfield, there has
been a Farmers' Market in the parking lot of Trinity for over ten
years. It attracts vendors from the all over western Mass and
Connecticut. "We’re also looking at other ways for neighborhood
residents to access affordable and nutritious foods such as
transportation to supermarkets," he added. "We’re also supporting
faith- and community-based groups to grow community gardens on
abandoned lots. We expect the Springfield Food Policy Council to
support all of these efforts."

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

World Made by Hand, Coming to a Field Near You....

James Howard Kunstler, author of "World Made by Hand" and "The Long Emergency" is an unlikely prophet but a prophet he is. Two weeks ago on a Sunday night, fans lined up in front of the Mahaiwe Theatre in Great Barrington. The old theatre had his name in lights on the marquee a bygone different era. The Mahaiwe is not far from Club Helsinki or what used to be called Club Helsinki. Now it is just an empty, hollow space now devoid music and applause since it recently closed for business......continued in this week's Valley Advocate.

Recipe of the Week: Chocolate Zucchini Cake

This Chocolate Zucchini Cake is a very elegant use of sometimes unwieldy zucchini. Chef Donna's cake has a beautiful, glistening "ganache" (chocolate with milk) icing. Zucchini is fine in muffins and skewered on the grill with floppy onion and chunks of tofu but really fine with chocolate.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake


1/2 cup local butter

1 3/4 cups granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 large local eggs (room temp.)

1/2 cup sour cream or yogurt

2 1/2 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa

2 teaspoons espresso powder, optional

2 cups shredded local zucchini

1/2 cup chopped (70% cacao) dark bittersweet chocolate

Ganache Icing:

1 cup local heavy cream

1 ½ cups rough chopped (70% cacao) dark bittersweet chocolate

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly coat a 9x13pan with baking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the vanilla, and oil. Beat in the eggs.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cocoa and espresso powder.

Stir in the sour cream or yogurt alternately with the flour mixture. Mixing until smooth. Finally, fold in the zucchini and the 1/2 cup of chopped chocolate.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the cake for 35 - 40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and cool on a rack.

To prepare the ganache icing: Heat heavy cream in a saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Remove from heat, add chopped chocolate, and then cover saucepan with a lid. Wait about 5 minutes then stir several minutes to combine until a dark, smooth consistency. The ganache will thicken as it cools. When warm, but not hot, pour over cake and smooth with offset spatula. The icing will set in about 30 minutes.

note: This cake freezes nicely.

Chef Donna Fisher is a caterer located in Longmeadow MA who specializes in local food.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Let them eat cornbread.........

Recipe of the Week: Hot Chili Corn Bread

Fast food, slow food, real food, local food, cheap food, in the end it is really just food. While health experts point at charts that compare outbreaks of poverty to outbreaks of convenience stores to outbreaks juvenile diabetes, all in the same colored regions, conclusions are drawn. Mountains may have to be moved, to the tune of $24 billion in federal government subsidies, to eradicate hunger in this country.

Here is a recipe for corn bread that costs a whole lot less and doesn't take an act of congress to make. I get my cornmeal from a guy who grows it locally and grinds it himself in bare feet on a bicycle, but that is just me. You can buy cornmeal at C-Town on Cabot Street in Holyoke for less than a dollar a bag or just sweep it off the floor of a pizza place for all I care!

Anyone (you know how you are) who says that making food from scratch is an elitist pipe dream has been eating too much take-out. This recipe, which takes 7 to 8 minutes to make not including cooking time, uses a chili pepper and some aged goat cheese. Without out the pepper and cheese this cornmeal is a staple. It can be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Yes, yes this is local food. Whose idea was that anyway? Alice Waters? Michael Pollan? The CEO of Whole Foods? A conspiracy of permaculture fascists? Maybe the bible? Feel free to substitute where desired. It's a free country!


2 cups white flour
1 cup corn meal or corn flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon very finely chopped red chili pepper (or red pepper shake from the pizza place)
1/2 to3/4 cup cheese, aged whatever or big block cheddar
1 cup milk or yogurt
1 egg
1/2 stick butter or 1/2 cup oil, but not motor oil, not that.


mix together dry ingredients
mix together wet ingredients
combine both in bowl
mix in cheese
mix in peppers
melt 1/2 stick butter in oven in baking pan
mix butter together with cornbread mix
place in pan and bake for 30 minutes at 350

Enjoy with the adult or juvenile beverage of your choice!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Beyond Tater Tots

Dan Fitzgerald (pictured left, in front of the Council for the Aging) is the greenest guy Holyoke. A retired professor at HCC, he historian delivers fresh veggies to a man who can't leave the house. "He just waits and when I drop the stuff off, sometimes I cook it," says Dan sotto voce. "He is not so used to the collards.....more of a kielbasa guy."

For the last decade or more, Dan has been riding his bike both around town to the school and now all over the place. The latest in his life and over at the Council, is that a weekly delivery of leafy greens and carrots straight from the earth, will be screeching to a halt very soon. Not because of a killer frost but because of a killer state economy which has been cutting funding for the program for the last several years. Dan and many other seniors are benefiting from food delivered fresh on a weekly basis by area farms....to find out what this means to the people behind the program, CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture) and the folks who are benefiting from having a farm share right where they live....Read "Beyond Tater Tots" in this week's Valley Advocate

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Preservation Nation: Expect the Unexpected

What is better than having rows and rows of glass jars containing bright red tomatoes all lined up in your pantry in the middle of winter?

Nothing is better, but what is worse would be if all you had in your pantry for winter consumption was canned tomatoes.

Local author Kathy Harrison discusses canning and other end game strategies. Read an interview with the author of, "Just in Case..." in this week's issue of the Valley Advocate......click here for the whole story.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Please Do Not Send Money

If you received an email from me requesting money, it is from bad guy hackers, not me. I am not at a seminar in London without my wallet or money for a hotel, I am in Amherst drinking Kenyan coffee at a locally owned establishment trying to recover all data. My e-mail account was hacked into.

Suddenly no e-mail, no blog, no life. I stared at the blank screen. The phone rang off the hook. People calling with responses ranging from "areyouok?" from the caring to "ewww" from the knowing to "call the police!" from my 76 year-old-father.

mn: Hello, I'd like to report a theft.
police: Where are you?
mn: Home, Northampton, the Leeds part of Northampton.
police: Was something stolen from your home?
mn: My identity.
police: What?
mn: Identity theft
police: What is that?
mn: Somebody hacked into my gmail account and now I can't get access
to my mail or my blog.
police: What?
mn: I'm without an identity. My email is shut down. Nnobody can reach
me. When they try to reach me they get a bounce back. I'm nobody.
police: Who is doing the bouncing?
mn: Maybe DNS?
police: Well then call DSS.
mn: No...
police: We don't handle DSS calls
mn: No, DNS, domain name server oversees all of the domains in the
websphere, you go to DNS to do a "who is?" to find out who owns a doman...., you know?
police: So you lost your identity?
mn: Yes and google won't answer the phone
police: Who is that?
mn: The mail server that I have....they don't even bother with tech support.
police: Call them.
mn: Nobody there, just computers.
police: Lady, what do you want?
mn: Find the hackers, I need to get back on line
police: Are you on drugs?
mn: Ok, listen to me, some bad guys hacked into my gmail account,
stole all of the names on the recipient list, and sent them all an
email with a message from me that says "help me" in the subject
line... And then it went on to say some cockamamie thing about being
stuck in London at a seminar and losing money and needing $2800 that
should be sent to a disclosed location. So all these people, friends,
clients, people I barely know, relatives got this thing and I can't
tell them to ignore it because I don't have their email addresses.
police: Why not?
mn: They were stolen by the hackers.
police: Maybe you should call Harvard yard.
mn: You mean Scotland yard.
police: Yeah.
mn: Forget it, you're no better than google.
police: At least we answer the telephone.
mn: Thank you officer.
police: Have a nice day.
mn: Thanks
police: And another thing.
mn: Yes?
police: If you don't know your identity, why don't you ask DSS?
mn: You mean DSS?
police: Yeah, all you gotta do is google DNS, type in, "who is?"....what
is your name?
mn: Mary Nelen?
police: There you go, you got your identity back. anything we can help you with?
mn: Well, no, not at this time.