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 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 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.