Tuesday, December 25, 2012

the saudi's and grilled cheese

Recipe for our times

We live in an old factory in a mill town in New England. Our hand made Christmas consisted of a post-nap repast of tomato soup with grilled cheese. It's not homesteading but it's a start. 

Tomato soup by hand

1 jar canned tomatoes
1 quart lamb broth
1 small potato, peeled and cubed
2 skinny carrots, peeled and sliced

Cook down tomatoes in lamb broth (made by me 2 months ago from lamb weaned and reared 32 miles away on a farm) with potato (from farm 11 miles away) and carrots (same farm) for about 30 minutes. Toss in some dried sage (grown by me at community garden) and add salt and pepper (from store). Process soup in a food mill and re-heat adding a bit of butter (Cabot from Vermont) if desired.

Serve with a grilled cheese sandwich. As a special holiday treat, we had rice and cranberry bread (made by Buddhist baker next town over) with cheddar (store) and a little bit of smoked chicken, (smoked by people around 20 miles away) sage leaves fried in butter and onion for our grilled cheese. Oh, and we split a chocolate (made locally, cocoa not sure where from, but far away) for desert. I hate to think of the mortgage default swaps that may or may not have played a part in some of the ingredients of our post-nap repast. I know the tomatoes are mine because I grew them myself  but the seeds are from Ace Hardware and I hear they're in bed with Saudi's. What's a factory girl to do? 

Monday, November 26, 2012


Greenfield Local Television (GCTV) interviews gleaners Jessica Harwood, Danny Botkin and Mary Nelen on dumpster diving, giving back and oddly shaped tomatoes. 

What, why and how are we doing what the bible told farmers - plant some of your land for the hungry

Dan Botkin of Laughing Dog Farm, Gill MA
Click HERE to play Gleaning Video from GCTV.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Solar vs. Soil

Area Farmer Weighs in on Solar Panels and their presence on farmland.....are they taking food from our mouths?

"Town governments, land trusts, farm advocacy groups and private citizens should take all possible steps to preserve prime class 1 farmland for agricultural food production. Developments such as solar photovoltaic farms, new residential housing, industrial parks, etc., should be relegated to areas that are not rich in prime agricultural soils." 

-- Ryan Voillard, Red Fire Farm, Daily Hampshire Gazette

Friday, November 9, 2012

Winter Foraging Alert for Valley People

Apples local varietals, pears, greens and meat all winter long at a farm near you  .... 

The weather this winter is anybody's guess but we have local food on our side till spring. Shares, stores and farms are all offering storage crops and greens at a level of availability unprecedented until this year. Thanks to funding for extended season initiatives and the intrepid efforts of area farms including Red Fire, Enterprise, Winter Moon and Bashista. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Campus Farming at Skidmore in Saratoga

Skidmore students grow their own....

Faith Nichola, Elizabeth Cohen, Gabby Stern, Margot Reisner

Early in the school and late in the afternoon last month, a tightrope was stretched between two trees in the quad. One guy walked the entire thing after a couple of tries. Not far off at the Dining Hall, a similar balancing act is taking place. 

Skidmore students are taking on something called the Real Food Challenge (RFC) requiring food served at schools be humane, fair trade, ecological, and local. The goal is that this is true for 20% of school food by 2020. 

The school isn’t committing to the challenge, not on paper anyway, the students are. Because of their work, last October, over 11% of school food came from a garden next to the Admissions Building.

Skidmore has four things going for it: a decent growing zone, a dining services director who calls the shots, an aggressive grass roots Food Action Group and Gabby Stern, among others.

Last summer Stern (’13) toiled in the soil at the school garden, interned at American Farmland Trust and ran the Farmers Market in downtown Saratoga – a local food trifecta.

“I came into Skidmore with zero experience,” said Stern, an environmental studies major. “Then I started working the garden. There I was, 18 years old and it was the first time I harvested a carrot, or a sweet potato. There is a problem with that. How have I gone my entire life not knowing this?”

Under the umbrella of the Environmental Action Club, the Food Working Group began four years ago when students broke ground. Stern took over as manager of the garden in 2010 and contracted with the dining hall to sell the vegetables. That was the start of the Local Food Initiative, an effort dedicated to getting more local food into the school.

“I learned from other members of the group. It was hands on,” says Stern, “A few professors from school gave their two cents and we just learned on our own. We get a lot of support from Environmental Studies and it is incredible how much they covet this garden. It has been a great part of my education, this garden.

Stern gets no academic credits for this work but this semester Faith Nichola (’14) is doing an internship to perform data analysis for the Real Food Challenge.  She will also be creating reports from that data for Skidmore administration to provide them with a better understanding of the process.

Elizabeth Cohen, (’14) got involved in the garden when Sarah Arndt (’13?) introduced her to RNC. Originally from Putney Vermont Cohen grew up with a garden in the back yard so the origins of a carrot were familiar to her. Coming to Skidmore put organic food in a different light. 

“Working in the garden made me think about where things are coming from. Affordability and access aren’t the same for everybody,” she said adding that even if everybody decided to eat local and organic, it would be great, but it is impossible.

Riley Neugebauer, Skidmore’s Sustainability Coordinator, believes that food is a social justice issue. “Sustainability includes equity (justice), ecology, and economy,” she says.

‘If people don't have access to one of their most basic needs – food – or if the only food they have access to is unhealthy, grown with pesticides that accumulate in our bodies over time, harm the environment that we are all a part of, and doesn't tell a story about where it came from or who grew it or why that matters…then we have a justice issue.”

‘Margot Reisner, (’14) from San Francisco, is now managing the garden and takes the long view. This semester she is managing the garden and next semester she will travel to Australia to study permaculture.

Reisner, who is in the social and cultural track of environmental studies defined permaculture as follows: “Permaculture is the mentality is that everything we do as humans has to do with ecology. If it doesn’t have to do with ecology, then it doesn’t make sense at all. If there is a discrepancy between the way human systems work and the way ecology works, then you are going to have a problem. Permaculture mimics the way ecological systems work.”

After graduation, Reisner will return to California to start her own farm.
“I just want to have a place to have people live and be healthy,” she said. 

By Mary A. Nelen (’79)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Radical School Lunch

Chef Ann Cooper

In the Valley, there is no shortage of fresh veggies and fruit. So why aren't kids getting it in school? 

On October 2, FARM TO FORK radio show took a look at
'mystery meat,' 'pink slime,' and other health risks leveled at public school students.

The show interviews food service directors, teachers, program directors, activists and others who weigh in on their use of local food and other radical measures to change the system. We spoke with presenters at this summers' DIGGING IN, a Farm to Cafeteria Conference in Burlington, VT where people very, very much devoted to what kids are eating could cavort on the lawns of Shelburne Farm where sheep grazed in the background before going back to getting down to the business of saving the world.

Chef Ann Cooper, (who spoke this summer at the Farm to Cafeteria Conference in Burlington VT) rages against the school food machine, Lethal school food containing high fat, high starch, high fructose drinks, GMOs and hormones combined with extra short lunch periods are the enemy.  Cooper battles these forces with salad bars and a call for reform from within the system as from inside the system as Food Services Director, Boulder Valley School School System and Founder of the Food Family Family Farming Foundation. Results of her efforts can be seen in the  Let's Move! Salad Bars to Schools program supported by Michelle Obama.  Also, Jennifer LaBarre of the Oakland Unified School District is heard from. She heads Harvest of the Month efforts that includes 22 produce markets that feed the students and the community.

Locals weigh in on the topic of food in public schools and we hear from Farm to Institution Coordinator Emily French of Farm to School in Amherst, Anne Hewitt Cody, Kindergarten Initiative Coordinator, Holyoke MA, Mauricio Abascal, Director, Eat Well Food Camp and the NorthStar Nutrition Program, Hadley MA and Adam Roberts, Youth Commission Director in South Hadley.

In the Valley, where there is no shortage of local fruit and vegetables, public schools are challenged by budget and transportation but change is coming slowly. And salad bars, field trips and cooking classes don't hurt so there is hope.

Please listen and comment. Does school lunch have to change, how can it change, if we can eat locally, why can't students? Do we need more money, better transport, an open mind? And if you want your kids or your school to get access to local food, contact Farm to School immediately. Emily will make it happen.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Interview Reveals Aversion to Potlucks!


Serious Eats Interview Reveals Aversion to Potlucks!

Stevie Pierson Chats with Authors of "CookFight" 

Art Opening - Assemblage wth Fur

Assemblage by Rosemary Barrett

Art Opening
Assemblage by Rosemary Barrett
Thursday, November 1
Wistariahurst Museum
Holyoke, MA
6 pm to 8 pm

School Lunch Has a Prayer - Jane Brody NYTimes

Jane Says.......

School Lunch Has a Prayer.....

No pink slime here.......

Sunday, September 30, 2012


Tragedy + Thyme = Food

Find it, there's lots now, you have your sources. End of Summer. End of fruit. End of Tomatoes. End of Herbs. Tragedy. But wait. Your neighbor is away. There might be some thyme left in her garden. Anyway, get your hands on herbs now while you can. Preferably if the plants are still in the ground. Cut it down at the stem quickly, with scissors, and sequester in a paper bag. When you get home, clean herbs off under the faucet. Then pat dry with a towel, not a paper towel, then place on baking sheets. Leave them out, for a while, not too long, and the herbs will dry, then strip the leaves off the stems, crinkle them up, not too much, then put them in a little bottle. If you are clever, you will make a little cone out of paper for a funnel. Do this for oregano, basil, tarragon, cilantro, sage. Lemongrass. Herbs are in good shape now, September 30, 2012 in New England, no hard frost yet, (not including Hill Towns). Not basil or other herbs which have bolted, also cilantro. So loss of flavor there. Don't dry herbs that don't taste good in the first place. Save the best.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Maddie G. Gets it Done.....

the day finally arrived....our three months of sweat toil and pain plus yummy snacks have come to fruition in the form of six pizzas made from our tomatoes. yea. served to the masses at the south hadley town farm potluck supper last sunday. we rested after that.....

Maddie G. of the South Hadley Pizza Garden

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Farm Report - Pizza Garden, South Hadley

Tomatoes, herbs, everything but the pepperoni.....
By Mary Nelen, Program Director, Adam Roberts, Youth Commissioner

PLANTING SPACE: 2- 20’ x 10’ plots at the South Hadley Community Farm

VEGGIES: 43 Roma Tomato Plants (Donated by SH Community Garden)

HERBS: 3 Basil Plants, 1 Thyme, 3 Sage, 2 Rosemary 


TOMATOES: 3 bushels  (120 lbs)
TOMATO SAUCE:  15 1-quart jars

WORKERS:  Maddie Gatzounas, Lucy from Spain, Garrett Larivee, Adam Roberts, Sophia Kebbede , Katy Chevalier, Caitlyn Hoschtetler, Gabrielle Dulude, Pedro.

FIELD TRIPS: MountainView Farm & UMass Permaculture Farm

EVENT: Pizza Making and Sharing -- Potluck Supper 9/16/12


With special thanks to Maddie Gatzounas, Robert Lak and the South Hadley Community Farm gardeners.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

what is permaculture? why make this video viral?

Our goal is for this (Part 3) video to reach 50,000 views by September 15, 2012. If we reach that milestone, UMass will help fund, design and install a permaculture garden at three local Amherst Elementary Schools starting this October. Please watch and share the link widely if you feel moved this cause! -- Ryan Harb, UMass

Bill Mollison and David Holmgren at the University of Tasmania in the 1970’s collaborated to write a text called Permaculture One. It was followed up by Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual in 1988. Mollison coined the term Permaculture to refer to a nature-inspired design philosophy for sustainable agriculture. One of motivations for this philosophy was his observation of the unsustainable nature of our fossil fuel economy. An as a forester, he was impressed with the stability and productivity of mature forests. He envisioned how humans can mimic nature through observation and application in gardens and towns and structures.  Permaculture is formally described as "an ecological, holistic and sustainable design system and philosophy for human living spaces. It has been successfully used around the world to maximize food production, regenerate springs, cool homes without air conditioning, revive deserts, transform lives, reorganize towns and neighborhoods, reduce pollution, according to permaculture advocates. The essence of permaculture is summed up by these tenets:

    •    Take Care of the Earth: Provision for all life systems to continue and multiply. This is the first principle, because without a healthy earth, humans cannot flourish.
    •    Take Care of the People: Provision for people to access those resources necessary for their existence.
    •    Share the Surplus: Healthy natural systems use outputs from each element to nourish others. We humans can do the same. By governing our own needs, we can set resources aside to further the above principles.

A Food Forest mimics the architecture and beneficial relationships between plants and animals found in a natural forest or other natural ecosystem. Food forests are not ‘natural’, but are designed and managed ecosystems (typically complex perennial polyculture plantings) that are very rich in biodiversity and productivity. For example, a permaculture garden in western mass would include ground cover instead of a lawn, a body of water, food consisting of fruit trees and vegetables and flowers all planted for best use principles where animals, plants and humans live in harmony.  The result is minimal human intervention. Some plants are wintered over, others could be grown in hoop house for extended season growing. So no gas for lawn mowers, no chemicals whatsoever for pesticides or fertilization. Western Ma permaculture gardens include certain banana plants, kiwi plants, strawberries, mushrooms, kale, and other plants.

Locally there are a number of permaculture initatives. There are courses taught at GCC, there is a permaculture effort at UMass in the form of two gardens planted over parking lots at dining commons that provide food for students. That program is headed up by Ryan Harb and provides an opportunity for people to volunteer their services. That group can be found on Facebook and on the UMass website. Permaculture is best understood by doing and the UMass program is a good way to start learning about the practice. There is also a Permaculture Design Certification Course given by Lisa DiPiano called Permaculture for Social & Ecological Transformation (http://permaculturefeast.org) and finally there is a permaculture list serve that can be joined at from: westernmapermacultureguild-request@lists.thepine.org.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

RECIPE: September CSA Share - Heirloom Tomato Chutney

Chutney is great with potato or whole wheat bread. Serve along with yogurt to bring down the acid and provide a good ying and yang effect. Very nice with chicken thighs or lamb kabobs. And the colored heirlooms make it gorgeous.


1 1/2 lbs heirloom variety tomatoes 
1 orange bell pepper, chopped fine
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped fine
3/4 cup yellow onion, chopped fine
2/3 cup tarragon vinegar 
1 cup apple cider vinegar 
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon kosher salt 
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper 
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes

Peel, seed, and chop tomatoes. In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, bring vinegars to a boil with the honey, salt, pepper, and chili. Stir in the tomato, peppers, and onions. Simmer mixture very slowly, uncovered, stirring frequently, until mixture is reduced to about 2 cups, about 1 1/2 hours. Store in the refrigerator.



One bushel of fresh tomatoes weighs 53 lbs and yields approximately 18 quarts of canned tomatoes or 15 to 18 quarts of juice. Approximately 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 pounds of fresh tomatoes makes 1 quart of canned tomatoes. 

So if you want enough tomatoes to get you through the year until next August and you are the type of cook who would use a jar of tomatoes every two weeks, or so, then plan on 36 quarts. That's three cases of Ball  Jars and two bushels of tomatoes. I recommend "plum" or "roma" tomatoes because the have the least amount of water and provide a "base" for making sauce in winter. Add dried herbs now or when you cook up the sauce later. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

RECIPE: Corn and Cherry Tomato Tart

Verrill's Corn and Tomato Tart
Courtesy of Ellie Klepacki Cookbook with slight modification

1/2 chopped onion
1 garlic clove, chopped
3 T olive oil
4 ears of corn, steamed with kernels cut off
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Baked pie crust
1/4 C grated cheddar cheese
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2 T fresh thyme or tarragon
3 scallions, chopped
2 large eggs
1/2 C milk
1/2 C heavy cream

Heat to 375. In a medium sauce-pan over medium heat, sauté onions in olive oil and garlic after two minutes. Cook until onions are translucent. Add corn kernels and cook about 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Put half of the corn mixture into Baked Pie Crust. Layer grated cheese evenly on top. Add remaining corn mixture. Scatter cherry tomatoes, scallions and herbs on top. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and cream; pour egg mixture over tart. Bake 30 minutes until tart is golden brown. Yield: 8 to 12 servings

Baked Piecrust
This recipe is for a 9x10" pie pan (or use a tart pan)

3/4 C flour
3 T unsalted butter 
3 T lard
1/4 tsp salt
2 T cold water

Heat oven to 375. In a food processor, pulse together flour, butter and salt until mixture resembles corn kernels. Add water & pulse just until the mixture forms a ball. Roll out dough and place in pie pan. Cover with parchment paper and a handful of dried beans or pie weights. Blind bake 15 minutes. Let crust cool, remove beans/weights, add filling. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Tomato Time: Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

Oven Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
While you sleep.....

This method of cooking tomatoes will result in something similar to sun dried tomatoes except more lush, liquid and fresh. The tomatoes can be served alone as an appetizer, they can be part of a green or grain salad, they can be served as a side dish or on home made pizza with fresh ricotta. For later use, fill a small jar with oven-roasted tomatoes and add more olive oil as well as herbs and garlic as desired.  Place in fridge. This recipe is courtesy of Chef Donna, diva of lush, liquid and fresh.


parchment paper
baking sheets


4- quarts cherry tomatoes, any kind
olive oil
sea salt, peper


Preheat oven to 425

Halve cherry tomatoes and place on parchment lined baking sheet.
Sprinkle liberally with olive oil, sea salt and pepper
Place in oven and roast for 30 minutes.
Turn off heat and allow tomatoes and allow to continue cooking while you sleep. 


Remove and serve warm or place in jars with olive oil and herbs and refrigerate, or freeze, for later use.

RECIPE: Canned Plum Tomatoes

RECIPE: Canned Plum Tomatoes

Putting food by is the art of preserving the freshness of summer. Flavor as well as nutrition are benefits of taking the time to can summer food. 

According to the USDA, vegetables handled properly and canned promptly after harvest can be more nutritious than fresh produce sold in local stores.

Sure it can take a little bit of time to do this but look at it this way, what else can you do to get local tomatoes in winter?  Um...
RECIPE: Canned Plum Tomatoes: Yield: 1 dozen quarts. Time: 3 to 4 hours.

12- 1-quart Ball Jars with lids and bands, cleaned and warm
1 canner (21-quart) with canning rack
1 set canning tongs 
1 canning funnel 
1 small saucepan for lid sterilization
1 stockpot for scalding tomatoes
1 large bowl or cooler for ice bath
1 small set of tongs for removing lids from saucepan
1 plastic spatula to remove air bubbles
1 cutting board
1 small paring knife
Clean Dish Rags

36 lbs tomatoes, about 6 tomatoes per jar
24- tablespoons bottled lemon juice or 5% acidity vinegar or 6 teaspoons of citric acid   
12- teaspoons salt 


Create this assembly line in your kitchen:

1)    Fill your canner ¾ full of water. Bring to a simmer, put the lid on and keep on a back burner until ready for use.
2)    Fill a stockpot with water to scald tomatoes in batches. Bring to a strong simmer.
3)    Fill a small saucepan half way with water and keep water almost to a boil.
4)    Wash tomatoes in batches and set aside for scalding
5)    Prepare ice bath for scalded tomatoes by filling cooler or bowl with water and ice.
6)    Place cutting board next to ice bath for skinning and coring tomatoes.
7)    Next to that, have a bowl ready for the skins and cores and line up 6 jars and bands.
8)    Place lids with rubber lining in sauce pan to sterilize.
9)    At the end of the line, have lemon juice, (or 5% acidity vinegar) salt, measuring spoons and dishrags ready.

Wash all of the plum tomatoes in cold water. In batches, place in boiling water to scald. When splits appear in skin, after around 3 minutes, remove several tomatoes at a time with a slotted spoon or small colander and place in the ice bath.

When the tomatoes are cool enough to touch, remove skins and cores with a paring knife. Try to keep them intact, if possible. Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice (or vinegar or citric acid) and one teaspoon of salt to each jar. Using the funnel, fill each jar with tomato flesh only, leaving about 1” of headroom in the top of the jar.  

Use rubber spatula to remove air bubbles in mixture by sliding it around the edges of the jar. Wipe the neck of the jar clean with a dishtowel. Use a small set of tongs to remove a lid from the saucepan. Place lid on top of jar with a tap of the tongs and screw the band around it, “finger tight,” but not too tight. That will make it possible to allow air to escape during processing. The goal in processing is to eliminate all air to prevent contamination.

Bring water in canner up to a strong simmer. When all of the jars in the canning rack are filled with tomatoes and the lids are screwed on, place entire rack in water, turn heat up to high and process for approximately 45 minutes. Jars should be fully submerged with 2 to 3 inches of water above the jars. Add boiling water to bath if necessary.

When the jars have been processed in boiling water for the recommended time, turn off the heat and remove the canner lid. Wait 5 minutes before removing jars.

Using jar tongs, remove the jars one at a time, being careful not to tilt the jars. Carefully place them directly onto a towel or cake cooling rack, leaving at least one inch of space between the jars during cooling. Avoid placing the jars on a cold surface or in a cold draft.

Remove each jar with tongs and place upside down on dishtowel. Repeat this process until all of the tomatoes have been processed. Leave jars undisturbed for 24 hours. You will hear a popping sound when the seal is made.

To check to see if a seal has been created in the jar, press on center of cooled lid. If jar is sealed, the lid will NOT flex up or down. If it does flex up or down, refrigerate and use within 2 weeks. Store sealed jars in cool, dark place for up to one year.

Congratulations! You have just put canned tomatoes. Enjoy this summer’s bounty all year long. See www.valleylocavore.com for additional tomato recipes.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Friday, June 29, 2012


Why so soon this gift of summer?

According to the Sweet Corn Report in today's UMass Extension Vegetable Notes,  "The first early corn harvest, mostly in the Connecticut Valley not far from the river, has started this week. In many other parts of the state, first corn harvest is still 10-14 days away." Of the corn now available, "This mostly represents the early varieties that were started under plastic. Hand picked ears are full and sweet with nice color...." Asparagus was a month early this year and tomatoes are already up in at some farms. Many are taking the 'eat it while you can' approach which is sensible.

RECIPE: Early Corn 


6 ears of corn, preferably picked the day you eat it
1 stick of butter, or thereabouts
1 bunch basil, or thereabouts

Fresh corn from farm preferably picked that day.
Shuck enough corn for each person as per request
Fill stock put with enough water to submerge corn. Add salt to water and boil.
Plunge the corn in boil water and turn off heat.
Cook around 5 minutes.  The corn io quite young so it doesn't take much time for it to yield to heat.)
Melt enough butter for each ear, shred basil leaves and add to butter.
When corn is ready, drain and slather with basil butter.
Serve al fresco.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Recipe: Strawberries with Fresh Ricotta

Strawberry Sundae......

Photo: Mary Nelen, ValleyLocavore

This is the one and only best way to eat fresh strawberries.

All you need is a big stock pot, a thermometer that goes up to 200 degrees, something called citric acid, a white salt-like substance you can buy at the hardware store (or online), some cheese cloth and a gallon of milk, raw is good if you can get it. Mint would be nice as a garnish if it is up yet in your yard.

Here is the recipe for fresh ricotta. I got it from the Cheese Queen who is never wrong about these things. Ricki Carroll earned her crown after decades of teaching homesteaders and artisan chefs cheese making technique. Just a regular gal in Ashfield whose range runs the gamut for those who are just learning to boil milk to romano, the Italian hard cheese. If you want to bask in her spirit and knowledge, take a class or pick up her book "Home Cheese Making," Storey Publishing 2002. But ricotta is pretty easy. Here's my version of her recipe. The strawberry sauce is my own, cooked up with grade b maple syrup for dimension and depth. Enjoy!

Strawberries with Fresh Ricotta

1- quart fresh, local strawberries
1- gallon whole milk
4- tablespoons fresh mint leaves
2- tablespoons grade b maple syrup
1- cup cool water
2- teaspoons citric acid


1- Food Thermometer that goes to 200 degrees
Cheese Cloth
Slotted Spoon

Dissolve citric acid in water and stir. Pour gallon of milk into a stock pot. Stir in ½ cup of the citric acid into the milk. Heat milk on low to medium and stir to prevent scorching. Tiny curds will begin to appear as they separate from the whey. Bring the mixture to between 180 and 190 degrees. When the mixture gets to the temperature range, the curds will become much more fluffy and rise to the top of the pan. When the whey is no longer milky, remove from the heat. Let the curds and whey rest for ten minutes in the stock pot off the heat so they continue to set.

Line colander with cheese cloth and place over a pan. Slowly remove curds from stock pot with slotted spoon and place into colander with a slotted spoon. Work slowly to prevent the curd from breaking up. When you have all of the curd collected, take the corners of the cheese cloth and tie together to create a small hammock for the cheese. Hang from the faucet of your sink or over a wooden spoon straddling over a bowl. Allow to drain for between 10 minutes and several hours depending on the consistency you desire. The longer it rests, the more dense the cheese becomes.

Wash strawberries and slice in half, length wise, removing the stem. Set aside four sprigs of mint for garnish and cut the rest of the mint into thin ribbons by rolling them and slicing width-wise. Combine mint, strawberries and maple syrup and heat over a small flame. Cook down until the sauce is somewhat thickened, about 10 minutes. Take off heat and cool down

Scoop ricotta like ice cream into small bowls and drizzle the strawberry sauce over it. Garnish each plate with a big strawberry and some mint leaves.  

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What is in your share? Week 1

Photo: Mary Nelen ©
What's in your share this week?

Let's say somebody's coming over and you have to make dinner with only what is in your share?

If you remember the show "Ready, Set Cook!" you will remember that contestants were assigned a similar task. They were outfitted with a kitchen full of equipment and condiments including flour, water and other basics that you would have at home anyway.

CSA Share: Week 1

Bunch Turnips
Bunch Breakfast Radish
1-large head Chinese Cabbage
1- large head Bok Choy
1- small head lettuce, green curly
2-garlic scapes


Breakfast Raddish in brown butter and greens.
Asian Greens poached and tossed with sliced garlic scapes, shaved turnip and ground pepper.
Cold spring strawberry salad with creamy mint and honey dressing. 


Vegetables: Mountain View Farm, Easthampton MA 
Strawberries: Neighbor

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Photo: Mary Nelen ©

Been very busy implementing some changes to my operation, namely, I am expanding my landbase slightly by renting some acreage ....... I'm using the greenhouses there and a few nooks and crannies of the field that don't lend themselves well to baby greens but are quite suitable for vegetables.....staying away from the flood plains..... 

........from a grower's e-mail this morning. 

This year I went out on my own and decided to rent a plot at the local community farm. Ambitious mix of tomatoes and herbs. The end. Between agonizing about hay vs. wood chips, vs gravel for mulch, the wide variety of staking methodology, I am way behind the curve. 

The tomatoes have to be replanted because they are too close together, which means re-staking, the nobel and ambitious 6' stakes I put in (the Florida weave method) and because they are so leggy, they must be trench planted, meaning submerge the things sideways up to there necks so they grow bushy. Who knew? Now, even more than before, I bow down to my farmers, how, how do they do this year after year? 

Here it is only June fifth and I yearn to jump in my car and drive away to my latte place after two hours in my 10 x 20 plot. The setbacks! Slugs on the strawberries, a short-terms planting due to a gift from a permaculturist in Hadley. They didn't take but the slugs took them. Out, damn strawberries, mulch and all, to make room for the wily tomatoes. 

Now, today, mud and what, take a day off? Slug it out with the slugs and try to replant in squishy soil? When I go to the farmers' market, when I pass a big farming vehicle with it's muddy claws on the road, when I pick up my share, a prayer of thanks. These people are gods walking among us.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Recipe: Rhubarb Jonnycake

Photo: Mary Nelen©
johnnycake at the ready

2 cups sliced rhubarb, trimmed and cut in 1" pieces
1 cup strawberries, stem removed and halved
3 tablespoons honey dissolved in 1/2 C water
1 cup corn ground fine
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick of unsalted butter 
2 local eggs  
2 tablespoons whole milk yogurt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and butter the inside of a small to medium cake pan.
Toss the sliced rhubarb and strawberries with honey. Set aside. In another bowl, whisk together the corn flour, baking powder, and salt.  

In a separate bowl, beat in the eggs and yogurt until mixed.
Add the dry to the wet mixture and stir just enough to combine. Add fruit and blend. Pour the batter into the cake pan. Sprinkle the top with pieces of butter.
Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Slice and serve. Goes great with heavy cream, yogurt or ice cream.


  • Rhubarb - Homesteader in Hatfield
  • Corn Flour – Pioneer Valley Heritage Grain CSA
  • Butter – Cabot
  • Eggs – Woman from Chicopee
  • Yogurt - Sidehill in Ashfield
  • Honey - Pine Hill Orchard, Colrain

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Wade's Tomatoes.....

Monday, May 14, 2012

RECIPE: Hadley Grass Fritatta

Photo: Mary Nelen©
Asparagus Frittata Locavore

1 T butter
6 local eggs
1/2 C whole milk 
1/4 C cream
1/2 bunch local asparagus, blunt ends trimmed
1/2 C crusty whole wheat bread cut into small cubes
Slice aged goat cheese and 3 asparagus spears for garnish

Preheat oven to 375. Line the inside of an oven proof, 1 quart baking dish with butter. Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Put in asparagus and cook about 5 minutes until bright green and still firm. Place in bowl of ice to cook and stop cooking. Put three stalks aside for garnish. Cut asparagus spears in 1/2 inch pieces leaving tips in tact.  In large bowl, beat eggs with whisk and add milk and cream. Pour into baking dish. Add salt and pepper. Blend in asparagus pieces and bread. Cook for 25 minutes or until the  center is firm. When frittata is out of the oven, garnish with a generous slice of goat cheese. Place three asparagus spears placed in the center. Serve warm with a grassy white wine.

RECIPE: Hadley Grass, Farro & Bacon

Art: Mary Nelen©
Recipe in the New York Times for a Farro Pasta with Nettles and Sausage recipe made me wonder and then begin to substitute. First of all, nettles, are very hard to find, even if you are a locavore. Pasta is diablo (process white flour - no fiber, few nutrients) and whole grain Jesus. This recipe below substitutes nettles with asparagus (Hadley Grass), farro for farro grain for farro pasta and bacon for sausage. (I didn't have sausage. Both sausage and bacon are local.) There was no refined flour in the fertile crescent. Camels, mirages and miracles but no white flour. Instead there was farro, an ancient grain that is on the list of offerings on my grain share.This version of the dish uses farro grain rather than pasta meaning that the white flour is left out.

Farro, Bacon and Asparagus Salad 

6 strips bacon (local from Chestnut Farm or Wells Tavern)
1C farro (local from the Pioneer Valley Grain people)
1/2 C celery, chopped fine
1 C onion, sliced fine
1T red pepper flakes 
10 spears asparagus, tips intact, cut into 1” pieces (see map)
rhubarb jucice (from stewed rhubarb sweetened with honey)
peppercorn juice (peppercorns in jar with vinegar)

Brown farro for 3 minutes, add 1-3/4 water and pinch salt
Cook for 20 to 30 minutes on simmer and remove from heat to cool.
Fry bacon slowly, remove grease, when cooked, transfer to drain on paper bag.
Sautee red pepper flakes in bacon fat for one to two minutes then add asparagus, celery and onion.
Cook vegetables for 15 minutes on low.
When farro is finished, drain and return to pan. When it has cooled, add the vegetable mixture and bacon. By now the onions should be nicely carmelized

Top with grated cheese, if desired and serve in large warm bowls.