Monday, November 24, 2014

Berkshire Transplant Amy Cotler Offers Butternut Squash Risotto Two Ways

photo by Mary A. Nelen 
Amy Cotler 
wrote "The Farm to School Cookbook" (USDA approved) at a time when harvest home fries made with potatoes from the farm down the street were relatively new to public schools. 

Before that she founded Berkshire Grown, a non-profit supporter of local farm and food. Last year Amy relocated to Northampton from the Berkshires.

"I especially adore the winter farmers market here, Sutter Meats and River Valley Market, where they stock often hard to find local foods like stellar popcorn," she said adding that she is a member of Red Fire Farm CSA and had a small plot last summer at the Florence Community Garden. 

On December 2, 2014, Amy will be teaching "Delectable Winter Soups from Around the Globe," at Different Drummer's Kitchen in Northampton, MA. 

This week's recipe, "Butternut Squash Risotto Two Ways," offers an Asian take and a savory one. If you like some heat with your risotto, or if you still have some dried sage left, you're in luck. 

Butternut Squash Risotto Two Ways

Amy Cotler

Last night I made a warming, not-too-rich risotto with fall crops, butternut squash and leeks. Season with a choice of either light Asian flavors, with a gentle touch of fire to spar with sweet squash, or with cheese and aromatic sage or green peppercorns. I liked it both ways and so did my guests.

1-1/4 cups chopped leeks, whites and tender greens
2 tablespoons sweet butter
2 cups arborio or sushi rice
1/3 dry sherry, l/2 cup dry vermouth or white wine
2 cloves minced garlic
2 cups diced butternut squash (small dice)
about 7-8 cups chicken or vegetable stock, homemade if possible
Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Choose one way to season it:

About 1 teaspoon fresh chopped sage or 20 dried green peppercorns
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan or any hard local cheese
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


1 teaspoon grated ginger, or to taste
Freshly ground or crushed Szechuan peppercorns (or black pepper), to taste

Wonderful Variation: Along with the leeks, add handful of shiitake or any local mushroom caps, sliced.

1-Cook the leeks in the butter, in a medium pot, over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until transparent but not brown, about 3 minutes.  Add the rice, sherry, vermouth or white wine, garlic and butternut squash. Stir frequently, until all the liquid is evaporated, about 1-2 minutes.

2.  Choose one of the ways to season the risotto.  For the first, add the dried sage or dried peppercorns now. For the second, add the ginger now.

3. Add the broth 1 cup at a time, stirring frequently, until the rice absorbs the broth before each new addition, about 2-3 minutes each. (The risotto should bubble by the edges, but not boil rapidly, so adjust heat as you see fit.)

4. Finish the risotto and adjust as needed. It is done when it is creamy, but the rice is still just a touch firm and the texture is like a thick, creamy stew, about 20 minutes or so. When done, you can add stock as you see fit, as some people like it thicker or thinner.

5. Finish by adjusting the seasonings. Taste: Add extra ginger or sage, if you used them and feel it’s necessary. Stir in the cheese, if you are using it.  Finally, salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately in warm bowls.

For a great last minute turkey time pep talk, see Amy's Thanksgiving Tips  

Saturday, November 15, 2014

New Chef in Town -- Here for the Soil

Sanford d'Amato, owner of Good Stock, Hatfield MA  

“As a chef, I am very excited about the food here...” said Sandy from his teaching kitchen in Hatfield.

Last month WGBY ran a documentary that featured local farmers. In “A
Long Row in Fertile Ground,” several hold forth on the topic of out
topsoil. A farmer from Hadley claims that Valley soil, loamy soil to
be specific, is the best in the world. Another says his fields have
topsoil that is 15’ deep. Geography is the reason for the quality of
the soil. Our Valley is in the middle of what was once Lake Hitchcock,
a result of melting glaciers from the ice age. Over time, the water
receded and left a combination of silt and clay that is very, very
good for growing food.

If you’ve ever put a shovel in the dirt in your backyard, you know
that 15’ of top soil is truly a phenomenon. In the documentary an
outsider appears on the scene. He has been hired to till a potato
field. The outsider tells the farmer he has never seen such soil and
tells her that his tiller cut through it like it was chocolate cake.

Recently, a very accomplished chef and his wife moved here from the
mid-west and put roots down in Hatfield. Sandy and Angie D’Amato
purchased a bungalow and added a wood fired pizza oven with the
requisite chimney and expanded from there. Now their home and cooking
school called the “Good Stock Farm,” features a gracious interior where
classes of up to eight people can gaze out onto the source of the
Valley terrior. It is a gracious learning environment that lends
itself to tasting and deep contemplation of food and wine.

After planting peach trees four years ago just after purchasing the
property they produced over 90 lbs of peaches on two of the trees. Sandy
D’Amato stands next to a large wooden table in the kitchen of the Good
Stock and holds a glinting glass jar of peach jam exclaiming,
“Suncrest!” The tree in question can be seen from the window.

Sandy is a James Beard award-winning chef. He and his wife Angie have
traveled the world teaching and tasting. During harvest season they biked in
Tuscany where they celebrated with Schiacciata (fococcia and local grapes) 
and every spring they travelled to vineyards in northern California to sample 
wines for the two restaurants and bakery they owned in Milwaukee.

Both say they have never had corn like the corn they buy up the road
at the Golonka stand. And that the asparagus is just as epic…..  They
are not strangers to fresh produce, nor are they strangers to the food
scene in the Valley.

“As a chef, I am very excited about the food here,” said Sandy from
his wood and glass kitchen on Main St. in Hatfield. “The asparagus is
different than that of the mid west and as for the peaches, they are
exemplary. The farm starts here and they pick it on the same day.”
They also have a garden in the clearing that runs from their place to
the west side of the Connecticut. They day I visited, the second week
of November, the kale looked very healthy, just like the towering
stalks up and down River Road.

Sandy goes to the pantry in his place to retrieve pickled garlic
scapes, Scandinavian style (cardamom) and raspberries and cherries in
vodka. The peaches and garlic scapes are his, the raspberries from 
Harry, a neighbor, and the cherries are from Clarkdale Farm in Deerfield.

“This entire corridor up and down the river from Clarkdale on down is
brilliant,” said Sandy. “But it isn’t just that, it is also the
excitement of what’s coming next!” he exclaims. “Once you think you
can’t put another spear of asparagus in your mouth, the strawberries
are here.”

Last month Sandy held forth on Cider Glazed Apples with Spicy Cider
Soup and Nutmeg Cream at the Cider Days Festival last month. Upcoming
classes at Good Stock are equally exotic with hands-on dinners
entitled “Scandinavian Christmas,” “Rome” and “Butcher and Pig Meet
Chef” as well as a weekend in February called “2-Day Cassoulet and
Southern France.”

Sandy and Angie met in 1980 at John Byron Restaurant in Milwaukee. He
was the chef and she was a cocktail waitress. Both were from grocer
families. They married and started a restaurant called Sanford, also
in Milwaukee, in 1989 with an SBA loan for a 50-seat fine dining
establishment after bring turned down by 12 banks. A female loan
officer shared their vision. At the restaurant, Angie was in charge of
the wine list and wrote wine notes for the serving staff. They
expanded the operation to a bistro and a bakery. At their busiest they
had 100 employees. It was on a cruise to China and Russia during the
D’Amato’s 25th wedding anniversary that the couple had enough time
away from the stress of running three restaurants for perspective.

It was then that they decided to take it down a notch or two. Now
they’re in the Valley, putting up their fruit, making friends,
teaching the finer points of cooking and living their motto: “Life on
a slow simmer,” but what a simmer it is.

For more information on Good Stock, visit

Monday, November 10, 2014

Kate's Kitchen + Permaculture Feast + foodWorks = OPEN STUDIO

EVENT: Open Studio in Holyoke
WHERE: 386 Dwight Street, Holyoke, MA
WHEN Sunday, November 23, 4 pm to 6 pm 
VISIT: Permaculture FEAST 
Permaculture FEAST is a weekend a permaculture design certificate course held in Holyoke, MA.  
Students from the course have created landscape and social enterprise design for Kate's Kitchen and foodWorks. View their visions for the next 10, 25, 50 and 100 years. 

There will be 4 alternative design schematics and 18 detailed patch designs illustrating how to build on the existing conditions and assets of Kate’s Kitchen and foodWorks, while creating a thriving community hub that meets the needs of its members, while enhancing the overall health and well being of the ecosystem.

Kate’s Kitchen is a community kitchen that was begun in 1980. Since that day, one noon-time meal daily has been served to anyone in need with a “no-questions asked” policy.The Kitchen is opened 365 days a year and provides approximately 150 meals per day. Since its inception, Kate’s Kitchen has provided its neighbors over one million meals.

foodWorks is a culinary training program of Kate's Kitchen that offers unemployed and under employed individuals job training in the culinary field. 

The site also hosts La Finquita, the first community garden started by Nuestras Raices.

Featuring food and music and cutting edge visionaries and designers like yourself!