Monday, November 30, 2009

Harvest Salad with Chicken, Goat Cheese, and Apple Butter Dressing

Tonight I made a Harvest Salad with Apple Butter Dressing, consisting of greens, discs of goat cheese, red grapes, dried cranberries, and dried apricots. At the last minute, I added slices of Granny Smith and Gala apples. I also threw in some pecans and pomegranate seeds. Instead of left-over turkey, I used chicken from the Chestnut Farm CSA. The friend with whom I was making dinner slathered the chicken breast with sour cream, seasoned it with salt and pepper, and baked it in the oven. It was succulent and had an intense chicken flavor that is hard to find in mass-produced chicken – chicken that actually tastes like chicken!

The chicken breast was still warm and very juicy when I added it to the salad. I created a salad dressing using some apple butter from a batch that another friend recently made as a base. I added cider vinegar, olive oil, a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, and salt and pepper. I had planned on adding shallots, but it was so good as it was that I decided to leave well enough alone. The apple butter had a strong clove flavor, so I didn’t need to add any ground cloves to the dressing, but if I had been using an apple butter that lacked a strong hit of clove, I would have had to add some.

The dressing was viscous and thick, so I dropped little bits of it onto the salad using the tip of a spoon.

For dessert my friend prepared roasted pears, a recipe that she said she got from John Willoughby and Chris Schlesinger’s recipe for a salad that calls for pears and blue cheese. She simply brushed the pear halves with olive oil and then seasoned them with salt and pepper, and roasted them. I felt somewhat dubious that a pear seasoned with salt and pepper would make a good dessert – but it did, especially when the warm pear halves were topped with Maple Walnut ice cream from Toscanini’s. My friend confessed to me that she was not looking forward to having to eat my experimental apple butter dressing. Once she tasted it, however, she said that it was the best dinner she’d had all fall. I think the key is the presence of strong autumnal flavors in a light, refreshing dish – a perfect end to Thanksgiving weekend.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I just started a blog on called Mirepoix

I will be updating both this blog and that one soon. In particular, I will be interviewing some of my friends who wrote cookbooks this year. Be on the lookout for these interviews in the next few weeks...

Friday, August 28, 2009

Saturday, August 15, 2009

My friend Rachel Simon describes attending Woodstock as a ten year-old girl...

I really enjoyed hearing Rachel recount her experience at Woodstock.... She thought she was going to an aquarium.

Verrill Farm Tomato and Corn Festival: photos

These are the first two tables.
The third table was under another tent.

Plate number one included a mozzarella-tomato salad and tomato
risotto, zucchini pancakes, and some polenta, as well as all manner
of tomatoes...

This was plate #2, mostly red tomatoes

I couldn't resist these images of bounty...

Happiness is LOTS of tomatoes...

I took a quick trip out to Verrill Farm today. The tomatoes were beautiful, plentiful, and delicious. I had some of my old favorites, like Black Prince, and tasted some new ones, including one that I'm growing but have never had before, the Paul Robeson. A black tomato called Carbon was fantastic - juicy and almost salty-tasting all on its own - and an orange one called Orange Blossom had a nice flavor - a good balance between acidic and sweet with a true tomato flavor. There were some orange cherry tomatoes called Garden Sweet, and a variety called Aunt Ginny Purple that was bright red. (Maybe Aunt Ginny was colorblind?) There were some Ultra Sweets and a cherry variety named Sappho Cherry.

I skipped the corn and went to the sample tent, where I had some really good tomato risotto. I am not normally a fan of risotto because I find it's texture too monotonous, but the fact that this had a strong tomato flavor made it palatable. There were also plates of polenta and some zucchini pancakes. I detest zucchini pancakes but, being the consummate professional food writer, I forced myself to eat one and decided, "Yup! I still hate them!" (What don't I do for you, dear reader?) The tomato-mozzarella salad was good, but truly there is nothing better than straight-up sliced tomatoes.
I do have a caveat for anyone planning to attend tomorrow. BYOS&P: Bring your own salt & pepper. There were a few containers of salt near the corn table, but to use them you had to stand on the corn line. There weren't any salt containers on the condiment table.
I think it's best to bring your own. I have fantasies of a sort of a holster that holds both a salt shaker and pepper grinder, or something sort of like an ammo belt that contains multiple salt and pepper shakers so you can also offer salt and pepper to your friends.
BTW, if you are not a fan of port-a-potties (who is?) there is a Dunkin' Donuts down the road a little bit past the farm. If you bring a hat, sunscreen, and your own salt and pepper, you should be all set and have a great time. Bon Appetit!

Verrill Farm Tomato and Corn Festival

I'm on my way to the Tomato and Corn Festival. Pictures later!

Tomato blight? Or just too much rain and not enough sun?

I checked on my tomatoes a few days ago and was horrified to discover that many of the tomatoes on my "Red Zebra" plant are rotting from the bottom up. From above they looked perfect. If it hadn't been for the fact that I looked at something lying on the soil, I would never have noticed this problem.
I wondered if it was blight, which would necessitate the immediate removal of the plants - you are supposed to wrap them and put them in the garbage rather than compost them in order to limit the spread of the fungus. The leaves all look fine, however. A friend who lives in normally rainy and cool Oregon (where it was 107 degrees recently!) said that she thinks it's just the result of the incredible amount of rain that we had here this year because something similar has happened to her tomato plants in the past.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Happy Birthday Pete Seeger!

Pete Seeger turns 90 today! I was lucky to be able to sail on the Clearwater in Long Island Sound when I was in 5th grade. I was already really interested in the environment and the health of the ocean, but that trip was one of my first experiences of how to put caring about something into action in a way that was concrete and effective.

We sang on the trip as well. Whenever I feel discouraged, I just remember the lyrics, "The river may be dirty now but it's getting cleaner every day" and I think about how dramatically much cleaner the Hudson is now than it was when P.S. and the other members of the group started out their campaign to get polluters to stop dumping waste into the river. I've also seen Pete at many of the rallies, festivals, and demonstrations that I've attended over the years, and he was no spring chicken then!

And, of course, I have very precious memories of listening to his albums with my dad, and it gives me great pleasure to sing the same songs with my friends' children.

Lastly, I once read that when asked about the fate of the human race, Pete said something along the lines of, "Honestly, I think we are doomed - but it would be wrong to go out without a fight." That is an accurate description of my belief as well.

One of his lyrics that has always haunted me is, "If it happens to me, then also, without fail/it can happen to you/sang the world's last whale." And, as an echo of that, I think of the poem by a Russian child that he put to music during the Cold War. It goes, "May there always be sunshine, may there always be flowers, may there always be mamma, may there always be me."

So far, we are all still here. May there always be music, may there always be whales, may there always be concerned individuals who take action, may there always be Pete.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

My trash cans a mere five months ago...

Tonight's sticky air almost makes me miss those endless snowstorms... almost, but not quite.


It took me a few minutes to figure out that this spelled "Lemonade." Duh! But if I ever need a stage name, I am definitely going to consider "Lemona De!"

Some photos of last year's entries at the tomato contest...

My little farm...

It never varies: every year I plant morning glory seeds and every year something else comes up instead.

The raspberries came up under the fence from my neighbor's yard. The first year there were lots of berries, but none have appeared since then, just the gigantic plants. Two other anonymous plants have sprouted as well. I have some tomatoes tucked in there in an Organic Tomato Success Kit from Gardeners Supply in Burlington, Vermont. So far the tomato plants are going strong. The tomatoes have set. The species that I am growing include Red Zebras, Paul Robeson, Matt's Wild, Brandywine, and Supersonic. Now I just have to hope that they don't pick up the blight from any of my neighbors' plants.

My clematis plants never bloomed last year and they have hardly grown at all this year. The lilac bush I planted survived the winter but had no blooms. Sigh. I am hoping that next year things will pick up. I can't remember a summer as rainy, cool, and sunless as this one.

The squirrels ate most of the bulbs I planted last year, but I did get a few hyacinths, narcissus, and tulips. I'd like to add grape hyacinth, snow bells, and checkered lilies at some point. Also some irises. I know that there's a Cummins tulip, which I think is purple, so someday I am going to order some of those.

I have no idea how to get wisteria and honeysuckle to grow, but they are on my list as well. I love the scent of the heliotrope that I have in a window box, which is particularly powerful at twilight. I am almost afraid of introducing too many other scents, but it seems a risk worth taking. (Would that that were our biggest problem: that there are too many fantastic, competing scents in the garden.)

For now, though, I am just concentrating on my tomatoes and herbs. And wishing that the morning glories would germinate one of these years. Why are they so hard to get started?

If you want to see the crazy-looking Organic Tomato Success Kit, check out:,default,pd.html

I can't help but wonder if it's really a good idea to use the red plastic cover... doesn't it outgas or degrade and get into the soil as it bakes in the sun? For now, though, I am giving it a try. I will do almost anything for a really good tomato.

Raison d'etre?

I spotted this at Rancatore's.

This week I made a tomato-based codfish stew

This week I made a stew that included an onion, new potatoes, fennel fronds, a pinch of saffron, the juice of an orange and a lemon, and crushed organic tomatoes from a can. And, of course, cod. I also had some black olive tapenade hanging around, so I threw in a tablespoon of that. I added a pistou of basil and olive oil at the table, which really rounded out the flavors.

I am, as always, very curious to see what will come in this week's delivery.

Cape Ann Fresh Catch starts a new 12 week cycle

Cape Ann Fresh Catch is a fish CSA. If you missed signing up for the first 12-week cycle, you can now sign up for a new 12-week cycle. Click on this link for more information:
I am setting up my calendar for August. The NOFA conference takes place on the campus of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst from Friday, August 7th through Sunday, August 9th. Will Allen will be the keynote speaker. For more information see

Verrill Farm's Corn and Tomato Festival takes place over two days: Saturday, August 15th and Sunday, August 16th from noon to 4 p.m. For more information see

I will be serving as a judge at the state-wide tomato contest on Monday, August 18th, at City Hall Plaza in Boston. For more information see