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Recipe: Death By Chocolate Mousse Pie

Contributor Lisa Fielding is a private chef and boutique caterer based in Manhattan who weekends in Litchfield County whenever possible. Many of her Manhattan clients are also Litchfield County weekenders, so work brings her to Northwest Connecticut as well. A Los Angeles transplant, Fielding was a former Hollywood film executive who segued into screenwriting several years ago, which enabled her to pursue her passion for food and entertaining. Lisa’s culinary skill set draws from a broad spectrum of dishes and ingredients.

The heat is on. Seriously. The weather went from chilly and rainy to hot, humid and hello summer overnight. I’m always on the lookout for cool and delicious recipes that don’t bring outside’s soaring temps inside. This recipe provides one of the most decadent, luscious and velvety chocolate experiences; requires little to no baking time; and finishes in the refrigerator to be served chilled at the table. Who doesn’t want a nice cold dessert on a hot evening?

Warning: This pie is so beyond addictive that you may want to make two, in order to have some the next morning with a strong cup of coffee. I made this last weekend in the country for clients and they were in a fugue state afterward, reeling from the chocolate high and sensorial joy of eating this pie. Plus, this truly falls under the category of “as easy as pie” when it comes to prep and assembly. I make mine in a regular pie plate, and advise a pie server and glass of water to clean the server when plating. It also starts to melt quickly, so get it on the table in a jiffy and put leftovers back in the fridge.

Death By Chocolate Mousse Pie
Serves: 8

1 package Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup heavy cream
14 oz. high-quality semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon Maldon sea salt
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup white sugar
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
1/4 cup white sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). 

2. In a food processor, pulse cookies and melted butter into a fine crumbly mixture. Press evenly into the bottom of a 9” pie plate. Bake in preheated oven for 5 minutes, and then allow to cool.

3. Combine 1 cup cream, chocolate, vanilla extract and salt in the top of a double boiler. Heat until chocolate is fully melted and mixture is smooth. Pour chocolate mixture into a bowl and place in the refrigerator until it cools to room temperature, about 20 minutes.

4. In a large bowl, beat 2 cups chilled cream with 1/4 cup sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form. Fold whipped cream into chocolate mixture. Pour mixture into cooled crust.

5. Chill pie at least 4 hours before serving. Prior to serving, beat remaining 1 cup cream with 1/4 cup sugar. Beat until stiff, then pipe onto top of pie with a star tip, or place a spoonful on top of each slice.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 06/19/17 at 07:40 PM • Permalink

Recipe: Spring Pasta With Parmesan And Lemon

One of our favorite events every summer is The Sylvia Center’s Farm-to-Table dinner, hosted by Great Performances in the fields of Katchkie Farm in Kinderhook, N.Y. The mission of The Sylvia Center is to inspire young people and their families to eat well through hands-on learning experiences on the farm and in the kitchen. Kristen Jovanelly, garden educator and manager at The Sylvia Center, offers us recipes the teenagers are learning to make.

At the Sylvia Center, we have a tried and true rule for our farm programs; you must have at least a “first taste.” Participants must try a little bit of each of the components we prepare and are encouraged to come back for more. With this Spring Pasta with Parmesan and Lemon, our first taste portions were greeted with skeptical looks and murmurings of “I already know I’m going to like it though…” The Girl Scouts at this program cleaned out the pan, with not one sole piece of farfalle left to tell the tale.

This pasta is simple, but everything is perfectly proportioned in the recipe so that each bite has a tantalizing coating of fresh, springtime flavors. Grating the first baby summer squashes of the season provides color and coats each piece of pasta with a delicate crunch. We suggest topping the pasta with edible flowers, too. It’s the perfect stage for chive blossoms to make their culinary debut if you’ve only passed by them warily in your garden before. They have a sweet taste with a subtle allium finish that’ll spice up many dishes in taste and presentation. Some of the Girl Scouts even popped a whole flower into their mouth, eyes widened with the permission to eat a real, intact, flower. Based on their subsequent reaction, The Sylvia Center staff would recommend chopping or tearing the flower, and sprinkling it lightly upon your dish. A little goes a long way!

Spring Pasta with Parmesan and Lemon
Serves 6-8


2 cups spinach, chiffonade
1 bunch asparagus, chopped into ½ pieces
1 summer squash, grated
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
Pinch of cayenne pepper flakes
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lemon, zested and juiced
⅓ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 lb pasta

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to instructions or until al dente. Drain pasta, reserving ½ cup of the pasta water.

2. While pasta is cooking, bring a large skillet to medium-high heat. Once skillet is hot, add olive oil. When the oil is shimmering, add onions and pinch of cayenne pepper and saute until translucent (about 2-3 minutes). Add garlic and saute for an additional 2 minutes.

3. Add asparagus and saute until bright green. Add spinach and squash and saute until soft. Add the pasta and reserved pasta water. Simmer until the sauce has thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4. Finish with fresh lemon juice, lemon zest and grated Parmesan.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 06/13/17 at 10:19 AM • Permalink

Recipe: The Best Texas Chili Ever

Contributor Lisa Fielding is a private chef and boutique caterer based in Manhattan who weekends in Litchfield County whenever possible. Many of her Manhattan clients are also Litchfield County weekenders, so work brings her to Northwest Connecticut as well. A Los Angeles transplant, Fielding was a former Hollywood film executive who segued into screenwriting several years ago, which enabled her to pursue her passion for food and entertaining. Lisa’s culinary skill set draws from a broad spectrum of dishes and ingredients.

There is a prevailing argument in the food world about what constitutes real chili, and it boils down to beans or no beans. Texans swear that a bowl of red comprises large chunks of beef, fresh chiles, and broth cooked into a rich, spicy concoction—with no tomatoes, I might add. Almost everywhere else, chili is made from ground beef, beans, and a tomato-based sauce.

I approach chili as if it were a Venn diagram, borrowing from both approaches but never following either to the letter. I cannot imagine chili without beans, and I would never make chili with ground beef. When I make chili it’s a several-hour event that requires a good amount of prep and cooking time. Where I become a militant chili chef and resident know-it-all on all things chili is that chuck is the only beef suitable for making the best bowl of chili, and this I will go to war over. In fact, chili wars, competitions, and cook-offs are legendary events held around the world, from the small county fair to the urban food festival, because cooks and chefs are that passionate about their chili recipes.

(And just to clarify for the uninitiated: chile refers to the pepper and chili to the actual dish. This distinction will keep you from scratching your head when you decide to enter a local chili competition and write down your own tried-and-true recipe.)

So why, you ask, is a bowl of beef, smothered in a delectable sauce and served with either cornbread or tortillas so incredibly delicious, satisfying, and addictive? Well, according to the International Chili Society, “Perhaps it is the effect of capsicum spices upon man’s mind; for, in the immortal words of Joe DeFrates, the only man ever to win the National and the World Chili Championships, ‘Chili powder makes you crazy.’”

I’m not sure that lunacy accurately defines the effect that chili has on a person when digging into a bowl of the aromatic sauce, succulent meat chunks, and subsequent heat that accompanies each bite, but my own paternal grandfather, Rennon Preston Fielding, used to remark, “Put a bowl of Texas chili on my head and I’ll slap my brains out getting my hands on it.” My papa, as well, was no stranger to expressing himself hyperbolically — the bigger the better. He was Texan, after all.

So I invite you to pull out your big chili pot, spend several hours in the kitchen, invite a group of your favorite friends over, and feast on my version of the best Texas chili in the world. And if you know this guy Joe DeFrates, invite him over, too. I’m sure he’ll agree that my chili is better than his!

Texas Chili
Serves 8

When working with chile peppers, always wear rubber gloves and be careful not to touch your eyes or skin. Wash cutting boards and utensils in hot soapy water before reusing.

Prepare the Meat
1/2 cup bacon grease
5 lb. chuck roast, trimmed, cubed, and seasoned with salt and pepper on all sides.
2 tsp. salt for seasoning the meat
2 tsp. ground black pepper for seasoning the meat

Prepare the Chili
1 large white onion, chopped
3 large jalapeño or serrano peppers, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 Tbs. chili powder
1 Tbs. ground cumin
2 tsp. Mexican oregano
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 32-oz. can chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 12-oz. bottle quality beer, such as Sam Adams
2 oz. tequila
3 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped
3 chipotle chiles in adobo, chopped
8 cups beef stock
1 16-oz. can black beans, rinsed
1 16-oz. can red kidney beans, rinsed
1 16-oz. can pinto beans, rinsed

Garnish
Minced fresh cilantro leaves
Lime wedges
Sour cream
Serve with warmed flour and corn tortillas

1. In a large heavy pot (such as a cast-iron Dutch oven), heat about a third of the bacon grease over medium heat. Add part of the meat in a single layer and sear until the pieces are browned on all sides. Remove to a bowl and repeat, adding bacon grease and single-layer batches of beef until all the meat has been browned.

2 With the heat still on medium, add the onions and jalapeños and cook until wilted, 5 minutes. Next, add the garlic and chili powder and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cumin, oregano, salt and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Add the canned tomatoes and heat for another minute. Add the brown sugar and cook until dissolved. Add the beer and tequila and cook, stirring, to deglaze the pan. Add the poblanos, chipotles and adobo sauce, and the beef stock, stir well, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and add all of the beef chunks. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook until the meat is very tender, up to 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Add the rinsed beans to the pot. Cook for another 30 minutes to heat through.

3. The chili should be thick, extremely fragrant, and deep mahogany in color. Ladle into bowls and garnish each with cilantro, a wedge of lime, and a dollop of sour cream. Serve with a stack of warmed flour and corn tortillas.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 06/06/17 at 02:00 PM • Permalink

Recipe: Apple, Rhubarb And Ginger Mini Tarts

One of our favorite events every summer is The Sylvia Center’s Farm-to-Table dinner, hosted by Great Performances in the fields of Katchkie Farm in Kinderhook, N.Y. The mission of The Sylvia Center is to inspire young people and their families to eat well through hands-on learning experiences on the farm and in the kitchen. Kristen Jovanelly, garden educator and manager at The Sylvia Center, offers us recipes the teenagers are learning to make.

Of all the desserts to come out of the Sylvia Center kitchen, these tarts may be the most impressive. That’s because these apple, rhubarb and ginger mini tarts achieve the most perfect crunch-to-soft ratio of any 15-minute venture in the kitchen we’ve seen. The mini tarts allow everyone sharing in the meal to have an individual serving, requiring no messy and maddening knife decapitation of your once-pristine phyllo. Up the ginger in the recipe if you want to give your tarts a bit more of a bite especially since softening rhubarb in the butter really mellows the natural kick of rhubarb. These crispy tarts are an excellent way to showcase any number of seasonal fruits, or vegetables. Trust us, always make more than you think you’ll need, by double, or even triple. Light dessert mini tarts will have even the most reluctant dessert folks reaching for more!

Apple, Rhubarb And Ginger Mini Tarts
Serves 6


3-4 large apples, peeled and diced
4-5 stalks of rhubarb, diced
1 tsp fresh ginger (½” approximately), grated
4 tablespoons maple syrup
4 tablespoons of butter, separated
1 package of Phyllo dough (Note: buy night before and defrost in refrigerator.)
Cooking spray

1. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray.

2. Heat butter in a pan and melt slowly to avoid browning. Pour half of melted butter into a small bowl.

3. Add apples, rhubarb, and ginger to pan. Sauté fruit mixture in the residual butter until soft. Add maple syrup to desired taste. 

4. Following instructions on box for handling phyllo dough, stack the sheets of phyllo dough and cut into 12 equal squares. Grab two sheets and brush some butter on the top sheet; stack two sheets and press them into a cup of muffin tin. Add a spoonful of the fruit mixture into each muffin cup.

5. Bake 7-10 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool on rack and serve.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 05/30/17 at 09:57 AM • Permalink

Recipe: Leek Zucchini Fritters

Contributor Lisa Fielding is a private chef and boutique caterer based in Manhattan who weekends in Litchfield County whenever possible. Many of her Manhattan clients are also Litchfield County weekenders, so work brings her to Northwest Connecticut as well. A Los Angeles transplant, Fielding was a former Hollywood film executive who segued into screenwriting several years ago, which enabled her to pursue her passion for food and entertaining. Lisa’s culinary skill set draws from a broad spectrum of dishes and ingredients.

My job requires a lot of research, invention and creativity. I am always on the hunt for inspiration from cookbooks, my Instagram feed (devoted almost entirely to food), online recipes and, of course, what I like to eat. I have regular clients who also rely on me to bring innovative and delicious dishes to the table so they never have to bemoan the familiarity of what’s plated before them.  One client in particular enjoys an array of canapés before they sit down to dinner so there are times when I’m agonizing for just the right appetizer. At this point, I could write the ultimate appetizer bible. 

Last week was no different and I was so thrilled with these delectable morsels of goodness, layers of flavor and texture that they had to take center stage in my article. Introducing the ultimate leek/zucchini fritter as inspired by the great Ottolenghi. Words of caution: these are time consuming.  Or rather, a little complicated — but all of the steps insure that you won’t end up with a runny batter that will disintegrate when it hits the hot fryer. Instead, these fritters puff up and the end result is a doughy but not heavy poof stuffed with a medley of vegetables and exotic spices. Make these for your next cocktail soiree and I promise you will thank me in the morning. 

Leek & Zucchini Fritters
Makes around 3 dozen 2-inch diameter fritters. 

Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s “Plenty”

For the sauce:
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup sour cream
1 heaping tbl Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp. Sriracha sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley leaves
¼ cup snipped chives
¼ cup finely chopped cilantro leaves
¼ cup chopped capers

For the fritters:
3 medium leeks (I used red leeks), rinsed, dried, sliced in quarters and thinly sliced again
5 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
1 large zucchini cut into small dice
4 tbl olive oil
1 cup canola oil for frying
1/2 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
¼ cup snipped chives
3/4 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 egg white
1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tbl baking powder
1 large egg
2/3 cup milk
5 tbl unsalted butter, melted


Start by making the sauce. Put all the sauce ingredients into the bowl of a food processor except for the capers, blitz together until a uniform green, then turn into a decorative bowl for serving. Turn in the capers.

Over medium heat, sauté the leeks, shallots and zucchini in the olive oil until soft, about 15 minutes. Then transfer to a bowl and add the parsley, spices, sugar and salt. Leave to cool.

Whisk the egg white to soft peaks and fold it into the vegetables. In another bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, egg, milk and butter to form a batter. Gently mix this into the egg white and vegetable mixture.

Place ¾ of the canola oil in a frying pan over medium heat about 4 minutes. To test, drop a bit of batter in the oil, if it sizzles and floats, oil is ready. Using a small spoon, drop the mixture (about 2 teaspoons at a time) into the pan and fry for two to three minutes a side, until golden and crisp. Transfer to cookie sheet covered with a double paper towel and repeat, adding oil as needed, until the mixture is used up. Serve warm with the sauce on the side. This goes great with a chilled Sancerre or Rose.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 05/23/17 at 08:27 PM • Permalink

Recipe: Strawberry Galette

One of our favorite events every summer is The Sylvia Center’s Farm-to-Table dinner, hosted by Great Performances in the fields of Katchkie Farm in Kinderhook, N.Y. The mission of The Sylvia Center is to inspire young people and their families to eat well through hands-on learning experiences on the farm and in the kitchen. Jenn So, director of programs at The Sylvia Center, offers us recipes the teenagers are learning to make.

Depending on whom you talk to, the word “galette” may evoke different imaginings. Galette may signify a papery and savory buckwheat pancake traditional of salty French shores, a Belgian waffle, or, in our case, a free-form tart. Galettes are a way to showcase both sweet and savory fillings without having to reach to the top shelf for your pie plates. Remember — the trick to a good crumbly crust is dough made with cold butter and water that has been minimally worked. Unlike bread dough, pastry dough only gets worked until it comes together into dough form, crumbles included. In our garden, our strawberry plants have been showcasing their delicate white flowers so we’ve been dreaming of strawberry treats to come. The crispy galette dough framing soft and fragrant strawberries is sure to please your audience, even if their galette isn’t necessarily the same as your galette!

Strawberry Galette
Serves 6-8

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, cut into small (1/2-inch) cubes, chilled
¼ cup of ice water (maybe more)
1 ½ pounds strawberries hulled and half
4 tablespoons sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon flour

1. Preheat oven to 425° F.
2. If using a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar and salt until well mixed. Add the cubed butter, and pulse 8 times until the butter is pea-sized. If mixing by hand, whisk together dry ingredients and then cut butter into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter, fork or your fingers until the butter is pea-sized.
3. Slowly add the ice water, a tablespoon or two at a time, combining after each addition, until the dough just begins to clump.
4. Turn out the dough onto a clean surface. Use your hands to form into a disc. Do not over-knead. Sprinkle with a little flour on all sides, wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes.
5. Toss strawberries with sugar and flour to coat.
6. Whisk the egg in small bowl and set aside.
7. On a lightly floured, clean, smooth surface, roll out the dough to form a 12-inch diameter disc. Gently lift up the rolled-out dough and place it on a rimmed baking sheet.
8. Arrange the strawberry pieces in a single layer in the center of the dough, forming about a 7- or 8-inch circle. Fold the outer edges of the dough round over the filling by about 2 inches all the way around. Use a pastry brush to coat the dough with an egg wash. Sprinkle with sugar.
9. Place in the oven and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until nicely browned. Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet, over a rack, about 15 minutes before slicing.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 05/16/17 at 09:09 AM • Permalink

The Ambassador Salad: Détente In The Kitchen And At The Table

Contributor Lisa Fielding is a private chef and boutique caterer based in Manhattan who weekends in Litchfield County whenever possible. Many of her Manhattan clients are also Litchfield County weekenders, so work brings her to Northwest Connecticut as well. A Los Angeles transplant, Fielding was a former Hollywood film executive who segued into screenwriting several years ago, which enabled her to pursue her passion for food and entertaining. Lisa’s culinary skill set draws from a broad spectrum of dishes and ingredients.

Most businesses, mine included, get very excited at the prospect of having high-profile clients. The caché that comes with cheffing for rich and famous artists, actors, intellectuals, business people and even some politicians can be measured in the uptick in new business and the cluck of approval new clients grant when they review my credentials. It’s a bit nerve wracking, I’ll admit. I only get one chance to prepare a five-star meal for any client, but let’s just say there is a bit more at stake when you’re asked to cook for so and so.

I was handed this mission last week when I was asked to chef for the Ambassador to The Holy See as well as the ambassador to Sweden and a few other diplomats. I suggested a menu that is historically bullet proof and showed up at their gorgeous Sutton Place apartment with my best game face on, bags filled with the finest ingredients New York City has to offer.

A lovely gentleman, clad in sophisticated black butler’s attire, was my server for the night so once we dispatched with social niceties, I went to work and time evaporated faster than cool water on a steaming sidewalk. The heat was on and I felt an enormous amount of pressure as the doorbell rang and guest after guest arrived. Sterling trays balanced with amber flutes of champagne greeted them in the living room. The hostess had set the dining room table to perfection. Stunning china. Elegant sterling. Crisp, embroidered linens. Heirloom salt and pepper cellars that date back to the 18th century — this chef’s version of paradise. A bouquet of spring flowers took center stage and I wanted every course to enhance the aesthetic.

My ubiquitous gougères were served alongside the champagne and then guests were seated. I served a gorgeous salad of frisee, baby greens, heirloom cherry tomatoes and tarragon vinaigrette topped with crab cakes and a dollop of spicy remoulade. Additional courses ensued, fine wines were poured until dessert china plates returned to the kitchen with nary a crumb left. Dinner was a huge success. I took a bow, breathed a sigh of relief and thought, “I just fed the man who eats with the Pope, Il Papa.”

My takeaway from this fantastic evening was the salad which I’ve dubbed, “The Ambassador Salad.” Serve this as an entrée for a fancy luncheon or as a starter to a long, lazy dinner. Either way, now you can dine like a diplomat.

The Ambassador Salad
Yields 8 servings

Crab Cakes
Makes about 24

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup small diced red onion
1/2 cup small diced celery (3 stalks)
1/2 cup small diced red bell pepper (1 small pepper)
1/2 cup small diced yellow bell pepper (1 small pepper)
3 tbls. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 tbls. minced fresh dill
1 tbls. minced tarragon
2 tbls. capers, chopped
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1-1/2 tsps. crab boil seasoning (recommended — Old Bay)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 lb. lump crabmeat, drained and picked to remove shells
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup canola oil for frying

1. Place the 2 tablespoons butter and olive oil, onion, celery, red and yellow bell peppers, fresh herbs, capers, Worcestershire sauce, crab boil seasoning, cayenne and salt in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat and cook until the vegetables are soft, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature.
2. In a large bowl, break the lump crabmeat into small pieces and toss with the bread crumbs, mayonnaise, mustard, and eggs. Add the cooked mixture and mix well. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
3. Shape into crab cakes about 2 inches in diameter.
4. Heat the canola oil for frying over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add the crab cakes and fry for 4 to 5 minutes on each side, until browned. Drain on paper towels; keep them warm in a 250 degree oven.

Spicy Remoulade
Makes 2/3 cup

1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 tbls. coarse-grain mustard
2 tbls. drained prepared horseradish
2 tbls. thinly sliced scallions
2 tbls. chopped gerkins
2 tbls. chopped capers
1 tbl. minced fresh dill
1 tbl. minced tarragon
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. lemon zest
Kosher salt

1. Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate at least four hours before serving.

Salad Dressing

2 tbls. Dijon mustard
1/3 cup tarragon vinegar
1 cup fruity olive oil
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. dried tarragon

1. Whisk mustard and vinegar together. Slowly add olive oil in a thin stream while continuously whisking until emulsified. Add salt, pepper and tarragon. Stir. Refrigerate until assembly.
2. Give a good shake or whisk before dressing the salad.

Salad and Assembly

3 heads frisee, washed and dried
8 ounces of mixed greens
1 lb. of heirloom cherry tomatoes (choose varied colors and sizes), washed and halved

1. Toss greens and cherry tomatoes with dressing.
2. Plate. Top with three crab cakes. Add a dollop of remoulade.

 

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Posted by Lisa Green on 05/08/17 at 01:21 PM • Permalink

The RuraList: Ramps Done Three Ways

This week, I’ll be getting ramps in my Berkshire Organics basket, and so begins my annual frenzy of researching recipes for new ways to make the most of these wild, spicy, and slightly mysterious foraged finds. Of course, you can simply roast them, but, to me, that doesn’t give them the special treatment they deserve. I’ve combed through the Rural Intelligence archives, and sure enough, we’ve offered ramp recipes through the years. Here are three of them. Whether in pesto, pizza or pasta, the ramps take center stage, as well they should. Happy ramp season! —Lisa Green

Amy Cotler’s Ramp Pesto
Makes about 2-1/4 cups

2 handfuls local nuts, walnuts or pecans halves or blanched almonds
2-1/2 ounces Parmesan or similar cheese, local if you can get it
2 very generous handfuls of ramp leaves (and some bulbs if you wish)
About 1/3 cup of olive oil
About 1/4 teaspoons kosher or sea salt, or to taste

1. Toast the nuts in a dry skillet, over medium heat, shaking the pan frequently, until lightly aromatic. (Bend over them and take a whiff. They should smell toasted.) Don’t go too far, as nuts burn easily. Pulse in a food processor (or use a mortar and pestle)  until well chopped but not blended. Set aside.
2. Throw the cheese into the food processor. Pulse until it is finely chopped. (If the cheese is already grated, skip this step.) Add to the nuts.
3. Puree the leaves together with the oil, stopping and scraping down the bowl as necessary to combine. (Work in two batches if you have a small food processor.) Add to the bowl and stir to combine with the salt.
Note: If you forage for ramps in an area where there are ticks, take a shower and throw your clothes in the wash after your harvest. Lyme disease isn’t fun, but ramps are worth a walk in the woods. No ramps near you?  Many early farmers markets and highbrow produce stores sell them.

Amy Cotler is the author of The Locavore Way: Discover and Enjoy the Pleasures of Locally Grown Food.

James Gop’s Asparagus & Ramp Pizza

2 lb. asparagus, cut into 2 inch pieces
10 ramps or medium scallions
1 thawed pizza dough ball or Berkshire Mountain Bakery crust (available at Guido’s)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 slices prosciutto torn into pieces (optional)
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh mozzarella cheese
extra virgin olive oil for brushing
salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Set a pizza stone or baking sheet on the bottom or on the bottom shelf of the oven and preheat to 500 degrees for at least 30 minutes.
2. Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil.  Blanch the asparagus for 2 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Blanch ramps in the same boiling water until they are bright green, but still al dente, about 1 minute.  Drain, pat dry and cut into 1 inch lengths.
3. Punch down the pizza dough and transfer it to a lightly floured work surface. Roll out the dough to a 12 inch round, about 1/8 inch thick.  Transfer the dough to a lightly floured pizza peel or an inverted baking sheet.  Brush the dough with olive oil and sprinkle on the grated mozzarella in an even layer.  Scatter the blanched asparagus and ramps over the mozzarella and season lightly with salt and pepper.  Top the pizza with the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
4. Slide the pizza from the peel onto the hot stone or baking pan.  Bake for about 8 minutes, until the cheese has melted and the pizza crust is browned and crisp on the bottom Transfer the pizza to a work surface, cut into wedges and serve immediately.

Formerly the in-house chef for Guido’s Fresh Marketplace, James Gop is the chef, owner and creative mind behind Heirloom Fire.

The Butcher and the Baker’s Pasta Primavera

1 lb. linguine
1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed off and cut into one-inch lengths
1 pint fiddlehead ferns, washed — or substitute with any of the greens listed above
1 bunch ramps, bulbs trimmed, removed from the greens — or try garlic scapes
¼ cup bread crumbs
3 Tbsp. olive oil plus ¼ cup
1/3 cup grated pecorino
salt and pepper to taste

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
2. Pour 3 Tbsp. of olive oil in a medium pan and turn to medium-high heat.
3. When the olive oil is shimmering and just about to smoke, add the ramp bulbs.
4. After a couple of minutes, throw in the fiddleheads and asparagus.
5. Boil linguine according the directions on the package.
6. When pasta is done, drain and add to a bowl with the ramp greens (and/or arugula/pea shoots), breadcrumbs, and pecorino. Toss thoroughly and finish with a little more olive oil and salt. Serve immediately.

The Butcher is Jake, a nose-to-tail butcher/artist, who loves to cook and grew up in the woody hills of Western Massachusetts where his passion for local, fresh food was first instilled in him. The Baker is Silka, a designer/crafter who loves to bake and grew up in rural Western New York. The Butcher and the Baker is their collaborative blog.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 05/02/17 at 12:19 AM • Permalink

Recipe: Rhubarb Olive Oil Cake

One of our favorite events every summer is The Sylvia Center’s Farm-to-Table dinner, hosted by Great Performances in the fields of Katchkie Farm in Kinderhook, N.Y. The mission of The Sylvia Center is to inspire young people and their families to eat well through hands-on learning experiences on the farm and in the kitchen. Jenn So, director of programs at The Sylvia Center, offers us recipes the teenagers are learning to make.

Before any of the other sumptuous spring fruits begin to find their way into gardens and onto our plates, rhubarb deserves some of your early attention. It’s a hearty and undemanding perennial vegetable known for adding a pucker-inducing flavor to many already beloved recipes. Although the time-honored strawberry-rhubarb combo is sure to please, don’t hesitate to use rhubarb in baked goods even before strawberries fill your local farmstands. This rhubarb olive cake recipe has all the makings of a springtime baking staple. The cornmeal adds texture to the lightly sweetened cake, studded with chunks of rhubarb that surprise the tastebuds. The 40-45 minute baking time is your chance to encourage someone to try a chunk of raw rhubarb — one of the garden’s most surprising flavors. Be sure to have the camera ready for the pucker! [If you’re not a rhubarb fan, try The Sylvia Center’s olive oil cake with orange and cinnamon.]

Rhubarb Olive Oil Cake
Makes one 9"x9” cake

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
Pinch of salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3-4 stalks of rhubarb, diced

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 9"x9” pan.

2. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar and eggs until they are light yellow and well blended. Whisk in milk, olive oil and vanilla extract until combined.

4. Combine dry ingredients with wet ingredients and continue to whisk until just blended. Evenly place the diced rhubarb into bottom of pan, and pour batter on top.

5. Bake in preheated oven for 40-45 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges. Let cool completely before flipping onto a cooling rack and slicing.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 05/01/17 at 03:13 PM • Permalink

Recipe: Basil Almond Pesto

Contributor Lisa Fielding is a private chef and boutique caterer based in Manhattan who weekends in Litchfield County whenever possible. Many of her Manhattan clients are also Litchfield County weekenders, so work brings her to Northwest Connecticut as well. A Los Angeles transplant, Fielding was a former Hollywood film executive who segued into screenwriting several years ago, which enabled her to pursue her passion for food and entertaining. Lisa’s culinary skill set draws from a broad spectrum of dishes and ingredients.

Pesto is one of my favorite sauces and I make it often. Plus, you can freeze it so if you’re lucky enough to plant and harvest basil all summer, you can make loads of it and save it for later. It is also a great hostess gift because who doesn’t love a fresh pesto presented in a mason jar with a bow tied around it? 

As typical with me, I never make an ordinary pesto. I like to change up the use of pine nuts with roasted almonds or walnuts and add a little heat to the sauce with red chili flakes. For this recipe I used both smoked chili flakes and smoked pepper, which was a fabulous complement to the sweet garlicky green paste. I also used a combination of Asiago, Romano, and Parmesan, which added sharpness and made the flavor of the cheese stronger on the palate. The result was a thick, rich pesto that I tossed over tubes of ziti.

And for the record, a “pesto” can be made from any combination of greens, nuts, garlic and olive oil. I also make a combination of arugula and spinach pesto with roasted walnuts which hits the name notes of sweet and bitter as basil but with an entirely different flavor. Additionally if you want to lighten up your pesto pasta, saute cherry tomatoes split in half until wilted, then add the pesto sauce to warm. The sweet cherry tomatoes’ acidity is a bright flavor component and also looks gorgeous on the plate. So get excited for big bunches of basil with the following recipe. Buon Appetito!

Basil Almond Pesto
Yields 2 cups

½ cup whole almonds
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
4 cloves peeled garlic
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
¼ cup grated Asiago
¼ cup grated Romano
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
¾ tsp. sea salt
½ tsp. smoked pepper
½ tsp. smoked chili flakes
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil, more if needed

1. Roast almonds in a pan on the stovetop until they are browned and fragrant. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

2. Next, process in a food processor until finely ground.

3. Add garlic cloves and process until combined. Add basil and process until shredded.

4. Add cheese and process until the mixture is coarsely ground. Add spices and repeat.

5. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil. If pesto is too thick, add more olive oil.

6. Make your favorite pasta and toss with pesto to coat.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 04/24/17 at 10:31 AM • Permalink