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Recipe: Banana Crumb Muffins

Recipes from The Sylvia Center at Katchkie Farm are those used to to inspire young people and their families to eat well through hands-on learning experiences on the farm and in the kitchen. Madeleine Fischer, program coordinator at The Sylvia Center, offers recipes that they cook with the youth, teens and families who participate in their cooking classes in the community and programs at Katchkie Farm. Follow their blog to learn more.

We’ve all found ourselves with bananas that are past their prime, but their sweet taste and mushy texture are perfect for moistening a cake, bread or muffins. They also freeze well, so if you have the bananas and no time to bake, just peel and slip them into a ziplock bag or freezer-safe container to save for later.

We made this recipe for Banana Crumb Muffins in our teen cooking class. One of our students, Leah, declared this as her favorite recipe because she found the level of sweetness to be just right. The following week Leah came to class exclaiming that they were so good, she made them again with her friends. Next time you find yourself with overripe bananas in your kitchen, try making these muffins!

Banana Crumb Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
Adapted from NYT Cooking

For Topping
1⁄2 cup whole wheat flour
1⁄4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, room temperature

For Muffins
¾ cup all-­purpose flour
¾ cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
3 large, ripe bananas, mashed
3⁄4 cup sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1⁄3 cup butter, melted

1. Grease a muffin tin and preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. For the topping, in a medium bowl, mix flour, sugar and cinnamon. Add butter or margarine and mix with a fork or pastry cutter until crumbly. Put aside while preparing muffin batter.

3. For the muffins, in large bowl, combine dry ingredients. Set aside.

4. In another bowl, combine mashed bananas, sugar, slightly beaten egg and melted butter or margarine. Mix well. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.

5. Fill greased muffin cups two-thirds full. Using hands, arrange coarse, pea-sized crumbs over muffin batter.

6. Bake for 18–20 minutes or until muffins test done with a cake tester. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack.

Rural Intelligence needs your help. Unlike other websites, we haven’t put up a paywall, but the expenses involved in publishing RI can’t be met by advertising alone. We are asking readers to step up to the plate so we can continue to cover the people, places and events that make our region so special. We need 1,500 readers to contribute or we will cease publishing at the end of March. Please click here to become a supporter now.


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Posted by Lisa Green on 02/17/18 at 01:39 PM • Permalink

Recipe: Lisa Fielding’s Caesar Salad

By Lisa Fielding of Secret Ingredients

Caesar salad has always been the motherlode of salads for me. And according to those in the know, it was invented in Mexico — but not by a Mexican. Legend has it that Italian-American restaurateur Caesar Cardini invented the Caesar salad in 1924 in Tijuana, where he owned a restaurant in the tourist district. 

Here’s where the story goes a little sideways for me. He invented the salad to attract Americans frustrated by Prohibition. Come for the salad, stay for the tequila? 

At any rate, if Mr. Cardini did in fact come up with the sharp and creamy dressing with notes of garlic, briny anchovy and acid, he was a genius. And I think if he tried mine, he might agree that I’ve improved on the original recipe that calls for red wine vinegar but which I’ve replaced with fresh lemon juice. The difference is not subtle. The lemon is the perfect complement to garlic and anchovy. 

One day at lunch, a friend was extolling my talents as a chef and she brought up my Caesar salad. She said — and I quote — “the dressing is so good you want to pour it in a cup and drink it.” I might not go that far, but I’ve been known to dip one homemade crouton after another into its depths and eat it like a snack. That’s another component to making the ultimate Caesar… you have to make your own croutons. No ifs, ands or buts. But you don’t have to go crazy; a good quality baguette cut into dice-sized cubes, slathered in olive oil, tossed with kosher salt and baked for 15 minutes in a 400-degree oven will yield beautifully crisped and golden croutons.

There are a few other do’s and don’ts. Do cut your hearts of romaine into ribbons and discard the leafy ends which will become soggy when dressed. Give the lettuces a good washing and chill them in the refrigerator for at least a few hours before serving. The lettuces need to be crisp and cold. Don’t even think about omitting anchovies. Caesar dressing is made with anchovies. Period. If you don’t like anchovies, make the dressing without it but don’t call it a Caesar. Mix your dressing in a food processor so everything is completely emulsified almost to the point of resembling a thinner aioli. Nothing is worse than a runny dressing. And, to make a real meal out of your salad, grill your favorite protein, slice and serve on top of the greens. We love it with grilled salmon and a little crispy salmon skin. 

Lisa Fielding’s Caesar Salad
Yields 1½ cups dressing; serves 8

6 heads of romaine, cut into ribbons (leafy ends discarded), rinsed, dried and chilled.
1 baguette cut into dice-size cubes, dredged in olive oil, salted and baked on a parchment-lined cookie sheet at 400 degrees until crispy and golden (12-15 minutes).
3 large cloves garlic, skinned
1 heaping tbl. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. dry mustard
2 egg yolks
1 tbl. Worcestershire sauce
1 tin anchovies rinsed under cold water, patted dry
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of one lemon
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse garlic until minced. Add anchovies and pulse until a paste has formed. Add Dijon, dry mustard, egg yolks and Worcestershire and pulse until incorporated. Add half the lemon juice. Pulse. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a steady stream to the bowl. The dressing will emulsify quickly and start to thicken. Taste for tartness. If you like it more lemony, add more of the lemon juice until you reach the desired effect. Pulse once or twice when adding lemon juice; you don’t want to break the dressing down after it’s emulsified. 

Remove from food processor into a bowl. Add half the grated Parmesan cheese, salt and ground pepper to taste. Gently stir with a spatula. 

In a large salad bowl, add half the lettuces and cover with half the dressing. Toss gently. Add the remainder of the lettuces and the rest of the dressing plus the croutons (as many or few as you like). Toss again. Now add the rest of the Parmesan cheese and, if you’re a big cheese fan, grate some extra and put it on the table. I don’t like to overwhelm the lettuces with cheese. Plate and serve as-is or add grilled chicken, shrimp, salmon or even steak.

Rural Intelligence needs your help. Unlike other websites, we haven’t put up a paywall, but the expenses involved in publishing RI can’t be met by advertising alone. We are asking readers to step up to the plate so we can continue to cover the people, places and events that make our region so special. We need 1,500 readers to contribute or we will cease publishing at the end of March. Please click here to become a supporter now.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 02/12/18 at 07:40 PM • Permalink

Recipe: Veggie Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Recipes from The Sylvia Center at Katchkie Farm are those used to to inspire young people and their families to eat well through hands-on learning experiences on the farm and in the kitchen. Madeleine Fischer, program coordinator at The Sylvia Center, offers us recipes the teenagers are learning to make, but they are great additions to any table.

This veggie macaroni and cheese will warm your heart and soul. At the Sylvia Center, we teach this recipe to our teens and families that take our cooking classes because everyone has a special relationship to mac and cheese, if not some variation of the rich and comforting dish. So, learning how to make it on your own terms can be life changing! This dish has so many possible variations, and our version is chock full of vegetables. We change it up depending on what’s in season, but the cheese sauce always stays the same.

The cheese sauce is our favorite part because it’s fun to watch it rapidly evolve from start to finish. Making a sauce like this one is a great teaching tool because students can see the transformation from a roux to a bechamel, and then to our cheese sauce. The roux — a mixture of fat (in this case, butter) and flour — acts as a thickener. We turn it into a bechamel by gradually adding milk. The final step is to add the cheese. We add the pasta, combine it with our veggies and sit down to enjoy and relish in our shared accomplishment.

Veggie Mac ‘n’ Cheese
Serves 8

1 lb dried pasta, bowtie, elbows or other small pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 pound cauliflower and/or broccoli florets, finely diced
1 bunch kale, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Red pepper flakes, to taste
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups milk
3 tablespoon mixed herbs, finely chopped (optional)
3/4 cup finely grated parmesan or aged pecorino romano cheese, divided
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 1 to 2 minutes before perfect doneness. Drain and set aside. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water for cheese sauce.

2. Heat a large skillet to medium-high heat. Once hot, add olive oil.

3. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 2 minutes.

4. Add garlic and all other vegetables and season with salt and pepper flakes. Sauté until tender.

5. When vegetables are tender, transfer to a bowl and set aside.

6. To make the cheese sauce, heat a medium-large pot over medium heat. Add butter. Once completely melted, add flour and whisk quickly until the mixture is shiny and resembles a paste.

7. Add milk, a very small splash at a time, whisking constantly. Let mixture simmer for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

8. Add cheese, one quarter cup at a time.  Be sure to combine each quarter cup completely before adding the next. If the sauce is too thick, add some reserved pasta water to loosen it. Remove pan from heat and stir all of mixed herbs. Adjust seasoning to taste.

9. Off the heat, add drained pasta and the vegetable mixture, stir to combine. Serve hot.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 02/05/18 at 11:02 AM • Permalink

Recipe: Basque Burnt Cheesecake

By Lisa Fielding of Secret Ingredients

Everybody’s got their favorite cheesecake and I would hazard a guess that there are few who don’t like it. Whether it’s the thick and heavy slabs of New York cheesecake or a creamier, lighter version with a pastry crust, it’s one of those comfort desserts that never fails to please the palate. I thought I knew every cheesecake recipe out there as I’ve been making it for decades. My pumpkin version with a praline bottom for the holidays is legendary. My blueberry cheesecake in the summer is not only delicious, it’s beautiful. And there have been endless varieties in between from chocolate espresso to lemon raspberry cream. No matter what kind is on the menu, there are basic ingredients which are part of any cheesecake base — until I made a burnt cheesecake which was a revelation in terms of texture, flavor and presentation.

I had heard about this the Basque recipe in years past. A tapas bar in San Sebastian called La Vina churns them out by the dozens and apparently it is Ruth Reichl’s favorite dessert. I didn’t attempt it because “burnt” and cooking together do not necessarily equate to success in the kitchen. But there are levels of burnt that can taste charcoaly good before turning into acrid bitter. 

What I discovered is that this cheesecake embodies the former and is sort of breathtaking in its fulfillment of the promise to deliver something browned and crispy with a creamy sweet filling and no crust. I know this sounds like a mission impossible but it’s not. In fact, the hardest thing about this recipe is to trust that it will turn out exactly as described without monkeying with the recipe or the cooking instructions. So trust me! I attribute the perfection of this recipe to the abundance of heavy cream in the ingredients which allows the cake to be baked on such a high heat. If not for the cream, it would dry out before it cooks to a burnished delight.So here it is. And make sure that if you’re serving it for a party, present it to the table. It’s too pretty not to ogle before eating.

Basque Burnt Cheesecake
Makes 1 cake

2 pounds cream cheese (I used organic)
1¾ cups sugar
7 whole eggs
2 cups heavy whipping cream
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tbl. real vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease a 10” spring-form pan and line with sheets of parchment paper, making sure the paper comes up two inches above the top of the pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the cream cheese and sugar, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Pour in the whipping cream and blend until incorporated. Sprinkle flour over the top of the batter and mix on low speed until blended.

Pour batter into the prepared pan and place in the center of the oven. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until the top is deeply golden and the center barely jiggles. Let cool completely before removing the sides of the pan. Gently peel back the parchment.

Serve with raspberry, blueberry or any other fruit sauce for color and contrast.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 01/30/18 at 10:38 AM • Permalink

Recipe: Apple And Oatmeal Crisp

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. Madeleine Fischer, program coordinator at The Sylvia Center, offers us recipes the teenagers are learning to make.

At The Sylvia Center, we love baking with fruit because it’s a great method for making desserts a little healthier and it connects us to the seasons. Apples are abundant right now, so this recipe for Apple and Oatmeal Crisp is a delicious and simple way to use them. The recipe has jobs for cooks of all ages. Once the apples are cut into slices and set on a flat side, they are the ideal texture and size for little chefs to roughly chop and practice their knife skills. The oat mixture is truly hands-on and it’s fun to see the mixture transform from separate ingredients to a crisp topping. We made this recipe with our teen chefs and they raved about it for the remainder of our class. As the seasons progress, change the fruit to pears, berries, or whatever is fresh and available to you!

Apple and Oatmeal Crisp
Serves 8

8 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
¼ cup sugar
2 cups quick cooking oatmeal (see notes)
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup brown sugar
1 stick salted butter, cut into pieces

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

2. In a large-mixing bowl, toss together the apples and white sugar. Transfer to a 9-inch rectangular baking dish.

3. In a medium-mixing bowl, toss together the oatmeal, flour, and brown sugar.

4. Add the butter and work into dry ingredients with fingertips until only small bits of butter can be seen.

5. Top the tossed fruit with the oatmeal mixture, spreading evenly across the top. Bake until the fruit filling is soft and the topping is golden, about 40 minutes.

Notes: Rolled oats can be substituted for quick cooking oats, but they may take longer to turn crisp, so be prepared to lengthen the baking time. Opt for thin over thick-cut oats.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 01/22/18 at 03:15 PM • Permalink

Recipe: The Counterintuitive, 100% Failsafe French Fry

By Lisa Fielding of Secret Ingredients

Happy New Year — and like everyone else I’m thinking less about food and more about getting back into top-notch shape. Given this bit of news one would think my recipe this week would showcase a nutritious, calorie-friendly dish such as Ligurian vegetable soup. But instead I have to share one of my favorite recipes, for two reasons: it’s a perfect recipe, and I love French fries (or frites as I refer to them when paired with a steak au poivre or juicy burger). 

French fries are not easy to perfect, even with a deep fryer on hand. Lots of things typically go wrong; even if you get them crisped to a golden hue, crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside, they get soggy if not eaten immediately. And the other pitfall is getting the oil too hot so the potatoes burn quickly without ever achieving a crunchy exterior. I got so tired of trying to make a perfect batch of French fries on our bistro or burger night that I finally relented and started buying frozen fries. Yes, me, the chef buying frozen food.

And then I came across a recipe by Patricia Wells, a master chef and inspired cookbook writer whom I love unreservedly. Patricia and French fries don’t really go together, but apparently she loves frites, too and was also desirous of hitting the bullseye. So, with much skepticism and fear — since the first time I tried this methodology was for a client (I do like living on the edge) — I followed her directions to the letter. And voila! I achieved the most gorgeous French fry in all my years of cooking. And the best part: because of the way they’re cooked, they’re impervious to getting soggy. I’ll let Alton Brown explain the chemistry behind this, but suffice it to say, once you remove them from their boiling bath, their form will not alter in the slightest. And to reheat is just a matter of minutes in a super hot oven.

I acknowledge this defies everything you know about making French fries, since plunging potatoes in hot oil and sometimes doing it twice is a sacred cow of sorts. But trust me, this is the only way. That said, be forewarned: now that you know how to make the perfect frites, they’ll prove counter-productive to your diet plans. Oh well, there’s always next month. 

Cold Fry French Fries
(Adapted from Patricia Wells)
Serves 6-12

2 pounds (about 4 large) russet potatoes
2½ quarts vegetable oil at room temperature
Fine sea salt

Special Preparation:
Two thick, clean kitchen towels; a 4-9-quart heavy-duty saucepan or cast-iron pot; a kitchen timer; a wire skimmer; (2) cookie sheets lined with paper towels.

1. Rinse the potatoes, peel them, rinse again, and cut into matchsticks. (I cut ½-inch thick slice lengthwise and then each slice receives another ½-inch thick slice so I end up with a perfectly symmetrical matchstick.)

2. Soak the potatoes in a bowl of cold water for about 15 minutes, changing the water when it becomes cloudy (at least twice), until the water remains clear. (Soaking releases the starch in potatoes, making them less rigid and less likely to stick together while cooking.)

3. Drain the potatoes and wrap them in the kitchen towels to dry. (Removing the excess liquid will speed up the cooking time and reduce the likelihood of the potatoes splattering once the oil is hot.)

4. Transfer the potatoes to the saucepan and set it over the stove. Pour the oil over the potatoes. Do not cover the pot. Set the heat to high, give the potatoes a very gentle turn with a metal spoon to distribute the oil and prevent sticking. They can be cozy.

5. The oil should move from a peppy simmer to a boil in about 9 minutes. When the oil starts to boil, set a timer for 17 minutes. Don’t worry about overboiling — the oil should boil rapidly and evenly with no need to adjust the heat throughout the entire process.

6. When the timer rings, the potatoes should have begun to take on color, turning from white to slightly golden, but will still have about 4 minutes remaining until they are fully cooked. For these last few minutes, watch them closely, stirring gently. When the fries are a deep golden brown, taste one to make sure they are crisp and firm on the outside with a creamy interior. They should not be the least bit soggy, so resist the urge to remove them from the oil too soon. When you’re happy with the consistency, carefully transfer the rest of the fries with the wire skimmer or slotted spoon to the paper-towel-lined trays to drain. Season with salt and serve immediately. If they cool, place in a 500-degree oven for five minutes. They’ll never lose their crispy exterior. 

1. Use firm, fresh potatoes. Rinse and soak them well to rid them of starch. The less starch in the potatoes, the crispier the fries will be.
2. To keep the oil well contained in the pot, make sure there is at least 2 inches of room from the top of the oil to the rim of the pot.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 01/16/18 at 02:49 PM • Permalink

Recipe: Chickpea Cakes With Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce

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. Madeleine Fischer, program coordinator at The Sylvia Center, offers us recipes the teenagers are learning to make.

We made this week’s recipe in our teen class. It was one of those meals that no student had tried before and that all students walked away praising. Inspired by its incorporation of a sauce and a dressing, we discussed how and when to use each one and their power to enhance any dish. We also love this recipe for its use of legumes as a source of vegetable protein. The teens proved to themselves that it is possible to create a tasty and filling burger without meat! Breaking down the chickpeas gives them a whole new character that yields the foundation for a buttery, nutty, light yet satisfying patty. The yogurt sauce is simple and creamy, making it the perfect counterpart to the rich cakes. The slaw adds a delightful tangy crunch with spices that complement the rest of the meal.

Chickpea Cakes with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
Serves 9

1 large cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and shredded
Salt and pepper
1 ½ cup plus 6 tablespoons 2-percent Greek yogurt
9 scallions, sliced thick
½ cup fresh cilantro, minced
2 ¼ cup canned chickpeas, rinsed
3 large eggs
¼ cup olive oil
¾ teaspoon garam masala
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup panko bread crumbs
3 shallots, minced
Lime or lemon wedges for serving
Pita for serving

1. Toss cucumber and ¾ teaspoon salt together and let drain in colander for 15 minutes. Combine drained cucumber, 1 ½ cup yogurt, 3 tablespoons scallions, and 3 tablespoons cilantro in bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste; set aside.
2. Mash by hand or pulse chickpeas in food processor to coarse puree with some large pieces remaining, 5-8 pulses, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Do not over process— the texture helps the patties stick together and prevents mushiness.
3. In medium bowl, whisk egg, 2 tablespoons oil, garam masala, ¼ teaspoon salt, and cayenne together. Gently stir in panko, remaining scallions, remaining cilantro, and shallot until just combined. Divide bean mixture into 18 lightly packed balls and gently flatten each ball into 1-inch thick patty.
4. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Gently place patties in skillet and cook until well browned on first side, 4 to 5 minutes. Gently flip patties and continue to cook until well browned on second side, 4 to 5 minutes.
5. Serve by stuffing pitas with chickpea cakes, slaw, and cucumber yogurt sauce with lime or lemon wedges on the side.

Coleslaw with Cilantro Lime Dressing
Serves 6-9 as a side

1 small red cabbage, or a mix of red and green cabbage, sliced thinly
3 carrots, grated
½ onion, sliced thinly
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 limes, juiced
2 T cilantro, minced
½ teaspoon cumin

1. In a large bowl, combine cabbage, carrots and onion. Toss to combine.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together lime juice, cilantro and cumin. Slowly add the olive oil while continuously whisking. Pour over cabbage mixture and combine thoroughly.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 01/09/18 at 02:15 PM • Permalink

Recipe: Blueberry Pie

By Lisa Fielding of Secret Ingredients

I’m often asked when I started cooking and I answer emphatically that the seminal moment occurred when I was six years old. I was visiting my favorite place on earth: my paternal grandparents’ ranch in Orange Cove, Calif. My grandparents were “ranchers” and grew oranges, lemons and olives for a living after decamping from Texas during the Depression. The countryside was redolent with the heavy bouquet of orchards in bloom and provided acres of an idyllic playground for any child. 

My Grammies Fielding, as I dubbed her, was an amazing cook who specialized in Southern comfort food. And her kitchen, on a daily basis, was a warm and inviting place where the aromas of baked goodies and cooked dishes greeted anyone who crossed the threshold into the house. My favorite meal during those halcyon days of my childhood consisted of fried chicken with milk gravy, mashed potatoes, flaky warm biscuits smothered in butter and honey, and creamed corn (there was never a mention of the word, “calorie”) followed by a slice of Grammies’ always-perfect pie. The most memorable pies were chocolate cream, lemon meringue, pumpkin, blueberry, cherry lattice and banana cream.  Hands down, the reason her pies were so delicious (and gorgeous) was because she had the touch when it came to making and rolling pie crust. And it was this ritual that finally motivated me to pull my step-stool up alongside her and ask, “Grammies, will you teach me to bake a pie?”

It goes without saying that my grandmother was a very patient woman because I spent the next several days obsessed with baking pies and mastering the wire pastry cutter with its worn wooden handle. I was not successful in my mission to emulate Grammies’ pastry. My dough would stick together in big blobs no matter how religiously I applied the cutter to blend the fat and the flour into pea-shaped balls. Eventually I would abandon hope, pour in the ice water and attack the dough with my chubby hands destroying any chance for a flaky outcome. Even if I was a dismal failure, Grammies still managed to coo a few words of encouragement so I didn’t allow defeat to quash my love of being in the kitchen with her and moving on to other culinary adventures. 

It only took me several decades and the introduction of my favorite kitchen appliance, the food processor, to get it right, but I now can, without hesitation, bake great pies of many varieties. And I must admit that there is nothing like placing a freshly baked pie on the table after a long, lazy dinner accompanied with (preferably homemade) vanilla ice cream to evoke oohs and aahs from your guests. Whether it’s a single-crust blind-baked, lattice-topped or a crimped-edge double-crust pie, don’t deny yourself the pleasure of making homemade pie, especially if you have budding cooks at home. Just a few days ago while visiting friends, their daughter, Cate, decided it was time to bake her first pie and it was my sincere pleasure to oversee her effort.  With the aid of the food processor and me taking on the lion’s share of peeling and slicing fresh peaches, she managed the rest and the end result was a sweet sticky peach pie for dessert. I have passed the baton so to speak and I believe Grammies would be proud. 

Blueberry Pie

Perfect Easy Pie Crust
Yield: (2) 10-inch crusts

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup very cold vegetable shortening
6 to 8 tablespoons (about 1/2 cup) ice water

Dice the butter and return it to the refrigerator while you prepare the flour mixture. Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse a few times to mix. Add the butter and shortening. Pulse 8 to 12 times, until the butter is the size of peas. With the machine running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse the machine until the dough begins to form a ball. Dump out on a floured board and roll into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Now you’re ready to make the filling.


4 cups fresh blueberries, washed and dried
1/2 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1/4 cup corn starch
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon cassis liqueur
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk or cream, for egg wash

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. 

Mix the blueberries, the 1/2 cup of sugar, the corn starch, lemon zest, lemon juice, and cassis in a large bowl. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and cut in half. Roll each piece on a well-floured surface into a circle at least 1 inch larger than the pie pan, rolling from the center to the edge, turning and flouring the dough so it doesn’t stick to the board. Fold the dough in half, ease it into the pie pan and gently unfold it. Spoon the blueberry mixture into the pie shell. Roll out the other half of the dough and repeat the process of gently folding in half and unfolding it once you’ve placed over the pie filling. With a pair of kitchen shears cut the excess dough off at the edge of the pie plate. Press the two edges together with your fingers so you have a raised edge. Now you can crimp with your knuckles or press a fork into the dough to make a decorative edge. Brush the top crust with the egg wash, cut three slits in the center for steam to escape, and sprinkle with sugar.

Place the pie in the middle of the oven and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the filling is very bubbly and the crust is nicely browned. Allow to cool and serve warm or at room temperature.

*Pinwheels: Roll leftover dough into a disc, generously sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Roll into a log, cut into 1-inch segments and bake cut-side up at 400 degrees for ten minutes.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 01/02/18 at 11:52 AM • Permalink

Recipe: Curried Winter Squash Soup

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. Madeleine Fischer, program coordinator at The Sylvia Center, offers us recipes the teenagers are learning to make.

Need more creative ideas for cooking with squash this winter? Look no further than this curried winter squash soup. The sweetness of the apples and squash are complemented by the savory onions and spices. Once the squash is roasted the soup comes together quickly. We used butternut squash and topped it with cayenne pepper and fresh ground black pepper for an extra bite. It’s light yet filling and will warm you up on a cold winter day.

Curried Winter Squash Soup
Serves 4

2 small pumpkins or 1 butternut squash
1 large onion, diced
2 apples, diced
1 quart of chicken stock
1 teaspoon or more of curry powder

1. Cut the squash into sections, remove filling and seeds and roast at 375 degrees until tender, about 40-50 minutes. Roast seeds separately for garnish if desired.

2. Let the roasted squash pieces cool.

3. Sauté onions and curry powder until they are soft and fragrant.

4. Add apples and continue to sauté for another few minutes.

5. Peel the pumpkin and add its flesh to the soup pot.

6. Then add stock to the soup pot.

7. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then simmer for another five minutes.

8. Use a blender to puree the mixture.

9. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 12/12/17 at 02:01 PM • Permalink

Recipe: Wellington Trumps Turkey This Holiday

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.

Whenever there was a special occasion in our house or a spectacular party in the works, my mother would pull out all the stops and make a classic dish or dessert that was a Herculean effort from my young point of view. Two dishes stand out in particular: Beef Wellington and Baked Alaska. I never understood the attraction of the latter. Cake is cake and ice cream is ice cream. Should the two collide, it needn’t occur under the veil of a meringue bomb with the added jeopardy of a brief appearance under a broiler. She loved making it until one year, with her hands full, she used a bare foot to push the scorching rack bearing the Alaska back into the oven, and the dessert was forever removed from our festivities.

The Beef Wellington lived on, and it is with much chagrin that I admit to never undertaking the sumptuous and elegant main course until a client (whom I could not refuse) requested it upon his return home from a long stay in the hospital. I smiled at memories of my mother making her own pastry and just enough extra to cut out flowers and leaves to decorate the crust. She was talented in that way, which I am not. I promised to make the Wellington, but since this was new territory for me, I didn’t promise it would be crowned with a pastry laurel wreath. 

For the uninitiated, Beef Wellington is rumored to be a classic British dish named after the first Duke of Wellington, but little evidence supports this historical anecdote. What it is, and all cooks agree on, is seared beef tenderloin coated with pâté and duxelles, which is then wrapped in puff pastry and baked. The process is shockingly simple. I imagined a far more laborious endeavor in the kitchen, with a few aborted encasing episodes thrown in for good measure. This did not happen. My Wellington cooperated easily and went quietly into the oven encrusted in vented puff pastry glistening with egg wash and sprinkled with coarse sea salt. The overall appearance was rustic but still decorative. After carving the first slice, I was hooked. Few dishes make such a stunning presentation right out of the oven and require so little else to make a meal fit for a duke or a duchess. 

So this holiday dinner, ours being a Christmas celebration, I will be serving a stately Beef Wellington with green peppercorn sauce, roasted fingerling potatoes with fresh herbs, and wilted greens. My mother would be proud, but I know that with her propensity for perfection, she would comment (and not under her breath) something to the effect of “It would have looked so much prettier with a Christmas wreath on top and perhaps a few red peppercorns for color.” Come to think of it, that’s not a bad idea.

Happy Holidays from the Duchess of Litchfield County!

The Ultimate Beef Wellington
Serves 6 to 8

For the duxelles
3 pints (1-1/2 lb.) white button mushrooms
2 shallots, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the beef
1 3-lb. center-cut beef tenderloin, trimmed and tied
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 Tbs. salted butter
2 Tbs. Dijon mustard

For the pastry
Flour, for rolling out puff pastry
1 lb. puff pastry, thawed if using frozen
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ tsp. coarse sea salt
Minced chives, for garnish

For the green peppercorn sauce
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 shallots, sliced
2 cloves garlic, smashed
3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
1 cup brandy
1 box beef stock
2 cups heavy cream
2 Tbs. grainy mustard
½ cup green peppercorns in brine, drained.

Make the duxelles:
Put the mushrooms, shallots, garlic, and thyme in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Put the butter and olive oil in a large sauté pan and set over medium heat. Add the shallot and mushroom mixture and sauté for 8 to 10 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.

Prepare the beef:
Tie the tenderloin in 4 places so it holds its cylindrical shape while being seared. Generously coat with salt and pepper. Melt the butter in a heavy skillet and add the beef to the pan. Sear all surfaces, including the ends, about 8 minutes. When the beef is seared, remove from heat, cut off the twine and smear lightly all over with Dijon mustard. Allow to cool.

Prepare the pastry:
Heat the oven to 425°F.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the puff pastry out to about a 1/3-inch thickness. With a spatula spread the duxelles over the pastry, leaving a 1-inch border. Set the beef in the center of the pastry and fold over the longer sides, brushing with egg wash to seal. Fold the ends and tuck them under the beef on the seam side. Place the beef seam side down on a baking sheet. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Make a couple of slits in the top of the pastry using the tip of a paring knife to create vents that will allow the steam to escape while cooking.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and the beef registers 125°F on an instant-read thermometer. If the pastry browns before the beef is finished cooking, tent with foil and continue cooking. Remove from the oven and let rest while you make the sauce.

Make the green peppercorn sauce:
Add the olive oil to the pan after removing the beef. Add the shallots, garlic, and thyme and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes. Then, off the heat, add the brandy and flambé, using a long kitchen match. After the flame dies down, return to the heat, add stock, and reduce by about half. Strain out the solids, and then add the cream and mustard; reduce by half again. Remove from the heat and add the green peppercorns.

Cut the Wellington into thick slabs and serve with the sauce.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 12/06/17 at 04:28 PM • Permalink