Naborigama Wood Fire

Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in a Naborigama wood firing at the Canton Clay Works studio in Canton, Ct. I have been taking classes there for the last few months with owner and master potter Tim Scull.

Naborigama is a multi-chamber, hill climbing wood kiln that requires 24 hour continuous stoking. I was lucky enough to be able to work the final 8 hours of the firing that included the salt/soda chamber as well. Mind you, Abbie and Emily did the lions-share of the work, as I, the newbie,  kept them in constant supply of wood and chits, but I was glad to be able to experience this part of the process! Depending on where in the kiln the pieces are placed, the scattering of the ash, the flame path and the oxidation and reduction levels have varying effects in color and texture. The results are really beautiful! Here, Tim the Potter explains the kiln's design and function.

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Holiday Traditions

Every family has holiday traditions, and for ours it's my mother's cookies. Known to some around town as "the cookie lady", she creates and delivers festive plates to neighbors, friends...and even the mailman. For a few years now I've wanted to document her process of baking these recipes, the one's I've grown up with and have been an important part of our family holiday traditions. Here, at the age of 83, she's still at it!  Every year she makes these gingerbread men for us to hang on our trees - these guys are for decoration only! It can be an all day process, but she mixes, rolls, and lovingly personalizes each one. It marks the beginning of the holiday season - can't wait to get our tree!

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Girls Day In

A cozy fire, great food, and of course, Blood Orange Mimosas. Ah, winter in New England! Recently I attended a girls-day-in brunch hosted by a friend and coworker.  From the Spinach & Mushroom Breakfast Casserole to the Chai Cupcakes, not to mention the Grain Free Lemon and Blueberry Scones, both the food and the company was great fun. It was nice to spend time with longtime coworkers, and meet some new friends as well. Such an interesting and diverse group of ladies. A perfect way to spend a cold winter's afternoon!

Winter Minestrone

Who doesn't love a good hearty soup on a cold winter's day? This recipe is from the wonderful Ina Garten and is sure to satisfy!

Winter Minestrone & Garlic Bruschetta

Good olive oil
4 ounces pancetta, ½-inch-diced
1½ cups chopped yellow onions
2 cups (½-inch) diced carrots (3 carrots)
2 cups (½-inch) diced celery (3 stalks)
2½ cups (½-inch) diced peeled butternut squash
1½ tablespoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
26 ounces canned or boxed chopped tomatoes, such as Pomi
6 to 8 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (15-ounce) can cennellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups cooked small pasta, such as tubetti
8 to 10 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup good dry white wine
2 tablespoons store-bought pesto
Garlic Bruschetta (recipe follows)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
 

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven. Add the pancetta and cook over medium-low heat for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Add the onions, carrots, celery, squash, garlic, and thyme and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften.

Add the tomatoes, 6 cups of the chicken stock, the bay leaf, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1- teaspoons pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, until the -vegetables are tender.

Discard the bay leaf. Add the beans and cooked pasta and heat through. The soup should be quite thick but if it’s too thick, add more chicken stock. Just before serving, reheat the soup, add the spinach, and toss with 2 big spoons (like tossing a salad). Cook just until the leaves are wilted. Stir in the white wine and pesto. Depending on the saltiness of the chicken stock, add another teaspoon or two of salt to taste. Serve large shallow bowls of soup with a bruschetta on top. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, drizzle with olive oil, and serve hot.

GARLIC BRUSCHETTA
1 baguette
Good olive oil
1 garlic clove, cut in half lengthwise

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Slice the baguette at a 45-degree angle in --inch-thick slices. Brush both sides of the bread with olive oil and bake for 6 minutes, until lightly toasted. Take the slices out of the oven and rub the surface of each one with the cut clove of garlic.

Roasted Veggie Carbonara

Welcome 2015 and some new tools for the kitchen including a pasta roller and fettuccine and spaghetti cutters. Inspired by a recent trip to visit friends in Florida, I'm now having fun making my own pasta, but you can use good quality fresh from the store or boxed. The pasta dough recipe below is from the French Laundry cookbook, looks more complicated that it really is and tastes fabulous! The carbonara recipe is from www.closetcooking.com. I added roasted red pepper for added flavor and color, but try it with any of your favorite veggies!

Pasta Dough:

1 3/4 cups (8 ounces) all-purpose flour
6 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon milk

By hand: Mound the flour on a board or other surface and create a well in the center, pushing the flour to all sides to make a ring with sides about 1 inch wide. Make sure that the well is wide enough to hold all the eggs without spilling.

Pour the egg yolks, egg, oil, and milk into the well. Use your fingers to break the eggs up. Still using your fingers, begin turning the eggs in a circular motion, keeping them within the well and not allowing them to spill over the sides. This circular motion allows the eggs to gradually pull in flour from the sides of the well; it is important that the flour not be incorporated too rapidly, or your dough will be lumpy. Keep moving the eggs while slowly incorporating the flour. Using a pastry scraper, occasionally push the flour toward the eggs; the flour should be moved only enough to maintain the gradual incorporation of the flour, and the eggs should continue to be contained within the well. The mixture will thicken and eventually get too tight to keep turning with your fingers.

When the dough begins thickening and starts lifting itself from the board, begin incorporating the remaining flour with the pastry scraper by lifting the flour up and over the dough that's beginning to form and cutting it into the dough. When the remaining flour from the sides of the well has been cut into the dough, the dough will still look shaggy. Bring the dough together with the palms of your hands and form it into a ball. It will look flaky but will hold together.

Knead the dough by pressing it, bit by bit, in a forward motion with the heels of your hands rather than folding it over on itself as you would with a bread dough. Re-form the dough into a ball and repeat the process several times. The dough should feel moist but not sticky. Let the dough rest for a few minutes while you clean the work surface.

Dust the clean work surface with a little flour. Knead the dough by pushing against it in a forward motion with the heels of your hands. Form the dough into a ball again and knead it again. Keep kneading in this forward motion until the dough becomes silky-smooth. The dough is ready when you can pull your finger through it and the dough wants to snap back into place. The kneading process can take anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes. Even if you think you are finished kneading, knead it for an extra ten minutes; you cannot over-knead this dough. It is important to work the dough long enough to pass the pull test; otherwise, when it rests, it will collapse.

Double-wrap the dough in plastic wrap to ensure that it does not dry out. Let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour before rolling it through a pasta machine. The dough can be made a day ahead, wrapped and refrigerated; bring to room temperature before proceeding

For the Carbonara:

1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
10 ounces mushrooms, quartered
1 large red pepper, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 ounces pancetta, diced or 4 ounces bacon cut into 1 inch pieces
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 eggs
1/2 cup (2 ounces) parmigiano reggiano (parmesan), grated
Fresh black pepper
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

Toss the cauliflower and mushrooms in the oil, salt and pepper, place on a baking sheet in a single layer and roast in a preheated 400 degree oven until they start to caramelize, about 20-30 minutes, mixing half way through.
Start cooking the pasta as directed on the package.
Cook the pancetta in a pan, pour off all but a tablespoon of the grease from the pan, add the garlic, cook for 30 second and turn off the heat.
Mix the egg, cheese, pepper and salt and parsley in a bowl.
Drain the cooked pasta reserving some of the water.
Mix the pasta, egg mixture, cauliflower and mushrooms into the pan with the pancetta, adding reserved pasta water as needed.

 

Pumpkin Curry Soup

Even though this is a staple on our Thanksgiving table, it's a good hearty soup that will warm your heart all winter long! Served here with homemade crostini.

Pumpkin Curry Soup

4 tbsp. butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 tsp. curry powder
6 cups chicken broth
4 cups canned pumpkin puree
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 cups heavy cream
salt, white pepper, nutmeg to taste

In 6-8 quart pan, melt butter. Add onion and saute. Add curry powder, cook for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add chicken broth, pumpkin, brown sugar, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Cook 10 minutes. Stir in heavy cream and cook for an additional 5 minutes. For thicker soup, cook an additional 10 minutes. Pour into blender or food processor and puree until smooth and creamy. Pour through a strainer for added smoothness.
Can be made 1 day ahead. Place in a saucepan and cook until heated through.

 

Easy Crostini

Slice 1 baguette thin. Brush one side with olive oil (add some crushed garlic to the oil for added flavor). Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Bake at 350 degrees until browned and crunchy, about 20 minutes.

Lunch with Friends...Hopkins Inn

Yesterday I had the pleasure of lunch at the Hopkins Inn with friends to celebrate a special birthday.  Nestled in the Litchfield hills overlooking magnificent lake Waramaug, the Hopkins Inn and Winery is one of the vineyards located along the Connecticut wine trail. After a lovely drive around the lake and stops at some sentimental spots, we enjoyed a leisurely lunch on the terrace overlooking the lake. Great food...great friends...life is good!

Renaissance Farm - Burlington CT

What makes a community? Ask Linda from Renaissance Farm in Burlington. She believes in supporting and promoting the local community. That includes growing her own organic vegetables in the 2 greenhouses she has behind her barn. Her passion is two-fold – her garden and educating people on where their food comes from. “You can go to the grocery store and buy food, but where does it really come from? “.

She currently has a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program that can sustain 15 families with fresh vegetables for the season. It's on a first-come-first serve basis and her goal is to increase that number next year. For more information visit the Renaissance Farm website.

Renaissance Farm has been in business for 5 years and currently employs 5 people including 2 culinary school interns who will continue on to Manchester Community College Culinary program.  In addition to selling fresh local fruits and vegetables, you'll find lots of great baked goods. Let me tell you - her pies are some of the best I've had! Always made fresh they are seriously delicious!!!

Renaissance Farm also sells a variety local wines, canned goods including salad dressings, fruit preserves and jellies, teas and local craft items.

Stop in at lunchtime and enjoy a fresh made salad or sandwich.  As the weather cools down, Linda will also feature homemade soup.

Renaissance Farm is a true local gem! Located at 278 Spielman Highway, Burlington, CT 06013
Ph: 860-673-355
.

Visit their website: http://www.renaissancefarmburlington.com/ or like the on Facebook.

Chopped Kale Salad

Who doesn't love a good Kale Salad??? I've had some great ones while eating out but stumbled upon this recipe. The only change I made from the original recipe was to use unsweetened dried cranberries because I don't like it too sweet. This recipe calls for Freekah, which is made from green wheat, but you can substitute Quinoa if you prefer. Yum!  Special thanks to Shelley and Gretchen over at Two Healthy Kitchens for this recipe. Check out more of their recipes at http://www.twohealthykitchens.com.

Who doesn't love a good Kale Salad??? I've had some great ones while eating out but stumbled upon this recipe. The only change I made from the original recipe was to use unsweetened dried cranberries because I don't like it too sweet. This recipe calls for Freekah, which is made from green wheat, but you can substitute Quinoa if you prefer. Yum!  Special thanks to Shelley and Gretchen over at Two Healthy Kitchens for this recipe. Check out more of their recipes at http://www.twohealthykitchens.com.

Red Wine Sangria

Ahhh, now that Summer has officially arrived - time to break out the Sangria! I was introduced to this recipe at my friend Pat's house. The recipe is from AllRecipes.com. I don't like it too sweet, so I cut the sugar in half and if you're substituting agave nectar, only about 2-2 1/2 tablespoons. I also skip the club soda, but add it if you like the fizz. So many great Sangria recipes out there, more to come in future posts! Enjoy!

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Beet Chips

One of the many things I love about this time of year is the beginning of beet season. A super food indeed, roasted beets have a great earthy flavor and are a great base base for summer salads. I found this recipe for chips and have modified it a bit as I found the original to be a bit too salty.

A word of caution - wear gloves when slicing the red beets, or your hands will become, well,...beet red. I don't have a mandolin, and prefer to slice them with a sharp knife instead.  Also, make sure you watch these carefully as they cook. The thinner you can slice them the crispier they will be. You want the edges to start to brown. The thinner ones will cook faster and can be taken out sooner. Thicker slices will take considerably longer to cook. They will crisp up as they cool.

Enjoy!!!!!!

 

Roasted Beet Chips

1 large red beet
1 bunch of small yellow/golden beets (approx. 5-6)
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp paprika
3/4 tsp chilli flakes
Approx. 2 tbps Olive Oil, enough to coat
1 tbsp of fresh dill, chopped

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the salt, paprika, chilli flakes and dill into a small bowl and mix. Set aside. In two larger bowls, place the golden slices in one and the red slices the other.

Wash and trim the beets. Use a peeler to remove the skin. You want to cut the beets into very thin slices. You can do this using a mandolin, or a very sharp knife and a steady hand. Add half of the spice mix to each bowl, (this will ensure the red doesn’t stain the golden beets). Toss each bowl to coat with spices. Add just enough olive oil to each bowl and coat.

Lay out the golden slices onto one tray. Make sure the slices are not over lapping so they can crisp up. Do the same with the red beets on the other tray. Bake in the oven for 30-50 minutes until nearly crisp. The edged should start to turn brownish. Remove the chips from the oven and place on a drying rack to crisp while they cool.

These will keep at room temperature overnight or you can refrigerate them to make them last for a few days. To crisp them up again, put them on a baking sheet and bake them at 400 degrees for a few minutes. 

 

Herbed Aioli Burgers

If you like fresh basil, and who doesn't, you'll love these burgers! Made with lots of fresh herbs, homemade aioli, and served here with fresh guacamole and sweet potato fries.   Recipe from Fine Cooking magazine.

For the aïoli 1 small clove garlic Kosher salt 1 large egg yolk 2 Tbs. red wine vinegar 1-1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley 1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh chives For the burgers 1-1/4 lb. ground beef (80% lean), preferably grass-fed 2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh basil 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh marjoram 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 4 hamburger rolls, preferably brioche Lettuce and tomato for serving (optional) Make the aïoli Peel, mince, and mash the garlic to a paste with a pinch of salt. In a food processor, pulse the egg yolk, vinegar, mustard, garlic paste, and 1/2 tsp. salt until combined. With the machine running, drizzle in the olive oil until the mixture is emulsified. Add the herbs and pulse once or twice to combine. Transfer to a small bowl and season to taste with salt. Make the burgers Prepare a medium (350°F) gas or charcoal grill fire. In a medium bowl, combine the ground beef, basil, marjoram, rosemary, 1 tsp. salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Form into four 1/2-inch-thick patties. Press the center of each patty with 3 fingers to make an indentation. Grill the burgers, covered, flipping once, until cooked to your liking, about 6 minutes for medium rare (125°F). Transfer the burgers to a plate and keep warm. Toast the buns cut side down on the grill. Serve the burgers on the buns, topped with the aïoli, lettuce, and tomato, if using. Make Ahead Tips The aïoli will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 5 days.

For the aïoli

1 small clove garlic

Kosher salt

1 large egg yolk

2 Tbs. red wine vinegar

1-1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon

1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh chives

For the burgers

1-1/4 lb. ground beef (80% lean), preferably grass-fed

2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh basil

1 tsp. finely chopped fresh marjoram

1 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 hamburger rolls, preferably brioche

Lettuce and tomato for serving (optional)

Make the aïoli

Peel, mince, and mash the garlic to a paste with a pinch of salt. In a food processor, pulse the egg yolk, vinegar, mustard, garlic paste, and 1/2 tsp. salt until combined. With the machine running, drizzle in the olive oil until the mixture is emulsified. Add the herbs and pulse once or twice to combine. Transfer to a small bowl and season to taste with salt.

Make the burgers

Prepare a medium (350°F) gas or charcoal grill fire.

In a medium bowl, combine the ground beef, basil, marjoram, rosemary, 1 tsp. salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Form into four 1/2-inch-thick patties. Press the center of each patty with 3 fingers to make an indentation.

Grill the burgers, covered, flipping once, until cooked to your liking, about 6 minutes for medium rare (125°F).

Transfer the burgers to a plate and keep warm.

Toast the buns cut side down on the grill. Serve the burgers on the buns, topped with the aïoli, lettuce, and tomato, if using.

Make Ahead Tips

The aïoli will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 5 days.