Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Wedding on a Farm - Boulder, CO

 As if the beginning of the Fall hasn't been busy enough, with school starting, a new menu to launch for work, the New Haven Food Policy Council to keep on top of, and a Feast From the Fields dinner at Common Ground High School to help plan and cook for next weekend. This past weekend, I hopped a plane to Colorado with my family for my husband's cousin's wedding (thanks to grandma PJ for the tickets!!).

Luck for me, the wedding took place on an organic farm just outside Boulder, Colorado.  The friends and family were kind, the weather was gorgeous, and the food was fabulous! I worked catering for more than 10 years, and it is a rare night when I get to actually go to, and enjoy a well catered meal myself. The farm-to-table food at Pastures of Plenty Farm, catered by The Big Bang was great, and made up for years of overcooked farm-raised salmon and bland chicken breasts at standard catered events. The thriving farm on the planes of Colorado was a sight for a north-easterner to behold. Dry flat beige landscape giving way to rows of greens, flowers, and vegetables, all used to prepare the night's meal.

After a personal and loving ceremony, we headed into a beautiful pagoda structure for appetizers. Artfully presented on large wood platters from Mexico, there were: roasted purple potato chips with olive tapenade, bruchetta with roasted tomatoes, goat cheese and pesto, prosciutto wrapped melon, marinated and grilled buffalo and shrimp skewers, wonderful local cheeses, and beautiful berries. As a written menu there is nothing so exceptional about this line up, but the execution of the menu was superb. The food was cooked and seasoned very well, and presented beautifully both on the table  and in the location. Dinner was wild caught salmon with sorrel pesto, flank steak, spicy quinoa salad, field green salad, and roasted root vegetables. Again, a fairly standard contemporary farm to table menu, but executed with finesse.

I was busy eating, so didn't get pictures of the food before all the guests attacked it, so you can't see the elegant display of appetizers, fruits and cheeses they put together, but this will give you a little glimpse at the selection.

the wood-fired oven and 12 foot long buffet table

Doesn't this look like fun!

Wedding cake: red velvet and a spice cake.  Kazoos made in the bride's home town of Eden, NY

Even the porto-potty got dressed up!

It was a wonderful day, finished with a gorgeous sunset and a full moon, and it more than made up for the 11 hours of travel it took to get there and the sleepless nights with 2 jet lagged kids. My son, had been concerned that this wedding wouldn't meet the standards of the last one he attended which had a table of crazy hats, wigs and instruments. So, it was a relief when he declared, "Mommy, this is the best wedding ever!". Indeed, it was lovely, (and delicious).

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Rosehips at the Sea Shore

On one of the first windy fall like days of September we took a trip to the ocean up the coast at Hammonasset Beach and State Park. I went there a lot as a kid, but haven't gone much in recent years. It was beautiful and felt like we were on Cape Cod, very different than the urban beaches right in and around New Haven just a few miles south. Since it was too cold for swimming, I imagined spending the day collecting shells and drift wood and just wandering along the sand. As we arrived I had a sudden flash of memory of seeing rose hips along the beach there many years ago. I wasn't sure if it they really were rose hips and edible, or if I'd just made it up. As we walked up the sandy path, I started to see red and orange fruits along the low prickly bushes and my heart started racing as it seems to do when I am near lots of pickable fruit.

I was carrying a pink plastic sand bucket and started filling it immediately. The bushes were thorny and stretched over the edge of the beach in a close knit mass. Most of the fruits were a little hard to reach, and I fell onto the prickers more than once.  Seeing me immersed in picking, my kind husband took one of the kids and went to ask the ranger at the nature center near the parking lot if in fact they were rose hips and not  some poisonous berry.  Returning with a thumbs up just as I had finished filling the bucket, I smiled and started handing the softer of the fruits to my daughter who likes all things sour. I had a vague idea of rose hips from some herbal tea labels, and knew that they were very high in vitamin C, so since we are approaching cold season, I figured it was a good find, and we'd figure out something delicious to do with them.
My camera battery died just as we were approaching the beach, so the only pictures I have are from home, but they are a beautiful sight growing all along the beach, so you might want to head out and see them for yourself. I read up on some recipes for rose hips, and most say to pick them after the first frost, or a little later in the fall when the berries are more red than orange, and soft like a ripe tomato.

I'm thinking of turning mine into a syrup or jam, since I don't want to take the time to remove all the tiny seeds and hairs inside. If you decide to  go adventuring and make some great rose hip recipe,                                                                                           please comment below and let me know!

Friday, September 10, 2010


Sorry for the big gaps between posts lately, I've been really busy consulting at Blue State Coffee trying to get our new menu ready to launch. We had a big menu tasting this week, and the new sandwiches where a big hit. One of my favorites is the new Turkey Sriracha sandwich with shredded romaine, pickled red onion, avocado, and some sriracha spiked mayo. Sriracha hot chili sauce has been available in the USA at least as long as I've been wandering through asian markets, which is about 25 years. It is a great mix of chili pepper, garlic, vinegar, salt and sugar. You might also find Sambal from the same company, which is similar, but a little chunkier, more garlicy, and not in a squeeze bottle.  The Huy Fong brand Sriracha is certainly the most well know and easiest to find brand, available in the asian section of many regular super markets. To make the mayo for a sandwich, just mix a little Sriracha into some mayonaise and you have a delicious condiment. If you want to get fancy, you could add some lime zest or juice and even some sliced scallions, but those are extras, and the mayo is great with just the Sriracha. This hot sauce has flavor as well as heat and it doesn't numb your mouth, making it oblivious to any taste that may follow, like some other hot sauces who shall remiane nameless.  While I love the Sriracha mayo paired with the pickled red onions in this new sandwich, I also enjoy straight Sriracha on just about any meal, especially squeezed on a fried egg served over rice and sauteed vegetables.

I'll post a picture of the new sandwiches soon, but in the mean time, hope this inspires you to get some Sriracha and start adding a little heat, and flavor to your meals. 

Do you have a favorite hot sauce? which one?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

25 Pounds of Peaches...Eaten!

On my last day of summer, I dragged my kids out to go peach and raspberry picking. Bishops Orchard's in Guilford, CT is about 25 minutes north of the city of New Haven, so it was a quick car ride, and a gorgeous, hot day. The first bunch of peach trees we approached were full and heavy with fruit, but most of it was a little too hard. One year, at another orchard, I'd picked hard peaches, and they never ripened properly, even in a paper bag, so I was hesitant to pick these. I found one slightly ripe peach and let my six year old squeeze it so he would know what to feel for. The two year old just wandered around eating hard peaches and hiding under the tree limbs. We tried a few more trees, thinking the sunny side of the tree might be riper, until, finally we found one great tree filled with ripe fruit. In a few minutes we had two full bags, 25 pounds of perfect peaches. We brought them home, rolled them out onto the counter and started scheming. 

Peach raspberry pie was declared first on the list. We made it with the few handfuls of raspberries I managed to pick with two tired kids after we were done with the peaches, and a few more from the bush in our yard. I made my favorite pie dough, rolled the crust and let my boy decorate it. He took the dough scrapes and turned them into a baking experiment, all rolled together with some rainbow sprinkles and chocolate inside, and a little egg and sugar on top (below left). He explained that we needed to test it before we made more to see if it tasted good. I remembered the time I'd spent playing in the kitchen when I was a kid while my mother baked desserts in out of our home for a local restaurant, and how it instilled in my the love of baking and creativity in the kitchen. He was equally excited by the pie and his dough experiment as they emerged from the oven.

My Grandma came to dinner so we made her a gluten free peach raspberry crisp, using oats, tapioca starch, brown sugar, salt and a little oil for the crumble topping. Herb stuffed roasted organic chicken, with with cauliflower and onions made it's way into the oven as well. It was a good night.

It has been one week since we picked  25 pounds of peaches. I had plans to  freeze or cook some of them, but it seems that over the course of this week, my family of four has managed to eat all but one of these luscious juicy fruits. And, late on this hot night, I'm thinking that that last peach is about to go the way of the rest, pink juice running down my elbows and all.

Peach Raspberry Pie
Best Pie Dough
1/2 pound butter
2 1/2 C Flour
2 T sugar
1 t salt
1/2 C ice water
1/2 teaspoon vinegar

  1. Cut butter into 1-inch pieces. Freeze for 15 minutes
  2. Sift or whisk flour. Dissolve salt into water and add vinegar.
  3. In a stand mixer using the paddle attachement, or with a fork, cut the butter into the flour until it is large pea sived pieces. Pinch any large pieces flat. 
  4. Add water mixture to flour while mixing on low speed just until the dough comes together. It should be tacky, not sticky. Do not squish or overwork dough. Gently pull the dough together. Divide into 2 pieces, wrap well in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or freeze up to 3 weeks.
peaches - about 3 pounds, enough to mound in a 9-inch pie tin
raspberries - 1/2 pint
3 T corn starch or tapioca
1/2 cup sugar (or more  to taste)
  1. Peel the peaches either with a vegetable peeler, or by cutting an "x" in the bottom of each fruit and placing it in a pot of boiling water for about 10 seconds. remove the peach and place in ice water. Use a sharp pairing knife to peel the skin off. Slice peaches into 1/2 -inch thick wedges.
  2. Roll out both rounds of pie dough to between 1/8 and 1/4 inches thick. Place in the refrigerator to chill. 
  3. Place one chilled piece of dough in a nine inch pie pan and press into the bottom edge of the pan. 
  4. Toss peaches with starch and sugar. Pour into prepared pie shell. top with raspberries. brush the dough edge with egg wash to help seal the pie crust. Remove the second piece of dough from the fridge and cut a design into it. Cover the peaches with top piece of dough and press into the edge of the bottom crust. 
  5. Using scissors, cut the dough about 3/4" from the pan edge. Fold the dough under itself and pinch around edge to crimp, or use a fork to finish the pie edge. brush the top with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar if desired. Chill in the fridge for 15 minutes. 
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pie on a sheet pan covered in foil or parchment to catch drips. Bake pie for about 50 minutes to 1 hour until the juices are bubbling rapidly and the dough is a dark golden color.
If you made any great pies this summer, please share by leaving a comment below!