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Recipe: Smoked Salmon and Asparagus Yogurt Tart with Rye Crust

Twice a month, Berkshire County native Alana Chernila, mother of two, and author of the cookbook, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making (Clarkson Potter), contributes a thoughtful and heartfelt essay/recipe created exclusively for Rural Intelligence readers. Her first cookbook has achieved top-seller status, and Chernila has a new one in the works, titled “The Homemade Kitchen,” due out this year.

I like to think of my progress in the garden as a series of dips and swirls rather than a straight line. That way, when I have a year like this one when I don’t plant a single thing, I only see it as a tiny moment in the greater story of how I’ll work and relate to this little piece of land (or any other I might have the privilege to know in the life ahead of me). Or maybe I’m just giving those hardworking beds a rest. That’s what I tell myself in my more poetic moments, at least.

So yes. The reality of my garden right now is several rectangular patches of sow thistle and lambs’ quarters (both edible, so I’m growing something, right?), with the beginnings of milkweed poking up, soft ground coverings of creeping Charley and the random twine of a wild grape. It’s quite lovely in its own right, really.

In the midst of all the mess are the perennials that I can always count on. The mint, which seems to know it might get the chance to really take over this year. The Jerusalem artichokes, a foot high already. The rhubarb, ever heroic. And the asparagus in year four now, dry, a little buggy, but still shooting up the miraculous crowns that manage, in all their feathered royalty, to calm me, to remind me of the years before and to promise more in the years ahead. I’ve been especially grateful for those few spears a day, and they’ve been the best thing I’ve eaten all spring. Of course I need to find recipes where just a few spears will do, and the all-purpose custard tart has been especially useful. If you have a long rectangular tart pan, it holds your few, precious asparagus perfectly.

Smoked Salmon and Asparagus Yogurt Tart with Rye Crust

For the crust:
4 ounces (a scant cup) rye flour
5 ounces (a heaping cup) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
¼ cup olive oil
up to ½ cup water

For the filling:
5 to 6 spears asparagus
olive oil
salt
3 eggs
½ cup yogurt
½ cup heavy cream
freshly ground pepper
2 ounces smoked salmon, torn into bite-sized pieces
handful fresh herbs (parsley or dill are great here)

1. First prepare the crust: Combine the flours, salt, and caraway seeds in a medium mixing bowl. Add the olive oil and combine with a fork. Then add the water a few tablespoons at a time, and gently knead with your hand in the bowl, continuing to add water until the dough holds together. Gently roll out the crust on a floured surface and lift it into a greased 13 ¾ x 4 1/4-inch or equivalent tart pan. Transfer to the refrigerator.

2. Now, roast the asparagus. Preheat the oven to 425°F.  Toss the asparagus with a glug of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, and lay it on a baking sheet.  Roast until tender and a bit browned, 12 to 14 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.

3. While the asparagus cools, make the custard. Whisk together the eggs, yogurt, and cream, along with a pinch of salt and several grinds of pepper.

4. Remove the tart crust from the refrigerator and poke the bottom several times with a fork. Lay the asparagus in the crust. Tuck the smoked salmon around it. Top with the fresh herbs, and finally pour the custard overtop. Put the tart on a baking sheet and bake until firm, 30 to 35 minutes. Allow to cool for at least an hour before serving.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 05/25/15 at 10:22 AM • Permalink

Recipe: Spring Chickpeas

Twice a month, Berkshire County native Alana Chernila, mother of two, and author of the cookbook, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making (Clarkson Potter), contributes a thoughtful and heartfelt essay/recipe created exclusively for Rural Intelligence readers. Her first cookbook has achieved top-seller status, and Chernila has a new one in the works, titled “The Homemade Kitchen,” due out this year.

Okay I give in. Let’s talk about the weather.

This past weekend, I worked at the first Great Barrington farmers’ market of the year. Usually that first market is a cold, jump-up-and-down-to-stay-warm affair, but this market was hot and sunny, and market shoppers strolled through the parking lot (our new location just behind Main Street) in summer dresses and wide, floppy hats. And over and over, people asked for tomato plants.

This is my ninth season working for Indian Line Farm at the market. Over those years, I’ve learned at least a little bit about selling and planting tomato plants. And here in this part of the world, there is one rule we never break: Do not plant tomatoes before Memorial Day.

To eliminate any temptation, we don’t even bring tomato plants to the market until it’s time to plant them. This year, I spent most of the market reminding people of the rule.

Customers balked. They quoted the weather channel. They said the 10-day forecast never brought us below 80. And it was hard to argue. Because not only was it hot, it’s been hot. It’s hot like July, and, like the winter that came before, it already feels like this is the reality and it’s not going to change. What brought on the instant summer? Climate change? Random gulf streams? I think it’s more likely that our collective prayers that the winter would end hit the weather god with excessive force, and the weather god, in turn, answered in usual fashion, with a bit of irony mixed in.

Okay summer, I’m ready. It’s all cold salads and cocktails from here on out. But there’s no way I’m planting tomatoes. I don’t trust it.

On Friday, May 15, at I’ll be at Guido’s Fresh Marketplace from 1-3 p.m. to celebrate their truckload sale. It’s a pretty wonderful opportunity to stock up on all sorts of pantry staples at a huge discount (the sale runs all day Friday and Saturday), but I’ll be there with one of my very favorite cold salads, as well as copies of my book for signing and answers (hopefully!) to any cooking question you can throw at me. Come and say hello, but if you need that salad right now, you can make it at home between now and then.

Spring Chickpeas
Serves 4 to 6

I always try to have some variation on this chickpea salad in my fridge. It keeps for days, works great in lunch boxes, and satisfies any craving I have for something fresh and crunchy. It’s great on its own or as a side dish for a picnic or potluck. I especially love to scoop it into butter lettuce or endive leaves for a quick and beautiful lunch. Feel free to vary the vegetables according to what you have in your fridge or garden.

Juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt
1 garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup finely chopped red onion (about ½ small onion)
3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled or cubed
2 cups (or 1 can) chickpeas
2 small Persian cucumbers, diced
1 small fennel bulb, quartered lengthwise and sliced thin
5 radishes, diced
1 cup loosely packed flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Freshly ground pepper

1. Whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, and ½ teaspoon of salt in a large bowl. Add the garlic, red onion, and feta, gently tossing to coat in the dressing. Let it all marinate for 10 minutes.

2. Add the chickpeas, cucumbers, fennel, radishes, parsley, and several grinds of pepper to the bowl. Fold into the dressing, taking care not to crush the cheese and vegetables. Taste, and adjust for salt and pepper if needed.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 05/11/15 at 02:45 PM • Permalink

Recipe: Chive and Cheddar Biscuits

This week’s recipe is from Berkshire-based duo The Butcher & The Baker. 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 where her parents are candlestick makers. Together they spend most of their time talking about, shopping for, making, and eating food. By sourcing locally and sustainably, and spending time with the producers of their food, they’ve learned that every meal tells a story.

It seems like, since our first date, we’ve been talking about taking a food-centric roadtrip through the South… and we finally made it! A month or so ago, we ate our way into Savannah, then through Charleston and finally, on to Asheville. Of course, we didn’t see and consume everything we wanted to, but it was a pretty good start.

There are many things that drew us to the south - chief among them, a restaurant in Charleston led by one of our favorite chefs, Sean Brock - but we were surprised by how much we loved the Low Country of South Carolina. We immediately connected with the lush and swampy landscape, the culture, and yes, the food! Biscuits! Smoked pork! Cheese! Grits! Butter, butter and more butter! We wished we could take it all home with us.

When we arrived back in The Berkshires, our belts a little tighter, spring was barely emerging. Not much was happening in the garden beds except our trusty chives, which had sprung up high as if to welcome us home. Yearning for a taste of our travels, we set to work putting together a reminiscent dish, but with locally-sourced ingredients: Chive and Cheddar Biscuits, with North Plain Farm bacon and eggs. It might be a while until we make it back to the low country, but until then, this hearty breakfast will keep up sated.

Chive and Cheddar Biscuits

2 ¼ cups cake flour
2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
¾  teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon baking soda
9 tablespoons salted butter, cut into small chunks and frozen for a few minutes
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
⅓ cup chopped chives
¾ cup buttermilk
egg wash (1 egg, whisked together with 1 tsp water)

1. Preheat oven to 400°F and cover a baking sheet with a layer of parchment paper.

2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Working quickly and gently, use your fingertips or a pastry blender to work the butter into the dry ingredients until the butter is broken into pea-sized pieces. When it’s done, it will resemble a very coarse meal. Add the shredded cheese and chives and stir until combined.

3. Add the buttermilk and stir until clumps form. Knead the mixture gently until it just holds together. 

4. Dump the dough on to a floured surface and pat into a rectangle, about ¾ inch thick. At this point, you can either cut the rectangle into smaller 3 inch-ish segments or cut 2-3 inch rounds with a biscuit cutter. Either way, transfer to the baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches in between biscuits.

5. Lightly brush egg wash on top of biscuits and put into oven. Bake for 15 minutes, until biscuits are golden brown on top. Serve immediately.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 05/11/15 at 09:50 AM • Permalink

Bulletproof Decadence; And I Guess It’s Good For You

By Nichole Dupont

A few months ago, RI editor Lisa Green sent me a link to a New York Times article about the bulletproof coffee craze that seems to be blowing up in major cities and fitness communities across the county.

“Is this a thing?” she wrote.

In my house, it had become a “thing,” partly out of curiosity and partly out of perceived necessity. Bulletproof coffee is black coffee with butter and any form of MCT (that’s medium chain triglycerides) oil in it.

The origins of this greasy little cocktail are somewhat fuzzy, but the general consensus is that David Asprey, a high octane entrepreneur/investor from Silicon Valley (and bestselling author of The Bulletproof Diet) was at 18,000 feet on Mt. Kailash in Tibet when he was given a cup of yak butter tea and was “literally rejuvenated” by the concoction of fat and caffeine. And, of course, everything improves with coffee, so…the rest is history. Or current events.

I started drinking bulletproof coffee about two months into a rigorous new hobby. I began my MMA (that’s mixed martial arts) training twice a week and in addition to barely making it up the three steps to my front door after class, my mornings were brutal affairs in which a simple cup of joe could not come close to feeding the raging beasts of hunger and fatigue that lurked inside of me. (If you think this is a dramatization of what happens in an MMA program, take a class for yourself. But be advised, I’ve watched Cross Fit instructors and seasoned trainers look to the sky for mercy during just the warm up.)

Regina Burgio, Paul Green and Nichole Dupont.

The “science” behind bulletproof coffee is that the butter gives you sustained energy throughout the day and the MCT oil (I use coconut oil) is brain food. We’re talking about ‘healthy fats,’ as they’re often referred to. Great. But there’s something very important to consider about all of this, and that is taste. Just because Asprey lost 100 pounds thanks to a revelation and some yak butter doesn’t mean that taste is not important. Especially in the circles I run in, because coffee people are even more hardcore than MMA people.

Since the bulletproof trend has not even touched the edges of this region (I have yet to see an offering in any one of our region’s countless cafes), some of us at RI gathered for our own bulletproof alchemy. Five coffee snobs from five very different walks of life: RI editor Lisa Green who is an adventurous coffee drinker, her husband, clarinetist Paul Green, who is a bit pickier than his lovely wife, RI assistant editor Amy Krzanik who is in it for the caffeine, graphic designer and yogi Regina Burgio who is at the point in her life where she would rather go without than drink a crappy cup of coffee and me, freelancer MMA mom whose second career will involve a chunk of land somewhere in Ethiopia.

We did two tastings. The key differences between the two were brewing method, coffee brand and type of butter. The two constants in the tastings were the coconut oil and the use of a small Black and Decker blender to froth the whole business up.

The Chemex.

The basic recipe (makes one hearty cup of bulletproof coffee):
1 cup of brewed black coffee, hot
1-2 tablespoons of unsalted, grass-fed pasture butter (it’s pretty essential that it’s unsalted and pasture — Kerrygold is a good one and easiest to find)
1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil — comes in a peanut-butter looking jar; the “oil” is solid. Don’t worry, the hot coffee and the blender melt everything.

Round one:
We used Six Depot Ethiopia Amaro Gayo, coarsely (and freshly) ground to accommodate the Chemex brew method. While you don’t need a Chemex to make bulletproof coffee, you should probably have one for your general happiness. For the fats we used Organic Valley unsalted pasture butter and LouAna coconut oil. Since there were five of us, we brewed about two and a half cups of coffee and added almost three tablespoons each of butter and oil. We used a little personal blender to mix it all together. Even this seasoned gal was delighted by the frothy outcome of the blender (I’ve been using a little whisk this whole time at home).

The results of this run-through were pretty delightful, even to the skeptics in the bunch (Amy was getting itchy, even hostile for caffeine; Paul cleared his throat impatiently). We ended up with a buttery latte that needed no sweetener (although you can add sugar, coconut milk, cinnamon, honey) or any modification at all really.

“This is really like velvet,” Paul said. “I can’t get over how creamy it is.”

“It’s like dessert,” Regina piped in.

Noting the tiny oil bubbles at the top of the coffee once the foam had settled, we all agreed that it wouldn’t stop us from finishing the cup. Not in the least.

Round Two:
We used Assembly Coffee Roasters Bellwether Blend brewed in a basic automatic drip coffeemaker. Taking the same amount of coffee (about two and a half cups), we added the coconut oil and butter. Just plain ol’ unsalted supermarket butter to see if the hype about the butter was actually true. Immediately noticeable was that the froth on this round was not as thick and the color of the coffee was just a tad darker. Which leads us to the taste.

“Definitely more hard-edged,” said Paul. “But it’s still very flavorful.”

“It tastes like diner coffee in Ireland,” I said. “Or, or…”

“Like Dutch coffee,” said Regina. “You know, coffee milk. I think they actually call it coffee milk. I’d drink this as an afternoon treat.”

The second round, while delicious, was more bitter and not as creamy and pillowy. My educated guess: auto drip coffee and that stick butter. However, it was unanimous that this bulletproof business tasted more like a treat than a hardcore executive brainchild. And while I can’t imagine that you’d need butter and MCT oil every morning unless you ARE training MMA or some other extreme sport, definitely try it out for yourself.

And try it cold. Lisa saved a little cup for herself and put it in the fridge to cool, then took it out that afternoon and ran it through the blender. The subject line of her email to me: “Cold bulletproof coffee tastes like coffee ice cream…”

We’re sold.

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Posted by Nichole on 05/04/15 at 11:57 AM • Permalink

Recipe: Meringue With Berries And Whipped Cream

Madeline Delosh, a Columbia County resident, owns Mado Patisserie in Chatham, NY. A graduate of the French Culinary Institute, she worked with Jean-Georges Vongerichten and was the pastry chef at La Grenouille Restaurant. “I like to reach out to those who love baking and pastries,” Madeline says. With her monthly recipe contributions to Rural Intelligence, she is doing just that.

Berries and whipped cream on a nest of meringue — tastes like spring, and what a lovely dessert to make on Mother’s Day. It’s simple and light, and the individually sized meringue shells are, you have to admit, pretty irresistible.

“This recipe makes more meringue than you will need,” Madeline says. “You can use the rest to make petit four shells. They will last for one month stored at room temperature in an airtight container.” Her suggestion: Fill the petit fours with lemon curd or preserves and whipped cream.

French Meringue
2 oz. confectioners sugar (sifted)
5 oz. granulated sugar
3 egg whites
Pinch of salt

1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
2. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. With a pencil, trace eight three-inch circles on the parchment. Flip the parchment paper over. (If you don’t do this, the pencil line will transfer to the meringue. You should be able to see the lines through the paper.)
3. Place the egg whites and salt in a very clean and dry bowl of an electric mixer. Start whipping on medium speed.
4. Add about 1/3 of the granulated sugar. Whip for about two minutes on high speed.
5. Add the next 1/3 sugar. Whip for about two minutes.
5. Add the last 1/3 sugar. Whip for two minutes.
6. Fold in the confectioners sugar.
7. Fill a pastry bag with a 1/4-inch round tip and pipe meringue into drawn circles. Starting from the center of the circle with the tip pointed straight down, pipe a spiral out to the edge of the circle.
8. When all the circles are filled, pipe a decorative border. Pipe teardrop shapes all around the border. For teardrops, pipe a round shape with the tip pointed down. (Stop pressing on the pastry bag as you pull up, creating a point.)
9. Bake one hour, until crisp.
Allow to cool completely. You can store them at room temperature in an airtight container.

Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1. Whip the cream and vanilla on medium speed. Add the sugar slowly. Whip the cream until firm and peaks hold their shape.
2. Prepare a pastry bag fitted with a 3/8-inch star tip. Pipe the cream in the center of each meringue. Garnish with mixed berries.

You can make a sauce by pureeing any leftover berries with a little sugar in a blender.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 04/27/15 at 08:59 AM • Permalink

Recipe: Magical Breakfast Crisp

Twice a month, Berkshire County native Alana Chernila, mother of two, and author of the cookbook, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making (Clarkson Potter), contributes a thoughtful and heartfelt essay/recipe created exclusively for Rural Intelligence readers. Her first cookbook has achieved top-seller status, and Chernila has a new one in the works, titled “The Homemade Kitchen,” due out this year.

I’ve figured out a new kind of magical food efficiency. I can make a single piece of fruit stretch through an entire week’s worth of school lunches—and then (for the grand finale), I can transform that very same piece of fruit into a fancy weekend breakfast.

I know, it’s mindboggling. But I’m going to share my secrets with you. Here’s how it works:

When I shop for the week, I pick out a few good pieces of fruit. Usually these days it’s what’s on sale, maybe organic if I’m lucky, but most importantly not soft or mealy. Lately the lunchbox request has been apples and pears, so that’s what I look for. You with me so far?

The next step is to put the chosen fruit out in the fruit bowl on the counter. Then, on Sunday night, when the girls pack their lunches for the next day, (or Monday morning after they’ve forgotten and I do it for them, alternating between grumbling about sandwiches and hollering “time to brush your teeth!”) they grab their fruit of choice and put it in the lunch box.

Then (and this is the really important part), the fruit must come home again in the lunch box, untouched but slightly worse for the wear. It’s at this point that I feign frustration: “Why didn’t you eat your lunch?”—and receive excuses “I didn’t have time!” The truth is, it’s all going according to plan.

We repeat this process over and over. The fruit goes back into the lunch box, comes home, goes back in, comes home and so on. By Friday afternoon, you should have fruit that looks like the photo above.

Come Saturday morning, it’s time for Breakfast Crisp, a more seedy and nutty, less sweet version of its dessert cousin. Serve with maple yogurt, and it’s fancy and nourishing, beautiful and special. And of course, total magic.

Magical Breakfast Crisp
Serves 4 to 6

2 pears, peeled and cubed
2 apples, peeled and cubed
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon fresh nutmeg
4 tablespoons brown sugar
Juice of ½ lemon
Salt
1 cup rolled oats
½ cup grated unsweetened coconut
1 cup sliced almonds
¼ cup sesame seeds
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Maple yogurt, for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Stir together the fruit, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, 3 tablespoons of the brown sugar, the lemon, and a pinch of salt in a 10-inch deep dish pie pan or a 9x9-inch square baking pan.

2. In a separate bowl, combine the oats, coconut, almonds, sesame seeds, the remaining tablespoon of brown sugar, and the melted butter. Spread the topping over the fruit and bake until the top is golden and the filling begins to bubble, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve topped with maple yogurt.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 04/20/15 at 12:04 PM • Permalink

Recipe: Kimchi Pancakes

This week’s recipe is from Berkshire-based duo The Butcher & The Baker. 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 where her parents are candlestick makers. Together they spend most of their time talking about, shopping for, making, and eating food. By sourcing locally and sustainably, and spending time with the producers of their food, they’ve learned that every meal tells a story.

This winter we promised ourselves that we’d spend some time getting to know the various cuisines of Asia. (We thought we’d make a resolution we could actually keep this year!) We researched acclaimed books from all the leading traditional and up-and-coming chefs, and went to work exploring new techniques, flavor profiles and ingredients.

As we’ve moved through each country and region, we’ve slowly accumulated a pantry full of kitchen staples from cuisines around the continent — and we’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many locally produced options there are for us to experiment with. Now we always have at least one variety of South River Miso in our fridge -— usually hearty brown rice -— along with a couple of bottles of Kitchen Garden’s sriracha. We’ve also bulked up on Korean chili flakes and garlic powder from Yung Yuk of Et Cetera Farm in Hillsdale, NY and of course, we’re never without a few jars of Hosta Hill kimchi.

Hosta Hill kimchi has always been in our fridge, long before this continental cooking kick. Our Sunday morning breakfasts often consist of a fried egg, some left over rice or noodles and a big, hearty scoop of kimchi right on top. But recently we’ve really been plowing through it; in kimchi and pork stew, alongside miso glazed haddock, finishing off tatosi stir fry, you get the idea.

These kimchi pancakes are one of our favorite new discoveries. Serve them as a side with marinated steak and sauteed greens, or pile them high and give them the spotlight.

Kimchi Pancakes
Makes 8 pancakes

2 cups cabbage kimchi (or one full jar of Hosta Hill)
1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cups rice flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 scallions, finely chopped
Vegetable oil (we used safflower)

1. Drain the kimchi, reserving the juice. Get in there with your hands and squeeze out the liquid. Measure the juice and top off with water if needed to make 1 cup. Coarsely chop the kimchi and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, mix together the flours, salt, and kimchi juice. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes, then stir in the chopped kimchi and scallions.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with a tablespoon of oil. For each pancake, add about one-third cup of the mixture to the skillet and spread it out with the back of a spoon. Cook until the bottom is crispy and golden, about 2 minutes. Flip over and cook until the other side is crispy and golden, about 2 more minutes. Remove from skillet and drain on towels. Continue in batches.

Serve the pancakes warm with a simple dipping sauce on the side. Here’s a recipe we really like, and it makes just enough sauce for one batch of pancakes.

Dipping Sauce
Combine in a small bowl:

3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds, crushed or whole
1/2 teaspoon sugar or honey
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 scallion, chopped

Both recipes adapted from TheKitchn.com

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 04/13/15 at 10:29 AM • Permalink

Recipe: Quinoa with French Lentils, Wild Rice and Golden Raisins

Twice a month, Berkshire County native Alana Chernila, mother of two, and author of the cookbook, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making (Clarkson Potter), contributes a thoughtful and heartfelt essay/recipe created exclusively for Rural Intelligence readers. Her first cookbook has achieved top-seller status, and Chernila has a new one in the works, titled “The Homemade Kitchen,” due out this year.

It happens just about this time every year: I start to crave flowers.

Of course, the craving probably begins in my eyes. As the glaciers of dirty crusted snow recede and the mud takes over, the world becomes a living “Where’s Waldo,” but instead of Waldo I’m looking for shoots that reliably, though always miraculously, pop out of the frozen ground. And there they are—the pale green of daffodils, the more vibrant shell of hibiscus, the deep shade signaling a tulip—each hopeful blade melting my cold winter heart that every March believes the season won’t end this time.

But the flower craving goes further. At this point, there’s not much to work with. I may swipe a pansy here and there for a birthday cake, and later in the season my yard will become a field of those tiny cousins-of-violets that go so well in salads, but in the mean time I want my food to smell and taste like flowers. I want roses and lavender and saffron. And that’s when I open my Persian cookbooks.

There’s a beautiful book that came out a few years ago that I turn to over and over. Louisa Shafia’s The New Persian Kitchen is an education in practical Persian food adapted for the tastes and availability of ingredients is the U.S. I have more elaborate books on Persian cooking that I love to dream over, but this is the one I pull off the shelf when it’s an ordinary day and I want to make something both extraordinary and possible.

I’ve cooked through most of the book, and every dish has been good. But this simple dish of quinoa, wild rice and lentils is one of my favorites. It’s great as a side dish (especially with Louisa’s Turmeric Chicken) but also good on its own, and the golden raisins and saffron infuse the whole bowl with a sweet fragrance that satisfies my flower craving.

Quinoa with French Lentils, Wild Rice and Golden Raisins
Adapted from Louisa Shafia’s The New Persian Kitchen
Serves 6

½ cup wild rice, rinsed
¼ cup French lentils, picked over and rinsed
Salt
2 cups stock
1 cup quinoa, rinsed (I like to use red quinoa here)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 tablespoons ghee or grapeseed oil
2 cups golden raisins
2 tablespoons butter, room-temperature
½ teaspoon saffron, ground and steeped in 1 tablespoon hot water
Freshly ground pepper

1. Fill a medium saucepan with at least 5 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add the wild rice, lentils and a ½ teaspoon salt. Bring back to a boil, then lower the heat and cover. Cook until the rice is tender, 45 to 50 minutes. Drain and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, bring the stock to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the quinoa and 1 teaspoon salt and bring the mixture back to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer until the quinoa is tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Let it rest covered for 10 minutes off the heat, then fluff with a fork.

3. While the grains cook, heat the ghee in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Add the raisins and cook for another 5 minutes.

4. Combine the rice, lentils, quinoa and onion mixture in a large bowl. Add the butter and saffron and toss gently to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 04/06/15 at 01:22 PM • Permalink

Recipe: Currant Scones

Madeline Delosh, a Columbia County resident, owns Mado Patisserie in Chatham, NY. A graduate of the French Culinary Institute, she worked with Jean-Georges Vongerichten and was the pastry chef at La Grenouille Restaurant. “I like to reach out to those who love baking and pastries,” Madeline says. With her monthly recipe contributions to Rural Intelligence, she is doing just that. Photo by Michel Arnaud.

Currant Scones
Yields 12 2-inch scones

My husband Eddie loves these light-as-air scones, which are perfect for breakfast or a traditional afternoon tea. You can prepare and cut the dough in advance, storing them well wrapped in the freezer. When friends come for brunch you can impress them with fresh-from-the-oven scones.


3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup granulated sugar
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut in small cubes
2 large eggs (plus one for the glaze)
¾ cup cold cream
¼ cup dried currants


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper.

2. Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on slow speed with the paddle attachment until the dough is crumbly with small granular pieces of butter and flour. Mix in the currants.

3. In a small bowl whisk the cream and 2 eggs until combined. With the mixer on slow speed add this to the dry ingredients and mix just until the dough just comes together. Do not over mix.

4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle a little on top. Roll or press the dough out to a ¾-inch disc.

5. Using a 2-inch cutter dipped in flour (to prevent sticking), cut out the scones and place them on the parchment paper leaving about 1 inch between each scone. When you have finished cutting, gather up the scraps and gently press the dough out again and cut more scones.

6. Mix the egg with 1 tablespoon of water and lightly brush the tops. Sprinkle with a little sugar.

7. Place in the oven and bake about 20 minutes until golden brown.

8. Let cool and serve warm or at room temperature.

Make-ahead hint: For fresh-from-the-oven scones you can prepare the recipe through step 5 and freeze. They will keep for one week. Continue from step 6 and serve.

Scones pair well with Madeline’s Grapefruit and Orange Marmalade.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 03/29/15 at 01:06 PM • Permalink

Recipe: Broiled Grapefruit With Maple Sugar and Mint

Twice a month, Berkshire County native Alana Chernila, mother of two, and author of the cookbook, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making (Clarkson Potter), contributes a thoughtful and heartfelt essay/recipe created exclusively for Rural Intelligence readers. Her first cookbook has achieved top-seller status, and Chernila has a new one in the works, titled “The Homemade Kitchen,” due out this year.

I spent the entirety of last week tucked away in a little white room in the Catskills, watching the snow blow sideways as I worked on a few writing projects.

It was a good week.

I was there on a week-long residency at the Spruceton Inn, a new (old) “bed and bar” at the food of Hunter Mountain. Casey Sciezska and her husband Steven Weinberg are both creative in a million different wonderful ways (Steven was away the whole week on book tour for his new book, and in addition to creating a pretty magical getaway for anyone willing to make the trek out there, they also offer six artist residencies each year for those who might need a little space and quiet to work. There’s no cell service, only Internet if you sit in one particular spot, and no TVs. Instead there are mountains and firepits and, at the end of the line of rooms, a warm little wood-filled, Christmas-light lit bar that always smells like cinnamon and cedar and fills with interesting people every night. It’s like summer camp, but with really comfortable rooms and excellent bourbon.

I can’t wait to go back.

One of my favorite parts of the week was the experience of cooking for myself. Some of the rooms have full kitchenettes, and although the guests around me came and went and told me all about the great meals they had in Phoenicia, Bovina, and all the other little pockets of the county, I was so happy to make all my meals in my little room. I got really into it, and planning and setting up my simple meals became something to look forward to in my day. I think especially for those who are used to always cooking for others, it can be a welcome shift to remember how to make a meal just for one. And whereas it can be easy to slip into not cooking (and yes, there were a few crackers-and-cheese dinners) I found it so good to be able to create something special and beautiful and just to my taste. This got me thinking about all the special little dishes I like to make for myself when I’m alone, and I thought I’d share one of those today.

I’m the only grapefruit fan in my house, so it’s a fruit I get all to myself. But lately, instead of just eating it cold, I’ve been broiling it with a little maple sugar (or brown sugar, if that’s what you have), and topping it with mint. It feels fancy and special, but it only adds a few minutes of prep time. And although I tend to eat this one on my own, it’s also great for a fancy brunch.

Broiled Grapefruit with Maple Sugar and Mint

1 grapefruit
2 teaspoons maple sugar or brown sugar
2 to 3 fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped or torn

1. Preheat the broiler to a medium setting if it has one. Set the oven rack about 6 inches from the heat element.

2. Cut the grapefruit in half. Pre-score the grapefruit by cutting with a paring knife around the perimeter—then cut along each edge to pre-score the bites. Don’t skip this step, as broiled grapefruit is really hard to eat if it hasn’t been pre-cut.

3. Sprinkle the maple sugar over the surface of each grapefruit half. Set the grapefruit rind-side down on a foil or parchment-lined tray, and broil until the top is golden and the flesh pops out of the rind a bit, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the mint and serve.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 03/23/15 at 11:41 AM • Permalink