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Recipe: Citrus and Fennel Salad

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.

We’re so lucky to have a group of friends who are not only smart, wonderful and funny, but they’re also great cooks! During the long winter we get together for regular potlucks as often as possible — a cherished respite from our self-induced cold-weather isolation. Without fail these get-togethers are overflowing with great food, but there is one dish in particular that we always hope we’ll see on the menu.

There’s nothing quite like the bright and colorful citrus fennel salad expertly made by our good friend and better chef, Jamie Paxton. Although the salad breaks two of Jake’s golden food rules (no fruit in salad, and no raw fennel) it’s unfailingly delicious and we crave it all winter.

The perfect antidote to the winter food blues, this beautiful salad marries simple, bold flavors and one of our favorite cutting techniques, the super-impressive and easy citrus supreme. It’s also a great dish to play around with. Use different kinds of citrus, change the proportions, throw in some fresh herbs or different bitter greens — the list is endless. Plus, it’ll give you something yummy to perfect while you wait for spring to come.

Citrus and Fennel Salad

Salad
A mixture of citrus. We used 2 grapefruit, a couple navel oranges and a few tangerines, but you can use whatever catches your eye. You’ll want about 4-7 pieces of fruit depending on size.
2 medium or 3 small fennel bulbs
A couple handfuls of arugula (optional)

Dressing
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons reserved citrus juice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Salt to taste

With a sharp paring knife, cut the ends off the citrus. Then, carefully cut the skin and outer white pith away in pieces. You should be able to easily see the membranes that separate the slices of the fruit. Working over a bowl, cut as close as possible to those membranes, carving out the individual segments of fruit. Squeeze what’s left of the membranes over another bowl to extract the juices.

Make the dressing by mixing all the ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Put down a bed of arugula if using. Thinly slice the fennel bulbs, reserving a few fronds if possible, and lay over the arugula (or as a first layer on the plate if you’re skipping the greens). Lay the citrus segments over the fennel and pour dressing over top and gently toss the salad. Garnish with the fennel fronds if you have them and serve right away.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 01/19/15 at 01:14 PM • Permalink

Recipe: Spicy Blueberry Smoothie

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 never been one for New Year’s resolutions. I’ve gone through thirty-six January 1sts, and as many lists and wishes I might make, I have yet to be a better/more focused/more productive/fill-in-the-blank person than I was the day before. It’s still just me, pouring flat champagne out of glasses on the counter and trying to figure out what we’ll have for dinner that night. New year, indistinguishable me.

For the same reason, I tend to resist what seems to be one of the major rules of online food writing, that is, to write about decadent sweets in December and then shift to virtuous smoothies on January 1st.

And yet.

Just after the holiday, I dove headfirst into the illness that seems to have seized the county. This lined up with the whole world freezing solid, and I spent the first week of January catching up on British crime dramas with our new puppy. She tried to be patient, both with my coughing and the fact that we couldn’t go outside for stretches longer than five minutes, but she couldn’t help but chew up every single shoe and stuffed animal that fell into her path. I didn’t have the energy to stop her.

We both emerged from the bedroom in the last few days, me breathing almost normally again, she pushing her way through all the cotton batting on the floor to finally take a proper walk. And after all that, resistant as I was to the wave of New Year’s eating trends, all I wanted was to put everything good and fresh and real into my blender and drink it. I gave in again and again, and this week, I’ve been making one of the best smoothies I’ve ever had. So, just this once, I’ll break my own rule and I’ll write about a smoothie. If you too, crave something good and fresh and real, it’ll be just right.

I prefer my smoothies to be thin and creamy, but if your tastes go towards a thicker, icier drink, replace the water with ice.

The Spicy Blueberry
Serves 2

1½ cups frozen blueberries
1 ripe banana
½ cup plain, whole milk yogurt
¼ cup loosely packed mint leaves
½ cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Hefty pinch of cayenne
1 cup water

Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend until entirely smooth. Drink immediately.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 01/12/15 at 09:31 AM • Permalink

Nancy Fuller’s Winter Harvest Beef Stew (An RI Exclusive)

How could we hang out on set with local Food Network star Nancy Fuller and not get a recipe? In the spirit of the holiday season and eating what’s seasonal, Nancy has given us a peek at one of her as of yet unpublished “rules” for a rich and hearty beef stew that takes advantage of the late local harvest. It’s also a perfect example of her straight forward, classy, no-nonsense style.

While you can find variations of this recipe on Nancy’s Fuller Farm website and at Foodnetwork.com, this version is stripped down to let individual ingredients shine even through a dark, meaty sauce. The long cooking time in your heavy Dutch oven releases deep flavor from the meat and pulls an unexpected and complex sweetness from the parsnips, potatoes, carrots and Brussels sprouts. The chuck is both the star and backup singer in this stew, so it’s a great opportunity to use some really good beef from a high-quality local purveyor. 

A great meal for a large family or to make and store for a colder night to come, Nancy got philosophical when talking about why she loves this stew so much. As quintessentially winter as this recipe is, she says it makes her think of spring.

“In winter we are sort of like the land, all that nature hibernating outside,” she said, gesturing out the window to her snow-covered farm. “We need stews and hearty things to build up and store up all our energy, so we can come out in the spring and get to work and do good things.”

Whether you want to get poetic about it or not, make this recipe and you will see that this stew is some powerful stuff. A strong and filling dish without being fatty or greasy, in just few hours your Dutch oven will turn roots and tough little cabbages sweet and soft and make one of the butcher’s toughest cuts fall to delectable ribbons in your mouth.  —Jamie Larson

Nancy Fuller’s “Rule” for Winter Harvest Beef Stew
Serves 4-5

1 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 pounds boneless chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 slices bacon
3 tablespoons olive oil, optional
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cups beef broth
1 pound parsnips, peeled and tops removed, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 pound carrots with tops, peeled and tops removed, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 pound fingerling potatoes
1 pint Brussels sprouts, chopped
2 cups good red wine
1/2 cup fresh parsley
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon whole allspice
5 cloves garlic
3 bay leaves
1 medium onion, chopped

Preheat the oven to 325F.

Put 1 cup of the flour in a shallow bowl and season with salt and pepper. Dredge the beef in the seasoned flour and set aside.

On the stove top, heat a large Dutch oven on medium-high heat, add the bacon and cook until crisp. Set the bacon aside, leaving the drippings behind in the skillet (chop the bacon and reserve for serving). In batches, brown the beef in the skillet, adding olive oil if necessary, about 3 minutes per batch. Transfer each batch to a bowl as they brown, we’ll add the beef back in at the end.

Turn the heat down to medium, add the butter and remaining 3 tablespoons flour to the skillet. Cook 3 minutes, stirring with a whisk. Whisk in the tomato paste. Pour in the beef broth and whisk to get all the ingredients incorporated with the brown bits from the bottom of the skillet.

Add the parsnips, carrots, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, red wine, parsley, Worcestershire, allspice, garlic, bay leaves and onions. Last, add the beef and give it a good stir. Place the lid on the Dutch oven and move the stew into the oven for 3.5 hours, where it will finish cooking. Serve in bowls sprinkled with the reserved bacon.

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 01/04/15 at 02:33 PM • Permalink

Recipe: December Salad

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 in 2015.

This past weekend, at The Berkshire Grown Holiday market, I got to spend the morning with all the winter vegetables at the Indian Line Farm table. There were bags of greens that disappeared so fast even the mid-morning shoppers missed them, and bunches of kale so tender and sweet, it would be a shame to do anything other than eat them raw. But the basket of watermelon radishes was the star of the table, each radish smooth-skinned and round, with a faint green tinge to hide the secret inside.

“Radishes?” someone would ask. “What kind of radish is this?”

We’d pick up the little knife brought just for this purpose, whittle off a tiny wedge, and reveal the brilliant fuchsia innards.

If they’d never seen a watermelon radish before, there was always a gasp. (We do, after all, get used to the predictable colors of food, and the sunset burst within a simple radish can be nothing short of shocking.) But then, the taste! Crisp and mellow, with a hint of what I can only describe as “earth.” The watermelon radish is my favorite of all the radishes, and December is the month I like them best.

And how do I eat them? (This is, of course, the next question after the gasp and the taste.) If I’m so fortunate as to be throwing a party, I slice them thin into large moons, lay them on a plate, and sprinkle them with crunchy salt. It is the easiest and most beautiful starter there is. But if it’s just a regular old night in December (not that there are many of those), those radishes are the diva of my salad bowl. All the other winter salad greens sing backup, and then it’s all crisp bitter and sweetness, deep purple and pale green. This salad requires a few different bowls, but it’s worth the extra dishwashing, if only to get everything dressed just right.

December Salad
Serves 4 to 6

1 small celery root (5 to 6 ounces), cut of its outer skin and into ½-inch cubes
1 watermelon radish (5 to 6 ounces), halved and sliced thinly
¾ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons finely chopped shallot
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
10 cups loosely packed greens (any combination of butter lettuce, radicchio, arugula, or tender kale), torn into large bites
1 head endive, leaves separated and torn
Freshly ground pepper

1. Put the celery root in one small bowl, and the watermelon radish in another. Sprinkle each with ¼ teaspoon salt, toss to combine and set aside.

2. Combine the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt with the vinegar, shallot and mustard in a 1-cup jar. Let it sit for a few minutes to let the shallot pickle in the vinegar. Then add the olive oil, screw the lid on the jar, and give it a good shake to emulsify the dressing.

3. Toss the greens and endive with half the dressing in a large bowl, taking care to coat each leaf. Taste a leaf, and add more dressing if necessary. Then add a drizzle of dressing to the celery root and radish bowls, tossing to lightly coat. (Any leftover dressing can be saved in the fridge for your next salad.) Pile the dressed greens on a large platter or wide bowl. Add the celery root and radish. Top with lots of freshly ground pepper.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 12/15/14 at 09:32 AM • Permalink

Recipe: Perfecto Meatballs

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.

The poor meatball. So often relegated to childrens’ menus and questionable smorgasbords at discount furniture chains, the meatball is rarely given a real chance to shine. But we know the truth – that with the right ingredients and a little respect, meatballs can be complex, delicate, immensely satisfying and borderline elegant.

Clearly, we are a family of meatball enthusiasts, from Middle Eastern kofta, heavy with green herbs and deep spices to dreamy Swedish köttbullar, smothered in peppery cream sauce. And, of course, there’s the classic Italian-American; three meats, breadcrumbs, and some parmesan, all rolled into a covetable package. Jake has perfected his version which, when sauteed in just enough butter (a lot), and finished off in a pan of saucy tomatoes, manages to couple a toothsome crust and a melt-in-your-mouth center. Poured over a bowl of bucatini or creamy polenta, this classic peasant dish will make you feel like well-fed royalty.


Perfecto Meatballs

Make the meatballs:
½ cup milk
½ cup bread crumbs
2 eggs
2 tbsp parmesan
½ lb veal
½ lb beef
½ lb hot Italian pork sausage
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter

1. Combine milk and bread crumbs in a small bowl until the all of the milk is absorbed.

2. In a large bowl, use your hands to mix the three meats with the eggs, parmesan, and bread and milk mixture. Make sure it is well blended but don’t over mix, as the meatballs will lose their fluffiness.

3. Place a large saute pan on high heat with the oil and butter.

4. Form the meat mixture into 1.5 – 2 inch rounds, and brown in small batches. Do not overcrowd pan.

5. Brown meatballs until they have a deep brown crusty exterior, a couple minutes on each side. One whole batch should take about 5-7 minutes – the balls don’t need to be 100 percent cooked at this point. When done, put meatballs aside.

Make the sauce:
(2) 28 oz. cans of whole peeled tomatoes
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped

1. Using the drippings from the meatballs, saute the onions and garlic in the same pan until translucent, about 5 minutes.

2. Add tomatoes, roughly crushing each tomato with your hand or a large wooden spoon.

3. Bring sauce to a boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Add the meatballs back into the sauce and cook for another 15 minutes.

5. Pour over pasta or polenta and serve with some grated parmesan and pepper.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 12/07/14 at 11:03 PM • Permalink

Recipe: Caramelized Cabbage Soup

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 in 2015.

I’m going to tell you a secret.

Next fall, when (I hope) you flip through the pages of my new book, you’ll see a photo of me in my spring garden. It looks just as it should: dark, compost-rich beds hold hundreds of little seedlings. The rhubarb is up and ready to be picked for pie, but everything else is tiny, green, and full of promise. It looks like I’ve planned well and planted a garden that will feed my family through the season.

At least, that’s how it looks.

This is what’s really going on in that picture: under deadline, crazed, and three days away from the first day of photos, I asked my friend and boss Elizabeth over at Indian Line Farm for help. I knew we were taking a garden shot, and at that point, all that was growing in my neglected garden was thistle and last year’s rotten kale. Always kind and helpful, she pulled out a few flats of seedlings that had been forgotten and so drooped a bit. She told me they’d perk up enough in the ground to at least get my photo.

“I’m pretty sure these are all cabbage,” she told me. I was so grateful for the seedlings, I didn’t care what they were. I figured I’d get my shot, and then I’d start again with the real garden I was planning for the year. Of course, that never happened, and that’s how we’ve come to know 2014 as the year of the cabbage.

The variety Elizabeth gave me is called “tender sweet.” It is indeed both tender and sweet, and throughout the late summer and fall, we’ve eaten it in every form and recipe possible. I have a new appreciation for the cabbage, and I must admit I love it more than ever.

This recipe is one of my favorite new cabbage discoveries. I caramelize the cabbage as if it were onions, add a rich broth, and top it with cheese-y toasts. It’s sweeter and heartier than onion soup, and it’s even turned a few people who thought they didn’t like cabbage into big cabbage enthusiasts.

Caramelized Cabbage Soup
Serves 6 to 8

For the soup:
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
10 cups finely sliced green cabbage (from about 3 pounds)
1 medium onion, finely sliced
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 quarts chicken or beef stock
1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
Salt and pepper to taste

For the toasts:
½ stale baguette, thinly sliced
½ cup grated parmesan or gruyere cheese

1. Make the soup: Melt the butter over medium heat in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the cabbage and onion and cook, stirring often, until the cabbage wilts, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is golden and shrinks by at least half, 45 minutes to an hour.

2. Add the thyme and cook for a few more minutes. Pour the stock into the pot, bring to a low boil, reduce the heat back to medium low, and cover the pot. Cook for 10 minutes. Add the soy sauce and salt and pepper.

3. While the soup cooks, make the toasts: Spread the bread slices on a baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with the cheese. Keeping a close eye on the toasts, broil until the cheese melts, 1 to 2 minutes.

Serve in big bowls, with a few toasts floating in each one.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 12/01/14 at 09:16 AM • Permalink

Recipe: Pork Shoulder Roast

This week, we asked Jeremy Stanton, owner of The Meat Market in Great Barrington, if we could borrow one of his recipes. It looked like just the thing you’d want to serve at a big holiday dinner, and if anyone knows how to prepare a pork shoulder roast, it would be Jeremy, who also owns Fire Roasted Catering.

I thought I’d fill you in on a great, super easy way to roast pork shoulder. Generally considered a braising cut, the shoulder has, in this writer’s opinion, the finest quality pork in the whole animal: the meat is richly marbled, savory and sweet, and the fat — which surrounds the meat in unctuous rivers — is round, rich, and forgiving. Pork shoulder generally comes in two sections: the lower half or ‘picnic,’ which is comprised of the short rib bones; the brisket section and the beginning of the forefoot; and the upper half, collar or ‘butt,’ which is comprised of the spinal muscles and the beginning of the neck. The pork butt is the finer of the two sections, and recommended for the following recipe. This recipe is incredibly easy, and requires little skill other than patience.


Ingredients:

4 lbs. pork butt, skinless (boneless is up to you: bones make for potentially easier cooking, but more knife-work when serving)
Salt and pepper
4 cloves garlic and a handful of herbs of your choice, preferably fresh (I used parsley and sage)
Grapeseed oil (olive also works, but grapeseed has a higher smoke point)
Foil, thermometer, roasting dish, frying pan


How To Do It:

Mince your garlic, chop your herbs, and combine with salt, pepper, and oil in a bowl. Rub your mixture all over the pork butt. Let sit until pork is at room temperature, if you took it out of the fridge. The longer it sits, the better.

Place pork butt in an oven-ready dish, cover with foil, and place in oven at 300 F. Check the pork at 2 hours with your thermometer. If it’s at 180 degrees internally, lower the oven to 200 F and keep it in for another hour. If not, keep the same temperature.

When the pork is fork-tender, remove pork from the dish, and pour out the collected juices, which can be saved to make a wonderful reduction or mixed into soups, sauces, or salsas.

Heat a pan on the range (you can also turn your oven up to 450 F, but I think the pan provides a nicer crusting effect) and, when hot, fry the pork for about 4 minutes per side. Be careful, as the oil will sizzle considerably.

Once your crust is as you like, remove and let sit at least five minutes before serving. 

That’s it! Now, the lower the temperature the oven, the better the pork will be, but the longer it will take. I recommend starting with 300 F because it will keep the cooking time relatively short (about 3.5 hours, all told), but if you have an afternoon to kill, keep the oven at 250 and you’ll have an even more tender treat!

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Posted by Lisa Green on 11/24/14 at 10:10 AM • Permalink

Recipe: Coco Rochers

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 in 2015.

I have been to Paris twice.

I was eighteen, just starting out on a few months of wandering. I met up with a friend from high school who was studying in London, and we spent the week exploring the city. We had so little money between us, but I was optimistic that Paris (Paris!) would show us her riches anyway. We succeeded in finding what I’m sure was the most disgusting hotel room in Paris, but every day we set off early, roaming the neighborhoods and just feeling happy to be there. We lived off of canned tuna, baguettes, and one carefully chosen pastry every day. It was cold and rainy, and we skipped everything that cost money, which was mostly everything. At night, I went to sleep listening to the creaky beds and tiny rodents all around me, and I dreamed of the next day’s pain au chocolat. Those pastries never failed to live up to my expectations.

Three months later, I was back. I was at the end of my trip, and this time I met up with another friend who had come to visit for the week. We stayed in her friend’s 5th floor apartment. It had a tiny elevator that seemed to be on its last trip every time, and there was a bathtub in the kitchen. Knowing I was on my way home, I spent every penny I had. We drank cheap and delicious wine from the wine store on the corner, ate fries and perfect steak whenever we were hungry, and spent our extra change making funny faces in the photo booths in every metro station. And this time, I allowed myself an unlimited pastry budget. That week, I ate sweets that would spoil me forever. And although I have faint slivers of memories of the city, it’s the sweets that filled each bakery case that really stayed with me.

I know better than to attempt to recreate most of them. But every so often, a book comes along that gives me the courage to try. Dorie Greenspan’s warm and beautiful new book, Baking Chez Moi, has done just that, and the fact that its focus is mostly the sweets of Paris home kitchens is just perfect for me. I haven’t been back to Paris since then, but spending time with this book has helped me travel just a little bit, if only through butter and flour and the smells in my kitchen.

This cookie might just be the simplest in the book, and I know it’s going to become a staple recipe for me. It produces a simple and light coconut macaroon, quite similar to the Jennie’s Macaroons my family loves. They’re fancy enough to serve with dessert, but basic and not-so-sweet enough that they’re perfect for lunchboxes, too.

Dorie Greenspan’s Coco Rochers
From Dorie Greenspan‘s Baking Chez Moi
Makes about 30 cookies

2½ cups unsweetened shredded coconut
4 large egg whites
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Stir together the coconut, egg whites, and sugar in a medium saucepan. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium-low heat, until the mixture is hot to the touch, 7 to 10 minutes. The goal, as Dorie explains, is to fully heat the mixture without coloring the coconut.

Scrape the mixture into a heat-proof bowl, stir in the vanilla, and press a piece of plastic over the dough. Chill for several hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Stack two baking sheets one on top of the other. (This prevents the bottom of the cookies from burning.) Line the top baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Scoop out about 2 teaspoons of dough at a time, packing it firmly into a spoon or cookie scoop before releasing it onto the sheet. Leave about ½ inch between the cookies. Bake until the cookies are lightly golden and a bit firm to the touch, 20 to 25 minutes. They’ll firm up as they cool, too.

Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 11/17/14 at 10:19 AM • Permalink

Recipe: Applesauce Cake With Caramel Glaze

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.

Lately, it seems like the question on everyone’s mind is: what are we going to do with all of these (enter produce name here)? You see, that’s the blessing and the curse of eating seasonally. When it’s ready, it’s ready. You don’t get it all year round, and you know you won’t get it again for another year, so you really go bananas while you can. You buy it in bulk, or maybe you even go out and pluck it off your own backyard plants. You spend your weekends at Pick You Own farms throughout the county, and bring home bushels. You serve it at every meal, sneaking it into recipes left and right. And then you freeze, jam and pickle it, until you feel like you’ve done the season’s bounty justice, or your feet give out, whichever comes first.

So that’s about where we stand with apples. Step into our kitchen and you’ll drown in bags, boxes, and bowls full up with apples. We pied and crisped them, we baked and sauteed them. We chomped them raw until we could chomp no more. And here we are, asking that age-old question: what are we going to do with all of these apples? The easy answer is applesauce, and it’s a good one… but don’t be surprised when the question comes round again, and quickly.

What are we going to make with all this applesauce? Applesauce cake, of course! This cake is the easiest you’ll make all season, and perhaps one of the tastiest. We just recently added it to our repertoire and were immediately hooked – no surprise as it comes from one of our favorite food writers, Merrill Stubbs. It’s got all the deep flavor your could hope for in a fall dessert, with the light springy texture of an oil cake. And that caramel glaze? Well, you’ll just have to make it and see.

Applesauce Cake with Caramel Glaze
from Food 52

For the cake:
2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the caramel glaze:
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar


Make the cake:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 and butter and flour a Bundt pan.

2. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, salt, pepper and spices and set to the side.

3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs with both sugars until light and aerated. Mix in the applesauce, oil and vanilla until smooth. Using a spatula, fold in the dry ingredients, until just mixed.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

5. Cool the cake for 10 minutes in the pan then turn out on a rack until room temperature.


Make the glaze:

1. Put the butter in a medium saucepan with the brown sugar, cream and salt and cook over medium heat until at a full boil, stirring constantly. Continue to boil for one minute exactly, and then remove from heat.

2. Let the mixture cool a couple minutes, then gradually whisk in the powdered sugar until thick, but still pourable.

3. Pour the glaze over the cake slowly and let set before serving.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 11/10/14 at 11:08 AM • Permalink

Recipe: Beet Hummus

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 in 2015.

I always feel grateful when the weather dresses like the season. I suppose that’s one thing that makes me a good New Englander because I: a) like the seasons (all of them!), and I’m happy when they feel just like my memories dictate they should and b) am more at ease when things are just as they should be—warm in the summer, cold in the winter, pretty in the autumn, and muddy in the spring.

This past weekend obliged in all the right ways. Friday night, still October after all, was just warm enough that we didn’t have to bundle the kids over their Halloween costumes. We wandered up and down and around the streets of the hill neighborhood in Great Barrington, all of us happy for the excuse to take over the street for a night. No matter where we pushed through the dark, the same kids in great costumes kept reappearing, as if we all had the same wandering path. The kid in the toilet costume. The stealthy and tiny grim reaper who ran from house to house. And the Elsas! So many frosty Elsas, each shining and sparkling in their own way.

And perhaps all those tiny Elsas brought the weather. Because the next day, the cold blew in, and it rattled against the windows to announce November. I pulled out the winter coats, I put away the flip-flops, there—right on schedule outside the supermarket—were the “holiday logs” alongside the rest of the pumpkins.

I’m ready. I’m ready to start talking about Thanksgiving and holiday gifts and cocktails that come in a mug. But today, lets talk about a vegetable that’s sweet, versatile, and plentiful right now: the amazing beet.

The most traditionally tasty way to cook a beet is to roast it, and although I travel from that path with success now and then, I always come back to roasting. I always recommend roasting a few bunches at a time, because a jar of roasted beets in your fridge will keep for nearly a week, and if you have them ready to go they’ll find their way into salads, pasta dishes, and spreads. If I’m roasting something else in the oven, I’ll often put beets in there too, just to make the most of the oven space. To roast beets, cut off the greens so there is about an inch of stem attached to each beet. (Save the greens, and sauté or steam them or add them to soup like any other hearty green.) Wash the beets, and put them in a baking dish with about an inch of water. Cover the dish tightly, either with a lid to the dish or aluminum foil, and roast at 375°F until the beets are tender when pricked with a fork. This will take between 45 minutes and 90 minutes, depending on the size of your beets. Then remove the pan from the oven, let the beets cool, and slip them right out of their skins.

This beet hummus has been my new favorite way to use roasted beets. It’s more beets than chickpeas, so it’s a great way to eat more beets. The recipe comes from David Lebovitz’s new book, My Paris Kitchen. It’s a gorgeous book (very holiday giftworthy, if you’re on the prowl for gifty cookbooks), and I’ve been happily cooking, reading, and dreaming of Paris with it ever since it came out in the spring. But this hummus in particular has been a revelation around here—everyone loves it. Don’t leave out the pomegranate molasses. It’s essential. And it’s inexpensive, easy to find (in my neck of the woods you can get it at Guido’s or Locke, Stock & Barrel), and it’s a useful ingredient for all sorts of dressings and marinades.

Beet Hummus
From David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen

12 ounces cooked, peeled and diced beets (you can use red or golden beets, but red will make the hummus a great color)
2/3 cup cooked, drained chickpeas
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
6 tablespoons tahini
2 teaspoons salt, plus more if needed
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more if needed
generous pinch of cayenne pepper or smoked chile powder
1½ tablespoons pomegranate molasses

1. Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fit with the chopping blade and process until nearly smooth. Taste, and adjust salt or lemon if needed. Store in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days, or freeze for up to 6 months.

 

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 11/03/14 at 12:06 PM • Permalink