Farm to Table

homemade corn broth

This is my seventeenth summer going to Cape Cod. Michael first took me just a few months after we started dating in August of 1995. I was a kid back then, just 21 years old, but still remember that summer so vividly. The 300 mile drive in his little red Toyota Celica, and the box of cassette tapes he used to pack for road trips. It was the first time I’d heard Cracker, and found myself singing Movie Star again all these years later as I made the drive out here last week. I still keep the Best of Van Morrison, Vol. 2 cassette in the glove compartment.

As we make the drive out here, I still murmur silly things like Bic Pen Drive, as we pass the Bic Drive exit on the I95. And crude things like “Exeter, I wasn’t even in her”—Mikey made that one up as we drove through Rhode Island once. Then there’s Mash-the-peas, as we pass Mashpee, one of the towns on the Cape. The motel we stayed at, Terrace Dunes, is just down the road from the house we rent now. I glance at the efficiency unit we called home for those two weeks every time I drive by it on my way down Shore Road.

And there I go with the “we” again. Technically, I’m still part of “we” because it’s me and the girls, but often the “we” I refer to in conversations is me and Mikey. It’s hard to remember that “we” is now just “me”, at least in the immediate, physical sense of the being.

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preserving a way of life

This past Saturday started somewhat normal. I rose at an abnormal hour for a weekend day, this time feeling a bit more tired and slow-moving, having played cruise director to Isabella. Since the whistle blew last Tuesday at noon, my life has been kids, kids and more kids.

Wednesday we trekked to Harlem to visit Kim. I think I was more excited about this playdate than Isabella. I was happy and at peace, sitting across from one of my best friends while the girls played.

Thursday we walked the High Line and cooled off with some stracciatella from L'Arte del Gelato and plum syrup soaked shaved ice from People's Pops.

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french onion tart

A few years back Isabella and I were strolling through a neighborhood supermarket. Her eyes locked with a display of blueberries, and in her sweet little voice she asked if we could buy some.

It was January.

Close friends can already predict my answer. The rest of you might think me insane.

I told my then four year old daughter she couldn't have blueberries. I know, you're wondering why would anyone do such a thing.

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maple syrup poached peaches

Peaches…in the dead of winter, you’re wondering, right? It’s one of the benefits of hoarding them last summer. I ran out of room in the pantry to store cans, and after putting up 60 somewhat jars of jams, tomatoes, pickles, and yes, peaches, the freezer fell victim to my quest to preserve summer as long as humanly possible.

With luck, I will have enough until the summer’s first rays of sun and warmth coax new seedlings to sprout. 

My sweet tooth was short-circuited this last holiday season. I’ve never hit a wall with wanting a cookie or something sugary, but alas the day finally came. I swear someone hit my reset button, like what happened to Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story 3.

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english flapjacks—brooklyn style

When I was around 10 years old my mother sent me to the store to buy onions. After inspecting a few at the supermarket, I returned home empty handed—all the onions were covered in dirt. It made no sense to buy food caked in a thin layer of mud.

When I told my mother why I had no onions, a rather large chuckle was followed with an explanation that onions grew in the ground. Growing up in the city, being disconnected from the food chain, it's easy to understand how a kid can make a mistake, right?

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homemade pasta + 10-minute bolognese sauce

By now most of you know I’m a big supporter of local farmers’ markets. It’s where I do most of my shopping, including buying eggs, beef, chicken, pork and an assortment of in season fruit and vegetables. A couple of weeks ago, someone asked me on twitter how to know which produce was organic. It was a great question and one I hadn’t really considered myself until a year ago.

Before the tomato blight hit us in the northeast last year, it never occurred to me that those small family farms would use anything but organic farming methods, even if they can’t keep up with the paperwork or application fees required by the USDA to attain the official title of organic. Then I read an article about the blight. In it the owner of one of my favorite farm stands was quoted as saying he’d be using pesticides to treat his tomatoes.

I understand this from an economics point of view. Tomatoes are a huge crop for many of these local farms, and the prospect of losing an entire season of them could put some families in the poorhouse. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to buy one tomato from that stand last year. And gosh, I can tell you from seasons past, those tomatoes were so good.

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lemon blueberry muffins + half white flour

There is a fine line between being a "know it all" and a confident learner. Life has too much to offer to think we can possibly consume, let alone understand it all before our physical time on this earth is done.

And yet, there is an exceeding pressure, on kids and adults alike, to be perfect. It's an unrealistic goal. And a boring one too. Heck, if we become perfect, what pleasure would there be in waking each morning?

Three years ago when I ventured out on a freelance career, I had one main goal in mind—never miss a school event, recital or bringing birthday cupcakes to my daughter's classroom ranked pretty high up there. I knew what kind of mother I wanted to be. I wanted to be active and involved. I wanted to pick her up from school each day and talk about her favorite part—always lunch and recess, and her least favorite—none to report so far, which is good, I think.

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Zucchini Potato Hash

The irony of being a food writer is that some days I forget to eat lunch. Crazy and seemingly impossible, I know, but especially true when I'm testing desserts all day. A few weeks back, the hunger started kicking in, so I went to my old standby and took out some eggs (you know they're a nutritional powerhouse, right?). Looking for a companion on the plate, I rummaged through the fridge and found some zucchini from the farmer's market. I also spied some new potatoes and onions, so they came along for the ride. I had the makings for what is now known in my house as zucchini potato hash. A fresh handful of basil from the backyard gave it a nice spicy kick. Just the boost I needed too to get on with the rest of my workday.

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Panzanella + thoughts on the Northeast late blight

As you all know, I finally started a real vegetable garden this year. I've determined that while I'm quite adept at killing other plant life, the eggplant, snow peas, collard greens, basil, celery, and jalapenos have escaped my grim reaper thumb. Then this late blight hits the Northeast in astonishingly lightening speed. So far my plants look okay, but I'm watching them closely. Like many people this year, I'm a first time gardener. I never expected to grow enough to feed my family for the season. My real intent was to complete the farm to table cycle. I'd always respected farmers for the long hours and hard work. Some crops are naturals, like my snow peas. They grow fast and plentiful. Others you have to sit and patiently watch and wait. It really does humble you and deepen your respect for nature.

Last night I read Dan Barber's op-ed in the NYT about late blight. There are many ways to say things and get your message across but the delivery (read: choice of words) affects how the reader interprets the message. I think the work Barber has done for the local food agenda is amazing but something didn't rest easy with me though when I read this passage:

"For starters, if you’re planning a garden (and not growing from seed — the preferable, if less convenient, choice), then buy starter plants from a local grower or nursery. A tomato plant that travels 2,000 miles is no different from a tomato that has traveled 2,000 miles to your plate." 

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Peach Pie + Dorie’s Perfect Crust

Apple pie may be part of the American dream but I bet it’s due to being in the right place at the right time. If it had been a few months earlier and peaches were in season, Thanksgiving tables across the country might look quite different come dessert time.

Or, maybe, it's because apples are easy. All you have to do is peel, core and slice. Peaches, on the other hand, take a bit more prep to make pie. I'm an avid baker and must admit it requires a certain mind set to commit the time. The best way to remove the skin is to cut an “X” on the bottom (also referred to as scoring), cooking them for 30 seconds in boiling water (called blanching), remove with a slotted spoon and then plunge in a cold water bath to stop the cooking process. The skins will slip off 1,2,3 at this point, and then you can slice them. I know this sounds likes a lot of work, but I’ve learned the active time is relatively short compared to trying to peel a peach with a pairing knife. 

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