Pudding Time Once More

October 4th, 2019

 

My town’s quinquennial Pudding Festival is fast approaching. This Sunday, October 6, Hawleyites and others will gather to celebrate community, music, and of course PUDDING, our town’s official food ever since 1780.

If you’re anywhere near Hawley, Massachusetts, on Sunday, please join us at 330 East Hawley Road (directions are on our website). We invite anyone who likes to cook to enter our pudding contest. (The prizes are amazing!) Even if you don’t like to cook, you may join us for lunch, the pudding parade, a festive entertainment, and the crowning of the new pudding head. The day is an awful lot of fun.

All income from this day aid the local historical society, the Sons & Daughters of Hawley, in the group’s efforts to restore the Hawley Meeting House, a former church, as a community center.

For more information, please go to www.puddingcontest.com.

Meanwhile, I share with you a pudding recipe from my Pudding Hollow Cookbook. I made it on Wednesday on Mass Appeal. I can’t post the video; my TV was having troubles that day. But you can watch it here.

My other cooking slot was taken by my friend J.D. Fairman of the Pioneer Valley Charcuterie Team. He made BLTs with an awesome tomato jam. (By the way, he has also donated a gift basket of his lovely products as a prize for the pudding contest.) Here is the link to his appearance (along with the recipe!).

Strawberry Pudding

This recipe, from my Canadian friend Denis, shows the versatility of the term “pudding.” Like many puddings, it is actually a sort of cake baked so that it creates its own sauce.

Ingredients:

4 cups fresh strawberries
1-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the fruit in a medium-size casserole dish. Spread 3/4 cup of the sugar over it. In a bowl mix together the flour, remaining sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture becomes crumbly. Beat the milk, egg, and vanilla together. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ones, and mix just enough to moisten them throughout. Pour this batter over the fruit. Bake for about 45 minutes, until the top of the cake appears light brown and crispy. Serves 4 to 6.

Leslie Clark, Our Current Pudding Head. Will she retain her crown?

Romance and Cute Goats

September 24th, 2019

 

Jim Thomas and Laurie Cuevas love cheese. That’s a good thing. The two are surrounded by it in their day to day life running Thomas Farm in Sunderland, Massachusetts. I wrote this article about them for our local paper and felt I HAD to share it with you. (I love cheese, too!)

Jim started dairy farming there in 2015. He had worked in dairy farms for his entire life. He met Laurie in 2016 and fell in love with her, perhaps in part because of their shared affection for milk and cheese; she had grown up on a dairy farm. They quickly became life and work partners.

“We both have dairy in our bones,” Jim told me when photographer Paul Franz and I stopped by the farm last week.

The pair raise both goats and cows, although there are many more goats (about 90) than cows (10) on the farm. The cows provide raw milk to sell as well as cheese and cheese curds, young bits of cheddar popular for cooking because they hold their shape when heated.

The goats provide goat cheese, a.k.a. chèvre. Jim and Laurie sell the soft goat cheese in a number of flavors, including plain, dill, fresh chive, garlic dill, and cranberry.

When they have extra goat milk, they make hard cheese with it—goat cheddar and gouda—although lately there hasn’t been a lot of extra goat milk. The chèvre is very popular, they noted.

Their cheeses are available at their own farm stand as well as at a variety of local markets. They are also featured on the menus of a number of restaurants.

“We have a really good relationship with our restaurants and stores,” said Laurie. “We deliver the cheese so they know us. They also come to the farm. They like that. They can see that it’s clean, that the animals are happy.”

The animals were indeed happy. Paul and I met a number of the goats, including a pen full of six-month-old girls who were overjoyed to meet us. One in particular kept moving in toward Paul’s camera for a close up.

Of course, part of their interest stemmed from a hope that we had something to eat with us. They tried to nibble on my shirt, my handbag, and my hair.

“They make us laugh,” Laurie said of the goats. “It’s hard not to love them.”

The dairy business is only part of Thomas Farm. Jim and Laurie also raise chickens for eggs and sell vegetables at their farm stand. “For us, diversity is the key here,” explained Laurie.

“If [produce] doesn’t sell at the stand, the animals get it. We believe in sustainability. We do it the right way if we can.”

“We’re both everything,” stated Jim. “To be a farmer you have to have a lot of skills. We don’t sleep.”

Happily, he added, “We both love what we do, and we love each other.”

That love is paying off. Jim and Laurie showed us a number of prizes their cheese has won, including a recent gold medal from the Big E and a second-place award from a national competition sponsored by the American Dairy Goat Association.

They would like to be able to concentrate on the dairy business alone. “Our dream is that we would possibly just make cheese and survive that way,” Laurie confessed.

For the moment, they are happy with their farm as it is rather than as it might be, however. Their passion for their work and for each other has spilled over into the community and created a lot of good will, they told me.

Laurie cited an example of this good will, explaining that in March and April they welcomed 112 baby goats into the world. “We were drowning in the spring,” she sighed. “One night I put out a call on Facebook to ask for old towels.

“We had all sorts of people come and respond. They brought towels. And they brought food. They brought cookies!”

 

Thomas Farm Goat Cheese Salad

Whenever Laurie Laurie and Jim Thomas are invited to a family gathering, Laurie is asked to bring this simple, tangy salad. She served it to Paul and me with fresh peaches, but as the recipe suggests she uses whatever is in season. I’m thinking of trying it with fresh, crisp apples.

Ingredients:

for the creamy poppyseed dressing:

3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup white-wine vinegar
2 tablespoons poppyseeds
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 pinch salt

for assembly:

fresh salad greens
creamy poppyseed dressing (see above)
the fruit of your choice—strawberries, blueberries, peaches, mandarin oranges, or a combination
4 ounces Thomas Farm plain goat cheese
slivered almonds (optional)

Instructions:

Combine the dressing ingredients thoroughly. Arrange the fruit on top of the salad, and toss with the dressing. Sprinkle cheese over all, along with the almonds (if desired). Serves a crowd. Leftover dressing should be stored in the refrigerator.

A Summer Spread

July 31st, 2019

Summertime … and the food is easy!

I’m busy getting ready for my annual summer concert. This coming Sunday, pianist Jerry Noble and I will celebrate the 100th birthday of George Gershwin’s first big hit, “Swanee,” with a concert of songs by the composer and his brother Ira.

So naturally I want to name everything I cook after a Gershwin song. I recently made a blueberry crisp I dubbed “Rhapsody in Blue.” (Really, just about anything with fresh local blueberries makes me feel rhapsodic.) I’m contemplating a pork dish called “Porky and Bess.”

And every simple appetizer can be called “Summertime.”

My most recent venture into appetizers is a chipotle pimento cheese spread. I lived for many years in the American South, where pimiento cheese is a staple. Last year in Virginia, I discovered chipotle pimiento cheese in a grocery store. I thought adding the smoky flavor of chipotles (which are basically smoked jalapeños) to pimiento cheese was a brilliant idea.

Unfortunately, the product from the grocery store suffered from the same problem that much pimiento cheese encounters: it had too much mayonnaise. I consequently concocted my own chipotle version, which is (in my humble opinion) pretty perfect.

The recipe below needs some mayonnaise in order to smooth out the spread, but you shouldn’t end up with more than 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the stuff. If you’re unfamiliar with chipotles in adobo, look for them in small cans in the Latin section of a supermarket. If you’d like to see me make it on TV, follow this link.

Enjoy the summer spiciness … and do come to our concert if you’re in the neighborhood!

Ingredients:

4 ounces roasted red peppers (a.k.a. pimientos), drained (reserve 1 tablespoon of the liquid) and roughly chopped
1 to 2 chipotles in adobo, seeded if you like them mild, coarsely chopped
several turns of the pepper grinder
1 tablespoon roasted-red-pepper brine
1 to 2 teaspoons adobo sauce from the chipotle can
1/2 pound sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
mayonnaise to taste (start with 2 tablespoons)

Instructions:

Place the pimientos, the chipotles, the pepper, the brine, and the adobo sauce in a mini-food processor. Whir until combined. Toss in the cheese, and combine again. Add mayonnaise until the spread achieves a silky consistency.

If you don’t have a mini-food processor, beat the heck out of the mixture with an electric mixture.

Chill the cheese blend for at least 1/2 hour. Serve with crackers or vegetables. Makes about 1-1/2 cups.

 

Cream of Asparagus Soup

June 19th, 2019

 

Here in Western Massachusetts we are still enjoying my favorite vegetable in the entire world, ASPARAGUS.

Mostly I just steam, roast, or boil it to eat plain or put in salads. But on my last television appearance I decided to make soup. It was lovely and green and oh, so asparagus-y.

If you want a lighter soup, omit the potato. It does make the soup heartier, however. My neighbors came over to finish up the leftovers and left very happy indeed.

On TV (and for the neighbors) I followed up with Fannie Farmer’s peanut butter cookies. The perfect meal.

The Soup

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped relatively but not obsessively small
3 cups asparagus pieces (about 1 pound; be sure to break off the tough ends before cutting—and if you want stronger asparagus flavor feel free to add more of it!)
1 medium baking potato, peeled and cut into small cubes
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup heavy cream
chopped fresh chives or dill

Instructions:

Combine the butter and oil over low heat in a 4-quart saucepan. When the butter melts, add the onion pieces and cook them until they become golden, stirring constantly. (This should take a little under 10 minutes.)

Add the asparagus and potato pieces. Toss lightly; then stir in the stock and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cook, partly covered, until the vegetables become tender, about 15 minutes.

Cool the soup for a couple of minutes; then puree it in a blender. (Or use an immersion blender.) At this stage you may refrigerate the soup if you don’t want to use it right away. Just be sure to reheat it before going to the next step.

Add salt and pepper as desired to the warm soup, and add the cream. Heat the soup a little longer to make sure the cream is warm as well. Garnish with the herbs. Serves 4.

I’m not giving you the cookie recipe, because if you don’t have a copy of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, you should buy one IMMEDIATELY and seek it out there.

Happy almost summer!

And now the videos:

Tinky Makes Cream of Asparagus Soup

Tinky Makes Peanut-Butter Cookies

Refrigerator Pickles Revisited

May 31st, 2019

 

From time to time on this blog, I write that I will try a recipe a different way in the future. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don’t. Occasionally, I take a very long time to get around to the new attempt.

When I wrote in May 2010 that I would try a different tack making my asparagus refrigerator pickles, I had no idea it would take me nine years to get around to it. Luckily, when I finally made them the better way (this month!), they were terrific.

I made them for a class and re-made them on Mass Appeal with the show’s new co-host, Alanna Flood. If you watch the video, please note that the salt and sugar are supposed to be boiled with the vinegar and water, not added to the jar later. I was so happy contemplating (and talking about) asparagus that I forgot to read the recipe!

We also remade the rhubarb cobbler I made on my very first visit to the program six years ago. It was as tasty as I remembered it.

So … here is the asparagus recipe, followed by the videos. Enjoy this wonderful time of year, full of produce and possibilities.


Asparagus Refrigerator Pickles


Ingredients:

1 pound fresh asparagus
2 small cloves garlic (or 1 large clove)
a generous branch of dill
3 to 4 peppercorns
1 cup water
1/2 cup white vinegar
1-1/2 teaspoons Kosher or sea salt
1 pinch sugar

Instructions:

Clean and sterilize a pint jar. After snapping the ends off the asparagus, trim the stalks so that they will fit in the jar and not quite reach the top. (You may add the trimmings to your cream of asparagus soup!) Place them in the jar, and stuff the garlic, dill, and peppercorns in around them.

Combine the water, vinegar, salt, and sugar in a nonreactive pot. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cool it for a few seconds; then pour it over the vegetables.

If the jar isn’t quite full, add a little tap water to fill it. Let the pickles cool to room temperature; then place them in the refrigerator and wait 3 to 4 days before serving them. Makes 1 pint.

And now the videos!

 

Tinky Makes Asparagus Pickles

Tinky Makes Rhubarb Cobbler