Posts Tagged ‘Charles Fox’

Salsa Verde Pie

Friday, October 16th, 2009

tomatillos web

Happy World Food Day!  This is also known as World Bread Day. I’m not actually posting a bread recipe today (my new apple bread recipe is still locked in the sick laptop). If readers want to join bakers all over the world in making bread, I recommend the warm, moist pumpkin bread recipe I posted last year at about this time.
Meanwhile, this slightly spicy pie should help you celebrate the larger holiday in appropriately green fashion. I don’t want to seem frivolous; I know WFD is actually about hunger awareness. YOU won’t be hungry after eating your pie, but please take some time this week and every week to contribute to a food bank or a cause that feeds the hungry.
When life gives you tomatillos, make salsa……….
My neighbors Sally and David Rich were clearing out their garden recently and shared part of their tomatillo harvest with me. One doesn’t think of tomatillos as growing in New England, but Sally produced a bumper crop!
I started out to make salsa verde, but when the weather took a cold turn I decided to throw my green sauce into a quiche. Luckily, I was invited to a dinner party at my friend Chas’s house so my mother and I didn’t have to absorb all the calories in this tasty, cheesy pie.
for the green sauce:
2 cups halved tomatillos (remove and discard the husks first and rinse the tomatillos to remove stickiness!)
1 jalpeño pepper, chopped (more if desired; my pie wasn’t very spicy)
1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, finely minced
several sprigs of cilantro
the juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 teaspoon salt (or a little more to taste)
for the quiche:
1 9-inch single pie crust
1 medium bell pepper, cut into thin slices
a small amount of butter for sautéing
1-1/ 2 cups grated store cheese (plus a little more if you just adore cheese)
the green sauce
4 eggs
1-1/2 cups cream
First, make the salsa verde. Roast the tomatillo halves under the broiler until they begin to brown, 5 to 7 minutes, stirring once or twice. (Watch them!)
Remove them from the oven and let them cool.
In a blender or food processor, combine the roasted tomatillos with all the other ingredients, and puree. If you want to keep the salsa as plain salsa, you’ll have just under 1 cup.
If you prefer to make the pie, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Set aside a few pepper slices for garnish. Sauté the remaining pieces in the butter until they just begin to soften. Place them on the pie crust. Cover them with the cheese.
In a bowl, whisk together the green sauce and eggs. Whisk in the cream, and quickly pour the mixture onto the pie shell. Bake the quiche for 15 minutes.
Decorate the top of the pie with the remaining pepper slices and reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Bake the pie until the custard begins to set, 30 to 40 minutes more. Serves 6.
salsapie web


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Let’s All BOLT….

Friday, August 7th, 2009
My nephew Michael eyes a BOLT.

Michael eyes a BOLT.

In general I’m not a big fan of sandwiches—mostly because I spend so much of my life avoiding carbohydrates. Carbs are pretty much de rigueur in a sandwich. In fact, I just learned that a Boston court ruled in 2006 that a sandwich involves two pieces of bread not only by definition but BY LAW.
Nevertheless, this has been a crazy summer, and sandwiches have prevailed in our household despite my normal carbophobia. This trend has been exacerbated by the proximity of my nine-year-old nephew Michael, who is staying with his parents down the street.
Michael can eat a sandwich at any meal (or even as a between-meal snack). Sometime soon I’ll go back to salads and soups, or I’ll end up as big as a house. In the meantime I’m joining Michael in his sandwich consumption and enjoying myself.
Sandwiches historically served as a convenience since they did away with the need for dishes and flatware and were quick to prepare. To some extent they still appeal because of their simplicity. When Michael comes in from swimming it’s easy to slice a little bread; find some meat, veggies, and/or cheese; and call the resulting combination lunch or supper. (I confess: once in a while it’s breakfast, too.)
Sandwiches are a terrific way to let seasonal produce star. Michael’s very favorite sandwich is one we make only at this time of year—the BLT.  There just isn’t any point in combining bacon, lettuce, and tomato unless farm-fresh tomatoes are in season; winter imports need not apply.
If you have a favorite summer sandwich, please let me know what it is by commenting below. Meanwhile, I’m sharing recipes and photos from a recent BLT night at our home. My mother, sister-in-law Leigh, and Michael helped me start sandwich bread. My friend (and former cooking student!) Chas Fox stopped by just in time to help knead.
When it was time to eat, Chas’s son Matt helped make mayonnaise for the sandwiches. The bacon was the thick-cut variety from Avery’s Store in Charlemont, Massachusetts. The lettuce came from Chas’s garden, and we bought the tomatoes at our newest local farm stand, Hager’s Farm Market in Shelburne. (We don’t have fresh tomatoes in our gardens in the hills yet.)
At the last minute Chas observed that a little thinly sliced red onion might make a tasty addition to the sandwiches—and so the BOLT was born. I highly recommend it.
If you’re serving vegetarians, substitute extra-sharp cheddar cheese for the bacon in your sandwiches. You’ll have a COLT.
Our BOLT evening was delightful. Jack from across the street (minus his Betsy, who was toiling in the big city) brought a bottle of red wine. We sat on the porch with a few fairy lights and excellent company for illumination. New and old stories were told, and many sandwiches were consumed.
Family, friends, and simple food are an unbeatable combination–in summer or any other season.
Chas kneads.

Chas kneads.

Obviously, you may make your BLTs or BOLTs with store-bought bread and commercial mayonnaise. They are divine with homemade products, however, so that’s what I used.
homemade bread as needed (see recipe below)
homemade mayonnaise, with or without basil (see recipe below)
lots of cooked, thickly sliced bacon
sliced ripe tomatoes (don’t even bother if they’re not fresh)
thinly sliced red onion (just a few slices per sandwich: less is definitely more in this case!)
Toast the bread if you want to. (Many BLT connoisseurs insist on this, although homemade bread is pretty fabulous untoasted.) Assemble sandwiches as generously as you like. Watch your guests smile.
White Bread for BOLTs
(or any other sandwich)
This recipe is adapted from King Arthur Flour’s basic sandwich loaf. That bread is excellent all by itself, and I highly recommend it. I wanted to make two loaves instead of the one it provides, however, since I tend to serve a lot of people at this time of year. And I cut back just a bit on the butter and sugar.
The amounts of those below still make a loaf that is rich, sweet, and easy to cut. In wet weather (and we’ve had no other kind lately) it takes quite a while to rise. It is worth the wait.
1 packet active dry yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup milk
1 cup hot tap water
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
6 cups flour (all-purpose and/or bread; you may also add a bit of white whole wheat here for extra whole-grain goodness), plus a bit more for kneading
2 teaspoons salt
First, proof the yeast in the lukewarm water in a small bowl, along with 1 tablespoon of sugar. This will take about 5 minutes.
Combine the milk, hot water, and warm melted butter. In a large separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, and remaining sugar. Briskly stir in the dissolved yeast and the liquids.
Place the dough on a lightly greased or floured surface, put a little oil on your hands, and knead the dough for 8 minutes, until it feels just right. You may add a little more flour as you knead, but try not to add too much.
Transfer the dough to a greased bowl and cover it with a damp towel. Let it rise until it puffs up and just about doubles in bulk. This may take as little as an hour—but in our recent extremely damp weather it has been taking a lot longer in my kitchen!
Butter two loaf pans. Gently deflate the dough with your hands, and cut it in two with a serrated knife. Place each half in turn on an oiled board, and shape it into an 8-inch log. Place the logs in your loaf pans, and cover them loosely with lightly greased plastic wrap. Allow them to rise to a nice height. (Mine didn’t soar too high because of the humidity, but eventually they did rise respectably.)
Bake the loaves in a preheated 350-degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until they are a light golden brown. I like to remove them from the pans for the last 5 minutes or so and let the crust crisp up a tiny bit in the oven. Makes 2 loaves. 
Mayo in the Making

Mayo in the Making

Homemade Mayonnaise
Life is full of risks. I say this to remind readers that eating raw eggs ALWAYS carries a very small risk of salmonella. If you or your guests worry about this problem, there are a couple of things you can do.
First, you can buy pasteurized eggs. The disadvantage here is that you can’t use fresh local eggs, which I always prefer. (I like to buy them from my neighbors who have chickens!)
You can also try to pasteurize your own eggs. I have found several web sites that list ways in which you can semi-cook your eggs and/or yolks. I haven’t actually tried them but provide a link or two for your reading. Some involve the microwave; others, cooking the eggs with a little liquid for a few minutes or even by themselves. I think I may try one of the non-microwave techniques next time. On the evening of our party I used raw yolks, and luckily everyone is still alive.
ANYWAY, on to the recipe. If you’re worried, skip it and use commercial mayonnaise. The homemade stuff awfully good, however. It’s easiest to make with two people—one to add the oil and one to whisk.
1 fresh egg yolk at room temperature (I keep it refrigerated until almost the last minute to minimize risk of illness and then plunge it into very warm water for a couple of minutes to bring it to the right temperature)
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup canola oil
a tablespoon or two of boiling water if needed
finely chopped herbs (optional; basil is nice in the BOLTs)
Place the egg yolk, mustard, salt, cayenne, and lemon juice in a clean bowl, and combine them thoroughly with a whisk. Whisk in the oil a drop at a time. As the sauce begins to thicken, you may add slightly larger drops, but don’t get carried away; this is a slow process.
If the sauce becomes too thick or starts to curdle, whisk in a small amount of boiling water. When the mayonnaise is nice and thick, add the herbs if desired and serve. Leftover mayo may be kept in the refrigerator for a few days. Makes about 1 cup.
Matt and Truffle needed to relax after making mayonnaise--and eating BOLTs.

Matt and Truffle needed to relax after making mayonnaise--and eating BOLTs.

Musical Menus

Saturday, July 11th, 2009



My neighbor, composer Alice Parker, says that she has never met a musician who isn’t also a good cook. One could argue that music and cooking speak to similar human instincts.


Both involve the physical body but go far beyond the physical tasks they entail. Both are forms of nonverbal communication. Both take something written down or at the very least maintained by tradition (sheet music/musical forms, recipes/styles of cooking) and make something new and unique every time we engage in them.


Both are human activities that emphasize process as well as product.


So it’s not surprising that when I was asked to write about the 40th anniversary season of Mohawk Trail Concerts my mind turned to food. (All right, I admit it: my mind turns to food a lot anyway. But this time it’s appropriate!)


Founded in 1969 by violinist and composer Arnold Black, the concert series sprang from Arnie’s passion for the acoustics of the Federated Church in Charlemont, Massachusetts. That love quickly grew to encompass the church community. Numerous church suppers and artists’ receptions (not to mention 40 seasons of concerts!) followed.


Arnie Black is now dead, but his wife Ruth and her fellow artistic director Abba Bogin continue the concerts’ commitment to good music, good community relations, and good food.


Younger music lovers who grew up listening to the concerts have now become involved in the series. MTC president Chas Fox of Heath is a second-generation board member.


When I asked him about his earliest memory of the concerts, he recalled hearing pianist Marian McPartland play when he was a teenager listening to a concert from the church’s choir loft. “I was literally sitting behind her as she played,” he said with a touch of awe in his voice. “I remember her playing a jazz interpretation of the Beatles’ ‘Come Together’ at the request of Sandy Black [Arnold and Ruth’s son], who was a Beatles fan.”


Chas was hooked from then on. When he was asked to join the board a couple of years ago he jumped at the chance. “I was thrilled to be invited because my dad was on the board and was president of Mohawk Trail Concerts in the early days,” he told me last week. “Because of changes in my career I now had a significant amount of time on my hands and thought this would be a wonderful thing to do, to get involved in the community.”


“I’m not an expert on chamber music,” he admitted. “I call the meetings, I run the meetings, and that’s what I’m good at. I also prepare the program book.”


Concertgoers know that he does more. His playful introductions to each concert establish the informal tone that is one of MTC’s trademarks. They also set the stage for the musical musings of Ruth Black, Abba Bogin, and the evening’s performers.


Just to show that food is never far from the minds of the MTC board, Chas often models aprons adorned with MTC’s logo for the crowd, encouraging audience members to go home and make food (and perhaps music!) while thinking of the series.

Chas in apronweb


In honor of the concerts’ anniversary I am going to offer a few (tangentially!) relevant recipes here. All relate to aspects of this season’s program, which Chas justly calls “spectacular.”


The first is from Chas himself. He has allowed me to reprint the formula for the “Bean There, Done That” pudding with which he hit the finals two years ago in the Pudding Hollow Pudding Contest. It takes the traditional green-bean casserole to new heights with the addition of local mushrooms from grower Paul Lagreze of New England Wild Edibles.


Enjoy the recipes and the ones to come—and if you’re in western Massachusetts please enjoy the music as well! MTC will offer concerts on Friday evenings at 7:30 and Saturdays at 8:00 until the end of July. For more details call the concert office at 413-625-9511.



Paul Lagreze of New England Wild Edibles

Paul Lagreze of New England Wild Edibles


Bean There, Done That




for the sauce:


2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup vegetable broth (preferably made with the stems of your mushrooms and other veggies)
1/2 cup half and half
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 splash sherry
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil


for the pudding:


3 scallions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced ginger (about 4 cents’ worth at Avery’s general store)
3 cups cut and cooked green beans
3 cups mushrooms (preferably local mushrooms), cut into strips (these could also be diced, which might make for a slightly smoother pudding)


for assembly:


1 can (2.8 ounces) fried onion rings




Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.


First, prepare the sauce: Melt the butter, and whisk in the flour. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.


Whisk in the broth a little at a time, and bring the mixture to a boil, continuing to stir. Lower the heat, and cook for 2 more minutes. Whisk in the half and half, soy sauce, and sherry; cook just until the mixture is warm. Remove from the heat, and stir in the sesame oil.


Now assemble the pudding: Combine all the ingredients except for the onion rings. Stir in half of the onion rings.


Place the pudding in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or a 2-quart casserole dish.  Bake for 25 minutes or until warmed through. Sprinkle the remaining onion rings on top, and bake for 5 more minutes. Serves 6.