berry patch farms + ina's zucchini vichyssoise

“I sincerely believe that for the child, and for the parent seeking to guide him, it is not half so important to know as to feel when introducing a young child to the natural world. If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow. The years of early childhood are the time to prepare the soil.”  -Rachel Carson, A Sense of Wonder

On Tuesday, Otis and his kindergarten class took their first field trip together, and since I’m all about outings and adventures I signed up to be one of the parent chaperones. The destination was BerryPatch Farms located in Brighton, Colorado, about 25 minutes from Denver…

We’re no strangers to this amazing organic farm. It’s where we pick cherries and raspberries every season. And in addition to “u-pick” options, the farm provides the most spectacular and unobstructed views of the Front Range. (You can see mountains for miles and miles and miles!) 

There are animals on the farm, including chickens, turkeys, goats and a donkey. Two porcine friends also call the farm home, one with the lamentable name “Bacon Bits” (but don’t worry, she won’t be eaten) and another named Heidi. The kids toured the farm by tractor, strung necklaces made of yarn, beads and clay, picked pumpkins, and watched a film about bees and the importance of these natural pollinators. The outing wrapped up with a picnic lunch, which for me meant pumpkin bread with chocolate chunks (delicious!). 

The field trip with Otis's class reminded me of the visit Theo and I took to the farm a few months back, around the second week of September when his school was closed for one of the many (many) Jewish holidays. We cut flowers, shopped at the farm stand and shortly thereafter Theo proclaimed, “Today I will pick berries and not boogers.” 

Speaking of picking (sorry), I scooped up tomatoes, herbs, zucchini and a variety of other fall squash. I sautéed the zucchini in olive oil for a simple side dish, but the vast majority of them went into Ina Garten’s Zucchini Vichyssoise, which I modified only slightly (recipe below). We made pots and pots of it and can’t wait for next summer/fall to make more.



** PS:  I chose not to share photos from Otis's class trip because he's in public school and I'm only beginning to acquaint myself with the families from our classroom. I thought it would be best (and wise) not to include images of children I don't know that well (and without parental consent). That said, Theo said he's fine with sharing :) 

Zucchini Vichyssoise
Modified only slightly from this Ina Garten recipe
Serves 5-6

1 tablespoon unsalted butter (to make it vegan, omit butter and add 1 extra tablespoon of e.v.o.o)
1 tablespoon good olive oil
5 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (4 to 6 large leeks)
4 cups chopped unpeeled white boiling potatoes (6-8 small)
2 large zucchini, chopped
1-1/2 quarts homemade vegetable stock or good quality store-bought (canned).
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons heavy cream (to make it vegan, omit the cream)
Fresh chives or julienned zucchini, for garnish

Heat the butter and oil in a large stockpot, add the leeks, and sauté over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Add the potatoes, zucchini, chicken stock, salt, and pepper; bring to a boil; then lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Cool for a few minutes and then process through a food mill fitted with the medium disc. Add the cream and season to taste. Serve either cold or hot, garnished with chopped chives and/or zucchini ribbons.

raspberries + sangria

I took Otis and Theodore berry picking to Hoot N Howl, a farm in Boulder, once before. It was about 10 months ago, and as I reflect back on the time that has passed between then and now, I can't believe that we were able to make all the pieces of our life come together. We are finally living the life that we had dreamed of in Colorado...and yes, we still love to go berry picking.
Two weeks ago my friend Kelly came over to my place to pick us up, as we were taking our play date on the road. We wanted to talk and swap weekly stories, so we decided it would be better to pile into one car instead of caravanning over to the farm. We squeezed three car seats in the back, strapped the boys in (her son is good friends with my kids), and set off in the direction of Boulder. Aware of potential traffic jams along Highway 36, we armed ourselves with water bottles and good music.
When we got to the farm the boys ran around, as boys usually do. 

About a week later, my husband and I found some old videos which were filmed long before we married and long before we had kids. We were so carefree and goofy. Quite silly, really. It made me realize that somewhere along this journey called motherhood (and maybe adding a few years to my life) I've become too serious and maybe I even feel a bit rigid. I no longer spontaneously cartwheel down the street or do Olympic-floor routines on the grass of our local park. Why not? Is it age? Motherhood? Am I worn down or stressed out? I came to the conclusion that I very rarely just completely let go.

I'll admit that some habits are best forgotten and I've matured quite a bit in the decade that has past, but there's a frivolousness, a carefree-ness and a silliness in myself that I miss. I really do. And I've been thinking about that a lot these past few days, especially after looking at the boys having fun at the farm.
I came to the conclusion that I need to spend less time yelling in frustration and more time laughing, tickling and being goofy. You know, I need to be more playful!
As a mother I want to teach my children about kindness, and the values of being inquisitive, knowledgeable, positive, and thoughtful. There's a time for correction and instruction too. But I think that having a mother who is a little bit more spontaneous and just a little bit silly (in a yell-free zone) is just as important, don't you?

Draw a crazy picture, 
Write a nutty poem,
Sing a mumble-gumble song,
Whistle through your comb. 
Do a loony-goony dance 
'Cross the kitchen floor, 
Put something silly in the world 
That ain't been there before.” 
― Shel Silverstein


Raspberry Sangria
My friend Mizzy made this for us last week. Like most recipes, it is meant to be adjusted to suit your preferences. But very loosely, this is what we did:
1 bottle of red wine (Merlot)
1 pint of raspberries
1 cup of pure pomegranate juice
2-3 tablespoons agave
1 cup (or more) seltzer water or soda (like 7-Up)
In a blender, combine the raspberries and the pomegranate juice. Then strain the mixture if you mind the seeds. Add the red wine. Add the agave and seltzer water (or soda). Mix it all up. Serve over ice.

Late-Afternoon Raspberry Picking (and a Beet-Pomegranate Salad)

My self-improvement projects are well underway. I've been cultivating thanks, not-sweating the small stuff, and managing stress fairly well. But then, last Saturday morning, all hell broke loose.
Theodore, who usually only wakes up once or twice on a typical night, had been crying on-and-off for 10 hours. By the time Otis woke up, I had slept less than 4 I'll blame exhaustion on what happened next. Theo required a diaper change and somehow, I don't know how, I took off his soaked diaper and then buttoned up his onesie. Um, yeah. I forgot to put on a clean diaper. I drifted back to sleep and left Theo and Otis playing together in the room next to mine. I'll spare you all the details, but let's just say that about 30 minutes later I smelled something pretty awful, Otis was screaming "poop!poop!" and I woke up to a royal mess. It was really bad. That's all I'll say about that...
I rushed the baby to the bathroom, stripped him down and drew him a bath. I flipped on the light switch, but it was still dark. I assumed the bulbs had just gone out in the bathroom, but I soon discovered we lost power throughout the house. The system-wide failure became apparent when I rushed the dirty clothes and linens down to the washing machine. Nothing worked. No lights, no machines. 
That didn't stop me from attempting to brew some fresh coffee. Uh-huh. I filled the grinder with a few tablespoons of whole beans, forgetting that no electric power means no grinder, and therefore, no coffee. 
I must have been on Pluto because then I proceeded to crack a few eggs and put them in the frying pan-- figuring I could at least top them with some salsa verde and have a decent breakfast. But we've got an electric stove (which I am not getting used to). No eggs for us.
So I threw a bunch of cheerios in a tupperware cup, sliced some cantaloupe and raced upstairs to get everyone dressed. Did I mention that we were heading to the park for Otis's early morning soccer class? 
As if this day couldn't get worse, Omar (our beloved elderly-incontinent Rottweiler) went to the bathroom on the main floor. It was one mess after the other. 
I was just about to loose my mind when the fire alarm starting chirping. Maybe it was trying to come back online. I don't know. I'm not an expert on these sorts of things. 
The boys were out of earshot and I cursed away. Mostly four-letter words that begin with 'f'-- and at a very loud volume. Swearing can really help your mental state in a time of crisis! 
Anyway, the minutes were ticking by. I got the kids. Loaded up the car. And left the house. 
Miraculously, we got to soccer practice on time. 
Things were looking up.
I drank some coffee. Yup, things were getting much better.
Then I ate a delicious tamale at the farmers market. 
And some pastry too. Some food for the kids.
We were sated.
Things were going to be just fine.
I put Otis and Theo down for an early nap and when everyone woke up, I decided we should take a little trip to Boulder.
We visited Hoot N Howl, a fantastic farm with a great stand and pick-your-own berries.
The day started off rocky, but it ended with me and my sons...picking fruit and being thankful that we could...and knowing that life's mishaps make for funny stories later. We survived. Here are some photos from our late-afternoon adventure.

In addition to the berries, we also picked up some gorgeous apples (for this apple muffin and butternut squash soup combination, courtesy of Cannelle et Vanille), tomatoes, basil and purple potatoes. There were pumpkins too and I saw some beautiful looking eggplants that I'll have to get next time. 
We didn't pick too many raspberries, but I knew we had enough for this coulis, which pairs well with this cheesecake. Of course, I could have pureed them into a seasonal cocktail too. But then I happened to stumble upon this Bon Appetit photo (below) for Lemon Creme Brûlée with Fresh Raspberries. My search was over. That'll do! 
Photo Credit: Tina Rupp, Bon Appetit
Earlier in the day I picked up some beets at our local farmers market. I also nabbed a whole lot of pomegranates at the supermarket. I love the combination of beets and pomegranates and found this salad (below) after doing a google search. It was the first recipe to come up, and it sounded delicious. I've made it three times and it is fast becoming one of my favorite seasonal starters. (Now this is not the best picture I've ever taken, but it's one delicious salad!)

Beet and Pomegranate Salad (Adapted slightly from the LA Times)
Servings: 6
Note: Adapted from "The Book of New Israeli Food" by Janna Gur. 
Pomegranate concentrate or molasses is available at cooking supply stores and Middle Eastern markets.
3 to 4 medium beets
2 tablespoons pomegranate concentrate or molasses
2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 to 3 small, dried red chile peppers, crushed
Coarse sea salt
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 cup pomegranate seeds (I used about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup lightly flavored olive oil
1. Cook the beets in a covered medium saucepan of boiling water until tender, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool, peel and cut into very small dice. Place in a medium bowl. 
(I adapted the recipe. Instead of boiling the beets, I roasted them. First I washed and trimmed them. Then I placed them in foil, drizzled them with olive oil, and sprinkled them with some kosher salt and black pepper. I sealed the foil, cooked them for about 1 hour and 15 minutes (until you can put a knife through them) at 400 degrees, and allowed them to cool before peeling and dicing them.)
2. Add the pomegranate concentrate, lemon juice, peppers, one-eighth teaspoon sea salt, or to taste, and combine. Set aside for about 15 minutes.
3. Toss the beets with the cilantro leaves and pomegranate seeds, drizzle with olive oil and serve.

* * *
I went a little overboard with my pomegranate purchasing (I really bought a lot!), so I made this  Cumin Seed Roasted Cauliflower with Salted Yogurt (from Melissa Clark's, Cook This Now) with my leftover pomegranates seeds. You can find an adapted version by Smitten Kitchen here.
Happy cooking! xo

Ina's White Pizza with Arugula, Denver's Chalk Art Festival and Strawberry Salad with Feta and Almonds

The other day I found myself thinking about Ina Garten. I love her as much as you can love a 64-year old, former nuclear policy wonk/budget writer, author, gourmand, home entertaining super-star that you don't really know. And I totally credit Ina with inspiring me to cook-- I mean really cook, for the first time, which happened about 3 years ago. She got me to value high-quality ingredients, delve into seasonal cooking and, okay, decadent desserts too. Time is flying because it's more than a year and a half since I met her at this book signing...and it feels like yesterday. 
I have all of Ina'a cookbooks and decided to revisit Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics. That's when this recipe for White Pizza with Arugula caught my eye. Now ever since I made homemade tart dough (pâte brisée), I've become a big fan of making things from scratch...time permitting. Sure, there are some really good quality store-bought pizza doughs out there, but I decided to make my dough the night before, after the boys went to bed.
The dough was perfect but next time I think I will have to let it get a little more pliable before I start kneading it. I don't think I kept it at room temperature long enough. As for the baking time of the pizza, the recipe calls for 10-15 minutes in the oven. My pie was done in about 9 minutes-- and had I kept it in the oven for one minute longer, it would have burnt to a crisp. Maybe it's my oven or maybe it's the altitude-- just keep an eye on it.

Now I prefer making recipes that don't require me to buy a ton of ingredients, and in this case I had some goat cheese in the fridge and some leftover fontina cheese from this recipe. I also had a big bag filled with arugula, so pizza with greens it would be. 
I loved this pizza. There's creamy, cheesy goodness, tangy-lemon dressing and peppery arugula. You can see how this one might be hard to beat...
For the garlic oil I used some of my new purple garlic which I picked up at my local farmers market.
Dressed arugula.
White Pizza with Arugula (Courtesy of Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics)
Makes 6 Pizzas
For the Dough:
1 1/4 cups warm (100 to 110) water
2 packages dry yeast
1 tablespoon honey
Good olive oil
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
Kosher salt
For the Garlic Oil:
4 cloves garlic, sliced
5 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
For the topping:
3 cups grated Italian fontina cheese (8 ounces)
1 1/2 cups grated fresh mozzarella cheese (7 ounces)
11 ounces creamy goat cheese, such as montrachet, crumbled
For the vinaigrette:
1/2 cup good olive oil
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces baby arugula
1 lemon, sliced

Mix the dough

  • Combine the water, yeast, honey and 3 tablespoons of olive oil in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. When the yeast is dissolved, add 3 cups of flour, then 2 teaspoons salt, and mix on medium-low speed. While mixing, add up to 1 more cup of flour, or just enough to make a soft dough. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until smooth, sprinkling it with the flour as necessary to keep it from sticking to the bowl.
  • Knead by hand.
  • When the dough is ready, turn it out onto a floured board and knead it by hand a dozen times. It should be smooth and elastic.
  • Let it rise.
  • Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl and turn it to cover it lightly with oil. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and allow the dough to rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Make garlic oil:  Place 1/2 cup of olive oil, the garlic, thyme and red pepper flakes in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook for 10 minutes, making sure the garlic doesn't burn. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. 
Portion the dough.
Dump the dough onto a board and divide it into 6 equal pieces. Place the doughs on sheet pans lined with parchment paper and cover them with a damp towel. Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes. Use immediately, or refrigerate for up to 4 hours.

Stretch the dough.
Press and stretch each ball into an 8-inch circle and place 2 circles on each sheet pan lined with parchment paper. (If you've chilled the dough, take it out of the refrigerator approximately 30 minutes ahead to let it come to room temperature.)

Top the dough.
Brush the pizzas with the garlic oil, and sprinkle each one liberally with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the pizzas evenly with fontina, mozzarella and goat cheese. Drizzle each pizza with 1 tablespoon more of the garlic oil and bake for 10 to 15 minutes,* until the crusts are crisp and the cheeses begin to brown.**

Make the vinaigrette.
Meanwhile, whisk together 1/2 cup of olive oil, the lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
Add the greens.

When the pizzas are done, place the arugula in a large bowl and toss with just enough lemon vinaigrette to moisten. Place a large bunch of arugula on each pizza and a slice of lemon and serve immediately.

* Mine took 9 minutes.

** Note: I brushed some of the garlic oil on my pizza mesh (wire) and placed my pie on the mesh. I placed it on my pizza stone-- which I had preheated for 20 minutes at 500 degrees.

TIP Make sure the bowl is warm before you put the water and yeast in; the water must be warm for the yeast to develop.
TIP Salt inhibits the growth of yeast; add half the flour, then the salt, and then the rest of the flour.
TIP To make sure yeast is still "alive," or active, put it in water and allow it to sit for a few minutes. If it becomes creamy or foamy, it's active.

* * *
After lunch, I took the boys down to Larimer Square for the Denver Chalk Art Festival. Now here in the house we use sidewalk chalk all the time. This festival, however, took it to a whole new level. It was so cool. And so creative. Otis really wanted to add his own unique touch to some of the murals, but I told him maybe next year. He looked excited about the prospect and when we got home he started on his sketches. Theo watched him carefully...maybe he'll be the budding artist of the family!                    

Today I used some leftover greens to make this salad for lunch. It was delicious! 

Baby Lettuces, with Feta, Strawberries and Almonds (Courtesy of Food & Wine Magazine)
Serves 8
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1 small shallot, minced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, preferably Banyuls
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
12 cups packed assorted baby lettuces (about 6 ounces)
1 quart strawberries, hulled—small berries halved, large ones quartered
4 ounces feta (preferably French), crumbled (1 cup)
1 cup smoked almonds, chopped

In a small bowl, stir together the mustard, honey, shallot and vinegar. Stir in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Put the lettuces in a large bowl. Add the strawberries, feta and almonds. Drizzle the dressing over the salad, toss well and serve.

Suggested Pairing:
Bright, berry-scented rosé echoes the strawberries in this summer salad. Pour a crisp, dry rosé from Provence.
Pizza bianca

Beaches and Bars: Hampton Beach and Raspberry Oatmeal Bars

Getting three friends together for a picnic requires some advanced planning. We all have significant others with busy schedules, and some of us have kids with their own internal napping patterns that make impromptu gatherings a bit of a challenge.  But we finally found a day to all hang out in Prospect Park.  
It was a really nice time. The weather cooperated and the kids were in great spirits. My friend Alice and her fiancé (who is a professional chef in the city) were in charge of the main course(s). They made a vegetarian pasta with red pepper, zucchini, eggplant and cheese (yum) and meatball burgers that were topped with a homemade salsa verde sauce, which my husband said were out-of-this-world. I made a French Potato Salad and a refreshing Chilled Cucumber Soup. My other friend Jeanne was in charge of dessert and she brought these Raspberry Oatmeal Cookie Bars-- and they were fantastic. 
knew I had to make them, so here they are!  They are great for a summer picnic or a trip to the beach. We took them to Hampton Beach, a little beach that is part of the 18 mile coastline in New Hampshire. Enjoy!   

Delicious Raspberry Oatmeal Cookie Bars (Courtesy of Allrecipes)
Serves 12 (though next time I'm going to double the recipe)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup seedless raspberry jam
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease one 8 inch square pan, and line with greased foil.
Combine brown sugar, flour, baking soda, salt, and rolled oats. Rub in the butter using your hands or a pastry blender to form a crumbly mixture. Press 2 cups of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Spread the jam to within 1/4 inch of the edge. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture over the top, and lightly press it into the jam.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes in preheated oven, or until lightly browned.  Allow to cool before cutting into bars.