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.

gazpacho two ways: traditional red (from jose andres) and green (from bon appetite)

For months my husband and I planned to tear up half of the cement driveway that sits to the left of our house. We had 10 feet of concrete slab that was a total waste of space and didn't make sense to maintain since we have one car (and hope to keep it that way) and a scooter. We thought the space should be turned into our family garden.

After dragging our feet for most of the spring and early summer, Matt finally rented a jack-hammer. It took only (!) seven hours of drilling in the sun, in temperature that exceeded 100 degrees, to get the job done. We removed the concrete and assembled the elevated garden beds. Then we tilled the hard clay, added bags and bags of soil, and got to planting. We're growing basil, jalapeños, Corsican mint, Kentucky Colonel mint (hello mint juleps! and mojitos!), heirloom tomatoes, kale, marigolds, milk weed, jupiter's beard and a host of other bee-welcoming and butterfly-attracting plants. 

In just under 5 weeks we have started to reap the benefits of our hard work. Otis is in charge of watering the plants every morning and every evening. Theodore, being slightly less helpful than his older brother, usually takes the garden spade and swings it in the direction of the tomatoes until something falls off the vine (hopefully he outgrows this soon). There is an enormous satisfaction in knowing that we are greening the land, and our garden serves as our proudest DIY-it to date. We've come a long way since I tried to grow a strawberry plant on our fire escape in Brooklyn. I lovingly watered that silly plant and placed it in the sun, but the result of all my effort was a pitiful yield - a single and sad looking berry that didn't even taste good. 

But times have changed and this garden is a total thrill. It's thriving and it's growing. I can't tell you how amazing it felt to pick some of the gazpacho ingredients  from our little plot of Earth....
Patricia's Gazpacho 
(Courtsey of Jose Andres via Food + Wine. With thanks to the Truffle Table  in Denver for suggesting this recipe.)

2 pounds ripe plum tomatoes (about 10), cut into chunks
8 ounces cucumber (1 cucumber), peeled and cut into chunks
3 ounces green pepper, in large pieces
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
1 slice rustic white bread
6 plum tomatoes, with the seeds, prepared as "fillets"
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber, peeled and cut into cubes
4 pearl onions, pulled apart into segments
2 tablespoons Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Sea salt
4 chives, cut into 1-inch pieces


  • In a blender, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, green pepper, garlic and sherry vinegar and blend until the mixture becomes a thick liquid. Taste for acidity; this will vary with the sweetness of the tomatoes. If it's not balanced enough, add a little more vinegar. Add the olive oil, season with salt, and blend again. Strain the gazpacho into a pitcher and refrigerate for at least half an hour.
  • In a small pan, heat the olive oil over moderately high heat and fry the bread until golden, about 2 minutes. Break into small pieces to form croutons and set aside.
  • To serve pour gazpacho into each of 4 bowls. Place 4 croutons, 2 "fillets" of tomatoes with seeds, 4 cherry tomato halves, 3 cucumber cubes and 3 onion segments into each bowl. Add a few drops of olive oil to each onion segment and drizzle a little more around each bowl. Add a few drops of vinegar to each cucumber cube and drizzle a little more around each bowl. Sprinkle sea salt on the tomatoes and sprinkle the chives over the soup. Serve when the gazpacho is refreshingly chilled.
José's tips: If you want to be original, buy yellow or even green tomatoes. Also, if you want to save time, you can simplify the garnishes: Just use a few cubes of cucumber, tomato and green pepper.
* * *

I've been on such a gazpacho kick recently that I just had to try this green gazpacho recipe from July’s Bon Appetit magazine. It’s completely different from the traditional red gazapacho, but equally delicious. If you don’t want the soup hot (taste-wise, not temperature-wise) you can reduce the amount of jalapeño or increase the amount of yogurt. But personally, I love a soup with kick!
Green Gazpacho (Courtesy of Bon Appetit Magazine)
¼ cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1½ cups whole-milk plain Greek yogurt, divided
½ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
4 oz. ciabatta or country-style bread, crust removed, bread torn into 1” pieces (about 2½ cups) 
1 medium English hothouse cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeds removed, cut into large pieces
1 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
4 large tomatillos (about 12 oz.), husked, quartered
4 scallions, cut into 1” pieces
2 jalapeños, seeds removed, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
¾ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more
Piment d’Espelette or Hungarian hot paprika (for serving)

  • Whisk vinegar, lime juice, 1 cup yogurt, and ½ cup oil in a large bowl until smooth. Add bread, cucumber, bell pepper, tomatillos, scallions, jalapeños, garlic, and ¾ tsp. salt and toss to coat (make sure bread is well coated so it can soak up as much flavor as possible). Cover and chill at least 4 hours.
  • Working in batches, purée bread and vegetable mixture in a blender until very smooth; transfer to a large bowl and season gazpacho with salt.
  • Whisk remaining ½ cup yogurt in a small bowl, thinning with water a tablespoonful at a time, until the consistency of heavy cream; season with salt.
  • Serve soup in chilled bowls. Drizzle with thinned yogurt and more oil and sprinkle with piment d’Espelette.
DO AHEAD: Gazpacho can be made 1 day ahead; cover and chill. Mix well before serving.

cherry picking at berry patch farms (+cherry compote)

Otis, who turns 4 in the fall, has already committed himself to being a firefighter, a surgeon, a train conductor, a man who studies planets, a dinosaur expert and a farmer when he grows up.
I told him, "Well Otis, those are all very hard and worth while jobs. You can do any one of those things so long as you put in a lot of hard work..." He nodded his head like he understood.

But hard work doesn't always guarantee success. On a trip to Berry Patch Farms we learned that even hard work can result in a total crop failure, as was the case for the farm's first round of strawberries which were non-existent due to late snowstorms in April. Yet the farmers remain determined; they are hopeful that another crop will come around in August and they say the fruits are looking good so far... 
I was impressed that even while acknowledging "some years this sort of thing, it just happens," the farmers remain so optimistic. 

That's when I realized that I'd probably make a terrible farmer. I don't mind hard work (and the drenching sweat that comes from spending long hours in the hot sun), but the stress that comes with the territory and the strength you must posses in order to accept things that are beyond your control (like nature) well, that would be too much.   

When we moved into our new house, I thought that we would finally be able to "live off the land." Despite our small urban plot, I was thinking we'd be able to grow enough tomatoes (heirloom, beefsteak and cherry), jalapeno peppers, cilantro, basil, dill, cauliflower, and strawberries to take us through the summer months. 
But luck was not on our side and I didn't anticipate the bellicose bunch of squirrels who are constantly making war with me and my garden. To make matters worse, I planted almost everything in what-was-then (April) the sunniest part of the garden, but what-is-now the shadiest part of the garden (July). So unfortunately everything except for a few tomatoes and some basil is pretty much dead. Yup, my own personal crop failure. (But I will carry on...)

I already know what went wrong. I planted things too quickly. I rushed to get things into the ground. I didn't do my research. And I should have calculated the risk of having hungry squirrels and little boys on the premises. But live and learn, as they say...

There are billy goats, chickens, turkeys, a pot bellied pig and a donkey on the grounds. This had me thinking about how great it would be to have a chicken coop in our backyard. But then I thought about our neighbors who live in the old carriage house behind our home, and maybe they wouldn't be so keen on the noise and such. So we will have take a wait and see approach...

I think there's a nice take-away from the farm that benefits both me and my children: work hard, stay the course, and when things head south remain hopeful and always (try to) have a smile on your face. That's what I saw at Berry Patch. 

When we got back to Denver (which is about 25 minute away), I was craving cheesecake, which does happen from time-to-time (okay, more often than not). This cherry compote took just a few minutes to make and it went right on top of my upstate cheesecake. There are very few pairings that I like more than this one...(but this one comes close).
Happy day, now go hug a farmer.
Cherry Compote (by Smitten Kitchen adapted from the now-defunct (weep, weep) Gourmet Magazine)
10 ounces sweet or sour cherries, pitted
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup water
Making the cherry topping: Place all ingredients together in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Once it is boiling, cook it for an additional one to two minutes then remove from heat. Cool completely.
Spread topping over chilled cheesecake.

cherry recipes from across the interwebs:
cherry, arugula and quinoa salad by cookie + kate
cherry pie by lottie + doof
red fruit salad by heidi swanson of 101cookbooks

Al Di La's Casunsiei (Beet Ravioli with Butter and Poppy Seeds)

I'm fairly certain that I've made my love of beets and poppy seeds known to anyone who will listen. But this recipe takes the cake-- as beets and poppy seeds are used (together!) in this Italian dish called Casunsiei.
I first had Casunsiei (beet and ricotta ravioli with butter sauce and poppy seeds) at Al di La, a pretty amazing (and very popular) restaurant in Brooklyn. The lines were often out-the-door-around-the-corner long, but I didn't care. I lived only a few doors down so I could leave my cell phone number, head back home, start cocktailing and mosey back to the restaurant when I was called. It was pretty terrific if you ask me.
Now I live about 1,800 miles from Brooklyn so if I find myself craving something from home, it falls on me to make it. And that's just what I did with these little jewels.

Last week I bought my body-weight in beets at the farmers market. I sliced them super-thin, carpaccio style, and turned a few into a single portion of borscht. Having a handful of beets left, I thought this would be the perfect meal-- and it would ensure that none my beets would go to waste. I've been working really hard at using all of the perishable produce in my fridge and not letting anything spoil-- even if that means I have to use a particular ingredient a few days in a row. I've tried to convey this no-waste message to Otis who, at almost 3, can probably wrap his head around it. We try not to waste water. We try not to waste electricity. And we work very hard not to waste any food. If we put it on our plate, we eat it. At least that's the theory. We are working on the implementation. 

All this got me thinking about 'bal tashchit'- a really nice Jewish concept that addresses waste. (Don't feel like you have to try and pronounce that one!) 
The prohibition against waste has its origins in wartime-- when it was common practice for armies to slash and burn orchards, trees and the fields of their enemies in an effort to intimidate them. That was considered a big no-no even when soldiers were fighting. In the modern vernacular the term bal tashchit is usually associated with not wasting food, water, natural resources, etc., and it's the bedrock of the modern-day environmental movement. 
The principle is definitely on my mind when I menu plan. I have to confess that it was sometimes a bit difficult for me to use all of the produce I got when I was in a CSA (I was getting what seemed like a hundred kohlrabi bulbs and/or garlic scapes at a time), but this year I've gotten a pretty good handle on it...but it's always a work in progress.
Okay, where was I? Right. Beet Ravioli.

Time is precious during the day so I roasted the beets the night before. I washed the beets, put them on some tin foil, drizzled them with olive oil and sprinkled them with a big pinch of salt and black pepper. Then I closed the foil and put them in the oven.
The roasting, which is completely hands-off time, took about 1 hour and 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Roast the beets until till they are fork-tender. I let the beets cool a bit before adding the remainder of the filling ingredients. Then I put the mixture in the fridge overnight.

Making the pasta dough was really simple. You make a well in the flour, mix the ingredients in by hand, and dust the dough ball with more flour. There is a 30 minute "rest" period, so factor that into your cooking plans. Other than that, rolling the pasta took me under 10 minutes, filling the ravioli was another 5-10 minutes, and I boiled them for 4 minutes. It's not super time consuming, but it does take a bit more time than say, a microwave TV dinner. But I think you'll agree, it's well worth it! Enjoy.
Casunsiei: Beet and Ricotta Ravioli
(Courtesy of Serious Eats, from Al di La, Brooklyn.)
(Approximate) Yield: 2-3 main course servings, 4 first-course/ appetizer portions. 

These are not huge portions, so definitely prepare a first course (summer salad) too.
For the filling:
2 large beets, roasted and peeled (I used 4 medium sized beets)
Bread crumbs, if necessary
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup thick whole milk ricotta, such as Calabro brand
5 ounces (1 1/4 sticks) melted butter
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 Parmigiano Reggiano
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
For the pasta:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
5 egg yolks and 1 whole egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon olive oil
pinch of Kosher salt.
Prepare the filling up to one day in advance: process beets pulse until finely chopped but not pureed. If the beets are seeping water, add a small amount of bread crumbs to soak up the liquid. Stir in eggs, ricotta, and 1/4 cup of the melted butter. Season (liberally) with salt and pepper.
In a wide shallow bowl, or directly on a flat work surface, create a well in the middle of the flour. Add the other ingredients into the well. Using your fingers, blend the wet ingredients and incorporate the flour by gradually working in the sides of the well.
When the dough comes together to form a solid mass, knead it for a few minutes on a well-floured surface. When it is smooth and firm, wrap it in plastic and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Dust a pasta roller and countertop with flour. Begin rolling out the dough, gradually setting the roller thinner and thinner until the dough very thin and uniform. (I started on setting #1 and ended on setting #6.)
Fill and seal the pasta with egg wash. Cut the pasta out into desired shapes. Cook in boiling water for about 4 minutes. Gently transfer cooked pasta onto a serving dish. Drizzle melted butter, grated cheese, and poppy seeds over the pasta and serve immediately. You can also dollop some fresh ricotta on top!

Bowls made by Wobbly Plates, by Brigitte Bouquet. I bought mine locally at Hazel & Dewey.

Market Bounty: Beet Carpaccio and Ginger-Lime Carrots

It's pretty much a given that I will spend at least one day on the weekend at a farmers market. The produce really can't be beat and there's also really tasty treats to be eaten. 
Last weekend my husband was in town (he travels back and forth between NYC and Denver until we figure out our next move, but one which will hopefully keep us near the Rocky Mountains). We decided to go to the big and always-crowded farmers market at Cherry Creek. It's a lot easier to keep track of the boys when there are 4 hands on deck.
There was tons of seasonal produce. I snagged a huge bunch of carrots and three kinds of beets (golden, red and chioggia) and while I didn't have a scale with me, I would approximate that I was shlepping about 15 pounds of produce around with me the rest of the day. Good bounty, indeed!
I also ate some fantastic pupusas. I had green chili & cheese, but there were tons of options including pinto and black bean & corn. They reminded me a lot of the ones I used to eat at the Brooklyn Flea...but without the hour-plus wait. Mine was topped with curtido (a fermented slaw) and a tomato-based sauced, plus a big dollop of avocado. Perfect.
We met up with some friends and hung around the market for about an hour. Then we ventured over to the 47th annual Greek Festival. More food, some dancing and lots of "Opa!" But that's a story for another post....
* * *
I use beets in soup (Lithuanian Borscht) and I've made my fair share of beet salads: Beets with Blood Oranges, Arugula and Macadamia Nuts, Beet and Apple Salad (with horseradish and pistachios), and Roasted Beets With Chiles, Ginger, Yogurt and Indian SpicesI try not to be too repetitive in my recipe selection, but I felt an intense desire to make another beet salad using the gorgeous vegetables I had just picked up at the market. I mean sometimes it's just hard to beat...beets. (Sorry, that was a bad one.) This time though I was making a salad without greens, and the beets were thinly sliced-- just like beef carpaccio, but with beets! The salad has goat cheese crumbles, but you can omit them if you are vegan or otherwise averse to dairy. I made a few modifications: I added the shallots to the vinaigrette in order to cut their bite a bit and I also made the salad with and without chives. I'm not convinced the chives added much. In contrast, the mint popped and it was an absolutely essential element to the dressing. 
I made a note below (see Preparation) about the time it took me to roast the beets. I also drizzled them with olive oil and sprinkled a bit of salt and pepper on top before putting them in the oven.
I think this is a super elegant presentation of beets with goat cheese. It's delicious too. 
Beet Carpaccio with Goat Cheese and Mint Vinaigrette (Courtesy of Bon Appetit, via Epicurious)
12 2-inch beets, trimmed
1 cup crumbled soft fresh goat cheese (about 5 ounces)
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1/3 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup walnut oil or olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
(Preparation follows)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil. Place beets on sheet (if using both light- and dark-colored beets, place them on separate sheets to prevent discoloration). Sprinkle beets lightly with water. Cover tightly with foil. Bake until beets are tender when pierced with fork, about 40 minutes. (Note: after 40 minutes on 350 degrees, my beets were not even close to being done. I turned the temperature up to 425 and kept them in for another 35 minutes. That did the trick.) Cool on sheet. Peel beets. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Place in resealable plastic bag; chill.)
Using cheese slicer or knife, slice beets very thinly. Slightly overlap slices on 6 plates, dividing equally. Sprinkle with cheese, then shallot, salt, and pepper. Whisk vinegar, mint, oil, and sugar in small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over beets. Sprinkle with chives.
* * *
Ginger-Lime Baby Carrots (Courtesy of Richard Blais for Food & Wine Magazine
{I'm re-posting this recipe, which I made last year. It's a simple baby carrot recipe. The carrots are so sweet--this is really the time to be making them.}  
Serves 4


24 baby carrots, tops trimmed to 2 inches
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
Pinch of cinnamon
1/2 cup chicken stock (I used vegetable)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon Sriracha
1 tablespoon furikake (see Note)

In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the carrots until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Drain the carrots.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil.  Add the carrots, ginger and cinnamon and cook over moderate heat, tossing occasionally, until the ginger is fragrant, about 3 minutes.  Add the chicken stock and boil over moderately high heat until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and let cool for 30 seconds.  Swirl in the butter, lime juice and Sriracha and season with salt.  Arrange the carrots on a platter and spoon the ginger-lime sauce on top.  (Sprinkle with the furikake and serve.)

NoteFurikake is available at Asian markets and many specialty food stores.  It is a mixture of dried and ground fish, sesame seeds and chopped seaweed.  I added a a few sesame seeds instead of making a pilgrimage to a Japanese market.