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

Orecchiette with Lentils, Onions and Spinach

I've been feeling pretty emotional about our impending move. We are leaving our family and a wonderful circle of friends. It's going to be tough. And yes, I've shed quite a few tears over the last few days. That said, the time has really come for us to move to a city that is more suitable for our family of 5 (I'm including the elderly Rottweiler in this count).   
For five generations my ancestors have made New York City their home. The original pioneers left Europe and came through Ellis Island well over a century ago. My great-grandparents lived in Manhattan, my grandmother grew up in the tenements on East Broadway (long destroyed) and my grandfather grew up in Harlem.  In the 1940's a good chunk of my mother's family crossed the East River (Harlem River) and settled on the Grand Concourse (fun fact: the concourse has the second largest collection of Art Deco architecture in the United States).  
My parents moved to the Riverdale section of the city in the 1970's and I grew up on a beautiful tree-lined street. I took the 1 and now-defunct 9 train (plus the cross town bus) to high school on the Upper East Side , went to college in the village and most recently spent 7 years in Brooklyn. You can see that there's a lot of history here. Sure, a few family members moved to Los Angeles and Seattle in the 1950's (I think it was) but, for the most part, my people don't move west of the Hudson River...
Now we are picking up, heading west toward the Rockies and replanting ourselves in a new city with the hopes that we will provide an enjoyable childhood for our sons. We don't want to be on wait lists for public schools and we are tired of living in such close (albeit environmentally friendly) quarters. I mean it's time to move around in a space that exceeds 600 square feet.  I marvel that we've been able to function in such a small space for all this time. We don't need a mansion, just a little bit more room. Okay and maybe a yard. And decent schools. Some National Parks. Kayaking and white water rafting? Yes, please.  Maybe snowboarding or winter sports for the kids! 
In general we are looking for a less aggressive existence... because we don't believe that things really have to be so hard.  Fingers crossed!  
Anyway, the reason I mention this is because I need to start using up a lot of odds and ends in my pantry. I have left over French Lentils and Orecchiette, so I used google to figure out what I should make. This is what popped up.  
So, if you're making a big move and  looking to use some left over legumes and pasta this recipe is for you. If you are staying put and just want a dinner, I think this does the trick too. 
Bon Appetite! We will miss you (and you know who you are) so, so, so much. 
{In addition to my pantry items (lentils and pasta), I used a combination of fresh and organic frozen spinach and CSA onions and garlic.} 

Orecchiette with Lentils, Onions and Spinach (Courtesy of Gourmet Magazine by way of
Serves 6
1/3 cup olive oil
3 large onions (2 pounds total), thinly sliced (7 cups) 
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
1 cup French green lentils
1 pound orecchiette, fusilli, or penne
2 (5-ounce) bags baby spinach
1 1/2 ounces finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then stir in onions, garlic, salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Reduce heat to moderately low and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until onions are very tender and golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Discard bay leaf.
While onions cook, cover lentils with water by 1 inch in a 1 1/2- to 2-quart saucepan and boil over moderate heat, covered, until lentils are just tender and most of water is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and let stand, covered, until ready to use.
Cook pasta in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve 1 cup cooking water, then drain pasta in a colander and return pasta to pot.
Add onions, lentils, and spinach to pasta, then toss with just enough reserved cooking water to wilt spinach and moisten pasta.  Add cheese and salt and pepper to taste, tossing to combine.

Post Script: Follow-up on this dish: I had to add quite a bit more salt and pepper once everything was mixed. I also think that the lentils should have been rinsed before being added to the pasta. This recipe should be 'really good' and I thought it was just 'good.' Maybe some stock would help. I'm open to suggestions as I'd like to make this again. I like the combination of greens, beans and pasta-- this dish just needs a little kick. Maybe some red pepper flakes? That said, I wanted to post this pasta anyway.   I made it and so I feel like it should be documented. With a little tweaking I think it could be excellent. Happy cooking!