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.

spring time in denver's congress park (with asparagus-dill bisque)

It's been almost three months since we bought our home in the Congress Park neighborhood of Denver. Our house is historic; it was built the year Grover Cleveland was President and 4 years before the Spanish-American War- so it's old. At first we were nervous about things going wrong and being responsible for repairs- all of which I think is perfectly normal for home buyers of historic homes. But I've got to tell you, now that we’re settling into things, this house just feels right. I love the character, the details and the charm. We've also been working hard at making the space feel homey, which is a bit of a challenge considering the size. But we purchased a few good pieces of furniture and I scooped up some terrific finds at a vintage shop on the outskirts of town. I've also been diligently  scouring the antique/used stores on Colfax too. Slowly our pictures are getting framed and we've begun to hang mirrors and artwork on the walls. In short, the house is beginning to have our imprint. And that feels great... 

One of the things that I love about our neighborhood is its walkability factor. My husband and I own one car, so when he drives to work (usually 1 or 2 days a week) I've still got plenty to do. I can walk to Congress Park (which has a great public pool in the summer), and City Park (which has awesome free Jazz concerts in the summer), and the Botanic Gardens too. If my kids are well-behaved, I can also walk to the Museum of Nature & Science and the Zoo. 

The Shoppe (cupcakes) on Colfax

There are tons of great places to eat close by-- cupcake shops, taco shops, speciality bakeries, Ethiopian food, sushi, Greek restaurants, music venues, wine bars, the Tattered Cover bookstore, an independent movie theater, bistro-style cafes, a bicycle shop that carries Dutch cruisers, a few independent coffee shops, a yarn store, and the a weekly farmers market on Sunday (etc. etc.). In other words, there's a lot going on.

I've met a lot of my neighbors and our kids all play together outside. And in addition to the families in our neighborhood, there are also lots of artists, chefs, designers, musicians and gardeners. It's really a great mix of everything...that's why we like it so much. I'm happy to say, that after a long and winding road to home ownership and stability, Congress Park feels like home...

The architectural mix includes (primarily) 1890s-early 1900s Denver Squares, turn of the century Victorians, and early craftsman (American bungalows). There are some deco buildings from the 1920s and 30s as well, and a few row houses are scattered throughout the neighborhood too. But unlike this Denver neighborhood, there aren't many modern structures in our part of town. Congress Park also has some pretty spectacular mansions as you head toward 8th Avenue and over into Country Club. And this (below) former fire station has since been converted into a family home. It's awesome!

Pinche Taco, amazing happy hour and...tacos. (Colfax)

East High School, built in 1921

Fat Sully's, Atomic Cowboy and the Denver Biscuit Company, all under one roof on Colfax. 

Glaze's Mini Baum Cakes: layers of lemon cake with limoncello glaze  and strawberry mousse. Their baum bites with green tea and white chocolate is also amazing. Congress Park, Madison off 12th Avenue.

* * *

And a spring time soup...
Asaparagus Bisque with Fresh Dill (Courtesy of Anna Thomas, Love Soup)
1 1/4 lbs. green asparagus
2 medium leeks
1 large fennel bulb
zest+juice of a lemon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (you could substitute with olive oil)
3 tablespoons arborio rice 
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
2 1/2 cups light vegetable broth
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh dill, plus more to taste
white pepper (I used black)
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)
Using a vegetable peeler or sharp knife, thinly peel the bottom 2 or 3 inches of the asparagus stalks, then snap off the toughest bits at the bottoms (peeling the bottoms first allows you to keep much more of the stalk.) Cut the stalks into 1-inch pieces; you should have about 4 cups.
Wash the leeks and chop the white and light green parts only. Trim, wash, and chop the fennel bulb. Grate the zest of the lemon, making sure to get only the yellow and none of the white pith.
Melt the butter in a large skillet or soup pot and cook the leeks over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until they are soft and begin to take on a hint of color. Add the asparagus, fennel, lemon zest, rice, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer uncovered for about half an hour, or until all the vegetables are tender.
Add 2 cups of vegetable broth, the dill, and a pinch of each pepper and cayenne.
Puree the soup in a blender, in batches, until it is perfectly smooth. (I usually use an immersion blender for pureed soups, but asparagus is fibrous, so you might want to use that blender in order to get it really smooth.) Add broth if the soup seems too thick. Return the pureed soup to a clean pot and stir in a couple of teaspoons of fresh lemon juice, more if you like. Bring the soup back to a simmer, taste it ,and season with tiny amounts of pepper, and more salt if needed. Stir in 2-3 tablespoons of cream if you are making the asparagus a bisque (or more precisely a "cream soup" as traditionally bisque refers to smooth, cream soups, based on a broth from crustaceans).
Ladle and enjoy!