Heavenly Chicken

The Great Chicken in the Sky

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The height of my religiousness peaked at 12 years old, right about the time my favorite chicken got mauled by a fox. Back then, going to church and praying was as much a part of my Catholic school curriculum as social studies. I wasn’t a fan of either.

The night the fox attacked my Brahma hen Tweety, I decided it was time to use my super duper prayer training skills to convince God that Tweety should survive the night. It never occurred to me that God might have more important things to do than salvage some weird little girl’s pet chicken, but rationality wasn’t one of my stronger points. So, I stayed up the entire night, praying to God through a mess of tears and snot.

As much as I begged him to work a modern miracle and heal all of my bird’s wounds, Tweety did not recover. I still had to go to school the next morning and give the bad news to my best friend Tessa. I told her that the bird she and I had spent so many hours giving chicken manicures to had, in fact, died. I pretended that I forgave God for not making my chicken a priority over world hunger and global poverty.… Read the rest

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A FEAST WITH BEASTS

Oxen Make Great Dates at Shaker Village Dinner

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“The peaches in this vodka better be free range and grass fed,” I said to the man behind the picnic table, laughing at my own joke. He chuckled and handed me an ice-cold glass of local organic peach-lemonade vodka from the outdoor tablecloth-covered bar. I took a sip. The drink was a perfect end-of-summer concoction, and a mix so delicious, God himself might be serving the same exact thing in Heaven. It was September 2013 and I had been asked by Edible Berkshires to have dinner and give my editorial opinion about dinner in a field!

I stood on the grass outside Hancock Shaker Village and watched the crowds of people gathered near the long, narrow dinner table centered in the Shaker gardens for the renowned Outstanding in the Field (OITF) Farm to Table Dinner. Within an hour, over 100 guests would be served some of the highest-quality local food from surrounding farms by top local Chef Brian Alberg of the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge.

The event was said to be run like a culinary circus, a group of people traveling the country on a bus, organizing, hosting and setting up the tables and chairs for each dinner.… Read the rest

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Hive Talkin’

Help honeybees, help us

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Photo courtesy of Mars Vilaubi, photo editor, Story Publishing

Ask anyone who visits—Berkshire County is one of the most gorgeous places on the planet. With rolling hills, unmatchable foliage, flowers of all shapes and sizes and deliciously homegrown and raised foods, we can surely appreciate all that this area has to offer.

But many of us are unaware of a critical element that produces much of the beauty of this land. That small, yet incredibly important, ingredient is honeybees.

Bees are an essential part of our ecosystems. They play a vital role in pollinating plants that bear many of the fruits and vegetables that we consume on a daily basis, such as apples, cucumbers, onions and pumpkins, to name just a few. And as insect foragers, they not only help keep our ecosystem running properly, but also produce delectable honey and beeswax that offer many benefits from health to beauty.

Without bees pollinating plants, farm stands would become sparse and the landscapes around us bare. And as the demand for locally grown produce increases, the smaller amount available would be much more expensive. Even more alarming is that if we continue to treat the plants and ecosystem around us with disrespect, we may see this future sooner than many anticipate.… Read the rest

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Dare to Pair

A Few Guidelines Help You
Match Foods With Wines

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By Alexander LaScala

After what feels like an eternity, winter has finally come to an end. The snow has melted, the ice has thawed and we can once again emerge from our shelters and enjoy the warmth and sunlight.

It is the time of year when you may be hosting or attending barbecues, graduation parties or other social gatherings. Whatever the event, the chances are good that a grill is being fired up. No party is truly complete without food, laughter and the appropriate wine(s) for the occasion. Wine and food have always gone handin- hand, but what wines should you pick for your summer festivities?

First things first: One of the most important rules to keep in mind it to match power with power. That means balance the weight and boldness of the food with the weight and boldness of the wine it is coupled with. Trying to pair a hefty grilled steak with a delicate Italian Pinot Grigio is a recipe for failure. Something like a fuller Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon would be much more complementary.

The best way to determine the weight of a wine is to compare the way it feels inside your mouth with water, 2% milk and whole milk.… Read the rest

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Kids at the School and Goats in the Woods

Pine Cobble provides food for all

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What do an early-childhood school, a hardworking farmer, a few college students and a very creative chef have in common?

The surprising answer is “goats”! The more detailed answer is love for what they are doing, passion for food and its sources, concern about our environment and enthusiasm for innovative education.

On April 25 I attended an event described as “Goats in the Woods—Collaboration Connects Sustainable Farming Practices with Unique and Exciting Cuisine. Goats in the Woods, a community celebration sponsored by Williams College Sustainable Food & Agriculture Program. Pine Cobble School in Williamston, Wild Oats Market in Williamstown and Black Queen Angus Farm in Berlin, NY.”

The 20-acre campus looked like such a cool place that for a moment I wished to be a child again. Said Sue Wells, the head of school, “It is a place where children can be children and thrive in variety of ways”.

Part of the schoolyard is a two and a half acre woods. A woodland needs care, and although the philosophy of Pine Cobble is hands-on, weeding is too big a task for most of their students; the school starts at prekindergarten. Hiring a grounds manager was not in the budget.… Read the rest

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What’s Behind the Wheel?

Not Your Great-Grandfather’s Cheese

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Berkshire Blue Cheese

Berkshire farm-based cheesemaking operations in 1849 produced over one million pounds of cheese annually. Cheese-producing farms in Berkshire County dotted the map from north to south and spilled over the Massachusetts state line into Litchfield County, after which the region’s signature cheese was named.

Litchfield Cheese was based on English Cheddar, a hard and acidic milled-curd cheese with a crumbly texture.

Farm-based artisans in New York and New England led the country in cheese production and export in the mid-19th century by producing large quantities of English-inspired milled-curd cheese. Berkshire cheesemakers produce far less today, but the diversity of their cheeses is greater.

Today, three commercial cheesemakers in Berkshire County produce five cheese styles based on unique processes. Susan Sellew at Rawson Brook Farm in Monterey started making fresh goat milk cheese with her mostly American Alpine herd in 1984. Berkshire Blue Cheese in Great Barrington, made with rich Jersey cow milk, dates to 1998. Cricket Creek Farm began milking its Williamstown herd of Brown Swiss cows in 2004 to produce tomme-style, washed-rind, bloomyrind and fresh cheeses.

Whereas cheesemaking in the past was regionally uniform, the county’s current cheesemakers use distinctly different processes in practicing their craft.… Read the rest

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Rx for Salmon on the Grill

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What does your doctor eat? Maybe that’s why she or he is always well.

Andrew Potler, a doctor of internal medicine at East Mountain Medical Associates, Great Barrington, was kind enough to share what he enjoys grilling on a perfect summer’s day. Dr. Potler attributes this recipe to Gourmet magazine, around eight years ago.

It’s been a winner with his family ever since.

Edible Berkshires test kitchen tried this recipe using swordfish as well as salmon. The results were equally good, especially since swordfish is always wild. No need to worry about the skin side with swordfish; it will be flesh on both sides. The swordfish may require adding an additional 2 minutes on each side due to the thickness of the fillet.

To accompany our fish we grilled a variety of seasonal vegetables: zucchini, sweet peppers, snap peas. Just lightly coat them with olive oil. After you have turned the fish over, place the veggies on the grill, watching to avoid burning. When serving, put a dollop of lime-butter sauce on the vegetables as well.

You will have lime-butter sauce left over. It will keep in the refrigerator for weeks and can be used on just about any meat or certainly any vegetables you prepare.… Read the rest

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GRILLING PIZZA!

A wood fire in a covered Kettle grill,
adds a distinct smoke flavor.

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By Paul Masiero
Owner and chef , Baba Louie’s

Grilling pizza is a great way to introduce some new flavor to any pizza you love. Your grill, as long as it has a cover, can give you the same results as an oven, which is perfect in the summer: heat when you need it, but not in your home. Preheat your grill and get it good and hot. If using charcoal or wood, let it burn down to glowing white embers, avoiding direct flames, which will cause the pizza crust to burn before it has a chance to cook. If using gas, heat to 500°. In all cases keep the grill covered.

RECIPE

GRILLED PIZZARead the rest

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SURE-FIRE GRILLING

Take the Party (and the Heat) Outside

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My mom has been telling me since I was old enough to complain (which was pretty much at birth) that when she was growing up, no one had air conditioning. People went outside and did stuff as a family and didn’t spend their summer days in the climate-controlled comforts of their living rooms, watching television.

Well, like a lot of people in the Berkshires, my house doesn’t have AC. Ironically, my mom refuses to visit me in the summer. “It’s too hot,” she says, as she turns on “CSI: Miami, New York, Las Vegas.”

I can’t argue with her. It does get hot, especially in the kitchen and, except for maybe frying up an egg in the morning I refuse to turn on the oven or stove in the summer. That means that my culinary attentions shift from baked goods and oven roasting strictly to the open flame of the grill. And, with a vegetable garden giving me delicious, fresh, plentiful produce, I have learned that you can grill just about anything—and it’s delicious.

When it comes to grilling vegetables, there are a number of techniques at your disposal. Lets start with the basics: olive oil, salt and pepper.… Read the rest

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Dirt Cheap?

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Left to right: Bob Bernstein; 60 acres of Reality

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Left to right: Marbury and Steph preparing for market; everything old is used, not just Bob.

From the beginning there has been a sense of “If you build it, they will come” around the Copake Agricultural Center. Two hundred acres of prime farmland now home to five young farmers, housing, barns and a greenhouse, all on the flats of Copake— where a few years ago a housing development had been proposed but roundly rejected by the town.

It all came together in less than two years; 18 proposals from throughout the Northeast were winnowed down to yield three new farms.

Yet the process was by no means easy, or clearly destined for success. At one meeting of investors this year most of the questions had been spinning around where things could go wrong. Then a question from Ed Herrington, owner of Herrington’s Lumber, shifted the focus from fearing the negative to expecting the positive.

“But what if it works?” he asked simply, and for Director Bob Bernstein, the question cut through the background noise and dispelled any lingering doubts.

Copake is a hamlet ready for new life. Over the past few decades, economic downturns and a series of arsons changed the face, if not the heart, of this once-thriving farm and summer community.… Read the rest

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