Author Archive | Carole Murko

The Happy Diet

Embracing Eating as a Spiritual Act
Makes All the Difference

theHappyDiet
Burdock root, daikon radish, mung bean sprouts, ginger, carrot, all available organic, GMO free. Guido’s, G.B.

I know: Food is love. Food is nourishment. I pride myself on cooking for and nourishing my family and friends.

What I learned while doing a 21-day restorative cleanse with local herbalist, private chef and healer Nancy Lee changed my life. No kidding!

How, you ask? It started with a couple of simple principles:

  1. Chew your food.
  2. Thank your food.

Your next question is, “Didn’t you already know that?”

And I would agree with you. Of course I thought I knew these things! After all, food has always been the centerpiece of my existence. I am half Italian. It’s what we talk about. What’s for breakfast? What’s for lunch? What are you cooking for dinner? We always ate together as a family. Everything was cooked from scratch with the finest of ingredients.

Growing up we had a garden and now, solidly in adulthood, I have my own. Food and family were so central to my being that I created Heirloom Meals—a storytelling platform to share our connection with family recipes, heritage, stories and tips. I felt a yearning, a beckoning to return to my roots—to cook the foods that my ancestors ate, or at least the ones that I remember my grandparents eating and making.… Read the rest

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Cleansing Green Juice for Two

cleansingGreenJuice
Morning green juice, kale, celery, carrots and ginger. Riverbend Café, G.B.

2 large Granny Smith apples
4–5 celery stalks
5–6 carrot sticks
¼-½ bunch parsley
1 nub of ginger

Clean all with a vegetable brush. Do not peel. Process in a juicer according to your juicer’s instructions. Drink up and feel the healing power of the nutrients being absorbed right into your body.

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Preserving the Past: Truly an Art Form

preservePast
 Inspired by age—the abandoned past.

Helga S. Orthofer understood that
these preserves … represented the
history of the house and the family
that resided there for generations.

There they sit in a cupboard all to themselves: jars and jars and jars of preserves—peach, blackberry, strawberry, you name it. Their age is unknown, possibly 100 years old, more or less.

What tale do they have to tell? Who picked the fruit and then lovingly preserved and stored them in this ancient basement?

Many new owners of an antique home would toss out the jars and strip the space bare to create a new, modern one. After all, the preserves will never be eaten. But Helga S. Orthofer understood that these preserves were the ghosts of East Street in Stockbridge. They represented the history of the house and the family that resided there for generations. And they would become one of her subjects and her inspiration.

Helga is a still life painter. She is known to imbue inanimate objects with personality and character. It’s her eye. It’s her talent. Her childhood and upbringing held hints that Helga would become both a great fine artist and also an amazing culinary artist.

Helga was born in Vienna, Austria, and spent most of her formative years at her grandfather’s house on the Semmering.… Read the rest

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Heirloom Family Favorite: It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Manicotti

heirloomFamManicotti

Courtesy of Chef Carol Murko
Heirloom Meals

When I think of the Christmas season there is one recipe that comes to mind: manicotti!

This tradition has been handed down from my great-grandmother to my grandmother to my mother to me. This is the essence of heirloom meals: recipes passed down through the generations—always savoring yesterday’s traditions today. This was my Nana’s signature dish, and we always had it as the pasta course of our Christmas dinner.

The funny thing about manicotti is its pronunciation. For those who speak phonetically, it is man-uh-COTT-ee. When I was little I pronounced it “mon-uh-GUT” (pronounced in American Italian) like my family did. Most of my friends had a quizzical look on their faces. So I have gotten into the habit of saying it twice—like Jimmy Two-Times from Goodfellas. mon-uh-GUT (MANICOTTI)—get it?

I am sure most of you have had manicotti but may be thinking large tubular noodle stuffed with ricotta (pronounced Italian-style: rick-COTE-uh). Well, my family recipe will transform your idea of manicotti forever! This is our recipe for heavenly light crepes: Fill them with luscious ricotta filling and finish with some sauce—the best!

HeirloomMeals.com

Carole Murko is a home cook, writer and host of “Radio Heirloom Meals” on Robin Hood Radio (NPR) at 91.5 FM in Sharon, Connecticut.… Read the rest

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IT AIN’T MEATBALLS AND POTATOES

Italian Wedding Soup According to Carole Murko

soupIt’s that time of year again when the cooler weather triggers that yearning for foods that warm our souls. I had a craving for Italian Wedding Soup. Maybe because my friend Andre Pupek, who I had just met with, is getting married to an Italian. Or maybe because, it’s true comfort food.

Whatever the reason, I have reinterpreted it to suit the ingredients I had on hand and to satisfy some food allergies and sensitivities. This soup is traditionally made with beef meatballs, chicken stock, vegetables and tubettini pasta.

In my house growing up, Italian Wedding Soup was called meatball soup. It wasn’t until I went to an Italian restaurant with my parents as a teenager that I learned it was actually called Italian Wedding Soup. I imagined that it got its name because it was served as a first course at many Italian weddings. Recently, at a lecture on cultural cookbooks, I learned that Italian Wedding Soup is a misnomer. In Italian, it is called “minestra maritata”—meaning married soup. However, this refers to the ingredients: the marriage between the meat and the vegetables in the soup.

After taking their first slurp, my family’s first comment was “Did you put sugar in it?” To which I responded, “No, silly, it’s the parsnips!”

I made it with turkey meatballs because I have eliminated beef due to some stomach issues and there’s no pasta in it because my husband Jim has celiac disease.… Read the rest

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Soup

soup2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped
4–5 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
5–6 parsnips, peeled and coarsely chopped
4–5 celery stalks, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup white wine
2½ quarts chicken stock
6 cups kale, chopped

In a soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, parsnips, celery and garlic, sauté for 5–10 minutes, until onions are soft and veggies are a little golden. Add the white wine and cook for a few minutes and then add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil and then simmer over medium heat. Add the kale. While that’s simmering, make your meatballs.

Meatballs

2 pounds ground turkey
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
1 egg
½ cup Pecorino Romano cheese
½ cup gluten-free breadcrumbs (or regular breadcrumbs, if you can eat them!)
Garlic powder to taste
Sea salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Olive oil

Mix all ingredients together. Form into small or medium meatballs. Coat bottom of skillet with olive oil and cook over medium-high heat. Add meatballs, turning occasionally to golden brown on all sides and cooked through. Plop into soup. Serve and enjoy!

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The Alta Boy s on Church Street

A French love affair with the Berkshires

theAltaBoys

Imagine the synchronicity of two young men, both French, both trained in the hospitality industry, coming to the Berkshires and falling in love. In love with the zeitgeist, the landscape, the people and their future wives. Meet Aurelien Telle and Stephane Ferioli—owners of Alta, a restaurant and wine bar in Lenox, Massachusetts.

Aurelien grew up in Thonon-les-Bains in the Rhône-Alps region of France, where the scenic beauty, wines and local food are unparalleled. Except, according to Aurelien, in the Berkshires. The activities he enjoyed in the French countryside, he says, “swimming, hiking, skiing—are all available here in the Berkshires. I am a country boy at heart.”

Stephane grew up in nearby Ferney-Voltaire, a town known for its famous writer and philosopher Voltaire, as well as for its Saturday market. Stephane, however is not 100% French. His dad is an Italian from Bologna. Stephane exclaims in his delightful accent, “I live the American, French and Italian way. Eating is very important, in particular, our Sunday lunch—a family gathering where we sit and dine for three hours. This is a tradition I won’t give up!”

While not at the same time, both Aurelien and Stephane attended France’s oldest culinary and hospitality school, the Ecole Hoteliere Thonon-les-Bains.… Read the rest

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The Mighty Asparagus

mightyAsp
Photos by Carole Murko

Suddenly, unannounced, tiny green nubs appear in the garden. Juxtaposed to the garlic, which so teasingly reveals itself early as a hint of the harvest to come mid-summer, the asparagus nub promises the first outdoor-grown green vegetable of the season.

So it’s no wonder that across much of northern Europe and in American towns including Stockton, California, and Hart, Michigan, the asparagus harvest is celebrated with weeklong festivals, parties and competitions. In the northern hemisphere, a freshly harvested local green vegetable is worth celebrating after a long winter of root vegetables and hearty fare.

In an era of instant gratification, growing asparagus takes perspective. After all, you have to be willing to forgo the first two years of harvests before enjoying the fruits of your labor. Many gardeners choose to skip the opportunity to grow asparagus because of that commitment of soil for one to two years. But, as years slip by, it is clear that one to two years is nothing compared to the joy of cultivating your very own asparagus. There is something permanent about growing asparagus. It is a commitment, an acceptance of planting your own roots and staying for a while.

Asparagus is a member of the lily family.… Read the rest

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aspPolonaise

Asparagus Polonaise

aspPolonaise2

In a worn steel pan with black handle, my mom would boil the water for the asparagus. Curiously, there were always 2 lone eggs in the pan while the water was coming up to a boil. The eggs were then joined by the asparagus. I was always fascinated by the eggs and asparagus rolling around in the pan together. Still am. I now know how clever my mom was to complete 2 tasks at once and save herself from needing to wash another pan.

  • 2 pounds asparagus
  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs (I use glutenfree)
  • 2 eggs, hardboiled and pressed through a fine stainless steel sieve
  • ½ cup parsley, chopped or snipped
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice

Steam asparagus until tender. Mix the butter, breadcrumbs, eggs, parsley and lemon juice together. Place asparagus in baking pan, sprinkle egg mixture on top and broil until golden (around 7 minutes).

aspPolonaise

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Hollandaise Sauce

While I found this recipe handwritten in my recipe book, I cannot be certain of its provenance. I researched hollandaise recipes, and this pretty much shows up as the standard recipe. So credit goes to— the 16th century Dutch!

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1½ tablespoons lemon juice, or more to taste, freshly squeezed
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
  • 1¼ sticks unsalted butter, melted
  • Salt and white pepper, to taste

In a 6-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan, vigorously whisk the egg yolks until they are thick and pale yellow. Whisk in the lemon juice and add 2 tablespoons of the cold butter. (According to Julia Child this acts as anti-curdling insurance.) Place the saucepan over low heat, whisking constantly until the yolks have thickened and you can see the bottom of the pan between whips. Remove from heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of cold butter.

Now, begin to add the melted butter. Continue constantly whisking while slowly drizzling in the butter so it is fully incorporated. Add salt and pepper and enjoy over freshly steamed asparagus.

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