Archive | Fall 2014

Decadent Chocolate Beet Cake


This cake will knock your socks off—it’s delicious, moist and sinfully good! The beets not only add moisture, but a bit of a healthy kick, so there’s no reason that you shouldn’t have a minimum of two pieces, or three, or four… Since the cake is so rich, I love to top it with a thin ganache, almost like a chocolate sauce.

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup dark cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup almond milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup canola oil
1 cup puréed beets*
1 (13½-ounce) can coconut milk
¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

* To make puréed beets: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 3 cups of peeled beets that have been sliced into ¼-inch-thick rounds. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, until the beets are fork tender. Remove the beets to a food processor and purée on high until no lumps remain, about 5 minutes.

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Grease a 9- by 13-inch brownie pan or a 9-inch round cake pan, 3 inches deep. Set aside.
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Sautéed Beet Greens


Whenever I cook vegetables, I try to use the entire plant. It’s become a habit of mine to use everything from the root to the greens. Even when I can’t cook with something like the peel of an onion or the vine of a tomato, I stick it in a freezer bag and pop it in the freezer until I can make a big batch of homemade vegetable stock. After that, to the compost it goes for use in next year’s garden. Trim off the roots of your beets, thoroughly rinse off the dirt and add the roots to your freezer bag.

I don’t think that people realize how delicious beet greens are and tend to toss them out. Don’t do that! Sauté those down with this simple recipe that lets the greens’ flavor really shine.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, sliced
6 cups beet tender stems and greens, hard stems removed (reserved for stock), roughly
    chopped (about the amount of greens included in 2 bunches of beets)
¼ cup water or vegetable stock
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
¼ cup walnuts, roughly chopped

  1. In a large sauté pan, warm the olive oil over medium heat and add the garlic.
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Bright Pink Beet Pesto with Fettuccini

Photo by Mathew LaBombard

This is one of those dishes that seems to be a constant confusion when people are eating it—but all in a good way, of course! Instead of the typical green pesto, this is bright pink. And although it looks like a heavy dish, the flavors are fresh and light. The basil and walnuts bring out the traditional pesto taste and the beets add richness to the dish—reminiscent of a decadent Alfredo sauce. Topped with fresh basil, a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkling of kosher salt, this is healthy, luxurious eating at its best.

3 cups beets, peeled and sliced into
¼-inch-thick rounds
1 cup toasted walnuts*
1½ tablespoons lemon zest
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
¾ cup fresh basil leaves, plus more leaves for garnish
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon plus 3 tablespoons kosher salt
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound dried fettuccini

* Toasted walnuts elevate the nuttiness and add decadence to this sauce. To toast walnuts, place whole walnuts into a dry sauté pan and turn heat to medium. Stir the walnuts frequently to avoid any burning, toast for about 5 minutes, until you can smell a strong nutty aroma in the air.… Read the rest

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Quick Pickled Beets and Onions

Photo by Mathew LaBombard

This is such an easy and delicious way to enjoy beets. Of course, you can buy pickled beets at the store, but they’re so easy to make with ingredients that you probably already have on hand that there’s no sense in spending money for the jarred version. I love to serve these with toasted bread, grainy mustard, garden carrots and cured olives. On a cool, crisp day, there’s nothing better than enjoying these by a fire with a nice glass of wine (and maybe do it while wearing sweatpants!).

2 cups beets, peeled and sliced into ¼-inch-thick rounds
1 onion, sliced into ¼-inch-thick rounds
3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped, plus more leaves for garnish
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cups water
½ cup distilled white vinegar
½ cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons agave nectar (if you can’t find agave you can use sugar or honey)

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the beet rounds. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes or until the beets are just barely fork tender.
  2. Remove the beets from the water and allow to cool.
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Out Beating the Beet

When the Beets Go On
(and On and On), Get Creative


Autumn boasts a bounty of fresh and delicious vegetables and when farmers’ markets are overflowing with produce, I can’t stop myself from purchasing in bulk. I’m like a kid in a candy store, and nothing gets me quite as excited as the humble beet.

I love finding it sitting quietly in the corner of the market, removed from the popular picks of corn, apples, squash and kale. I love its humility, with dirt and roots still intact, as if it has nothing to prove, although when cooked correctly, there’s barely anything that this little veggie can’t do.

While you won’t find a bigger enthusiast for this diverse food, after a week or so of beet binging I find myself ready to move on to the next vegetable. So this year I decided to shake up my cooking repertoire and instead of eating beets every day for a week or two, I dished up one delicious meal, chock full of beet goodness, that would satisfy my beet craving and leave me happily content with my beet intake (that is, until my next trip to the market).

From appetizer to dessert, I pickled, boiled, puréed, sautéed and baked beets into one delicious and healthy meal.… Read the rest

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Gideon’s Garden Grows Veggies and Young Gardeners

Above: Diego and Annya

By Pennie Curry

How many of our Berkshire neighbors know about a garden that grows beautiful, healthy vegetables; grows confidence in the youth who work in that garden; grows in the number of families that receive food from the garden and most of all grows respect for the land with every hand that touches the soil?

The name of this garden is Gideon’s Garden, maintained by Berkshire youth who donate their time to grow food for others who need help putting healthy meals on their tables. Gideon’s Garden is located across Division Street from Taft Farms. The garden was initiated in 2009 by five young people: Garrett, Jackson, Dori, Diania and her sister

Caroline, all members of St. James Church. The youth wanted a project of their own where they could help their neighbors in the community.

Dan and Martha Tawczynski, owners of Taft Farms, were asked if they would donate a small piece of land for the youth to try to grow some vegetables to give to families in need. Dan offered a small piece, provided if he saw they were taking good care of the land and following through with their commitment.

Avery and Cori making the garden grow with Kyle
and Stethanie harvesting the bounty

The garden started with a third of an acre and five years later has grown to a two-acre garden supervised by 16-year-old Kyle Gangell, a student at Monument High School.… Read the rest

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Slicing Ricotta

Berkshire Fall Salad with Whole Milk Slicing Ricotta

Brent Wasser manages the Sustainable Food & Agriculture Program at Williams College. He believes that food literacy is an important part of a college education. He has created a curriculum that educates students about agricultural systems, cooking, food ethics, food justice and food appreciation in workshops, lectures and field trips. Brent’s book, The Cheese Professional: A Guide to Understanding, Selecting and Serving Cheese, will be published by Wiley at the end of this year.

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Berkshire Fall Salad With Whole Milk Slicing Ricotta

A fall-in-love local sourced salad

The fall harvest offers a rush of amazing produce in Berkshire County. All the major ingredients for this simple salad are available from area farms. Woven Roots Farm in Tyringham and Square Roots Farm in Lanesborough are good sources for produce, while Moon in the Pond Farm in Sheffield and Berkshire Wildflower Honey in New Marlborough offer honey.

3 pounds heirloom tomatoes, mixed varieties
2 medium-sized slicing cucumber
1 red or orange bell pepper
½ pound whole milk slicing ricotta made from this recipe
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
¼ cup wildflower honey
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon salt

  1. Dice the tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper and cheese into ½-inch cubes.
  2. Add the chopped herbs and mix the salad gently.
  3. Put the honey, vinegar, oil, black pepper and salt in a closed 1-quart jar and shake until blended.
  4. Dress the salad and serve at room temperature.
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Slicing ricotta

Left: Separating the curds from the whey; Right: Voilà, firm whole milk ricotta

This is an easy cheese you can make at home. Start with good-quality whole cow’s milk such as Cricket Creek Farm’s raw Brown Swiss milk or Leahey Farm’s or High Lawn Farm’s pasteurized Jersey milk.

You will need:

1 gallon whole cow’s milk
2 cups white vinegar
Rinsed cheesecloth
1-gallon colander
2 tablespoons kosher flake salt, as desired

  1. Heat the milk to 180°F, stirring gently but constantly. Once the milk reaches this temperature, turn off the heat and stop stirring. Pour 1 cup of white vinegar into the milk and wait 1 minute. Observe the formation of the curd, which will collect like fluffy white pillows. If the milk is still white and opaque, add more vinegar, up to 1 additional cup. Ideally, the liquid surrounding the curd should be translucent and have a green-yellow color. Allow the curd to form for another 5 minutes, without stirring.
  2. Line a 1-gallon colander with wet cheesecloth. If the cheesecloth is thin with many holes, fold it over so that there are 3 layers. If the cheesecloth is finely woven, use only 1 layer of it to line the colander. Put the colander in the sink.
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Preserving the Past: Truly an Art Form

 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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