So Hot Right Now

Passover is almost here, but before I start sharing my growing stash of Pesach recipes, I need to talk about these spiced cauliflower muffins I became slightly obsessed with last month. I’d been looking for something interesting to bring to the Tot Shabbat potluck, and since Lilli was the cover girl in the article in the local paper about the program, I felt like I needed to bring it.

IMG_20170311_203129_909

This recipe taps into two hot food trends right now: cauliflower and turmeric. It seems 2016 was the year of the cauliflower, with recipes for its meaty “steaks” and cauliflower flatbreads. (More to come on those). But it was also the year of turmeric. I admit to being a little late to this one. My Aunt Bev brought my mom an enormous stash from her recent trip to Israel. She talked all about its healing properties, all of which I was completely unaware of. My only associations with turmeric up to that point had been stained clothes from Indian food. But then I started seeing recipes calling for it all over, and then the inevitable backlash as the wave crested. Sigh.

I made this recipe the very day I clipped it. It’s by the Israeli couple Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich, who helped Yotam Ottolenghi grow his empire and now run the bakery Honey & Co. in London. Their second cookbook Golden: Sweet and Savory Delights from the Ovens of London’s Honey & Co. reminded me that I have a sweet spot for Israeli-run bakeries, be it the Tatte empire in Boston, or Breads in New York City. The recipes, like the shops, are a mix of savory and sweet, with flavor touches like tahini and cardamom that I love.

This recipe is dead simple; no heavy equipment needed. Although the recipe calls for six enormous “trees” for six muffins, I used small florets and ended up with many more. The first time I baked these I used a mini muffin pan, and the batter was the perfect amount for all 24. I had more steamed cauliflower left after that batch, so I made a second round in regular-sized tins. That made nine perfect regularly-sized muffins.

20170202_211908

I ground the cumin and coriander seeds together in a spice grinder I picked up for $15 at Ocean State Job Lot a decade ago. I have the white pepper in the house specifically for hot and sour soup, so I was happy to finally have another use for it. I have seen turmeric everywhere from “international” stores, Whole Foods, and even Target. I have yet to find my pumpkin seeds since we moved, so I skipped them. The muffins were great without.

The muffin is this wonderful mix of warm spice and sweet, and then there’s the soft bite of cauliflower. I stored these in a plastic container on the counter but I have no idea how long they are good for because they fly pretty quickly when they’re around.

20170311_113707

Spiced Cauliflower Muffins from Golden: Sweet and Savory Baked Delights from the Ovens of London’s Honey & Co. by Itamar Srulovich & Sarit Packer.

1 small head of cauliflower
3 cups (700 grams/milliliters) water
1 teaspoon table salt

For the muffin batter
2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (175 grams) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (40 grams) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon table salt
A pinch of white pepper
4 eggs
5 ounces (150 grams) unsalted butter, melted

For topping (if you like)
3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
3 tablespoons grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese

1) Break the cauliflower into florets, making sure there are at least six large “trees.” (You will most likely have more than six; cook them all and save the unused florets to eat another time or use them for more muffins.) Put the water and salt in a large pan and boil the cauliflower in it until soft (this will take 5–10 minutes). Check to see whether it is done by inserting a knife tip into the stem; it should penetrate without resistance. Drain well and set side.

2) Preheat the oven to 375°F/350°F convection and butter six muffin molds. Mix all the dry ingredients for the batter together. Add the eggs and use a spoon or spatula to mix until combined, then slowly mix in the melted butter and fold until it has all been incorporated.

3) Place a spoonful of batter in the center of each mold and stand a whole floret stem-down in each. Cover with batter to fill the molds to the top. Mix the pumpkin seeds and cheese, if using, sprinkle on the muffins and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the tin and eat while still warm — they are best this way.

 

You Don’t Have to Take My Word for It

Do you ever come across a recipe that haunts you until you make it? It doesn’t happen to me that often, but it’s happened a few times in the past couple of weeks with one cookbook in particular, Diana Henry’s latest, Simple: Effortless Food, Big Flavors.

lilli-at-eric-carle-museum

The cookbook is outstanding, but with blurbs from Nigella Lawson and Yottam Ottolenghi, you don’t have to take my word for it. Henry seems like a pretty big deal in England: a weekly newspaper column, a broadcast on the BBC, and numerous awards, and I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve barely heard of her on this side of the ocean. Hopefully after this book she’ll become a household name, because it’s smashing.

img_20170301_180801_619

I’m posting these Persian-Inspired Eggs with Dates and Chili because it’s almost Purim and Mordechai, Esther, Achashverosh and Steve Bannon all live in Sushan, in the Kingdom of Persia. Diana says she first had a similar recipe in the Iranian food shop Persepolis in south London, served to her by the owner Sally Butcher. The café had it as a breakfast, but Diana added some greens and onions to it to make it into a more substantial lunch.

We had it for dinner last week when I felt pressed for time. I doubled the recipe and left out the chili, in hopes the girls would eat it. Bea had some, but Lilli was not keen on it. But the grown-ups loved it. It was easy to put together and just marvelous, even without the chili.

Persian-Inspired Eggs with Dates and Chili from Simple by Diana Henry

Ingredients

½ tablespoon olive oil

½ onion, finely sliced

½ teaspoon cumin seeds

¼ teaspoon chili flakes

Handful of baby spinach

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Salt and pepper

2 soft dates (such as Medjool), pitted and coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon coarsely chopped cilantro leaves

Greek yogurt and flatbread (pita), to serve (optional)

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a small skillet and add the onion. Cook over medium heat until it is golden and soft. Add the cumin and chili flakes and cook for another 30 seconds or so, then add the spinach. Keep turning the leaves over in the heat so they wilt and the moisture that comes out of them evaporates, then reduce the heat and add the eggs, seasoning and dates.

Cook quite gently, just as you would if you were making creamy scrambled eggs; the mixture should be soft set. Finally scatter the cilantro. Serve immediately, with a little yogurt on the side (if you’ve made quite a spicy plateful you’ll need it) and flatbread, if you want.

 

Close Enough

 

20160320_131010

I am a bad food blogger. Let me explain. Purim’s coming up, and as I’m assembling costumes (including a fairy dress that “needs to have buttons up the back”), I realized that I never told you about last Purim, when I snuck away after Carnival for a blogger event. It was for cookbook author and chef Sara Moulton, and it was at Harvest in Harvard Square. Turns out she got her start there, so this was a very special afternoon for her. She collaborated with Harvest’s Executive Chef Tyler Kinett on a very special menu inspired her new cookbook Sara Moulton’s Home Cooking 101: How to Make Everything Taste Better. (Well, new at the time. Like I said, bad food blogger.)

We started with a delicious Spring Pea Soup that had smoked salmon, crispy potatoes and crème fraiche on top, which was inspired by the Pea Vichyssoise with Smoked Salmon in the cookbook. Dessert was La Tulipe’s Apricot Souffle, which she adapted from her time at Gourmet Magazine (z’l). Sara actually called up someone to help her with the demo, but when I saw that the prepared menu in front of me said there was soufflé for dessert and she was holding up a whisk, I knew there was going to be an insane amount of egg whites being whipped – by hand – and I kind of hid my head as to not be noticed for that task. Someone did raise their hand to help out. I think it was a fashion blogger who didn’t see it coming, but she did a wonderful job of whisking, for nearly 10 minutes straight.

20160320_140934

 

I’m embarrassed to say I don’t remember what my actual main course was. According to the menu I saved, we had “Steak & Eggs,” which was “Braised Short Ribs, Poached Egg and Broccoli Rabe & Butterball Potatoes,” inspired by “Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs of Beef” in the book. But because I write a “mostly vegetarian food blog”, they knew to make an alternate dish for me. I’m a bit mortified to admit I can’t remember what they subbed for it. But I promise you, the soup and soufflé were so good, what came in the middle doesn’t really matter.

What did matter from that event was that Sara was darling and kind and warm and lovely. She is bite-size, super small, and her Converse All-Stars gave her no extra height. I told her how much her nacho pie recipe is enjoyed in our house, and she appreciated the sentiment, or at least seemed to.

The afternoon ended with each one of us receiving a signed copy of the cookbook, and I’ve enjoyed cooking from it these past 11 months. The Beans and Greens Gratin is just about perfect for this time of year. As Sara explains: “When you see the word gratin in the title of a recipe, it means that the dish is topped with a light brown crust usually consisting of baked breadcrumbs or grated cheese. […] Here I’ve combined two hearty ingredients: beans and greens.” It employs one of her favorite tricks for thickening bean-centric dishes, which is mashing some of them. And it works! It’s very hardy, and travels well the next day for lunch leftovers.

20170118_183635

I did a “close enough” version of this recently. It calls for fresh breadcrumbs, but since I’m still waiting for my replacement blade for my recalled food processor, I had to use Panko that I had. (Any time now, Cuisinart…)  I didn’t have fresh rosemary in the house, so I skipped it, and it was fine.

The recipe also survived me using a slightly smaller can of beans and a larger can of tomatoes, which is what I had on hand. I used a spoonful of Better Than Bouillon in 1 ½ cups water in lieu of Sara’s Homemade Vegetable Stock. Like I said, close enough.

Beans and Greens Gratin from Sara Moulton’s Home Cooking 101: How to Make Everything Taste Better

 Start to Finish: 1 Hour 15 Minutes/Hands-On Time: 40 Minutes/Servings 6

 Ingredients

1 ¼ cups fresh breadcrumbs (made by pulsing 2 to 3 slices homemade-style white bread in a food processor)

3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Kosher salt

1 cup finely chopped onion

1 Tablespoon finely minced garlic

2 Tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped

4 cups packed coarsely chopped chard, kale, mustard greens, collard leaves or a mix (tough stems removed)

2 cups cooked pinto, white, kidney, or black beans, or chickpeas; or rinsed and drained canned beans (a 19-ounce can)

1 ½ cups Homemade Vegetable Stock or store-bought vegetable broth

1 ½ ounces freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

1 cup chopped whole canned tomatoes

Freshly ground pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375F. Toss together the breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the pepper flakes and salt to taste in a small bowl.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally until golden, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and rosemary and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add the greens in batches and cook until they are wilted. Mash ½ cup of the beans with a potato masher or fork and add the mashed beans along with the whole beans, stock, cheese, tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the crumbs evenly on top of the mixture. Bake on the upper middle shelf of the oven until the crumbs are lightly browned and the beans are bubbling, 25 to 35 minutes.

 

It’s the End of the World As We Know It

And how’s everyone’s week going so far? Let’s see, at noon on Friday, January 20, I closed my computer, stepped away from my desk, and got my ears repierced. I realized I’d rather have someone insert large needles through my body than watch the end of American Democracy. I’m so sickened by what’s going on that I’ve laid low on all forms of news media since November. Off went my radio, television, and most news. I listen to Lite Rock and only read the local newspapers. I spend a lot of time on Pinterest – I owe you all photos of the girls’ play room.

20170109_180513

Rich needs to pay attention for work, but he’s been distracting himself with house décor as well, sifting through vintage shops around town. No, seriously, there are now five chairs in my living room. To make sure we get in a laugh every day, we watch an episode of My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend every night, now that it’s finally on Netflix.

Despite my best efforts, I’m still not missing much. If it’s important, it still floats to the top. I know about “alternative facts,” Bad(ass)lands Twitter, the muffling of the EPA — you know, the crumbling of American Democracy. I’m sure there’s even more, but I’m not going there.

I’ve also dug deep into my cookbooks as most of them had been boxed up since last May. The girls and I made cumin meringues, an old Ana Sortun recipe (I enjoyed them; my mother did not.) I delved into a really great cookbook my dad sent me for my birthday last year that was boxed up pretty much right after I received it. The New Mediterranean Jewish Table is actually pretty academic, as cookbooks go. There’s always background and history for each recipe, which I love.

And when I came to the mint vinaigrette that is “ubiquitous” in “Italy, Greece, Turkey, Morocco, and the countries of the Arab world,” I perked up immediately. This had to be the mint dressing they serve at Amanouz Cafe, the incredible Moroccan restaurant in town. Seriously, though. Aleza came for a visit, and we went here, and I made her eat my salad in hopes that she could pin down what exactly was in it. Well, it turns out she couldn’t, but agreed that it was very nice.

20170116_170713

There’s something sweet about it, and there’s some citrus to it, given all the lemon. As the author Joyce Goldstein explains, this dressing is “excellent on spinach salad, bean and grain salads, citrus salads, and on cooked carrots, beets, asparagus, and potatoes, and it can be delicious spooned over cooked fish.” In my own kitchen, I served it on a salad of spinach, pickled red cabbage (another Ana Sortun recipe), beets, carrots (I’m really into using a peeler for preparation these days), feta, green olives, cucumbers, and avocado.

You’ll need to make an infusion of mint and lemon juice, which honestly takes about 10 minutes, with most of that time hands off. Although the recipe says it will last two to three days, it will last a little longer than that. Just be sure to refrigerate it.

I’ll be back soon with many more recipes. The kitchen has been a great distraction, and we’re going to run out of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend episodes before the end of February.

Mint Vinaigrette from The New Mediterranean Jewish Table: Old World Recipes for the Modern Home by Joyce Goldstein

Ingredients

INFUSION

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

¼ cup chopped fresh mint

1 ¼ cups mild, fruity extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup red wine vinegar

2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

½ cup packed chopped fresh mint

1 teaspoon honey

½ teaspoon salt

Directions

To make the infusion, combine the lemon juice and mint in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat and remove from the heat. Let steep for about 10 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl, pressing against the mint to extract all of the liquid. You should have about ¼ cup. It will no longer be green because of the lemon juice, but it will be intensely minty.

To finish the vinaigrette, whisk the oil, vinegar, lemon juice, mint, honey and salt into the infusion. Leftover vinaigrette can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. Bring to room temperature, then whisk in a little fresh mint. Taste for salt and acidity and adjust if needed.

 

 

 

Sick Days

Sorry to disappear there for a few weeks. We’ve been sick. All of us. No real diagnosis, except the girls’ coughing still sounds pretty terrible, and we always need to have tissues close at hand for little noses. (Update: Lilli was up all night with what clearly is a stomach bug.) The best way to describe how I’m doing is that I sometimes feel hungover, which is pretty frustrating as I cut out all alcohol last year. The migraines aren’t worth it, but boy could I go for a gin and tonic this week.

20170116_183738

When I feel a cold coming on I cook up a different sort of tonic. It’s one from my childhood friend’s mom. This and her Salad Olivier are pretty essential to my life. My friend is originally from Latvia; I think her mom is from Lithuania, so I guess we can call it Baltic? Soviet? Eastern European? From the Old Country?

Despite being tasty and having magical healing powers, it hadn’t occurred to me to even share it here. But I was reading one of my new cookbooks given to me over the holidays – Small Victories by Julia Turshen – and she totally shares her “Cold Elixir” on page 255! I skip the cinnamon and cayenne pepper and use lemon, instead. She makes a big batch of it then keeps it in the refrigerator for up to two days and heats it up as she needs it. I make mine one glass at a time, though I see the benefit of cooking up a large batch. But I promise you, if you drink this right when you feel a cold coming on, it stops it in its tracks.

When I woke up last week feeling meh, I made myself a mug of this and settled down with a pile of my cookbooks. “Be careful, please,” Rich said as he saw me with a hot liquid and all the new books. Obviously I spilled my drink within 35 seconds of that. The books were fine, and Lilli actually jumped up from the couch, saying she would refill my glass. I heard her pushing her Kitchen Helper around the kitchen, turning on the faucet and collecting the ingredients; granted I was a little nervous for her to be using the microplane, but I knew she was psyched to use the reamer for the lemon. When she brought it to me, my heart basically melted all over the floor. It was quite possibly the best thing I’ve ever had in my life.

I made her the same drink the following week, but skipped the vinegar because I thought it would be too bracing. Her reaction? “Yuck!” Which is the same thing her sister said when she licked the cat a couple days ago. But that’s another story.

I measured this out so I could share the recipe here. As always, I recommend keeping your fresh ginger root in the freezer; just use a microplane to grate it into the hot water. If you have access to local honey, use it; among other things, like supporting a local business, you will be ingesting local pollen and lessening any allergies you might have to your surroundings.

Brigita’s Cold Elixir

Ingredients

8 oz. boiling water

Juice of ¼ lemon (or half of one if you think it’ll help)

½ or up to 1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, grated or chopped

1 Tablespoon honey

A splash, or up to 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Directions

Combine the water, ginger, vinegar, honey and lemon in a mug and stir until the honey dissolves. Drink soon as it’s cooled down enough to sip.

Do You Believe In Magic?

Man, out of all the food “diets” that have come and gone, I think Paleo rubbed me the wrong way the most. I could post a few dozen articles explaining why it’s a bad idea to not eat whole grains and beans, and how a diet based on meat is, frankly, elitist. But I won’t. I will, however, take this opportunity to mention a former colleague who microwaved herself a sweet potato for lunch every fricking day, hogging the one machine on the entire floor. She sucked.

magic-shell

If there is one good thing to come out of Paleo, it is that it brought coconut oil to my attention.  I have some Paleo cousins who swear by the stuff, so I bought a jar, and then forgot about it. The truth is, I prefer cooking my food in butter or olive oil, and I saw no need for its purpose.

But I am here to share with you the one recipe I use coconut oil for. It’s basically the opposite of what Paleo folks had in mind, and the irony only makes it more delicious. I’m talking about Magic Shell.

Yes, Magic Shell. You remember that hardened chocolate shell that covered the ice cream scoops of your childhood? One moment it’s liquid, but after it touches the ice cream (or after you tuck the bowl in the freezer for a minute or two) it forms a hardened shell, a thick varnish you have to whack away at with your spoon. Perhaps not as satisfying to crack as the crust on a crème brulee, but it’s loads simpler to make.

The magic in Magic Shell is the coconut oil, which is solid at room temperature, but melts when heated, and then solidifies as it cools down, like when it hits ice cream. To make it, all you have to do is melt chocolate – in chip form or otherwise – with the coconut oil. That can be done in a double boiler on the stove, or in the microwave. Just zap on high for 30 seconds, check, stir and repeat until it’s melted enough to be stirred smooth with a spatula or spoon.

So, thank you, Paleo diet. Because of you I was able to recreate a beloved treat from my childhood in mere seconds. I guess you were good for something after all.

Magic Shell

The beauty of this recipe is that it’s done by ratios, so you can scale up or scale down depending on your needs.

Ingredients

1 cup of chocolate, chopped

2 Tablespoons coconut oil

Directions

Place coconut oil and chocolate in a microwave safe bowl.

Microwave, in 30 second intervals, stirring intermittently, until both are completely melted.

Pour or spoon the chocolate sauce over ice cream. Place your bowl of ice cream in the freezer for a minute or two to aid in the magic.

Take Me Down to Paradise City

More than once in the past few weeks Rich and I have turned to each other and remarked that we moved to Stars Hollow. I personally think there’s a touch of Cicely in there, too, but considering we were standing in The Pie Bar (amazing), and the fellow who poured Rich a cup of coffee was wearing a plaid flannel shirt with a backwards baseball cap, it was hard to argue with his logic.

robot-parade

Our Lobot (Lilli-Robot) getting ready to walk in her first Florence Rag Shag Halloween parade. 

 

We bought a four bedroom farmhouse, built in 1870, in the Village of Florence, which is part of the city of Northampton, my favorite place in the world. Our house has the things that both of us wanted: for me, a playroom for the girls and a guest room, so please come visit. For Rich, it is on the bike path and has solar panels, something that he was going to add to whatever property we ended up with. And, most importantly, it has a nice-sized yard, big enough for a swing set and a sukkah.

The yard was even bigger before the former owners subdivided it. (In-fill zoning and less lawn to mow — two other Rich things.) The lot was so big that it had served as a community garden for a while. It still has a nectarine tree, apple trees, pear trees, two cherry trees (sour and sweet), and bushes of blueberries and black and golden raspberries. In front of our house there’s an asparagus patch! It’s pretty scraggly looking, so when you pull up, please don’t judge. But springtime will be heaven.

 

Florence was an abolitionist utopia during the 19th century. Sojourner Truth actually lived here, and it was a stop on the Underground Railroad.  Black lives have mattered for a very long time here. The views of the Holyoke Mountain range are so breathtaking that the valley became a destination for health respites. There’s a vibrant arts scene — the  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were created in one of the art studios in town – and there several (vinyl) record stores.

We’re right outside of the center of Florence, which has everything you need: an utterly charming diner, a hardware store, some antiques stores, a flower and gift shoppe, a post office, a coffee shop (with a play area for kids), and the aforementioned pie bar. There’s an amazing Chinese restaurant whose produce is supplied by the local farms, and a great vegan café. For those in the know, it’s run by the same people behind Fire and Water Café. They have those incredible peanut butter noodles on the menu, and they’re still as good as you remember them being. The vegan café shares a parking lot with one of the two breweries in Florence; there’s a couple more down the road in Easthampton.

20161031_191100

We’re also very close to the swimming hole, and the Lilly Library, which is where they hold the farmers’ market on Wednesday afternoons. And even though we’re right outside of the center of town, it’s worlds away from living in Allston. When Bea wakes up at her usual 5:15 AM, I can see the Big Dipper, like bright rhinestones on black velvet, right outside my bedroom window.

As I mentioned, Florence is a part of Northampton, and I’m not kidding when I say it’s my favorite place in the world. I was trying to put my finger on exactly what it is, and all I could come up with is a word jumble: composting, sturdy Dansko clogs, Subarus, kale, baby wearing, street musicians, strong womyn, Pride, bakfiets, beer, art.

You’ll notice I did not put “gluten free” in my jumble. Northampton has some of the best bakeries in the country, including Hungry Ghost, a 4-minute walk from my office, and across the street from the pharmacy where the shopkeeper calls you “hon,” no matter your age. Hungry Ghost is actually in the process of creating a medicinal herb and plant garden in the front. And of course there’s Tart Baking Company, Bread Euphoria up Route 9, and Small Oven Bakery in Easthampton.

 

Main Street is full of galleries, and fun shops, and amazing restaurants and incredible beer. If you’d like to see a show, check out the Academy of Music, where I’ve seen John Waters; the Calvin Theater where I’ve seen Tom Jones; or the Iron Horse, where my mom took me to see Dan Hicks when I was a teenager. Alas, the club where Sylvie and I saw Patti Smith once upon a time is no more, but in its place is an amazing beer bar. Smith College, where I work, has an incredible art museum, and the Botanic Gardens are a wonder. It’s the mums show next week, although I prefer the spring bulbs show. And if you can, come on the second Friday for arts night, which takes over the entire downtown.

20161102_124958

Obviously Lilli delights in crossing Main Street. 

Northampton is where you move to when you realize you’ve outgrown your Boerum Hill two-bedroom, or if you love your brownstone in Park Slope but wish you had a yard for the kids. If you don’t believe me, ask Mo Willems, who did just that and now lives on the same street as Lilli’s preschool. Eric Carle raised his kids here. Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore raised Coco in an old farmhouse in town. And it was probably a good thing it was Rich and not I who stood next Frank Black and his kids at The Roost. (The pastries there are amazing, although I found the coconut cake a touch too sweet.)

I can’t talk about Northampton without mentioning my favorite restaurant of all-time, Paul & Elizabeth’s. They sell day old wheat rolls for $3 a bag, which I bought and toasted in my own kitchen and ate with lots of butter and jam and realized that life couldn’t get any better. Our first night here, we went there to get Indian pudding, coconut cream pie, and some of their amazing creamy garlic salad dressing to go.

The Connecticut River Valley has some great soil for agriculture, and so there’s a ton of local produce. We’ve been to apple orchards and pumpkin patches already, but if you can’t make it to one, the grocery store sells produce grown by the students through UMass’s farming program. Route 9 going west into the Berkshires is lined with sugar shacks, but if you can’t make it out, you can buy local maple syrup at the grocery store. I counted five local brands last time.

I know I’m going on and on, but there are so many reasons that people call this the Happy Valley, and Northampton Paradise City. But let me leave it at that, and I’ll leave you with a recipe that makes use of some of that great local produce. If you come out to visit, I’ll make it (or something else in season) for you!

shabbat-dinner

Roasted Delicata Squash with Thyme Bread Crumbs from Modern Jewish Cooking by Leah Koenig

Ingredients

2 large Delicata squash, halved lengthwise, seeded and cut into ¼-in/6mm half-moons

3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ cup/40g Panko bread crumbs

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400F/200C and line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Place the squash on the prepared baking sheet, drizzle with 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil, and season generously with salt and pepper. Toss the squash with your hands to coat. Roast, stirring occasionally, until tender when pricked with a fork, 20 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir together the bread crumbs, red pepper flakes, remaining 1 Tablespoon olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper in a medium skillet set on medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until toasted and golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the thyme and remove from the heat.

Transfer the squash to a serving platter and sprinkle with the bread crumb mixture. Serve hot.