Our first CSA pick-up of the year


So excited to get our first CSA share of the year.  Things start as a trickle, and then in a few weeks, we hardly have space to store everything. IMG_3681

The strawberries were so good, we gobbled them up.IMG_3682

I made the rhubarb into a delicious frozen yogurt torte. Recipe here. I think we’re getting more this week, so I think a pie will be in order.IMG_3684

These radishes were made into quick pickles.


  • 1 bunch red radishes (about 13 radishes)
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

Heat the sugar and salt in the vinegar & water until it dissolves. While it’s cooling, slice the radishes. Add the radishes and leave in the fridge overnight. They make a really nice addition to hors d’oeuvres or a cheese plate. Don’t be alarmed by the smell when you open the jar. The pickles are delicious.


The chard was immediately sautéed with garlic and olive oil.IMG_3686


I made a potato leek soup with these gorgeous tender leeks.

And with all the crazy rain we’ve been getting, I noticed these mushrooms popping up in my garden. They are called Dead Man’s Fingers. Euw.


The Dirty Life

Do you ever read a book so good that you can’t put it down? But then when you get to towards the end, you want to prolong it and make it last? And when you are finished, you feel a little lost because you don’t have another book lined up that is as good as the one you just read? The Dirty Life is one of those great books. The author Kristin Kimball writes about her experience of leaving her life in New York City to start a farm. She doesn’t leave out the hard work involved, which I think makes it more realistic and compelling.

I don’t want to say more about it. Just give it a hearty recommendation.

And now I need a recommendation for a good book to fill the void.

Our First CSA Pick Up

This week was the first week of our CSA or farm share. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It’s also known as subscription farming.

In the winter, you buy a share of a farm and in return, you get a share of the produce. What’s great for the farmer, is that the payments come all at once (and are predictable), so they can purchase equipment, seeds and supplies for the next growing season. You and the farmer share the risk of a bad year, or the bounty of an excellent growing year.

What I like is that you get to relearn how to eat with the seasons. The beginning of the season has lots of greens. We got lettuce, oregano, leeks, sunchokes, and lots and lots of strawberries. I wish I could describe how aromatic and delicious these strawberries are. Everything is picked when it’s ripe because it doesn’t have to travel thousands of miles. Can you remember the insides of strawberries being red instead of white?

If you live in New York and are interested in participating in a CSA (for next season), click here to find one. We kind of got in through the back door with ours. It has a really long waiting list, but they offer a winter share with frozen fruits and veggies. Somehow participating in the winter share got us in and past the people lined up for just the regular summer share. Shh, don’t tell anyone.

Maple Sugaring

While we were up in the Berkshires, we went to visit Gould Farm to see their maple sugar operation. My in-laws recently met a man named Steve who oversees the maple sugaring there. Gould farm is a pretty amazing place. It is a residential, therapeutic community dedicated to helping adults with mental illness. You can read more about them here.

The evaporator that we saw is powered by a wood fire. From the enormous woodpile behind the sugar shack, it was clear that a lot of wood is needed for the process.

The sap is poured into the far end of the evaporator and works its way through channels. What you can’t see, is that the underside of these channels are shaped a bit like an accordion, so a very large surface area gets heated by the fire. The tree sap ranges from about 2% to 5% sugar and when it’s finished it’s about 67% sugar. We were treated to maple tea, which is the sap that has cooked for quite a bit, but is still in the back half of the evaporator. It is sweet, but still thin like tea. As an extra treat, Steve brought fresh cream from their cows to add to it, which made it taste like ice cream.

There are various ways to know when the maple syrup is finished. You can use a hydrometer, a candy thermometer (it’s ready at about 7 degrees F above the temp of boiling water), or you can do a visual check. The syrup sheets off the ladle in a manner similar to making jam. It is something you can do at home, but we were warned that with the amount of steam that is produced, many homes have lost their wallpaper during the process.

The final syrup was temporarily put in large containers, to be bottled and ready for sale in a couple of weeks. We are definitely going back to get a bottle!

Apple Picking

This is the time of year that many urbanites decide they need to drive out to the country and pick apples. Give me the smallest excuse to get some fresh air and see something green and I will take it. The fresh air and apples sang its siren song and off I went with Lindsay and my friend Victoria and her son Theo.

It was a gorgeous, warm day at Masker Orchard, with no hint of autumn in the air (which felt a bit odd for picking apples). We decided to skip past the red delicious apples in search of the mutzus, empires and cortlands. As it turns out, a freshly picked red delicious apple bears no resemblance to the mealy ones in the grocery store. The orchard charged by the bag, so we stuffed ours ridiculously full. Lindsay and Theo had a system set up where Theo would climb in the tree and pass the apples to Lindsay. She would then inspect them and then hand the good ones off to me and Victoria. It was so much fun that we didn’t really think about the mountain of apples building up in our bags.

It was a great day. We all ate our weight in apples and then packed our weight in apples in the back of the car and headed back to the city.

Why to eat grass-fed beef

I just watched the movie Food, inc., which I recommend to everyone. If you haven’t had the time to read Omnivore’s Dilemma, it condenses the information well. If you already know about most of the issues, as I did, it renews your commitment to buying the most local and naturally raised food available.

I was talking about the movie with a friend the other day and we were specifically talking about organic and bio-dynamically raised meat. I have to admit that this is something that I haven’t incorporated into my diet as much as I could/should. We usually order Bell and Evans or Murray’s chickens from our butcher, but have had some suspicions about the veracity of the being the real deal. (other butcher’s we’ve gotten them from have had Murray’s tags on the chickens and our butcher’s doesn’t) I bought an Eberly chicken, which Neil roasted on the bbq last night. It was flavorful and delicious. They come shrink-wrapped, so it’s impossible to substitute some factory-farmed chicken for one of theirs.

My friend mentioned a local bio-dynamic angus farm called Grazin’ Angus Acres. I am lucky enough that they come to my local farmer’s market every sunday. Below I put a blurb from their website that gives some information on why to eat grass-fed beef over corn-fed beef.

Ultimately it’s healthiest for you, the animals and the planet not to eat meat, but if that isn’t an option for you, switching to grass-fed is a much healthier and humane option.

Health Benefits of Eating Grass-Fed Beef:

Safety:  Because humans are omnivores, our stomachs are highly acidic. Meanwhile, the pH of grass-fed cattle is normal.  If Grass-Fed Black Angus happen to be carrying bacteria in their normal pH environment, our highly acidic stomach bath offers real protection.  Contrast that with corn-fed cattle…  Corn turns what is typically a normal pH environment into a highly acidic one.  Consequently, corn-fed cattle often require antibiotics in the feed to keep them from being sick, which generates its own set of concerns for human health.  Further, if corn-fed cattle carry bacteria (e.g. E-Coli) that is thriving in their now acidic environment, the acids in our stomachs offer little, or no, protection against it.

Omegas: Grass-fed meat has been shown to have a 60% + increase in omega-3 content, as well as a more favorable omega-6 to omega-3 ratio.  Both fatty acids are essential and must be obtained from food.  It is important to maintain a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 in our diets, as these two substances work together to promote health.  That balance is adversely affected when cattle are fed grain. Specifically, a grass-fed diet produces a 2:1 omega 6:3 ratio.  “Why should I care?” you ask…

Consider that omega-6 promotes inflammation, blood clotting, and tumor growth while omega-3 does the opposite.  Dietary experts estimate that current eating habits in America lead to an omega 6:3 ratio of about 20:1.  Grass-fed beef is a huge step in the right direction.

ProVitamin A / beta-carotene:  Beta-carotene is a fat-soluble vitamin &  antioxidant that is a safe dietary source of vitamin A.  Vitamin A is important to normal vision, bone growth, reproduction, cell division and cell differentiation.  Grass-fed beef has a 10-fold increase in beta-carotene levels vs. grain-fed.  Taking vitamin A supplements can be dangerously toxic – but, we can eat all the beta-carotene possible and the human body will only convert the amount needed to vitamin A.

Vitamin E / alpha-tocopherol:  Vitamin E is also a fat-soluble vitamin / antioxidant that protects cells from the effects of free radicals (which have been reported to contribute to cancer and cardiovascular disease development).  Grass-fed beef increases alpha-tocopherol levels three-fold vs. grain-fed beef.

Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA):  Numerous health benefits have been attributed to CLA including reduced carcinogenesis, atherosclerosis, onset of diabetes and body mass.  Grass-fed cattle have been shown to produce 2 to 3 times more CLA than grain-fed cattle.

IT’S NATURAL! Nature had it right all along.  The sun’s energy grows the grass that is harvested by the cattle that are harvested by us.  Grass-fed is how it was meant to be; it’s how our human construct was prepared to capture the nutritional value of meat.  The industrial machine – feeding cattle corn in confined areas – has destroyed what nature intended.

Begin to enjoy the benefits of local Grass-Fed Black Angus today!

Blue Hill Farm


This is the final segment of my anniversary/local food combo platter, which now takes us to Monterey in the Berkshires. In my previous post I mentioned that the chef at Blue Hill Restaurant (Dan Barber) gets his amazing ingredients in part from Blue Hill Farm in the Berkshires. Blue Hill Farm was bought by Barber’s grandmother and has been in his family for 3 generations. They now have farmer Sean Stanton managing the farm, which has turned into a wonderful collaboration with Barber. Stanton works with Barber to obtain the tastiest milk, eggs and meat.

Neil and I figured that Blue Hill Farm was probably on Blue Hill Road. Duh. I emailed Stanton and asked if we could come out and visit the farm and he gave us the go-ahead. Interns (and fiancés) Daniel and Allison were getting the cows ready for milking when we got there, so we took a little stroll to see the chickens. They have 200+ laying hens that are the most free-ranged hens I’ve ever seen.

laying hens free-ranging

laying hens free-ranging

Chicken tractor

Chicken tractor

We then went to see the meat birds. They are in a chicken tractor, which is an enclosed run that is light enough to be pulled over different parts of the field. They rotate their cows to a new pasture every 12 hours. Then the chickens come in and do what chickens love best…pecking and scratching around for bugs. They pick through the cow patties and find nice juicy fly larvae. Yum. The chickens are fat and happy and there are fewer pests flying around the farm. Chickens also love to eat grass, so they are happiest outdoors.


The farm was absolutely picturesque. There were green rolling hills, a beautiful barn, happy animals grazing and bunnies romping around. We headed up to the milking barn, where Allison was handling the milking. Daniel filled a suck-bucket (this is a new term for me and I love how awful it sounds!) with fresh milk for the calves. The calves are raised for veal, and again I couldn’t help but notice how much better their lives are on this farm than on factory farms. They are outside eating grass and drinking milk, which is a far cry from the dark, veal pens one usually hears about.

Calves drinking from suck bucket

Calves drinking from suck bucket

Lindsay really enjoyed watching the milking and learned a lot about the cows. They sell some of their fresh, raw milk right at the farm. It’s in a fridge with a metal box to drop money into. I am excited about a source of raw milk, because I want to work on making cheese this fall and winter.


So we went from Blue Hill restaurant for our anniversary to Stone Barns and now to Blue Hill Farm. So where is Blue Hill Farm? It’s right across from Beartown State forest, which is where Neil and I got engaged. How appropriate.

Stone Barns

A few days ago I wrote about eating at Blue Hill Restaurant for my anniversary. I didn’t go into the food in depth, so I want to say again that it was absolutely delicious. They used fresh, local ingredients that really stood out with their superior flavor. One course was a medley of vegetables and fruit and we found ourselves picking each piece and tasting it individually and then talking about what we had just sampled. The combination of superior cooking and local ingredients made the meal memorable.

We had a very nice waiter who was able to answer a lot of our questions about what farms supply them, etc. They partner with two farms in particular. Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, and Blue Hill Farm in the Berkshires. Wait, did someone say the Berkshires?? It turns out that Blue Hill Farm, which was Dan Barber’s (the chef at Blue Hill restaurant) grandmother’s farm, is very close to Neil’s parent’s house. We decided that the next time we went up, we would try and track the farm down.


In the meantime, we decided to go to Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture the day after our fabulous meal. We packed Lindsay up after her sleepover and drove up to Tarrytown, NY. Stone Barns is set on 80 acres of gardens, pastures and woods. The mission of Stone Barns, as they say, is to celebrate, teach and advance community-based food production and enjoyment, from farm to classroom to table. We had fun in their impressive greenhouse finding some of the items in our meal from the night before. The different beds made a patchwork quilt effect.


We wandered through the fields and woods to see their animals. The animals were kept in very spacious areas, and you could see that they move them around to different pastures often. They used portable electric fences that were powered car batteries. There were quite a few pigs that were in the woodsy area doing the things that pigs love best; sunning themselves, sleeping and rolling in the mud. The word transparency kept coming to mind. This operation was beautiful, productive and offered the animals a very nice life. I guess it’s weird to say they have a nice life when they are meat animals, but it is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from feedlots.


They even have a big composting area. They compost everything from the farm and the on-site restaurant. There were machines that looked as though they chop everything up into smallish pieces and then lay them out into windrows (long piles of compost). The windrows were covered to keep in the moisture. I read that they were interested inharnessing the heat that the compost produced as a way to heat the greenhouse in the winter, and worked to implement a compost heating system. I love this place!!


It felt as though we were walking through a botanic garden as we toured the grounds. After we passed the laying hens out in their enormous field, we came across their bee hives. I am fascinated with honey bees right now, and have a friend who keeps bees in Brooklyn and sells her honey. I’m still too chicken to make the leap into beekeeping!

I’ve always been curious to try hunting for wild honey. That entails watching the direction bees fly from the flowers they are pollinating and triangulating the path back to their hives, which are often in a hollow tree. I don’t have much opportunity to do that in NYC and I haven’t found a cohort. Plus I think you need to destroy the hive to harvest the honey and I wouldn’t want to do that. Can you imagine thousands of really pissed off bees with no home? Okay, so I like the idea of hunting honey, but not the reality. So when I saw bees (or possibly wasps) flying into a tree during our walk I was really excited. That could be my elusive honey tree!!


At the end of our visit, we had a snack in their little café and peeked into the Blue Hill restaurant up there. It was a fun escape from the city on a gorgeous summer day.