Friday, May 20, 2011

It's Spring! Birds and Bees

A break from food posts

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Mommy robin and her babies

My friend's bees

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Warm Maple Syrup Pie And A Visit To Fadden's Sugarhouse

Warm and sweet and topped with a generous dollop of creamy ice cream, this maple syrup pie is perfect any time of the year. But just imagine how wonderful it would taste early in spring when nights are cold and days are turning warmer. When sap freely runs down the trunks of bare maple trees. A race before their buds emerge. The image is always on our minds during maple sugaring season. So is the smell when the comforting scent of maple sugar permeates the air around our favorite sugarhouse. No time is wasted getting each new season's fresh batch of liquid gold to our table.

Fadden's Sugarhouse
Even though I'm a little late in the season to post my visit to Fadden's Sugarhouse, I want to share my experience anyway. We met Jim Fadden three years ago at his General Store and we absolutely love the Fadden family's award-winning maple syrup. They've been making maple syrup the old-fashioned way since the mid-1800s and upgraded in the mid-1900s for commercial production. It wasn't until this year, in late March, that I finally visited the Sugarhouse. I missed the maplefest but, lucky me, I got a private tour! The tour wasn't planned so I only had my blackberry to take photos with, but they came out pretty good.

This galvanized bucket is used as an indicator only.
It shows that sap wasn't running on the day of my visit because it was too cold.
Galvanized buckets are no longer used here to harvest sap.
A slice of wood from a fallen tree shows tap holes.
The dark tap hole, lower left, shows how the tree sealed itself.
This sophisticated system removes water from the sap
making boiling more efficient

The grade scale

Early season and late season syrup.
The late season syrup is sold to companies
as a flavoring.
The filtering system

State-of-the-art food-grade stainless steel evaporator 
My tasting sample right out of the evaporator put a big smile on my face!
The drive to the maple trees
Currently 7,000 trees are tapped

The Norman Rockwell inspired window display
at Fadden's General Store and Sugarhouse,
North Woodstock, NH
Jim Fadden painting his self-portrait.
He always has various creative displays throughout the year.
(Photo courtesy of Jim Fadden)

Pattie Noel and Nola Clark, daughter of Murray Clark
(Clark's Trading Post),
designed the window display at Fadden's General Store
(Photo courtesy of Jim Fadden)

Maple Syrup Pie Recipe

From Vermont Life magazine and created by Lara Atkins, pastry chef and co-owner of The Kitchen Table Bistro in Richmond, VT 

1 9 inch pie crust, pre-baked
1 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp fine salt
1 1/2 cups maple syrup, grade B is suggested
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
3 eggs

For this recipe, I used a 10 inch non-stick tart pan with a removable bottom and a pre-made pie crust. I'm sorry! I promise that one day I will make my own!  I just happened to have one in the freezer and wanted to save time.

Start by pre-baking the pie crust in a pre-heated 300 degree oven. While it cooks, whisk flour and salt together in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, beat eggs. Over medium heat, bring maple syrup and cream up to a boil. Boil for about 20 seconds. Remove from heat and stir in butter pieces until they completely melt. 

Make a slurry by adding a few tablespoons of the warm maple-cream mixture to the flour and salt. When combined, pour in the remaining maple-cream mixture and whisk until combined. 

Before adding eggs, temper them by adding a little of the maple-cream mixture into the beaten eggs. Whisk and when they feel about room temperature, pour beaten eggs into maple-cream mixture and whisk to combine. 

Pour the maple-cream filling into the warm pre-baked pie crust. Bake about 50 to 60 minutes or until golden brown and the center is set. Serve warm or at room temperature with a dollop of your favorite ice cream, whipped cream or creme fraiche. I used Creme Caramel ice cream.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Purple Kohlrabi, Yellow Beet & Green Apple Salad, And The Garden

A morning of gardening

Lunch break  

The Inspiration
It was the farmer. When my friend Jayne and I asked how he cooked the kohlrabi he emphatically said, "raw!".  And he offered the same advice about the yellow beet, "raw!". With that, I decided to give it a try and make a raw kohlrabi and yellow beet salad. Although, I have the feeling he meant a pure kind of raw, as in no dressing, naked. Well, I'm not that adventurous and thought it should be dressed.

Farmers' market yellow beet and
purple kohlrabi in need of attention!

Glorious morning sun on sage

Purple Kohlrabi, Yellow Beet, And Green Apple Salad 
I just love this type of food but I do think it takes an acquired taste to enjoy this earthy salad. And sitting down with it beside my garden after a morning of hard work made this salad perfect and maybe even tastier, if only on a psychological level. Since I knew what their reaction would be, I didn't dare offer any to my family later. Which I regret now because I like to have them try new flavors. Sometimes they surprise me. 

To make this salad . . . wash and peel a yellow beet and a purple kohlrabi, and wash a green apple. Slice into thin pieces and in a bowl mix with extra virgin olive oil to coat, then apple cider vinegar, fresh juice from a whole small lemon, chopped fresh sage, salt and pepper - add all to taste as the flavor depends on the size of the vegetables and your taste. Refrigerate covered for about a half hour to let flavors build. Top it over washed red lettuce.

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