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Maple Syrup Dumplings

24 Apr

I came across this recipe from Saveur when a local shop, Cooks Shop Here posted a link on their Facebook page. It was the height of maple sugaring season in our area a few weeks ago and I was so excited to find some good recipes that used maple syrup. I have to say, my expectations were high – maybe unrealistically so. I have been debating about whether or not to post this recipe but in the end decided that even recipes that aren’t slam dunks still have the potential spark some discussion or new ideas for how to improve them.

Things that contributed to not feeling 100% satisfied by the experience:

The dumplings were a bit too dense.

It felt a little wasteful and expensive to use so much maple syrup. Nearly two cups of maple syrup would normally last a lot longer around our house when we’re just drizzling a little on waffles or whatnot.

This was all I ate for breakfast that day (and I’ll confess I ate more than the one sixth serving size). Sweetness overload! A couple small bites paired with some other complementary breakfast foods would have been better. Salty bacon and fruit salad perhaps?

The pan I used was a bit shallow so dumplings were not entirely submerged and required turning.

I enjoyed these dumplings but I think they could be better, although I’m not entirely sure what I would do differently. I would like them to be a little lighter and fluffier but they already have quite a bit of baking powder in them. What would you do?

Maple Syrup Dumplings – makes 6 servings

1 3/4 cups maple syrup (I used a good, local, medium amber syrup from a nearby farm)
1 1/2 cups flour
4 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, frozen
3/4 cup milk

Bring syrup and 1 1/4 cups water to a boil in a 6-qt. Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl; set aside. Grate butter on large holes of a box grater into flour and toss to coat; add milk and stir with a fork until dough forms. When syrup mixture reaches a boil, use a spoon to drop large clumps of dough into syrup. Cover pot; simmer until dumplings are cooked through, 10–15 minutes. Spoon dumplings and sauce into 6 bowls and serve.

Check out more pictures here:

The sap is flowing…bring on the pancakes!

4 Mar

I’m a New Englander so I’m accustomed to having real, local maple syrup and I’ve been to a sugar shack and watched them boil down the sap more than once. I know that when the temperatures start to fluctuate this time of year you can expect to see the taps on the maple trees. The syrup is delicious and it alone is something to look forward to, but even more exciting and delightful is the custom of local sugar shacks hosting pancake breakfasts on weekends during the short sugaring season. I had never heard of this until we moved to this area and even then it took us a few years to catch on and actually go.

Last year after two failed attempts to go to the North Hadley Sugar Shack (waiting more than an hour with an antsy toddler? not happening!), we discovered Steve’s Sugar Shack in Westhampton. The crusty snow was melting into slick mud, there was so much steam from the boiling sap it looked like the place was on fire, and the smell of pancakes and maple syrup was in the air. We sat at  one of the many big long tables, wedged shoulder to shoulder with other pancake lovers. It was pretty bare bones. Nothing but pancakes served on a paper plate but it was one of those fun experiences that made me feel connected to my local community.

This year I’ve caught wind about a place that is serving carrot cake pancakes. Two of my favorite things combined into one amazing sounding breakfast food? Yes, please! It’s at one of the sugar shacks farthest away from where we live, but I think it might be worth the trek one of these Saturday mornings.

If you’re interested, here’s a guide to some of the local sugar shacks. Pancakes for everyone!

Salmon Salad Lettuce Wraps

8 Jun

Eager to make use of the fresh veggies we got at our first visit to the farm as well as some leftover salmon, we created this recipe for dinner. Fresh, easy, and perfect for a warm summer evening. Plus pretty enough for company.

2 cups cooked salmon, flaked


lemon juice

a BIG handful of fresh dill, finely chopped

whole leaves of butter/boston lettuce, washed and dried

one large radish, cut in half or thirds then sliced

Combine salmon with mayo, lemon juice, and dill to taste until you get the flavor and consistency you like. (For an extra lemony flavor throw in a little zest from the lemon too.) Fill the bowl the of lettuce leaf with a hearty scoop of the salmon salad. Top with sliced radishes. Wrap it up and dig in!

The lettuce, dill, and radishes were fresh from the farm as was the steamed broccoli we had on the side. From farm to table in a matter of hours. This is what I love about summer!

Rhubarb Soda

1 Jun

It’s peak time for rhubarb in these here parts. I love the unique flavor of rhubarb but often don’t know what to do with it beyond putting it in a pie or tart. That’s why when my friend Cathy mentioned this recipe I immediately went in search of some native rhubarb and within hours was attempting it myself. Cathy found this recipe on the Culinate website.

1 1/2 cups rhubarb, chopped

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups water

Sparkling water and ice

Combine rhubarb, sugar, and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn down and let simmer for 15 minutes. The syrup should turn pinkish as the rhubarb cooks. I used a potato masher to squish the rhubarb and help it break down a bit to really infuse the syrup. Once it’s done cooking for a while, let it cool, then strain it into an airtight container. Store the syrup in the refrigerator. (Don’t throw away the pulpy rhubarb after you strain the liquid out of it. You can save it to put in yogurt or over ice cream!) To make soda, mix 1/4 cup of the syrup into a glass of sparkling water and add ice. It’s also been rumored to make a mean cosmopolitan!

I bought WAY too much rhubarb and ended up tripling the recipe. I also just blindly followed the recipe and didn’t taste it as I went along. Regretfully, I think the proportions are a little off. My syrup turned out too sweet and ended up entirely masking the tartness of the rhubarb. Next time I would use less sugar and taste as I go.

Those Progressive Swedes

24 Oct

Just read this article in the New York Times about folks in Sweden experimenting with measuring and labeling the carbon footprint of the foods they’re eating. I feel like we are so behind the times here in the USA. Imagine if we thought about food not just in terms of it’s nutritional content as fuel for our bodies but in terms of the health of the planet??? In this country we don’t seem to get the connection – our health and the environment’s health are one and the same. What would it take for Americans to think in these terms? Would your eating habits change if you were confronted with the carbon dioxide emissions associated with the production of that pound of ground beef in your grocery shopping cart? Or those bananas? Or that box of cereal?

Want to calculate your impact? Check out this great tool.

If you’re interested in reducing your food miles here are some good resources.

Food Fighters in the New York Times

22 Oct

The New York Times hits another home run with their great slide show on “food fighters.” In the piece they profile 7 groups of young people who are challenging us to think about our food in new ways, and putting the structures in place to connect thought and action.

I was particularly struck at the intersection in most of these profiles between writing and action. Many of the projects are spearheaded by at least one author. I love the way these folks are connecting the power of land and language.

Check out the slide show at the New York Times site.

Two Takes on Food, Farms, and Community

10 Oct

On October 7th, the New York Times published two separate articles that explored the connection between food, farming and community. The two articles, published in two different sections of the paper (NY Region and Food & Wine), are interesting for the fundamental differences in the stories they tell.

Published in the NY Region section of the paper, “Sweat Equity Put to Use Within Sight of Wall St.” by Jim Dwyer profiles a small community farm project in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The article describes Red Hook this way: Continue reading

What Kind of Change?

27 Sep

We all know that green is the new black. It goes with everything: Green Jobs, Green Business, Green Homes, Green Cars, Green Cloths, Green Gadgets…. Most the these green affiliations are shallow marketing attempts to ride the wave of environmental consciousness that is slowly becoming a cultural meme. This shallow greening of everything, and the hip connotations that accompany this trend, have converged with America’s longstanding affinity towards consumptions and abundance creating some interesting cultural tension as a new meme is taking hold while the old worldview has not yet faded away.

This conflict seems to mirror the contradictory images of smoking in our culture. Through years of research, marketing, legislation and public education smoking has been demonized to the point that for large portions of society smoking is no longer cool. And yet, the images of smoking in Hollywood and elsewhere point to the fact that there is still an ingrained association between smoking and hipness. Similarly, we Americans still love our cars and our speed while we are growing to hate petroleum and lament our carbon footprints. Within these points of tension exist a profound potential for change. The question is, what kind of change? Continue reading

Food Photography, part 4

14 Aug

What the World Eats

What the World Eats

The Dong family in the living room of their one-bedroom apartment in Beijing, with a week's worth of food. © 2005 Peter Menzel from 'Hungry Planet: What the World Eats'

Thanks to EatingIthaca ( I stumbled upon a project from 1995 called Hungry Planet by Peter Menzel. Menzel is the author and photographer behind Material World in which he traveled the globe and photographed families with all their worldly belongings spread out infront of their home.

(Read more and see more photos below)

Continue reading

The Veggie Project Launches

13 Jul

This is just a quick shout out to a new project that a friend of mine recently launched with a bunch of friends. It is a recipe blog (, but with a particular focus on philosophy guiding it. The blog pulls together six people who are spending the summer experimenting with cooking and creating vegitarian meals for their families with local produce. Some are members of local farms, others are farmers market fanatics, some just shop local at their neighborhood grocery.

Unlike some recipe blogs out there (who will remain nameless) these writers offer not just ingrediants and instructions, but also a bit of reflection and inspiration. The recipes are introduced and described, the writers talk about where the food comes from and how they found it, and the blog reads like a conversation with amongst good friends. It treats food as an experience and honors the whole path from the ground to the gut.

Here is how they describe their effort:

We are a group of Boston-area families committed to cooking with local vegetables.  During the summer of 2008, we each plan to try new vegetarian recipes with produce from local farms.  We will use this blog to share information about the recipes we have cooked, and hope to inspire others to cook more locally.

So far there is only a few recipes to enjoy on the blog, but I encourage our readers here to go check it out. Try some of the recipes yourself and add your two cents to the comments section. I hope this is not just a summer project and that it continues through the winter, perhaps exploring how to can, preserve, and put local food away for the months when local food is not so easy to get your hands on in New England.