A Culinary Trip to Senegal

18 Mar

This past weekend the cooking club I’m part of got together for an African themed dinner. It was a lovely night – a gorgeous table set with perfectly presented food. All the recipes we selected were from Pierre Thaim‘s beautiful cookbook, Yolele! Recipes from the Heart of Senegal. I chose to make the vegetarian entree which was Vegetable Mafe, a root vegetable stew. It was the first time I really tried cooking this type of cuisine. The stew turned out ok but I think we all agreed it needed a little something. A good recipe worth tweaking to make it even better.

Other menu items included: Yucassoise (like Vichyssoise made from Yuca instead of potato), Couscous & Smoked Tofu Stuffed Tomatoes (recipe actually called for Fonio, which is an African grain difficult to come by in our immediate area so we improvised with the couscous), Avocado & Mango Salad, Salmon Charmoula (my favorite of the evening), Black Eyed Pea Salad, Roasted Mango and Coconut Rice Pudding, and Chocolate Volcano

Here’s the recipe and my two cents about the process and the finished product. Continue reading

I like this

17 Mar

Who needs words to follow a recipe?


RecipeHacking Challenge #5: Shepherd’s Pie

12 Mar

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day next week I’m choosing a quintessentially Irish dish to hack. Shepherd’s Pie! It’s been a while so if you’ve forgotten how RecipeHacking works or are new to RecipeHacking here’s the general idea. Look back at previous posts to see how we’ve challenged our readers to hack macaroni and cheese, beans and rice, pizza, and thanksgiving leftovers.

Time to get creative in the kitchen! Tweak this Shepherd’s Pie recipe and post your creation in the comments section below. I can’t wait to see how you hack this one! Deadline for this hack is: Sunday,  March 27. The winner will win bragging rights and a small prize!

Here’s a pretty basic recipe for Shepherd’s Pie adapted from Joy of Cooking:


  • 1 1/2 pounds all-purpose potatoes, peeled, quartered, and rinsed
  • Salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided, 2 tablespoons kept chilled
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 pound raw ground lamb (for shepherd’s pie) or raw ground beef (for cottage pie) OR 1 pound finely-chopped leftover cooked lamb or beef
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup beef or vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme OR 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary OR 1 teaspoon dried


Put the potato chunks in a large pot of cold water. Bring to a boil, add a teaspoon or so of salt, and cook until tender but not waterlogged, 10-15 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water and drain the potatoes. Return them to the pot and cook over low heat for a minute to remove excess water. Then mash, adding the cooking water along with 1 tablespoon butter and salt and pepper to taste. Beat with a wooden spoon until fluffy.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet over a medium-low flame. When hot, add the onion, carrot, and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 15 minutes.

Increase the heat to medium and add the meat. Cook raw meat for about 10 minutes, stirring and breaking it up with a wooden spoon; brown leftover meat for about 5 minutes, stirring for even coloration. Spoon off any fat. Sprinkle with the flour and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes. Add the stock, herbs, and salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Allow the meat to cool slightly.

Spread the meat in a 9-inch pie plate or baking dish. Spread the mashed potatoes over the top, making irregular peaks with the tines of a fork. Chop the remaining 2 tablespoons cold butter into small pieces and scatter over the top. Bake in the preheated oven until browned and heated all the way through, 30-35 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before serving in the baking dish.

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!

Still Dancing

26 Feb

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written or posted much of anything here but Kitchen Dancing has never been far from my mind. Yet again, I would like to resurrect my poor neglected blog. But this time around, I’m rethinking it, reshaping it – I have decided I need to broaden my scope. In the past months my silence has not always been a reflection of how busy life is in our household,  how difficult it is to prioritize writing after a long day with a toddler or a long day at work. Often, perhaps. But not always. There have been times when I’ve had lots to say but I’ve felt confined by the theme of this venue.  So, I am making a decision. This will not be a blog just about local food and cooking , food politics and recipes, though I’m sure those will be frequent topics. Instead this will be a general outlet for my musings, for anyone who is interested in listening. Hello out there.

My house, the first and only house my husband and I have bought so far, is a little farmhouse that was built around 1850. Supposedly the Manhan River used to run right through my backyard (it’s since been re-routed much further behind my house) and supposedly my little house started as just a kitchen and shop. Mules used to pull barges down the river and workers would stop at my house to stock up on supplies and get a bite to eat. The previous owner said she found horseshoes in the garden. And we’ve found weights for an old fashioned scale on the property. I love this story of my home’s origins – that this was a place founded on hospitality.

Over time other rooms were added on and this building became a house. It’s purpose evolved. But I still think of the kitchen as the nucleus, the place where our energy is concentrated. Yes, it’s the room where we do our cooking, but it’s also the place where we hatch our plans, where we pour a glass of wine and talk with our friends, where we flop around on the floor with our son pretending to swim like whales, and where we turn up the music and boogie until we are out of breath.

Some things may be changing, but you can be assured we are still dancing in the kitchen.

Thank you, Mark Bittman!

2 Feb

Mark Bittman’s most recent op-ed, A Food Manifesto for the Future. A great read. I can really get behind everything he’s bringing up here. Our food system is seriously broken and he offers some great suggestions. I can’t wait to hear him flesh some of these ideas out in the future. I’ve always appreciated Mark Bittman’s recipes and cookbooks but I’m so appreciative that he is using his voice and notoriety to bring these important issues into the forefront for the greater public to consider. We need a food revolution in this country and education is the first step to bringing real change.


Vegetable Guilt

30 Jun

Today is farm share pick-up day. I just looked in my fridge to do a little inventory of what we still have from last week. Sadly, I discovered some broccoli, bok choy, and kale that was past it’s prime. I think it was from the week before last. It got shoved way in the back of the fridge and was quickly forgotten as we tried with all our might to get through all the lettuce, zucchini, and snap peas. This year we are splitting a share. I can’t imagine if we had a full share! It’s a good reminder that even though all these beautiful, fresh, and luscious vegetables are available, it doesn’t mean we need to take everything that is available to us. When I started this blog part of my reasoning was that I wanted a place to be held accountable, with the hope that if I put it all out there for you to see, dear readers,  I would make wiser choices, be less wasteful and more creative with our food. It’s all about eating with intention. And that includes selecting our food with intention and not being gluttonous when I’m standing there overwhelmed and delighted by the huge table of veggies in the farm shop.

Today at the farm, I will try to quiet the voice that says surely I could come up with something innovative to do with chinese cabbage, and instead will try to be a bit more realistic about what we can and will eat.

Roasted Vegetables with Arugula Pesto

18 Jun

This time of year, as anyone with a local CSA  share knows, greens are plentiful. We’ve got multiple kinds of  lettuce, mizuna, tatsoi, swiss chard, and bok choy coming out of our ears! I never know what to do with most of these greens other than make a salad or, if they are heartier, throw them in a stir-fry. This recipe puts arugula to good use by making a zesty pesto out of it. I adapted this recipe from one recently published in Eating Well magazine. The arugula I used came from our CSA (I also threw in a little bit of tatsoi) and the asparagus came from a local farm stand. Normally when I roast vegetables I just toss everything with olive oil and stick it in the oven. The method used here makes more dirty dishes and requires more attention, but it does get great results. All the vegetables are done just right – unlike my lazy method where some vegetables are inevitably overcooked or undercooked.

Roasted Vegetables

  • 4 cups baby or new potatoes, 1 to 2 inches in diameter, halved or quartered depending on size
  • 5 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 cups peeled baby carrots
  • 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into thirds
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup baby arugula for garnish

Arugula Pesto

  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 5 cups baby arugula
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded Asiago cheese
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (I substituted almonds)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. To prepare vegetables: Position rack in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 425°F.
  2. Toss potatoes with 2 teaspoons oil in a large bowl and spread on a large baking sheet. Roast in the lower third of the oven for 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, toss carrots with 2 teaspoons oil in the bowl and spread on another large baking sheet. After the potatoes have roasted for 5 minutes, place the carrots in the upper third of the oven and roast potatoes and carrots for 15 minutes.
  4. Toss asparagus with the remaining 1 teaspoon oil in the bowl. Add to the pan with the potatoes, toss to combine and return to the oven. Continue roasting until all the vegetables are tender and starting to brown, 8 to 10 minutes more.
  5. To prepare pesto: Meanwhile, drop garlic through the feed tube of food processor with the motor running; process until minced. Stop the machine and add arugula, cheese, pine nuts, 1/4 cup oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Pulse and then process, scraping down the sides as necessary, until the mixture is a smooth paste.
  6. Toss the roasted vegetables with 1/3 cup pesto and 1/2 teaspoon salt in the large bowl (reserve the remaining pesto for another use: refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze). Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with arugula, if desired.

Strawberries with My Son

16 Jun

This morning my 19 -month-old son Toby and I went to the farm. So far, I think it has rained every time we’ve gone and we haven’t been able to take advantage of the u-pick fruits and veggies. Normally we go in the afternoon to pick up our share at the shop but after hearing the weather forecast calling for rain yet again, I decided we needed to seize the moment and go pick some strawberries.

I wasn’t sure what Toby would think – if he would get bored, if he would stomp all over the strawberries.  At first he was very hesitant, watching me carefully as I a picked some berries and put them in the basket. Then he cautiously brushed his hands through the leaves and berries himself.  At first I don’t think Toby  made the connection. But then, I popped one in his mouth. The look of wonder on his face was priceless. It moved me so much I almost could have cried. He got really excited then and kept asking for more. I gave him his own basket with some berries in it. He promptly sat down between the rows of strawberries and gobbled them all. Eventually he got brave enough to pick some himself and even copied me, plucking the green stems off before eating them. After Toby ate probably double what we were allotted in our share this week, I thought it best to call it quits before he gave himself a stomachache. Leaving the strawberry field was tricky. How do you explain to a toddler that the strawberries are “all done” when he is standing in an enormous field abundant with perfect, ripe, lusciously red berries? I tried to get him excited about going to pick peas. He was only somewhat convinced. When we got over to the rows of sugar snap peas I picked a big fat one and handed it to Toby. He took a tentative nibble off the end and then threw the rest in the dirt. Trying another tactic, I split one of the shells open and showed Toby the row of peas inside. There was that look of wonder again!

It is times like these I am so grateful for where we live and that I have the ability to give my son this opportunity to learn exactly where his food comes from first hand.  Even at this young age, I know he is getting something out of this experience. The look of curiosity and wonderment when he was eating food right off the vine today is proof to me.

I think too often I put a lot of pressure on myself to do better or do more. I hold myself to impossibly high standards and make promises to myself that I have a hard time keeping. Spending some time at the farm this morning with Toby was a much needed reminder of how we are living according to our values and it feels really good. This is something I know I am doing right!

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!