After a long winter, we are so happy to leave dried beans and root veggies behind and move on to the flavors of spring: tangy rhubarb, earthy fiddleheads, the abundant chives that are just begging to be divided. We’ve got a porch full of plants, a forgotten fig tree that’s stretching towards the cellar window (weekend project: bring up the fig!), and blossoms that promise a season of fruit. The garden calls! Happy Spring!
If your only exposure to Jewish holidays is our website, you might think that they revolve exclusively around desserts. Yes, we just baked hamantaschen for Purim, and yes, cheesecake is coming up for Shavuot. Actually, come to think of it, sweets are a big part of many holidays. They’re not defined by their desserts, but most holidays do have an associated treat, maybe to remind us of the sweetness of the seasons: honey cake at Rosh Hashanah, sufganiyot (Israeli jelly doughnuts) at Hannukah, and macaroons at Passover.
This year, we’ve been away for much of Passover, but we got home last night and this morning the girls and I felt like making something sweet, so we scrounged in our new kitchen for kosher-for-Passover ingredients. What we found was pretty meagre–a couple of egg whites and not quite enough shredded coconut for a whole batch of macaroons. We did have some almonds, though, and always a lot of good chocolate, so we came up with the following. One bite, and we knew exactly what they tasted like: Almond Joy!
Almond Joy Macaroons
Makes 1 dozen
1 1/4 cups sweetened shredded coconut
1/3 cup almonds, chopped
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup chocolate chips
2 egg whites
Preheat oven to 350.
In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients. The mixture will feel like it’s not binding enough, but don’t worry, it will stick together when it’s baked. Drop in large spoonfuls on a parchment lined baking sheet, shaping a bit with your hands to make sure each cookie stays mounded. Bake 15-20 minutes, until sides are lightly browned. Cool on the baking sheet until firm.
We send our girls to Levey Day School in Portland — Maine’s only Jewish Day School, where they receive a wonderful education, and the benefits of a Levey education never cease to surprise and amaze us. The latest manifestation is Charlotte’s creation of a Woodzee Passover Seder. The Woodzeez are sweet woodland creature collectible figures that our girls have been in love with for the past year, and come in various families from Tidyshine Turtle family to the Swiftsweepers Hedgehog family (pictured above — who we had no idea were Jewish Hedgehogs!) Charlotte can spend hours arranging and rearranging the critters, often employing the many small items that come with the figures or collectible sets. However, when your toys don’t come with Passover paraphernalia, what does a good Levey student do? She improvises. These Woodzeez are sitting down to a Seder table decorated with real miniature matzah, parsley, charoset, a shankbone made from a plant stem, a paper egg, and minuature haggadahs opened to the 4 questions. Here’s to a happy Passover to all our friends, human and Woodzee alike. May next year be in Honeysuckle Hollow!
Purim begins this evening! It’s one of our girls’ favorite holidays, celebrating clever Queen Esther saving her people from the wicked Haman. It’s a time of celebration, festivity, and treats–in fact, one of the essential ways to celebrate Purim is by giving gift baskets of pastries, fruits and more to loved ones.
While we aren’t quite back in our own kitchen (this weekend!), Sadie and I borrowed the counter space at The Woods House to make hamantaschen, the traditional triangle-shaped cookies that are eaten during the holiday. Made with a buttery dough and dollops of preserves, the cookies are shaped in triangles to to remind us of Haman’s 3-cornered hat. Traditional fillings include poppy seed (mohn) and prune (lekvar), but it’s just as delicious to use jam. Over the years, I’ve used my own homemade preserves in the filling, but, truth be told, plain old Smuckers is just fine.
Makes 3 dozen
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
scant 1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, separated
2-3 tablespoons milk or cream
Apricot (or other) preserves for filling
Preheat oven to 375.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour, salt, sugar and butter and beat until just crumbly. To this mixture, add vanilla, the yolks of both eggs, one egg white, and a tablespoon of milk or cream. Beat on the medium speed until dough begins to come together, adding milk or cream if needed. Gather the dough and divide into three parts, making balls, and then flattening into disks. Wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator to chill slightly if the dough is beginning to seem too soft to be workable.
Working quickly, with one disk at a time, roll the dough until it is about 1/4-inch thick. Using a cookie cutter or the rim of a glass, cut the dough into circles 3 to 4 inches in diameter (we use the rim of a sturdy pint glass). Place a small spoonful (approximately 1/2 teaspoon) of jam in the center of each round.
Folding can be tricky, and the first few will probably be a little misshapen–don’t worry, it happens to everyone! The shaping is not hard to do, but it is hard to explain. For a visual reference, check out this helpful step-by-step. For each circle, take one third of the dough and fold it toward the center, leaving the jam visible. Take the next third of the dough and fold it over in the same way, overlapping the first fold at the edge of the triangle. Finally, fold the last third of the dough over in the same way, overlapping the other folds. Pinch lightly to seal. Place cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet. Beat the egg white and brush it over the tops, then bake for 12-15 minutes, until jam is a slightly bubbly and cookies are golden.
*Warning: it is tempting to eat hamantaschen straight from the oven, but wait until they are cool. The jam can be scalding! After many a burnt tongue, we have finally learned to wait 15 minutes before sampling.*
The kitchen renovation project is proceeding beautifully, more or less on schedule, we think. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, we thought we would share one of the more romantic details of the new kitchen. When we were designing the kitchen we knew that we wanted a fair amount of reclaimed wood incorporated into the room. One wall in particular, next to the stove, and on which pots and pans will hang from metal cross bars, was to be made entirely of reclaimed wood. But from where to reclaim it? We had a fair amount of old lumber that we had saved or collected over the years in the barn, but it wasn’t quite enough, or in good enough condition to make the cut. Then we learned that my (Karl’s) father was planning on replacing the wooden dock at “Camp Schatz,” our family summer house. Dad let us scavange the dock, which our contractor Steve Tesh dismantled and lightly sanded to let the warmth of the cedar show through the weathered patina from the years on the lake. The beautiful chevron pattern was all Steve’s doing. There will be enough of the dock wood for the accent wall, to wrap the soffit over the stove and sink, and also to wrap the non-cabinet sides of the new kitchen peninsula. Where does the romance come into this story? Well, it was on that dock at Camp Schatz, 11 years, 4 months, and 19 days ago that I proposed to Margaret. Thank you, dock, you gave me solid footing for the best decision I ever made. We’re so glad to have you as a permanent part of our home. Happy Valentine’s Day!
For photo updates of the new kitchen in progress, visit the Ten Apple Farm Facebook page.
Check out Margaret’s rccent guest appearance on the Urban Farm and Garden Show Podcast:
If you follow us on Facebook, you’ve seen that the farm renovations we’ve finally undertaken don’t stop at the outside. We started the year by gutting the kitchen and dining room, a project we’ve been planning since buying the house in 2005. After giving it a decade of thought, we’re changing pretty much everything about the flow and the feel of the space, though we’re leaving it two distinct rooms to keep the original farmhouse spirit. In these first few weeks of the project, we’ve discovered a few things about ourselves and our house:
1. In 10 years, we’ve become hoarders. I think any of our friends could have told you this, but it took the removal of all of our kitchen and dining room stuff for the scales to fall from my eyes. Karl assures me that this impulse comes from a good place–we recycle everything, and those bits of strings and bags of corks and schnibbly bits of fabric and paper have all been kept with projects in mind (curse you, Pintrest!). But, to paraphrase Allen Ginsberg’s beautiful poem, “Kaddish,” it’s the accumulations of life that wear us out. Do I really need to keep every bit of felt, every mismatched toddler sock, every receipt with my dad’s signature on it? Emphatically, no. If 2014 was the year of repair, 2015 will be the year of order. Transfer station, look out!
2. We’ve been insulating with squirrel fur and corn cobs. I wish this were a joke.
3. Home renovation is addictive. We’ve turned a blind eye to so many big things over the past 10 years that now, as we examine and make decisions on the minutiae, it’s hard to overlook anything. Some decisions, like what kind of drawer pulls to use, or the finish on the cabinets, were expected. But during the renovation process, we’ve also been looking at what we have, what we use, and where we can put it to make it most orderly and accessible. I am hopeful that this spurning of chaos will spread to all 5 of us, and many areas of our lives. But to be honest, if the kids start habitually hanging up their coats, I’ll consider it victory.
4. If the kids eat packaged fruit cups, squeezy applesauce, individually wrapped string cheese, store-bought bread, and juice boxes for a few weeks, they’ll probably be just fine. So far, their 2015 diets have filled me with shame, but they’ve suffered no ill effects. Yes, I’d rather they drink goat milk, eat the applesauce we canned in the fall, and take thermoses of curried lentil soup for lunch, but I also value my sanity. And the kids are in heaven with all these “treats.” As Bea said to me last week, “We finally have good, normal lunches.”
5. We are incredible lucky. That could go without saying, but it shouldn’t.
Happy 2015 to all!
The Ten Apple Gang
There is so much to be thankful for this time of year — and even though the painters weren’t able to get the whole house painted before the onset of cold and snow, we are extremely thankful for the beautiful job that Rich Exterior Solutions did siding and repairing the outside of our barn and back of the backhouse. We’re not all the way there yet with all the renovations we were planning, there is still a bunch to do on the house, windows on the barn to repair, new garage doors to install, and the rest of the painting will have to wait until warming spring temps. But we’ve got some bright new colors on the outside of the farm to warm our spirits through the coming winter. Happy Thanksgiving!
Our 113-year-old farmhouse and attached barn finally crossed the line from weatherbeaten to eyesore. Maybe they crossed that line a while ago, but now we’re doing something about it! Rich Exterior Solutions did such an amazing job roofing the barn after the wind damage of Hurricane Sandy that we’re having them reside, paint, and install new, environmentally sound windows–including a big bay overlooking the garden. We’re looking forward to our first winter without indoor snowdrifts. Very exciting times on the farm–we’ll update weekly with a progress report!