Question: What does one do with a whole box of defrosted phyllo dough?
Answer: Make Spanakopita and lots of it if you like appetizer portions.
Recently, one of us accidentally left the freezer ajar over night, defrosting everything within its usually frosty confines, including a brand new, unopened box of phyllo sheets. I'm not a hundred percent sure exactly how many sheets are in a new box, but I don't think I'm far off if I said close to 35 or 40. That's a lot of phyllo and the only thing we could think of to use all that phyllo was Spanakopita. We made it once years ago and loved these small, flakey pockets of spinach and cheese. They freeze really well which is also a blessing as only two sheets of phyllo are needed to make three appetizer-size pastries - you do the math. So now we're set for hors d'oeuvres for the holidays. Some of the steps may sound a bit tricky so Peter decided to take some pictures to hopefully aid you in the process.
Makes about 30 pastries
1-2 sticks plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 pound fresh baby spinach or 2 boxes of frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1/2 pound feta cheese, crumbled (about 2 cups)
Juice of one lemon
1/4-1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg, if desired
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
One sleeve of phyllo sheets (12- by 9-inches), thawed. (There are 2 sleeves to a box, each sleeve having close to 20 sheets of phyllo.)
If using fresh spinach: Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, then cook the spinach, stirring, until wilted and tender, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for 10 minutes. Squeeze handfuls of spinach to remove as much liquid as possible (there's no way around this, this is the best way to get the liquid out). Coarsely chop spinach.
If using frozen chopped spinach, allow it to thaw in a colander, then squeeze to remove as much liquid as possible.
Note: This recipe is an amalgamation of over a dozen recipes I found in various cookbooks and on the internet. I should mention that one Epicurious recipe said "Pastry triangles can be formed, but not baked, 3 days ahead. Arrange in 1 layer in a heavy-duty sealed plastic bags, then freeze. Bake frozen pastries (do not thaw) in same manner as above."
Every year in the fall from mid-September to the end of October, Hank's Pumpkintown is erected in a large open field on Montauk highway in Water Mill. Over the years, word has spread about this novelty and crowds come from all around to enjoy the crisp fall air and all that Pumpkintown has to offer. Needless to say, you can pick your own pumpkin (or you can just pick it up) and there are life-size wooden toys for the children to play on, in and around. There are wagon rides, tractor train rides and slides. There's a playground, a sandbox, and Maze Park, with three separate mazes and six different games to play in them. And once you're tuckered out, you can rejuvenate yourself with some hot or cold apple cider, cider donuts, candy apples, or roasted sweet corn!
Hank's Pumkintown is the fall attraction on the east end and brings traffic to a crawl but what fun for the entire family, and Hank provides "monogrammed" wheelbarrows to help you transport all of those gourds, indian corn, and, of course, pumpkins to your car. It's Halloween weekend and the last for Pumpkintown until next year. Pack up the kids and drive out east, you'll have a ball.
Photos © 2010 by Claudia Ward & Peter Tooker
Slide Show by Claudia Ward
Music: Munsters by the Halloween Creature Crew
The Sierra Club has a website called the Daily Ray of Hope, a link to which was forwarded to me a few weeks ago by a very encouraging friend. She described these rays as a "bright spot" for her in box and a "potential photo exhibition space" for our photography. Once you sign up, the Sierra Club sends out "images and inspirational words" every day. Any one can submit images and you never know which image is selected until the email arrives.
I found yesterday's "Ray" particularly poignant as Peter and I continue to pursue and grow with our passion - photography. So I thought I'd share it with you too.
"It's actually a rare and precious thing to discover what it is you love to do, and I encourage you to remain unapologetically consumed by it. Be faithful to your gift and very confident in its value." Jonathan Ive
Now if you, like me, have no clue who Jonathan Ive is, he's the Senior Vice President of Industrial Design at Apple, Inc. According to Wikipedia, he is the principal designer of the iMac, MacBook, iPod, iPhone and iPad. How could I have never heard of this man because he's materially changed our lives? Peter and I converted to the world of Apple a year and a half ago and have at least one of each of these hardware products, and we find we couldn't live without them, especially in support of our photography. So thank you Mr. Ive for your passion and your encouraging words.
This is my submission to Daily Ray of Hope today.
Apples abound at this time of year, and we know what they say about those apples. "An apple a-day, keeps the doctor away." Little did we know when we learned that rhyme, that it was really true. We are very fortunate in this country to have the ability to grow many different varieties of this "forbidden" fruit.
Growing up with only good-old-McIntosh and every so often a Red Delicious, I never knew there was such a diversity in the taste and texture of apples. Now I know, some are sweet, some are tart, and some combine the two; and, some are really crisp, and others just melt perfectly in to a pie. It's quite an adventure to learn the characteristics of each apple ... but one well worth taking.
Farm stands on the east end are a real treasure and our source for the freshest produce available anywhere. Tomatoes and corn are plentiful and are available well into the fall. This recipe is a "fresh" version of gazpacho. Peter uses the word "fresh" to describe food that tastes like itself rather than spices -just the kind of food I love. I adore the smoothness of the tomato purée and the crunch of the raw corn, sweet onion and cucumber sprinkled on top. The only additional flavors? A touch of salt to accent the natural flavors and cilantro leaves, but only if you like their flavor.
Chilled Heirloom Tomato, Corn and Cucumber Soup with Fresh Cilantro1
Makes 8 Servings
2 pounds ripe heirloom tomatoes, cored, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup raw fresh corn kernels (1 ear)
1 small sweet white onion, finely chopped
Fine sea salt
1/2 cup peeled, diced cucumber
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves for garnish
1Patricia Wells, Vegetable Harvest (New York, NY : William Morrow, 2007) p. 51.
Even now I find that little grammatical pixie sitting on my shoulder saying, "Don't do it, even if it does sound better. It's Who's Walking Whom not Who's Walking Who." "Do it right or don't do it at all." Gee, that pixie sounds a lot like my father.
Either way, I did ask the question when I saw these four characters on the beach yesterday. It was breezy but you didn't have to fight the wind to stand. It looks to me like everyone had been penned up inside for way too long.
Italian Wedding Soup, what's the name all about? Is it really served at Italian weddings? Apparently only in America. A little research reveals that an original moniker for this tasty concoction was minestra maritata which was intended to refer to the congenial combination of ingredients - green vegetables and meat. "Wedding soup" is a mistranslation. To say that two things go well together in Italian, one can say si sposono bene (they're married well), or that they are maritati, i.e. married. The combination of greens and meat in a clear broth clearly deserves to be called maritata in my book. The practice of combining such ingredients in this manner may be Roman in origin, but really ... who cares? Enough about history.
Italian Wedding Soup
This recipe for "Italian Wedding Soup" is now one of my all time favorites, and it's worth every chop, grate and stir involved. The "meatballs" are the size of "rounded teaspoons" and made of chicken and chicken sausage giving this soup a wonderful flavor and texture contrast. It's another one of Ina Garten's delightful twists on a "standard". My biggest challenge has been to see whether all of the meatballs make it to the soup - just taste one. Bet you can't eat one!
Italian Wedding Soup*
Serves 6 to 8
For the Meatballs
3/4 pound ground chicken
1/2 pound chicken sausage, casings removed
2/3 cup white bread crumbs
2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
3 tablespoons of milk
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
For the Soup
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 cup minced yellow onion
1 cup 1/4-inch-diced carrots (3 carrots)
3/4 cup 1/4-inch-diced celery (2 stalks)
10 cups homemade chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup small pasta, like tubetini or stars
1/4 cup minced fresh dill
12 ounces baby spinach, washed and trimmed
Preheat oven to 350° F.
For the meatballs:
* From Ina Garten's barefoot contessa back to basics, 2008
The Dig at Atlantis on Paradise Island in the Bahamas is the largest open-air marine habitat in the world with the exception of the world's oceans. It's absolutely amazing. Just under and outside the Royal Towers is a labyrinth of dimly lit halls and chambers paneled with floor to ceiling windows on one side, and individual aquariums and tanks on the other. Not only does this watery world house the recreated ruins of the destroyed city of Atlantis but it is home to an incredible array of exotic sea creatures.
As you meander through the maze of chambers, you'll be stopped in your tracks as you see the gigantic manta rays turn the corner and float directly toward you, only to brush the window and proceed on their way; or, you'll be transfixed by a school of shimmering translucent-looking silver jack fish. Captivating too are the lionfish - venomous creatures using their reddish-brown and white stripes as camouflage, their needle-like dorsal fins to deliver venom to their victims, and their long flashy pectoral fins to say "Stay away!" which it appears should be fairly effective. And, I smile every time I turn the corner and find myself eye-to-eye with the tiny orange and white striped clownfish wondering which one is Nemo. This year, however (and you'll see) one was different - one was black with white stripes. How'd they do that?
Whether you like primeval looking gargantuan groupers, undulating jelly fish, rocking seahorses, slithering moray eels, spiny lobsters, or piranha, you'll find a chamber holding them, but what I found the most mesmerizing was the Ruins Lagoon. Thousands and thousands of fish swim past you at eye level revealing their spectacular colors and/or quirky natures. So many species in one location, some acting independently, and others darting to and fro in huge schools with no recognized leader and no understandable reason for their collective, erratic behavior.
I've put together this slide show to share with you some of the magic of The Dig and its inhabitants. Shooting fast moving objects in very dark lighting is a challenge and one that I still need to master, so please be patient with the graininess of some of the photos, but I did so want to share these characters and their colors with you. Remember to get the best resolution change 360 to the highest number you can (either 480 or 720).
Photos and Slide Show by Claudia Ward ©2010 All Rights Reserved
Music: Under the Sea by Kidzone
The 18th annual Hamptons International Film Festival is just winding down. Peter began going to it in 1992 and we've watched it grow and mature year-by-year. This year films were shown on five consecutive days starting last Thursday and ending today, in theater venues from Montauk to Southampton.
We've always enjoyed the spirit around the festival. The people who are attracted to the festival are obviously artistic and/or film lovers, and they're here to promote and/or view independent films. They may be beautiful people but they don't come with the same attitudes that some of our summer visitors do. In between films, the restaurants and bars are filled with excited participants, eager to talk about the films they just saw and eager to hear about what you just saw. Queuing up for the next film, everyone is abuzz in line sharing their reviews - good and bad - of the works they've seen. The cool autumn air, the clear blue fall-sky, and the crunching fallen leaves under foot - all add significantly to the enjoyment of this long weekend.
One of the special events each year is called "A Conversation with ..." The first year of the festival Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorcese were the featured guests, and since then we've seen Richard Dreyfuss (joined on an impromptu basis by Rod Steiger), Harvey Keitel, Robert Atlman, Kyra Sedgwick & Kevin Bacon, and Vanessa Redgrave. Sadly we missed the conversations with Isabella Rossellini and James Franco this year, but the chatter in line at The Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor was that both were captivating. We were in line for the final "Conversation with ..." - Stanley Tucci. The conversation was funny and enlightening. Tucci says he's not a star and may never be one, but he is an actor who listens, builds characters, and conveys wonderful stories to an audience. He loves the work whether acting or directing, and particularly likes the "independent" work - thanking the audience and festival today for supporting independent filmmakers.
The final film we saw this year was "And Everything Is Going Fine", directed by Steven Soderbergh, which is a documentary tribute to playwright/actor/monologist Spalding Gray. If you don't know Gray's work, seek it out (Swimming to Cambodia, Monster in a Box, and Gray's Anatomy, amongst others). His monologues may be considered an acquired taste but are unique works done with perspective and humor. Those of you who know me may say this sounds a bit unusual for what you might consider my tastes. Well, first of all, remember I love words and Spalding had a way with words, and secondly, remember, he bought my house in North Haven.
Busy? On the run, yet wanting a good, light lunch? How about baby bella mushrooms in a sherry vinaigrette on a bed of arugula with a little prosciutto and sliced slow-roasted tomatoes. It's easy to prepare - no time at all - and so satisfying. Plus the clean up is negligible. Try it once and then add your own variations - maybe last night's left over roast chicken to replace the prosciutto. You'll want a little more vinaigrette in that case.
Warm Mushroom Salad*
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons good olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 bunches fresh arugula, washed & spun dry
8 slices good Italian prosciutto
2 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
Chunk of Parmesan cheese (optional)
8 sun-dried (or Slow Roasted tomatoes) in oil, drained and julienned
Fresh flat leaf parsley leaves
Foster Farm sponsored the Fields of Power Engine Run this year which we enjoyed two days in a row. This is a fully operational farm raising corn, grain, vegetables, potatoes, and apparently, chickens. The walk in to the event passed a fenced-in area filled with chickens and this sign. It simply caught my fancy.
Residents of Foster Farm
Ever try to catch a chicken?
Mesa Grill in New York is one of our favorite restaurants. Bobby Flay does wonders with spices and creates phenominally flavorful dishes. Our all-time favorite dish is his salmon, but steaks, pork and chicken all reveal themselves in new and surprising ways as a result of the unique flavor combinations Flay applies. They pack a punch, but what a wonderful punch.
Flay has a number of restaurants around the world and one happens to be at Atlantis on Paradise Island in the Bahamas, which is where we are as I write. Well, to be accurate we're in our timeshare at Harborside, just across the channel from Atlantis. When my nephew's girlfriend heard that we were going to have dinner at the Mesa Grill, she began joking "We're going to see Bobby Flay! We're going to see Bobby Flay!" The two of them have been avid watchers of his shows on the Food Network.
Well low and behold, look what happened. Bobby Flay was at Mesa Grill last night and we got a picture of them all together.
Fall is upon us and soon the trees will begin to change color. Peter and I are always trying to find charming new locations where we can enjoy the fall foliage in the northeast. We found a perfect place on our recent trip up north. It's at the top of a mountain and is reached by a beautiful winding road that passes bucolic brooks and horse farms. We can't make it this fall but maybe you can.
The Mountain Top Inn is in west-central Vermont, in Chittenden, northeast of Rutland - headquarters for the Green Mountain National Forest. The Inn, like so many things in New England, is quite modest in its appearance. Yet, when you enter the Inn's charming, comfortable lobby you are captivated by the breathtaking view in the floor-to-ceiling windows beyond. The Inn overlooks a large lake from which the Green Mountains rise in the distance. We could only imagine on that late summer day what this vista would look like dressed in the bright colors of fall, or, for that matter, covered in the white of winter's snows. Looking at the brochures, it looked to me like a wonderland in any season, for hiking, swimming, horseback riding, cross country skiing, or just reading by the fire.
Photos by Peter Tooker ©2010 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Music: Vermont by The Da Vincis
We had lunch on the Terrace, soaking up the view and fresh air, and then said adieu to the staff before getting under way. One in particular stands out - Bailey - the near-resident beagle. Beloved by staff and guests alike, Bailey has a singular perspective on this glorious location and seems ready to share it with anyone who will pay attention.
It's such a glorious morning, especially after all the rain we've had all along the east coast this week. I just felt like I had to share with you another glorious morning.
What a sunrise we had this morning! Wouldn't you agree?
Hurricane season - did you know that it's really a six month season - yup, that's right - June 1st to Nov 30th, each and every year. And each and every year they name the tropical storms that may become hurricanes. If winds are over 39 miles per hour (mph), they get a name; if winds are under 39 mph, then they're just a really big wind! To make it to Category 1, i.e. entry level for hurricane status, a storm's winds must equal or exceed 74 mph.
Calling "HER-icanes" by the names of woman began in 1953, a practice that was liberated in 1978 with the addition of male names for such tempests. These were affectionately dubbed "HIM-icanes" by "libbers" of the time.
Donna (1960), Gloria (1985), and Bob (1991) all created significant memories. From Gloria, I remember my father driving us around "the loop" in Chatham (Cape Cod) during the eye of the storm to see all that had happened and not recognizing the street I lived on for all the flooding. From Gloria, the worries were boats moored in Sag Harbor; and, from Bob ... a cypress tree nearly took out Peter's car, we lived without electricity for five days, and everything had to be cleaned up and operational for my bed-and-breakfast guests by the next weekend.
This year, we're already up to the letter "N" and it's not even October. We all prepared for Earl, but that really didn't happen, at least on the east end of Long Island. Igor did his best to stir up the surf, as you can see above, and brought us extra high tides. And, Tropical Storm Nicole is clawing her way up the east coast battering the coastline and flooding towns as she goes.
As devastating as these storms can be, they are rarely un-photogenic and these are just a couple of the images we captured as Igor and Nicole traveled north and east of our shores.