Saturday, December 31, 2016

A Spirited Skoal to You!

Aye -- the Winter Solstice Celebration at Merry Mount was lovely as always (was this the 16th or 17th annual?), and Patrick's theme this year was "Bold Spirits: Revelry at Merry Mount." There were 9 of us kindred spirits repeatedly cheering "Skoal" throughout the evening, what with an amazing dinner (as always Rett), a song sung by the incredible tenor Pat, smooth vodka shots on ice, and upbeat readings he carefully chose for all of us.

This possibly sums up the night; an excerpt of the song Pat belted out at the dinner table: "Ho, a song by the fire; Pass the pipes, pass the bowl. Ho, a song by the fire, with a skoal, with a skoal. Ho, a song by the fire; Pass the bowl, Pass the pipes with a skoal."

 Oh, dang, I have to include this verse too because it sums up our LONG friendship with each other -- "So, here by the fire, we defy frost and storm; Ha, ha, we are warm, and we have our heart's desire. For here we're good fellows, and the beechwood and the bellows. And the cup is at the lip in the pledge of fellowship. Of fellowship."

Makes me smile as I write this and remember that fellowship. You just don't always get lucky enough to have warm friendships like this -- and decades long.

But I digress.

The dinner was amazing. Here's a look at the menu:

Champagne with assorted liqueurs and berrries
Hors d'oeuvres
Baby lettuce salad with dates and pomegranate seeds & honey mustard vinaigrette
Roast beef tenderloin crusted with rosemary and garlic
Yogurt horseradish sauce
Sauteed mushrooms with red wine
Potatoes au gratin
Roasted brussels sprouts with toasted hazelnuts
Macadamia almond cake and homemade vanilla bean ice cream

Could that get any better????

Well, yeah, it got even better, as Pat brought out the smooth vodka shots

And the amazing readings he chose for all of us. I won't publish all of them here, but a sampling's below (from the evening's printed program!):

A Poem for Rett: (excerpt)
While the milder fates consent
Let's enjoy our merriment
Drink, and and dance, and pipe and play
Kiss our dollies night and day
Crowned with cluster of the vine,
Let us sit and quaff our wine...

A Limerick for Stu:
It's Winter Solstice today
The merriest of days, one might say
Cuz your options are fluid
Any spirit will do it
Drink away; you need not a bouquet


 And, A Limerick for Jim:
Chosen spirits, they're called the Porch Crew
Bring liquor, wine and a corkscrew
Each year they do meet
To drink and to eat
Their spirits are high, I assure you.

Many more superb readings (and many more "skoals") dotted that winter's eve. And here, reader, are a couple of the recipes we enjoyed:

Vivi's Winter Salad:

2 heads of butter lettuce or baby lettuce
1 cup glazed spicy pecans
¼ cup slivered dates
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
¼ cup diced celery
½ cup feta
14 cup sliced green onions

2 T cider vinegar
1 T honey
2 t Dijon mustard
1 T orange juice
dash water
¼ cup olive oil
salt and pepper

Mary Anne's Nut Tart:
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar, divided
3 1/2 ounces almond flour (1 cup)
1/2 cup macadamia nuts
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup toasted unsweetened flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly coat an 8-inch round cake pan with baking spray. Add 2 tablespoons sugar, and turn pan to coat bottom and sides.

Process flour, nuts, baking powder, and salt in a food processor until finely ground. Combine egg yolks, vanilla, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl. Stir in flour mixture until fully combined. (Mixture will be stiff.)

Beat egg whites with a mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Stir one-third of the egg whites into flour mixture to loosen it up. Gently fold remaining two-thirds egg whites into flour mixture. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake at 350°F until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 25 to 28 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes. Invert onto a plate. While cake is still warm, very gently press coconut evenly into top of cake. Cool completely.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Merry Summer Days on the Farm

 Ahh, those sun-basked Ohio summer days are truly glorious at beautiful Merry Mount -- with the fast-growing kids already butting heads, abundant gardens, multi-hued flowers everywhere, warm gatherings with assorted friends on an evening patio, a bit of vino perhaps, and of course scrumptious meals served al fresco. Take a peek at a few recent gatherings and scroll down for some summery recipes.


Watermelon Salad with Arugula, Goat Cheese and Candied Walnuts
6 pieces of watermelon cut to 1 inch thickness (or multiple small slices of watermelon)
2 cups baby arugula
2 T fresh mint, chopped
2 T extra virgin olive oil
juice of one half a lemon
salt and pepper
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
1 T balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup candied pecans or walnuts

Place watermelon on individual salad plates. In a medium bowl, toss arugula and mint with olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Top watermelon with arugula mixture. Sprinkle each salad with goat cheese and nuts; drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

Risotto with Asparagus, Peas and Basil

4 C chicken stock
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 T olive oil
8 shallots, finely chpped
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
12 oz asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2 inch lengths
1 cup fresh peas
finely grated zest from 1 lemon
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
large handful of fresh basil leaves, torn
salt and pepper to taste

Heat stock in saucepan until almost boiling; reduce heat and keep until barely simmering.

Heat butter and oil in heavy Dutch oven. Add shallots and cook 1-2 min until softened but not browned.

Add rice and stir with a wooden spoon until the grains are well coated and glistening, about 1 min. Pour in the wine and stir until it has been absorbed.

Add 1 ladle of hot stock, stirring until absorbed. Repeat. After 10 min, add the asparagus peas and lemon zest and mix well. Continue to add the stock at intervals and cook as before, for 8-10 min until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is al dente.

Add reserved stock, Parmesan, basil, salt and pepper. Mix well. Remove from heat; cover and let rest for 2 min.

Spoon into warmed bowls and top with basil and grated Parmesan. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

New Kids on the Block

We're baaaa-baaa-baaack! So, MFBAF may have taken a brief hiatus over the chilly winter months, but that doesn't mean we were sitting on our laurels. Au contraire, as it were. In fact, SOME farm residents were extremely busy, well, gestating. Right Clara?

And here's what her winter o' work produced:  THREE sweet, fuzzy, long-legged little baby goats! Two boys and a girl.

Actually the fertile Clara birthed an unprecedented five babies (unheard of in these parts) but the two tiniest didn't make it. I made an afternoon trip to the farm when the kids were just two days old.

SOOOO cute!

Not even a pound apiece!

Clara's an awesome mommy.

These babies will be out playing in the little pasture before you know it!

Cheers to little baby goats!

And to celebrate, a yummy goat cheese dip and a green olive tapenade.

The farm is looking good on these late spring days.

Of course, the farm never looks anything but good -- no matter the season!

Here are few recipes for you -- in case you want to celebrate a baby goat too!

Goat Cheese and Cherry Tomato Dip

1 tablespoon olive oil
heaping spoonful of light mayo or greek yogurt
1 (8 ounce) log goat cheese
3/4 cup crumbled feta
1 clove minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup freshly chopped basil
1/4 pound yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 pound red cherry tomatoes, halved
toasted bread or crackers for serving

Preheat oven to 350F
Spray a small 6 inch baking dish with nonstick spray.
In a large bowl, mix together the olive oil, mayo/yogurt, goat cheese, feta, garlic, salt, lemon juice, and basil. Use a spoon to combine as much as possible, although it doesn’t need to be perfect. Stir in half of the tomatoes.
Pour mixture into baking dish and top with remaining tomatoes.
Bake, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes or until bubbly and slightly browned.
Serve with toasted bread or crackers. 

Todd English's OLIVES Tapenade
 1 large jar of green, pitted olives (approx 32 oz)
1 T capers
1 T minced garlic
zest of half an orange
1 cup chopped fresh mint
1/3 to 1/2 cup EVOO
1/2 T black pepper

Combine all in food processor until just chopped (don't puree). Let sit in fridge for several hours or more, then serve with crackers. 

Monday, January 11, 2016


(Sunday, Jan. 10) Where has winter been? Last night at midnight, I got a text from Jim and Dave -- on a truly balmy but drizzly January 9th, they were sitting on their porch enjoying a little Queen their pipes! Who knew it would be so warm STILL? Usually Ohio is absolutely freezing about now.

This morning was a different story, and I guess it's finally time for winter. We woke up to windy, cold and snowy weather. I have to admit the big snowflakes drifting down and frosting the tree branches and yards are quite pretty. Thankfully, I did all of my errands yesterday, and now I have a big pot of (Dave's recipe) cassoulet in my crockpot. It smells divine.

But I digress. Back to Queen Anne. That's the name of the special tobacco that I bought Dave as a Winter Solstice gift for his trusty (but only-occasionally used) pipe! This year, there were nine of us that gathered at Merry Mount for our favorite evening -- the Winter Solstice celebration, and our kick-off to the holiday season!

Lee and Robert joined us (fresh from the White House!) and donned some pretty snazzy outfits.

Pat's theme this year was "...till time and times are done" and he had some pretty awesome readings for us (some composed especially for the event by him and Robert!).

And the outstanding, delectable, always-amazing menu from Rett included:

Champagne with assorted liqueurs and berries
Appetizers: assorted cheese board, bacon-wrapped dates, goat cheese
 and cranberry spread, and salted pecans (Vivi)
Mary Anne's famous salad
Rett's cabernet-braised short ribs with gorgonzola polenta and mixed herb gremolata
Halibut with clementine gremolata
Roasted carrots
Monticello rolls
Italian lemon marscapone layer cake (Dave)
A little wine!
The table was gorgeous! 

And just get a load of this dessert:

After dinner, a bit of jollyment (is that a word?) with all the guys. I'm not sure if they were singing or yelling. Goofballs.


For a special gift, Rett and I (at several of our friends' requests), made a cookbook filled with photos and recipes that we've shared as a group -- mostly at Merry Mount and at the cabin in Pennsylvania. I think everyone liked it!


Happy New Year! Here are a couple of readings that Pat put together for us each to read, and a recipe to enjoy!

Vivi's Time (by Loreena McKennitt)
When white-beaded frost hath threatened his worts,
And fallen from branch and brier,
Then time away calls from husbandry halls
And from the good countryman's fire,
Together to go to plough and to sow, 
To get us both food and array,
And thus with content the time we have spent
To drive the cold winter away.

Jim's Time: Healing Heart (by Robert Bode)
Here, time is moving
In quiet breathes and
in the long, slow turn of seasons.

Here, the pain of love's arrow,
Once scarlet,
Fades to memory.

Here, the sigh of tides
And fall's surrender into snow
Mark a white forgetting.

Here, layers of wonder
And the heart's gentle song
Callus out again
      into the morning
      into the light.

Recipe: Halibut with Clementine Gremolata:
3 clementines
1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 t. sea salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 clementine  
4 6-ounce halibut fillets  
Extra-virgin olive oil (for drizzling)
• Using vegetable peeler, remove peel (orange part only) of clementines. Chop peel (reserve flesh for another use). Combine chopped clementine peel, chopped parsley, minced garlic, and sea salt in small bowl. Stir in extra-virgin olive oil and set gremolata aside. DO AHEAD Gremolata can be prepared 4 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.
• Preheat oven to 350°F. Using vegetable peeler, remove peel of clementine in four 2-inch-long strips (orange part only). Cut four 12-inch squares parchment paper. Place halibut fillet in center of each parchment paper square. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle halibut lightly with olive oil. Place 1 clementine peel strip, cut side up, on each halibut fillet. Bring 2 edges of parchment paper together along long side of fish fillet and fold parchment edges together 3 to 4 times. Tuck both remaining edges of parchment underneath fillet to create packet and place parchment packet on rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with remaining fish fillets. DO AHEAD Halibut packets can be made 4 hours ahead. Chill on rimmed baking sheet.
• Bake fish just until opaque in center, about 18 minutes (to check doneness, unwrap packet and insert fork in fillet). Remove rimmed baking sheet from oven. Unwrap fish. Place halibut fillets on plates, spoon gremolata over, and serve!