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Recipes for an Adirondack Semester


Mary and Raurri unloading groceries from the barge.



Mabel and Zena putting away the veggies.

Slow Food Adirondack-style

Every Wednesday morning, from late August until the week before Thanksgiving, I fill the back of my Subaru with waxy recycled produce boxes, but not before I've had a peek inside. From Ann and Brian Bennett's Bittersweet Farm there are dozens of fresh eggs and sometimes chickens. Dan Kent and his family supply all the produce: early fall brings bags of sweet corn, summer squash and zucchini, a box elbow deep in lettuce, spinach and greens, another brimful of tomatoes. More boxes stuffed with baby eggplants, peppers, basil and melons. Later, the winter squash come on: delicata, acorn, many I can't name, as well as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages and onions, beans, chocolate peppers, sometimes potatoes.

As I drive down Route 68, then down Highway 56 to Route 3, I notice how the colors of the vegetables in my boxes reflect the changing seasons, from the delicate greens and yellows of summer to the darker, more assertive golds and purple-reds of fall. I turn in at the Massawepie Boy Scout camp, unlock a gate, then pick my way up a stony road, and on to an almost hidden two-track until I park my car at Tenderfoot Cove. I haul the boxes to a rickety dock and wait for a couple of students to bring the barge across the bay so we can haul the vegetables and eggs over to the yurt village on the shore of Lake Massawepie that's home to twelve St. Lawrence students for the semester. We carry the boxes past the wood-fired sauna, past the two-stall Clivus composting toilet and the students' sleeping yurts to the kitchen yurt where students are busily cleaning up from lunch before we start my creative writing class for the afternoon. "Mary's here with the vegetables!" they yell, eagerly peering into the boxes before they start stacking the week's array into the mouse-proof bin. Right now, I'm the most popular person in the village.

Here, at the remote village they call Arcadia, the students live simply in the woods, away from computers, cell phones and stereos, and take academic courses and field trips that explore their relationship to nature and place through the lens of the Adirondack mountains, lakes and small towns surrounding them. They learn to carve paddles with master boatbuilder Everett Smith and make furniture with Michael Frenette in his Tupper Lake woodshop. They learn that living simply and sustainably means a lot of hard work, maintaining the small solar array that powers the lights, raking the composting toilet, splitting wood for the stoves and the sauna, hauling, purifying and heating water from the lake for cooking and drinking. And after a day of woodworking, class, chores and time spent roaming the miles of trails around Massawepie they're ready for a hot and hearty meal.

Every night, two students prepare dinner for the rest of the group and the assistant directors or director who live with them. This past semester, ten of the twelve students were vegetarian and so the bounty from the Kents and Bennetts, along with some staples like beans, rice, pasta and bread, formed the basis for three month's worth of meals. Following are recipes compiled by each cook team, and though I haven't tried them all, I can attest to the fact that hard work, fresh air and healthy eating has given the Adirondack students a glow that's lasted all semester.

Mary Hussmann, Canton NY

Bittersweet Farm Chicken

  1. Under the careful eye of Brian Bennett, kill, pluck, clean and refrigerate a chicken.
  2. Gather fresh vegetables from the Kent Family Growers: new potatoes, broccoli, carrots, red peppers, onions, and basil.
  3. After mourning your chicken for a couple of days take it out of the fridge and place in a foil-lined 13x9 inch pan.
  4. Put on some music and get into your favorite dance pants.
  5. Chop the vegetables into robust chunks.
  6. Guard your chicken with a colorful fence of chopped veggies.
  7. Give the chicken and veggies a luxurious olive oil bath, mixing well to disallow olive oil hoarding.
  8. Mix salt, pepper and chives from your herb garden in a bowl and distribute evenly over chicken and vegetables.
  9. Roast chicken and vegetables in a preheated 350 degree oven. Pull the veggies out after 30-40 minutes and keep warm.
  10. Pour a glass of your favorite beverage, grab a book, sit next to the woodstove and enjoy the aroma of roasting chicken till it's done.

Peter Tucker and Laura Sisco

Eggplant for the Phobic

  • The eggplant is about to turn. Delivered last Wednesday, they've been benchwarmers all week, avoided by the group like the plague. What is it about eggplant that's so daunting? It's not any harder to skin or chop than any other vegetable. It's not exotic or terribly dangerous like blowfish, doesn't need to be prepared a specific way.
  • So, there's nothing to be afraid of. Say it again, there's nothing to be afraid of. Don't let the eggplant bully you into a mediocre meal.
  • Take four of those cute little suckers out of the vegetable bin and skin and cube them. In the act of skinning them they become less intimidating, like speaking in front of an audience pretending everyone is naked. Next, throw the cubes into a pot of boiling salted water until they are slightly squishy. While you are boiling away your phobia, chop up four cloves of garlic and throw them into a bowl of olive oil, a half cup give or take because psychology isn't an exact science.
  • Next, drain the eggplant, dump it into the bowl of oil and garlic and mash it up while thinking of your worst childhood memory. Put out some grated cheese, some tortillas and raisins. Plop a spoonful or two of eggplant in the middle of a tortilla and top with the cheese and raisins. Roll it up and put it on a greased baking sheet. Repeat until the eggplant is gone, then bake at 350 degrees for twenty minutes.
  • When you pull them out of the oven, admire your cathartic little burritos and serve them to your twelve closest friends. They'll be proud of your courage in conquering your fear of eggplant.

Raurri Jennings and Erin Hanafin

Baked Delicata Squash with Maple Syrup

They got shoved into the back of the screened-in, mouse-proof vegetable cabinet, behind the more recognizable peppers, onions and tomatoes. There were seven of them, oblong with stark green stripes across their smooth skin. The normal fare at Arcadia typically features more common vegetables, and the eggplant, root vegetables or unfamiliar varieties of squash tend to be overlooked by the amateur chef.

But these unique delicata represent the rich, abundant harvest offered by the soils of the North Country. As summer fades into the colder nights of fall, the beds of thick, spiny green plants produce an array of hardy vegetables of every shape and size. Tonight is cool and crisp. Zena and I survey the veggie cabinet, spot the seven colorful squash and decide to bake them. Using a method she remembers from home, Zena creates a tray full of sweet, warm nourishment that helps us welcome the new season.

  1. Heat oven to 375.
  2. Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop the seeds into the compost bucket.
  3. Place cut side down on a baking sheet, add a bit of water and bake for about 30 minutes or until soft.
  4. Remove them from the oven, turn them over and add a couple slivers of butter and a couple of tablespoons of North Country maple syrup.
  5. Bake for another ten minutes or until syrup has slightly carmelized.
  6. Serve and enjoy!

Katie Powers and Zena Wolcott-MacCausland

Chilly Evening Chili

By Monday night the vegetable cabinet is looking sparse since the last shipment of vegetables was almost a week ago. There's a chill tonight as autumn sets in, the perfect weather for wool sweaters and the best kind of homemade, heartwarming meal: chili. The measurements are up to you depending on the company. Is it a big family gathering or just the two of you? Either way, just plop these ingredients in a big pot, and as they simmer sit down for a hot cup of tea and a nice chat with a friend.

  • Tomato paste (add water)
  • Fresh cut tomatoes
  • Beans (black, kidney, garbanzo or whatever's on hand)
  • Peppers
  • Onions
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Your favorite salsa
  • Pineapple (for a little bit of pizazz!)

Kate McCarthy and Dominique Edgerly

Bottom of the Barrel Chili

Cooking dinner on Tuesday nights is always a daunting task since the vegetables don't come till Wednesdays. In the fridge we have butter, soy milk, corn, and leftover cabbage salad. The vegetable bin is not much better. There we have garlic, onions, two squishy squashes and some overripe tomatoes. In our storage room at the boy scout lodge across the lake we have several cans of beans and other assorted vegetables as well as frozen tomato sauce. Chili, we decide, is a delicious way to use up what few remaining vegetables we have. After a quick kayak across the lake to grab supplies we're ready. Just mix everything together and heat.

  • Tomato sauce
  • Tomato paste
  • Leftover corn
  • Random beans
  • Mushy tomatoes
  • Last remnants of yellow squash
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Chili powder and whatever other spices we find

Nathan Basch and Emily Rooney

Great Gramma Flood's Pasty

As we clean up the remnants of lunch, Mary arrives with the week's fresh vegetables. Mabel and I, while busily bleaching the tables and sweeping the floor, see an abundance of colors, a cornucopia of food, the bounty of a North Country harvest zipping around us, deftly handled and stored by our classmates. We look at each other and sigh, knowing that it will be difficult to prepare dinner with so many options. Seven hearty meals for thirteen will be prepared from the veggies in the cabinet over the following week, yet the array before our eyes is perplexing. What to make? After much deliberation, we fall back on an old family recipe that has followed my family from the early 19th century copper mines of Michigan's upper peninsula.

Crust:

  • 3 cups flour
  • ¾ c shortening
  • 1 t salt
  • 2/3 c water

Mix together well and roll out.

Filling:

  • 6 potatoes
  • 3 carrots
  • 2 small onions
  • 1/3 of a large rutabaga (or one small)
  • 2/3 t salt; pepper to taste
  • 1 lb of hamburger (Kilcoyne Farm from the local coop)
  1. Chop or grate all the vegetables and place in greased baking dish.
  2. Top with meat, salt and pepper and dot with butter.
  3. Cover baking dish with crust. If you have extra freeze for next time.
  4. Bake at 350 for one hour. Serve with ketchup.

James Douglass and Mabel Carlson