l.i.c, ny
This little slice of melon is the reason I’ve been having trouble getting to work on time, this gentle flesh that gives beneath my teeth and spoils my mouth with honey sweet juice, this melon that I wake up dreaming of and loose track of minutes and hours just for the simple slicing and savoring of it.
I’d like to tell you I grew this melon, a Sycamore Honeydew, but the truth is we just got lucky. It arrived in our grocery delivery. I can confirm that it was grown in the USA. Its little sticker told me so. It turns out you can find out a lot from those little stickers, like that the Smith family, who grew my melon, have been growing melons in Turlock, CA for over 80 years. I think I’ll just have to put some of their shiny seeds into my soil too.
So, I’m late for work again. Blame it on the melon, or the fact that Gerard Butler has been filming The Bounty outside our bedroom window. Either way, I’m innocent.


I Heart Farm Stands

norwich, vermont

I’m not the first girl to fall in love at a farm stand, but never was I so usurped as I was standing inside the Killdeer Farm Stand in Norwich, Vermont. The colors were arresting shades of pinks and purples, happy greens and golden orange-yellows. I stood there like an idiot savant, my mind filing the colors into categories, meals, and entire frescoes of flavor.

“I can see this is going to be a while,” András said. “I’ll wait in the car.”

Just then, I turned toward a pile of fragrant sweet corn. I was about to reach in and habitually pull back the outer layer of husk when I read a sign that said “You don’t crack your eggs before you buy them, do you?”

Handsome, and clever. Swoon.

Crowned With Cream

norwich, vt

Crowned with Cream

Recently got a surprise package in the mail from my dear friend Anjee that include a darling vintage apron and a slim, illustrated book called Festive Dessert Cookery from Peter Pauper Press {1967}.

The book embodies everything about the 1960s, with its pink and orange ink illustrations and recipes with titles like Orange Delight and Rice Imperiale. What I found the most delightful were the sentiments of the author, Evelyn Loeb, who so eloquently put into words what I’ve always felt to be true:

Every good hostess knows that the dessert makes the meal, or at the very least, is the climax. And coming last as it does, it makes the most enduring impression.

If your meal is light, choose a rich and filling dessert; if it is heavy, choose a light one. And if you are not dieting and have a healthy disregard for calorie content, select a dessert crowned with whipped cream for a party effect.

I am sure I would have loved Ms. Loeb, as I love every dessert crowned with cream, like the Pavlova. Pavlova is the perfect summer dessert made up of a snappy snow-white meringue with a marshmallowy core, crowned with luscious cream and fruit. Dotted with wild summer berries like fraise de bois, huckleberries, and tiny tart blueberries, it becomes the most seasonally inspired dessert.

It is my love for the pavolva, and the juicy ripe berries and cherries of a New England summer that made it easy to say yes when I got my annual call from Robyn Sargent, of the King Arthur Baking Center in Norwich, Vermont, requesting me to dream up another baking class. I spent the early summer in my kitchen, creating lovely pavlovas and a few other festive recipes for my class on Berries, Cherries & Stone Fruits.

Today, in the tiny town of Norwich, in a room full of bakers from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, Vermont, Delaware, and New Jersey, we made Semolina Olive Oil Cake with Warm Sour Cherries, Buerre Noisette {Brown Butter} Pound Cake with Poached Apricots, and Pavolva, crowned with cream of course, and dressed with tiny wild blackberries and strawberries from the Killdeer Farm farm stand next door.

I love to see the look on the face of someone who claims they hate merigue when they take their first bite of ethereal pavlova. It creates, as Ms. Loeb would say, a most enduring impression.


Holy Quiche

rockford, il

The creation of the perfect quiche requires an almost spiritual discipline. I learned this over the weekend at home with my family, where my sister Jenny promised to make us a practically holy quiche from the kitchens of Bouchon that she’d been praising for weeks. She first made it for her husband’s birthday a few weeks ago, and posted its picture on Facebook, where its presence caught my attention. Then she made it again, and again, chronicling the detailed instructions that kept her in the kitchen for over four hours each time. I had to know, what was so marvelous about this quiche that warranted her repeat performance, and the discipline it required?

Our family kitchen is not poised for discipline. Someone is always running through the kitchen chasing a dog or a child, perched on the counter top picking at the last piece of cake, practicing violin in the background or watching the Family Guy barf-a-thon out on YouTube on the kitchen computer. It’s hard to concentrate.

Luckily, we were bred on commotion, and Jenny seemed to have it all under control. She started on Saturday, and I watched as she painstakingly sliced mushrooms into even widths, stripped thyme off the stem one leaf at a time, and scaled out every ingredient as the recipe instructed. I admired her focus, her unwillingness to take shortcuts. When you spend all day in the kitchen, you tend to take a few liberties with recipes. But not Jenny, she is precision to a tea. She’s the kind of girl who rolls her hair in hot rollers, uses the correct brushes to apply her makeup, and never goes outside without sunscreen.

Over the course of two days, the quiche became a family affair. Amy ran to the store to get the oyster mushrooms and Comte cheese, Mom helped Jenny unstick her stuck crust, Tim stood by telling jokes, and I stood by for trouble shooting. On his way to the piano, Dad swung by with the encouraging “Did you say this takes four hours or four days?” Meanwhile Jenny was a picture of calm. She made the crust, rolled, chilled, formed and baked a perfect shell that would become Sunday lunch.

Sunday morning, she began again. While the rest of us were getting ready for church, she poured the custard into the crust and I came by just as it was going into the oven. I noticed the springform pan wasn’t completely closed, per the recipe, a suggestion that mystified me and went against all of my culinary experience. But I had to trust Jenny’s {and Thomas Keller’s} quiche expertise, so I kept my mouth shut.

Dad called out from the piano. “Ten minutes till church girls,” he said. Jenny put the quiche in the oven, and disappeared to get dressed. Five minutes later, mom called her back to the kitchen. There was liquid custard oozing out of the quiche onto the baking sheet. Jenny took one look into the oven and then ran upstairs in tears. I followed.

“I just wanted to make you guys the perfect quiche!” she said from the edge of her childhood bed.

“Never apologize!” I said, employing my best Julia Child voice and raising my hands in a cheer. Jenny laughed, and wiped her eyes.

I decided to skip church and stay home for moral support. The quiche would require some major cosmetic surgery and some good cheer, and I felt up for the job. I rescued the liquid custard from the tray, popped the spring shut, lined the outside with foil and poured the custard back into the center of the tart.

Meanwhile, the family filed out to the car in their Sunday best. “You guys go ahead,” I called to them “We’ll meet you at cocktail hour.”

“Coffee hour!” Jenny said. “Geeze, you’ve been in New York too long!”

“You’re not coming to church?” Dad asked. The guilt.

“No, Jenny needs me. The quiche needs me.” I said. “God would want me to stay here and help my sister.”

Jenny and I attended the Church of Holy St. Hammock in our pajamas in the backyard, and experienced the peace that passes understanding down in our hearts, knowing a religiously good meal was less than an hour away.

When everyone arrived back home, the children headed to the basement to play Legos, and the rest of us piled onto the couch, the arms and legs of grown siblings intertwined with Tim’s golden retriever, Riley, splayed over our toes. The clouds rolled in, and with it the anxiety of leaving the cozy nest of home for my flight back to New York. Jenny brought out her quiche, in all it’s weighty glory, and placed it on the center of the coffee table with a bottle of Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc. I sliced and passed as each member in turn fell to pieces over the silky custard, the buttery crust, the perfection that offered retribution for the hours and blessings we had lost.

“Oh Jenny, this is amazing,” Dad said. “I hope it was worth selling your soul.”

We considered, for a moment, saving a few pieces for the kids, but decided it’s better to let them come to spiritual gluttony all on their own.


Prizewinning Pie

boone county, il

Last week when we were bunking in Stonypoint, András came back from a 50-mile ride with his water bottle full of tiny, iridescent wild raspberries. They were unlike any I’d ever seen, but what impressed me more than their shimmering beauty was András clever trick for getting them home to me from the top of Bear Mountain.

This morning, at home with my family, my dad and I geared up our bikes and set out for a ride along our old route around my hometown. Half-way through our ride we came to the top of a steep hill and nature rewarded us with bushes full of wild blackberries along the bike path. We parked our bikes and filled our mouths with the sweet bursting berries, but I couldn’t stand the thought of everyone back home missing out. Visions of cast-iron blackberry pie consumed me, but we had no way to get the berries home.

Then I remembered András clever trick, and was all-too-willing to share it with my Dad.

“If we empty our water bottle, we can use it to carry the berries home,” I said. I reached for our shared water bottle and started to empty it into my mouth.

“Never throw good water away,” Dad said. “Especially on a bike ride on a 90-degree day! And besides, they’ll get all smooched.”

I took one look at Dad in his white collared shirt and lace-up shoes and realized that a man who won the good grooming award in 8th grade probably wouldn’t like the idea of juicy berries knocking around in his water bottle all the way home.

So, I forwent the luscious blackberry pie and ate what we could on the spot. Luckily we spent the afternoon at the Boone County Fair, where prize-winning pie wasn’t hard to come by. God bless America, and lattice-top blackberry pies.


How To Be Lovely {Mulberry Crush, part II}

l.i.c., ny

There are hazards to the constant pursuit of good food. Unfortunately, many of them are cosmetic. In my case, these cosmetic pitfalls show up under my nail beds, which are often dyed or dirty from the soil in my garden, the peeling of beets, or the picking of berries.

Today, I noticed this circumstance had traveled to my toes. As I looked down to find deep purple mulberries crushed into the space between my toes, I couldn’t help but think of Audrey Hepburn.

Audrey was lovely in every way. My sisters and I have a saying that we use amongst ourselves when someone needs a gentle reminder to be more lady-like. We simply say, “What would Audrey do?”

It’s possible it started when my sister Jenny caught me licking my fingers at a celebratory meal during sorority initiation back in college. At the time, she scolded me, slapped my fingers away from my lips and handed me a cloth napkin to blot the corners of my mouth. A few weeks later I received a package in the mail from Amy, our oldest sister. In it was the book How to Be Lovely: The Audrey Hepburn Way of Life.

In those years, I’ve kept this book full of Audreyisms nearby as a guiding force that helps me inch one step closer to the delicate flower I was born to be.

“My mother taught me to stand straight, sit erect, use discipline with wine and sweets and to smoke only six cigarettes a day,” Audrey said.

My mother taught me that cookies are best hot and fresh from the oven.

Still, we may be more alike than one might think. Audrey loved her garden, and all things green.

“When I didn’t have a dime, I held to the dream of one day having my own orchard with fruit trees and a place to grow vegetables,” she said.

See, we’re practically twins! I suppose Audrey wore gloves while working in her garden, but even so I found this similarity comforting. Perhaps I could be lovely after all.

There’s nothing lovely at all, however, about walking home from Costco with a super-size pack of Charmin in plain sight, and using it to climb up into the mulberry tree on the way home only to slip off into the grass that was wet with smashed mulberries. That, dear readers, is how I found myself with mulberries in my toes. At that moment, I had to ask myself, “What would Audrey do?”

I’d like to believe Audrey would gather her composure, climb back up on the 24-pack of Charmain and pick every remaining mulberry from that tree. She would take them home and would crush them in a blender with some simple syrup and fresh mint and fashion them into one very elegant mulberry popsicle for the one she loved. And, if she didn’t have popsicle molds {which most likely she didn’t}, she would freeze the popsicle directly in a champagne flute {made of plastic, since she would know that glass might crack in the freezer}. She would deliver this popsicle sweetly to her dearest love, and bat her doe-eyes at him as he praised her gentle ways.

Or, she might just save this popsicle for herself, and eat it when no one was watching, sucking out the deep purple juices until her mouth was stained. It’s hard to say.

“People seem to have this fixed image of me. In a way, I think it’s very sweet, but it’s also a little sad,” Audrey once said. “After all, I’m a human being. When I get angry, I sometimes swear.”

I bet she even got her hands a little dirty once in a while.


Happy Place

stonypoint, ny

Everyone needs a happy place. Mine, for today, is my friend Robert’s house in Stonypoint, NY, which he’s lent to us two weekends running to pick his raspberries and blackberries while he's away. Robert is a master gardener, and his yard is his opus. He’s also a world-class photographer who has a studio-office flooded with natural light. So, if you’re looking for me, you’ll find me in the bramble picking berries, in the studio shooting them, in the kitchen teaching András how to make pancakes and biscuits or on the front porch eating them with mounds of melted berries.

My tip for berry picking: If it doesn’t come off easily, it’s not ready yet.

András' tip for berry picking: If it doesn’t come off easily, you’re not pulling hard enough.


Date Night {With Julia}

l.i.c., ny

Friday night is date night, and it has fortuitously, fallen on the night of the opening of Julie & Julia. András is the move man in our family -- There is just no competing with his ambition to see them all. But I’d been talking about this movie since June, so today when I woke up, the first thing I said was:

“We have to buy tickets for Julie & Julia this morning. It might sell out”

András’ sleepy smile widened into a huge grin. “Babu,” he said, using his sweetened Hungarian endearment for me. “It's not going to sell out.”

“Yes it is! Tonight is opening night!”

He laughed. Hard.

“It’s not Star Wars.”

“But everyone is talking about it!”

“No one is talking about it. You just think everyone is talking about it because you work at the Food Network. Most people don't even know who Julia Child is.”

I beg to differ. Julia, and Simone Beck, changed the way America eats. Today Mastering the Art of French Cooking, was the number 2 book on Amazon.com. Not number 2 in cookbooks, number 2 in all books.

“We'll see in Queens then. At least no one in Queens knows who Julia is,” András said.

We agreed to see it at Kaufman, the local Queens theater, after meeting at home for a quick bite. I made sandwiches out of thick slabs of cold butter {no, that’s not cheese}, rounds of fresh purple onions, and spicy arugula on whole wheat bread. I sheared two ears of corn and tossed the kearnels in olive oil over high heat {for 2 minutes} and threw them together with our latest batch of tomatoes and thin strips of lemony sorrel. As simple as it was, these clean summer flavors were not meant to be rushed. Every bite was bursting with life. We savored them a little too long and almost missed the movie.

We finally arrived, just as the opening credits were rolling, and tucked into the only two empty chairs in the very front row, making larger-than-life Julia even larger, and more lovable.

Throughout the movie, András laughed louder than anyone.

“She’s crazy!” He said.

“She’s wonderful.” I said.

But you already knew that. The moral of the story is this: People in Queens know about Julia Child. And, raw purple onion and butter sandwiches are divine. Better, even, than beef bourguignon.


Death Becomes Her

All that live must die, passing through nature to eternity. - William Shakespeare

Today we suffered a tragic loss. Our time with her was short, but precious. She was a beauty from the start. She flowered early and produced two beautiful offspring that we enjoyed for dinner on two separate occasions. But then her leaves yellowed, and it was clear her health was suffering. Tonight, as I held her long branches in my hands, she let go. Dear Courgette, we’ll miss you.

She left behind three of her young, their lives cut far too short without her guiding strength. And since they were never able to bloom and grow, I took them home and art instead of dinner.


Tomato Troubles

l.i.c., ny

Today I caught up on the phone with my old friend Carrie who I hadn't talked to in years. Facebook made sure that we were up to date on the basics like where we lived, what we did for a living and how we had changed in the last five years, so we launched right into the gritty details.

"How do you create recipes for a living and not weigh 300 pounds?" she asked.

"I’m married to a man who peddles about 300 miles a week, which is his way of taking it easy after giving up ultra distance marathons and iron mans.” I explained. “It sort of rubs off.”

"What a coincidence, that's how I spend my time." She said. I had missed her sense of humor.

"So, he makes you work out?"

"Sort of. He encourages it."

András is a big believer in the mental benefits of a hard, physical workout, like a stress-relieving, mind-clearing, pore unclogging run. I find yoga and gardening to be exhilarating.

Recently, in National Geographic Adventure, I read an article about the secrets of long life written by a former long-distance cyclist {he’s ridden 15,5000 miles at a time} who spent the last few years traveling to Sardinia, Okinawa, Costa Rica and Loma Linda to study some of the worlds healthiest humans. When asked what kinds of activities tack on years, he said:

One of the greatest activities is growing a garden…it requires physical activity to till the land, weed, water, harvest, fertilize. It’s there as a constant reminder to do a little bit of regular activity. And you emerge with organic vegetables.

That was enough to convince me I was on the right track. But then there is the annoying detail that skinny jeans are still in style, so occasionally I partake in a vigorous run myself.

Other times, I just put on my running clothes, which makes me feel fit and fabulous, and has the added benefit of convincing András that I’m on board.

I explained this philosophy to Carrie.

"I love how you're starting you relationship on based on honesty. That’s great.” She said.

“Oh, I never actually lie,” I explained.

Take last night for example. I put on my running gear with the full intention of going out for a good sweat fest. On the way, I decided I'd just swing by the garden first and check on the tomatoes, since you really can't go a day in August without one ripening. And if you don’t get a tomato when it’s ripe, the birds or the bugs or the neighborhood thug just might get to it first. When I got there, to my surprise there wasn't just one tomato ready, there were three beefsteak tomatoes, plus a handful of sun golds and five tiny red cherry tomatoes. I loaded them up in the bag I'd brought the compost in, and tried to imagine how the poor tomatoes would feel about bouncing about in that little bag while I pounded the pavement in circles just so I could fit into some ridiculous fashion trend.

I explained this to her.

“One can’t run with tomatoes,” I said.

"Obviously, I totally get your logic." She said. I love a friend who understands me.

What one can do is take those tomatoes straight home and slice them up thinly, sprinkle them with sea salt and let them sit aside while they toast a few slices hearty 7-grain bread in a skillet with a little butter or olive oil. Then, they might want to quickly sweat the sweet purple scallions they got at the farmer's market in a little more olive oil, while they fry a fresh organic egg in another pan nearby. Then one might want to layer all of this on the toasted bread, and set it out on the table just in time to welcome their friend or roommate or husband or personal trainer home.

Then, it's likely the topic of a workout won't even come up at all. So, as you see, there is no lying involved. Just a good old-fashioned, open-faced fried egg sandwich eating.


Le Survivalist

Ever since I met András, he’s been training me for something.

“If you run out of clean water, you can fill a clear glass jar full of creek water and set it in the sun for 6 hours. The UV rays will kill any bacteria, making it safe to drink.”

That is an example of something he might say to me in passing, during a lull in an otherwise quiet, rainy afternoon at home.

Good to know.

So, when we decided to go for a hike today, I wasn’t surprised to find him in the bathroom, packing a first-aid kit that included sterile gauze, eye drops, bandages, tea tree oil and antibiotic ointment.

What did surprise me was what else he considered survival basics for an afternoon hike.

In the parking lot at Tallman State Park in Piermont, NY, András replaced his flip-flops with wool socks and hiking boots. I slipped on my running shoes and sunglasses.

“Should I bring the water bottle?” he asked.

“I think it’s a good idea," I said. "It’s 91 degrees out.”

He tripled tied his laces, and reached for his backpack.

“You know what, I’ll bring the whole backpack. I have a little food, the water, and my knife.”

I turned to find him unshielding a 5 1/2-inch titanium knife.

“Whoah Rambo, how long to do you plan to be gone?”

“An hour or so, but you never know.”

True. You never know.

We set out on the marked trail, past a picnicking family reunion and toward the wilderness that hugs the Hudson River about 30 miles north of New York City. About 1/4 a mile in, we came across a rotting tree trunk. András reached for his knife and plunged all 5 1/2 inches into the tree.He rocked the knife back and forth, peeling away rotting layers of wood.

“Perfect. This tree is at least 150 years old.” He said. “If you’re stuck in the woods, you can use your knife like this to dig for food in an old tree.”

“What kind of food?” I asked.

“You know, anything that’s crawling and high in protein.”

Got it.

We pressed on, past bushes of wild raspberries and blackberries that assured me we wouldn’t be eating slugs anytime soon. We ate a handful each, and left the rest for other hikers.

“Another thing you can do if you run out of water is take a t-shirt and wrap it around your leg and walk through a field in the morning after the dew. Then squeeze your t-shirt out into your mouth.”

As far as I knew, we still had a whole bottle full of water in the backpack, but this was also good to know.

There are hundreds of rules for survival. András knows many of them. He has camped from Belgium to Croatia on foot, biked across Transylvania and skateboarded 70 miles in 7 hours without stopping. His buddies have seen the inside of an avalanche and lived to tell about it. In his world, these skills are relevant.

When it comes to survival, I have only one rule. When the man in your life (dad, brother, boyfriend, husband) is trying to teach you something, do not laugh.

“It’s not enough to have survival skills, you have to use them.” He said.

He’s right. I bit my lip to keep from smiling and vowed to listen more carefully.

Meanwhile, I was distracted by the dozens of wild mushrooms that popped up between piles of wet leaves, under tree trunks and lining the creeks that weaved in and out of our path. It becomes my own survival sport, gauging which ones would be worth eating, and which would put our feasting days to rest forever. Bright gold-yellow the shape of chanterelles that seemed almost aglow, tiny luminous red-capped ones, subtle pear green ones with bulbous caps—they were everywhere, and turned the forest into an endless game of Where’s Waldo.

András has tips for this too.

“You can rub a mushroom on your skin to see if it changes color. If it doesn’t, you can move to the next step. Touch it to your lips but don’t eat it until you give your body time to react. Take it one step at a time. But this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not poisonous. ”

This was one survival skill András isn’t willing to test. He would sooner eat a bowl full of live slugs than mushroom he can’t identify. Since I think poisonous mushrooms sound like candy compared to slippery slugs, we decide to look for (or invent) an iphone ap that identifies wild mushrooms.

Soon, our hike turned into a climb, and we were scaling a 100-foot incline on all fours.

“Always keep three points connected to something secure.” András shouted from above me. “And don’t climb directly behind me in case of an avalanche.”

Just then my foot slipped on a large, loose rock releasing a slithering cascade of…

“Snakes!” I screamed. But they were only earthworms, fat, juicy and silver. Dinner, if it came to that.

At the top of the hill, we start to circle back toward the car.

András held his arm out perpendicular to the horizon. “See the sun?” he asked. “Take your hand and point it above the horizon with four fingers spread out about an inch apart. Each finger represents 15 minutes. Stack on top of each other until you reach the height of the sun. That’s how much time we have left before sundown.”

I did this. Three stacks of fingers.

“Three hours.” I said. I felt proud of myself. This one seemed very useful, and like something I could remember.

“That’s right. When there’s two hours left, you want to start looking for a good spot to make camp. But pay attention to waterways, especially in the summer. Never make camp in a valley, even if you are far from a river, because sudden rains can cause serious flooding.”

About this time, the mosquitoes began to attack. We were less than a half-hour from the car, so we quickened our pace to a jog, escaping deluges and poisonous mushrooms and slug soup for dinner and the West Nile virus.

In our car, we raced toward home, and our cozy kitchen, where I showed András my idea of survival skills. I foraged our near-bare pantry and refrigerator for ways to turn our market apricots into something delightful, like an olive-oil cake with Beames des Venise poached apricots. Finding no extra virgin olive oil, all-purpose flour, or sweet wine, I made the cake with almond oil and semolina flour instead, and poached the apricots in a simple syrup made with chamomile flowers from our garden. Since we had no crème fraiche or heavy cream for whipping, I sent my survivalist back into the wild to gather some vanilla ice cream at the local deli. He made it back, just before the rain, where we feasted, safe and secure in our little life together. I think we’ll survive.

My photo
New York City, United States
Sarah Copeland is a food and lifestyle expert, and the author of Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite, and The Newlywed Cookbook. She is the Food Director at Real Simple magazine, and has appeared in numerous national publications including Saveur, Health, Fitness, Shape, Martha Stewart Living and Food & Wine magazines. As a passionate gardener, Sarah's Edible Living philosophy aims to inspire good living through growing, cooking and enjoying delicious, irresistible whole foods. She thrives on homegrown veggies, stinky cheese and chocolate cake. Sarah lives in New York with her husband and their young daughter.