By Tracy Cavaciuti
When James and Sandy Chen opened @thebarn in 2015, they beautifully renovated the building at 17R East Granby Rd. that has been a gathering place for Granby people for decades. The restaurant offers an exceptionally fine dining experience, a now famous Happy Hour and Sunday Brunch, catering services and special event services.
Grateful for the success of their two restaurants in Granby, Han Asian Cuisine and @thebarn, the Chens put out a call to the community asking for feedback. The response, albeit very positive was, what might be missing is a place where families can go several times a week, not just for date night or special occasion — a place where people can bring the kids on the way home from a sports event and gather as a family to reflect on the day and enjoy good food and conversation.
To answer the call for a more casual dining experience, they created The Loft, with a casual dining menu that is available upstairs @thebarn and on the seasonal patio. There is plenty of seating, a full service bar and two TV screens. The atmosphere is casual. The menu is rich in depth, broad in its presentation offering appetizers, pasta, entrees, flatbreads, salads and some amazing burgers and sandwiches including a fried macaroni and cheese burger and a chicken breast with pesto, red peppers, tomato and brie. The creative element delivered by Chef Dan Fortin and his team extends to every item on the Loft menu. There is something for everyone. Menu items range from $7 to $19; truly a bargain for cuisine delivered by this fine restaurant’s talented team.
The mission statement for Han and @thebarn is to serve the needs of the people of Granby and their families. James and Sandy Chen welcome community feedback for both Han and @thebarn. Community feedback is what brought on this positive change.
The Loft menu is available Sunday through Thursday from 3–9 p.m. All menus can be viewed on Instagram, Facebook or at www.atthebarngranby.com
By Susan Accetura
Eat local—eat seasonal—eat a rainbow a day. Summer is one thing, with our gardens full of tomatoes, zucchini, peaches, peppers, raspberries, blueberries, basil, we scarcely need to visit the grocery store at all. A walk through the garden can determine the menu. Autumn abounds with pumpkins, potatoes, acorn squash, apples, pears, quince. But winter in Connecticut? Good luck with that.
These days in the big supermarkets we can find almost every fruit and vegetable any month of the year. When there is no local produce, try to buy produce that is currently in its natural season somewhere, being picked at its peak so it isn’t tasteless. Any self-respecting taste bud knows that a tomato from the supermarket in December bears little resemblance to the one you pick from the garden in August. Traditional New England winter dinners conjure up slow simmers of beef stew, or pot roast, or a long-baked chicken pot pie or mac and cheese, low on sparkle and shimmer, but high on comfort and warmth.
For several years, due in part to my excessive thriftiness and to my parents’ willingness to share some extra quality-time with their grandsons, I’ve had the pleasure of spending a week or two each April in Italy. While there’s no shortage of fine art and architecture, our favorite sightseeing is done at the outdoor markets. In early April we find mountains of artichokes, boxes of asparagus, bunches of arugula. And what is on the menu in the restaurants? Artichokes, asparagus, arugula. What is cooking in the traditional home kitchens? Artichokes, asparagus, arugula, true seasonal eating.
Italian winter menus focus on many of the hardier vegetables that we also see here—cauliflower, cabbage, kale, fennel, beets and broccoli, which they combine with winter pantry staples of dried beans, polenta and rice to create cozy comfort foods. Coin-shaped lentils, a symbol of prosperity, are a New Year tradition. As winter progresses and we start to see colorful citrus from California and Florida, southern Italy and Sicily send juicy grapefruit, brilliant lemons and the spectacular Sicilian blood oranges northward through the rest of the land.
Go ahead and crank up the crock-pot, truss up the roast and throw another log on the fire. It is cold out there, after all. And if you’re trying to keep some fresh, crispy produce that hasn’t simmered in a pot all day, in your diet think outside of the lettuce-tomato-cucumber box. Look for new and exciting splashes of color in the market—try grating some winter carrots and tossing with a splash of lemon and olive oil for a crunchy side dish, add some grated beets for an explosion of purple and orange. Here’s another vibrant salad to keep things fresh, like an unexpected flashy cardinal on a cold gray day, and a reminder that somewhere, the ground is warm and the sun is shining.
Winter Beet & Blood Orange Salad
Serves 2 to 4, but easily multiplied
1 or 2 medium red beets, scrubbed and trimmed
1 or 2 blood oranges, carefully peeled stem to bottom
½ small fennel bulb, trimmed of tough parts (save some of the feathery fronds)
1 small shallot, or ¼ of a small red onion
Your favorite olive oil
Sea Salt, coarse or flaky
Freshly ground black pepper
Note: If you slice the beets really thin (a mandoline is great here), they are thoroughly delicious raw. If you prefer, you can roast them first. Navel oranges, grapefruit, or a combination of the two can be substituted if you can’t find blood oranges.
Thinly slice the beets into rounds and lay them on your plates.
Thinly slice the fennel bulb crosswise and scatter the slices on top of the beets.
Slice or finely-dice the shallot (you can cut back here if you’re not a raw onion fan) and sprinkle on top of the fennel.
Slice the oranges into rounds and place on top of it all.
Drizzle with a tablespoon or so of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Garnish with tasty wisps of fennel fronds.
This recipe is simple yet flashy, and oh so refreshing. The juice of the orange and the zip of the shallot provide a pleasant balance, but feel free to add a squeeze of lemon or lime to taste. And rejoice, we’re halfway through winter.
Holcomb Farm CSA is again offering fresh, locally grown, pasture raised turkeys for your holiday meal on a pre-order basis. These are fresh, not frozen, turkeys. Due to our limited cooler space, pre-ordered birds must be picked up on Tuesday, Nov. 22, between 3 and 7 p.m. We cannot hold turkeys overnight.
Ekonk Hill Farm can supply turkeys from 10 pounds to 40 pounds—you decide and order the size that works best for you. Ekonk will match your order as closely as possible but there is no guarantee you will receive the exact weight you request. Bird weight can vary plus-or-minus up to 4 lbs. The cost is $4.99 per pound. The order form and a deposit of $45 must be received by Nov. 11. Reservation forms are available at the CSA barn. For more information, call 860-844-8616.
By Susan Accetura
“Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness.” (Jane Austen)
It’s apple season here in Connecticut. From a pomologist’s perspective, this has been a challenging year. A mild winter resulted in apple blossoms swelling a bit early, subject to damaging spring frosts, and a rainy blossom time in May wasn’t motivating to the pollinating bee brigade. The summer drought has kept some varieties on the smaller side, but at least all of the crisp, delightful flavors have arrived. It’s time for apple picking, applesauce, apple crisp, apple dumplings and, of course, apple pies.
So what makes a perfect apple pie? Fresh apples and a gorgeous crust clearly help, but let’s face it, there is no one “perfect apple pie” any more than there is one perfect tossed salad. It is indeed a matter of taste, a matter of preference, a matter of upbringing, a matter of memories, and, as much as anything, perhaps a matter of dining companions. The variations of apple pie are as prolific as apple varietals, which number more than 60 in Connecticut alone.
For many, the perfect apple pie is quite simply the one that tastes most like Grandma’s. Did Grandma use lard in her crust? Or was it shortening, butter, a little sugar, maybe some cider vinegar or vodka? Did she cook the apples before baking the pie? Were they roughly chopped or thinly sliced? Tossed together casually? Or perhaps fanned out with precision like a tarte tatin pièce de résistance? And what of the spices — simple cinnamon, a grate of fresh nutmeg, allspice perhaps, zesty cloves, or maybe some mysterious McCormick’s Apple Pie Spice? And the crust construction; was it blanketed cozily like Grandma’s handmade afghan? Or carefully woven like the lattice fence in her flower garden? Maybe Grandma was extra sweet and rubbed together a scrumptious streusel topping with brown sugar, butter, oats and a little love, for a bit of Dutch apple magic.
To create your own perfect apple pie, you may need to recall your finest apple pie experience and consult with the creator. Maybe that’s Grandma, or Mom, or Auntie, or an innkeeper where you experienced the best one ever. Maybe put your faith in your favorite cookbook author (Ina, Nigella, Martha, Alton).
In a pinch, if you’re a novice, the recipe below is a very simple starting point for a basic apple pie. Make a few, learn the basics, then start experimenting. If you choose to make a Dutch apple pie with a crumbly streusel topping, make extra topping and keep it in the fridge for an easy last minute apple crisp this season. You’ll be glad you did.
Perfectly Simple Apple Pie
For the Crust:
3 cups all purpose flour
1 ½ tsp. salt
½ pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
½ cup (approx.) very cold water
Combine flour and salt in a medium sized bowl.
Using a fork, a pastry blender, or your fingers, mix the butter pieces into the flour until it resembles coarse crumbs with some flecks of butter; about the texture of steel-cut oatmeal and peas. You can also use a stand mixer with a flat beater or a food processor if you are careful not to over mix — just a few moments with a flat beater, or a few pulses of the processor.
Pour most of the cold water into the bowl and toss together lightly until the mixture just starts to come together.
Dump it all onto a clean counter and form it into a ball. Try not to overwork it, but a few schmears with the heel of your hand is OK if it’s a bit too crumbly. Divide the ball into two pieces, shape casually into discs, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes or more.
For the Filling:
This is a very basic uncooked filling, the most time-consuming part will be preparing the apples.
8 cups peeled, cored and sliced apples. Choose firmer apples like Northern Spy, Cortland, Granny Smith, etc. — or a blend. Softer apples are fine but will make a softer, saucier pie.
3 Tb. flour
½ cup sugar (granulated or brown or combination)
1 tsp. cinnamon
Toss all filling ingredients in a bowl and let rest while you roll out the crust.
Putting it all together:
Pre-heat oven to 425°.
Roll out one of the dough balls and lay it over the pie pan (9 or 10”), with about an inch overhang. Some folks struggle with rolling out pie dough; I believe that too much anxiety with the crust will result in a less-than-enjoyable apple pie experience. Don’t stress. Just keep practicing. Use a little flour on your work surface. Use a little more flour if your dough is too sticky. Sprinkle with a a few drops of cold water if your dough is too dry. And by all means, if you’re not having fun, there are plenty of perfectly suitable frozen crusts in the market. There’s nothing wrong with rolling out your crusts one day, lightly wrapping them and chilling in the fridge and finish assembling the next day with no pie dough angst.
Fill the crust with your apple mixture. Pile it high. Leftover apples make a tasty snack. Add a pat of butter on top of the apples.
Roll out your top crust and lay it over the apples. Leave enough hanging over the edge (about an inch) so you’ll be able to pinch it together with the bottom crust. Crimp the edges as desired. I just pinch and twist with my thumb and the inside knuckle of my index finger, or you can create some elaborate fluted work, or even just press it with the tines of a fork.
Sprinkle the top of the pie with a bit of cinnamon sugar and make a few small cuts in the top to vent the steam. Set it on sheet pan or cookie tray lined with foil or parchment to catch any drips and slide it into the oven.
Bake at 425° for about 25 minutes, then reduce heat to 350° for another 25 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting a knife into the pie using one of the steam vents so you don’t mar your masterpiece. If your knife meets much resistance, you might choose to bake it a bit more, depending on how soft you like your apples.
Let the pie cool for about 30 minutes before cutting. It will still be toasty and warm, but the slices will hold their shape better if slightly cooled. Serve as is, or with some fresh whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or do as the Vermonters do, with a wedge of sharp cheddar. Not my personal preference but far be it from me to stand in the way of anyone and their cheese. I do love an appetizer of Cortland apple wedges with slices of cheddar — a positively tasty combination.
The Granby Farmers Market has officially concluded its first season, and what a success it was! The new project began in June, and took place at South Congregational church every Tuesday this summer. After an amazing opening day, the Granby Farmers Market became a place for the community to shop, gather, explore and have fun.
Many local businesses were featured at the market, having the opportunity to spread the word about their products, as well as promote healthy and local eating to the community. Some memorable vendors included Lost Acres Orchard, Sweet Wind Farm, Popover Bistro and Bakery, Lyric Hill Farm, Unique Soaps and Beading Adventure. All of these wonderful vendors are located in the Farmington Valley, truly making this a local market.
Danielle Sturgeon and Amanda Zyzdorf, local college students, were excited to bring a new farmer’s market to town after the previous one closed its doors. They hope that with the continued support of the community, this market will grow and become an even better success next season. With that said, contributions regarding market improvements are more than welcome.
Interested in becoming a vendor for the 2017 season? Interested in volunteering your talents and ideas? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or send us a message on Facebook. We hope you had a fantastic time at the market, and we can’t wait to see you next season!
Running a kitchen, raising a family, and dreaming of Italy
by Susan Accetura
If months had mascots, September’s would surely be the apple. Symbolizing the beginning of fall, the gift for the teacher, and all things cool and crisp. This summer has been anything but cool and crisp. The scorching and waterless July turned supple green lawns into flaxen crisps. Blossoms wilted and gardens stalled. This is pure botanical conjecture, but perhaps the lack of rain drove the roots deeper, so when the August rains finally came, they were stronger than ever….like a drought-hardy vineyard rootstock. The September symbol, this year at least, might just have to be the Love Apple.
Centuries ago, the tomato earned the nickname of Love Apple. Some say the tomato was originally misclassified into the nightshade family, which included the aphrodisiacal mandrake root. There’s theory that when the Moors brought apples to Europe from Africa, the Italian ‘pomi dei mori’ (‘apples of the Moors’) may have morphed into ‘pommes d’amour’ (‘apples of love’) in French. While we can hardly imagine Italian food without tomatoes, the fruit, originally from Peru, didn’t arrive in Italy until the 1500’s. Happily, whatever the history, the plants are currently producing abundantly in our New England gardens.
The simplest tomato cookery involves no cooking at all: slide up to the nearest plant. Pick. Eat. If you want to get fancy, slice it or dice it and add some fresh basil and a sprinkle of good salt. (Tomatoes want salt. Damp, coarse crystals harvested from the waters off of Sicily are particularly fantastic, but any salt will do. In a ‘pinch’.) To make a traditional caprese (kah pray zay) salad, add fresh mozzarella to the tomatoes and basil, and season with salt, a drizzle of olive oil, and an optional splash of balsamic vinegar. (And not to get too brackish, but sweet, mild and creamy fresh mozzarella likes salt, too). Your red, white and green caprese combo can easily be added to a pizza, pasta, panino or mixed with eggs for breakfast.
For many families, September means back to school, back to lessons, back to practices, back to busy-ness. When the days are still hot (and sometimes overscheduled) but the nights are getting cooler, make the most of cooking in the evening for meals over the next few days. If you find yourself grilling chicken for dinner, make some extra for lunchtime salads. If you go through the trouble of turning on the oven for baked mac and cheese or any sort of casserole, make an extra pan for another night and pop it in the freezer. And if you find yourself with a supply, of juicy, ripe, delicious tomatoes, assemble a big tray of Pomodori al Riso - Tomatoes with Rice. They’re quite simple to assemble, require zero time standing by a hot burner, and they taste even better at room temperature, the next day.
POMODORI AL RISO
This recipe is easily doubled, tripled or multiplied based on your tomato supply….just keep the ratios about the same. It’s very forgiving. It also just happens to be gluten free, dairy free and vegan, and substantial enough to be the main course.
6 medium to large ripe round tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Small handful of fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
½ cup (8 tablespoons) of arborio or carnaroli rice (or whatever rice you have)
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
Salt and pepper to taste
Rinse your tomatoes then cut off, and save, the tops (they will become lids). Carefully scoop the flesh out of the tomatoes, catching all of the juices and pulp in a bowl. (A grapefruit spoon or a melon baller work particularly well for the task.) If you’re a purist, you can pass all of this tomato goodness through a food mill to make a smooth puree and eliminate all of the seeds. Or, simply give the larger chunks a quick chop and call it a day.
Add the garlic, basil and rice to the bowl of tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper, and a generous drizzle of olive oil. Let bowl sit while you get potatoes ready.
Put the potato chunks into a 9x13 pan, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Nestle the tomato shells into the potatoes so they are standing upright.
Give the tomato-rice mixture a stir, then spoon it into the tomatoes. Keep the top third of the tomato shells empty, or they might burst when you roast them. Extra filling can be stirred into the potatoes.
Put the ‘lids’ back on the tomatoes, drizzle with a bit more olive oil for good measure, and throw the whole pan in a 375 degree oven for an hour or so. They may take longer, and that’s ok. Once the oven is on, you should go outside and enjoy the evening air with a cool beverage of your choice.
Test them after an hour, if rice is still too al dente, give them a bit more time. Tomatoes will slouch and blister a bit as they cook - take it as a sign of happiness. Let them cool for at least 30 minutes before eating. Store cooled tomatoes in the fridge and enjoy the next day. They are quite delightful aside a fried egg for breakfast, as a tasty first course, or with a simple salad for lunch or dinner.
September holds three entire weeks of summer, so move over MacIntosh, we’ve still harvesting Love Apples.
The Hartford County 4-H Fair is coming up!! August 19-21 visit the Four Town Fair grounds in Somers, Connecticut for a day full of fun family activities. The 4-H fair has a variety of animals and events. On Friday, August 19th the band "Still Above Ground" plays starting at 6:30. Saturday there is FREE laser tag from 11am-6pm, Wheels in Motion BMX stunt team will
By: Katherine Logee (GMMS student)
On Monday, June 6, the Granby Memorial Middle School Student Council held a ceremony to remember Mrs. Jan Amidon. They planted a beautiful Japanese Maple tree with a plaque in memory of her. At the ceremony, her husband, Mr. David Amidon, who was joined by their daughter and son-in-law Karen and George Papagelis, and grandchildren Ryan, Jeffrey, and Kayleigh, noted that Mrs. Amidon spent one third of her life working at GMMS. Mrs. Amidon was known for her dedication to the GMMS community as well as countless programs that support Granby students. In her 27 years as a teaching assistant at GMMS, she was active with numerous athletic programs, most recently basketball and cross-country, and she chaperoned over 20 eighth-grade class trips to Washington, D.C., and Boston.
Mrs. Amidon had a positive impact on many students and staff. She will forever have a special place in our hearts. She was a mother to all, and she was always there to help no matter what you needed. She was a beloved member of the GMMS community, even to those who only knew her in passing. Students and staff who enjoy this beautiful tree as it grows roots outside GMMS will always think of Mrs. Amidon.
By Joan Davis
The Granby Horse Council is proud to announce that James Novak of Granville, Mass. is the recipient of the 2016 Granby Horse Council scholarship. James has been riding horses since he was 7 years old. He is a senior at Westfield High School and will be attending Findlay University in Findlay, Ohio, in August. He is enrolled in the equestrian program with a focus on Western riding and training, specializing in reining.
The council offers a $500 scholarship annually to a member who is a senior at an area high school and plans to attend a two- or four-year program in animal studies. Applications are accepted through the end of March each year.
Members of the Horse Council enjoy promoting their love of all equines through many activities: trail rides, parades, drill team, de-spooking sessions, picnics, Christmas party, annual banquet, educational and entertaining programs for horse owners and the general public, Open Farm Day and other community events. This is a great way to meet others in the horse community. People do not have to be horse owners or live in Granby to join. GHC maintains the riding rings in Salmon Brook Park and Holcomb Farm for use by all riders. The club works actively to protect the right to ride on local roads and trails.
Meetings are held the third Wednesday of every month at 7 p.m. All meetings include an educational or entertaining program and are open to the public. The meetings are usually at Holcomb Farm from October through April and at area farms May through September.
For a schedule of events, program topics, locations and the membership form, visit www.granbyhorsecouncilct.com. Follow us on Facebook at “Granby (CT) Horse Council” or call Joan Davis at 860-653-6805.
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