October 19, 2021

A la Carte: Lee Offers a New Twist on Vegetables … With a Bit of a Kick!

Lee White

A few weeks ago, my refrigerator was filled with tomato sauces and chicken. I had made that huge, seven-pound chicken, which I ate for at least five days (sandwiches, tacos, chicken salad.)

As for the tomato sauce, Judy Robertson gave me some from her garden and two other condo friends gave me her mother’s recipe for sauce with chicken while another gave me some topped with her own ricotta-filled shells. 

Then there was more chicken. For the first time since the dreaded COVID, friends and I ate dinner at our favorite-always restaurant, Sneekers, on a Friday night.

Dick had his go-to fish and chips (baked potato, no cole slaw), Judy had an enormous mac and cheese loaded with lobster while I had the chicken-fried chicken (fried boneless, skinless chicken), mashed potato and the white, black-pepper-flicked gravy, which the southern people love for their chicken-fried steak.

In any case, I am now craving vegetables, mushrooms in particular. I am not brave enough to forage, but I love them. This recipe includes just about every vegetable plus mushrooms.

Curry Vegetables
Adapted from Bon Appetit, September 2021

Photo by Roam In Color on Unsplash.

6 tablespoons coconut oil, divided
6 cups 1-inch mixed veggies (zucchini, carrots, cauliflower, eggplant, okra and/or mushrooms
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 2-inch piece turmeric peeled (or ½ teaspoon ground turmeric}
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled, finely grated
1 habanero, Fresno or jalapeno chile, finely chopped
1 13.5 ounce can full-fat unsweetened coconut milk
1 ½ cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 tablespoon plus 1 ½ teaspoon honey
1 15-ounce (or so) frozen green peas
Small handful chopped cilantro
Juice of ½ lime (optional)
Steamed white rice for serving

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Melt 3 tablespoons coconut oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Transfer all to a large bowl, add veggies and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Divide vegetables between 2 rimmed baking sheet and roast until almost tender, and starting to brown in spots, 10 to 12 minutes. Set aside.

Heat remaining coconut oil in a large skillet over medium. Add seasonings and cook, stirring often, until fragrant. Add onion, garlic and ginger, season with salt and pepper and cook stirring often, until onion is translucent and spice mixture looks dry and clumpy, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add chile, coconut milk and broth to skillet and bring curry to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by about one-third, enough to coat a spoon, 13 to 17 minutes. Stir in honey, taste curry and season with salt and pepper, if needed

Add peas and reserved roasted vegetables to skillet and return curry to a simmer. Cook until vegetables are fork-tender, about 4 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and stir in cilantro.

Let sit 5 minutes, then stir in lime juice if using. Serve with rice alongside.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A View From My Porch: Continuing the Tikka Saga — with Slides of Trips to the UK

The London skyline by night with St. Paul’s Cathedral at center left. Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash.

Clearly, we all need a break; this lighter essay is mine.

In August, LymeLine published a recipe for chicken tikka masala from Lee White cooked in an “Instant Pot.” We made the dish, pictured below, with her recipe and found it to be an authentic and tasty interpretation of the “British staple.”

Christina and I enjoy the aromatic spices, and have some “history” with cilantro. We added steamed celery, carrots, and peas to Lee’s dish; as we often do with curries.

Coincidentally, chicken tikka masala is my “go-to” entrée in Indian restaurants, since it can be spiced mild to medium. Christina has a much more adventurous palate, and has been known to order a curry, “India spicy”, which usually piques the interest of the restaurant staff, who may hover nearby until she tastes the dish. I’ll eat all the naan; she won’t need it.

We were introduced to tikka on our first trip to England, where we visited my daughter, Erin’s (then) home in the Roman walled city of Chester, which also served as our base for Liverpool, London, and the broader countryside. 

There is no shortage of restaurants highlighting the cuisine of the subcontinent in London. Our choice was just over the London Bridge, near the entrance to the Borough Market; which, alone, is worth a visit.

I look to Madame Editor to corroborate or correct the following: former British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, described “tikka” as “the true British national dish.” Erin agreed, but not wholeheartedly; and went further and informed us that legend has it that the recipe actually originated in Glasgow, by Bangladeshi chefs, who created it to provide an alternative to their traditional, spicier dishes for the milder Scottish palate. 

I was surprised with the above, because I would have assumed that the national dish would be bangers and mash, fish and chips, or a bacon bap from a vendor in a train station.  I’ll defer to Madame Editor.

Author’s Notes: For the unfamiliar, an Instant Pot (IP) is, a relatively new small kitchen appliance that houses both a pressure cooker and a slow cooker. As Lee noted in her recipe, you can also sauté or brown meats in the IP. In our household, we use it once or twice a month

Here are a few vacation slides; actually, the captions.

  • We walked the Roman Wall in Chester and watched a lacrosse match at the Queen’s School for girls, which was founded in 1878, and renamed in 1882 as the “Queen’s School”, by decree of Queen Victoria, the school’s first patron
  • We were regularly within sight of the Queen Victoria Clock Tower at Chester’s East Gate. Built to celebrate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee, it is said to be the most photographed clock in England (after Big Ben).
  • We strolled along the canals in Chester and were impressed with the “fleets” of narrow boats, which are canal boats serving both as cruisers and residences.  
  • We visited both Penny Lane and the Cavern Club in Liverpool. The former has a famous barber; while the latter is known as the birthplace of the Beatles.
  • We visited the Roman Baths in Somerset, constructed in 70 A.D., and now considered one of the best-preserved historic sites in Roman Britain.
  • We visited the magnificent St. Paul’s Cathedral.
  • We saw the Rosetta Stone and the Pompei exhibit at the British Museum.
  • We shopped in Harrods and viewed the memorial to Princesss Diana and Dodi Fayed, which has since been removed. 
  • We visited the Churchill War Rooms, including the broadcast room where the PM recorded his wartime messages to the British public.
  • We visited some magnificent gardens on country estates, and much smaller, but meticulously maintained home gardens, whose gardeners were very willing to discuss local horticulture with we yanks. 
  • On Anglesey Island, in Wales, we were surprised to see moored sailboats with their keels resting on the seabed at low tide. We visited a church on a small off-shore island accessible only at low tides.

We want to return to the UK. And spend more time in Wales with Erin and her husband, RAF Squadron Leader Rugg, and perhaps fit Scotland into the itinerary.

Editor’s Note: i) This is the opinion of Thomas D. Gotowka.

ii) Growing up in England during the second half of the 20th century, there is no doubt that during my early years fish and chips, bangers and mash, or roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding were variously regarded as the national dish. Mr. Gotowka is correct that by the 70’s or 80’s curry in all its forms had become a major feature of the British culinary landscape. I am honestly not sure what would be considered the national dish at this point … I will consult with friends and family still located there and report back!

Tom Gotowka

About the author: Tom Gotowka’s entire adult career has been in healthcare. He’ will sit on the Navy side at the Army/Navy football game. He always sit on the crimson side at any Harvard/Yale contest. He enjoys reading historic speeches and considers himself a scholar of the period from FDR through JFK.

A child of AM Radio, he probably knows the lyrics of every rock and roll or folk song published since 1960. He hopes these experiences give readers a sense of what he believes “qualify” him to write this column.

Reading Uncertainly? ‘Troubles’ by J. G. Farrell is a “Compelling Read”

When a world is collapsing all about us, how much are we willing to recognize?

J. G. Farrell’s description of a veteran of the World War I trenches going to Ireland to rejoin a young lady he had met only once in London during the War is an allegory on human inertia and lethargy in the face of rapid change.

In 1919, Major Brendan Archer travels from London to Kilnalough, Ireland, thinking to ask Angela Spencer to join him in marriage, even though he could not remember ever asking her outright to do so. He finds an elusive young lady and a scene of inertia and decay.

Ireland has entered the “Troubles” with Sinn Fein pushing for complete separation from the British Empire. And that Empire is collapsing just as the Majestic Hotel, owned and operated by Angela’s father, Edward, the scene of the entire novel, is doing the same.

Farrell gives us the Hotel dominated by “dust.” Every page describes dust, “mould”, gloom, creepers, grime, cobwebs, collapsing floors, “man-eating” plants, and an ever-expanding entourage of reproducing cats. One room featured “an enormous greyish-white sweater that lay in one corner like a dead sheep.”

The weather wasn’t any better: “it rained all that July,” and the hotel residents complained of the coming  “dreadful gauntlet of December, January, February.” Both the hotel and Ireland exuded “an atmosphere of change, insecurity and decay.” But the residents continued to follow life’s rituals: prayers at breakfast, afternoon teas, dressing for dinner, and whist in the evening.

Add to this mordant scene the author’s interjection of gloomy news reports from around the world: White Russians and English military supporters being trounced in Russia, victorious Boers in South Africa, a mess in Mesopotamia and Egypt, rebellion in Poland, and, finally, the Indians attempting to remove themselves from British rule.

In the face of all this, the hotel’s owner and operator, Edward Spencer aggravates the Major: “ … his overbearing manner; the way he always insisted on being right, flatly stating his opinions in a loud and abusive tone without paying any attention to what the other fellow was saying.”

Does this also describe the Brits in other sections of the world?

The Major remains always a drifter “with the tide of events,” never able to respond, dominated, it seems, by “the country’s vast and narcotic inertia.”

This is a story of the collapse of a hotel, descending at last into ashes, and an allusion to the similar collapse of the British Empire, with the Second World War being its enormous fire. It is a compelling read, one that suggests some connections to the events of the second decade of the 21st century …

Editor’s Note: ‘Troubles’ by J. G. Farrell is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London in 1970.

Felix Kloman

About the Author: Felix Kloman is a sailor, rower, husband, father, grandfather, retired management consultant and, above all, a curious reader and writer. He’s explored how we as human beings and organizations respond to ever-present uncertainty in two books, ‘Mumpsimus Revisited’ (2005) and ‘The Fantods of Risk’ (2008). A 20-year former resident of Lyme, Conn., he now lives in Peabody, Mass. He writes book reviews, mostly of non-fiction, a subject which explores our minds, our behavior, our politics and our history, but he does throw in a novel here and there. For more than 50 years, he’s put together the 17 syllables that comprise haiku, the traditional Japanese poetry, and served faithfully as the self-appointed “poet laureate” of Ashlawn Farm Coffee. His late wife, Ann, was also a writer, but of mystery novels, all of which begin in a village in midcoast Maine, strangely reminiscent of the town she and her husband visited every summer.

The Movie Man: Craig is Captivating, Seydoux is Stunning, But ‘No Time To Die’ Fails to Live Up to Expectations

Daniel Craig at the film premiere of ‘Spectre’ in Berlin. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Special to LymeLine.com

Kevin Ganey is ‘The Movie Man.’

This is a special review for me.

My first ever published piece as a writer was a review for the previous Bond film, Spectre. Much has transpired since then, both for me and the world.

But the appreciation of the art of cinema, manifested in many forms, remains as we struggle with whatever trouble life throws our way. Paraphrasing Mel Brooks, it’s, “Just another defense against the universe,” and a defense that has a special place in my heart.

Bond films are not known for their groundbreaking, cinematic expertise, even if they do consult Stanley Kubrick for lighting (The Spy Who Loved Me, 1977). Yet, they remain a necessity for the movie-going experience. Indeed, there were plenty over the years that pushed boundaries and blew us away.

But No Time to Die is not among those ranks.

Apart from being another installment in the Bond franchise made for the sake of pure entertainment, this one is necessary for screening since it is the final performance of Daniel Craig, who, I will proudly assert, is the best performer to take on the role of Ian Fleming’s iconic spy.

I will praise the movie on three separate counts. Two of them being characters and the other being a driving force for the plot.

Craig’s final run as Bond is indeed the most vulnerable of the 25 occasions the character has graced the silver screen, often portrayed as hardened man, who turns to booze, pills, and sex as a coping mechanism for years of trauma.

Then there is Léa Seydoux, who is the only actress to reprise her Bond girl character from a previous movie. For the record, yes, Maud Adams appeared in two films, but as two separate characters, namely Andrea Anders in The Man with the Golden Gun and the title character in Octopussy.)

Seydoux is, without question, the most sophisticated of all the women, who have blown the world away with their beauty alongside Bond, and she has now provided additional reasons for us to remember her contribution to the franchise.

While I can praise Craig and Seydoux, the same cannot be said for the film’s villains (Academy Award-winners Christoph Waltz and Rami Malek), who simply cannot live up to their performers’ hypes.

Then there is the plot.

Upon screening it, viewers will pick up on some hackneyed elements. But the danger is perhaps the most authentic since Goldfinger (in which the title character seeks to detonate a dirty bomb inside Fort Knox and the subsequent contamination of the gold thus wrecking the US economy.)

Why repeat the evil plans of the third film? Simply put: to remind the reader how impressive it is.

I close this review by thanking Craig for breathing new life into a character. When he took on the role, he transformed Bond from the occasionally campy figure to the gritty, no-nonsense, adrenaline-pumping performances he gave for an era dealing with new forms of international turmoil.

Will he read this? Very unlikely (unless he decides to scavenge local, online newspapers throughout the world), but I can dream, can’t I?

Again, thank you, Daniel Craig. The history of cinema will unquestionably look kindly on you.

About the Author: Though no longer a resident of Lyme, Kevin knows he can never sever his roots to the tree of his identity. When not attending to his job in Boston, he is committed to ensuring a better grasp of current (and past) releases of cinema to his home community as he strives to leave his own mark in the same field that has always been his guide to understanding life. If you enjoy his published reviews here on LymeLine.com, follow him on his new website at ‘The City of Cinema and read more of his unique insights into entertainment.

A la Carte: Dinner in Less Than 30 Minutes? Try Sheet-pan Gnocchi

Lee White

I have always assumed that people use coupons when they go to supermarkets. I am a newspaper and magazine freak, and I always clip coupons (and try to remember to take them with me, too.)

In my much younger days, before I knew how to cook at all, I clipped newspapers coupons not only to save money (my ex-husband was a student and I was the full-time secretary/mother/bread-winner/cook) and hoped there might be recipes in the food section of the Ithaca (NY) Journal.

We only had one car and, as I remember, we only had one supermarket. Back then, there was one lettuce (iceberg), maybe no frozen vegetables and, possibly, no plastic trays of meat in the refrigerator section.

I learned to cook from friends, my first mother-in-law, and from my first cookbook, the latter of which came free with a set of encyclopedia my ex- decided to buy.

Today I visit, on a regular basis, four supermarkets within five minutes of my house. Which ones I go to first might have something to do with coupons. I don’t clip (or use an app) to try something new, unless a friend or my daughter suggests it.

I am, however, just as likely to see something new and shiny at the market, buy it and see if I like it.

Such is the case with Giovanni Rana’s “Italy’s Most Loved, Imported from Italy” Skillet Gnocchi.

Two weeks later, I found a recipe that called for shelf-stable or refrigerated potato gnocchi. So I made this recipe. The dish was delicious and the recipe so simple and quick that even a full-time worker, mother, bread-winner or cook can get this dinner done in less than half an hour.

Sheet-Pan Gnocchi
(possibly from Bon Appetit, clipped the recipe, page didn’t include magazine name)
Yield: 4 servings

½ large red onion, cut into ½-inch-thick wedges
2 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 pints cherry tomatoes
1 package shelf-stable or refrigerated potato gnocchi
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil divided, plus more for drizzling
1 teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more
Freshly grated black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 cups baby arugula
1 cup basil leaves, large leaves torn
2 ounces Parmesan, shaved

Place rack in middle of oven; preheat to 425 degrees. Toss onion, garlic, tomatoes, gnocchi, 3 tablespoons oil and ¾ teaspoons salt in a rimmed baking sheet to coat. Season generously with pepper and toss again to combine.

Roast, stirring once or twice, until gnocchi are golden and start to crisp, most of the tomatoes have burst and onion is golden 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove garlic from baking sheet, peel and place in a small bowl. Mash with ¼ teaspoon of salt (garlic should be very soft.) Whisk in lemon juice and remaining 1 tablespoons oil, dressing with pepper and more salt if necessary.

Add arugula, basil and parmesan to baking sheet and drizzle dressing over; toss to combine.

Divide among plates and drizzle with more oil, if you like.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: Roasted Chicken Under Garlic Bread Offers Taste of Autumn, Hint of Winter Meals to Come

Lee White

Oh, no, it’s chicken again, I thought, as I looked at the last column I wrote weeks before I left to see my daughter in California.

But during the many days I spent there, I thought about all she’d cooked for me—tacos on Thursdays and nachos on Friday (both made with a roasted chicken she’s bought at Costco.) 

I guess the acorn doesn’t fall from the tree. In addition to the splash pool at her town’s pool, dips in the Pacific Ocean with her friend, Elizabeth, who lives steps from the ocean in Long Beach, a movie with Darcy starring Matt Damon (Stillwater, don’t miss it!) and a cookout on Labor Day, her food was incredible, as always.

But on the flights home (and the long drive home from Bradley), I was thinking I’d like to get a roasting chicken. While I ask the post office to hold my mail when I travel, I ask my neighbor to keep my The Day newspapers. As I read the news the next morning, the advertising pages included Perdue roasting chickens for $0.99 a pound at Stop & Shop. I bought three and froze two.

I remembered a recipe by cookbook writer Melissa Clark for roast chicken under bread. I grabbed the last frozen half baguette I’d slathered with butter, oil and garlic from last winter. So, on the first day of 2021 football, the final US Open tennis final and a Connecticut Sun game I’d DVR’d the night before, I roasted one of those chickens under the garlic bread.

My yummy dinner included three sliced local heirloom tomatoes and savored the beginning of autumn and winter meals to come.

Roasted Chicken Under Garlic Bread
Yield: Serves 4, plus leftovers

8 ounces good white dry wine (never cooking wine, of course)
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) butter
1 good-sized roasting chicken (about 5 to 6 pounds), gizzards removed, chicken patted dry and salt and pepper tossed into the cavity
Garlic bread (recipe below)

In a small saucepan, over medium heat, allow butter and wine to reduce for 15 minutes.

Turn oven to 350 degrees. In a roasting pan, place garlic bread, cut-size up. Top with chicken. Place the chicken in the oven for about 20 minutes, then pour the wine/butter over the chicken. Roast the chicken until crispy (temperature should be 165 degrees Fahrenheit, at the thickest part of the thigh, without touching a bone).

The garlic bread should be crispy and soft at the same time. Serve within 10 minutes, with bread cut into croutons around the chicken. 

Garlic Bread

Yield: A large baguette will feed at least 6 people; if using it under the bread, open the loaf and place under the chicken, cut side open; otherwise, freeze it in foil. 

1 large baguette, sliced through horizontally

In a small food processor (or processed with a small mixer), add 8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted softened butter, 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 6 to 8 garlic cloves — minced, and chopped parsley. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Slather each half of the loaf with the garlic mixture and put the slices together if not using immediately.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

Reading Uncertainly? ‘Seven Brief Lessons on Physics’ by Carlo Rovelli

Is it really possible to describe the mysteries of physics in 81 pages?

Richard Feynman tried it in the 140 pages of Six Easy Pieces, published in 1994, but some afterwards described it as “Six Difficult Pieces.” Carlo Rovelli, the Italian theoretical physicist, has raised the ante. His work is a jewel of both brevity and clarity, especially to my curious mind that barely made it through Physics I at college.

The seven lessons begin with Einstein and the Theory of Relativity. Much has been written and expressed about this work, but Rovelli’s 11 pages are a precise summary. And he reminds us that, like Einstein, we “… don’t get anywhere by not ‘wasting’ time.”

That reminds me of the 1957 lesson offered by Robert Paul Smith’s famous Where Did You Go? Out. What Did You Do? Nothing:” exploration and curiosity are essential to progress.

Rovelli then discusses quantum mechanics and the questions of Bohr, Planck, and Heisenberg, all summarized by the phrase “And to the very last, doubt.” And uncertainty.

From the “microcosm of elementary particles” he then moves to the cosmos, the “macrocosmic structure of the universe.” Our Sun is an, “… infinitesimal speck in a vast cloud of one hundred billion stars – our Galaxy” and our Galaxy is, “… itself a speck of dust in a huge cloud of galaxies.”

Back then to the smallest particles, including the unseen but acknowledged varieties of quarks and the confirmation of the Higgs boson.

Then Rovelli moves to the “swarming cloud of probability: quantum gravity. He acknowledges that we know more now than we did 50 years ago, “so we should be quite satisfied. But we are not.” Forever the curious species, our “ … science becomes even more beautiful – incandescent in the forge of nascent ideas, of intuitions, of attempts. Of roads taken and then abandoned, of enthusiasms. In the effort to imagine what has not yet been imagined.”

The seventh lesson concerns Black Holes. We live, we think, in a world of “sheer chance,” in which “probability is the heart of physics … I may not know something with certainty, but I can assign a lesser or greater degree of probability to something.”

And Black Swans, too? How many “dimensions” really exist?

Dr. Rovelli wraps up this engaging and challenging set of lessons with – what else? – more questions. “What are we?” and should not we be aware, “… that we can always be wrong, and therefore ready at any moment to change direction if a new track appears?”

“To be free doesn’t mean that our behavior is not determined by the laws of nature. It means that it is determined by the laws of nature acting in our brains.”

“We live in “inextricable complexity,” and this means, “… we are a species that is naturally moved by curiosity … ”

Rovelli’s brief synopsis of what we think we know about the physical world and universe challenges us to renew our study and our search.

That conclusion reinforces the haiku I wrote for myself many years ago (with apologies to Robert Frost):

Pause for a moment:
Doubt, then curiosity,
Try another path.

Editor’s Note:  ‘Seven Brief Lessons on Physics’ by Carlo Rovelli was published by Riverhead Books, New York in 2016.

A la Carte: Two Columns This Week and a ‘Nibbles’ Too! Enjoy Eggplant Parm Panini, Clam Chowder with Corn & Chorizo

A la Carte-1: Creamy Corn and Clam Chowder with Crispy Chorizo

Lee White

It was a really nice week. My oldest Troy childhood friend in the world visited for two days. (Her name is Rosalie. She is about a year older than me and, no, I was not named after her.) We ate lobster rolls at Captain Scott, I grilled steaks on the grill and we had sweet corn and a big salad, and the last night we ate not-great pizza and Coca-Cola, like we did a gazillion years ago.

I also had a nice coffee chat with David Collins at Mystic Depot and we talked for almost an hour. He suggested I stop at Sea Well on Masons Island and buy a pint of the scallop and bacon soup he thinks is incredible. I did and he is right; see the Nibbles* column below.

Best of all was I got my COVID booster shot. The day before the storm, I stopped at Stop & Shop to pick up a few things (not toilet paper or a gallon of milk). I went to the pharmacy on-site and asked if I could get the booster. I filled two forms and got my shot. Sunday I ran a fever for about 14 hours, during which I took a couple of ibuprofen. Today I am fine.

Oh, yes, Bon Appetit magazine came in the mail. There were nice ideas for autumn meals, but I saw a recipe (below) that required sweet corn. Our local sweet corn will probably be available for at least another month. I love clam chowder and this recipe uses the blended corn as a thickener. But feel free to add a soupcon of heavy cream or a pat of butter when you serve it!

Creamy Corn and Clam Chowder with Crispy Chorizo

Photo by Kevin Lanceplaine on Unsplash.

Adapted from Bon Appetit, September, 2021
Yield: 4 servings

5 tablespoon vegetable oil, divided
4 ounces fresh chorizo, preferably Mexican, casings removed (any dry sausage will do)
1 teaspoon hot smoked Spanish paprika or regular smoked paprika
1 medium onion, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
24 littleneck clams (about 2 pounds), scrubbed
4 ears of corn, kernels removed (about 4 cups)
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Kosher salt (I use fine sea salt)
Cilantro leaves with tender stems (for serving, optional)

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large pot over medium-heat. Add chorizo and cook, breaking up into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon and stirring every minute or so, until browned and crisp. About 5 minutes. Sprinkle in paprika and stir to combine, then scrape chorizo and all into a small bowl. Wipe out pot.

Pour remaining 2 tablespoons oil into same pot . Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring often, and adding a splash of water if starting to brown, until softened but not browned, 10-12 minutes. Add clams and toss to combine. Cover pot and cook until clams open, 5 to 7 minutes. Uncovered and transfer opened clams to a medium bowl, leaving liquid behind. If any clams are still closed, cover pot again and cook remaining until opened, about 4 minutes more. Transfer open clams to bowl, discard any that have not opened at this point. Tent bowl with foil.

Pour 3 cups water into pot and bring to a simmer. Add corn kernels and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Remove pot from heat and puree one third of chowder in a blender until very smooth. Return puree to pot and mix well. (Or use an immersion blender, if you have one and blend directly into the pot until you have blended about one-third and chowder is partly thickened.) Stir in lime juice, taste and season with salt if needed.

Divide chowder among shallow bowls and add clams. Spoon chorizo and oil over and scatter some cilantro on top (if you are using cilantro; I know some people hate it!)

A la Carte-2: Eggplant Parm Panini

One of the many vegetables I never tasted growing up was eggplant. As I have mentioned before, the only veggies I grew up with were canned green beans, canned peas and canned corn. We didn’t have a garden, but in the summer we would have fresh sweet corn and local tomatoes. If we had salad, it was iceberg lettuce, anemic tomatoes, maybe a few chunks of cucumber and a choice of bottled dressing. 

I love everything about eggplant—its shiny exterior, its gushiness in a ratatouille, roasted in the oven or the whole eggplant charred on the grill. Eggplants are best when they are young. They do not need to be peeled. They are watery, so you can slice them, salt them a bit and allow the slices to dehydrate between paper towels. 

In my newest issue of Real Simple magazine, I cut out four recipes, one for eggplant on a panini. The next morning I looked at a shelf in my kitchen and saw my panini press. Why had I not used it during the pandemic? Or even before it?

This recipe can be made in a panini press or in a skillet pressed down by another. The recipe calls for roasting the eggplant in the oven, but you could do it on your grill. You don’t need to fry it in a lot of oil. It is particularly delicious while tomatoes are still luscious and local.

Eggplant Parm Panini

Photo by Huzeyfe Turan on Unsplash.

From Real Simple, September, 2021
Yield: makes 4 sandwiches

1 eggplant, cut into 8 1-inch rounds
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
¾ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 1-pound ciabatta, split horizontally and quartered (8 slices total)
1 big tomato, cut into 8 thick slices
¼ cup fresh basil leaves
1 8-ounce ball fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about ½ cup)
¼ cup marinara sauce 

Place a large, rimmed baking sheet in oven and preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss eggplant with oil in a large bowl until fully coated. Arrange eggplant evenly on preheated baking sheet; roast, flipping halfway through, until tender and browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a grill pan over high (or heat a panini press).

Season eggplant with ½ teaspoon salt. Place 2 eggplant slices on each of the 4 bread slices. Top eggplant with tomato slices; season with remaining ¼ teaspoon salt. Top with basil and mozzarella; sprinkle with Parmesan. Portion each with marinara. Top remaining 4 bread slices with marinara and form 4 sandwiches.

Place two sandwiches on grill pan and top with another heavy pan, pressing down to flatten sandwiches. Cook, flipping once, until cheese has melted and bread is crispy and browned on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining sandwiches. (Or cook all 4 sandwiches in a panini press.)  

*Nibbles:  Sea Well Seafood Mystic Scallops and Bacon Chowder

David Collins has written for The Day for as long as I have. Now he has a column but when he was a reporter, he did some good restaurant reviews. So he suggested I try Sea Well’s scallop and bacon chowder, I drove the few minutes to Masons Island by 9:45 a.m. but it didn’t open until 10, so I sat in my car, windows open to the sea air and read on my Kindle.

The chowder must be lots of people’s favorite because the nice clerk pointed to plastic containers in the cooler. I took one home. That night I had it with a salad. It was thick with milk or cream or butter, or all three; the scallops were chunky and really tender, and the bacon was a splendid, salty counterpoint to the excellent soup. 

There is another Sea Well in Pawcatuck at 3 Liberty St. (860-599-2082). When we lived in Canterbury, I drove 40 minutes there to buy fish. On my first visit, a chalk board said they had cod pieces. I laughed and laughed, but no one there thought it was funny. I guess you had to read about Shakespeare plays in the 15th and 16th century! 

Sea Well Seafood Mystic
106 Masons Island Road
Mystic, CT 06355
Tel: 860-415-9210

A View from My Porch: Not Your Grandma’s Community Hospital

Photo by Hush Naidoo Jade Photography on Unsplash.

The healthcare landscape has changed remarkably in Connecticut.

You may have noticed some name changes, new signage, and that “opportunities” for care have increased to a level that rivals access to coffee. In this essay, I’m going to review this new landscape, and consider why it developed. My goal is to help the reader make sense of Connecticut’s new, and still evolving, hospitals roster.

I begin this review in Hartford, where healthcare system changes are really representative of the industry’s overall transformation. In addition, because I was a member of Saint Francis Hospital’s attending and management staff for 10 years in an earlier part of my life, I know the players.

In the mid-1970s, Hartford was well-served by three independent hospitals in, what appeared to be, a stable healthcare environment. The oldest, Hartford Hospital, was founded in 1854 by the local medical society, actually in response to an industrial accident — a steam boiler explosion. Saint Francis Hospital, which was established in 1897 by the “Sisters of Saint Joseph”, is now the largest Catholic hospital in New England. A third, smaller hospital, Mount Sinai, was founded in 1923 to provide a facility for Jewish doctors, who were unable to obtain staff privileges in the other two.

Then, an extraordinary makeover of that local system of independent hospitals began in1995 when Mount Sinai merged with Saint Francis, which was one of the first occasions in the United States of a formalized relationship between stand-alone Catholic and Jewish hospitals. The facilities that once housed Mount Sinai became the Mount Sinai Rehabilitation Hospital.

By 2015, Saint Francis had already become part of Trinity Health of New England, an “integrated health care delivery system”, with five hospitals; which, in turn, is a member of Trinity Health, a Catholic health system with 93 hospitals in 22 states! 

Drivers of Mergers and Affiliations:

Such deals are growing across the United States. Some of the motivation can be attributed to the hospital industry’s response to healthcare reform and managed care, both of which often involved negotiated reimbursement schemes and utilization review programs. Clearly, larger hospital groups are in a stronger position to negotiate compensation rates with payors and regulators. 

In addition, smaller independent hospitals may also consider some sort of affiliation with a larger organization to both improve their capacity to secure capital for programs and facilities, take advantage of resultant economies of scale; and to attract and retain, or simply get access to, physicians in some of the more arcane medical specialties.

Although I had knowledge of the events discussed below, as they occurred, reviewing them as a continuum is really stunning and demonstrates the great breadth and scope of the two major Connecticut hospital groups.

The Hartford Juggernaut: 

The front entrance of Hartford Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut, United States. Public Domain photo by Elipongo.

In 1994, Hartford Hospital began its transformation from local independent hospital into a “statewide, integrated health system”, when it merged the venerable Institute of Living — founded in 1822 as a private, residential psychiatric hospital — into the hospital’s Department of Psychiatry. The Institute had gained some international notoriety for its treatment of silent movie stars like Clara Bow, errant clerics, and an early adoption of a science-based model of care.

Further, in 1996, pediatric patients from Newington Children’s Hospital, the University of Connecticut Health Center, and Hartford Hospital were all relocated to the new Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, constructed contiguous to the Hartford Hospital campus. 

Planning for this new hospital had actually begun in 1986, when Newington and Hartford agreed to construct a new facility. Extraordinarily, this new alliance was designed to span care from infancy, through childhood, adolescence and young adulthood; and finally transitioning to adult care.

Last October, the Hartford Courant reported that the Hartford HealthCare system now, “… serves 185 towns and cities and is within 15 miles of every Connecticut resident.” It includes seven hospitals, roughly stretching diagonally across the state from Windham and Backus Hospitals in the northeast to St Vincent’s in the southwest.  The data are daunting: almost 30,000 employees, nearly 2,500 licensed beds, and operating revenue of $4.3 billion. 

The Yale Dreadnought:

Aerial view of the campus of Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut, including Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven and Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital. Photo taken in 2010 by YNHHEditor. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Development of the “grandmother of all CT hospitals” began in 1826, when the Connecticut General Assembly authorized 10 incorporators to establish the General Hospital Society of Connecticut, which was chartered as the first Connecticut hospital in New Haven, and the fourth voluntary hospital in the United States. (i.e., a private nonprofit hospital.)

A new 13-bed hospital opened in 1833; and served as the primary teaching hospital for the Yale medical school, which was founded in 1810 as the Medical Institution of Yale College.

In 1884, the hospital’s name was changed to New Haven Hospital, reflecting the name that was commonly used at the time; and then, in 1945, Grace-New Haven Hospital, to acknowledge an affiliation with neighboring Grace Hospital. And finally, in 1965, as the relationship with the University became more formalized, Yale New Haven Hospital. 

Now moving forward, perhaps Al Jolson described it best in the 1927 film “The Jazz Singer” … “you ain’t heard nothing yet”. 

In 1996, the hospital began its transformation into the “Yale New Haven Health System” (YNHHS), when it entered into a partnership with Bridgeport Hospital; and further expanded in 1998, with the addition of Greenwich Hospital. 

In 2012, they acquired the assets of the Hospital of Saint Raphael, which was founded by the “Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth” in 1907, and also located in New Haven. 

In 2016, ownership of New London’s Lawrence and Memorial Hospital was assumed by YNHHS, which also included L&M’s earlier acquisition of Westerly Hospital, consummated in 2013.

The Yale data are equally daunting: a year ago, YNHHS reported 2,681 licensed beds, 28,589 employees, and total assets of $6.5 billion. The system now includes five acute care hospitals, the Smilow Cancer Hospital, Yale New Haven Children’s, and Psychiatric Hospitals, and a multispecialty medical group with more than 1,000 physicians; yielding a sphere of medical influence along the shoreline from Westchester County to Westerly, RI. 

Independent Stand-Alone:

Middlesex Health, which is centered around Middlesex Hospital and an extensive network of community-based outpatient services, remains independent. Middlesex joined the Mayo Clinic Care Network in 2015, which enables their medical staff to easily consult with and take advantage of the broad expertise of the Mayo Clinic in diagnosing complex cases. The relationship with Mayo Clinic is not an acquisition or a merger, but an intellectual partnership (my words).  They are the first hospital in CT and only the second hospital in New England to join the network. 

Satellites:

Most patient encounters with these hospital systems will occur in outpatient settings outside the hospital campus. These can include urgent care centers, blood draw and diagnostic imaging centers, group practices; and more comprehensive sites like the Pequot Health Center (L&M/YNHHS) in Groton, which provides primary care services on a walk-in basis. diagnostic imaging, blood tests, and same day surgery (e.g., cataracts).

The growth of these outpatient sites has been facilitated by electronic medical records and digital radiographs. These records can be shared across different health care settings. via secure enterprise-wide information systems. This technology would also enable the type of relationship that Middlesex has with Mayo. 

I was surprised that Hartford Healthcare has opened eighteen “Go Health” urgent care centers from Montville to Torrington. Go Health Urgent Care is a national company headquartered in Atlanta; with nearly 200 urgent care centers in AK, CA, CT, DE, MO, NY, NC, OK, OR, and WA “through partnerships with market-leading health systems”.

Author’s Notes: Hospital mergers and acquisitions show no signs of slowing down in the United States., and, as economic, regulatory, and operational challenges continue, many community hospitals will consider whether or not they should remain independent, or affiliate with another hospital or health system. 

There are a range of affiliations that a hospital’s leadership can consider, from a fairly simple cooperation agreement among hospitals for group purchasing, to an acquisition of one facility by the other, in which all control is surrendered to the acquiring entity. In the above, I used news reports from the “Hartford Courant”, “New Haven Register”, the “Providence Journal”, and information published by the hospital group, to define the type of affiliation. 

In closing, there is an additional wrinkle to hospital transformation. This morning, while watching the News, Dr. James Cardon came on and did a commercial for CarePartners of Connecticut, a Medicare supplemental insurance company formed in 2018, by two leading organizations; Hartford Healthcare and Tufts Health Plan. “When doctors and a health plan work together, it simplifies patients getting the care they need. That’s what CarePartners of Connecticut is committed to.”

For me, this addition is beyond “stunning.”

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Thomas D. Gotowka.

Tom Gotowka

About the author: Tom Gotowka’s entire adult career has been in healthcare. He’ will sit on the Navy side at the Army/Navy football game. He always sit on the crimson side at any Harvard/Yale contest. He enjoys reading historic speeches and considers himself a scholar of the period from FDR through JFK.

A child of AM Radio, he probably knows the lyrics of every rock and roll or folk song published since 1960. He hopes these experiences give readers a sense of what he believes “qualify” him to write this column.

Gardening Tips from ‘The English Lady’ for August, ‘The Sunday of Summer’

There is beauty all around us in the garden in August. Photo by Joshua J. Cotton on Unsplash.

August has always been one of my least favorite months in the garden; but plentiful spring rain this year has resulted in bountiful fragrance, bloom and foliage.

We have such a short blooming and growing season here in New England that any extra time to have a good-looking border is much appreciated. However, by this time in the season, there are always a few gaps to fill in with annuals or some later blooming perennials. Your gardens are a constantly changing scene of beauty in motion.

Plantings that looked good last year, may be oversized, and desperately in need of division or transplant. This task can be tackled in September when the weather is cooler. Then you can venture into your borders and transplant some specimens out so that every plant has its own space with plenty of air circulation and is able to perform with optimal health.

Divide those plants that have been in the soil for four years or more, as you probably noticed they are not blooming so profusely. I am sure you have fellow gardeners who will be thrilled to receive some of the divisions.

Keeping Your Garden Fresh:

Keep up with your dead-heading so that your garden will always appear fresh and perky. After the hot, dry days we have had of late, watering is of major importance. Ensure your garden receives at least one inch of water a week with containers requiring a daily dose of water, in the early morning and early evening.

Flowering borders need plenty of water in August. Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash.

Soaker hoses in the borders are a much more efficient method of watering as the water goes straight to the roots where it is needed. With soaker hoses you will not lose 40 percent of moisture to evaporation and with this method, you also prevent water from landing on the foliage, which can result in disease and mildew.

When you cut back tired-looking annuals, you will soon see a new flush of bloom. If on closer inspection, you notice your borders are looking somewhat weary and need a bright boost of some new specimens to perk things up, you are in luck as right now garden centers are offering late season bargains.

When the perennial Coreopsis and Spirea have finished blooming, cut off the dead bloom with the garden shears and anticipate the appearance of vibrant bright bloom shortly.

Roses:

It is important to stop feeding roses now in August. Roses require at least nine weeks without using their energy, this is important as to produce new bloom roses need to gently retreat into a slow, healthy dormancy before the first frost. In my September tips I will give you suggestions on partially pruning roses in early fall, followed by a second pruning the following April. This double pruning method produces the healthiest and most prolific bloom.

Containers:

Photo b Annie Spratt on Unsplash.

Every couple of weeks give your containers a little extra composted manure when watering, which will keep these miniature gardens bright and cheerful into early fall. Add the manure on top of the natural brown mulch as both manure and mulch help retain moisture and help to retard weeds.

In the morning, if you do not have time to water the containers before you go off to work or run errands, simply empty your ice trays into the containers, this will provide slow-release watering until you are able to add more when you return home.

Powdery Mildew:

With the high heat and humidity which we have been experiencing recently, powdery mildew maybe appearing on certain species like summer phlox, Monarda and Hydrangeas. If you notice this problem, I suggest you spray with my remedy of one gallon of water in a spray container adding one tablespoon of baking soda and a dash of vegetable oil.  Always spray in the morning before the temperature and humidity numbers, combined together equal 160.

Vegetables:

Continue adding more composted manure to vegetables each month, as vegetables particularly annual vegetables are heavy feeders. To prevent animals from munching on your precious bounty, place an old sneaker or a piece of carpet that your dog had lain on in among the vegetables; these odors help to keep furry marauders away.

Peonies:

Place your orders for Peonies now so they can be delivered for September planting. September is the only month suitable to transplant, divide or plant new Peonies.

Following the first hard frost in November, cut any existing Peonies to six inches from the ground and add a little natural brown mulch around them to protect the pink-eyed roots, which are close to the soil surface. When planting Peonies or transplanting them, make sure that the ‘pink eyes’ on the roots are barely covered with soil, if planted any deeper, it is likely that you may not have bloom next year.

Begin compiling your list of spring bulbs now for the best choice of bulbs to be available for you.

Please feel free to email me with any gardening questions to MaureenHaseleyJones@gmail.com. I look forward to seeing you in your garden in September, in the meantime enjoy being outdoors.

About the author: Maureen Haseley-Jones, pictured left, is a member of a family of renowned horticultural artisans, whose landscaping heritage dates back to the 17th century. She is one of the founders, together with her son Ian, of, The English Lady Landscape and Home Company. Maureen and Ian are landscape designers and garden experts, who believe that everyone deserves to live in an eco-conscious environment and enjoy the pleasure that it brings. Maureen learned her design skills from both her mother and grandmother, and honed her horticultural and construction skills while working in the family nursery and landscape business in the U.K. Her formal horticultural training was undertaken at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in Surrey.

A la Carte: Too Many Tomatoes? Lee Has All Sorts of Solutions for You

Lee White

A couple of weeks ago I went to a small party at Washington Park in Groton. It was held outside in one of a half dozen “cabins,” each of which have concrete floors, a few dark-stained columns, good sturdy roofs and wooden picnic tables with attached  “chairs.”

It was a very casual party, with pizza, already-barbecued chicken wings and coolers of beer, wine, soft drinks and water. Good thing for all of those things, because the humidity was high and the temperature, at 4 p.m. on a Saturday, was spiking in the 90s. 

I had a lovely conversation with Joyce Hedrick, wife of the mayor of Groton City. Even though Groton has fewer than 45,000  inhabitants, unlike Gaul (which, as we learned in Latin II, is in three parts), Groton has five parts: City of Groton, Town of Groton, Noank, Groton Long Point and half of Mystic.

Anyway, Joyce and Keith have a vegetable garden. Keith just canned pouches of green beans that week, but Joyce was going to begin making marinara sauce.

She wondered if it could be frozen, avoiding the steamy job of canning. I said I roast, then freeze tomatoes in late summer, which I thaw for stews, braises and sauces.

As for worry about botulism, tomatoes are so acidic that they can be frozen raw or cooked, whether sliced, chopped or pureed. Of course, the tomatoes can be made into a marinara (chopped and cooked with garlic, onions and seasoning), although I would wait to add fresh basil before serving. 

I often buy half a bushel of Roma tomatoes. In a couple of large sheet pans covered with parchment paper, I cut the tomatoes end to end and place them cut side up on the pans, sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle them  with extra-virgin olive oil. If you roast them in a 250 degree oven for two or three hours, then you can pack them in plastic bags and freeze them.

But I found this recipe that might be even better. I might double or triple the recipe and freeze it.

Roasted Tomato Sauce

Photo by Kiriakos Verros on Unsplash.

From The Four Season of Pasta, by Nancy Harmon Jenkins and Sara Jenkins (Penguin, New York, 2015)

Yield: 2 to 3 cups sauce, enough for 4 to 6 servings

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium red onions, sliced not too thin
2 garlic cloves, crushed and coarsely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Greek or Sicilian oregano (optional)
About 2 pounds ripe-as-you-can-get tomatoes

Set oven at 400 degrees.

Spread 2 tablespoons oil over bottom of roasting dish into which tomatoes will fit.

Combine onion and garlic on the dish. Add salt and pepper to taste and oregano if using. Stir vigorously to mix everything together; spread ingredients out to make a layer across the bottom of the dish.

Cut tomatoes in half. Core the stem ends. Sat halves cut side down, on top of the onion garlic layer. Dribble remaining 6 tablespoons oil over the tops (you may not need all the oil).

Bake 45 minutes to an hour. At the end of that time, remove pan and let tomatoes cool down. Pull off the skins and discard. Combine all roasted ingredients and, if you wish, chop or puree with an immersion blender. Or leave as is—the rustic look can also be lovely.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A View From My Porch: An Extra Inning for ‘I See Great Things in Baseball’ — The ‘Phenom’ and More Thoughts

For the love of the game … Photo by Brandon Mowinkel on Unsplash.

This has been an unusual summer. Christina and I have been very “COVID – cautiousand, of course, fully vaccinated. We’ve postponed or canceled trips, missed Brimfield, both May and July, and probably Sept. And so, I retreated to my secure baseball space, and drafted this essay. There’s a lot of baseball jargon here.

In 2019, LymeLine published a series of essays on baseball; the final essay was published a few months before America’s first COVID case was identified in Washington state.

Inevitably, as the United States became consumed by COVID, Major League Baseball (MLB) curtailed its 2020 season; not reopening until late this past spring, albeit with restrictions (e.g., no spitting (really!), masks in dugouts, reduced crowd size, and some controls on snack and beverage sales).

Then, in mid-June, after 20 baseball clubs reached MLB’s 85 percent vaccination target, some protocols were loosened; e.g., all fully vaccinated players and staff may stop wearing masks in dugouts, bullpens, and clubhouses.

Nonetheless, in mid-July, the Colorado Rockies experienced a burst of COVID on their roster; and a Yankees v. Red Sox game was cancelled, not by weather, but because there was concern about a COVID outbreak on the Yankees.

Arguably the greatest rivalry in MLB, the century old Red Sox – Yankees conflict coincidentally began at the end of the 1918 influenza pandemic, and was actually connected to the first Broadway production of “No, No, Nannette”. Red Sox owner and theatrical producer, Harry Frazee, used the proceeds from the sale of Babe Ruth to the Yankees to help finance several Broadway productions, including the aforementioned “No, No,”. Tickets for the games are handed down in families

If you are one of the few New Englanders unfamiliar with the impact of that sale, I recommend Dan Shaughnessy’s The Curse of the Bambino.

Some of America’s past sentiment for the sport was best expressed by James Earl Jones, who, as Terence Mann in Field of Dreams, said of baseball: it’s a part of our past, and it reminds us of all that once was good and could be good again.” I know that my dad felt that way, and he passed some of it on to me. Note that the Mann character was actually J. D. Salinger in the novel, Shoeless Joe, which was adapted for the movie.

The “Phenom”:

My inspiration to extend the 2019 series into an extra inning really came from some highlights of a Red Sox loss to the Angels, during which the reporter described an Angels’ player, Shohei Ohtani, as MLB’s new “phenom”, which is sportscaster jargon for a player with phenomenal ability.

Sports Illustrated described Ohtani as a once-in-a-century player; a ballplayer in the most fundamental sense of the word. He pitches, hits and runs, and does all of it with the irrepressible joy and purpose of a Little Leaguer.

So, despite the hyperbole, he does have a 100 mph fastball, and was selected as both a starting pitcher and designated hitter for the AllStar Game on July 13th. He’s currently the American League home run leader, and the first player in MLB history to have (both) 37 homeruns and 15 stolen bases by the end of July.

MLB’s Dependence on international players:

It is ironic that this essay’s title is derived from a Walt Whitman piece, who, as editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in the mid-1840s, wrote: “I see great things in baseball. It’s our game, – the American game.”

In 2018, Forbes Magazine reported that nearly 30 percent of active players are foreign born (and increasing). Five Latin American countries have consistently provided the largest portion of these players; including the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Cuba, the Puerto Rico territory, and Mexico.

Contributing Factors:

MLB began an expansion in 1961 that eventually increased the number of teams from 16 to 30; and, at the same time, began to eliminate affiliations with many of their minor league teams, which have always served for development of players not yet ready for play at the highest level.

Further, colleges and universities discovered the revenue potential of football and basketball, which may have also led to fewer athletic scholarships offered in baseball. Thus, MLB teams were compelled to look farther afield for talented players.

Noteworthy players born outside our borders:

Ohtani is not the first Japanese born MLB star. He is a successor to Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui, who were both outstanding players in Japan and the United States.

Players from the Latin American countries have had substantial influence on the game. The following includes profiles of a few recognizable players who have impacted the sport; selected only from the group of Latin players, who have already been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Puerto Rico native, Roberto Clemente, played 18 seasons (1955 –) for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He played in 15 All-Star games, was National League MVP in 1966, the batting leader in four seasons, and a Gold Glove Award winner (fielding) for 12 consecutive seasons. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1973, shortly after he died in a plane crash, while on a humanitarian mission to Nicaragua, taking critical supplies to earthquake survivors. He was the first Caribbean and Latin American player to be so honored. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Dominican native, Juan Marichal, was a starting pitcher for the Giants, Red Sox, and Dodgers from the early 1960s through the mid-1970s (1960-). Considered one of the most intimidating pitchers of all time; in 1983, he became the first Dominican player to be elected to the Hall of Fame. He is also remembered by baseball historians as one of the epic heroes in the 1963 “Greatest Game Ever Pitched”, dueling with another future Hall of Famer, Warren Spahn, in a 16 inning 1 to nothing win.

Venezuelan native, Luis Aparicio, played shortstop for the White Sox, Orioles, and the Red Sox in a career that spanned 18 seasons (1956-). He was known for his exceptional defensive and base-stealing skills. He entered the Hall of Fame in 1984, the first Venezuelan to be so honored. He was nominated, in 1999, to the MLB All-Century Team (i.e., the 100 greatest players).

Panama native, Rod Carew, had immigrated at age 14 and joined his mother, in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. He was not a homerun hitter, although he is considered one of the greatest hitters of all time. He was known for his ability to make contact with the ball and get on base.  He was selected for 18 All Star teams in his 19 seasons with the Twins and Angels (1967-). Of the baseball elite, only Ty Cobb, Tony Gwynn and Honus Wagner have more batting titles than he. He entered the Hall of Fame in 1991. Notably, Carew attributed his discipline as an athlete to his six years’ service in the USMC Reserve.

Cuban native, Tony Perez, recruited while working in a Cuban sugar factory, played 23 seasons at first and third base (1964 -), most notably as a key member of the Cincinnati Reds, who dominated baseball in the 1970sPerez was a team leader, and, during his career, accrued more than 2,700 hits, 379 home runs and two World Series championships. He entered the Hall of Fame in 2000.

Dominican native, Pedro Martinez, is considered one of MLB’s most dominant pitchers; with the highest winning percentage of any 200 game winner in the “modern era” (i.e., post WW2). In his 17 seasons (1992-), he played for five teams; most notably, for me, the Red Sox. He is a three-time Cy Young Award winner, and the only pitcher to compile over 3,000 career strikeouts in fewer than 3,000 innings pitched. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2015.

Although not yet in the Hall of Fame, I’ve added Mexican native Fernando Valenzuela to this list of notables. He pitched for six teams over 17 seasons (1981-), but was probably best known for his time with the Dodgers. He will be remembered for both his unusual windup and the “Fernando-mania” that accompanied him to games. He was an All Star in each of his first six seasons, and recorded an extraordinary five shutouts in his first eight starts as a major leaguer.

Cuban Baseball Pre- & Post-Revolution:

Cuba is important (in this essay) because it became the nidus for baseball development throughout Latin America.

Two Guillo brothers, who were educated at Spring Hill College in Mobile, returned to Cuba in the late 1860s with a ball and bat and an interest in bringing baseball to the island. They formed the Habana Baseball Club, and became one of three founding members of the Cuban League, which was formed in1878.

The Cubans took their sport to Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and the eastern coast of Mexico, which were also areas with some American influence.

Then, in 1898, the Spanish-American War expelled Spain from Cuba and provided opportunities for Cuban teams to play against teams touring from the United States. Note that Spain had opposed baseball and promoted bull-fighting.  

The Cuban League admitted black players in 1900; and many of the best players from the American “Negro Leagues” were playing on integrated teams on the island, and Cuban players also played in the “Negro leagues”.

Professional baseball in the United States excluded the majority of Latin Americans because of their skin color, just as it barred African Americans.

Then, fueled by money from the sugar, tobacco and fruit industries, the Cuban League evolved into professional teams , who competed on the island and beyond its shores. There were also well-organized local amateur teams, comprised of workers from those industries.    

Americans were introduced to Cuban baseball via the minor leagues: i.e., the Havana Cubans in the “Florida International League” (1946-53), and the Cuban Sugar Kings, in the higher-level International League (1954-1960).

Finally, Jackie Robinson broke the “color barrier” in 1947. and opened opportunities in the major leagues for non-white players. At that same time, the Cuban League entered into an agreement with MLB, and, as the “Cuban Winter League”, was used by them for player development and enabled recruitment of talented Cuban players.

Fidel Castro and Camilo Cienfuegos are shown in this photo wearing the shirts of the Barbudos, that is, ‘The Bearded Ones.’ Photo by unknown author – Public Domain.

On New Year’s Day, 1959, Cuban Dictator, Fulgencio Batista, was overthrown by revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro.

Hostile to the United States, who had backed Batista, U.S.-Cuba relations became strained; and Castro, a mediocre pitcher at the University of Havana who had no love for MLB; ended professional baseball in Cuba and forbade Cuban players from playing abroad. In 1961, Cuba replaced the professional system with new amateur baseball leagues. and organized the sport on a socialist model.

Castro’s view was that baseball, played by amateurs, was an important part of Cuba’s soul and identity. Consequently, baseball, almost by decree, became the Island’s national sport. His “Cuban National League” now includes 16 teams, comprised wholly of Cuban natives.

However, since these were all amateurs, supported by Castro’s socialist government, players were not paid very well. Baseball stars made less than $2,000 per year, and, of course, many defected to the United States.  Castro acknowledged that “you cannot win if you have to compete against six million dollars with 3000 Cuban pesos.” He was correct, and the following are a few examples of what inspired Cuban baseball stars to defect.

  • Rey Ordóñez defected in 1993 and signed a four-year $19 million contract with the Mets.
  • Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez defected in 1997 and signed a four-year, $6.6 million contract with the Yankees.
  • José Contreras defected in 2002 and signed a four-year $32 million contract with the Yankees.
  • Jose Abreu defected in 2013 and signed a six-year $68 million contract with the White Sox.

Photo by Thomas Park on Unsplash.

Baseball is alive and well in Connecticut:

Southeastern Connecticut is home to several strong inter-scholastic programs. In addition, Babe Ruth teams in both Waterford and New London were competitive in the 2021 post- season tournaments; and, at a parade this past week, Efrain Dominguez, president New London’s City Council, said that “New London is a city of champions”; we’re here to honor and celebrate each other.”

Further, UConn finished the 2021 MLB Draft with five players selected, the most in the first 20 rounds of the draft since 2011.

Of special note, 2017 Hall of Fame inductee, Jeff Bagwell, was a standout on the soccer pitch at Xavier High School in Middletown, and still holds the school’s single-season scoring record. A multi-sport “phenom”, he was then “one of the most productive hitters in University of Hartford baseball history”; and left UHART as New England’s all-time leader in batting average and slugging percentage.

He was the Eastern League MVP in 1990, while playing for the minor league New Britain Red Sox.

Finally, he began his 15 seasons with the Houston Astros (1991-) as the “Rookie of the Year”, was selected unanimously, as league MVP in 1994, and hit 449 home runs over the course of his career. Some have compared his 1990 trade from the Red Sox organization to the Astros with the sale of Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1920. As some may recall, New Britain was a minor league team affiliated with the Boston Red Sox for much of the 1980’s through the early 1990’s.  

Author’s Notes: I admit, this may be maudlin, but Roy Hobbs said it best: “God, I love baseball”. Regrettably, Americans may no longer claim that baseball is our national pastime. That distinction probably now belongs to both Japan and Cuba. At present, most American sports fans might say that football, especially NFL football, is our national pastime.

I said earlier that this essay was inspired by a sports reporter, who described Shohei Ohtani, as MLB’s new “phenom”.

Baseball was first introduced to Japan in 1872 by an American educator, Horace Wilson, who was there to assist in the modernization of the Japanese education system. The first professional competition occurred in the 1920s, and there are now two “major” leagues in operation; i.e., the Central and the Pacific Leagues, each with six teams.

However, high school baseball is particularly strong in Japan, with an amazingly ardent fanbase and a solid public image; perhaps like college football and basketball in the United States.

Japan’s national high school baseball championship is held each August over two weeks, with crowds approaching 50,000 per game, and broadcast live nationwide.

In closing, I have always felt that a classic 4-6-3 double-play is baseball ballet; Here’s one of the best.

Ozzie jumps over runner to turn double play – Bing video

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Thomas D. Gotowka.

Tom Gotowka

About the author: Tom Gotowka’s entire adult career has been in healthcare. He’ will sit on the Navy side at the Army/Navy football game. He always sit on the crimson side at any Harvard/Yale contest. He enjoys reading historic speeches and considers himself a scholar of the period from FDR through JFK.

A child of AM Radio, he probably knows the lyrics of every rock and roll or folk song published since 1960. He hopes these experiences give readers a sense of what he believes “qualify” him to write this column.

Suisman Shapiro Atty. Kyle Zrenda Now a Member of Mohegan Gaming Disputes, Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Courts

Attorney Kyle Zrenda of Suisman Shapiro Attorneys at Law.

NEW LONDON/OLD LYME — Attorney Kyle J. Zrenda of Suisman Shapiro Attorneys-At-Law was sworn in Aug. 11 as a member of the bar of the Mohegan Gaming Disputes Court. Atty. Zrenda is a resident of Old Lyme, Conn.

As a sovereign Indian Nation, cases related to the gaming enterprise of the Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut, including claims for personal injuries that occurred at the Mohegan Sun resort and casino, often need to be brought in the Mohegan Gaming Disputes Court.

Atty. Zrenda is also admitted to the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Court, which is the tribal court for cases arising from personal injuries that occurred at Foxwoods.

Commenting on his recent admission to Mohegan Gaming Disputes Court, Attorney Zrenda said, “I am excited for the opportunity this new license presents to expand Suisman Shapiro’s tribal law practice and to protect the interests of those working at and visiting the Mohegan Sun.”

Editor’s Note: If you have been injured at either of Connecticut’s resort-casinos, contact Suisman Shapiro for a free consultation to help you navigate the complex legal issues involved with claims arising from injuries that occur on tribal lands.

Reading Uncertainly: ‘Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel’ by Carl Safina

What are they thinking?

Do we deliberately misunderstand other animals?

And what is the result of this “miscomprehended relationship”?

Carl Safina, a professor at Stony Brook University in New York and a most curious student of other species, writes a thoroughly loquacious and engaging view of some other sentient creatures whose consciousness may well equal or exceed our own. Arguing that “ . . . humans are not the measure of all things” (as much as we might like us to be), he relates his exhaustive studies of elephants, wolves, dolphins, orcas (killer whales), and his own two dogs, in a global travelogue from Africa to Wyoming, to the Pacific Northwest and to Long Island.

His mantra: “the greatest realization is that all life is one.”

Professor Safina begins with those remarkable creatures, the elephants: “the skin moving like swishing corduroy, textured and rough, but sensitive to the slightest touch. The grind of their cobblestone molars as, sheaf by sheaf and mouthful by mouthful, they acquire the world . . . . Bizarre protruding teeth the size of human legs astride the world’s most phallic nose.”

He acknowledges their consciousness as well as their broad hearing: “elephant song spans ten octaves,” far more than we can hear. And yet theirs is a profile of a species going extinct. Since Roman times, we (the human species) have reduced elephant density by 99 percent. From 10 million in the early 1900s, we count less than 400,000 today.

Note that elephant society is female-dominated. They are empathic to each other. Is there a moral there?

He contrasts their behavior with ours: “self-destructive behavior, for instance, seems distinctly human.” Is male-domination a possible cause? He adds, “modernity’s self-imposed exile from the world seems to have degraded an older human ability to recognize the minds of other animals.” Safina goes on to explore the habits, minds and consciousness of wolves, dogs, and, finally, dolphins and orcas (also known as killer whales).

But inevitably his thoughts turn to us, homo sapiens. We engulf this globe, “ . . . the perfect storm of rising human densities . . . .” and “ . . . most animals of the world are awash in a rising sea of Us.” Pogo had it right!

He concludes: “I don’t mean to imply that I value the life of a fish or a bird the same way I value a human life, but their presence in the world has as much validity as does our presence. Perhaps more: they were here first; they are foundational to us . . . . They enliven the world, and beautifully.”

And then: “If cruelty and destructiveness are bad, humans are by a wide margin the worst species ever to infest this planet. If compassion and creativity are good, humans are by a wide margin the finest. But we are neither simply good nor bad; we are all these things together, and imperfectly so. The question for all is: which way is our balance tending?”

So the professor comes to his conclusion: “Me, I am most skeptical of those things I’d like most to believe, precisely because I’d like to believe them. Wanting to believe something can skews one’s view.”

His final words: “I just don’t know.”

Beyond Words is a challenging and testing read.

Editor’s Note: ‘Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel’ by Carl Safina is published by Henry Holt & Co., New York 2015.

Felix Kloman

About the Author: Felix Kloman is a sailor, rower, husband, father, grandfather, retired management consultant and, above all, a curious reader and writer. He’s explored how we as human beings and organizations respond to ever-present uncertainty in two books, ‘Mumpsimus Revisited’ (2005) and ‘The Fantods of Risk’ (2008). A 20-year former resident of Lyme, Conn., he now lives in Peabody, Mass. He writes book reviews, mostly of non-fiction, a subject which explores our minds, our behavior, our politics and our history, but he does throw in a novel here and there. For more than 50 years, he’s put together the 17 syllables that comprise haiku, the traditional Japanese poetry, and served faithfully as the self-appointed “poet laureate” of Ashlawn Farm Coffee. His late wife, Ann, was also a writer, but of mystery novels, all of which begin in a village in midcoast Maine, strangely reminiscent of the town she and her husband visited every summer.

A la Carte: Chicken Tikka Masala Makes a Perfect Meal With Friends

Lee White

The isolation, almost a year, actually, didn’t bother me as much as those who had to fill supermarket shelves, teach children at home or lose a job. Because I live alone, I have always pretty much eaten when I want to eat and pretty much eat what I want to eat.

But I sure missed the fun of sharing food with friends. So when friends offered to come to my home and cook in my kitchen with food I love but cook rarely, how could I resist?

Marla and Rich Kosenski knew that my Instant Pot sat in its box for almost a year before the pandemic. Then I took it out of the box and bought books on the Instant Pot. Even Weinstein and Scarbrough’s Instant Pot Bible frightened me a bit.

Then a retired teacher form Groton offered to come and teach me how to use it. Once I understood the concept, I began to love it.

Then came the pandemic. Marla and Rich, using their and my Instant Pots (dueling Instant Pots), cooked (I prepped). 

Below is chicken tikka masala. It was beyond delicious.

Just to be sure, I made it myself. Prepping took fewer than 10 minutes. I sautéed in the Pot for 10 more minutes, then dumped in the spices and the chicken, and pressure-cooked for 10 minutes.

After, I made brown rice (2 cups brown rice, 2 cups water, ½ teaspoon salt. Pressure cook for 20-22  minutes. Let it release by its own. Keep the extra rice for other dishes).

Chicken Tikka Masala
Adapted slightly from a recipe from Marla Kosinski

Yield: enough for 4 to 6 people

1 ½ tablespoons olive (or other vegetable oil)
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic minced
½ teaspoon ginger (I used dried ginger)
½ cup chicken or vegetable broth, divided
1 ½ tablespoons gram masala
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ to 1 teaspoon kosher salt (I use sea salt).
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional, but I love cayenne)
1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 14-ounce can petite diced tomatoes, juices included
½ cup coconut milk
Fresh cilantro, chopped (optional for those who hate cilantro)
2 cups cooked rice, for serving (I used brown rice)

In the Instant Pot, sauté oil until shimmering but not smoking. Add onion and Saute until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook until soft and fragrant. Mixture may stick a little t the bottom; this is normal.

Add ¼ cup of chicken broth and cook, gently scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to loosen any stick-on bits, until chicken broth is reduced by half. Add spices and stir to combine. Stir in rest of the broth and tomatoes. Pressure cook on high for 10 minutes. Quick release when done. Stir in coconut milk. Serve over rice on plates and topped with cilantro.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

The Movie Man: Ganey Highly Recommends ‘The Green Knight,’ Says it is ‘Unlike Any Other Fantasy Adaptation’

Kevin Ganey is ‘The Movie Man.’

After more than a year of abstaining from movie theaters, as well as keeping up with new releases (since we were all so incredibly overwhelmed by the tumultuous year that was 2020), I was finally able to screen a new movie in the manner in which this medium was originally intended: on the big screen, sitting among strangers.

I can say unequivocally that it was good to be back!

The Green Knight is unlike any other fantasy adaptation that I have screened throughout my life. (Here is a link to the official trailer for the movie to give you just a sense of it.)

Abandoning the traditional methods used for films among the likes of Harry Potter, The Wizard of Oz, or The Lord of the Rings, the film takes an unnatural approach through unusual cinematography and editing (perhaps to best emphasize the surrealism of medieval legends), akin to the films of Paul Thomas Anderson, Terrence Malick, or the newly recognized Ari Aster (Heredity and Midsommer).

While this film is a fantasy in terms of setting and events, it also blends a thought-provoking arthouse air with what is presented.

I will be completely forthcoming and share that I did not understand many aspects of this movie. Despite this, I will hail it as fantastic.

Why? Because it reminds me of the genre usually produced by the artists I previously mentioned. And like the works of Anderson, Malick, and Aster, I anticipate an analysis to be made available, and I will gain a further appreciation for this piece.

This is not an entirely faithful adaptation of the legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (rarely can one adapt one medium while retaining every aspect of its source material). However, there are many instances in which those behind the movie were able to adapt the original poetic dialogue of the epic in a manner fitting for a motion picture, the lines able to convey the grandness of the subject at hand.

To be fair, the only way I was able to notice these differences was by looking up the summary of the original epic. The last time I read it was during my British literature class senior year of high school (okay, I was assigned it and just listened to my teacher and classmates discuss it. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has done that!)

For me, the greatest satisfaction came in the depiction of the title character, the Green Knight.

Going back to my high school years, if this story ever came to mind, I would wonder how this character would be portrayed. How would he be green? What would give him the recognition and terror that was woven into his identity?

Enter a man who appears to be a hybrid between human and vegetation, and a bellowing English countryside voice (provided by Ralph Ineson).

The Knight requires an appearance that would make him inhuman and terrifying. How else could we justify a character who, upon challenging Gawain and the rest of King Arthur’s court to chop off his head, was able to arise and carry said head off with him? (Not a complete spoiler, as this is the central driving plot of the original epic poem).

In short, I urge everyone who appreciates the fantasy and arthouse genre to see The Green Knight

Above all, I urge all of us to search for an analysis of the movie that will give us a greater appreciation of it. While many pieces of art embrace what appear to be bizarre and nonsensical (think Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody), a proper walkthrough can make us fall in love with the unusual.

About the Author: Though no longer a resident of Lyme, Kevin knows he can never sever his roots to the tree of his identity. When not attending to his job in Boston, he is committed to ensuring a better grasp of current (and past) releases of cinema to his home community as he strives to leave his own mark in the same field that has always been his guide to understanding life. If you enjoy his published reviews here on LymeLine.com, follow him on his new website at ‘The City of Cinema and read more of his unique insights into entertainment.

Legal News You Can Use: Liability of Social Hosts, Dram Shops in Connecticut

When a person provides alcoholic beverages to guests in his or her home, that person may face legal consequences for an intoxicated guest’s actions. Specifically, if an intoxicated guest causes an injury to him or herself or to another person in a car accident, the social host who served the guest alcohol could be held responsible.

Social host liability

Social host liability is based on the idea that the host has an obligation to the public to serve alcohol safely. In Connecticut, social host liability also extends to serving guests, who are under the legal drinking age of 21.

There is a public concern that due to their inexperience, younger people cannot manage the effects of alcohol responsibly and there is an interest in keeping the roads safe from drunk drivers.

In Connecticut, the social host may be subject to jail time or a fine for violations.

Dram shop liability

In addition to social host liability, Connecticut also recognizes dram shop liability. Under the Dram Shop Act, an alcohol seller may be responsible if he or she sells alcohol to a person who is intoxicated.

If that person causes injuries to another person or property in a drunk-driving accident, the seller may be liable. The seller may also have to pay significant damages. Dram shop claims must be made within one year of the alcohol sale.

Drunk-driving accidents can cause serious injuries including cuts, bruises, broken bones, traumatic injuries and even death.

An experienced attorney can help identify the responsible parties, can pursue compensation on the injured person’s behalf and can provide guidance about other appropriate next steps.

Attorneys at Suisman Shapiro can discuss the divorce process with you and answer your questions on the subject. Visit their website or call 800-499-0145 — lines are open 24 hours a day.

This is a sponsored post by Suisman Shapiro Attorneys-at-Law.

A la Carte: Stone Fruit Caramel Delights the Palate in Both Summer, Winter

Lee White

I have in my Kindle at least four sample books waiting for me to read. No matter the weather, I probably read four to five hours a day.

But at night, in bed, I read recipes.

When I find ingredients that sound really good, I tear out the page and, within a day or two, buy the ingredients and make the food.  If I like the recipe, I want you to have that recipe, so I cobble up a few sentences, write the recipe and hope you like try it, too.

I love the recipe below.

I had made this with peaches. I peel them (a quick dunk in boiling water, peel and remove the pit). It is harder to pit the cherries, but a cheap cherry pitter makes it a lot easier.

I think the recipe would freeze well. Imagine having tapioca or rice pudding, some ice cream and/or a slice of toasted pound cake topped with fruit caramel months after that fruit was picked.

The very thought makes winter seem bearable.

Stone Fruit Caramel
From Bon Appetit, June/July 2021

12 ounces ripe stone fruit (plums, peaches, nectarines, sour or sweet cherries, apricots), pitted
2 to 3 tablespoons vinegar (unseasoned rice vinegar, apple cider, sherry, Champagne or red wine)
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
½ teaspoon pure vanilla paste or vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon pure almond extract (optional, but I love almond anything with fruit)
¼ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more (I always use fine sea salt)

Coarsely chop half the fruit and place in blender along with any juices that have accumulated on cutting board. Chop remaining into ½-1” pieces (no need to chop if using cherries); set aside.

Add 2 tablespoons vinegar to fruit in blender. Puree until mostly smooth. Taste and add up to 1 tablespoons vinegar to brighten, if needed. You should have ½ cup, depending on the juiciness of your fruit.

Pour sugar in an even layer in a medium heavy saucepan, set over medium heat and cook, undisturbed until most of the sugar is melted. Stir gently until all is melted.

Continue to cook, without serving, until caramel is amber in color, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately pour fruit puree, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula. Don’t be alarmed if the mixture seizes. Set back over medium heat, cook, stirring, until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Add reserved chopped fruit, increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring, until caramel is budding and thickened slightly and fruit is warmed through, 2 to 5 minutes, depending on the fruit.

Remove heat and stir in butter, vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract, almond extract (if using) and salt. Taste and season with more salt if needed.

Let cool slightly before serving. 

To do ahead: Fruit caramel can be made three weeks ahead. Let cool. Transfer to an airtight container; cover and chill.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com

A la Carte: Time for Tea … so Let’s Have a ‘New Tea Cake!’

Lee White

The recipe below is, I think, almost perfect.

Ruby chips.

I have been playing for more than a year to find ways to use a new flavor bean found by the Callebaut chocolate company called a ruby chip (available on Amazon.com.) It is a deep pink and looks like any chocolate chip, but it takes nothing like a chocolate chip. Instead it has floral notes and when you taste it, you look for its essence.

Priscilla Martel, my human food encyclopedia, asked if I’d like to share the cost of an enormous cache. But I had a difficult time finding a way to use them where its flavor could shine.

Over the past month or so I played around a recipe for banana bread, leaving out the banana and pure vanilla extract. I added ruby chips, fresh fruit and buttermilk. I made it with fresh strawberries twice, once with fresh raspberries. I may try it with plums.

If you can’t get ruby chips, try regular chocolate chips or maybe cinnamon and adding back the pure vanilla extract instead of the almond. 

A New Tea Cake

Yield: 3 loaves each of which will feed 10 and freeze beautifully

4 cups all-purpose flour
1½ cup sugar
1½ tablespoons baking soda
1½ teaspoons salt
2½ cups toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
12 ounces ruby chips in tossed with 2 tablespoons flour (other chips will work)
½ cup sour cream
4 large eggs, beaten
2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 cup buttermilk
12 ounces butter (1½ sticks), melted and cooled
1 pint fresh strawberries or raspberries, coarsely chopped

Adjust oven rack to middle position, heat oven to 350 degrees and use spray Pam on the bottom of the three 8-ounce loaf pans.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, pecans and chips in a large bowl. Toss the fruit with about 2 tablespoons flour and, using your hands, add the fruit.

In another bowl, add sour cream, eggs, extract, buttermilk and butter. Fold into the dry ingredients and add the mixture fairly equally into the prepared pans.

Bake loaves for about 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool in pan about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.

Try not to eat it until it is cool. Better even a few days later. Yummy if toasted and topped with just a little butter.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com

Gardening Tips for July from ‘The English Lady’; The Month of ‘Hollyhocks and Hammocks’

Photo by meriç tuna on Unsplash.

If I had my way, I’d remove January from the calendar altogether and have an extra July instead. (Roald Dahl)

Watering is so important during the heat of summer. If you planted trees or shrubs this spring, particularly evergreens, these plants require extra moisture to establish a strong root system. We have had an abundant amount of rain this spring and into the summer, but it is still important to keep an eye on the weather.

Here in New England, plants require at least an inch of water per week.  If you are using a regular hose, you lose 40 percent of moisture to evaporation. However, a hose is necessary for a deep first-watering when a plant goes into the ground and for containers.

Watering is so important in July. Photo by Irene Dávila on Unsplash.

Soaker hoses in your borders are the best method of watering, attached to a house spigot with a timer. By using this method of irrigation, moisture goes to the roots of plants where it is needed and not on the foliage, which can cause disease such as black spot and powdery mildew. These hoses attached to a timer can be used efficiently not only in the borders of the garden but also in the vegetable garden, where annual vegetables, in particular, require a lot of water to produce a good crop.

In addition, composted manure added to the containers and copious amounts to the vegetable garden, help to retain a good amount of moisture. Manure used as mulch for the vegetable garden adds more nutrition, manure as mulch does not cap or form a hard crust, as do other mulches, so that water goes directly to the roots.

LAWNS & SOIL

Water the lawn only when the green glow begins to fade.  An established lawn will bounce back following dry hot spells.

I want to emphasize the importance of soil and soil health, which has been severely neglected and abused with poisonous chemicals for years. Soil is the most important element of plant growth; it is not an inert medium that merely holds the plants erect, it is a living organism that needs to be replenished with nutrients.

The nutrient is composted manure, manure builds soils structure and its bacteria partners with the millions of microbes below the surface to produce nutrients for the roots of the plants. If you have not already done so, I strongly suggest that you carefully discard all chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.

The addition of composted manure to your soil in spring, early summer and in early fall together with the addition of natural brown bark mulch, builds the carbon compound or humus component in the soil.  We are all carbon-based creatures, as is every living element, this is our lifeblood and the lifeblood of the soil in our gardens.

As we build the humus component by adding composted manure and fine bark mulch, we produce the healthiest possible growing environment and the strongest disease-resistant plants.  As we add the composted manure and natural fine bark mulch season after season, the humus component continues to build in the soil, continuously extracting carbon from the atmosphere into the soil.

ROSES 

These flourish beautifully with the addition of composted manure and mulch applied on the soil about two feet away from the base of the plant and require deep watering at least once a week. Now, in July add another light layer of composted manure around the roses. Manure is food for the roots of the roses and no other products are necessary for growth and bloom.

Stop adding manure to the roses in mid-August, so that the roses can into a slow dormancy through late summer and early fall, a natural part of their growth cycle.

If you are a first-time rose grower or adding to your rose collection, consider David Austin English roses — they are my personal preference.  The David Austin nursery is only 21 miles from my hometown in Shropshire in England; it was a fragrant pleasure to visit the nursery in June. David Austin roses are more trouble-free than many other roses and are repeat bloomers, with beautiful colors that enhance our senses with delicious fragrances.

Some of my favorite David Austin roses are:

  • A Shropshire Lad (my home country in England) a peachy pink
  • Abraham Darby, shades of apricot and yellow
  • Evelyn (my favorite) with giant apricot hued flowers
  • Fair Bianca a pure white rose
  • Heritage a soft blush pink
  • Carding Mill Valley begins as a peachy orange double flower, becoming an apricot-pink

A lovely combination to enjoy are climbing roses and clematis planted together as both enjoy the same planting environment with their heads in the sun and their feet (roots) cool, with manure and mulch. This combination looks great, climbing over a fence, wall or arbor.

MULCH 

Do not use the artificially-colored red mulch, rubber mulch or cocoa mulch; use only natural brown bark mulch.  Do not mulch right up to the base of the plants, as this invites rodents to nest and gnaw on the stems or trunks of the plants.

Note: Do not use Cocoa mulch, produced by Hershey, this mulch has a Thorazine compound and other poisons which are hazardous to pets who are attracted by the chocolate odor. Ingestion of this chocolate mulch can cause seizures and death within hours.

HYDRANGEAS

Blue hydrangeas. Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash.

Plant Hydrangeas in a sunny area if you live near the coast enjoying seas breezes and in part-sun away from the coast on the west or east aspect of the garden. Plant them in organically rich soil with composted manure and add extra composted manure around the base now in July.

If you have the blue Hydrangea, add some peat or aged oak bark around the base because the acidity in the peat or oak bark encourages a deeper blue hue.  Hydrangeas are a wetland plant and require plenty of water throughout the summer. We had a late spring and with all the spring and early summer rain and good sunshine, the foliage and bloom of the hydrangeas are performing well. Watch out for powdery mildew and spray with the following powdery mildew recipe you can mix yourself:

*Two tablespoons baking soda, one tablespoon of vegetable oil, a squirt of dish soap with a gallon of water in a sprayer.  For any recipe spray you make at home, spray only in the morning when there is no wind and when the temperature and humidity added together do not go above 180.

Prune Hydrangeas immediately after they finish blooming in late August or early September but no later, as Hydrangeas set their buds for the next season by mid-September. If you prune after September, you will lose next season’s bloom.  When you prune, cut out some of the old wood and the weakest of the new shoots.  In October put more composted manure and brown mulch around the base to nourish and protect the roots through the winter.

GARDEN ANTIBIOTICS: Garlic & Hot Pepper

Did you know that garlic is the antibiotic of the garden I just love garlic to use in my recipes and it is an important anti-fungal element to protect your plants.  I suggest in early fall, plant plenty of garlic, if you do not already have some in the garden.

Garlic plants after harvest. Photo by Shelley Pauls on Unsplash.

Plant garlic:

  • around mildew-prone plants to prevent mildew on  such plants as summer phlox and bee balm
  • around strawberries, tomatoes and raspberries to avoid fungal diseases
  • under fruit trees to avoid scab and root disease
  • next to ponds or standing water to control mosquito larvae or pour garlic water into the water to deter adult mosquitoes.

When you notice marauders where either insects or animals have been munching, make a garlic spray to apply on the plants including vegetables.

Garlic spray recipe

4 large crushed garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 teaspoons of vegetable oil
1 squirt of mild dish detergent

Put all ingredients in 2 cups of hot water in the blender, blend, then leave overnight. Then put the mixture in a gallon sprayer with cold water and spray in the early morning when there is no wind, observing the rule of 180.  Observing the rule of 180  is when the temperature and humidity added together do not go above 180.

Hot Pepper spray

To deter squirrels and chipmunks, try a hot pepper spray using either 4 hot chilies or one cup of cayenne pepper in 2 cups of hot water, in the blender, blend and leave overnight then put in a gallon sprayer with cold water and spray the problem areas in the early morning.

This pepper spray works well on squirrels, chipmunks, deer as well as dogs and cats that may be leaving their deposits in the garden.

HANDS:

Gardener’s hands are their tools of the trade so it’s important to take care of them. My hands remain healthy by indulging them in a hot cream treatment once a week before bed. 

Combine Calendula cream with honey and essential oil of lavender heated in the microwave, apply generously and put on white cotton gloves for sleep. When I wake up my hands are soft and smooth as can be.

Wear gloves, when working in soil that contains manure or when spreading manure. Manure is an organic product that contains bacteria; bacteria is great for the soil but like many bacteria not healthy for you. The garden gloves I prefer are the soft leather farmer’s gloves that are washable.  

FLAVORED OILS 

Many herbs are at their peak right now and are ideal for using in flavored oils.  The oil I use as a base is organic olive oil. I harvest basil, parsley, sage, tarragon and oregano in a morning, rinse them well, pat them dry with a paper towel and then make this recipe.

Choose an herb and add to two cups of oil.

For thyme and lavender, I use only the flowers with one cup of oil to a handful of blossoms.

Puree the herb mixture in a blender and store covered in a wide-mouthed jar for three days, shake at least three times a day for the first two days and on the third day let the mixture settle to the bottom, then strain it through a paper coffee filter or cheese cloth into a clean jar.  You will now have a tinted but clear mixture.

Refrigerate each mixture and use within two to three weeks.  The herb oils I make are lavender, lemon, garlic, shallots and basil with olive oil as the base – these are my favorites and are great brushed on vegetables and meats for grilling.  The lavender oil is great with desserts. Rosemary and lemon oil taste excellent on salads.

MOLES

I know I have given you a few mole remedies in the past; but I have not given you the Exlax method for a while. I can attest to the fact that I have used this method as have many garden colleagues for years, as it works.  Buy Exlax, whose main ingredient is Senna, a natural herb. Insert Exlax into the mole holes, the moles and voles eat it then die of dehydration.

If you have dogs and cats, do not use the chocolate Exlax — use only the plain Exlax as chocolate is dangerous to pets.

In early April of next year, apply organic grub control, which means less grubs for the moles to feed on, and without their supply of grubs, the moles will go elsewhere for food. In addition, the white grubs of Japanese beetles can be diminished with the grub control.

Japanese beetles love our plants and there is a method to deal with them naturally. In the early morning, the Japanese beetles are drowsy and can be captured.  Lay a drop cloth under the plant or plants where you see them and gently shake the plant; the drowsy beetles will drop onto the cloth, which you gather up and drop them in a garbage bag and discard.

Many of us are committed to organic gardening without chemicals, which has enabled the earthworm population to once again increase; earthworms are a great boon to the garden soil as their castings add 50 percent nutrition to the soil together with 11 trace minerals.

SUMMER PHLOX 

Summer phlox always put on a show. Photo by Steph Cruz on Unsplash.

I just love my summer phlox and to keep the mildew problems at bay I use the natural baking soda mix* I mentioned above.  I have found that white Phlox Miss Lingard or white Phlox David are more resistant to mildew that other summer phlox.  Monarda commonly known, as Bee Balm and Hydrangea, are also prone to be affected by powdery mildew, and this is where the baking soda once again can be used.

For a second bloom on the Summer Phlox, prune off 10 to 20 inches from the flower stems just after the flowers have gone by and within a few weeks you will experience new growth.

KEEP YOUR GARDEN CLEAN 

A healthy garden is a clean garden. Do not put any diseased items into your compost.

Deadhead all annuals and perennials for a second bloom and clean up all spend blossoms.

When Coreopsis and Spirea have bloomed, shear off dead flowers and they too will rebloom.

CONTAINERS

Containers need watering daily during hot summer months.

Make sure you have composted manure and fine bark mulch applied on top of the soil in your containers and keep them watered as containers dry out quicker than garden soil. In hot weather the containers will need to be watered daily, morning and evening watering is the best.

If you do not have time in a morning before you leave for work or errands, empty your ice cube trays on the containers; this provides slow-release watering until you can get to them later.

Finally, enjoy being in the garden, stay hydrated, continue to stretch and take time to ‘smell the Roses’ and I’ll see you in your garden in August.

Contact Maureen at maureenhaseleyjones@gmail.com

About the author: Maureen Haseley-Jones, pictured left, is a member of a family of renowned horticultural artisans, whose landscaping heritage dates back to the 17th century. She is one of the founders, together with her son Ian, of, The English Lady Landscape and Home Company. Maureen and Ian are landscape designers and garden experts, who believe that everyone deserves to live in an eco-conscious environment and enjoy the pleasure that it brings. Maureen learned her design skills from both her mother and grandmother, and honed her horticultural and construction skills while working in the family nursery and landscape business in the U.K. Her formal horticultural training was undertaken at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in Surrey.