Building community by sharing recipes

  • Indian curry recipe contributed by Lisa Prolman. Contributed photo

  • Double ginger shortbread recipe by Pat Leuchtman. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Chocolate chip cookie recipe contributed by John Nordell. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Lisa Prolman, assistant library director at Greenfield Public Library. Contributed photo

Staff Writer
Published: 2/17/2021 9:52:55 AM

Typically, holidays are a time to see loved ones and celebrate cherished traditions together usually centered around the dinner table. Home-cooked meals serve as the backdrop for warm conversation; cookies are exchanged as presents. 

But this pandemic-era has proven to be anything but typical, and with in-person parties out of the question, the Greenfield Public Library set out last December to build community around a virtual table — by exchanging cookie recipes in lieu of fresh-from-the-oven baked goods.

Before the holidays, “We decided to do a virtual cookie exchange,” said Lisa Prolman, assistant library director of the Main Street library. 

Librarians compiled the submitted recipes, of which there were more than a dozen, “got everybody together on Zoom and we talked cookies,” she continued.

Recipes ranged from a recipe for Molasses Spice Cookies with Orange Essence adapted from the book “Cooks Illustrated” by Marianne Snow, to Italian ricotta cookies submitted by Clarita Shaeffer and a recipe for Swedish ginger cookies added by Pamela McBride, who is a library assistant. 

“It went really well, so we decided in January to do another called ‘comfort food cooking,’” said Prolman, who is herself a regular home chef. She has contributed a number of different recipes to the group including directions to make Addendum cookies, coconut macaroons, broccoli soup and Crock Pot Indian Curry — a personal favorite.

“You quite literally just dump it into a crockpot and you let it cook for six hours. And oh my god, the house smells so good when you’re done. I serve it with some Basmati rice. It’s warm and flavorful and wonderful,” she said. “That one, in particular, I got out of a cookbook called ‘Make It Fast, Cook It Slow’ (by Stephanie O'Dea) and I adapted it because it had at least one ingredient that I was allergic to.”

Prolman says the pandemic has provided an impetus for the library to expand its virtual programming — a step that was needed even before social distancing was an oft-referenced term.

“We haven’t been able to do a lot of (in-person) programming (since) October of 2019, I think it was, when our meeting rooms were closed,” Prolman said. Notably, the library’s usage was restricted back then because of concerns about the building’s safety, forcing librarians to scale back programming.

“This has been, for us, one of the benefits of the pandemic – virtual programming – because it was something we could do,” Prolman said. “We could offer book clubs again. We did a book club all summer long. … We thought, ‘if we can do this with book discussion groups, we can do this with food.’ And food has been a really big thing during the pandemic.”

The recipe exchange evolved from the virtual book club idea and the library’s monthly Meet Your Neighbors program.

“When we don’t have a theme, or because we feel like cooking, we do a cooking program,” she said. “We’ve gotten a handful of (family recipes) when we did the cookie one, especially. But we’ve also gotten a handful of, ‘I made this one before and I really wanted to share it with everyone.’”

Upcoming on Thursday, Feb. 18, at 7 p.m., the library will hold its third virtual recipe exchange featuring chocolate recipes in honor of Valentine’s Day and to “help us get through the end of winter,” according to a press release about the event. For more information and to obtain a Zoom registration link, email librarian@greenfieldpubliclibrary.org.

“Anyone who wants to join can join — if you’re not great at cooking, I’m pretty sure that if you have a question,” there will be someone who can answer it, Prolman said. “And there are two reference librarians on the chat; between us, I’m pretty sure we can figure it out.”

Looking ahead to next month, Prolman noted that, while there’s a different Meet Your Neighbors activity slated for March, the library might host a recipe exchange before Easter and Passover. Meanwhile, a few contributed recipes can be found below.

And for anyone who is interested in seeing a full list of past contributions, “If they contact us at the library, we’re happy to send them out,” Prolman said.

Andy Castillo can be reached at acastillo@recorder.com.

Crock Pot Indian Curry

Submitted by Lisa Prolman. Adapted from “Make It Fast, Cook It Slow: The Big Book of Everyday Slow Cooking” by Stephanie O'Dea.

2 tablespoons curry powder (how strong is your choice)

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

One piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated (or three cubes of frozen ginger)

Three garlic cloves, minced

One 14 ounce can of coconut milk (light works)

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 ½ pounds boneless chicken thighs (can substitute breasts or tofu)

One 15 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

One yellow onion, chopped

Two sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped

One red potato, chopped

Use a 6 quart slow cooker. Assemble spices, ginger, garlic, coconut milk and tomato paste and combine in the bottom of the cooker. Add protein of choice and coat in sauce. Pour in chickpeas, onion, and potatoes. Stir well to combine.

Cover and cook on low for 7-9 hours or high for 4-6 hours. Shred selected protein with two forks and stir to combine. Serves six to eight. Serve with rice and steamed green vegetable.

Molasses Spice Cookies with Orange Essence

From the book “Cooks Illustrated.” Submitted by Marianne Snow.

1 cup sugar (you’ll be dividing into 2/3 cup, with grated orange zest, which will be used to roll the balls of dough in) and 1/3 cup added to batter)

3 teaspoons grated orange zest

2¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

1½ teaspoons ground ginger

½ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon allspice

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon table salt

12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1½ sticks), softened but still cool

1/3 cup dark brown

One large egg yolk (room temp)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup molasses (note: rinse the glass measuring cup with really hot water before measuring the molasses — it makes it easier to add the molasses to the cookie dough).

General note: If you find that the dough sticks to your palms as you shape the balls, moisten your hands occasionally in a bowl filled with cold water and shake off the excess water. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time. If you bake two sheets at a time, the cookies on the bottom rack won’t develop the attractive cracks. The cookies should look slightly raw and underbaked when removed from the oven. Let them sit on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a cookie rack to cool completely.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In work-bowl or food processor, process ⅔ cup sugar and 2 teaspoons orange zest until pale orange, about 10 seconds. Transfer to a 8 or 9 inch cake pan and set aside.

Whisk flour, baking soda, spices and salt in medium bowl until thoroughly combined; set aside.

In standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or use electric beaters), beat butter and 1 teaspoon grated orange zest with brown sugar and remaining ⅓ cup granulated sugar at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. (Scrape bowl with spatula mid-way through.)

Reduce speed to medium-low and add egg yolk and vanilla; increase speed to medium and beat until incorporated, about 20 seconds, scraping bottom and sides of bowl once with rubber spatula. Reduce speed to medium-low and add molasses; beat until fully incorporated, about 20 seconds, scraping bottom and sides of bowl once with rubber spatula.

Reduce speed to the lowest setting; add flour mixture and beat until just incorporated, scraping bottom and sides of bowl at least once, with rubber spatula. Give dough a final stir to ensure that no flour pockets remain. Dough will be soft.

Working with about 1 tablespoon of dough at a time, roll into balls. Roll the dough balls in the orange zest sugar to coat. Space dough balls 2 inches apart on prepared sheet.

Bake 1 sheet at a time until cookies are browned, still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft (cookies will look raw between cracks and seem underdone), about 11 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking. Do not over-bake. For these cookies, I usually bake for 5 minutes and turn and then another five minutes (or so) — generally a bit less than the 11 minutes. My oven runs a bit hot.

Let cookies cool on sheet for 5 minutes, move to wire rack and cool before serving.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Submitted by John Nordell, adapted from a recipe developed by Dédé Wilson, co-founder of FODMAP Everyday.

These are hearty and healthy. There are many different plants in these cookies, including these different flours: brown rice, sweet rice, garbanzo bean, sorghum, fava bean, almond and coconut. Good for your microbiome.

¼ cup coconut flour

1/3 cup almond flour

¾ cup Bob’s Red Mill one-to-one Gluten Free Baking Flour

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Cup Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour (plus ¼ teaspoon Xanthan gum. It works without the Xanthan gum, too).

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

½ cup maple syrup

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 large eggs, at room temperature

10-12 ounces chocolate chips

Optional: Add two tablespoons of peanut butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Whisk together flour blend, baking soda and salt to aerate and combine; set aside.

Beat butter with electric mixer on medium-high speed in a large bowl until creamy. Add brown sugar and sugar and beat until lightened, about 3 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla, then beat in eggs one at a time allowing each one to be incorporated before adding the next. Beat in the dry mixture until a few streaks of flour remain. Add chocolate and beat just until combined. Cover the bowl and chill for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight.

Position racks in upper and lower thirds of oven. Preheat oven to 375 Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Depending on the size of your baking sheets, you might need more.

Form golf ball sized balls and place the cookies 12 per pan, spaced evenly apart.

No need to press them down. I usually end up with more than 24 cookies. Bake for about 10 to 14 minutes or until lightly browned with the edges firmer than the centers, which should be soft.

The cookies firm up tremendously upon cooling. Cool cookies completely on pans set on racks. (Make subsequent batches with cooled pans). Cookies are best served the same day but may be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to three days. I have frozen them with success.

Tahini-Walnut Cookies

Submitted by Trouble Madison.

6 tablespoons Tahini

½ cup honey

1 cup oats

½  teaspoon cinnamon

½  cup walnuts

Stir tahini and honey together. Add in oats, cinnamon, nuts and mix well. Drop by tablespoon onto baking sheet. Bake at 325 Fahrenheit for 12 minutes. You won’t be able to keep these around, they are sweet and chewy.

Double Ginger Shortbread 

Submitted by Pat Leuchtman.

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon salt

½ pound butter

2/3 cups confectioners sugar

½ cup crystallized ginger, cut into little pieces

Cream butter and sugar. Add flour mixed with ginger and salt. Add minced ginger.

Make two balls of dough and chill for 1 hour.

Roll your dough to ¼ inch and cut with cookie cutter.

Put on un-greased sheet (I use Silpat).

Bake about 12-15 minutes in preheated 350 degree oven.

Let cool until firm and enjoy. You can store for two weeks.




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