The last time I visited my friend, Rita's, and husband David's enchanting home in the northern Catskill Mountains there was so much snow outside that the only way to walk around was on snow shoes. Allegra's paws got tiny cuts on them crunching through the ice-covered, blindingly white mounds of snow.
On a recent visit the snow was a distance memory and the property was lush with various shades of green.
Rita, I, and our dogs, Frankie and Allegra went upstate for what has become a June tradition -a girl's only weekend while David was away at an annual conference.
The first thing that Rita does when she arrives at her upstate home is to fill the vintage bottles that line the living room fireplace mantle with something that was, or is growing outdoors - this goes for all seasons. So, during the dead of winter there may be branches of evergreens or dried leaves and vines. For our recent weekend Rita placed branches of single petal, heirloom roses in each bottle. The next thing she does is look through her vegetable garden for what has gone missing - "Someone ate the squash leaves", she said. "Can you imagine, the squash leaves - must have been the baby woodchucks". It's not easy being a weekend gardener.
She did, however, find beets, assorted green leaves for salad, chocolate mint for tea - and things like chard, kale and arugula - "which no one seems to like."
I had plans to make pasta with beets and beet greens for dinner. But, we both were kind of exhausted from the at least five-stops trip from the City so we opted for salad with Kunik cheese - about which I've written several times on this blog. It was just right.
Blueberries and yogurt for Saturday breakfast and a plan to go off in search of Heather Ridge Farm and their farm cafe called The Bees Knees. We thought we knew where we were going but a series of missed turns and unclear directions had us going in circles before arrived at the farm. The charming place on, yes, a ridge has tasty, made-from- the-heart food - but vegetarians have little to no choice as
Heather Ridge Farm raises animals so their menu is meat-centric.
My chili - called "Oink & Moo" served with a corn muffin seemed just the right thing to eat on the chilly, overcast day. Tart lemonade and ice tea flavored with the farm's honey and mint were beverage choices.
Before we left for our adventure Rita took an early morning walk into her woods - she had a hunch that because it had rained for days that there just might be some early chanterelles. She was right and came back with enough golden trumpets to make a tasty concoction that we spread on crackers and had as an hors d'oeuvre with a glass of Lillet on the rocks.
Clean and chop the chanterelles. Saute in extra virgin olive oil with chopped leeks and garlic scapes until tender. Finish with a dab of butter.
We had beet pasta for dinner:
PAPPARDELLE WITH BEETS AND BEET GREENS
Saute diced beets in olive oil with minced garlic. Tear the the leaves from the ribs of the thoroughly rinsed beet greens. Chop about 1/3 of the ribs into pieces the size of the diced beets. Add to the saute. Add water to the saute pan and cook until the vegetables are fork tender 30 - 40 minutes - adding water as needed. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the greens to the beets with a bit of lemon zest and juice, and salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Add water. Cook the pasta according to the manufacturer's directions. Two minutes before the pasta cooking time is complete use tongs or a wire mesh strainer to remove it from the pot and add directly to the beets. Toss the combine. Serve immediately garnished with fresh, whole milk ricotta. (We bought some exceptionally good fresh ricotta at the Barbers Farm stand in Middleburgh, NY).
QUICK FRUIT CRUMBLE (is there any other kind?)
Add fruit of your choice; berries, peaches, nectarines, plums, etc. mixed with a little lemon juice and sugar or honey to a buttered baking dish. Use your fingers to rub together equal parts of unsalted butter, flour(or 1/2 flour, 1/2 rolled oats), and sugar to make crumbs. Add a pinch of salt and flavor, as I did with ground cinnamon and a splash of pure vanilla extract (sometimes I use almond extract). Scatter the crumbs over the top of the fruit. Baked at 350 degrees F. until the top is slightly brown and the sides are bubbly - about 30 minutes.
Allegra found a nest of baby minks and became completely obsessed. I was happy that mama mink wasn't home when she was barking and digging at the nest.
We all had a good time.
Wave Hill - they're chairs designed for the grand NYC gardens overlooking the Hudson River towards the Palisades.
Lisa Corti reimagined. Rita used one of her worn-out Lisa Corti quilts - check out the website to see some of the prettiest quilts and home ware, ever - in her vegetable garden to keep the weeds from growing (remember, she's a weekend gardener). The mulch anchors the quilt.