Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Up on the Hudson River - a Tale of Two Cities

Last week Allegra and I got into the car, picked up two tender, milky, freshly made mozzarellas from Russo's on east 11th street, and drove north for a couple of hours.  Our first stop was Hudson, NY, about 110 miles north of the City, on the east-side of the Hudson River. We stopped for a visit with friends, Tony & Maggie, both artists, who live in a huge Greek Revival home on one of Hudson's leafy streets just south of the little city's main thoroughfare, Warren Street. 

I arrived just in time for lunch.  How fortuitous! (Really, I was all set to check out Hudson's tortilla shack)  One of the mozzarellas was immediately sliced and paired with sliced, freshly picked (from their garden) still-warm-from-the-sun tomatoes, and whole basil leaves  to make one of the meal's offerings.   A sour dough baguette from downtown Hudson's Loaf Bakery was what was needed to sop up that delicious mixture of olive oil and tomato juice that comes with a serving of the red, green and white Insalata Caprese (and for this one, a bit of yellow).  Remember this salad gets dressed simply with olive oil and salt.  That's it.
After lunch, Allegra and I took off for a walking tour of the downtown, commericial area of  Hudson with a first stop at Lick, on Warren Street, for ice cream.   I love Lick's ice cream.  I had a coffee, cookie, caramel cone and Allegra had a Betsey's BowWow - which is vanilla ice cream garnished with two homemade dog biscuits.  We were in heaven and ready to walk off our indulgence.  
We enjoyed our walk and had to stop at Swallow Espresso and Coffee Shop on Warren Street, not just for the coffee, but also because it shares a space with Loaf and I wanted to buy a baguette.  We met our friend, Cynthia at Swallow - sat outside and admired the afternoon parade of dogs and their humans.

I was most impressed with a a couple of men, separately, and their poodles.

After a leisurely, window-shopping walk down Warren  Street with Cynthia, Allegra & I went back to our car parked in front of Tony & Maggie's place, said our "Goodbyes" and headed back south a bit to the Rhinecliff  Bridge where we crossed the magnificant Hudson River, to the west-side, and went to visit our friends Mark and James - who call their side of the river, the "Left Bank" - and their dog, Cicero in Kingston - the former captial city of New York.   

They live in a unique mid-century home which they have named Ringtop Ranch.  The neighborhood kids refer to it as the "Jetson's house".   I would say it's more elegant than comical.   The seemingly stark design belies what is a comfortable and almost cozy interior.

Because our hosts arrived from NYC a bit on the late side we didn't cook at home but instead went to a wonderful bistro in Uptown Kingston (as opposed to a whole other area of town down by the river - and a section in between both) called Boitson's.    Boitson's is just the kind of place that you want near where you live.   Inviting and easy, with a food and cocktail menu that has something for everyone - but is big on comfort food.  Like the fried oysters, fried chicken, burgers, mac and cheese that somehow found their way to our table along with cocktails named for various New York City boroughs (owner Maria Philippis managed the legendary Blue Ribbon restaurant before opening her upstate eatery) and upstate locations.  I was happy with a cocktail called The Brooklyn made with bourbon, triple sec, sweet vermouth and fresh lime.  Let's just say I was happy.   Slightly buzzed with good friends and good food - is there anything better?

Saturday morning was all about the Kingston farmer's market.   The various stalls were brimming with the gems of  mid-August, tomatoes, corn, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, herbs, peaches, plums, watermelon and so on.  We bought some of most things to make an unforgettable dinner.

But first we had lunch.  Another version of the marriage-made-in-heaven combo of tomatoes, mozzarella and basil.  With a sour dough baguette from Loaf , the 2nd Russo's mozzarella, tomatoes from the farmer's market and basil from Ringtop Ranch's herb garden I made toasted sandwiches.   We ate outside on the Ranch's upper patio and plotted our afternoon in the kitchen. 

James made watermelon juice - blended  chunks of melon - that's it.  We thought that we could serve it with gin or vodka - or neat, on the rocks - which turned out to be the most popular drink of the evening. Watermelon juice is not only delicious - more delicious than it deserves to be because is so downright beneficial to your body: filled with powerful antioxidants, packed with vitamin A rich in electrolytes (it will rehydrate your thristy self in seconds), and because of the big presence of vitamin C, carotene - it's a gorgeous color.

I made chimichurri - a fresh herb sauce - full recipe on blog dated 12-4-10- to serve with grilled chicken breasts and rib-eye steak.  I added a bit of chopped red onion to the original recipe.

James roasted, simply with olive oil and a bit of salt,  separately, sun gold and chocolate cherry tomatoes, and fresh corn kernels - which were later tossed together with a chiffonade of fresh basil and served as a first course with squid ink spaghetti.  All those bits of caramel created when the tomatoes were roasted added a certain sumptuousness to the pasta that is indescribable.

James grilled sliced eggplant.  I made an ersatz tonnato sauce to serve with it.    Puree a can of good quality, packed in olive oil, tuna with lemon juice and a handful of capers.   Loosen the puree to a spreadable consistency with a nice portion of good quality commercial mayonnaise.    Evenly place the grilled eggplant on a serving platter - cover the top with tonnato sauce.  Garnish with capers.

James set the table with to-die-for, vintage Gucci water glasses.

 Mark fullfilled a longtime ambition and made peach jam.

I made my favorite cake of the summer - one that  I've topped with with peaches, peaches and cherries, peaches and crumbled amaretti cookies - and for Ringtop Ranch - topped with blueberries, Italian plums and slivered almonds.


Cynthia, of the previously mentioned walk around Hudson, gave me this recipe at the end of last summer.  I started to make it at the beginning of this summer and won't stop 'til the last piece of summer fruit disappears.

1/4 pound unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time.  Add almond extract.  (I use a hand held mixer to do this)
Sift together:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
Fold into butter/egg mixture.  Do not overmix, batter will toughen.
Spoon dough into buttered and lined 8-9-inch springform pan (I always use a non-stick cake pan).  Add 1 1/2 cups (I use at least 2 cups) apricots, peaches, plums, bluberries, or cherries, etc. just layered on top of the batter.  The fruit will sink while baking.   Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar - and/or a handful of slivered almonds.
Bake at 350 degrees F. for 45 minutes to an hour - until a toothpick inserted in center comes clean.
Serve warm or cool - plain or with creme fraiche, or....

James roasted some fingerling potatoes with a hint of fresh rosemary.  Then we were set for dinner.    We rinsed ourselves off and changed into clean clothes and went for a cocktail at the home of one of our dinner guests.  Now, this is a well-known house down by the river, perched high on a hill.  Built in 1873 by the brick merchant, John A. Cordts - this Second Empire house with its columned front porch from which there are sweeping views of the Hudson River is owned by an artist who outfitted it in a dazzling way.  After a drink and conversation we ( the 3 of us, the artist and his 2 guests) headed back to Ringtop Ranch - en masse - to enjoy, I mean really enjoy a wonderful dinner, and each others' company.

Bye, bye James & Cicero (and Mark already returned to the City).   Allegra & I had a great time.  See you soon. oxox


Another thing to do with all the fresh tomatoes and basil that are overpopulating farmstand bins - right now.
My go-to pizza dough is made :
Combine a 1 1/4-ounce packet of dry yeast with 1/2 teaspoon sugar and 1 cup warm water.  Let stand until foamy, about 15 minutes.  Combine 3 cups all-purpose flour with 2 teaspoons salt in a large bowl.  add 1/3 cup olive oil to the yeast mixture, then add to the flour.  Mix well.  Turn out onto a floured surface.  Knead until soft and elastic, 3 - 4 minutes.
Swish a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large bowl and place the dough in it.  Turn the dough so it's thoroughly coated in oil.  Cover and place in a warm draft-free environment to rise.  It should double in size in 45 minutes to an hour.  Punch down.  Cut into 4 pieces and retrun to the bowl.  Recover.
Now, after the dough has risen a second time you can make 4 10-inch pizzas - or one and freeze the remaining pieces, individually for future use.  It's so nice to know that you them - they're perfect for a last minute meal or for a cocktail snack.     The featured pizza is topped with fresh, heirloom tomatoes, crumbled feta cheese, and frehly made pesto - which is added AFTER the pizza comes out of the oven.   The pizza is baked at 500 degrees F. for 10-12 minutes - until the cheese is sizzling and the crust is golden.

1 comment:

  1. Gonna make that pizza some day soon, Susan. If I do, I'll be able to claim that you were "my first" -- never made pizza before.

    From that Fred Hausmann disciple you've known since first grade.