Friday, October 21, 2011

Celebrating Friends with Food and Enjoying Food with Friends

Last Sunday I drove up to Kingston, NY - more specifically to the mid-century home of my friends, Mark & James.  They call their place Ringtop Ranch.   On that particular Sunday they hosted a party for their friend, John.  John had lived in  the Hudson Valley for many years, beginning his association with the area while studying at the CIA (not that one - the Culinary Institute of America, instead, in nearby Hyde Park).  Last spring he left upstate New York for  sunny Florida and an exploration of life in warmer climes.  While he was on a recent trip to the Hudson Valley he organized a party and invited all his "foodie" friends in the area.  Our mutual friends, Mark & James kindly opened their stunning  ranch for the big event.   John's food, wine and CIA friends rose to the directive to contribute one their specialty foods or beverages to the feast that he prepared.    The result of the "call out" was an extraordinary variety of clever - and delicious - food and drink.

Among my favorites - a salmon and tuna tartar covered with creme fraiche and garnished  with globs of salmon roe and fields  of chopped chives that made the presentation looked like a design for Marimekko.    I don't have a recipe for it but I can guess that equal amounts of fresh salmon and tuna were coarsely chopped and flavored with lemon juice and grated zest and something spicey.  The mixture was added to an oiled 8-inch springform pan and then garnished as described.  I'm sure it was well-chilled before released onto a platter to serve - with thick, crunchy potato chips.  Rose Leblanc, the maker of the dish told me that she usually serves it with homemade waffled potato chips - but didn't have time to make them for the party.

I liked the crostini topped with white bean puree and roasted 'til limp, broccoli rabe.

I liked the lamb meatballs served with spicy mustard.

I liked seeing James, relaxing for a moment with the Ranch's guard-dog, Cicero.

And, Mark doing the same.  Even although Ciciero enviously eyed that glass of champagne - HE DID NOT IMBIBE.  Whew.

I went asolutely nuts (yes, pun intended)with Kingston's The Elephant's sweet, savory, and salty maple-bacon cracker jacks.  I couldn't stop eating it.

I thought that whole grilled snapper were a great dinner choice.  They were served with roast chicken, mouthwateringly good, macaroni and cheese with cauliflower from Red Hook's Flatiron, spinach and mushroom lasagne from John, James' roast brussels sprouts and potatoes and oher things too numberable to mention - much less remember.

Dessert choices included various flavored cupcakes; pumpkin, carrot, zucchini, and chocolate maple, all frosted with cream cheese icing, made by a local baker.  And crispy ginger snaps made by me from my mother's recipe.   She would make them for every special ocassion that our family celebrated - and then some.  There were years that she would make them as Halloween treats.  Oh, those lucky ghosts and goblins.


makes about 5 dozen 2 -3 -inch cookies or 14 dozen 1 1/2-inch cookies

1 1/2 cups vegetable shortening
2 cups sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
2 eggs
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 cup dark molasses

1.   Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F.   In a large bowl cream the shortening and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs well.
2.   Sift the flour, baking soda, and spices together.   Add the molasses and dry ingredients to the shortening mixture.   Beat to combine.
3.   Shape the dough into 1-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets.  Sprinkle with sugar.  HOWEVER - here's what I do; I make small - about 3/4-inch - balls which I roll in sugar then finish with an extra sprinkle on top.  I don't grease the baking sheets but instead line them with parchment paper.  Place the dough about 1 1/2-inches apart.  I bake my version for 12 minutes to achieve crispy cookies.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.    If you follow my mother's recipe - to make larger, chewier cookies - bake for 12 - 15 minutes or until the outside edge  begins to crisp  and turns slightly darker and the middle is still soft.   Transfer to a rack to cool.

These are Kermit's Brownies.    They were just about the best brownies I've ever eaten.  Part cake, part fudge.  Light, chocolatey.  Too bad - you can't stop eating them, they slip down that easily.  Geez.   Kermit doesn't have a link yet but his brownies are for sale at various Joe coffee shop locations around NYC. 

Wait.  Did that party really happen?   Is this the same spot where 40+ people drank, ate and gossiped less than 24 hours before?   hmmmm- Allegra's wondering where those bits of cheese, lamb meatballs, frito pie, artichoke dip, and oh so many other edibles have gone.   And, the comfy chaise lounges - they're what she's really missing.

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