Monday, January 23, 2012

First Snowy Weekend, 2012

It's been a warm winter.  Oh, those few days that made our teeth chatter and our hair a mess because we needed to wear hats were anomalies.  We were reminded of the norm when the snow fell for the first time in 2012 somewhere between the late hours of  January 19th and the 20th.   It was just enough snow to send me straight to the Agway in Claverack to buy a pair of fake Mucks (insulated snow boots) which I actually like better than the originals - because they're black - and very chic.

I also felt the need for something seriously substantial for dinner.  I wanted the food to warm up my insides and make me sleepy.   In the meantime I just happened to be playing Scrabble  on Facebook and having an online chat with my friend - which is a very nice way to communicate as you must compose and write down your thoughts - or not.  Roy, a food expert and I, food-interested, talk about what's for dinner - all the time.  He always has a good idea.   The Friday of the first mini snowfall I was trying to figure out what to do with a pair of chicken legs and thighs.  "Marinate them in yogurt and sumac, then roast them".  Hmmm - good idea indeed.  When I was going in the direction of the Claverack Agway I thought that I should go just a few miles further east to the Hawthorne Valley Farm Store and get some of their rich and tangy, biodynamic yogurt.  Powdered sumac - used mosty in North African and Middle Eastern food preparations - is part of my spice collection.  The tart spice adds citrus flavor to anything to which it's added (in fact, you can substitute lemon juice for any recipe asking for sumac).  I'm sure that you've seen sumac plants growing in almost any environment where they're allowed to flourish and not pulled out with the rest of the weeds that surround them.  They are easily recognized by their Christmas tree-shaped leaves and pine cone-shaped cluster of brick-colored berries.   "What if I add some fresh thyme leaves as well?(just purchased from Lick the Market)".  "Yum" said Roy.  That was it.  I marinated the legs and thighs in yogurt to cover, about a tablespoon of powdered sumac and a heaping tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves - for an hour or so.   Then I roasted them at 375 degrees F., turning once, for 45 minutes.  I finished them by putting them under the broiler for a few minutes, just enought time to burnish them.   This preparation really wants to be grilled outdoors - at least I think.

A friend had just gifted me with a jar of  Tunisian couscous ( purchased from Olde Hudson - they do mail order) .   Talk about timing.  The easy-to-make couscous was the perfect accompaniment for the chicken - and it looked so comfortable sitting  on a bed of the pebbly pasta - cooked exactly according to directions and mositend with chicken pan drippings to serve . 

Friends from down-the-road in Rhinbeck came for tea on the day after/during the succesive snowfall.   We gathered around the fire, caught up on each other's news and happily drank tea - and coffee - and ate bites of some of my favorite snacks; roasted pears (see posting, December 9, 2010) with the fabulous Kunik cheese (which I talk about all the time), and my mother's ginger snaps ( recipe on 21 October 2011 posting).
Somehow that first snowfall has turned into slush from the fairly warm rainfall.  Winter?  I'm not sure I'm ready for you to go away so quickly - but, I rather not squash my hair into another hat.   Oh, vanity, thy name is a woman who worries about her hair too much.

Just bloomed.  Amaryllis - EXOTIC STAR - I planted the bulb about a week after Christmas - and here it is.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Last Minute Dinner

On Sunday, my friend, Rita, called to say that she and her husband, David, could stop by for an early dinner on Monday on their way back to NYC from their home, way, way upstate.  While we had talked about this possibility at the beginning of the week - nothing had been confirmed.  Now it was - therefore qualifying as a "last minute" dinner.  Rita and David were making David Chang's slow-roasted Korean-style pork, Bo Ssam and would bring all leftovers to dinner. The recipe for it had just been featured in the  NY Times.  My suggestion is to Google Bo Ssam recipe, NY Times 2012/01/15 - I've tried to link it for you but the Times says, "Sorry, we've lost the page."    But, it's there.  The storied bo ssam is an incredibly delicious way to prepare the very pedestrian cut of pork - the butt.   Once it has roasted for many hours and achieves its falling-apart, meltingly soft texture and candy-lacquered skin - it's served with a variety of sauces - notably, scallion-ginger, rice and kimchi.  Shreds of pork and other ingredients are wrapped in lettuce leaves for consumption.   Korean tacos supreme!

I made this vegetable dish with ingredients that were on hand.  Again, I went to my "root cellar" and came up with some things that I had bought at the December Hudson farmer's market - before I knew that other shopping possibilities would suddening be available in the dead of the winter, like Lick the Market and the emerging Hudson food coop (more on them, coming up).  
I steamed, separately, in order: cauliflower florets, peeled and sliced waxy potatoes, and sliced beets. I caramelized red onions in olive oil and tossed them with the other vegetables.  Everything was added to a baking dish.  When the pork arrived I added it, and the vegetables to a 350 degree F. oven to heat them up.  Meanwhile I emulsified dijon mustard, a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, capers, flaky salt and pepper together to add to the hot vegetables.  This dish is a keeper.

To sweeten our palates we ate  fresh pineapple chunks with a dollop of the exceptional ricotta  about which I waxed rhapsodic in my last posting.  A splash of extra dark maple syrup, and a heavy sprinkle of Moroccan cinnamon elevated the bowl of fruit into a real dessert.
Last minute dinner indeed.  Yay team.


Allegra was especially happy to see one of her best friends, Frankie, show up with Rita and David.   Allegra hasn't met too many dogs since we've arrived in Hudson.  It was a real treat to have Frankie around.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Be Still My Shocking Pink Heart...

The thing that worried almost more than anything else about my move north was "Where would I buy fresh, local food in the wintertime?"   I worry about food just about more than anything else.  Why?  You'd think I was starving to death.  Oy.  Far from it.   I'm just so accustomed to having an abundance of fresh, local food around me all the time - New York City person - and assiduous patron of the greenmarket network - that I was for so many years.   Hudson has an exceptionally good farmer's market which stays open until the week before Christmas and then closes until sometime in March.   But those dreary winter months.  What to do?????
Enter Michael Harris and Christopher Haupert of the knock-your-socks-off, ice cream shop, Lick at 253 Warren Street.   I've been patronizing Lick,  since it opened, whenever I'd come to Hudson for a visit.  Lick serves the most unusually flavored (personal favorite is chocolate halvah) - and classically flavored - ice cream, frozen yogurt, smoothies, and sundaes from Memorial Day through Columbus Day.   I digress.  Hurrying summer, when winter has yet to really materialize.   Well, Michael and Christoper have just opened an indoor version of the Hudson Farmer's Market at the hibernating Lick. Check out Lick The Market for a list of participating local farmers, products, days of operation, and hours. They have done the citizens of Hudson a great service with this market.   Not only does Lick provide a nice variety of food options but it's something like the Rialto - a place to meet your neighbors and hear the news of the week.

Lick's shocking pink interior provides the perfect backdrop for fresh produce and flowers.

Among the first customers to walk through Lick The Market on opening day were long-time Hudson residents, artists Tony Thompson and Margaret Saliske, pictured with Michael.

I followed them by a few minutes and purchased kale, smoked bacon, fresh ricotta, among other items.
I came home, tasted the ricotta from Maplebrook fine cheese, Bennington, Vermont, and fell madly in love.  Tangy, sweet and ultra creamy - this ricotta is made from the whey of very - VERY - happy cows.   To showcase its fabulousness  I ate it practically neat with just a drizzle of vincotto.  Vincotto, one of my go-to condiments, is a result of a long, slow cooking of grape must (freshly pressed grape juice that contains the skins, seeds and stems).   The ricotta was accompanied by kale cooked with chopped bacon, chopped garlic, minced hot pepper (I used Thai) in olive oil until tender.  I added a few splashes of water at 10 minute intervals to insure that the kale was cooked to the right consistency.  I finished it with a spritz of red wine vinegar.  Taste for salt and add as desired.

I can't wait to see what Lick The Market will have in its bins and cases at the end of this week.

SUSANSIMONSAYS:   When I returned from a few days Christmas holiday on Nantucket I made what is quite possibly my favorite, quick, wintertime dinner with a few things leftover from the December Hudson Farmer's Market.   I used two long-life products to make this dish.

Boil your choice of  waxy-fleshed potatoes - unpeeled - until mashable.  Meanwhile, saute thinly sliced Savoy cabbage in butter and olive oil, in a medium skillet, until tender.  Add dry white Vermouth, freshly ground white pepper, salt, and a few fennel seeds while cooking.  You may need to add some water to achieve just the right consistency for the cabbage.   Transfer the cooked potatoes to the cabbage and coarsely mash  them in with the back of a dinner fork.  Combine the vegetables and keep at low heat while you poach an egg.  Transfer the hot potatoes and cabbage to a warm serving bowl.  Top with poached egg, a sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese and a few dots of Sriracha sauce.  Consume with pleasure.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Pink and Green from the DR to Hudson NY

It's been over a month since I've posted.  I've missed blogging but was thoroughly distracted by a HUGE move.  I left NYC and moved up river.  No, no , not Sing Sing.  Hudson, a small architectually rich little city just about tumbling into the river, about 120 miles north of NYC.

From the pretty little pink and green church on the Samana Peninsula in the Dominican Republic (where I visited, just before my move, to give me strength - and plenty of vitamins for the move), to the beach shack in Las Terrenas (same country), to my new resting place in Hudson, New York - the color combination is a long time favorite (duh) - gosh, even Lily Pulitzer skirts (can you believe that?).  I'm happy to find this new place to hang my hat, and spend a Hudson Valley winter banging out a new book and once again blogging with regularity.

One of the first things that I unpacked was my collection of mercury glass - in such rare colors as turquoise, pink and gold- to place on the mantle.  Friends' "welcome-to-Hudson" gift of stargazer lilies fit in the vases as if they were born in them.

One of the first things that I cooked in my new kitchen were small Brussels Sprouts (from  Miller's Crossing Farm, Hudson, NY) sauteed in olive oil with Arlet apples (from Samascott Orchards, Kinderhook, NY) until deep gold, then seasoned with brown rice vinegar, black sesame seeds and coarse salt. This simple little side dish had everything going on; crunchy, earthy Brussels Sprouts, sweet and tart, squishy apples, and tangy, salty and nutty other ingredients.
SUSANSIMONSAYS:  I look forward to continuing this blog on a regular basis.  I look forward to exploring - and shopping - in the Hudson Valley on the east and west sides of river,in the great old industrial - Troy, Schnectedy, etc. - cities along the Erie Canal, and the Berkshires.  Most of all I look forward to sharing my new adventures with you.