Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Just about Everything's Local

 I couldn't be happier than to know the provenance of every single item of food used to make last Saturday's dinner.  Talk about local.   The  cheese served with drinks was a fetchingly fragrant, kind of gritty Camembert-like goat's milk round threaded with fennel pollen called Pollenbert from R & G Cheese in Cohoes, NY - just a little bit north of here - but purchased at, where else (?), Lick the Market.   I served the cheese with roasted pears - roast unpeeled sliced pears, rubbed in fruity olive oil, in a 350 degree F. oven 'til golden and slightly crispy - about 30 minutes.

The first course soup was actually a combo of two pureed soups chosen for the availability of their ingredients and their stunning color alliance.   The base soup was a variation on the butternut squash soup that I always make as a base - the recipe can be found in an earlier blog - so, early that I'm sorry to say that I can't simply link you to it - so, I'll send you to Squash, Squash and More Squash, December 16th, 2010.  I added garlic, hot pepper, fresh ginger and fresh sage leaves to the original recipe.   The second soup was made by sauteing shallots in olive oil then adding peeled beet chunks to the saute. I covered the beets with water to 3 inches over them and simmered until soft enough to puree.  This took hours because winter beets are particularly tough - but ever so sweet.   I needed to add more water at several intervals in order to keep the ratio of beets and water.  When they were tender, I added  the juice of 1/2 of a juicy lemon.  Let cool and puree until smooth.   
To serve.  Heat the soups, separately, until piping hot.   Ladle the butternut squash into soup bowls, add a few heaping tablespoons of the beet soup into the center of the squash soup and swirl.  I garnished each bowl with a dollop of creme fraiche (local, from Ronnybrook Farm) and a shower of toasted, salted pistachios.   I served the soup with black sesame, brown rice crackers which appear to be navy blue.   It's about color as well as flavor.

The main course halibut was not local.  Obviously.  Purchased locally 'though.   The snowy white fillets were placed in a buttered baking dish and covered  with a mixture of Dijon mustard, horseradish, chopped red onions, then plain breadcrumbs, then sliced blood oranges and finally a dab of butter.  I had every intention of baking the fish at 350 degrees F. for about 20 minutes or until the fillets were opaque and the sides of the dish were bubbly.  But my oven went out an hour before dinner.  So, I covered the baking dish with foil and straddled it over two stove top burners set a very low heat.  It was cooked in 15 minutes and just right. 

I served the fish with a puree of celery root and apples.  Everyone of the three ingredients that goes into the manufacture of the dish was local.  Yay.    Peel the celery root, cut it into chunks and add it to a deep, non-reactive saucepan.  Cover with whole milk (Ronnybrook).  Simmer for 15 minutes (should be just about tender). Add a couple of peeled and chunked apples to the pot - the original recipe from Paula Wolfert's The Cooking of South West France ask for green apples - I used Golden Delicious to great results.  Simmer for another 10 minutes or so - until the apples are tender too.  Drain any remaining milk.  Let cool and puree.  Add salt and pepper if you like.  I don't because the subtle, yet emphatically-flavored puree is usually served with a dish that has plenty of seasoning to go around.

One of my dinner guests, Cynthia, made dessert - Nigel Slater's Simple Lemon,Apricot, Almond Cake - from his book Appetite.   She topped the moist cake, redolent of all the flavors in its name, with creme Chantilly -soft whipped cream - Ronnybrook.
 All perfect.   What a dinner.  Satisfying in so many ways.

In my constant quest to find new food sources I took a drive over to Great  Barrington, MA to check out two fabled Berkshire establishments; the Berkshire Coop at 42 Bridge Street, and Guido's Fresh Marketplace.  The former, as its name implies is a co-operative market, albeit , a very upscale one with a selection of all the latest in packaged organic products, vitamins, and a too small bulk ingredients section.  You'll find fresh produce, meat, fish, and dairy  departments at the coop.  But you will at find the same at Guido's an Italian oriented market that has grown into a kind of mini Whole Foods supermarket - with lots of organic products that crossover and even compete in price with the coop.   I liked things about both places.  Am I running back to shop there with any kind of regularity.  No.  There are great choices right here in Hudson.  However, my hunger - pun absolutely intended - for new food places knows no bounds.  I will continue to shop.

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