Monday, July 23, 2012

Farm to Table times Two

Friends from Washington DC arrived on Friday afternoon to spend the weekend with me in my new hometown, Hudson, NY.   The choice of things to do in the area, in the summertime, is just about overwhelming. Not ever to be excluded from the great variety of Hudson Valley events are meals made with locally sourced ingredients - whether it's a home-cooked meal or one eaten at a restaurant.  The meals are right up there with a trip down to Bard College to see a play (part of their Summerscape series) or one over the Hudson River via the Rip Van Winkle bridge to Catskill, NY and a docent-guided tour of Thomas Cole's home and studio.
Friday night was an easy choice - The Red Barn - a Friday night trip out to the Red Barn has become a habit of mine.  I like to peruse - and shop - at the mini farmer's market that's set up there.  Actually, I buy heavier things there on Friday nights because I have my car and it's easy to take the everything home. I save lighter weight things for the Saturday morning Hudson Farmers' Market where I can walk and then carry stuff home over my shoulder.  I digress.  My friends,  Tom (from all the way back to 8th grade - and I can't tell you how long ago that was) and Sidney were luckily as charmed by the Barn as I am.  It's just a good time to sit at one of tables - have a drink (they do have a liquor license), chat with each other and the people at nearby tables too, and then think about ordering some perfectly sinful and delicious dishes from their "roadside" menu - a lobster roll, a fish taco, a fried clam or oyster roll, a cheeseburger....

Saturday breakfast included white peaches and blackberries (tossed with rapadura sugar and fresh lemon juice) from Loveapple Farm, Maple Hill Creamery's dreamy, creamy yogurt, house-made - this house - granola, etc.

  I had reserved seats for us to see Moliere's classic comedy, "The Imaginary Invalid" at Bard.  Dinner?   Hmmm.  I knew nothing would be open after the performance - that meant we needed to eat before it.  And just like that, Laura Pensiero, who signed copies of her book, "Hudson Valley Mediterranean" at the Farmers' Market Book Tent the previous week, reminded me that her
 Gigi Market, in Upper Red Hook, had initiated a new, weekend only, dinnertime menu at the market and named it agriturismo, a reference to the Italian traditional meals (and lodging) served on the farms where all the ingredients for the dishes are grown.  Perfect - and just 5 minutes from Bard.

The meal is served family-style.  Platters and bowls of food are brought to the table for everyone to share.   The fixed-price meal - the menu (which duly notes the farm of each ingredient's origin) includes a huge basket of Gigi's bread, a dish of olive oil, a bean and garlic spread; an antipasti loaded with lavender-scented cheese, cured sausage, blueberries, pickled daikon radish, steamed carrots with poblano peppers, and beet "carpaccio" - thinly sliced Chioggia beets (the striped ones) topped with olive oil; a choice of entree, vegetarian or meat - we chose two orders of vegetarian pasta, bucatini with greens and cherry tomatoes and other things, and one order of grilled poussin and sausage; dessert was still warm-from-the-oven blueberry cobbler topped with a dollop of whipped cream.  Without asking, the excellent staff packed up the leftovers for our future enjoyment.  Let me tell you, this place is a find.  The food is molto buono, you can rest assured the ingredients have a tiny carbon footprint, and the price is so reasonable that you will be very happy. The menu changes every weekend - check the site for updates.
I would be remiss if I neglected to mention that the production of "The Imaginary Invalid" at Bard was superb.  Yes, superb.  Well directed, good set design, wonderful costumes, hammy actors, and funny - funny, I thought that I would get so hysterical that I wouldn't be able to stop.  btw - I found the theatre very comfortable as did my 6'1" companions.  (I had read criticism that the theatre was small and cramped).

Okay, by Sunday the only meals that I had offered my guests were breakfasts - good ones - complete with a brunch that added on cheesy scrambled eggs and bacon to the the previously mentioned offerings. However, I needed to do a little cooking.   After we returned from Catskill I went into action and prepared some simple things with my market booty.  Because the weather has been so dry this summer there haven't been many mosquitoes around so we were able to dine outside.  Have I spoken too soon?

We had some Camembert from The Amazing Real Live Food Co. and some R &G goat milk yogurt, labane-style with sweet-as-can-be cherry tomatoes from Blue Star Farm with drinks - white wine, Negronis and  Campari with grapefruit soda.    Dinner included simply grilled, flatiron steaks - which I thinly sliced to serve.

A market salad made with roasted corn, steamed orange and purple carrots, baked red and golden beets,  steamed fingerling potatoes and lots of chopped dilled.  The dressing was made with Dijon mustard, creme fraiche, rice wine vinegar, salt and extra virgin olive oil - you can add freshly ground pepper too - I don't because it gets stuck in my throat.

I grilled pieces of olive oil-smeared Loaf baguette  to serve as a vessel for a soupy, fresh tomato salsa made simply with chopped tomatoes, chopped fresh (uncured) garlic, a chiffonade of fresh basil, salt, red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.

I wanted to make a fruit something dessert but it was getting late and really hot in the kitchen.  I couldn't stand it, so I got out and asked Tom if he would go over to Lick and get a pint of ice cream.  I asked for the raspberry chip that I had so enjoyed on Friday eve - but they were out of it - they cycle through flavors at demon speed.  Resourceful Tom made an executive decision and came home with a pint of beet ice cream.  Yes beet, a perfect coda to our beet-full weekend.  I served the ice cream with the blueberry sauce that I make every week during blueberry season, just to have for emergencies like this one! (the hot weather melted the ice cream before I could take a proper photo - realism)


I double or triple this recipe as it freezes very well.  It will be a delight to pull it out of the freezer when the ground is covered with snow to use to remind you of summer days.  In the meantime, use it with plain yogurt, as a topping for ice cream, as part of a short cake or as a sauce with fresh cut up fruit and berries.

1 pound fresh blueberries, rinsed and picked over
2 tablespoons pure honey
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
 In a non-reactive saucepan over medium heat, combine the blueberries, honey and lemon juice.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the berries release their juice, about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool.

SUSANSIMONSAYS:  Come meet Mindy Fox at the Hudson Farmers' Market on Saturday, July 28th and let her sign a copy of her new book, or two or three - remember how everyone enjoys the gift of a cookbook for their birthday or on a holiday - "salads: beyond the bowl".  She'll be at the market a bit  past 10am until 12:30 pm.

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