Sunday, October 28, 2012

Cocktail Party Prolonge # 3

My sister and brother-in-law came to visit me in Hudson a few days ago.  It was the first time that they had visited Hudson since I have lived here.   I thought that a tiny bit of festivity was in order.   I had already invited a friend over for a drink before I knew that they would be coming here with certainty.  Traveling from their home - that other whaling town, Nantucket, an island 26 miles out to sea - is often fraught with complications due to weather, and making ferries and/or planes.   When their plans were finally set I invited a few more friends and came up with the kind of menu that I'm fond of constructing based on a Victorian-style of entertaining - a cocktail prolonge - which I've discussed in several previous blogs.  For those of you who are new to this blog or don't remember what I described go to the previous link and this one.   Basically I talked about a cocktail prolonge as being exactly as described - a prolonged cocktail party that includes a good variety of two- and three- bite offerings served with plenty of good drinks and concludes a few hours later with one substantial dish; pasta, risotto, or casserole, etc. And of course, a little something to sweeten the palate.

My logic for planning this type of party is that the number of people in attendance determines the variety of nibbles that I make.   We were small number of people so I offered few things each made with three ingredients only.

Smoked Salmon on Toasted Quinoa Bread  (from Bonfiglio & Bread, formerly Loaf - for now sold only in the Hudson Farmers' Market - opening soon on upper Warren Street) with caper butter.   I find that the Ducktrap brand smoked salmon from Maine available at the local Hannaford's very good.

Watermelon Radishes with Black Olive Ricotta.   Watermelon radishes are available from several different vendors right now at the farmers' market.  They're crunchy and sharply flavored - and beautiful to look at.  I mixed chopped Kalamata olives with whole milk ricotta to make a contrasting spread/dip to enjoy with them.

Cheddar Cheese Toasts with Mango Chutney.   Once I again I turned to Bonfiglio & Bread to provide me with a perfect baguette to cut into slices to hold a piece  of Adirondack cheddar (Cheese! at the farmers' market) topped it with a dollop of mango chutney. I baked the toasts in a 350 degree F. oven until the cheese had melted and the toast was brown.

Assorted Cheese, Crackers and Roasted Pears.   I choose, again from Cheese!; "pollembert"  a goat milk kind of Camembert shot through with fennel pollen, and "black ledge blue" a a buttery yellow natural rind cheese dotted with blue - its maker call it "distinctive but accessible" .   I wait for the pear season to make roasted pears which are the very best accompaniment to cheese - any variety.

Risotto with Pomegranate and Duck Confit was the dish I made to finish up the party.   Remember the duck confit  and duck broth that I made in the sweltering heat of the past summer?   A recent sighting of pomegranates in supermarket bins inspired me to visit the duck.  I thought, what a perfect combination.  Duck wants a bit of acid fruit to accentuate its rich flavor.   For the record this is not the first time that I've used pomegranates with risotto and it's not an original idea.  A few years ago, in the Veneto region of Italy, I ate an amazing risotto made with prosecco and pomegranate.   I've used that idea ever since in various permutations.
Follow the recipe in the link, which, by the way, is also the link to my first recorded cocktail prolonge , up until the part that gives directions for bay scallops.   Use duck broth and water where the recipe calls for water only and shredded duck confit crisped in its own fat to top the finished risotto instead of the bay scallops.

We sweetened our palates with caramelized applesauce, a selection of ice creams and shortbread. 

SUSANSIMONSAYS:  My friend, Chris Jones and I participate in the Hudson Reads (contact me for details) program as mentors.  It's completely rewarding for us and the kids that we read with once a week.  If you have an hour - or even a half an hour to spare once a week (of course, if you're nearby) - join us.  You won't regret it. 
HAPPY HALLOWEEN, I hope that you're all safe and dry.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Some Of The Things That I Miss About NYC

There are many things that I like about my new home in the Hudson Valley and I can tell that those situations  are going to multiple the longer I stay here.  (That commitment is about to become an earnest endeavor with the acquisition of a home - oy!).  However, there are some things that just need a city the size of New York.
While there is an abundance of fresh-from-the-farm produce and products in my neighborhood - you've heard me go on about them non-stop - there isn't really good Japanese food (among others), and I'm talking mostly sushi and sashimi, within miles and miles and miles of here.   I have an incessant hunger for raw fish that tastes like the ocean and unusual varieties of seafood that are flown in daily from Japan.   I was spoiled silly when I lived in the city on the same block with the illustrious Jewel Bako restaurant and a mere 4 short blocks from the city's landmark sushi restaurant, Hasaki.
When I was in the city recently I was introduced to another Japanese restaurant that's situated just a few blocks east of where I lived for decades but never went to - because that's just how much of a prisoner of my immediate neighborhood I was.  So provincial. 



My friends, Rita and David - and Rita's sensei - maestro -Mr. Mutsuo Tomita (she studied ikebana - a way of considering the art of the flower - with him for years and they have remained good friends) dined at Takahachi (East Village location).  I was in salt water heaven with my chirashi - a big bowl of sushi rice covered in at least 6 varieties of raw fish, cooked eel, egg custard and shredded daikon radish.   Mountain yams cooked in white miso,  seafood dumplings, kushikatu (deep fried skewers); okra and bacon, tofu, and shrimp, and hen of the woods tempura completed the meal.  It not only thoroughly sated me but also made me miss this way of eating even more.


I like a good book party.  I like one even more when a friend's book is celebrated.   Louise Fili's magnificent monograph, "Elegantissima" was feted at Sfoglia restaurant, one of Louise's clients.  The place closed its doors to diners and turned itself into a party space.  Tables were laden with a selection of cheese, cured meats, olives, bread, house made; grissini, ricotta, wine crackers, jam and bean salad. Waiters dressed in black passed mini arancini (saffron rice balls filled cheese), lamb meatballs sitting in spicy tomato sauce and skewers loaded with grilled eggplant and mozzarella.

Excuse me for the  out-of-focus photo of Louise and some of her staff - just about all of them from past years who helped create the images in the book - attended the party. 

I just like walking around my old neighborhood, looking at the statue of Vladimir Lenin posing as as the Statue of Liberty (?) atop a building naturally called "Red Square", and bumping into people that I haven't seen in months.  They greeted me like it was yesterday that we last saw each other - it hasn't even registered that I moved away.   That's how time flies in the city that's in perpetual motion.   Oh, "Hi, how are ya'?"   I love that some things stay just as if I never left.  

SUSANSIMONSAYS: For your consideration:  Nancy Sharon Collins' new book.  This is a detailed, illustrated history of engraving.   As Collins' says, "It parallels the history of movable type and letterpress printing."

At HuMP- Hudson Museum of Photography at  552 Warren Street:
MOONMAN images by Stephen Johnson

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

HV Waldorf Salad & Bee Things

It's time to start thinking about salads that can be made with ingredients other than the usual suspects; green leaves, tomatoes and cucumbers.  They're gone until next summer - unless you want to consider hothouse greens which aren't bad at all or imported tomatoes which taste something like pink angora sweaters (even if they're "tomato" red) and cucumbers that have traveled halfway around the world.  I found a pile of ingredients at last week's Hudson Farmers' Market and was inspired to made them into a Hudson Valley kind of Waldorf salad. 

According to Jean Anderson, writing in her information-filled "The American Century Cookbook"  (Clarkson Potter, 1997), "The first Waldorf Salad was created in New York City in 1893 by Oscar Tschirsky, the formidable maitre d'hotel at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.  The original recipe was nothing more than a mix of diced red-skinned apples, celery, and mayonnaise.  The chopped nuts were added later (perhaps by Rector's, another Manhattan restaurant...)."

I picked up a celery root, some radishes, and apples at the market.   They seemed to whisper, rather loudly, "make me into a Waldorf Salad".   Which I did, adding a few raisins to the mix as well - some people use grapes.  That's a good idea too - especially now when you can find highly-flavored Finger Lakes' grapes in some markets.

I also bought a cabbage and decided to thinly slice a quarter of it and use it to make a bed for the the  salad which traditionally sits on lettuce leaves.


Serves 4 - 6

For the Salad:

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 medium celery root
1 - 2 sweet apples such as Fuji or Gala
4 medium radishes cut into thin half moons
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup good quality commercial mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon salt
a pinch of freshly ground white pepper

For the Bed:

 quarter green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons plain, whole milk yogurt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
pinch of salt

1.  Add the lemon juice to a large mixing bowl. Peel the celery root and then use a box grater to shred it directly into the lemon juice and toss immediately.  This prevents the celery from turning brown.    Cut the apple into quarters, remove the core and cut it into chunks tossing it with the celery root so it doesn't turn brown.   Add the radishes, walnuts, raisins, mayonnaise, salt and pepper.  Toss everything together to thoroughly coat all of the ingredients.
2.  Add the shredded cabbage to a mixing bowl.  Add the yogurt, chives and salt.  Toss together.
3.   To serve; arrange the cabbage on a serving platter or dish so it covers it all the way to the sides.  Mound the Waldorf Salad on top of the cabbage.   Garnish with a few extra toasted walnuts if you like.


I feel like just about everyone I've ever met in my life has passed through Hudson this  past year - and more will follow.  Two of the people that I was most delighted to bump into were Nonie and Walt Bauer.  I saw them in the summer at the Farmers' Market.  Nonie & Walt are the owners of Twin Apiaries in Climax, NY, just on the other side of the river.  Walt collects and processes the honey - he keeps hives spread out over two counties - and Nonie makes the most fabulously honey-fragrant candles with another product those industrious bees are busy making - wax.    I had been buying candles for at least two decades from the Bauers' stand at the Union Square Greenmarket in NYC.  Nonie makes beautiful shapes and sizes in natural honey color, sage green and pale burgundy.  My favorite shape are 14-inch, four-sided tapers.   The Bauers now only go into the city every other Saturday - but they keep a little shop in Climax where they sell their honey and candles.  Call ahead, 518 - 731-8303 for hours and directions.

SUSANSIMONSAYS:  report:  Olanfest was a wonderful event.  Somehow cozy and congenial under a tent, beautifully decorated by Hudson Home.  Food was generously, and plentifully provided by 10 of the Hudson Valley's most accomplished chefs.  There was a very fine signature cocoktail served named for the event, "The Afterglow". A good time was had by all - and the rain miraculously  held off until just the end of the event.  Mark your calendar for next year.