The Outsider’s Kitchen & Cafe opened last week on Route 30 between Margaretville and Halcottsville at the old station by the railroad tracks opposite the golf course. Chocoholics can go right to the funny cake based on a Pennsylvania Dutch recipe: a delicious blend of crunchy cake topping, with a rich, sticky, gooey filling, all in a pie crust. The more health conscious can get house made orange, coconut, almond granola, with yoghurt parfait, or you can buy it packed dry to go. It’s granola with a citrus zing that’s complemented by the earthy coconut. There are also scones and muffins available too. For lunch: large, thick, square portions of breakfast pizza look like they can cure all sizes of hangover; thick sandwiches on ciabatta, salads and soups are offered along with the usual beverages like coffee and tea. There’s ample parking and a nice view of the golf course. A very welcome addition to the Saturday errands route: take the garbage to the transfer station and stock up on produce at the Pakatakan Farmer’s Market.
It’s spruce tip season: fresh, new tree growth at the tips of the branches of evergreen conifer trees present as vibrant, brilliant green nuggets about the size of a nut, varying between the sizes of a peanut and a pecan. They are instantly recognizable as a completely different color than the rest of the needles on the branch, from a distance looking like a Christmas tree has come down with forest chicken pox. For the past few weeks, they have been encased in a papery brown or fleshy red covering (that ejects clouds of a dense, yellow pollen when shaken), which they are now shedding to reveal the green tips. Continue reading
The Zephyr’s Chili on the dinner menu stands out for its lightness, uncharacteristic for a chili bowl, achieved by the addition of sweet, juicy chunks of tomato amongst the beans. You won’t go home with a brick in your stomach, but you’ll have enough fuel for a long walk in the country air, the wet, wet, gloomy country air. I took a couple of bites of the cheesy biscuits, wrapped the rest up in a napkin and ate them later. Where’s spring? Yesterday was warmer at 62F and cloudy with some late afternoon sun. Today: more rain. My seasonal affective disorder is only just held at bay by remembering how low the Catskills reservoirs were last year and how much they need replenishing. Spring has been more of a gastronomical tour around the mountains, ducking into restaurants, sitting at the bar and trying some of the Catskills’ best fare. Try also, Traveler’s White Tea with Hibiscus, (which also goes well as a vodka mixer).
It may not be on the menu for much longer because it’s a winter warmer, but even though the apple blossom is being attended by huge bumble bees and brilliant greens are creeping up the mountains , it’s still colder than a well digger’s belt buckle up on the peaks. Let Phoenicia Diner’s luscious, juicy meatloaf, drenched in tasty mushroom gravy, stick to your ribs one more time. The sun may be out, but there’s still some thawing to do. Let’s hope we’ve seen the last of the spring frosts.
Foraging is not only an excellent way to supplement your diet, but it reduces your carbon footprint. I hear a lot of people complaining about climate change and foraging is a way to be some part of the solution. Eating whatever’s in your garden is the best way to put your money where your mouth is. Why have that salad sent from California when you have wood sorrel, dandelion greens, ramps, thistle roots, winter cress, burdock, plantain and wild lettuce on your property? Don’t spray your weeds; eat them. Some hardcore carnivores would be surprised to find that these foraged greens have any nutrition at all, but if you spend dark winters watching the deer battle on through a driving blizzard at zero degrees, knowing that they only eat vegetation, you have all the proof you need. Foraging is fun and hiking is the best exercise, gentle enough for everyone. Sorrel is has the taste of spinach with a lemony zing. Spruce tips, which are out now, are a little unusual with a taste reminiscent of citrus.
A few posts ago, I mentioned that the charcuterie board at Peekamoose was my go-to dish at the restaurant and somebody asked why that was. Well, it could be the tangy mustard, or the juicy, sweet onion topping, or the chicken liver pate on warm, soft chunks of toast that are gently soaked in house-made, herb butter. It’s the pastrami, though, that seals the deal. It’s like New York City pastrami is all grown up now and moved to the country. Thickly sliced into slabs, it’s mouthwatering grass-fed beef that’s tender, pulls easily, yet retains its juiciness and special because it’s not too fatty or greasy.
This weekend, try the charcuterie board, before you see Prelude to a Kiss playing at the STS Playhouse and take out some dessert on the way home.
Another gigantic pile of deliciousness from The Zephyr in Pine Hill: their zucchini fritters. Two medium-plate-sized fritter rounds cut into halves is the entrée version (and half as much food for the starter dish). The image above, taken on the fly, does not do the fritters justice. They were not too doughy; just the right combination of firm and moist; sprinkled with cheese; drizzled with three sauces: a creamy garlic sauce, thick balsamic vinegar and some sort of herb oil. The whole thing was to die for, washed down with Traveler’s white tea with hibiscus. A memorable dish on the luscious list.
It’s been a long time since I’ve had an egg as delicious as this: bright orange yolks, rich, sweet and creamy, almost like a dessert when soft-boiled on toast and in yesterday’s salad! Leigh Melander, a colleague at WIOX and founder of Spillian bought a bucket of eggs into the radio station to share. Leigh says her hens, who are completely free range, are very happy and I believe her. They were presented with some art a few days ago and all flocked around to inspect it.
Part of the lure to the country or Upstate New York, apart from the fresh air, is the local food. It’s worth battling five months of winter for glorious food like this. When wholesome food of this calibre becomes an expensive luxury in the city, it’s time to move upstate where your neighbors bring you eggs, cheese, bread, jam or any number of spring items that they have produced on their homestead. Just the fragrant aroma of a homegrown tomato feels like a miracle.Local, country board meetings are never without something homemade to pass around like goat’s cheese or bread. This second rainy and gloomy day of the week has been lit up like a summer’s day by simple eggs on toast using local bread.
Winter is tough up here, but the spring rewards are like Sunday Best, not taken for granted and savored all the more.
Forsythia, which is in bloom at the moment, is a shrub that produces gorgeous bright yellow flowers in the spring before its leaves start to shoot. After attending Rob Handel’s Wild Edibles class last week, I discovered that I had a huge forsythia bush on my property and that now is the time to make forsythia syrup with the flowers on this shrub.
Back in the day, Peekamoose Restaurant made this incredibly delicious cucumber gazpacho, which is no longer on the menu, that reminded me of England, where we love our cucumber in all its forms because it’s so refreshing. English cucumbers are different to the cucumbers that you find here in the US. They are lighter, softer, less dense and go well in smoothies. Years ago, Marybeth, the owner, once reeled off a list of ingredients for their gazpacho and the next day I tried to remember what they were. (I’d had a couple of drinks). After some experimentation, I believe I have mastered it. To continue the theme of giving the gut a spring clean, here’s another raw, vegan recipe that’s cooling, simple, easy and nutritious.
Three medium sized English cucumbers
Half cup of raw almonds
Half cup of water
10 grapes or half an apple
Three teaspoons of olive oil
Half teaspoon of salt
Half teaspoon of pepper
Last night, Rob Handel, chef at Heather Ridge Farm, impressed a large crowd packed into the Catskill Center with his knowledge on wild edibles and foraging. After conducting a talk on how to incorporate wild vegetables into our diet by producing tinctures, ferments and syrups, he brought out some delicious, earthy, wholesome food to taste that made the taste buds come alive.
Endive stuffed with porcini mushroom pate topped with ramp pesto accompanied by carrot, burdock root and garlic grass salad (pictured above).
A pickled milk weed pod
Forsythia Syrup with Soda
Some of the ingredients in last night’s tasting were foraged recently: forsythia is available now and ramps are coming up. The nettle soup was fresh and exquisite. Some ingredients were preserved; the pickled milk weed pod tasted like a larger, yet much more subtle, caperberry. The crowd was so large for this event, not only because Rob is so knowledgable, answering everyone’s follow-up – and non-follow up/general experience – questions with ease, but because wild edibles are becoming very popular. Gradually, people are turning away from traditional foods and taking a keen interest in the wildly diverse tastes of foraged herbs, funghi and vegetables that they can find on their property like garlic mustard, burdock, nettle leaf, sumac, dandelion, sheep sorrel, milk weed, porcini and more. This kind of rare, unusual – and FREE! – food excites the taste buds. Plus, it’s fun to forage. Rob recommended a few books, one of which was The Joy of Foraging by Gary Lincoff.
The new bowl on the block: the sensational ramen with braised pork at Peekamoose. Ramen can be too salty but not this one. House made noodles with a soft boiled egg, kale and some very tender braised pork, all in a mouthwateringly delicate chicken broth. Move over, charcuterie board, you are no longer the go-to. Wait, I didn’t mean that.
It’s Catskills Restaurant Week this week and today, April 14th, is the final day. Last night’s dinner by Ate-O-Ate Food Truck catered at Union Grove Distillery was a choice of two delicious full course meals for $35 plus tax and tip. Drinks were separate.
Here’s a highly nutritious breakfast that looks like a chocolate pudding made with raw oats, avocado and nuts that makes a good replacement for oatmeal or porridge, if you need that sort of thing for kids or other family members who dislike it.
Vegan Raw Chocolate Oat Pudding
1 cup of oats soaked overnight in water or almond milk
Half a cup of water (additional to what the oats are soaking in)
1 medium avocado (peeled)
2 heaped tablespoons of cacao powder or 1 heaped tablespoon of cocoa
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 heaped tablespoon of cashew cream (for recipe see previous post)
1 heaped tablespoon of almond cream (see below)
Chopped dried apricots or sugared fruit to garnish
Sometimes it’s your gut that needs a spring cleaning. I recently learned that juicing is not that good for you, that doctors feel it’s preferable that you eat all the fibre too, otherwise you’re just drinking a load of sugar-water. Allegedly, when you eat the whole fruit, the gut is lined with insoluble fibre that allows the rest of the fruit to pass through and reach your lower intestine where it’s munched on by beneficial bacteria. There have been many dodgy dietary practices in the past, but I don’t think eating more whole fruit, whole vegetables and nuts is one of those bad ideas that we’ll examine in the future and say, “what were we thinking”? Furthermore, cooking food destroys many of that food’s nutrients, so nutritionists recommend overnight soaking of nuts and grains instead. In this spirit, a small fortune has been spent at a local vegetarian supermarket to fill the fridge with homemade vegan and raw sauces, milks, puddings and butters to go in pancakes, cereals, egg dishes, soups, stews, casseroles and more. But first, the most important: pudding. I’ve been working a raw, vegan chocolate oat pudding for kids, but it’s not ready yet. Watch this space.
Take a cup of cashews, put them in a mason jar and cover with water until the water is about a quarter-inch above the cashews. Soak overnight and in the morning pour the whole jar into the blender and purée the mixture for two minutes. The mixture should thicken after you’ve finished blending.
Vegan Chocolate Mousse (serves two)
Two medium avocados
1 cup of water
2 tablespoons cashew cream
Half a cup of soaked cashews
2 tablespoons of cacao or cocoa powder
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Sugar ginger (for garnish)
A lot of experimentation went into this one to get it right. You don’t want the pudding to end up too thick or you won’t be able to blend it, but you don’t want to add too much water, otherwise it’ll get runny. To soak the cashews, cover half a cup of cashews in a mason jar with water overnight to soften. Don’t drain or discard the water. Finely chop the avocado and put with the other the ingredients (except the ginger and the cup of water) in a food processor – I used a Nutri-bullet – and blend for a few minutes until smooth. If the mixture is too thick you can add some of the water, but it’s better to add the water incrementally to avoid it coming out too runny. If you do end up add to much water, add a tablespoon or two of cashew cream or some more avocado. Refrigerate until cool and serve with sugared ginger garnish.
Half a pound of Angus beef served with either fries or salad; it’s the jalapeno mayonnaise sauce that gives this juicy burger a hearty kick to the palate with melted smoked gouda cheese, sliced dill pickles and lettuce. The bun is also up to the challenge, remaining steadfast despite the onslaught of sauce, which will run over and douse the perfectly cooked fries: crispy outer shell and fluffy potato within and possibly the best fries in the Catskills (along with the steak fries at Boiceville Inn). The Mean Green from Catskill Mountain Country Store and Restaurant is wholly delicious.
Bread Alone’s Banh Mi sandwich on their signature health bread, although it usually comes on a baguette: pulled pork with kimchee that’s the perfect balance between salty and spicy: juicy and delicious. The health bread is coated with seeds, thick and chewy without being dry like other thick whole wheat breads.
The Zephyr in Pine Hill is a meat-and-potatoes restaurant in the metaphorical sense that it offers all the fundamental, everyday dishes without the stodge: very generous portions of hearty staples that aren’t overwhelmed by heavy sauces or congealing in butter. (They do offer some vegetarian and vegan options). Zephyr’s dinners are your regular squares with extra care: refreshing versions of your favorite meals. The “deconstructed” chicken pot pie consists of a lot of braised chicken in a gorgeous pan sauce tumbling over a hill of creamy mashed spuds, all topped with a wedge of puff pastry. The advantage here is that you can pick up the crust and dip it in the gravy. If you’re not used to eating such huge portions, this dish passes the overnight test and came out of the fridge the next morning ready to put in a sandwich, the chicken and mash having retained their softness without being fatty.
For a leftover chicken sandwich, cut the chicken chunks lengthways into small slices; butter two pieces of toast and lay the chicken on both slices of toast. Put the mashed potatoes into a small milk pan with a small knob of butter and mash with a fork until warm. Pile the mashed potato on top of the chicken and close the sandwich. Use the leftover gravy to dip the sandwich in. Delicious.
The Zephyr, 302 Main Street, Pine Hill, NY 12465.
Spillian hosted a cheese tasting last Saturday for friends and neighbors who took a first look at Two Stones Farm’s new batch of cheese. I wrote an extensive account of Alan and Robin White’s Two Stones Farm in Halcottsville over a year ago in a piece entitled The Fine Art of Cultivation, which you can read here. The White’s farm is its own ecosystem and they are breeding goats that will eventually be perfect for the Catskills climate and terrain. The goats live in barn that’s heated by manure and are protected by two self-sufficient guardian dogs who have been known to fish out of the river: a fascinating place and worth a visit. From the goats’ milk, they are now making cheese.This delicious local cheese is produced naturally without synthetic hormones or antibiotics. Alan wanted to supplement the goat’s milk with cow’s milk, but was obliged to obtain the milk in multiple plastic bottles and because he didn’t want to put all that plastic back in the environment, he bought a cow. Presently, they produce soft cheese like a feta and a chevre, plus two types of tomme and a gouda-style cheese without the wax coating.
The warm honey-glazed beets at Peekamoose remind me of standing on the farm eating a beetroot, warm from the scorching August sun, straight out of the ground. In winter, when there’s a foot or two of snow on the doorstep, and you’ve braved piercing winds and roads covered in dry chalky snow on date night, beetroot warm from the oven, covered in honey and goat’s cheese creme is a mouthwatering treat. Rich, earthy and wholesome, these beets are almost like a dessert as the creme melts into the warm honey sauce, making a juice so luscious you’ll want to slurp it directly off the plate. Scrumptious.
Yesterday was Imbolc, a Gaelic holiday, celebrated by Christians as St Brigid’s Day, marking the first day of Spring. If the snow is low enough, snowdrops traditionally have always appeared at this time. Also yesterday was the third annual World Fire Cider Day and Spillian held a class run by Liza Belle in the ancient tradition of making fire cider. Fire cider is an ancient folk remedy and winter tonic in which curative roots, herbs and spices are steeped in apple cider vinegar. The basic ingredients of fire cider are garlic, horseradish root, jalapeños, habaneros, ginger and onion all finely chopped and covered in apple cider vinegar. To this mix you can add extras like cinnamon, juniper berries, rosemary, thyme, cayenne pepper, blood orange and rose hips, burdock root and turmeric. Last night, we chopped and chatted and went home with a can of fire cider to steep for six weeks.
We asked Bebert for one of his favorite recipes and he submitted a chicken tagine, which we tried for the first time by turning it vegan a few weeks ago and you can find our recipe here. Here’s the recipe for the original chicken dish, using Bebert’s own preserved lemons and spices.
Chicken, Preserved Lemons with Olives & Almonds
1 Chicken 3-4 lbs, cut into 8 pieces
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6-8 cardamom seeds
½ teaspoon pepper
(Or substitute 2 tablespoons of Bebert’s organic spice blend for the above spices)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, sliced in half rounds
1-2 slices of preserved lemon including pulp and juice
(lemons are preserved in salt… not necessary to add more salt)
1 cup kalamata olives, pitted
½ cup dried raisins
½ cup sliced almonds
¼ cup white wine
¼ cup chopped, fresh cilantro
¼ cup chopped fresh, flat-leaf parsley
Put all ingredients together in a tagine, Dutch oven or casserole. Let marinate in refrigerator for at least 20 minutes. Cook on 350F oven for 2 hours.
My last radio show of the year on WIOX focused on favorite winter recipes from colleagues, neighbors and friends working in the food industry. Jeanette Bronée is a nutritionist and health coach, based part-time in the Central Catskills, who has appeared on my show a number of times in the past few years inspiring listeners to take charge of their health. She’s author of Eat To Feel Full. A small book with a big message, it’s “a beginner’s guide to self-nourishment, offering a combination of food knowledge, insights into the habits that block our efforts to transform, and practical techniques for developing a mindful, healthy relationship with food”. She picked a recipe that’s sweet and spicy, more like a dessert than a side dish with roasted whole carrots and sweet prunes. We used unsulphured apricots instead of prunes because you can really substitute any fruit that you wish and added a half cup of wine to the recipe. We served it with a small side of braised, local venison. As Jeanette said on a previous radio show, she eats meat “like a condiment” and, excepting the occasional post-hike burger, we’ve been taking her advice ever since. This roasted vegetable dish is luscious: sweet and filling, perfect with seasonal game.
Roasted Carrots & Prunes
Marcey Brownstein is the proprietor of Marcey Brownstein Catering serving the Hudson Valley, Catskills, NYC, the Tri-State area and beyond since 2001. She moved to the Catskills full-time in 2012, settling in Woodland Valley, one of the the most picturesque and historical valleys in the Catskills. Her favorite winter recipe is Shepherd’s Pie, a rib-sticking favorite.
Bread Alone’s warm cauliflower egg sandwich was on the specials’ menu on Monday in two thick slices of their delicious health bread. This time it has some sort of orange sauce plus cheese. The cheesy cauliflower goes well with the soft, slightly chewy wholewheat bread and the warm scrambled egg just melts in the mouth. Scrumptious.
Chris Bradley has been Phoenicia Diner‘s executive chef since May of this year. He picked his favorite winter dish, which is currently being considered for the new menu that comes out next week and it’s delicious. The duck was tender and juicy, the vegetables perfectly roasted and not salty. A gorgeous winter recipe that’s rib sticking, but won’t sit heavily in your stomach. Plus, it’s no longer a mystery as to how their grits are so utterly mouthwatering. Here’s the recipe for it.
Cider Braised Duck, Butternut Squash & Brussels Spouts
To an immigrant, the value of a taste of home can’t be overstated. When that taste of home is of such a high standard there’s all manner of excitement. Bull & Garland, a British-style pub with grub in Hobart, began operation as an inn this past summer and now they offer food available to eat at their cozy bar or in their dining room. Theirs is a fledgling operation with a limited but superb and authentic menu and a fine selection of beer, wine and spirits.
Now that the sun sets at 4.30pm and night falls before dinner, the journey to Saturday night eats becomes more romantic. Almost an hour spent on winding, country roads, through picturesque towns like Roxbury and Gilboa – site of one of the Catskills’ famous dams – to Preston Hollow is like winter film noir. Bright squares of light from homesteads and farmhouses flash by in the waning dusk and you catch fleeting glimpses of the toughest work days being put away. Farmers enjoying their own dinner at tables are spotted briefly through front windows. A farmer’s work is never done though and those farmers who have full-time jobs have to tend to animals through the night or help family members milk cows.
This recipe is a seasonal twist of the classic Moroccan tagine. Bebert’s Moroccan Cafe in Fleischmanns sells organic custom blends of traditional herbs, spices and condiments used in Moroccan cuisine and they perfectly complement this season’s local vegetables. The recipe below is amended from Bebert’s favorite that we’ll publish later in the season This one uses his organic spice blend Spices De Fes and Preserved Lemons which make for a deliciously tangy, sweetly spicy sauce. Don’t use zucchini or a watery squash for this recipe because it will release too much water. Also, if you like your spicy food on the weaker side, only use one tablespoon of the Spices De Fes. This is an earthy, hearty stew for winter that freezes well. Absolutely delicious.
Bebert’s Tagine with Local Vegetables
1 medium butternut squash (about 3-4lb), cubed
1 small sweet potato (about ½lb), diced or grated
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6-8 cardamom seeds
½ teaspoon pepper
(Or substitute 1-2 tablespoons of Bebert’s organic spice blend Spices De Fes for the above spices)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, sliced in half rounds
1 slice of Bebert’s Preserved Lemons including pulp and juice (lemons are preserved in salt… not necessary to add more salt)
½ cup dried apricots (or raisins)
½ cup sliced almonds
1 cup white wine
¼ cup chopped, fresh cilantro
¼ cup chopped fresh, flat-leaf parsley
Put all ingredients together in a tagine, Dutch oven or casserole. Let marinate in refrigerator for at least 20 minutes. Cook on 350F oven for 1.5 to 2 hours. The sweet potato cooks much more slowly than the butternut squash, so it should be diced into very small pieces, chopped or grated. If you like your tagine sweet, add a cup of diced carrot.
Use Trader Joe’s shredded coconut for these treats. Mix together with egg whites and condensed milk and you have yourself a coconut macaroon. Warm, straight out of the oven, they are crunchy on the outside and soft and gooey on the inside. Perfect afternoon treat at Bebert’s on Main Street in Fleischmanns. Also sampled today was Bebert’s delicious rice pudding with orange peel and spices. A beautiful sunny day for hanging out in our Moroccan cafe in the Catskills.
Chicken and Tarragon Pot Pie on the menu at Bull & Garland in Hobart, New York. Deliciously light for a pot pie and buttery with an ethereal crust. You won’t ordinarily get two crusts. We took our pot pie to go, after a filling tour of the exceptional starters, and scored a free crust and some extra mashed potato. This is a pie to love.
Found at the Pakatan Farmers’ Market which runs through November: Holiday Farm Biscuit Co’s sausage pie. This delicious pie comes in two varieties, egg/sausage and chorizo/manchega. Light and crumbly crust with subtly flavorful filling, it’s not so heavy that you’ll feel stuffed afterwards. Served warm, it’s makes the perfect winter breakfast. Get some.
If you never truly appreciate something until it has gone, then I was really very much appreciating the Saturday Summer farmer’s market until I found out it was extending until the end of November. Owing to an Autumn that was warmer than usual, local farmers have more produce to sell. I haven’t been to the market as often as I have liked this summer and am grateful to have another three or four opportunities. On Saturday, in addition to kimchee and fresh ginger, I picked up a box of assorted root vegetables. Plus, I planted the rest of the fresh ginger as it had a couple of green shoots. There’s nothing like firing up the wood stove for the first time and watching a fresh, organic root soup simmering for the evening. Fall is almost finished and the landscape is swaddled in a thick blanket of caramel oak leaves, the last trees to turn.
What happens when a loyal proponent of beans on toast, the iconic British snack, gets a case of the Mondays. You may also find beans on toast occasionally at Jack’s Place in Arkville. Beans on toast is a great way to accompany a whole day’s worth of reading and transcription. You can find a full examination of beans on toast on this website here. If you happen to wander upstate a bit further, you will find an enormous English section at Wegmans that includes Heinz Baked Beans. You can also find all manner of English food at Jolly’s English Grub on Route 212 near Saugerties.
Farming is a risky business. Every year, at least one crop gets a blight. This year it was the squash that gave up just after it blossomed, making me kick myself that I didn’t take those blossoms, stuff them with goat’s cheese and fry them. This year the tomatoes (that suffered their blight three years ago) are doing well like the onions, potatoes and garlic. The rhubarb, now ready to harvest once three years old, was so exceptional that we planted four or five more plants – from previous years’ saved seeds – in our meadow and in the orchard with some asparagus. They sprang forth quickly. Rhubarb likes it around here and we like it. Last year’s tomatoes were equally good. Once you grow your own tomatoes, you’ll never buy store bought variety again. Plus, it’s so easy to have an indoor tomato plant on the windowsill and fill your kitchen with that heady tomato smell.
Bread Alone’s open-faced smoked salmon sandwich is a luscious, perfect combination of dill sauce, raw red onions and smoked salmon. Delicious.
Bolete Mushroom Gravy
2 cups of chopped mushrooms
1 medium onion
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tablespoon of ground celery
2 tablespoons of local butter
2 tablespoons of whole milk
2 cups of boiling water
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1 teaspoon of sage
1 sprig of rosemary
1 tablespoon of all purpose flour
This recipe calls for chopped mushrooms, but if you like your mushroom gravy lump-free, then you will either need to use minced mushrooms instead of chopped, whizz them in the blender or you will have to purée the gravy with a hand blender once it’s cooked.
It’s mushroom season and while foraging I found a huge stand of bolete mushrooms growing under maple and oak trees on the edge of my forest. I’m a novice forager, so I had FOUR separate people confirm that what I had was edible. Before proceeding to eat any mushroom, you must first be certain of its identity. Seek the counsel of experts as it’s simply not worth making a mistake in this case. Even as my mushrooms are cooking, I’m still worried about eating them. A couple of neighbors have applauded my courage, so it’s safe to assume I will have what I cook all to myself. I will keep readers posted as to the state of my stomach. Over the next month or so, I will be taking some foraging classes, but in the meantime, I wanted to get started and make the most of what my garden had to offer.
Anything at Peekamoose is delicious and well made, but the Pastrami is arguably the best pastrami in the Catskills. Thick and juicy, it arrives with a side of mustard and a handful of tangy caperberries. Exceptionally for last night, it came on this bun but you can also find grass-fed beef pastrami on the charcuterie plate with pork, cherry and pistachio terrine, chicken liver pate, pickled red onions and house made bread (which you can take home and use to make the world’s best leftover sandwich).
If you’re hiding out in the mountains, with no desire to go any further than the hammock, but have a hankering for something sweet and icy…
My pal Esther De Jong from Green Label Home bought me some extremely cute iced lollipop moulds for my birthday and now I’m experimenting with yoghurt and cream. Sadly, vodka won’t freeze but tea will and we all know how I feel about tea. Organic Traveler’s Tea blends the best organic tea for hikers called Trekker’s Reprieve with gunpowder green tea, orange peel, cinnamon and blue vervain. It’s refreshing hot and spectacular cold: a gorgeous, healthful, cold hiking drink and now, an iced lolly. Here’s the recipe:
One of the stars of the garden this year was the humble spud. To a British lass, there’s nothing more comforting than a roasted spud covered in butter, thyme and sage, evoking memories of lazy, English weekends. The erratic tones of English football commentary on the television was only interrupted by the occasional hissing and spitting of a Sunday roast in the oven, the smell of which saw us salivating slowly over the course or four of five hours. This year, we have more than we know what to do with, so will be trying to think up ways to cook this essential vegetable. As a much-maligned carbohydrate, the modern potato has a bad reputation and the term “couch potato” further conjures up negative connotations, but this vegetable is actually very nutritious. They have Vitamin B & C, thiamin, folate, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and small amounts of iron, calcium, zinc and copper. Potatoes are the easiest vegetables to cultivate, especially if you don’t have a lot of room to spare.
This year’s Reuben is a tasty, juicy and modestly-sized; this last phrase is meant in the best possible way. So much of what we order today is either a belly-deadening doorstop or enough for two people to share, which limits your options. But even if you only eat half this sandwich, it survives a night in the fridge, like so many don’t. The Phoenicia Diner was written up in the New York Times this month and if it gets any more popular, we’ll start needing a reservation.
The first harvest of beetroot and carrots has been pulled and there’s no end to the possibilities. You can eat the carrot straight out of the ground but some sources say that they have to be steamed to give you all their benefits. If you want a raw treat, grate them and mix with balsamic vinegar and feta cheese for a truly healthful side dish that I posted last year. Scroll down for the recipe.
Beetroot, Carrot & Feta Salad
3 medium-sized beetroot (with leaves)
4-5 medium-sized carrots
1.5 ounces of balsamic vinegar
3 ounces of goat’s milk feta
Grate the carrots and beetroot. Chop up the beetroot greens. Cut the feta cheese into cubes. Mix the grated vegetables, and cheese together in a bowl with the balsamic vinegar for a quick, easy, utterly delicious, juicy and crunchy salad.
Garlic Scapes are the buds of the flower that garlic sends up in the spring. Farmers cut them off in order to encourage the plant to focus on the bulb. They have a much lighter, gentler garlic taste than bulb garlic and ever so slightly sweet. Delicious in omelettes, scrambled eggs, stir-fry dishes and roasted garlic potatoes, but they can get lost in soups unless you use a lot of them.
They also make a superb pesto. Eaten raw, garlic provides those infamous, extraordinary health benefits.
10-12 large garlic scapes
1/4 cup of grated parmesan
1/4 cup of pine nuts
1/4 a cup of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Blend all the ingredients except for the oil in a blender. Mix in the oil when the other ingredients are blended well. If your pesto is too thick, add a drizzle of extra oil. Serve on bruschetta, toast points, crackers. Or add a dollop to soups, pasta and cheese plates. Delicious!
Bebert’s Moroccan Cafe & Grocery opened in Fleischmanns last week. I wrote an article in the Watershed Post about it that you can find here. For the article, I had a tasting of Bebert’s condiments, and Bebert made a delicious Moroccan Potato Cake to go with some iced tea, which I mentioned in the article. The potato cake was delicious and included one of my favorites: peas. Here’s his recipe:
Boil 8 medium potatoes. Peel and mash coarsely. Beat 5 eggs, add to potatoes and mix well. Add 4 ounces of green peas (fresh or frozen). Add 2 slices of preserved lemons finely chopped. Season with 1 teaspoon of paprika, fresh herbs, salt and pepper.
Pour mixture into oiled, medium cast iron skillet. Cook in 350F oven for 30 to 40 minutes. Invert skillet and serve hot or room temperature.
The “Earthy” at Lazy Crazy Acres Farm‘s Saturday Pizza Night.
To your average British immigrant fish and chips is the ultimate comfort food and Arkville Bread Breakfast’s version last Saturday was perfectly fried and, although not specified, tasted like haddock that was steamed to perfection in a beer batter. It was a distant memory even at the time because it disappeared down my gullet quicker than you can say pudding. Accompanied by tartar sauce, delicious mushy peas and jacket wedges, it was so delicate it almost slipped through my greasy, quivering fingers. Quite possibly the best fish and chips in the Catskills.
If you like a proper British slap-up meal, this Saturday and Sunday May 21st and May 22nd, Arkville Bread Breakfast, home of the best fish and chips in the Catskills will be serving it up. On both Saturday and Sunday mornings, full English breakfast will be served. Plus on Saturday, a full British lunch too. ABB is open until 2pm Saturday and 1pm Sunday.
Full English Fry-Up
Bangers & Mash
Sides include Bubble & Squeak, Heinz Beans, Black & White Pudding
43285 State Rte 28 (on the other side of the tracks at the crossroad of Rte 38)
Arkville, NY 12406
We’ve waited all winter for a lot of things and Pizza Night at Lazy Crazy Acres Farm in Arkville is one of them. You can’t spit in the Catskills without hitting good pizza and Lazy Crazy Acres’ delicious pies are up there with the best, hand made right in front of you in their outdoor oven. Lazy Crazy Acres is a picturesque, rural homestead nestled in Rider Hollow by a roaring brook, with chickens, kittens, a barn, maple syrup for sale ($10 a pint), a kids’ play area, a rhubarb patch and hay rides up to their ridge above the farm that boasts stunning 360-degree views of the Catskill Mountains.
It’s no secret that increasing numbers of people here in the northeast are turning to farming in order to have more control of their food supply and their economy. The average age of the American farmer was quoted as being 54 years old, but that’s bound to lower significantly as young people return to the profession in droves. Not only is the Catskills being enriched by new farmers, but also by entrepreneurs, innovators, producers and artists, all contributing to the local economy in meaningful ways. New Yorkers are moving up from the city to have more space, breathe fresh air, eat better food and re-connect with nature. Laura Silverman and Juliette Hermant moved from New York City to the Catskills, in 2009 and 2012 respectively to do just that. The two met when Silverman “was poking around” in Hermant’s store in Narrowsburg. “I bought a large, 1920s brick building and breathed new life into it,” says Hermant, a painter and photographer. “I filled it with antiques and vintage pieces, 90% of which are local to the Catskills. I set about trying to engage with the community to work on revitalizing the area.”
Homemade Catskills sandwich: Breadfellows‘ delicious semolina bread, lightly toasted with boiled eggs and last year’s home grown (frozen) zucchini sauteed in butter. Tasty.
If there’s anything quite as satisfying as foraging for your lunch, apart from growing your own food, I’d like to know what that is. Wild leeks, otherwise known as ramps, are having a good season here in the Catskills and many residents have them in abundance on their property this year. Don’t pick too many to ensure that your ramps continue to return every year. If you pick your whole crop they may not grow back. They require literally no maintenance, but you can enjoy them year after year if you take no more than a third of the crop. They smell like onions, have bright green leaves, red stems and you can eat the whole plant. A large ramp about 18 inches in length like the ones pictured below is enough for a two-egg scramble. This recipe calls for the ramps to be mixed in with the eggs.
Wild Leek & Scrambled Eggs Serves 4
10 small eggs
4 large wild leeks
1 large tablespoon of finely grated parmesan
1 tablespoon of butter
1 tablespoon of oil
Half a cup of milk
Salt & pepper to taste
Take the leeks, cut the leaves off and put the leaves to one side. Chop the stems finely. Heat a skillet with the oil in it and sautee the stems until soft.
Separately beat the eggs and milk in a bowl until thoroughly mixed and then, add the chopped leaves and parmesan and beat for a few more minutes until mixed. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Add the butter to the sauteed stems, allow it to melt and mix in with the soft stems. Add the egg mixture to the stems and cook lightly until scrambled.
Phoenicia Diner‘s fried crab cake sandwich with bacon served with salad on a soft roll. The crab cakes are soft and fishy, as opposed to thick and doughy, and melt in the mouth making the sandwich deliciously light.
Bread Alone’s Reuben with gruyere cheese, Russian dressing, coleslaw and pastrami on organic sourdough rye is much less greasy than it looks and remarkably juicy. The coleslaw is quite mild in this sandwich, complementing the flavor of the pastrami, which is not overly salty. The last spectacular sandwich I recommended from Bread Alone disappeared off the Winter 2015 menu just as my review in the Catskills Food Guide went to press and was replaced with something similar. Plus, the Boiceville location where I got the Avocado & Arugula on April 4th has had the arugula removed for the spring menu. All these additions and subtractions keeps us food reviewers on our toes. Grab the Reuben while you can, as menus change frequently.
The Phoenicia Diner revamped its roast beef sandwich this year. They toasted the bread, added melted brie to the juicy grass-fed beef making this classic sandwich much more delicious. Moreover, it’s a reasonable size for a sandwich, not a gigantic doorstop that’s a whole day’s worth of calories and enough meat to clog your colon for weeks.