It’s that cake again: my go-to cake, the Heritage Apple cake, but this time instead of mixing the stiff batter with two cups of chopped apple, we’re mixing in a cup of lemon rind that has been steeped over night in maple syrup, the act of which transforms it into something else. Now it’s no longer a cake, but a chewy, lemony, brownie thing. If you like candied peel, you’ll like this. Candied peel is a zesty winter snack for people who still remember eating seasonally. Oranges were rare when I was a kid in London and so they were preserved in sugar when they were in season and eaten at Christmas. We used candied peel in our Christmas cake. This brownie reminds me of home.
I was co-incidentally given a cup of lemon that had been soaked in maple syrup to make Tree Juice Lemon Maple Syrup and, now that my only adventure in 2020 has been cooking, I put it in this cake. And by heck, it’s gorgeous. Here’s the recipe:
First the barrels had bourbon in them. Then they had Tree Juice maple syrup aging in them. As of 9am this morning, they contained Jenkins + Luekens apple juice, recommended locally as both tasty and well-produced, allegedly the best apple juice in the Catskills which is UV light-treated (cold-pasteurized). JL Orchards based in Gardiner, NY, have 200 acres of apples and other fruit like peaches and plums.
Now is a good time to experiment with cider making; apple season is winding down but there are still plenty of apples left. One 10-gallon barrel (pictured above) will be used to ferment the juice into hard cider that will spend its entire production life in the barrel. Perhaps we’ll go a little wild with this barrel, remove the bung and leave it to take on ambient yeast. The other barrel will be decanted into two five-gallon carboys with champagne yeast, fermented into hard cider and then returned to the bourbon barrel for aging.
This will be intensely flavorful Catskills juice. Watch this space.
Wightman Fruit Farms say that they’re closed on their Instagram account, but we found them open for picking yesterday from their small selection of heirloom apples and grapes. If they close this week, you can still pick apples from their cooler and put cash in the box. Wightman’s have an historic, 150-year-old tree called The King of Tomkins (pictured above) that is still full of fruit. The apples are larger than usual, crisp and juicy. They made a beautiful apple crisp.
Wightman’s charge $15 for a peck of apples, $25 for the honey crisp. If you’re still looking for outdoor dating ideas, you’re not going to get anything more romantic than disappearing amidst the rows of low-rising fruit trees, especially as the temperatures are still hovering around 60F until Saturday – the forecast calls for 70F on Thursday. Call ahead first to see if farms are open. Some farms in the Hudson Valley still operate if you pre-book an appointment, or their farm stands are open.
JL Orchards in New Paltz still had apples to pick this past weekend. Check their website for their apple picking update. Wright’s Farm in Gardiner were open last weekend and they are dog-friendly. Wright’s farm market is open year-round. Stone Ridge Orchard in Stone Ridge has a farmstead and a farm bar with pizza, cider, NYS beers and wine tastings. They have U-Pick apples now. Call them for availability.
Horseradish is a spicy root of the Brassicaceae family of vegetables (that includes mustard, wasabi, broccoli, cabbage, and radish), that looks rather like a white, gnarled parsnip. The roots run deeply into the ground and the edible leaves that are bigger than rhubarb leaves, but long and thin instead of round, can grow to four or five feet in height. It’s easy to take credit for a huge horseradish crop, but the reality is that you can never really be rid of it. Once you try digging it up out of the ground, you realize that it’s tentacle-like roots travel far and wide around your garden, so you have to stop digging at some point. Whatever root is left is sure to pop out of the earth and produce leaves the following year. If you like spicy food, it’s a really easy crop to grow because of the low maintenance, frost resistance and it’s prolific growth rate. Hot peppers are much fussier than this hardy root.
Horseradish is most commonly found in a sauce with vinegar, but vinegar plus horseradish seems a little excessive: do we really need to suffer that much? I don’t. You can make it a little gentler on the palette by grating it into a condiment like mayonnaise or ketchup, or soups, or finely grating it into a hollandaise to put over eggs for a spicy benedict. It also goes well in a creamy butter sauce for venison or steak.
Store unwashed horseradish root in the vegetable drawer of the fridge. Once washed and grated, it should be put into vinegar to preserve it, but it must be used within six weeks.
Horseradish root is high in fiber; said to improve digestion and metabolism and contains a variety of nutrients like calcium, potassium, folate and Vitamin C.
Dina Falconi has written a color, hardback cookbook for foraged, wild food, beautifully illustrated by Wendy Hollender that makes a luscious, engaging read. Beginning this Fall, here at Upstate Dispatch you’ll see some of the recipes. For whatever ingredient is out of season, we’ll use a non-local ingredient to practice in the recipes in advance of foraging for the real thing next year. The author is based in Accord, NY, so this is a local book.
Fall might be a strange time to start, but we were somewhat distracted this Spring by Covid-19. We’ve all had a rough year and now we’re looking at a decidedly different winter in 2020. Cooking up a storm is a comforting way to make yourself feel better, warm up the house, feed family or friends, and also add some new recipes to your repertoire.
Foraging is a way to reduce your carbon footprint even further than avoiding red meat and air travel. By eating locally and seasonally, you’re saving the transportation costs of food that comes from far and wide, but learning the ropes of what grows in your local area takes study and dedication, especially if you’re mushroom hunting. Most mushrooms are not worth eating, or not worth the risk of poisoning, for example.
Dina’s book includes illustrated details of many local, wild edibles; plant habitat and growing conditions; seasonal harvest chart, and recipes for soups, desserts, condiments, beverages, dips, spreads, preserves and much more. This book is remarkable because of illustrations, and the way they are laid on on each page, that makes the information more easily remembered than any other foraging book. They are all color pencil sketches, and for each plant there are contrasting illustrations on the same page that simply makes it crystal clear to the reader. In some cases, there are cross sections of fruit that depict the seed inside. It’s just a noteworthy book for its clarity and ease of reference: a keeper. This copy’s going to get well-thumbed, dirty and handed down to the next generation.
There’s a page devoted to a “wild grilled cheese master recipe” using nettle and other raw greens and wildflowers. Because there are wild flowers still out there in these last days of summer, this recipe could be tried first, but we’ll see what’s at the farmers’ market tomorrow.
We had an extraordinary year for apples in 2017 and one of the guests on my radio show at the time gave me a fabulous recipe for a Heritage Apple Fruit Cake that is my one go-to cake. This is turning out to be a poor year for apples on our farm, so I’m using blueberries because I have so many of them. I’ve also modified this recipe even further because I like my cake really moist, chewy and fruity, so I bake it in a flatter pan, for less time and I’m using an extra half-cup of fruit. The special thing about this cake is that all the fruit sinks to the bottom and you get half-fruit, half-cake pudding with a slightly crispy topping that is really delicious. Needless to say, if you need to have your cake thoroughly cooked all the way through extend your cooking time to 40 minutes.
1 cup AP flour 1 tsp baking powder 1/2 tsp salt 4 oz butter (1 stick) 1 cup sugar, plus one tablespoon for sprinkling 1 tsp vanilla 3/4 tsp almond extract 2 eggs 2.5 cups blueberries
Soften the butter and whip it together with the sugar, vanilla, almond extract. Add the two eggs and beat them in. Mix the whole mixture well. Sift the flour and baking powder and add it into the butter/sugar mix gradually. Mix until you have a batter. The batter will be very stiff. Once you have a smooth batter, gently fold the blueberries into the batter but do so very gently – trying not to smash the fruit. You will end up smashing the fruit, but just try not to. Put the mixture into a square, flat, greased cake tin (9x9x2 inches). Flatten it into the pan gently and sprinkle the top with a tablespoon of sugar. Bake on 350 degrees for 30 minutes. (Or if you need your batter thoroughly cooked all the way through, do 40 minutes).
Using the last of the ramp (wild leeks) as the season comes to a close: ramps can be mixed into butter. There are many anecdotal recipes across the Catskills. You can blanche the leeks first in hot water or heat the butter, but the best way to get the taste of the plant and all its raw nutrients is to just finely chop the ramps and mix them well into the butter. You’ll get the sweet onion taste, but not overwhelm the dish to which you add it. A knob of raw ramp butter on a steak or steamed fish, for example, will complement it well. You can add a couple of tablespoons of this butter to a stew before you serve it. The butter above will be going over roasted asparagus and into a Guinness stew.
Chop the ramps on a plastic surface, so you don’t lose any of the juice into a wooden chopping board. Soften the butter slightly – I tuck it in my armpit for a few minutes – and then fold the ramps into the butter and whip it for a few minutes. Ensure that every part of the chopped ramps are either fully submerged in the butter or, if the ramps stick out of the butter slightly, that they are thickly coated in it. You don’t have to worry about this too much if you freeze the final product, which makes it easier to handle. If you do freeze it, roll it in to a log, or similar shape to a stick of butter and wrap it in the discarded butter wrappers, so you can cut it into knobs when you use it.
It’s wild leek (ramp) season and this year we’ve had more than the usual amount of rain needed to nourish these delicate, wild beauties. Every local in the Catskills has their secret ramp spot and few years ago, I transplanted a handful of wild leeks to a shady, wet spot by our house that they love. They love a water source and our house at the top of a ridge has brilliant underground drainage, so when it rains, all the water flows downhill through the ramp patch. Our patch is now several patches. Just before they die off, they send up stalks with dark, perfectly spherical seeds that look like tiny balls of onyx.
It’s not often you find yourself, all windswept by the frigid mountain air, sitting cross-legged in your rubber boots in the cozy window nook of a homestyle restaurant listening to the soothing sounds of a sitar. The only thing to do when you unexpectedly find yourself in that situation, after having only gone out to buy soap, is to lean in, kick back and order the curry lovingly handmade by Liza Belle, that is robust enough to keep your warm until dinner.
Last time we met, Liza baked a mass of rich, sweet sticky toffee pudding in her kitchen at home, narrating the recipe as she cooked. This time, it was a delicious Thai green coconut curry with jackfruit: perfect to stave off the winter blues. Jackfruit, packed with nutrients and protein, is often used in stews as a meat replacement due to its fibrous texture – it makes a great vegan pulled pork – but it’s sweet and fruity, blending well in this curry with potatoes and string beans. The fragrant jasmine rice was perfectly cooked. A nice bonus was the lightening, cooling effect of the starfruit garnish. This was a proper curry, not for those with weak taste buds. Brace yourself for the full flavors and strong spices.
Also on offer was a dal, a thick lentil soup with braised kale.
This is an update of our recipe from a few years ago, because now you can buy almond milk. There’s no need to soak almonds overnight and strain them to get their milk. Cucumbers are in season from July through October and this refreshing, sweet chilled soup is the perfect antidote to our scorching recent Catskills weather.
Three medium sized English cucumbers Three cups of almond milk, unsweetened Half cup of water An apple, peeled, chopped and cored or 10 grapes Three teaspoons of olive oil Half teaspoon of salt Half teaspoon of pepper
Puree the grapes in a blender, sieve them and save the liquid. Peel, chop and puree the cucumbers in a food processor until they are liquid and while the cucumbers are blending add the olive oil, salt and pepper, grape juice and almond milk. You might also like to add a little of the almond or grape pulp to garnish with a splash of olive oil. Chill before serving. Delicious.
This is the sort of recipe that you can amend without too much fuss. If you want a sweeter gazpacho, you just throw all the fruit – an apple and the grapes – in the blender with the cucumber. (If the result is too thick, add more almond milk.) This also makes a perfect pre-workout smoothie where, if you haven’t had a chance to eat all day yet you still want to work out, you can drink this an hour or two before exercising.
The wild mint is out in force with the wild flowers, but we must wait longer for the peas or find them in the freezer. There’s something about pea and mint soup that screams summer. This is a family recipe, but there’s really nothing to it. Fry up some onions, garlic and thyme in oil or butter, add stock, boil until warm then add peas and mint. Simmer for only a minute, then blend with a hand blender. If you love the taste and texture of fresh peas, use frozen peas and put them in the stock straight from the freezer. They will thaw, but not cook all the way. Only blend half the soup and add a knob of butter in each bowl of soup when you serve it to get the taste of buttered peas with a little crunch of sweet pea. You can also garnish with a dash of balsamic vinegar if you’re not into the butter and want to add a tangy element. If you’re going to go with the balsamic option for the first time, put the balsamic vinegar on the side, dip toasted or warm bread in the vinegar, and dip the vinegar toast in the soup.
Pea & Mint Soup
Half an onion
Two tablespoons of oil
One tablespoon of minced garlic
One tablespoon of dried thyme
One liter of chicken broth, or non-chicken vegetarian broth
One pound of frozen peas
Ten leaves of fresh mint, or more depending on how minty you want it
Butter to garnish
Finely chop the onion and fry it with the garlic and thyme in the oil until lightly brown. Add stock and bring to the boil. Add the peas and simmer for a minute only. Add the mint. Blend with the hand blender, but only blend half the soup. Stir the soup with a spoon. Garnish with butter or a dash of balsamic vinegar. You can make the soup as minty as you like it. Start with less mint first, because you can add it, but can’t take it away once you’ve blended it in. If you want to add more mint after you’ve served it, just pop in a few more leaves into the saucepan, stir the soup and then remove the leaves. Fresh mint will always leave a lot of mint oil behind, so you don’t necessarily need the leaves in there. You’ll notice that there’s no salt in this recipe because there’s enough salt in the broth and, if you over-salt, it clashes with the mint.
The Catskills are home to many great chefs, one of those being Liza Belle, chef at the Blue Deer Center in New Kingston, Upstate New York. A native New Yorker from Long Island, whose mother was an English immigrant, Liza Belle got her start as a short-order cook and found a mentor early on who revolutionized her perspective on food. A prolific baker, especially during this holiday season, Liza shares a Christmas recipe, an English favorite: Sticky Toffee Pudding made with dates and locally-grown wheat that we cooked yesterday. When the cake came out of the oven, it glistened with the sticky dates. The local grain gave it a reddish, grainy finish. Some tips: when you “toast” butter in a milk pan, swirl it around and save the brown, caramelized part that sticks to the pan because it gives the sauce a nutty flavor.
Today is the first day of Yuletide, a 12-day winter fire festival starting today – on the shortest day of the year, December 21st, the winter solstice – with origins in Northern Europe that pre-date Christianity. (This is where the saying “12 Days of Christmas” originated). Most settlers of the northern hemisphere, a dark place that’s frigid this time of year, have always celebrated fire at the start of the winter season and share food and stories with friends and neighbors. Find The Guardian’s version of the traditional Yule log cake here.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
1/2 Stick of Butter 1 1/2 Cups of Flour 1 1/2 Cups of Chopped Dates 1 teaspoon Baking Soda 1 Teaspoon of Baking Powder 1/2 Teaspoon of Sea Salt 1 Cup of Brown Sugar 1 Teaspoon of Vanilla runneth over 2 Eggs
The butternut squash came out more squashy than usual – much less like the soft, puddingy texture of sweet potato, more watery and stringy like spaghetti squash, a diluted version of the dense butternut from where the seeds originally came. A suggestion from Steve Burnett: cut it into fries, toss the fries liberally in Burnett’s legendary homemade hot sauce and roast for 40 minutes to make spicy squash fries. If you like a skin on your fries, finish them off under the broiler for a few minutes. Hot, spicy and delicious.
What do you do when you have a basement full of potatoes, onions, garlic and apples? Add lentils to make a Fall Harvest Soup. You can easily make it vegan by not adding butter. You can also add bacon if you can’t live without meat, frying thin slices of your bacon in with the garlic.
This soup is a delicious mixture of the fruity apple with the nutty lentils. The potatoes thicken the soup, but you prefer the soup to be thinner, add more warm stock towards the end to reach the consistency you prefer. If you prefer the apples and lentils to be the main two flavors, only use three cups of potatoes, and add a half-cup of lentils. Continue reading →
Something we’ve been pining for here in the Catskill Mountains is Asian food. There’s precious little of it around these parts, but now we have something really wonderful. Kimchee Harvest Kitchen in Roxbury, New York serves Korean food that is delicious, and local. The produce featured on the menu is grown by owner, farmer Madalyn Warren on her farm East Branch Farms on Route 30 in Roxbury, whose speciality is kimchee made with a variety of locally grown and foraged vegetables like dandelion, radish, rhubarb, garlic scape or cabbage. Madalyn’s mother is from Pusan, Korea and they make the kimchee together. The meat on the menu is sourced from other local farms. Continue reading →
Behold, the Bull & Garland Scotch Egg. As a native Brit, I have to say, the egg couldn’t be any more authentic than if we were in England, at a pub, enjoying the rain and warm beer. I don’t know how they get the egg to be runny, but it’s a joy to see the hearty, local, orange yolks running over the warm sausage meat. The grainy mustard isn’t even necessary because the dish is delicious all by itself.
Goldenrod, a seasonal pop-up restaurant focusing on locally sourced food, is opening on June 9th in in Delhi, New York
Goldenrod is the brainchild of Carver Farrell, a native of Bovina, NY, and the former owner of The Pines, a Gowanus, Brooklyn-based restaurant in which he sourced most of his ingredients in the Catskills. Goldenrod will continue in the tradition of The Pines, sourcing the main components of each dish exclusively in Delaware County, and offering local beers, a small wine list, and cocktails built around wild and foraged ingredients.
Upstate Dispatch went downstate and reviewed The Pines almost three years ago. Find that review here. Some of the dishes on that menu at the time were pork shoulder, beef burger sliders, crostini with cranberry ricotta, polenta with roasted Brussels sprouts, kale salad, pheasant soup and a plate of roasted, assorted spuds. They were on their way into winter at that time and Goldenrod’s menu will likely be more summer-themed. Nevertheless, everything at The Pines was delicious, so tasty that nobody bothered to photograph any of it and there were five of us. Sometimes, you just have to put the phone down and enjoy.
Farrell will be joined by a team of three seasoned chefs that have worked at some of the finest eateries in the world, including Gramercy Tavern, Daniel, Del Posto, Prune, Le Bernadine, and Union Square Café. The menu will change nightly based on the freshest ingredients available on any given day.
Goldenrod will open on June 9th. Dinner is available Thursdays through Sundays through Fall 2018 with a bar menu available as well.
53 Main Street, Delhi, NY
Thursdays through Sunday 4:00pm to 10:30pm
Kitchen opens at 5:30
Spring so far has been like a Bronte novel. First, we had snow right up until April 20th, and now we have continual rain on our face and gloom like we’re in England getting our hair salted and ruffled by sea winds. Any minute now, we might expect Heathcliff to run over the fields yelling for Cathy, but wet is good. We like to keep our many “kills” flowing, but it’s still chilly out there and expected to worsen: on Monday we will welcome more snow. To put it mildly, we’re not breaking out the salads. Locally, menus are changing with the season, but there are still good, hearty options in some places. The best Catskills comfort food has to be the Zephyr for its rib-sticking chicken pot pie, pictured above (and its decent prices, especially its good value prix fixe). So much of restaurant food is salty and loaded with butter, but the Zephyr’s isn’t. It uses tarragon in its pot pie and corn to add sweetness. It’s unfailingly delicious every time: a steadfast fixture on the Catskills food scene.
The Zephyr also does a good cream of broccoli soup loaded with smoked cheese and the most perfect chunky zucchini fritters (pictured below) with three kinds of sauce. One could live on these alone. Continue reading →
Local eggs from Two Stones Farm in Halcott Center including one from a copper marans. The yolks were large, fat and bright. Local eggs are really meaty, rich and filling, the perfect substitute for meat if you’re trying to reduce or eliminate your intake.
Turns out this local gem is situated just a walk up the road from the crossroads of Wittenberg and Route 212 in Mount Tremper. If you have loved ones coming in on the Pine Hill Trailways bus from New York City, the bus driver will allow them to alight at this crossroads and walk a few minutes up Route 212 to The Pines. Once there, they can drink a lot and have their host drive them back to their digs for the weekend. How convenient is that? Continue reading →
It’s syrup time. Taps went into trees a little earlier this year. Tree Juice is now offering a CSA.
There are many maple syrup producers in the Catskills and some of them welcome visitors. It’s worth paying more for local sugar and seeing how it’s made. Some of the modern equipment is more complicated that customers realize. Farmers and producers use miles of tubing to collect the sap. Syrup is produced by condensing the sap and 50-60 gallons of maple sap yield one gallon of syrup. It’s completely organic. Continue reading →
Upstaters are busier than ever, especially around the holiday season. Many of us – writers, farmers, makers and artists – work from home and if you do, you might spend hours a day cooking your own meals that detract from your billable hours or projects. Amy’s Take-Away & Catering in Lanesville, ten minutes north of Phoenicia, NY, makes delicious, hearty soups with local ingredients offering vegetarian, vegan and meat options in equal numbers. If you’re having a particularly busy week, you could buy five of Amy’s soups at the weekend and save hours cooking lunch and cleaning up.
Amy’s is open on weekends from 12-6pm or “by chance or appointment”, meaning you can make an appointment, or if you’re in the area and Amy is on the premises, you can call 845-688-9759. The premises is only ten minutes from Hunter Mountain and quite a few Catskills 3500 peaks. If you’re ski-ing and hiking at the weekend, it’s a no-brainer to take Route 214 and pick up soups on the way.
Moreover, owner Amy Jackson is a farmer’s advocate having been a long-time member of NOFA, Chefs’ Collaborative, and Just Food. She is a certified food processor, a Master Gardener and has helped start farmers’ market and RSAs. Plus, she gets her produce directly from local, upstate farmers, driving to the farms herself to pick up what she needs.
On the current menu: corn chowder, cauliflower cashew, broccoli apple, minted pea and spinach, Ukranian borscht, turkish orzo, moroccan turnip and chickpea, “buddhist delight” and many more. Ingredients are sourced from Adams Farm, Bulich Farm, Migliorelli, RSK and Story Farms.
Despite wearing a watch, and having several electronic gadgets that will automatically tell me the time, I have been doing things an hour earlier since the clocks went back at the weekend. How long has it been? Only 48 hours you say? Feels like forever. Having been a city dweller for most of my life, it feels like city living forces the time on you where as country life coerces you into succumbing to nature’s rhythms (and the weather). I’ve hardly left the house in the past few weeks, but that’s about to change. Meanwhile, here are some links to past Upstate Dispatch posts to some recipes and food reviews to keep you occupied until I get back out into the Catskills.
Innovation continues unabated here in the Catskills with the introduction of freeze-dried ice-cream. We’ve already recently heard about the new 100% electric vehicle designed and built here and now we have astronautical edibles. Continue reading →
If you need something to do with all the heritage apples that are falling all over the Catskills now, here’s a recipe passed on to me by Tamara Ehlin of the Forsyth BnB in Kingston. This recipe is gorgeous because a sugary, chewy crust forms on the top of the cake and gradually softens all the way down to its fruity bottom.This cake is as wild as our apples.
However you add the fruit, it still ends up at the base of the cake. I didn’t put enough apples in the little loaf pictured above because whenever you do this recipe it will feel like you’re putting too much fruit in. The batter barely covers the apples and you have to press the mixture down before you put it in the oven. I made a larger cake by doubling the ingredients and it came out perfectly with all the fruit sunk to the bottom.
This recipe is good for soft and stone fruit too.
1 cup AP flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 oz butter (1 stick)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp almond extract
2 cups sliced fruit (a mix of tart and sweet works best, like sour cherries, plums, peaches, blueberries, or peeled apple)
Soften the butter and whip it together with the sugar, vanilla, almond extract. Add the two eggs and beat them in. Mix the whole mixture well. Sift the flour and baking powder and add it into the butter/sugar mix gradually. Mix until you have a batter. The batter will be very stiff. Once you have a smooth batter, stir in the apples and mix well. Add to a greased loaf tin and bake on 350 for about 40 minutes. (Note that cooking time could be longer or shorter depending on the depth or shape of the pan. If the pan is a flatter cake pan, cooking time will be less.)
To all our summer guests, who must face hours of battle with city traffic and the prospect of trundling wearily into the Catskills late evening without supper, try a mid-journey pit stop in Kingston. There’s a relatively wide variety of restaurants in Kingston, including a handful of Greek restaurants, one of which is the excellent Kovo Rotisserie on Front Street, in a light, airy and modern setting.
Kovo Rotisserie’s pita bread is thick, spongy and liberally doused in olive oil, going well with their home made hummus. There are traditional Greek beverages like Greek coffee, soda, wine, retsina and Mythos lager available with the wide selection of other beverages. There are also Greek “Bento Boxes” for kids that offer items like hummus, vegetable spears, cheeses, nuts, avocado, lamb meatballs, beans, fritters and sausage for $10. The Kovo specialties are free-range, roasted chicken ($14 per chicken) and pita sandwiches ($10) with choices of fillings. The food is fresh, wholesome and tasty. In particular, the lamb meatball salad was delicious: filling but not overly fatty. The pitta sandwiches, served with fries, are filling enough eaten on their own because the pita is thick. For sides, the manouri cheese, a mild, creamy sheep’s cheese in the style of ricotta is especially mouthwatering. Continue reading →
It’s blackberry season and they are sweeter and juicier this year. Berries in general grow well in the Catskills’ rocky soil and high elevation. A few years ago, a local farmer gave sage advice: grow whatever grows the best on your property and grow a lot of it. Blackberries are in abundance this year in the forests too and in fields we are seeing more huckleberries, a blueberry type fruit. We are also having a good apple season, although the apples on the heritage apple trees are not yet ripe.
Come to a party at Ella’s Mercantile in Halcottsville on Saturday August 12th beginning at 4pm.
Booze your way to good health with Laura Silverman’s recipe for a thyme cocktail for Well and Good Magazine: “if you feel the inkling of a late-summer cold coming on, it’s the perfect reason to get out your cocktail shaker”. If you need a reason, that is.
I’ve said it before, Pakatakan Farmer’s Market is full of scrumptious food and beverages like sausage pie, vodka, kimchee, restorative herbs and fresh royal jelly in addition to your farmer’s market staples like meat, vegetables, dairy, baked goods, mushrooms, and more booze. Nearby, just up the road, you will find Outsider’s Cafe for breakfast too.
I grew up by a London railway line and spent my formative years being shaped by watching people go places. I would wave at the trains chugging past and wish that I could jump aboard. In retrospect, I now see that those poor people were going to and from work and would have loved to have traded places with me, sitting in a backyard reading books. It’s no surprise that I now love trains, traveling and, gasp, I’ll admit here that I even love airports.
We have an aging rail network here in the Catskills that groups have tried to save and its future is uncertain. Lengths of the track were damaged by Hurricane Irene and there are proposals in the works to turn the rails into walking trails. Personally, I think we should maintain the network and get funding to turn it into a set of museums, but I’m obviously biased even though I clearly love hiking. The Rip Van Winkle Flyer, run by the DURR, whose home is in Arkville, has opened for the season judging by its website. On the weekends, the Rip Van Winkle Flyer takes tourists through the mountain from Arkville to Roxbury and back.
Now, the DURR is teaming up with local food producers and The MARK Project in Arkville to run the Tasting Train next Thursday, August 10th from 5pm to 7.30pm. Tickets are priced from $25 to $40. They call it the “Local-Motive”, on which you can try all manner of delicious local fare from producers, cheese makers, artisan bakers, craft beverage distillers, breweries and more. It couldn’t really get any better than sitting on a train and stuffing your face for a good cause. The train departs at 5pm and returns to Arkville by 7.30pm.
It’s garlic scape season! A scape is the bud of the spring garlic bloom that has yet to flower. We cut off these very long buds in order to encourage the plant to focus on growing the actual garlic bulb that grows in the ground. In the picture at the bottom of the page, you’ll see the garlic growing in the ground and there’s a long leaf with a light colored bud on it that has curled over and is pointing left. This is the scape before it’s cut off. Continue reading →
If you’re looking for a scrumptious fish sandwich, and you’re around Boiceville, look no further than The Goods Luncheonette, where you’ll find a snappy fish filet with creamy, tangy sauce, plus a dollop of coleslaw, in a soft, brioche bun.
Years ago, when we were losing our crops to blight and other things, our neighbor Alan White, told us to find out what grows well on our ridge and plant a lot of it, then swap for other produce you might need with neighbors. Rhubarb loves it here, as do potatoes, asparagus, garlic, asparagus and berries. This year, my husband is trying arugula, because I spend money on that stuff and it’s imported from god knows where. That’s not to say that I don’t eat our weeds like sheep sorrel and dandelion, because I do. Our mint has also gone quite rogue and I’m picking new growth in our lawn along with the other weeds.
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.
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.