Raspberry picking, 25 years later……

The Hudson Valley is a beautiful and bountiful place; many call it the “East Coast Napa.” Our soil, though often rocky, is rich in minerals and nutrients and our weather is amazing.  The pace and way of life here isn’t for everyone.  But it’s my way of life, and it’s the life I love and could never live without. As much as I loved Palm Beach, my heart never really left the Hudson Valley.  Growing up here, in a very food conscious (we like to eat) family, we did a lot of eating with the seasons; had a home garden, and would regularly go picking at local farms “in season” which is basically all year but winter. We learned to eat seasonally without ever being taught, it was simply how we lived.

I remember at a very young age going to Greig Farms and picking Raspberries with my family, godparents  and childhood best friend.  I remember the taste and juicyness of the berries, my surprise at the prickers, my hands covered in the juice, and most of all my mom saying to me “Jessica you have to put some in the bucket, you can’t eat them all, we need to make cookies.”  The bushes were taller than me, I was in awe.  To really be efficient, we tied the bucket around my waist, that way I could eat, I mean pick, with both hands. I had picked strawberries at home before, but I had never been anywhere like Greig’s, I fell in love with everything about it.  Infatuated with the sun, the earth, the aroma,  the fruit, the miracle of it all.  Even at that young of an age, I knew it was magic.

  You can imagine my joy at being able to share such a special life experience with my niece Taylor.  Last year we picked apples together, Becky hoisted her up into the trees and she joyously went after every apple, but this was different.  She could run through the fields and pick them herself, and oh did she! Just like I did when I was her age; and she made me so proud.  She enthusiastically ate every raspberry she picked. We told her she had to put them in her basket, and she quickly grasped that concept, putting them in her basket and then immediately eating them. So precious that little girl is.

In addition to going with my spectacular sister and the infamous Taylor Jane, we also met up with my friend awesome Melina, of Smylers Farm, in Hudson NY.  A fantastic farm owned and operated by Melina and her husband Robert.  The four of us had a great time picking! But I think Taylor was mor focused on the tasting.  Of course, she IS my niece after all!

  

 

 Pickings were scarce, seriously, the bushes were in terrible condition, the berries were damaged.  We chalked it up to post Irene damage. I had never before seen the fruit so sad.  It was really heartbreaking.

  

A little bit of paradise 😉

I did go  home and made raspberry jam, but that recipe is for another time… 🙂 I am so very glad I got to impart this into Taylor, I can only hope she takes to it like I did. And I’ve gotta say, with a Mom like Becky, and an Aunt like myself, there’s a good chance she will.

Food, Fun and Family at the Fair

A few weeks ago was the Dutchess County Fair, the event that comes around once a year, and  signifies both what an amazing, bountiful, historical, and beautiful area we live in, as well as the end of summer. Plus it is prime people watching, one of my favorite things to do, yes I know, it’s not nice, oh well.  When I was growing up I worked the fair, it was non stop ass busting work, but damn was it worth it!

For the first time EVER we all got to go together, on the same day, yes, ALL of us. Well everyone but Danny and Jason, my two older brothers, and Ben and Jerry (Cousin and Uncle respectively) Ok, so ALMOST everyone went.

We had a great time, spent the entire day and night there! Even the guys were able to come up when they got done with work, it was really fantastic! Taylor and Olivia lasted the entire day!!!! As always, its great running into old friends at the fair, but of course, we really all just go for the food! Tempura Veggies, French Fries, Fried Oreos, Cheese Steak Sandwiches, and the best thing of all……… Chef Elias TEXAS PARFAIT!!!!!!!!! All I can say about that is WOW! Brisket, coleslaw, pulled pork, mashed potatoes, a spare rib and a plethora of BBQ Sauce!!!! It’s like sex for the mouth!

I actually went twice, Tuesday and Wednesday. Tuesday was with family, and Wednesday Jenn and I went and saw REO Speedwagon! Yep, they are STILL rockin it!

Oh, we even got to see a baby calf be born!!! Talk about beautiful. My sister and I were actually crying, it was really that beautiful.  Here is the video of the birth, and the pictures from our adventures at the 166th Dutchess County Fair! Enjoy!

Roasted beets…..beyond the retirement home cafeteria

Roasted beets…..beyond the retirement home cafeteria

Just reading the words “Roasted Beets” probably makes you cringe.  Possibly think of your grandmother, and those weird things that she served with dinners, most likely out of a can.  We never ate beets growing up, and I’ll admit, they scared me.  My grandmother served the ones from a can, a Stop & Shop style can, I shutter just thinking about it now.  They had this prune like stigma about them, I thought they were “icky.”   Then one day, I was working one of my weekend jobs at  a Gourmet Market in Northern New Jersey; the “hot foods chef” made roasted beets, and my life changed forever….ok, perhaps that’s a bit dramatic….

I couldn’t believe my eyes.  The store’s target market was overly rich Jersey folk; mainly people who had nannies and worked in the city, or had retired to “the country” (yes I’m talking about Jersey) after making tons of money in the city, and “housewives” who neither took care of their houses or were good wives,  so serving what I considered to be mushy tasteless “grandma food” was a shock.  Scott (the chef) told me to try a piece, and I did;  I fell in love right there! It had olive oil, salt and pepper on it, and while I loved it, I wanted to try the beets completely naked.  I don’t know why, they were delicious, but somehow, I felt like they needed to be stripped down. 

They tasted like they were on the cusp of greatness, almost there but not quite. He insisted they were exactly as they should be (of course) but I wanted to roast them more, one of my weird little “I just think so” kinda things.  So before I made the drive back to NY for the night, I picked up a few bunches of beets, and a bottle of wine, then went home to “experiment.” I tried it a little differently then they did at the market. They baked them on a sheet pan,  I put each beet in its own parchment paper packet. I figured it would retain more moisture that way, and essentially steam the skin for easy removal as a carrot or potato would.  I used nothing on the beets, nothing at all, just washed and “tucked in” the packets. And I “overbaked” them, this made them ultra sweet, but they retain their texture and aren’t mushy, just flavorful and delicious.  I’ve been making beets this way for several (I’m not going to age myself) years now, and I am still in awe of the deliciousness.

Of course sometimes I add things like Goat Cheese, or put them in a salad, or (and this is very rare) serve them hot with butter, but I really can’t imagine a more simple and delicious way to enjoy them. For this instance, I built a salad around them and it was delicious.  Have you tried beets?  What do you serve them with or in?

Beets, Goat Cheese, Baby Arugula, Alfalfa Sprouts, Raw Garbanzo Beans, and Vinaigrette

My Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 375degrees
  • Trim the greens/tops off the beats at the base of the greens 
  • Wash/scrub beets removing any dirt/debris that may be there (donn’t worry about bruises or cuts, you’ll get it later
  • Cut/rip a sheet of parchment for each beet
  • To make the packet, place a beet in the center of the parchment sheet, take the top and bottom of the parchment and bring them up to meet each other, thus cradling the beet, and then fold down together, interlocking with each fold  until you reach the beet
  • Take the sides and for each side, roll up and in, crimping with each overlap, until you reach the beet. Repeat for each side.
  • Place all your little packets of deliciousness on a sheet pan or directly on the oven rack, and bake for an hour and a half, for medium-sized beets. Small beets 45minutes, large beets, 2 hours.
  • When they are done the bottom of the packet will be full of color from the beets, but don’t worry, they will still be juicy.
  • With the packets still closed, let them cool for about 15 minutes.  Then open and peel. Either by rubbing the skin off with your fingers, or use a pairing knife. Either way your hands will get stained, have no fear, it washes off.  Yes, it’s an awfully long time, but it’s well worth it.  Trust me.

PS: I have one disclaimer…..if you eat a lot of beets, a sizeable amount in one sitting, you will notice a change in your ummmmm, hmmmmm how I do I say this politely??? Well, let’s just say you will be seeing pink, ehem umm more like fuscia, where you never thought possible.  Have no fear, it’s perfectly natural, thats what happens when you eat your vegetables (well when you eat your beets hehehehehe)

Heirloom tomato focaccia and a garden update

Life is good. Ok, now that I started on a  positive note…..the gardens aren’t going as well as I’d like them too, either of them, and that’s sad to me. Really sad. Lucky Shoe, (the big garden) well I don’t even know what to say about that, but I will say, WE are starting this fall preparing for next year so that this doesn’t happen again. Nuff said. Now my backyard garden was thriving, beautifully; until something attached my squash and cucumbers, turning them into wilted and sad versions of their former luscious selves.  I’m just now  starting to get tomatoes, green beans and peppers.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love it. Still love being in the dirt, love pruning, love getting my hands dirty, but I don’t know, I just thought that BAM it would be amazing and fruitful. Now it feels like it’s going to frost before the veggies mature. I’ve been out there every day and it feels like for nothing.

So that’s the bad.  The good is, I’ve had tons and tons of the most delicious lettuce  all spring and summer long, I’ve been spacing out my plantings, and harvesting, and every week I have a plethora of lettuce.  And dang, it’s good! I love being able to go in the backyard as pick it as I need.  Oh and Basil, oh the Basil is delicious!!! I have, oh I dunno, 4 or 5 different kinds of basil, and it’s all amazing! Now all of those are container plants, so the lettuce and basil I can bring in this fall/winter. And I plan on trying to keep them in the mudroom, we’ll see how that works out. But they were started from seed, and are doing  amazing.  So I don’t feel like a complete failure. The purple green beans are just starting to sprout little beans, but then again I started those very late, so I’m not so bummed about them.

“Hurricane” Irene came and went, and completely knocked down the tomato plants in the backyard. I went out and fixed the cages after, (several times) pruned away all the damaged bits, and the tomatoes were able to recover. As for the tomatoes over at “Lucky Shoe” they all survived as well. Those I staked and tired onto poles, rather than caging, so I’m thinking going forward I’ll just stick with the poles. Although the (very tall) weeds surrounding  them seemed to actually work to our benefit as they protected the tomatoes.

I’ve been really looking forward to making homemade focaccia with the tomatoes we’ve been growing, but I had to give in and pick some up from the Farmers Market. Don’t get me wrong, they were delicious, they just weren’t fruits of my own labor. Oh well, shit happens. We live and learn….

I picked up my trusty “Ratio” by Michael Ruhlman (My go to kitchen reference, yes it’s better than my CIA books) I decided to make some dough myself and go crazy with it. I ended up with a lot more dough than I planned on, thanks to me thinking I only needed to look at the ratio once, so I had several pounds of dough to work with.  I made 4 different Stromboli plus 3 Focaccia, and everything was amazing!

Recipe:

  • Preheat your oven to 425
  • For the tomatoes, I halved and quartered them, depending on size, and toss them in a bowl with salt and pepper. let them sit about 20 minutes or so to macerate (yes I love any reason to use that word)
  • “Roast” a bulb of garlic by skinning each clove, place in a small sauce pan and cover with olive oil.  Simmer on LOW – DO NOT BURN – if you burn the garlic it will get bitter, we want it sweet and soft, not bitter and crisp.  I don’t want my men like that and I certainly don’t want my garlic like that! And simmer it for 20 minutes or so. watch it carefully so it doesn’t burn. Turn it off and let it cool.
  • Once the dough is preshaped and ready, use it however you desire.
  • Focaccia: Pull and shape into a thick  rectangle, about 1inch thick and dock with your fingers, cover as desired. for my purposes it was tomatoes, their juices, and the garlic and olive oil. Then top with some freshly ground salt and pepper.
  • Stromboli: Roll out into a piece about 4 inches longer on all sides than the Stromboli you want to enjoy. Remember you will wrapping it so it will be smaller than what you roll out. (See the picture above) Fill the middle of the stromboli only, fold over on all sides. Come on, you know what a stromboli looks like 😉
  • Whichever you are making, brush or gently hand rub with Olive Oil
  • Bake at 425 till it’s the doneness you like. Yes, I’m completely vague, but I’m real.  I like my breads extra done, so it takes longer. Regardless of how you like your stromboli, bread or pizza, I saw give it a good 20 minutes and then check it and go from there. 
  • BTW, this is the recipe for pizza dough, I just use it as interchangeably for stromboli and focaccia.

For the Dough Recipe, you can cheat (which is ok sometimes) and buy your dough already made, or pick up “Ratio” by Michael Ruhlman, or head over to his site.  Because why type it all here when he does it way better anyway 😉