Need a flavorful #salad to share at your table? Toss one up with chickpeas and let this salad work like a meal.
Need a flavorful #salad to share at your table? Toss one up with chickpeas and let this salad work like a meal.
With your best extra virgin olive oil and a loaf of day-old crusty bread, add a few juicy tomatoes and toss up panzanella. Try this amazing and simple take on the Tuscan salad in my Cook On food column.
Leonora Burton of The Country Goose in Cold Spring brought her own tastes from Wales to New York’s Hudson Valley, but she caters to a wide range of food preferences. Find your world market and explore culture through cooking.
When savoring good company — with friends, family or even pets — we all benefit. The same goes for favorable food match-ups, from eggs with bacon to soup and salad. Even though a fine panini capably stands alone, a marriage comes together when a sandwich joins a side dish. Burgers with golden fries may not make the wisest nutritional coupling, but there’s a little love trying to breathe through all that cholesterol.
When a serving of noodles looks deserted on a plate or halibut needs a partnership, consider winter’s survival foods: an array of root crops. As plate companions, they turn a solo helping into a harmonious meal. Mashed, baked, roasted or even pickled, these seasonal staples keep us going when temperatures dip. With December’s first measurable snowfall recorded, winter offers a generous choice of main course and side vegetables.
Along with a host of other farmers at the Cold Spring Farmers’ Market, Cheryl Rogowski of Rogowski Farm grows a range of crops to carry the community through springtime’s arrival. Since 1955, her family has grown heirloom vegetables in Pine Island in the black-dirt region of Orange County. The area consists of thousands of acres of fertile organic soil, turning out cool weather vegetables like sweet potatoes, turnips, carrots and parsnips.
As Rogowski arranged baskets of vegetables flecked with that rich black dirt, she helped a shopper select a pound of bright orange carrots. Like many of her customers, she relies on root vegetables for family meals in cold weather. “I love roasting root vegetables,” Rogowski said.
And what this farmer serves at home, she offers at the market. “We’ll have carrots all winter long,” she said. “We’ll also have turnips through winter and we’ll have parsnips probably through February.”
Carrots stay in play throughout the year, but other root crops like rutabagas and turnips are sometimes overlooked during their peak season.
As for parsnips, they add a dash of spice. “I call them the elegant carrot,” Rogowski said. “They also make an insane parsnip cake, and I just substitute them for carrots.”
Parsnips, which resemble carrots in shape, have tan-colored skin and creamy flesh. They boast a woody texture and taste spicy while producing a honeyed aroma when roasted.
When selecting parsnips, look for firm choices with no cracks or blemishes. Rogowski recommends roasting them as you would prepare baby potatoes (425 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes), tossed with a generous amount of oil and seasoned.
“I let the vegetables do the work,” she said. “With potatoes, I’ll add some rosemary, but with the others, they just need a bit of olive oil and sea salt and I finish them with fresh parsley. Come January and February, you need that burst of green.”
Root crops call for little else save a toss or two during roasting. If properly scrubbed, carrots and parsnips don’t necessarily need peeling, though peeling away a thin outer layer encourages a crisper charred finish.
Turnips roast nicely but also serve as constant companions as a ubiquitous pickled side on Middle Eastern menus. I can’t bring turnips home without pickling a few to produce lifit. While my husband lived in Syria during his doctoral studies in 2010, he ate lifit nearly every day alongside a serving of stewed beans. Around our home, the bold pink slices serve as a faithful companion to beans, rice or grilled lamb but lately as a reminder of life itself and the fragile world in which we live.
As 2017 begins, may you enjoy roasted, mashed or pickled root vegetables and share a plate with those you cherish most.
Quick Lifit (Pickled Turnips)
1½ to 2 pounds turnips (peeled and sliced)
1 small beet
1 mild pepper pod
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup water
½ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup white vinegar
Boil beet in small saucepan of water until tender. Cool, peel and quarter. Mix water and vinegar and set aside. Place turnips in sterilized quart jar. Add beets, pepper pod and teaspoon of salt. Pour vinegar mixture into jar to completely cover vegetables. Seal jar, label with date and refrigerate seven days, agitating jar for a minute every other day. Lifit will turn bright fuchsia, thanks to the beet.
By Mary Ann Ebner, first published by The Highlands Current
Although average strands of spaghetti dressed with a homemade sauce typically fill the dinner plates at our house, there’s no argument that to appreciate the beauty of true noodles — prepared with eggs, flour and a little olive oil — you need fresh pasta.
For fine pasta selections, like the hand-rolled pasta at Manhattan restaurant Felidia, it’s hard to beat what culinary pros create with dough. It’s completely unlikely that the pasta from my own kitchen will ever measure up to the delicate egg pastas turned out at Felidia, but every now and then I attempt to roll my own dough.
Purchasing high-end dried pasta that’s perfect in flavor and texture is another option. A couple of weeks ago, my family dropped in at the newest location of Eataly, the gastronomic store, at 4 World Trade Center. Lidia Bastianich, who created Felidia, has a hand in Eataly, along with her son, Joe Bastianich, and chef Mario Batali. Besides its selection of fine pasta, Eataly includes a restaurant and gourmet marketplace stocked with spices, oils, olives, bread, cheeses, wine — anything imaginable to create an “Eatalian” dinner.
Shelf after shelf of perfectly packaged nests of noodles filled me up even before I tasted (and devoured) the agnolotti during dinner. Long pastas, short pastas, pastas for soup, little pillows of pasta and thick, ridged and hollow pastas were all within reach. It’s an inspirational place.
With so many shapes and sizes to choose from at groceries like Foodtown in Cold Spring — including selections of gluten-free rice- and corn-blended noodles — it’s convenient to buy ready-to-cook pasta. But making basic egg pasta dough isn’t all that taxing. It’s not essential, but a pasta-making machine might simplify the rolling and bring more fun to the task with its hand-cranking mechanism.
If you don’t have a machine, roll out dough by hand and slice pasta with a knife or pizza cutter. Rolling dough as paper-thin as possible results in beautiful ribbons, but appearance is not all that counts. The texture and width of a noodle determine what type of sauce pairs best with it.
For thoroughly indulgent egg pasta, use only egg yolks. Gather a couple of ingredients and a rolling pin and turn out fresh sheets of dough. My daily dining partners favor a thicker fettuccine-type noodle that holds up under a layer of stout red sauce. It tastes good any time, but especially on a dark winter’s day. This time of year, as colors change and autumn leaves fall, the pasta serves as a bed for a hearty mix of vegetables anchored by acorn squash. The real work comes with the squash, and once you’ve managed to peel its firm skin, you’ll probably find the pasta prep painless.
1 large acorn squash, peeled and cubed
2 carrots, diced
½ sweet onion, diced
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
2 cups hominy, rinsed
⅓ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste
Mix olive oil with spices over medium heat. Add onions, celery, carrots and squash. Cook until tender. Add hominy. Mix thoroughly and season with salt and pepper. Serve over pasta.
Serves 4 to 6
2½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
Place flour in mixing bowl (if especially coordinated, pour the flour directly onto work surface) and create a well in the center. Crack eggs into the well and slowly beat eggs. Mix in olive oil and gradually work eggs into flour. If necessary, add a tablespoon of water to moisten. Knead dough until smooth. Finish kneading on flat surface. Form a ball of dough, cover and let dough rest 30 minutes. Slice the dough into sections, dust with flour and, using a pasta machine, pass the sections through flat pasta rollers. Lightly flour pasta sections after each pass. Repeat, adjusting the width for a thinner sheet. Once desired thickness is reached, pass dough sheets through cutters. If hand-rolling, roll dough to thin consistency and cut into desired types.
Bring a large pan of salted water to boil. Drop pasta into water little by little and cook uncovered until pasta rises and floats. Test a noodle to make sure it’s tender and done before removing from the cooking pot. Toss with sauce, vegetables, or top with light butter and finish with freshly grated cheese.
Text and photos by Mary Ann Ebner, first published by The Highlands Current
By Mary Ann Ebner
It often pays off to stash a little chocolate — and cocoa — in the cupboard. The confectionery staples embellish everything and cool weather calls for cocoa.
To those who temper chocolate, temperature matters beyond the chocolate thermometer. As autumn arrives, chocolate delicacies hold up longer, while demand from chocolate lovers increases.
When temperatures dipped, Alps Sweet Shop stepped up chocolate production. The family business, which has locations in Beacon and Fishkill, has handcrafted small-batch fine confections for more than 90 years. It was founded by Peter Charkalis and today is run by his granddaughter, Sally Charkalis-Craft, and her husband, Terry Craft, a master chocolatier.
Terry Craft, master chocolatier and co-owner of Alps Sweet Shop, pours 110 pounds of salted caramel onto a cooling tray at their Beacon location.
Customers streamed in to Beacon’s Main Street location last week to choose from sweets in cases brimming with chocolate-covered caramels, heaven-and-earth truffles, chocolate glace fruits, almond butter crunch and molded chocolates.
Terry Craft and his candy makers work year round but fall production keeps them in the kitchen even longer, stirring kettles bubbling with the likes of salted caramel and dark chocolate. He studied his craft in the U.S., Belgium, France, Canada and England, and although producing confections is labor intensive, he says he finds the work rewarding.
“It’s a feel-good type of business,” Craft said. “People are either coming in here to make themselves happy or to make someone else happy.”
The recipes haven’t changed since Peter Charkalis’s day, but the production methods have evolved from the days when every morsel was handmade. Sally’s mother, Mary Charkalis, recalled a turning point in 1968 when the shop bought its first piece of machinery, an enrober. Sally’s grandfather was not happy about the purchase, so her father waited until he was on vacation in Greece to have it delivered. (He eventually came around to appreciate its benefits.)
An enrober — which moves confections down a conveyor belt, along a cold plate to set the bottom and then through a curtain of chocolate for coating — still stands ready in the Beacon shop. Alps has since further modernized its methods by purchasing an automated candy wrapper and computerized molding equipment.
Like any connoisseur in matters of taste, Craft knows cocoa (or cacao, as it is more commonly known where it’s grown). He prefers a Criollo cocoa bean from Ecuador. The common Forastero bean is a close second but he says it doesn’t have the pronounced flavor. As a third option there’s the Trinitario, a hybrid of the Criollo and the Forastero.
“The best of the best [chocolatiers] can tell you while eating them not only what part of the world a bean is from but the region or plantation where they’re grown,” Craft said. “This particular plantation has a patented fermentation process and right now I have exclusive U.S. rights. These Ecuadorian Criollo beans are right off the plantation.” He cracked open a bean, removed the nib and gently crushed it.
“The nib is where the excitement starts,” he explained. “The nib is pressed and the cocoa butter is extracted and what’s left is called the chocolate liquor,” the paste that serves as the essential ingredient for chocolate. Craft sells the Ecuadorian product to restaurants and pastry chefs as well as a microbrewer. He also coats whole beans in organic chocolate and recently filled an order for 25,000.
“You can taste the earthiness, a savory touch, fruitiness and the soil of the region,” he said. “And the cocoa bean is off the charts with its flavonoids and high in vitamins and minerals.”
Savor a piece of gourmet chocolate or make the cake recipe here that calls for cocoa powder and bits of chocolate. Some chip chocolates have a high melting point, so a better choice is a premium chocolate like the break-up bars that Alps produces in milk, dark and organic white chocolate.
Fragrant cocoa powder, Kahlua and rich chocolate enhance this Bundt cake.
Home cooks should be able to find small quantities of good cocoa at local markets. Natural unsweetened cocoa, non-alkalized, will be darker while alkalized will soften bitterness. Some cocoas may also affect rise and texture of a cake. This chocolate cake always pleases, thanks in part to flavorful chocolate, powerful cocoa and a dose of Kahlua.
Chocolate Kahlua Cake
1 ¼ cups sugar
1 ¾ cups flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
4 eggs, beaten
16 ounces sour cream
¾ cups canola oil
⅓ cup Kahlua
6 ounces chocolate, broken into small pieces
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 cups powdered sugar
1 ½ cups Kahlua
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter Bundt pan and dust with cocoa. Mix flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda and salt. Add eggs, sour cream, oil and Kahlua. Stir thoroughly and fold in chocolate pieces. Pour batter into pan and bake 1 hour.
Whisk glaze ingredients and set aside.
Allow cake to cool, then invert. Pour glaze over cake and set 1 hour. Refrigerate if serving next day. Serve with fresh mint leaves.
Photos by M.A. Ebner, first published by The Highlands Current
Artichokes sprout a few thorns, but underneath all that armor, their tough leaves protect delicate creamy flesh.
Harvested before they blossom with spiky flowers, artichokes are actually unopened buds from a type of thistle plant. The plants produce clusters of large buds, not only tasty to eat but striking enough to use as a centerpiece. With many distant relatives in the daisy family of flowering plants, artichokes remind me of a stunning flower, the giant protea, with a cone-shaped appearance and tropical beauty. A bin of harvested artichoke globes draws more than a passing look at our local grocery store, but a field of green artichoke plants with thick stems shooting up several feet toward the California sky can stop traffic, or perhaps prompt drivers to slow down to admire roadside fields.
Sometimes we all need to take a good look at what we’re cooking and eating. Driving along California’s Highway 1 through Castroville a few weeks ago, we stopped our car to check out the dreamy fields of artichoke plants. The small unincorporated town of Castroville touts itself as the world’s artichoke capital, rich in fertile farmland with a cool coastal climate ideal for growing the plants as well as other crops like lettuce and strawberries that flourish in the Salinas Valley. We’ve enjoyed sharing artichokes around our table since my husband and I lived not far from Castroville nearly 20 years ago. Seeing again one of our favorite foods ready for harvest in this small community that is the big-time producer of the plant reminded us why we appreciate artichokes so much. Working away through each layer of leaves to reach the prized heart allows time to linger over conversation.
I’ve found steaming rather than roasting or stuffing them the simplest way to celebrate a meal of artichokes, with one for each of us if they’re small, served up with a warm garlicky butter and toast. Prep includes nothing more than cutting off the stem and any tough lower leaves to flatten the bottom, trimming the thorniest top leaves with kitchen scissors, and placing them in a pot of salted water doused with a splash of olive oil and lemon juice. After 20 minutes of steaming, when leaves pull away easily, it’s dipping time. We peel off each leaf to eat them one by one, gently pulling leaves through teeth for the mini reward of a buttery bite of the underside of each leaf, and then carefully remove the fuzzy choke and slice up the meaty bottom for the long-awaited honors of its center.
Anyone in a hurry should be banned from the table when the meal includes whole steamed artichokes. A diner who moves too quickly on the heart is often rewarded with a forkful of hairy choke.
Artichokes enhance so many recipes. One of my favored sauces is an artichoke-mushroom medley made with heavy cream. Spinach and artichoke quiche never fails for brunch, and fried artichokes make their case as the perfect appetizer. A friend and I recently shared a fine plate of fried baby artichokes, — lightly crisped and served with a roasted garlic-olive tapenade aioli — on the open airy patio at The Roundhouse in Beacon. Steamed, marinated, pickled or fried, artichokes can go solo or harmonize to finish a dish. Nothing beats fresh, but even frozen, jarred or canned artichokes add a little extra bloom to a meal.
Steam your own to dip leaves in butter and slide across those teeth, toss marinated hearts in a leafy green salad or fry a batch of baby artichokes and savor them with garlic sauce.
Artichokes (Fried or Steamed)
4 medium artichokes
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup corn meal
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup olive oil
juice of half lemon (if needed)
Fried: Mix corn meal, bread crumbs, salt and pepper and set aside. Trim top and stem of artichoke with sharp knife. Peel away tough outer leaves to expose soft inner layers. Open the center using fingers to pull leaves apart and with a metal spoon remove fuzzy choke, or cut artichoke in half and spoon or cut away choke and surrounding purplish leaves. Cut in half again for quartered pieces. (If not using right away, place pieces in lemon water.) Dredge pieces in beaten eggs and dry mixture and fry in olive oil over medium heat until lightly golden. Remove fried pieces to paper towels to drain excess oil. Serve immediately.
Steamed: For the alternative steamed version, place cut pieces in a heavy pan with enough water to cover pan’s bottom below steamer basket. Steam 15 minutes until tender and serve with lemon wedges, garlic butter or aioli.
(Makes 1 cup)
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
3 egg yolks
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon boiling water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon sriracha chili sauce (or any hot sauce)
½ teaspoon salt
Mix garlic and egg yolks in bowl with whisk. Add salt and boiling water and mix thoroughly. Gradually beat in olive oil. Mix in lemon juice, sriracha and salt. Serve with prepared artichokes.
By Mary Ann Ebner, first published by The Highlands Current