Fall in the Catskills

Sunday morning in my front stoop, warm coffee in hand, absorbing fall at home in the northern Catskills. Crisp morning air, dramatic sky and the mountains glowing red with the rising sun. Fall in the Catskills is breathtaking. The trees are singing their final songs, weeping leaves in the wind in anticipation of the cold ahead. They glow bright fall colors: crimson, wine, orange, yellow, greens, browns.

Time for breakfast. I wander over to my favorite local market, Circle W Market, for an egg and Swiss sandwich in a fresh seeded whole grain croissant. This deli and general store in America’s first art colony is a gem.

Lunch at the Circle W Market in Palenville is a must. They serve hearty, inventive sandwiches like the Indian Head: roast beef, caramelized onions and blue cheese on perfectly grilled bread. What won me over was their great selection of homemade baked goods made by the owner’s mom and delivered fresh every morning. On weekends they also make homemade croissants that are buttery, light, flaky and perfect. The general store shelves are full of conscientious choices and exotic treats like Ines Rosales tortas from Spain and organic, locally sourced ingredients.


Next time your in the Catskills, take a trip up to Pallenville and visit the Circle W Market.

Rustic Olive Oil Crackers

Frustrated by the price and frequency at which we were buying crackers, I resolved to learn how to make the dang things myself. Homemade crackers may sound intimidating, but they are actually quite simple, especially rustic crackers like these Olive Oil Crackers. This cracker recipe is wonderfully simple and adaptive to any favor you would like to explore. Some toppings I’ve tried are: toasted sesame seeds, fresh rosemary, coarse salt or herbes de Provence. Inspired by the Ines Rosales Tortas de Aceite, I am excited to try a sweet version with anis and coarse sugar very soon.

The trick to these crackers is a pasta maker, a gentle hand and some patience. It’s important to get them thin and fairly even so that they crisp throughout. Have your sheet pans ready and lined with parchment before you start rolling the dough as you’ll want to set them down as soon as you’re done rolling.

These crackers make large rustic shapes that will look beautiful next to a cheese platter on your next dinner party. This recipe was developed by Heidi Swanson and published in her blog 101 Cookbooks here.

Rustic Olive Oil Crackers
1 1/2 cups semolina flour or whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup warm water
1/3 cup olive oil
Cornmeal for dusting
Topping of choice (optional)

1. Add flours and salt to your standing mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. At low speed, add the water and olive oil in a slow steady stream. Mix the dough at medium speed for about 5 – 7 minutes. Alternately, feel free to mix and then knead by hand on a floured counter-top. The dough should be just a bit tacky – not too dry, not too sticky to work with. If you need to add a bit more water (or flour) do so.

2. When you are done mixing, shape the dough into a large ball. Now cut into twelve equal-sized pieces. Gently rub each piece with a bit of olive oil, shape into a small ball and place on a plate. Cover with a clean dishtowel or plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 30 – 60 minutes or up to a day.

3. While the dough is resting, preheat your oven to 450F degrees. Insert a pizza stone, if you have one, otherwise, line two sheet pans with parchment and set aside.

4. When the dough is done resting, flatten one dough ball. Using a rolling pin or a pasta machine, shape into a flat strip of dough – I can usually get down to the 4 setting on my pasta machine w/o trouble. Pull the dough out a bit thinner by hand (the way you might pull pizza dough). You can also cut the dough into whatever shape you like at this point. Set dough on a cornmeal-dusted baking sheet.

5. If you will be topping the crackers, lightly wash water over the cracker with a pastry brush. Sprinkle your topping of choice and slide into the oven (onto the pizza stone). Repeat the process for the remaining dough balls, baking in small batches. If you don’t have a pizza stone, bake crackers a few at a time on baking sheets. Bake until deeply golden. Slide the crackers from the cookie sheet onto a cooling rack. Cool completely before serving. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Makes a dozen extra large crackers.

Farinata – an Italian Treat

That Lynne Rosetto Kasper laughed a delightful gut laugh when asked about this dish on her radio show, The Splendid Table, gave away this as a must-try dish. Farinata (also known as socca) is a chickpea and olive oil pancake cooked over an open flame, traditional to Italy and the Meditteranean coast.
For dinner last night, I resolved to try my hand at farinata and discovered that it is as wonderful as Lynne described and very easy to make. Just whisk a simple batter of chickpea flour, water and olive oil until it resembles thin custard and then bake in a very hot, heavy cast iron pan until wonderfully crispy and golden brown. Last night I served the farinata alongside sautéed kale with garlic, onions and sundried tomatoes. Can’t wait to make it again!
Farinata is a perfect gluten free alternative to pizza and is also an ideal canvas for herbal and savory tones like fresh rosemary or sage, caramelized onions or kalamata olives.
1 cup chickpea
1 1/2 cup warm water
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for coating the pan
1 tsp salt
black pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 550° F and place a 10″ cast iron skillet to get very hot. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix chickpea flour, salt, and pepper. Whisk in warm water and olive oil to the consistency of a thin custard.
2. Remove the hot skillet from the oven and coat in approx. 1 Tbsp olive oil. Pour 1/3 of the batter while swirling the pan to spread the batter evenly.
3. Return to the oven and bake for about 12 minutes until firm, golden brown with crisp edges. Use the broiler to brown the top, if needed. Remove the pan from the oven and serve right away.
Makes 3 farinata.

Cortés Chocolate Hot Chocolate

These cold winter months find me craving the hot chocolate of my childhood: a simple, light and sweet hot chocolate with salty melted cheese.
The 6 year old me would light up with excitement, when, every so often grandma Mima would declare that we were going to skip dinner altogether and have ‘chocolate caliente’ instead.  She would drop pieces of sweetened Chocolate Cortés into a pot of steaming hot milk.  Each cup of hot chocolate would then receive a couple of chunks of Gouda cheese, left to melt at the bottom of the cup.  Mima served her hot chocolate with export soda crackers slathered in salty butter.  This “dinner” was always a very happy and warm occasion for me and the memory always brings a smile to my face.  
Mima’s hot chocolate was a traditional Puerto Rican hot chocolate or “chocolate caliente”.  It is sweet and light with hints of saltiness from the Gouda cheese and the glistening beads of salty butter floating on top, the result of dunking your buttered crackers.
Love and enthusiasm for hot chocolate runs in the family. Read about Angelica’s reaction to the City Bakery’s hot chocolate here.
Puerto Rican Hot Chocolate
1 cup whole milk
1 oz  Chocolate Cortés, broken into smaller chunks*
Chunks of Gouda cheese (you can also use cheddar or Edam cheese)
In a small pan, bring the milk to a slow simmer.  When it begins to steam, add the chunks of chocolate Cortés and whisk until dissolve.  Do not boil the milk. 
Pour in a cup and drop a couple of chunks of Gouda cheese.  Serve with crackers and butter. 
*Chocolate Cortés can be found in your local Latin market or the international section of your grocery isle. To learn more about the rich history of this chocolate visit the Chocolate Cortés website.

Cranberry Orange Granola with Crystallized Ginger

Cranberry Orange Granola with Crystallized Ginger and Kumquats
Bowl by Roger Baumann. Photo by Marta Bartolomei Edmonds.
I love granola. It’s the perfect everyday breakfast and it’s even better when you make it at home.
The first few recipes I tried, and the most common recipes out there, are packed with sugar and butter. While I love what sugar and butter can do to a good pastry, I would rather stay away from it in my granola. When I came across Nigella Lawson’s granola recipe, I was intrigued as it used applesauce, honey and a tad bit of canola oil as a binder. Using her recipe as a base, I have experimented with a few combinations and like the version I share with you today as a healthy granola that I can feel good about eating on a daily basis.
This particular version uses some spiced cranberry orange relish that I had left-over from Thanksgiving. You can substitute the relish with equal parts of cranberry sauce and orange marmalade. The results are fragrant, slightly tangy and sweet granola. This is a super easy recipe, but do watch it when baking as it’s super easy to overcook.
Cranberry Orange Granola
4 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup raw sesame seeds
1/2 cup flax seed
1/2 cup cranberry orange relish
1/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 cup wildflower honey
2 Tbsp canola oil
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1. Preheat oven to 265° F. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
2. Mix dry ingredient in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the cranberry orange relish applesauce, wildflower honey, and canola oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until well incorporated.
3. Distribute the mixture evenly in the two cookie sheets and spread evenly. Bake until the granola is golden and feels dry to the touch, for about two hours. Allow to cool and dry completely before storing it in an airtight container.
Makes 8 cups of granola.

Salmon with Dill-Pistachio Pistou

Sockeye Salmon with Dill-Pistachio Pistou over a bed of Snap Peas and Yellow Peppers
Photo by Marta Bartolomei Edmonds.
It was a Friday night in late December and I was coming back from Montreal after an exhausting third week of travel to train for a new job. That day I had no chance to get lunch and rushed to the airport toward the end of the day feeling dizzy from the stress and hunger. At the Montreal airport, I stopped at the first restaurant I saw and ordered a salmon salad and a stiff drink. What the waitress brought was a plate of rotting spinach topped with a cold, pale piece of salmon and rings of red onion that tried their best to hide the mess of dangerous food below. I could only imagine how long ago this salmon was prepared and as I contemplated the risk of food poisoning, I imagined the state of the kitchen and asked myself if the cook would dare to eat the salad he just served me.
I poked at the salad, growing angrier because I was frustrated and hungry and this was my only chance to eat something before the flight home. The waitress came over and as I sent the salad back I asked her if she would eat a salad in this condition and she said “sure, I would just cut through the bad parts”.
After a short flight, I got home around ten that evening and was greeted by a hug of savory smells coming from the kitchen. Scott was there preparing an amazingly fresh meal of fiery pink wild sockeye salmon on a bed of crisp, bright and glossy snap peas and peppers. The salmon was topped with a mound of fragrant dill pistou made of coarsely chopped pistachio bound together with a splash of lemon and extra virgin olive oil. I could not stop smiling as I sat to enjoy this dish that stood in such stark contrast to my earlier food experience. Every bite I took filled my heart with deep gratitude and appreciation for the man who cooked it, and as I slowly felt real nourishment breathing back into my body, the food trespasses of that Montreal airport restaurant were slowly forgotten.
I might be biased because of my experience leading up to enjoying this meal, but I have to say that this is a truly inspiring dish. It’s simple, crisp, light and packed with flavor. It’s a meal that lets each ingredient speak for itself. I would highly recommend it.
There is nothing better than coming home to a thoughtful meal prepared with love by your husband after a long week of work and stress. It’s the kind of experience that melts the struggles of the week away and is a humble reminder to be grateful for the simple delightful moments shared with the people you love. Thank you, Scott, for rescuing me that Friday and every day. Happy Valentines Day!
Salmon with Snap Peas, Yellow Peppers, and Dill-Pistachio Pistou
1/3 cup chopped fresh dill
1/3 cup finely chopped green onions (about 2)
1/2 cup shelled natural pistachios or almonds, toasted, finely chopped
1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons pistachio oil or extra-virgin olive oil
2 yellow bell peppers or orange bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch strips
1 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed, strings removed
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup water
4 6-ounce salmon fillets
1. Mix dill, green onions, pistachios, and 1/4 cup oil in medium bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
2. Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add peppers and sauté until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Add snap peas, garlic, and 1/4 cup water; sprinkle with salt. Sauté until vegetables are just tender and water evaporates, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in 1 rounded tablespoon pistou. Transfer vegetables to platter; tent with foil to keep warm. Reserve skillet (do not clean).
3. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in reserved skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper. Place salmon, skin side down, in skillet; cook until skin is crisp, about 3 minutes. Turn salmon and cook until almost opaque in center, about 3 minutes longer. Arrange salmon fillets over vegetables on platter. Spoon some pistou down center of each fillet and serve, passing remaining pistou alongside.
Makes 4 servings.

Calamari, Blood Sausage, Chorizo and Chicken Paella

About four times a year Scott and fellow potters from the Chelsea Ceramic Guild go to Roger Baumann’s studio in Lake Peekskill to woodfire their pots. I love to tag along on these trips as it gives me a welcome chance to get away from the city to be outdoors absorbing nature, sharing with good people and helping the group get their wares ready for the fire.
Roger Baumann's Woodfire Kiln in Lake Peekskill
A beautiful, brisk, early fall day at Roger Baumann’s studio in Lake Peekskill. His hand-built woodfire kiln located in an idyllic spot next to a stream.
On our latest trip to Roger’s early this fall, potter Ana Larea and her husband, painter Arturo Guerrero, treated us to a traditional outdoor paella. Ana and Arturo are native Spaniards and Arturo is an amazing cook. This was my first experience with outdoor paella and I asked Arturo if I could watch and learn.
Crisp ingredients are used to make this paella
The chicken is braised in fragrant seasonings. Blood sausage, chorizo, calamari and crisp green beans are added. Once the savory juices have reduced and strengthened in intensity, the Arborio rice and fresh stock is added and topped with fragrant rosemary and roasted red pepper.
Smoke infuses into the paella
Smoke from the wood fire infuses into the paella to give it a rustic smoky flavor. Arturo propped the paellera (paella pan) far enough away from the flame for a gentle, even cooking temperature.
Arturo Guerrero stoking the fire
The fire has to be just right in order for the paella to cook properly. Raw logs were burned to smoldering charcoal, then the cooking process beings.
Making an Outdoor Paella
Arturo maintained an even, medium fire throughout the whole process and added wood as needed to keep the fire going.
Outdoor Paella with Arborio Rice
Arturo checks the paella and adds fresh chicken stock as needed until the rice is fully cooked. For this paella he used Arborio rice, but he prefers using Bomba rice.
As the paella cooks, the delicious socarrat develops. This crispy crust at the bottom of the paellera (paella pan) is infused with super concentrated flavors. It’s my favorite part of the paella.
Paella Cooking
The paella is almost done. A savory aroma fills the crisp fall air.
Calamari, Blood Sausage, Chorizo and Chicken Paella
The paella is removed from the fire once the rice is firm but cooked through, the juices have reduced to a creamy, rich base and the socarrat forms a dark brown and crispy crust. This paella is almost ready.
Calamari, Blood Sausage, Chorizo and Chicken Paella
Arturo removes the paella from the fire and sets it aside to finish cooking and to cool slightly.
Ana and Arturo Guerrero serving paella in Roger Baumann's back yard
Ana and Arturo Guerrero serving paella. Roger Baumann, our host, in the background. Photographed by Marta Bartolomei Edmonds.
The paella was absolutely delicious and made for a memorable experience. Spending a day cooking outdoors, enjoying the simple things and sharing with friends – this was a day that reminded me how rich and savory life can be.

Refreshing Oatmeal Drink – Homemade “FrescAvena”

On hot summer days I love a cool, nourishing drink like oatmeal drink served over ice. This simple drink of oats is refreshing and nourishing without the heaviness of a traditional oat smoothie. The gently sweet taste of pure oats promotes a feeling of well-being and balance that I look for after feeling over-strained from the sun and the heat.
Oatmeal drink takes me back to childhood when I often called it “jugo de avena” (litterally “oatmeal juice”) or “FrescAvena” for the instant Quaker-branded version of this drink. I remember my grandparents scooping big scoops of instant FrescAvena into full glasses of icy milk. You can still find FrescAvena in Latin Markets, but I find the instant drink to be overly sweet. As an adult, I prefer the home made dairy-free version of oatmeal drink which consists of water, oats, brown sugar and ice. Simple and sweet with that wonderfully subtle taste of good oats.
To make this drink you will need a blender. Oatmeal drink has a very short life – if you let it sit for more than a few minutes, the oats settle and become goopy. Prepare it only when you are ready to drink enjoy it. Best served over lots of ice and topped with a bit of cinnamon.
Oatmeal Drink
2 cups water
1/4 cup rolled oats
1 Tbsp brown sugar or to taste
pure vanilla extract (optional)
cinnamon (optional)
1. Place oats, brown sugar, water, vanilla extract in a blender. Blend for 15 minutes until the mixture becomes frothy. Add three cubes of ice and blend again until ice is dissolved. Serve immediately.
Makes 2 servings.

Glazed Lemon Muffins

Glazed Lemon Muffin Recipe
Plate by Roger Baumann. Photo by Marta Bartolomei Edmonds.
Tangy and sweet, these lemon muffins are a summertime breakfast favorite. Our family’s love affair with lemon muffins began at the Daily Coffee Bar in Bozeman, Montana. During our years in college, we went there often and almost always ordered the same thing: lemon muffins and a mocha. We loved their lemon muffins so much that I began making them once we moved to New York City when we felt particularly homesick.
This lemon muffin recipe makes a light, lemony and not particularly sweet muffin. The glaze completes the muffin with sweetness and the tart and fresh elements of real lemon juice. Just thinking about them makes my mouth water.
For light and airy lemon muffins, the trick is to work quickly when mixing the flour into the liquids, mix the ingredients by hand with a wooden spoon and do not over mix. Make sure that the flour is completely incorporated into the liquids, but stop mixing as soon as there are no longer flour lumps in the batter.
Favorite Glazed Lemon Muffins
Plate by Roger Baumann. Photo by Marta Bartolomei Edmonds.
Glazed Lemon Muffins
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon extract
1/2 buttermilk
1/3 cup oil
Lemon Glaze
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a 12-cup muffin pan and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.
2. In a large bowl, whisk the buttermilk, oil, lemon juice, lemon extract, sugar and eggs until just combined (do not over beat). Using a wooden spoon, fold in the flour mixture in a few swift strokes to form a smooth batter.
3. Divide the batter into the 12 muffin tins. Bake for 20 minutes or until the muffins are lightly golden around the edges and a wooden pick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
4. While the muffins are baking, prepare the lemon glaze by stirring the sugar into the lemon juice until all the sugar crystals are completely dissolved.
4. Remove the muffins from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove them from the muffin pan and brush them generously with the lemon glaze. Allow them to sit at room temperature to cool completely and soak the lemon glaze.
Makes 12 muffins.