Fall in the Catskills

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

The Daily Bread

Going to a bakery after pulling a 20-hour work day in a long week of 10 to 15 hour work days is the best kind of mistake a person can make. As I walked home this morning from a client presentation with a heavy bag of goodies from Le Pain Quotidien I felt a great sense of satisfaction at the heavy load I carried.
Yes, I did get a little frenzied as I started pointing to things in the case, and the bread shelf. And, yes, I did have them slice a loaf. Yes, I enjoyed a cup of cooked sweet brown rice with soy milk, agave and fresh berries almost too slowly – my first meal of the day at 11:30 am after an all night marathon. I just sat on the ledge by the window and slouched as I slowly scooped little mounds of wholesomeness into my mouth with a biodegradable disposable spoon. Perfect.
I marveled at how light my cup of cappuccino felt, as if they prepared it knowing that I like my cappuccinos dry.
Yes, I even bought lunch there – for Angelica. A sandwich of grilled chicken curry with cranberry harissa chutney on five grain raisin bread. As I stood at the register pointing at things, I thought, “I could feed my whole family here! I should buy this and that for tonight and tomorrow and the next day”. I prevented myself from eyeing cookies and I had to fight my impulse to go and look at the fruit preserves, but I could not resist a rustic apricot and almond tart that caught my eye, a gorgeous thing.
I guess any other day, I might have feelings of guilt about spending almost fifty dollars in a bakery. Probably I would be giving myself a talk about how I “should” save money and “shouldn’t” buy a large apricot and almond tart that looks like it was baked by old hands by a lady in a small village in France. But today is a good day. My late night work session turned out to be an antidote to a sense of restraint that sometimes prevents me from truly enjoying simple things.

Pumpkin Cookie with Penuche Icing

Pumpkin Penuche Cookies, a fall favorite
Photo by Marta Bartolomei Edmonds.
I love the fall because it gives us pumpkin at it’s best. It’s an incredibly versatile vegetable that is particularly good in baked goods. Baking pumpkin cookies is a fall tradition in our family. This particular recipe has been in our family for over ten years. It yields a moist, cakey cookie that is not too sweet. The penuche filling is a sweet, caramel flavored surprise.

Pumpkin Sandwich Cookie with Penuche Icing
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
Icing
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
Makes 60 cookies.
1. Pre-heat oven to 350°F. In a small bowl whisk together the dry ingredients and set aside. In a standing mixer beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add pumpkin, vanilla and egg until they are fully incorporated. Add flour mixture until just combined. Drop dough by tablespoon 1 inch apart onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheets.
2. Bake at 350°F for 10 to 12 minutes or until light golden brown around edges. Immediately remove from cookie sheets and cool completely.
3. While the cookies are cooling, make the icing. In a medium saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons butter and 1/2 cup brown sugar over medium heat and bring to a boil. Once it starts bubbling, cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add milk carefully and stir until the caramel is disolved. Beat in enough powdered sugar for desired spreading consistency. Ice cookies, working quickly as the icing will crystalize as it cools.

Strawberries and Candlelight

Fresh Vermont Strawberries
Photo by Scott, Angelica or Marta.
This picture was taken a few hours after we arrived at the cabin. It was getting dark by the time we got there. No electricity or running water. We hauled our piles of stuff like city folk down the path: blankets, pillows, backpacks, a cooler. When we got to the cabin it was pitch dark. We used windable flash lights to make out the general layout of the cabin. Scott and Angelica made a fire in the woodstove as I started thinking about feeding us. We lit candles and sat around the wooden table drinking wine, eating fire-roasted hot dogs and enjoying these sweet Vermont strawberries.
Simplicity is priceless. No agenda, no judgment, no distraction. Just the soft song of the trees, the smell of wood, fire’s warmth and each other’s company to enjoy with these ripe fruit.