Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Hudson Valley Country Ham

After 13 months of patience, allowing the magic of salt & air to do its work we finally sliced into our first country ham. It seemed like the right time as Jamie just finished curing a new ham & hung it to dry.

It really was a thing of beauty!
Properly dried, smelling just funky & meaty enough, but not too much.

We decided to serve it rather simply.
Sliced thin with a salad of watercress & some watermelon pickle.
We're proud.

Come & try some while it lasts.
The next one will not be ready for another year.

Monday, July 23, 2007

What's Hangin

In the cavernous depths far below Swoon Kitchenbar & Warren Street lies a secret cave. A cave so secret outsiders must be anesthetized in order to enter, very similarly to Batman's. It is in this cave that we hang various cuts of meat to cure.

The process actually begins in the kitchen. The meat is first rubbed in a spice mix & placed in the refrigerator for 2-4 days depending on size. Then it is packed in salt for another 2-12 days.
After the salt cure has worked its magic it is then hung in the cave to dry.

The House Made Charcuterie plate, a menu staple, always includes cured duck breast"Prosciutto"as well as country pate & whatever other treats may be done Hangin

Culatello served with local baby escarole
in a green olive & caramelized onion vinaigrette

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Thirteen Things we're cooking this weekend

1. Soft Shell Crabs
2. North Wind Farm Cornish Game Hens
3. Holmquest Farms Bi Color Corn
4. Montgomery Place Orchards Plums & Apricots
5. Migliorelli Farm Thumbellina Carrots
6. House Made Linguine & Littelneck Clams
7. Braised Veal Ribs
8. Local Rabbit Rittettes
9. Cherry Tomatoes, every kind
10. Maine "Peeky Toe" Crab Salad
11. Maine "Day Boat" Cod
12. Stone Church Farm Duck Confit
13. Black Raspberry Martinis
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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Backyard Garden Goodness

We pulled all the Swiss Chard out of our garden this morning
to give the tomato plants more room to grow.

This evening it became a Swiss Chard & Ricotta Tart.
Topped with micro herbs & the pickled stems.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

The Simple Way to Good Fruit

Nina was making ice cream from red raspberries, and Jeff was doing prep work for lunch. The week at Swoon was starting, and the kitchen was busier than usual. It's not a good place to stand and talk because you feel like, or you actually are, in the way. Jeff suggested I go down to Montgomery Place Orchards, just south of Tivoli and Bard College on 9G. "That's where Nina gets all her fruit, and we should do something with them," Jeff said while wrapping a block of cheese he had just sliced. I headed south out of Hudson on Third Street, a quick jog on 23 and a left turn put me on 9G.

At the intersection of 9G and Route 199 is the Montgomery Place Orchards Farm Market, where there has been a farm stand since the turn of the last century. I found Telea Fincke in the back sorting fruit while her daughter, Caroline, was taking the seeds from red raspberries to make jam. Telea and Doug tend the orchards with heart, and people say their fruit tastes better than what they can get down the road. "If we could just teach our trees to have the fruit ready on the weekends," Telea explained, people who visit would be happier. We started to talk about the seasonal nature of local fruit and produce, and that people are accustomed to having seasonal items at non-seasonal times. "We could grown more, but the heart would go out of it. Doug likes to touch every tree."

Our conversation turned to the economics of growing and farming, and the relationship with the way people want to buy food. Telea is as passionate about educating people as she is about being involved in the whole process of growing fruit and veggies: selecting the right piece of land, the right variety of trees, planting, tending, harvesting, and finally selling at the stand. We talked about the economic bind farmers are in, having to constantly produce more to keep their cash flow going at a rate that will sustain their business, only to have the increased production drive down the prices making it harder the next year to stay in business. "But, how do you change it?" she asked.

I learned a lot, and I knew there was more to learn. I bought two pints of the black raspberries. I could tell there was more to them than just fruit from a roadside stand. As I headed north to Hudson, I realized that the only thing simple about this fruit was finding Montgomery Place Orchards Farm Market on 9G.

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Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Two Ways to Dine in the Hudson Valley

There is a hummingbird feeder outside my window. I put it up after a hummingbird came to the window in late May and looked inside as if to say "There used to be a feeder here". Now I can watch the different hummingbirds come to the feeder and they all seem to eat in different ways. This sparked me to think about the different ways we eat.

1. Inflight refueling (Some hummingbirds come to the feeder and never perch.)

This reminds me of the industrial eating we do while carrying on our busy schedule. These meals usually comprise cheap fast food, eaten without attention to the food or how it tastes. If the food can be handled with one hand while driving with the other, so much the better. I use the term industrial eating because production of this food comes from U.S. Government subsidized agribusiness, based largely on corn and consumption of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are used in the machinery to plant and harvest the corn, to create the liquid nitrogen used to fertilize, and herbicides to keep weeds out of the field. Some of the corn goes to the feedlot by truck where it meets a steer that also arrived by truck. Some of the corn goes to wet milling and becomes high fructose corm syrup and other byproducts used in creating a fast food meal from food science. The fast food calorie wastes most of the calories that are directly available from the corn itself before all this processing takes place. The food industry burns nearly a fifth of all the petroleum consumed in the United States. It takes between seven and ten calories of fossil fuels energy to deliver one calorie of food energy to your plate.

Think globally, eat regionally.

In our first article "Proximity to the plate", we talked about the carbon footprint of your plate, and other reasons we get our supplies from local farms. You might wonder why we emphasize bioregional food and not "Organic" food. Some bioregional food is organically grown, but not all Organic food you can buy locally is regional. Dutchess and Columbia Counties have many Organic farms and orchards which deliver fine products. "Organic" food has become an $11 Billion industry with major corporations involved. The USDA, heeding the influence of "corporate Organic", has defined what "Organic" means, that is, what is acceptable in processed food while still able to be labeled "Organic". Organic food production is still industrialized, and distributed via regular large scale shipping. The big Organic suppliers are in California, and other states in the West. Organic beef can still be readied for slaughter in massive feedlots. The largest Organic dairy is in Idaho, and milks a heard of thousands around the clock, milking each cow three times a day. "Organic" has more to do with the way the land is treated rather than the way the food is processed. While organic farmers use about a third less fossil fuels than conventional operations, they can catch up quickly if their compost is not produced onsite or nearby. Organic growers don't use petroleum derived fertilizers and pesticides, but industrial organic growing operations can use more diesel fuel than conventional farming hauling compost and cultivating fields for weeds.

2. Sit, Relax, Enjoy (Some hummingbirds sit on the perch and drink long from the feeder.)

At Swoon Kitchenbar we think we are pretty skilled at this kind of dining. This is the other side of dining that is equally important, your experience and how the plate gets from the kitchen to you. We take great care in understanding what gets into your food before it gets to us, and then to you. We want to make sure you can come to Swoon Kitchenbar to sit, relax, and enjoy.

Resource: Information for this article came from The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, published by The Penguin Press. Try your local bookstore first before ordering it online and having it shipped across the country.