Talking Squash and Sustainability

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I hear lots of people talking about agricultural sustainability and the importance of eating local. I’ve even added my own two cents to the discussion of how best to nourish ourselves, in every sense of the word, here in our corner of New York State.

With all forms of sustainability and wellness in mind, I think we need connect the dots and acknowledge the bigger picture.   The term “sustainable” doesn’t just relate to farm practices but to a sense of stewardship and accountability rooted in a stalwart commitment to long-term land cultivation.

For me the person who embodies that notion of endurable farming is Chuck Mead of Mead Orchard.  Chuck’s farm and orchard in Red Hook is now nearing a hundred years old.  Three generations of Mead men (and hardworking women) have tended this patch of stunning land, nourishing their families and their community with an integrity that to this day leaves their land healthy and fertile.

Ask around. When you bring up Mead Orchard, people comment on the commitment, generosity, and reliability of the farm and the family that runs it.  Given the upheavals and large-scale closure of family farms over the last century, I find Mead Orchards’ continued existence not only amazing but reassuring.

Chuck learned the business from his dad and granddad and the orchard is run pretty much the way it was since he was a little boy.  He is a close observer of nature with a gentle disposition who seriously cares for his trees and plants, as well as the people who help out during harvest time, year in, year out.  His long view of things prompted him to protect Mead Orchards with a conservation easement some years ago, ensuring that the farm stays a farm into the future.

Chuck also loves the traditions in farming.  For years, in late summer, I’ve called him anxiously checking in to see when I can have my pick from his pumpkin patch filled with Blue and Orange Hubbards, classic Cinderella pumpkins, squat Sugar Pies, Turbans, Carnival, Delicata, Kabocha, vibrant Rouge vif d’etampes and glorious Musque de Provence pumpkins.

Chuck always tells me, “You’re a little early, in a few weeks.” When it’s time, he lets no one else pick for me; he knows I like to do that myself.   He takes my quirks in stride, believing you need all kinds of people, all kinds of trees, all kinds of plants and animals to make the whole landscape work.

On my visit last week visit to pick up pumpkins and squashes to stock my larder and decorate my home and business, I asked Chuck what his family favorites are. He says his mom, Beth, was dismayed one year when he didn’t plant enough of the sweet Delicata. His sister Susan prefers the less sweet squashes, which she roasts with savory herbs.

Me, I’m a big fan of the Blue Hubbard squash. I like its moderate level of sweetness and starchiness; it’s both a cook’s and baker’s dream. This squash can be peeled and boiled, roasted, steamed, or sautéed; it can be served as a side dish, used as a soup base, mixed into quick breads, or used for pumpkin pie filling.  With its drier and starchier makeup, it’s prefect for working into hand-formed gnocchi or filling pasta like ravioli or tortellini.

Come to think of it, squash and pumpkins are the perfect symbols of sustainability because they can nourish us in so many different ways, not only during the harvest season but long beyond given that they store so well.

Laura Pensiero, a registered dietician, is founder and creative force behind Gigi Hudson Valley, which operates the award-winning Gigi Trattoria in Rhinebeck and a catering business. She is author of Hudson Valley Mediterranean cookbook.

Preparation tips

Harvest squash can be intimidating – they’re pretty, but how do you prep and cook them?

Smooth and thinner-skinned varieties, like butternut squash, can be easily peeled, halved and seeded, then cut into desired-size pieces. From there they can be roasted or diced and tossed into soups and stews or thinly sliced to layer gratins.

Don’t even bother trying to peel the thick-skinned and curvy squashes – it’s not only time-consuming, it’s a bit dangerous (one slip of the knife…).  Instead, using a sturdy knife, cut the pumpkin in half lengthwise, or into large chunks or wedges following the natural curves. Slide out the pieces, then roast, flesh side down with a bit of olive oil and herbs until tender.

Alternately the thicker-skinned squash can be cut into large pieces and cooked in lightly salted boiling water until tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Whether roasted or boiled, when cool enough to handle, slip off the skins.  So many preparations are at your fingers tips from there…

Our New Year’s Toast to Sparkling Wine

We are ringing in 2013 at Gigi Trattoria the right way which means popping open some bottles of bubbles!  And we have some great sparkling wines to celebrate.  From toasty and luscious French Champagne to refreshing crisp and very affordable Spanish Cava, we have some sparkle for everyone.

Segura Viudas Brut Reserva is an all-around crowd pleaser as far as cavas go.  Cava, like champagne, is produced using the traditional method where the 2nd fermentation occurs in the bottle. Yeast and sugar are added to the base wine for fizz and a 1-1.5% increase in alcohol. The sediment of the dry yeast gives this wine a bit of a savory flavor.  Many regulars and staff find that the Segura Viduas Brut Reserva is not only affordable at $26 a bottle and $8 a glass but also crisp, delicious and dry.  It drinks like an expensive sparkling wine would.  Pair this cava with fried foods, such as our Patatine (aka Tuscan Fries) – or really any salty nibble – a Gigi Skizza™ or simply by itself.

If you are not an avid cava consumer, chances are you are pro-prosecco.  And if so you must know that the Prosecco di Treviso from Azienda Casalini is not only rare and unique, it is simply superb.  Prosecco is named for the grape variety, Glera that is generally used to make dry or extra dry sparkling wine.  This particular Valdobbiadene prosecco we sell for $32 a bottle and $10 a glass has the perfect balance of dryness, acidity and sweetness.  Try Azienda Casalini Prosecco with our special New Year’s Skizza made with lobster, chive ricotta and shaved black tartufo.  It is also enjoyable as an after dinner drink.

Another wonderful prosecco we offer is the Prosecco di Valdobbiadene ‘Primo Franco.’  Slightly sweeter and creamier than Azienda Casalini Prosecco, Primo Franco is medium bodied.  Made with 100% prosecco grapes, this DOCG is only $45 a bottle.  It pairs beautifully with risotto.  The creaminess compliments it while the crispness helps to cut the richness.

Like a little pink in your bubbles?  Try the Rose Cantine Ferrari produced using traditional metodo classic.  The grapes for this sparkling wine are hand harvested and then the wine undergoes a gentle press and maceration process in order to achieve the lovely salmon color.  Ferrari Rose is dry and clean with a slight hint of sweet almonds.  This bubbly at $50 a bottle is especially perfect with seafood, such as the Seafood Salad on our NYE menu.

And finally our selection of sparkling wines would not be complete without the Excellence Brut Gosset Champagne.  From the oldest wine house in France, this balanced champagne has notes of apple, pear, almond and a creamy finish.  This 45% Pinot Noir, 13% Pinot Meunier and 42% Chardonnay still goes through first fermentation in oak barrels, as many champagnes no longer do.  The result is champagne you truly cannot pass up.  The CRUDO, Meiller’s Farm beef tartar with black truffles and sunny side up quail egg, on our New Year’s Eve menu is the perfect complement to a glass of Gosset.

Don’t think we forgot about dessert!  The Michele Chiarlo Nivole Moscato di Asti is a sweet finale to brilliant meal.  Produced mainly in the province of Asti, north-west Italy, this dessert wine is slightly sweet and low in alcohol. The Moscato Bianco grape offers a lovely “frizzante” and elegant floral aromas, as well as delicate flavors of peaches and apricots. The Blood Orange Panna Cotta with Citrus Supremes would be a perfect pairing for this festive sparkler!  For only $10 a glass or $32 a bottle, it is just sweetness you are looking for.

Whether you prefer cava, prosecco, champagne, or a dry martini, there is something at Gigi Trattoria for everyone to toast with!  Come ring in 2013 with Chef Wilson’s 4-course menu for $55, 5-course menu for $75 or our regular a la carte menu.  With bubbles in hand, we wish you all a safe and happy new year!  Cin cin!

To learn more about Gosset click here.  If you are interested in Ferrari Rose read more here.  And if Primo Franco is your favorite you can find more information here.

Kohlrabi Remoulade

About Kohlrabi…
Mentioning Kohlrabi typically doesn’t often light up people’s faces, but this highly underated vegetable is enjoyed in dishes around globe. It also grows exceptionally well here in the Hudson Valley.  The literal translation means “cabbage turnip” in Germany and “ugly root” in Africa. It’s flavor is anything but “ugly” offering a blend of all the wonderful flavor profiles of its cruciferous vegetable family ( broccoli, turnip, cabbage, brussels sprouts, rutagaba), and it has all of the protective phytochemicals and antioxidants they share.

So what to do with this “alien” root?

Immediately get to the tender and delicous flesh under that tough protective exterior. There is a chewy fiberours layer under the hard outer skin, so be sure to peel thoroughly down to the crisp and moist flesh. Use a paring knife to trim ends, and then work down the hard outer body to delious edible portion using a vegetable peeler.

1) Raw: Using a madoline, sharp knife, or cheese grater, slice it very thinly or shred it and eat it raw. Enjoy it on a crudite plate with a dip or use it as you would cabbage by preparing a slaw.

2) Puree: Chop, boil and and puree it then enjoy with some olive oil or butter and seasoning. Pureed kohlrabi also blends with mashed potatoes, mashed root vegetables (kohlrabi and carrots is a personal favorite).

3) Roast: Chop or slice into “fries”, toss with a bit of olive oil, season with salt and peper, and then oven roast until caramelized and tender.

4) Add to soups, stews and braises:  Kohlrabi adds flavor and nutrients to any/all cold weather cooking. Chop it and add it to your favorite bubbling winter meal. Its flavor holds up well to intense seasoning, and it’s particulary good in curries or other full flavored dishes.

5) Gratins and “pies”and quiches: Slice thinly and layer into gratins or grate then saute (with or without other vegetables) to fill pies and quiches.

Here’s one of my favorite preparations, a rift on the classic celeriac remoulade, which is a perfect winter salad:

Kohlrabi Remoulade

Makes 4 to 6 servings

2 medium, kohlrabi (about 1 ½ pounds)
1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt to season
3 tablespoons of good quality mayonnaise*
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 small clove of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon salt preserved capers, rinsed
Pinch cayenne pepper
Finely shredded parsley to garnish

Directions

Working quickly, trim the ends from the kohlrabi and peel. Cut into halves and finely grate using a cheese grater or a food processor fitted with the shredding blade. Transfer to a medium bowl and immediately toss with lemon juice to prevent browning. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, mustard, and garlic; season with salt and cayenne. Fold the mixture into the bowl with the kohlrabi. Serve immediately or allow to sit, refrigerated, in a nonreactive airtight container, for 2 hours and up to 2 days.

Variations:

Add: shredded apples and/or cornichons

 

Turkey Tetrazzini with Fontina, Mushrooms & Radicchio

This delicious casserole makes good use of Thanksgiving’s lingering bounty.  Enjoy it immediately or prepare in advance and re-heat at 350 for 30 minutes before serving. It’s just as good, if not better, the day after.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

2 tablespoons butter, plus 2 teaspoons to grease casserole dish
3/4 cup coarse dry breadcrumbs
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan (preferably Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano)
1 pound Wiltbank Farm shitake and oyster mushrooms*, cleaned and sliced 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick
¼ cup dry white wine
1 radicchio head, halved, cored and cut into thin ribbons
4 fresh sage leaves, chopped
2 medium shallots, diced
½ cup all-purpose flour
6 cups low-fat milk
1 ½ cups (4 ounces) diced Fontina cheese**
8 ounces egg pappardelle pasta
3 cups shredded or diced roast turkey

*Substitute any fresh mushroom of your choice if not available.
**Substitute grated cheddar or Gruyere if desired.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.

Butter a 3-quart casserole.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In a small bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and Parmesan. Set aside.

Heat the remaining olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, and cook, tossing or stirring often, until softened and just beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Pour in the white wine and reduce completely. Add the radicchio and sage and cook just long enough to wilt the radicchio, 1 or 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.

Melt the butter in a medium heavy-bottom saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring, until they soften, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the the flour and whisk constantly until fully blended into the butter. Gradually whisk in enough of the milk to form a thick, smooth paste. Whisk in the remaining milk in a steady stream. Season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking constantly. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes, whisking constantly. Turn off the heat and stir in the Fontina. Taste, then and season with more salt and pepper if desired. Set aside.

Cook the pasta in the boiling water until al dente according to package instructions. Drain and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Gently stir in the turkey, mushroom and radicchio mixture. Pour in the sauce and mix until just combined. Transfer to the buttered casserole, shaking the pan gently to evenly distribute pasta.

Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the pasta. Bake until bubbly and golden brown, 50 to 60 minutes. Let rest slightly 10 to 20 minutes. The casserole will firm up slightly and will the perfect temperature to serve.

 

Wine Weekly – Ribolla Gialla

As the weather gets cooler, many people seek warmth in a glass of red wine.  But for those of you that may not be fans of red or are open to variety, we have a cool weather white for you, Ribolla Gialla from Tenuta La Ponca.

Many may not know that the Ribolla grape from Italy actually originated in Greece and made its way to the Fruili region of Italy by way of Slovenia.  This grape almost did not survive the phylloxera epidemic in the 19th century because many farmers decided to plant French grapes after much of their Ribolla crop was destroyed.  But the Ribolla survived and by the 1990’s most of the white wines produced in Fruili were at least 1% Ribolla.

Not only is the long journey of the Ribolla what makes it a stand-up wine for November, but the crisp acidity, apple and pear aromas, and dry finish make it perfect to drink with food.  At Tenuta La Ponca, the Ribolla grapes are picked the last week of September.  They are then pressed and settle for 24 to 36 hours before they are fermented in stainless steel and then refined for 8 months on nobile dregs.  The result being a light to medium bodied white wine with a beautiful straw yellow color. Try the Ribolla Gialla with an appetizer such as the Verdure platter or enjoy it with the complex Pasta Intregale.  The fruit characteristics bring out the sweetness of the vegetables while the acidity refreshes the palate.  The Ribolla Gialla would even be a great wine to drink with turkey!

The Riboilla Gialla from Tenuta La Ponca has survived quite a journey in order to make it to the Gigi Trattoria wine list.  Now we challenge the Ribolla to survive the cold weather of the Hudson Valley and warm our wine-loving customers. For $42 a bottle, you cannot pass up trying this delicious wine.  Come by on Wednesday and the Ribolla Gialla and all bottles are 30% off!  That deal alone can warm the chill out of anyone.

Roasted Maple Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta and Chestnuts

*This recipe appeared in the November, 2012 issue of House Beautiful Magazine as part of an article entitled, “The New American Holiday Table.”

T.G.I.F. Cocktail – Annandale Atomic Hard Cider

Normally we present you with a cocktail recipe each Friday to celebrate the weekend.  However, in honor of Cider Week (last weekend!), this week we present you with a little bit of info on Gigi’s favorite cider, Annadale Atomic Hard Cider from Montgomery Farms.  This semi-dry cider is served at Gigi Market by the jar or on draft at Gigi Trattoria.  It has 7% alcohol and is unfiltered and unsulfited.

At Montgomery Farms, they use about 60 varieties of antique and commercial apples for Annadale Cider.  All these apples are grown on the land that Jane Livingston Montgomery, the original owner, cultivated apples on over 200 years ago.  Annadale Atomic cider uses about 6 different varieties and is their signature cider.  Unfortunately it is sold out for the season.  Luckily Gigi Trattoria snagged one of the last kegs so you have to stop by to try it!

We are such fans of Montgomery Farms and their Atomic Cider that we couldn’t pass up an opportunity to share it with all of you!  But we don’t want to leave you stranded this weekend without a great recipe.  So you will find our TGIF recipe below:

1 part Annadale Atomic Cider
1 part Gigi Trattoria or Gigi Market
1 part delicious food (try it with our Pollo!)
Mix together and enjoy!  🙂

Learn more about Montgomery Farms and their cider here.

And find out more about Cider week here.

 

Wine Weekly – Best Wines to Pair With Our Skizzas!

As many of you may know, Gigi has won the Best of the Hudson Valley award for Best Pizza!  We are so thrilled with this honor that we are offering 20% off our Skizzas Monday-Thursday for the next two weeks if you check-in at Gigi Trattoria on Facebook, Yelp or Foursquare.  Gigi not only wants to give you a great deal but we also want you to get the most from your Skizza experience.  So for this week’s Wine Weekly blog, we are going to let you know just what wines go best with our award-winning Skizzas!

Whether you take our word for one of these delicious pairings, or chose your own, be sure to check in on Yelp, Facebook or Foursquare to get 20% off our Skizzas, Monday-Thursday.  If you come in on Wednesday, all our or bottles of wine are 30% off!  Now that is quite a pairing!

Let’s begin with the Margherita Skizza.  Simple yet satisfying.  Our infamous thin crust is topped with Gigi Tomato Sauce, a blend of mozzarella, swiss & provolone cheese and finished with fragrant fresh basil and a touch of dried oregano.  A wine to pair with such perfect simplicity must be bold yet refreshing.  The Evodia Grenache from Cataluyd, Spain is just that.  The minerality enhances the earthiness of the herbs while hints of black cherry and raspberry add a new depth of sweetness to tomato sauce.  For only $8 a glass and $25 a bottle, you will be making the Evodia-Margherita pairing your new “go-to” in no time!

For meat lover’s there is no Skizza better than the Mamma.  Tangy Gigi Tomato Sauce topped with plenty of cheese and thin slices of robust fennel salami and Tuscan-style porchetta make for a fulfilling 10” of flavor.  To hold up to such a powerful Skizza, you need a wine that delivers.  The Altos de la Hoya Monastrell is just that.  Firm tannins, minerality and a hint of spice in this Spanish wine make it strong enough to pair with the heartiness of the Mama while hints of dark berry and red fruit make the Monastrell well-balanced.  This 92% Monastrell and 8% Garnacha is $10 a glass and $26 a bottle, an affordable pairing for an irresistible Skizza.

Seasonality is important at Gigi Trattoria and we are showcasing the flavors of fall with our Zucca Skizza.  Creamy Delicata squash “pesto” is topped with Coach Farm Fig Goat Cheese, thinly sliced coppa and crispy fried sage leaves.  This Skizza is a delicate balance of sweet and savory with a hint of spice from the coppa.  Either of the red wines mentioned above pair nicely with this Skizza but we believe the best pairing for the Zucca is the admired Lugana Limne.  The refined bouquet compliments the crispy sage while the subtle fruit accents bring out the flavor of the squash and hint of fig.  The Lugana can be paired with any Skizza or sipped on its own for just $10 a glass and $33 a bottle.

Last but not least is one of our most popular pairings, the Bianca Skizza with the Gavi.  Loved by staff and customers alike, nothing beats a warm Bianca with a crisp glass of Gavi.  If you are not familiar with the Bianca, it is our traditional crust topped with Gigi Fig Jam, creamy Coach Farm Goat Cheese, shaved pear, Sky Farm arugula and finished with white truffle oil.  To go with such a complex Skizza, you need a quality wine.  The Stefano Massone’s Vigneto Masera Gavi made from 100% Cortese grapes brings out the flavor of pear and fig.  The citrus notes of the Gavi cut the richness of the goat cheese resulting in a clean palate.  If you don’t already know the Gavi is $10 a glass and $30 a bottle, a steal for such an excellent wine.

Whether you take our word for one of these delicious pairings, or chose your own, be sure to check in on Yelp, Facebook or Foursquare to get 20% off our Skizzas, Monday-Thursday.  If you come in on Wednesday, all our or bottles of wine are 30% off!  Now that is quite a pairing!

 

Maple Pumpkin Polenta

Yesterday, Gigi Hudson Valley participated in a great event in support of Olana, the historic estate just outside Hudson. The fundraiser was entitled “Eat for Art’s Sake.” Each participating Hudson Valley eatery who volunteered their services, created a dish to be sampled at the gala, inspired by one of Frederick Church’s paintings (the artist who also built Olana in 1870.)

Gigi’s owner, Laura Pensiero,  chose “Clouds Over Olana”.

Inspired by the painting, Gigi Hudson Valley presented a Vegetable Hash over Maple Pumpkin Polenta. While the dish was not a literal interpretation of the painting, it served as inspiration, and it allowed Gigi HV to take advantage of great local and seasonal ingredients! As Laura noted, “It’s a very colorful plate that went with the back drop of the setting and  looked like a fall day. What we were trying to do was grab the season and bring that into the food, which this painting seemed to represent best.  We used Hudson Valley ingredients: New York State maple syrup and polenta from Wild Hive Farm and Store, in Clinton Corners,  with pumpkin from Mead Orchards, in Tivoli, as well as carrots, turnips. squash, and celery.”

We thought we would share the recipe for the Maple Pumpkin Polenta, enjoy!

Maple Pumpkin Polenta

This is among the most popular side dishes during the fall and winter months at Gigi Trattoria. The addition of pumpkin and maple syrup adds a seasonal and a festive hue to polenta. We buy ground cornmeal from Wild Hive Farm in nearby Clinton Corners. Any coarse grain cornmeal can substitute. Enjoy the slightly sweet notes balanced by a little spice from cayenne pepper.

Serves 4

1½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 ¼ cups finely ground yellow cornmeal
1½ cups pumpkin puree (boiled,drained,and pureed or 100 percent natural canned pumpkin)
⅓ cup pure maple syrup
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 tablespoon butter

Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the salt and the olive oil, reduce the heat to simmer, and gradually whisk in the cornmeal, a small amount at a time, to prevent clumping. Reduce the heat to low and cook the polenta, stirring often, until tender and it is pulling away from the sides of the pan, about 25 minutes. Stir in the pumpkin puree, maple syrup, and cayenne and cook another minute or two, then remove from the heat and stir in the Parmigiano Reggiano and the butter. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve warm.

Nutrition: Polenta (cornmeal) is a whole grain. The pumpkin contributes enough beta-carotene to supply about 25 percent of your daily needs of vitamin A.

Note: This recipe can be found in the Gigi Good Food Cookbook, Hudson Valley Mediterranean.

T.G.I.F. Cocktail – Gigi’s Apple Cider Margarita

Well it is officially fall, no turning back now. The temps are cooling, the leaves are starting to drop and the shorts are getting packed away ’til next year. But as we all know, fall in the Hudson Valley is a wonderful thing, with beautiful sites and delicious seasonal ingredients. Nothing says fall like apple cider!! Behold the delicious, festive, fall bonanza that is Gigi’s Apple Cider Margarita!

1 3/4 oz. Sauza Gold tequila
1 1/4 oz. Tuaca
1/2 oz. cinnamon apple syrup
1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
2 oz. apple cider (We use local cider from Migliorelli Farms)

Shake all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Strain into rocks glass rimmed with cinnamon and sugar over ice and enjoy.

Happy fall!

Wine Weekly – Le Bourcier Macon Chardonnay

It has always seemed that there are chardonnay drinkers and then there are the non-chardonnay drinkers. That was until the Le Bourcier Macon Chardonnay. This wine seems to be loved by both the die-hards and the non-believers.

The Le Bourcier Macon has been on the wine list at Gigi Trattoria for some time now. We tried to take it off once and customers were more than upset. So we always have this delicious wine on our glass and bottle list.  What makes this particular chardonnay so pleasing to many is the fact that it is just about full bodied yet un-oaked. This 100% chardonnay is aged in stainless steel making it approachable for non-chardonnay drinkers. But with flavors of stone fruit, hints of minerality and a long lasting finish, it even appeals to avid chardonnay drinkers.

This special cuvee, or batch, is made by Jean-Luc Terrier and Christian Collovray of Domaine des Deux Roches. It is blended from a selection of the northernmost vineyards in the Macon appellation which is a part of the Burgundy region. Many say this wonderfully affordable wine drinks similar to a Cote d’Or. It pairs well with cheese, fish and chicken.  We recommend it with many of the new fall menu items. The citrus aspect of the Le Bourcier pairs nicely with our Pollo dish which is Northwind Farm Chicken brined in Montgomery Place Apple Cider and served with a Brussel Sprout Hash. It is also lovely with the Zucca Skizza topped with Delicata squash “pesto,” Coach Farm Fig Goat Cheese and coppa.

Pollo cooked by Chef Wilson with a glass of Le Bourcier Macon.

Whether you consider yourself a chardonnay drinker or not, you must come by and try the Le Bourcier Macon Chardonnay. And if you are already a fan, try it with one of the fall menu items. Either way we guarantee that at $10 a glass or $30 a bottle you won’t be disappointed. Stop in tomorrow or any Wednesday night and all our bottle wines are 30% off!  Now that will make a chardonnay drinker out of anyone.

Gigi-Pure Mountain Fig Vinaigarette

If you haven’t stopped in to Rhinebeck’s hottest new store, check out Pure Mountain. They sell the most amazing naturally flavored 12-year old balsamic vinegars from Modena, Italy, made in the traditional style that makes them rich, subtle syrupy and delicious. We’re using them in our cocktails (yes!), sauces, soups and you’ll be seeing this lovely vinaigrette on some of our fall salad specials.

I developed this Fig Balsamic Vinaigrette as part of the tasty and healthy seasonal fall menu for Just Salad. It is light and delicious with a great depth of flavor.

Gigi-Pure Mountain Fig Vinaigrette

Makes 8 to 10 servings

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 tablespoon Pure Mountain Dark Fig Balsamic
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¾ cup canola, safflower oil blended oil oil (extra-virgin, while delicious, takes over the subtle fig flavor notes)
¼ teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper

In a small mixing bowl, combine the mustard, lemon juice and salt. While whisking, slowly add the oil. Adjust seasoning with salt, if necessary, and add black pepper.

Herb Marinated Butterflied Northwind Farms (NWF) Chicken

It’s still summer, so don’t put away the grill yet! Our Gigi marinade goes with just about all you can throw on the grill, including rib eye steaks, pork loin or chops, shrimp, whole fish like snapper, salmon or swordfish filets,  to name a few. It is, however, especially delicious on tender and juicy Northwind Farms chicken. To increase the surface area with the delicious marinade and cut the cooking time on the grill, we butterfly it. This flattened approach, when grilled to perfection, is also easy to cut into quarters or eighths.  Please check out our video to better understand how to butterfly. Alternately, we’ll do it for you at Gigi Market or you can pick up a grill-ready marinated NWF chicken or simply the Gigi marinade in our retail case at the market in Red Hook.

Make 3 to  4 servings

1 2 pound NWF chicken
1 cup Gigi Marinade*
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Gigi Marinade*
Makes  1 cup
4 to 5 fresh sage leaves
leaves pulled from 1 large sprig fresh rosemary
2 cups fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 fresh garlic clove
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Prepare the marinade: In the work bowl of a food processor, combine the herbs and garlic and pulse a few times to chop. With the motor running, drizzle the oil through the feed tube. Process until well combined. The marinade can be held, covered and refrigerated for up to 4 days.

Butterfly the chicken: On a cutting board using a sharp chef knife, remove the excess skin from the chicken neck. Place the chicken on its legs, with breasts facing away from you, and cut down the backbone on both sides to remove. Turn the chicken around, and place on cutting board breast side down. Using your hands slightly bend the chicken back to flatten. Pull out the triangular cartilage between the legs at the base of the breasts to further flatten. The chicken is now ready to marinate.

Pour half of the marinade into a large Zip Lock bag then add the chicken. Pour the remaining marinade into the bag, zip, and massage the tasty marinade into the chicken. Let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours.

Preheat the grill to medium – high. Have a squirt bottle of water ready by the grill. Remove the chicken from the marinade and season both sides with salt and pepper. Place the chicken on the grill, skin side down and grill until the skin becomes golden brown and crisp, about 2 to 3 minutes. Extinguish any flare-ups with the squirt bottle.  Turn the chicken 90 degrees and cook another 2 to 3 minutes (this will give you those lovely grill marks.) Turn the chicken over and cook about 5 minutes more. Using grill tongs, transfer the chicken to the “off” side of the grill and turn the other side to high. Cover and let the chicken roast in the grill until cooked through and over, close the cover and continue grilling until just cooked through, about 20 to 30 minutes; an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh without touching bone registers 165°F. Transfer to a cutting board, loosely tent with foil and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before carving.

Cut the chicken in half along the breast bone, then cut between joint holding the leg to breast to quarter. Enjoy immediately.

T.G.I.F. Cocktail – Watermelon Ginger Margarita

Well, it’s September; the kids are back in school, nights are cooler and the days have been more mild here in the Hudson Valley. But, it is still summer! We’re not quite ready to let it go, and scored some beautiful watermelons from Mead Orchards this week. In celebration of the last weeks of summer and the coming of fall, we’ve put together an absolutely delicious cocktail that celebrates both. The fresh watermelon juice is great even on it’s own, but we’ve added some warmth with a house made ginger simple syrup and assembled an unconventional margarita that won rave reviews at the Trattoria over the week. In fact, the term “luscious” was used. 🙂 People loved it so much, we will have it available for you again this weekend, so stop in and enjoy one!

Watermelon Ginger Margarita
2 oz. Fresh Watermelon Juice (we made ours with a centrifugal juicer, but you can also use a muddle and strain method)
1 oz. Ginger Simple Syrup*
3/4 oz. Lime Juice
2 oz. Blanco Tequila
1 oz. Cointreau
While we made our Ginger Simple Syrup with Sugar in the Raw to add extra depth, you can opt to use regular granular sugar or the following:
1 Cup Brown Sugar
2 Cups Granular Sugar
3 Cups Water
2 Cups peeled, sliced fresh ginger
Add all ingredients to pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a low boil and let cook for 25-30 minutes. The syrup should be sweet and spicy. This will make more than you will need for one drink, but it can be used in many more recipes. If you would like to keep this in the fridge to use over a few weeks, in order to avoid spoilage, once the syrup has cooled add 1/4 cup clear alcohol (vodka works well as it is a neutral spirit.)

Watermelon-Fennel Salad

This is a great end of summer salad. It provides a refreshing contrast of flavors and textures – crunchy sweet watermelon and fennel; salty, creamy feta; and ever so slightly bitter greens. It is perfect with grilled or seared fish or chicken, or simply on its own as simple first course. Don’t be afraid to add or substitute. Experiment!

Makes 4 servings

2 cups watermelon, peeled, seeded, and cut into 2-inch chunks
¼  red onion,very thinly sliced
¼ fennel bulb,thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon diced jalapeno pepper
Juice and grated zest of 1 lime
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
Salt and pepper to season
1 cup crumbled Farm feta
4 cups baby greens

In a mixing bowl, combine the watermelon, onion, fennel, mint, jalapeno, lime juice and zest and grapeseed oil. Season with salt and pepper and gently stir. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. When ready to serve, mound about 1 cup of baby greens on each plate; divide the watermelon-fennel salad over the greens. Sprinkle the crumbled feta over the salad.

Serving suggestions: Serve the watermelon-feta mixture chilled on its own or over baby greens.

Variations:

* Mix it up using a combination of yellow and red watermelon.
* Substitute any young soft cheese, such as goat cheese, for the feta.

Nutrition: Watermelon gets its vibrant color from lycopene, the same potent antioxidant found in tomatoes. It is also a good source of vitamins A and C and potassium.

Note: This recipe can be found in the Gigi Good Food Cookbook, Hudson Valley Mediterranean.