A Seat at the Table in Upstate New York
Winter is behind us (we hope) and on a nice spring day soon I’m planning to pop up north to Route 20 and the village of Sharon Springs. I’m motivated by a new cookbook, the fourth from those “Fabulous Beekman Boys”—a.k.a. Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell—who live in that bucolic area. I knew the place years ago, back when I’d pass by it on my drives to or from seeing family in Albany. I’d take Route 13 through Ithaca and Cortland, then a side road through Hatch Lake and Eaton, and finally to glorious, scenic Route 20. Alternately I might drive east over Route 17 to Vestal then up Route 7 north to pick up Route 20, making an almost certain pit stop at Eastman’s Cheese House in Esperance for their New York State Extra Sharp Cheddar. Reinvigorated by Mom’s home cooking, the drive home on Sunday afternoons seemed shorter. And I sometimes had a companion—a care package of leftovers that got me through several meals. There was most often a substantial piece of pie (usually apple) on the seat beside me. My mom’s apple pies were so chock full of apples that the crust arched over the apple slices when baked, so we’d insert thin slices of sharp cheese above the compressed apples. With each forkful we had the flavor of the fruit and cheese. I recall that my dad also stopped at Eastman’s when making business trips west. What great memories!
Anyway, back to the Beekmans. A Seat at the Table: Recipes to Nourish Your Family, Friends, and Community is the name of the duo’s newest cookbook. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, is the fourth from the Beekman 1802 Farmhouse. That celebrated farm-to-table is just off Route 20, where the authors, Manhattanites, discovered the place back in 2007. The Beekman name is a reminder of the family that built it, and the year it was erected. It’s a square Georgian-style residence, adorned with picket fences on its first and second floor porches and an imposing Palladian window above the fan-lit front. Brent and Josh (married to each other) are the city guys who own the place and write the cookbooks. A Seat at the Table was penned “with our neighbor Rose Marie Trapani.” Rose Marie’s last name is the name of the breathtaking cliff-top village very near to Erice on the far northwest corner of Sicily.
Friends, Neighbors, and Rose Marie’s Welcome Contribution
The minute I started reading this latest book, I thought it ought to be called Seasons in Sicily, as much of it celebrates that cuisine. But, allora, the recipes “read good,” and those I tested were delicious and easy to boot. The backstories included are about the diners who might be sitting around a table right now in the greater Sharon Springs area. A number of artists and farmers are also profiled in these pages, as are some of the authors’ friends. So, you’ll find a mixed bag, style-wise, in each chapter. And the photographs by Christian Watson (this is his first cookbook assignment) are all taken with natural light and are somewhat artsy/gritty, far from the carefully lit photo shoots in other cookbooks. And only very occasionally a product that is unique to the Beekman House store, i.e. their local goat cheese, is listed as an ingredient in the recipes, and even then, substitutes are suggested. Regarding that goat cheese—shortly after Josh and Brent bought the farm (no, wait, I don’t mean that literally), they decided to allow “Farmer John” Hall, who lived nearby and was going to have to sell his place, to raise goats on their land. He became their live-in neighbor/helper. Then things progressed—they started making and sourcing soaps, condiments, woven articles crafted by an artisan friend, ditto pottery. Where better to showcase this array but in a reconditioned shop in the village? The Beekman 1802 Mercantile, at 187 Main Street, gives another reason for a spring day trip.
Spring Into Spring With Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Dates
Invite some friends over to celebrate the end of cold weather and serve these. They’re from the book—make a double batch. And soak your wooden picks for an hour before use to avoid flareups.
- 12 large pitted dates
- 12 small pieces Parmigiano Reggiano (the good one)
- 6 slices bacon, halved crosswise
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut a slot in each date and fill with a piece of Parmigiano cheese. Close the date, roll a piece of bacon around it, and secure with a toothpick. Arrange on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Bake until bacon is crispy—15 to 20 minutes depending on the thickness of your bacon. On the bottom of most recipes in the book is a blank section marked “Shared at the Table With.” Fill these in and you’ll have a record to cherish (depending on the company, of course).
Rib-Eye Steaks Palermo Style
If everybody stays on for dinner, why not do an easy meat dish? The book’s got you covered on that one, and uses my favorite cheese again.
- Rib eyes for 4
- Olive oil, salt, and pepper
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
- Grated zest of half a lemon
- 2 chopped anchovies
- 1 tsp. capers, drained
- 1 Tbsp. grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 1⁄4 c. plain dry breadcrumbs
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Rub the steaks with olive oil and then season them with salt and pepper to taste. Set the steaks aside. In a bowl, mix together the garlic, parsley, lemon zest, anchovies, capers (smash them), cheese, and bread crumbs. Add enough of the remaining oil to moisten the crumbs. In a large cast iron skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of the oil over medium-high heat and sear the steaks on one side for 3 minutes. Turn the steaks (use tongs) and pat the breadcrumb mixture over the steaks, pressing the crumbs to adhere. Place the skillet in the preheated oven and roast the steaks 15 minutes for medium rare (roast longer to your desired degree of doneness) or until the breadcrumbs are golden brown. Slice and serve. Ciao.