Archive | August, 2012

Tomato sauce from Migliorelli Farm

29 Aug

migliorelli marinara sauce, rhinebeck farmers market[4]

Tomato sauce from Migliorelli Farm

A food review by Daniel B.

I don’t buy jarred tomato sauce. Not when it is so quick and easy to make yourself. Perhaps I’m the wrong person to evaluate this offering made from Migliorelli Farm in Tivoli, New York. Even the fanciest and most expensive jarred pasta sauces from famous restaurants and internationally known celebrities have failed to impress me.

The farm though has a great story that dates back to 1933 when Angelo Migliorelli came to New York from Lazio Italy, with what I like to imagine was nothing more than a pocketful of broccoli rabe seeds. The part about the seeds though is true.

Today you can buy the ancestors of that same strain of brocolli rabe at farmers markets around the state. I’ve picked some up at the Schenectady Greenmarket, and it’s fantastic. Their tomato sauces leverage that same heritage as they are, “Made following our very own family recipes.” So with great trepidation, I decided to give it a try.

Their ingredients are straightforward enough: San Marzano tomatoes, fresh onions, olive oil, fresh garlic, basil, sea salt, fresh ground pepper and vitamin C.

The last part is a little amusing, but I’m not going to hold it against them. This may be going out on a limb, however I doubt that nonna Migliorelli ground up some of her vitamin C tablets to throw into her sauce. It is shorthand for ascorbic acid, which is used as a natural preservative. I’m okay with that, and I’m even okay with them using the “No Preservatives” claim despite the obvious addition of vitamin C to the product.

On the plus side, this sauce is thick and rich. Its texture and body are fantastic. Where it falls a bit short are on measures of flavor and aroma. But I have always believed that jarred sauces are a starting point and not a finished product. They are a canvas that allows the home cook to customize them based on their palate.

One of the things that is missing is the sweetness I associate with tomatoes. But that is easily remedied with a sweeter, low acidity balsamic vinegar. My mother’s old trick was simply a spoonful of table sugar, but I like how balsamic helps to bring out more tomato flavor.

And that’s lacking too. So I might not recommend this in a dish where a tomato flavor is the primary component. One of the recipes on the back of the jar called for adding sauteed mushrooms to the sauce. It’s easy to see how their earthiness could play well with the richness of this product. Given its thickness, I could also imagine spreading it on toast points, and topping with roasted eggplant and peppers.

Perhaps that’s not such a ringing endorsement, but consider this. Buying Migliorelli Farm tomato sauce doesn’t just help support this amazing farm. It is also a product of Farm-to-Table co-packers in Kingston, NY. It’s a revolutionary facility that is aimed to give small farms the access they need to freeze and jar their extra produce so it doesn’t find its way into the compost heap.

Farm-to-Table co-packers also produces a tomato juice for Migliorelli, which I hear is pretty good stuff.

Ultimately I’m still on the side of picking up tomatoes from the Migliorelli stand at the farmers market, seeding them, collecting the juice, and making my own sauce. No, I don’t jar it. But I’ve been known to portion it out and keep sauce in the chest freezer to pull out during those cold winter months for a taste of summer sunshine.

Although for those who favor convenience, there is always the jar.

About Daniel B.

A west coast transplant now living in Albany, Daniel Berman is applying his communication strategy background to food writing with the ultimate goal of improving the culinary landscape in the Capital Region. He writes the FUSSYlittleBLOG and contributes regularly to All Over Albany.

The farm at the Abode of the Message

21 Aug

Jane1

The Abode was created to materialize the message of Love, Harmony and Beauty brought to the West by Hazrat Inayat Khan, a Sufi master.

Jane2The farm at the Abode of the Message

Located in the Taconic Mountains in New Lebanon, The Abode of the Message is a Universal Sufi spiritual community housed in restored historic Shaker buildings. The Abode’s staff of more than forty adults lives in the community with their families throughout the year. The Retreat Center offers individual guided spiritual meditative retreats of three to forty days, either in a private retreat hut or cabin, or a room in the Meditation Hall.

Jane3Much of the food prepared for the common meals of the Abode community is grown on their four acre organic farm. The farm also operates a CSA and sells vegetables to the surrounding community, including the Darrow School. The farm is tilled with an old fashioned plough and horse, and farmed without the convenience of modern day machinery. This year a new farm crew is managing the farm at the Abode. Photographer Jane Feldman has been documenting the new farmers and the growing season.

Photography by Jane Feldman

Harpersfield Farmstead Cheese with Ommegang Ale

3 Aug

Harpersfield2

Harpersfield Farmstead Cheese with Ommegang Ale

A food review by Daniel B.

Everyone wants to pair wine with cheese. It’s understandable. When a wine and cheese pairing work, each product is improved, and it is a remarkable experience. But when a pairing fails, the weaknesses of each are amplified.

Wine is a lot harder to pair with cheese than most people suspect. And it’s even harder to pair a single wine with an entire cheese plate. Beer on the other hand, is a lot more flexible and pairs well with a wide variety of cheeses.

One tip for picking pairings has always been using geography as your guide. If you are eating an Alsatian cheese, it’s likely to go well with an Alsatian wine. The beers of England go great with British cheese. North of the Catskills they are taking this truism one step further, as the Brovetto Dairy is using the local beer to make its cheese.

Harpersfield1

The Brovetto Dairy crafts Harpersfield Cheese from the milk of their herd of Holsteins. These animals graze on pasture and the milk is produced without artificial growth hormones. The later is just nice to know, but the former qualifies the operation as a farmstead cheese maker, something the French refer to as Fermier.

That’s a good thing.

Harpersfield Cheese is modeled after a European cheese named Tilsit. But that provides precious little information because this cheese has traveled around the continent and been adapted at each stop. Steve Jenkins tells its story in the Cheese Primer:

Tilsit was originally made in a village of the same name, by Dutch cheesemakers who had emigrated to what was then East Prussia (Sovetsk), a part of U.S.S.R. Today, the town of Tilsit is officially in Lithuania, where its link to a namesake cheese is all but forgotten. However the cheese has definitely survived; in addition to the Danish version, it is also made and consumed in great quantities in Germany. The definitive Tilsit, however, is the well-crafted Swiss version–now known as Swiss Tilsit but formerly called Royalp–which is exported in small quantities.

Our local version is billed as semi-hard, but is decidedly on the softer side of the spectrum, with a mild and tangy flavor. Which is why it works well as a base for other flavoring agents. The Brovettos take full advantage of this by offering an array of flavored versions containing everything from caraway seeds to lapsang souchong.

But the piece I sampled was washed with Ommegang’s Abbey Ale. And if you’ve never had the chance to drink some, it’s a very special beer.

The aroma of this cheese was dominated by a very pleasant yeastiness. It’s a relatively young cheese, aged for well under a year, and it is lacking a very well developed rind. It’s just the lightest hint of orange from being washed with the beer, and it is edible without displaying the intense grittiness present in some other washed rind cheeses. But it does have a similar flavor profile to those in its class. While not as pungent as Munster or as beefy as Taleggio, it is redolent of both.

Harpersfield also reminds me of another Dutch cheese called Kernhem in texture. They are both firmer than semi-soft and softer than semi-hard. Kernhem means “knife stick” and when cutting Harpersfield, you will notice how it too will stick to your cheese knife.

I enjoyed this cheese when paired with grilled sausages or just on its own. And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that Harpersfield goes great with beer. Preferably one from Ommegang if you can find it. But some people down in Brooklyn re-soaked the cheese in their local beer, so that promises to be a delightful pairing as well.

About Daniel B.

A west coast transplant now living in Albany, Daniel Berman is applying his communication strategy background to food writing with the ultimate goal of improving the culinary landscape in the Capital Region. He writes the FUSSYlittleBLOG and contributes regularly to All Over Albany.