Proficiently prepared Valley ingredients give us a reason to celebrate in every season. But let’s face it, some meals are just better when served with a side of warm weather: burgers and ’dogs grilled poolside, s’mores around the bonfire, frozen treats four scoops high, etc, etc, etc.
You know, all the summer favorites you’d be bonkers to skip. In honor of the year’s most flavorful season, we’ve consulted area experts to create an edible bucket list for your best-tasting summer yet.
PHOTO COURTESY OF MILL HOUSE BREWING COMPANY
“Give me a warm summer night sitting by a campfire with a wood-grilled beer-and-cheese bratwurst on a soft bun with caramelized onions, spicy mustard, and ice cold MHBC brew, and I could die happy.” — Daniel Crocco, Executive Chef at Mill House Brewing Company, Poughkeepsie
Think those grates are reserved for the likes of burgers and steaks? Think again: Vegetables, fruits, breads, and even heartier heads of lettuce (like romaine) can be fired to that perfect char. Just brush or coat whatever it is you’re cooking with oil, and remove from heat when wilted, crisp, or easily pierced (use your personal preferences to judge when done). Next time you hold a cookout, create a grilled Caesar salad, serve seared peaches with whipped cream for dessert, or roast thick-cut eggplant for meat-free sandwiches — your freshly minted vegetarian teenager and fad-dieting sister-in-law will be glad you did.
“I’ll probably only eat tomatoes for two or so months out of the year, in summer. If you get one ripe from the farm — like from Hepworth, where we get most of ours — they’re just so vibrant, and each variety has its own flavor profile. When you start adding onions, or garlic, or sauces, those things sort of take over. So the best way to eat them is really with just a little salt, maybe some olive oil,” says Chef Charles Fells, who co-owns The Artist’s Palate in Poughkeepsie. “Keep it simple; keep it about the food.”
Perfectly prickly, tangy, or hot and sweet, pickles of all sorts are an excellent accompaniment to summer eats. Chef Michael Kelly from Liberty Street Bistro in Newburgh tells how to pseudo-ferment in a flash:
“As far as a quick pickle goes, it’s all about ratios for me. 2-1-1: 2 parts vinegar, 1 part sugar (or honey, or molasses), 1 part water. Bring it all to a simmer, choose some spices or herbs that work for whatever it is you’re pickling, and pour it over hot. For example, take English cukes sliced thin. Use the 2-1-1 with 2 parts champagne vinegar, and 1 part of brown sugar and honey. Use clove, star anise, and coriander as your spices (just a few of each), and pour the pickle over the cukes while hot. They are the perfect Bread and Butter Pickle.”
“July at our farm stand means many things…It usually starts with what we call a ‘Tsunami of Black Raspberries.’ The season is short — maybe 10 days — so you need to eat as many of them as you can. By the end of the month, we are eating the first of the peaches. In between those two arrivals we will see cherries, blueberries, currants, apricots, and plums…It’s a good month.” — Talea Fincke, farmer/operator of Montgomery Place Orchards and Farm Market, Annandale-on-Hudson
Chef Peter Milano of Mahopac’s Dish Bistro & Wine Bar shares a recipe for an instant warm-weather refresher.
Two 750 ml bottles of fruit-forward red wine
½ c orange liqueur, like Rives Orange Liquor
¼ c brandy (adjust based on your taste)
¾ c simple syrup (like hibiscus simple syrup)
¼ c orange juice
½ c dark red cherries
1 apple, cored and sliced
Oranges, thinly sliced
Limes, thinly sliced
Lemons, thinly sliced
Add half of the fresh fruit into a container or pitcher and gently muddle.
Add the rest of the fruit and all wet ingredients together and stir.
Chill and allow 4-24 hours for all the flavors to combine.
Serve over ice with fruit and mint or rosemary as a garnish.
Sip, smile, repeat.
One of the best warm-weather treats? S’mores cooked over an open fire, obviously. One of the best summer — or anytime, really — sweets? Ice cream. So, naturally, we can’t stop screaming about the specialty S’mores flavor made fresh at Bellvale Farms Creamery. Composed of graham cracker ice cream with a ribbon of marshmallow and chocolate winding its way through, a scoop of this stuff offers just the right proportions of camp nostalgia and cooling comfort.
Ice Cream: FDA regulations state that ice creams must contain 8-10 percent milk fat, dependent on their additions (like chocolate chips or nuts).
Gelato: This is churned slower than ice cream, incorporating less air, and creating a denser result.
Sherbet: Mostly composed of sweetened fruit juice and water, this dessert often (but not always!) also contains milk and/or eggs.
Sorbet: Made entirely from sweetened fruit juice or another liquid (such as wine) and water — nothing else.
“We’re really spoiled here in the Hudson Valley; I think it has something to do with the climate and the soil, but the corn here is probably some of the sweetest in the nation — especially in the summer. I like to eat it on the cob, but, to be honest, a lot of the time I’ll eat it for lunch right there in the field, raw. When vegetables come from, say, California, they’re being grown to be shipped and look pretty in stores days or weeks later. We grow it to eat here, soon after harvesting, which is the best time to consume anything.” — Chris Kelder, farmer/owner at Kelder’s Family Farm, Kerhonkson