Cafe Sweet Spot

by Anne Maxfield on July 15, 2019

Cafe Sweet Spot Black BoardWhether you’re a resident, or a worker on Poughkeepsie’s Main Street, you’ll welcome Cafe Sweet Spot.

Open for breakfast and lunch, the cafe offers owner Ingrid Hernandez’s dream of recreating “those cafes in the West Village, really fresh ingredients put together very nicely, it’s my kind of comfort food.”

The restaurant is a modern cafe with subtle Caribbean infusion or inspiration. We went recently to check out their lunch offerings.

There are lots of interesting options on the menu, but don’t forget to check out the special board (where we found a lot of good stuff).

Cafe Sweet Spot Jerk ChickenWe shared some jerk chicken, which was great. Lots of spice (the blend is done in house) but not killer. The chicken is smoked, and that nice smoky taste went well with the spices.
Dominican chicken was a new entry on the special board. It had a tangy sauce with complex flavor and was good served over rice and beans.

Cafe Sweet Spot Chop Cheese Chop cheese, on the regular menu has become one of my new favorite sandwiches. It’s made with ground beef coated in melted cheese on a toasted bun. Their version has pickled jalapeños and came with a side of golden-brown fries. Yum!

Cafe Sweet Spot Dominican ChickenSince 2 chicken dishes (and the chop cheese) didn’t seem like enough for us, they sent over the chicken curry for us to taste. It was really good and would be tough to choose a favorite of the chicken dishes as we liked them all.

Cafe Sweet Spot Chicken CurryJust to torment us or something, they then send over a slice of their killer apple cake with caramel frosting. That and a great looking lemon meringue pie were the desserts that day. The cake was amazing and the two of us managed to eat most of it (the rest made a wonderful breakfast the next morning).

Cafe Sweet Spot Apple CakeA friend of ours went for brunch and had their chicken and waffles. She thought the chicken was marinated and fried to perfection. “It came with a sriracha and maple syrup combo dipping on the side to it a kick if you dared to. It was good!! Waffles were crisp and delicious”

We haven’t had breakfast there yet, but Ingrid says “for breakfast we have things we love as well. I love the power punch toast, I love a really good pancake.” There are also items like the caprese egg sandwich with mozzarella, basil, tomatoes and eggs on bread or a roll.

Even the classics like bacon, egg and cheese on a roll gets an upgrade with smoked gouda stepping in for the cheese.

Cafe Sweet Spot wants to have the people in the neighborhood think of it as a place they can come all the time, and for businesspeople to find something they’re looking for and a place where they can feel comfortable bringing clients to.
But mostly they just want to have really good food. “It’s a nice place to come in and shake it up, like the song says.”

Cafe Sweet Spot
296 Main Street
Poughkeepsie, New York 12601
845-392-9900
info@cafesweetspot.com

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Crazy Easy, Crazy Good Zucchini Pizza

by Anne Maxfield on July 8, 2019

Finished zucchini pizza slicedThis time of year, our CSA influences what’s for dinner so when Frank came back with some beautiful zucchini and summer squash, they seemed destined for this crazy pizza recipe I saw on Food 52.

It’s super easy with only a few ingredients, just give yourself some time for the dough to proof. Probably feeds about 4:

Crazy Easy, Crazy Good Zucchini Pizza

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil for greasing the pan, plus more for your fingers
  • 1 Jim Lahey’s Basic Pizza Dough (below), or your favorite
  • 1/2pounds (about 5 small-medium or 3 large) zucchini or other summer squash, trimmed
  • 1/2teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 2 cups (8 oz) coarsely grated Gruyere cheese
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons plain breadcrumbs

Shredded zucchiniHeat your oven to 500°F with a rack in the center. Brush a 13×18” rimmed baking sheet with olive oil.

Use oiled fingertips to pull, stretch and press the dough across the bottom of the pan. The dough will be thin and imperfect; just try to get it even. If holes form, just pinch them together.

Use a food processor with a grater attachment or the large holes of a box grater to grate the zucchini. In a large bowl, toss together the zucchini and salt.

Let stand for 20 to 30 minutes (more, if you have the time), until the zucchini has wilted and released its water. Drain the zucchini in a colander and then use your hands to squeeze out as much water as possible.

Back in the large bowl (wiped out if still wet), toss the zucchini with the gruyere shreds, being sure to break up any clumps of zucchini. Taste the mixture; it should be seasoned enough from the salt, but you can add more, plus ground pepper or pepper flakes if desired.

Spread the zucchini mixture over the dough, going all the way to the edges of the pan and piling it a bit thicker at the edges, where it will brown first. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the topping is golden. Remove from oven, cut into squares, serve and enjoy!

Jim Lahey’s Basic Pizza Dough  

  • 2 cups minus 1 tablespoon (250g) all-purpose or bread flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons (5g) instant or active dry yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon (heaped) fine sea or table salt
  • 2/3 cup (150g) room-temperature water

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, yeast and salt. Add the water and, using a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until well blended, about 30 seconds. Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature until the dough has more than doubled in volume, about 2 hours. Continue using instructions above.

My verdict: Well, Frank’s actually:” The best pizza you’ve ever made!” “You can make this any time.”

It was really delicious. Super simple and could easily be dressed up if you felt like it.

I was thinking a sprinkle of lemon zest and/or some Niçoise olives be good additions.  Some crumbled Italian sausage would be nice too.

If you want a great way to use up some of summer’s endless zucchini and summer squash, this is your recipe!

 

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Halfway through the year, let’s take a look at where I am with my list. Updates (and true confessions) after each point. Let me know in the comments what you think.

In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, I’ve been kicking an idea around about all the dishes I swear I’m going to cook—recipes I’m going to try.

If you’re reading this and thinking I can’t believe she’s intimidated to make (fill in the blank), know we all have culinary roadblocks.

When I was thinking about this, I came across a piece on the Taste website, “Everyone Should Have a Winter Cooking Goal.” The author’s goal is to work on one dish until she masters it and has explored all its variations.

My goals are a little different–some of these I’d like to master, some I’d like to have become a regular part of my cooking repertoire and others are rainy day/all day projects. I’m thinking that maybe there should be one a month, but at the moment, I’m 4 short. Any suggestions?

8 Things I’m Challenging Myself to Cook in 2019:

  1. Crêpes: One of those projects that I thought I could throw equipment at and be okay. This just needs practice and probably patience. For you crêpe makers out there, is it easier to start with regular (flour) ones before moving on to savory (buckwheat) ones? Update: Thanks to my friend Jan, mastered this one. Have done both plain and buckwheat, plain are easier and probably more versatile.
  2. Soupe de poisson: This is one of my favorite soups and a prelude to bouillabaisse. Making this is just a matter of deciding to do it and getting some good fish. Update: Still on my wish list. 
  3. Whole fish: I don’t know why this has always seemed so challenging to me and since they just published this in the NY Times, I’m not the only one. Could it be one of those things like roasting meats that’s super easy but looks like you can cook? Anyone got a favorite recipe to share? Update: In spite of saving simple whole fish recipes and checking out the contenders at Adam’s, I haven’t gotten here yet, but it’s coming.
  4. More fish: Where we are, it’s much easier to get great (farm raised) meat, than good fish, but I’m going to make finding a good source for fish and befriending a fishmonger a priority this year (and it will make #2 & 3 much easier). Update: got off to a good start with this and give myself extra points for doing a lot more salmon to see if I could con Frank into eating it. We loved several of the recipes.
  5. Cream of mushroom soup: (as good as the CIA and/or the late Campfire in GB) Like the soupe de poisson, this is more a matter of going shopping and facing the stove. Update: Like the soupe de poisson, didn’t happen and I’ve got no excuses.
  6. Cauliflower rice: Yes, I can be trendy, and we need to cut carbs/sugar in my house. Update: Since I wrote this I don’t think we’ve had any cauliflower. Hmmm…
  7. Grains: Freekeh, farro, oats, lentils, etc. Time to switch it up from rice and potatoes. And if I would do #8, probably faster cooking than an hour on the stove. Update: More room for improvement and that goes for #8 too. Accidental Locavore Insta-Pot
  8. Use my Insta-Pot: for more than yogurt and use the pressure cooker part of it. Shoot, I guess that means I have to find the instruction book and read it. Update: It still makes great yogurt…

And, I’m going to start using the “good” silver! Update: Polished it and used it the last time we had friends for dinner. Nice to use the good stuff, try it.

What would go on your list?

 

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Oven Mitts and Potholders

by Anne Maxfield on June 24, 2019

Oven MittsOven mitts and potholders are one of those things you take for granted.

If you’re of a certain generation, you probably made them in camp, weaving bands to make potholders (remember that?).

Or you bought them ages ago because you liked the design. It went with your kitchen.

And they were fine until…

You went to pull out the Zuni roast chicken and found out, to your horror, that they don’t work.

Or, more recently, you were testing the Baguette Baking Box at oven temps exceeding 450°.

Whether they melted onto my (almost) perfectly seasoned cast iron pan or just didn’t offer enough protection for a long enough time, it became a real issue in my kitchen.

After ruining several contenders, and almost either burning myself or dropping dinner, I started to search the Internet.

Melted PotholdersThat’s when I found out that most oven mitts don’t work on temperatures over 400°. Even ones that reputedly did, like the ‘Ove’ Glove which is advertised to have heat protection to 540°, let me down. It might have been able to handle the heat, but it was impossible to tell because the printing on the gloves melted into the handle of my pan.

Even my favorite review site, Wirecutter, didn’t test them on temperatures over 400° and while I’m pretty fast in the kitchen, their criteria for approval was a mere “10 seconds while holding a heavy pan, which we think is a reasonable amount of time to remove hot items from the oven or stove.”

I don’t know about you, but while I’m juggling a very hot and heavy pan, I’d prefer to focus on the job at hand and not worry about an imaginary shot clock going off and turning my mitts into meltdown.

In search of a better (read, more to my liking) response, I moved on to that most trustworthy source—the Internet, specifically Facebook. People offered up lots of advice, most of it useless. However, my brother said to sit tight and wait for my birthday.

His gift? A pair of killer mitts. These babies can take on anything up to 572° and I don’t have to worry about that imaginary shot clock while I’m crisping chicken or baking baguettes.

My second choice and good for most everyday tasks are a well-worn (and slightly melted) pair of KitchenGrips potholders that are supposed to be good to 500° (but only on one side…) and bought because they went with my kitchen.

What do you use?

 

 

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