The Place for Pie: Noon Mark Diner

IMG_2946Amid all the chores of autumn, cutting back the flowers, turning the compost, trying to fit the outdoor furniture into the garage, being sure it doesn’t block the snow blower, we always make time for foliage tours and exploring the Adirondacks.

In addition to the photos of the foliage I shared recently, I need to tell you about a pie or, I should say, THE pie.

In a tiny town, in the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks, in the noonday shadow of Noon Mark Mountain, sits a diner. It is named, as you guessed, the Noon Mark Diner.

IMG_2889

mapThe Noon Mark Diner is a friendly, kind of goofy place, that caters to locals, to hikers and outdoors-folk, and to tourists.

IMG_2894The food is generally good and plentiful but the thing that sets the Noon Mark apart is the pie.

goodeatnoonmarkThey make dozens of kinds of pie and trying all of them is on my bucket list. Some people set a goal to climb all the Adirondack High Peaks; me, I’ll eat the pies.

IMG_2890The problem is, I never get past the same pie. We don’t go to the Noon Mark that often because it’s in Keene Valley and about an hour from home. So, when we do go I look for the blackberry cheese crumb pie. Yes, yes! Blackberries on a cream cheese base, with a crumb topping!

When we went last week, we had lunch before we had pie and ended up having to take the pie home with us. This is obviously a common request because they have dandy little pie-shaped to-go containers. And, even more diabolical, they have stacks of whole, entire pies to go!

IMG_2891We stuck with single slices because, as my husband says, if we took a whole pie home, “we’d just eat it.” But most of the people we watched come in and out of the diner snagged a whole pie before they left. They’ll probably just eat it . . .

The pie was, as always, delightful. Tart berries (real berries!), creamy cheese on a pastry crust, a super sweet crumb topping. We didn’t put ice cream or whipped cream or anything on it—it doesn’t need a thing.

I’ve been looking around and think this recipe for cranberry cream cheese crumb pie from Food.com comes close to what they make at the diner. I’ve never tried the recipe and probably won’t because going to the Noon Mark itself is a rare treat. (And, because, if I made the pie, I’d just eat it.)

But, if you love a good pie and want to elevate it to a whole nother level, as we say in the North Country, and if you can’t make it to the Noon Mark Diner in Keene Valley, NY, this recipe is worth a try.

Diners are famous for pies. Does your local diner have a pie like this? What kind of pie is special in your region?

Autumn Senses–Scent of Ginger

ginger choc caramels-4It’s a rainy, cool autumn morning in the North Country, the kind that engages your senses in a variety of ways. Right now, I’m most aware of my sense of smell because my whole house carries the scent of warm ginger.

Lots of people seem to associate maple with fall but I think ginger is the signature scent. Don’t get me wrong—I have maple in my blood. I grew up on a farm where we made maple syrup, but, to me, maple is a spring thing—that’s when the sap is running and the boiling down occurs, to turn that sap into heaven.

Ginger is warm and cozy—like a favorite sweater on a cool day. I love that it has a spicy zip to it, too. I’m making ginger caramels, which involves infusing cream with fresh ginger root and then adding that to the other caramel ingredients and letting the whole thing burble for a couple of hours.

When the caramel reaches the “soft ball” stage, I’ll add finely chopped crystallized ginger and let them set. They’re amazing just cut into squares—like Reed’s Ginger Chews only creamier—but I’ll dip some in dark chocolate, too, because I am of the opinion that dark chocolate makes most things taste better!

I have more fresh ginger root and crystallized ginger on hand so I think my next step is to try these Triple Ginger Cookies. I’ll let you know how they turn out!

What is your go-to fall scent? Pumpkin? Apple? Cinnamon? Or do you love ginger, too?

________________

If you make caramels and want the details about giving them a jolt with ginger, let me know!

You Put Zucchini in What?!

zucchini yogurt-6

In the twenty-five years she’d lived in Three Pines she’d never, ever heard of a crime. The only reason doors were locked was to prevent neighbors from dropping off baskets of zucchini at harvest time.   (Still Life, Louise Penny)

The poor maligned zucchini. They are so plentiful that no one much appreciates them. That, combined with the fact that there are only so many ways you can use them, means, I suspect, that a lot of zucchini goes to waste.

If you’ve received the gift of many zucchinis and have made all the zucchini bread you can handle, it’s time to take a walk on the wild side.

How about trying some zucchini frozen yogurt?

WAIT! Before you just scream “ICK!!” and click on someone else’s blog, hear me out!

I have had this recipe for years—it seems to have come from a 1997 issue of Country Living magazine. It sounded so bizarre and intriguing, I decided to give it a try. We were having company for dinner, the kind of friends who I knew would forgive me if this ended up being just a really, really bad idea.

But I loved it! And they said they did, too! (Of course, they are also the kind of friends who wouldn’t want to hurt my feelings . . .) The flavor is not that of zucchini, which we all know has very little flavor. What you taste is the lemon and the tartness of the yogurt, a very refreshing combination. The zucchini mostly adds texture and a little crunch to the frozen yogurt. (Full disclosure: my husband, who is not afraid of hurting my feelings, doesn’t love this and says the zucchini is stringy. You decide.)

You need to try this at least once:

  1. it’s good—even if you don’t love it, you won’t hate it
  2. it’s fun—let people taste it and then spring it on them what it’s made of!
  3. it’s healthy—almost no fat and, really, how many desserts provide you with one of those elusive 5 servings of vegetables you’re supposed to eat?
  4. it’ll use up some zucchini

Zucchini Frozen Yogurt

Makes about 10 ½-cup servings

  • 8 ounces of zucchini, coarsely shredded (about 2 cups)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
  • 1 14-ounce can fat-free sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk; I used regular sweetened condensed milk because it’s what I had on hand)
  • 16 ounces plain nonfat yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  1. In a 1-quart saucepan, heat grated zucchini, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest to boiling over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved.zucchini yogurt-1zucchini yogurt-2
  2. Boil zucchini mixture for 1 minute.
  3. Remove from heat and, in larger bowl, combine zucchini and sweetened condensed milk; stir until well mixed.
  4. Stir in yogurt and lemon extract until no lumps of yogurt remain. Cover and refrigerate zucchini mixture until cold.
  5. Freeze mixture in ice-cream maker following manufacturer’s directions.
  6. Spoon soft frozen yogurt into airtight container; cover and freeze until firm enough to scoop, 2 hours to overnight.

zucchini yogurt-4I served this with oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, just in case the yogurt was gross. I liked the combination of the refreshing lemony yogurt and the robust cookies.

So, I hope you’ll give this a try and let me know what you think!

PS: The zucchini quote from the top of the page is from the book Still Life, the first in a series of great mysteries by Louise Penny. If you like well-written mysteries and haven’t found Penny yet, give her a try!

zucchini yogurt-5