In her new book, Culinary History of the Finger Lakes, Laura Winter Falk ’87, PhD ’97, offers a regional tour that she subtitles “From the Three Sisters to Riesling.” The sisters are the traditional name for the staple crops of the Iroquois: corn, beans, and squash. The Riesling, of course, is the signature product of the area’s burgeoning wine industry, which attracts tourists and locals alike for tastings, often with a lakeside view.
A member of the Guild of Sommeliers who holds a doctorate in nutritional sciences, Falk is co-owner of an Ithaca-based touring and events company. As for many Cornellians, the area beckoned after graduation, and held on. As she writes: “There is something truly magical about New York’s Finger Lakes region: nine thousand square miles of deciduous rolling hills that put on an autumn finale of luscious bounty and mindblowing Technicolor each year.”
Published by History Press, the book features a historical survey of the region’s agriculture and cuisine, including the impact of the Revolutionary War and Prohibition. It also includes recipes for such dishes as “Three Sisters Soup,” savory apple dumplings, and a “tower” of beets layered with goat cheese and served with herbs, oranges, and candied walnuts. All come with local wine pairings.
Just in time for the holidays, Falk offers CAM readers an unorthodox pumpkin pie recipe, created by local chef Brud Holland. It’s paired with Great Western Extra Dry Champagne from Hammondsport, an hour west of Ithaca.
Caramel Ginger Pumpkin Pie
For the crust
3⁄4 cup pastry flour
1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 stick butter, cut in tbs.-sized pieces
1⁄4 cup grated cheddar
1⁄3 cup whole milk
In a large bowl, add the flours, salt, sugar and butter. Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, cut the butter into the flour until it reaches the size and thickness of a dime. Add the cheese and milk and mix into a soft, tacky dough. Dust with flour and roll onto a floured surface, rolling the dough to 1⁄16 inch thick. Cut into 11⁄2- to 2- inch pieces. Place on a baking sheet and bake in a 375-degree oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes.
For the filling
1⁄4 cup sugar
2 tbs. water
1⁄2 cup cream
1 lb. roasted pumpkin
2 tbs. ground dry ginger
additional 1⁄4 cup sugar
In a small saucepan on high heat, cook the sugar and water until the mixture turns dark brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the cream and swirl off the heat until the caramel dissolves and the cream is light brown. In a large bowl, add the caramel mixture and whisk together with the pumpkin, additional ¼ cup sugar, eggs, ginger, and cream. Pour evenly into lightly oiled 4-ounce ramekins. Place ramekins in a baking dish filled with an inch of hot water. Bake in a 325-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until the filling is set and a toothpick inserted into the mixture comes out clean. Refrigerate until cold and firm.
Run a sharp knife around the edge of the ramekin. Turn pumpkin filling onto a small dessert plate. Place crisp pastry pieces around the outside edge. Top with freshly whipped cream and a slice of aged cheddar cheese.