Melina Hammer writes about food with inherent warmth and care. As the owner of Catbird Cottage, a charming and cozy and dreamy Airbnb at the foot of Shawangunk Mountain Ridge in upstate New York, she’s no stranger to making guests feel welcome, cared for, and right at home. . Whether it’s in the cottage or right at the dining table – to witness the magic of Melina’s cooking and hostess is to witness the culinary and artistic wonder itself.
But if you can’t make the trip to Catbird Cottage, Melina’s new cookbook packs all the romance, comfort, and culinary expertise she practices in life and cooking. his daily food. A Year at Catbird Cottage: Recipe for a Nutritious Life illustrates the joy and surprise of being discovered in Melina’s intimate, close-to-earth food approach. It will also quickly become clear that her reflections on meals and analysis of ingredients shed more profound light on the secret to living a thoughtful, purposeful life.
As a rule, I trust any recommendation Amanda Hesser writes — and so far, Food52’s founder and CEO hasn’t steered me in the wrong direction. Of the A year at Catbird Cottageshe commends Melina for showing us “the beauty that surrounds us when we cook with the seasons” and recommends the cookbook not only to those looking to up the ante in the kitchen, but to all. Even those who want to infuse their lives with a little more joy.
I sat down with Melina to pick her brains on everything from seasonal cooking to celebrating local food culture — and of course, what a nurtured life means to me. she.
Discover Melina Hammer’s Slow Life Tips
What does a raised life look like to you?
A nurtured life consists of a few important elements. One who regularly takes time to observe small moments, such as in the natural world with my morning walks in the garden. The process is both quiet and full of discovery.
As I meandered, I reconnected with all the layers, such as noticing the winding trunks of young butterfly pea plants climbing onto our handcrafted rig; reach of canola flowers just before sowing; my volunteer gloves, like jeweled beacons, dot the woodland garden; witnessed house sparrows in mating pairs, chatting with each other as they ate sunflower seeds at my feeding tray.
A nourished life is one that brings a little romance or joy into everyday eating.
I add gouache in layers. Some bright herbs, some harissa or rich garlic mustard pesto. Fitting these layers – nearly all of which is pre-made – means that I can give immediate notice, no matter the occasion.
Finally, I make it a regular habit to bring home new ingredients. This is an adventure and a love story waiting to unfold. I become giddy when I develop a recipe that makes an ingredient shine. Knowing what to do with a food to make it delicious has exponential value. To me, all of these elements constitute a well-nourished, good life.
See Melina’s recipe for Grilled Salmon + Spicy Cucumber-Orange Salsa
Do you have a favorite season to cook?
I wouldn’t say I have a favorite season for cooking, but more of the flavor building blocks draw me in. I love low- or no-cook dishes like Summer Scallops and Shiso Ceviche—sweet scallops with juicy plums, grated peppers, and pickled onions. And the epic summer feast of aioli: piles of crunchy raw vegetables, boiled potatoes in cream sauce, lightly boiled fish and seafood, all pulled over velvety homemade aioli.
I love the Fall Roast Chicken, Wild Chicken, Leeks and Sauce no less, because of the intensely salty caramels, flavorful sauces, charred roast birds, and the comforting feeling the whole dish brings. again. Spring Pâté, Elderberry Gelée and Pickled Ramps are like salty candy. It’s a mouthwatering, savory-sweet treat, and the crunchy, salted and pickled zucchini crackers that go with it take the dish to the next level. Well done!
Living in upstate New York, you are surrounded by fresh ingredients. If we don’t have access to these resources, how can we cook seasonally?
If possible, find a community farmers market. They offer local and fresher foods, often with more variety. Today, there are many community gardens and urban farms, so with a little research you might be surprised by the bounty in your own forest. Food collaborators are another means of finding unusual or interesting foods. I worked at a grocery store as a teenager in Detroit. Exposure to all kinds of foods, dietary approaches and people have left a meaningful impression.
Even without access to what we think of as “natural,” foraging can take place in open spaces or small city parks where a wide variety of wild foods love to grow. develop. Garlic, bitter gourd, garlic mustard, honeysuckle, mulberry, and honeysuckle are some tasty and hardy plants that thrive in disturbed areas.
Get Melina’s Recipe for Black Raspberry Bourbon Mascarpone Tartlets
It’s hard to take a break to eat a mindful meal, much less to make a meal. How can we realistically prioritize these slow living practices in our lives?
Much of it is about intention, with some planning ahead to possibly succeed. I often make staple recipes and add them to simple foods like beans, rice, or pasta. Wild Mushroom Escabeche is one of my favorites and makes any dish more enjoyable.
Another thing that I almost always have on hand is custard eggs. I think they’re the perfect fast food, packed with healthy fats and protein, as well as delicious, orange yolks. Add an egg custard mixed with beans or noodles, along with a few fresh herbs, for a divine meal.
What’s next for you and Catbird Cottage?
Spending time in the garden and foraging always gives me enough time. I want to create a cooking show that showcases my explorations in the gardens and forests, sharing the use of new or unusual ingredients so that more people can love as I love the surrounding nature. we.
I will also continue my writing because I have more books and this process keeps me agile. As a companion to all of that, you’ll always find me rolling around in the kitchen hosting my guests, friends, and frequently assigned projects.
Making simple and hearty dishes and sharing them is one of my greatest joys.