Saturday, July 31, 2010

Cupcakes for Horses

I will buy anything from a teenager willing to dress up as a lemon, and of course I can't resist cupcakes with plastic horse cupcake toppers. If you have time in the next hour or two, stop by the CTREE lemonade and baked goods stand in front of the IGA, to support the organization's fine therapeutic riding programs for children and young adults with developmental disabilities.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My New Book Cover, Finally

I received the cover of my Cookie Swap book (coming in September!) quite awhile ago, but it took some technical support from the children to convert the pdf into a jpeg so I could post it here. I finally did it! Much more to come on this project in the next two months, including a Facebook fan page (you all must become fans) and my book tour schedule (so far I'll be in Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Dallas, and New York City).

Acceptable Eggplant

We are entering a difficult few weeks here, eggplant season. No one else in this house appreciates the beautiful baby eggplants now ready at Quail Hill the way I do. Last night I resorted to the childrens' preferred cooking method, frying. Success at last. Not one slice remained. The secret to the coating's light crispiness: Dredging in cornstarch (rather than flour) before a dip in egg and then panko bread crumbs. Here is the recipe:

Light and Crispy Pan-Fried Eggplant
Serves 4 to 6

1/2 cup cornstarch
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
3 tablespoons water
1 lb. eggplant (I used three baby ones), cut crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices
Sea salt or kosher salt
Vegetable oil for frying

1. Place the cornstarch, egg, and bread crumbs in three separate shallow bowls. Stir the wter into the bowl with the egg. Place the eggplant slices on paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Let stand 10 minutes, pat away any moisture that's beaded onto the surface, and then dredge in cornstarch, dip in egg, and coat in panko.
2. Heat about 1/2-inch of oil in a deep pot over medium-high heat until it reaches 375 degrees. Cook the eggplant slices in batches, turning once, until golden on each side, about 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels, sprinkle with more salt, and serve.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Last Night's Dinner: Cherry Tomato Tart

Very occasionally, circumstances help to produce an unexpectedly delicious recipe, and that was the case last night. As I previously reported, the Sungold tomatoes at Quail Hill are abundant and extraordinarily sweet. Since I still have almost 10 pounds of excellent frozen pie dough, made with some of my Fairview Farm lard, I decided to make a cherry tomato tart for dinner. Looking around for ideas, I saw this David Liebovitz recipe, for a tomato tart drizzled with honey. I had some truffle honey in the pantry, which I pulled out. I knew that would be great! But the tart needed a savory element to balance the sweetness of the tomatoes, and would harmonize with the truffle-infused honey. I took a walk down to Cavaniola's and asked Michael for cheese suggestions. He gave me some aged Pecorino Romano, traditionally a match for truffle honey (which you can also buy there--it is expensive, but no more expensive than a typical entree at Beacon, Oasis, or The American Hotel, and you will enjoy it for months to come), and I was all set. Here is the recipe:

Cherry Tomato Tart with Truffle Honey
Serves 4

A variation if you're not ready to try truffle honey: Spread 2 tablespoons of grainy Dijon mustard over the bottom of the pie shell before sprinkling on the cheese and adding the tomatoes, and skip the honey.

Flaky pie dough for a single-crust pie (I used this recipe, replacing the shortening with lard, but you could use any pie dough recipe that you like)
3 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt
Ground black pepper
3 ounces grated aged Pecorino Romano
1 1/2 tablespoons truffle honey

1. Arrange an oven rack on the bottom third of the oven. Place a baking sheet on the rack and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into an 11-inch circle. Roll the dough around the rolling pin, and lift it over a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Line the pan with the dough, pressing it into the corners. Trim the dough so that it is flush with the edges by rolling the pin over the rim of the pan. Place in the freezer for 15 minutes.
2. Toss the cherry tomatoes with the olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and ground black pepper. Let stand while the dough chills.
3. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the bottom of the chilled crust. Arrange the cherry tomatoes, cut sides up, over the cheese (if they have given off some liquid, leave that behind in the bowl). Sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle a little more salt over the tart.
4. Bake until the crust is golden and the tomatoes are soft and browning, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes and serve warm.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Support Our Swimmers at the Drive-In

I will enthusiastically support a team that takes the time to hand-paint such a cute sign. Click here for more info about tomorrow night's show at Havens Beach. Click here for more info about Hamptons Drive-In shows throughout the summer, including screenings of The Goonies, Beethoven, and Toy Story.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Last Night's Dinner

A few weeks ago, during my Maine idyll, I at an arugula salad with sauteed shiitake mushrooms and crunchy bread crumbs at my favorite Maine restaurant, Fore Street. Yesterday, after I picked a sackful of arugula at Quail Hill and bought a half-pound of pristine shiitake mushrooms from David Falkowski at the Sag Harbor Farmer's market, I made my version for dinner. Because of the freshness of the ingredients, it was outstanding. I beg you to buy some of these mushrooms next Saturday. They are the furthest thing from the slippery gray examples in the produce aisle at King Kullen! Here is the recipe:

Arugula and Mushroom Salad
Serves 4

3 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced (it sounds like a lot, but they shrink to nothing!)
1/4 teaspoon salt or more to taste
8 to 10 cups baby arugula, washed and dried
1 teapsoon sherry vinegar
1/2 cup toasted fresh bread crumbs

1. Heat the oil and garlic over medium heat in a large skillet until the garlic is fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and salt and cook, stirring, until they have given off most of their liquid and are tender, 5 minutes or so.
2. Place the arugula in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the vinegar. Stir in the warm mushrooms, season with salt, and divide among 4 salad plates. Sprinkle each portion with some bread crumbs and serve.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Some Busy Days, and Back to the Kitchen

Unable to push my way through the crowd in front of Bookhampton on Thursday night, I caught a glimpse of Alec Baldwin but wasn't able to hear him read from Moby Dick. On the one hand I was disappointed to have missed him. But I was pleased and surprised that there was such a large turnout. I had been a little worried that this event would attract fewer people than last week's appearance in Southampton by Jill Zarin from The Real Housewives of New York City. Who knew that this area was host to so many Melville fans? On Friday I turned my attention to the mountains of laundry that emerged from my younger daughter's camp trunk. So I've only returned to the kitchen this afternoon, after a morning trip to Quail Hill. After I washed my cucumbers, tomatoes, arugula, eggplants, and fennel, I was hungry. I had some pita breads left over from last night's dinner, so I split one, spread some mustard on each side, arranged sliced tomatoes and cheddar cheese on top, and broiled my open-faced sandwich until the cheese bubbled. I had some just-picked basil on the counter, so I sprinkled some on top. And isn't the yellow cucumber pretty?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Call Him Ishmael

Would you miss Alec Baldwin reading from the classic whaling story, 8pm tonight at Bookhampton in East Hampton?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Last Night's Dinner

The wait is over: Yesterday I picked my first Quail Hill tomatoes, and they were extraordinarily sweet Sun Golds, my favorite. So I quartered them, put them in a bowl with some olive oil, scallions, basil, salt, and garlic, and tossed the raw sauce with the hot pasta. I had half a leftover baguette, so I made some fresh bread crumbs (cut the bread into cubes, give the cubes a whirl in the food processor, toss with some olive oil and salt and bake in a 350 oven until golden, about 10 minutes) to sprinkle on top of each serving. And I couldn't resist drizzling my plate with more fruity olive oil right before digging in. Here is the recipe:

Pasta with Raw Cherry Tomato Sauce
Serves 4

If you don't have bread crumbs, sprinkle some freshly grated Parmesan over each portion.

1 pound pasta
1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
1/4 cup packed basil leaves, finely chopped
2 scallions (white and light green parts), finely chopped
1/2 garlic clove, finely chopped
Ground black pepper
1/2 cup homemade toasted bread crumbs

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta until al dente.
2. While the pasta is cooking, combine the tomatoes, 1/4 cup oil, scallions, basil, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and black pepper to taste.
3. Drain the pasta, letting some of the water cling to it, and dump it into the bowl. Toss to combine, adjust seasonings if necessary, divide among serving bowls, sprinkle with bread crumbs, drizzle with more oil if desired, and serve.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Charming Italian Waiters in Sag Harbor

If you have had trouble finding cheerful service at our crowded restaurants during these busy days of Summer, you might head over to Gallery B on Main Street, where you will find plenty of smiling waiters (photographed by John Gruen) with charm to spare.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Yesterday we had to drive to LaGuardia Airport to pick up one of the children, who was flying home from Colorado. Fearful that, because of horrible traffic, I would have to go more than three hours without eating, I surveyed some knowledgeable friends in Queens for restaurant ideas. As eager as I was to eat at the highly recommended Parkside or London Lennie's, I was still glad that my daughter's flight was early, we hit no traffic, and we returned home in plenty of time to grab a late dinner at Citta Nuova (her choice) instead. Even more happily, we had plenty of time before her flight landed to stop in Corona for some of the Ice King's legendary shaved ices. I wish I could have tried every flavor. If only we had an Ice King of Sag Harbor...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Last Night's Dinner: Red Onion, Zucchini, and Goat Cheese Pizza

Following through on my promise to myself to make as many vegetable pizzas as I could this summer, I put this one together last night. Some of the zucchini at Quail Hill have grown to be the size of watermelons, but when I was picking my share I chose the more petite squashes. For the pizza, I sliced the slender zucchini into very thin rounds. Thicker slices may have given off too much water in the hot oven, making my pizza soggy. Chopped fresh thyme and kalamata olives stirred into the onions added some Mediterranean flavor and salty bite. I've gone through many containers of the pitted olives at the IGA this summer--they add so much to vegetarian main dishes. Here is the recipe:

1/4 cup olive oil
4 medium red onions
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
2 small zucchini (yellow and/or green), trimmed and sliced thin
6 ounces fresh goat cheese
1 pound homemade or frozen pizza dough, thawed

1. Place a baking stone in the oven and preheat to 525 degrees. Line a baker's peel or rimless baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper.
2.Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very soft and beginning to brown, about 20 minutes. Stir in the olives and thyme and set aside to cool.
3. Combine the zucchini, remaining tablespoon olive oil, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a bowl and toss to coat.
4. Lightly flour the parchment-lined peel or baking sheet. Use floured hands to press and stretch the dough into a 14-inch round. Arrange the onions on top of the dough. Scatter the zucchini pieces over the onions. Crumble the cheese over the zucchini. Slide the pizza, still on the parchment, onto the preheated baking stone and bake until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling and golden, about 15 minutes.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Gingham Dresses in Sag Harbor Get More Extravagant as Summer Progresses

A simple gingham shift dress was fine for June, but July demands an evening gown. I saw this one on display at Pailletts (78 Main Street; 899-4070) yesterday.

Sweet Cards at the Wharf Shop

Looking for cards to send to camp, I was attracted by the Wharf Shop's "local" sign. I liked the old Sag Harbor photo cards, but I wound up buying some sweet ones with vintage British ice cream advertisements.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

IGA Item of the Week

When I left Quail Hill yesterday with my freshly harvested fingerling potatoes and exotic-looking cucumbers, I imagined a Greek-inspired dinner: Roasted potatoes with rosemary, cucumbers with yogurt, garlic, and mint, and some succulent grilled loin lamb chops from the IGA's butcher counter. I'm rarely disappointed with the quality of the meat from our local supermarket, and I was a satisfied customer last night. The meal couldn't have been easier. First, I tossed the potatoes with some olive oil and salt and spread them on a foil-lined baking sheet. They went into a 400-degree oven to roast until tender, about 40 minutes. When they came out, I tossed them with a tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary. While the potatoes were in the oven I heated the grill and rubbed the chops with olive oil, salt, and cracked black pepper. Then I peeled, seeded, and chopped the cucumbers and mixed them with some yogurt, a finely chopped garlic clove, a tablespoon of chopped fresh mint, salt, and pepper. The chops took about 15 minutes to grill. Five minutes later, we sat down to our feast.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Last Night's Dinner: Bread and Tomato Salad with Quinoa and Crispy Shallots

While in Portland, I made my yearly visit to Rabelais, a bookstore specializing in cookbooks, with a stock of imports that are unavailable anywhere else in the U.S. I was thrilled to pay a premium for a new cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi, whose Guardian column, The The New Vegetarian, I had been following since my visit to London last summer. I marked a dozen recipes of interest with post-its, including a bread salad made with tomatoes, cucumbers, and a quantity of quinoa to give the dish a protein component. What a great idea! The house was so hot when we returned from Maine on Sunday afternoon that we switched on the air conditioning and headed straight for the beach. On the way home a few hours later, I saw baskets of big, beautiful tomatoes at one of the smaller farm stands on the east side of Sagg Road. Since only the most naive shoppers these days believe that every fruit and vegetable sold at a farm stand is grown right there behind the barn, I demanded to know if the tomatoes were local. The polite young man in charge admitted that they were from New Jersey. Since I am originally from New Jersey, and was raised to believe that tomatoes grown in New Jersey are the world's best, I didn't turn on my heel as he clearly expected me to, but immediatey forked over the asking price of $5 and sped home to my kitchen. The next night I made a bread salad inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi's, with garlic croutons (made with a few slices of leftover Blue Duck sourdough country bread), quinoa, tomatoes, and a mustard seed vinaigrette. I thought the dish needed something crunchy and salty, so I sprinkled some crispy fried shallots on top just before serving. Here is the recipe:

Bread and Tomato Salad with Quinoa and Crispy Shallots
Serves 4

1/4 cup olive oil
6 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
14 tablespoons (1 cup minus 2 tablespoons) water
3 slices sourdough country bread
1 garlic clove, peeled
3 large ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs (I used basil, parsley, mint, and oregano)
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
Ground black pepper

1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain and sprinkle with salt.
2. Add the quinoa to the pan and cook, stirring, until lightly toasted, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the water and 1/4 teaspoon salt, bring to a boil, cover, turn the heat to low, and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for another 15 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and fluff with a fork.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush the bread with 1 tablespoon olive oil, place on a baking sheet, and toast until just beginning to turn golden, about 12 minutes. Rub each toasted slice with the garlic clove and set aside to cool. Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes.
4. Whisk together the vinegar, mustard, mustard seeds, and remaining tablespoon olive oil. Add the bread, tomatoes, herbs, and mustard mixture to the bowl with the quinoa an toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper and let 15 minutes to allow the bread to soak up the tomato juices. Top with the crispy shallots and serve.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Back from Vacationland

I am back from a weekend visit to Maine, to check up on one of the children at camp. This trip came just as I was getting into a bit of a summer cooking rut. There's nothing wrong with serving blanched sugar snap peas, roasted new potatoes, and boiled corn seasoned with olive oil, butter, and sea salt night after night! But it was fun to eat out and shop for cookbooks in Portland, getting a few new ideas about what to do with some of the beautiful produce I'm buying at farmstands and picking at Quail Hill. I won't cook anything Maine-inspired until tonight, but I've already done some Maine-inspired shopping. On Saturday I sampled a dish of thinly sliced raw squid drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil at Miyake, the place for sushi in Portland. Notable was the way the chef had scattered pink peppercorns over the squid, exactly one peppercorn for every slice. It was delicious. So I picked up a jar at the IGA (some online research reveals that they're not peppercorns at all but the berries from Baies roses; who knew?). I'll try them on top of very thinly sliced raw zucchini dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. Or maybe I'll slice some of the tomatoes we'll be able to buy any day now, drizzle them with some thinned creme fraiche or sour cream, sprinkle them with a little chopped tarragon, and artfully scatter the peppercorns over the dish. Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sag Harbor is Having a Hamburger Moment

The sparkling new LT Burger (62 Main Street) opened yesterday, with a promising menu of burgers, fries, and shakes. For dieters and vegetarians, Lisa Perry is selling these hamburger stools as well as giant plastic ketchup bottles to go with.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Local Fava Beans, Imported Ricotta, Homemade Tagliatelle

Earlier in the week I harvested my share of Quail Hill's bumper crop of fava beans. Then I went to Cavaniola's and bought some of the Italian ricotta cheese that arrives at the shop every Friday during the Summer. This cheese had a different flavor and texture--tangier and creamier--than the Narragansett Creamery ricotta I had been buying at Lucy's Whey. I thought it would combine well with my beans to make a simple pasta sauce for my fresh egg noodles. I made my own pasta, using an old Atlas machine that I've had since the '80s, but you could always buy some A. Sisters fresh pasta on sale at the Sag Harbor Farmers' Market every Saturday if you'd like to try this luxurious treat of a dish without going to the basement in search of your old pasta machine. Here is the recipe:

Fresh Tagliatelle with Fava Beans, Ricotta, and Basil
Serves 4

1 to 2 pounds (depending on how many you can get your hands on) fresh fava beens, shelled
1 cup best-quality fresh ricotta cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
Ground black pepper
1 pound fresh egg noodles

1. Put a couple of inches of water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the shelled fava beans and blanch for 1 minute. Drain and run under cold water to cool them down quickly. Slip the tough outer skin from each bean and place the skinned beans in a large bowl. Add the ricotta, basil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and ground black pepper to the bowl.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the egg noodles until just tender. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta. Add it to the bowl and stir to combine with the beans and cheese, adding some of the pasta water as necessary to moisten. Season with salt and pepper if desired and serve immediately.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

IGA Item of the Week: Heatwave Edition

By the time I dragged myself to the IGA and home this afternoon I was thirsty enough to devour not a whole watermelon but certainly a quarter or a half.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Corn Muffins, Part 2

Keeping a promise to myself, I made another batch of corn muffins today, substituting 1 cup of corn (from 2 small ears) for the raspberries in yesterday's recipe. They were delicious, especially when slathered with the Vermont Creamery cultured butter with sea salt which I did indeed return to Lucy's Whey to buy after I realized my grave mistake in passing on it when it was offered on Thursday. I thought the butter would also be good with my Quail Hill radishes and these beautifully plump and sweet sugar snap peas that I blanched for just 2 minutes before shocking in ice water, draining, and patting dry. The ice-cold vegetables and farm-fresh butter, crunchy with salt, will make a good appetizer on this warm evening.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Corn Muffins, Part 1

Yesterday I bought the best raspberries I've ever tasted at Pike's on Sagg Main Street in Sagoponack. This morning I mixed what was left of them into my corn muffin batter (I also bought some local corn, which I'm going to use in some more corn muffins for dinner tonight--recipe to follow). I like my corn muffins as crumbly and crunchy and corny as possible, so I use half flour and half yellow corn meal (preferably stone-ground; Provisions usually has it). If you like your muffins more cakey, use 1 1/3 cups of flour and 2/3 cups cornmeal instead. Here is the recipe:

Raspberry Corn Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
1 cup raspberries

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
2. Whisk together the sugar, egg, and egg yolk in a large bowl. Whisk in the melted butter until emulsified, about 1 minute. Whisk in the sour cream and milk until smooth.
3. Stir the flour mixture into the egg mixture until just combined. Gently stir in the raspberries, taking care not to crush them.
4. Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Bake until golden brown and well-risen, 15 to 17 minutes. Let the muffins cool in the tin on top of a wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove them from the tin and let them cool on the rack for at least 10 minutes or let cool to room temperature before eating.

Friday, July 2, 2010

I Should Have Bought the Butter...

Although our trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter a few weeks ago was a dream come true for the children, it did cause me to miss my friend Angela Miller's book signing and tasting at Lucy's Whey. I am still a bit bitter, imagining everyone who was enjoying her acclaimed Consider Bardwell Farm cheeses and having her inscribe their copies of her inspiring memoir, Hay Fever, in Lucy's delightful shop while I waited on line to purchase Hufflepuff t-shirts and Dark Mark lollipops, wondering if I was nauseous because of the Hogwarts roller coaster ride, the 95-degree temperature, or the butterbeer I drank with my breakfast at the Three Broomsticks restaurant. So when I heard that Allison Hooper of the Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery was going to be at Lucy's Whey, handing out samples of her goat and cow milk cheeses yesterday I was not going to miss her, especially since I had just read about her new Cremont goat and cow's milk cheese in the New York Times on Wednesday, and I am the pubicists's dream, a reader who will immediately run out and buy whatever the paper recommends, as long as it is available within a 10-mile radius of my house. I wasn't disappointed--the cheese was exquisite. I bought an Amagansett baguette and a round of the Cremont for dinner. One regret--I passed on the creamery butter, crunchy with sea salt. What was I thinking? But I don't feel too sad. Unlike the on-sale cashmere sweaters that I resisted yesterday at j.crew and will surely be gone by today, fine American-made butter and cheeses are re-stocked as necessary at Lucy's. How lucky that this place is close to home.