Saturday, April 30, 2011

Yard Sale Season

My neighbor who owns The American Hotel had another one of his epic yard sales, so I walked across the street to see what he was selling. I resisted many tempting items, including some amazing vintage sheet music, a silver covered platter large enough to hold a turkey, a typewriter that would look neat in my office, and collections of champagne stoppers, coasters, and corkscrews from the Hotel. But I did come home with two dozen souvenir 2000 glasses, which I guess means that in ten years I'll be the one snapping up Will & Kate tankards and dessert plates.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tonight's Dinner: Couscous with Carrots

I picked up a new cookbook, Spice, at Bookhampton yesterday. Although I haven't had a chance to cook from it yet, I was inspired by Ana Sortun's formula for the Moroccan Ras el Hannout to spice up my carrots from Bette and Dale's with cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, and paprika before adding them to some whole wheat couscous I bought at Provisions this morning. Little lamb meatballs covered with sesame seeds and a local spinach salad dressed with lemon juice and olive oil rounded out our dinner.

Couscous with Carrots
Serves 4 as a side dish

1 cup whole wheat couscous
2 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped
3 scallions, white and light green parts, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch saffron threads (optional)
1 1/2 cups water
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1. Place the couscous in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until lightly toasted, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
2. Add the carrots, scallions, olive oil, and salt and cook, covered, until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until golden around the edges, another 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Add the garlic, paprika, turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, and saffron if using and cook until fragrant, about 30 minutes. Stir in the water, turn the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Stir in the couscous, cover, remove from the heat, and let stand 12 minutes.
4. Sprinkle the lemon juice over the couscous, fluff with a fork, and season with salt.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Oysters

It is great to have a friend who is a member of the Sag Harbor Oyster Club! Yesterday we celebrated the holiday and the beautiful Spring weather with some of the oysters he has been raising right off of his dock.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Last Night's Dinner: Flatbreads with Za'atar

In Cambridge a few nights ago, we enjoyed a half-dozen wonderfully spiced Middle Eastern dishes at Oleana. As soon as I got home, I hustled over to Bookhampton and ordered a copy of chef/owner Ana Sortun's book, Spice. But I couldn't wait for its arrival to enjoy some of the spices that have been sitting, neglected, in my pantry. So last night I baked some flatbreads sprinkled with za'atar (a mixture of salt, sumac, sesame seeds, and thyme) to go along with our grilled lamb chops and roasted carrots. Here is the recipe, adapted from Simply Great Breads:

Flatbreads with Za'atar
Makes 6 small flatbreads

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon fine sea salt or kosher salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons room temperature water
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons za'atar

1. Combine the flour, yeast, salt, and water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook and stir with a rubber spatula a few times until a rough dough forms. Knead the dough on medium speed until it is smooth and supple, about 7 minutes. Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 1 day.
2. One hour before you want to bake your breads, take the bowl out of the refrigerator and turn the dough onto a lightly floured countertop. Use a bench scraper or sharp chef's knife to divide the dough into 6 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a round, sprinkle lightly with flour, and drape with plastic wrap. Let stand 1 hour.
3. Place a baking stone in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baker's peel or rimless baking sheet with parchment paper. Press the dough pieces into 4-inch circles. Place them on the parchment-lined peel. Press yoru fingertips into the dough rounds to create little dimples. Brush each round liberally with the olive oil and sprinkle with the za'atar.
4. Slice the dough, still on the parchment, onto teh hot baking stone and bake until risen and lightly browned, about 7 minutes (do not overbake, or the breads will dry out. Slide the breads, still on the parchment, onto a wire rack to cool slightly and serve warm.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Is It Just Me?

I've just returned from a short trip to Boston, the highlight of which was a visit to the Institute of Contemporary Art. Is it just me, or have the museum's designers referenced the IGA in their logo? As I strolled through the galleries, I became convinced that this was no coincidence. More evidence of the ICA's barely concealed promotion of grocery shopping: An exhibit of Gabriel Kuri's work, including these giant renderings of his store receipts, made to his specifications by master weavers in Guadalajara.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

An Inspirational Film

Yesterday afternoon I took one of my children, the camera buff, to see Bill Cunningham New York at the Sag Harbor Cinema. Bill Cunningham has made an art out of looking around, recording the beautiful things that he sees, and organizing his photos into little narratives about life in the city. Like most people in the audience, I left the theater eager to look at Main Street with new eyes. Since I had my own brand-new camera in my bag, I took a photo of the people waiting for the next show. Their puffy wind-resistant jackets suddenly seemed interesting!

Sag Harbor Seat Cushions

Have you seen the colorful mattress ticking at the Variety Store? Although I made a laptop sleeve from some yellow and red ticking awhile ago, I don't have the skills to re-cover seat cushions. So I took the fabric and the cushions to Nancy in Noyac, and she worked her magic, for a very good price.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Knitting My Dog, Courtesy of John Jermain Library

I updated my library list yesterday, and am eagerly awaiting the arrival of Knit Your Own Dog, which includes patterns for a pug, an afghan hound, and several terriers in addition to a poodle. I do wish we had a knitting shop in Sag Harbor. The last time I tried to knit something I ran into trouble when it came time to make two sleeves of the same length. The poodle, with its four legs, will definitely be a challenge.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Free Books!

While I was sitting in my kitchen and dreaming about someone else opening up a bakery on Division Street, my friend and co-author Daniel Leader was busy founding the South African Whole Grain Bread Project, and building mobile bakeries in Johannesburg and Soweto that now feed more than 2000 children a day. He's written a story about his experiences, up now on Zesterdaily. And to celebrate the publication of our new book, Zester is giving away signed copies. To enter the drawing, click here.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

There's no sweeter time to shop at the Variety Store than right now, while Easter candy fills the center aisle shelves. I had promised to bake cookies for a Spring musicale, and when I saw these mini Cadbury eggs I thought of a recipe I hadn't made since my older daughter was in Mrs. Deyermond's third grade class. The little nests were just as pretty and tasty as I remembered.

Bird's Nest Cookies
Makes about 24 cookies

1 1/4 cups sweetened flaked coconut
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
About 60 small milk chocolate eggs with sugar shells, such as Cadbury Mini Eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread coconut in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast until pale golden, stirring once or twice, 6 to 8 minutes. Let cool completely on the baking sheet.
2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium-size bowl.
3. Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl with an electric mixer until fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice as necessary. Add the egg, vanilla, and coconut extract and beat until smooth. Mix in the flour mixture on low until just incorporated.
4. Shape the dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. Roll the balls in the toasted coconut to coat. Place the balls 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. With your thumb, make an indentation int eh center of each ball large enough to hold 2 to 3 chocolate eggs. Shape the sides of the cookies with your thumb and index finger so they stand up and have nice bird's next shapes.
5. Bake in two batches until golden, about 10 minutes. Let the cookies cool completely on the baking sheets. Just before serving, place 2 or 3 chocolate eggs in the indentation of each cookie.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Best Thing About Rite-Aid in Bridgehampton

No, you can't buy wine there. But you do have to pass by Channing Daughters Winery to get there from Sag Harbor. And if you stop by the winery on your way to the drugstore, you will have a chance to sample and buy all four of their new Rosato releases before they sell out, which they always do, before the summertime, when you really want to drink them.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Newsflash: Bette and Dale Now Selling Scallions!

Hoping for a single bag of spinach, I was delighted to find several bunches of scallions at Under the Willow today. Selflessly, I bought only one bunch (I can't say that about the spinach, which I've been waiting for all week). And then I made these seasonal biscuits for dinner tonight, to go with my crispy pan-fried chicken:

Buttermilk Biscuits with Scallions

Makes about 10 biscuits

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teapsoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk, plus 1 or 2 tablespoons more if necessary
5 scallions, white and light green parts, finely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the butter into 1/4-inch dice. Place it in a small bowl and set it in the freezer while you gather the rest of yoru ingredients.
2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add chilled butter and, with an electric mixer, mix on low speed until mixture resembles coarse meal (or you can cut the butter into the flour by mixing and pinching with your fingers--if your hands aren't too warm!). Stir in the buttermilk and scallions with a wooden spoon until the mixture starts to form clumps. Add a tablespoon or two of buttermilk if the mixture is too dry to come together.
3. Turn the clumps out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently knead once or twice until the dough comes together into a rough mass. With one or two passes of a lightly floured rolling pin, gently roll the dough out to a 1/2-inch thickness. Dip a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter into some flour and cut as many biscuits as you can from the dough. Transfer the biscuits to the prepared baking sheet. Gently pat scraps together and cut out more biscuits with the remaining dough.
4. Bake the biscuits until risen and light golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes on a wire rack and serve warm.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Chicago (Pizza)

This sign went up a week or so ago, and every time I saw it I thought of pizza. It's opening night (I have tickets to tomorrow night's show; I'm looking forward to seeing what's on sale at the concession stand), and I finally gave in to my craving. Here is the recipe, adapted from this one in Cook's Illustrated:

Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza with Spinach and Ricotta
Serves 4

For the dough:

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoon room temperature water
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus 2 tablespoons softened

For the filling:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
One 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes
8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup ricotta cheese
One half of a 10-ounce package chopped frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (this turns out to be about 1/4 cup--you will be amazed at how much water you can get out of it if you try)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Make the dough: Combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook (or in a large bowl, if you want to knead by hand). Pour in the water and the melted butter and mix with a rubber spatula until a rough dough forms. Knead on medium with the dough hook until the dough comes together in a smooth ball, about 5 to 7 minutes (alternatively, turn the rough dough out onto a lightly floured countertop and knead by hand until the dough comes together, 7 to 10 minutes). Place in an oiled bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise until doubled or tripled in volume, 1 1/2 to 3 hours.
2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured countertop and use a lightly floured rolling pin to roll it into a 15-inch by 6-inch rectangle. Dot the dough with 2 tablespoons softened butter and spread it evenly over the dough with an offset spatula. Starting at the short end, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Place it seam side down on the counter top and roll the cylinder into a 9-inch by 4-inch rectangle. Starting again at the short end, fold it into thirds, as you would a letter, and pinch the seams together with your fingertips. Lightly shape the dough into a ball, put it back in the oiled bowl, cover again with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 6 hours.
3. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes and oregano, bring to a simmer, and cook until the tomatoes are breaking down and the sauce is thickened, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and season with salt. Let cool to warm room temperature.
4. Spray a 9-inch round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 13-inch round. Transfer it to the pan, pressing it into the bottom and up the sides. Sprinkle the mozzarella over the dough. Spoon the sauce on top of the mozzarella. In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, spinach, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Dot the top of the pizza with spoonfuls of the ricotta and spinach mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan.
5. Bake the pizza until the crust is browned and the cheese is bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Passover Desserts

My Passover dessert recipes are up on today. Hope my late Uncle Morrie, who always led our seder, would be proud. Thanks again to Doug Young for the pretty pictures.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Tonight's Dinner: Flatbread Pizzas with Lamb and Feta

Tonight's dinner was an almost comical amalgamation of my recent obsessions: Harry Ludlow's lamb, Cavaniola's marinated feta cheese, those naan breads that I used to sneak off to King Kullen to buy but are now for sale at the IGA. Here is the recipe:

Flatbread Pizzas with Ground Lamb and Feta
Makes 4 individual pizzas

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 pound ground lamb
One 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses (I can't even remember where I bought this and if you can't find it locally you can leave it out; my bottle is so old I may very well have taken it with me when I moved to Sag Harbor from my apartment in the city)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup feta cheese
4 naan-type flatbreads
6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves

1. Place a large pizza stone in the oven (if you have one--if not, just assemble the pizzas on a baking sheet and skip this) and preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the lamb and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring to break up clumps, until the meat has lost its pink color, about 5 minutes. Scrape the meat onto a paper towel-lined plate, and press with more paper towels to soak up excess grease.
2. Return the meat to the pan along with the tomatoes and heat, stirring often, to break down the tomatoes, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir int he pomegranate molasses and cinnamon and season with additional salt if necessary.
3. Place the flatbreads on the pizza stone, spread some of the meat mixture over each one, and sprinkle with cheese. Bake until the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with parsley, and serve.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

IGA Item of the Week

I am usually not a sucker for "healthy" snack foods, but when I saw these sprouted whole grain pretzels at the IGA, they reminded me of some amazing Pennsylvania Dutch hemp seed pretzels ("hempzels"!) I tasted at a food festival in Pittsburgh while I was on my book tour. So I bought a bag and brought them home. They were delicious. When the children came home from school, they were less enthusiastic than I was, until they remembered the jar of Fran's caramel sauce (which costs less at Citarella's than on Fran's website) that I had in the refrigerator and discovered a new favorite sweet-and-salty combination. Finally, the secret to getting kids to eat healthy snacks: Just add caramel sauce.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Opening Night

After a quiet few months here in Sag Harbor, there is all of a sudden almost too much to do.
Bay Burger opened last night after a Winter break. We barely had time to play with their trademark Wikki Stixs before our food arrived and we devoured it. Then, it was on to the Watermill Center (no photography allowed, sorry!) to see what some of the artists in residence had been working on this Winter and were ready to perform for the community: A Butoh-inspired piece combining story and images from Little Red Riding Hood and The Red Shoes.

Friday, April 1, 2011

He is Called Ishmael

I was extremely impressed with a recent story in the Express about the Pierson High School Quiz Bowl Team's advancement to the regional championship tournament. Congratulations! But I was shocked to hear from someone on the team that one of the questions our Whalers missed this season concerned the name in the opening line of Moby Dick. Obviously, these students missed Alec Baldwin's Bookhampton reading in July. Perhaps someone from the team should stop by the store tomorrow to hear Donovan Hohn reading from Moby Duck. Who knows what tournament-winning information on the science of ocean drift might be obtained during the 5 o'clock hour?