Monday, October 31, 2011

October 31, 2011: Just Another Day on Main Street

If you live in Sag Harbor, chances are good that you will run into some colorful characters on your way to the IGA for a can of chipotle chiles.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Congratulations, Kara!

I don't know whether Kara grew this pumpkin which is on display at The Country Garden or just guessed its weight, but congratulations to her either way. See you tomorrow on the Pumpkin Trail.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

I had an hour to kill in Southampton yesterday, so I stopped by Sant Ambroeus for a cappuccino. What an oasis of civility! But why was it empty in the early afternoon? If Sant Ambroeus moved to Main Street in Sag Harbor it would be packed every day. On the way out I admired their Italian-style cookies, reminding myself to put a recipe for Brutti ma Buoni in my holiday cookies story for Newsday next month.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Last Night's Dinner: Roasted Mini Pumpkins

I bought these mini pumpkins at The Country Garden for a Newsday photo shoot last week (talented photographer Doug Young never accidentally gets the dog bed in his pictures). But in the back of my mind I new they were destined for the dinner table. Last night I roasted them and served them with some skirt steak and kale chips. Here's the recipe:

Roasted Mini Pumpkins
Serves 4

4 mini pumpkins
2 tablespoons butter
Ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with heavy-duty foil.
2. With a sharp chef's knife, slice away the top third of each pumpkin. Scrape the seeds and any stringy pulp out with a spoon.
3. Place a 1/2 tablespoon of butter inside the bottom half of each pumpkin, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and replace the tops. Roast until soft, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Instant Caramel-Banana Ice Cream

Last week I put four over-ripe bananas in the freezer, hoping that I'd get around to making banana bread in a few days but knowing that I'd probably unearth them in April and throw them out during Spring freezer cleaning. Yesterday, ahead of schedule, my daughter reminded me of what happens when you process frozen bananas in a food processor. They become a creamy ice cream-like semifreddo in seconds. For our banana semifreddo, we added a few spoonfuls (a tablespoon per banana) of Fran's Caramel Sauce from Citarella's, and were very pleased with caramel-flecked the results. Do I need to write out such a simple recipe? Here it is:

Instant Caramel-Banana Ice Cream
Serves 4

4 very ripe bananas, frozen
4 to 6 tablespoons best-quality caramel sauce

Peel the bananas and cut them into chunks. Place them in the workbowl of a food processor along with the caramel sauce and process until smooth. Serve immediately or scrape into an airtight container and freeze for up to 1 day before serving.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Literary Importance of IGA Discussed at Library Dinner

Last night I attended a One for the Books dinner at the home of a member of the Sag Harbor Oyster Club, so of course the appetizer was outstanding. The book we were all supposed to have read was Travels with Charley, but as dinner progressed the conversation turned to a Steinbeck novel I didn't know, The Winter of Our Discontent. I was thunderstruck when I learned that a fictionalized Schiavoni's IGA figures prominently in the story!!! I ran over to Bookhampton this morning to educate myself.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

I Learn a New Word

In search of a use for a stale hunk of pane di casa from Citarella's, I stumbled upon a host of recipes for an Italian bread crumb topping, or pangrattato. Italians use it instead of grated cheese (it is also known as "poor man's Parmesan"), sprinkling it on pasta, gratins, and roasted or steamed vegetables. To make my pangrattato, I simply scooped the insides of the bread into a food processor and ground them into crumbs before sauteeing until crisp in a frying pan with some olive oil. I added some anchovies for flavor. You could also add hot red pepper flakes, minced garlic, lemon zest, and/or parsley. I used my pangrattato on a silky turnip puree. Here's the recipe:

Turnip Puree with Anchovy Pangrattato
Serves 6 to 8

3 pounds turnips, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
1/2 cup low-sodium canned chicken broth
2 cups stale country bread, torn into pieces
4 anchovy fillets, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. Place the turnips in a large, heavy pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, turn down the heat, and simmer until tender, 30 to 40 minutes.
2. While turnips are cooking, combine bread and anchovies in the workbowl of a food processor and process until finely chopped.
3. Heat the oil over medium heat and add the bread crumb mixture. Cook, stirring occasionally, until toasted. Remove from heat, stir in parsely, and set aside.
4. Drain the turnips and puree (in batches if necessary) in a food processor with the butter and chicken broth. Scrape into a serving bowl, season with salt, and sprinkle with bread crumb topping before serving.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Marie Eiffel to Become Another Addiction?

I see that Marie Eiffel is moving into the space directly across the alleyway from Java Nation. And that irresistible shift dress with the big chocolate brown paint splatters is displayed right near the door. Might it be just the thing to wear to a One for the Books dinner tomorrow night?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Local Corn Leads Me to Granola Recipe

Even when I'm writing for a national outlet like Zester Daily, there's always a local inspiration behind the story. The idea for my new piece, with a recipe for popped quinoa granola, popped into my head (sorry!) when I saw all of the Indian corn (and smelled the roasted corn) at Hank's Pumpkin Town last week.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Time for Brussels Sprouts

No doubt, the best way to make sure that your Brussels sprouts are fresh is to buy them as soon as they've been cut, and are still attached to their stalks, like these sprouts at Falkowski's on Scuttlehole Road. It is a bit of a pain to remove them (I used a sharp paring knife), and you never know how much you'll wind up with. Would you believe that a giant stalk only yielded 10 ounces of sprouts? I sauteed them with a leek and then glazed them with a little balsamic vinegar this afternoon, but there weren't enough to go around as a side dish. You'll have to wait and see, in next Thursday's Newsday, how I managed to stretch this little bowl of Brussels sprouts into a dinner for four.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Last week, I was paging through my copy of Plenty, settling on my menu for tomorrow night's One for the Books dinner (now it can be revealed: I am hosting a party to benefit John Jermain Library). A recipe for Black Pepper Tofu caught my eye and I prepared it for the children. It was fantastic as only a dish with 12 cloves of garlic, 3 kinds of soy sauce, and a stick of butter can be, but the children insisted that the fried tofu cubes alone were the best part. So last night I bought more tofu, cut it into fingers, dusted it with cornmeal, and served it on its own, with a quick tomato sauce for dipping. Don't my tofu fingers look like the mozzarella sticks from Espresso? Almost a pound of tofu disappeared in minutes, and we could have eaten more. Here is the recipe:

Pan-Fried Tofu Fingers with Tomato Sauce
Serves 3 to 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
One 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, pureed in a blender or food processor
One 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu
1/4 cup cornmeal
Vegetable oil for frying

1. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, oregano, and hot red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the pureed tomatoes and cook, stirring every once in a while, until thickened, about 15 minutes. Cover and keep warm.
2. Slice the tofu into 12 fingers and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt.
3. Place the cornmeal in a shallow bowl and coat each tofu finger with cornmeal.
4. Heat about 1/2-inch of vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the tofu (cooking in batches if necessary; you don't want to crowd them) and cook, turning every minute or two, until golden and crisp on both sides. Briefly drain on paper towels and serve with tomato sauce on the side.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tonight's Dinner: Cauliflower Risotto

If you spend any time on Montauk Highway between Watermill and Bridgehampton you know that Long Island is famous for its cauliflower. Today, I stopped and bought some, and tonight I incorporated it into risotto. Cooking the florets in broth softened them up a bit, and when I stirred them into the rice they broke into easy-to-eat pieces. The result was a wonderfully creamy vegetable and rice dish, just right for this beautiful October evening.

Cauliflower Risotto

Serves 6

1 quart low sodium canned chicken broth
2 cups water
5 cups small cauliflower florets (from one small head of cauliflower)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 slice bacon, chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 1/4 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. Heat the broth and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the cauliflower and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook at a simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off heat.
2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until beginning to crisp. Add the shallot and pepper flakes and cook until shallot is softened, about 3 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add wine and cook, stirring, until most of the liquid has evaporated.
3. Ladle a cup or two of the broth and cauliflower mixture into the pot and cook, stirring, until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid. Continue the cook, adding the broth and cauliflower in 1-cup increments, always stirring, until the rice is al dente and the cauliflower has broken into pieces. If you run out of liquid, add some water to the pot, heat it up, and continue to add to the pot until the rice is done.
4. Remove the pot from the heat, stir in the cheese, remaining butter, and salt to taste. Serve immediately.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Film Festival Features My Favorite Food

The Hamptons International Film Festival is featuring so many great films that it is difficult to choose. But this one is at the very top of my list.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

IGA Item of the Week: Ice Cream Returns to the IGA

I never realized how much money I spent on ice cream at the IGA until their freezer broke down and they were out of stock for weeks on end. As of yesterday, the freezer was up and running and re-stocked, just in time for winter, as the sign says.