Sunday, January 31, 2010

Good Vibrations (and a lot of Cash) for Haiti

The Bay Street Theater was packed to the rafters last night, for the Hamptons for Haiti benefit. As often happens to me when I leave my house to go to Main Street, I was taken by surprise by the diverse talents of my neighbors. For a while now I had been hearing about Djambeli Drum and Dance (led by Dan Bailey, of Monday Night Drum Circle fame) from my friend Sue, and I finally got a chance to see and hear them perform. Since I realized, after I recently purchased a metronome to help me with my piano practice, that I have no sense of rhythm, I was impressed by their skill. And their soulfulness. They sent out a loving rhythmic message to earthquake victims, while helping to raise much-needed funds.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Last Night's Dinner

Am I going through ham withdrawal? Maybe. Yesterday I wanted to make spaghetti with sauteed fennel. I knew I wanted to add some fennel seeds and hot red pepper flakes to the sauce. White wine and a little heavy cream for sure. And some parsley for color. But idea seemed to lack that special something...Then I remembered the way the domestic pancetta, available in four-ounce packages across from the butter at the IGA, crisps ups so nicely in the frying pan. I thought these crisp bits would make a delicious garnish for my fennel pasta, and they did. Here's the recipe:

Spaghetti with Fennel (and Pancetta)
Serves 4 to 6

4 ounces pancetta, finely chopped
1 tablepsoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
2 fennel bulbs, stalks trimmed, sliced thin
3/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 pound spaghetti
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook until just crisp. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat.
2. Add the olive oil, garlic, fennel seeds, and hot red pepper flakes to the pan and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
3. Add the fennel and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the white wine to the pan, bring to a simmer, cover, and continue to cook until the fennel is very soft, another 10 minutes or so.
4. Stir in the heavy cream, heat through, and remove the pan from the heat. Season with salt to taste.
5. While the fennel is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the spaghetti until just tender. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta. Return it to the pot and stir in the fennel mixture and cheese, adding some of the reserved pasta water as needed to moisten.
6. Divide the pasta and fennel among individual bowls. Top each portion with a sprinkling of parsley and some of the crisped pancetta. Serve immediately.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies East of the Shinnecock Canal, No Exaggeration

Yesterday, parents were invited to Ms. Meyerhoff's class at Sag Harbor Elementary for a recitation of original Tall Tales, written by the students as party of their study of westward expansion. Every aspect of the project was perfect, from the watercolor backdrop to the performances (each student told a tale, from memory, as the others sat around the campfire and listened respectfully) to the beautifully illustrated books we were able to page through as we enjoyed a snack afterwards. I knew the bar would be set high, so I brought my best chocolate chip cookies, a marbled version with both semisweet chocolate chips and white chocolate chunks. Here is the recipe:

Marbled Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 40 cookies

You can use white "chocolate" morsels for these, but I chopped up a few real Lindt white chocolate bars from the IGA instead.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teapsoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup white chocolate chips or two three-ounce white chocolate bars, chopped into chunks
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
2. Combine the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until well-combined. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth. Stir in the flour mixture.
3. Divide the cookie dough equally between two bowls. Stir the cocoa powder into one of the bowls. Stir the white chocolate chips or chunks into the chocolate cookie dough. Stir the semisweet chocolate chips into the plain cookie dough.
4. Take a rounded teaspoonful of one dough and a rounded teaspoonful of the other dough and roll them together between your palms to form a single ball. Place dough balls on the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 3 inches between each cookie.
5. Bake the cookies until golden around the edge but still soft on top, 9 to 10 minutes. Slide the cookies, still on the parchment, onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

IGA Item of the Week

It's that time of year when I need to eat something that will warm me up, but am so tired of winter food. I wanted to make a seasonal dinner that also hinted at the warmer weather to come. So I bought a can of coconut milk at the IGA and made this carrot soup with some tropical flavor. It was also a good excuse to buy a loaf of excellent whole wheat, raisin, and walnut bread at Cavaniola's (89 Division Street; 725-0095), to go with.

Curried Carrot Soup
Serves 4

I used regular coconut milk (who is counting calories?) but light would work just as well.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon peeled and chopped fresh ginger
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup well-stirred coconut milk

1. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. STir in the garlic, ginger, and curry powder and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the carrots to coat.
2. Stir in the broth, bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and simmer until the carrots are soft, about 20 minutes.
3. Puree the soup in small batches in a blender (be careful not to over-fill the blender so the hot soup doesn't erupt from the lid) and return it to a clean pot. Stir in the coconut milk, season with salt, heat through, and serve.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Supporting Middle School Thespians

This morning I bought two tickets to Pierson Middle School's upcoming production of Annie. Performances for February 4, 5, 6, and 7 are almost sold out, so if you want to hear "Tomorrow" sung live in Sag Harbor you'd better go over to the school's Main Office (725-5302) in the next day or two.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

This Cake is Driving Me Crazy

It may seem like I haven't done a lot of cooking this week, but actually I have been chained to my stove, working on a recipe for Brown Butter Pound Cake that I just can't get right. My first cake looked good, but was too dry. My second cake was moist, but with an unattractive flat top. My third cake...don't even ask. This morning I gave it a fourth try, using a food processor to mix the batter, and I had high hopes. It rose beautifully in the oven, and I took it out a few minutes early because I didn't want it to dry out. But look what happened when turned my back on it to wash some dishes. It completely collapsed. I peeked into the interior and saw that it was raw. What a difference five minutes can make. Perhaps tomorrow I will finally have a recipe for you.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Sag Harbor Valentines

My kids are too old to consider bringing these pirate-themed Valentines from the Ideal (102 Main Street; 725-1670) to school, but I could send them to out-of-town friends with greetings from Sag Harbor. It's not even February, which gives me some time to mull over the purchase...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Teaching Chickens to Bake Bread

Every Thursday I scan our paper of record for food-related news, and today I was rewarded with this tidbit: On Saturday, Liz Joyce's Goat on a Boat Puppet Theater (Route 114 and East Union Street; 725-4193) will host a performance of "Little Bread Hen," a show that promises to answer such burning questions as : " does a chicken learn to bake bread and why, exactly, won't the other animals help?" If I can find a pre-schooler to accompany me, I may check it out.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


It was with this recipe for Macaroni and Cheese that I said goodbye a few nights ago to what remained of our ham:

Skillet Macaroni and Cheese
Serves 6

12 ounces penne pasta
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce (or more to taste)
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
6 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) mild cheddar cheese, shredded
6 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) Gruyere, shredded
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
2 ounces (1/2 cup) diced smoked ham
1 1/2 cups crushed Saltines (about 25 crackers)

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta until just tender. Drain and set aside.
2. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, mustard, Tabasco, and 1/2 teaspoon salt until smooth. Slowly whisk in the milk and then the cream and bring to a bare simmer. Add the cheese in small handfuls, whisking, until melted.
3. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the pasta, peas, and ham.
4. Sprinkle the cracker crumbs over the pasta and dot with the remaining tablespoon of butter. Bake until the topping is browned and the cheese is bubbling, about 20 minutes.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

IGA Item of the Week

A while ago a friend e-mailed to tell me about the triple creme goat brie, well-wrapped and packed in a box to preserve its freshness, that she had discovered in the dairy aisle at the IGA. I told her that although the larger part of my food budget goes right to Schiavoni's, I save the cheese money for Cavaniola's (89 Division Street; 725-0095). What if someone saw me buying cheese at the IGA? It would be like getting caught with a Golden Pear cup (No disrespect to the nice people at the Golden Pear! I wouldn't go anywhere else for muffins!) outside of Java Nation. But I filed away the information, in case of a cheese emergency, guessing that if the day ever came, it would be a Tuesday, the cheese shop's day off. So today, confronted with the "closed" sign near the door at Cavaniola's and in need of a triple creme cheese for a story with a fast-approaching deadline, I didn't panic or drive Citarella's. I walked to Main Street and bought this pretty little brie.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Enjoying the Thaw

For the first time in weeks I was actually looking forward to spending time outside, so I headed to the Buckskill Winter Club after lunch. The snacks were nothing to write home about, which helped me focus on the delightful skating.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Opportunities to Save

This cute truck was beautifying the parking lot behind Main Street today as its driver delivered snacks to the Variety Store. I want these deliveries to continue, so I promised myself I'd buy some Utz products today. The sign in the window didn't lie: Bags of potato chips are discounted to 99 cents. At this price, I took a risk on "The Crab Chip," flavored with Old Bay seasoning, and also grabbed a box of pretzel rods. On my way to the checkout I noticed another opportunity to save: A new and prominent display of coin wrappers for keeping track of my loose change.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Last Night's Dinner

During the school holiday we spent a few days in the city, eating one memorable meal at an Austrian restaurant in Tribeca. There was no discreet way to take a photo, so you will just have to take my word for it that Jake Gyllenhaal was sitting just a few tables away from us, enjoying cheese fondue I believe. The children were less impressed with the movie stars (oh, yes, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard were there also) than with the spatzle. They have been asking ever since if I could make this rustic Austrian egg pasta at home. I did so last night, serving it not with ham, but with a tasty meatloaf flavored with dill and mustard. Here's the spatzle recipe:

Serves 4 as a side dish

You can buy an inexpensive potato ricer at the Variety Store (114 Main Street; 725-9706), if you don't already own one.

2 large eggs
1/3 cup milk
Ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. Beat the eggs, milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg together in a medum bowl. Stir in the flour until smooth. Let stand 10 minutes.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Spoon about half of the dough into a potato ricer fitted with the disk with the large holes. Press down on the ricer, extruding about an inch of the dough through the holes and then slicing it into the boiling water, using a sharp paring knife (don't worry if the dough pieces clump together--just break them up by stirring with a wooden spoon as they cook). Repeat with the remaining dough.
3. When the spatzle pieces float to the surface of the water (this will take 2 to 3 minutes), scoop them out with a slotted spoon and transfer them to a bowl.
4. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cooked spatzle to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until it begins to crisp up and color a bit, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately, hot from the pan.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Drive to Cromer's

This time of year, inspiration isn't always easy to find at the grocery store. The drive to the grocery store is another matter. Yesterday on my way to Cromer's (3500 Noyac Road; 725-9004) I couldn't pass by Long Beach without stopping for a few minutes to enjoy the view of our frozen bay from the parking lot. I hear that temperatures will be rising tomorrow, so if you need an excuse to marvel at these ice-covered boulders you might think about driving to Noyac this afternoon for some top-quality veal shanks or kielbasa.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Last Night's (Ham) Dinner

First of all, thank you to everyone who has written with concern and even alarm about my recent ham-based diet. Let me assure you that I have been alternating ham dinners with nitrite-free meals. Two nights ago we ate tofu and rice. I swear. But yesterday, it was back to the ham. One child had to eat early, to make a dance class at Studio 3 (43 Foster Avenue, Bridgehampton; 537-3008). So I assembled these ham and cheese panini, made with a baguette, Gruyere, and chopped cornichons from Cavaniola's (89 Division Street; 725-0095). I grilled one of them at 5pm in my trusty panini press (bought several years ago at Williams-Sonoma and worth every penny), and then grilled the others later when the rest of us were ready to eat. The recipe is adapted from Panini Express, a book I highly recommend since for every copy purchased I will earn about 20 cents. Here's the recipe:

Ham and Gruyere Panini
Serves 4

1 large baguette, sliced lengthwise in half
2 tablespoons grainy mustard
6 ounces shredded Gruyere cheese
12 small cornichons, chopped
6 ounces thinly sliced smoked ham

1. Heat a panini or sandwich press according to the manufacturer's instructions. Spread the bottom half of the baguette with the mustard. Arrange the Gruyere on top of the mustard. Sprinkle the cornichons over the Gruyere. Arrange the ham on top of the cheese. Top with the top half of the baguette. Cut into four sandwiches.
2. Put the sandwiches on the press (depending on the size of your machine you may have to grill them in two batches) and cook until they are browned and crisp, 4 to 6 minutes. Carefully remove form the press and serve immediately.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

IGA Item of the Week

In anticipation of today's showing of The Young Victoria at the Sag Harbor Cinema (90 Main Street; 725-0010), I bought some Cadbury chocolate ("By Appointment to H.M. The Queen") at the IGA. We'll ignore the fine print on the wrapper that says the candy was manufactured in Hershey, PA...

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Last Night's (Ham) Dinner

We are having a big problem with this leftover ham. Every time the dog hears the refrigerator door open, she comes running, and then jumps up toward the counter, hoping to grab the ham and drag it to her bed, I suppose. When I wrap up the leftover ham and put it away after cutting a piece off of it, she stands at the refrigerator door, crying. I'm trying to use it up as fast as I can, but a little goes a long way! And anyway, I'm afraid that the idea that there is ham in the refrigerator has been imprinted on her brain, so that long after it is gone she will still be begging for it. Still, I am enjoying the leftovers. Last night I made this delicious rosti, buttery and crisp on the outside, buttery and creamy on the inside, and flavored it with a half cup of diced ham. Here is the recipe (You can always buy ham in half-cup portions from the IGA. Or use some diced smoked pork chop from Cromer's. That would be really good.):

Rosti with Ham
Serves 4 as a side dish

5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and shredded (I used the shredding disc of the food processor)
1/2 cup diced smoked ham
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
Ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 425. Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat in a large nonstick skillet. Add the onion and cook until softened, 3 to 5 minutes.
2. Combine the onion, potatoes, ham, chives, salt, and black pepper to taste in a large bowl. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan and heat over medium-high. Add the potato mixture in an even layer, pressing down on it with a spatula to flatten. Cook until well-browned on the bottom, 2 to 3 minutes, and then lower the heat to medium and cook an additional 7 minutes.
3. Slide the rosti onto a platter, place the pan over the rosti, and invert so it is back in the pan, flipped. Continue to cook until the underside is well-browned, another 7 to 8 minutes.
4. Place the skillet in the oven and bake until the rosti is cooked, through, 8 to 10 minutes. Slice into wedges and serve.

Friday, January 8, 2010

A New Italian Cafe

Although a trip to Italy isn't on my calendar, I'll definitely be attending this event on January 31st to help raise funds for some hard-working Pierson art students hoping to travel there in the Spring. I have a pretty good idea of what to expect food-wise, but I'm very curious to see the cafeteria transformed into an Italian cafe...

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Last Night's Dinner

Oven-roasting a couple of pints of grape tomatoes from the IGA brought out their sweetness and flavor. I tossed them with a pound of spaghetti to make a quick dinner last night.

Spaghetti with Oven-Roasted Grape Tomatoes
Serves 4 to 6

2 pints grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
Ground black pepper
1 pound spaghetti
Grated Parmesan cheese for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and set a rack in the top third position. Combine the tomatoes, oil, thyme, pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt on a rimmed baking sheet and toss to coat. Arrange the tomatoes cut side up. Roast them until they're soft and wrinkled, 10 to 12 minutes. Set aside.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the spaghetti until just tender. Reserve 1/4 cup of water and drain the spaghetti. Return it to the pot and toss with the tomatoes and any oil and juices on the baking sheet, adding cooking water to moisten as necessary. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately with the grated Parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Save Wegwagonock

I am used to seeing "Save Sag Harbor" bumper stickers all over town, but this morning, for the first time, I saw this hard-core version, employing the Native American name for our village. Where can I get one?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Today's (Ham) Lunch

During the next few weeks I am guessing you will be seeing a lot of leftover smoked ham recipes on Sag Harbor Days, since I have quite a lot of this delicacy in my refrigerator. Today, for lunch, I made this ham salad, which I sandwiched between slices of toasted rye bread:

Ham and Apple Salad
Makes enough for two sandwiches

1/3 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 cup finely diced smoked ham
1 small Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and cut into small dice

In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, mayonnaise, chives, cider vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste. Add the ham and apple and toss to coat.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Exotic New Year's Gifts

Although I'm still shopping primarily at the IGA, this is the time of year when I start to look beyond Main Street for cooking inspiration. Yesterday we finally unwrapped the highly anticipated mail-order Smithfield ham, and served it to friends, who graciously brought exotic food gifts they knew I'd enjoy, including heirloom dried beans from Napa, Vermont maple syrup, vanilla from Mexico, Madagascar, and Tahiti, and dried figs smuggled in a suitcase from the Middle East.

Coincidentally, I had prepared some stuffed dried figs (the idea is from Faith Willinger, although I can no longer find the recipe) as a snack. I can't wait to see how this simple preparation tastes with my New Year's figs:

Anise- and Walnut-Stuffed Figs
Makes 12 Figs

12 dried (but still very moist) Calmyrna figs, tough stems removed
12 walnut pieces
1 teaspoon anise seeds
6 bay leaves

Half each fig from blossom to stem. Press a walnut piece and a few anise seeds into the cut half of each fig and then press the two halves together. When you have stuffed all of the figs, put them in an airtight container, with the bay leaves, for a day or two so they can absorb some Bay flavor and aroma.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year

I hope you all were able to pick up your caviar from The Seafood Shop (365 Montauk Highway, Wainscott; (631-537-0633)and your party hats from the Variety Store (45 Main Street; 725-9706) in spite of yesterday's snow squall, so you could celebrate the New Year in proper Sag Harbor style.