Thursday, September 30, 2010

Weekend Plans

If you have given the thumbs up to my facebook Cookie Swap! page (and if you haven't, what are you waiting for?), then you know that I'm leaving Sag Harbor for a few days to begin promoting the book. Of course I am looking forward to my visit to Martha Stewart Living satellite radio. I just "made" these cookies, by dipping Walker's Shortbread fingers into chocolate and sprinkling them with Heath Bar bits and nuts, to bring to my gracious hosts. But I'm also really excited about Books by the Bank in Cincinnati, where, during my free time, I plan to hunt down (but not in a stalker-ish way) celebrity children's book author Steve Martin and have my picture taken with him.

IGA Item of the Week

It might seem silly to be buying boneless pork chops at the IGA when I still have probably 25 pounds of my Fairview Farm pig in the freezer downstairs, but...Last night I wanted to make something quick on the grill and these inexpensive, easy chops fit the bill. I pounded them to a 1/2-inch thickness, marinated them briefly in some sherry vinegar and olive oil, and while they cooked and rested made a quick salsa with maybe the last of my local tomatoes (although it's been so warm, we may have tomatoes into October this year) and some black olives. Here is the recipe:

Grilled Boneless Pork Chops with Tomato and Black Olive Salsa
Serves 4

4 boneless pork chops (about 1 1/2 pounds), pounded to 1/2-inch thickness
1/4 cup Sherry vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped ripe tomato (from about 3 medium tomatoes)
1/3 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

1. Heat a gas grill to high. While the grill is heating, combine the chops, vinegar, oil, and 1 teaspoon salt in a zipper lock bag and let stand, turning once or twice. Grill, covered, turning once, until cooked through but not dried out, 6 to 8 minutes total. Remove to a plate, cover with foil to keep warm, and let stand 5 minutes to rest.
2. Combine the tomatoes, olives, oregano, pepper flakes, and salt to taste in a medium bowl. Spoon over the pork chops and serve.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Congratulations, Eco-Walk Organizers!

On my morning walks past the Elementary School I've been marveling at the progress of the industrious Eco Walk volunteers, and now I see that they've invited the community to a celebration of the completion of the first phase of the project on October 9. I cannot wait to congratulate them in person.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Last Night's Dinner: Risotto with Zucchini

I had a request for risotto last night. I'm still not ready to let go of summer, so I customized the recipe by adding some green and yellow zucchini, a handful of basil, and a spoonful of mint. Here is the recipe:

Risotto with Zucchini
Serves 6

1 quart low sodium canned chicken broth
2 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 or 3 yellow and green zucchini, ends trimmed, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
1 1/4 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint

1. Warm the broth and water in a medium saucepan.
2. Heat the olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large Dutch oven.
3. Add the onion and cook over medium heat until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook until it begins to soften, abotu 5 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook, stirring, for a minute. Add the wine and cook, stirring frequently, until the rice absorbs the liquid. Continue to cook, adding the broth mixture in 1-cup increments, always stirring, until the rice is al dente. If you run out of liquid, heat up some water and continue to add it to the pot until the rice is done.
6, Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter, cheese, basil, and mint. Season with salt to taste. Serve immediately.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Getting up in the Dark Has its Benefits

I got up early this morning (it was still dark), took the dog for a quick walk in the rain, and took out a box of cereal. But then I saw this leftover bread on the counter, looked at the clock (it still wasn't 5:30 yet), and decided I had time to make myself some apple cinnamon toast before I had to do anything else. It didn't take long. I even had time to read the paper online and post this entry before I woke up the children. Here is the recipe:

Apple Cinnamon Toast
Serves 1 solitary early riser

1/2 tablespoon butter (I used unsalted, but I thought later that salted might have been even better)
1 teaspoon sugar
Pinch cinnamon
1/4 of a small apple (I found a tiny Jonagold in the bag I bought at The Milk Pail awhile ago), sliced very thin
2 slices country bread

1. Melt the butter over low heat in a butter warming pan. Add the sugar and cinnamon and stir to dissolve. Add the apples and cook until they soften, about 3 minutes.
2. Heat the broiler. Lightly toast the bread in the toaster and then arrange the apples on the bread. Drizzle any butter that remains in the pan over the apples. Broil until the sugar on the apples starts to bubble and brown (just a few seconds), remove from the heat, and enjoy with your online paper, since the New York Times won't be on your doorstep for another hour, at least.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This

Soon after I arrived at Quail Hill and read this sign advertising some morning entertainment, I heard the Richmond Indigenous Gourd Orchestra tuning up. After watching and listening for a bit in the Orchard, I spent the next hour picking my soy beans, eggplants, cherry tomatoes, and, yes, squash, to the sounds of a gourd trumpet, xyolophone, and drums.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

My Lucky Day

Yesterday was my lucky day. I walked over to the Sag Harbor Florist to buy an orchid as a birthday gift, and discovered that it was the first day of their month-long orchid sale. So in addition to the gift I took this small one home for myself--for just $15.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dear Blue Duck Bakery

Dear Blue Duck Bakery,
Every other day I've been driving to the Pike Farm Stand for your seeded baguette. Why don't you sell your best bread ever (so rich and delicious it tastes like cake) at the IGA or the Sag Harbor Farmer's Market?
Your biggest fan

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Last Night's Dinner: Spaghetti Squash with Butter and Herbs

It is fun to test your children by serving them spaghetti squash at this time of year. Some of them will taste it and exclaim with delight, "Wow, this healthy vegetable looks just like spaghetti!" Others will take one bite, indignantly shout, "This is nothing like spaghetti!" and have a hard time trusting you for several months afterwards. My husband brought home a beautiful specimen from Quail Hill on Saturday, and last night I prepared it, looking forward to the kids' reaction. To my surprise, they both responded positively (last year this was not the case at all, so I had to forget about trying to convince them that roasted Brussels sprouts tasted like candy). Maybe it was because I added a good-size knob of butter and some fragrant chopped fresh sage to the dish for luxurious flavor. Here is the recipe:

Spaghetti Squash with Butter and Herbs
Serves 4 as a side dish

You could mix a 1/2 cup or more of grated Parmesan cheese into the squash and serve this, for 2 or 3, as a vegetarian main course.

One 2 1/2-pound spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
2 teaspoons olive oil
Ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage leaves

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with heavy duty aluminum foil. Brush the cut sides of the squash with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Lay the squash on the baking sheet, cut sides down, and roast until a skewer can be inserted easily into the flesh, about 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Use two forks to scrape the squash strands away from the skin of the squash and then add the squash to the pan along with the herbs and butter. Cook, stirring, until the butter is absorbed and any excess liquid from the squash has evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Monday, September 20, 2010

All for the Books

I have already requested my tickets for this year's John Jermain Library "All for the Books fundraiser, where there will surely be some good food and drink if past "One for the Books" fundraisers are an indication.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Reasons to Think About Holiday Baking

Although the Halloween candy has just started to trickle in at the IGA and the Variety Store (45 Main Street; 725-9706), I already have a couple of reasons to start thinking about holiday baking. Cookie Swap! officially debuts on October 4, and as soon as books are available I'll embark on a publicity tour, giving radio interviews (Martha Stewart Living on Sirius XM on October 1), signing books (first stop, Books by the Banks in Cincinnati on October 2), and demonstrating recipes (at The Big Read Festival in St. Louis on October 9) all over the place. In between trips, I'm throwing a cookie swap (for which I ordered these custom bakery labels--eat your heart out, Watermill Cupcake Company!) with some local friends. Keep an eye out and you might see some photos from my party in a pretty food magazine some day soon. And to wind things up on December 6, I'll be hosting a live webcast sponsored by McCormick Spices, from right here in my Sag Harbor kitchen, during which I'll answer questions about holiday baking in general and cookie swaps in particular. The nice people at McCormick sent me this care package a few days ago. For further inspiration, they pointed me to their just-posted Flavor Forecast, in which they suggest some interesting flavor pairings to consider in the coming weeks, such as sage and citrus, almond and caramel, and coconut and pumpkin pie spice. I liked this last one so much that I developed a cookie recipe using it, and then I froze most of the cookie dough so I'll be ready for my cookie swap. Here is the recipe:

Coconut-Spice Ice Box Cookies
Makes about 48 cookies

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 large egg white
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

1. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin pie spice in a medium bowl.
2. Combine the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and cream together with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the egg, vanilla, and coconut extract and beat until smooth. Stir in the flour mixture until just incorporated. Stir in the coconut.
3. Divide the dough into two portions. Turn one portion onto a pice of wax paper and shape it, rolling it inside the paper, into a log about 8 inches long and 2 inches in diameter. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerat it for at least 2 hours or for up to 24 hours. Repeat with the remaining dough. (Dough logs may be wrapped in plastic and frozen for up to 1 month. Slice and bake directly from the freezer.)
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
10. Arrange the nuts in a thin layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush each log with the egg white and roll in the nuts to coat. Slice the dough into 1/3-inch-thick rounds, rotating the dough often so it doesn't become flattened as you cut.
5. Place the cookies on ungreased baking sheets at least 2 inches apart. Bake them until they are pale golden around the edges and still soft on top, 13 to 15 minutes. Let them stand on the baking sheet for 5 minutes and then remove them with a metal spatula to a wire rack to cool completely. Coconut-Spice Icebox Cookies will keep in an airtight container for 2 to 3 days.

Last Night's Dinner: A Few of My Favorite Things

It seems like the local vegetable season began with kale, and it may be winding up with kale. After picking just about a pound of my favorite crucifer at Quail Hill on Tuesday, I got around to using it last night with two previous IGA items of the week (well, if I haven't featured these two items yet, I should, since I buy them all the time): Rice noodles and extra-firm tofu. I removed the tough center rib from each kale leaf, then sliced the leaves into ribbons, which I boiled briefly with the noodles. After pan-frying slices of extra-firm tofu, I stir-fried the kale and noodles with some spicy peanut sauce, and then topped each portion of noodles and kale with the golden tofu. Here's the recipe:

Rice Noodles with Kale and Tofu
Serves 4

8 ounces wide (pad thai) rice noodles
1 large bunch kale (about 1 pound), tough ribs removed, leaves sliced into 1/2-inch-thick ribbons
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
6 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup water plus more if necessary
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
1 teaspoon chili-garlic sauce or more to taste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
One 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu, cut crosswise into eight slices, drained and patted dry
1 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds (optional)

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the rice noodles and boil for 3 minutes. Stir in the kale and boil for an additional 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. Whisk together the peanut butter, 1/2 cup water, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and chili garlic sauce.
3. Heat the vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add the tofu and cook, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, about 8 minutes total. Remove to a plate and cover loosely with foil to keep warm.
4. Add the garlic and ginger to the pan and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the noodles, kale, and sauce to the pan and cook, stirring, until the sauce coats the noodles and kale and everything is heated through, adding more water to the pan to moisten the dish if necessary.
5. Divide the noodles and kale among 4 serving bowls, top each portion with two slices of tofu, sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired, and serve.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Not Exactly Breaking News

Last weekend my sister-in-law brought me a dozen mini cupcakes from her local cupcake bakery, Barrington Bites (she brings the best gifts--last year she bought me a bottle of vodka made in the Berkshires). And all weekend I was outraged that we didn't have a similarly cute and high-quality cupcake bakery around here. Then yesterday, on my way home from Melville, I was distracted by signs on the highway in front of Citarella's, advertising The Watermill Cupcake Company! Of course, the traffic at 4pm was too heavy for me to consider turning around and investigating, but this morning I drove right over there to see what kinds of cupcakes were being baked in Watermill. Well, it turns out that all kinds of cupcakes are being baked there, and have been on sale SINCE THE MIDDLE OF JULY! The sad fact is that because of an obsession with avoiding traffic, I haven't driven on the stretch of Route 27 between Bridgehampton and Watermill since July Fourth weekend, and so I completely missed the Watermill Cupcake Company's grand opening. Another sad thing--I didn't have time to hang around and wait for the red velvet cupcakes to cool (the bakery is a very nice place to hang out, with its marble countertops, vintage cake stands, and industrial-size espresso machine). But I did walk away with two mini chocolate and two mini vanilla ones, plus a large vanilla cupcake with chocolate frosting, the last one on the house because the very nice owner wanted me to take home a box with one of their very attractive bakery stickers. The Watermill Cupcake Company will be open year-round, she assured me, takes all kinds of special orders, and is gearing up for Halloween right now.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Last Night's Dinner: Grilled Chicken and Pepper Tacos with Tomatillo Salsa

Some days, especially on Tuesdays when I pick my vegetables at Quail Hill, dinner around here just adds up to a few things from the farm plus a few items from the IGA. Making last night's dinner was a simple equation: Grilled chicken + grilled peppers + roasted tomatillos + sour cream + corn tortillas.

Monday, September 13, 2010

IGA Item of the Week

The IGA's Hershey's Creamy Vanilla ice cream, which is snowy white and not to be confused with the French Vanilla, which is an eggy yellow color, was perfect for the mini milkshakes I served at a little back-to-school cookie swap yesterday. They were a big hit with the 11-year-old set, and just the right size to enjoy one or two without filling up. Here is the recipe:

Mini Milkshakes
Makes about twenty mini milkshakes (or six large ones)

4 cups vanilla ice cream
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Combine the ice cream, milk, sugar, and vanilla in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into glasses and serve immediately, with straws for slurping.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Harborfest Rorschach Test

Is it just me, or do these slices of Blue Duck Bakery bread, cut from a loaf purchased at the Sag Harbor Farmer's Market this morning, evoke our town's favorite sea mammal?

At Home and Around Town

After I took in the Harborfest whale boat races, I came home and decorated these cookies for tomorrow's back-to-school cookie swap.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Happy Harborfest

If you forgot to buy tickets to the Whaling Museum's Lobster Bake, you don't necessarily have to stay home alone on Harborfest Eve. The Picture Show at Bay Street Theater is screening the maritime-themed Lifeboat (did you know that local author John Steinbeck wrote the screenplay?) tonight at 8, for $5. And you don't have to go hungry either--for another $20 you can have a 3-course dinner at the American Hotel before the show.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Tonight's Dinner: Fall Preview

My husband bought some of the first local apples at Pike's farmstand on Monday on his way home from the beach, and I couldn't resist using a couple for dinner tonight. After cooking a little bacon and setting it aside, I sauteed the apples and my little Quail Hill onions in the fat, stirred in a tablespoon of cider vinegar, and then added some quinoa and water to make a pilaf. A salad from Bette and Dale's (1726 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike) completed this light end of summer meal. Here is the recipe:

Quinoa with Bacon and Apples
Serves 4

1/4 pound thick-cut bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium onions or 6 tiny ones
2 local apples, cored, halved, and cut into thin
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
14 tablespoons (1 cup minus 2 tablespoons) water
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley leaves

1. Cook the bacon until just crisp in a large skillet. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate do drain. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the fat, add the onions, and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the apples and continue to cook until the apples are tender but still holding their shape, another 5 minutes. Stir in the cider vinegar and cook another minute.
2. Add the salt, quinoa, and water to the pan and bring to a boil. Cover, turn the heat to low, and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand another 15 minutes. Stir in the parsley and serve.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


I took a soul-destroying walk through the cavernous Pottery Barn outlet in Riverhead this afternoon, looking for a picture frame but only finding fake-homemade Halloween decorations at every turn. Returning to my car, I thought I had left my capacity to experience joy in aisle three with the giant--and I mean giant!--candles. I headed down the highway to Michael's Crafts in search of disposable pastry bags that I need for a cookie swap I'm throwing over the weekend. I was filled with dread. It's September now, so I knew there would be synthetic scarecrows and Autumn leaves aplenty at that place. But when I glanced through the 99-cent bins right next to the baking supplies, look what I found--post-it notes and note cards that couldn't be more perfect as party favors for 6th-grade girls. And when I checked out, I discovered that they had been marked down to 50 cents!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Roasted Potatoes with Indian Spices

One of our most memorable meals in London took place at Chor Bizarre after a punishing morning at Top Shop. Would you believe that they served a fried okra dish so delicious that the children fought to finish it? They fought to finish okra? Another day, after touring the Houses of Parliament, we lunched at the very refined Cinnamon Club, where I was charmed by the tandoori breast of squab. These meals were on my mind when I got out my Quail Hill potatoes for tonight's dinner and decided to roast them with Indian spices and finish them off with chopped fresh cilantro and a little lime juice. Here is the recipe:

Roasted Potatoes with Indian Spices
Serves 6

2 pounds small new potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup chopped coriander leaves
2 tablespoons lime juice

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the potatoes with the oil, coriander, salt, cumin, turmeric, cayenne pepper. Place them on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake until tender, about 40 minutes.
2. Toss the roasted potatoes with the coriander leaves and lime juice and serve.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Back to Reality

A few days ago I was enjoying the luxurious afternoon tea service at Claridge's in London. This morning I was smushing together chocolate cake crumbs and canned frosting, modeling the mixture into footballs, and putting them on sticks, for work. But I did get out to enjoy the post-Earl breeze and I hope to do some good cooking this Labor Day weekend, as we head into my favorite time of year in Sag Harbor. Until tomorrow...