Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Hope of Alabama Pecans Disappears Along with Mystery Truck

On my way to Williams-Sonoma in Bridgehampton this morning I spotted this truck parked on the side of Scuttlehole Road. There was no driver in sight. My imagination started running wild with thoughts of buying freshly harvested Alabama pecans (a Southern friend once gave me some of these in January and I have never forgotten them) or a watermelon from Florida on my way back to Sag Harbor. But the mysterious truck was gone just a half hour later.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Variety Store Finds

I walked over to the Variety Store today, hoping to avoid a trip to Michael's in Riverhead just to buy lollipop sticks (for a Newsday story I'm working on). Hooray! There they were, in aisle two on the left. Before I could get to the cash register, I was pulled as if by magnetic force into the center aisle, with all of its Valentine's Day merchandise. So much good stuff--cupcake liners, seasonal M&Ms, boxes and boxes of valentine cards. And right across from the red foil take-out boxes (which will make nice packaging for some pretty chocolate bark), were what at first appeared to be large containers of herbs and spices. On closer inspection, I saw that they were "blended turf," "underbrush," and "soft flake snow." Fascinating! How could my children have graduated from Sag Harbor Elementary without these supplies? More importantly, am I too old to start making topographical maps and dioramas?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Grease is the Word on Concession Stand Cupcakes

While I wait for a video of Assistant Principal Kalish's rendition of "Beauty School Dropout" to go viral (if you saw the show on Friday or Saturday you know it is only a matter of time), I'm enjoying my photos, and looking forward to more concession stand cupcakes from Cathy Capozzola. See you at tonight's or tomorrow's performance.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Happy, if Belated, Chinese New Year

There are many reasons to love Sag Harbor, but amazing Chinese food is not one of them. So when I want to San Francisco in August I made up for this lack by eating at Chinese restaurants daily. When I came home, I sought out the recipe for my favorite dish at my favorite restaurant, the Ma Po Tofu at Mission Chinese Food. The recipe, which calls for Chinese black vinegar and fermented black beans among other specialty items, has been sitting on my desktop, because another thing Sag Harbor is not known for is a great Asian grocery store. I was determined to dine on an approximation of this dish on January 23rd in Sag Harbor, so I set about devising a recipe with ingredients I could buy at the IGA. With its soft, creamy tofu and rich pork gravy it will satisfy me until I can return to Mission Street. Here is the recipe:

Ma Po Tofu
Serves 4

For spice (the Ma Po tofu at Mission Chinese Food is so hot it made me cry--in a good way), I used a little Sriracha from the IGA. A tablespoon was enough for me, but stir in more at the end if you'd like.

1/2 cup low sodium canned chicken broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons Sriracha (or more to taste)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 pound ground pork
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
One 14-ounce package soft tofu, drained and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 scallions, white and light green parts, finely chopped
Cooked white rice

1. Whisk together broth soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, cornstarch, and Sriracha in a small bowl.
2. Heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add ground pork and cook, stirring to break up, until it has lost its pink color, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in ginger and garlic and continue to cook, stirring, 1 to 2 minutes.
3. Stir in broth mixture, bring to a boil, and cook, stirring, until sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Stir in tofu and heat through. Spoon over rice and sprinkle with scallions.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Reason to Get More Involved in Sag Harbor Schools

After the success of my Java Chocolate Chip Cookies last week, I used the same the coffee-chocolate combination in some mini scones for a parents' meeting I attended this afternoon. I'm addicted. I'm thinking of going to the next PTSA meeting, so I have a reason to bake a Coffee-Chocolate Chip Banana Bread. Here is the scone recipe:

Coffee-Chocolate Chip Mini Scones
Makes 8 small pastries

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons finely ground coffee
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces and chilled
1 large egg, lightly beaten
12 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar ("Sugar in the Raw")

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, coffee, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
2. Add chilled butter pieces and mix on low speed with an electric mixer until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in egg, vanilla, and milk and mix on low until dry ingredients are just moistened. Do not over mix. Stir in chocolate chips.
3. Turn dough onto a lightly floured work surface and shape into a 6-inch disk. Cut into 8 wedges, using a bench scraper or sharp chef's knife.
4. Transfer to prepared baking sehet. Brush with heavy cream and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake until golden, about 12 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes and serve warm.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Preview of Coming Attractions

I am looking forward to next weekend's Middle School production of Grease, and to displaying the concession stand items (including fuzzy dice, cat eye sunglasses, Kit Kats, and organic Pink Lady apples) I've been lovingly gathering for the past few weeks. For ticket information, click here.

Monday, January 16, 2012

New Rigatoni Recipe

It's been a while since I've attempted a craft project. Inspired by this photo of a ditaloni bracelet, I spent a lot of pent-up energy today painting a few stray rigatoni with acrylic paint from the Variety Store, glazing them with Modpodge, and then figuring out how to adorn myself with my shiny, well-preserved pieces of pasta. After stringing them on various ribbons and shreds of fabric I had around the house, I settled on just one pasta bead, hanging from a chain. I think it is as pretty as my Suffolk County map bracelet.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

IGA Item of the Week

For reasons you can discover in my new Zester story, I've become a serious consumer of IGA frozen spinach. I shared my spinach cake recipe here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Hayground Henry V, As Advertised on Main Street

Even if I weren't a sucker for student-acted Shakespeare, I'd show up for anything advertised with finger paint and watercolors. And who knows how many productions we'll all be able to enjoy at Bay Street before the theater closes?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Getting Jittery About the Coming Coffee Shortage

I am as freaked out as everyone else in this town that Java Nation has lost its lease and will be vacating its current space in the Shopping Cove at the end of the month. When I moved to Sag Harbor 16 years ago, just after the Bedinis opened for business, it was a beacon and a sign of good things to come. Before there was Cavaniola's, before the farmer's market, before Tim's Prime Meats and the Sag Harbor Baking Company and Joe and Liza's Ice Cream, before there was any kind of artisanal, organic, and/or local food product for sale in town, there was best-quality locally roasted coffee.

Every day that I wake up in Sag Harbor I brew coffee with Java Nation beans. I'm confident that they'll find another space, but can I survive if there is a gap of days or weeks between the closing of one shop and the opening of another? That would be difficult. Usually I wait until I'm out to run to Java Nation for a fresh bag, but in the last week or two I've been buying coffee to stockpile in the freezer.

A while ago, I started seeing recipes for cookies incorporating coffee grounds, and today I thought I might try that with my Java Nation grounds. But when I ground the beans and they smelled so great, I decided to use freshly ground coffee in my chocolate chip cookies instead. If you have coffee to spare, here is the recipe:

Java Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 36 cookies

2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons freshly ground coffee
2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
1 cup whole almonds, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
2. Combine the brown sugar, granulated sugar, and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix on low. Add the vanilla and egg and mix until incorporated. Add the flour mixture and mix until a dough forms. Add the ground coffee and mix for 30 seconds. Add the chocolate chips and almonds if using and mix to combine.
3. Let dough stand 10 minutes to firm up, and then drop it by tablespoonfuls onto parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving about 3 inches between each cookies. Bake until golden around the edges but still soft on top, 9 to 10 minutes. Let stand on baking sheet for 5 minutes and then remove with a metal spatula to a wire rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Harbor Seal Sighted in Village

There was no need to go to Montauk Point or Westhampton Beach in this chilly weather. Today I saw a seal in the window of JED, at 27 Washington Street.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Breakfast (Thanks to our Neighbors)

Our very hospitable neighbors on Prospect Street hosted us last night for New Year's Eve. I wasn't cooking dinner, so I had time to make some yeasted waffle batter before we went out. This morning, I made the lightest and crispiest waffles you can imagine. Here's the recipe:

Yeasted Waffles with Maple-Pomegranate Syrup

Serves 6

For the waffles:
2 cups whole milk, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon instant or active dry yeast
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

For the syrup:
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

1. Make the waffle batter: Combine the milk and yeast in a large mixing bowl, whisking to dissolve yeast if you are using active dry yeast. Stir in the flour, butter, sugar, and salt with a spatula and continue to stir until smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand at cool room temperature overnight.
2. When you are ready to cook, whisk the eggs into the batter. Heat the waffle iron and spray the grids with with the cooking spray if recommended by the manufacturer. Pour some batter onto the grids and spread it to the edges with a spatula. Cook the waffles until they are golden brown, 4 to 7 minutes depending on your machine.
3. While the waffles are cooking, make the syrup: Stir together the maple syrup and molasses in a microwave-safe measuring cup and microwave on high until hot, 20 to 40 seconds, depending on the strength of your microwave. Stir in the seeds and pour over the waffles.