Saturday, September 24, 2011

Nantucket - mid-September 2011

Allegra and I took  a trip up to the island right smack in the middle of the month of September.  You could say that it's one of my favorite times to be on Nantucket.  Our recent weekend did not disappoint.  Dry, sunny weather, active surf (for viewing only - I don't do rough waves), good friends, delicious food and a few well- organized local actvities made our stay a pure delight.

Saturday morning on Cambridge Street - between St. Mary's Church and the Post Office - down to North Union Street we found the colorful and thoroughly delightful Sustainable Nantucket, Nantucket Farmers and Artisans Market.   On some Saturdays, more than 40 local farmers and artisans display their wares for sale.  The market is open for business June 11 through October 15th, from 9am - 1pm.   There's something very satisfying when you peruse the various vendor's stalls knowing that everything is grown or made on Nantucket.   Bravo.

Vegetable, herbs, and flowers from the organic Pumpkin Pond Farm.

Anna Lynn Bender and her delicious, mohair throws, scarves, cowls and rugs - just a small sampling of her woven goods which are found in greater variety at her home studio, The Weaving Room.

Whale whirligigs and Nantucket zip code tee shirts are a few of the amusing items at
Nantucket Woodworking.

And so much more.

On Saturday afternoon my sister, Laura & I went out to the old Navy base at Tom Never's field to attend the Island Fair.  What a treat.  It was a mini version of those great, huge state fairs, complete with animals, produce (especially pumpkins) and baking competitions, and of course, fried dough.

Laura's cantaloup got a 1st prize blue ribbon, while her borlotti beans took a red ribbon 2nd.

Have you ever seen two more adorable bunny rabbits?

or  best friends, a miniture donkey and a miniature horse...

or a goat called Mango...

or sleeping piglets.

My brother-in-law, Jimmy, is a beekeeper - not just a hive or two - but a dozen or more.   There is not subject that pleases him more than talking about the virtues of bees and their well-ordered lives.   His honey has won many blue ribbons - in compettion with with half of the states of the USA.  Pretty impressive.  Jimmy had a table at the Fair where he spoke to everyone who passed by about beekeeping - in great detail - and sold out jars of his  honey faster than than the Missoni collection sold out of Target.

There were nice days at the beach and good meals with good friends.   Including one with old friends, Marina and Michel.  Michel, a former professional chef - cooked a simple, a la minute meal that was delicious, healthy and simple, simple, simple.   Sauteed to a crisp local flounder, local corn on the cob, and baby bok choy, wok-cooked in hot oil until just-about caramelized.

We sure did have a good time.

SUSANSIMONSAYS:   My friend, Roy & I are cooking dinner for a few paying friends and acquaintances.  The proceeds from our dinner will go to GrowNYC the organization who is helping upstate New York farmers recover from the ravages of hurricane Irene.  Please go to the website to see how you can help.  Next blog will include menu and photos from the dinner

Monday, September 12, 2011

Pig Island & growNYC

September 10th 2011, on Governor's Island just a bit off the coast of Manhattan, a group of 20 New York chefs showed  event attendees just what they could do with 80 pigs.   This was the second year for the collective feast known as Pig Island.    Downtown Manhattan - where we boarded the Governor's Island ferry - must have been the safest spot in the universe that day.  The was a huge police presence guarding against a whispered, but reliable terrorist threat on the day before the ceremonies commemorating the 10th anniversary attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center .

The public was urged to carry on.  And carry on they did.   After debarking we walked over to the lawn at Colonial Row where tents and grills were set up for each participating restaurant/chef.    I must admit that I have a kind of ambiguous feeling about eating so much meat.   I'm not a vegetarian but I do have many mental discussions about animal rights.  I was assured by the event's organizers that the pigs used for the occasion led good lives in upstate New York before they were slaughtered for food.

We were greeted by this as we entered.  Kind of a Renaissance Fair atmosphere.  Don't you agree?

Judging by the size of the crowd (chief organizer, Jimmy Carbone guessed that at least 1,500 people came to Pig Island) who had gathered to sample the offered wares, ambiguous thoughts did not enter most participants minds.
I don't believe they were disappointed with the generous portions of food that each vendor dished out.

Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez, owner/pastry chef at Print served mini maple bacon sticky buns.

The delicious slow roasted pork terrine with French bean salad and mustard vinaigrette was made by chef Eduard Frauneder of Edi and the Wolf.

The green chorizo on the grill, from Hecho en Dumbo, gets it color from the addition of cilantro, parsley, poblanos and Swiss chard to pork.   The restaurant's booth had the longest line of all the others.

The maple bacon custard with pork belly brittle and French toast from Mary Queen of Scots pastry chef, Ryan Butler, was my favorite dish of the event.  I have a BIG sweet tooth - that may be the reason.

and sooooooooooo much more.

Get yourself on the Pig Island mailing list for details about next year's event.

SUSANSIMONSAYS:  A large number of  upstate New York farmers were devastated by the punishing floods perpetuated by hurricane Irene.   80% of the organic farmers will probably loose their certification - the result of the rich soil washing away.  It takes four years to rebuild the organic soil, plus untold expenses to become certified again.   GrowNYC has set up links to events that have been organized to benefit New York farmers.  Or, you can make a donation directly through their site.  It would be a mitzvah (a blessing).  Think about it.   Thanks.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Weekend Interruptus Part II

I made minestrone on Sunday with the beautiful vegetables that Rita brought me, and a few things that I picked up at the Tompkins Square greenmarket.   Minestrone is often made with chicken broth - or, like its French relative, soupe au pistou, started with pancetta.  I make a strictly vegetarian soup.  For this one I used a red Tropea onion.  The torpedo shaped onion has its origins in the Calabria region of southern Italy.   It's sweet and slightly pungent flavor gives depth to the soup.

I like to eat this minestrone at room temperature - but there's no reason why you can't serve it hot.

Serves 8.   
I eat about half of it after it's freshly made and freeze the other half for future meals.

1 Tropea - or medium red onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 small hot pepper, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup fresh borlotti beans ( about 1 pound in their shells)
6 cups water
1/2 pound new potatoes cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 pound broad beans cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups shredded savoy cabbage
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups summer squash or zucchini or both cut into 1/2-inch rounds

Garnish with: cherry tomatoes covered with olive oil and salt and roasted at 350 degrees F. until they're deep gold, about 45 minutes, a dollop of pesto (recipe on previous blog) per serving, and a healthy sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese.

1.    In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan saute the onion, garlic and hot pepper in the olive oil until the onion is transparent, about 10 minutes.   Add the borlotti beans and water.  Lower the heat and simmer for  15 minutes and add the potatoes, broad beans, cabbage and salt.   Cook for 15 minutes and the zucchini.  Cook until the beans are tender - another 1/2 hour or so.   In the meantime the potatoes should be soft enough to push up against the side of the saucepan and mash with  dinner fork.  The soup will thicken a bit.   You may want to add more water as needed.
2.   Serve while still warm or at room temperature with the suggested garnishes.

 Labor Day 2011 was celebrated with cookout on my terrace with food made for friends by me and my friend, Roy.
We started with a lovely eggplant relish very reminiscent of  the Sicilian sweet &amp sour caponata  made by Roy which he served on goat cheese smeared crostini and garnished with tender aruglua leaves.  Unfortunately I won't be able to give you  any of Roy's unpublished recipes.  We'll all have to wait for a future book from  Roy Finamore.  Go to his site Tasty Central  to sample some of his other recipes.
The guacamole served with radishes and corn chips was from me.   It's probably anathema to guacamole purists because I make it in a food processor and add a bit of garlic.  The important thing is that my lime juice and cilantro redolent dip tastes very good.

Roy grilled burgers and dogs.  We ate the dogs in grilled buns with outstanding chili made by Roy and cole slaw made by me piled on top.  The cole slaw is more or less the recipe that my late mother made for every occasion from birthday parties to, well, to Labor Day cookouts.


1 head cabbage thinly sliced on a mandolin
2 carrots, peeled and shredded

Dressing:  Add  3/4 cup good quality commercial mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons grated onion (I used red), 2 tablespoons white vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon salt (or more as desired), and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper to a small bowl and whisk together until completely smooth.  Pour over the cabbage and carrots and combine.
Try to make the cole slaw in the morning if you're serving it in the evening.  It gets better as it marinates.

Roy made potato salad.  It was a riff on one of the salads from his book "One Potato Two Potato" (Houghton Mifflin, 2001).  Full of chopped hard cooked eggs, sweet pickles and celery.
He also made the most incredible baked beans in the universe.  I'm tapping my foot waiting  for that recipe.
I made the summer cake ( see blog, August 17th) that I love so much with Italian plums.
Roy made butter pecan ice cream, and raspberry buttermilk sherbet from his James Beard award winning book, "Tasty" (Houghton Mifflin, 2006)

Makes about 1 quart
Roy says, "When I was growing up, a Good Humor truck drove through our neighbor hood, ringing a bell every summer afternoon.   Ice cream truck music drives me nuts now, but it certainly didn't them.  My favorite was raspberry sherbet on a stick.  Here's my tribute."
4 (6-ounce) baskets raspberries
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 1/4 cups simple syrup
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
pinch of salt

Whir the raspberries in a food processor until you have a loose slush.   Pass the slush through a strainer set over a bowl, working with  wooden spoon or rubber scraper to get all the pulp.  Discard the seeds.
Whisk the buttermilk, simple syrup, lemon juice and salt into the pulp.  Chill for an hour or so.
Follow the instructions that came with your ice cream maker to freeze the sherbet.  Scrape it into a plastic container and pop it into the freezer for at least 2 hours before serving.

SUSANSIMONSAYS:   It was a wonderful weekend.   I'll go upstate another time.  However, I couldn't have had the experiences that I enjoyed had Irene's intrusion not permitted them. 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Labor Day 2011, or, Weekend Interruptus, part I

Oh, the best laid plans are often interrupted by a hurricane.  Not to mention people's homes and lives - so, I almost feel silly talking about my weekend away that was cancelled because I couldn't get to my destination because so many of  the roads that led there were wiped away due to massive flooding following Irene's destructive path.  
Beautiful NYC weather and green market bins overflowing with hastily harvested- so many of the farmers who supply the city's markets are located in the swath of Irene's harmful route - made staying put a no brainer.

Even before Irene entered City limits I harvested my own crop of basil and made copious amounts of pesto.  Some of it stayed in my refrigerator and was consumed just about everyday either neat on spaghetti,  tossed with new potatoes and green and yellow beans, as a topping for fresh tomato and feta cheese pizza - or as a newly created pasta sauce combined with fresh borlotti beans, zucchini and tiny, golden tomatoes.   The remaining pesto is safely stored in half pint containers, in my freezer, to be pulled out and thawed in the wintertime when I need a reminder of warm weather.


Serves 3 - 4

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium zucchini cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 small hot pepper minced
1 cup fresh borlotti beans (about 1 pound in their shells)
1 cup tiny cherry tomatoes (or larger ones cut in half)
1/2 teaspoon  salt
3/4 cup water - or more as needed
2 cups pasta such as shells, penne or fusilli - about  1/2 pound
2 tablespoons pesto (see recipe below)
Parmesan cheese for serving

1.   Add the garlic and olive oil to a large saucepan and saute until garlic is pale gold.   Add the zucchini, hot pepper, borlotti, cherry tomatoes, salt and 1/4 cup water.    Stir the ingredients to thoroughly combine.   Lower the heat to a simmer and cook until the beans are tender - about an hour.  You will need to add more water every 15 or 20 minutes.  Do it in 1/4 cup increments.  I used 3/4 cup water - you may need more - or less, depending on what you consider a tender bean.   The mixture should be ever so slightly soupy - not dry - at the end.
2.   About 15 minutes before the sauce is cooked bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Cook the pasta according to the package directions.
3.   Use a wire mesh strainer to remove the pasta from the pot and add it to the saucepan.  Add the pesto and stir the thoroughly coat the pasta.  Serve immediately with grated Parmesan cheese.

I didn't include a photo of the finished pasta - because while it's incredibly delicious - and nutritious - it's not very photogenic.

2 cups fresh basil
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup walnuts
2 cloves garlic
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1.   Put the basil, pine nuts, walnut pieces, garlic, Parmesan, and salt into a food processor and puree.   With the machine running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil (you may not need the full amount) and process until the mixture resembles mayonnaise.  the pesto can made ahead and refrigerated for up to 4 days or frozen for 6 - 8 months; be sure to seal the top of the pesto with a thin film of olive oil before covering.

So, instead of going upstate - ostensibly to take care of Frankie while Rita and David went to an event in another state - they took a long route (to avoid washed out roads) and brought Frankie to NYC to stay with me and Allegra before they continued on their journey.   Rita brought me a selection of things from her garden.  Wow - it's like she replaced the ingredients I just cooked into a pasta sauce.  Stay tuned for my next meal made with borlotti beans, summer squash, and tomatoes.

As soon as Frankie and Allegra were comfortably resting I took off for my favorite day vacation - a trip out to Rockaway Beach - for the beach and sun - for sure - but really for that fried fish sandwich at Motorboat and the Big Banana.  This vendor of all things divine including - yes, a frozen banana covered in chocolate, nuts and chopped pretzels - is located at beach 96th street which is the 98th street/Playland stop on the Rockaway shuttle.  I've have this fried fish sandwich all summer - it never, ever disappointed.  The one that I ate the other day (photo) may have been the best ever.   This sandwich is undeniably the BEST SANDWICH in all of New York City.  The concession stands will be open for about another month.  Check out their hours at Rockaway Beach Club.   As for the beach - it was a very high tide and there was little to no beach - I didn't mind I just down on a bench on the boardwalk, enjoyed the sun and salty breezes.

SUSANSIMONSAYS: Part II of the weekend's adventure will be posted shortly after Labor Day so I can include the festivities of the day.