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For many years I’ve been doing cooking demos in the Harvest Kitchen at the NYS Sheep and Wool Fest, the challenge being to offer something with lamb meat or sheep cheese. As a big fan of both, that’s no hardship, and I’ve presented a variety of tasty recipes over the years. This year join me in a celebration of the luscious Spanish sheep cheese Manchego and taste samples of Mini Popovers with Manchego and Roasted Shallots and Kale Salad with Apple and Manchego. My demos are at 11 am and 3:30 pm Sunday in Building E.

Cooking demos Tuesday!

Join me for opening day of the Dutchess County Fair! I’ll be doing cooking demonstrations in the Harvest Kitchen in Bldg E at 11 am and 3:30 pm on Tuesday, Aug. 19.

On the menu are….surprise….cephalopods! Come learn about other things to do with these tasty critters besides fried calamari, and taste some classic dishes from Thailand and Sicily. I’d love to see you there!

A Montauk Beach

A quiet Montauk Beach.

It’s not often enough that I can get away for sun, sand and seafood. I ought to live near the ocean; being landlocked, albeit near the beautiful Hudson River, doesn’t always cut it for me. But thanks to a dear friend I got to go to a beautiful seaside spot last week, at the tip of Long Island’s South Fork, jutting out into the Atlantic.

There I had a feast for all the senses: sunsets so hot and stunning they dazed my eyes, soothing waves crashing and gulls screaming softly, briny breezes in my nostrils, soft sand between my toes, exquisite food and drink, and most of all, good company.

Watermelon margarita and blood orange margarita at FishBar, Montauk.

Fruity margaritas at FishBar, Montauk.

 

I’ve been there a few times before, in spring, fall, and then last year, finally, in the summer, but this was the longest, sunniest trip, and glorious all around.

A motel kitchenette for preparing oysters and littlenecks on the half shell and sauteed swordfish tidbits was the spot for the first feast, then another day it was off to FishBar for drinks, a watermelon margarita for me and a blood orange one for my companion.

We ordered a couple appies: soft shell crab with grilled watermelon, pea tendrils and yuzu yellow beet emulsion, and a flaxseed-crusted tuna tartare with avocado and spicy aïoli, topped with slivers of pickled watermelon radish. (The watermelon theme a welcome constant.)

Appies at FishBar. Photo by Nicholas Panayotou

Appies at FishBar. Photo by Nicholas Panayotou

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With bellies not yet full, we went for a glorious platter of fresh local sea scallops, pan seared and drizzled with lemon butter and fresh herbs, over a hash of chorizo, watermelon radish, crispy rainbow potatoes, kalamata olives, fava beans, house-dried tomatoes and yellow beets.

Sea scallops at FishBar.

Sea scallops at FishBar.

 

On the last night we ate at Gosman’s Inlet Café, a perennial favorite for sushi and other good food and a beautiful view of the harbor, a constant stream of all manner of boats gliding to and fro. After a couple of good sushi rolls, we had a lush lobster roll studded with generous chunks of sweet lobster. Although under seasoned and not as good at the one we had at FishBar last year, it was satisfying and accompanied by quality coleslaw and fries.

Lobster roll from Gosman's Inlet Cafe.

Lobster roll from Gosman’s Inlet Cafe.

The grilled local yellowfin tuna topped with eggplant caponata on a bed of orzo was rich and flavorful.

Local yellowfin tuna topped with caponata.

Local yellowfin tuna topped with caponata.

A classic Montauk sunset capped things off,

Sunset at Montauk harbor.

Sunset at Montauk harbor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

but for me the seafood feasting wasn’t over. Returning to Gosman’s Market the next morning before departing, I stashed some super-fresh local squid and a nice chunk of tilefish on ice in my cooler to bring home. I kept the sea bounty flowing the next few nights with fried calamari

Fried calamari with a variety of coatings: masa harina, flour, flour and grits.

Fried calamari with a variety of coatings: masa harina, flour, flour and grits.

and spaghetti neri

Spaghetti al nero delle seppie, a Sicilian dish.

Spaghetti al nero delle seppie, a Sicilian dish.

(testing recipes for my upcoming cephalopod cookery book). The squid was so impossibly fresh when I bought it four days ago that my leftover spaghetti neri for dinner tonight was still scrumptious. And I pan-roasted the tilefish with garlic and herbs. This fish, which I don’t believe I’d had before,  lives on crabs, making its flesh sweet and succulent.

Pan-roasted tilefish with garlic and herbs.

Pan-roasted tilefish with garlic and herbs.

Meeting a master

It’s not too often that strangers invite you to their home for a sumptuous dinner, but in this age of Facebook and LinkedIn, sometimes we get to be friends of a sort before we ever meet face to face, and thus luck is with us.

Such was my introduction, via LinkedIn, to Hiroko Shimbo, an author of three books on Japanese cooking. Last Sunday she kindly invited me–and three of her friends–to the weekend home of her husband Buzz and herself, which is only about ten minutes from me.

Six is the perfect number for dinner, per M.F.K. Fisher, and perfect and perfectly enjoyable it was, in spite of the fact I was meeting everyone for the first time.

jeremiahbeefhiroko

Jeremiah Stone and Hiroko Shimbo oversee the beef on the binchotan. Photo by Jennifer Harington Brizzi

Buzz was welcoming and affable and Hiroko herself was warm and friendly, too, adorable with her small and energetic frame, pageboy and bangs, and a ready smile. Also on hand were Giuseppe from Colombia and Jeremiah Stone, a chef on the cusp of opening, with a partner, the eagerly anticipated Contra on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a “neo-bistro” that will offer a $55 tasting menu of five courses.

Hiroko Shimbo and Jeremiah Stone oversee the beef on the binchotan. Photo by Jennifer Harington Brizzi

Jeremiah Stone and Hiroko Shimbo. Photo by Jennifer Harington Brizzi

Also there was Annette Tomei, a very knowledgeable and experienced chef, sommelier, and food and wine consultant, based currently in Brooklyn and at www.vineducation.com. Good company indeed.

Hiroko is an accomplished chef who consults for many food companies and restaurants and also teaches cooking at the International Culinary Center in New York (formerly the French Culinary Institute). Her first book, which I’ve owned and used for years without ever dreaming I’d meet the author, is the award-winning The Japanese Kitchen (Harvard Common Press, 2000).  Her second is The Sushi Experience (Knopf, 2006) and her most recent, Hiroko’s American Kitchen: Cooking with Japanese Flavors (Andrews McMeel, 2012), which won the International Association of Culinary Professionals’ 2013 Cookbook Award under the American category.

After some refreshing young ginger tea, we assembled in the garage and sipped the couple’s scrumptious homemade umeshu (plum liqueur) as we nibbled peanuts and a Bobolink cheese and watched Hiroko assemble the cooking apparatus she’d be cooking some of dinner on. A Weber filled with sand (because the fire would be so hot it could melt through the metal), then regular Kingsford charcoal, and two types of Japanese charcoal, one to get it going, and then binchotan, a special one made of slow-burning oak and imported from Japan. It burns extremely hot for quick and perfect cooking. A pile of pale gray bricks specially arranged contained the intense and nearly smokeless fire.

Before we knew it, it was time to gather around the dining table for the first course, a silky smooth magenta chilled beet soup, garnished with bits of dried beet and a quenelle of lemon sorbet.

Chilled beet soup. Photo by Hiroko Shimbo

Chilled beet soup. Photo by Hiroko Shimbo

Then came what may well be my favorite part, a beautifully arranged quartet of baby vegetables lightly simmered in a delectable broth to drink after eating the veggies.

Eggplant, turnip, tomato, and squash simmered in broth. Photo by Hiroko Shimbo

Eggplant, turnip, tomato, and squash simmered in broth. Photo by Hiroko Shimbo

Then came top sirloin steaks of Australian grass-fed beef seared over the binchotan, with an Australian Shiraz, natch, and lima beans with fresh corn (also grilled) and baby eggplants (ditto).

Young ginger cake with plums and lemon sorbet. Photo by Jennifer Harington Brizzi

Young ginger cake with plums and lemon sorbet. Photo by Jennifer Harington Brizzi

The conversation lingered on many topics as we enjoyed a dessert of a lovely cake made with young ginger. It  was a true treat for me to be in such distinguished company and I was very grateful to have been invited to this delightful evening. Thank you Hiroko and Buzz!

Fideua up close.

Fideua up close.

Celebrating anything at the home of my sister Calico and her family in the New Haven suburb where they live is always über festive, from their annual elegant Bastille Day sit-downs to their rollicking Oktoberfests.

But last night’s dinner to celebrate Calico’s half-century mark was something special indeed, with plenty of amazing food, drink and merriment.

Glasses of Jaume Serra Cristallino Brut cava, pistachios, beer nuts, and rosemary-spiked marcona almonds started things off right.

Ceviche to start. Photo by Jennifer Harington Brizzi

Ceviche to start.

Then the table was set with a perfectly balanced tangy and smooth gazpacho and small plates of a zesty ceviche of monkfish, scallops and squid, gilded with avocado slices.

Appetites piqued, we moved on to enjoy Mig’s fideua, a sort of Catalan paella with toasted pasta instead of rice.

Fideua, a pasta-based cousin of paella. Photo by Jennifer Harington Brizzi

Fideua, a pasta-based cousin of paella.

This one was well-crafted and bursting with clams, mussels, and shrimp and a rich saffron garlic flavor.

Garden bounty on the side.

Garden bounty on the side.

Sides included a beautiful nasturtium salad and tomatoes fresh from the garden. My favorite Spanish red Marques de Caceres was on hand, along with an assortment of other fine examples.

Miles. Photo by Jennifer Harington Brizzi

Miles.

Dessert was a collection of several excellent Spanish cheeses served with quince paste, digestifs from chartreuse to calvados to pear williams to Branca Menta. Finally there was a soft moist and delectable almond cake made by the chef.

Almond cake with ice cream.

Almond cake with ice cream.

I was happy to see my mother on hand for the occasion, as well as my nephew Miles home from his sophomore year at UConn Storrs. Happy 50th, Calico!!

Beer and (falling) water

On a fine day at The Roundhouse at the Falls in Beacon, you can sit outside on an expansive patio overlooking a dramatic waterfall and consume good beer and tasty tidbits, a perfect way to while away a lazy summer afternoon. Today a friend and I did just that, beginning with a couple of pints of golden brew, both selections murky,  with hints of coriander and orange, and nods to Belgium. Slightly more golden in hue than the other, the Clown Shoes Clementine was a Belgian-style white ale (witbier) from Massachusetts ($7), refreshing, crisp and nicely balanced. The other was a nice light dry lemon-yellow Hennepin from Ommegang in upstate NY ($6) .

Shoestring Fries and Crispy Chick Peas from the patio menu at The Roundhouse at the Falls in Beacon. Photo by Jennifer Harington Brizzi

Shoestring Fries and Crispy Chick Peas from the patio menu at The Roundhouse at the Falls in Beacon. Photo by Jennifer Harington Brizzi

Irresistible crispy shoestring fries drizzled with melted smoked Gouda and scattered with lemon zest and roasted garlic ($5) were perfect with the beers, as were coppery-colored chick peas deep-fried and dusted with non-spicy chorizo spices ($5). A creamy mascarpone-enriched mac and cheese studded generously with chunks of lobster was next ($12).

 

Mac & Cheese (with mascarpone and lobster). Photo by Jennifer Harington Brizzi

Mac & Cheese (with mascarpone and lobster). Photo by Jennifer Harington Brizzi

Service from friendly Edward–and others–was absolutely perfect. Rain showers kindly waited until all was consumed, and after driving most patrons indoors, it dispersed, and out came the sun again.

Tapas in Tivoli

Luscious 18-month-old jamón serrano at Panzur. Photo by Jennifer Harington Brizzi

Luscious 18-month-old jamón serrano at Panzur. Photo by Jennifer Harington Brizzi

Good Spanish restaurants aren’t a dime a dozen in the part of the Hudson Valley where I live. The only one in the area–El Castillo Español–closed not long ago, so I was happy to hear that Rei Peraza, whose cooking I enjoyed at El Hotel Rhinecliff a few years ago, had opened a tapas place with his own distinctive stamp in Tivoli, an offshoot of Red Hook in northwest Dutchess County. No tortilla española or shrimp al ajillo here; it’s all about imaginative nose-to-tail stuff. But you can’t skip the jamón, Spain’s funky hearty sweet version of prosciutto, and we didn’t either. My kid’s a pescatarian, but quality cured pig leg is where she draws the occasional line.

The other day, with slightly more time and cash in my pocket than I’m used to, I swung by Panzur with my 11-year-old daughter for a tapa or two. I worked in the kitchen of that space for one long week about 12 years ago in one of its many previous incarnations, but it looks markedly different. Two eating areas with a central bar opened things up and made for an interesting division of the space, and bold art on the walls offers a modern lift.

You can’t have just one tapa and there were many temptations on the menu, rarities like rabbit rillettes and potted pig head, seasonal items like ramps and fiddleheads. Everything sounded delectable;  I would love to go with a big group and try lots of things.

Black fried squid. Photo by Jennifer Harington Brizzi

Black fried squid. Photo by Jennifer Harington Brizzi

I was craving cephalopods and unfortunately the octopus brick I’d seen on the online menu was out of date, so we had black fried squid, a tasty and visually arresting dish. Dark super crispy morsels (I love that they’re called squid, not “calamari’) were showered with alliums and dusted with smoky pimentón powder. On the side was a large long schmear of luscious deep dark squid ink allioli. I would bathe in that stuff. Fortunately the waiter snatched the plate away before I dipped my bread into every last speck.

I had a glass of sparkly cava, a crisp Catalonian Mont Marcal Brut Reserve Penedès 2010, and my daughter some black currant tea tivoli 2013, which came with lots of lemon and agave syrup, a nice touch. For the two drinks and tapas it set us back about $55 including tip. When my ship comes in I want to go back and make my way through the menu.

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