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Favulous favas

I found some beautiful fava beans at work the other day (Mother Earth’s Storehouse Poughkeepsie NY store).  

Like giant green beans without, but with treasures within, they are irresistible. Had to take some home.  

 A bit labor intensive but entirely worth the trouble for a tiny treat for one. These seven giant pods yielded only a few fat white-coated beans nestled in soft down…wish I could minimize myself and sleep in one…  

  

 After a quick blanching, I …  

 … squeezed out the beans …  

 … Then sautéed shallot in olive oil, threw in the favas, tossed a few minutes with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, then turned off the heat and stirred in slivers of mint, a splash more olive oil, a dash of white wine vinegar … then topped it all with microplaned fluffs of Parmigiano … sublime.  

  

Day Trip to Spa City

This writer/editor/cook/teacher/former nurse is adding another hat: food tour operator. I’m launching a business called Hudson Valley Food Tours and will be running my first culinary crawls in Rhinebeck soon. I’ve had this in the works for quite a while–years, really–so it’s very exciting for me to be finally giving it a go.

Of course, like many a worthy project, it’s turning out to require much more time, thought and preparation than I anticipated, making the busy life of a single mom of teenagers even more hectic than I even thought possible. But that’s okay!

Although I think the gig is a very, very good fit for me, meshing with my aptitudes and skills and a perfect complement to my other interests and activities, I can’t do it alone. I’ve realized that while I can be on the shy side I’m happier around other people and wouldn’t do well in a room alone at the computer all day every day. I’ll never stop being a writer (“are you still writing?”, people ask me, as if I could stop!) and writing is part of the food tour biz, too, but now I have a fun new way to get out there.

Although I’m officially a “sole proprietor,” this new endeavor is requiring the help of many people and I couldn’t do it alone. Friends and family have been wonderfully encouraging. The other food tour operators I’ve reached out to around the country have been tremendously helpful and generous with their time. Luckily one of them is nearby, only two hours north of me, and invited me to attend a tour this weekend. Joe Haedrich of Saratoga Springs Food Tours very kindly took an entire afternoon out of his busy schedule to show me the ropes of a real tour. Seeing how a food tour operates, on the spot, right there, was a great way to jump in a get a real feel for how things work.

Plus it was just great fun. Saratoga has an awesome, sprawling farmers market, and I got to meet some of the farmers and artisans who had been chosen to participate in the market, like Anna Mae, a beautiful fourth generation farmer who offers jams and jellies made from ingredients she grew herself (except for cranberries and citrus).

Anna Mae.

Anna Mae.

I experienced time travel to the distant past at the lovely Old Bryan Inn, a tavern that dates to 1773, and enjoyed a tasty, tender Balsamic Beef Tip Bruschetta. I was able to taste exquisite olive oils, vinegars and honeys of much finer quality than I’m used to at Saratoga Olive Oil Co. and Saratoga Tea & Honey Company.

I hadn’t been to Saratoga since Grateful Dead concerts years ago. For many the name of the small city evokes horse racing and little else. But thanks to Joe I was able to discover a new side of the town spiced up with his entertaining commentary and stories. He showed me various neighborhoods, many beautiful historic buildings and the lovely Yaddo Gardens at the artists’ retreat Yaddo (where my late dad, the author Donald Harington was in residence when I was a child) and of course the historic and famous Saratoga Raceway that occupies a large part of town but doesn’t dominate its loveliness.

Great to have a change of scenery in such a great town and in such good company.

 

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!!

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