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Posts from the ‘What’s in Season: Summer’ Category

The Quick Pickle.

Delicious, no matter how you slice them.

I like a pickle that is crisp, garlicky, and tangy, or one that has a bite. The great thing about pickles, is there are so many different kinds, and they are all really easy to make. While kirby cucumbers (these are the little guys that are perfect for pickling) are in peak season at the farmer’s market, buy a few (they are SO cheap) and experiment in your kitchen. With “gourmet” pickles costing about $10 a jar, canning your own is worth the investment of a few ball jars, cucumbers, vinegar, salt, and any herbs or spices you might want to add. They are also great to bring to barbeques and dinner parties, after all, what is a good summertime burger without a delicious pickle! You won’t believe how easy they are to make, and guests will be really impressed, and of course you’ll never go back to store-bought again. Use some of the brine in bloody marys, especially delicious if your pickles are spicy!

*Use pickling salt (Morton’s sells it in a big green box) for pickles that will stay greener, regular or kosher salt will also work, and taste fine, your pickles just won’t stay as bright because of additives.

For the basic brine:

2 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
3 tablespoons pickling salt
1 tablespoon mustard seed
2 tablespoon black peppercorn
1 tablespoon coriander seeds

Bring all ingredients to a boil, and pour over pickles into heatproof containers (if canning, make sure jars and lids are sterilized). Refrigerate, and store for a few months, not that they will last that long!

For Garlic/Dill Pickles:
add 4 cloves garlic
and either 1 head of fresh dill per jar, or 1 tablespoon dill seed

For Spicy Pickles:

Add one whole hot pepper of your choice, poked all over with a fork, to each jar.

For a Sweet Pickle:

Add 2 tablespoons, or more, of sugar to the brine, and leave out the other spices.


Sunday (I don’t want to get on the Jitney) Dinner

Sunday Dinner at the Loboscos in Sag Harbor, NY.

Crisp white wine, sweet heirloom cherry tomatoes of different shapes, sizes, and vibrant hues, savory and salty baked clams– the flavors of summer in themselves are an escape from the city during these especially hot days and nights. Sunday dinner after a beautiful weekend in the Hamptons is always a bittersweet event. Fresh ingredients from the farmer’s market, friends, and family, always make for an amazing meal, but supper is always the last thing I can fit in before boarding the bus headed back to Manhattan.

Tonight I was a guest at my friend Stephen’s house in Sag Harbor for dinner. After a completely kitchen-free weekend, I was happy to throw together a few no-fuss sides to add to an already impressive spread. I had been talking so much about my watermelon and arugula salad the day before at the beach, I decided to make it again this evening with some ingredients from the Amagansett Farmer’s Market, along with some quick pickled red onions and cherry tomatoes.

The produce at the Amagansett Farmer’s Market is amazing, and my friends, despite being foodies, still could not quite understand my excitement over my salad supplies. The baby arugula was the most tender, peppery, absolutely perfect green I have ever tasted, I have to say, it was probably worth it’s $6.99 per 1/4 of a pound price I failed to notice.

Watermelon and Arugula Salad with Ricotta Salata, Pepitas, and Lemon Vinagrette

For my watermelon salad I mixed the arugula with some frisee to bulk it up enough to serve the group of 10. I cubed half of a sweet seedless watermelon, and about 6 ounces of salty ricotta salata cheese. I tossed in a bunch of salted pepitas (sunflower seeds are delicious too) for a little crunch, and I usually dress it with a simple lemony champagne vinaigrette (1 shallot, minced, juice of 1 lemon, 2 T champagne vinegar, 1 T dijon mustard, 1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil, and salt and pepper). This salad is incredibly light and refreshing, easy, and goes well with almost any summer meal.

Stephen’s dad grilled a steak and burgers, and whipped up a batch of baked clams in the backyard (which deserve much more attention than my vegetable side-dishes) while we enjoyed the pool, some Southampton Double White Ales, and the company of three very funny little dogs. We ate under the vine-covered pergola, and Stephen’s mom set the table with blue checkered cloth and wildflower bouquets, my favorite combination for any summertime spread.

The table being set up...


Before we could see sun setting, or the paper lanterns illuminated in the trees of the yard, we were having our last laughs, sips, and bites and running out to the car. Now, typing this and only seeing the red glow of brake lights out the window of the bus, it seems much more than 100 miles away from that special tranquility, comfort, and certain contentedness that can be found in the summer at home.


Homemade Maraschino Cherries with Fresh (In Season) Sour Cherries

Fresh Sour Cherries from the Farmer's Market

Brilliant red, plump– ready to burst with sweet and tangy juices, the sour cherry is certainly a seasonal farmer’s market treasure. Only in season a few short weeks, while these delicious fruits can be used for all kinds of cooking, I wanted to be able to preserve them for later in the year. While pies, tarts, sauces, etc. are great now, come Fall, I can’t wait to savor these homemade Maraschino cherries in an ice cold Manhattan.

Homemade Maraschino cherries are incredibly easy to make, especially when you have a cherry pitter, like the one by OXO pictured here:

A cherry pitter can also be used for olives, and if you have room in your kitchen drawers for one, it really saves a lot of time compared to using a paper clip or pin to remove the pits. Make sure to wear an apron for this task though, sour cherries have a softer, thinner skin than the regular variety, and are extremely juicy– which can easily lead to quite a mess.

Once your cherries are pitted, simply warm Maraschino liqueur to a gentle simmer, and pour them over the cherries in a clean canning jar. Maraschino is made from Marasca cherries, and crushed cherry pits which lends an almond-like flavor to the liqueur. These cherries will be far from the sticky-sweet cherries from your Shirley Temple days, and if the boozy flavor is a bit too strong for your tastes, the liquor can be mixed with a bit of water and sugar to your taste.

Use these cherries to top any ice cream sundae this summer, or come cooler weather use this recipe for the perfect Manhattan cocktail:

2.25 oz Rye Whiskey
.75 oz Sweet Vermouth
2 Dashes bitters

In a rocks glass filled with ice, combine all ingredients, stir, and garnish with a cherry. Or, to serve up, stir all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice, strain, and serve in a cocktail glass, and garnish with a cherry.

Sweet Solutions III: Local Strawberry Tart with Basil-Infused Mascarpone Custard and Cracked Black Pepper

Sweet strawberries with a touch of spice and an herbal hint.  So summer.

Last Saturday after the farmer’s market Jaime and I decided to walk down to the il laboratorio del gelato on Houston St. We were already in need of a cool refresher, but the walk escalated the effects of the sticky summer afternoon– at least we were heading to the perfect spot. Picking out which flavors we were going to get was probably the most difficult decision of the day. With so many fruity, sweet, and even savory options– the combinations seem endless!

I was immediately drawn towards the honey-lavender, but at the last minute I decided on the basil gelato with raspberry sorbet. The mix of puckering tartness from the raspberry and the mild, creamy, herbal finish of the basil was everything one could hope for on a humid day. Not too sweet, but amazingly refreshing, cooling, and my favorite summer colors– pink and green.

My inspiration.

The treat inspired my own take on the flavor combination later that weekend, with my farmer’s market purchase of some tiny (more tart than sweet) local strawberries. I sliced the berries and tossed them in just a bit of sugar and freshly ground black pepper, and let them soak while I made pate brisee tart shells, and the basil-infused mascarpone custard.

For the custard I brought 1 cup of heavy cream to a boil, and then removed it from heat. I added 1/2 cup of roughly chopped basil to the cream, covered it, and allowed it to steep until the tart shells were baked-off and cooled. When I was ready to fill the tarts, I strained the basil cream and set it aside. Then, over low heat, I combined 2 egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in a small saucepan, and whisked them until they were light yellow in color. I slowly added the cream, whisking well until the mixture was thickened, and then I folded in one container of mascarpone cheese. I filled the tarts, and let them chill overnight, before I topped them with the sliced strawberries. The syrup from the strawberries makes a beautiful decorative and delicious sauce for serving with the tart, top with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream if desired.

Martha Stewart also has an excellent strawberry galette recipe in her Pies and Tarts cookbook if you don’t have any tart molds on hand. She pairs the rustic tart with a basil whipped cream. This elegant flavor combination is really something special to share over the summer when fresh ingredients are available.

The perfect summer bite.

Sweet Solutions II: Strawberry Rhubarb & Ginger Pie

Slightly over-baked, but still oh-so-delicious

Sweet strawberries and tart rhubarb are a classic combination, and one of my all-time favorites– but the addition of ginger makes this pie stand out from the crowd. With an ultra-flakey lard and butter crust, and ingredients right from the farmer’s market, this summer treat is one that your friends and family are sure to love. It was difficult not to cut right into this pie as soon as it came out of the oven with it’s delicious red juices bubbling up out of the lattice-top, but I brought it into class to share instead.

Strawberry Rhubarb and Ginger Pie

For the crust:

2 1/2 cups AP flour
1 stick cold butter, cubed
1 cup lard (or shortening)
1 T salt
1 T sugar
1/4 cup ice cold water

In a food processor, pulse dry ingredients a few times just to mix. Add butter and lard or shortening and pulse until dough begins to come together, adding water as needed. Divide into two, and flatten dough into discs. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.


1 q strawberries, hulled, and cut in half or in quarters if large (small local in-season strawberries are best!)
5 stalks rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 (2-inch) piece of ginger, grated
2 teaspoons lemon zest, plus 1 tablespoon juice
1/2 cup sugar
pinch cinnamon
1 tablespoon cornstarch or tapioca

Combine all ingredients.

For the Pie:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough into an 11″ circle, place in a 9″ pie pan, and fill with mixture. Roll our other cylinder of dough, cover pie, and crimp edges with fingers. Brush crust with a mixture of 1 egg yolk and 1 T cream if desired, and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake for 30 minutes, or until crust is golden-brown and juices are bubbling.

So Long, Sweet Summer.

It is a bittersweet thing to say goodbye to summer, but there is nothing like a colorful bounty of late August produce straight from the farm to bring the season to an end. John decided this would be exactly the way our summer should come to a close, by enjoying all our local community could offer us before I had to depart back to city life–and the French Culinary Institute! Oh, yeah, and… work– full-time.

While I had been anxiously awaiting John’s party all week, myself and the rest of the Island were also just as anxiously anticipating Hurricane Earl. Determined that the show must go on, John ventured to the East Hampton farmer’s market early Friday morning before the storm could get really bad (which it never did, excluding our very wet entrance, and a brown-out that killed our melancholy mix of music for a brief moment).

John had picked up a diverse and mouth-watering wealth of produce– from red, orange, yellow, green, and deep purple heirloom tomatoes of varying shapes and sizes, scallions, vibrant (and incredibly fragrant) basil, and of course no meal would be complete without some of David Falkowski’s mushrooms (this time they were oyster, which John had been telling us all summer, are the absolute best). He had also picked up some mozzarella cheese, made that morning in East Hampton town. And Vanessa and Conor had brought over a selection of veggies from their garden as well, including carrots, plum tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers.

Straight from Vee's Garden

While sipping Campari and Sodas (though we agreed given the weather, Dark and Stormys may have been more appropriate), John prepared our first course, a really simple dish that he promised would really surprise us. Sautéed Scallions with a little ground black pepper and sea salt– it doesn’t get easier than that, yet I had really never thought about serving them alone. The fresh scallions were so flavorful, and incredibly delicious.

For our next course, I prepared stacks of heirloom tomato slices, the FRESH (did I mention it was made that morning?) mozzarella cheese, and basil, topped with a little extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and just a fine drizzle of a really beautiful bottle of balsamic. We soaked up the tomatoes’ juice, oil, salt and vinegar with some fresh baguette.

Now with the flavors of this mild, sweet, airy cheese, the occasional salty bite, or zesty and herbal from the basil, we moved on to our fourth bottle of wine, and the main dish.

The Impossible-to-Describe-How-Good-They-Are Oyster Mushrooms

The main course would really be a showcase for the beautiful oyster mushrooms. Sautéed lightly in butter and garlic, he served the mushrooms over fregola, with a sprinkling of fresh chopped parsley and shaved parmesan.

Our conversation, the music, our wine, and most of all our food was spectacular. The mushrooms stole the show– we dedicated a solid five minutes to trying to put together some words to describe just how amazing they are. If we came up with anything, that thought out definition must have gotten lost in the wine.

For Dessert I baked a really simple Kutchen with some sugar plums I had bought on the North Fork. Not too sweet, with just a hint of cinnamon, topped with some vanilla frozen yogurt, and of course, paired with some more wine, it made for a pretty fabulous finish to an incredible meal.

We held toasts to many things that night. To great friends, great food, and some new and exciting things happening this Fall. Outside, it no longer seemed like summer, but we were full and warm from wine and the comforting of the season. Autumn will arrive soon with new ingredients for another dinner party, and the promise of more fond memories to come.

About the Wine (Thanks for helping me remember John).

With Appetizers:
Chateau Le Thil Comte Clary Pessac Leognan 2004 White Bordeaux. We loved this. Great light wine with a beautiful lychee finish.

With Mozzarella:
Domus Vitae
Brunello di Montalcino 2004. Started great but faded quickly. Started with a smoke and cherry front, after breathing a bit flavor became less complex and more fruity.

Clos Del Conde
PRIORAT 2004 Spanish Grenache/Carignan/Cabernet/Syrah Blend. We loved this.

With Dinner:
Patrick Lesec
Chateauneuf Du pape “Galets Blonds” 2006. We really loved this. With a higher alcohol content, this flavor quickly hit the back of the tongue. Full-bodied and complex, we tasted fruit flavors and a sweet tannin along with a hint of richer, darker flavors like espresso.

Thank you again John for being a wonderful host, and to Vanessa, Conor, and Jim as well for being the best company!

What’s in Season? August on Long Island.


Some of the selection at Open-Minded Organics at the Hayground School's Farmer's Market

With August quickly coming to an end, summer flavors are still plentiful at farm-stands and farmer’s markets on the East End of Long Island. Harvests this week offer a wide selection of fruit and vegetables that will be in season for the next few weeks.

Bayview Farm and Market in Aquebogue on the North Fork, had huge quantities of tomatoes. Plum and Beefsteak were available in bulk for canning, they also had plenty of heirlooms, and cherries. Giant Summer Squash, Zucchini, and Cucumbers were piled up in buckets, as well as Eggplant, Red and Yellow Onions, Beets, Carrots, and Green Beans. Inside they had local Peaches, Blackberries, and Raspberries, along with their selection of freshly baked breads and pies.

In Bridgehampton, the Hayground School holds a farmer’s market every Friday from 3-6:30pm. Though this is a fairly small market, the vendors offer a really great selection, and have plenty of variety. Eli Zabar (of Manhattan and Amagansett) sells their artisanal breads, Dayboat Fish and Seafood of Shinnecock has very reasonably priced straight-off-the-boat seafood, Wolffer Estate has their renowned selection of local wines, Mecox Bay Dairy had artisanal cow’s milk cheeses, several vendors had sweets, jams, and spreads, and the Hayground School Garden, Balsam Farms of East Hampton, and Open-Minded Organics of Bridgehampton sold produce.

If you haven’t tried Open-Minded Organics Mushrooms, you really must make it a priority over these next couple of weeks. David Falkowski is extremely friendly, informative, and visibly passionate about his food. My friend John introduced me to Falkowski’s mushrooms earlier in the summer, and they are nothing short of outrageous. Earthy, mild, with a wonderful meaty texture, they really could be a dish all by themselves. Open-Minded Organics Participates in farmers’ markets in Sag Harbor (Saturdays), Bridgehampton (Fridays), East Hampton (Fridays), Southampton (Sundays) and Montauk (Thursdays).

Here is what I came home with last Friday:

Baguette, Eli’s
Shiitake Mushroom, Black Cherry Tomatoes, Variety of Hot Peppers,
and Masala Tomato Spread, Open-Minded Organics
Striped Bass, Day-Boat
Yellow Onion, Garlic, Kale, Balsam
Rose Table Wine 2009, Wolffer
Hayground 2

and here’s what I made…

Grilled Bruschetta

Brushed Eli’s Baguette with Olive Oil and crushed garlic. Placed on grill about 10 minutes. Spread a thin layer of Catapano’s chevre. Topped with chopped heirloom tomatoes (Sylvester Manor farms) and some cherry tomatoes, and some fresh basil from the garden. Sprinkled with kosher salt.

Grilled Striped Bass with Pan-Roasted Tomatoes, and Shiitake Mushrooms in a Garlic White-Wine Sauce

In a pan over medium heat I simmered the fresh garlic and onions in a bit of butter. I added black and golden cherry tomatoes, as well as some chopped heirloom’s, and cooked until the tomatoes began to burst. I prepared the fish with kosher salt, crushed black pepper, and olive oil, and placed on the grill until cooked through. When fish was almost done I added shiitakes to the tomatoes, as well as some parsley from the garden. After a few minutes I deglazed the pan with a splash of dry white wine. I served the fish over some of the steamed local kale and some wild rice.

We’re Jamming (and I hope you like jamming too).

Blackberry-Raspberry Jam

While berries are still in season, I wanted to make sure I learned how to properly can things, so that by the time fall hits I’d have reserves of jams and jellies for the rest of the year. While I had made jellies at some point before, I had never sealed them in jars, I had always put it in the fridge and began using it right away.

Like most people my age I first went to the internet for instructions. While there were many great websites dedicated to canning and preserving, most were geared towards bigger batches, and involved a lot of equipment I didn’t have. Luckily before I could get to eBay or, my dad’s friend Mark called me with some advice. He suggested that unless you are making dozens of jars, there is really no reason to get most of the equipment. As long as you have the jars with lids and seals, a big pot (I used a lobster pot) with a lid, and a good set of tongs, you should be all set. He also gave me a few safety tips (above all, be careful when transferring boiling hot jam into the jars). He also told me to except that the jam would be thinner than what I was used to. My Mom’s friend Missy, who has been making amazing jam for years, said that liquid pectin can be used to make jams thicker. Since I couldn’t find this at any nearby stores, I just used the powdered pectin, and stuck pretty much to the recipe inside the box. Here is what I did:

Peach Berry Jam
(makes 4 pints or 8 1/2 pint jelly jars)

Ingredients and Equipment

1 box pectin
3 cups crushed blackberries, raspberries, or both
2 cups finely chopped peaches (about 4 or 5 ripe peaches)
6 cups sugar
2 Tbsp lemon juice
4 pint jars, or 8 1/2 pint jars with lids, and new seals
1 large pot with lid
1 saucepan

1 set of tongs (canning tongs are available online or at Agway or other garden supply stores)

1. Sterilize jars and lids by running them through the dishwasher
2. While jars are being cleaned, fill pot with water, bring to boil.
3. In a large sauce pan, mix crushed fruit and lemon juice.
4. Stir in Pectin, bring mixture to boil. (add 1/2 tsp butter to reduce foaming).
5. Add sugar, stir until dissolved. Bring mixture to a full boil.

Once jars and lids are done take them straight out of the dishwasher (they must still be hot to fill with a hot liquid), being careful not to touch the inside of the jars or lids (they have to stay sterile).

6. Ladle fruit mixture into the jars, leaving 1/4 inch of space at the top.
7. Quickly wipe rim of jar with towel dipped in hot water to remove any seeds or jam.
8. Center the hot lids on jars and apply bands.
9. Place filled jars in pot of boiling water, making sure they are covered by at least 1-2 inches. Cover.
10. Process jars for about 10 minutes. Turn off heat and remove lid. Let stand for 5 minutes.
11. Remove the jars, place on a towel to cool for at least 12-24 hours.

To see if jars have sealed, after 24 hours, check to see if lid flexes up and down. If not, it’s sealed! Sealed jams can be stored for up to a year. If jars did not seal, just refrigerate and the jam will stay fresh for about a month.


Pick from a Bounty of Island Farm Stands

“Ripe red tomatoes. Bright yellow squash. Sweet melons that perfume the air around them. The bounty of summer is ripe for the picking here on Shelter Island at a farm stand near you.”

For the full article in the Shelter Island Reporter, click here.

August Harvest on Shelter Island

Wildflowers for Sale on Shelter Island

Three weeks after my shoulder surgery, I am finally back in the kitchen–just in time to take advantage of the summer season’s peak harvest. August has so much to offer, and warm weather dishes practically cook themselves with ingredients straight from the farm-stand.

Cooking with one arm in a sling has proved to be quite challenging, so I’ve been sticking mainly to simple dishes, and lots of salads. Heirloom tomatoes are available and are tasty enough to sprinkle with salt and pepper and eat alone, or paired with basil and mozzarella cheese. Also, chopped with cucumbers, red onion, parsley, mint, with a little lemon juice and olive oil, a tomato salad is a great cold veggie side dish for grilled meats, or fish.

Sylvestor Manor Farm on Shelter Island has had some of the sweetest yellow cherry tomatoes I have ever tasted. They are so ripe and flavorful they make a delicious snack by themselves, or could be tossed into any salad or pasta dish. I roasted some with a bit of ground pepper, kosher salt, and olive oil just until they burst. Mixed with a tablespoon or so of fresh pesto, I put the mixture over chedder-dill buttermilk scones, and a poached egg (from Sylvestor Manor’s variety of chickens). Who needs hollandaise when you have pesto straight from the garden? For the scone recipe for this sweet and savory brunch dish, see the bottom of this post.

Carla shopping for squash and peppers at the Manor farm-stand

Besides tomatoes and cucumbers, eggplants, peppers, summer squash, zucchini, green beans, potatoes, onions, carrots, radishes, beets, corn, watermelon, and peaches are all in season.

I bought two baskets of peaches from Davis Peach Farm on the North Fork of Long Island (561 Hulse Landing Road, Wading River, NY) and have experimenting with different peach-berry crisps and pies. I have also been making simple salsa, and hope to jar a few bottles of chutney while the peaches are so amazingly ripe and widely available. I have never tasted peaches as sweet and juicy as those from Davis Peach Farm, and they were great for cooking with– they were so ripe the skin peeled right off (with less ripe peaches you can always boil them for about 30 seconds to make this easier).

Now that I am feeling much better, expect many more updates!

For the scones:
(Yields 8 ) (Unless you’re cooking for a large group, scones get stale very quickly, and I prefer making them in small batches to ensure freshness)

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks cold diced butter
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 lb extra-sharp cheddar cheese (I used a 2 yr Vermont cheese)
1/2 cup minced fresh dill

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Combine dry ingredients, and with a mixer add butter and mix on low-speed until the butter is pea-sized. Mix buttermilk and eggs separately, then add to dry mixture. Add cheddar and dill to dough. Knead for about one minute on well floured surface, and roll until dough is just less than 1 inch thick. Cut into triangles, brush tops with egg wash (one egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water). Bake on baking sheet for 20 to 25 minutes. Line sheet with parchment paper for easy removal.

Also try this recipe with other savory ingredients (cheddar and chives, basil and sun-dried tomato…) and enjoy!