Salt Air and Farm Stands

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Little inspires the Three Points cooks more than the late summer abundance of farm-fresh produce. Except maybe the opportunity to cook it up in a spectacular venue filled with food-loving folks. For Saturday’s dinner, Sally Hershberger generously opened up her Hamptons home and kitchen, complete with beautiful vistas on two sides—an immaculately clean Viking range on the right and sweeping ocean views to the left.

Surely, anything tastes good in such a setting, but we came armed with a cooler full of items gathered over stops at virtually every farm stand from Sag Harbor to Amagansett. Our charming hostess for the weekend, Jane Berliner, was particular about supporting the true local farmers’ stands, and we wholeheartedly agreed, grabbing armloads of corn, potatoes, tomatoes, leeks, basil, eggplant and zucchini blossoms.

The centerpiece, a just-off-the-line filet of striped bass (obtained from the ramshackle seaside operation run by a locally famous bearded-lady fish monger) that needed nothing more than a drizzle of olive oil, some fresh dill and a few careful minutes in the oven. No overcooking this precious baby! Topped with a quick sauce of sautéed leeks and garlic, tossed with colorful heirloom cherry tomatoes, a splash of white wine vinegar and a few basil leaves, then just warmed through.

On the side:

  • Janie’s Crack Corn. Jane took the lead with her version of Mexican corn-on-the-cob. The day’s pick was parboiled, then finished on the grill before rolling in mayonnaise seasoned with lots of cumin, chile powder, chopped fresh jalapeno and lime, with a sprinkling of ricotta salata.
  • Mashed Potatoes with Mushrooms and Leeks. Some of the sautéed leek and garlic mix from the tomato sauce was reserved and combined with cremini mushrooms, dill, white wine and a generous twist of pepper. Kate’s inspiration results in a kind of mashed potato stroganoff. Even the littlest diners at the table asked for seconds.
  • Basil Roasted Eggplant. Striped globe eggplants were cut into large dice and tossed with basil oil, made by simply steeping a handful of chopped basil in about a half cup of olive oil for an hour or so.
  • Cheese-Filled Squash Blossoms. Zucchini blossoms stuffed with herbed cheese (the basil, again, stirred into fresh farmer’s cheese mixed with Boursin), dipped in egg and cornmeal flour, then skillet fried. The key here was the ultra-fine, light-as-air cornmeal flour another of our hosts carries back from visits to her native Alabama. The fine flour creates a tempura-like batter. Frying in a cast-iron skillet is recommended, naturally.

We could have been content with just a platter of those sizable, late-summer blossoms, sipping a glass of wine and gazing at the slice of red moon hovering just above the water.

Although we were already looking forward to breakfast the next morning—fried cornmeal (aka corn pone, more of that amazing Alabama cornmeal flour simply mixed with water and salt, then dropped into hot oil, like fritters) à la Treva Walden, improbably paired with French fries and chicken/apple sausages topped with some maple syrup. Apparently, it’s how they do breakfast in Alabama, and we can’t argue with that.

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