Memorial day weekend. A long line of city folk flock to the manicured hedges of the Hamptons seeking a simple sip of fresh air. As my feet sink into the fine sand of Flying Point beach, I am reminded of the shift this weekend represents; celebrating the transition of the questionably cold winter and spring to a vibrant and soon to be regrettably hot summer. This moment is perfect.
Time lapses quick, dinner calls. It is time to freestyle.
When I cook during the summer I simply make it up as I go along, improv. Finding inspiration from the markets, farm stands and docks, dishes seem to magically come to fruition as I do only what feels right.
The request tonight was steak so naturally I had to preface it with a garden salad. I sought out the highest quality, organic, humanely killed beef and local produce I could find. Inspired by the transition of time and place, I composed a plate that acknowledges the old, celebrates the present and welcomes the new.
To start, a fresh garden salad, of arugula and mixed greens, early season heirloom tomatoes, carrots, radish, avocado and pine nuts, tossed in ramp vinaigrette.
Hearty New York Strip perched over, earthy butternut squash puree are a nod the cold winter. While spring chanterelles, ramps, chard and jumbo asparagus celebrate the moment and summer to come.
The result was an extraordinary balanced meal. As always, my thought was to create simple stand-alone dishes that only become more profound when tasted together. Take these recipes as you wish… cook them together or alone. Either way you will be satisfied.
Spring Garden Salad with Farm Vegetables, Dates
and Ramp Vinaigrette
Arugula – 6 handfuls
Mixed Greens – 2 handfuls
Radish – 4 sliced
Dates – 8 each (sliced long way)
Heirloom Tomato – 2 each (wedges if large, ½ if cherry)
Baby Carrot – 1 bunch
Avocado – 2 each (sliced)
Pine nuts - 1/4 cup (toasted)
Ramp Bulb – 4 each minced
Sherry Vinegar – 1/3 cup
Honey – 2 tbsp
Chives – 2 tbsp
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – ¾ cup
Salt and Pepper - to taste
In a bowl combine all produce and season with salt and pepper. In a jar, mix ramp, vinegar, honey, chive, olive oil and shake. Dress salad lightly with dressing by tossing with hands in a large bowl.
New York Strip with, butternut squash, herbed asparagus, chanterelle mushrooms, ramp
Serves 8 people
Butternut Squash Puree
Butternut Squash – 1 each (peeled and cubed)
Rosemary – 2 sprigs
Thyme – 2 sprigs
Olive Oil – ½ cup
Salt and Pepper to taste
In a heavy sauce pot, cover the bottom with olive oil (not all the oil) and place on medium low heat. Toss the butternut squash and a sprinkle of salt in the pot, and cover. Stir occasionally. Add herbs once the squash is soft.
Remove herbs, Place squash in a blender, turn on and drizzle oil in to create a puree.
Jumbo Asparagus – 3 bunches (about 24 pieces – 3 per plate)
Chives – ½ bunch minced
Thyme – 3 sprigs minced
Chervil – ½ bunch minced
Butter – 2 tbsp
Salt and Pepper – to taste
Bring salted water to a boil in a large pot. Fill a separate bowl with ice and water for ‘shocking’. Remove the tough base of the asparagus, and chop herbs.
Place asparagus into the boiling water and cook uncovered until tender (approx. 3 min). Remove asparagus and dunk into ice water to stop the cooking. This will also preserve the vibrant green color! Remove from water and reserve for cooking.
When ready to serve, get a sauté pan hot and place asparagus in it with a splash of water. Add butter, shaking the pan constantly, to create a glaze. add the herbs, salt and pepper to coat evenly and serve.
Chanterelle and Oyster Mushrooms
Chanterelle Mushrooms – 1 lb
Oyster Mushrooms – 1 lb
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 1/3 cup
Shallot – 2 each (minced)
Chives – 1/4 cup
Lemon – 1 each
Salt and Pepper
Heat a sauté pan over medium heat, add in 1 tbsp of olive oil, when it shimmers add the mushrooms to the pan and don’t touch. Let the heat work its magic. Stir after 2 min of sitting. Then add in the shallot. Lower the heat and cook until shallot is translucent. Now add a bit of the herbs, lemon and season. I recommend doing oyster and chanterelle separate.
*Note you may have to make multiple batches or use a few pans… giving mushrooms their space in the pan is important to the cooking process. Overcrowd it and the mushrooms will just leech water.
Pickled Ramps (and Rainbow Chard)
Ramps – 1 bunch (tops removed and reserved for oil)
Swiss Chard Stems – 1 bunch (cut into small matchstick shapes)
Whatever else you want to pickle
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 cup red wine vinegar
¾ cup honey
1 tsp black peppercorn
1 tsp white peppercorn
1 tsp juniper berry
½ tsp fennel
1 bay leaf
Combine all ingredients (except for vegetables) and bring to boil. Add ramps and then turn heat down. After 1 min add in the chard stems. Remove from heat and let cool and put in the refrigerator.
Ramp tops – 1 bunch worth
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 1/3 cup
Lemon – ½ ea. Juice
Ice – 3 cubes
Salt – to taste
Blanch ramp tops in boiling salted water. Then place in a blender with ice. Begin to blend and drizzle oil in. Finish with lemon juice and salt. Place in the refrigerator.
Roasted New York Strip
Organic New York Strip Steak - 4 each (thick)
Salt and Pepper - to taste
Preheat the grill so it is very hot. Liberally season all sides of the meat. Place the meat on the grill, fat side down, hold it there until the fat becomes golden brown and caramelized. Now sear meat on one side. Turn 90 degrees after about 4 min. This will create the hatch marks on the meat. Flip the steak and repeat.
Once grilled, finish the steak in a convection oven set at 350 F. Cook until desired temperature. My favorite... medium rare.
LET THE MEAT REST - for about 10 min. Then slice across the grain of the meat to maximize the tenderness of each piece.
To finish, spread the butternut squash puree on the plate. Place the asparagus on top of it and mushroom on top of the herbed stalks. Slice the meat across the grain and lay three pieces over top. Garnish with pickled ramps, chard and ramp oil. Serve to your loved ones!
The first meal of the season was a success and now a lingering memory. I find myself excited to see what else I can coax from the flavors of East Long Island. Then perhaps the ghosts in the kitchen will once again whisper hints of inspiration.
Tomorrow comes early.