• The Farm At The Beach

    Breathe. Relax. Read a book.

    Well, we are back. Or at least settled. We are now at our “home-away-from-home” on the east end of Long Island. One of our favorite places in the world. I guess you can call it a “home” because we have plenty of friends and family here, and we pretty much know where everything is. That may seem simplistic, but part of being comfortable is familiarity. We cooked in three different kitchens in the last thee days but pretty much knew where everything was. Other people’s kitchens are a tough place to cook, but we know our way around. We can get back to business. But before we cooked, the first business was meeting the two newest members of our extended family. Beautiful babies and happy, if somewhat tired, parents. We can almost field a football team with all the cousins- which is very, very cool. We are so blessed and lucky, and the babies give us a reminder of just how good life is. And they are cute, too.

    Radishes are in season here, and very tasty.

    And we did get back to cooking. In many of our posts, we mention that certain dishes and drinks are good for a crowd. Well, we put a few to the test already. Most meals over the weekend fed groups of 15-20. So far, so good- but we do have a few notes and revisions. And, happily, mostly to the good. As for the actual food, we tend to have simply prepared fish and shellfish as our main courses. Seared ahi tuna, roasted striped bass, sea scallops and steamed clams made it to the table over the weekend, and will be part of almost every dinner this week. Most were caught within the last day or so. The fish is so fresh you don’t need to do much (just don’t screw them up), so we focused on sides that highlight the seafood or feature the local produce.

    The coconut rice goes well with the local fish. A big hit- we will make this throughout the trip.

    Firstly, we had fresh local radishes and served them with butter and salt. Always easy, always good. (My Dad also makes kick-ass guacamole every day, but that is another post). The biggest hit so far is the coconut rice. The rice went very well with the seared, rare ahi tuna (steaks almost 2 inches thick and sooo good). Served with a dash of soy and some cilantro chutney (working on that recipe), it was a perfect fit. A table of 16 were all very happy. One note here, we made the coconut rice with “Light” coconut milk, as the store was out of regular coconut milk. If anything, the light coconut milk gave the dish plenty of flavor, but perhaps a slightly lighter texture. Good to know that we can make a lower-calorie version of the original.

    We added fresh corn kernels to the Red Cat zucchini- it was great.

    Another surprise was how well the coconut rice went with the Red Cat zucchini. The dish comes from here, so everyone enjoyed it (the zucchini was right from the CSA), but as the dish is more Mediterranean, we are surprised how well the flavors meshed. Another note here- we added some fresh corn kernels to the zucchini and they added lovely texture and sweetness. If you have corn, give this a try. The next day we took the leftover coconut rice and combined it with the zucchini and corn. It made a delightful cold summer salad.

    As for the cocktails, we made fresh Tommy’s-style margaritas every day (2 oz. blanco tequila, 1 oz. gave nectar, 1 oz. lime juice). But the big hit was the Lani Honi. As predicted, everyone thought of it as a lemony summer punch with a little extra depth. We served a pitcher alongside the margaritas and the Lani Honi held its own. We had requests for more the next day. Very good.

    As expected, a perfect drink to make for a crowd.

    Lastly we made a punch-sized batch of the Nouvelle Fleur. The drink was a success, but did need some tweaking. In the original recipe we used ruby-red grapefruit and the flavors meshed very well. Out here, we used white grapefruit and the drink was way too sour. Happily, a little extra St. Germain and some agave nectar did the trick and the Nouvelle Fleur was a success, particularly with grapefruit fans. But a quick reminder that it pays to taste your drinks and adjust as necessary.

    A great punch, but we needed to adjust for more sour white greapefruit.

    Today we are off to the CSA garden and then looking for corn and stone fruits. And just wait until we start talking about the pies…oh my. We have new photos and recipes coming all week! It’s good to be back.

  • Weekly Cocktail #22: The Margaret Rose

    The Margaret Rose. A good intro to “Daisy” cocktails.

    This week’s cocktail takes us back to the classics. The Margaret Rose is a well-balanced cocktail made of gin, Calvados (or Applejack, in a pinch), Cointreau, lemon juice and grenadine. The Margaret Rose is smooth, with clear apple flavor and a very tasty sweet / tart combination from the lemon and the Cointreau. The gin adds some depth and complexity. The grenadine adds more sweetness and the rosy color. This drink is easy to make, works well in any season and is a good introduction to a class of cocktails known as “Daisies”. More on that in a bit.

    This recipe first appears in print in “The Cafe Royal Cocktail Book“, a 1937 book that came out a year or so after the more famous Savoy Cocktail Book. In a nutshell, the Savoy book was written by an American Harry Craddock, working in the UK. The UK Bartenders Guild thought that the Savoy book was perhaps a bit too “American” and came out with their own cocktail guide, The Cafe Royal. Both are good cocktail books and each has some unique recipes. For whatever reason, the Savoy is a more popular modern reference. Maybe it’s the illustrations.

    We found this recipe and notes on the Cafe Royal Cocktail Book from Cocktail Virgin Slut, one of the better cocktail blogs. We tried the Margaret Rose and liked it (Carolyn gave it a nod, and she is normally not a lover of brandy) and decided to do some more research. The Margaret Rose is from a class of cocktails known as “daisies”. Daisies are one of the oldest types of cocktails and were common in the 19th century. Definitions vary, but a daisy usually combines brandy, citrus juice (normally lemon) and a sweet liqueur like Cointreau or Chartreuse. Other spirits like whisky, gin or rum may be part of the recipe. A good combination, and a clear precursor to “Sours” like the Sidecar and, much later, the Cosmopolitan.

    As for the ingredients, the only somewhat “rarefied” ingredient is the Calvados. Calvados is simply apple brandy from the Lower Normandy region of France. Most Calvados is dry, but features clear apple notes and a touch of heat from the alcohol (depending on the quality of the Calvados). American apple brandy, known as Applejack, tends to run a touch sweeter and more tangy than Calvados. Applejack will work well in this recipe, but the drink will be a bit different. Regardless, there are literally hundreds of cocktails (mostly 19th and early 20th century) that feature apple brandy, so Calvados or Applejack are a worthwhile addition to your bar.

    In the end, the Margaret Rose is a good drink to try. It is a good excuse to get some apple brandy, try a “daisy’ cocktail and even get a copy of a cool (if somewhat obscure) cocktail book. Nothing like a bit of history. Or you can ignore the history and just make the drink and enjoy it. That also works pretty well.

    The Margaret Rose:

    Ingredients:

    • 1 oz. dry gin
    • 1 oz. Calvados (or Applejack)
    • 1/2 oz. Cointreau
    • 1/2 oz. lemon juice
    • 2 dashes grenadine

    Assemble:

    1. Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake thoroughly and strain into a chilled cocktail glass, coupé or flute. No garnish. Serve.
    Related articles
  • The Colonial Garden: Williamsburg, VA

    A prosperous farmer might have this view.

    Posting from the road for a few days, but we couldn’t resist sharing garden photos from our visit to Williamsburg. For those unfamiliar, Williamsburg is a recreation of an 18th century American colonial town in the time of the revolution (not as hokey as you might think). The town is full of period-costumed staff and many activities (fun for kids) but we were most impressed by the landscaping and architecture. Williamsburg is a very beautiful town.

    You might have an ornamental garden.

    Our favorite places in the town were the gardens of the houses. Many are hidden, but you can tour them, or simply ask and find yourself in a garden that isn’t much different from it was 250 years ago. Our highlight was the vegetable garden.It looks like a garden most gardeners would be proud to have. Gardens don’t change much, just the tools evolve. You could say the same about people.

    Hope you enjoy the photos.

    Vegetable garden- wood supports instead of metal.

    Some people would actually pay extra for this type of wheelbarrow these days.

    Not that much changes in the gard Continue reading
  • Bonus Cocktail: The Lani-Honi

    Lani-Honi Cocktail.

    Some cocktails we expect to be good. They are famous, they are everywhere, people write songs about them, name bars and casinos after them. Yes, I am talking about Margaritas, but the same can be said for Martinis, Mai-Tais and Manhattans. These cocktails are icons. And they are (mostly) great drinks.

    But then there are surprises. Cocktails you would never think of, often with somewhat esoteric ingredients, but that just taste great. This week’s bonus cocktail, the Lani-Honi is one of the surprises. And a very pleasant surprise, at that.

    The Lani-Honi has only three ingredients and is easy to make.

    The pleasant surprise is that the Lani-Honi is, technically, a tiki drink, but it includes just three ingredients: Benedictine, white rum and lemon juice served on the rocks. It tastes like a rich, lemony and slightly herbal punch- a simple drink but a good one. And it goes down very, very easy. And not only is the Lani-Honi an easy drink to like, it takes almost no effort to make, and you can make/serve it in batches. The Lani-Honi’s only real downside is that it could be a “dangerous” drink. And perhaps one extra downside is that you need some Benedictine.

    A good excuse to get some Benedictine.

    Benedictine is a French herbal liqueur that’s been around (depending on who you believe) since the 16th century. The provenance and the recipe are somewhat in question, but we do know that Benedictine was mass-produced (and well-marketed) starting in the 1860’s. With sweet, spicy and herbal notes, that some liken to cola, Benedictine became a very popular cocktail ingredient until the middle of the 20th century, when it started lose favor. But many home bars will have a bottle of Benedictine gathering dust somewhere, and the Lani-Honi is a good reason to break it out, or even buy a bottle.

    We found this recipe in Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s iPhone Tiki Drink app. We bought a bottle of Benedictine for some classic cocktails, but we didn’t find anything we loved (yet), so we started to look at other uses and searched the Tiki Drink app for Benedictine. More famously, Benedictine is in the Singapore Sling, but the Lani-Honi looked tasty and easy to make. And it was. Carolyn and I both loved the Lani-Honi and we plan to serve it at a few summer parties. We think almost everyone will enjoy it, the Lani-Honi just feels like a cocktail that will please a crowd. Continue reading

  • Simple Garden Recipes: Tomatoes And Green Beans

    Tomato “Steakhouse” Salad.

    Green Beans With Chorizo and Cherry Tomatoes.

    This time of year, the garden mostly dictates what we cook. A welcome snap of heat brought us early tomatoes and green beans, now we need to use them. The tomatoes are easy; the green beans are a bit more of a challenge. Let’s start with the tomatoes.

    Our first tomatoes, the sweet 100s came in and are exactly as you expect, small and sweet. We also got our hands on some early heirlooms, big, sweet and juicy. For the larger tomatoes we usually make Caprese salads, just with an extra dash of balsamic and olive oil. But we also enjoy this “steak house” tomato salad. The recipe is a combination of the onion and tomato salad from the famous Peter Luger Steakhouse in New York and a recipe from Suzanne Goin of Lucques in Los Angeles.

    It is a simple combination of ripe tomatoes (otherwise don’t bother), sweet onion, blue cheese and herb vinaigrette. But the flavors really do sing and are much richer than a Caprese salad. The sweetness and acidity of the tomatoes and onions match well with the rich, tangy blue cheese, while the herb vinaigrette adds tart and earthy flavors. And the mix of soft, crisp and creamy textures make for an excellent overall dish.

    Making the salad couldn’t be easier, but a few quick tips that will improve the overall dish. Simply slice the tomatoes and onions, but soak the onion slices in cold water for a few minutes before assembling the dish- they will be crisper and have less heat. Also slice the herbs and make the vinaigrette at the last-minute. The herbs will not discolor and the presentation will really pop. And this dish looks as good as it tastes.

    As for the green beans, they are more of a challenge. Their flavor is often very “green” and vegetal, and their texture can sometimes be leathery. The small, young beans are often the best, but our beans ripen unevenly and we tend to have a mix of large and small beans. Happily we found a basic technique and adapted a recipe that makes the most of the green beans and is very tasty. Our green beans with chorizo and cherry tomatoes are so good, even our kids eat them. We consider that to be a success.

    Separate small and large beans and cook different times.

    Continue reading

  • Garden Update: A Big Haul

    Some of haul from the weekend. Huge zucchini, carrots, sugar-snap peas, peach simple syrup, strawberries, blueberries, cukes and peach preserves.

    A big week of transitions at Putney Farm. Firstly, the heat has settled in and our spring crops are at their end, while summer crops are coming in. And most of us will be on the road for the next few weeks, so we decided to harvest all of our remaining spring crops and either eat them or give them to friends. This meant the last harvest of blueberries, lettuces (for now) and sugar snap peas. While a bit sad that the blueberries are over, they lasted into July again- nothing to complain about. What saddens us a bit more is leaving our garden and orchard during such a good season.

    Strawberries are at their best. Meanwhile, these are the last of the blueberries.

    And there are so many crops just coming in. Our peaches came in and we ate them, made peach-lavender jam and preserved them in simple syrup (and made cocktails). Nectarines next week. Our radishes, zucchini and cucumbers are booming and they go into salads and pickles. Carrots, green beans and peppers just came in, and we just got our first sweet 100 tomatoes. We have a number of melons growing (and looking good) and the eggplant looks promising. And of course the strawberries are just booming. Never better.

    The carrots are a big success, very sweet. The kids love them.

    When we return we should see all the tomatoes, eggplant, melons and peppers at their peak. In the orchard we should have more nectarines, another peach, figs, blackberries and some fully ripe gravenstein apples (maybe the macintosh as well). Things may go wrong and varmints may beat our defenses, but we can’t help feeling that this is a special year and we shouldn’t miss a minute.

    They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but we are already very much in love with our garden now. Happily, we are going to one of the best areas in the world for fresh seafood and produce…perhaps that will  soften the blow. And some time at the beach tends to clear the mind. Happy summer!

    The last of the blueberries. We are grateful for such a good season.