Seasons by the Sea: Savoring Silvia’s Sense of Place

“Savoring the Hamptons”

    “Savoring the Hamptons,” Silvia Lehrer’s beautiful, comprehensive cookbook featuring everything utterly delicious about the North and South Forks of Long Island, is a book that needed to be written. Divided into seasons beginning with spring, it is generously interspersed with gorgeous photographs by Karen Wise, and includes a range of recipes from the most famous local chefs, friends, and Ms. Lehrer herself.
    The book, which will be available on May 10 (Running Press, $30), feels like a walking tour of the East End, where you stop to meet the winemaker, learn how potato chips are made, and get inspired by a piece of tuna from the fish market. Ms. Lehrer knows the area well, having lived here for almost 20 years. As a member of Slow Food International, founding member of the James Beard Foundation, and cooking teacher, she clearly appreciates and understands all that the Forks have to offer. Her tone is warm, enthusiastic, and authoritative — the man who grows the mushrooms is as revered as the famous chef who prepares them for the summer throngs.
It is probably inevitable that the title would have to include the word Hamptons, as this is the buzzword to attract the outside world. There is also the requisite forward by a local celebrity, in this case, a charming one by Alan Alda. But the book covers so much more than “the Hamptons.” Just about every notable farm stand gets a page or two, from Sang Lee and Satur on the North Fork, to Pike’s, Round Swamp, and Green Thumb on the South. Roman Roth, the genial winemaker at Wolffer Estate Vineyard, provides a user-friendly guide to pairing wine with food. Many of the recipes are helpfully paired with Long Island wine suggestions. There are contributions from many great restaurants, among them Estia’s Little Kitchen in Sag Harbor, North Fork Table in Southold, Fresno in East Hampton, and the Plaza Cafe in Southampton.
    Regions like Tuscany, Napa Valley, and the South of France have long inspired cookbooks celebrating everything these places have to offer. The North and South Forks have now gotten the book and the recognition they deserve. The vines that have been growing on the North Fork for decades are now mature. There are cheesemakers on both forks — Catapano in Peconic and Mecox Bay Dairy in Bridgehampton. Crescent Duck Farm in Aquebogue and Iacono Farm in East Hampton are featured, along with Scott Chaskey of Quail Hill in Amagansett and Mary Woltz of Bee’s Needs in Sag Harbor.
    Reading the book, you get to know Ms. Lehrer. She is very fond of potatoes and duck and is a crackerjack at creating a recipe from a piece of toro from Cor-J Seafood in Hampton Bays, or some fresh mozzarella from Pasquale Langella in East Hampton, or even a butternut squash that takes a starring role in a risotto whipped up on a cold, snowy night. Her enthusiasm in describing a summer tomato from Marilee Foster’s Sagaponack farm is contagious. Figs from a friend’s tree in Hampton Bays inspire her to use them in a salad with local cheese and local honey. Recipes for blackfish, porgy, and clam pie provide other clues that this is a truly regional cookbook.
    There are other cookbooks written by notable chefs in our area. Anna Pump of Loaves and Fishes has written several with popular recipes from her takeout shop in Sagaponack. Ina Garten, a k a the Barefoot Contessa, has written many, but they are all sensibly aimed at the cook in Your Town, U.S.A.
    For those of us who live here and love the food available to us, it is a delight to see such recipes as Jason Weiner’s mussels from Almond in Bridgehampton, Max Weintraub’s seasonal specialty of scallops a la Provencal from Cafe Max in East Hampton, and A Tale of Two Roasted Fingerling Potatoes from Kevin Penner of 1770 House in East Hampton.
    In her introduction to the winter chapter, Ms. Lehrer writes “The Hamptons is as well known for its transient population as it is for its potatoes. Many East Enders have left family behind elsewhere, or in this mobile society we live in, members of local families have left. As a result, our sense of community is different than it was even 50 years ago — it is built [. . .] on the love and dedication to the place while living there. It is a sense of community, of belonging somewhere, that gives any place its distinct character and creates its local flavor.”
    This is the cookbook for those who revere and respect Long Island’s East End. It is the book to send to friends and family far away, with the inscription “This is where we live, and this is why we live here.”


Tuna Tartare With Avocado Salad
    This recipe by Silvia Lehrer was inspired by a piece of toro, the belly of fresh tuna, that she procured from Danny Coronesi of Cor-J Seafood in Hampton Bays. She suggests serving it as a salad or as a spread for crackers.
    Serves four to six.

For the tuna tartare:
5 oz. sashimi quality tuna belly
1 tsp. grated ginger
1 large scallion, thinly sliced (light green and white parts)
2 tsp. sake
Zest and juice of 1/2 large lemon or lime
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
11/2 tsp. sesame oil

For salad:
2 ripe avocados
Pinch red pepper flakes
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 to 6 large leaves of Boston lettuce
Parsley sprigs, for garnish

    For tuna tartare, thinly slice the tuna, then stack the slices and mince. Combine the tuna in a bowl with the ginger, scallion, sake, lemon zest and juice, salt, and sesame oil, and stir to mix. The tartare can be prepared up to several hours ahead. Refrigerate, covered, in a suitable container until ready to serve.
    For the salad, halve the avocados, remove pits, scoop out flesh with large spoon. Coarsely chop avocados, transfer to bowl, season with red pepper flakes, lime zest and juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss to mix. Place a large lettuce leaf on each of four to six salad plates. Equally divide the avocado mixture over each leaf and top with tuna tartare. Garnish with parsley sprigs and serve.
    Note: For ease of slicing, freeze the tuna belly for 20 minutes.

Caprese Salad
    This is a delicious way to use Pasquale Langella’s fresh mozzarella, now being made every weekend at Food & Co. in East Hampton. You’ll have to wait for summer tomatoes, however!
    Serves six.
2 red locally grown tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 yellow tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 lb. good quality, fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
12 to 14 basil leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp. sherry vinegar
Kosher salt and pepper
Black Gaeta olives, for garnish
3 to 4 Tbsp. basil purée, for garnish (optional)

    Alternate layers of the tomato slices, mozzarella slices, and six basil leaves, dividing equally among six salad plates. Dress each dish with olive oil and a light drizzle of vinegar, salt, and pepper.
    Stack the remaining basil leaves, roll like a cigar, and slice crosswise into a chiffonade. Scatter basil leaves over salad. Garnish with two or three olives.
    If using basil purée, below, dress the edges of each plate “Jackson Pollock style,” gently splattering it for presentation.

Basil Purée
    Place one cup packed basil leaves and a quarter cup olive oil in blender or food processor. Add salt and pepper to taste and purée until smooth.