Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sweet and Lazy – The Blackberries of Restoration Farm

The blackberries at Restoration Farm are taking their own sweet time. They’re in no hurry to ripen. It’s summer after all. In this age of instant gratification, perhaps the blackberries are teaching us a thing or two about patience.

They are a work in progress. Ripening – by its very nature – suggests that you must wait and see what develops. Bright red berries may be flashy, but in fact they are raw and callow. Wait for inky black berries, and you’ll taste the full, deep expression of the fruit. Give it time.

I note that it is often the lone, single berry at the tip of the branch that has matured, while the less evolved cluster behind. For now we are limited to picking a pint at a time as we wait for more. There is absolutely nothing you can do to rush the rhythms of the berry patch.
So, there is no blackberry pie just yet. Maybe in August. But there is enough from the morning pickings for a single Blackberry Crisp with Candied Ginger, perfect for one with a healthy appetite, or large enough for two to share. The succulent purple juice and piquant ginger is sophisticated and adventurous - and builds a bit of decadent anticipation for what’s to come.

Blackberry Crisp for Two with Candied Ginger
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. For fruit filling, combine 1 ½ cups fresh blackberries, 1 teaspoon minced candied ginger, two teaspoons brown sugar and one teaspoon lemon juice in a small bowl. Let stand briefly and then place in a 2 cup soufflé dish.
In a small bowl, combine ¼ cup of flour, ¼ cup light brown sugar, 3 tablespoons rolled oats and a pinch of salt. Cut 2 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter into small pieces. Combine with the flour mixture. Using your fingers, rub the flour and butter mixture together until crumbly. Top the fruit filling with the flour and butter mixture (you will have some left over). Bake until topping is brown and juices are bubbling, about 25 minutes. Top with Greek yogurt and serve.

©2010 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Mr. Pink and the Dog Days of Summer

It’s the middle of July and the air quality is only slightly better than a ripe garbage dump. Summer ennui is severe, and we all have been hit with a virulent case of crankiness. It’s so hot, the buildings are sweating.

Zany and I are trapped in a terminal conference call. She mouths, “I’M STARVING!” Mad Me-Shell is desperate to pull the rip-cord for lunch. We’ve GOT to get out of this office!
It is 11:17 in the morning. “Edgy” does not begin to describe our mood. As soon as the conference call appears to be wrapping, we disconnect without pleasantries and make a break for it.
It’s about a thousand degrees outside, but Mad Me-Shell is on a mission. “Nothing like a hearty, hot meal to cool you off,” she notes cheerfully.
“You’ve been eating way too healthy,” she admonishes me. We’re bored with the food trucks, so we’re back to bricks and mortar. Mad has scoped out our options and we’re heading straight for The Side Door @ Beacon. The Beacon on 56th Street made news a few weeks earlier by offering – for a limited time only – burgers and hot dogs sold from the side door of the restaurant. The side door theme feels a little illicit and we like it. It’s pumping our appetites.
Joe and Katie are staffing The Side Door, and we couldn’t ask for nicer hosts. A few minutes with them and our crankiness evaporates. Katie even gives us a button as a souvenir.
Katie tells us the Side Door was the brainchild of Chef Waldy Malouf who specializes in open fire and wood fire cooking. We can’t decide what we want so we order everything on the menu. Lest you think us extravagant, there are only four items on the menu. We are particularly intrigued by Mr. Pink’s Double Dog, but it’s kind of a toss-up with the Wood Grilled Burger.

Joe explains that an amiable beagle named Mr. Pink was the inspiration for the Double Dog - two special grilled 100 percent beef hot dogs with parmesan, grilled onions, a Po-Boy roll and sweet pepper relish. Mr. Pink’s portrait is prominently posted on The Side Door:

After some debate, we decide to each get a Double Dog (that’s six dogs total) and one burger and a serving of Chilled Roast Tomato Salsa Soup to share. Don’t let me forget the four chocolate chip cookies.
Zany is adamant that we try the burger. She’s still pining for the Burger Truck which has been scrupulously avoiding midtown this summer.
We haul our eats about a half-block to dine at the base of a disco ball fountain on Sixth Avenue. It appears to be a pigeon-free zone, which is a plus. As the wind shifts, we get sprayed by the fountain. It’s refreshing.
“It’s like having a picnic by the ocean,” notes Zany.
First we tackle the dogs. Mad Me-Shell opens one of the wrapped dogs and cries, “Oh, Sweet Mama!”

Two dogs in one bun is like Christmas in July. The parmesan is the good stuff, the sweet pepper relish is perky and the massive dogs and grilled buns have a sensual smoky flavor. There’s a good balance of spices, and the cheese and relish imparts a nice tang.
I point out that we are – in fact – enjoying a healthy meal. “You save on carbs combining two dogs in one roll.”
“You keep telling yourself that, T.W.,” says Mad.
Beacon’s specialty drink is “Tiger Tea.” They say it’s a quart of lemonade ice tea, but it looks more like a gallon. Good when you’re dehydrated.

We share a container of chilled, roasted tomato soup to cleanse our palate between courses.

The soup is thick and chunky with a sunny color and a touch of heat. The combination of chilled soup and salsa evokes summer with a little bit of sizzle.
We have barely finished the soup when Mad Me-Shell is reaching for the burger.
“Let’s go, Mad. Carve it up,” says Zany.
It’s not easy to split a burger three ways. “Many people consider carving turkey an art,” says Zany. “Mad Me-Shell considers carving a burger as summer art.”
If it’s possible that anything could top the Double Dog, Beacon’s Famous Wood Grilled Burger does it. The charred, smoky flavor, the melted cheddar, and the cool tomatoes and pickles on a grilled onion roll rocks our world. It’s like a country campfire on a bun.
“It tastes like it was cooked in the backyard,” says Mad who is close to swooning. In fact, I think I’m going to have to peel her off the pavement.
“It’s dripping down my hand,” she practically squeals. “Always a good sign.”
Zany wants to take a vote. Which do we like better? We can’t decide. Why is she trying to force us to commit? It’s like apples and oranges. Or burgers and hot dogs. How can you pick?
“This might be the best picnic I’ve been to so far this year.” says Zany. “Now if only we could spike the Tiger Tea.”
As we leave the plaza, we pass a likable-looking man who is sitting at the edge of the fountain enjoying his lunch. Zany, who is normally the nicest person in the world sneers, “That guy’s eating a salad!”
“Sucker!” chimes in Mad Me-Shell.
They are obviously suffering from an overdose of 100 percent beef Double Dog and it’s making them aggressive.
The walk back to the office is just enough to re-invigorate our appetites, so there we break into the chocolate chip cookies. The girls agree that they have that unique combination of chewy, crisp and chocolaty.
“Do you think Mr. Pink made these?” Zany wonders out loud.

I won’t even attempt to pretend that the afternoon was productive. But, thanks to Mr. Pink we’re feeling those “good vibrations” of summer again.

©2010 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Sunday, July 11, 2010


My thoughts have turned to eggs. Crazy, isn’t it? Yet, the humble egg is a wondrous food.

This season, Restoration Farm began offering an egg share from a local farm on Long Island. Every two weeks, I receive one dozen large eggs along with my vegetables from Makinajian Poultry Farm in Huntington.

That’s 120 eggs this season. Think of the possibilities!

Mick and Tina are the brother-sister team that runs the farm, along with a country store located at 276 Cuba Hill Road in Huntington. The eggs are hormone free, antibiotic free, and their feed is certified organic.

A little egg goes a long way. Chopped hard-egg is the perfect topping for a salad of fresh spinach leaves from Restoration Farm:

Three eggs make a light, frothy custard that blankets fresh-picked raspberries from Restoration Farm in this Raspberry Claufouti:

The sheer beauty and simplicity of farm fresh eggs, demands a preparation of simple elegance. Matthew – a fellow member at Restoration Farm – put it best. These are not the kind of eggs that one should indiscriminately scramble or beat into a frittata. The yolk should be seen and appreciated.

To be truly enjoyed, farm-fresh eggs should be fried. My friend John MacPherson – author of the Foster Harris House Cookbook – and a bit of a breakfast authority, offers the perfect technique – 1 egg, cooked in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat, untouched for 2 minutes.

An egg fried in olive oil is a study in contrasts. Rich and sunny, mellow, glossy, silky and succulent with a crispy, crackling undercurrent.
At the risk of sounding eccentric, the taste is eggs-traordinary!
©2010 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Sunday, July 04, 2010

First Tart of Summer and Life Musings from the Berry Patch at Restoration Farm

There is something miraculous about picking berries in the morning sun and eating the first tart of summer that same evening.

It’s not just that you hand-picked each berry and that each one was warm to the touch as you tugged it from the branch. It’s not only the place where the berries grow, and the historic and community associations conjured up by the location. It isn’t just that you know the people who planted the berry field, and the legacy they’ve created. And, it’s more than the fact that you made the tart crust from scratch and painstakingly tucked each berry into perfectly aligned rows.

It’s the experience of all of those things coming together in that sweet crush of tart, ruby red berries and buttery shortbread crust, so pleasing on the tongue. It’s sharing the tart – just out of the oven – with family, and sharing the story of that tart – from morning to evening – with them.

At the berry field at Restoration Farm, the raspberries are running wild. Long gangly branches are clustered with shimmering, blush-colored berries. Some are still ripening and others are begging to be picked.

The sun is on my neck, and I can hear the cows “mooing” on the nearby Powell Homestead. In the berry field there are families and individual who have gotten out early – before it gets too hot – to fill their baskets and pails with berries.

As I work to fill my container – imagining the rustic tart these berries will become – it occurs to me that in so many ways, the art of picking raspberries is kind of a metaphor for life:

Don’t pull too hard. When the raspberries are ready, they will slide right into your fingers.

Be patient. Hand picking may be time consuming, but before you realize it, your bucket will be filled.

Talk to people in the berry patch. You might have something to share, and you might learn something from them, recognizing that you’re all part of a community

Breath. You can actually smell the raspberries growing on the brambles if you take the time.

The best berries are hidden underneath. Take a minute to change your perspective, bend down and look under the branches. Explore, and you will be rewarded handsomely with fat, ripe raspberries.

Savor the sweetness. Eat the tart slowly, experience the exquisite simplicity of its flavor, and remember the moments and experiences that brought it to the table.

July 3rd marked “Culinary Types’ fourth birthday and this is my 392nd post. Looking back, I see that the very first post was about an attempt to create a classic Gateaux Fraisier that almost failed spectacularly. An early lesson from the kitchen. Thank you for reading throughout these four years. Nearly 400 posts later, there are still tales to be told, because food is our common story.

T.W. Barritt

©2010 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved