Squash rounds with hot quinoa, pepper squares and curry sauce

As the fall season sets in, creative programming becomes standard practice here at The Little Kitchen. I reach out to those who have a following in the food business but need a room to touch the customer. In this case the lovely Giulianna Torre from East Hamptons’ Juicy Naam has agreed to team up with me. We’ve created a vegetarian tasting menu supported by wine pairings from the Heller Estate, an organic winery and vineyard that’s been making wine in Carmel Valley California organically for over 30 years.

Last month, as the leaves began to turn we sat down and discussed our goal of creating a menu specific to vegetables and grains. During our chat, as we were bouncing ideas for quinoa around, Giulianna mentioned a memorable dish that she enjoyed in Manhattan, back in September at The Waverly Inn. She went on to describe a combination of organic red quinoa and diced vegetables with a sensuous green curry sauce, “but how to prepare it? What were the main ingredients?” I asked. Read More »

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Chili Rubbed Lamb Shanks with Butternut Squash Puree & Sauteed Swiss Chard

Cooking for a living “is hardly glamorous” as Peter Sherwood suggests in his recent Cookingvillage.com piece, Celebrity Bites. And there are times—especially when I find myself slaving over a hot stove during the height of a dinner rush—I have to agree. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be a labor of love, or extremely rewarding in the end. And, sometimes, the most un-glamorous cooking methods yield the sexiest dishes.

Being in charge of the menus at my restaurants gives me a great deal of freedom, taking me out of the kitchen (with its attendant hot stove) to explore and taste. Most often, inspiration comes to me from cookbooks. When I’m looking for juice, I often find myself walking the racks of used bookstores; the tomes that usually catch my eye offer more stories than they do recipes, more process than precision.

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Apple and Camembert Harvest Salad for 4

A period sits at the end of my 2009 season, regular Monday afternoon trips to Manhattan commence. Today I chose to drive, not my normal choice as I find the Jitney far more productive, faster, safer and more “footprint friendly”. However it is my duty to return Oliver (corgi) to his “regular” routine as a Central Park tree sniffer.

After a productive lunch shift @ The Little Kitchen we set off on the back roads, as the turn onto North Sea Mecox came into view it occurred to me that the Islands’ best apples were on sale on the east side of the triangle. I’ve been told that the trees on this triangle are special; but I never made time to stop, today was the day for a taste (and for Ollie a last pee) before hitting the LIE.

As we approached I noticed that the table was full and the proprietor on site, she was overjoyed with Oliver & we made friends quickly. I was looking for 2 specific apples, one soft for baking and one crisp and sweet for a matchstix cut that would compliment a sharp cheddar sliced the same way.

When I asked, she smiled and told me that it had been a few years since she had taken a bite of her apples,”Hard to keep track with so few teeth”. The transaction was easy, she had a mixed bag that offered enough for me to make my own choice. It also reminded me how things should be, teach yourself then make your own decisions.
A crisp, sweet apple tells it’s own story, a good baker will be softer, rounder and less assertive on the first bite. In time, if you live near the trees you’ll know which one produces the best results from an oven or on the breakfast table. If you don’t know the tree let the first bite guide the menu.

For the Apple and Camembert Harvest Salad:

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East End Linguine with Striped Bass and Clams

Linguine and clams, they go together like peanut butter shares white bread with jelly. My challenge this week was to introduce a dish that presented what I think is the best our East End fall harvest has to offer.

Of course striped bass has to share top billing, the migration is in full swing. Steamed top neck clams play an important supporting role, primarily because of the wonderful broth that results, as the clams steam in a pool of shallot infused chardonnay. For color I turn to Quail Hill farm for a mixture of peppers, one red bell, and one yellow habanero. The later provides essential heat, use caution when handling, and take care dicing both fine. Finally a clove of garlic or 2 and a dusting of fresh parsley, harvested from the nearest herb box.

Since the editors of Edible East End have requested dishes that are as locally sourced as possible, we turned to the Crescent Duck Farm in Cutchouge on Long Island’s North Fork, about 15 miles west (as the crow flies) for our pasta eggs. The linguine is made in house with a mixture of semolina flour, durum flour, duck eggs and water. Read More »

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Bluefish Tostadas with nappa cabage and avocado cole slaw

Bluefish Tostadas with nappa cabage and avocado cole slaw

As a rule a flyguide off Montauk seeks birds in order to find Bluefish. As the fish push the bait to the surface, terns & gulls flock and feed from above signaling the schools position for miles around. The trick to hooking Blue fish today was in the countdown, after a good cast from the bow of Capt. Brian’s 21 foot boat the countdown began, after reaching 30 it was time to strip the line. The birds signaled us in to a spot 2 miles of the cliff edged beaches west of the point. It was Brian’s fish finder that suggested we remain, and succeed for 3 hours catching Bluefish up to 12 pounds.

This dish is the result of our summer seasons progress, the tomatoes are ripe and brilliant, peppers abound, cabbage is on the stand in several different varieties and the Bluefish are fat and feisty.

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BBQ Ribs & Similar Marinade


Pork Ribs, 9 sides
Mirpoix, 1 quart
Chicken stock, 2 gallons
White wine, 1 quart
Salt & pepper
Jalipeno, 3 pc

Two weeks ago Scot Chasky gave me a packet of red runner beans. The germination rate was about 60 percent at The Lodge, 100 percent at The Little Kitchen. Each seedling has structure to reach out to, I can see the first shoots coming off the stem surrounded by big heart shaped leaves. Across from the beans each garden sports garlic shoots that are reaching for the sky, days away from opening, slowly curling from the roots that swell under the surface.

Family dinner tonight included a steamed Jasmine rice, sautéed broccoli with ginger, garlic and peppers and grilled chicken in a similar marinade. The chicken breast was grilled over a new flame because of time, instead of my usual routine of throwing it on a pre-heated grill. The chicken was in the marinade for 30 minutes prior to grilling.

For the Similar Marinade:

8 cloves of garlic
1 large knob of garlic, peeled and chopped (1/4 cup)
1 red pepper, seeds and stem removed
1/2 cup blended oil
¼ cup lime juice

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Oyster mushrooms carmalized with garlic scapes over spring greens

What’s real, what isn’t? The mushroom man, he’s real. His name is Dave and the mushrooms he sell taste awesome. I first met Dave at the Little Kitchen a few years ago. It was a Sunday morning in November, he chose the Buffalo Steak and Eggs for breakfast. The dish made him happy and he shared that with me.

Since that time, I’ve seen Dave at the farmers market in Sag Harbor. His offerings are exotic, many of which come from his production. Never stopped to buy, why I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s just a barrier that he had to break and he did. Last Friday, after the market day had passed and I was breaking down my pasta stand, I found a brown paper bag. The Mushroom Man had shared his oyster mushrooms with me. This is a gesture that to me suggests a greeting, a welcome to the club of sorts.

Tonight for dinner the feature was oyster mushrooms, first tossed in equal parts of reduced balsamic vinegar, soy sauce and olive oil then caramelized in a cast iron skillet with thinly sliced garlic scapes.

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Wolffer Memorial: Rooster Ragu

The room was full of friends and family celebrating the life of Christian Wolffer, the gentleman farmer who established the stables, vineyards and winery at the Wolffer Estate in Sagaponack, New York. On Sunday afternoon, as a cool breeze chased the crowd into Christian’s tasting room, his son Marc stood on the stage, holding his glass up to toast his father. Before his toast, Marc told the story of how his sisters joined him in his fathers’ bedroom just days after the sad funeral in January, they addressed his socks drawer first. Marc is proud to tell the story of how his pop had no grey or black socks, only the colors of a rainbow, Christian was not a boring man.

As the crowd thinned, those who were closest to Christian (many had traveled across oceans to be there) made their way to the conference room facing the west at sunset. My team had set a buffet specifically to serve those who may have missed food that had been passed about during the hours that focused on memorializing their boss, friend, and father. Offered where duck tacos & sweet corn and guajillo quesadillas on the buffet, along with fresh corn bread, and handmade tamales.

We also presented a Rooster Ragu.

The idea of using roosters came from a visit with Tony at the Iaconno chicken store in East Hampton. On occasion, when business is brisk and the 3 pound hens sell out he’ll offer a rooster. His mom (handling the cash and selling eggs) will remind the buyer that roosters need a long time in the pot. Read More »

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Lobster and Roasted Beet Salad

Hold the elevator, Jessica’s on crutches. In Manhattan that doesn’t happen too often, tonight was no exception. After receiving first class supervision from a friendly doorman at one of New York’s finest hotels we followed a single woman in too much of a hurry to the elevator, she jumped on in front of us and pushed the button before we could step on.

Dinner was served on the 3rd floor an hour later. Jessica and I were in the company of friends, Karen and Peter Lawson Johnston, we all were interested in what the speaker Tom Brokaw had to say. Mr. Brokaw has spent the better part of his life reporting world events to the American public. Tonight he stood in the middle of a room full of Americans, talking about his view of our world today. Read More »

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Vegetable & Chicken Stir Fry for 2

Mansell went for a run this afternoon with me in Central Park. It was a fabulous day and we had a chance to make the most of our time together. Mansell’s enjoying her school and she’s focused on doing the best she possibly can in preparation for her upcoming high school applications (in September), and she’s open to the invitation to run with her Dad (I’m overjoyed).

Tonight we sat together at the dinner table and listened to our new President as he addressed the country. His message is what I think of as HEED focusing on H. Health insurance, E. Energy resources (renewable), E. Education & D. Deficit reduction. I’m on his side on HEED, I like his approach as he tackles the challenges of our times and quite frankly, I like his swagger as he approached the podium.

On return from our outing we went to the grocery store with dinner in mind. At the Gourmet Garage we start in the vegetable section, the flavor base started with garlic, shallots, ginger and jalapeno. Then a package of chicken breast, broccolini, sliced peppers, carrots, and bean sprouts. As we moved through the starches we decided on a bag of brown basmati rice which we agreed should be first to hit the stove when we got home.

For our Vegetable & Chicken Stir Fry for 2:

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Red Lentil Crusted Cod over guajillo chili sauce

Looking for a job can pull a guy in a hundred directions, that I slept at all last night is a miracle. I’m pushing a resume around because the horizon is dark and cloudy. Since November, my prospect of making a living through the Old Stove Pub has diminished. Not only because the building can’t service a restaurant in the winter months. It’s also become obvious that my partner Brian doesn’t have an interest in running the marathon required to build a thriving restaurant business.

Today I met Mrs. Dorethea Bon Jovi, she was introduced to me by Jessica’s friend CC. The Bon Jovi’s have a busy life, 3 homes, 4 kids, a staff that includes a house manager, a cleaning team “the girls”, and a full time chef. The chef who has been with them for over a year is moving on, I’ve interviewed for his job. It went well, I’ve been asked to return to Soho next Wednesday to audition. Jason the chef told me a little about what the family likes to eat, some like white food some eat everything. Jon likes chili’s—Dorethea does not. Read More »

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Winter Chicken & Vegetable Soup

Lots of time between entries. The world has changed since July 4, 2008. Estelle and I parted ways in September. She left The Bridge first, for the season. I closed the kitchen on November  3rd. Estelle will remain the exec. chef, I will seek new employment. The Bridge lasted until late November, a good season. Brian and I continue to campaign the property, hard to predict it’s reopening schedule. The world’s economic balance has shifted, like a slick log on a river.

Today I helped a friend prepare chicken soup for her table. I was asked to help teach her a basic first step. The process seems easy, try it and see.

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Old Stove Pub

Bob Rubin installed an air conditioning unit in the kitchen at The Bridge, it works well. The job is challenging, not the cooking— but dealing with Estelle the chef. She and I don’t share much in the way of common respect. I made a mistake early on and didn’t show a passion for her recipes, as a result we have become like 2 magnets dancing away from each other at every turn. Tonight the Bridge will serve the first Friday night dinner of the season. Her menu came out yesterday and I’ve not seen one dish plated yet, strange management technique.

My other news includes a long shuttered Greek style steakhouse on Montauk highway called the Old Stove Pub. I was hired as it’s consulting chef back in April by Brian Murray, a real estate investor who plans to swing a new development designed for residential use on the 14 acre lot that runs next to the 2.5 acre restaurant piece.

My job is to run the same menu that Steven Johnadies, the owner since 1969 had established. We opened the “Old Stove” on Tuesday last week. I start my day at The Bridge at 6:30 am, then head to Sag Harbor at 3:30 to check on the Little Kitchen, then on to the the “Old Stove” to cook steaks & chops from 4 to 10pm. The hours of operation at the “Old Stove” are limited until my new hire Rueben Bravo joins me in the end of next week. We’re serving Sunday to Thursday right now, so that I can do dinners at “The Bridge” on Friday and Saturday. It’s a wild ride.

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Garden Fresh Arugula Vinaigrette

The temperature hit 95 yesterday, no air conditioning in the kitchen here at “The Bridge” made for an uncomfortable shift. My high point was a harvest visit to the clubs’ kitchen garden. There’s a valley below the entrance to the clubhouse here, about 250 yards from the kitchen door. The garden sits in an old sandy road bed, contained by a 12 foot fence, supported by a high tech watering system in all about 3000 square feet. Bob Rubin thought it would be a good addition to the grounds, he did it right.

The soil is 50/50 blend of compost and topsoil from Long Island compost, it measures about 18 inches in depth and has proven a perfect host for everything that I’ve planted to date.

On Saturday evening we produced our first cocktail party of the season. It was a birthday party for one of the members wives, 75 people, 6-8pm. The kitchen staff had prepared a variety of passed hors d’oeuvres and a raw bar. The crowd hardly touched the food. As a result we had a good deal of freezing to do, the club staff has also been eating well since then. Apparently the guests all had reservations and chose not to ruin their appetite.

Tuna was a big hit at the opening luncheon the following day and even more sushi grade tuna remained. Read More »

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Cool Spinach and Onion dip

It’s a quiet morning on the ridge line, when the wind blows hard (as it is today) the clubhouse at “The Bridge” moans and groans under the stress that its sail like design catches every blast of north wind, only the sound of whistles and howls gets through. The dining room with its 20 mile view over Shelter Island and beyond is still, not a breath of wind moves into the air tight chamber.

Mothers day weekend has come and gone, the kitchen team here had high hopes for a busy lunch shift, keenly interested in honing our skills with the menu that will grow larger and more complicated as the season progresses. We have a few veterans of last years service with us. The design of this room is more streamlined after the first season exposed assorted foibles and flow problems. It’s all straight out now and the chance to test our understanding of the plates and begin to choreograph the dance of a busy lunch service will require an active member involvement. It didn’t happen this weekend, 31 covers on Saturday and 21 on Sunday, Mothers day. Read More »

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Grapefruit Glazed Chicken Breast with ginger & garlic green beans & basmati rice

The past three weeks have started in a new light for me, literally. Every morning since April 7th I’ve rolled out of bed at 5:45 am. It’s been far easier than I imagined, when the windows in our bedroom begin to hold light my internal alarm shakes a bell. How this happens I’m not sure but I’ve been diligent about laying down by 10:30 every night. I’m up early because by 6:45 am the Bridge requires my full attention.

Working on a Bridgehampton ridge line that is The Bridge golf club has opened my eyes to a new world in food service. Because it’s a premium private club, only available to members who have invested a kings ransom to use the facility, we must be ready to serve a full menu for breakfast and lunch. Interesting to note that there isn’t even a breakfast menu although we are to be prepared for most any request. To date our busiest day has been 27 guests. Today we served no one. Read More »

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Veal Picatta with whole grain rice and artichoke

Tax day, the checks have been mailed (at 4:50pm in the general box at the East Hampton Post office, the line was out the door). After my trip to Gay Lane I headed to the golf course for a round in the perfect light of an East End spring evening. As I stepped off the 3rd tee and looked back toward the clubhouse I watched an osprey hunting over the second cut on the 16th fairway. It’s wings backing up holding the big bird in place as it eyed the movement of a rodent below.

After putting on the 13th green, ocean side, I dropped my putter near the flag and took a moment to step up on the dune and admire the perfect blue of todays’ ocean. The tide was out and the waves rolled in gently, touching the dog tracks that ran from Wyborg to the Jetty. This was my moment to relate thanks to my higher power, I’m lucky to be alive today. Read More »

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Shrimp & Vegetable stir fry w/ Lundgren’s wild rice mix

The Little Kitchen is on the market now. A bitter sweet situation as the price, if it sells will go along way toward supporting our family in the years to come. I’ve put all I can into the business over the years including moving profits from the sale of our Amagansett Café into the mortgage in Sag Harbor. Today we have a productive little business that keeps 6 people fully employed and it provides me with a part time commitment. I’ve put it on the market as a test to see if the value really does exceed 2 million dollars. If that’s the case it’s time to sell and open a new chapter in my life. If not, we’ll stay the course.

On Wednesday night the kids had a dinner at home prepared by Nanny Mimi, she makes a great effort but sometimes the results fall short of expectations. That was the case on this particular Taco Night. So Jess called on Thursday morning asking if I might come in to prepare “a healthy” dinner for the girls prior to our outing to a political fund raiser hosted by our friend and neighbor Cash Conway. Read More »

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Pan Roasted Chicken with garlic, rosemary, potatoes and broccoli

On Sunday afternoon lunch was served in Bob and Stephane Rubins dining room. They started with an espresso cup containing an organic vegetable puree with mini croutons and pomegranate syrup. Course two featured angel hair pasta in a pool of Parmesan broth, topped with a greenhouse salad from Quail Hill tossed in a red wine vinaigrette and topped with 2 poached quail eggs. The fish course utilized red lentils 2 ways, poached in a shrimp/saffron stock and crushed and crusted on local skin on cod over asparagus. The trick with the red lentil crust seems to be a dip flesh side down in egg whites and then a press in the ground red lentil, transfer to a preheated skillet over high heat with a shot of grapeseed oil. The color was brilliant, everyone seemed pleased and they offered me the job. I accepted, we begin preparing the kitchen for year 2 of service on April 1. Read More »

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Phesant for Four

The pond in February is a haven for ducks, geese, a few blue herons and the same 2 swans that draw my attention every time I walk the dog. Today could have been a scene from Dark shadows, a fog hung heavy over the East End. For the first time in a month I came across a deer crossing the 13th fairway, it watched me and then caught wind of the dog. Bounding left to right, white tail in full display it was gone in an instant.

A new chef position has come into view, in the end of January I heard that the new Bridgehampton Golf club “The Bridge” has been searching for a sous chef. The idea of following someone else’s lead was interesting to me so I followed up. After attempting direct contact to no avail I called my friend Marvin Shanken, a member of  The Bridge and he opened the door. A few weeks later in mid February I was invited to meet with the clubs General manager Roger. That interview lead to a meeting with the owner Bob Rubin and his wife Stephane which lead to a test luncheon prepared with the executive chef Estelle at Rubin’s home in Watermill. Read More »

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