Hamptons Epicure: The Ultimate Hamptons Luxury: Dining In

Photo by Stacy Dermont
Photo by Stacy Dermont

What’s the only thing in dining fresher than top restaurants with their own potagers? Your own backyard. My first garden is coming along very nicely indeed. Right about now it’s pretty easy being green.

Herbs, Sun Gold cherry tomatoes, cukes, squash, and, drum roll please…my first red tomato is ripening, er, was ripening. Jeanelle Myers gardening column this week (page 137) explains why that first little baby fell off the vine—the heat.

Last Sunday I served up a dinner my whole family loved.

Of course you do have to know how to cook to pull this off. I’ve had the opportunity to take some tips from some of the East End’s best farm-to-table restaurants, including Fresh and Topping Rose in Bridgehampton, Estia’s Little Kitchen in Sag Harbor, The North Fork Table in Southold and Keith Luce’s The Square in Greenport. It doesn’t hurt that I grew up on a farm—I cook instinctively, rolling with the seasons. And I cheat.

I picked up some frozen meatless meatballs for my mixed (vegan, vegetarian and omnivore) family’s main dish and whipped up some carrot green pesto to go with them. It’s shocking how good and how underutilized carrot greens are. You don’t want to put them in a raw salad, but mixed with walnuts in a pesto or thrown into your soup stock—delish.

I roasted our first crop of red potatoes in olive oil with garlic, a switch of fresh rosemary and black pepper until they were as tender as springtime.

I didn’t want to heat up the house cooking beets, but snipping some of their greens along with a few pumpkin leaves made for another great side dish. First I sautéed shallots, then splashed it all with vinegar and tossed on black pepper. You don’t have to cook them very much; just let them wilt over low heat while you prepare the rest of the meal.

Golden tomatoes and basil leaves in vinaigrette was a great start, but dessert was a bit of a challenge.  I settled on making a vegan pudding using almond milk. I poured that over a tart shell and dotted it with fresh blueberries from Briermere Farms in Riverhead.

We were all very full after this meal but didn’t feel heavy. It must be true that nutrient-dense foods are more filling. I try to observe the four-hour rule of eating fresh produce—within four hours of picking, for maximum nutritive favor and flavor. But straight-off-the-vine is the best!

We were all so invigorated by our healthful mouthfuls that we went back to the garden to work. Now that our crops are full-size, there’s not much weeding to do—their leaves block out potential competitors. Our biggest tasks these days are staking plants up so we don’t lose their fruit and trimming back vines that have grown out-of-control. We have a zucchini plant that has run about 10’ out of its raised bed, to the house, and back again. Hopefully she’ll settle down and start having babies now.

I must praise the soil we bought from Quail Hill Organic Farm in the spring. People who visit our garden swear that we’re using tons of fertilizer. Nope, just a little horse poop and a lot of love and water.

We have some purple tomatoes coming along, our hot peppers are starting to turn red and the eggplants are looking good. There’s no telling what-all this Sunday’s dinner will hold—but one thing is certain, it won’t be difficult to gather the family for it.

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