Saturday, August 29, 2009

Zucchini, Walnut and Fig Bread

First things first: I'm not a baker. Second admission: I've never baked a bread that has turned out perfectly (most are inedible). Third: this one also had its flaws, but for someone more experienced in making breads, I'm certain you could figure this one out.

All that being said, I decided to give it another try. From this month's Food & Wine magazine, I was particularly drawn to to the Yogurt-Zucchini Bread with Walnuts recipe. It looked easy, and required minimal ingredients and equipment. All you have to do is mix ingredients together by hand - how hard could that be? Plus it uses Greek yogurt to add moisture without adding fat.

At the last minute, I decided to add some chopped up figs from my parents' fig tree. I can't imagine that this is where things went wrong, but who knows? With baking, you have to be perfectly precise, right?

The result was tasty, for sure. And even moist. But heavy. Oh so heavy. Did I over mix? Did I not measure the ingredients perfectly? Was it the figs? It may take a few more tries (and a few more trips to my parents' fig tree) to know for sure. In any event, I share the recipe with you because I think it has really good potential. And hopefully, you'll have better luck.

Zucchini, Walnut and Fig Bread
adapted from Food & Wine

1 cup walnut halves (4 ounces)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
1 cup coarsely grated zucchini

1. preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Butter and flour 9 x 4 1/2 inch metal loaf pan. Toast walnut halves until they are fragrant, coarsely chop and freeze for 5 minutes to cool.

2. In a large bowl, whisk flour with baking powder, baking soda and salt. In medium bowl, mix the sugar with the eggs, vegetable oil and yogurt. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients along with the grated zucchini, chopped figs and toasted walnuts and stir until batter is evenly moistened. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes, until the loaf is risen and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the loaf cool on a rack for 30 minutes before serving.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Montauk in a Clam Shell

Every summer since we got engaged on the beach, my husband and I find at least a week to escape to his parents' beach house in Montauk, NY. What was once a sleepy fishing town has become a haven for summer weekenders from "the city". It is, in fact, starting to become so popular that I'm afraid it is in danger of becoming an extension of the Hamptons. (That's a note to you, New York Times, and you, Food & Wine Magazine - stop writing about Montauk. It is our little secret! Of course, aren't I now guilty of the same thing?). To me Montauk is synonymous with lazy days and late meals and curling up in bed satiated by both the day's sun and the night's dinner. The positive aspect of becoming a potential East Hampton East, is the recognition of the quality chefs and restaurants, both new and old - Top Chef contestant Sam Talbot and his Surf Lodge, for one. The beach is no longer only for fried clams and ice cream (although any beach trip would be incomplete without having both at least once).

Leading up to our annual vacation, we generally plot out our dinners. Typically, we'd like to leave a beach vacation room for some spontaneity, but the restaurants on Montauk have strict reservation policies/ recommendations: reserve one week out, two days out, reserve day of (phones open at 4:15pm) unless you are a party of 6 or more, then you can call the day before and of course, there are the handful that take no reservations at all. Some are closed Mondays, others on Wednesdays, others (because of the new-found popularity) are just about impossible to get into if you have not arrived by 7:00pm. In one case, the restaurant will stop taking names as early as 8pm if it appears the kitchen will be backed up. Kitchen at said restaurant closes at 10pm sharp. Now, why would we go through all of this rigamarole on vacation? Because the food is worth it.

Here's the low-down on our favorites:

Dave's Grill

468 West Lake Drive
Montauk, New York

The creme de la creme of Montauk restaurants, in my opinion. This is the restaurant where you have to call at exactly 4:15pm on the day that you wish to eat there. Once you secure the coveted reservation and upon arrival, the owner will greet you and take you to your table which may be outside on the covered veranda overlooking the harbor or within the cozy interior of the restaurant. The menu highlights local, fresh fish with a few non-seafood options. Our favorites: fried oysters, tuna tempura sushi, smoked tuna spread, coconut fried shrimp and/or spareribs for an appetizer and baked stuffed lobster, paparadelle with lobster ragu, any of the fish specials (a recent horseradish encrusted halibut was to die for), and of course, Dave's Original Cioppino as an entree. The cioppino arrives in a lovely light and savory tomato broth complete with scallops, shrimp, clams, calamari, mussels, fish, and a half lobster, plus a toasted crostini for dipping. A seafood lovers delight. And the best part? Chef David Marclay shares his recipe on the restaurant's Web site. At this point, you better hope you saved room for dessert because the Barbara (a chocolate fudge brownie sundae) and the famous Chocolate Bag (Belgian chocolate bag filled with Tahitian vanilla ice cream and strawberry compote, finished with whipped cream, raspberry and mango sauce - served with a steak knife to break the dessert apart) are must haves.

West Lake Clam and Chowder House

352 West Lake Drive

Montauk, New York

The Chowder House, as it is called by the Montaukens (Montaukets?), was a new restaurant for us this year. Suggested to us by friends who always dine there on their first night in Montauk, this was the surprise of all surprises. No reservations, show up early to get on the list, and hopefully before they stop taking names due to the kitchen's nightly closing at 10pm. Be prepared to eat at the bar, if need be - the food makes up for the slight discomfort of the bar stools. And, turn off your cell phones. As posted directly above the hostess stand, they just want you to relax. Upon first glance (and second glance too), it appears that you have stumbled upon the late night fisherman's watering hole of the east end of the island. Bar atmosphere, slightly run down and

cluttered decor was enough to make me think I'd be eating something basic, maybe fried. Imagine

my surprise when I found seared sea scallops over risotto with black truffle essense on the menu. And is that a sushi bar off to the side? They serve both New England and Manhatten clam chowder, and true to their name, they do both with great success. The sushi is delicious and inventive and fresh off the boat.

East by Northeast

51 Edgemere Street

Montauk, NY

Sometimes, just sometimes, you get a little tired of seafood on a beach vacation. When this happens in Montauk, we head to East by Northeast. Specifically for the Long Island Duck. East by Northeast, owned by the same folks as Harvest (another great Montauk find), takes a wordly fusion approach to food - blending flavors from the far east with down-home American cooking. Take the Peking duck tacos for example - one of our favorite appetizers. Juicy shredded duck topped with hoisen barbeque sauce and fresh guacamole held together by a wonton taco shell. And if that's not enough, one of us usually orders the Long Island Crescent duck breast, served with a pinot noir cassis glace and a vegetable spring roll. Also good are any of their steaks. If you can get a reservation early enough, East by Northeast has a beautiful view of the summer sunset over Fort Pond.

Gosman's Dock, Duryea's Lobster Deck, and Wok and Roll

Finally, I would be remiss without mentioning some of the more casual eateries - places to get those fried clams, fish and chips, and soft-served ice cream (with chocolate sprinkles, of course). I've already written about Gosman's Dock and Duryea's and their competing lobster rolls. Both have great outdoor seating, under umbrellas, on the water, and come sunset ready. Gosman's Dock also has a gourmet market on site where we generally stock up on sesame noodles, fresh yellowfin tuna

salad, and seaweed salad for snacking. Wok and Roll is the resident Chinese food restaurant. Chinese food? At the beach, you say? Well, Wok and Roll will take your fresh caught fish and cook it up for you. I'm not kidding when I say that you haven't lived until you've had General Tso's striped bass. Yum!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Food Blogger Happy Hour - Sept. 2 @ Poste

I'm just back from vacation with a boatload of food pictures to go through and blog entry ideas to sort out, but on my return I was thrilled to find out that a food blogger happy hour was in the works, thanks to the great minds at The Arugula Files, Gradually Greener and Modern Domestic. We write, comment, and tweet and now here's our chance to put names and faces to the recipes and recommendations we love to share.

I'll be there. Will you? And I promise to see Julie and Julia by then!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Lobster Rolls of Montauk

Montauk, NY much like Maine and other parts of New England, is known for its lobster roll. Ok, well maybe it's not "officially" known for this delicacy, but since it is the closest place to D.C. that I can get a lobster roll, it is "known" in my book. For my husband and I, there is no questioning that we will get at least one on our annual vacation to Montauk, but it wasn't until recently that we added the question, "Where?" Up until this year, it was a no brainer: Gosman's Dock - a landing for a few restaurants, a clam bar, gourmet food market and clothing stores. (I am intentionally not including the more well-known The Lobster Roll - aka Lunch - because it is technically in Amagansett and for which we would have battle traffic and that doesn't make for a fun vacation at all.) However, this summer, we discovered Duryea's - a lobster deck great for watching the Montauk sunset and a seafood market. Compared to each other, the rolls have their pros and cons. As for me, the jury is still out. I'm just happy to be eating lobster.

Lobster Roll: $16.95

Gosman's lobster roll includes two scoops of finely shredded lobster with the occasional larger chunk of lobster meat, tossed lightly with mayonnaise, and seasoned nicely with salt, pepper and celery on a traditional hot dog bun. Served with fries.

Lobster Roll: $18.25

Duryea's lobster roll is larger than Gosman's and has bigger chunks of lobster meat giving it a richer flavor, but it also employs more mayonnaise to keep the whole thing together. Also mixed in with celery bits, it takes on a resemblance of a traditional lobster salad. Duryea's breaks with tradition, however, on the bun, opting for a sesame seed roll instead. Served with chips and cole slaw.

The bottom line is, I don't think you can go wrong with either lobster roll. In both cases, the lobster is fresh out of the water. Pair with a fresh lemonade or a nice white wine, a sunny day or a beautiful sunset.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

His and Her Beach Shops

My husband and I are spending some time in Montauk, the place of his every summer vacation as a young boy. It is always so much fun to watch him light up at the memories sparked by entering a store that was integral to his childhood.

One of his favorites, not surprisingly, is a store called A Little Bit of Everything. Typical beach shop meets toy store, this place does has something for everyone, from sunscreen to candy to gag gifts, recalling an old five and dime store. Bouncy balls, toy trucks and silly putty - I think he probably spent hours here as a child.

Yesterday, we took a day trip to Sag Harbor, and I found my equivalent of A Little Bit of Everything in Sylvester & Co. (billed on their Web site as "a contemporary general store"). In addition to housewares and an impressive rack of cookbooks ranging from Alice Waters to the Hampton's own Barefoot Contessa, there is a coffee counter with candy galore. From the more adult ginger slices to a "retro mix" featuring Bubble Yum, candy dots, Tootsie Rolls, and Smarties, this was my kind of summer store. I spent most of my summers at overnight camp in the Poconoes and a long anticipated trip each year was to the penny candy shop, Appies. Appies has since closed. I guess penny candy is not profitable anymore, or perhaps the owners became too old to run the place. Sylvester & Co. reminded me of a grown up version of Appies, taking the concept of penny candy to a whole new level - at $4+ a box.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

On Vacation

Just a quick post to let you know that regular posts may be few and far between over the next few weeks. We're in Montauk, NY on a two week vacation. I'm taking pictures and notes, though, and hope to come back with some musings on beach topics such as soft-serve ice cream, lobster rolls, and fishing for your dinner.
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