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04/18/11 8:45am
04/18/2011 8:45 AM
Steamed and roasted Long Island duck.

JOHN ROSS PHOTO | Steamed and roasted Long Island duck.

The term “Long Island Duck” is famous throughout the world and still seen on many restaurant menus. And indeed, by the late 1960s Long Island was producing up to six million ducks annually. Eastport became the center of duck processing and distribution because of the proximity of the railroad and farmlands to good drainage and easy access to water.

As the population moved eastward, duck production declined. Today, the Crescent Duck Farm in Aquebogue, owned by the Corwin family, is the only duck farm left on the North Fork. They, however, remain very active, breeding, hatching, growing and processing all of their ducks right here on the North Fork. Crescent Duck Farm produces about 5 percent of the commercial ducks in the United States. The quality of these ducks ranks among the best in the world and they are purchased by the most discriminating chefs and restaurants.

The breed of duck used on Long Island is the Pekin duck, with its characteristic white feathers and orange feet. The first Pekin ducks came from China on a clipper ship in 1873. One drake and three females survived the voyage from Beijing to Long Island Sound. The ducks readily took to the sandy soil and tidal ponds of eastern Long Island and multiplied to create a booming industry and a name that would live on for many years.

The breed, Pekin duck, should not be confused with the famous duck dish, Peking duck. In the Peking (or Beijing) duck recipe the crisp skin is separated from the roasted duck and served with Mandarin pancakes, scallion brushes and hoisin sauce. The duck meat is served on a separate plate. Peking duck is famous in China and served throughout the world in Chinese restaurants. The authentic recipe, which requires inflating the duck with air and hanging it to dry in a cool breeze, is a little too labor-intensive for most home cooks, but here are some recipes that capture some of the flavors and style of that famous dish:

Steamed and Roasted
Long Island Duck

Remove the giblets and fat from the body cavity of a 6-pound duck and trim the skin around the neck area. Cut off the tail and trim the wing tips. Rinse under cold water, dry and prick the skin with a sharp fork. Make a spice rub by combining 1 tablespoon Chinese five spice powder with 2 teaspoons sugar and 2 teaspoons coarse salt. Stir in 1 teaspoon soy sauce to make a slurry and rub it over the duck and in the cavity. Place in the cavity half of an unpeeled onion, half of an unpeeled orange, 1 tablespoon sliced ginger and 1 tablespoon sliced garlic. Tie the legs and wings against the body with a piece of string. Place the duck in a V-shaped poultry rack and set it in a roasting pan. Place the pan in a 400-degree oven and pour boiling water in the bottom so that it comes up the sides one inch. Cover tightly with foil and steam in the oven for 1 hour.
While duck is cooking, combine 1/2 cup honey, 1/4 cup soy sauce and 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar in a saucepan. Reduce by half and set aside.
After 1 hour remove the duck, still in its rack, and set on a sheet pan. Pour the water from the roasting pan and place the duck back in it. Brush the duck with the reduced glaze and return, uncovered, to the oven to roast for another 1 hour at 400 degrees. Baste with the glaze every 15 minutes. When the joints wiggle easily the duck is fully cooked. Remove and let rest before serving. It should be a deep mahogany brown and very flavorful. It does not need a sauce, but would go well with long-grain wild rice or a barley pilaf.
Serves 4.

Twice-Cooked Duck Legs
with Mandarin Pancakes

Trim excess fat from 4 duck legs (about 2 pounds). Cut each leg in half through the joint to make a thigh and a drumstick. You will have 8 pieces of about equal size. Rub the duck pieces with 1 tablespoon Chinese five spice powder and place them in a soup pot. Add cold water to just about cover, along with 1 cup soy sauce, 2 cinnamon sticks, 1 tablespoon sliced ginger, 1 tablespoon sliced garlic, the peel from one orange and 6 black peppercorns. Slowly bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. Remove from the cooking liquid, pat dry and cool.
For the Mandarin pancakes, place 2 cups flour in a bowl and quickly stir in 1 cup boiling water to form a dough. Turn the dough out on a floured surface and knead until smooth, about 3 minutes. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Divide the dough in half and form into two balls. Roll these out into quarter-inch-thick pieces and, using a rocks glass, cut them into 3-inch rounds. Brush the rounds with sesame oil on one side and place them, oil side in, together with another round to form a pancake. Sprinkle with a little flour and roll out these rounds to a diameter of 6 inches. Set aside and cover with a damp towel.
At service time heat about 2 cups canola oil in a shallow pan to 375 degrees. Deep-fry the duck pieces until dark and crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels and keep warm.
Heat a heavy sauté pan to medium and cook the pancakes until lightly browned on each side, about 3 minutes each. When cool enough to handle, peel them apart and serve on a plate. Cut the meat and skin off of the duck pieces with a sharp knife and cut into thin julienne pieces or slivers. Serve these in a bowl.
On a separate plate serve one bunch of scallions that have been cut in half crosswise and then cut into thin strips. Serve a dish of hoisin sauce on the side to spread on a pancake; add duck and scallion slivers and roll it up to eat as you would with a Peking duck.

Marinated Duck Breast
Trim excess fat from 4 duck breasts with the skin on and score the skin with a sharp knife in a crisscross pattern. Make a marinade by combining 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar, 1/4 cup hoisin sauce, 1/4 cup honey, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon grated ginger, 1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder and 1 tablespoon minced garlic. Place the breasts in the marinade and refrigerate for 2 hours.
At service time, heat a heavy sauté pan to high and cook the duck breasts skin side down until brown. Turn the duck, reduce the heat and cook for another 5 minutes or until medium rare (130 degrees). Remove and keep warm.
Pour off all fat from the pan and make a sauce by adding the marinade, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon hoisin and 1/4 cup white wine. Dissolve 1 tablespoon cornstarch in cold water and stir into the sauce. Bring to a boil, taste for seasoning and strain into a serving bowl. Slice the duck breasts and serve over brown rice or noodles.
Serves 4.

John Ross, a chef and author, has been an active part of the North Fork food and wine community for more than 35 years. E-mail: [email protected]

04/10/11 7:00am
04/10/2011 7:00 AM

There seems to be complete agreement. The North Fork is special, a place set apart. No need to list our blessings. We know we’re unique.

And yet in just a few hours we will forfeit that uniqueness and join with the rest of the country in doing something pretty ordinary. We’ll wake up to income tax day. Twenty-four hours of struggling with the checkbook and promising ourselves to set aside a few more dollars for next year.

Now, I know taxes are necessary. That I was carefully taught. But there is something I don’t understand. For years I’ve paid estimated taxes every few months. And yet, when April rolls around, I always owe more. If my grocery estimates were so inaccurate, I’d never have enough food in the kitchen. If my husband’s estimates were so faulty, he’d never have enough wood in the garage for projects not yet dreamed.

I suppose I know what I’m looking for. I need a way to bridge the gap between taxes withheld and the check I send to the IRS in April. Year-long small savings might do the trick, and since North Forkers appear to be frugal forkers, sharing our little money-saving ways might prove helpful cometh the tax man.

Only fair to start with me. I confess to saving soap slivers and fashioning them into soap balls (about the size of tennis balls). It’s always bothered me to throw away those tiny bits of soap that collect in a soap dish. So I put the soap bits into a huge glass jar I keep in the cellar. When a goodly amount of soap is saved, I put it in a big pot, add a little water, heat and stir. Meantime I spread some waxed paper on the kitchen table.

When I’ve a gooey mass in the pot, I ladle out, onto the paper, 20 or so soap mounds. Then I shape those mounds into soap balls. Careful, they’re hot.

I store the cooled and hardened soap balls in a bag under the kitchen sink. Since I don’t have a dishwasher, I use the balls for mealtime cleanups. Think of the money we’d save if every North Fork home had its own soap balls!

And we’d save quite a bit if we took a tip from Anthony Flynn. I found out about Anthony from his wife, Jodi, who works in Mattituck. Anthony and Jodi are married just a short time but, oh, did the young wife quickly discover her husband’s secret passion.

Stashed away on the top shelves of closets and stacked in the garage are the boxes Anthony simply has to save. Small cellphone boxes, slightly larger shoeboxes, all the way up to a carton once containing a vacuum cleaner, another that once held a lounge chair. Dozens and dozens of boxes.

Now, think about it. Anthony never has to purchase a gift box at the post office or buy expensive plastic boxes to store stuff in. Jodi let me know she sometimes gets rid of a few boxes. But please don’t you tell Anthony. I’d hate to have the young couple argue.

Anthony says he saves so many boxes because “you never know.” Anthony, that’s an admirable North Fork attitude. We’re saving money and we’re ready for anything.

Here’s another small-saving idea. This one’s from Joan Fabian, Riverhead artist. Joan’s watercolors, oils and acrylics are exhibited in galleries from Bar Harbor to Old Town Art and Crafts Guild in Cutchogue. Great work!

But you know what? Joan’s sandwiches are great, too. Especially those with pickles added — sweet and sour, crunchy, perfect. And all those pickles come in little plastic jars with lids. After the pickles are consumed, Joan washes the jars/lids and they join Joan’s painting paraphernalia.

Water, water, everywhere is needed when watercolor or acrylic is the medium of the day. Those little jars, filled with water, are ideal for cleaning brushes during a painting session. You “just can’t have enough jars,” says Joan. And she doesn’t have to buy them in a crafts store. You know what I say? You just can’t have enough pickles.

So save your soap, save your boxes, eat lots of pickles. Chances are, if we do so, North Forkers will have plenty of money to pay their taxes. Better yet, I foresee a cash surplus large enough for the whole North Fork to make a major financial move. I’m thinking we might even outbid Donald Trump for part ownership of the New York Mets. After all, the North Fork has more that its share of “Amazin’s.”

Ms. Lombardi is a resident of Cutchogue.

03/20/11 8:09am
03/20/2011 8:09 AM

Enough! All winter I’ve read about Long Island’s little brown bats and how they face extinction because of some fungus. Now I’ve no particular feeling, one way or another, about bats, but I tell you I don’t like mosquitoes. And bats eat lots of mosquitoes, so you can see the problem. We may face an itchy-scratchy summer.

But you know what? It’s spring and the only bats I want to hear about are the bats that are an extension of one’s self, one’s dreams. The bats that drive a ball out of the park, into the skies, over the rainbow. Never, ever to be caught. Well, perhaps caught by “Say Hey” Willie if he happens to be suited up and out in a field anywhere, anywhere at all.

A baseball bat is not a toy. I discovered that as a kid trying to borrow my brother’s bat. I even offered to let him read my Nancy Drew books in exchange for a few swings. It was an offer my brother refused.

Later, as a Yankee fan married to a Brooklyn Dodger fan, I was permitted the use of my husband’s bat. In exchange, no Nancy Drew, but I did have to bake some corn bread.

On the North Fork, there are many precious bats, many precious bat memories. While a North Fork bat may not fetch over a million dollars in auction as did a Babe Ruth-used bat in 2004, or find its way into Louisville Slugger Museum, our bats are contenders.

Up at the plate first: The Doctors and the Landscapers. That’s the name they went by as they played baseball for years on Southold High School’s field. We’re not talking about teens but rather older guys.

One of those guys is North Fork cardiologist Dr. John Pearson. Dr. P. indeed recalls a long-ago favorite bat. It was an Al Kaline bat and Dr. P. remembers hitting two right out of the park on a day his father, a New York City firefighter, was able to attend the game. How thrilled father and son must have been.

By the way, Al Kaline had super stats with the Detroit Tigers — over 3,000 career hits. I’ve no idea if Dr. P. has similar stats but I bet to his patients he’s a Hall of Famer.

I can hear it now. Dr. Pearson’s song. As Dr. P. approaches the plate, the public address system blasts that hit from the musical “Damn Yankees.” Perfect for a swinging cardiologist. “You gotta have heart. Miles ’n’ miles ’n’ miles of heart.”

A Southold swinger sent me a note about his bat. Good thing, too. For if Bob Johnson had told me his story face to face, he would have seen my tears. Here’s what Bob wrote.

“My father, when he was discharged from the Army in the 1960s, brought home his baseball equipment along with his old military uniforms. One day when I was 9 or 10 years old, my dad broke out the equipment bag, actually his Army duffel bag. There was one bat way too big for me. It had a chunk missing from the barrel but I always used it because it was his. He also had two baseball gloves. One had only four fingers so you had to double-up two fingers. It was great because it was different and because it was my dad’s. I also had fun playing army when I wore my dad’s uniforms even though they were 10 sizes too big.

“Dad’s bat made it out to Southold when we moved here. Over time the bat began to split, producing world-record splinters. Finally it was discarded. That bat had no special logo, no insignia, no signature. But the memories are irreplaceable.”

As is a father, Bob, as is a father.

Here’s a grandpa, Cutchogue’s John Minerva. First, his baseball credentials. John coached Little League years ago in Wantagh and then CYO ball here on the North Fork. One little guy, who played third base on the CYO team John coached, was Kenny Homan. Now Kenny’s the head guy at Braun Seafood Company in Cut­chogue. Time and baseballs fly.

Grandpa John’s bat story? John and wife, Jane, recently returned from Orlando. They weren’t visiting Disney but cheering 11-year-old grandson Anthony (A.J., please) as he represented South Carolina in a state teams Baseball Blast in Orlando.

A.J., a catcher like his grandpa, excelled in Orlando. Batting cleanup, in one game he totaled seven RBIs, including a monster triple. But before the games began, each youngster was given a mini-bat. Assignment: Get the autographs of all the players, coaches and managers. Then take the bat home and treasure it for a lifetime. John and Jane, the bat and A.J. may be in South Carolina, but you’ve a treasure, too.

OK, so it’s bat season on the North Fork. Let’s team up with Dr. P., Bob and John and get out to a game. Just buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack. I don’t care if I never get back.

Ms. Lombardi is a resident of Cutchogue.

03/14/11 11:15am
03/14/2011 11:15 AM

I am part of “Imaginative Worlds,” a new book group at Floyd Memorial Library that consists of children who are 9 to 11 years old and their grown-ups, usually mothers. We meet every two weeks at the library and have a discussion led by librarian Mira Dougherty-Johnson and scholar Timothy Clayton Wood. This is funded in part by a grant from the New York State Council for the Humanities. Last week was the first session and we started with the picture book ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ by Maurice Sendak, which I’ve read before and written about before in this column. One of the marks of a really terrific book is that each time you reread it and each time you really listen to someone else talking about the book, you learn new things.

All of us were a little shy with each other at first, but our fearless leaders thought of two great icebreakers to get us more comfortable. First we were paired up with a new person from the opposite age group and we had to tell that person a true story from our childhood in which we did something naughty and were caught and reprimanded or punished. Then we had to listen very hard to our new partner’s true crime and punishment story. Then we went around the table introducing our new partner and telling their story. We were each in turn introduced to the group by our partner telling our story. It was a great way to get to know people very quickly and it was based on our book’s plot that has the hero, Max, acting like “a wild thing” and sent to his room without any supper.

Next, all the grown-ups went to one side of the room while the children went to the other so each group could prepare to act out the story for the other. The children made a boat out of two folding chairs for Max to sail “off through night and day and in and out of weeks and almost over a year to where the wild things are.” The grown-ups were not so foolhardy, inventive or small enough, but both groups managed the playacting very well, especially the wild rumpus.

We will be reading some other classics of imaginative children’s literature: ‘Alice in Wonderland’ by Lewis Carroll and ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ by Norton Juster, as well as newer titles, ‘Tuesday’ by David Wiesner and ‘The Magician’s Elephant’ by Kate Di Camillo. I can’t wait to hear what other people think of them and what new things I will learn by rereading, by listening and by using my imagination.

One of the last books I read was ‘The History of Love’ by Nicole Krauss, who is also getting a lot of attention for her most recent book, ‘The Great House.’ She is married to Jonathan Safran Foer, whose book ‘Everything Is Illuminated’ was one of the library’s book discussion choices of a few years back. The two authors are young, attractive, talented and doing very well economically even in these parlous times, even in the book industry whose death the gloom-and-doomers are bewailing. They just bought a bigger brownstone in Park Slope, Brooklyn, to house their growing family and they keep writing terrific books that people want to publish, read and lavish critical praise on.

Some readers in our group found the multiple voices and nonlinear flow of “The History of Love” to be confusing, but others were enchanted and moved by its cleverness and humor, the books within the book and the sheer bravado of the beautiful writing. Nicole Krauss, like her husband, is of the generation whose grandparents were affected by the Holocaust and the Second World War. The books that are being written by this grandchildren generation are different from the books written by the children. The history is farther away, but still not forgotten.

Here is a sample of the voice of one of the protagonists, octogenarian locksmith Leopold Gursky, who long ago had written a book called “The History of Love”:

“Once upon a time there was a boy. He lived in a village that no longer exists, in a house that no longer exists, on the edge of a field that no longer exists, where everything was discovered and everything was possible …  Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question that he wanted to spend his whole life answering.”

The other main character is a 12-year-old girl, Alma, so named by her mother “after every girl in a book my father gave her called “The History of Love.” Which is, of course, the book written decades before by Leopold Gursky. The story ends with these two people meeting each other, but in the middle of the story we are transported back and forth in time, between Europe, South America and New York, and transported by a poetic imagination that is luminous and all-encompassing.

Ms. Johnson, of Greenport, is assistant director at Floyd Memorial Library and moonlights as an artist and newspaper columnist.

03/14/11 11:13am
Sparkling Pointe winemaker Gilles Martin.

PHOTO COURTESY OF LOUISA HARGRAVE | Sparkling Pointe winemaker Gilles Martin.

Pairing food and wine is part of a wine journalist’s job description, but I rarely write about specific pairings because, frankly, I’d rather generalize: Good wine goes with good food; bad wine goes with bad food. Take your pick. That said, I have had some recent wine/food experiences that are worth recounting.

On Valentine’s Day, I visited Sparkling Pointe (motto: “If it’s not sparkling, what’s the point?”) in Southold for a wine and chocolate tasting with the winery’s hospitable staff. They set me up with a proper format of champagne flutes, presenting four wines paired with four flavored Vosges chocolate bars. Being skeptical of wine and chocolate pairings, other than as a ploy to lure visitors into wineries, I tasted the four bubblies before trying them with chocolate, and was glad I did; they were far better alone.

First, the 2004, all-chardonnay Blanc de Blanc was clean, bright and pure, with a lovely creamy mouth feel. Tasting it with white chocolate seasoned with pink pepper and lemon (the “Amalfi Bar”) accentuated its citrus flavors but obliterated its balance.

The 2006 Sparkling Pointe Brut was woodier, with a finish that was nicely complex until I put some salty, plantain-studded “Habana” chocolate in my mouth. It wasn’t a good pairing, but it was provocative and instructive — a wake-up call to pay attention to the sensory experience way beyond the alcohol and bubbles. The way the wine’s acidity cut through the cocoa butter highlighted how it would similarly cut through other fats in the diet (a health tip?).

The winemaker, Gilles Martin (a Frenchman with long experience making Champagne and sparkling wines), joined the tasting, and we chatted about harvest and dosage strategies as we moved on to the 2007 Topaz Imperial, a pinot noir-driven rose bubbly with delicate fruit and food-worthy phenolics. Explaining that he had never before tried this wine paired with the bacon-flavored (“Mo’s”) chocolate on offer, Gilles declared, “This freaks my brain out. My brain doesn’t know what to say. I’m not a virgin any more about bacon. I wish I was.”

This is not to say that the bacony chocolate wasn’t good. But it was weird, and even weirder with wine.

The final pairing, of the 2001 Brut Seduction with Vosges “Woolloomoloo” (milk chocolate flavored with macadamia nuts, coconut and hemp), made for an interesting dynamic of sweet-salt-savory. The wine is absolutely first-rate, and so was the chocolate, but together? If you wear a ball gown and tiara to dance to Herman’s Hermits, then, yeah. Our honest winemaker had the definitive words again: “I love hazelnuts.”

When I went to Sparkling Pointe for this tasting, I was predisposed not to think it a valid pairing. When I left, I still agreed with myself, but was thrilled that I had done the tasting. It was great fun and extremely stimulating, brought out all sorts of aspects of wine and chocolate I hadn’t thought about, and made me appreciate the nuances of both. Besides, the space is lovely, the people are warm and genuine, the wines are fine, and a girl has to go out every once in a while.

More recently, I’ve been temporarily trying a vegan diet (no meat, fish, eggs or dairy products); not that I have anything against being a carnivore, but I wanted to force myself to try more vegetable-based foods, expand my flavor repertory and maybe do the planet a favor for a week or so. In the course of this experiment, I drank two different pinot grigios by a northern Italian producer of value-priced wines, Barone Fini. The first, their pinot grigio from Alto Adige (Tyrol), was perfect with a curry of lentils and chickpeas over rice. The wine had all the purity of its mountainous origins, and it yodeled along in harmony with the sitar of curry. (Excuse the metaphor.)

The next day, I tried the Barone Fini Valdadige Pinot Grigio. This wine, sourced from a broader area that makes vast oceans of pinot grigio, was a clunker with my dish of sesame noodles. I didn’t finish the bottle, but I tried it again the next day, this time with an eggplant, white bean and tomato gratin. Instead of putting the lid on the wine’s aroma, as the tahini noodles had, this dish was a fine foil for the wine, allowing its floral qualities to show. Or maybe the wine just got better, breathing overnight. Whichever it was, there was a marked difference in how the wine tasted with different foods. Or maybe I was just hungrier and thirstier.

Maybe I needed a piece of chocolate. With bacon?

Ms. Hargrave was a founder of the Long Island wine industry in 1973. She is currently a freelance writer and consultant.

03/07/11 10:39am
03/07/2011 10:39 AM

Nobody there is that doesn’t love a bean,
If not the royal Navy bean, then the wax bean,
the soybean, the green bean, the black bean — the
pot is large, it contains multitudes…

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s bean?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Had we but world enough, and time,
this coyness, Lady, were no crime.
But, at my back, I always hear
a pot of beans bubbling near.

How do I cook them? Let me count the ways —
boiling, steaming, frying, baking.
And if these verses may thee move,
Sweet Lady, come live with me
and be my love. And if this fare
you disapprove, come live with me
and please be my cook.

“Bean Soup, Or a Legume
Miscellany” by Phillip Paradis

The large family of flowering plants that have double-seamed pods containing a row of seeds are called legumes. They include beans, peas, lentils and peanuts. Their history is as old as civilization itself. Already by 6000 BCE, legumes were a staple food, providing protein to people in Asia, Europe and the Americas. When legumes are combined with rice they become a complete protein food, containing all the amino acids, thus becoming a substitute for meat. Some of Rome’s most distinguished families were named after beans: Fabius (fava bean), Lentulus (lentil), Piso (pea) and Cicero (chick pea).
Today, legumes are available dried, canned, fresh and frozen and are regaining popularity due to their huge contributions to a healthy diet. All the legume plants take large amounts of nitrogen from the air and convert it to protein in the seeds. When the plants are plowed under they return nitrogen to the soil, creating an organic fertilizer. They are also high in minerals and vitamins and a great source of dietary fiber, especially the soluble kind. And, unlike meat, they are low in fat and contain no cholesterol.
Most legumes are pretty inexpensive and whether used as a vegetarian entrée or as an accompaniment to meat, poultry or fish, they represent an intelligent addition to your diet.

French Lentils with
Sesame Crusted Salmon

Due to their high protein, mineral, vitamin and fiber content, lentils are one of the world’s healthiest foods. They come in many colors and sizes, with the brown variety being most common. The tiny French lentils used in the following recipe have a hard exterior and a soft, creamy inside. They should not be overcooked.
Purchase 4 portions of naturally fed salmon (or wild salmon). Combine 1 egg white and 2 tablespoons cornstarch in a small dish and brush onto the top of the salmon. Spread 1/2 cup sesame seeds onto a sheet pan and press the salmon into the seeds. Refrigerate. Rinse 1 cup French lentils and place them in a saucepan with 2 cups water, one quarter of a peeled onion, 2 bay leaves, 2 sprigs of thyme and the zest of 1 lemon. (Do not add salt.) Simmer, covered, until lentils are just tender, about 25 minutes. Drain, remove onion and bay leaves, and set aside.
At service time sauté 1 cup chopped scallions in 2 tablespoons olive oil for 2 minutes and add 2 cups diced plum tomatoes and the cooked lentils. Continue to cook until all ingredients are hot and stir in 2 tablespoons chopped dill, 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, 2 teaspoons sea salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.
Add 1/4 cup olive oil to a large sauté pan and heat to shimmering. Place the salmon with the sesame crust down in the hot pan and sauté about 3 minutes. Turn the salmon and reduce the heat to medium. Continue cooking until salmon is opaque and flakes easily. Serve over the lentils and garnish with lemon wedges and parsley.

Black Bean Enchiladas
The black bean has been a staple of Mesoamerica for at least 3,000 years. Its long roots make it well suited for the desert climates of Mexico and the Southwestern United States.
Rinse 1 pound of dried black beans under cold water and pick out any foreign matter. Place them in a saucepan and add 6 cups cold water. Bring to a boil, cover and remove from the heat. Let rest 1 hour.
Heat 2 tablespoons canola oil in a sauté pan and add 2 cups chopped onions. Cook until they are soft and add 2 tablespoons minced garlic. Cook briefly and add contents of pan to the beans and water. Simmer the beans, covered, for 1 1/2 hours until very soft and the liquid begins to thicken. Pour off half the liquid and purée half the beans. Add the purée back to the pan with the beans and season with 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 1 tablespoon chili powder and 1 tablespoon sea salt. Simmer for 15 minutes and set aside.
Grate 1 pound sharp cheddar cheese and set aside along with 1 finely chopped red onion. Open 1 15-ounce can of tomato sauce. Heat a large sauté pan and add 2 tablespoons canola oil, 2 tablespoons tomato sauce, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin and 1/2 teaspoon chili powder. Place 12 small corn tortillas in the pan in batches of 3. Coat them with the sauce and let them soften in the pan for about 2 minutes each. Remove and place on a sheet pan lined with paper towels.
To assemble the enchiladas, spread a spoonful of black bean sauce on each tortilla and top it with grated cheddar and chopped red onion. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and a little salt and pepper. Roll up the tortillas and place seam side down in a small baking pan. Spoon about 1 cup tomato sauce over the tortillas and sprinkle with 1/2 cup grated cheddar, 1/4 cup chopped red onion and 1/4 cup chopped cilantro. Finish by chopping 1/2 cup of pecans and sprinkling them over all.
Cover with foil and bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve with sour cream.
Serves 4-6.

Sugar Snap Peas and
Sesame Shrimp

The sugar snap pea is a hybrid of the English pea and the snow pea. Peas are one of the few legumes that can be eaten fresh. They are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber and protein. They are also one of the local vegetables that signal spring on the North Fork.
Purchase 1 pound of shrimp, peel and devein them, removing the tails. Place them in a bowl with 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 2 teaspoons shredded ginger, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and 2 tablespoons sesame seeds. Toss together and refrigerate while prepping the vegetables.
Bring to a boil 2 1/2 cups water in a saucepan and add 1 cup brown rice and 1 teaspoon sea salt. Simmer 30 minutes and turn off the heat. Rinse 1 pound of fresh sugar snap peas and remove the strings along the side of the pods. Slice 1 red bell pepper into 2-inch pieces. Finely chop 4 scallions.
Heat a large sauté pan and add 2 tablespoons sesame oil and 1 tablespoon canola oil. When oil is shimmering, add the marinated shrimp and toss quickly to avoid burning the sesame seeds. When just barely cooked, remove shrimp and set aside. Add a little more canola oil and the peppers, snap peas and scallions. Dissolve 1 tablespoon cornstarch in 3/4 cup chicken broth and add to the pan along with the shrimp. Toss together and season with 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar and a few drops of Tabasco. Serve over the brown rice.
Serves 4.

John Ross, a chef and author, has been an active part of the North Fork food and wine community for more than 35 years. E-mail: [email protected]

03/07/11 10:38am

As a tough winter draws to a close, there seems to be much that needs fixing up. Even on the North Fork where highway department crews are careful and competent, there’s an occasional bit of lawn or small shrub disturbed by a plow. Every now and then a pothole appears.
Winds tear shutters from our homes, concrete planters left outside crack, paint chips from doors and window trim when assailed by hail.

Yes, as I said, tough. That’s why I needed help with some repair jobs. Now don’t misunderstand me. My husband is more than handy when it comes to fixing things and he works hard. Trouble is, his idea of repair is demolish and start from scratch. You’ve no idea how many jobs we’ve got going. Some date back to the 1900s.

So when I heard of a group, more or less headquartered in Peconic, I took note. The group, I was told, spent considerable time doing patch work. Just what I needed — patch jobs. As I tell my husband, not every repair has to be a work of art.

I was, however, put off by the group’s name. ELIQG. That’s a strange-looking word and I certainly couldn’t pronounce it. But if their work was good, that was all that mattered. I decided to meet with them.

Right off I discovered the group had no regular hours in a North Fork store. I’d have to travel, at 7 p.m. (in the dark!), to Southold Town Recreation Center in Peconic to discuss my needs and determine if ELIQG was up to the work. But I was desperate, so I drove alone to meet with the group. My husband remained home, not understanding my impatience with his work schedule.

His staying home was fortunate since it turned out that, with one or two exceptions, every member of ELIQG is female. My husband might have felt uncomfortable. Then again, maybe not. What a novelty, thought I. All these women doing work usually reserved for men. Strange, though. I saw no nails, hammers, saws, levels, paint brushes, ladders — all things guys lug around when they’re patching up.

What I did see took me by surprise. This group I’d stumbled into, this ELIQG, was Eastern Long Island Quilters Guild, about 200 of ’em. The tools of their trade are scissors, needles, pins, tape measures. It was obvious I’d not get my garage door repaired or a few roof shingles replaced by the members of ELIQG. But I decided to stick around at the center. Maybe I’d learn something.

First, though, I want you to know ELIQG members must enjoy eating. Two long tables were filled with cake and cookies, coffee and tea. Made no difference I’d just finished supper. A second dessert began my evening’s adventure.

I thought it polite to say hello to ELIQG president Connie Klos. When I mentioned repair and patch work, Connie smiled and suggested I stay and hear what ELIQG is all about. The group began 30 years ago, Connie said. Its goal then and now is to celebrate the beauty of quilting, the creativity and skills involved, the joy of work with color and cloth.

Connie was especially enthusiastic as she spoke of Comfort Quilts Sewing Day. This year it’s on April 17 at the rec center. On that day ELIQG members meet and sew quilts for nursing home residents, for newborns in hospitals, for youngsters in need of solace. Over the past years many hundreds of ELIQG quilts have brought joy to recipients.

Heading again to the refreshment table, I met Riverhead’s Gayle Wagner, a 15-year member of ELIQG. Gail keeps returning to ELIQG because there are “always new techniques” to learn. Gail must be a good learner because she exhibits her quilting in shows from Riverhead to Orient. You can see her work at Cutchogue’s Old Town Art and Crafts Guild.

ELIQG has lots of classes. Some are taught by instructors from all over the country. For example, on June 1 there’ll be a lecture by Fran Kordek of West Virginia. Other classes are taught by guild members. May Watson of Greenport, as part of National Quilting Day weekend (March 12 and 13), will teach a class called Fanciful Fish-Fabric Collage. I saw the samples and I was hooked.

Want to see some of May’s work? Go to Southold Town Hall and check out the bicentennial quilt hanging in the lobby. May’s square depicts Greenport’s Floyd Memorial Library. A beauty!

Oh, I saw lots of beauty at the ELIQG meeting. Quilts, large and small, hung from clotheslines or were draped on racks. All a testament to the dedication and talent of so many quilters. I forgot completely my search for hammers and saws. North Fork needles and threads had won my heart — one small stitch at a time.

Ms. Lombardi is a resident of Cutchogue.

03/01/11 8:00am
03/01/2011 8:00 AM

The swarthy gaucho came tearing across the pampas, his muscular steed foaming with sweat as they galloped toward the campfire. Around them, the Andes rose in a wall of rocks and ice. Pulling the horse up short, the gaucho leapt off his mount and reached into the pit of flames, where he grasped a long skewer laden with chunks of charred beef. Ripping into the bloody meat with his shiny white teeth, he drew a leather porrón from his belt, and, deftly unscrewing its spout with one hand, raised the swollen bag to his lips, letting a stream of deep-red wine mingle with the blood and molten fat of the beef running down his face. Refreshed, he turned to the beautiful woman who waited, by the fire, until he encircled her in his arms and exclaimed, “Ay, mi amor! Ay, mi corazón!”

This is the scene that might run through your mind if someone mentions Argentine wine. But think again. Argentine wine has evolved way beyond gauchos with porróns. It has gone global. After Argentina’s economic meltdown in the 1990s, international investors bought up large tracts of devalued property there and made Argentina’s iconic grape variety, malbec, an international brand. Now, the image of Argentine wine has all the suave, debonair sophistication of its famous (ex-gaucho) polo players.

One of the best things that ever happened to the fleshy, raw malbecs of yore was that they came under the scrutiny of the celebrated (and controversial) French winemaking consultant Michel Rolland. Having grown up in Pomerol, a Bordeaux region where merlot dominates the other, more aggressive Bordelais varieties (cabernet sauvignon, malbec, cabernet franc and petit verdot), he knew how to soften a wine and give it character by blending the usual varieties with a view toward softer, riper tannins and by using premium quality French oak barrels for aging.

As a trained enologist, he also brought technological innovation such as reverse osmosis concentration, micro-oxidation and delestage (seed removal) to create more fruit-driven, complex wines. Although Rolland has been criticized for “Parkerizing” wine (deliberately making wine to appeal to wine critic Robert Parker), he has brought winemaking in many far-flung regions where he has consulted up to standards high enough that, suddenly, they can compete in the global marketplace.

One of Rolland’s projects in Argentina is a joint partnership with a group of seven prominent French winery owners who have purchased 847 hectares of common vineyards, called Clos de los Siete (enclosure of the seven), and built seven separate wineries. Among these is the Bonnie family, owners of the Grand Cru Classé Chateau Lamartic-Lagravière in Bordeaux. Their first wine, Diam­Andes, was just released with great fanfare.

I, with that gaucho still galloping through my head, brought my skepticism to the table but lost it with the first whiff of this impressive wine. Diam­Andes 2007 has spicy fruit, classy oak and real quality. A blend of malbec and cabernet sauvignon, it reminded me of my recent tasting of new wines at the Lenz Winery in Peconic (reported here on Feb. 17), when winemaker Eric Fry insisted that his malbec and cabernet sauvignon need each other. Obviously, Rolland had the same thought. Malbec alone can taste too much like raw hamburger, even when made by top-notch winemakers.

The Bonnie family invested $15 million in DiamAndes, but that was cheap compared to what the same money would have gotten them in another, more established region. Their investment includes an underground irrigation system that enables them to grow wine grapes in an area that would otherwise be too arid. And for a fraction of what it would have cost in France or the United States, they have built a spectacular winery, visitor center and garden, winning Argentina’s Best of Wine Tourism Award 2011.

Argentina has embraced its international investors, and is proud of its emerging reputation as a premier wine region. In November, the president of Argentina declared wine the country’s national beverage, and the Mendoza Wine Fund signed an agreement with the Mendoza school board whereby 1,300 teachers will attend the seminar “Learning and Teaching the Culture of Vine and Wine.”

At the same time Argentina increases its support for this ascendant industry, New York’s winegrowers are struggling to retain some important state funding. In particular, Cornell University has announced the early termination of its Integrated Pest Management Program, a worthwhile, cross-commodity program that has addressed many vineyard pest management issues over the years. The research conducted and results shared by this program have been instrumental in improving grape quality while reducing environmental impact.

Maybe we need those gauchos here.

Ms. Hargrave was a founder of the Long Island wine industry in 1973. She is currently a freelance writer and consultant.