Simply seasonal—the catch-phrase for legions of celebrated chefs and discerning gourmets worldwide—is a culinary way of life on Long Island’s North and South Forks. An emerging wine region with over 30 producers of varieties like Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Riesling and Chardonnay, Long Island wine country is first and foremost a farming community…a bucolic stretch of farmstands, fields and gardens bursting with fresh produce, herbs, fruits and flowers in the spring and summer months and beyond. Fussy food is a dirty word here; world-class natural ingredients means that unadorned but delicious recipes rule.
In the warmer months, local chefs—many transplanted from Manhattan and cities beyond thanks to the lure of robust gardens a stone’s throw from the kitchen—make a daily ritual of visiting farms likeÂ Sang Lee FarmsÂ andÂ Harbes Family Farm in the North Fork and Green Thumb Organic Farm in the South Fork in search of the day’s pick, plotting out dynamic menus based on whatever’s fresh, such as kohlrabi, heirloom tomatoes, radishes or sweet corn. And the bounty extends beyond what grows in the ground, to include seafood pulled in that morning from Long Island Sound (oysters, lobsters, scallops, blue crabs, flounder, striped bass), fresh dairy eggs and cheese from farms like Spring Close Farms and Catapano, or local prized duck or game from Riverhead.
“Working with the food comes easier out here,” says Karen Lee, co-owner of Sang Lee Farms, a specialty producer of top-quality Asian greens in Peconic. “Chefs are in constant touch with the farmers, who are so knowledgeable about the products. It’s very collaborative.” The same is true of novice cooks, says Nicole Damianos, co-owner of Pindar Winery, also in Peconic. “Part of the lifestyle for locals is visiting markets and picking strawberries, buying fresh fish, getting to know what’s in season.” And visiting wineries and farmstands drives the tourism industry here, as well, says Steve Bate, executive director of the Long Island Wine Council. “Where else can you drive down one road and find fresh oysters, duck, cheese, vegetables and wine, all local? Tourists love it.”
Seasoned with fresh herbs—thyme, rosemary, sage—from private gardens and public farmstands and thrown on the grill, island-style, Long Island wine country cuisine is perfectly in tune with modern palates: organic, fresh, casual and healthy. For summer al fresco parties and meals, it offers the kind of stress-free, interactive preparation that makes the meal fun for both hosts and guests. Add to that the fresh, food-friendly wines crafted alongside the ingredients, and you have an ideal Long Island-influenced summer menu.
Selection of Local Organic Crudités
This crunchy, colorful assortment of organic vegetables from Karen Lee of Sang Lee Farms is a healthy, easy-to-prepare appetizer perfect for an outdoor gathering, and showcases seasonal local produce. Paired with the creamy freshness of asparagus pesto, it’s both simple and satisfying.
Baby bok choy
French radishes, rolled in sea salt
Sugar snap peas served with asparagus pesto (see recipe below)
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed ends
3 handfuls of baby spinach
2 cloves garlic
¾ cup pine nuts
¼ cup olive oil
Â Juice of 1 lemon
½ tsp salt
Cook asparagus two or three minutes until bright green. Drain under cool water immediately to stop cooking. Add asparagus, spinach, garlic, parmesan and nuts to processor and drizzle the olive oil in until a smooth paste forms. Add lemon and salt and adjust seasoning to taste. Serves six.
Wine Recommendation: Light and elegant but displaying a creamy richness, the methode Champenoise 2000 Brut Seduction (70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir) from Sparkling Pointe winery (sparklingpointe.com) in Southold harmonizes perfectly with the crisp vegetables and creamy pesto. The fresh fruit and citrus flavors of a Croteaux 2007 Merlot 181 Rosé also work with this dish.
Grilled Whole Striped Bass
Long Island’s fishing culture makes grilled striped bass a no-brainer for the late summer months. Stuffed and simply seasoned, this recipe from Marco Borghese of Castello di Borghese WineryÂ in Cutchogue lets the fresh, distinctively sweet flavors of striped bass sing.
1 whole, cleaned striped bass (3 pounds)
Salt and pepper to season
10 sprigs thyme
10 sprigs parsley
1 lemon, sliced
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
Preheat grill to medium-hot. Salt and pepper fish inside and out. Stuff fish cavity with fresh thyme, parsley and lemon slices. Brush fish with half of olive oil. Place fish on aluminum foil on grill. Grill 8-10 minutes each side. Drizzle remaining oil over fish prior to serving. Serves six.
Wine Recommendations: With its mild, sweet flavor and moderately fat flesh, striped bass callsÂ for a white wine with freshnessÂ as well as a fuller body, such as the Onabay Vineyards 2007 Chardonnay or the Pindar 2008 Viognier.
Grilled Marinated Duck Breast
Succulent, local duck takes center stage in this uncomplicated but elegant recipe, also from Marco Borghese. The red wine, rosemary and pepper add a vibrant kick to the juicy duck breast.
1 cup red wine
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
Coarse salt and freshlyÂ ground pepper
3 boneless Magret duckÂ breasts
In medium bowl, combine wine, rosemary, salt and pepper. Add duck, cover with plastic wrap, and marinate, turning occasionally, two to three hours. Remove duck from marinade, and pat dry with paper towels; Reserve marinade.
Preheat grill to medium heat. Place a heavy-bottomed skillet over grill. Add duck, skin-side down, and cook until most of fat is rendered, about eight minutes. When grill is hot, cook duck breasts five to seven minutes on each side (rare to medium-rare). Set aside to rest.
While duck is resting, place marinade in a small saucepan and bring to a boil; reduce, until a thicker consistency. Slice duck across the grain into 1/2-inch-thick slices and drizzle with reduced marinade. Serves six.
Wine Recommendations: The classic pairing of duck, with its earthy game flavors and the smooth, silky character of Merlot, makes sense here. Consider the Bedell Cellars 2007 Estate Merlot or the vibrant complexity of Castello di Borghese 2005 Meritage (40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20 Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc).
Summer Salads and Sides
These fresh, flavorful side dishes from Steve Bate, executive director of the Long Island Wine Council and Monica Harbes of Harbes Family Farm in Mattituck, Jamesport and Riverhead highlight the delicious herbs, cheese and produce found locally on the North and South Fork, and offer a crisp accompaniment to the rich fish and duck mains.
Roasted Corn, Tomatoes andÂ Basil Summer Salad
Harbes’ refreshing salad stars the lauded Harbes sweet corn and the rich goat feta from Catapano Dairy Farm in Peconic. Harbes also recently released an estate-grown Merlot, Chardonnay and Rosé.
1 pint cherry tomatoes (cut in half)
1 cup fresh basil leaves, sliced thin
1 pound green beans, blanched and cut into pieces
Catapano goat feta cheese or other feta cheese, crumbled, and to taste
For the dressing:
½ cup extra virgin oil
1 teaspoon Taste of the North Fork mustard or any Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons Taste of the North Fork white wine vinegar or comparable
1 garlic clove, minced
½ large red onion, diced
Salt and pepper
Mix tomatoes, basil and green beans in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients. When ready to serve, pour dressing over the vegetables and sprinkle feta cheese over mixture. Serves six.
Herbed Red Potato Salad
8-10 red potatoes, with the skin
2 tablespoons salt
For the dressing:
Seasonal mixed herbs (parsley, sage, chives, thyme, rosemary, tarragon)
4 tablespoons olive oil
Dash of white wine
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
Prepare the potatoes: Place the potatoes (with the red skin) and salt in a large pot of water. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the potatoes are barely tender when pierced with a knife. Drain the potatoes in a colander, cover with a clean, dry kitchen towel and leave to steam for 15-20 minutes, until tender but firm.
Make the dressing: Mix herbs with olive oil and keep aside for about 10 minutes, to infuse the flavors. In a small bowl, whisk together the wine, lemon juice, minced garlic, salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil-herb mixture.
When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, slice into quarters, and combine with dressing. Toss and refrigerate to allow the flavors to blend. Serves six.
Frozen Vanilla Goat-Milk Yogurt with Blueberries and Port
From Steve Bate, this cool and creamy treat pairs the iconic island flavor—blueberry—with goat-milk yogurt and a touch of fresh mint. The addition of Duck Walk Blueberry Port gives it an extra, fruity kick.
¾ cup whole milk or half & half
1/3 cup granulated sugar or honey
4 cups Catapano goat-milk vanilla yogurt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 pints fresh blueberries
1 cup Duck Walk Blueberry Port
Fresh mint leaves, for garnish
In a mixing bowl, combine the milk and honey or granulated sugar until the sugar is
dissolved. Stir in the yogurt and vanilla extract.
Turn an automatic ice-cream maker on and pour the mixture into freezer bowl.
Let mix until thickened, about 20-25 minutes.
The frozen yogurt will have a soft, creamy texture. If a firmer consistency is desired, transfer the frozen yogurt to an airtight container and place in freezer for about two hours. Remove from freezer about 15 minutes before serving.
To serve, place scoop of frozen yogurt in individual small serving bowls, top with fresh blueberries and drizzle with Port.Garnish with fresh mint. Serve immediately. Serves six.
Wine Recommendation: The delicately spiced, honey tones of a Wölffer Estate 2008 Late-Harvest Chardonnay adds a luxurious layer to the dessert. Its creamy texture mirrors the yogurt’s smooth character.
Online Exclusive Recipes from Long Island’s Wine Country
Handmade Ricotta Gnocchi with North Fork Farm Stand Vegetable Basil Broth and Reggiano
From chefsÂ Michael Ross and Tom Schaudel of theÂ Jedediah Hawkins Inn inÂ Jamesport. Recipe courtsey of Long Island Wine Country (Three Forks/Globe Pequot Press, 2009).
1 pound ricotta cheese, drained
1 cup flour
1 whole egg
1 tablespoon truffle oil (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
For the sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
Assorted farm stand vegetables:
Corn, cut from ear
Summer squash, diced
Cherry tomatoes, halved
Other seasonal vegetables, as desired
½ cup basil pesto
½ cup chicken or vegetable stock
Mix all gnocchi ingredients together and form a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours.
On a floured surface, roll chilled dough into a rope about Â¾-inch thick; cut into 1-inch pieces. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in gnocchi. When gnocchi float to the top, remove with a slotted spoon and place in ice water.
When gnocchi are cool, drain and coat them in oil. Store gnocchi in the refrigerator and reheat when needed.
Â For the sauce, heat olive oil in a sauté pan. Add vegetables and cook until just tender. Add pesto and stock. Heat well, stirring to combine.
Reheat gnocchi and toss with vegetables. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with shaved Reggiano.Serves 6-10, depending on the amount of vegetables used.
Pair with a Long Island Sauvignon Blanc.
Grilled Three-Cheese Sandwiches with Sunny Side-up Duck Eggs
From David Page and Barbara Shinn, proprietors ofÂ Shinn Estate Farmhouse in Mattituck. Recipe courtsey of Long Island Wine Country (Three Forks/Globe Pequot Press, 2009).
¼ cup grated cheddar cheese
¼ cup grated Asiago cheese
¼ cup fresh goat cheese curd
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
4 thin slices whole-grain bread
1 medium tomato, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs, plus more for garnish
2 duck eggs
Kosher salt and freshly ground
Combine the cheeses in a small bowl, mixing the grated cheese with the soft goat cheese to form a spread.
Lightly butter one side of each slice of bread. Melt 2 teaspoons of the remaining butter in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Place two slices of the bread buttered side down in the skillet; top each slice with the cheese mixture, sliced tomato, and herbs, and place another slice of bread on top, buttered side up. Cook until the sandwiches are golden brown on the bottom, then carefully flip the sandwiches over and brown the other side.
While the sandwiches are cooking, preheat oven to 350ï‚°F.Â Place two small, ovenproof skillets over medium heat. When the pans are hot, add 2 teaspoons of butter to each skillet and allow the butter to melt. Crack an egg into each skillet. When the eggs begin to set, transfer the skillets to the hot oven. Allow the eggs to set until the whites are cooked through, about 4 minutes.
Place the sandwiches on two warmed plates, top with the eggs, season with salt and pepper, and garnish with herbs. Serves 2.
Oysters Baked in Garlic and Pernod
From Chef John Ross. Recipe courtsey of Long Island Wine Country (Three Forks/Globe Pequot Press, 2009).
2 dozen oysters
1 head green kale
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
¼ cup minced shallots
1 tablespoon Pernod
Coarse salt and pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons panko (Japanese bread crumbs) or other coarse, dry bread crumbs
6 ounces thinly sliced pancetta (Italian bacon)
Shuck the oysters, reserving bottom shells. Place the rinsed shells on a sheet pan (bury them in rock salt if desired) and hold oyster meats in the refrigerator.
Wash the kale and remove ribs. Chop the leaves into 2-inch pieces and pat dry.
In a sauté pan heat olive oil and add garlic and shallots. Over high heat add the kale along with the Pernod and a little coarse salt and pepper. Cook about 3 minutes and remove from heat.
Preheat oven to 425°F. Place kale mixture in the bottom of the oyster shells and put the oyster meats on top. Spoon melted unsalted butter over oysters and sprinkle them with bread crumbs. Put a small piece of pancetta on each oyster and bake until oysters just begin to curl and crumbs begin to brown.
ÂRemove oysters from oven and serve with lemon wedges. Serves 4.
Pair with a crisp Long Island Sauvignon Blanc or dry Riesling.