Friday, January 25, 2013

Homegrown Author Interview with Spoon

Homegrown Chef Eberhard Muller checking frisee on his North Fork Satur Farm

An Interview with Leeann Lavin from The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook 

Part 1
From Spoon: 
"Celebrating Food and Culture, a Spoonful at a time."

Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Leeann Lavin of The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook

Hope you enjoy part one of my interview. More to come! 

When did your love affair with food begin?

As a child.  
My best friend and I would frequently cook up recipes from a Betty Crocker children’s recipe book. I still have the cookbook and the well-worn, splattered pages speak volumes about how often we used the cookbook and what our favorite recipes were. 

Also, as I noted in the Hamptons & LI Homegrown Cookbook’s acknowledgements, I delighted in helping my grandfather work in their small-scale farm. I remember thinking that digging up the potatoes was thrillinglike being on a treasure hunt.  

Even as a child, I loved the glamor of dressing up to go out to eatthere is that unmistakable heightened expectation that something magical will happen. Of course dating could only add its romantic stardust to the dining experience. Later as an adult, having the good fortune to travel all over the world and live in New York City, I experienced a great variety of cuisines and culture.  

From a business lunch to entertaining clients to hosting out of town guests, the culinary frisson starts the moment the decision is made to “eat out.” There is the communal discussion of Where; What kind of food do you want to try? I love the dynamics and rhythm of bringing people together to enjoy a meal together, to create a memory. Restaurant dining is full-frontal entertainment: from the décor to the food. The ambiance ignites the senses. Starting with a cocktail, the surprise of an amuse bouche and appetizer, followed by an entrée and a wine that will complement the meal. Desserts and coffee or tea allow the flavors and the conversations to linger and languish.  

And there is always the inspiration to try to recreate the drama of a dining experience at home. I adore creating a menu customized for the guests, the occasion and the season, followed by the shopping at the butcher, baker, specialty store or greenmarket to secure the best ingredients, or going into the garden to pick the homegrown food. That come-hither look I get from a fairy eggplant or a fresh, juicy tomato at its ripe, ready moment, or the heady fragrance of basil and lavender sends me! It’s been said I set a nice table too… filled with flowers, candles and surprises, whether for dinner, brunch or our famous Independence Day party (they shoot off the fireworks in the marina below us). And the sheer joy of cooking is really a way to show one’s love. I know it is for me. I love the process.  

So you see, I wear my heart on my sleevewhen you ask about my love affair with food there is no denying the scandalous hold it has on my senses and emotionsand that only increased throughout my life.

Why do the Hamptons & Long Island have the best recipes? 

Much of the unique flavors and tastes in the ingredients is a result of the soilor as we say in the edible garden and culinary world, it’s the terroir. Likewise, the fish from the sea has its own unique merroir imparting a flavor stamp or imprint, if you will, into the ingredients from the waters, including fish, oysters, and shellfish. Why, even the salt from the waters of Long Island are being harvested for its own distinct flavor. Chef Keith Luce, a featured chef in the Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook, launched his own salts line of products farmed from the Long Island Sound and Peconic Bay that have inspired others to do so as well.   

Long Island is the most productive farmland in New York State. Its unique geography allows it to enjoy an almost year-round growing and harvesting season despite its northern locale. The tip of Montauk stretches the Island and the US to its most eastern point. The land mass and waterways of Long Island produce a variety of microclimates that allow for excellent and extended growing for a vast variety of food ingredients.  Further, the ice age created a soil that is rich and blessed with nutrients to make that Long Island corn and tomatoes and wine and duck and dairy so noteworthy.

The ingredients are what make a cuisine or the recipes so memorable. I would further argue that Long Island benefits from a rather diverse cultural populationand so the best family heritage recipes from Italy, France, Germany, China, Scandinavia, the Mediterranean, or the Native Shinnecock Indians enhance the Island’s reputation for quality food and now, as a food destination. 

The best homegrown chefs say, “Start with the best ingredientsand do as little as possible to them.”  
I couldn't agree more. 

Whether you're a Hamptons & Long Islander yourself or just love the area, be sure to pick up your copy of Hampton & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook today.



As the movement to eat what is grown locally gains momentum, there is an increasing awareness of how best to incorporate this philosophy into our everyday lives. We can grow our own food and buy food grown locally at food cooperatives and markets, but what happens when we eat out? There are a number of chefs around the country dedicated to using only the freshest, locally grown ingredients in all the dishes they prepare and serve. This book takes the reader on a private tour of outstanding chefs of the Long Island area and their gardens. Each profile reflects the chef's personal style, cultural background, desire for healthy, just-picked ingredients, and gardening philosophy. Recipes, plant lists, garden layouts, and color photos are included.

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