Monday, January 28, 2013

Spoon Interview Part 2: Interview for The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook

An Interview with Leeann Lavin from The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook Pt. 2

The below is the continuation of my interview with Leeann Lavin from The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook. If you missed the first half of the interview, be sure to check it out here.

What was your favorite part of creating The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook?

I enjoyed so many parts of creating the book that it’s hard to pick one favorite. I was truly honored to be able to discover and tell the stories of these locavore, homegrown chefs. I loved to see and hear their reactions to reading their profiles. They are so humble, that many were surprised to read of their accomplishments. To them, it’s “just doing their job.” Same for the artisanal food makers and growers. In interviewing the chefs and the growers, I knew I had to tell their stories in a unique wayit’s not enough to say, “Here are nearly 30 chefs and they use local ingredients.” That is boring. I had to discover or unearth from their personal background and life storyhow they got to be so devoted to using the best ingredients and local food makers when it would be infinitely easier to pick up the phone and “smile and dial” for a food delivery rather than walk the greenmarket and the farm and the docks. Those food stories and profiles make for a compelling and interesting book. I wanted the reader to be able to be intrigued and fascinated by the chefs as I amto learn how they got to be the kind of chef they are, why they're passionate about their culinary craft, and how they're able to create their homegrown recipes. 

There was lots of heartache in creating the bookfrom a computer crash to doubling the size of the book and then all the usualbut I honestly couldn't wait to tell the stories of the chefs and the growers who inspire them. They honor meand all of us. 

In terms of the photo shoots, I loved the placid beauty of the Peconic Bay Oyster Farm run by Karen Rivara. And the charm of walking in miles and miles of squawking, white Long Island duck at Doug’s Crescent Duck Farm! Or the beauty of the Paumanok Vineyards with its miles of grapevines pulsing with juicy grapes. Or Pike Farms with its postcard-like vegetable stand, or Balsam Farms with its chickens, dog and movie-set farm stand or….

What’s your favorite recipe (or recipes) in the book?  

Like a parent asked to choose a favorite childI cannot choose one or two. I've made them allfor family events, dinner parties or horticulture potlucks. I will only say that they are all very delicious and very easy to make. See above quote about the best ingredients. :)

How can we best support local restaurants and local food?

We can support local restaurants and food by dining at the local, chef-owned bistros and restaurants. Like in the TV show Cheers, everyone knows your name! There is a sense of shared love of food and community at the local restaurants. These chefs are passionate about what they do and the food they serve. They offer market-driven menus that change with the season. For the most part, you’ll never have the same thing quite the same way, even if you are enjoying a signature dish. On the other hand, many people have said they are using my book as passport of sortsmeaning they are traveling to each and every restaurant. What fun that is! This way they can experience the variety of culinary delights and wine tour delights found across the Island that make it a food tourist destination. They are asking every chef to autograph their books, too.  

At the same, I think the idea of frequenting local dining establishmentsin the European or Asian tradition, is a foodie’s dream. And in turn, frequenting local establishments and chefs who create market-driven menus, supports the local farmers and growersor what I call a true, real Food Network. See, if a chef is inspired by the artisan, local cheese, or just-caught bass or local honeymany of these kinds of growers are featured in the Hamptons & LI Homegrown book by the waythen he or she is creating a network of food-related jobs. This creates a source of sustainable, healthy food. We all need to eat local, not only because local food contains antibodies in the soil and water that help us ward off disease and these supergerms… 

What’s in your pantry?  

I have a great variety of foodstuffs in my pantry! In New York City, I go to the market every day so I really benefit from sourcing the evening meal fresh every day. In our Garden State country house, we have our herb garden and farm-ette—and a Friday Farmer’s Market. But here we just did a home renovation and have a drop-dead gorgeous blue marble island and counter tops—it looks like the sky or the Caribbean Sea as seen from a small plane flying over the blue waters and islands there. And I now have those terrific pull-out kitchen cabinets and drawers from Thomasville—so I can really see what’s in the pantry.   

We have a pull out spice drawer on the island next to the stove topmany of which we grew ourselves.  We have more than a dozen different olive oils and some are flavored. Likewise for the vinegars. We have maybe a half a dozen different salts and peppers for everyday use. We have the best butter we can buy, salted. We have the best dried pasta. We have a few different kinds of rice. More than a few kinds of beans.  In the winter especially, my husband Bill makes world-class soups so we keep in the basics and also stocks. We have three kinds of coffeewe get it from the roasters in townin both places.  And loose tea from Boise Tea Parlor in Greenwich Villagetransporting flavors! 

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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