10/14/12 8:00am
10/14/2012 8:00 AM

John Ross (center) with two Coast Guard chiefs at his 1967 graduation from the Coast Guard Commissary School.

As I stood on the dock in Greenport watching the U.S. Coast Guard barque Eagle come into port for the recent Maritime Festival, I was suddenly full of memories of a time 45 years ago when I was a cook in the U.S. Coast Guard.

My very first assignment out of boot camp was the 311-foot Coast Guard cutter Mackinac. It was based out of New York Harbor and patrolled the Atlantic from Greenland to Cuba. On my first patrol, in September 1966, we were headed to Guantanamo Bay for training with the Navy when we received an SOS from a ship that had lost power in a raging storm off the Florida Keys.

The storm was Hurricane Inez, one of the most destructive storms on record, causing over 1,000 deaths in the Caribbean. To rescue the ship we headed into giant 30-foot swells and withstood 80 mph winds. The screws of our ship were coming out of the water as the bow was buried in the waves.

In the galley, it was too dangerous to cook hot food, so the crew ate cold cuts and bread. This voyage ended safely and we were able to reach the disabled ship and restore its power. But our ship rarely sailed in calm water, as our mission was to man weather stations and be nearby to help ships and airplanes in distress.

Cooking in this environment required holding on with one hand and cooking with the other. Knives and utensils were always placed on a wet towel to prevent sliding. The galley of the Mackinac was located on the main deck, extending the entire width of the ship, with doors on either side to enhance ventilation. It was equipped with a six-burner stove, a large flat-top griddle, a stack oven, two steam jacketed (trunnion) kettles and a deep fryer with a 12-inch rim around it to prevent splashing. All our equipment was electric, as is common on most ships.

Mr. Ross served on the USS Mackinac in the early 1960s.

Surprisingly, much of our cooking was done from scratch. We made cakes and bread and used fresh produce as long as it lasted into the five-week patrols. In rough seas we would have to make some recipe adjustments, such as reducing the liquid called for in chocolate cake to keep it from rolling out of the pan in the oven. At breakfast we often had to turn the griddle up to 450 degrees so that when we cooked eggs over easy the whites would set immediately, allowing the yolk to roll back and forth while it cooked.

But we cooked some very good food, mostly following the recipe cards developed for the Navy and Marines in 1963. The crew ate meals on the mess deck located below the galley, where tables with benches were bolted to the floor and the food was sent down in a dumbwaiter. Our walk-in freezer and dry stores were located in the hold three decks below and required treacherous trips up and down the ladders.

After a year aboard ship I went to the Coast Guard Commissary School for 16 weeks and was then assigned to the Short Beach lifeboat station near Jones Beach. The station had 21 men and three rescue boats. It was very different from the ship in that I was able to write my own menus and purchase ingredients from local sources.

On weekends during the boating season we had many Coast Guard auxiliary officers on hand to help with law enforcement and rescue operations. These people would often have clambakes on the beach and it introduced me to Long Island’s wonderful bounty of seafood.

After a year at this station I was transferred to Governor’s Island, where I became a food service instructor at the Commissary School. This school consisted of intense four-week segments including classroom theory, meat handling, baking and production, which had us serving meals to the other schools on the island. I was able to teach all four segments and discovered later in my career as a chef that these lessons in the fundamentals of cooking were a great asset. At the time it was just another duty station, although a beautiful one, as my wife and I actually lived on Governor’s Island during the last year of my enlistment.

Here are some updated, small-quantity versions of Coast Guard and Navy classics.

Creamed Beef (‘S.O.S.’)

Spray a large sauté pan with no-stick and place it on medium high heat. Add 1 pound of ground chuck and break it up with a spoon as it cooks. While it is still pink, add 1 chopped onion, 1 teaspoon coarse salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. As the onions cook, add 1/4 cup flour and stir it into the meat to form a roux. Slowly add 2 cups milk, reduce the heat and let it simmer for 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning.

This dish can be served over toast or buttermilk biscuits.

Serves 4-6.

Stuffed Peppers (‘S.I.S.’)

Begin by making a stewed tomato sauce. Trim the ends off of 6 plum tomatoes and cut them into 1/4-inch dice. Place them in a saucepan along with 1/2 cup chopped celery, 1/2 cup chopped onion and 1/2 cup finely chopped green pepper. Season with 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon coarse salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Let the mixture simmer for 20 minutes and add 1 small can of tomato sauce.

Cut the tops off of 6 bell peppers. For appearance, use 2 green, 2 red and 2 yellow peppers. Cut out the insides and cut the bottoms so that they stand up. Combine in a large bowl 1 pound of ground meatloaf meat (beef, pork, veal) and 2 chopped chorizo sausages. Add to this 1 cup chopped onion, 2 tablespoons catsup, 1 tablespoon chopped oregano, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.

Blanch 1 cup brown rice in boiling water for 15 minutes, drain and add to the meat mixture. Stuff this mixture into the peppers and place them in a deep casserole. Pour the sauce over them, cover and bake in a 350-degree oven for 1 1/2 hours.

Serves 6.

Old-Fashioned Navy Bean Soup 

Purchase 1 pound of dried navy beans and rinse them under cold water. Place them in a soup pot and cover with 2 quarts water. Bring them to a boil and turn off the heat. Cover the pot and let rest for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, dice 4 ounces of salt pork and cook at medium heat in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed soup pot. When it has turned brown and released its fat, add 1 chopped onion, 2 chopped ribs of celery and 2 chopped carrots. Continue cooking and add 2 tablespoons fresh chopped oregano and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme.

Drain the navy beans, saving 2 cups of the cooking liquid. Add the beans to the soup pot along with 4 cups chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add 1 bay leaf, 1 can (15 ounces) of chopped tomatoes and a smoked ham hock. Season with 1 teaspoon black pepper and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Cook uncovered at simmering temperature until beans are tender, adding the reserved liquid as the broth evaporates. Total cooking time should be about 1 1/2 hours.

Remove the ham hock, cut off the meat and add it to the soup. Add 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar and a little salt to taste. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Serves 6-8.

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

07/13/12 1:02pm
07/13/2012 1:02 PM

The lady of this house is in love
with the peach. How gently she places it
on the sill to catch the shaft of sun.
How many times she passes it under her nose
and breathes. So careful she is
not to bruise it, squeezing between finger and thumb,
coaxing ripeness …

While I who am all firm flesh
and smooth skin languish in the vegetable bin,
sandwiched between the stiff carrot and atrocious
onion. I shrivel and grow soft and must be peeled
and chopped, my seeds cast off,
and am tossed in a pot for sauce, beaten
and most horribly mashed with wooden spoon …
‘The Tomato Envies the Peach’  by Diane Lockward

Peaches and tomatoes are the fruits of summer on the North Fork. We don’t usually think of a tomato as a fruit because it is handled like a vegetable in cookery, but peaches and tomatoes have a lot in common: They are delicious whether served raw or cooked; when in season, locally grown and at their peak, they have a pure flavor that needs very little enhancement; and they are both very good for you.

No-Cook Tomato Sauce
Cut out the cores from 2 pounds of ripe tomatoes. Plunge the tomatoes into 2 quarts of boiling water for 1 minute and remove. When cool, peel the tomatoes and cut them into quarter-inch dice, reserving any juice or seeds. Place the diced tomatoes and the juice in a bowl and add 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1 teaspoon coarse salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper and 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil. Let sit for 30 minutes and serve with hot pasta such as farfalle or orecchiette. Grate fresh parmigiano-reggiano cheese over it and serve.
Serves 4.

Cooked Tomato Sauce
This recipe, taken from Marcella Hazan’s classic cookbook “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking,” is the simplest of all tomato sauces. When the tomatoes are very fresh and flavorful, it is great to show off the delicious tomato flavor without the traditional Italian seasonings. If possible, serve this sauce over potato gnocchi or fresh homemade pasta.

Cut out the cores from 2 pounds of ripe tomatoes. Plunge the tomatoes into boiling water for 1 minute and remove. When cool, peel the tomatoes and chop them, saving any juices. Place the chopped tomatoes and juice in a saucepan along with 5 tablespoons unsalted butter.

Peel a medium-sized, full-flavored onion (such as a local one) and cut it in half. Add this to the saucepan and season the sauce with 1 teaspoon sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Bring the sauce to a boil, uncovered, and let it simmer at low heat for 1 hour.

Gnocchi: While the sauce is cooking, boil 4 Yukon gold potatoes in their skins until fully cooked. When cool, peel them and press through a potato ricer as for mashed potatoes. Stir in 1 cup flour and 1 egg. Season with 2 teaspoons sea salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Dump this mixture onto a floured cutting board and knead into a dough. Cut the dough in half and roll out into 2 long “snakes” about 1 inch in diameter. Cut these rolls into 1-inch pieces and make the gnocchi by pressing them against a dinner fork with your finger and rolling them off of the end of the fork. The little potato dumplings will have indentations in them that help to hold the sauce.

Boil 2 quarts of water and add the gnocchi to cook like pasta. When they rise to the surface and cook for about 2 minutes, they are ready to remove and eat. Place them in shallow bowls and ladle the above sauce over them. Grate fresh parmigiano-reggiano cheese over them and serve.
Serves 4.

Peach Salsa
Plunge 6 peaches into 2 quarts of boiling water for 1 minute. Remove and cool before peeling. Dice the peeled peaches into half-inch pieces and set aside.

Heat a sauté pan and add 2 tablespoons canola oil. When hot, add 2 cups chopped onion, 1 minced jalapeño pepper, 1/4 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger. Cook for 5 minutes and add the peaches along with the juice and zest of 1 lemon. Season with 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and 1/4 cup chopped cilantro.

This salsa is really good with char-grilled salmon.
Serves 6-8.

Peach Barbecue Sauce
Plunge 4 peaches into boiling water for 1 minute. Remove, cool and peel. Chop coarsely and set aside.

Heat a sauté pan and add 1 tablespoon canola oil. When hot, add 1 cup chopped onion, 1 tablespoon minced garlic and 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger. Cook 3 minutes and add 1 cup catsup, 1/4 cup peach preserves and the chopped peaches. Simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes and add 2 tablespoons cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and a few drops of Tabasco.

Brush over grilled pork chops and serve some on the side.
Serves 6-8.

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

06/01/12 1:17pm
06/01/2012 1:17 PM

“A lobster from the water came,
And saw another, just the same
In form and size, but gaily clad
In scarlet clothing, while she had
No other raiment to her back,
Than her old suit of greenish black.

“Will you be boiled,” the owner said,
“To be arrayed in glowing red?
Come here, my discontented Miss,
And hear the scalding kettle hiss!
Will you go in, and there be boiled
To have your dress so old and soiled,
Exchanged for one of scarlet hue?”

“Yes!” cried the lobster, “that I’ll do,
And thrice as much, if needs must be
To be as gaily clad as she!”
Then, in she made a fatal dive
And never more was seen alive.
excerpt from ‘The Envious Lobster,” a Fable by Miss Gould,
Parley’s Magazine, 1834

Many years ago I organized a surprise birthday party for my wife, at which I prepared a big pot of lobster stew based on a newspaper recipe for corn chowder that she had given me. As it was in early June, I wanted to include as many fresh North Fork ingredients as I could and I wanted something to easily serve a crowd. That version of lobster stew, containing leeks, fresh thyme, red and green peppers, corn off the cob (not quite local yet), new potatoes and sugar snap peas (or green beans) became a signature dish during the summer at Ross’ restaurant in Southold for many years.

As my wife’s birthday approaches again, I would like to do an updated version of this delicious way to serve lobster and spring vegetables. This version requires making a rich lobster broth, which takes some extra time, but you will find your efforts well rewarded in a rich, complex sauce that brings all the ingredients together. I have also included a recipe for lobster risotto that uses the same broth and most of the same vegetables.

Lobster Stew, 2012 version
Purchase four 1.25-pound live lobsters. Bring about 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large stock pot and plunge the lobsters into the pot. Cover and let them cook at high heat for only 5 minutes from start to finish. (They will not be fully cooked.) Remove the lobsters, reserving the simmering water.

Break off the claws and tails and place them back in the lobster water. Simmer until just cooked, about 10 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool. Pour off all but 2 quarts of the water and keep it simmering on the stove.
Meanwhile, split the bodies down the middle with a large chef’s knife and remove the head sac under the eyes. Scrape out the tomalley (liver) into a small bowl and refrigerate. Heat a large sauté pan and add 1 tablespoon canola oil. Add the split lobster bodies shell side down and cook at high heat until the shells turn bright red, about 5 minutes. Pour 1/4 cup brandy over the lobster bodies and ignite with a match (don’t stand too close).

Add 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped carrot and 1 chopped stalk of celery to the lobster bodies. Pour enough lobster water into the sauté pan to cover the bodies and vegetables. Season with 2 bay leaves, 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning and 1 chopped tomato. Simmer at low heat for 30 minutes and strain.

Remove the meat from the cooled tails and claws, cut into bite-sized portions and refrigerate.

In a clean saucepan melt 4 tablespoons butter and add 2 chopped leeks and 4 thinly sliced carrots. Cook at low heat until leeks are soft and add 2 chopped fresh tomatoes and 6 sliced new potatoes (leave skin on). Add 1 quart of the strained broth to the leek mixture. Bring to a boil and simmer gently until potatoes are cooked, about 15 minutes. Add 1/2 pound of sugar snap peas and the lobster meat along with 1 cup heavy cream and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon. Simmer for 5 minutes and season with 1 teaspoon sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Cut rounds of bread from a baguette and brush them with olive oil. Chop the reserved tomalley and spread it over the bread rounds and place them on a sheet pan in a 400-degree oven for 10 minutes. Serve on the side as croutons.

For extra flavor and eye appeal, add 12 littleneck clams to the stew when you add the broth. As they open, remove them to a warm place before placing them around the bowl at serving time.

Serves 4-6.

Lobster Risotto
Prepare four 1.25-pound live lobsters exactly as in the above recipe for lobster stew. You will end up with about 2 quarts of rich broth and the cut-up lobster meat.

In a saucepan, add 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots. Cook for 3 minutes and add 1 1/2 cups of arborio rice. Stir the rice to coat it with oil, turn up the heat and add 1 cup dry rosé wine. When most of the wine evaporates, leave the heat at medium high and begin adding ladles of the lobster broth, stirring it in and letting most of it evaporate before adding another. Keep this up until the rice becomes tender, about 25 minutes. (It will use most or all of the broth.)

Chop one red bell pepper and steam until blanched, about 3 minutes. Blanch 1/2 pound of sugar snap peas and 1 bunch of asparagus in the same manner. Stir these vegetables into the risotto along with 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives. Now stir in the reserved chunks of lobster meat, leaving the heat very low. Season with 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon and coarse salt and pepper to taste. (As the season progresses, substitute green beans and corn for the peas and asparagus.)

Serves 4-6.

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

05/31/12 8:00pm
05/31/2012 8:00 PM

The smells of bourbon, sirloin steak on live coals, hash browns and strawberries conjure up America’s heartland to me, especially around Memorial Day.

My very first cooking position in a serious restaurant was in 1965 at Trentino’s, an Italian steakhouse in Omaha, Neb. The restaurant was downtown, near the Union Pacific Railroad station and just a few blocks from the stockyards, which at one time were the largest in the country for beef cattle. Right in the middle of the stockyards was a famous fine dining restaurant called Johnny’s Cafe, which I think is still there. (Johnny’s was featured in the movie “About Schmidt” starring Jack Nicholson.)

At the time, all the steakhouses in Omaha used the restaurant cut — top butt sirloin — for their steaks. The top butt is not the most sought-after cut of the hindquarter of beef compared to the strip sirloin from which we make the famous “New York” strip steak. But I learned that all the strips were sent east to the lucrative New York market and the less desirable top butts were left for the locals. I grew to really like steaks cut from the top butt. They’re very lean and lack the rich marbling of the pricier cuts, but they make up for it in flavor and lack of fat.

One of my favorite recipes for these cuts is to marinate the meat in bourbon, chili sauce, a little brown sugar and some Dijon mustard, grill it on the barbecue and glaze it with the marinade. The perfect side dish is Omaha-style hash browns or cottage-fried potatoes. These recipes follow. Top butt sirloin can be found in the market under various names, but all include the word “sirloin.” The perfect dessert for this meal is strawberry shortcake. The version below is adapted from the excellent cookbook “Rustic Fruit Desserts” by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson.

Bourbon Steak
Purchase about 2 pounds of sirloin steak (one piece or individual steaks). In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons each brown sugar, chili sauce and minced shallots; 1 tablespoon each Worcestershire sauce, minced garlic, red wine vinegar and canola oil; 1 teaspoon coarse salt; 1/2 teaspoon pepper; and 1/4 cup of Jack Daniels
Place the steak in a shallow pan and pour the marinade over all. Refrigerate for 4-8 hours. At service time, remove the meat from the marinade and wipe it off with a paper towel. Brush with oil (or spray with no-stick) and cook on a hot charcoal or gas grill. After turning once, spoon some of the marinade over the steak and finish cooking to desired doneness.
Serves 4.

Pan Seared Sirloin with Bourbon Sauce
Season 2 pounds of sirloin steak with coarse salt and pepper and let it come to room temperature. Heat a cast iron skillet to high and add 1 tablespoon canola oil. Add the steak(s), being careful to not crowd the pan. Cook for about 3 minutes per side or to desired doneness. Remove to a warm plate. Lower the heat and add 1/2 cup chopped shallots and 1 tablespoon butter to the pan. Then add 1/4 cup of Jack Daniels and let it come to a boil before adding 1/4 cup of beef broth. When this reduces a little, add 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard and swirl in 2 tablespoons cold butter. Strain over the steaks and serve.
Serves 4.

Hash Browns
Place 4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, skins on, in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer until just tender, about 20 minutes. Remove and cool in the refrigerator. When cool, peel off the skins and grate the potatoes into a bowl with the coarse side of a box grater. Toss gently into the potatoes 2 teaspoons coarse salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary.

Lay out 4 squares of double tin foil about 12 inches on a side. Spray them with no-stick and divide the potatoes in piles on the foil squares. Place a pat of butter on top of each pile and fold the foil to make a package. Punch a couple of holes in the foil to let out steam and place the packets on the grill, but not directly over the flame. Cook, covered, about 30 minutes. The bottom side will be golden brown, so flip them to serve.
Serves 4.

Cottage Fried Potatoes
Purchase 2 pounds small new potatoes — white, red, purple or a mixture of all three. Wash and slice them into 1/4 inch slices, leaving the skin on. Slice a red onion as thinly as possible and set aside. Mince 2 tablespoons garlic. Heat a cast iron skillet and add 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon canola oil. When the butter is about to turn brown, place all the potatoes in the pan. Turn down the heat to medium and let them turn golden brown before turning them over and adding the onions and garlic. Add 2 teaspoons coarse salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Shake the pan, turn down the heat to low and cover. Let the potatoes cook another 15 minutes and serve.
Serves 4.

Strawberry Shortcake
Hull and slice 6 cups of strawberries into a large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons sugar, 1/4 cup amaretto and 1 tablespoons lemon juice. Place mixture in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes so the berries can release their juices. Meanwhile combine 2 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup cornmeal, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 2/3 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir in the zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon before pouring in 1 1/2 cups heavy cream. Using a dinner knife, combine this mixture into a loose dough as you would for a pie crust — do not overmix. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead into a ball. When it holds together, flatten it into a thick round and cut it into 8 pieces. Dust the pieces with a little flour, roll them into balls and set aside. Melt 3 tablespoons butter and place in a shallow bowl. Add 1/3 cup sugar to another shallow bowl. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a sheet pan with parchment paper (or foil). Dip the balls of dough into the butter, rolling them to coat. Then dip them into the sugar, coating only one half. Place the dough sugar side up on the sheet pan, bake for 25 minutes and cool on a rack. At service time, cut the shortcakes in half, placing the bottom on a dessert plate. Spoon the berries and juice over the shortcake and place the lid on top. Serve with whipped cream if desired.
Serves 8.

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

04/21/12 1:00pm
04/21/2012 1:00 PM
Moroccan carrot orange salad (left) and carrot confit served over arugula with roasted peppers and olives.

JOHN ROSS PHOTO | Moroccan carrot orange salad (left) and carrot confit served over arugula with roasted peppers and olives.

“But some of us are beginning to pull well away, in our irritation, from … the exquisite tasters, the vintage snobs, the three-star Michelin gourmets. There is, we feel, a decent area somewhere between boiled carrots and beluga caviar, sour plonk and Chateau Lafite, where we can take care of our gullets and bellies without worshipping them.”   — J.B. Priestly (1894-1984)

Carrots are found in every supermarket produce section and most everywhere else vegetables are sold. They are the second most popular vegetable in the United States, next to potatoes. They are available year-round and can be purchased for 99 cents per pound or less. Even the certified organic carrots are only $1.49 a pound. They can be eaten raw or cooked and, either way, they are very good for you. They contain more beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A, than any other vegetable. They are a great source of vitamins B and C and the fiber pectin. They also contain falcarinol, a compound that reduces the risk of cancer.

And yet, carrots are not something that people get very excited about. We think of them either as something for “health food nuts” or as just a boring vegetable for people who just don’t care. In reality, their natural sweet flavor, firm texture and attractive color give something very special for a chef to work with.

Carrots have been around in their wild form for centuries, but the domesticated variety that we eat today began in present-day Afghanistan about the year 700. These early carrots were purple or yellow in color and had a more bitter taste than today’s varieties. It was the Dutch, during the 17th century, who perfected the sweet orange carrot. We are now showing interest in yellow carrots, red carrots, purple carrots, white and black carrots. These varieties are not really new, they just capture some of the ancient past.

All carrots are not the same. Being a root vegetable, the best carrots come from the best soil, which would be in organic fields that have been properly rotated to retain their nutrients. Also, the best carrots are sold with the tops on, guaranteeing freshness. Those packages labeled “Baby Carrots” and cut into perfect cylinders are not baby carrots at all. The actual label reads “baby-cut carrots,” meaning they have been mechanically cut from mature carrots, dipped in a chlorine solution and packaged. There are real baby carrots that are sold with the tops on and have a delicate, delicious flavor. Here are a few recipes that might help you get excited about carrots again.

Carrot Confit
Cut off the leaves and stems of 2 bunches of fresh carrots, leaving about a half-inch of stem on each carrot. Peel the carrots and place them, whole, into a shallow baking casserole.
Combine 1/4 cup canola oil, the zest and juice of 2 oranges, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 1 teaspoon coarse salt and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Pour this mixture over the carrots and bring to a boil on the stove.

Remove from heat, cover with foil and place in a 250-degree oven for 1 hour. Remove the foil, add 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill and continue cooking in the oven at 300 degrees until most of the liquid evaporates, about 45 minutes. Serve as is or over cooked, dried lima beans.

Serves 4.

Moroccan Carrot and Orange Salad
Grate 1 pound of peeled carrots into a bowl, using the large holes of a box grater. Peel and section 2 navel oranges, removing all pulp. Cut orange sections into bite-sized pieces. Add to grated carrots.

Make a dressing by combining 1/4 cup olive oil with 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1/2 cup orange juice, 2 teaspoons minced garlic, 1/4 cup honey, 1 teaspoon coarse salt and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Vigorously shake this mixture in a jar and pour over the carrots and oranges. Fold in 1/4 cup chopped cilantro and serve over baby arugula.

Serves 4.

Roasted Carrot and Celery Root Soup
Peel 1 pound of carrots and cut into 2-inch chunks. Peel and trim 1 head of celery root and cut into 2-inch chunks. Toss vegetables in a bowl with 1 tablespoon canola oil and 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Place on a sheet pan and roast at 425 degrees for about 25 minutes, when they should be turning brown. Remove and set aside.

Bring 4 cups vegetable stock and 1 cup water to a boil in a soup pot and add 1 peeled piece of ginger (about 1 inch) and 3 sprigs of fresh thyme. Simmer this stock for 30 minutes, then remove ginger and thyme.
In a separate soup pot, add 2 tablespoons canola oil along with 1 chopped leek (white part), 1 chopped onion and 1 tablespoon minced garlic. Cook briefly over medium heat and add the roasted carrots and celery root. Add the stock to the vegetable mixture. Simmer for 20 minutes and puree in a food processor. Check for seasoning and serve with a garnish of sour cream.

Serves 4-6.

Carrot Cake
Peel and grate 1 1/2 pounds of carrots into a large bowl. Stir in 1 cup brown sugar and set aside. Peel and slice a wedge of fresh pineapple. Dice into quarter-inch pieces to make about 1 1/2 cups. (Reserve remaining pineapple for another use.) Dice 1 cup dried apricots and place in a small bowl with 1/4 cup brandy.
Spray two 10-inch cake pans with no-stick.

In a bowl, combine 3 cups flour with 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 tablespoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon salt. In a separate bowl, beat 4 eggs with a whisk until frothy. Whisk in 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 cup canola oil and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Slowly stir in the flour mixture to form a batter. Stir in the chopped pineapple and apricots along with their juices. Stir in 1 cup chopped walnuts and fold into the carrot mixture. Make sure all is well combined before pouring into the cake pans.

Cook in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. Check for doneness with a toothpick (it should come out clean) and remove to a cooling rack. After 10 minutes, cut around the edges with a knife and turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile, make a cream cheese frosting by placing 8 ounces cream cheese and 5 tablespoons butter into an electric mixer. Mix with a paddle at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add 1 tablespoon sour cream at low speed along with 1 teaspoon vanilla and a pinch of salt. Turn up the speed to medium and add 1 cup confectioner’s sugar. Set aside until cake cools.

Place one cake layer on a cake serving stand and frost the top. Place the other layer on top and frost it on the top only. Chill before serving.

Serves 8-10.

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

04/06/12 1:20pm
04/06/2012 1:20 PM

Strange beauty, eight-limbed and eight-handed,
Whence camest to dazzle our eyes?
With thy bosom bespangled and banded
With the hues of the seas and the skies;
Is thy home European or Asian,
O mystical monster marine?
Part molluscous and partly crustacean,
Betwixt and between.
Excerpt from ‘Octopus’
by Arthur Clement Hilton

The octopus is one of the most intelligent creatures in the sea. It has the unique ability to hide by changing its colors to match its habitat, wherever it is. It can also move very fast and squeeze its body into small spaces. And when attacked, it can release a cloud of black ink to obscure the attacker’s view. The common octopus is found in temperate waters of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and Mediterranean Sea. It’s also commonly found in Greek cuisine, along with many fish that are often grilled and served whole. Olive oil, lemon, oregano and olives are some of the ingredients used in Greek cooking. Here are some examples of this ancient seaside cuisine:

Grilled Marinated Octopus
Purchase two 1 1/2-pound octopuses that have been cleaned and frozen. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and rinse. Cut off the head, leaving the tentacles connected. Place the tentacles and head in a large soup pot with 4 quarts of water. Add a sliced lemon, 2 bay leaves, 2 tablespoons coarse salt and 12 peppercorns. Bring to a boil and simmer very slowly for about 45 minutes. Check for tenderness by cutting off a small piece of tentacle and eating it. Drain the cooked octopus and place in a shallow pan.

Combine 1 cup extra virgin olive oil with 1/4 cup white wine vinegar, the juice and zest of 1 lemon, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Pour this mixture over the octopus, cover with plastic film and place in the refrigerator overnight.

At service time, remove the octopus from the marinade and pat it dry with paper towels. Cook on a hot grill about 10 minutes per side and cut the tentacles into half-inch pieces. Slice the head and serve over greens or a chickpea stew (below).

Serves 4.

Grilled North Fork Porgy
Porgy, also known as sea bream, is found in many forms around the world, including the North Fork. It is a popular sport fish and is best when grilled whole because of its bone structure. It has a lean, soft texture with a sweet flavor.

Have 4 very fresh porgies gutted and scaled. Place them in a shallow pan and prepare a marinade as follows: Thinly slice 2 red onions, mince 3 tablespoons garlic and slice 2 lemons. Whisk together 1 cup olive oil, the juice and zest of 2 lemons, 2 tablespoons chopped oregano, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Add the vegetables and pour the mixture over the fish, making sure some gets in the cavities of the fish. Let marinate for 1 to 2 hours before cooking.

At service time, cut 4 large pieces of foil and lay them on the counter. Spray the foil with no-stick and place a fish on each piece. Add marinade and vegetables . Fold up each foil package, leaving some space for air. Put these packages on the grill, but not directly over the coals. Cover and cook for 30 minutes. Check for doneness by cutting into one of the fish. Serve whole with lemons and parsley.

Serves 4.

Vegetables à la Greque
In a large, deep soup pot put 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1 cup white wine, 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon coriander seeds, 4 bay leaves, 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, 4 sprigs of thyme, 12 peppercorns and 1 tablespoon coarse salt. Bring this mixture to a simmer and turn off the heat.

Prepare the following vegetables: Peel and cut 4 carrots into 2-inch sticks; peel and cut 2 red onions into wedges; trim the stems off 2 dozen white mushrooms; cut 1 bulb of fennel into slices; trim the ends off 1/2 pound of green beans; and cut 1 red bell pepper into large slices. Place these vegetables into the broth, cover and cook until just tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup chopped parsley and 1 thinly sliced lemon. Transfer the mixture to a shallow pan and refrigerate overnight. Serve on a platter with parsley and lemon.

Serves 4.

Chickpea Stew
Soak 1 pound of dried chickpeas in 2 quarts cold water overnight. Drain the chickpeas and put them in a saucepan. Cover with water and cook until tender, about 45 minutes. In another saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and add 1 coarsely chopped red bell pepper; 1 bunch of scallions, sliced; 1 tablespoon minced garlic; and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Season with 1 teaspoon ground cumin and 1 teaspoon coarse salt.

When vegetables are soft, add 4 diced plum tomatoes and 2 tablespoons tomato paste. Bring to a simmer and add the cooked chickpeas along with the juice and zest of 1 lemon and 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley. Check for seasoning and serve with grilled fish.

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. Email: [email protected]

03/23/12 12:41pm
03/23/2012 12:41 PM

Are you goin’ to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.
Remember me to one who lives there,
She once was a true love of mine.
Excerpt from ‘Scarborough Fair’ by Simon and Garfunkel

Simon and Garfunkel captured the rhythm and the warmth of fresh herbs, but it takes a chef to capture the aroma and the flavor they impart to food. It wasn’t long ago that the only herbs available to the home cook were either dried or those you grew yourself. That has changed, along with the notion that fresh is best. Now we can purchase a wide assortment of fresh herbs at any supermarket, usually all year long. While that little touch of flavor and aroma added at the last moment may seem extravagant or not worth the money, herbs used properly can transform a mundane dish into a masterpiece.

Parsley: Although parsley has been grown around the Mediterranean since before recorded history, the ancient Greeks and Romans did not use it in their cooking. Instead, like many herbs, it was used for medicinal purposes. In more recent times parsley was the one herb always available in fresh form but, ironically, used mostly as a plate garnish that was rarely eaten. Today we’ve learned that its palate-cleansing taste and scent of spring, especially in the flat Italian variety, can be delicious. One of the best ways to enjoy the flavor of parsley is in the Argentinian chimichurri sauce served with grilled steaks.

Chimichurri Sauce
Coarsely chop 4 cloves of garlic and 1 medium-sized shallot. Place them in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add 2 cups coarsely chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley and pulse until finely chopped, but not puréed. Transfer to a bowl and stir in 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon lime juice, 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt and a pinch of hot red pepper flakes. Serve with char-grilled flank steak, skirt steak or chicken breasts.

Sage: This fresh herb with its strong, woody smell and fuzzy leaves has been around for thousands of years, both in cooking and as a medicine. We commonly associate it with stuffing for turkey or pork, but one of its finest expressions is in the Italian dish saltimbocca.

Veal Saltimbocca
Purchase 1 pound of thin veal cutlets, 1/4 pound of thinly cut prosciutto ham and a package of fresh sage. Place the cutlets between plastic film and pound them out as thin as possible. Cut them into uniform sizes so that they can be placed on top of one another to make 4 portions. Cover the bottom slice of veal with a thin slice of prosciutto and 2 sage leaves. Lay the matching slice of veal on top and press them firmly together. Repeat for all 4 portions and dust them in flour. Put a small folded piece of prosciutto on top along with 1 sage leaf and secure them with a toothpick placed on an angle through the whole cutlet.

Heat a sauté pan and add 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil. When the butter foams, add 4 sliced cloves of garlic and 4 fresh sage leaves. When the garlic begins to brown, remove it with the sage leaves with a slotted spoon and set aside. Immediately add the veal cutlets and brown on each side for about 3 minutes at medium heat and remove.

Add to the hot pan 3/4 pound sliced cremini mushrooms, cook until brown and remove. Deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup of marsala wine, lower the heat and add back the veal cutlets, the mushrooms and the toasted garlic and sage.

While this simmers at low heat, boil 1 pound whole grain linguine until just cooked, and drain. Divide this between 4 plates and serve the veal and all the juices on top of the linguine.
Serves 4.

Rosemary: This herb, with sturdy leaves that resemble pine needles, is very aromatic and strong enough to stand up to long roasting periods at high heat. It is native to the Mediterranean but also grows in cool regions around the world. It is often used in marinades due to its powerful flavors and is especially good when combined with garlic and lemon.

Whole Roasted Chicken with Rosemary, Garlic and Lemon
Remove the giblets from a whole 4-pound chicken and rinse under cold water. Soften 2 tablespoons of butter and add 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, the zest from 1 lemon, 1 teaspoon coarse salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Mash these ingredients together and slip them under the skin of the chicken, being careful to not tear the skin.

Coarsely chop 1 onion, 1 stalk of celery and 1 carrot. Place this mirepoix in the bottom of a roasting pan and place the chicken on top. Quarter 1 whole lemon, crush 6 cloves of garlic and cut 1 large sprig of rosemary in half. Push these seasonings into the cavity of the chicken and tie the legs together with string. Add 1 cup chicken broth to the roasting pan and brush the chicken with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Place it in a 325-degree oven for 55 minutes. Raise the heat to 425 degrees, basting the chicken with the pan drippings. Let it cook another 25 minutes until golden brown, with an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Remove from the oven and set the chicken on a sheet pan covered with foil for 20 minutes.

Place the roasting pan on the stove and add 2 tablespoons flour. Stir over medium heat and add 1 more cup of chicken broth. Scrape up any drippings on the bottom of the pan and transfer all to a saucepan. Bring the sauce to a boil and add 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Strain into a bowl, skim the fat and check for seasoning.
Cut the chicken up into pieces (or carve) and serve with the sauce.
Makes 4 portions.

Thyme: Used for embalming by ancient Egyptians, as incense by the ancient Greeks and as a gift to give warriors courage in the Middle Ages, thyme finally became a culinary ingredient in modern times. It is essential in the classic French “bouquet garni,” which consists of thyme, bay leaf, leek and parsley stems, but I think it is really good in its fresh form with mildly flavored fish such as cod and flounder.

Roasted Cod with Thyme and Lemon
Portion 2 pounds of fresh cod into 4 pieces and remove any bones. Place 1/4 cup canola oil in a small saucepan and add 4 sprigs of fresh thyme. Slowly bring to a boil and shut off the heat. Let the oil cool and remove the thyme after 15 minutes. Mix the juice and zest from 1 lemon into the thyme oil along with 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place the cod fillets in the marinade and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Place the cod on a sheet pan. In a small bowl, mix 1/2 cup panko crumbs with 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves and 1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning. Sprinkle this mixture on the cod fillets and drizzle with any of the extra thyme oil. Roast in a 400-degree oven until fish is opaque, about 15 minutes. Serve over wilted spinach or swiss chard.
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. Email: [email protected]

03/11/12 7:00am
03/11/2012 7:00 AM

COURTESY PHOTO | North Fork chef John Ross shows how you can have fun cooking with beans.

Once upon a time there lived a poor widow who had an only son named Jack …
One sad day Milky White (their cow) gave no milk, and then things looked bad indeed.
“Never mind, Mother,” said Jack. “We must sell Milky White” …
Jack went whistling along until he met a butcher. “Good morning,” said the butcher.
“I am going to market to sell the cow,” said Jack.
With this the butcher put his hand in his pocket and pulled out five curious looking beans.
“What do you call these?” he said. “Beans,” said Jack.
“Yes,” he said. “Beans, but they’re the most wonderful beans that ever were known.”
excerpt from
‘Jack in the Beanstalk,’
English folk tale, author unknown

Legumes harvested solely for their dry seeds are called pulses. They include cannellini beans, great northern beans, black beans, red kidney beans, lima beans, chick peas and split peas, to name a few. They are wonderful, perhaps magical, but not because they will take you to the land of the giant and his goose that laid the golden egg. They are wonderful because of what they do for your body.

These beans and peas are readily available, virtually nonperishable and cheap. They provide you with dietary fiber, especially the insoluble kind, that supports the digestive tract; they are a great source of antioxidants that support the heart, the lungs and the nervous system; and they provide protein without saturated fat and cholesterol. When combined with grains such as rice, barley, quinoa and cous-cous the proteins become complete, containing all the essential amino acids.

Finally, as many Americans reduce their consumption of meat, chefs are turning more often to the dried legumes, not only because they are good for you, but because they provide tasty meals when creatively prepared.

I was curious as to whether the canned versions of these beans differ from the dried form. What I learned was that the nutritional value is about the same except that the canned version contains sodium. From a culinary standpoint the dried peas and beans have a much better texture and flavor when soaked and cooked properly. Soaking in cold water for at least four hours and not more than overnight is the best method, but bringing the beans to a boil and letting them sit, covered, for one hour is almost as good.

Most beans become tender without falling apart when gently simmered for about an hour. Split peas and lentils do not require any soaking at all.

Minestrone Soup

Rinse 1 pound dried cannellini beans and 1 pound dried chickpeas under cold water and place them in a soup pot. Add water to cover by 2 inches and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover and let sit for 1 hour. Return the beans to the heat (with the same liquid) and add some rind from parmesan cheese (if available). Simmer until tender, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, dice 1/4 pound pancetta (or bacon) and brown in 1 tablespoon olive oil in a heavy saucepan. Remove the pancetta and reserve. Add to the drippings the following coarsely diced vegetables: 1 onion, 2 stalks of celery, 2 carrots, 1 zucchini and 3 cloves of garlic. Cook the vegetables at low heat for 10 minutes and add them to the bean pot. Add 6 cups chicken broth, 1 small (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes, 2 cups fresh cut green beans and 2 cups diced savoy cabbage (or green cabbage). Simmer until the vegetables are tender and add 4 cups chopped kale and the reserved pancetta. Simmer another 10 minutes, remove the parmesan cheese rind and season to taste with coarse salt and pepper.

Serve with grated parmigiano reggiano cheese.

Serves 12; this recipe makes a large batch and may be cut in half if desired.

Chicken and Chorizo ‘Cassoulet’

Rinse 2 cups great northern or navy beans, place in a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Cover and let rest for 1 hour. Place on the stove again and add water to cover by 2 inches. Make a bouquet garni by tying together 1 leafy stalk of celery, 3 sprigs of thyme, 2 bay leaves and 6 parsley stems. Add this to the beans along with 4 whole crushed cloves of garlic. Let the bean mixture simmer until tender, about 45 minutes.

In a separate heavy pan, add 1 tablespoon canola oil and place on high heat. Add to this 6 chicken thighs, browning them on all sides. Remove the chicken and add 4 fresh chorizo sausages, cooking until brown on all sides. Remove the sausage and add 2 cups chopped onion, 1 cup diced carrot and 1 cup diced celery. Lower the heat and season with 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme and 1 teaspoon each of coarse salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes and add 1 cup white wine and a small can of diced tomatoes. Cook until the wine is reduced by half and remove from the heat.

In a large casserole, place a layer of beans on the bottom and cover it with a layer of chicken. Repeat with a layer of beans and a layer of sliced sausage. Finish with a layer of beans.

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a sauté pan and add 1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs (or panko crumbs). Place the crumbs on top of the beans in the casserole and put it in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes, or until the chicken and sausage are completely cooked.

Serves 4-6.
Black Bean, Quinoa, Corn and Shrimp Ragout

Place 1 pound of rinsed black beans in a soup pot and add 2 quarts water. Bring to a boil, cover and remove from the heat. Let sit 1 hour. Drain and rinse the beans and place back in the soup pot with 6 cups water. Simmer until just tender, about 1 hour.

Peel and devein 1 pound of jumbo shrimp, removing the tails. Place a large, shallow saucepan on low heat and add 2 tablespoons unsalted butter and 1 tablespoon canola oil. Add to this 2 tablespoons minced garlic, 2 tablespoons minced shallots and the shrimp. Cook slowly until the shrimp turn opaque, about 10 minutes. Remove the shrimp and set aside.

Add to the pan 1 cup uncooked white quinoa and 1 cup chopped onion. Add 2 cups chicken broth and season with 2 teaspoons ground cumin, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer 20 minutes. Add the quinoa mixture to the cooked black beans along with 2 cups frozen corn. Simmer for 15 minutes and add the cooked shrimp, the zest and juice of 1 lemon and 1/2 cup chopped cilantro. Check for seasoning and serve.

Serves 4-6.

Red Kidney Beans with Rice (Rajmah)

Rinse 1 pound of red kidney beans and place in a soup pot with 2 quarts water. Bring to a boil, cover and remove from the heat. Let sit 1 hour.

Make a small spice bag by placing 6 cloves, 6 peppercorns, 12 cardamom seeds, 2 bay leaves and 1/2 stick of cinnamon in a cheesecloth bag tied off at the top with string. Add this to the beans and simmer until tender, about 1 hour.

In a shallow saucepan, heat 1/4 cup olive oil and add 2 cups chopped onion. Cook briefly and add 2 tablespoons minced ginger, 2 tablespoons minced garlic and 1 minced jalapeno pepper (seeds removed). Continue to cook for 5 minutes and add 1 small can of tomato sauce and 3 diced fresh plum tomatoes. Season with 1 tablespoon coarse salt, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon coriander, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Add this mixture to the kidney beans and simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove the spice bag and stir in 1/2 cup chopped cilantro. Adjust seasoning and serve over rice.

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

01/29/12 12:00pm
01/29/2012 12:00 PM

Give me my scallop shell of quiet,
My staff of faith to walk upon,
My scrip of joy, immoral diet,
My bottle of salvation,
My gown of glory, hope’s true gage,
And thus I’ll take my pilgrimage.
—Sir Walter Raleigh

The harvesting of wild sea scallops is a huge industry in the United States. In fact, they are the most important shellfish fishery in the U.S., with 53.5 million pounds of sea scallop meats harvested in 2008. The capital of this harvest is New Bedford, Mass., but Atlantic sea scallops are found from Newfoundland to North Carolina.

The only part of the scallop marketed in the U.S. is the adductor muscle, so scallop fishermen clean them at sea, placing 40 pounds of the meats in muslin bags and throwing the remainder overboard. In Europe and Asia the entire scallop is eaten, including the coral and roe. The adductor muscle of the sea scallop becomes large and strong because, unlike clams or mussels, the sea scallop is an active swimmer, clapping its shell to move through the water.

Sea scallops are found in deepwater habitats along the continental shelf of the Atlantic Ocean, especially on Georges Bank, the Gulf of Maine and the mid-Atlantic area. They can live as long as 20 years, while the bay scallop has a maximum life of two to three years. Although previously on the endangered list, sea scallops have made a remarkable recovery due to proper regulation and management techniques.

Consumers are often confused about the terminology relating to sea scallops. Gourmet restaurants describe “diver” scallops or “day-boat scallops” while chefs order “dry seas” or “wet sea scallops.” Finally, “processed” or “previously frozen” scallops appear in some markets.

Dry sea scallops are harvested close to shore, cleaned, placed in bags on ice and marketed the same day. Sometimes they are picked off the bottom by divers and sometimes dragged off the bottom by a small boat — thus the terms diver and day-boat. These scallops have a briny taste of the sea, a sticky texture and a translucent appearance. Chefs love them because of their flavor and the fact that when sautéed in butter or olive oil, they caramelize on the outside and remain moist on the inside. Wet sea scallops are treated, after shucking, in sodium tripolyphosphate (STP), which inhibits the loss of natural fluids and creates a longer shelf life. STP is a safe additive, producing a whiter scallop with a firmer texture, but when cooked it throws off moisture, preventing that delicious caramelized exterior.
Frozen sea scallops are usually blast-frozen in large chunks when received, then thawed in water with STP and refrozen individually so that they can be marketed as “IQF” (individually quick frozen) scallops. We are lucky on the North Fork to be close enough to the scallop grounds to have a wide availability of dry seas year-round.

Chefs love to cook scallops because they can be grilled, broiled, roasted, poached, sautéed and fried — and because they are very flavorful by themselves, but also absorb many flavors from herbs, spices and seasonings. Just sautéing scallops in butter with a little lemon is perhaps most popular, but here are a few more simple recipes:

Sea Scallop Skewers with Rosemary
Purchase 24 large dry sea scallops (about 2 pounds) and a large bunch of rosemary. Strip half the leaves off of each rosemary sprig and soak them in water. Place the scallops in a bowl along with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons chopped rosemary, 1 tablespoon minced garlic and the zest and juice of 1 lemon. Season with 1 teaspoon sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and refrigerate.

Trim 4 small red-skinned potatoes of any blemishes and boil them until just tender. Remove, cool and slice into quarter-inch rounds. Hold a rosemary sprig along the length of a metal skewer and alternate potatoes and scallops on the skewer until all are used. At service time spray a grill pan (or an outdoor charcoal grill) with no-stick and grill the scallops about 3 minutes per side. Place on a bed of wilted spinach and serve.

Serves 4.

Sea Scallops and Shrimp au Gratin
In a small bowl, soften 8 tablespoons unsalted butter. Stir into it the juice and zest from 1 lemon. Add 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 2 tablespoons minced shallots and 1/4 cup chopped parsley. Season with 1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt. Fold in 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs. Peel and devein 16 shrimp, cutting them almost in half butterfly style. Place the shrimp and 16 scallops in ramekins, divided equally. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of white vermouth over each ramekin and divide the butter mixture between them, spreading it evenly over the surface of each. Cook in a 425-degree oven for about 15 minutes and serve garnished with chopped parsley and accompanied by brown rice.

Sea Scallops and Bacon Appetizer
Combine 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup soy sauce and 1/4 cup lemon juice. Marinate 1 pound of dry sea scallops in this mixture for 30 minutes. Cut 8 slices of applewood-smoked bacon in half and place them on a paper towel-lined dinner plate. Microwave the bacon for 3 minutes.

Remove the scallops from the marinade and dry with paper towels. Wrap each scallop in bacon and skewer with a long toothpick. Place a grape tomato on the end of the skewer. Repeat with all the scallops and bacon. Cook the skewers in a 425-degree oven for about 5 minutes and serve as a passed appetizer.

The information and recipes above were adapted from an excellent new cookbook called “Scallops” by Elaine and Karin Tammi.

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

11/27/11 9:00am
11/27/2011 9:00 AM

JOHN ROSS PHOTO

“It was always linguine between us … it was never spaghetti between us, not cappellini, nor farfalle, vermicelli, pappardelle, fettuccine, perciatelli, or even tagliarini. Linguine was stabbed, pitched, and twirled on forks, spun round and round on silver spoons. Long, smooth, and always al dente. In dark trattorias, we broke crusty panera, toasted each other — La Dolce Vita! — and sipped amarone, wrapped ourselves in linguini, briskly boiled, lightly oiled, salted, and lavished with sauce … ”
— excerpt from “Linguine”
by Diane Lockward

On a recent visit to New York City, I had dinner at Alfredo of Rome restaurant on 49th Street near Fifth Avenue. The signature dish of fettuccine alfredo was a replica of the original invented by Alfredo Di Lelio in Rome in 1914. The owner of the New York Alfredo’s, Guido Bellanca, has carried on the tradition of this great dish in New York. I enjoyed the simplicity of the recipe and the quality of the ingredients in this original version. It contained only house-made fettuccine, butter and cheese — no cream or other sauce. It inspired me to go home and make my own version of this famous dish. In doing so I found great satisfaction in recreating such a delicious recipe that required almost no equipment and really not all that much time. Gently stirring the eggs into the flour on the wooden cutting board was an exercise in patience. Then, as it formed into a resilient dough, the physical exercise of kneading for 10 full minutes made me feel as if I had just finished an exercise class.

As the dough rested and I cleaned up the mess, I thought about how the ingredients and method for making pasta haven’t changed in a thousand years. We are surrounded by every high-tech piece of kitchen equipment imaginable and here I was mixing the dough with a dinner fork and kneading it by hand.

Here are some recipes for you to try, and even though there are many ready-made pasta choices at the supermarket, the pasta you make from scratch will taste unlike anything you have ever had, besides making you feel better about life.

Fresh Pasta
Place 3 cups all-purpose flour in the center of a large wooden cutting board. Add a pinch of sea salt and create a large well in the middle of the flour. Crack 4 large eggs into a bowl and pour them into the well, making sure the well is large enough to prevent the eggs from leaking out. Using a dinner fork, break the egg yolks and begin gently stirring the eggs, gradually incorporating the flour around the edges. Keep pushing the flour up to prevent leakage as you continue to stir. After about 5 minutes you will have incorporated all of the flour and formed a coarse dough. Set this ball of dough aside and scrape the board clean.

Wash your hands and sprinkle a little flour on the clean board. Set a kitchen timer to 10 minutes and begin kneading the dough with the palm of your hand. If the dough sticks to your hand, sprinkle a little more flour on it and continue kneading. It is important to knead for the whole 10 minutes in order to develop the gluten and make a smooth, elastic dough. When finished, wrap the dough in plastic film and let it rest for at least 30 minutes. (If leaving it for a longer time, it is best to refrigerate it.)

If you want whole-grain pasta, substitute whole wheat flour for half of the all-purpose flour and add a teaspoon of olive oil to the dough.

Fettuccine Alfredo
Take the ball of dough from above and slice it into four pieces. Dust each piece with flour and flatten it out on the wooden cutting board with a rolling pin. Continue to roll out the pasta into a thin sheet using a back-and-forth motion, making sure to dust the board to prevent sticking. Set each thin piece aside for a few minutes to dry before folding it into a loose roll and cutting into quarter-inch-wide strips. Wrap the strips into a ball around your wrist and place on a sheet pan lined with a towel. Do not cover or refrigerate and it will dry before cooking. Or if desired, cook it right away.

Place the pasta in 4 quarts of lightly salted boiling water and cook at high heat until al dente, about 5 minutes or less for fresh pasta. Save 3/4 cup of pasta water before draining the fettuccine. Cut 2 sticks unsalted butter into small pieces and set aside. Grate 2 cups Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and set aside. Place a large sauté pan on high heat and add the pasta water along with the cold butter. When the water comes to a boil and the butter melts, shut off the heat and add the drained pasta. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the pasta along with 1 teaspoon sea salt. Toss together and serve.

Serves up to 4.

Note: If you have a hand-crank pasta machine, use it to roll out the pasta after cutting the dough into 4 pieces, and use the fettuccine cutter to make the fettuccine. Just remember to dry the pasta sheets for a few minutes before cutting.

Spinach and Mushroom Ravioli
Make the ball of pasta dough as in the above recipe. To make the filling, heat a large sauté pan and add a rinsed bag of baby spinach. Cover and cook until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Drain the spinach, cool, squeeze out all the water that you can, and chop. Place the same pan back on the heat and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Slice an 8-ounce package of cremini mushrooms and add to the hot oil. Season the mushrooms with 1 teaspoon chopped rosemary and 1 teaspoon each coarse salt and pepper. When the mushroom liquid has evaporated, add the spinach to the pan and cook briefly.

Place the mixture in a food processor and pulse until you get a coarse texture. Place in a bowl and stir in 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese and 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Taste for seasoning and refrigerate.
Make a tomato sauce by heating 2 tablespoons olive oil in a saucepan and adding 1 cup chopped onion. Cook for 2 minutes and add 1/2 cup chopped celery, 1/2 cup chopped carrot and 2 tablespoons minced garlic. When soft, add 1 large can crushed tomatoes, 2 bay leaves, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Simmer 30 minutes and stir in 1 cup coarsely chopped basil.

Cut the ball of pasta dough into 4 pieces as above. Roll each piece into long strips about 3 inches wide (use the pasta machine if possible). Lay the strips on a cutting board and place tablespoon-size dollops of filling along the dough spaced 1 inch apart. Whisk an egg and a little water together and brush this egg wash on the pasta around and between the dollops of filling. Place another sheet on top and, using a fork, press the dough together, making sure the parts between the filling are firmly stuck together. Cut the ravioli into squares and place on a plastic film-lined sheet pan. If not cooking right away, put these ravioli into the freezer; they will be easy to separate and cook.

At service time, heat 4 quarts water to a boil and add the ravioli, being careful not to crowd them. When they rise to the surface, remove them with a slotted spoon. Check for tenderness and set aside in a warm place. Serve with the hot tomato sauce and grated cheese.

Serves 4.

Linguine with Clam Sauce
Using a pasta machine, cut linguine from the pasta dough above and roll it into loose balls to dry.
Heat a shallow saucepan and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add to this 1 cup chopped scallion and 2 tablespoons minced garlic. When those are soft, add 1/2 cup white wine and bring to a boil. Add 2 dozen scrubbed littleneck clams and cover. As the clams open, remove them with tongs and set aside. Add to the broth 2 cups diced fresh plum tomatoes and 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Dissolve 2 tablespoons cornstarch in 1/4 cup cold water and stir into boiling sauce. When lightly thickened, stir in 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil and check for seasoning.
Cook the linguine, drain and stir the sauce into the pasta. Serve in shallow bowls and garnish with the littleneck clams.
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. Email: [email protected]