The garden has had its full Spring clean up and the pool is even open. The sky is a bright cloudless blue, so the flowers in bloom look all the more wonderful. It should make great establishing shots, as they say in the biz.
In the kitchen, we’ve decided to feature our Zucchini/Cheddar Blintzes with Cherry Sauce, because a) they’re different, b) the dish is colorful and should look good on the plate, and c) it is really freakin’ yummy, so much so that I am glad there are almost never any leftovers when I make them.
I agonized over how much to prepare in advance. While the segment is all about food, it isn’t a cooking show, per se. So I didn’t figure I needed to have all the pre-measured ingredients in little ramekins like on the Food Network that you hold up and say “Add two tablespoons of chopped garlic…”
On the other hand, grating a zucchini by hand doesn’t make for very scintillating TV.
(Okay, you ask, why not use a food processor? After all, the Barefoot Contessa does. Answer in general: The recipe calls for a cup each of the cheese and zucchini, not a quantity that generally requires my hauling out the Cuisinart. Answer specific to today: Because unlike Ina’s kitchen, we don’t have electrical outlets on our kitchen island, so using a machine would mean I turn into a wall to work. I’m telling you, this is the sort of stuff that I worry about.)
Just in case, though, I did have my blintz filling and my grated ingredients prepared and pre-measured. And it’s a good thing I did, because the Fios team was really pressed for time. In only 2-1/2 hours, they had to set up, shoot bits of the whole house and garden, interview Chris about the origins of our name, do the cooking segment, eat, and tear down. Had I chosen to feature an entree that required baking (which is most of my reperoire), I’d have had to do the Martha Stewart voilà- instant-food move of assembling the dish, putting it in the oven, then turning and taking an already-finished perfectly cooked version out of another oven.
Because the blintzes are filled, rolled and sauced just before serving, it’s a good choice for show and tell. For the same reason, it’s something I tend to make off season or midweek if we don’t have a full house.
I think it went well. Host Amanda Price and camera wizard Danielle raved over the cherry-sauced blintzes (when they finally got to eat them). But I admit to being nervous about being observed under the microscope, so to speak, while preparing the food. Especially under the tight time constraints. I’ve decided I’m NOT auditioning for a food show in my next life.
I’m not sure when the episode will air; watch this space for updates. But in the meantime, here’s the (simple!) recipe I prepared on camera, which can also be found in A Butler’s Manor: The Cookbook.. It is very yum, if I do say so myself.
4-5 servings; 2 blintzes each
1 cup baking mix or pancake mix
1 cup milk
1 cup grated zucchini (about half a medium squash)
1 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1 tsp. vanilla
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 oz. vanilla Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp. powdered sugar
1 cup cherry preserves (I like Bonne Maman), warmed up
Combine filling ingredients until smooth; set aside.
In large bowl, combine zucchini, cheese, pancake mix, milk, vanilla & egg with a wire whisk; mix thoroughly.
Drop batter by quarter-cupfuls (blintzes will be about 4” diameter) onto a lightly-oiled preheated griddle. Turn over when blintzes began to dry along edges. Cook approx 2 minutes longer, then transfer to a warm plate. (Mix will make approx. 10 pancakes.)
Spread a thick coat of cream cheese on each blintz and roll up. Top with warmed preserves.
Someone asked me the other day how many recipes I had. Huh. I know I have over 50 featured in A Butler’s Manor: The Cookbook (available here at A Butler’s Manor, or I’ll happily sign and mail you one), but I also have a 4″-thick binder of recipes solely for breakfast that I am continually adding to. (What an addiction!! And don’t even get me started about my “Recipes to Try” board on Pinterest!)
Following the conversation, I flipped through the binder and was amused to note that just a little under half of the recipes are for baked goods. Ha! Can you tell where my heart is? Bread + sweet = yum yum yum.
My baked goods, as those of you who have visited us know, fall into a couple of catagories–muffins, breads, scones, or coffee cakes. Over the years, I’ve gotten pretty good at anticipating the quantities required each day for each type.
Except for one.
Last year, at the Water Mill Community Club’s annual dinner dance, I met a woman called Anita and we got to talking about A Butler’s Manor, what I generally made for breakfast on any given day, and how I endeavored to use whatever I could out of the vegetable garden Chris plants every year. We discovered we had a joint love of baking. She said, “If you have rhubarb, I have the best recipe for you.”
Oh yeah, we have rhubarb. Which I delight in bringing, in the form of a strawberry rhubarb crumble, to any dinner party we’re asked to during the summer. But for breakfast?
The following day she sailed into the kitchen at 9:30 AM while I was serving out breakfast and dropped off a recipe. “You’ll LOVE this,” she predicted.
Okay, I thought, I’ll bite. I made it that day.
Oh boy, was she ever right. I make a number of types of bread and they all go down well, but when I make Anita’s Rhubarb Walnut Bread, I go through 50% more than any other baked good I offer.
ANITA’S RHUBARB WALNUT BREAD
1-1/2 cups brown sugar
2/3 cup salad oil
1 cup buttermilk, OR 1 cup milk + 1 Tbsp. white vinegar added to it
2-3/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1-1/2 cups sliced rhubarb, cut fine
1-1/2 cups chopped walnuts
Mix all ingredients in order given. Pour into two greased 9×5″ or 8×4″ loaf pans. Blend:
1/3 cup granulated (white) sugar
1 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 tsp. cinnamon, or to taste
Sprinkle topping over rhubarb mixture. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove to a wire rack, cool, remove from pans and cool completely.
Freezes well; stays moist when wrapped in wax paper and foil. Yields 2 loaves.
Watch this disappear faster than you can explain to folks what rhubarb is.
Did you know?
* Rhubarb comes in both green and red versions.
* The stalk, which resembles celery, is edible, but the large leaf is poisonous to humans.
* Rhubarb is one of only two vegetables that are perennial–i.e., they come back year after year. (Jeopardy! answer: The other is asparagus.)
It’s the week before Labor Day, historically one of our busiest weeks of the year, and yet this morning I have only three for breakfast. Four of our guests were out early this morning to participate in the Hampton Classic Horse Show, and another two were heading to Montauk to go whale watching. It seems so funny to have made more “care packages” than full breakfasts, especially during high season. As we are serving Grand Marnier French Toast, which is prepped the night before and then baked off in the morning, I feel like I am rattling around this morning with almost nothing to do other than prepare a fresh fruit starter and fry some bacon! I am positively discombobulated!
What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time we were cleaning up after Hurricane Irene, counting ourselves lucky to been dealt only a glancing blow. Today, we’re experiencing a perfect beach day, with one eye on the TV to track Isaac’s progress over New Orleans and the Gulf Coast… communities that, after Katrina, know better than anywhere never to underestimate a hurricane. My heart goes out to them as they wait for the storm.
Lots of fun these past weeks, as old friends and new stayed at A Butler’s Manor. It’s just not summer without some of our great repeat guests! And they keep my creativity flowing, as it relates to breakfasts. I’ve mentioned before that I keep notes of what I serve each day, as I try not to repeat a breakfast entree (unless specifically requested!). In the past week, we have had three of our most frequent repeat guests visiting us…had their visits overlapped, planning breakfast REALLY would have been challenging! (Okay, I admit: For Walter, whose business out here has made him our most frequent guest –over 30 visits, totalling just about 60 nights– I’ve given up trying not to duplicate a recipe. He’s had everything in my cookbook, and then some. Bless him, he’s up for anything I might try, too!)
As summer winds to a close this year, I’ve noticed less people avoiding gluten, but more who profess not to be egg lovers. Usually when folks tell me this and I follow up on it, I discover that they just don’t like “obvious” eggs, such as fried eggs, but that eggs baked into a strata, for example, are fine. Recently, we had two of of ten guests who were “not egg fans,” and thus I made a new (to me), easy non-egg savory breakfast; my version of baked ham and cheese croissants using Pillsbury crescent rolls. Simple, easy, and so tasty! Chris was fighting me for the extras!
Yes, technically the summer solstice is next Tuesday, and today thunderstorms are rattling through the area, but it seems like the season is already well underway. June has been a thoroughly international month so far. We’ve had visitors from Buenos Aires, Santiago, Chile, Paris, three cities in Germany, four cities in England as well as Northern Ireland, Canada and Australia! It is wonderful to meet so many visitors new to our country, and even nicer to know that we could be a small part of their experience. And gratifying to learn that our web presence is wide enough to ensure they find us online, as most of them tell us that “the Hamptons” is not a well-known destination in their country.
(Okay, true confession: When Chris accepted a butler position here in early 1992, I had never heard of “the Hamptons” either.)
And yet, in the midst of all this international traffic, we have welcomed back a number of repeat guests in the last couple of weeks. These lovely people don’t realize it, but their continued custom keeps my creative juices flowing. You could say that having published A Butler’s Manor: The Cookbook, I would have my menus pretty much set, yes? Well…yes, but…! When you stay with us, I make note of what we served you for breakfast, so that if you come again, I don’t make the same entree unless you’ve specifically requested it. (Banana French Toast and Southwest Souffle are always on the menu for Hamptons Classic week because Zach and Deborah, who have stayed with us 9 out of our 10 years, ask for these entrees when they book in January!) Therefore, in between introducing new guests to proven favorites, when we have guests like Jerry and Gay who have spent long weekends with us going back six years…or Walter, who travels to the area so often on business that he has “his” room (and a permanent code to the door!)…or Ron and Alice, who come out several times over the season to enjoy a round of golf…this inspires me to change things up, surprise and hopefully delight with food. Recent additions to A Butler’s Manor’s repertoire include a strata made with prosciutto, seasoned croutons, and gruyere cheese…”creme brulee” French toast garnished with fresh raspberries…a meatless Italian-inspired frittata with artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, and lots of fresh herbs from the garden…and a muffin stuffed with so many great things (shredded carrots, raisins, coconut, grated apple) I simply call it a Good Things Muffin. I’m not sure there will be an ABM Cookbook, vol. 2, anytime soon, but cooking is the most immediate of my outlets for creativity, and the documentor in me ensures that these recipes get written down for future use!
Quote of the Day: “Food can look beautiful, taste exquisite, smell wonderful, make people feel good, bring them together, inspire romantic feelings….At its most basic, it is fuel for a hungry machine. –Rosamond Richardson