The Art of Assembly

This time of year one’s cooking skills are a bit of a fifth wheel. The produce is so varied and abundant that the real challenge is narrowing it all down to a single meal. From there, it’s mere assembly.

I’m hosting a fancy fundraiser in the Hamptons next weekend, which necessitated a midweek trip to Sagaponack. Turns out that the drive out isn’t so bad if you hit the road at 10:00pm on a Tuesday. By midnight I was in bed munching the last of my blueberries and perusing a magazine.

The next morning was a flurry of espresso and emails. I knocked off in time to hit the amazing Breadzilla for lunch before my noon meeting. In my experience, the Hamptons is rife with overpriced and lackluster food. But I happily forked over $16.50 for the best lobster roll of my life, which I ate on a bench in the adjacent garden. I also picked up a baguette, assuming it would play a roll in the evening’s dinner.

The afternoon was back-to-back meetings. I selected flatware and linens, discussed the logistics of transporting a baby grand piano, and wandered around Wölffer Estate Vineyard with a tape measure while vacationers enjoyed wine flights. I did manage to squeeze in a stop at a farm stand, picking up Italian eggplant, zucchini, young shallots with the green shoots still attached, basil, and some unimaginably sweet small yellow tomatoes. I was saved from buying even more by their cash-only policy. This is what I could get for the $16.50 in my wallet.

Veggies

I got a bit lost trying to take the back roads home, but was rewarded when I passed a fish shop selling all sorts of local delights. Mercifully, they took credit cards, so I was able to pick up a pound of wild sea scallops, a couple of balls of burrata, and a lemon for good measure. I still didn’t know what I was going to make, but it would be hard to go wrong with these ingredients.

The day was a hot one and my last meeting had been on an unshaded terrace. I got back to the house where I was staying around 5:00 and rewarded myself with a dip in the pool.

Another hour of furious emailing and it was off to collect my dear friend Louis at the train station. On the way home, we picked up the two final ingredients for our evening meal: rosé and rosé. We made short work of the first bottle, a Côtes de Provence, while gabbing poolside as the sun set.

Sunset

Time to uncork the next bottle and start assembling dinner. I cut the shallots in half, leaving the green ends intact, and tossed them with olive oil, salt and pepper. The scallops got the same treatment, minus the slicing. (Had I been able to locate a grater of some sort, they would have gotten some lemon zest too.) I cut the eggplant and zucchini on the diagonal and added fish sauce and tamari to my simple marinade.

While I fired up the grill, Louis got busy halving the tomatoes, chiffonading a bunch of basil, and pouring another round of wine. Once they were ready, I arranged the grilled veggies and scallops in stripes alongside the tomatoes and burrata, which I tore into hunks. The whole platter got a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and some fresh cracked pepper.

This being a casual and intimate meal, we dined at the kitchen table, each armed with a soup spoon to ladle things onto our plate, a lemon wedge to dress our meal, and a baguette hunk to sop up the juices.

Summer DinnerThe evening concluded with a midnight swim.

The next morning found us back at the kitchen table, where we worked until lunchtime. Then it was off to Breadzilla, where Louis enjoyed the lobster roll while I moved on to the delightful shrimp salad. In the afternoon, I downed an espresso and swam laps, which was a shockingly pleasing combination. A few more hours of work and it was time to bid the pool adieu and head back to the city. But first, one more farm stand…

Louis Melons

Jasmine Melons

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