We just returned from visiting my in-laws' home in the Hamptons, one of the prettiest places in the world. With lush flowers, towering trees, white beaches, and sprawling "cottages," there is always somewhere picturesque to rest your eye.
The food is lush too, spilling over onto quaint farm stands and into local markets. Berries, melons, tomatoes, peaches, fresh fish, and corn, corn, corn. I say this every year, but the Silver Queen-esque variety of east coast sweetcorn - white, small-kerneled, poppingly crisp - is always a summer food highlight. There's nothing like it in Minnesota, so we really savor it while we're there.
My father-in-law made his famous crab cakes with tomato sauce. To. Die. For.
He gave me his recipe, below, lalalaaaa! If you can put your hands on fresh crab meat, you are in for a treat. The light tomato sauce is the perfect complement to the rich crab. This night we had silky beef shortribs as well, but I started eating crab cakes and drinking wine and chatting with my sister-in-law and...no more pictures.
I could not get enough of Esther's plump shrimp dumplings. Little pillows of heaven.
Thank you to Maud's husband Bartley and my brother-in-law Tom for this year's barbecue: Grilled shrimp with peach salsa, guacamole, burgers & dogs, and s'mores.
One of the best parts of the trip was getting a break from the heat and humidity. Warm sun, cool breeze, dry air, ahhh. I've not much enjoyed sweating on my own deck this summer, so it was particularly lovely to sit on the porch to sip coffee and read in the morning...
...and to sip wine and chat in the evening.
The tree above is my favorite in a landscape forested with beautiful, unusual trees. This photo doesn't do it justice - it's hard to see the ivy skirt that swirls up its trunk, or appreciate its stunning asymmetry against perfectly symmetrical surroundings. I guess I'll just have to go back and try again...
Home now, gearing up for Part II: Westward Ho! I'll be back soon, but until then, I leave you with crab cakes. Yeah.
My Father-in-Law's Crab Cakes
Makes 12/14 medium crab cakes
2 lbs. fresh, carefully picked over crab meat
1 cup minced onion
2 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
1/2 c. minced fresh parsley
3 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1/4 c. heavy cream
2 c. finely crushed saltine crackers
1/2 stick butter (or more)
1/4 c. oil (or more)
Put crab meat and onion in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together mustard, cayenne, Old Bay, parsley, eggs, mayonnaise, and heavy cream. Pour mixture over crab meat and fold together carefully with a rubber spatula, being careful not to break up the crab too much. Form into hockey puck-sized cakes.
Spread crushed saltines in a pie plate. Coat crab cakes with saltines, setting them on a sheet of waxed paper as you go. (Can be made up to 2 hours ahead; cover with waxed paper and chill.)
Heat butter and oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Fry crab cakes until browned and crisp. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot with tomato sauce pooled generously around each cake.
Light Tomato Sauce
1/4 lb. butter
28 oz. chopped tomatoes (Pomi or other Italian brand)
2 c. concentrated chicken stock (from cubes)
salt & freshly ground black pepper
6 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
2 Tbsp. good (imported) white truffle oil
In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter, then stir in tomatoes and chicken stock. Simmer, breaking up tomatoes, until sauce is lightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in basil and truffle oil. Serve immediately. (You can make the tomato sauce one day ahead, up until adding basil and truffle oil; cover and chill. Reheat, then stir in basil and truffle oil to serve.)