One of the only poems I have committed to memory is “Blackberry Eating,” by Galway Kinnell, a fourteen line homage to the pleasures of picking produce at the peak of ripeness. (The Italian term scorpacciata, loosely translated as gorging on whatever is in season, evokes this same sentiment.) Galway’s verse takes place in September, but as some farmer friends recently told me, and as the wild berry bushes behind my garden indicate, the East End’s berry season is climaxing now.
A couple weekends ago I was fortunate enough to rendezvous at the Sag Harbor Farmers' Market (Saturdays, from 9 to noon, on Bay Street) with chef Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern, whose ripeness radar zeroed in on blackberries and gooseberries. Gooseberries are making appearances at more and more farmers' markets around the country. Growers like their exotic sexiness. Shoppers like the pop delivered by the tart little turgid balls. Chef Mike liked what their sourness could bring to a vinaigrette when mixed with blackberries and enjoyed on top of tomatoes and assorted greens from the market. (All the same ingredients can also be found at the East Hampton farmers market on Friday mornings in the Nick & Toni’s restaurant parking lot, the Westhampton Beach farmers market on Saturday mornings in the parking lot on Mill Road next to the Historical Society, and the Riverhead farmers market on Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. near the Aquarium.)
“It was really simple,” Anthony explained. “We got those gooseberries. We trimmed them picking off the stemmy part and the tail at the other end. We cut them in half and kind of macerated them with a little bit of pretty fancy olive oil. A light, fruity oil. And then we added the blackberries.” He estimated using about three tablespoons of blackberries and three-quarters of a pint of gooseberries.
He added a squeeze of lime juice, as well as some fresh squeezed tangerine juice that his hosts had in the fridge. “Then salt and pepper and that’s it,” he continued, “and we let it marinate for about 20 minutes.”
“It was fantastic to eat with tomatoes, because it provides that delicious acid and interesting pop,” he said. “We also tossed it with Dale’s mixed salad greens, tatsoi, baby bok choy, and edible nastirusums.” Dale and Bette’s Farm on the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike have been long time organic growers on the East End, and a fixture at the Sag Harbor market.
Mike also picked up some kohlrabi, pealed it, and sliced it thin on a Japanese mandolin and seasoned it with lemon juice and olive oil. A sort of kohlrabi carpaccio, he plated it table side, added the salad greens on top and drizzled it with the vinaigrette.
“It made for a very crunchy, fast salad,” he said. “I love the way that kohlrabi catches chunks from the vinaigrette. It dyes the veins of the kohlrabi a crazy color.”
About the Author: Brian Halweil is the publisher of Edible East End, the magazine that celebrates the harvest of the Hamptons and the North Fork. He is also publisher of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan (launching September 2008). He writes about the things we eat from the old whaling village of Sag Harbor, New York, where he and his wife tend a home garden and orchard and go clamming when the tides allow.