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‘Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook’ Author Shares Vision

“Love is the best ingredient, after all,” said author Leeann Lavin, whose book celebrates stories and recipes celebrating the bounty of the East End and Long Island and the intrinsic ties between chef and grower.

A new cookbook, “Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown” celebrates the flavors and bounty of the East End of Long Island.

Q: What inspired you to write a cookbook about the East End?

A: When I first started work on this book concept in 2002, I had the idea that gardens are peerless; that because gardens are so utterly beautiful – so inspiring — it could be said that Mother Nature is responsible for no less than giving birth to the magic of artistic endeavor. It was more than the notion that gardens are just pretty to look at or sit in, but indeed, I believe their very essence captivates us and elevates us to create.

Especially artists. I knew that gardens had been igniting passions and fueling artists from painters to sculpturers to writers and musicians throughout the ages.

And none more so than the culinary artist, because they utilize the garden’s bounty in making their transporting, artisanal signature recipes. I wanted to further explore the nexus where garden art meets and fuels other art, beginning with the culinary artist because they use the bounty of the garden directly in their creations.

I wanted to discover how locavore chefs discover inspiration from their growers, farmers, fisherman, dairymen, vintners and artisanal food producers to create seasonal, sustainable, and delicious menus.

Long Island and particularly the East End have a long and proud agricultural history – and today it is still the most productive farming and food production region in New York. The book demonstrates the special relationship and respect between the chef and their inspired grower and their relationship to the land and the waters. I wanted to tell those challenging and triumphant stories.

I live in New York and the Garden State, and have spent so much time on the East End in producing the book: bicycling to interviews across the two Forks, photo shoots, tastings – it is safe to say it is my home, too. Everyone welcomed me – opening up their gardens, their duck farm, oyster beds, wineries, and kitchens. It’s an intimate experience and I am proud and honored to share the food history and stories that are Long Island. As I note in the book, the original Paumanok name for Long Island is “Land of Tribute,” and the “Homegrown” book is my tribute to Long Island.

Q: What does your book focus on?

A: Told in a rare collection of loving profiles and beautiful color photographs, “The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook” captures the authentic and delicious homegrown ingredients produced by the artisanal food growers and the majestic land and seascapes that are the romantic hallmarks of the Island’s food culture. Inspired by the terroir and the growers, the book celebrates that distinctive, inspired cuisine and lifestyle — bursting with flavorful recipes from the area’s best locavore chefs.

Q: How do you define Hamptons and Long Island “homegrown?”

In the book, I define Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown as a chef who creates their menu based on the seasons and what is available locally. It can be argued this is more difficult to manage or to do. However, that’s what helps make them great chefs, not just good cooks. They will get up extra early to visit with the fishermen to pick out the just-caught seafood, or get to the farm or greenmarket as it opens. The menus are market-driven. They learn horticulture and agriculture; they can butcher. They seek out the best, local ingredients. They can practice the “Rule of Claudia,” and seasonal, sustainable is what inspires them. They have respect for their growers and nature.

Q) How does this focus on homegrown produce reflect a shift in the American consciousness?

A) People want to know where their food comes from. People have also developed a curiosity to learn to grow native edibles. And to make much of what they eat – to become empowered to explore and prepare good food, not tainted or adulterated ingredients. The focus on homegrown has ignited a passion to create: whether it’s to make a homegrown crafted beer or cupcakes, or pickles, people love making and sharing their food. Love is the best ingredient, after all.

Q) What are some of your favorite recipes in the book?

Like children, I truly love them all. I make different recipes for different seasons or occasions – for a bridal shower for example, we made many of the recipes – pre-publication – and labeled the trays and dishes so guests could reference the food memory when they got their book.

Q) Why is your book a must have for anyone who lives on the East End or loves the area?

Readers will relish the food stories and part of the joy in a regional book is to identify with the chefs and restaurants and growers. Though the book is being marketed nationally, because you may not realize it but many people aspire to a “Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown” lifestyle. People display the book with pride. They use the book to create memorable meals. And they can gift a truly unique and special tribute to Long Island.

Q) What other factors inspired you to write the book?

A) I also wanted to celebrate local and regional food. In the not-too-distant past, people would travel to different places or far-away regions to not only enjoy the beauty of the landscape, but also to taste and experience the local cuisine. Today, more people eat the same shopping mall-one-size-fits-all-menu. That’s bland and uninteresting. I want to recapture a food tourism. Local terroir and salinity of waters and the seasons, for example, make fruits and vegetables and dairy taste different and unique. Food tourism will again suggest people will visit Long Island to dine and drink. Long Island is blessed with a climate and landscape and waterways that afford it fresh, delicious food sources in just about every season.

Q) Where can it be purchased?

A) To order my book “The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook” at Barnes & Noble, Amazon & local independent book stores, go to:,,

Q) What is the message you hope to convey in your book?

A) There are several messages that I hope readers will take away from the book, including a sense of pride in the region’s longstanding agricultural history and contribution to an American cuisine (duck, potatoes, tomatoes, corn, fish, wine, to name a few landmark ingredients). Also, that they celebrate and embrace the locavore chefs and their growers who work really, really hard to produce and serve this food.

And that readers will see that the best food starts with the best ingredients. The best chefs advocate starting with the best ingredients and then to do as little as possible to them.

In turn, I hope readers will support their local farmers, CSA, and growers – and perhaps grow some things themselves. It is very empowering and healthy. Sustainable food is good for the economy, too. And, finally, I am overjoyed when fans tell me the book is so special for a few reasons: they love the food stories – learning about what drives the chefs and growers – and I hope that inspires the readers in whatever life endeavor they have.

Further, the recipes are simple to make and simply delicious – recipes that you can return to over and over. As a guideline, I asked each chef to offer recipes within these guidelines: a family heritage recipe, a signature recipe, a seasonal recipe, and a brand-new recipe. The collection of recipes in the book is bursting with culinary creativity.

What distinguishes the book is that it is both food stories and recipes. Readers can learn about the locavore chefs and what makes them go the extra mile to the farmer’s markets or to the honey growers or the duck farmers or the dairies – when it would be so much easier to just pick up the phone and call a purveyor. See, it wasn’t good enough for “my” chefs to be good cooks – that had to be a gimme – no, my chefs had to be a cut above – a master chef – a culinary artist who reveres their craft in such a way that no less than the very best homegrown ingredients compel them to create simple, delicious recipes. I hope the reader can follow the food adventure and see the respect for the chefs, their growers, and the food and their relationship to the land and waters of Long Island.

Q: What singular moment on the East End prompted you to embark on this journey?

A) Long Island is a place of extremes, extending nearly 120 miles east of New York City. But it is also a place that exists in the dreams and imaginations of our collective consciousness. As I wrote in the book: F. Scott Fitzgerald captured its aura-as-character in the ‘Great Gatsby’ while living on the Island’s famed Gold Coast, where he wrote of “that slender riotous island.” In fact, Long Island is the longest and largest island in the contiguous United States. From the New York Harbor to Montauk Point, the Island’s contrasts and diversity are an anthology of American culture.This place has told us many stories and has many yet to tell. I wanted to tell those stories.As I look back at how I started my journey with the map of Long Island, the restaurants where I planned the follow up chef and grower interviews looked like a necklace. I think it was exploring a history, a dream and today’s good news food story that fueled this journey.

Food is a lens by which we can view so much of the world. Food can also create and trigger a remembrance – a recalled moment of joy: a first date, Grandmother’s house, holiday traditions, or dinners with Dad. I hope The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook prompts readers to embark on their own homegrown journey.

(original post)

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A Look Back at Long Island Modernism

There was a time in the not too distant past when architects brought their vision, talent and enthusiasm to the East End to build dream homes for young families. These homes were unlike the shingled monstrosities which litter the landscape today and are surrounded by the giant hedges and other non-native plantings that conspire to block the open views.

Rather this was the architecture of Long Island Modernism. Popular more than half a century ago, the hey day for the style was the period after World War II when the possibilities of American ingenuity were realized in the former farm fields and defunct estates of rural Long Island. Shopping malls, hospital complexes, homes and corporate headquarters were all built in this new style throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties as the population fled east from New York City for the dream of suburbia.

Though locally, the most familiar of the modern houses came to be known as the “white boxes of Sagaponack” (in later years, derisively so), today, those that remain serve as a poignant reminder of what has been lost.

To that end, author Caroline Rob Zaleski has just published “Long Island Modernism: 1930 – 1980,” a new book by W.W. Norton & Company detailing the history of the movement through a series of essays about the important architects and designers who shaped it, as well as documentation of the modern structures built throughout the island.

“There was a period in the ‘50s when they were very much the way most people wanted to build on the East End,” says Zaleski. “By the late ‘70s, the white box Modernism had become completely reviled.”

Which, Zaleski notes, is a shame since these homes were way ahead of their time. They embraced a pared down minimalism and an ecologically-sensitive carbon footprint long before anyone knew what that term meant. For the families who lived in these homes, the stark design, low maintenance systems, natural landscaping and simple furnishings kept the focus on the beauty of the area and gave residents time to enjoy it.

“Now looking back, I see it was a wonderful time,” says Zaleski. “Minimal means low budget, simple beach houses. It was all about living in nature and taking in nature. Before the nurseries took over, you used to be able to see the ocean. But the McMansion of today is the new ‘norm.’”

“What amazed me during my research was how rampant Modernism was as a style and as a way of life,” she says. “It’s just horrifying in a time of global climate change where life on earth is threatened that Modernism as an experiment failed. Almost all buildings erected today are dependent on electricity and an enormous amount of wasted energy is going into maintaining them as well as trucking building materials and non-indigenous plants into the region.”

Zaleski’s book is based on a survey of modern architecture which she conducted for SPLIA (Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities). The book contains essays on the 25 most important architects and designers from the movement — from German Bauhaus furniture designer Marcel Breuer and Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe to Philip Johnson, I.M. Pei and even Frank Lloyd Wright. While the book doesn’t focus specifically on East End homes, several are featured in the essays, including those built by Gordon Chadwick with George Nelson, Hamilton P. Smith, Antonin Raymond and Richard Meier, among others.

“SPLIA, which is based in Cold Spring Harbor, asked me to conduct a field survey in quest of important modern architecture on Long Island as well as the narrative of the individuals, the clients and architects who were modern minded,” says Zaleski in explaining how the book came about. “It has a preservation purpose which is to provide an enduring record of the island’s architectural history during this modern epoch. I stop at 1980, because by then, post-modernism has completely taken hold among clients and architects and Modernism becomes reviled.”

While it really hit its stride on Long Island in the post-war 1950s and ‘60s, the New York World’s Fair of 1939 really paved the way for the notion of Modernism as an uniquely American style of architecture — literally.

“The fair was billed as ‘The World of Tomorrow,’” explains Zaleski. “The movers and the shakers who put it together, including Robert Moses, promulgated the idea of a regional plan where New York would be the center and people would move out of the city and be interconnected through the system of highways and bridges which Moses had designed.”

Among the images in Zaleski’s book is a 1940 map of Long Island from a brochure which was handed out to fair-goers at the New York Pavilion.

“You could see by 1940, the bridges, tunnels and roadways were already in place, but Nassau and Suffolk was still vast areas of farmland and open land owned by great estate owners,” she says. “This vision was put on hold because of the war. Postwar is really when it was built out.”

Fatigue from two world wars was one reason, says Zaleski, why in the 1950s Americans were ready to turn their back on old world design and embrace the new modern style, whether it was in corporate buildings or private homes.

“American Modernism became a kind of blend of these ideas that had to do with American ingenuity and being at the forefront of industry and scientific invention worldwide,” explains Zaleski. “It was a melding of modern styles like those that had been developed at the Bauhaus School or as part of the work of great French architect and theorist Le Corbusier.”

“In modernism people saw a style that would express the machine age,” she adds.

And on Long Island, architects and designers found new highways and plenty of open space to explore that style.

“Long Island was the perfect testing ground for modern architecture and modern minded clients,” explains Zaleski. “The regional plans were in place so people could easily drive out from Manhattan when it was less populated. It was the golden age when estates and farmland was breaking up and being subdivided.”

In those days, Zaleski notes even someone with a small budget could engage an architect to build a second home or primary residence in the vast open space of Long Island.

And build homes they did — along with all sorts of other buildings, 500 of which are on Zaleski’s “Inventory of Architects and Their Long Island Projects,” the master list in her book of Long Island Modernism.

“I spent several years doing the field survey,” she says. “I followed leads from journal articles to see if buildings I had read and heard about were still there. I spent a lot of time going back and forth.”

In the end, Zaleski found that only about 35 percent of the buildings in her survey still existed in original condition.

“It was heartbreaking and often I’d come to a building that had been destroyed or dramatically altered, with an interior renovation that had wiped out the original,” she notes. “But the list is proof positive that important architecture was built on Long Island during this epoch.

And while the results of Zaleski’s hard work is “Long Island Modernism” a beautifully designed book with striking architectural images that would do justice to any coffee table it graces, Zaleski hopes it will serve a higher purpose by calling attention to the importance of an architectural movement which has largely been dismissed in the past three decades.

“SPLIA wanted an enduring record of what had been built, but a book can also be a preservation tool,” says Zaleski who notes that another SPLIA book on Long Island’s great estates can be found most real estate offices and is frequently referred to by town boards. “For the modern period, this is a record and I’m hoping after seeing this book, those involved with protecting important architecture on Long Island will understand the modern period is as important as any other.”

With many historical societies and village boards focused so closely on preserving “ye olde,” as Zaleski describes it, she cautions that valuable resources from later eras can be easily lost.

“When you study preservation, a great deal comes from recognizing the significance of buildings and putting together lists of them,” she adds. “I think it would be wonderful if every village on Long Island could get together and list their modern resources, and start to get them recognized.”

After all, as Zaleski and preservationists everywhere are quick to point out, “The most endangered past is the recent past.”

(original post)

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Suffolk County Tests Wastewater Treatment Technology in Sag Harbor

On Monday, August 27, Suffolk County officials in conjunction with Sag Harbor Village and the Southampton-based Evergreen Wastewater Treatment Systems, Inc. installed Global Water’s Wastewater Recycling Test system at the Sag Harbor Wastewater Treatment Plant on Bay Street.

According to Damon Futterman of Evergreen Wastewater Treatment Systems, Inc. the “green” wastewater recycling system is one the United States military has used for over a decade. The system produces potable effluent, said Futterman, and no sludge — the byproduct of most wastewater treatment facilities which smells and can be potentially damaging to the environment when sold as fertilizer after being processed.

“It’s a totally green system,” said Futterman, who will have the rights to sell the system on Long Island if Suffolk County officials find the test in Sag Harbor is indeed successful.

Futterman said he learned about the technology after trying to find a solution for Southampton Village’s business district. Once the county heard about the technology, it was suggested that it be tested in Sag Harbor to see if it would be an effective method for local governments to explore as the county pushes for more environmentally sensitive wastewater methods — both in traditional wastewater treatment plants and in home septic systems.

According to Futterman, Suffolk County and an independent environmental testing firm will complete the study on the system’s effectiveness by the end of September.

(original post)

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Advice Offered On Creating A Naturalistic Landscape Design

Gardeners interested in a more natural look for their landscapes were treated to an inspiring and insightful talk on a Sunday afternoon at Bridge Gardens in Bridgehampton by Duncan and Julia Brine.

The principal designer and his wife and partner in the Pawling, New York-based Garden Large Naturalistic Landscape Design said that they believe that a property—whatever its size—should be treated as one garden.

A naturalistic garden, which the Brines advocate, aims to replicate an environment that exists in nature. Mr. Brine said that he sees this kind of garden as a way to preserve the identity of a landscape and for the gardener to both give back to and benefit from nature. His talk focused on the process of making a naturalistic garden personal and unique to each site.

Read more from this article here

(by Anne Halpin – Original Publication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press)

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New Law Takes on “Trophy Lawns”

State restricts use of phosphorus in fertilizers and “weed and feed” products.

Homeowners have been told to limit fertilizer use, which has contributed to poor water quality, shellfish declines, and contamination of swimming areas.

A state law that limits the percentage of phosphorus in lawn fertilizers and restricts the time of year when and locations where fertilizers can be used went into effect on Jan. 1. The New York State Dishwasher Detergent and Nutrient Runoff Law was enacted to reduce the amount of phosphorus entering and degrading the water and to lower the cost to local governments of removing excess quantities.

The law applies to fertilizer application and would restrict the use of “weed and feed” products that contain phosphorus in amounts over 0.67 percent, unless a soil test showed that a lawn needed phosphorus or in cases where a new lawn is being established.

“I would like to see it go further,” Kevin McAllister, the Peconic Baykeeper, said.

The law, according to a release from Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., aims to improve recreational and other uses of the state’s waters.

Mr. McAllister said the county put restrictions into effect a few years ago, and while the state is now involved, “We’ve got to do better. . . . We have got to move beyond the trend of the ‘trophy lawn.’ ”

The desire for emerald green, dandelion-free lawns is leading homeowners to pay for excessive applications of fertilizer, he said. Those “hooked on turf,” the baykeeper said, need to learn that a healthy green lawn is possible using organic and sustainable practices that will not threaten water quality.

The State Department of Environmental Conservation states that most soils in New York already contain sufficient phosphorus to support turf grass growth without additional phosphorus from fertilizers, which can account for up to 50 percent of the phosphorus in stormwater runoff.

Phosphorus is expensive for municipalities to remove from wastewater at treatment plants — from $1 to $20 per pound. More than 100 sub-watersheds in the state contain water impaired by phosphorus, according to the D.E.C.’s Web site.

The state’s recent closure of Shinnecock Bay was nitrogen-related, Mr. McAllister said. “We have to curtail the loading of fertilizer,” he said, adding that the way we manage tens of thousands of lawns will make a difference.

Pollutants enter bays and harbors in a number of ways, but primarily through groundwater and stormwater runoff, according to the Nature Conservancy. Fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides that are used on lawns travel through the soil to the groundwater that flows into our bays and harbors. Phosphorus affects fresh water, and nitrogen affects marine waters.

Mr. McAllister said many of our water bodies have been on the state’s impaired-waters list, which is reassessed every two years, since 2006. In 2010, he said, the entirety of the county’s south shore, including fresh water bodies in East Hampton and Southampton Towns, were placed on the list for either recurring algae blooms or low oxygen levels.

The baykeeper explained that nitrogen from fertilizers triggers the microscopic plants to burst in growth for several weeks. They then decompose and consume dissolved oxygen from the water, resulting in fish and crab kills.

In addition to devastating shellfish populations, overgrowth of algae causes brown tides and interferes with swimming, boating, and fishing, too, the Nature Conservancy said. Even chemicals used on properties far inland can travel long distances underground, ultimately finding their way into bays and wetlands and onto beaches.

In the release, Mr. Thiele reminded East End residents to be mindful of the new state law, which prohibits the application of fertilizers that contain nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium between Dec. 1 and April 1. If a product does not contain any of the three primary macronutrients, it could be applied during the winter months without violating the law.

“Banning fertilizer in the winter is not going to do it,” Mr. McAllister said. “To really see the reductions, we need to impose more restrictions during the entire year.” The spring and summer are when most homeowners are using lawn products, often as a result of “brilliant marketing” disguised as education by companies such as Scotts, he said.

Although the law also states that “no fertilizers may be applied within 20 feet of surface water,” an exception is made where there is a 10-foot-wide vegetative buffer of planted or naturally occurring vegetation — trees, shrubs, legumes, or grasses — or if the fertilizer is applied using a deflector shield or drop spreader, in which cases applications may be done within three feet of a body of water.

The law does not affect agricultural fertilizer, flower or vegetable gardens, pasture land, land where hay is harvested, the trees, shrubs, and turf grown on turf farms, or any form of agricultural production.

Mr. McAllister is concerned that the law does not apply to agricultural lands, which he said are a significant contributor of nitrogen flushing into groundwater. He said the county’s monitoring of nitrate levels in groundwater downstream from farms is “through the roof.”

The law requires retailers to display phosphorus fertilizer separately from phosphorus-free fertilizer and to post signs notifying customers of the terms of the law. It has no specific disposal requirements for lawn fertilizer containing phosphorus. The law affects organic phosphorus fertilizer, as well, but not compost or liquid compost as long as they do not contain chemically, mechanically, or otherwise manipulated manure or plant matter.

The state banned the sale of phosphorus-containing dishwasher detergents for household use in 2010. The new law prohibits the sale of such detergents for commercial use as of July 1, 2013.

Mr. McAllister said education of property owners about sustainable practices is a priority — the application, for example, of compost that is organic and slowly releases nutrients that are absorbed for growth instead of flushed. He said useful information such as “Four Steps to a Pesticide-Free Lawn” is available online at The website has suggestions such as mowing with the blade set higher, watering infrequently and deeply, seeding with a tall fescue blend, and using organic solutions on weeds and pests. There is also a list of companies that provide landscaping services using sustainable practices.

The Nature Conservancy suggests that homeowners replace high-maintenance sod lawns with native grasses and shrubs that require less fertilization and irrigation.

Mr. McAllister also pointed out that the natural resources of the water bodies on the East End drive the economy here. Regarding polluted, fishless waters that can’t be swum in, he asked, “What will this do to property values?”

“We’ve got to change our evil ways,” the baykeeper said. “This isn’t alarmist, it’s reality.”

(by Carrie Ann Salvi – original article at The East Hampton Star)