I live in the city, a fact I’m acutely aware of from the moment I wake up (to the sonorous pounding of multiple high-rise constructions) to my subway hop home (look! a host of sparrows eating….an old piece of pizza?) There are many things I love about my neighborhood of Brooklyn (this, this, and this, to name a few), but the urban reality also means that whole months go by when I forget what silence sounds like. I forget that the sky is really a wild, open, spangled thing, and not always doled out in tetris patches.
This push and pull is noisiest in late summer, when the city’s muggy and farmers’ markets are ripe with peaches. I get restless. By August, weekends become little islands of opportunity. And so for two years now, we reserve the first weekend of August for Kinderhook Farm.
This year we traveled to Ghent, New York with friends, and the most stressful thing I did all weekend was lose a game of Scrabble. Otherwise, we made power-relaxation our raison d’être. I cooked quite a lot: spaghetti with melted tomatoes, corn, and mozzarella I hope to share with you here soon. Grilled pizzas and corn on the cob. Cheeseburgers made with ground beef sourced from the farm. And s’mores, the Frenchman’s first.
It was such a pleasure. Two days of concentrated time with friends is a gift. And nothing makes me happier, absolutely nothing, than cooking with and for those I love. It’s an easy, immediate joy.
I also love the place itself, for its restorative properties. I love how Kinderhook contrasts my everyday life, and the feel of the barn’s wooden planks against my feet, almost warm. I love the fire pit and the technicolor chickens pecking wherever they please. Keys are obsolete. We wander the pastures and lounge in hammocks pitched at the edge of the yard. We buy local beer by the growler. The only noises are nature-made: bleating sheep, violining crickets, the rustle of wind through leaves. If you’re a light sleeper, roosters announce the new day. It’s tonic for the spirit.
For Saturday night’s dinner, I prepared this chicken, a recipe I cannot champion enough. I butterflied a whole, 4-pound bird (from the farm, of course) for our purposes, but the recipe works just as well with parts, served hot or cold, grilled or cooked up in a pan. It’s ideal for a group meal or BBQ, because it marinades for 24-hours, and then all you have to do is pop it out of the bag and cook it. Strictly speaking, this chicken doesn’t really need a sauce, but I like to serve it alongside a bowl of homemade arugula pistou, to add some green summer brightness to the proceedings.
Also on the table that night: juicy, herb-marinated tomatoes and olive oil-grilled bread for mopping. And later, a peach and blueberry crisp I cooked in a cast iron pan on the grill and topped with fast melting scoops of ice cream.
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Arugula pistou is delicious, multi-purpose, and lasts all week in the fridge. I mix it up in one go in my food processor, but you could also chop it by hand. So far, I’ve used it: tossed with boiled, roasted, or grilled potatoes; dolloped over tomato and mozzarella slices; thinned with lemon juice and more olive oil to dress a salad; to top eggs in any form; spread on toast with goat cheese and grilled vegetables; stirred into pasta, rice, couscous, or nearly any other grain, served warm or cold; spooned onto pizza; or to sauce so many proteins: chicken, steak, sausage, beef, fish, or tofu. Makes 1 scant cup/225 grams.
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 10 cracks black pepper
- 4 packed cups (100 grams) wild or baby arugula
- 1 packed cup (10 grams) basil
- 6 tablespoons (75 grams) good quality olive oil
- Peel the garlic cloves; toss them into your mixer along with the lemon zest, lemon juice, kosher salt, and black pepper. Pulse 10-ish times, to begin chopping the garlic. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add the arugula and the basil to the bowl, and pulse another 10 times. With the mixer running, add the olive oil in a slow and steady stream. Scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice, until the pistou is smooth and just dotted with small arugula flecks. Taste the pistou, and adjust the lemon, salt, and pepper as you see fit.