I met Gael Greene, restaurant critic extraordinaire, about 15 years ago, when my partner and I were invited to a small potluck dinner that she gave in the Hamptons. I made a dish for the potluck, I think it was a filet of beef, but who can remember? Either way, I was extremely nervous to cook for her back then. Luckily, she loved my dish, and we quickly became good friends!
I loved the idea of a potluck dinner with fellow food lovers alike; so the following year, my boyfriend and I invited many of my favorite foodie friends: Alfred Portale (Gotham Bar and Grill), Michael Romano (Union Square Café), Tom Colicchio (Top Chef), Karine Bakhoum (KB Network News), and of course, Gael and her road warrior, Steven Richter. Everyone brought a dish and it was truly one of the best dinner parties/food fests I have ever been to!
The potluck dinner ended up getting bigger every year. It seemed like everybody I knew in the food business wanted to come and eat each other’s food, dance, drink and generally have a great time with one another. We started calling it the “Chef and Foodies Pot Luck Dinner” and we held it annually for years until it just became too big for me to handle. The last year we did it there were 150 people!
Gael and I have remained friends since then and I so enjoy her intelligence, wit and company. Especially when we go out to new restaurants. I admire how she spearheaded City Meals on Wheels and I have been a contributor for many years. It is a charity dear to my heart.
Gael and her partner Steven stayed with me this weekend in the Hamptons. Though we both had busy schedules, we had a chance to cook some lunch together on Saturday.
Was I intimidated to cook for such a food celebrity? Considering the fact that she is a good friend of mine and I have cooked with her a number of times, I, unlike most chefs in the business, was not nervous to make a casual lunch with Gael. If she was reviewing the opening of a new restaurant and I was the chef…that might be another story!
Though I love shopping at the local markets in the Hamptons, I am very pleased with the new Citarella that just opened right in Bridgehampton as the fish department is nothing less than inspiring! Though we had many choices of fish, we ended up deciding on a beautiful wild caught sea bass for our main course.
As I mentioned in my last post, one of my favorite appetizers is my fava bean spread. So, I made it again for Gael! I served it for our first course and then grilled the sea bass with fresh cumin. The distinct flavor of cumin is so delicious when combined with the sauce that has the Middle Eastern flavors of cardamom and cinnamon.
In my cookbook, Pamela Morgan’s Flavors, I make this seabass with preserved lemons. Since I didn’t have any, I grilled the lemons instead and they looked and tasted beautifully with the rest of the dish.
The herbs in our garden were looking very fresh as well, so I decided to make a garden herb potato salad with parsley, tarragon, dill and chives. This particular potato salad tastes so better when served warm.
Although I was satisfied cooking the whole meal myself, Gael wanted to keep busy so we talked about her new favorite restaurants and her upcoming trip to Brazil while she helped me chop celery, set the table and brush olive oil on the sourdough bread for the spread.
The lunch, to both our satisfaction, turned out not only delicious, but also full of wonderful and enlightening conversation with this renowned food critic. It’s always a pleasure to spend time with somebody who knows such a great deal about the art of cooking!
Lunch with Gael Greene
Cumin-Grilled Sea Bass with Grilled Lemons
Garden Herb Potato Salad
Print Recipe Garden Herb New Potato Salad
- 3 pounds small red-skinned new potatoes, well-scrubbed and trimmed
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup finely chopped celery
- 1 cup thinly sliced green onion, tender green tops included
- 1/4 cup chopped drained cornichons (French gherkins)
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh dill
- 2 tablespoons tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon
- 2 tablespoons tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
- 2 tablespoons tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- Set a steamer basket in a pot and add about 1 inch of water. Set the pot over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Halve the smaller potatoes; quarter the large ones. Add the potatoes to the steamer basket, cover the pot and cook just until tender, about 15 minutes.
- Transfer the potatoes to a large bowl. While they are still hot, drizzle them with the vinegar and then the oil. Add the salt and a generous grinding of pepper. Toss gently so that the potatoes stay intact. Add the celery, green onion, cornichons, dill, tarragon, chives and parsley and toss again. The salad is best when served still slightly warm, but it can be cooled and refrigerated overnight if necessary. Return it to room temperature before serving.
- Note: Chopped fennel bulb can replace some or all of the celery. In addition, mince a tablespoons or two of fennel fronds and add them to the salad along with the herbs.
Cucumber and Tomatoes with Feta and Mint
We were too full for dessert!!
*The original blog was called Flavors in Love. All material has been transferred and some has been edited for easier reading, and archiving.