Chef’s Connection To Local Farms Has Deep Roots

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A charred corn and Brussels sprout salad from Cheryl Stair at Art of Eating. Gavin Menu photo

Growing up in Cutchogue, Cheryl Stair remembers her mom bringing plates of food to local farmers — dishes that featured their own freshly-picked produce — as a show of appreciation for their craft. Today the owner and chef of Art of Eating, a Bridgehampton-based catering company in its 33rd year of business, features a brand of fine dining that highlights the same great products from farms across the North and South forks.

It’s that deep connection to locally produced products that has shaped her food for decades. It started at Balzarinis in Southampton, the site most recently occupied by Red Bar, and carried over to Starr Boggs in Westhampton Beach, where the chefs held a reverence for local farming long before the farm-to-table movement became not just trendy, but a staple of local restaurants. Great produce can lead to simple vegetarian dishes, like the recipe featured on this page, which Stair said represents the changing of the season, from summer to fall, corn to Brussels sprouts.

“It’s two things” that drive Stair’s commitment to local farms, she said. “It’s the taste and the seasonality of the two forks. The North Fork season starts approximately two weeks earlier than the South Fork. I extend the season by shopping both of those. “It always just seemed natural to me.”

“You can’t just stick with one farm because they all have reasons, not excuses, why you can’t have their produce,” she explains. “It’s too hot, it’s too cold, it’s too wet, it’s too dry or the deer ate a whole row of lettuce. They have such hard jobs. And I’m trying to do organic, so it’s even harder.”

Stair shops the stands herself, often beginning her journey in Orient at Oyster Pond Farms, which, she says, grows the best berries and figs on the planet. Sang Lee, Treiber Farm, Deep Roots Farm, Wesnofske, Wickham’s, The Milk Pail, Green Thumb and Balsam Farms are regular stops on the weekly tour, which usually follows her crafting menus for high-end Hamptons’ parties.

“It’s just so delicious,” Stair says of the end results. “It’s better. Some people will say ‘What did you do to these beans?’ And I’ll just say ‘It’s butter, salt and pepper, that’s it.’ The star of the show is the beans themselves.”

SEASONS COLLIDE

Charred Corn and Brussels Sprouts Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients
2 pints Green Thumb Brussels sprouts
4 ears Balsam Farms corn
1 lemon
1 egg
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1/4 cup Wölffer estate vinegar
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

Directions

Shuck and wash corn. Dry thoroughly and rub with oil and salt and pepper. Grill corn and be sure to get good color on corn. Set aside to let cool. Clean Brussels sprouts, separating them into leaves. Boil water and make an ice bath. Blanch Brussels sprout leaves by dropping them into boiling water for 30 seconds, strain and immediately immerse in ice water. Once cooled, strain again and wait for leaves to dry.

Cut corn off the cob and place corn and Brussels sprout leaves in a bowl.

To make dressing, add egg and mustard into a blender. Pulse several times and add juice of lemon and vinegar. Pulse several times more. With blender on low, slowly add oil. When dressing is emulsified, season with salt and pepper

Dress salad and serve.

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