by Lauren Chattman
As Hurricane Irene gathered strength off of Florida two weeks ago, I was in Big Sur, staying at an off-the-grid campground with no cell phone service or wi-fi. I didn’t appreciate how relaxing this situation was until I left the area and my phone began to buzz. The San Francisco couple staying at my house (I was taking a side trip as part of a two-week home exchange) informed me that as soon as they stowed my lawn furniture in a safe place they would be heading to the Philadelphia airport, ahead of the storm.
I was supposed to fly home on Sunday, but by Friday morning it was clear that I would have to reschedule. There was nothing to do but check into a hotel on Sunday night, distract myself with a nice dinner out, and hope for the best. What a relief to wake up on Monday to the good news that Sag Harbor was without power but otherwise in good shape.
I breezed back into town late that night, just a few hours after electricity was restored. The street lamps were glowing and the American Hotel was crowded with diners. I headed to my house, which looked exactly as I had left it, except for the presence of the hammock and a few lounge chairs in my bedroom.
I didn’t notice much evidence of Irene until I walked over to the IGA on Tuesday morning and saw that they were out of everything that needed refrigeration. Perishables wouldn’t be re-stocked for another day. I remembered something Senator Kirsten Gillibrand had said in a talk at Quail Hill Community Farm just a few weeks earlier: How important local farms would be if a catastrophe such as a hurricane were to disrupt the food supply chain connecting Long Island to the rest of the country. Although a one-day delay in the delivery of dairy products and vegetables to Schiavoni’s wasn’t quite the hardship Gillibrand had described, it was a small taste of what might have been, and still left me with the problem of what to cook on my first night back in my Sag Harbor kitchen.
I headed straight to Bette Lacina’s and Dale Haubrich’s farm stand on the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike to see if I could purchase something good to eat. Dale told me that they lost some vegetables during the storm, but were still harvesting plenty of tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, eggplant, and greens. I picked up some cherry tomatoes to accompany the pasta I had stockpiled in my pantry, and a bag of mesclun to make a salad.
It was with extreme gratitude—that our village was spared the worst of the weather, that we can count on our devoted local farmers to provide for us even after a serious storm–that I ate my fresh and delicious homecoming dinner.
Post-Hurricane Penne with Cherry Tomatoes, Garlic, and Basil
My potted herbs weathered the storm just fine, so I had a handful of basil to add to my pasta sauce. I tore the leaves, rather than chopping them finely. The larger pieces gave the sauce some texture, almost like adding tender greens instead of herbs. My oregano was still looking good, so I tossed some whole oregano leaves into the mix. Thyme, marjoram, or even mint (torn into smaller pieces if the leaves are large) would work well, too.
12 ounces penne or other short tubular pasta
1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/3 cup best-quality extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 cup basil leaves, roughly torn
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
Ground black pepper
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the penne until just tender.
2. While the pasta is cooking, combine the cherry tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, basil, and oregano in a large bowl. Toss with the hot pasta, season with salt and ground black pepper, and serve immediately.