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Oysters roasting on the grill. (Credit: John Ross)
Oysters roasting on the grill. (Credit: John Ross)

The North Fork had a rich heritage of food long before the English settlers arrived in 1640. The Native American tribes of the Northeast educated the settlers about indigenous foods while the English brought new cooking methods with them from Europe. Turkey, wild rice, corn, lima beans and green beans, peppers and tomatoes — in addition to fish and shellfish — are examples of foods from the Americas. The following modern menu for six features some of these foods:

Roasted Oysters with Herb Butter

Rinse and scrub 2 dozen North Fork oysters under cold water.

Soften 1 stick of unsalted butter in a small bowl. Mince 2 tablespoons shallots and 2 cloves of garlic and add to the butter. Stir in the zest and juice of 1 lemon, 1 tablespoon chopped tarragon and 2 tablespoons chopped parsley.

Place the softened butter mixture on a sheet of foil and roll it into a cylinder. Refrigerate until firm, about 20 minutes.

At service time place the oysters over hot coals and cover the grill. After 10 minutes, remove the oysters with tongs to a sheet pan. They will be partially open and cooked. Using an oyster knife, pop the tops off of each, place a thin slice of herb butter on top of the oyster meat and serve.

Hickory-Smoked Turkey Breast

Rinse a small, bone-in turkey breast (about 4-5 pounds) under cold water.

Make a dry brine by combining 1 tablespoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon ground pepper, 1 tablespoon chopped sage, 1 tablespoon chopped thyme, 1 teaspoon minced garlic and 1 tablespoon chopped parsley. Mash this with 2 tablespoons softened butter.

Loosen the skin of the turkey breast by running your finger under the skin as far as possible without tearing the skin. Rub the butter mixture under the skin and on top of the skin all over. Place the turkey on a rack in a small roasting pan and refrigerate, uncovered, overnight.

Prepare a charcoal fire and set the coals to the side for indirect cooking.

Soak 4 cups of hickory chips in water for an hour. Sprinkle the hickory chips over the white coals, then brush the turkey breast with 1 tablespoon canola oil and place it in its roasting pan on the grill away from the coals. Cover the grill and adjust the vents so that it cooks slowly, at about 300 degrees.

Cook for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, then check the internal temperature with your meat thermometer. It should read about 150 degrees. Remove the turkey breast and let it sit for 20 minutes before carving.

Wild Rice Pilaf with Mushrooms
Bring 4 cups water to a boil and add 1 teaspoon salt. Stir in 8 ounces wild rice and bring it back to a boil. Simmer, covered, for 50 minutes or until tender.

Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a shallow saucepan and add 1/2 cup chopped shallots and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary. After 2 minutes add 1 package of baby bella mushrooms, quartered.

When the rice is tender, add it to the mushroom mixture along with any liquid left in the pan. Cook briefly until the moisture evaporates and serve.

Fresh Corn with Peppers & Zucchini
Shuck 6 ears of corn. Remove the seeds from and flatten 1 red pepper and 1 green pepper. Split 1 zucchini and 1 yellow squash in half lengthwise. Brush all with canola oil.

Place vegetables on the chargrill over hot coals for about 10 minutes, or until just cooked.

Remove from the grill and scrape the kernels from the corn. Dice the peppers and zucchini and place all in a bowl.

For the dressing, mince 1 jalapeño pepper and 2 cloves of garlic. Combine this with the zest and juice of 2 limes and 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil. Season with 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, 1/4 cup chopped cilantro and a few drops of Tabasco. Toss with the corn mixture and serve at room temperature or chilled.

Lima Beans and Green Bean Salad
Shuck 2 pounds of fresh lima beans and cut 1 pound of green beans into 2-inch pieces. Split 2 cups of cherry tomatoes in half and cut in half 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives.

Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil and add 1 teaspoon salt. Add the lima and green beans and bring back to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes and drain. Cool quickly by plunging them into ice water for 5 minutes and drain.

Prepare a small batch of pesto by adding to a food processor 2 cups basil leaves, 1 cup parsley, 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts, 2 cloves of garlic and 1/4 cup olive oil. Process until smooth and stir in 1/2 cup grated American Grana hard cheese.

Toss the pesto with the bean mixture, the cherry tomatoes and the olives. Check for seasoning and chill.

Watermelon Salad
Split a watermelon and cut into about 8 cups of bite-sized chunks. Toss with 1 cup chopped fresh mint leaves and the juice of 1 lime. Chill and serve.

Grilled Succotash
(This dish would be a substitute for the bean and corn salads.)
Shuck 6 ears of corn; split 1 red pepper, 1 yellow pepper and 1 jalapeño pepper, removing the seeds and flattening; split 1 zucchini and 1 summer squash down the middle.

Brush all vegetables with canola oil and grill over hot coals for about 10 minutes and remove.

Scrape the corn from the cob; dice the peppers and mince the jalapeño; cut the squash into 1/2-inch cubes. Combine all vegetables in a large bowl.

Cut 1/2 pound of green beans into 2-inch pieces. Shell 1 pound of lima beans (substitute frozen if fresh are not available). Blanch the green and lima beans in boiling water for 5 minutes and rinse under cold water. Combine the beans with the corn mixture.

Cut 1 cup of cherry tomatoes in half and add to the vegetable mixture.

Heat a large sauté pan and cook 4 strips of bacon until crisp, remove and chop.

Add to the pan 1 chopped onion and 1 tablespoon minced garlic. Add 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon dry mustard, 1 tablespoon kosher salt and 1 teaspoon ground pepper. After 5 minutes add the vegetable mixture and the bacon. Cook at medium heat for 10 minutes and serve.

John Ross

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