By Anetta Nowosielska
Bonnie Verbitsky, the author of Home Cooked Hamptons and a long-time Hamptonite knows her way around the kitchen since food runs in her blood. She caught the culinary bug from her mother, who had a knack for fine dining and refined entertainment. In time for the anticipated summer season out on the East End, Verbitsky’s practical, yet utterly charming cookbook is not only filled with recipes, beautiful imagery and some old-fashioned cooking advice; it offers the ultimate glimpse behind the hedges as it pays homage to all the things we have come to love about the Hamptons. We caught up with the busy writer, who lives between Bridgehampton and Fisher Island in Miami, to find out why the Hamptons continue to inspire the cook inside.
What is your first food memory?
Coming home from school, walking up the front steps and smelling the wonderful aroma of my mother’s Italian tomato sauce! It was euphoric.
How did traveling influence your cooking style?
I have always loved traveling. Food is essential because it reveals the culture of the people. It is so important to try the different foods of each country. I come home with many fresh ideas, and I always like to try my own adaptations.
Many books have been written about cooking and entertaining in the Hamptons. What makes yours stand out?
Home Cooked Hamptons stands out because it is organized for the home cook. It offers seasonal menus to entertain friends and family. My book is different because it offers anyone, who cooks even a little, diverse dishes that look great and taste delicious. Entertaining at home is the key element. You do not have to be a chef or a professional to create delicious dishes at home. I tried to explain which dishes you can make ahead of time, keeping in mind the importance of being with your guest, too.
What is it about the Hamptons that lends itself to such an aspired lifestyle?
I have lived in Bridgehampton for over 25 years. Our home is surrounded by farmland, where we buy fresh-picked produce from May to October. Only a few mailed from the bay and ocean, fresh seafood is always available at local seafood stores. The inspiration for cooking has always been a part of my life, but living among all these farms and being able to buy organic local chicken from the chicken farm, fresh cheese made by local farmers, and all the farm stands with special vegetables and fruits make it a haven for any cook. This sets the mood for relaxed entertaining at home. Though there are several good restaurants in the area, there is nothing quite like entertaining at home here.
What’s more important in the kitchen: the quality of produce or the chef’s skills?
It is essential in fine cooking to use “quality ingredients.” Skill and technique in cooking is very important, but if you wish to create the best dish, you will need quality ingredients.
We hear your veal meatballs are legendary. What’s the secret?
You will have to buy the book.