Summing It Up
With ingredients inspired by the season and the region, soups and sandwiches can move beyond the “same ole.”
Plucked from the garden or put together from the pantry, soups and sandwiches are the ultimate comfort foods, whether crisp and cool or piping hot. From homespun to haute cuisine, and from ethereally delicate to stick-tothe- ribs hearty, they can go with color and character from dining room to halfway house, and from poolside to marina, for sit-down or on-therun satisfaction.
At Fairview Country Club in Greenwich, Conn., much of that color and the fresh flavors for Executive Chef Jeffrey Perez’s soups and sandwiches come from the large organic herb garden on the property. “One of our members, who owns a horticultural business, planted the garden for us,” Perez says.
The garden yields the fragrant green basil leaves that Perez tucks between two slices of bread (brought in from Manhattan, 30 minutes away) along with fresh buffalo mozzarella, tomato and grilled eggplant. He dresses the masterpiece with single vineyard olive oil and warms it on a panini press.
“It’s a simple classic Italian combination, like a Caprese salad, but made into a sandwich,” he says. “All of those fresh flavors are really brought to life by the warmth of the press.”
Because many of Fairview’s members frequent the upscale restaurants of Manhattan, where green markets proliferate on downtown streets, sophisticated use of ingredients and creative presentations are expected at the club. So Perez garnishes his zucchini soup with flat-leaf parsley and colorful Johnny Jumpup flowers from the garden. A sprinkle of fresh dill adds depth of flavor to vichyssoise.
“The garden also reinforces our focus on freshness, because it is located right outside our dining room window,” says Perez. “Members can watch our club employees tending the marjoram, dill, two types of thyme, and other herbs. Best of all, they can see the basil being cut and brought into the kitchen for their sandwiches.”
Fairview serves “anywhere from 200 to 300 lunches in a one-and-ahalf- to two-hour period on weekends, so soups and sandwiches are always in high demand,” he explains. Often, Perez will set up a bar with three different soups, as well as salads and a carving station.
Cajun-Spiced Softshell Crab Sandwich Perez also creates sandwiches specifically for the outdoor grill at the club’s golf course halfway house. Combinations such as bacon, brie and red wine cranberry relish (made with ground wholeskin- on oranges) are wrapped and sealed in a whole wheat tortilla in the kitchen, then warmed to order on the flattop grill.
On the boardwalk at Montauk Yacht Club in Montauk, N.Y., members can grab the usual hot dog or hamburger for on-the-go dining. But for those craving a more upscale sandwich, Executive Chef Ron Duprat has amended the grill menu to include a Cajun-spiced soft shell crab sandwich on Italian bread.
And in Charleston, S.C., fried green tomatoes are a year-round regional favorite and, according to Daniel Island Club Executive Chef Tyler Dudley, a perfect foundation for a sandwich. After marinating the tomatoes in buttermilk (“key to the authentic South Carolina flavor,” says Dudley), the crispy fried tomatoes are layered on sun-dried tomato bread from a local specialty bakery, along with fresh mozzarella, applewoodsmoked bacon and basil aioli.
Fried Green Tomato Sandwiches (For members and guests who choose to eschew the bread, Dudley stacks the fried green tomatoes and mozzarella and drizzles the “salad/sandwich” with a homemade black-eyed pea vinaigrette.)
At Montauk Yacht Club,Duprat satisfies low carb cravings among his members with a selection that sandwiches grilled zucchini, yellow squash, roasted red onion and club-made buffalo mozzarella between Portobello mushrooms. A drizzle of roasted garlic balsamic vinaigrette enhances the flavors.
Dudley also likes to surprise members and guests with unexpected twists on classic combinations. For example, instead of the expected BLT, he’ll substitute a layer of sweet local figs with the bacon and lettuce, for a tweak on taste and texture.
Soups at Daniel Island Club also reflect the Low Country cuisine of Charleston—particularly the signature gumbo, which has been a menu staple for five years and is a top seller, “even in the middle of August,” says Dudley. Based on a traditional roux, the gumbo is bulked up with andouille sausage, small creek shrimp and chicken, and garnished with buttermilk-marinated,Tabasco-spicy, crispy-fried sweet onion rings. “The ingredients speak of Charleston,” Dudley notes.
Not all of Dudley’s soups are as complex as the gumbo. A summer specialty is made simply from puree of watermelon, spiked with tequila and topped with a dollop of crème fraiche.Duprat also uses crème fraiche to dress juicy cantaloupes and honeydews for a refreshing summer starter.
Curtis Eargle, Executive Chef at the Maryland Club in Baltimore, says his members look forward to the featured soup of the day and, while they’re happy to try new combinations, some selections are constant menu must-haves. One is the Frosted Crab—a cold tomato base topped with crab meat— that is a top choice year-round. Another is a very plain, yet elegant, old-fashioned jellied consommé.
In summer, Eargle uses seasonal cherries to make a sweet, chilled,
Hungarian-inspired soup. A chilled gumbo tweaks tradition by using a puree of the basic ingredients, including rice and okra, instead of the usual butter, and flour roux as the thickener. The result: a full-bodied, nonbrothy soup, which Eargle tops with crab meat.
Of course, Maryland crab really takes the spotlight at this club, along with fresh seasonal corn, in a chilled chowder that Eargle tops with a homemade ice cream flavored with Old Bay seasoning (see recipe). “The ice cream melts to keep the soup cold,” he explains.
Eargle favors frosty garnishes for many of his summer soups. So chilled cucumber with avocado gets a scoop of smoked salmon sorbet, while peach soup earns a pretty crown of lime granite.
Ron Duprat, Executive Chef, Montauk Yacht Club, Montauk, N.Y. Like Eargle, Perez uses a puree of slowly rendered fresh vegetables to create a hearty texture for his zucchini soup. Although there are no dairy products in the recipe, Perez describes its mouth feel as “creamy.” To make the presentation really pop, Perez spoons the soup around a timbale of saffron-accented Israeli couscous that’s perched in the middle of the bowl (see recipe, pg. 38).
Located at the tip of Long Island, Montauk also enjoys a bounty of seafood, and Duprat makes good use of local clams and lobsters in chunky chowders and smooth bisques. Yet one of his “secrets” for making an easy, yet authentic creamy white New England clam chowder is to use a good canned chowder as a base.
Duprat also purees the prime produce from his fridge and pantry that doesn’t make it into sides and salads. An abundance of just-picked tomatoes provides the perfect foundation for a lush bisque, while spinach or wild mushrooms become part of creamy concoctions that showcase their characteristic fresh-picked flavors.