Finding sources to help make an event or dinner party in the Hamptons something special usually requires hiring a catering and events company. Deciding who to use should, first and foremost, come down to the menu and, most importantly, the first-course choice.
“Leading a meal with just a salad feels like a missed opportunity,” says Louisa Young, co-founder of Hamptons Aristocrat, an entertaining and events business she owns with partner, Lexi Ritsch. “Vegetarian first courses, especially crudo, is such a great raw and crowd-pleasing option.”
The two started their unique venture back in 2014, first acquiring a 1969 Aristocrat Lo-Liner trailer to bring to events and cater out of. Now armed with a literal fleet of unique trolleys and dining wagons, the company (which hosts around 650 events a summer) offers themed packages and menu options, with the goal of creating a memorable, stylish experience, be it on the beach, in a vineyard, or a back yard.
Ritsch and Young also take pride in celebrating locally sourced produce on their menus. Their motto: Eat with the seasons, eat from local farms.
“The South Fork is a farming community and we’re so fortunate to collaborate with [many of] them,” says Ritsch.
And collaborate they do, with one particular starter that makes excellent use of the fleeting and beautiful squash blossom as its main component, freshly picked from Balsam Farms in Amagansett.
“I love pairing all the parts of a vegetable so it was kind of a no-brainer to use the fruit and flower,” says Young of Hamptons Aristocrat’s recipe for zucchini crudo and crispy squash blossom.
Finding the delicate, edible flowers of the zucchini plant at the supermarket will prove difficult so best to check with your local farmers market for availability. Heading out from the city? A stop at Hamlet Organic Farm in Brookhaven will be worth the visit for both ingredients. If you are lucky enough to have planted squash in your raised garden bed, July is the time to harvest them. After carefully washing your squash blossoms it’s important to use them right away — ideally within two days if refrigerated.
Even with their soft, delicate texture and mild flavor, squash blossoms actually fare well in a frying method, especially with a light tempura coating as in this recipe.
The culinary torch required to blister thinly sliced zucchini crudo’s parmesan topping may sound intimidating, but “have no fear,” advises Young. “If fire makes you a little nervous, turn on your oven broiler and use an oven-safe plate. This will allow for a similar result — just be careful when removing because the plate will be hot!”
Set your table for this unique summer appetizer, and remember to follow it with a simple yet complementary dish. “Our go-to is either a house-made pasta or family style mains such as butter-basted, bone-in rib-eye over farm tomatoes and fennel roasted whole snapper,” say Young and Ritsch. “Summer feels like the time to have shared plates provoking interesting conversations over food.”
Zucchini crudo with crispy zucchini blossom
- 1 zucchini, cleaned and washed, skin on
- 1 oz lemon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pinch fleur de sel
- freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- 1 wedge parmesan, for grating
- 2 zucchini blossoms
- 2 cups, plus 2 tbsp grapeseed oil
- 2 tbsp corn starch
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 cup rice flour
- 1 cup ice water
- 3 tbsp cornichons, minced
- 3 tbsp shallot, minced
- 3 oz capers, minced
- 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
- 1 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp honey
- 1 1/2 tbsp tarragon, minced
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small handful farm fresh arugula