August 28, 2007 | BITE: My Journal

Playing the BLT Market

There's a raucous, folksy vibe at BLT Market. Photo: Steven Richter
There's a raucous folksy vibe at BLT Market. Photo: Steven Richter

So far Laurent Tourondel’s crush on American cooking has taken him on a joy ride toward AlainDucassian mogulhood.  BLT Steak. BLT Fish. BLT Prime. BLT Burger. Even as he sets about cloning these popping concepts like an Energizer bunny, he has been caught midhop revving up his latest gambit, BLT Market at the Ritz Carlton.

            Still in previews with a smartly disarming 10% discount till September 9, the room is already packed, mostly with well-heeled locals who didn’t love l’Atelier in this space enough after chef Gabriel Kreuther decamped to The Modern.  The transformation of the space is dizzying.  A stodgy middle-aged matron is suddenly weaving sunflowers into her braids and baring her thighs in a mini pinafore.

            No need to stumble through the hotel lobby looking for the dining room anymore, although you can swing through the revolving door on Central Park West if you wish. Very smart move, there’s now an entrance on Sixth Avenue. 

            The waiters wear navy and white striped aprons. The floors are bare.  The tables are bare with a small pot of herbs and paper mats extolling ingredients of summer.  So much casual nudity boosts the noise level and evokes a luncheonette feel. Explosions of sunflowers act as a room divider.  There are family portraits -- photographs of the purveyors: The powers from Murray’s Cheese, Marc Sarrazin of Braggia and Spitler, the famous fishmonger Louis Rozzo. And where the walls are roomier: big raucous color paintings of voluptuous fruits and vegetables.

 Tourondel designed it all himself. And it looks like passion more than blueprints and design school. You will love it or hate it or possibly, like me, give him a slide for innocence.  Anyway tonight is just a first tasting and it may take an encore or even turnips and rutabaga and rubber tomatoes and a blizzard in winter to decide how the setting feels.

            I can’t imagine a better moment to launch a celebration of the market than right now when the summer harvest is richest. Tourondel hasn’t even got a pastry chef yet so he is dreaming up desserts himself.  Berries are everywhere. 

            This chef is, if anything, bullishly confident, but given how early it is, his dishes will still be evolving. And there’s no reason to expect every gambit will work as well as the sublime tuna starter -- Big Eye raw and confit’d in olive oil with a tangy tonnato sauce, avocado and fresh hearts of palm, or the splendid grilled Maine octopus on cranberry beans from the evening’s special list…Yes, a list, not a recitation.  Isn’t that thoughtful?

            I like the crisp fried soft shell crab on a salad of local corn and dates (hmm…dates? summer in Egypt?) and my three-cheese stuffed zucchini blossoms, salted with anchovy on a green tomato-basil compote. Just reading the items listed on the menu in a column to the left, under “August: Peak in Season” is downright thrilling, though not enough to distract an inflation-sensitive foodie from the prices, definitely hotel gauge:  appetizer crab $25, tuna and zucchini blossoms both $18, entrees $29 to $43.

            My guarded anonymity ends at the door tonight and delicious extras begin arriving. Bowls of luscious langoustine risotto flying a crisp fried zucchini flower flag, and lively rigatoni with summer squash and sausage from Esposito I definitely recommend.

Amish chicken beds under a nest off fried potato strings. Photo: Steven Richter

            Carefully cooked Amish chicken arrives under a mountain of shoestring fries, reminder of the old days when we fell in love with Jonathan Waxman at Jam’s. I like the dark meat my white-meat loving friend passes to me better than the somewhat lumpen veal and pork ricotta meatballs or the seven pepper steak the Road Food Warrior attacks with relish. To me, the meat lacks good beef flavor. Odd, since we rarely disagree on beef. Whom will you trust?


            After the seductive extras, our sixsome decides to share just one dessert. But suddenly the table is paved with desserts, mostly dazzling exploitations of berries: Lemon curd and blueberries. Rhubarb-raspberry-blueberry cobbler with fromage blanc sorbet. Sweet and tangy tri-star strawberries with petit buerre cookies and lemon verbena sorbet.  Roasted cherries jubilee with a silken ice that is sheer essence of cherry. And ice cream layered with raspberries in a sauce infused with red berry tea.  In this barrage of berries, the imperative chocolate offering seems redundant.

(A note to my pal, Restaurantgirl:  That’s what a restaurant can do when you’re not anonymous.)

        1430 Sixth Avenue or 50 Central Park South 212 521 6125.


NYC Women Chefs Join in the Fight against Breast and Ovarian Cancer September 17

        A constellation of New York’s star women chefs will be cooking at the 4th annual “A Second Helping of Life,” Monday September 17 at Chelsea Piers to raise funds for SHARE, a city-based organization that offers peer-led support to women with breast or ovarian cancer, their families and friends.

        Expect signature dishes by Rebecca Charles (Pearl Oyster), Annisa’s Anita Lo, Amy Scherber of Amy’s Bread, Sarabeth Levine, Patricia Yeo of Monkey Bar,  Prune’s Gabrielle Hamilton, Amanda Freitag from Gusto, District’s  Patricia Williams, Ariane Daguin of D’Artagnan, Inc. and a dozen others. 

        Among those donning aprons as celebrity sous chefs will be Swoosie Kurtz, Marsha Mason, Kathleen Chalfant, WWOR-TV’s Brenda Blackmon, authors Carol Higgins Clark, Leslie Bennetts and Karen Page, journalist Linda Stasi and comedian Judy Gold.

When: Monday, September 17, 6 PM VIP reception, 7 PM – 9 PM General Admission

Where: Piers 60 at Chelsea Piers

Admission: Starts at $300 pp. Call: 212-719-0364 for reservations and information



P.S. If you happen to be awake at 7am Wednesday, September 5 and linked to Sirius Satellite Radio, catch me talking about Insatiable: Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess with Dean Olsher and Betsy Karetnick on Martha Stewart Living Radio.


Monster Zucchini Recipe Roundup      





In two minutes Tourondel invents a new zucchini dish. Photo: Steven Richter

Chef Laurent Tourondel came out of the kitchen to take the measure of our pleasure in dinner at the new BLT Market at the Ritz Carlton. I try to be friendly but non-comittal when my hope of being anonymous is blown.  I let everyone else rave or lie if they will.  I didn’t give the weary guy a minute to collect his laurels.

“I bet you’ve got a great recipe for zucchini,” I said, obsessed by my vision of zucchinis piling up in gardens and fields about this time of year. “Something really quick and easy.”  He turned on his heel and left.

Minutes later he was back with what looked like risotto in a small soup bowl, I tasted.  Not as easy thing to do after sampling six desserts.  It was definitely zucchini but all dressed up.  Quite fabulous.  

“Yes. Yes. Yes,” I said.   “Email me how you did it.”

6 servings
2 cups Chanterelle mushrooms, cut into 1/4" pieces
2 cups zucchini, cut into 1/4" slices
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons chopped shallot
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
6 tablespoons heavy cream
1 cup white wine
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons chopped basil
2 teaspoons chopped mint
4 tablespoons fresh ricotta

Heat a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add olive oil and saute mushrooms until lightly browned and all water has been released.  Add butter, garlic, shallots and cook for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant. Add zucchini and cook for another minute or until water is released.  

        Add wine and reduce by half and then add the cream and simmer until cream is thickened.  Transfer the mixture to a food processor fitted with a metal blade.  Pulse on and off until the vegetables are about the size of lentils.  Stir in the herbs and Parmesan. Top with a dollop of ricotta and grated parmesan.  Serve with grilled bread.


            “A nice little side dish for lunch, with zucchini preferably just out of the garden or market.” (Caveat: This recipe uses the oven but given late August’s occasional cold snaps, this shouldn’t be a problem.)

3 medium zucchini, washed, dried, ends cut off and discarded, and cut into 1/4inch strips lengthwise
1 baking dish or Pyrex plate, brushed with extra virgin olive oil
1⁄4 cup grated Parmesan-Reggiano
1⁄4 cup dried bread crumbs, (store bought ok)
1 tsp minced capers
Fresh oregano leaves to taste
Sea salt to taste
Chardonnay vinegar to taste
Fresh ground pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil

            Place zucchini in Pyrex plate evenly spaced, season with salt, pepper, a light drizzle of olive oil and dust the top with the mixture of Parmesan and bread crumbs evenly on top of zucchini slices. Baked in a 400 degree oven for 7-10 minutes until soft yet still just cooked. Remove and place under the broiler for a minute or two until it begins to brown a bit. Remove.

            Finish by sprinkling the zucchini with the minced capers, & oregano. Drizzle with EVO and Chardonnay vinegar on top and serve right from the oven to the table.

            (Optional: top with some fresh zucchini blossoms for added depth of flavor and color.) Serve with cold rosé from Bandol.


Five month old Madeline Zakarian loves dad's zucchini puree.

“I feed this to my five month old baby and she loves it….I also combine the leftovers with a little crème fraiche, minced kalamata olives and fresh dill  -- folded together -- and use it as a chilled condiment for grilled salmon steaks.”

3 medium zucchini, washed, ends cut and discarded, finely chopped.
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt, pinch
3 oz water

Combine all ingredients in a pot with a lid, slowly sweat them covered for 10 minutes until very soft, stirring frequently. Purée in a Cuisinart and cool in the refrigerator.



     “Grilled zucchini gets along just great with almost anything else you might be grilling at this time of year.  It also makes for great leftovers that can be added to sandwiches, served as a cold side dish on their own, or sliced and tossed with other leftover grilled leftovers.”

4 medium zucchini per person
½ cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Trim the top and bottom of each zucchini, then trim one rounded side so you can lay the zucchini flat on your cutting board.  Slice the zucchini lengthwise into ¼-inch thick slices.

Pour the oil into a glass baking dish or other shallow vessel.  Stir in the garlic and season the oil with salt and pepper.  Lay the zucchini slices in the dish and toss gently to coat the slices with the oil.  Let marinate for 15 minutes.

Preheat a gas grill to medium or prepare a charcoal grill for grilling, letting the coals burn until covered with white ash.

Remove the zucchini slices from the marinade, and brush off any pieces of garlic.  Lay the zucchini on the grill and grill until slightly softened and light grill marks form, about 4 minutes per side.

Serve the zucchini with grilled meats, poultry, or fish.  Serves 4.



    “We’ve served this dish at The Red Cat since our first dinner back in 1999. I include quick in the title to emphasize the importance of just barely cooking the zucchini -- as soon as it begins to give off a little moisture, get the pan off the burner.  The zucchini should be warm, but not too hot.”

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
¼ cup sliced almonds

3 to 4 small zucchini, sliced lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick slices, then crosswise into matchsticks (about 5 cups)
Freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces pecorino Romano, thinly sliced into 12 triangular sheets with an old-fashioned cheese slicer or very sharp knife, or cut into shard with a vegetable peeler.

Divide the oil between 2 large, heavy-bottomed skillets and heat it over high heat.  When the oil is hot but not smoking, add half of the almonds to each pan.  Cook, tossing or stirring, until the almonds are golden-brown, approximately 30 seconds.  Add half of the zucchini to each pan and toss or stir to coat the zucchini with the hot oil, just a few seconds.  Remove the pans from the heat, season with salt and pepper, and return to the heat for 30 seconds, tossing to distribute the seasoning.

Divide the zucchini and almonds among 4 warm salad plates, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, arrange the pecorino sheets in a pyramid over each serving, and get it to the table while it’s still nice and hot. Serves 4.

 From The Red Cat Cookbook, by Jimmy Bradley and Andrew Freeman



    “Here is an adaptation of an authentic Elvis Presley recipe -- direct from a friend in Memphis.   (Zucchini replaces sauerkraut in the original recipe.)”

4 hot dog buns, preferably potato buns
4 ripe bananas
2 farm fresh firm zucchini -- either green or yellow
6 oz peanut butter of your choice
3 oz mayonnaise
3 teaspoons real maple syrup
4 teaspoons salted peanuts (sugar coated if available.)

            Use a potato peeler to make long thin strips of the zucchini.  Don’t worry about removing the skins.  In a saute pan blanch the zucchini strips in 1⁄2 cup of salted water for approximately 4 minutes.  Remove the zucchini and squeeze all the water out.  Toss the zucchini in the mayonnaise maple syrup combination.

            Assemble the sandwiches by slathering the bottom of the hot dog bun with peanut butter, placing the banana on top and then covering with a heap of zucchini tossed in maple syrup mayonnaise.  Finally, sprinkle the salty peanuts on top.   Serves 4.

Barry Wine and his then wife Susan brought the Quilted Giraffe from New Paltz to Second Avenue in New York City in l979 where it would ultimately win four stars from the New York Times.  Barry Wine is now a restaurant consultant.  He also designs fantasimagorical costume jewelry he calls Come Talk to Me rings.

 See Barry’s baubles at



“This is a dish they make in Nerano (next to Positano). I use the mandolin to cut the zucchini into spaghetti like noodles. Cook it really long over lowish heat in a saute pan with great olive oil and new garlic from the greenmarket till most of the zucchini liquid has evaporated. Add some fresh marjoram. Ladle this over spaghetti. Top with bits of fresh ricotta or freshly grated parmesan.”



 “I also love zucchini in a cold soup. I use young zucchini so there’s no need to peel or seed.  I sauté the zucchini in olive oil with lots of leek and lemon thyme.  Then I add stock and blend in the blender, finishing it off by stirring in Greek yoghurt (serving it cold of course).”



 “Another great summer treat ... Slice the z’s in rounds, pat dry, fry in olive oil in batches to get them really very golden.  Remove with slotted spoon to paper towels.  Sprinkle with a few drops of good balsamic and oregano and let that marinate a little.”



 (sorry, this takes more than 10 minutes)       

 5-6 zucchini, cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed
1 cup raw potatoes, grated
4 cloves of garlic, skinned and minced
½ cup yellow onions, thinly sliced
¾ cup Parmesan, Gruyere or even cheddar, coarsely grated
salt and pepper

Julienne the zucchini in a food processor using the medium disk, then sprinkle salt lightly over it. Let the salt draw the water out of the zucchini for about 5 minutes and use that time to sauté the onions and garlic gently, till soft and golden. Then wrap the zucchini in a towel you’re willing to ruin and squeeze out as much liquid as you can. You should have about 3 cups of dry, shredded zucchini. Mix the zucchini, onions and garlic and raw grated potato together and add salt & pepper to taste.

Spray a 12 inch, non stick or well-seasoned cast iron frying pan with olive oil and spread the zucchini mixture evenly in the pan. Cook over medium heat stirring the mixture from time to time so everything gets cooked. After each mixing, pat down the contents of the pan again and when all of it is nearly cooked through, taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary, and allow the bottom to brown: about 10 minutes. Loosen it all around with a non stick spatula, cover the pan with a slightly larger platter and flip out the pancake. Add some more olive oil to the pan and slide the pancake back in to brown the other side.

(If you suffer from “fear of flipping,” spray a small amount of olive oil on the top and brown it under the broiler. If the handle of the pan is plastic be sure to wrap it with several layers of tin foil before putting the pan under the broiler.)

Sprinkle the grated cheese on top and serve, and if you want to serve it directly from the pan, be sure to drape a pot holder over the handle and warn everyone that the pan is hot.