A Breath of Fresh Air: THE FIRE ISLAND COOKBOOK

By Shoshanna McCollum

By and large most Fire Island cookbooks are community ventures produced by local fire department auxiliaries or homeowner associations with various residents contributing a recipe or two and then spiral-bound at the local copy shop. As charming as these homespun efforts may be the outcome is often too predictable: clam chowder, baked chicken, macaroni salad, and what Fire Island cookbook is complete without a reference to blueberry pie? Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen have finally broken this mold with The Fire Island Cookbook. (Atria / Emily Bestler, $30.00 list price.)

“We wanted to digress from being too regional or ‘New Englandy,’ ” explained DeSimone when discussing some of the bold decisions he and his partner made in determining the direction of this collaboration.

The seminal work includes lush photographs, printed on quality paper, even a foreword contributed by the television personality Al Roker. Indeed Mr. Roker sums up the book most adamantly when he states “I don’t plan on spending half the day looking for a truffles zester or whatever arcane piece of kitchen gadgetry…” the recipes in The Fire Island Cookbook are sophisticated, but not at the sacrifice of common sense. The called ingredients are surprisingly ordinary and instructions not fussy – so much so that even the novice chef will feel empowered.

One unique feature of The Fire Island Cookbook is how it has been organized. Rather than the typical soup, salad, main course, and desert chapters, DeSimone and Jenssen opt for menus instead: Enough fully planned menus to take you through the Memorial through Labor Day season of weekends on Fire Island or a two-week beach stint. Most of the recipes call for morning prep so a day can be spent at the beach with minimal kitchen time to serve, while a few are more elaborate for those rainy beach days we all know are somewhere in the summer forecast.

The authors, also known as “the wine guys” happen to be the Entertaining and Lifestyle contributing editors of Wine Enthusiast Magazine. This gives the book an unexpected bonus of knowledgeable wine advice to compliment the planned menus. Jeff and Mike presently summer at the community of Fire Island Pines, but their work takes them to exotic locations like Spain, France and the Mediterranean countries. Their travels are directly reflected in the cuisine described in their book, and this is appropriate for the palette of Fire Island menus have become steadily more cosmopolitan over the years.

Yet many of the tantalizing dishes described in these pages are very much down to earth: Mike’s Caribbean spiced ribs; blue cheese, bacon and fried onion sliders; and the mouth-watering strawberry-blueberry shortcake. Only released last April sales are strong making it to two of Amazon’s best seller lists in the home and Entertaining categories.

“We want people to have fun with this book and hope it will become a summer house classic in Fire Island kitchens,” said Jeff Jenssen near the conclusion of the interview. “For what you might spend on a bottle of wine it makes a great host or hostess gift.”

Indeed the time has come for Fire Island cookbooks to be reinvented. These two gentlemen have set the new standard for many years to come.

The Fire Island Cookbook can be purchased on Amazon for just $18.75, it makes a great gift!

You can also get a free copy of this great cookbook, from FireIsland.com. All you have to do to be entered to win is:

1. Be a member of the Fire Island Facebook group.

2. Leave a comment at the bottom of this article.

3. Share this article on your facebook page.

Winners will be announced on or before labor day 2012!

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