At her Cape Cod home, a Boston chef keeps the party casual, the recipes easy, and the guests happy.
Bold flavors, big portions, and fresh ingredients-that's whatChef Stephanie Sokolove likes to serve up for friends at herseaside home. No one who's eaten at her popular Boston restaurant,Stephanie's on Newbury, should be surprised. "We're known for whatI call sophisticated comfort food," she explains. "The ingredientsare familiar, but they're prepared with a slight twist-a moreimaginative approach." The menu ranges from staples such as chickenpot pie with a sage crust to dishes enlivened with Italian, Asian,and Mexican influences, as in the lobster quesadilla, a perennialfavorite.
"It's the same way I cook at home," she says, pulling fragrantcornbread from the oven. Flecks of jalapeño chiles give it aslight kick. But aside from that nod to Mexico, today's lunch fareis rooted in New England traditions and flavors. "The idea is totake advantage of the season-the produce is so fabulous now,"Stephanie says. Naturally, lobster is the main course, split,grilled, and brushed with pesto. "I thought of pesto because I haveso much basil in my garden," Stephanie says. "This is one of thosethings that looks impressive but isn't difficult."
Indeed, all the dishes have panache, but nothing is complicated."The key word is 'easy,'" she says. "No elaborate preparations. Iwant to be with my guests, not in the kitchen. Simpler means thatless can go wrong."
Before the guests arrive, she enlists the help of therestaurant's executive chef, Corey Comeau, to prepare everythingthat can be done in advance. More fresh basil goes into CornChowder with English Peas . The garden also supplies parsley togarnish the chowder and flowers for tables on the spacious poolterrace. Stephanie throws together a cornucopia-in-a-bowl salad andmakes a luscious Peach-RaspberryCobbler . "It's rustic, the way I like it, with a crunchystreusel topping," she says.
As the guests arrive, Jim Sokolove welcomes them with glasses ofwine. "My husband's not a huge foodie," Stephanie admits. "He'sbeen known to have cereal for dinner. But he loves this kind offriendly feast."
Stephanie seems as much a mother as a chef when she declares, "Iwant everyone to be comfortable and have plenty to eat." Herdaughter Courtney says, "In summer we have people here everyweekend, and we always want Mom to cook." And who wouldn't? Thissort of unfussy, bountiful meal suits the season beautifully.
Stephanie's on Newbury, Boston, Massachusetts; 617/236-0990 or stephaniesonnewbury.com
Video: Howto prepare lobster