Kitchen Classics: Julia Hyman

 

Kitchen Classics: Julia Hyman

 

Date: March 14, 2012
by: June LeBell | Contributing columnist

 
 

 

Julia Hyman, a world-renowned sculptor who lives in Venice with her also-famous husband, pianist Dick Hyman, likes almost any food. Any, that is, except the dreaded liverwurst.

“I loathe liverwurst,” she says. “I once played hooky from school with two girlfriends and all we had for lunch was a liverwurst sandwich. Needless to say, I was sick with worry about being found out and had a terrible stomach upset.”

There are also some foods she and Dick don’t share. For instance, she tends to stay away from pasta, bread and potatoes, but Dick does include them. They also don’t share beef or lamb because she likes hers rare and he prefers his well done.

“It’s a bit like the lyric from ‘Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,’” she says. “You know, ‘You say potato and I say po-tah-toe … ’”

But, they both agree, “We don’t feel music should be used as a background, even though Dick professionally made many Muzak recordings. We do our listening with guests in Dick’s studio.”

Ah, those old Muzak sounds. Elevator music, we used to call it. Little did we know that some of the greatest musicians of the time were part of that company, from Dick Hyman to the illustrious opera commentator, George Jellinek.

Muzak is gone, but the music plays on. And, so does Hyman’s sculpting. She works in her own studio, which is within walking distance of their Venice home. Her sculptures are large, and they’re made of marble and alabaster, with occasional forays into wood, so her days are spent surrounded by saws, drills and lots of dust.

“My sculpture work is so absorbing and physical that I never think of food,” she says. “Of course, when I carved fruits and vegetables out of marble and alabaster for a solo show, that was different.”

The Hymans are busy people. But they do manage to enjoy their meals, even though their work schedules are fairly different.

“Dick sleeps late and I work early in the morning,” Hyman says. “We almost always have brunch or lunch together, sometimes walking into downtown Venice, where there are many restaurants.

“At dinner, Dick does not cook, but he does help either with setting the table or pouring beverages. Generally, I prepare simple food when it is just the two of us, steaming or sautéing fish, a veggie and salad.


“Here in Florida, we eat out a lot, often with friends in good, convenient restaurants near the various performance halls like the Opera House, Van Wezel and Asolo. Some of my favorites in Sarasota are Selva Grille, Derek’s and Mediterraneo,” she says.

Then, there’s the travel that comes with being married to a pianist-arranger-composer who’s performing all over the world. With that whirlwind of beautiful, romantic but, often, hectic places, what would Hyman think of as the perfect setting for a great meal?

“One memorable evening was on Manasota Key Beach in Englewood,” Hyman says. “We were invited to the Hermitage, and we sat at a table for eight on the sand near the water’s edge, surrounded by torches, a gentle breeze, no bugs, good wine, good food and interesting people. It had a dreamlike feeling for both of us.”

The Hymans have been almost everywhere on land and sea, but Hyman’s choice for an idyllic setting is right here at home on one of the most magnificent stretches of beach anywhere. But, there’s something else, even more important that makes the perfect dinner for the Hymans: people.

“I would have to say that it’s the company that accompanies the meal that makes it special,” Hyman says.


FISH CHOWDER

INGREDIENTS:
6 slices bacon, diced
1 cup finely chopped onions
1 1/2 cups fresh or bottled clam juice
2 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups diced carrots
2 cups diced potatoes
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon rosemary

1 can (1 pound) tomatoes (including juice)
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/2 cup diced celery
2 pounds fresh or thawed frozen gray sea trout, sea bass, cod, halibut or striped bass fillets, (or almost any combination of fish or seafood available) cut into
1 1/2-inch slices
2 cups half and half, light cream or whole milk

PREPARATION:
1. In a deep sauté pan, sauté the bacon pieces until crisp. Remove the bits, drain on paper towel and reserve.
2. Sauté the onions in the bacon drippings until tender.
3. Add the clam juice, water, carrots, potatoes, salt, pepper and tomatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are almost tender.
4. Add the rosemary, thyme, celery and fish. Simmer, covered, about 10 minutes or until the fish flakes (or shell fish, if using, is done).
5. Add the half and half, cream or milk and bring to a simmer while stirring. Do not allow to boil.
6. Sprinkle with reserved bacon bits and serve.

 

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