Tips from the Hostess

Jodi Moreno Shares Her Secrets

Summer is definitely a season of celebration, and how can you have a celebration without food? Jodi Moreno, the mastermind health influencer behind the blog What’s Cooking Good Looking shares a few tricks for Hamptons hosts to keep up your sleeves.

This New York-born foodie has been on the health and wellness bandwagon since she can remember. “I feel like I’ve always been someone who’s been conscious about health and wellness,” she says, “but I guess I can thank my mom for that.” She finds inspiration in every new ingredient she comes across, including all of the gorgeous produce and seafood out on the East End.

Regardless of what kind of end-of-summer bash you’re throwing, our expert has one hard-and-fast piece of advice: “Prepare ahead, stay clam, and most of all, have fun! Because that’s really what hosting is all about.”

1. Stay in-season

The coming of each season brings a new batch of crops to those farm stands sprinkled all across the eastern part of Long Island. Shopping the stands and remaining in-season is a great way to make sure your produce is at the peak of freshness, Moreno says. She says you can often find tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, and all the other summer veggies on her menu during the summer, saving root vegetables and techniques such as braising for the fall and winter.

2. How many seats are at the table?

“The amount of guests is an important factor in the type of menu I will create,” says Moreno. Less people means less portions, and the fewer the portions the easier it is for the chef to control each one. Moreno says she will typically make a more intricate and involved dish for fewer guests (four to six). For eight or more guests, she crafts a menu with dishes she can prepare ahead of time and ones that can be served family- style, while finger foods are great for gatherings where people will be standing or walking around.

3. Keep it fun with a theme

Whether it’s celebrating a birthday or holiday or a casual dinner with friends, Moreno says picking a theme can help you get your menu together. “I recently cooked a meal for a small group of friends that was northern Italian themed, but using all local ingredients,” she remembers. “Tacos, pizza, or paella are some of my favorite food themes to build upon as well.” Whatever the theme may be, our hosting expert tells us to always consider your guests first. Look out for allergies, highlight things you know they will like, and try your best to make them feel at home.

4. To use a recipe, or not to…that is the question

Moreno tells us there are times to cook from memory –that is, if you have a memory of cooking of course– and times to use a lifeline and turn to a cookbook or recipe. “For me, I am an intuitive cook, so there are times that I prefer to cook from memory,” she explains. “Especially if I want to keep things simple, easy, and quick…But then there are times when I want to get creative and cook out of my comfort zone. This is when I will whip out my cookbooks and start planning away.”

5. Different ingredients can open your mind and your palate

We all know that section of the farm stand–it’s different for all of us–that makes us look very closely and say, What’s that? Next time you see something funky, Moreno tells us to give it a try! “Why not! You might find something you love, or a new way to prepare and enjoy something you may not have tried before,” and what is cooking if not an experiment?

 

6. Capitalize on your environment

The Hamptons brings so much to the table in terms of food. Utilize that in your hosting. “I truly believe it is one of the most special places for food” she says. “From all of the farms, to the local seafood, to the chicken farm where I’m able to buy fresh eggs and whole chickens … I can’t think of a more idyllic place for a local food lover to live.”