Hay Day Markets

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Farm Fresh Cookbook

This article by Pat Summers was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on

February 17, 1999. All rights reserved.

Unlike the writer of a novel or book of ideas, a cookbook

author can be subject to double jeopardy, required to prove herself

repeatedly after the book is published. Take Kim Rizk, the Princeton

resident whose "Hay Day Country Market Cookbook" was published

last November. Beyond talking about and signing it for promotional

purposes, as most authors do, she is also expected to cook from it

— in public, with flair and delicious results.

It’s one thing to produce a good cookbook — as Rizk seems to have

done. It’s another to use it, successfully, in front of a hungry

audience.

Which, we can vouch, Kim Rizk has also done, and will do yet again

in the next few weeks. On Saturday, February 20, at noon, she appears

at Encore Books in the Princeton Shopping Center. She plans to offer

tasting samples of mushroom dip, cherry-apricot crumble bars, and

spiced cranberry-apple wine. She is also scheduled to appear at

Philadelphia’s

"The Book and the Cook" Saturday, March 20.

The first thing to know about Kim Rizk is that she’s a brave woman

— dare we say Rizk-taker? Aware of all the cookbook competition

out there — one ballpark estimate is 1,000 cookbooks published

every year — Rizk still said "yes" a few years ago when

her long-time employers asked her to produce their signature cookbook.

The result is an attractive volume of close to 300 pages of cranberry

and green type inside a warm, harvest-hued cover.

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Hay Day Markets

"Hay Day" is named for a chain of country markets in Fairfield

County, Connecticut, and Westchester County, New York. And, Rizk adds,

it also alludes to the late summer harvest celebrated since Victorian

times. The books provides both signature shop recipes for favorite

take-out foods and condiments, and others that Rizk developed using

produce and ingredients available at Hay Day Markets.

"I think it’s very important that food be interesting and

delicious.

It needs to be comfortable, and comforting. So when I develop a

recipe,

I usually look toward the classics, the things people have

traditionally

prepared in their homes, so they can understand it."

"Great Beginnings" kicks off the book, with recipes like

"Best-Ever

Oatmeal" (the secret is the steel-cut oats) and "Plum

Breakfast

Cobbler." This is joined by chapters that include "The Main

Attraction" (meat, poultry, seafood, and vegetable entrees),

"Salads

for All Seasons" (with "Spinach and Citrus Salad in Cranberry

Vinaigrette"), and "A Harvest of Vegetables and Grains."

Throughout the book, well-placed boxes carry information on

ingredients

("Buckwheat Flour") or how-to’s ("Freezing Berries").

Occasional menu boxes, such as the "Hot Off the Grill" meal,

spark ideas. "We’ve been preparing these things for years now.

We know they’re tried and true, people-tested, and yummy," Rizk

says.

The book reflects Hay Day’s corporate philosophy of cooking with the

seasons and using the freshest and finest produce, Rizk says. The

adherence to preservative-free, natural products is exemplified by

unbleached flour, nature-ripened fruit, and pectin-free jellies. In

truth, the book’s biggest possible bone of contention is the crisp

versus soft cookie issue. "It wasn’t a deliberate policy, but

somehow Hay Day never got onto the chewy-cookie bandwagon," she

says. Faced with a challenge, she adds, "We find that soft cookies

are not something that appeals to us. It always seems as if they’re

stale." She may smile when she says that, but for at least some

cookie monsters, "them’s fightin’ words."

The youngest of three children, Rizk was born in Manhasset, New York,

in 1963, and grew up in Bucks County, where her parents owned a bed

and breakfast. (Two years ago they sold the inn and retired to Nevis,

in the Caribbean.) Both comfortable and practiced in hospitality,

Rizk remembers Julia Child’s "Mastering the Art of French

Cooking"

and "The Silver Palate Cookbook" as two chief resources of

her growing-up years, along with those from the Frog/Commissary and

Lee Bailey.

A George School graduate, Rizk attended the Blair

Academy (where she met her husband-to-be, Amin), then NYU and Hartwick

College in New York, where she majored in sculpture. She continued her

studies in studio art, the Italian language, and food in Italy and

France. Living in Connecticut, and running a small catering business,

she discovered Hay Day country markets. For the past 12 years, as a

shop manager and recipe-developer, her enthusiasm has only grown.

These days she telecommutes from her home office in Princeton, with

her day sometimes interrupted by delivery of fresh Hay Day produce.

Arriving for a combined interview and lunch, we note that both Rizk’s

appearance and setting are perfect to promote a "country

market"

product. Tall and trim, with wide blue eyes and blondish hair held

back with a black velvet headband, she wears a Hay Day chambray shirt

and black pants. She’s the mother of two girls, 8 and 6; her husband

is a perfume and cosmetics executive who commutes to Manhattan.

By a time of day when many people are still wondering whether to get

out of bed, Rizk had produced a notable lunch — from her cookbook,

of course. The dining table offered appealing window views in every

direction and proximity to her efficient galley kitchen — mostly

white, accented by brightly-colored cookware and wooden utensils.

Today it features fresh fennel, at once filigreed and rooty, on the

counter.

While warming the cream of roasted fennel soup, Rizk talks about that

vegetable’s varied uses and the fine points of baking the savory ham

and cheddar scones to accompany the soup. After gathering up the

simple

dough and pressing it on a sheet pan, she left some triangular scone

shapes joined "so you get these nice tender edges. Or, if you

pull them apart before baking, they’re crisper." Coffee and

Belgian

chocolate brownies, dusted with powdered sugar, round out the meal

— and the diners, as well.

Kim Rizk can sure set a scene. Her recipe for "A Cozy Holiday

Supper" suggests an after-dinner reading of "A Christmas

Carol."

The mood of "Hay Day Country Market Cookbook" is the

antithesis

of the "desperate dinners" columns that working couples may

consult more often than not. The author herself admits to meals on

the fly, far from Hay Day. "Different occasions call for different

foods," she says. Accordingly, she makes no apologies for the

book’s richly caloric entries, balancing them with recipes of fresh

vegetables and grains.

Having browsed through some 250 of Rizk’s recipes, and having

thoroughly

enjoyed her lunch, we continue to respect Jane Brody’s views on a

healthy diet. And — forgiving Rizk’s heretical views about crisp

cookies — we will have another bite of brownie (and not the

low-fat

version).

— Pat Summers

Kim Rizk, Encore Books, Princeton Shopping Center,

609-252-0608. Free. Saturday, February 20, noon.


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