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Cooking Class | A Surprisingly Simple Fish Dish From a High-Concept Design Duo

By Marian Bull

United Labor

In the kitchen of their Amagansett, N.Y., home, designers George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg prepare one of their favorite dishes, a summer halibut with fennel, olive and lemon chutney.

 

 

The kitchen of Glenn Pushelberg and George Yabu’s spare, light-filled house in Amagansett, N.Y., is defined by glass. Five panels of the stuff separate the couple’s grey quartz-topped counters from the otherwise open-plan living and dining area on the home’s second floor; a particularly Covid-weary guest might mistake it for a high-concept sneeze guard. But for Yabu, who along with Pushelberg co-owns the architecture and design firm Yabu Pushelberg — perhaps best known for its projects with the Edition hotel group and Barneys New York — it was a necessary design choice to achieve the energy he craves when entertaining the guests that often fill the house.

“It keeps the conversations from interfering with each other, but you’re still engaged with your friends in the living room while you’re doing your thing in the kitchen,” Yabu explains. “You don’t want to disturb the chi of the socialisation going on.” Pushelberg initially baulked at the idea of making the kitchen so visible, but now enjoys the way visitors tend to congregate at this end of the house while he’s cooking.

At the far side of the room, wraparound floor-to-ceiling windows uninterrupted by columns offer a panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean. While the building, whose structure comprises three stacked rectangular boxes, might look simple, it took the couple three and a half years to build; like many of their designs, it exemplifies the type of minimalism that conveys a sense of ease but requires inspired feats of engineering to create. “The most satisfying projects are your own,” Pushelberg says. “If you take your time, give some latitude to your schedule and your budget, and realise that you’re going to make a few little mistakes, it can be a very satisfying and happy experience.”

It’s also one that comes together without the need for gadgets or advanced techniques, thereby representing Yabu and Pushelberg’s lo-fi style of cooking: They typically prefer chopping ingredients by hand to using a food processor. But they do appreciate automation to an extent: With the push of a button, their slate-grey cupboards open all at once like a chorus line of garage doors. They also installed a dumbwaiter in the kitchen — another idea that Pushelberg was originally sceptical of. (“I hate that Leos always think they’re right, and that they usually are,” he says of his partner with a laugh.) It comes in handy when they serve dinner downstairs, on the long oak picnic table designed for them by the Dutch woodworking studio Van Rossum, which sits in the centre of their ground-floor patio, surrounded by dunes on two sides. And as with their interiors, the couple values thoughtful simplicity at mealtimes. They’ll serve the fish with an unfussy heirloom tomato salad, or some fresh corn bought at a nearby farmstand — and, always, a good bottle of wine.

United Labor
 

Ingredients:

  • 2 halibut steaks, 16-20 ounces each

For the marinade:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • Juice of 2 preserved lemons

  • 6 cloves of garlic, chopped

  • Handful of basil leaves

  • A few pinches of salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper

For the vegetables:

  • 3 leeks, chopped (white and pale green parts only)

  • 2 bulbs fennel, sliced

  • 2 shallots, sliced

  • ½ cup unsalted butter

For the chutney:

  • ¾ cup finely chopped fennel

  • 8 large green olives, chopped

  • 4 preserved lemon segments, sliced thin

  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

  • 6 tablespoons olive oil

  • Juice of 2 lemons

  • Salt and pepper to taste

1. Pour the marinade ingredients over the fish, and let it sit in the fridge for 45 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a medium, oven-safe pot, melt the butter over medium heat and add the leeks and fennel, cooking them until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the shallots and cook for a few more minutes, until they have softened. Place in the oven for 30 minutes.

3. Prepare the chutney by mixing together the olives, preserved lemon, parsley, olive oils, lemons, salt and pepper in a bowl.

4. Heat a pan over medium-high heat until it’s good and hot, but not smoking. Tip in the marinade from the plate of fish, then add the fish flesh-side down. Cook for 6-8 minutes on each side. Serve over the bed of cooked vegetables and top with chutney.