Wouldn’t it be great to be a Beekman? The fabulous boys live in a historic home on 60 acres in Upstate New York, where they tend goats, make cheese, raise vegetables — and otherwise oversee the Beekman 1802 reality show/cookbook/retail “lifestyle brand” that makes them contenders for the Martha Stewart throne (if she were to ever abdicate).
Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell don’t sugar-coat the difficulties of farm life, but at the same time they cultivate an aesthetic that incorporates rural work and an urban sensibility, the latter in keeping with their prior identities as Manhattanites. It’s all low-key, DIY, high design. Their recent wedding, for instance, drew 300 people — including Stewart — who brought heirloom family dishes instead of gifts and ate on homemade picnic blankets that doubled as party favors.
It’s no surprise that in their new book, “The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Vegetable Cookbook” (Rodale Books), they manage to make even the humblest produce specimens seem glamorous. And I’m fascinated by it. I enjoy entertaining friends, and at some point this season I’ll throw a party featuring my own vegetables (grown on 150 square feet in a gritty Washington neighborhood), so I’m more curious than ever just how the Beekmans manage to sit at this intersection of dirt and dinner party.
If my radishes are big enough in time, I know what I’ll make: the Beekmans’ Chilled Radish Soup. It’s yet another welcome idea for a different way to treat these peppery root vegetables, in this case blending them with buttermilk, nuts, vinegar and a little salt and sugar. The dish’s connection to their own family heritage is loose; they say the recipe is based on a soup featuring green beans made by the mother of co-author Sandy Gluck.
Whatever the origin, it’s divine. Garnished with potato, egg, red onion and cucumber, it reminds me a little of white gazpacho, the Spanish soup based on almonds and bread, with one obvious exception: If you use red radishes, it takes on a purply-pink color. I made it, chilled it, poured it into a bowl for serving, garnished it, and immediately pictured the soup instead in shot glasses, lined up on a huge farm table (or my little porch, anyway), awaiting all my fabulous guests.