Sunday, June 12, 2011

Nantucket, June 2011

The weather during the first weekend of June was spectacular.   I know that it was glorious on Nantucket and I've heard that it was much the same all up and down, in and out of the the Northeastern USA.

Allegra - the beautiful "New York City Special" which is how I describe her whenever asked, "What kind of dog is she?" - and I drove from downtown Manhattan to Hyannis Airport, making a few obligatory stops; gas in Darien, CT., the McDonald's in Madison, CT which has a very large meadow behind it where Allegra can have a spin and a roll , and Kyler's Catch Seafood in New Bedford, MA (just off I-195 at Washburn Street) which has a huge selection of fresh fish at the MOST reasonable prices - I stop there going , yes, to buy fish to bring  to Nantucket (coals to Newcastle anyone?), and on the way home to stock up on enough fresh fish to eat for dinner and lunch for about 6 days in a row in NYC.   And before you know it, after dodging drivers that absolutely have to have a phone conversation or send a  text message at 75 miles per hour, we arrived, 5 hours later in Hyannis - and Legs (which is what I call her from time to time) was howling with delight, fully aware of where she's about to be.   She walked on the plane and sat in the aisle near the door.  Then she & I (we were the only passengers on the plane) arrived on Nantucket 12 minutes later.  Finishing off the trip by plane rather by ferry - is a little reward for all that driving.

We arrived on the island, settled out in Wauwinet (the east end of the island) at my sister, Laura's and brother-in-law Jimmy's Eden-like spot, then took off for town to do a few errands, and have  an heure bleue stop at one of my favorite places on earth, Sesachacha Pond also on the island's east end.   If you look clear across the pond you'll see see a dip in the sand - beyond the sand is the ocean.  Once or twice a year, the town's DPW plows that area so that the salt water comes into the pond and mixes with the fresh leaving behind a perfect blend of water described with the unseemly word, brackish.   Allegra loved sniffing around (thank goodness she didn't find anything dead to roll on) and even went in for a splash and a gulp.

Dinner was simple, and simply delicious.  Just picked asparagus - from the an established mound in Laura's renowned vegetable garden/orchard - were roasted with olive oil and salt. Basta.  Roasting intensified the flavor of the stalk.  Wild salmon from Alaska via New Bedford, was cut into single-portion size fillets and briefly marinated in maple syrup (grade B) and Dijon mustard, then grilled,  flesh-side down for 3 minutes, then skin-side down for another 2 or 3 minutes.   That's it - a tavola!

Saturday was all about the Nantucket High School graduation.  Emil, son of my friends, Anna and Steve Bender was one of the 89 class of 2011 graduates.  Following the graduation there was a fine party hosted by the families of 7 of the male graduates on the spacious property of one of the boys.  There was a shed/cantina where the boys' fathers took turns grilling burgers, dogs, Brazilian steak, chicken, and sweet sausages.  That's just what I saw before I turned the corner to find a whole lawn set with tables and chairs and a tented food area at the far end.   Under the tent, the U-shaped table formation swayed with loads and loads of food from a selection of salads that could have been the banners for the families who made them; tabbouleh, Brazilian rice vinaigrette, Swedish potato salad, salsa, all-American tossed green salad with many assorted veggies, crumbled feta cheese and dressed with a favorite from my childhood, Good Seasons Italian dressing combined mixed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar - to name just a few of them; pizza enrolado, a Brazilian pizza stuffed with ham and various vegetables; Vietnamese-style country ribs -prepared with love and attention by Emil's father, Steve; watermelon, mixed berries, and fruit salad; chocolate chip cookies, carrot cake and brownies.  It was a grand collaborative effort that not only fed the guests in style but created the kind of vibe that encourages conviviality.

Sunday was about the beach.  Heaven.  After the longest winter in memory (and what has now turned out to be the shortest spring) - the beach - out on the south end of the island chosen in order to shelter us from the somewhat active northerly winds - fragrant with ragosa roses and salt air was the perfect antidote to everything - worries included.  Just to be able to stretch out on the warm sand then dip sunkissed legs into the still icy Atlantic was worth all those stress-filled hours on the road.

And then we did the whole thing in reverse.

Be back soon.

SUSANSIMONSAYS: I ought to give you the marinade ingredients for the country ribs.   Steve actually used a marinade recipe that he found for Vietnamese Garlic Roasted Quail - this is enough for 8 quail - so maybe 4 or 5 poounds of ribs:
2/3 cup mushroom soy
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon sugar
8 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon blackpeppercorns, crushed
2 tablespoons sesame oil
nam cham (Vietnamese fish sauce) to serve
fresh basil leaves to garnish
Beat soy with honey and sugar until the sugar has dissolved.  Stir in the garlic, crushed peppercorns and sesame oil.    Rub the marinade on the ribs.   And then follow whatever recipe you use for country ribs.  Whether you marinate them for several hours then grill - or slow roast for 6 or 7 hours.   Serve with a splash of fish sauce and garnish with fresh basil.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Last Weekend

The gorgeous Allegra & I are off the Nantucket this upcoming weekend.    But, first, a quick word about last weekend - Memorial Day weekend - which we spent in the relative quiet of New York City.  

I started the weekend on Friday by inviting a friend over for lunch.   

We ate outside, sitting in the shade of Norway maple tree that overhangs my terrace.  I made salad with grilled chicken, very slim green beans dressed with peanut sauce ( see blog posting from  January 8th 2011 for recipe) all sitting on a bed of green leaf lettuce.

Serves 3 - 6

Marinate 1-inch wide strips of 6 chicken breasts in:
2 tablespoons sesame oil
zest & juice of  1 lime
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger root
1 clove garlic mashed through a press
2 tablespoons soy sauce
a few drops of sriracha sauce
Let marinate for at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours.
Grill over a charcoal or gas grill for about 3 minutes on one side and 2 to 3 minutes on the other

Blanch the green beans, toss with enough peanut sauce to evenly coat.  For this particular dish I fried 'til crisp the white part of ramps (because their season is just ending) and tossed them into the beans.

Pile pieces of green leaf lettuce on a serving platter.  Top with the beans, then the chicken.  Serve immediately.   While the grill was going  I toasted some pieces of olive-oiled baguette to accompany the salad.

We had a bowl of frozen vanilla yogurt topped with the rhubarb-strawberry compote from my last blog.  I often serve amaretti cookies with a dessert like this one and show my companions how to smash them, either between your hands or on the table then sprinkle the crumbs over the dessert.  Yum!

Fast forward to the Monday, the 30th, Memorial Day and another little meal outside, under the maple.  By Monday it was steaming hot - which translate ito drinks poured over mountains of ice and freezer-chilled beer.

To go with those gelid beverages we - my guests & I were fed fried asparagus by another guest, His Royness, Roy Finamore, legendary cookbook editor, and winner of a James Beard award for his book, "Tasty, Get Great Food on the Table Every Day" ( Houghton Mifflin Co. 2006).  Roy used his string beans fritto  recipe from "Tasty..." for the Pecorino cheese battered, rolled in bread crumbs, olive oil fried asparagus - and, Man, oh Man were they deeeeeeeeeeee-vine.    Salty, crunchy, and grassy with a tiny spritz of fresh lemon juice for a tiny bit of tang - the asparagus got us started in fine style.

Our main course were grilled cheeseburgers ( made with local, grass fed beef) and  two salads:


Serves 4 or 5

1 pound smallish red skin potatoes cut in half, steamed until a fork passes through them with ease

While the potatoes are steaming add a heaping tablespoon of finely chopped shallots, 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, 1 tablespoon prepared Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 1/4 extra virgin olive, 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped capers (preserved in salt)  and 1 teaspoon sea salt to a large bowl and whisk together until emulsified.   Cut the hot potatoes into 1/2-inch chunks and add to the vinaigrette - toss together.   The hot potatoes will absorb the vinaigrette  as they cool.   Taste for seasoning and add as needed.


Serves 4-ish

1 large bunch radishes, leaves and root end removed.  Rinse thoroughly - they are covered in secret pockets of dirt!
Use a mandolin to thinly slice.  Wrap the sliced radishes in a layer of paper towels or a cotton tea towel so they can sweat out some of their liquid.   Let them rest for an hour or so.
Toss together with some coarsely chopped black olives, chopped chives, chopped fresh mint, extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice and sea salt to serve.

We started our meal with a "Tasty..." recipe and ended with one too.  Roy's Strawberry SHORTCAKE.
Shortcake capitalized because that's recipe included in the book.  Once you've got it - use it with any fruit in season.  When the strawberries have gone it's onto to peaches, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, cranberries - you get the idea.
Here's what Roy says, "I've been baking this tender cake - almost cake, almost biscuit - for thirty years now.  When I lived in Vermont , I'd make it for breakfast, putting slabs of the cake into bowls with fresh-picked raspberries from the yard and ladling in top milk, which we got from the dairy farmer down the road."

 Makes one 8-inch cake
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch sat
1/3 cup butter softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/3 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter and flour an 8-inch round cake pan.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl.
Beat the butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until it starts to lighten.  Gradually pour in the sugar, beating while you pour, and continuing beating until very light.  Beat in the eggs.
Now switch to a wooden spoon and stir in the dry ingredients and milk in batches: half the dry, all the milk, and the rest of the dry.   Beat for a moment or two with the spoon until the batter is smooth.  It will be stiff.
Add the the batter to the pan and pat it out into the pan with floured fingers.  Give the pan a rap on the counter top to release any air bubbles, then slip into the oven.  Bake for about 25 minutes, until risen and browned in spots.
Let the cake cool on a rack for about 5 minutes, then turn out of the pan and let cool completely on the rack.
Roy sliced about a pint of strawberries and let them macerate with 1 packed tablespoon brown sugar, 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar and a few grinds black pepper.

Assemble the cake:   Spoon some of the strawberry juice over the cake and then spoon on the fruit.   Whip a cup of heavy cream and spread over the berries.
Serve right away, or refrigerate for later.

SUSANSIMONSAYS:   I'm all talked out.   Next week, Nantucket!