Wednesday, July 29, 2009

After Much Anticipation...

Summer's warmth has truly wrapped us in her damp embrace this week, with air so wet it feels as if you could literally wring the water out of it with your bare hands. Today was blessedly cloudy and foggy, the hot sun shrouded behind a soggy, gray cloak. No rain yet, though I know it's coming.

Early this morning...and by early I mean 8 o'clock, it is still summer after all...we headed out in the drizzly dampness, to Hokum Rock Farm for some seriously serious blueberry picking. They were open today from 8-10 a.m. or until picked out, indicating to me that they suspected that they could indeed be picked out well before then. We arrived around 8:30, a small army of seven eager pickers, fierce competition for any berry picking family, I think. The parking lot was already full, as was the over-flow section. We managed to squeeze into a spot near the edge and hurried towards the netted-in enclosure that contained several perfect rows of berry bushes. As we picked our way down the line we found plenty of ripe berries, some small, some large, that dropped easily from their stems into our waiting blue pint-sized baskets. Our fingers (and shirts) stained, and trays heavy, we headed towards the check out area.

All told, we picked twenty pints of the berries, for a grand total $60. Hopefully we will be able to use them up. If I lived here year-round, I would definitely freeze some, but as it is, we will have to preserve the berries in jams and sauces and eat the rest up in baked goods, on our cereals and just by THREE days. I think that tomorrow will be spent in the kitchen putting up a large quantity of them so we can bring them back to Southern California and have a taste of Cape Cod summer waiting in the pantry.

I tried a new blueberry muffin recipe right when we got home, as we were hungry from our efforts (and our lack of breakfast). It called for brown sugar, but I think not quite enough. Next time, I will probably add a bit more. They were, however, perfectly tender and bursting with freshly-picked berries. On second thought, our two dozen muffins were gone not much after they came out of the oven. So perhaps they were sweet enough after all? I'll let you decide. One hour, farm to table...the way I wish I could eat all the time.

Hokum Rock Brown Sugar Blueberry Muffins

2 C flour
3 T brown sugar
3 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 egg
1 C milk
1 stick butter, melted
1 C fresh blueberries

turbinado (raw) sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Whisk dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the egg, milk and melted butter. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients at once, mixing just until combined. Carefully fold in blueberries and spoon evenly into greased muffin tin. Sprinkle heavily (about 1 large pinch each) with turbinado (raw) or white sugar.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through. Serve warm, with butter.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Season of Plenty

Summer is slipping right through my fingers and it seems that the harder I cling to it, the faster it goes. Our days have been busy with fun things, yes, but also with the daily things that go along with managing a household of 9, including 6 children, like laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, and laundry...did I mention laundry? For our last week here, my husband, who has worked most days since we have arrived (including weekends......he reads my blog so perhaps he will get the hint), has promised me that he will take this last week off so we can have a vacation week, and be tourists in our home away from home. While that remains to be seen, I do plan to make a list and try to fill my cup with as much Cape Cod as it will hold to tide me over until our next visit. I do miss it terribly when we are away.

Fortunately, our garden has weathered the literal storms and is finally producing lovely things, like our first green beans of the season, harvested last night and served simply, tossed with some olive oil, lemon zest and sea salt. There were only enough for each adult to have about 5 beans...whetting our appetite for many more to come (hopefully). In addition to that, we enjoyed fresh, homemade pizza, resurrecting our Friday tradition, with Swiss chard from the garden as well as sausage, kalamata olives and ricotta cheese.

Our bellies full, we headed out to our favorite beach, Sandy Neck, to skip stones, dance in the waves lapping on the shore (which were surprisingly large due to a recent storm) and search for beautiful, yet illusive heart-shaped rocks.

All in all it was a delightful evening here on the Cape. Here's hoping for at least a week more...

Pizza with Swiss Chard, Sausage and Olives

This pizza, thrown together from what we had in the garden and fridge, was so wonderfully satisfying. The chard crisped nicely and the sausage gave it some heft, while the sliced kalamata olives provided the right bit of briny and tangy goodness.

1 recipe pizza dough--or store bought dough (enough for one crust)
1/2 C your favorite tomato sauce pizza topping**
6-8 oz mozzarella cheese
several leaves of Swiss chard, stemmed and chopped
1/4 pound of Italian sausage, removed from casing if necessary, cooked and crumbled
10 pitted kalamata olives
8 or so T of ricotta cheese

Preheat oven to 500 degrees for one hour with pizza stone on the lowest oven rack.

Stretch dough according to directions and place on a floured square of parchment paper. Spread on pizza sauce and sprinkle on mozzarella cheese. Pile on Swiss chard, sprinkle with sausage and olives then dollop on the ricotta cheese. Slide dough on the parchment paper onto stone and bake for about 15 minutes, or until crust is golden and bubbled and cheese has melted. Remove from oven and discard parchment paper. Drizzle with olive oil, cut into wedges and serve.

**For pizza sauce, I simmer one small can of diced tomatoes with two grated cloves of garlic and a small handful of minced basil for about 15 minutes. Easy!

Sunday, July 19, 2009


A canoe ride...

Jumping off the dock...

A lobster feast...

A stroll on the beach...

Looking for treasures...

A visit to the fish pier in Chatham...

A discovery...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Summah Days

In Cape Cod, you know summer has arrived when the toilet starts sweating. Granted, it's not a very romantic image, but it is a fairly accurate predictor of just exactly how hot and humid the day is going to is my hair, but that is another story altogether. Summer days here can be particularly thick and heavy, especially if it is very hot. The moment you step outside, your sunglasses fog up, and your feet stick in your shoes. It's a little hard to breathe and your clothes cling to your skin as if you've just jumped into the sea. Everything moves slower and seeks shelter during days like these...everything, that is, except the bugs.

This was especially true for us as we ventured out to Taylor Bray Farm to pick our first blueberries of the season. Unfortunately, as we excitedly picked our way through the blueberry patch, all manner of biting and/or sucking insects excitedly picked their way through us, not hampered in any way by the copious coating of poison we had sprayed all over ourselves in a desperate attempt to fend them off. I was a snack for no-see-ums, mosquitoes, green-head flies, and some other type of fly that was orangeish in color. Red welts bubbled up on our thighs as sweat beaded up on our brows. But we persisted in our efforts, and despite the bugs and the small matter that the majority of the berries were still green on the branches, we brought home 3 bagfuls of the delightful ripe berries.

There is something very satisfying about picking your own food and knowing just exactly where it grew and who grew it. Though it's even more exciting when you've grown the food yourself, picking it from a local farm is nearly just as good. I love it that my children know that blueberries are plucked from bushes before they're nestled in pint-sized baskets, and that lettuce is torn from frilly heads in the garden , before it is packed into clam shell containers or cellophane if only they would EAT it (the lettuce, that is) steps.

Our bags of blueberries morphed into a lovely sauce for a rich lemon pound cake. The cake was tart and pleasantly pale yellow, and a perfect contrast to the sweet and deep purple syrup that was drizzled over the top. It was a delicious way to end an incredible meal (that included local lobster, striped bass, and corn) and a made a decent dent on our berry supply. Tomorrow morning...blueberry muffins, of course. If you are lucky enough to pick your own blueberries and are needing additional inspiration, check here for some more beautiful desserts.

Lemon Bundt Cake

This lovely cake comes from the Barefoot (2 sticks of butter) Contessa. Like all her cakes, this one is moist and incredibly flavorful. Though there are many steps, the end results are well worth your efforts. If you desire, you can bake the cake in two loaf pans instead of a bundt pan. The cake also freezes well.

1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temp
2 1/2 C granulated sugar
4 extra-large eggs at room temp
1/3 C grated lemon zest (6-8 large lemons)
3 C all-purpose flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1 t kosher salt
3/4 C freshly squeezed lemon juice (DIVIDED)
3/4 C buttermilk at room temp.
1 t pure vanilla extract


2 C confectioners' sugar
3 1/2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a bundt pan. Cream butter and 2 cups of granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. With the mixer on med. speed, add the eggs, one at a time, and the lemon zest.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 C lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla extract. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Pour batter into the pan, smooth the tops, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Combine 1/2 C granulated sugar with 1/2 C lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until sugar dissolves. When the cakes are done, let them cool for 10 minutes, then invert them onto a rack set over a tray, and spoon the lemon syrup over the cakes. Allow the cakes to cool completely.

For the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour over the top of the cakes and allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides.

Crushed Blueberry Sauce
makes about 1 1/2 C

This most amazing sauce comes from Bon Appetite Magazine. The brown sugar gives it a real depth of flavor and the lemon peel and juice cuts the sweetness a bit. It was perfect on this lemon cake, but would also be amazing over pancakes, waffles or ice cream.

3 C fresh blueberries or frozen, thawed (13 to 14 ounces), divided
2/3 C (packed) golden brown sugar
2 t fresh lemon juice
1/2 t finely grated lemon peel
Pinch of salt

Combine 1 1/2 C blueberries and all remaining ingredients in medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to simmer, about 7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until berries are very soft and liquid is syrupy, stirring often, about 7 minutes longer. Remove from heat and add remaining blueberries. Using back of spoon, gently press fresh blueberries against side of pan until lightly crushed. Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill. Serve chilled or rewarm before serving, if desired.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Partner in Crime (& Cooking)

Summer days, when we're all together at the Cape Cod house, are equal parts chaos, adventure, and the unexpected...and really, with six kids around, five of them being boys, I think we manage to keep things under control relatively well. But the one thing my sister-in-law and I have gotten really good at is turning out (fantastic, if I do say so myself) meals for twelve from the tiny kitchen. We've found an easy rhythm in the narrow space, do-si-do-ing around each other in a semi-choreographed dance of chopping, chatting, and cooking. I'm thrilled to have another woman around, especially one who is an excellent cook.

We especially enjoy heading out to the farmers' markets, farm stands and specialty stores to seek out inspiration for our evening meals, and last night was no exception. Satucket Farm Stand was loaded with ripe produce and we picked up corn, zucchini, crookneck squash, and tomatoes in hopes it would come together as a sauce for some homemade pasta we were planning on whipping up with the new Kitchen Aid Pasta Machine. In truth, vegetables that ripen simultaneously often make the best partners in a dish and we certainly found this to be the case in this sauce. I was a bit worried that the corn-with-pasta combination would be over the top in the carb department, but the corn was so fresh, crisp and light it didn't seem heavy at all. And though I still prefer my old hand-cranked pasta machine we have at home, the Kitchen Aid version made quick work of the dough...and when cooking for the masses, sometimes (perhaps most of the time) speed takes precedence over nostalgia.

Farm Stand Pasta
serves 6

1 1/2 pounds of your favorite fresh egg pasta (we made our own)
2 ears of corn, kernels cut off
1 shallot
1/2 red onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic
2 T olive oil
2 T butter
2 zucchini, cut in 1/4 inch half moons
2 crook neck squash, cut in 1/4 inch half moons
handful of fresh basil, slivered
1/2 C dry white wine
2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped

Prepare pasta according to package directions.

Heat olive oil and butter together in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and onion and saute until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add corn and squash and saute until golden brown. Add wine and stir to de-glaze the pan, scraping up any brown bits. Stir in tomatoes and basil and cook until tomatoes dissolve and become quite saucy, about 10 minutes more. Drain pasta and add to skillet, tossing well. If pasta seems sticky, add a splash or two of the pasta cooking water. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour out into large serving bowl and top with shredded fresh Parmesan cheese.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Red, White and Blue Potato Salad

Let me just preface this post by mentioning that my mother makes a fabulous potato salad, as did my grandmother (it's her recipe she uses). It is creamy and chock full of yummy goodness like celery, onions, and chopped boiled eggs. But it is very, very time consuming to make, and kind of stinks up the fridge (sorry mom...). So we usually only enjoy that treat at her house. The only version I ever make, I found a couple of years ago in Everyday Food. It's nice because it only has a few ingredients, and while it tastes like a double stuffed potato, it is fairly "light" as far as potato salads go because it calls for light mayo and sour cream. That said, if you prefer a full-fat version, please feel free. I've tried it both ways and honestly couldn't taste the difference. Also, because this salad is basically just potatoes, make sure you use the best small new potatoes you can find (the kind that actually taste like something). The other night, I actually substituted a portion of the sour cream with creme fraiche (we ran out of sour cream) and it was wonderful...flexibility and creativity are always good when cooking.

Potato Salad
serves 6

2 pounds small new potatoes (red, white and blue if you so choose)
3/4 C light sour cream
1/4 C light mayonnaise
salt and pepper
5 scallions, sliced
4 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled

Halve or quarter potatoes (depending on how large they are) and boil in salted water for approximately 15 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork. While still hot, toss with sour cream, mayo and salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until cold. Before serving gently stir in scallions and then top with crumbled bacon. Taste for seasonings and serve.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Independence Day!

A flag...

A sun...

A picnic...

A fashion statement...

A boat...

A dock...

A nervous grin...

A first swim...

A mojito...

A red, white and blue potato salad...

A dinner al fresco...

A sunset...

A sparkler...

A spectacle...

A perfect holiday....I hope you had a nice day too.