Eating local food at the beach
Our young friend Elsie drove an hour from Boston and spent a day with our extended family at
. Elsie brought a big brown bag of beautiful, locally grown, organic food from her
"subscription." She also brought a wide-mouth quart jar of perfect bread and butter pickles she and her man Andrew had made, following a recipe in
.So Elsie provided many of the ingredients for a great beach dinner. Then, as she had said in advance would happen, she left before we cooked and ate it.Five of us put the ingredients together to make the meal: Sons Eli and Elisha, Elisha's friend Sarah, my main man Steve, and me. Elsie could not have had better timing with her fresh veggie gift: we expected nine for dinner.With five of us cooking in the tiny garrett kitchen with the ocean view, we made a classic beach dinner - all fresh, all sumptuous, all on the light side.An inventory of Elsie's CSA bag:
> Ripe yellow and red tomatoes > Small sweet onions > A head of fresh garlic with soft, transparent skin (a garlic adolescent, in other words) > Yellow summer squash, zucchinis, and a lovely pale yellow squash with a light green color splash on one end > A gorgeous head of a leaf lettuce I did not recognize, perhaps a Romaine type, dark and tender > A white (or cream) sweet pepper > Small pickling style cucumbers > Perfect small, sweet carrots still sporting their green tops > A cantaloupe
And more. I think there was a fragrant bouquet of basil, too. Here's how we used the wonderful local foods:
Carrot and Pepper Dipper Strips: Sarah cleaned and cut the carrots lengthwise into slender dipper sticks, and turned the white pepper into long slender scoops for Eli's guacamole appetizer. Eli uses a "framework" instead of a recipe to make this dish, taking advantage of the creamy Haas avocadoes always on sale during our time at Salisbury Beach. Without giving away another chef's secrets, I can say that Eli's ingredients include perfectly ripe (not mushy) Haas avocadoes chunked and smashed a little with lemon juice, lime juice, chopped onion, chopped tomatoes, salt, pepper, and sometimes cilantro and some fresh hot pepper. White corn chips are the classic, tasty vehicle for getting guac to the mouth. We stretched the category with Elsie's carrot and pepper sticks.
Squash-Garlic-Tomato Casserole: I cubed all the squashes, chopped up the whole head of fresh garlic, and stirred all together in a bowl with one tablespoon flour. I chopped up the red tomatoes, seeds, skins, juice, and all, and tossed them lightly with the other veggies in the bowl. I poured the mixture into an oiled glass 9" X 13" pan, and sprinkled on salt, several grinds of black pepper, and about four ounces grated Gruyere cheese. I set this to bake at 400 degrees in my mother-in-law Eloise's oven downstairs, avoiding baking all of us third floor cooks along with the casserole. 45 minutes later, this dish was vegetable-sweet and Gruyere-savory, with crispy edges.
Grilled Salmon: Elisha chopped most of a garlic head fine - it looked like uncooked rice grains - and we made a marinade in a big bowl. Eli squeezed in the juice of a lime, and we added a couple of tablespoons of Spectrum sesame oil, a dash of soy sauce, and a couple of tablespoons of Eden Mirin (seasoned rice wine.) We chased two sizable salmon fillets, about three pounds total, in and around the marinade, giving the fish a few minutes to collect flavor before Steve grilled it on his baby Weber grill.
Green Salad: Elsie's lettuce, the yellow tomatoes, some feta, and other veggies filled a giant salad bowl. I made a vinaigrette I often use for salads: I stir together these ingredients:
About 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil A tiny bit of mustard, about 1/8 teaspoon, either dry or Dijon A tiny bit of sugar, about 1/2 teaspoon Sea salt to taste (or you can leave it out completely) Black pepper to taste (or leave it out if you prefer)
Mix these ingredients vigorously with a fork or small whisk in a small measuring cup or bowl until they are well blended.
Add 2 to 3 teaspoons Cavalli Balsamic Seasoning, or to taste. Stir vigorously and pour over salad just before serving and eating.
Corn on the Cob: Fresh, local "Butter and Sugar" corn - what the Bay Staters call "native" corn, grown just a few miles from our beach cottage. Steve dropped it into boiling water for less than two minutes and we served it plain, with optional butter, salt, pepper.
Cucumber saladin the tsatsiki style: Sarah peeled a couple of small strips of skin from each cucumber and then sliced them in bite size chunks. She sprinkled them with sea salt and set them to drain in a strainer. After 20 minutes or so, she squeezed them by the handful several times, so they were limp-crisp. I used the flat side of a knife on a cutting board to mash together about 1 teaspoon of finely chopped garlic and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, making a paste. I stirred that paste into a cup of Fage Greek Yogurt (thus committing the biggest non-local food sin of our vacation). I stirred the thick, creamy, tangy, garlicky mixture through the cucumbers.
We ate like queens and kings in the ocean air. Those who could bear it (being either young or male or both) had Blonde Brownies for dessert - a family favorite treat. I use friend Judy Rosen's recipe, and she was present at the dinner.
We visit Salisbury Beach each summer. This is Steve's home. This year I passed the one year mark - I have spent more than 52 weeks of my life in this beloved place. One of the things I love most each year is the joint work of turning great local foods into our evening meals. Elsie's big bag of organic local produce may have set a new standard for delicious freshness. My thanks to all the growers, chefs, providers, and dinner companions involved in our meal.