Summer is doing its fleeting thing, and I am busy trying to savor every second of barefoot warmth, outdoor suppers, beach reads, and my child’s ability to self-entertain when presented with a sandy beach. We just returned from a restful week on Martha’s Vineyard where they really have summer simplicity figured out in spades.
Most “must do” lists for Martha’s Vineyard would include biking through manicured Edgartown, shopping for chic prep in Vineyard Haven, a winding trip up to the lighthouse in Aquinnah, but at the top of my list is a visit to Larsen’s Fish Market in Menemsha Harbor. I think about this often, but it really hit me while wandering along the docks watching fisherman unload their day’s catch, that what I seek is authenticity. If I am honest, I don’t want to go to Las Vegas or Disneyworld to see some corporate interpretation of Paris or Bellagio. I much prefer salty, thick skinned fishermen hauling in lobster traps. Larsen’s is a fish market with a screen door, concrete floors that are always wet from being hosed down, and the freshest local fish and shellfish I have had in ages.
We were fortunate to rent the most charming 800 square foot summer cottage in very chill Chilmark. It was right on a gorgeous pond that hosts the best sunsets on the island. This house was my simple living dream with painted floors, a swinging screen door that opened onto a reeded path and outdoor shower, and much to my surprise: a fully stocked kitchen complete with a framed window with a view of the sailboat dotted pond. I know, most of you are thinking, who wants to cook on vacation? But when you have access to lush farms and the freshest catch right down the road, it almost felt criminal not to take full advantage. And when all you have everyday is a stretch of time ahead with no plans other than watching your kid boogie board at Lucy Vincent Beach, you take your time hunting and gathering the spoils at Beetlebung Farm and The Grey Barn in Chilmark, or the West Tisbury Farmer’s Market. You can grab a box of pasta and fresh-out-of-the-oven cookie from the Chilmark General, and swing by Larsen’s and hope the line isn’t too long for oysters.
I will let you in on a secret. I am maybe not actually a great cook. I am great at editing recipes. I love to cook with seasonal ingredients for those near and dear, but no matter how much I love you, I don’t want to cook for three hours. I am very good at reading a recipe and figuring out if it is worth it. Is it a 30 minute recipe, but uses every pan in the house? Forget it. Can I make it in one pot, a sheet pan, or in the bowl of a Cuisinart? Sold. Find an oyster knife in my rental? I know what to do. So while on our blissfully slow vacation, I wanted to make things that I could pull together while simultaneously having apéro with the fam. Here are a few recipes I have proven you can make while slightly buzzed on rosé.
This recipe is decidedly more Ligurian Coast than East Coast, but go with it. Don’t let squid scare you, it’s a snap to cook. Serves 4.
16 oz. Calamarata pasta, if you can’t find this go with paccheri or short rigatoni
2 lb. squid, cleaned by your fishmonger
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
4 Tablespoons olive oil
24 cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
Red pepper flakes
1 Tablespoon butter
*Reserved pasta water
Ask your fishmonger to clean the squid. Slice the bodies into 1/2″ rings, and leave any tentacles intact. Boil a large pot of salted water and cook pasta until al dente (about 1-2 minutes less than the package directions). Be sure to reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water.
In a separate large, heavy pot or pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring for 30 seconds. Add the cherry tomatoes and about half of the parsley. Increase the heat to high and stir the tomatoes until the skins start to break. Add the squid and stir for one minute. Add 1/2 cup of wine, season with salt and a pinch of red pepper flakes, and lower the heat to low. Cover the pot and let the sauce cook for about 8-10 minutes. Keep and eye on it because squid gets chewy and tough if overcooked.
Add the drained, cooked pasta to the sauce and add the reserved pasta water a little bit at a time, you most likely won’t need all of it. Stir the mixture until the sauce coats the pasta. Add the pat of butter at the end as it adds a touch of richness and makes the sauce glossy. Add a little more pasta water if needed. Serve topped with remaining parsley and additional red pepper flakes if you like a little more heat. Finish with a little dusting of sea salt.
Sippin’ Green Gazpacho
This is like a trip to the farmer’s market in a bowl
Barely adapted from a recipe by Amiel Stanek, Bon Appétit, August 2017
Makes 6 cups
2 large cucumbers, peeled, and chopped
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 cups coarsely chopped arugula
2 cups coarsely chopped tender herbs such as parsley, chives, mint and/or cliantro
3 Tablespoons sherry or red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Purée cucumbers, garlic, and 1/2 cup of water in a blender until smooth. Add arugula, herbs, vinegar, and large pinch of salt and purée, stopping to scrape down the side of the blender as needed, until very smooth. With the motor running, slowly stream in oil; blend until emulsified. The mixture will turn pale green and look creamy. Taste gazpacho and season with more salt and vinegar as desired. Chill 4-12 hours.
You may need to give it a whir in the blender again before serving as the ingredients tend to separate in the fridge. Serve in glasses for sipping, or in bowls as I did with a little drizzle of olive oil.
Apricot Marzipan Tart
Slightly adapted from a recipe by David Lebovitz
The tart shell recipe is a true keeper. I thought it would never work, but knowing the genius of David Lebovitz, I trusted him and am glad I persisted. It’s ridiculously easy.
Make the tart shell first:
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
3 Tablespoons water
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 rounded cup flour
Preheat oven to 410 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a medium-sized ovenproof bowl, such as Pyrex, combine the butter, vegetable oil, water, sugar, and salt.
Place the bowl in the oven (yes, you are reading this correctly!) until the butter is bubbling and starts to brown around the edges. This took 10 minutes for me, but the recipe states 15 minutes, so just keep an eye on the situation.
When done, remove the bowl from oven (careful! the bowl is hot, and the butter may spatter!) Dump in the flour and stir quickly, until it comes together and forms a ball which pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Transfer the dough to a 9″ tart pan with a removable bottom and spread a bit with a spatula.
Once the dough is cool enough to handle, pat it into the shell with the heel of your hand and use your fingers to press it up the sides of the tart pan.
Prick the dough all over with the tines of a fork, and then bake the tart shell in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown. Again, keep and eye on it.
Remove from the oven and let the shell cool before filling.
Apricot Marzipan Tart Directions:
Note: this tart is the perfect dessert for people who love crumbles. This is basically fruit with a crumble topping. With that said, have some vanilla ice cream on hand.
For the marzipan topping:
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup almond paste
1/4 cup sliced almonds, blanched or unblanched
4 Tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted, cubed and chilled
For the fruit:
16 ripe apricots
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
Make the topping by mixing the flour, brown sugar, almond paste, sliced almonds and butter with your fingers, or a pastry blender, until the pieces of almond paste and butter are the size of peas. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pit and halve the apricots and slice them into 1/2″ slices. Toss the apricots in a bowl with the cornstarch and sugar and spread into the baked tart shell.
Strew the marzipan topping over the fruit and bake until the top is golden brown, and the fruit is bubbling 30-40 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let cool a bit before serving. The tart can be served as is, or at room temperature. I highly recommend the addition of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
The tart is best eaten the day it is made.
Last up is the book I polished off in our week away. Crying in H Mart is not exactly your classic beach read, but I devoured this memoir about loss, family ties through food, and Korean American culture. Written by the multi-talented Michelle Zauner, the front woman of the band Japanese Breakfast, this memoir is so honest about her grief experience and so informative of the connection between food and identity. Not to mention I was starving almost every minute of reading her detailed descriptions of Korean recipes.
This is certainly not beach fluff, but it offers humor, candor, and a coming of age story where food, culture and family are central characters. I highly recommend.
Enjoy your remaining weeks of bare feet and alfresco evenings.
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