Tuesday 11 Aug 2015

Maine Vacation: Good Eats, Epic Bonfire

A highlight of our year is the week we spend in Maine, at my family’s island farmhouse overlooking Penobscot Bay. That ever-changing, glorious view of meadow and ocean and big sky; organic garden brimming with vegetables, herbs and flowers; moss-covered trails through the woods—the most magical place. And it’s where Philip asked me to marry him, four years ago this month.

View on arrival, with our S and P nautical flags flying:

This year, as always, we did a lot of cooking and extravagant eating. Peas, beans, potatoes, squash blossoms, cabbage, beets, baby kale, lettuce, cauliflower, carrots, onions, celery, and herbs from the garden; raspberries from the orchard. The cauliflower we grew this year was vivid purple. The peas and raspberries were in such high season we could barely keep up with picking them.

Raspberry bushes under netting

Raspberry bushes under netting

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I love walking to the garden with basket and paring knife, discovering what’s ripened. Lifting the thick, spiny squash leaves to find blossoms just right for sautéing, plucking green beans from the vine, pulling up carrots with their earthy-sweet smell. Always shelling a few peas right there in the garden—that satisfying burst of the pod, the way the peas slide off under your thumb, their tender, bright taste. Truly it’s different from store-bought vegetables. Food here tastes vivid and clean.

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Here’s our week-plus of meals, a collaboration of family and friends. More recipes on the way.

Day 1:
Sautéed squash blossoms with goat cheese and herbs
Grilled salmon with lemon-dill mayo
Fresh peas with lemon and butter
Jamie Oliver whole-baked carrots

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Day 2:
Roasted chicken with herb butter
Jasmine rice with green peas
Paula Wolfert roasted cauliflower with tomato, currants, and pine nuts

Day 3:
Maine lobsters and Cape Cod potato chips
Ice cream with chocolate sauce

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Day 4:
Frittata with braised chard, beet greens, spinach and pecorino (variation here)
Garden lettuce with tomato, avocado and fresh peas
Cold poached chicken with lemon and chutney
Steamed purple cauliflower
Made-from-scratch blueberry-raspberry pie (buttery crust recipe here)

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Day 5:
Grilled steak
Fresh pea risotto with lemon, herbs, pecorino and Abbeye de Belloc
Cucumber-tomato-avocado salad
Another berry pie

Day 6:
Maine steamers
Pasta with olive oil, garlic and fresh herbs
Simple steamed green beans
Lizzie’s tarte tatin

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Day 7:
Pan-seared local haddock in tamari-Dijon-garlic marinade
Crispy roasted potatoes
Fresh peas in lemon butter

Day 8:
Frozen-watermelon cocktails with vodka, fresh lime, lemon mint, dash of sugar and a splash of Pellegrino
John’s barbecue chicken
Garlic-roasted cauliflower
Steamed green beans
Peanut-butter-cup s’mores

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Day 9:
Grilled organic burgers with pickles and spicy mayo
Roasted-potato salad with lemon vinaigrette, tarragon, and kale ribbons
Homemade coleslaw with red and white cabbage
One last blueberry-raspberry pie

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Lunches included John’s homemade beef chili; my mom’s chicken salad with green peppers, jalapeños, cilantro, parsley, lemon and Dijon (plus a tiny bit of mayo); avocado BLTs; steamed mussels and white wine; and classic kosher hotdogs with ketchup, sweet relish and onions on grilled buns. (The last during a game of poison-style croquet.)

The country kitchen is a scene of happy chaos, with the ancient and decrepit stove in center stage, beneath a sign tacked onto the brick chimney warning you to BE VERY GENTLE! with the oven door, as it has only one spring, with no parts to be found for such a relic. Everyone’s always getting into the chips and crackers and chocolate bars on the counter. The pegboard’s covered with iron skillets and steel pans, strainers and sieves and pronged implements. You have to time the dishwasher (and showers, etc.) with the generator being on, as that’s our only power source. On the sunny sill over the sink, there’s always some little collection of smooth stones, a champagne wire twisted into a tiny chair, a few pieces of colored sea glass.

We did the bonfire our final night, down by the beach. The pyre of tree cuttings had been saved for us, after a woods-cleanup project. The idea was the kids in the family would get to have this summer memory, all of us watching the fire at sunset. I had that last berry pie still in the oven when John started the blaze. And so a couple of times I sprinted the meadow trail (soft fading light; cool air on my face) to check the pie and return to the fire. Late into the night we could hear, through our open bedroom windows, the faraway crackle of embers.

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More about Maine here, from last year’s visit (including lots more photos).

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