I’ve traveled here for the last 25 years and while I’ve enjoyed the island in every season, I love this early summer week best of all. The weather is cool and breezy but the sun is hot and direct and the sky is a blue beyond blue.
It’s a great week for roses, hydrangeas and privet hedges. There’s a scurry of landscape crews every day busily fluffing up the already beautiful gardens of Edgartown. The houses have a fresh coat of paint, the window boxes are overflowing and everything smells green.
When we pack for the trip, I grab some essentials from the pantry so every night’s dinner is an easy affair. On the way out the door, I passed the pantry and picked up a pint of borlotti beans (served with sautéed sweet onions over rice), a quart of crushed tomatoes (for a satisfying riff on shakshoushka), a jar of raspberry jam, a jar of pickle relish (for tartar sauce), and a quart of chicken stock.
The very first morning, we drove up to Susie Middleton’s beautiful Green Island Farm (check out her blog for delicious veggie-focused recipes.) It’s our favorite stop for eggs and greens and spring onions. She had peas today and beautiful yellow squash that was so appealing I nearly bit in like an apple.
Morning Glory Farm is a happy stop many days. Yesterday there were tiny carrots, plump, sweet strawberries, and gorgeous bok choy.
Edgartown Seafood has the very best local fish and shellfish. Yesterday there were filets of local, freshly caught haddock and sole: glistening, bright white fish that smelled of the sea. When I grow tired of cooking, we order steamed, split lobsters and bring them home for a classic New England feast.
No trip to Marthas Vineyard is complete without a visit up island at Menemsha’s famous clam shack, The Bite. It’s not officially summer until I’ve dipped salty, slightly greasy fried clams into suspect tartar sauce while sitting at a weathered picnic table, the ocean all around.
Don’t think it’s been all savory around here. I brought some cookbooks with me intending to finally read some classics I’ve had on my nightstand for awhile. I am completely in love with the classic Claudia Fleming book, The Last Course. As soon as I read the recipe, I made the DIVINE lemon poppyseed shortbreads.
3 Thai chiles, halved, seeds and stem removed for mild curry (keep them for spicy)
3 Serrano chiles, halved, seeds and stem removed for mild curry (keep them for spicy)
One 2-inch piece of lemongrass, peeled and sliced
One 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled
12 sprigs of fresh cilantro, stems included
2 limes, juiced and zest from one
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
2 shallots, minced
1 medium yellow onion, sliced in half moons
6 spring onions, white and green parts cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes with skin still on
1 medium yellow squash, cut into thick batons
1 cup fresh English peas
1 can coconut milk
1 quart chicken stock
1 bunch Swiss Chard, stems chopped and leaves sliced into thin ribbons
1-1/2 pounds fresh mussels, scrubbed and beards removed
1 pound fresh littleneck clams, scrubbed
Make the curry paste. In a blender or food processor, add the chiles, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, zest, fish sauce, salt, coriander, and pepper. Blend until thoroughly pureed. If your blender balks at the thick sturdy paste, loosen it a bit with a little of the chicken stock. (The paste may be made hours in advance and refrigerated.)
In a wide skillet with straight sides over medium high heat, add the oil. Sauté the shallots and onions until translucent. Add the spring onion, eggplant and squash and heat until softened, about 5 minutes, stirring gently. Add the curry paste and cook about 3 minutes at a strong simmer.
Add the peas, coconut milk and chicken stock and bring to a strong simmer. Simmer 10 to 15 minutes until the vegetables are cooked through and the sauce has reduced by one-third. Add the chard, mussels and clams, cover and cook about 5 minutes, or until the mussels and clams open up.
Serve in generous bowls over fluffy jasmine rice with chopped cilantro and lime quarters as garnish. Put a big bowl in the middle of the table for the shells. Eat with a big spoon and use your fingers with the shellfish. You’re on vacation.
Ahh. It’s summer.