Memorial Day Picnic
Island Cooking Nantucket Entertaining Nantucket Style

A Weekend to Remember

• by Leah Mojer •

Decorating soldiers’ graves with flowers is an ancient custom.  The first Memorial Day observance went by another name: Decoration Day.

In the south, people would gather on the designated day and put flowers on graves and renew contacts with relatives, neighborsm and friends.  There was often a religious service and a picnic-like “dinner on the ground,” in which people used to spread the dishes out on sheets or tablecloths on the grass.  It is believed that “potluck” meals were started as part of the first Decoration days, and would later become a tradition synonymous with Memorial Day cookouts, beach barbecues,and celebrating what most embrace as the official beginning of summer.  This year, let’s roll out the blankets, light the grills, and celebrate our brave, fallen heros by enjoying shared dishes, friends and family.  Cheers!

Vinho Verde Punch
I love Vinho Verde for warm weather with its low alcohol and super refreshing acidity.  It also happens to be very affordable, usually around nine dollars a bottle, making this a very economical, share-worthy punch!

  • 2 navel oranges
  • 4 750 ml bottles white Vinho Verde (try Broadbent Vinho Verde)
  • 1 C Rosemary Syrup  (recipe follows)
  • 1 seedless cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
    1/2 C mint leaves
  • Ice cubes, for serving

For Rosemary Syrup

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 rosemary sprigs, rinsed
  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer over moderately low heat for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain the syrup and chill.
    For the Punch:  Using a knife, peel the oranges, removing all of the white pith. Working over a bowl, cut in between the membranes to release the sections into the bowl.
  2. In a punch bowl, mix the wine and Rosemary Syrup. A dd the oranges and cucumber slices; let stand for 1 hour.  Garnish with the mint and serve over ice.

“Bean Hole” Beans

I love the history to this Maine tradition. According to experts,  Native Americans originated bean hole beans by baking beans with bear grease and maple syrup in clay pots covered with deerskins and buried in coals in the ground.  In modern times, the traditional bean hole is a stone-lined pit in which a fire is built until a good bed of coals forms.  A cast iron bean pot is lowered into the pit and simmered until morning.   Here, we have simplified the tradition, although I highly recommend if ya got a nice fire pit to try this method out first hand!

  • 1 pound beans. Navy, Pea, Yellow Eye, Marafax or other Heirloom bean
  • 1 pound salt pork or ½ cup shortening
  • ¼ c. molasses
  • 2 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 ½ tsp. dry mustard
  • ¾ tsp. salt (for salt pork) or 1 tsp. salt for shortening
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • ½ medium onion, diced
  1. Soak beans overnight, drain; cover with fresh water and simmer for about an hour (until bean skin “flays” when you blow on a bean).
  2. Combine with remaining ingredients; add boiling water to cover plus a little more (about ½ inch above level of beans after stirring).
  3. Cook in a slow cooker for 6 to 8 hours.

Skillet-Fried Chicken

To make fried chicken feel less daunting, start this recipe the day before and break it up into smaller tasks; get your flour measured, your wet ingredients together and your tools gathered ahead of time so when it comes time to fry, you will be cool as a cucumber.

  • 3 T kosher salt, divided
  • 2 t plus 1 T freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-1/2 t paprika
  • 3/4 t cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 t garlic powder
  • 1/2 t onion powder
  • 1 3–4-lb. chicken, cut into 10 pieces, backbone and wing tips removed
  • 1 C buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 T cornstarch
  • Peanut oil (for frying)
  1. Whisk 2 Tbsp. salt, 2 tsp. black pepper, paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, and onion powder in a small bowl.  Season chicken with spices.  Place chicken in a medium bowl, cover, and chill overnight.
  2. Let chicken stand covered at room temperature for 1 hour.  Whisk buttermilk, egg, and 1/2 cup water in a medium bowl.  Whisk flour, cornstarch, remaining 1 T. salt, and remaining 1 T. pepper in a 9x13x2″ baking dish.
  3. Pour oil into a 10″–12″ cast-iron skillet or other heavy straight-sided skillet (not nonstick) to a depth of 3/4.”  Prop a deep-fry thermometer in oil so bulb is submerged.  Heat over medium-high heat until thermometer registers 350°.  Meanwhile, set a wire rack inside a large rimmed baking sheet. DO NOT USE PAPER TOWELS: these equal steam, and steam equals soggy fried chicken.
  4. Working with 1 piece at a time, dip chicken in buttermilk mixture, allowing excess to drip back into bowl.  Dredge in flour mixture, shake off excess.  Place 5 pieces of chicken in skillet.  Fry chicken, turning with tongs every 1–2 minutes and adjusting heat to maintain a steady temperature of 300°–325°, until skin is deep golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of chicken registers 165°, about 10 minutes for wings and 12 minutes for thighs, legs, and, breasts.
  5. Using tongs, remove chicken from skillet, allowing excess oil to drip back into skillet; transfer chicken to prepared rack.
  6. Repeat with remaining chicken pieces; let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.  Also delicious served room temperature.

Coleslaw with Creamy Cumin Vinaigrette  

This zesty twist on classic cole slaw goes with just about anything, from Southern BBQ to Baja fish tacos!

  • 1 large carrot, shredded
  • 1/4 C Dill, fresh, chopped
  • 1 Zest of a Lime
  • 1 small head Napa cabbage shredded
  • 1 Red bell pepper, julienned
  • 1 small Red onion, julienned
  • 1 Yellow bell pepper, julienned
  • 1/4 C Lime juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1/2 C Mayonnaise
  • 1 t Celery salt
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 T Sugar
  • 1 T Olive oil
  • 1/2 t Cumin seeds, toasted & ground
  1. In a large bowl, combine veggies and lime zest. Set aside.
  2. In a separate smaller bowl, whisk together the lime juice, mayo, celery salt, sugar, oil and cumin.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour over veggie mixture and toss to coat.  Let sit 30 minutes before serving.

Mini Key Lime Whoopie Pies

These look as awesome as they taste!

  • 1 1/3 C all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 C whole-wheat flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 C packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1/2 t fine salt
  • 1/2 C full-fat plain yogurt
  • 1/3 C vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 C confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 T grated lime zest plus 3 tablespoons juice (from 6 key limes or 2 limes)
  • 1/4 C granulated sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with racks in middle and bottom thirds. Whisk together flours, brown sugar, baking soda, 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and salt.  In a large bowl, with a mixer, beat yogurt, oil, and eggs on medium, 3 minutes.  With mixer on low, add flour mixture in 3 additions; beat in vanilla until combined.  Refrigerate batter 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, using clean mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth.  Beat in confectioners’ sugar and lime zest and juice until smooth.  Refrigerate filling, covered, until ready to use (or up to 3 days).
  2. Combine remaining 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and granulated sugar. Drop dough in 40 rounded tablespoons, 1-1/2 inches apart, on parchment-lined baking sheets.  Bake until puffed and set, about 10 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through.  Remove cakes from oven and immediately sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar.  Let cool completely on sheets on wire racks. Peel cakes from parchment.  Spread 1 tablespoon filling on flat sides of half the cakes and sandwich with remaining cakes.  Serve immediately (or refrigerate in a single layer in an airtight container, up to 2 days).

Articles by Date from 2012