Island Cooking

Hayrides & Pie

by Chef Jenn Farmer

The fourth of July holds a lot of nostalgia for me.  As a child it was one of the best days in the world.  It was a time to be social, see people, eat great food, and see big fireworks.  I vividly remember eating contests on the fourth. Nothing like the big competitions you see today—people trying to beat other’s records etc.  I find those contests distasteful (maybe a little pun intended).  We had watermelon eating contests:  one wedge of melon, hands tied behind back, and whoever finished it first won.  There were also pie and cake eating contests set up the same way, whoever finished their portion first was proclaimed the winner.  It was messy and silly, but very fun, and often lucrative as there was usually a nice prize for the winner.

One summer I remember being on a hayrack ride, which pulled up in front of the long tables with red and white checker tablecloths.  The tables were lined with small, beautiful, crusty pies.  I was surprised to see my grandfather, (who was supposed to be keeping an eye on me) alongside several teenagers, and young adults, seated at the table.  He was poised with his hands hobbled behind him.  “Go!” was shouted by an official of sorts, and the next thing I knew Grandpa was face down in the blueberry pie gobbling away.  He was easily the eldest member of the group and one of the quickest.  I was stunned:  HE WON.  I was shocked for two reasons.  First he was easily 20-40 years older than any other participants.  He also had only half of his stomach.  I always thought it was pretty cool, because he had lots of very tough looking scars across his chest and abdomen.  Instead of eating big meals he ate snacks all day long to accommodate it.  He never ate much at a time, so a pie in a hurry was a shocker.  I was later astounded to find out that he was involved in the watermelon eating contest earlier and didn’t win.  I asked him why he was subjecting himself to such tortures.  I figured his sweet tooth had gotten the better of him, but I found out that he saw my grandmother had been quietly coveting the prize from this contest:  a fluffy white coconut cake inside a brand new plastic-ware container that was made for storing such items.  I don’t know which she wanted more, the cake or the container.  Grandpa wasn’t always the best at showing his affection, but he was determined to surprise her with this gift.  He succeeded.

One of the unique things I remember about growing up is that we ate potlucks or bought food from local farm wives at charity food stands.  There were no restaurants involved in the celebrations—all the food was made by locals from ingredients grown on their own plots of land.  I cannot stress enough how wonderful freshly picked produce tastes.  Here in Nantucket we have a wonderful farmer’s market and several local farms that provide us with fresh bounty.  The best part is that when you start with fresh, quality ingredients, a lot of preparation is not necessary—basic is better.  This is a huge plus in this hot weather, nobody wants to be in the kitchen cooking when they can be at the beach instead. I made up a menu that is quick, easy, elegant, and delicious…and guaranteed to give you a little extra beach time!

Classic Grilled Fish Nantucket Style

  • 6 fish steaks or fillets (tuna, halibut or striped bass work great) 8-10 ounces ea
  • One half cup real mayonnaise
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Lemon or lime wedges

Heat up your grill to medium heat.  Coat the fish on both sides with mayonnaise and season with salt and pepper.  Grill the fish over medium heat, lid closed for a few minutes-maybe about 5 minutes. Turn the fish and finish cooking, but don’t let the fish dry out (3-5 more minutes). The fish should be opaque but also still moist in the center.  Remove the fish and place on a warm serving dish.  Serve with lemon and freshly cracked black pepper.  Serves 6

Grilled Corn with Chipotle and Cheese

  • One half cup butter, softened
  • One quarter cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 half of a lime, zested and juiced
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • One tablespoon Chipotle pepper (dried or in adobo, minced)
  • One half cup queso fresco, crumbled
  • 6 ears of sweet corn in the husk

In a bowl combine the butter, lime zest and juice, cilantro, green onion, and chipotle pepper.  Set aside. Meanwhile carefully peel the husks of the corn back without removing them, and remove the silks.  Pull the husk back over the corn and soak them in salt water for 15 minutes (sea water works if you are grilling at the beach).  Drain the corn.  Heat up your grill.  Grill the corn until it is done (I tend to prefer it a bit underdone to overcooked and chewy, so 15 to 20 minutes should be adequate). For a prettier presentation, pull the husk back and grill the corn itself for a minute or two for grill marks, and added flavor. When the corn is ready, remove from the grill and pull back the corn husk.  Spread equal amounts of butter on each.  Sprinkle with queso fresco and use the husk as a handle to eat the corn with.  Serves 6

Green Bean Salad with Buttermilk Blue Cheese

  • 1 pound tender green beans, trimmed
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked until crispy, and crumbled
  • 4 ounces buttermilk blue cheese, crumbled (any blue cheese can be used)
  • 1 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted and chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons nice quality olive oil, or reserved bacon fat
  • Lemon wedge (optional)
  • Salt and pepper

Cook the green beans in boiling salted water until they are tender, but still crisp. This will take about 4 minutes.   Drain the beans and immediately toss them with the blue cheese, crumbled bacon, olive oil, and nuts.  Taste. Season with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Serves 6

Red, White, and Blueberry Ice Cream Sundae

  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup cranberries
  • One half cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or a piece of vanilla bean
  • 1 pint Vanilla Ice Cream

Cook the cranberries with the sugar and vanilla on low heat until the berries burst, set aside to cool a little. If you used a piece of vanilla bean, then remove it.   Put two scoops of vanilla ice cream in each bowl, and top with a little warm cranberry sauce.  Garnish with fresh blueberries.     Serves 4

Articles by Date from 2012