Island Cooking

Humiliation and Refreshment

by Chef Jenn Farmer

To escape the summer heat, a dear friend and I went on a soul searching walk on the beaches of ‘Sconset recently. We wandered for a while, watching the birds run along the shore scavenging snacks from the surf and watching a languid seal or two diving for shellfish. Not only was it relaxing, but interesting, since it was one of those days when all kinds of cool debris washes upon the shore. There were a variety of shells, scary looking fish skeletons, and all sorts of beautiful pebbles. All shells were giving me ideas for dinner that night. I was daydreaming about ceviche, and clams on the half shell, leafy greens loaded with the fresh vegetables I had bought at the farmer’s market. I was ravenous and considering heading back toward home, when we made our greatest discovery.

As we lazily strolled something came into our view. It was a large, dark looking item, nearer the bluff than the water, so we decided to investigate.

At first we believed it was an old tent or piece of sail that had been discarded there by the wind, but as we got closer it was apparent it was some sort of pelt, and there were many sun-bleached bones scattered around it. We got closer to inspect this unusual find. It did not smell at all, so it had to
have been there a while. We became a couple of sleuths, examining the pieces of this curious discovery. The pelt was deep brown and furry. So it was not a fish, the skull was exceeded the size of a person’s, and had large teeth in it. We noticed the size of the vertebrae and other bones scattered on the shore, and were even more confused. This thing had been pretty large when it was alive. My first thought was a dog, but then we noticed the claws that were still on it, they were big. This was no dog. My companion just kept saying “look at the teeth on that thing, look at the skull.”

Then I inmy infinite wisdom blurted out “It reminds me of a bear.” My friend looked at me like I was insane. I knew it sounded astonishing, and in my defense I had just read an article about some of the weird stuff that has been washing up on American beaches from the Tsunami in Japan. Maybe was from Canadian waters, or a flood or something. Then I noticed the whiskers, and looked to my right at the seal bobbing along the shore. He was blankly staring at me. Then it dawned on me. I felt like an idiot, I hung my head and said to my pal “Uh, it’s a seal.” When the initial shame passed, I looked at my friend, who still seemed confused –his response was “they get that big?”

Then I pointed to the seal that was still staring at us like we were arduously trying to push open a door that is obviously labeled “PULL.” I felt foolish in front of the seal. I felt foolish in from of my friend, and he honed right in on it. “A bear, huh.” As my embarrassment and hunger grew I decided to go home and redeem a shred of pride by making some delicious food. This ceviche recipe is pretty traditional, and highlights local produce and fish. I love flounder, but other fish may be used, like yellow fin tuna, or even cooked lobster meat. The dish is very refreshing and nearly elegant in its


  • One pound fresh flounder fillets, medium diced
  • One half cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • One quarter cup local tomato, seeded and small diced
  • One quarter cup local cucumber, peeled, seeded, small diced
  • One quarter cup red onion, small diced
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 1 and a half teaspoons Salt
  • Black pepper to taste
  • One quarter cup tomato juice (or clam and tomato juice)
  • One half tablespoon hot sauce
  • 1 half an avocado, small diced
  • Lime wedges for garnish
  • Tortilla chips

Carefully mix the flounder with the lime juice and cover, chill for about 15 minutes, the fish should look white and not translucent—chill for longer if it is not. Remove the fish from the juice and set the lime juice aside. Add the remaining ingredients to the fish mixture except avocado stirring very carefully so as not to break up the ingredients too much. Taste and add a little reserved lime juice if necessary- discards remaining juice. Mix in avocado, and serve with tortilla chips or crispy lettuce leaves. Serves 4

Local produce is rapidly becoming more available. I cannot resist a nice salad, or stir fry at every meal (Yes I actually eat salad for breakfast often, it is good.). Here is the noteworthy salad of the past few days, very fortifying after a long day on the beach.


  • 1 head romaine, washed & chopped, or enough mixed greens for 4 people
  • 1 carrot, sliced diagonally
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced diagonally
  • 1 red pepper, medium diced
  • 1 tomato, seeded and medium diced
  • One quarter cup cooked garbanzo beans
  • One small apple, cored and small diced
  • One half cup jicama, medium diced
  • One small cucumber, medium diced
  • One quarter cup diced red onion
  • One quarter cup raisins
  • One quarter cup toasted almonds or sunflower seeds
  • One quarter cup parsley, chopped fine

Toss all the ingredients together with your favorite dressing. Divide into four equal portions and eat or serve immediately. Delicious with a piece of grilled fish or chicken. Serves 4

Finish any meal with this one of a kind sorbet. It is so refreshing after the beach.


  • 3-4 Asian Pears, peeled and sliced
  • Three quarters cup Sake or pear or apple juice
  • One third cup sugar
  • 1 and a half Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a large pan combine all the ingredients, and stir well. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a nice simmer. Let simmer uncovered for about 8 minutes, or until the pears are tender. Allow it to cool for a few minutes. Pour into a food processor or blender and process until very smooth. Pour the mixture into a freezer safe dish (glass baking dish works well- 13 x 9 inch is the size I use, but anything shallow enough to cool quickly, but not spill is good). Freeze for about 4 hours or overnight. Process or blend the mixture for a minute before serving to ensure a light dessert. Spoon into 4 serving dishes. Serves 4

My friends have not tired of ceaselessly teasing me about the “bear” in ‘Sconset. My response is “Who knew? A circus boat capsized off the shore of Nantucket, astonishing news really. Who knows what other animals may wash ashore, so be prepared”. So, happy beachcombing everyone, and
watch out, you never know what you may find out there. Lions and tigers. and bears, OH my!

Articles by Date from 2012