Island Cooking

A Weekend of Firsts

• by Leah Mojer •

Memorial Day Weekend is the most glorious and anticipated of all weekends here on Nantucket as it is in many places in New England. It is the official kick-off to Summer, the best season, and boy do we celebrate.

Between the Figawi Boat Race & its infamous parties, the influx of weekenders and tourists, and friends and family clamoring for the spare bedroom, there are plenty of reasons to celebrate. The island is in full swing by now with South Water Street’s cherry blossoms in full bloom, swirling pink petals through the downtown streets. Our favorite restaurants & bars are busy doing what they do best. The beaches are pristine from their winter respite and the lobster with drawn butter is flowing. At our own gatherings, we don’t mess around with the food or drinks either. It’s a weekend of first cook outs; grilled meats, salad platters overflowing with fresh veggies, fresh fruit cocktails, and sangrias.

We give it all we’ve got for these few fleeting days every year, singing with delight for the coming few months of beach time, sunsets in bare feet, and warm evenings in the garden. For me, the delight of summer cooking is letting the ingredients speak for themselves. Fresh produce, brand new and just weeks old, shine with just a nudge of encouragement from any willing cook. A splash of oil here, a pinch of salt there, and a relaxed and happy outlook are all anyone needs for a successful weekend of grilling, feasting and enjoying this wonderful start-of-summer tradition.

Farfalle with Fresh Peas, Mushrooms & Pea Shoots with Mascarpone & Lemon Zest

  • 1 pound fresh peas, shelled (about 3/4 cup)
  • 8 oz. mixed mushrooms thinly sliced. Cremini & oyster will do
  • 6 oz. pea shoots (tendrils, shoots, leaves) (about 1/2 a big bunch),curly tendrils removed and discarded
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch young spring onions or scallions,
  • cleaned & finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 pound Farfalle Pasta
  • 1 C Mascarpone Cheese
  • 1/4 C Parmesan, grated
  • 1 T Lemon zest
  1. Begin heating pot of water for the pasta. Meanwhile, steam the peas over an inch of boiling water for 4 minutes, until just tender. Transfer to a bowl. Add the pea shoots to the steamer and steam 2 minutes, until just wilted. Remove from the heat and allow to cool until you can handle them. Squeeze out excess water from the pea greens and coarsely chop.
  2. Swirl olive oil into pan about 2 T, worth. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet and add the mushrooms and saute until golden brown and fragrant, 5-8 minutes. Add chopped spring onion or scallions. Cook, stirring, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Add the peas and pea shoots and stir together for about a minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper
  3. When the water in the pot comes to a boil, salt generously and add the pasta. Cook al dente, using the timing instructions on the package as a guide but checking the pasta a minute before the time indicated is up. When the pasta is ready, using a ladle transfer 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water to the pan with the peas and pea shoots. Add mascarpone to mixture and stir in evenly. Drain pasta and toss at once with the vegetables, lemon zest and Parmesan. Transfer to a platter and drizzle with evoo. Serve warm.

Baby Lettuces with Radish and Homemade Ranch Dressing

There is nothing I despise more than bottled ranch dressing. I know I’m the minority here but once you taste this version you may not go back!

  • Romaine Hearts, Bibb & Boston Lettuces, outer leaves removed.
  • 1 bunch Radishes cleaned sliced on a mandolin, or a truffle shaver!*
  • 1 Shallot, shaved

Home Made Ranch Dressing

  • 2 C Sour Cream
  • 2 T Onion Powder
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • Lots of freshly ground Black Pepper (1 T)
  • Lots of minced Chives (1/2 C)
  • a little bit of chopped Dill
  • 1 Garlic Clove (or two if you like a garlicky kick!) grated on a microplane
  • 1 C Buttermilk
  • 1 T Red Wine Vinegar
  1. Whisk together in a bowl all ingredients EXCEPT buttermilk & red wine vinegar. Gradually whisk in buttermilk until dressing is slightly thicker than heavy cream. Add red wine vinegar & at this point season to taste with salt and fresh pepper. Dressing will keep in the fridge for up to a week but the sooner it’s used up, the better. Try marinating chicken breast with it or use as a dip for some Cape Cod Chips! Yum!
  2. To build the salad, arrange baby lettuces on a large oval platter and scatter shaved radishes and shallots over the top. Spoon dressing over salad and serve immediately! Finish with a few turns of fresh ground pepper

*Truffle Shavers can be found at Williams-Sonoma Online for $19.95

Grilled Flatbreads with Asparagus, Mexican Chorizo & Cojita Cheese with Honey Lime & Cilantro Pesto

  • 2 balls store bought pizza dough
  • 1 bunch thin asparagus
  • 1 pkg mexican chorizo, cooked, crumbled & cooled. If Mexican is unavailable, use any spicy fresh pork sausage with casings removed, cooked & crumbled
  • 1 pkg Cojita cheese, or queso fresco crumbled
  • Vegetable Oil, for brushing

For Pesto

  • 1 Bunch Cilantro
  • 1 garlic clove
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1 T Honey
  • 1/4 C Evoo
  • water, for thinning
  • salt, pepper
  • Ground fennel seed
  1. In a food processor or Vita Mix, add cilantro, garlic, lime juice & honey. While blending, gradually add oil to emulsify. Thin with water until desired thickness is reached. Season with salt, pepper & ground fennel seed, to taste.
  2. Grill Asparagus stalks 1-2 minutes. season with salt & pepper and drizzle with olive oil. let cool. Slice lengthwise to create long slivers.
  3. Preheat grill to high temperature. On a generously floured surface, divide dough balls in 4 equal pieces to give you 8 balls total. Let rest at room temperature while the grill heats. Working with one or two at a time, roll out dough to 1/4 inch thick. It’s ok if the shape isn’t perfectly round.
  4. Brush grill with vegetable oil and char flatbreads 2-3 minutes on each side or until they are no longer sticking to the grill. Don’t panic if they seem like they are stuck, just be patient and try not to move the flatbreads until they easily lift off the grill. Brush Flatbreads generously with pesto & top with crumbled sausage, asparagus & cheese.

Articles by Date from 2012