Yesterday's Island Today's Nantucket
Volume 38 Issue 2, - April 24-May 7, 2008
now in our 38th season

Nantucket Wedding Bells

by Maryjane Mojer
Executive Chef, Bartlett's Ocean View Farm

My husband and I love road trips.  We truly enjoy each other’s company, so spending hours in the car together is an absolute treat and these days a rare one.  We don’t get off-island as much as we would like to, especially together.  We did have the opportunity last October to drive to Georgia to visit my daughter who moved to Columbus in September.  We loaded up the minivan, upgraded the GPS, stocked the cooler with fruit and water and headed south.  (The junk food we buy along the way.  Honestly, we always have good intentions regarding nutrition and road trips, but we are far from virtuous when it comes to road food.)

My daughter and I are very close and are on the phone together quite a bit.  It was because of this that it seemed just a bit off to me that by nine a.m. on day two of the Georgia excursion, I hadn’t heard from her yet. (She has inherited the early riser gene from me, so nine a.m. is pretty much mid day for us.)

I called to check in, and she seemed fine, but somewhat restrained. (Not a trait that I possess, so she has not inherited this from me.)

After a few minute of idle chatter, we hung up and I remember thinking, “Oh, boy.”  Ok, perhaps there were a few less than lady like thoughts, but that was the basic gist.

My phone rang again, and it was my daughter.

“Mom” she said and that one “Mom” said so much. I knew.  “Yes, honey.“ I replied. “What did you say?”

“I said yes.  I made ham for dinner and he loved it.  He was going to propose at Christmas, but he loved the ham.”

Ah yes...the way to a man’s heart.

I should mention here that my dear husband is a very smart man.  He knows when to just hand over the Kleenex and keep driving.

And with that, the wedding planning began.

This has been a tremendous lesson in humility for me. I am a chef, and, as such, have some, shall we say, control issues.  I am used to working with couples who come to me for menu advice and guidance and then actually take that advice and guidance.  In my quest to raise children who are independent, confident, and sure of themselves, I have succeeded beyond my wildest hopes and dreams.  I say this as though it is a good thing, and it truly is.  They are independent.  They are sure of themselves.  And they are confident.  So, while planning my own daughter’s wedding feast, I am torn between what can be conflicting roles; the mother of the bride and that of the chef.  When planning the wedding feast of your own it is different kind of adventure.  Being both the mother-of-the-bride and the chef planning the feast is akin to herding kittens;  really fun for other people to watch, a little painful and seemingly, not possible. 

The other piece of the nuptial puzzle is that the wedding is on-island. (Yes, the majority of our relatives are within a four-mile radius.)  This is a snap for the bride’s side, and while the grooms side epitomizes the adventurous spirit and knows full well that this is an island, they are having a bit of a hard time wrapping their brains around the fact that well, it is, in fact, an island.  They are at once ready to dig in and help, but not sure how.  The thought of taking the wedding party out for dinner on the night of the rehearsal is a traditional one.  To do this on-island, on Labor Day Weekend and include all of the wedding party would be quite the investment. We are all learning to think outside the box on this one, and to go non-traditional in so many ways.  We are making fast friends, and working out the details. We will have the reception at a beautiful spot that is like a second home to me, and we are trying to bring as many family recipes from both sides to the table. The Orzo Salad always has a place of honor on our tables, often several times each week, throughout the summer.

Orzo Salad

1 box orzo
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion
1 bag baby spinach
1 can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons pesto
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste

  • Empty the bag of spinach into a large bowl.
  • Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the orzo according to directions. When done, drain well and toss with two tablespoons olive oil.  While still hot, dump on top of baby spinach and spread to cover.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, rough chop the onion and sauté over medium heat until caramelized.  (Caramelizing something adds a depth of flavor to foods. The natural sugars are exposed to heat and begin to brown or to caramelize.  This is also a wonderful excuse to use if you let something cook for a bit too long. Simply say, “Oh, I meant to do that.  I was caramelizing to add depth of flavor.”  Works every time.)
  • Once your onions are caramelized, add the can of diced tomatoes (do not drain) as well as the pesto, extra virgin olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.  Remove the cover from the orzo and spinach and tip the whole hot, oniony lot onto the orzo.  Let this sit for just a few minutes, then mix well with tongs to combine.


Remember, these are guideline measurements.

Play with the recipe and make it your own.  Substitute cilantro for the basil, or try parsley for a clean, green taste. I like to use walnuts instead of pine nuts at times, or leave them out entirely.

3 to 5 peeled garlic cloves (or more if you really like garlic)
4 cups fresh basil leaves
One half cup grated parmesan cheese or grated Asiago cheese
One cup olive oil
One quarter cup pine nuts (lightly toasted)

  • Pulse all ingredients together in a food processor  till a paste is formed. This packs well in the small zip top plastic bags and freezes for up to a year.

The Orzo salad is one of those thrown-together family recipes that now has a history and a life of it’s own.  It is also a recipe that, as a chef and not the mother of anyone in the wedding party, I will be making for one of Mariah’s friends for his wedding in June.  Maybe it will be a start to their own family traditions.

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