Yesterday's Island Today's Nantucket
Volume 40 Issue 8 • June 24-30, 2010
now in our 40th season

Summer Nights

by Jenn Farmer
Chef, Bartlett’s Ocean View Farm 

There was the most beautiful moon last night.  I ignited my fire pit and sat listening to the surf crash on the shore, as it washed away remains of the day.  The ocean sounded angry, yet the air was incredibly calm and clear, cooling off my sun- baked skin.    The moon was not full, but it shone brightly and the stars were like crystals, glistening.  Several jets had crossed high in the sky, and their trails were remarkably lined up, long wisps of gossamer cutting perfectly across the night.  Other than the surf there was little noise, just an occasional bird, or cricket.   Although I enjoyed the solitude, I was yearning for someone to share this moment of magnificent tranquility with.   Then I thought of the past and I felt overwhelmingly nostalgic.  I was reminded me of countless summer nights as a kid.

I am a transplant to Nantucket, or a “wash-ashore” as the locals like to call it.  Originally from the Midwest, I grew up on a dairy farm.  Rolling pastures of corn, and cattle grazing as far as the eye could see.  It was very Grant Wood (the “American Gothic” artist), and picturesque.  What many who have never visited the area don’t know is the weather in the summer is very hot and very humid.  It is great for growing crops, but not much fun when trying to rest at night.  Grilling outside is not an event back home, it is a necessity.   The summer heat tends to thwart any notions of cooking indoors, making the house hotter, and more unbearable to sleep in later.  My family would grill fresh veggies from the garden alongside whatever meat we had.  Often it was pork chops or chicken, but on rare occasion we had something special like ribs or steak.  My mother always picked cucumbers, onions, and tomatoes and made a simple salad with vinaigrette.  I hated it as a kid, but now I crave that very salad frequently.  We also always had at least one dish containing zucchini.  Zucchini is very easy to grow, and produces very large quantities of vegetables, so we ate it at every meal in the summer (and froze it, and gave it away). Since the grill was already going we frequently grilled zucchini, along with some onions and peppers. 

Here is one of my favorite summer salads, it is very quick and easy to make.  I love the creamy dressing, but simple vinaigrette is just as good on it.  It pairs well with grilled meats, and is refreshing.  It tastes like summer to me!

Creamy Tomato and Cucumber Salad

  • 2  cucumbers, cut into slices
  • 1 tomato, cut into wedges
  • One half  of a red onion, thinly sliced

Mix all three together, then toss with about one quarter cup of the following dressing.  Reserve the remaining dressing for another salad or another time. 

Farm Hand Dressing

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • One half cup buttermilk
  • 1-2 tablespoons garlic, freshly minced
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, freshly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chives, freshly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dill, freshly chopped
  • One half teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 dash hot sauce (optional)
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together, then refrigerate in a tightly sealed container.  This dressing keeps for a few days.   Plain yogurt may be substituted for sour cream for a lower calorie version, but the shelf life is only a day or two.

If you have never been to Nantucket it may seem strange for me to include a Jamaican style recipe.  There is a large Jamaican community on the island, and jerk chicken has become a tradition here.  The following is a non-traditional jerk rub that is very spicy, and wonderful.   If you want a medium spicy rub substitute jalapeño or chipotle for the scotch bonnet.   

Very Spicy Jerk Rub for Chicken or Pork

  • 2 teaspoons allspice, ground
  • 2  tablespoons fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons dry  ginger, ground
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 teaspoons  cayenne pepper, ground
  • 2 scotch bonnet, minced (if you have dried, use one and a half teaspoons, ground)
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper, ground
  • 2 teaspoons, nutmeg, ground
  • 1 orange, zest

Mix ingredients together well.  When rubbing on meat, be sure to use gloves, or use a plastic baggie, since the chilies can be deadly on the skin.  Rub on pork or chicken legs and let “marinate” for up to a few hours.  This mixture coats about 2-3 pounds of meat.  Grill and enjoy.

This is a very fun and refreshing recipe for summer.  Everyone seems to enjoy it, especially kids since they are fascinated by grilling the fruit, and love finger food!  It is a fun for dessert, or anytime.  Smores can also be enjoyed at the same time since the grill temperature is perfect for grilling marshmallows (also adding a wedge of grilled banana to a smore is soooo good!). 

Grilled Fruit with Brown Sugar Yogurt Sauce

  • Bananas, cut lengthwise, and then in half
  • Peaches or nectarines, sliced in half
  • Strawberries, cut in half
  • Fresh pineapple, sliced into wedges (or rings)
  • Plums, cut in half
  • Watermelon, cut into wedges
  • 1 pint plain or vanilla yogurt
  • One quarter cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Bourbon or rum
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Cayenne pepper, pinch
  • Fresh mint, chopped (optional)

Lightly brush fruit with oil (or spray with pan spray), and set aside.  Preheat grill to medium (or wait after your dinner is cooked and the grill begins to cool). 

Mix together the yogurt, brown sugar, bourbon, lime, and seasonings to make the dipping sauce and set aside in the refrigerator.

Thoroughly clean grill grates before adding fruit, to it.  Since the fruit is delicate and full of natural sugars and juices, it is wise to have a wide spatula as well as a pair of tongs ready for turning fruit, since it can stick to the grill.  Place fruit on the grates, and cook until caramelized marks appear, this usually takes 2 to 6 minutes, depending on the fruit.  Gently turn the fruit over and repeat the process, removing fruit when done.  Serve fruit with dipping sauce, and enjoy!

Nantucket is so very different from Iowa; beaches are not something I grew up with.  The first time I remember seeing the ocean was as a teenager (New Jersey, and I am not certain that even counts!  It was the color of mud, and had very few waves).  I am still sometimes perplexed how a simple kid from the Midwest, got to be in this very unique place.  

I am also always astounded by the similarities, of the two places.  Who knew I would end up living on a working farm, on an island, thirty miles out to sea.  A very wise person once pointed to my chest, and said, “Your home is right here.  It will always be there, so journey all you want, you can always find home.” She was right, here I am.


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