While I may have been quiet here for a couple of weeks, it doesn’t mean the kitchen has been closed. It finally stopped raining after the wettest month in Chicago’s history, so I allowed myself to indulge in my other passion (er, obsession?), golf, a few days a week. It felt almost normal, playing golf with friends and restaurants starting to open up for outdoor dining. . .almost, but not quite. When protests and rioting started, we decided we were ready to move from our larger “prison” to our smaller one. So, after 3 months of quarantining and cooking in Chicago, we decided a change of scenery was in order and packed the car and drove 16 hours straight through to our home on Cape Cod. It might have been dark when we crossed the bridge over the Cape Cod Canal, but we could smell the salt air and feel the peacefulness. We awoke to the sight of hydrangeas in bloom which confirmed we had arrived to our “happy place”.
The first order of business (after dashing off to Hyannisport for a morning round of golf with girlfriends) was to get my Cape kitchen ready for action. I packed a few provisions from Chicago that I thought would be difficult to procure in a more rural environment, such as the Thai curry pastes I had made and frozen back in April, but the pantry was otherwise bare. Off to the grocery stores with our masks we went . . . Stop & Shop for basics & cleaning supplies, Whole Foods (where I was first in line) for spices, oils and some other Asian & Mexican staples, Lamberts for produce, and since our first dinner had to be fish, Cape Fish & Lobster to check out their fresh catch. Everything looked beautiful, but we decided on simply grilled swordfish since my “mis en place” was not quite ready. Dirk’s in Chicago does a fabulous job, but there’s nothing like fresh fish that doesn’t need to take a plane ride to arrive on your dinner table. The cooking will be fish-centric for the next couple of months.
By Friday we were pretty well organized and ready to host our friends Bob and Lisa Heaps for dinner. My parents were quarantining since their arrival by plane from Florida, so I wanted to make something that I could share with them. With the abundance of fresh seafood at my fingertips now, I settled on Cioppino with Rosemary Focaccia for dunking since it was not only delicious, but easy to pack for my mother to pick up and simply bring to a boil. I ordered up the “Half Shell” from Island Creek Oysters for the clams in the dish and some Oysters with Mignonette as a starter, which we shucked and slurped together. We toasted to summer, friendship and the first of many fun dinners together with some fabulous Peter Michael Chardonnay and Sea Smoke Pinot Noir. Lisa and I proceeded to win the Member-Member golf tournament over the weekend, and Bob and his partner came in fourth. Not a bad start to what looks to be a great season of Food, Fun, Family & Friends!
- 1 Cup Citrus Champagne Vinegar
- 1/4 Cup Shallot, finely minced 1 large shallot
- 1 TBSP Coarsely ground Black Pepper
- Mix all ingredients in a small bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour to allow flavors to blend.
- Serve with raw oysters, lots of lemon wedges and hot sauce if you like.