I've been trying to get here to tell you this for weeks. There is no quiet time for sitting, no stolen moments of peace. There are sections and specials and service and cleaning and closing up and attempting sleep. There are two girls each morning ready to play, and laundry and cooking and a house to sweep. But! there are Saturdays: outside, all four of us, on the boat or at the beach. 

One Saturday in late July, we took the boat into the bay. We had gear and ice and a picnic of scallop burritos and lemonade, and we set up the rods, trolling. We got a hit and then it was one after another, right in the thick of a school of bluefish. Alex caught one and Sally hooked one and lost it, and finally I got to reel one in. We had three keepers by the end of an hour, and Alex bled them out and iced them down right away.

We had way more than we could eat that day, though we fried a few fillets in bacon fat for dinner. We brined the rest in soy sauce and salt and brown sugar. After a few hours we took it out and laid it on a big cookie rack on dish towels in the fridge. I was worried about how long it would have to sit—I couldn't get to it for 3 days, maybe 4—but Alex said the drying out is the whole point. You want it to be sticky to the touch, "tacky," and when it is it's time to smoke.

The smoker we have came from a yard sale, and it's electric. It doesn't seal quite right in spots, but Alex has fixed it up with rope and strategic duct tape, and with a pan of water in the bottom and plenty of soaked hickory chips it makes plenty of smoke and most stays in. There are two round racks that fit into the middle, and they fit our roughly 10 pounds of bluefish just right. I sprinkled a little bit of brown sugar on top when I put the fillets in, and an hour and a half later they were done. We ate a lot, and froze a lot, and last Saturday we caught three more. The fillets have been brined and dried, and today we're firing up the smoker again.

I am now a woman who can not only catch but smoke her own fish! Full of surprises, this life. Hope you're enjoying it out there.


I looked at a bunch of brines online when I was searching for a recipe, and they all seem pretty similar. I made a gallon of brine to cover the fillets from 3 fish—about 10-12 pounds worth. This recipe makes a little over a quart, so adjust as needed. You need only enough to cover the fish.

Also: No smoker? No problem. Check out this article on how to use your grill.

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 cup kosher or pickling salt
3-4 crushed bay leaves
2 tablespoons mustard seed
1 tablespoon peppercorns
2-3 pounds fresh bluefish fillets

Mix the brine and pour it over the fish. You want the fish completely covered. Brine for 4-6 hours in the fridge. Set up a cooling rack that will fit in the fridge and cover it with dish towels. Take the fish out of the brine and lay the fillets in a single layer on the towels over the cooling rack. Let dry, refrigerated, for 2-4 days. When the fish is tacky to the touch, arrange it on a single layer on the rack of a smoker. Try to arrange it by thickness as thicker fillets will need longer than thinner pieces. Sprinkle each piece with brown sugar and smoke at 200 degrees F for roughly 2 hours, or until golden brown with a moist but firm, flaky texture. Cool to room temperature, then devour at once, or freeze and eat later.



Reader Bruce, wherever you are out there, thank you for the suggestion. I am now hooked on Ray Bradbury, halfway through Dandelion Wine. The spine of the book with the library tag calls it SCI-FI, which I am still trying to understand. Leo is trying to build a happiness machine, yes, and it's 1920 and the world is on the point of tipping straight into the mechanized future. But kids and dogs are running free all over town and Mrs. Bentley is buying everyone chocolate popsicles from the ice cream truck and the smell of fresh cut grass makes Grandfather sing. Aren't these the things that real, every day summer are and should be all about? Yes, I say, definitely.

Also, grilling. Fridays recently we've been cooking outside, because whether there are friends around or it's just us it keeps seeming like the right thing to do. I've been buying hot dogs from Tim at Cape Cod Organic Farm and ground beef from Seawind Meadows and today I went out on a limb and got some ribs and linguica from Tim. Grilling lends itself nicely to fridge cleanup, so Fridays before the Saturday market I've been pulling out the last asparagus and the handful of fresh onions and the last ear of corn and forgotten bags of green beans. Last night I searched around for a proper recipe that might work through a bunch of basil and two zucchinis and a bag of arugula, and what we came up with was a pesto and balsamic dressed salad straight off the grill. We ate it alongside hamburgers packed with more basil and some garlic, and Nora discovered the wonder that is anything dipped in mayo. Afterward we hosed her down and read some Uncle Wiggily, and now, finally, I have a proper recipe for you. 


The inspiration for this salad came from a grilled zucchini and summer squash dish in the July 1999 issue of Bon App├ętit. Balsamic and pesto go surprisingly well together, and the chickpeas make it a bit more filling.

2 medium zucchinis, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch thick strips lengthwise
olive oil
sea salt to taste
leaves from 1 large bunch basil
3 large cloves garlic
1/3-1/2 cup fresh Parmesan, thinly grated or sliced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 large handfuls of arugula
1/3 cup chickpeas or other white beans

Arrange the zucchini slices in a large baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and grill, turning occasionally, until tender and blackened in spots, about 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, make the pesto by pulsing together the basil, garlic, Parmesan, and 1/3 cup olive oil in a food processor. Season with sea salt to taste. Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a small bowl and mix in 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of pesto. Check the consistency: if you want it a bit runnier, add more oil, if you want it thicker, add more pesto. Set aside remaining pesto for another use (pasta, caprese salad, sandwich spread, etc.).

Arrange the arugula evenly in a serving dish. Sprinkle the chickpeas over the greens and layer the grilled zucchini on top. Drizzle with the balsamic and the pesto-oil mixture and toss lightly before serving. 


SUMMER SALAD // elspeth

Lunch, Saturday. A trip to the Orleans farmers' market, bags full of arugula and onions and carrots. A container of scallops Alex brought home from the plant in the fridge ! A lone plum in the hydrator, skin wrinkled. A tiny wedge of Great Hill Blue tucked into a forgotten parcel of Bee's Wrap. Our usual dressing: mustard, oil, vinegar—a bit of sea salt. Scallops seared, the rest tossed together and eaten on the deck. A simple meal, and one of the best.


IN THE GARDEN // elspeth

A lot has happened since I last wrote. The sugar snap peas have come and gone. The six chicks we picked up in late May have moved from Alex's office out to a little coop, where we can hear their pecking and clucking through the yard. 

Nora has discovered salt water. We've picked our weight in strawberries and made enough jam to share with my mother and sister and packed forty jars of sliced berries into the freezer besides. The mulberries are ripe, and the first raspberries, and a handful of blueberries in the new patch we planted along the drive. The black raspberries look to be coming right on cue, just after the 4th of July. 

Meanwhile, it's getting busy at the restaurant and I have two girls who are almost two and almost five. They are frustrating and wonderful and terrifyingly smart, and I understand now what my sister-in-law meant when she said that as they get older you want to be with them more of the time. In some ways this part of parenting is the opposite of how I imagined it to be—exhausting and exhilarating and most days so consuming there are simply no other moments, none of that snatched quiet time.

We have our best hours in the garden, in the early morning or late afternoon. There are no meltdowns there, hardly ever tantrums or arguing or pinching. There is just dirt to play with, dirt and weeds and water, and therefore no fighting over toys. Sally has a patch she has claimed as her own, where she is growing beans and now a volunteer tomato we found in between the radishes and the beets when we pulled some out for supper the other night. Nora mostly plays in the path, moving mountains of dirt and digging holes and brushing her hair back from her brow until dust stains her cheeks and around her eyes. It is a respite from the world of summer that some days seems to involve constant arguing about snacks and manners and bedtimes; it offers everything and nothing at the same time. We had an excellent crop of radishes and are having success for the first time ever with beets and kale, and very soon it will be tomato time. 

I'm not sure when to expect eggs—September I've heard? October maybe?—but I'll be back long before that. I miss being here, and I have some proper recipes I'd like to share—these chorizo-laced mussels, for one, and hopefully a rendition of these whole wheat rhubarb scones. All in due time, I can hear my mother's voice. Everything in due time.



This just in:

Stewed rhubarb (chopped rhubarb cooked down with the tiniest splash of water and a bit of maple syrup) + plain, whole grass milk yogurt + a drizzle of luxardo cherry juice, and of course a cherry on top = Heavens to Betsy ! Lunch-packing in a pinch turns out genius. Currently the only category of parental wins, but I'll take what I can get.

Be back soon, friends.



Live from the internet...celebrating is good for you! Amen. Gratitude is too. And butter is a health food! (Duh). Which is why today we're celebrating our babysitter Casey's arrival for the summer with a big Thank You World ! followed by rhubarb pie with a flakey butter crust

Happy rhubarb season, friends. Don't forget to celebrate it, and thank you, as always, for being here.



The sun is out. The sun is out ! We made pizza for dinner and the girls played outside afterward, mixing dirt and chives and watermelon rinds into a chocolate cake they baked under the lilac bush. Three of us pretended to devour it with real spoons and one of us took an actual bite before realizing it was not, in fact, actual cake. I brought a blanket out and Alex and I sat, for a minute, wrapped up, watching the girls pick wildflowers and count the asparagus spears.

Four up! It's officially spring.

In other important news, last week my mom and my sister came to visit for my birthday, and my sister made an amazing chocolate cake. In case you need one—in case you have a happy, sunny celebration coming up, which I sincerely hope you do—here's the link


BORED BY YES // elspeth

I read a really great interview the other day in the New York Times with a woman named Amy Pressman. She founded a company called Medallia, a provider of customer service technology, a subject that sounds about as exciting as going to the dentist. But the title of the piece caught my eye. "Amy Pressman of Medallia," it read. "BORED BY 'YES,' INSPIRED BY 'NO.' I clicked through. And while the whole thing was interesting—there was a lot about overcoming "imposter syndrome" and facilitating faster learning environments and ownership and victimization—the most interesting part was the one referenced in the title.

"I heard this saying about 10 years ago that really resonated with me," says Amy. "'An entrepreneur is someone who gets motivated by the word 'no.' Whenever I hear 'no,' I think, there's a way to solve this. I get really excited by 'no.' 'Yes' bores me."

Aha! I thought. Yes! Ding ding ding diiiing

Solving problems, after all, is what makes life interesting. Luckily/unluckily we have plenty of problems to solve right now. It's a daunting time to be young and hopeful. There are many ways to create change, and a million different directions to go in. So, finally, as promised, here are some thoughts from my small corner of the world, focused on home and sustainability and cooking.



Don't buy plastic wrap, tinfoil, plastic bags, paper towels or really disposable anything. You don't need them! You can spend way less over time using these awesome reusable/washable alternatives:

—Fill a cupboard with Mason jars (or just save glass pickle, olive, juice jars, etc.). Use these for everything from canning homemade pickles to freezing homemade chicken stock.

—Invest in 5-6 pieces of Bee's Wrap, which works like plastic wrap using nothing more than linen, beeswax, coconut oil, and the heat of your hands. It's reusable for at least a year or two, and then it's excellent as kindling.

—Stock up on every shape and size of glass tupperware in multiples. Use these to pack lunches, store leftovers, or even shop for fish or meat or get to go food. Goodbye, plastic!

—Pack lunches in Bento Boxes with cloth napkins and real forks and spoons and water bottles. Use dish towels and cloth napkins for spills, dirty faces—everything—and keep a laundry basket under the kitchen sink for all the dishrags and aprons and lunch sacks and bibs.

—If you own a splatter screen for cooking bacon, let the bacon cool and drain on top, over the pan. This will save you from dirtying a dish rag, and you won't need any paper towels!

—Get 15 or so of these reusable produce bags and 7-8 Flip and Tumble grocery sacks, and keep them in a large tote (I use this large beauty from my friend Siobhan's store) and keep it somewhere handy so that everything's together when you need to hit the market or store. I also save my egg cartons in the tote and our returnable milk bottles so that I can return them on shopping day.

—Keep a black washable marker in your grocery tote and use it to label bulk items purchased in reusable produce sacks, i.e., fill one with pistachios, write the price per pound or item number on the bag, empty into a storage jar when you get home, wash, and repeat! (More on that from Bea Johnson.)

Snack Taxis! We're obsessed. Bye bye, plastic sandwich baggies. Or, as Sally calls them, "snaxis."

—Keep a few bamboo travel cutlery kits, a water bottle, and a handkerchief or cloth napkin in your purse. Especially with kids, they constantly come in handy.

—If you have a choice between a product in plastic and a similar quality/price product in glass or cardboard, always choose glass or cardboard. Plastic is bad news for our health and the environment, and paper and glass are so much more useful! Paper can be recycled or colored on or in the winter used for kindling, and glass jars in good sizes are great for freezing stocks, crushed tomatoes, etc.


—Set up a compost pile or subscribe to a compost service and compost everything biodegradable: meat, bones, grease, paper take out containers, wooden chopsticks, rotten milk, you name it.

—Dedicate recycling bins in the kitchen for the waste you produce: we have big tins for plastic, glass, and paper and we also save textiles in a large basket in a closet and batteries and corks in smaller jars.

Food Prep

—Make some basics: crushed tomatoes from the garden, meat stocks, big batches of cooked beans, granola, homemade bread—whatever you can get into. This will save you from buying these things in disposable containers and they will also probably taste better and be better for you. I also occasionally make yogurt (easy enough if you have a thermos) when I have the time.

—Ditch appliances you don't need. We don't own a toaster or a microwave, since we have a small kitchen. We reheat food in the oven or on the stove, and we make toast (and everything else) in a large cast iron skillet that lives next to the teapot on the stove.

One last thought: let's collectively acknowledge that sometimes all this positive change stuff can feel frustrating or even embarrassing. We go up to Wellesley fairly often to visit Alex's family, and often I shop at the Whole Foods there before we drive back to the Cape. I was in line there one day this winter, going through the check out counter with all my produce in my reusable bags and olives from the salad bar in a glass container. The very nice woman at the check out counter was having trouble with the tare (.75 pounds is entered as 75, .06 as 6 and so on, I have since learned, for those who might ever need this information).

At any rate, a very perfect, sporty blonde woman was waiting behind me, and she was watching all this very closely. I assumed she was thinking how annoying this whole charade was, and how nice it would be if I could hurry up and finish so she could head to yoga class or out for coffee or whatever it was she was going to do. I turned to her as I was leaving and apologized for holding her up, and I expected maybe a polite nod and moving on. But instead, she shocked me. "I was watching because I'm totally inspired by what you're doing," she said. She asked for the names of the produce bags and the grocery totes, and said she was going to go home and order some on the spot.

Which is just to say: you don't know what anyone else is thinking. Some people, inevitably, will think whatever it is that you're into or doing is annoying or frustrating or maybe both. That's a fact of life. But other times, every once in a while, you might find yourself out on a limb and and in surprisingly pleasant company.

Finally, these are just some things that I have gotten into doing, and that I like doing. I recognize that not all of them are for everyone, and I also am sure that some of you have other/more/different/awesome tips to share. Please do! That is the whole point of this life thing, I think: to keep learning from and getting inspired by each other.



Right-oh. Hello! That post about keeping a sustainable kitchen; it's coming. Really and truly. In the meantime, I made a dress and a really good fish stew and I thought I'd share. I don't have any photos of the stew because we devoured it so fast there wasn't time. And this happened without red curry paste! Wonders never cease. 

As for the dress: sometime during the summer when I was working a lot and dreaming about not working quite so much and winter, I made this list of things I wanted to do over the off season. The list was written on the back of a test print of the bar menu in black Sharpie, and it had the weirdest things on it. Some things were as tinily specific as "buy striped shirt from Siobhan's store" and others as big and awesome as "green power." (Don't worry people! I got it. Ha. But seriously, we're s l o w l y going solar. Hooray ! ) What's weirder is that without so much as looking at the list all winter, I did almost every thing on it. I guess these were things I really wanted to do. 

Anyway. Somewhere near the bottom of the list it said "sewing for girls." I don't know if you've ever read any of Kyrie Mead's blogs—she's had a lot of different homes online, and I wanted to send you a link to one, but she seems to be without a spot at the moment—but she's an amazing writer and photographer. She also home schools and is a nature explorer and an avid cook, and she knits and sews all kinds of beautiful items for her four girls. Sometime a few months ago, I tracked down her Pinterest page for sewing (who am I? I no longer know. . .) and got reeeaaally into the idea of doing some sewing for my girls. Hence the dress. 

Sally picked out the fabric—strawberry print—and has been after me for weeks to get sewing. Finally this weekend with all the snow, we picked out a pattern and got to work. The process reminded me how challenging and rewarding it is to do something new with your hands. There were several hiccups, but we got through them, and it came out just right in the end. We are all more capable than we think.


This recipe came from a new-to-me site, Alaska From Scratch. So far, so good. A note: I was out of red curry paste, something I almost always have on hand. I followed an online tutorial for a quick substitute and instead used garlic, fresh ginger, fish sauce, dried lemongrass, and red chili paste (which I did have), and it tasted exactly the same! Wonder, gratitude, and amazement. 

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 shallots, diced
1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste (OR! roughly 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger, 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic, 2 5-inch stalks dried lemongrass, 1 teaspoon red chili paste, and roughly 1 tablespoon fish sauce, or to taste)
1 and 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
1 teaspoon honey
1 bunch kale or chard several large handfuls spinach
4 monkfish fillets
a handful of chopped basil, for serving

Warm up the olive oil in a large heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring often, for 5-7 minutes, until tender and fragrant. Add the curry paste or substitute ingredients, the chicken broth, the coconut milk, and the honey and bring to a simmer. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed. Stir in the greens, then arrange the monkfish fillets in an even layer around the pan. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes, occasionally turning the fish and spooning the curry liquid over top, until the greens are wilted and the fish is cooked through. Serve hot. If rice is your thing, it'd make a nice accompaniment. 


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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.