Good morning! Let's talk about cocktails! 

It's not too early. You need to gather ingredients: bourbon. Hard cider (I like Downeast, from Boston). Bitters. Cherries (Luxardo!). And most importantly, honey.

My friends Ed and Teresa started keeping bees a few years ago. And this fall, I signed on as their beekeeping apprentice. (You can hear all about getting the hive ready for fall on this week's Local Food Report.) The plan is I'll follow them and the bees through the winter, spring, and summer until finally we get to the honey harvest, and hopefully by then I'll understand enough to start my own hive.

In the meantime, I'm already thinking about what we'll do with the honey. I've been substituting honey in recipes that call for sugar or maple syrup, to see what works and what doesn't. And last night we had a big hit: what I'm calling a Fizzy Bourbon Spritz.

It works like this. You put two dashes of bitters in a cup. You add a teaspoon full of honey, preferably very fresh, very runny honey. You stir until it's dissolved. You add an ounce of bourbon (or rye) and three ounces of hard cider and give it another stir. You add ice. You garnish with a cherry. You enjoy!

It's quite a nice way to end the day—refreshing, a little bit pink, and excellent sipped on the couch, in front of the first fire of the season. Hello, fall!


I actually used Bulleit Rye the first time I made this, but it's adapted from the Maker's Mark website, and it's good with a nice bourbon too. Make sure your honey is runny so it dissolves well.

2 dashes bitters, such as Angostura
1 teaspoon runny honey
1 ounce bourbon, such as Bulleit or Maker's Mark
3 ounces hard cider, such as Downeast
optional: a cherry, such as Luxardo, to garnish

Put two dashes bitters in a cup. Add the honey and stir until dissolved. Add the bourbon and cider, stir well, and pour into another glass filled with ice. Garnish with a cherry and serve at once.


CLAMBAKE // elspeth

Gather friends. Dig a hole on the beach. Load rocks. Load wood. Light it on fire.

Wait; eat oysters; drink beer. Three or four hours later, get a wheelbarrow and bring down the lobsters and clams. Remove the bags, the bands.

Dive for seaweed. Collect it in fish totes. Wet the tarp.

Layer: Hot rocks. Seaweed. Lobsters, clams, potatoes, sausage, onions. More seaweed. Tarp.

Wait; eat oysters; drink beer.

Then in a fury: fling off the tarp. Fill the wheelbarrow with food! Crack the lobsters! Melt the butter! Set the table, grab the napkins, get the plates and forks.

Eat with friends.



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


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