A nice spot

Well. We're going to try something new around here today. I was invited, a week or two or maybe three ago, to a party. Only it wasn't a party with girls in paisley sundresses and men with freshly shaven beards and real live potato salad and glass bottle beers that sweat in your hands. It was an online party—a potluck for bloggers, organized by my friend Tara.

Here's where I'd like to host my end of things: at the Wellfleet harbor, down on the dock, staring out at the sailboats. Don't you think that'd be a nice spot?

I do.

Anyway, I first met Tara a few months ago, at a food writing symposium in West Virginia. We stayed in a schmaltzy hotel tucked into the Allegheny Mountains and sat around in Dorothy Draper chairs talking about voice and photography and persona and drinking way too much Kentucky bourbon until way past my bedtime. It felt like the kind of friendship you make at summer camp— all fast and furious and then suddenly gone. I knew, though, the day I got a handwritten note on Tara Mataraza Desmond stationary just to say hello, that we were going to make it.

And though I'm not sure an online potluck quite counts as seeing someone again, for now it is just about as close as we're going to get. So Tara gathered up a whole group of bloggers, some from the symposium and some from the other corners of her life, and sent us each a recipe from her new book. The official date is set for Wednesday, but since what we do around here today will still be around tomorrow, I decided it was okay to jump the gun a bit.

Also, to ask someone to wait to talk about a recipe like herbed cream cheese on rye toast with cucumber pickles and smoked bluefish is a little much. Especially on a day when the harbor looks as breezy as it does above, and when the air inland is so heavy it just might melt you if you try to do anything chef-like, like, say, turn on the oven or heat up a pot of soup. Days like today are just meant for sandwiches like this.

The sandwich is from Tara's book, Almost Meatless. It's a stack of toasted rye, a spread of cream cheese that's been whipped up with fresh chives and dill, a layer of quickly-pickled cucumbers, and then just a sprinkling of smoked bluefish. Her book is all about how to eat meat without eating too much of it, and this recipe is a very good representative as far as I can tell. All the recipes are toned down carnivorous dishes, with chapter headlines like a Bit of Chicken and a Taste of Turkey and a Little Fish and Seafood. It's the sort of cooking I tend to do anyways, not really because I don't like meat, but because I get so involved with things like kohlrabi and dinosaur kale and the fact that four strawberry plants will send out enough runners to make a patch that I sort of forget about the chicken and lamb in the freezer.

Anyways, regardless of how you feel about meat on a regular basis, I reccomend you give this sandwich a whirl. (Unless, of course, you're a vegetarian, in which case I actually think I'd still give it a whirl, only without the smoked fish. It will still be worth your while.)

There's nothing too tricky about putting it together, although it's a good idea to take the cream cheese out of the fridge first thing. Otherwise you might forget, and between waiting for the pickles to marinate and the cream cheese to soften, you might have a rather terrible low blood sugar moment and threaten to step on your dogs' toes. And it's an even better idea to start the cucumbers pickling in the morning, over a bowl of granola.

Beyond that, there's nothing to it. So bon voyage, and I'll see you at the harbor.


adapted from Almost Meatless, by Tara Mataraza Desmond and Joy Manning from 10 Speed Press

I changed Tara's recipe around a little bit to fit what I had on hand. Her recipe calls for smoked whitefish, but I used smoked blue. I absolutely adore bluefish paté, and the fresh smoked blue with the whipped cream cheese, chives, and dill is an absolutely perfect match. Also, Pan d' Avignon in Hyannis makes a killer rye bread. They sell it all over the place—at the Hyannis farmers' market and the Wellfleet Marketplace and I think Hatch's, just to name a few.

1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 small cucumber, cut into paper thin slices
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh dill fronds, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
8 pieces rye bread, toasted
4 ounces smoked bluefish, crumbled
1 tomato, sliced
8 large lettuce leaves or a handful of mixed greens

Take the cream cheese out of the fridge, and set it aside on the counter. Swirl together the sugar, salt, and vinegar in a small mixing bowl, and then dump the cucumbers in. Mix well and put the bowl in the fridge for at least half an hour while the pickles marinate.

Get out an electric beater and the hopefully-soft cream cheese, and spoon half the tub into a bigger mixing bowl. Throw in the dill and the chives and beat everything together until the mixture takes on the consistency of the whipped veggie cream cheese they have at very good bagel places. Toast the rye bread, pull out the cucumbers, and then assemble four sandwiches as follows. Spread half the pieces of toast with a good thick layer of cream cheese, crumble an ounce of the bluefish on top of each, and for every piece of toast with cream cheese stack on a layer of cucumbers and a tomato slice and a broad leaf of lettuce. Now press the four plain piece sof toast on top, slice in half, and enjoy, if you're anything like me, with one of your mother's homemade pickles on a quilt down by the water.

P.S. If you're interested in finding out who else will be potlucking tomorrow, you can head on over to Tara's blog in the morning. She'll be making introductions all day.


Bie said...

Elspeh; What fun. Live it up tomorrow. Wish I could join you and eat one of those super sandwiches! Love,Biee

Elspeth said...

Hi Biee:

Wish you could be here too...missing you lots. I will make you all sorts of goodies in November!



Sandy said...

Hi, Elspeth. That sounds like great fun! I will be mentioning your blog again tomorrow. Congratulations on the oyster article! I hope someone organizes more shellfish bed tours for Oysterfest, with wine-tasting.

The Messy Baker said...

Not sure which looks better, the quiet harbor or the sandwich.

This potluck has been great fun. My dish was too messy to be portable (eggplant chicken puttanesca stacks) but now that I have the recipe... this might join the deviled eggs for a family picnic.

Daniel said...

Looks like another delicious keeper of a recipe from this cookbook.

This virtual potluck has been a blast. It's been a great pleasure to stumble onto several new blogs, including yours. Consider me a new reader here!

Casual Kitchen

Cynthia said...

Wellfleet Harbor sounds exactly like where I wish I was today. The sandwich looks lovely, and I enjoyed reading your post. I made Tara's shrimp and slow-roasted tomato risotto!

P.S.: We met at the Greenbrier. I hope we'll cross paths in the future!

Edible Living said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sarah said...

Elspeth, your words and photos are lovely. You make life and Wellfleet and Tara's sandwich all feel wonderfully at home, and yet like a dreamy fairy tale I'm happy to get lost in.

Tara and I have been talking about a small mid-year Greenbrier retreat to rekindle the flames, and suddenly I'm thinking we should do it on the Cape, with smoked fish, and Bourbon of course. xx Sarah

Elspeth said...

Hi Sandy:

Thank you so much for the kind words! They were much appreciated.

Christie, those stacks look absolutely delectable. Thanks for stopping by, and I'll be heading over to your place soon.

Dan, I hope to see you again soon—a blast indeed.

And Cynthia, you have a place to stay here anytime. How are things on the other side?

Sarah, I see no reason why that plan should not be executed, and fast.

Hope to see you all again soon!



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