Right. It has been exactly seven days, and yet I am still stuck on chilled cucumber salad. Not my mom's anymore, but this time courtesy of Alice Waters, The Art of Simple Food. Not the kind of thing I would normally go for—cream? on cucumbers? And yet. I tried it. Sally tried it. Alex tried it. (Nora was too busy practicing standing up to eat dinner.) And we liked it! Peculiar, refreshing, and delicious. 


This recipe is adapted only slightly from the one in Alice Water's excellent cookbook, The Art of Simple Food. I used half and half because that's what Alex keeps on hand for coffee, but I'm sure the heavy cream she calls for is equally good.

2 medium cucumbers
1/4 cup half and half or heavy cream
3 tablespoons olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
freshly cracked pepper
a handful of fresh mint leaves

Peel and slice the cucumbers. Arrange them in a shallow pie plate and sprinkle with salt. Meanwhile, whisk together the cream, olive oil, lemon juice, and pepper. Chop the mint leaves into very thin ribbons. Drain any water that's come out from the cucumbers, then top with the cream mixture and the mint. Serve chilled. 

P.S. While we're on cucumbers, don't forget to make Holly's quick cucumber kimchi! You're welcome.


SUMMER MUSTS // elspeth

I could kill for this charred corn right now. I have none of the ingredients and it's too late for a trip to the store, but maybe you do? Just saying. In other summer musts: we are coming up on prime time for Caprese salad, and Anna's balsamic glaze recipe is as good as ever. Same goes for my mom's chilled cucumber salad, which I CAN'T BELIEVE I've never shared with you. I make it, no joke, at least three times a week during cucumber season, and yet when I went to link to it from an old blog post, I realized it's not here. Fixing that now. And finally: blueberry picking. I took the girls early Saturday morning and we picked 11 pints in under an hour. Nora ate her body weight in fallen berries, Sally lived up to her name and put exactly three in her container, the rest in her mouth. Hurrah! Summer is here.


The nice thing about this salad is anyone with a few backyard cucumber and tomato plants can run out and pick and have dinner on the table. I usually chill the cucumbers and onions in the dressing, then add warm tomatoes just before serving, as tomatoes do not improve in the fridge. Also, this time of year, when the cucumbers are ready but the tomatoes are not, I just skip the tomatoes. It's just as good.

1 medium-large cucumber, thinly sliced
1/2 sweet onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1/3 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large ripe tomato, sliced

Arrange the cucumber and onion in a large, shallow platter. (My mother always used a pie dish.) Shake together the vinegar, pepper, sugar, salt and olive oil until well mixed. Pour this dressing over the veggies and put in the fridge to chill. Just before serving, slice the tomato and layer it over top.


WHAT MATTERS // elspeth

In a lot of ways, this is a difficult time of year. How strange is it that we live on a peninsula where no one visits for ten months of the year and everyone visits for the other two? It is hard to properly understand what this kind of life is like unless you live it. The best analogy I can think of is attempting to get through exam week while everyone you know stops in for a drink. Everything here comes at once: the busy time at work, guest rooms overflowing with visitors, the weather for beach days and picnics and gardens, the chance to make enough money to make it through a long, slow winter. It takes a certain kind of person to be okay with this kind of pace; to fit everything most people fit into a year into eight or ten or twelve incredibly, mind-bendingly busy weeks. 

And yet, I wouldn't trade it. Not for anything. We're in it now, fully. The breakfast dishes are sitting in the sink, the house needs to be vacuumed, and I have a mountain of paperwork I ought to stay up well past bedtime doing. But these are all things that need doing year round, constantly. They can wait. Because the sun is also out, it's 87 degrees, and the garden is overflowing with black raspberries. We can only make black raspberry ice cream once a year, and this is the week. 

The recipe I use is the same now—year after year—the one from my friend Andrea in Falmouth. It is simple, easy, sweet. And I still think the same thing every time I try it—I never realized, until I ate a black raspberry, that the purple color and distinctive flavor of black raspberry ice cream come from a real fruit. I always assumed it was like blue raspberry Jolly Ranchers—made up, fake. There's nothing like these berries. 

Black raspberries are hard to find at farmers' markets, even harder to find in stores. But if you can get your hands on some—from a neighbor's yard, from your own, from a farm—make this ice cream, and make it now. There are so many things to fit into a day. There are so many to-dos and deadlines and needs. But this, to me, is what matters, and what makes it all worthwhile.


Andrea's original recipe called for 1 and 1/2 cups sugar. I cut it down to 1 cup, and she said since typing it up she has too. It has the same distinctive color and flavor of the black raspberry ice cream you get in stores but is so much better for being simple and fresh.

1 pint black raspberries
scant 1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 eggs
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk

Mix the black raspberries, half of the sugar, and the lemon juice in a bowl. Put the mixture in the fridge and stir every half hour or so for about 2 hours. Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk for about two minutes, then add the remaining sugar and whisk it in. Pour in the cream, milk, and any juice from the black raspberry mixture. Pour this mixture into the ice cream maker, and add the remaining black raspberries near the end of the freezing time. Chill for several hours before serving.


SUNDAY // elspeth

I just drank a beer, and we're headed to bed. But I'll be back Tuesday with black raspberries, mint juleps, and ribs. July 5! It's here, friends.


ENGLISH MINT SAUCE // the local food report

Good morning. Although it is 9:38am, Sally and I are in bed and it is pitch black outside. Thunder! Lightening! None of it seems to bother Nora, who's napped through the whole thing. But it has put a damper on my plans to make you fresh mint sauce, in an effort to get some pictures for you. The kitchen is pitch black, and picking the mint means venturing outside. Here's a photo of a nice day in Helen Miranda's mint patch instead:

Helen is the reason we're talking about mint in the first place. She grows five varieties: plain old mint, spearmint, peppermint, orange mint, and lemon balm or balm mint, also known as Melissa. She used to have a fuzzy invasive mint, too, but she's weeded that out, and she also grows catnip (for fun for cats) and hyssop, for chest colds. 

One day this spring she showed me around her garden, and talked me through what she likes to do with each of her mints. Orange = smoothies. Melissa is good for tea and salads. Plain old mint she says you'd use for mint juleps, and she also likes it in salads. Peppermint is tea too, and maybe ice cream. Spearmint she dries for middle eastern dishes, and also uses for a fresh mint sauce and mint jelly. 

Bah, I thought when she first told me about mint jelly. Not my thing. So sweet! So fake green. But of course Helen doesn't make it that way. She does something really cool. She makes apple jelly, which means the sweetness and pectin comes from real fruit. Then she adds mint at the very end, just for flavor. In her words:

"Mint jelly, two ways.

1) Make mint tea with lots of leaves, no stems, as usual. Don't let it sit too long. 10 minutes max... it can get dark and bitter. Strain out leaves. Add apple jelly, made beforehand, until it melts.

2) Make apple jelly as usual. At the stage where the slices of apple have simmered and become soft.

I add a LOT of whole mint leaves (again, no stems) and let them sit in the liquid for about 20 minutes, no heat. I like to use organic apples so that the skin can be included which gives it a nice rosy tinge, if the skin is red."

As for the fresh mint sauce, it's simple. Helen uses good red wine vinegar, sugar, and finely chopped fresh mint leaves. She lets the mixture sit for about an hour before it's time to eat (preferably, lamb). She told me to check the Joy of Cooking for the recipe, so here it is, a little more officially. 


The Joy says that in England, roasted lamb with fresh mint sauce is as traditional as mint jelly is here. This sauce is nice—not so sweet, not so jiggly—instead a thin, bright liquid that goes splendidly with a nice cut of meat. 

1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons boiling water
2 tablespoons minced fresh young mint leaves
8 to 10 tablespoons white wine, rice wine, or red wine vinegar

Stir the sugar and water together in a small bowl until the sugar is dissolved. Add the mint and vinegar and cover. Let sit for 2-3 hours before serving to let the flavors come together. The sauce will keep for a few days, but be aware that the mint will turn brown after a night in the fridge.

P.S. For audio, check in tomorrow! I'll post a link. P.P.S. Soon-mint juleps! With maple syrup! So, so good.


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