There is nothing like being near the beach in the summer, and Nantucket is one of the nicest places to walk, read, and get some sun. Elin Hilderbrand knows this well, and her familiarity with the island adds an authenticity to her novels.
Now that summer is officially here and the kids are out of school, it's time to get outdoors. If you happen to be land-locked without much hope of getting to the ocean, don't fret. Elin's newest novel, Silver Girl, will transport you to Nantucket, letting you experience the waves, the salt-scented air, and the charm of the island through her words.
Silver Girl centers around Meredith and Connie, two women who are facing life-changing problems (such as the end of a marriage) and long-standing issues (such as the rift in their friendship). Although they have drifted apart in recent years, they turn to each other and to Nantucket, hoping to find answers and some peace. Nothing is ever simple, however, and Meredith and Connie have a way to go before they can see the possibilities of their future.
You don't have to be jealous of Meredith and Connie's summer, however, because I have some treats in store for you. I am so excited that I can help you imagine what it would be like to spend a glorious day on Nantucket. Elin has graciously offered to share not only the perfect Nantucket day but also two recipes for dishes mentioned in the novel! You know how much I love to cook, and I almost squealed when I saw that Elin sent recipes for two summer dishes that make use of one of the most abundant of seasonal vegetables.
Let's get this summer day started already--we have a lot to do!
Let's be clear: I live on Nantucket because I love the summertime. I have launched a career where I actually go to the beach to work, since my work is writing about the beach, and since I'm old-school and still write longhand in legal pads. Now, that said, my life has the demands that every other life has: deadlines, meetings, children (three children, two of whom play all-star Little League Baseball, which puts me on hot metal bleachers instead of on my towel for more hours than I might perhaps choose) and housework. So although I have perfected every possible way to enjoy the summertime, I rarely get to enjoy a string of days in the relaxing fashion which I'd like. However, I have a blueprint for the best 18-hour day on Nantucket, and I'd like to share it with you.Truly, what could be better than this? Elin is a woman after my own heart--the perfect blend of exercise (all that walking!), eating, drinking, reading, and relaxing. Ahhhhh.
Rise early. Nantucket is the far east of the United States, and today for example, June 14, the sun rose at 5:18. Let's get out of bed at 6 a.m. and have a cup of coffee on the deck. My house overlooks the 18th hole of the Miacomet Golf Course and the ocean beyond. And for our purposes, my house is your house. At 6:15, the sprinklers come on. Sip your coffee, start a new novel (I hear Silver Girl is pretty good) and enjoy the mellow sunshine. At 7:00, go for an hour's walk on one of Nantucket's many connecting bike paths. The Cliff Road bike path is my favorite as part of it overlooks Tupancy Links and Nantucket Sound. Go home, eat a bowl of berries and a scone that you've picked up from Mark-Et, and take an outdoor shower. Around 10, meander into town. Nantucket's downtown has cobblestone streets and unique shopping and restaurants, old whaling captains homes and steepled churches. My favorite stores for women's clothes are Erica Wilson, Hepburn, and Ladybird Lingerie. The Bartlett Farm truck is on the corner of Main and India. Stop and buy an armful of gladiolas, just because.
At noon, pick up a sandwich from Something Natural (my favorite is the avocado, cheddar and chutney on herb bread) and go to Steps Beach. This is a harbor facing beach with gentle waves and beautiful dunes covered in Rosa rugosa. Swim, read, sleep, repeat. Around 4:30, take a walk to the right and stop in for a cocktail at the Galley Beach restaurant. Or, if you have your kids, keep going down to the Jetties and buy them a Popsicle.
That night, get a babysitter. After all, you're on vacation! Book the back table at the Company of the Cauldron. There's a different set menu every night, and there's a harp player, and the back garden is tented and extremely private. Afterwards, pop down to the Boarding House for a nightcap, and ask the bartender, Tom, to play "Daydream Believer." Sing along. You've had the perfect day.
I noticed she mentioned a market and a farm truck; that's good because you'll need to stop off to pick up ingredients for tomorrow's meals. But what to serve? No worries, Elin has that covered too. Here are two dishes that were part of Meredith and Connie's summer on Nantucket and can be a part of your summer too, no matter where you live.
Chilled Summer Squash Soup
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 4 cups summer squash, sliced into discs
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 2 cups white wine
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 cup heavy cream
- salt & pepper to taste
Place cooled soup in a blender and puree until smooth. Return soup to stockpot, add heavy cream, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve at room temperature or chill until cool.
Variation: Omit thyme and instead add 1 tablespoon curry powder. Prepare soup as described above. In a food processor, puree 1/2 cup sour cream and 2 tablespoons mango chutney. Top soup with the chutney cream. Yum!
Let me pause a second. Wow! Yum. I will have to try both versions. This soup sounds so refreshing and would be the perfect starter for a meal centered on a simple grilled fish or meat.
Summer Veggie Pasta with Mustard Cream Sauce
- 1 pound linguine or other pasta
- 2 large shallots, diced
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 medium zucchini, diced
- 1 cup white wine
- 2 tablespoons country Dijon mustard
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup julienned fresh basil
- salt & pepper, to taste
- freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to taste
In a 3-quart saucepan, sauté shallots in olive oil until soft, 4-5 minutes. Add zucchini and sauté for additional 3-4 minutes. Add wine and cook down, stirring, 3-4 minutes. Add mustard and stir, then add the heavy cream, and cook over medium heat until sauce comes together. Add fresh basil, then toss with pasta. Season with salt and pepper and top with Parmesan cheese.
Note: This is excellent with Italian sausage that has been crumbled and cooked, and added to the sauce at the same time as the basil. You can substitute other vegetables for the zucchini: asparagus, mushrooms, etc. Yum!
Okay, I'm starving now. Vegetarian or with sausage? Hummm, perhaps made twice so I can try each version. I'm always looking for new ways to use zucchini, and these dishes sound wonderful. I hope there is summer squash in my CSA basket this week; if not, I'm buying it at the farmers' market.
Thanks so much Elin. I cannot wait to get into the kitchen and give these dishes a try. They say "summer" and would be part of a fabulous lunch or dinner on the terrace, with the sound of the waves in the distance. In my case, I'll be eating on the deck in between reading Silver Girl and dreaming of the beach.