Life Is Meals is one of my favorite books. Penned by James and Kay Salter, this delightful book, given to me by a dear friend years ago, takes you through meals and musings from a year of cooking. It really hit home the summer I read it, as I could not enjoy my own summer menus.
Why? Well, I read it during a rough patch when both my husband and I found ourselves out of work during the Great Recession. I took a consulting job in Chicago that summer to tide us over financially. I commuted every week for three months – leaving my first grader and four-year old at home with my husband who was diligently looking for a new job. Up at 3 a.m. Monday to catch a flight, and back at 11 Friday. Home never felt so good those weekends back in CT. I was thankful for Skype too (but a poor substitute to four- and six-year-old hugs).
All I wanted to do was get back to my normal life and this book, which I read on the plane over a few weeks underscored how important my family’s home cooked meals were to my very soul. I was staying in a chain hotel with a poor excuse for a kitchen. Meals were usually pasta with butter and cheese and maybe a salad – or it was take-out.
The good news was that the assignment was only three months, and I returned appreciating our usual routine and all of the delightful summer menus that usually grace our table. Additionally, I took up my own habit of writing down memorable menus in a blue journal. This summer has been particularly fruitful so today’s post I am sharing our latest summer menu (also to be written down in my trusty blue journal).
Clambake and An Easy Dip
This past weekend included the annual clambake at our beach/boat club. It was steamy hot, and I found the perfect (budget friendly Target:) long sundress (the thought of anything form fitting was not going to work) plus lots of room with the maxi skirt for a good meal! Front view below (side view above). Paired with flip flops and my favorite straw hat…this may be a perfect outfit to enjoy a favorite summer menu.
If you have not had a traditional clambake, you must try it! A summer menu of fresh lobster, quahogs (or steamer clams), mussels, corn on the cob and small red potatoes is the main. Of course, you must have a healthy dose of good quality, melted butter to dip (or drench). In our case, we enjoyed this perfect meal on the beach. Lobster is really best eaten outside, spread out on a picnic table and preferably with a view of the ocean.
Summer menu drinks and appetizers
Friends mixed up fresh margaritas (deadly). Mr SB decided to pick some fresh mint from our garden and whip up mojitos. Of course, we indulged with chips and freshly made guacamole (a must with margaritas right?). I also was looking for something easy to put with some crudité. Traditional clambakes are usually short on vegetables. Slaw in mayo is not my idea of a good fresh veggie option.
Smitten Kitchen is a favorite blog of mine and Deb’s red pepper white bean dip was perfect. I also loved that similar to my very simple artichoke dip (my go to for winter entertaining), I usually have all of the ingredients on hand. The dip uses a can of white beans, a jar of red peppers, lemon and a dab of cream cheese). I tweaked it a bit by adding some Tuscan seasoning from Saratoga Olive Oil and a healthy dose of chives from the garden. I served it in this cute boat bowl (a Homegoods find:).
A well thought out charcuterie board is always welcome too. So easy to assemble and perfect with mixed drinks…good to have something a bit more substantial to snack on! Costco is my go-to store for the meat and cheese. I keep Carrs crackers on hand as well as dried fruit and nuts. You can see my version for the clambake above and another below served with friends on our deck.