The Taste of Summer -August 2013

by: Marianne R. Stanton

photography by: Terry Pommett


This time last year we were knee deep in Russ Morash’s impeccably-maintained garden in Shawkemo, admiring not only the wide array of vegetables he was growing – rows and rows of leeks, especially – but also what a showcase it was. The impromptu garden visit, during a cocktail party, prompted me to ask if we could photograph the garden and would Russ write a story about its evolution and maintenance for a story in Nantucket Today the following year. As the creator of the wildly suc- cessfully PBS show “The Victory Garden,” with Jim Crockett, Russ knows a thing or two about gardening. We were delighted when he said yes, and so the next question was to ask his wife Mar- ian if she would give us some of her recipes fea- turing vegetables from the harvest.

Marian is a stellar cook, having worked with Julia Child as executive chef on her PBS show “Julia Child and More Company,” also produced by her husband, Russ. And, Marian was the first chef at the Straight Wharf Restaurant, back in the 1970s, when Jock Gifford opened it.

Marian went on to write two terrific cook- books, which should be in the library of any seri- ous island home cook. “The Victory Garden Cookbook,” published in 1982, is an encyclope- dic work of vegetable recipes, published alphabet- ically, of every vegetable you could grow in your garden, including lesser-known New England sta- ples like rutabagas. Marian taps from her friends’ recipe files as well as her own for this wonderful cookbook, which Mitchell’s still carries.

Published later was “The Victory Garden Fish and Vegetable Cookbook.” On the following pages are nine recipes Marian pulled from that cookbook and which island chef Diane Bas- tarache, from Provisions, owned by Gifford and the same chefs at Straight Wharf today, prepared for the photos on the subsequent pages.

The recipes are all relatively easy and ooze with the flavors of summer. The fresh tomato sauce couldn’t be simpler, and is 10 times better than anything you’d pour out of a jar. One won- ders why anyone even bothers to buy canned tomato sauce after tasting homemade.
The roasted swordfish with clams and Mediterranean vegetables is a simple but highly- flavorful dish in which ingredients can be picked up at the farm and fish market after the beach and put together in about 15-20 minutes. It’s already on my menu for when family comes to visit later this month. With a crusty loaf of bread from one of the island bakeries and a pint of ice cream from The Juice Bar you’ve got a complete, and perfect, summer dinner.

I’m also a fan of the warm tomato and bread salad with goat cheese (or fresh mozzarella) as a summer lunch that is actually transportable to the beach or something to enjoy on your deck at the end of the day.

If you have planted a garden this year and find yourself with a surfeit of zucchini, Marian has included a couple of recipes here you prob- ably haven’t seen before. One is grilled zucchini with an olive relish, which is perfect with any grilled fish. In fact, the olive salad is worth mak- ing on its own, to tuck into a sandwich. The other recipe is a seared squash and pepper salad with a tart dressing. Mix it up and try yellow summer squash with green peppers or green zucchini with sweet red bell peppers, or mix them all together.

If you are eating a lot of fish in the summer, as we do, you’ll find that the creamy cucumber sauce, featured here, pairs as nicely with a grilled striped bass or swordfish as it does with the tra- ditional salmon. In Marian’s recipe for salmon with braised leeks you could just as easily sub- stitute cod or any of the offerings at your island fish market.

Cooking is about inspiration and experimen- tation as much as it is about preparing and eat- ing good food, so feel free to make these recipes your own.

Marianne Stanton is the editor and publisher of Nantucket Today and The Inquirer and Mirror, Nantucket’s newspaper since 1821. She writes frequently about food, travel and lifestyle for both publications.

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