Archive of ‘dinners’ category
Spirits were high motoring out of Gaviotta Bay. We were going to Cuba! Cuba… home of the mojito and the daiquiri, with salsa, fabulous music and better cigars. The Bahamas had been lovely, but we were ready for a little culture and some fabulous night life. Maybe some lush jungle treks as well. Who knew everything Cuba had in store. We were more than ready to explore all that it had to offer.
I was in the galley making grissini for the passage when a spirit-crushing crunch shook the boat. The guttural scrape of metal on rock tore at your very soul. It was sound that made fingernails on a chalkboard sound like a choir of angels. What had happened?
“It was so shallow. There were so many rocks,” Sato San said numbly.
Sato San went into the water. He didn’t come back with hopeful news. The starboard rudder was bent. Not just bent, the fiberglass had been shattered. We motored to a mooring ball and tried to think. Plans can change in an instant.
The Spanish aptly named the Bahamas – Baja Mar because the sea is so shallow. We hadn’t thought anything would happen just coming out of the bay. Accidents always happen when you let your guard down.
Umineko is a catamaran so we did have another rudder but what if something happened to that rudder?
No, we needed our starboard rudder.
Would we have to go back to the States to haul out and replace the rudder? What could we do in the Bahamas? We’d even had problems finding places to haul out a boat with a 24″ beam in the States.
There couldn’t be somewhere to haul out around here, could there? At least we were at the St. Francis headquarters so it would be easier to order a new rudder here. If they even had a rudder for the 23-year-old first hull.
I was near tears when we dropped the dinghy and headed over to St. Francis Resort to talk to George. If anyone could give us advice it would be him. In his jovial South African accent George managed to cheer us up a bit. Apparently, we had tried to leave
at low tide, the worst possible time. He could talk to St. Francis headquarters in South Africa, but he wanted to look at the rudder first. They had to straighten one or two rudders a year, so it was possible he could fix it in his workshop and get a nearby boat yard to repair the fiberglass.
George is a legend. He straightened the rudder shaft in an afternoon and by that evening had the thing being fiberglassed at the boat yard. It would take some time to set though, he warned us. I shuddered to think what that might mean in Bahaman time.
George must have bribed, threatened, or implored the boat yard because three days later we had our rudder back. On the fourth day we were underway to Cuba (again). Though the stress was dreadful, having those extra days in Gaviotta Bay was lovely. We met some delightful people and managed to have a classic Umineko karaoke party the day before we set sail. If you go to George Town, Bahamas I highly recommend stopping by St. Francis Marina. Great drinks, some of the best calamari I have ever tasted, and lovely people.
I also got to make a few more tasty treats in preparation for the passage to Cuba. I love quiche because it is easy and delicious hot or cold. I bought a large chunk of feta the month before in Florida. Keeping it frozen I was using it for special occasions and I thought that we needed some tasty food in light of upsetting events.
This quiche is easy and tasty, but I do not recommend trying to make it underway because the filling has the unfortunate tendency of spilling all over the oven when there are even little waves.
Fair Weather Feta Leek Quiche
1 leek, thinly sliced
1 c heavy cream
1 t pepper
1 t salt
½ t thyme
½ c feta, crumbled
½ recipe painter perfect pie crust
Preheat oven to 350 F (170C)
Whisk eggs, cream (or milk), and spices in medium mixing bowl
Roll-out pie crust dough
Put into pie tin, pinching edges into a crust
Bake for 20 minutes
Scatter feta and half leek slices over bottom of pie
Pour egg mixture into pie tin
Arrange remaining leek slices on top of pie crust
Bake for 30-40 minutes or until filling puffs up in the center and is solid to the touch
I slipped on the snorkel and slid off of the paddle board into the shallow aquamarine Bahamas waters. Looking down I saw the shapes of 5 rays hiding under the sand, their tails sticking up just their eyes exposed, watching warily. The ethereal form of one meter-wide ray glided gracefully past. He must have given his brethren some sort of signal. I shrieked in surprise (as much as one can shriek around a snorkel) as 5 enormous rays exploded upward in a cloud of sand. That was the start of it.
I had promised to find lobster in the Bahamas. The last time I was sailing there it seemed that the islands were thick with them, hiding in every rock and crevasse. We had eaten them until we couldn’t face another bite of lobster. This time was different I had found lobster! Paddle-boarding up to a fishing boat, but Sato San wanted to actually hunt lobster. Wild lobster. Today was our last chance. Our last stop before George Town, then it was on to Cuba.
We anchored off of Leestocking Cay and I looked approvingly at the rocky coastline. Rocks and crags… this was lobster territory. We dinghied slowly over to the rocky shoreline to search for the lobsters that were surely hiding there.
Taira San and Sato San in the dinghy, me in tow on the paddleboard looking for potential dinners. I stopped several times to pick up a couple of conch and some interesting fan-shaped shellfish that stuck out of the sand. In case we didn’t find any lobster it would be good to have a back-up plan.
Sato San, Taira San and I split up and did a thorough scouring of the area, checking under rocks and crannies from one beach to the next. Sea cucumbers, dozens of dead conch, thousands of miniscule transparent fish, but not so much as a lobster antenna to be seen. Near the second beach I saw Sato San again who suggested we head back to the dinghy. I was all for it, over an hour in the water and I was getting cold.
As everyone else had flippers and I didn’t, I was the straggler. Not that I minded. The ocean-life was beautiful, especially in the 3’-8’ waters near the shore. The porous volcanic rock hosted a myriad of fish and sea life. Still, I was half on the lookout for dinner.
From out of nowhere, a lithe grey shape whizzed up to me and slowed for a swim-by. My eyes widened. A dolphin! I hadn’t seen a single dolphin since leaving the States almost a month earlier and now one swam right past me! The dolphin turned tightly to hook back to swim within a meter.
His soft black eye looked inquisitively at me as he swam past. If he had been wearing a cap he would have doffed it. A few feet further the dove-grey gentleman looped back swimming back towards me. My heart soared. I could hardly believe it. Less than 5’ long, my dolphin friend had to be a teenager. He clearly fascinated by the strange creature in the water. Still, he had small notch out of his left flipper, maybe curiosity had gotten the best of him another time.
The spritely character swam inclined his cute snub nose to look at me before circling out a meter away and let out a high-pitched squeal. I tried to make a similar high-pitched sound, but dolphin is even harder to pick up than Japanese. After a few minutes of interaction my new friend swam away. I watched the tail grow fainter and fainter in the water.
Suddenly, to my delight, the dolphin was back at my side. He started big 5’ loops around me. One towards the surface, another diving to examine me from all angles. Time stood still as he started swimming in faster, tighter circles around me. I could have reached out my arm and brushed him, but somehow I sensed that wasn’t proper dolphin etiquette.
We danced, me twirling around almost in place his circles were so close. Not wanting to miss a second of the experience I drank everything in. The aero(hydro?)dynamic rounded lines that slid through the water with ease. The trim figure, but most of all the expressive features. I had read of dolphin’s intelligence, but experiencing it first-hand it struck me deeply.
He drifted out several feet and rolled over on one side exposing his belly to me. I rolled over in the same move. When I let my legs drift down, he “stood up” in the water, his tail near the bottom, head near the surface mimicking my upright stance. We were imitating one another!
When my friend surfaced for air and dipped back under the waves I smiled. This was another mammal. We had the bond of air-breathers in this underwater world. I wanted more than anything to be able to communicate. His deep intelligent eyes and actions, told me the dolphin clearly wanted the same. But I was the slow ape in his fast-paced world. After 10-minutes I stopped being quite so interesting and my friend swam away leaving me with a warm sense of connection.
It lasted about a minute. As soon as I turned away and begin to swim back to the dinghy a menacing grey dart-shaped form took my friend’s place. Ice-cold chills crept up my spine as the razor-sharp lines of a 4-foot barracuda cruised up and hovered a meter away from me. I wasn’t about to turn my back on this sinister character. If the dolphin’s eyes had seemed playful, this character’s cold, flat eyes and jutting teeth screamed one thing: danger. I hoped and prayed the dolphin would come back to no avail.
I called for Sato San and luckily he was nearby with a lobster spear and frightened the predator away. Luckily, I had taken off my ring. I had no desire to offer swimming destruction any shiny temptation. We got back to Umineko the boys lamenting the fact that we didn’t find any lobster. I opened up the fan-shaped shell to reveal more than just the slimy sea creature. Two baby lobsters were living in the shell too! One red and the other clear, both around the size of an eraser! Hey, they asked me to find lobster – they didn’t specify what size.
I cooked the conch and the disgusting slimy fan-shaped shellfish in a seafood biryani. The adorable baby lobsters are my new pets and live in a shallow bowl of salt water with half the shell. I am hoping to find an appropriate home for them in George Town.
Douglas Adams may not have been too far off in So Long and Thanks for all the Fish. Dolphins might not be extraterrestrial but who’s to say they aren’t as intelligent as humans. I don’t want to anthropomorphize dolphins. They are an entirely different species. Their surroundings have caused their brains to develop in very different ways from us. But they are intelligent, curious, inquisitive, and interested in exploring and learning about their world.
I think that it would be anthrocentric of us to claim humans are smarter than these creatures. Intelligent in different ways, of course, but humans could learn so much from these creatures. I long to communicate better. I know that scientists have been working on it for years, but if somehow we managed to crack the dolphin language…
Backstay Seafood Chana Biryani
1 lb conch, chopped
1 fillet fish, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 lb squid
2 c rice
1 c chick peas, cooked
½ onion, chopped
½ carrot, chopped
5 cardomom pods
1 t cinnamon
2 t garam masala
1 t turmeric
2 t grated ginger
1 t cumin seeds
½ t coriander seeds
1 t salt
3 c water
2 c rice
¼ c cranberries
½ c cashews
Cook seafood in pressure cooker about 20 minutes
Sauté garlic and onions in oil in deep pan for about 3 minutes
Add carrot and cook another 2 minutes
Add spices and stir until veggies are coated
Add rice and stir until coated
Add water and bring to a boil
Steam for 15 minutes
Add chick peas
Drain seafood and stir into biryani rice mixture
Menacing nurse sharks are thick in Staniel Cay. Not quite the ominous beasts from the James Bond film Thunderball, but it amuses me to no end that there are in fact sharks that populate the Thunderball Grotto.
It may be one of the Bahamas biggest tourist attractions, but Thunderball Grotto is well worth a visit. I’ve been to James Bond shooting locations around the world. Thailand, Udaipur India, and I’m sure there were a few others. Not that I’m making a point of visiting, it just works out that way. This is the coolest one I’ve been to.
You swim into the grotto through one of several openings in the porous rock island. I chose an opening that you actually dove down and swam underwater through a passage until the cave opened in front of you. With a high arched ceiling and dim blue lighting flickering off the cave walls the hollow center of the island is a natural cathedral more beautiful than anything manmade.
True to the film, there is an opening in the top of the cave. Sadly the grotto makes only a fleeting appearance in the film in which James Bond is helicoptered out of the cave. In real life visitors can climb to the top of the island and those braver than I am can jump into the grotto from the top of the island, probably a 30-foot drop.
More my speed, there are hundreds of fish of all shapes, sizes, and colors that flock, or school perhaps, to the cave for tourist treats. Naturally we brought the fish some bread and I was immediately clothed in a cloud of opportunistic fish begging for handouts.
We watched Thunderball that night and feasted on lobster tacos. We still had frozen tails left from our incredible deal with the fishermen in Chub Cay (I didn’t realize just how amazing a deal it was until I saw 3 tails being sold for $25-40 in Nassau on the side of the road). Tacos are delicious, healthy, and easy to make. Not to mention perfect for a boat.
We always try to have cabbage on board, I make it a point to stock up on flour tortillas, and most of the trimmings (rice, beans, etc) are pretty standard ingredients on a boat. The sauce is what really makes this dish though. I have played with the recipe for ages and this is definitely my favorite.
I would love to hear what you think!
Lighthouse Lobster Tacos
Makes 8-10 tacos
Soft flour taco tortillas
½ head cabbage very finely chopped
Meat from 4+ lobster tails, shredded
½ c yachting yogurt
2 T kewpie mayonnaise
1 t salt
Juice from 2 limes
½ t taco seasoning
Boil lobster tails
Cut up cabbage and put in small mixing bowl
Mix yogurt, mayonnaise, salt lime juice, and taco seasoning – sauce should be thin
Put lobster in line along widest part of tortilla
Sprinkle cabbage over half of the tortilla
Drizzle sauce over cabbage
Serve with rice, beans, guacamole, chopped tomatoes, or whatever your heart desires and galley offers.
Americans don’t need tourist visas to Cuba! How could they? Americans couldn’t go to Cuba, or at least they couldn’t spend money there. That would be “Trading with the Enemy.” When Sato San first started talking about getting visas to Cuba in Nassau I was sure I wouldn’t need one.
Right, why would Cuba charge the people of a country that put an embargo on them? Ahh well, hindsight is 20/20. Clearly I was wrong, but on the up side Cuba doesn’t charge US citizens any more than other countries.
The Cuban Embassy has outsourced its visas. Well, technically Cuba doesn’t have visas. They have “tourist cards.” You get them at tour agencies! Havanatur sells them $15 for a tourist card in Nassau.
Just go, give them the money and you get your tourist card. Of course you have to brave the mean streets of Nassau to get there.
Nassau is a trip, and I do mean that in the vernacular. With dingy strip-malls and rundown street markets, a good portion of the island gives the impression of the Bahamas being a developing country.
Or more accurately, a colony abandoned by its benefactor. Juxtaposed with that is the opulence of Atlantis, the island’s 5 star resort, rising out of the meager background. The resort is a get-away for Americans with more money than time who want the comforts of home paired with tropical weather and an island setting.
We didn’t actually make it to Atlantis or its casino, but sailing past was enough for me. (Okay, I might be talked into visiting sometime.) The building is stunning, but when you see the rest of the island and how the locals live it does seem a little out of place.
Yacht Haven marina, where we moored, is a far cry from Atlantis. It isn’t terrible by any means; decent showers, hot water, wifi… but the street outside is like stepping into the ghetto. And that was where I had to go to get my tourist card.
I wished I had sent my passport with Sato San so he could pick it up for me, but I really hadn’t thought I’d need one. The travel agency was on the same street as the Marina, not even a long walk. Still, taxi drivers tried to solicit my business every half a block or so.
The agency didn’t look like much from the outside and was almost empty. Still, I had to wait almost an hour to get my tourist card. Not an involved process by any means.
Still, it was late afternoon by the time I got back to the boat. I had my tourist card. Everything was set – we were going to Cuba! I had to make a celebration dinner.
I am a big fan of cream sauces and gnocchi sounded good. You don’t have to use cream, for a lighter version just use half a cup extra of plain yogurt and the sauce is still delicious.
Tidal Thyme cream sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T butter
¾ c plain yogurt
½ c cream
1 t thyme
1 t salt
1 t pepper
1 T corn starch
Sauté garlic in butter over medium heat 3 minutes
Turn temperature down to low and add yogurt, cream, and seasonings
Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally
Add corn starch, stir in well and cook another minute
Serve over gnocchi or other pasta (I’m a sucker for gnocchi though) and garnish with dried cranberries
Welcome to The Bahamas!
I went for my first paddle boarding in Chub Cay in the Bahamas. Sato San had been trying to get me on the thing since the Erie Canal but it was always too cold. Call me a coward but I’m just not cut out for swimming in chilly waters. I always told him that I would paddleboard in the Bahamas. When we reached Bimini, our first stop in the Bahamas, I refused. The no swimming signs in the marina might not have been enough to dissuade me, but the enormous bull sharks that the marina fed certainly were. Shark attacks might be rare, but swimming where 10’ bull sharks were regularly fed? Not a chance was I getting anywhere near that water.
Our third day in the Bahamas, anchored in crystal waters I gave it a try. Surprisingly it’s a lot more stable than I had feared. I paddled a quick circle around Umineko, getting my paddle board legs. Gaining confidence I paddled out further. Some movement on one of the boats anchored nearby caught my eye. The run-down boat just gave off a fisherman vibe. I paddled a little closer and called out to see if they happened to have any lobsters. “We have lots!” one of them replied in a delighted voice. Chub Cay was pretty far from any of the standard tourist destinations. Having patrons paddle board up to the boat cut down on gas, time an energy for the fishermen.
“We’ll bring them by later. How much do you want to pay? $50?”
$50? I was shocked. One of my favorite dinners in New York had been going to Chinatown and buying 3 lobsters 3 for their $20 special. And that was New York City. $50 here seemed exorbitant. Rather than actually laughing in their face I put on my best pathetic face and told the man that we were poor and couldn’t pay much more than $10 or $15.
The fisherman told me that we could agree on a price later when they came by with the lobsters so I paddled back to Umineko. The sun was dipping towards the horizon and I wasn’t entirely sure they were going to come by with lobster for the stingy girl so Mori San and I dinghied over to the fisherman’s boat. To my delight they handed me an enormous ziplock bag stuffed to the point of bursting with lobster tails. I had expected 5 or 6 lobsters at the most. They tried for $50 again but I bargained them down to $20 and 4 beers.
Twenty one tails. Granted they weren’t the largest tails, but they weren’t tiny either. Just large enough to be legal and small enough to be tender and delicious. A wonderful welcome to the Bahamas.
We gorged ourselves on lobster that night, eating everything we could (and probably more than we should – neither Taira San nor I could finish ours), and froze the remaining tails. That night’s menu was steamed green beans with garlic butter sauce, lobster sashimi, Sato San’s favorite, and steamed lobster tails.
I had never even thought of lobster sashimi before but the sweet meat lends itself to being eaten raw.
You don’t have to, and actually shouldn’t, marinate it. Let the luscious flavor stand on its own. Devein the tail and cut it into small chunks. With a little soy sauce and wasabi it is divine.
2-4 lobster tails
Using heavy-duty scissors, cut the underside of the shell from base of the tail to its tip
Extract the meat
Devein the tail leaving only the beautiful white meat
Cut meat into small bite-sized chunks
Arrange on a platter
Serve with wasabi, soy, and pickled ginger
Do you want to cure a woman of ever wanting to go shopping again? Put her in charge of provisioning a boat for an off-shore adventure. That will cure the most die-hard shopaholic of her habit.
Years ago, at the start of my first long sailing trip, I couldn’t understand Lindsey’s, my crewmate, aversion to supermarkets, Walmarts, and Home Depots. I had joined the crew of the Leeway at the tail end of provisioning for our adventure. Lindsey, on the other hand had been shopping for weeks straight. Now I understand.
I loathe Provisioning. Not shopping for a little trip, or picking up a few things here and there. I’m talking about Provisioning. With a capital P. All-out shop-til-you literally want to drop. On one provisioning expedition in Malaysia I came out of the store with a receipt over 7’ long. I could hold it up as high as my arm could reach, stand on my tip toes and the paper still curled on the ground
Everywhere in the world has food! Why buy the entire store? Well, technically you don’t have to, but if you are heading to the Bahamas especially you might want to think about filling your galley to the point of bursting. Provisioning in many island nations can be prohibitively expensive. Not to mention the selection being extremely limited. I remember before Cocos (Keeling) Island cruisers were given a list of foods that could be shipped in to the island to buy. A head of lettuce was $25.
Of course you’ll want to pick up a few fresh fruits and veggies, and in some places local markets are wonderful for that. But if you’re on a budget you’ll want to keep what you need to buy to a minimum. Sure it’s entertaining going into Western supermarkets in Nassau to look at the small bags of lettuce “on sale” for $10, but groceries really are three times as expensive. When they’re available at all.
And so I gritted my teeth and went provisioning. I wrote a post on couchsurfing, asking if anyone had a costco card and would help me with provisioning. Costco might not be my first choice for everyday shopping, but when you are buying supplies for months in advance it’s a good way to go. wonderful gentleman Don offered to take me.
I felt a little bad but he assured me that he realized what he was in for. After 3 ½ hours of shopping at costco and 2 carts filled to brimming, we headed to get some additional supplies at Publix, another grocery for 2 more carts. Did I mention the day-trip to the Asian supermarket? Yeah.
The one good thing about provisioning is that you do want to get rid of the tail ends you have left over, so the night before I threw together a blue-cheese beet pasta. We had some blue cheese that needed to be used up and a few beets and the resulting pasta turned out fantastically.
with Bleu Cheese Beet Sauce
- 3 oz blue cheese
- ¼ c walnuts, chopped
- ½ onion, chopped
- 4 beets, cubed
- ½ c cream
- 1 c milk
- 1 c yachting yogurt
- 1 T corn starch
- 1 t butter
Cook beets 15 min in pressure cooker
Boil penne in water with a splash of olive oil to prevent sticking (I like to use a mixture of ½ fresh water and ½ salt water at sea)
Fry onions in butter until translucent
Stir in walnuts, cream, yogurt, milk
Cook for another 2 minutes on low heat
Put penne and sauce back in pot and mix thoroughly
Serve with a few whole walnuts to garnish
There was a face-off. Me vs. the two eggplants we had gotten in Charleston. It had been weeks. One of them was half-brown, and the second was certainly soon to follow. They needed cooking.
Now eggplant has never been my favorite vegetable, or I guess fruit if you want to get technical. I like it in things. Eggplant parmesan where the stuff is disguised in breadcrumbs and nicely fried, sure; I generally prefer baba ganoush to hummus too. But both of those required items we didn’t have on the boat.
Oh, I may have forgotten to mention the 3 red and yellow bell peppers that were in need of a tasty dish.
Rain was pouring down the make-shift tarp shelter protecting the cockpit. We were on a mooring ball right by Saint Augustine, Florida. The oldest, and possibly most touristic town in America and we weren’t moving off the boat. I glowered at the rain. Okay, so we were on the boat all day and not going anywhere. That meant projects.
One project I had been wanting to do was to learn how to cook with a pressure cooker. Sato San had bought an Indian pressure cooker in Mauritius but it was stowed in the very back of the cupboard underneath the oven.
Other yachties raved about their pressure cookers saving time and propane but I had yet to try cooking with one.
Now using a new kitchen toy can be fun or it can be intimidating. I must admit, I was a little intimidated by the pressure cooker. If you used one wrong it could explode, burn you with steam, or all sorts of scary things. Apparently they were all the rage in the 50s and 60s until microwaves wooed people away with an even faster, easier way of cooking.
I read the manual and thankfully it was a newer version and had a weight on top that
regulated pressure and let steam out so there was (thankfully) no danger of the thing exploding. Still, I wanted a little help my first time using the thing.
As it was an Indian pressure cooker and we had eggplant to use the only thing to make was baingan bharta. I googled baingan bharta and pressure cooker and found a wonderful recipe blog site called “Honey What’s Cooking” with a recipe for Baingan Bharta that used a pressure cooker.
I’m sure her recipe is fabulous but I can never leave well enough alone, not to mention I had quite a few bell peppers to use up so this is my take her recipe.
- 2 medium-small eggplants (about 1 lb)
- 3 red and yellow bell peppers
- 1 large onion
- 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 T oil
- 1 large tomato chopped
- 1 t freshly grated ginger
- 1 t Paprika
- 1 t ground cumin
- 2 t garam masala
- 2 t salt or to taste
- 1 t black pepper
- Juice from 1 lime
- Peel the eggplants, cut in half, and place in pressure cooker – cook for 20 minutes
- Cover halfway with water and start cooking (seriously read the directions on your pressure cooker first)
- Place oil in large saucepan and cook onions for 3 minutes on medium-high
- Put bell peppers, paprika spice, cumin, garam masala, salt, and black pepper, cook for 5 minutes stirring occasionally
- Add tomatoes and lime juice, cook another 5 minutes stirring occasionally
- Cover and cook for another 20 minutes stirring occasionally
- Drain eggplant (it should be cooked to the point it’s falling apart) and mash/stir into eggplant pepper mixture
- Cover and cook for another 20 minutes stirring occasionally
- Allow to cool. Baingan Bharta can be refrigerated and served for days (if it lasts that long) and the flavors only improve
In case you were wondering my first time using a pressure cooker was a great success. The three of us at all of the baingan bharta.
It was an overnight sail from Charleston. Smooth sailing all the way, unfortunately not fast, but smooth which was nice.
We had originally wanted to find a marina in Brunswick but all the marinas either didn’t have space for us or were extremely expensive. We opted for anchoring out a bit further South. Almost at the border between Florida and Georgia.
We anchored among a few other boats in the lee of an island.
“There are horses on the island.” Sato San told me.
Of course I had to go outside and see. He was right, there was a small herd of ponies in the woods down the beach. We dinghied out to the island and tied up at the dock. As soon as we got off the boat we could feel the grandeur of Southern
nature. A hush of the cathedral forest made it feel holy. The cool sweet air had a different texture than the ocean just feet away. We walked through the woods’ grand corridors gawking at the ancient trees with their elegant tresses of sphagnum moss.
We were in a completely different world. A doe sprang away from us as we startled her browsing by the pathway. But I had my heart set on seeing the feral ponies. Their droppings littered the pathways but nary a pony did we see.
We wound our way through the woods to the beach on the opposite side of the island without hide nor hair of a pony. Finally we happened upon some other people who told us that the ponies generally stayed near some grassy ruins a short dinghy ride away.
The three scrubby ponies we happened upon weren’t scared of us at all. In fact they were accustomed to people. Feral ponies are always fun to see, but I could easily see why Assateague’s feral ponies were more well-known than Cumberland Island’s. (okay, so Marguerite Henry’s Misty of Chincoteague may have helped a little) Soon I was wowed by the enormous buck that crashed through the trees just ahead of us, pausing to look back at us. His antler crown made him seem like royalty of the forest.
But Sato San was getting eaten alive by mosquitoes and so we headed back. After the night sail and exploring the island I was a little tired. I wasn’t really in the mood to make an involved dinner. I asked Sato San what he wanted to eat he suggested unagi. Not the simple unagi I was used to. He wanted to teach me how to make a special dish: Hitsumabushi Unagi.
This unagi-fest of a dish was invented in Nagoya but soon spread throughout Japan. I adore Unagi. Given the choice of a last meal I might have to choose unagi. Still, this dish is like the Japanese equivalent of an all-you-can-eat crab dinner. You know you shouldn’t eat more but you just can’t stop yourself.
Simple and delicious. The only problem is finding the unagi. You can usually find it in the frozen section at Asian supermarkets but unfortunately the price of unagi has gone up in the past year because eel has been overfished and they are increasingly hard to find. Still, I highly recommend trying this dish if you can find unagi. The tender meat practically melts in your mouth in a sweet-savory blend of deliciousness. Balanced by rice and a little wasabi I can’t think of many things more scrumptious.
Under the Lee Hitsumabushi Unagi
Under the Lee: Located in the calm area to the lee of an island or peninsula
– Sea Talk Nautical Dictionary
- 1 recipe unagi sauce
- 2 unagi steaks
- Short grained rice
- 1 c Japanese green tea
- Wasabi paste
- Green onions, finely sliced
Cook rice (I hate to admit it but the rice cooker really does cook rice better than I can and sadly the rice cooker is a shore-power only thing.)
- Make recipe of unagi sauce
- Bake eel about 15 minutes at 350◦ F (170◦ )
- Broil 5 minutes to cook top
- Cut unagi into thin strips
- Place unagi, unagi sauce, and rice pot in center of table and set table with bowls at everyone’s place
- Get Ready
- Spoon rice into bowl
- Place strips of unagi on top
- Spoon unagi sauce
- Spoon rice into bowl
- Place strips of unagi over rice
- Sprinkle green onions on top
- Squeeze wasabi onto the creation
- Drizzle unagi sauce around
- Round 2 + green tea (The green tea is wonderful to help clean the sticky rice and unagi sauce out of the bowl and adds an interesting flavor)
- You can do it! Just a little deliciousness left to go…
When I’m in a new place I like to sample the local delicacies. For me trying new foods is half the fun of travel. What do they eat in this part of the world? How does the food reflect the culture?
One fabulous thing about sailing is that you have your galley with you so you can learn how to make the local foods you like, or at least your rendition of them. Freshly locally-grown produce and spices are always better than something shipped in from halfway around the world anyway. So take advantage of the opportunity. What better than adding new spices to your cupboard, bringing different flavors into your life, and expanding your culinary horizons?
Umineko was in Charleston, South Carolina. Sailing in I knew nothing about the Southern City, other than that there was a dance named after it. I quickly discovered Charleston was known for being a foodie’s town – the unsung culinary capital of the South. Not to mention being a being a beautiful place resplendent in southern charms. Street vendors sold boiled (pronounced balled) or deep-fried peanuts in front of elaborately-decorated southern mansions. The clip-clop of horse hooves from the numerous horse-drawn carriages gave the “low country” South Carolina city a special feel.
After eating at Husk, a restaurant lauded by the NY Times, I understood what everyone was talking about. I needed to pick up some Cajun seasoning and try my hand at making gumbo. After all, we had just bought some fresh shrimp from fisherman in Georgetown. What better way to use them?
At Marion Place farmer’s market, Charleston’s Saturday market, a delightful woman was running the Charleston Spice Company booth gave me some gumbo-making tips. For gumbo I clearly needed Cajun seasoning. She recommended her smoky Cajun seasoning and I was all for it.
She didn’t have a recipe because she didn’t make it, but her husband made the best gumbo she had ever tasted. Several years earlier she had put a few teaspoons of sassafras filé in the gumbo at the end. That was the missing ingredient. The gumbo was perfection. The filé helped thicken the gumbo and added a hint of flavor to the delicious mélange… that extra something she told me.
That afternoon I went back to Umineko to prepare the gumbo. I may not have made it before, but I had tasted a few gumbos in my life. Playing it by ear, and mixing in what we had on board a delectable seafood gumbo came into existence.
Now technically gumbo, like most stews, is better the following day. I did let it sit for several hours (and it was better the next day), but we sated ourselves on gumbo and rice that evening.
Sailing Seafood Gumbo
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 green pepper, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 large tomato, chopped
- 1 can green beans, drained
- 2 Tablespoon Veg. oil
- 2 Tablespoon Flour
- 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 6 oz can Tomato paste
- 2 teaspoon Salt
- 1 t black pepper
- 1 T lemon juice
- 1 Bay leaf
- 1 T Smoky Cajun seasoning
- 1 t 7 chili seasoning
- 1 T Vegeta, vegetable soup stock powder (or bouillon cube)
- 1 lb shrimp
- 1 c small scallops
- 3 Cup Water
- 1 c cooked rice
- 2 t ground sassafras filé (to thicken it up and give it that special extra flavor)
- Sautee onions, garlic, and green pepper in oil
- Add tomatoes
- Stir in flour and mix well.
- Add spices, tomato paste, and Worcestershire sauce cover, and simmer for 30-45 minutes on med-low heat
- Remove bay leaf
- Add green beans, cooked rice, and seafood, cover, and cook 10 minutes
- Stir in sassafras filé
- Serve in soup bowls with cornbread on the side or over rice
Georgetown is beautiful, historic, a must-see if you are in South Carolina. Rice museums, tea shops, and of course the grand Southern mansions. I was surprised to learn that South Carolina’s “low country” was the US rice-growing capital and is still the only place in the US that grows its own tea. It is a very special place with a feel utterly its own.
That is if it hasn’t just burned down the week before you arrive. Well, the whole downtown hadn’t burned down. Just 9 or 10 buildings. Still, the blackened scar surrounded by construction marred the picturesque feel a smidge. But even the recent disaster didn’t stop the booming shrimping industry.
We were in the heart of shrimp country and I was delighted. The winged-shrimp boats looked like pirate ships of yore to my eyes. And these entrepreneurial fishermen even had a store where you could buy shrimp and seafood from the fishermen as soon as they unloaded their wares. It wasn’t quite as cheap or special as buying them off an actual fisherman, but it was close.
The hours-old shrimp still tasted spectacular in the shrimp alfredo I made that night.
Seafarer’s Shrimp Alfredo
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 c cream
- 2 T butter
- 2 T freshly rosemary, finely chopped
- ½ c parmesan cheese, grated
- 2 t freshly ground pepper (or to taste)
- 2 t salt (or to taste)
- 1 lb shrimp
- ¼ lb scallops
- Dried cranberries for garnish
- 1 16 oz box of spaghetti or linguini
- Cook spaghetti (I like mine al dente)
- Fry garlic and onion in bottom of a saucepan in 1 T butter over medium heat until translucent (about 3 minutes)
- Add rosemary
- Stir in cream and cheese
- Season with salt and freshly cracked pepper
- Sauté shrimp and scallops in 1 T butter until just cooked
- Add to cream sauce
- Add pasta to original pasta pot
- Pour in cream sauce and shrimp
- Scatter dried cranberries on top