May 1, 2004 Newport, Rhode Island
41° 29.325 North
071° 19.319 West

Craving Turkey

By Bernadette Bernon

Across the street from our house are topiary animals covered in snow during the coldest winter in recent history.
The aroma of a turkey roasting in the oven has got to be one of the most comforting sensations, evoking yummy images of tangy homemade cranberry sauce, tureens of rich gravy, and gatherings of family and friends around a laden table. I crave many things while we’re anchored out at reefs or making passages while cruising – a cheddar-cheeseburger cooked medium rare, a good haircut, sparkling water, space, yuppie-quality crackers, and roast turkey with all the fixings, just to name a few. Or at least I thought I did. To be more precise, regarding the turkey anyway, it probably was the snug surroundings, and feelings of belonging that I craved as much as the food itself.

Ithakas winter shrink wrap came off this week, so we could paint her bottom, apply a new stripe, and buff the hull and topsides.
So as soon as Douglas and I cleared off the boat this past winter, and moved into this cozy Newport house for our winter-work sojourn and Ithaka’s refit, I headed to our local market, bought a bird, and got down to business. Now, a few month later, as winter gasps its last, Ithaka is looking spiffy again, and daffodils have burst out from everyone’s front gardens, I look back over the past few months and can almost measure the time in the mini-Thanksgiving feasts I’ve prepared. We’ve had a turkey in the oven every three or four weeks, always followed for a few days by the glories of leftovers and soups I’ve simmered. In New England we’ve had the coldest winter in history, and it’s been those soups that have kept Douglas warmed up as he worked on Ithaka installing new gear, and chugging through our “to do” list like a freight train.

For good quality canned meats, perfect for the long-distance cruiser who doesnt have a large refrigerator capacity, try Brinkman Farms canned meats.
Lately, I’ve been especially busy with sewing projects, and stocking up the boat with all the odds and ends required by the cruising life -- easy to do now, while we have one foot on land, harder to accomplish once we’ve cut the ties again. I’ve been vacuum packing everything from favorite chai teas and ground flax seeds, to updated medical supplies and kosher salt. The vacuum packer is a new addition to my repertoire, and already I’m hooked on it and the storage space it’s opening up on Ithaka. We’re going to need fewer airtight containers now, which were more difficult to store efficiently in Ithaka’s lockers.

Roasted tomatoes Bruschetta
Another great provisioning discovery I’ve made just recently, thanks to fellow cruising friend Diane Rousseau aboard the Baltic 43 Persistence, is an excellent variety of canned meat, chicken, pork, and (be still my heart) turkey, made by a company in Ohio named Brinkman Farms: The quality is miles ahead of the brands in the supermarket (real chunks of meat) and the price is competitive.

If it isn’t already obvious, this winter seemed to find me focusing on food, and hanging out with some of my foodie boat friends, such as Lori Ross in Annapolis,

At Loris house earlier in the season, just outside Annapolis, we set up the display of molas, and invited lots of friends over to browse.
Maryland, to whom I owe a culinary debt of gratitude; she taught me how to make Szechwan Green Beans, and also an unforgettable Roasted Tomato Bruschetta. I’ve made each of those dishes almost as many times this winter as I’ve made the turkeys. They are huge hits. And the tomatoes have the added benefit of being a good boat recipe for spring cruising, when you might want to keep the cabin heated up a bit in the evening by a longer baking time. (I’ve included the recipes below.)

One of my favorite reunions recently was with my good friend Lynda Childress, with whom I went to high school. Then we worked together at Cruising World for over 20 years. She was the managing editor (a job similar to herding cats, but on an executive level) and escaped shortly after I did,

Lynda and Kostas
to marry her partner Kostas Ghiokas and move to Greece, where they now own and run a luxury 70-foot charter yacht – a dream come true for them both. Lynda is still the Food Editor for Cruising World, and the woman is an inspiration in the galley. As we cooked and ate during her visit home to Newport, I loved hearing about her life in Greece, the colorful family she married into, and the wonderful islands she now knows like the back of her hand. Greece remains one of my favorite places in the world – Douglas and I chartered there three times, and it was in Crete that we got engaged 14 years ago. Hearing about her adventures made my mouth water to return. Learn more about chartering in Greece with Lynda and Kostas by checking out their website: It includes pictures of their sleek boat, sample itineraries and menus, bios on each of them, date availability, pricing, and details on the Olympics this year.

My cravings for turkey were satiated this winter. This scene was painted on a wall in Nargana, in the San Blas Islands of Panama.
This week, I’m planning to make Lynda’s simple recipe for moussaka for a big group of friends, and friends of friends, who I’ve invited over. I’m having a Mola Party, to show our (rather humongous) collection of handmade molas from the San Blas Islands of Panama, hopefully sell some, and in so doing raise money for Kuna Indian health and education charities. I’ll let you know how it goes next time I write. (Meanwhile, Lynda’s moussaka recipe is included below.)

For Douglas and me, last night’s roast turkey was probably our last for awhile. We’re smack dab in the middle of moving back onto Ithaka over the next two weeks, and our onboard oven, and the long cooking time required for a turkey, is no place for such culinary maneuvering. So this was it. My brother Mark and his wife Gina came over. Their 4-year-old daughter was already here; Hannah and I have had a standing date that we spend every Thursday afternoon together playing and doing projects. So yesterday, after we acted out stories around her usual favorite title – “Hannah And Auntie’s Big Adventures On The Farm, In The Forest, And In The World” -- she acquiesced to being my assistant in the kitchen.

Winters bouquet
Dinner was cozy, Gina made a strawberry shortcake for dessert, Hannah put candles on it – another new tradition for every dessert she and I have served this winter; we dimmed the lights and sang, in her words, “Happy Birfday to everybody!”

As Douglas and I restock the boat, and haul all our gear out of the basement again, we find that we are looking more toward the open seas these days. The cravings we feel -- for family, old friends, and favorite foods – are always there when you’re cruising. Sometimes I temporarily satisfy myself with a long-distance phone call home on somebody’s birfday, or just to say hello. But then over time, the cravings for more connection become too strong, and only one thing satisfies that hunger – real time with the people we love. For us, we try to balance both; cruising has made our time at home all the sweeter and more satisfying.

Lori’s Slow-Roasted Tomato Bruschetta

Here is the simplest, most savory recipe I’ve seen in ages. Everyone who’s tasted it has raved about it, and asked me for the recipe. It couldn’t be easier to make, or more delicious.

15 plum tomatoes

olive oil

kosher salt and ground pepper

herbes de Provence (optional)

garlic (optional)

On a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil, drizzle some olive oil and spread around. Slice tomatoes lengthwise and lay them face down on sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. You can add garlic and other herbs if you like, but it’s not even necessary. (If the tomatoes are winter hard, and don’t have the sweetness of summer tomatoes, just sprinkle with a tiny bit of sugar to facilitate caramelizing.) Bake in a 300-degree oven for one hour. Turn off the oven and leave the tomatoes inside for another hour. The tomatoes should wrinkle up and caramelize along the edges. Place a tomato half on toasted bread to make bruschetta. Keep leftovers in the fridge; they’re great on sandwiches.

Lynda’s Moussaka

This is a savory traditional Greek dish that resembles a lasagna in its assembly, but the flavors are all its own. Don’t be afraid to use plenty of garlic, as the flavor softens in the cooking.

2 small eggplants or one large

4 medium potatoes

¾ pound minced lamb

¾ of a large can of peeled tomatoes

1/3 cup oil

2 chopped onions

1 bay leaf

6 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 cups of grated sharp cheddar cheese

oil for frying the eggplants

kosher salt (the large granules add wonderful bursts of flavor to foods)

freshly-ground pepper

White sauce (Here’s a great tip: Instead of laboring over a complicated white sauce, use a béchamel or white-sauce mix, and just add liberal amounts of freshly ground nutmeg and cinnamon)

Slice eggplants into circles, and fry. Peel and slice potatoes thinly, and fry. Set aside on paper towels. Sauté onions and garlic, add minced lamb, and stir for 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, reduce heat, and simmer for a half hour.

In a buttered baking dish, layer potatoes, then half the meat mixture, then half the cheese, then another layer of potatoes, then a layer of eggplant, another layer of the meat mixture, and the remainder of the cheese.

Make the white sauce following instructions on the packet (and add nutmeg and cinnamon). Pour the sauce over the moussaka. Bake 40 minutes, till browned. Remove from oven and let it sit for 15 minutes before slicing. Sprinkle with the kosher salt (adding it at the end intensifies the flavor), grind pepper over it, and serve. Serves 6.

Lori’s Szechwan Green Beans

This crunchy vegetable side dish makes a terrific accompaniment to a simple main course, it’s beautiful, and it’s loaded with flavor.

4 tablespoons Chinese sesame oil

2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed

8 cloves of garlic, minced (Use the entire amount. Don’t skimp!)

½ teaspoon kosher salt

crushed hot red pepper to taste, for a terrific spike of flavor

Place deep skillet or wok over medium heat/high heat for one minute, then add oil. Wait one minute. Add beans. Turn heat to high and stir-fry for about 5 minutes, or until beans are well seared. Add garlic, hot pepper, kosher salt, and stir-fry for another couple of minutes. Serve hot.