January 1, 2007
33° 21.779 North
078° 16.919 West
Georgetown , South Carolina

Happy New Year From Ithaka

By Bernadette Bernon

It’s a time of reflection. As we head northward, toward home, Douglas and I find ourselves discussing many of the things we’ve learned, many of the things we’ll miss about cruising, many of the things we’re excited to do once we move back on land. There are so many things on all three of those lists.

Douglas in the galley, where many happy memories are made.

In an effort to hold on to one of the sweetest aspects of our cruising experience, the times spent with our dearest cruising friends, one of the goals on my list of things to do once we’re home again is to go through my personal “Cruising Friends Recipe Book” – a treasure of great recipes I’ve collected during our cruising days – and over our first year back, make all of them, one at a time. I’m imagining how that will make me feel, once we’re back in New England. I’m imagining images of good times, and I’m hoping to dovetail our new experiences with the joys of the old.

Since we started this log for BoatUS, we’ve included some wonderful recipes from cruising chefs who also happen to be our friends out here. To celebrate the holidays, this week we offer up a few more of our favorites.

Douglas and I hope your holidays are joyful, and that the New Year brings you and your loved ones good health. Thank you for following our journey.

Pasta with Smoked Salmon

Our friend Lesley makes this wonderful recipe, and it's become one of my favorites for a special dinner aboard. It's so simple, but the smoked salmon flavor is mouth-watering, especially on a cruising boat. Although we have lots of fresh fish, sometimes its fun to cut open a packet of smoked fish and enjoy those unique flavors.

I had good luck keeping a few vacuum-packed envelopes of smoked salmon in the freezer indefinitely; they're flat and small, worth tucking away for special events, and easy to find in any major supermarket.

When another fresh fish, or another meal from a can is not what youre craving, Smoked Salmon Pasta is a dream dish.

1 pound pasta (bowties are a nice choice for this)
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cups canned tomatoes
½ pound smoked salmon
2 tablespoons fresh basil

1 cup cream (you can substitute one can of Nestlé's crema, sold in markets and grocery stores all over the world)

Put the water on for the pasta. Meanwhile, stir fry garlic and pepper
flakes in oil. Add tomatoes and salt, and cook until the mixture
bubbles. Simmer 20 minutes. Add cream and stir. Add salmon. Reduce by
half. Add cooked pasta, and serve along with a fresh salad and warm bread.

Fish Sausage

When you've been away from provisioning stops for a few months, your
freezer is bereft of such treats as sausages and meats, and you have a
craving for a traditional Sunday fried breakfast, here's an ingenious
way to satisfy that urge. Our friend Ilana on Windom shared this with
us when our two boats were cruising the Bahamas together, and from
then on we've made sure to carry some poultry seasoning aboard just
for this recipe.

Ilana and Bernadette stroll along a Bahamas beach

3 cups fish
1 teaspoon garlic
1 teaspoon chili powder (The first time you make this recipe, use a
bit less in case you prefer a milder taste; you can always add hot
sauce to your plate later if you find you like it more picante)
1 ½  teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons salt (Again, use a bit less the first time, just in case you prefer a less salty flavor. You can add a sprinkle of kosher salt later, at the table, if you think it needs a bit more.)
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
In addition, you can add thyme, sage, finely-chopped onion, and/or
finely-chopped garlic

We carry a manual fish grinder that clamps on a table, or on a companionway step. It was made in 1902 and still works wonderfully. There always seem to be a slew of them in thrift stores for less than $10. To avoid rust, for storage aboard, be sure to coat it with olive oil, wrap in a cloth, and seal it in a ziplock bag.

Chop up or mince up the fish. If you have a food grinder, this works perfectly.

Combine all ingredients and form the mixture into patties. Fry in a bit of butter or oil, until browned, and serve with eggs for a great breakfast treat. These sausages taste almost exactly like the real thing, and they're better for you.

Sweet Vidalia Onions

As Ithaka sails closer to Georgia, Douglas and I are reminded of terrific meals we've enjoyed there on previous visits. In particular, when we visited our friends Al and Teresa -- who are now cruising on their own boat, a cat named Grace -- we met Teresa's sister Kitty, who's a gourmet cook. She introduced us to Sweet Vidalia Onions, which is a delicious recipe from her grandmother.

4 Vidalia onions, sliced into very thin rings
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
½ cup white vinegar
½ cup mayonnaise
½ teaspoon parsley flakes
½ teaspoon celery salt
½ teaspoon paprika
 Juice of half a lemon

Boil water, sugar, and vinegar until the sugar is dissolved. Add the sliced onions, cool, refrigerate overnight, and drain the next morning. Add remaining ingredients. Serve with crackers, or as a side dish.

Triggerfish, which has a particularly firm flesh, makes a wonderful choice for fish sausage.

Potato Salad from Ithaka

Potatoes are a staple aboard cruising boats. Stored in a dark place, they stay fresh a long time, and require no refrigeration. All cruisers have their own potato salad recipe. Here is mine, which I always like to make before we set out on a passage. When we’re underway and the sea is messy, each of us craves carbohydrates and this is about our favorite form. It's best served at room temperature.

Scrub six potatoes. If the skins look clean, don't bother peeling them. Otherwise, peel them. Red potatoes are nicest with this recipe, but any potato will work well.

Cut potatoes into quarters, rinse, and discard rinse water. (If you’re using larger potatoes, cut into six pieces.) Cover with water and then boil until they're barely cooked (a knife pushed into one will meet a bit of resistance). Drain. Potatoes will continue to cook a bit while they're draining and cooling. Be careful not to overcook, or the potatoes will fall apart in the recipe. Set them aside to cool completely.

This year, for Christmas, my niece Hannah and I made a tree out of shells that Douglas and I collected on our cruising travels.

In a separate bowl, combine the following ingredients:
1 ½ cups calamata olives (coarsely chopped)
6 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
4 tablespoons dried oregano
½ cup olive oil
½ tablespoon freshly ground pepper

Cut cooked potatoes into smaller cubes, and add them to the mixture above. Stir gently. Sprinkle with kosher or sea salt.

Tip:  When using any of the coarse salts (versus the finely ground salts), sprinkle a pinch of it over the food just before serving, but never during the cooking process. This way, the salt crystals will make miniscule explosions of flavor in your mouth while you're eating, rather than just blending in with all the other flavors in your dish.

Papaya Seed Dressing

Papayas have to be one of the most beautiful fruits in the world. Every time I cut one in half, I make a mental note that someday I must paint a room that color, so that I always remember the stunning contrast of the burnt orange against the round black seeds. Normally, we toss those seeds overboard. But here's a terrific use for them – a very flavorful salad dressing – from my friend Katie on Asylum, now cruising the Pacific.

Katie from Asylum

1/3 cup wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lime juice
¼ teaspoon dried tarragon
1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
2 teaspoons papaya seeds, coarsely ground
1 tablespoon of sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
½ teaspoon dry mustard
½ cup olive oil

Mix everything. That's it! An electric hand mixer, such as the kind made by Braun, is a useful appliance on board, especially for quick grinding. This dressing also can be used as a delicious marinade.

Avocado and Lime Soup

Our newest cruising friends, Bob and Warren on Third Age, are wonderful cooks and hosts. We’ve been enjoying delicious meals with them as we cruise northward together, sometimes dining al fresco on Third Age, sometimes on Ithaka, depending on the weather. Theirs are the last additions to our “Cruising Friends Recipe Book.”

2 medium avocados
Juice of 2 limes
¾ of a pint of low-fat yogurt
3 teaspoons chopped fresh coriander
½ pint cold chicken stock
A dash of Tabasco
Salt and freshly ground white pepper

Cayenne toasts:
1 baguette, sliced
2 ounces of butter
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Bob and Warren from Third Age

In a blender, mix avocado and lime juice until smooth. Add yogurt, salt, pepper, Tabasco, coriander, and blend until completely smooth. With motor still running, add chicken stock. Process until creamy. Chill.

For toasts, melt butter and add cayenne. Brush both sides of baguette rounds, and broil until brown on both sides. Float toast on soup, or serve on the side.

Portuguese Soup

One of the specialties of the house on Third Age is Portuguese Soup made by Bob and Warren. When our boats reach the Chesapeake, and Douglas and I part company with these two fellows, it will be a sad day. We’ll introduce them to you in a future log but, meanwhile, here’s their delicious soup for a chilly day on the water.

2 cups onions, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, minced
6 tablespoons oil
1 pound garlic-flavored, smoked pork sausage, sliced
10 cups beef stock
1 28-ounce can kidney beans with liquid
1 head of green cabbage, cored, and chopped into medium pieces
12 small new potatoes, peeled and quartered
¼ to ½ cup cider vinegar
16 ounces of catsup
Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté onions and garlic in oil until transparent. Add sausage and brown slightly. Add all other ingredients, bring to boil, simmer for 35 to 45 minutes.

Christmas on Ithaka

White and Sweet Potato Gratin

This is a tried-and-true recipe from one of my best friends, Heather, with whom I owned my first boat, and with whom I learned to sail. Heather is a wonderful cook, who joined us for Christmas dinner this year, and brought a potato dish that was a big hit. She promised that the recipe was very easy, and indeed it is. This makes a great dish on a cruising boat, especially in a cool climate where having the oven on for one hour is a cozy benefit.

4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2 1/4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (or whatever you have), rinsed, no need to peel
1 1/2 pounds red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams), peeled
1 sweet onion, chopped
2 cups of 2% milk
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon kosher salt (or any kind of salt)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (or dried is fine too)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400. Sauté the chopped onions and garlic until soft and caramelized. Coat 13 x 9 x 2 glass baking dish with two tablespoons of butter. Thinly slice all potatoes. Place in prepared dish in layers -- white layer, then gold, then the onions/garlic, then repeat. Bring milk and next five ingredients to a boil in medium saucepan. Pour over potatoes. Dot with the remainder of the butter. Cover with foil. Bake until potatoes are tender and milk is almost absorbed -- about an hour. You almost can’t cook this too long. If it’s convenient, you can make and cook this in advance, then pop it in the oven for a half hour to reheat it. Serve by cutting into squares.

Fruit-Stuffed Loin Of Pork

Our Christmas dinner this year was a particularly warm-hearted one, now that we’re back in the United States, and have access to our family, our old friends, and American grocery stores. We made a favorite main course of roast pork loin, inspired by our friend Mary Ellen, who first served us this delicious recipe about a month ago.

Before -- From a wall mural in Miami.

4 pounds boneless loin roast
2 cups dried fruit, such as pitted prunes, figlets, apricots (all chopped
up). Also, add a small fresh apple (chopped up) which adds a nice flavor.
3 chopped garlic cloves
Salt and freshly ground pepper
8 tablespoons sweet butter, softened
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 1/2 cups Madeira wine
1 tablespoon molasses
watercress for garnish

After -- Roast pork for Christmas dinner

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Position a sharp knife in the middle of the roast and make a slit almost all of the way through. Try not to slit to the end to ensure the fruit doesn't fall out. (This cut is called a "butterfly" and any grocery store’s butcher will probably do this for you, if you don’t want to do it yourself.) Using the handle of a wooden spoon, push the dried fruit into the pocket.

Cut the garlic into slivers. Make deep slits in the roast with the tip of a knife and push the garlic into the slits. Tie the roast back together with twine and rub the surface with salt and pepper. Set the roast in a shallow baking pan and smear the butter over it. Sprinkle with the thyme. Stir the Madeira and molasses together in a bowl and pour over the roast. Set the pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 1 1/2 hours, about 20 minutes per pound.

When the roast is done, remove it from the oven and let it stand for 15 minutes. Cut into thin slices – about ¾ of an inch -- arrange slices on a platter, and spoon the pan juices over them. (At the last minute, if you need to increase the amount of juice, just add some white wine or chicken stock to the pan, and on the top of the stove, at low flame, stir the juices together until hot.) Garnish the platter with the watercress and serve.

Happy New Year, from Douglas and me!