Nuts on the run…I’ve been in the U.S. for the past five days. I arrived almost in the teeth of a storm but fortunately it veered East, and the plane landed safely. Greeted by dear friends in Camden with a glass of buttery Scotch and the best Virginia peanuts I’d ever tasted, I settled into a sun-filled Maine adventure.
Nuts made it all happen, I thought as I arrived at Saltwater Farm in Lincolnville, Maine at 6:30 the following morning. The farm kitchen, where cooking classes and lovely dinners are held throughout the year and where I was about to welcome a group of nine cooking students, is perched on a rise over looking Penobscot Bay. Surrounded by herb gardens and a bean and onion patch, the building is new but the feel is traditional, with all the warmth a hearth, a long farm table, and the good energy of owner Annemarie Ahearn and her parents Lance and Liz.
Preparing for classes in a new kitchen is a challenge I love to tackle. This one was particularly pleasant as the ingredients – a handful from the garden right outside the farmhouse door – were ready, the scene set. Annemarie was there putting russet sunflowers in vases to set in the center of the table, the act of a meditative chef considering her day. She greeted me with a “Whatever you need, just let me know.” and I went to work.
Several hours and a great deal of measuring, weighing and organizing later my group of fantastic students began to walk through the door. As had I, they succumbed immediately to the peace and calm of the farm, and we proceeded to embark upon a culinary, gastronomic journey together that was pure enjoyment from start to finish.
My mandate is to use local, sustainably produced ingredients to make food that sings on the palate. I was not disappointed as we cooked our way through rabbit and hangar steak, gorgeous halibut and cod, beets pulled right from the garden and tomatoes cracking with the heat and juicy of summer.
Nuts (and seeds) was the theme. Walnuts were stuffed into the hangar steak along with horseradish and parsley, and ground with roasted red peppers for an inimitable Muhammara. Poppy seeds were folded into lemon ice cream, Brazil nuts were crushed with basil and garlic into a pesto, almonds were glazed with honey, spices, and cocoa for a best-ever appetizer.
There was much more and by Sunday afternoon, as the sun began to inch down in the sky and we sat around the table, sated and smug with our culinary successes and new friendships formed, I looked around. Days filled with pleasure in the creating and the tasting is all it takes to make this world the truly beautiful place it is.