Hilton Head Vacation Urges Me to Take a Bite of Life Before it Recedes into the Sea.**

Misc. / July 11, 2016
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I love traveling. It’s the only way to change yourself into something brand new without having a transplant! It allows you to acquire another layer of consciousness, cultivate a deeper gratitude, and whether you’re ready or not, an appreciation for how small you really are.

​And nowhere is that more true than by the sea in the summer.

I believe every moment spent near the water offers insights,  and healing. ​Here on Hilton Head Island, there are no roaring waves, no 50 foot cliffs that drop into sapphire springs of swirling foam like they do in San Diego, or Pismo Beach. No cool evening breezes. It’s hot and very sticky. Why walking out in the air at midday will produce sweat in a matter of seconds as though you’re moving forward through an invisible wall of melting gel. ​Here everything is intensified into a relentless, carnal furnace that demands a larger and larger glass of sweet tea be consumed with ever greater urgency.

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On it, or near it; it matters little. I just know the coast’s proximity to me is everything. I love it when the muddy, mollusk-covered marshes appear above the receding coastal tide. They’re black and ancient. Teeming with the undulating blanket of clay and creatures, and if followed they give way to upended ghostly roots of 100 year old trees that produce a silhouette of colonial conquests, pirate tales, and revolution. And all of it is speaking in prose through stifling humidity, and echoing through oyster shelled seawalls.

But know this, the soil is conscious, and alive, and knows you’re there. This is the gift of the sea.

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As you read on, you’ll discover this is more of a travel log with a few food photos added in than a recipe laden post, but I felt you needed to understand where my head was while cooking each day. Surrounded by friends vacationing with us, I never cooked alone. First, my Sous Chef, Duncan the Golden Retriever who is loyal, endearing and loves DogTV means you’re never without a smiling face.

Vicky and Richard our gracious hosts and partners in crime, literally gave me their wonderful kitchen. They provided a calm and beautiful place to stay, and Vicky’s shutter snapped like the ticking of a clock, capturing my spatula, knife or spoon as I transformed each Farmer’s Market ingredient into something as pretty as possible.

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During the entire week of searing, sauteing, spreading, slicing and braising I realized that doing so in a place that is surrounded by the sea is a constant reminder of how all of life ebbs and flows. I just found myself wanting to swallow each memory as it crashed upon me, curling my toes around these moments that rise, fall, ebb, flow and complete me. I couldn’t get enough of the bright food, the azure water, the lazy and twisting Spanish Moss. Everything was just perfect.

I’m not really sure how we packed so much into such a short amount of time. But isn’t that just like life? You blink and you’re 50. You can’t wait for the perfect wave. You just have to enjoy every moment.

​Enjoy the recipe narrative and photos!


Roasted Farmer’s Market Veggies with Grilled Dijon Chicken Breasts and Rosemary Crostinis

Slow roasting the vegetables and then topping them with dijon rubbed grilled chicken made this the perfect warm summer salad. Add the grape tomatoes and the kalamata olives at the end for the perfect acidic and briny notes of perfection. Don’t forget to top it with a rich, rosemary vinaigrette.


Filet Mignon with a Fig, Port and Balsamic Reduction alongside Butter Sauteed Sweet Potatoes

A meal is only as spectacular as the ingredients, and nothing tops a good steak. Well, except for a beautiful sauce! Sweat onions in oil, add figs, balsamic vinegar and a generous pour of Port wine. Reduce by half, season well, and then finish with some butter. OVER. THE. TOP!


Seared Pork Loin and Asparagus Spears with a Spicy Peach Ginger Sauce 

Ginger is the perfect addition to a fruity sauce. It add heats and complexity. Simply add fresh ginger to fresh peaches and let them sit for about 2 hours. Sear pork, remove, deglaze with white wine, toss in peaches and let simmer for about 5 minutes. Then add asparagus and cook for about 2 minutes, then the pork to finish cooking and braise to a medium rare.


Eggplant Tomato Marinara and Rotini Pasta with Farmer’s Market Italian Sausage, with Butter and Truffle Crostinis

Don’t be fooled. Pasta is not the enemy! It’s the amount you eat. SO!!!  Just don’t add enough to clog your fork and you have a very low carb meal. (Well, except for the 42 crostini we ate. There is that!) Adding eggplant to a traditional, slow simmered marinara is really so easy and makes the sauce so pretty. And don’t forget to roast the garlic before you add it to your sauce to make it so much more mellow. And no bitter bite!


Simple Blueberry Scones

Sunday mornings aren’t complete without a beautiful pastry, bulging with sweet summer blueberries.

 

* * These two asterisks mean it’s a Vicky Neer Photo! A HUGE thank you to Vicky Neer for her photographic prowess in making this blog post come alive. 


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