Tag Archives: salmon

BEACH GAMES & SALMON with CAPERS & CREAM

Our dinner last night (Salmon with Capers and Cream)

Our dinner last night (Salmon with Capers and Cream)

It has been three days since we arrived at the beach and we have already settled into a nice rhythm.

I love the colorful umbrellas strew along the beach

I love the colorful hotchpotch of umbrellas strew along the beach

A few years ago the kids would have been jumping on our bed and begging us to go to the beach as soon as we opened our eyes, but now that they are older they are happy to sleep in and hang out in the cool of the house until the hazy seaside heat begins to dissipate.

Strolling on the beach in the late afternoon

Strolling on the beach in the late afternoon

This morning we strolled over to The Red Store for chocolate croissants and caramel-filled buns for breakfast before there was even a mention of the beach.

The Red Store

The Red Store, Cape May Point

We got to the beach at about 3pm. and set up our little camp. When you sit around with six other people the constant chatter and running around doesn’t really lend itself to picking up that book you were determined to read. Right when you get to that good bit someone asks you to pass them towel or begs you to play frisbee or paddleball.

Dave was determined to conquer the skim board

Dave was determined to conquer the skimboard

I noticed that the only people reading were the ones who came alone so they could actually enjoy a good book against the backdrop of the ocean, with the sound of the waves mixed with the pleasant din of touristy noises playing in the background.

Ide and Marie-Lyse were content to lounge in the ocean

Ide and Marie-Lyse were content to lounge in the ocean

The kids are older now and not content to just dig for hours in the sand. Dave brought a couple of skimboards and he and our son spent quite a bit of time trying to get the better of the thing. You throw it out in front of you when a wave is hitting the shore and jump onto it and sort of hydroplane across the water. So far neither one of them has spent more than a split second riding the board and have had quite a few spectacular falls. We’ll see.

Calder running for the little blue paddle ball!

Calder running for the little blue paddleball!

I was happy enough throwing a ball around in the water, take pictures, munch on snacks and generally laze around until we headed back to the house at 7pm for cocktails and dinner.

Nap Time

Nap Time

After dinner we all walked back down to the ocean to enjoy the cool night air and the empty beach. It was wild and windy and so different for the scorching hot afternoon.

Cape May Point lifeguards practicing boat maneuvers.

Cape May Point lifeguards practicing boat maneuvers.

We played paddleball and ran around by the water’s edge until we couldn’t see each other anymore.

Ide's after dinner beach romp

Ide’s after dinner beach romp

 Salmon with Capers & Cream (serves 4)

This dinner was so quick and easy and a great idea for any of you who want to make something scrumptious in a hurry. I made this with rigatoni pasta because we had pasta leftover form the night before. I simply reheated the noodles in the sauce right before serving.

Salmon wit Capers and Cream

Salmon with Capers and Cream

You will need:

4 skinless salmon fillets (6 ozs each and cut in two lengthways)

salt and black pepper to season fish

1 tbs unsalted butter

1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil

3 tbs capers (unrinsed)

2 medium tomatoes (cored and diced)

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley (more if you love it!)

1/2 lb rigatoni pasta

Method:

1 – Season the prepared salmon (see instruction in list of ingredients) with salt and pepper. Put saute pan on medium heat and let it warm up. Add the butter and the oil and when it has melted, add the salmon in a single layer. Cook until browned (about 4 minutes). Turn and add the capers. Cook for 2 minutes.

*put pasta water on to boil and cook pasta according to instructions (it will be done at the same time as your fish)*

Cook Salmon on one side, turn and add capers

Cook Salmon on one side, turn and add capers

2 – Add the tomatoes and cream and turn heat down to low. Cover and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes (depending on the thickness of your salmon).

Add tomatoes and cream.

Add tomatoes and cream.

3 – Toss the cooked pasta with the sauce and sprinkle with parsley. Serve!

The sun has set for the day

The sun has set on another glorious day

LUNCH FOR SEAN ! Quick & Easy Salmon Cakes with Rice or Greens (makes 6 cakes – serves 4-6) AND RACING IN MOAB, UTAH

My brother Seán ran his first race of the season this past Saturday: the 33k Red Hot in breathtaking Moab, Utah. Every year I am so jealous of him getting to run in what he describes as one of the most breathtaking trail course races in the United States that I vow I will run with him some day. Alas I didn’t make it again this year!!!

Mile 15

The beautiful Red Hot trail in Moab (Sean at mile 15)

I did the next best thing and spoke with him right before the race and then started a 7-mile run at the same time the gun went off in Utah. I picked a route we had run together when he last visited Pennsylvania so he could really visualize where I was and feel more connected.

Let's not forget the Salmon Cakes! (recipe below and not to be missed)

Let’s not forget the Salmon Cakes! (you can skip to the recipe if this running thing does not interest you!)

My brother is an Ultra Runner, one of those mad human beings that push themselves to the max in grueling long distance races (anything over official marathon distance of 26.2 miles is deemed an ultra race) making this event last Saturday a mere sprint, being only 19 miles!

Race Day

Race Day

Yes, he will disagree with that as he takes all his races seriously, but I have witnessed him run 100 miles so you can see my point! – (Read that story here). I suppose it is all relative and Saturday morning I tackled what I considered a respectable distance of 7 miles, and being that it was only 19 degrees in Snowy Pennsylvania, it felt like an Ultra to me.

The beautiful Red Hot trail in moab

Sean

This race is important to him because it is the race that got him hooked on long distance trail running and because it was the last race his friend Jenna was a part of six years ago. Jenna was a talented athlete and one of his biggest champions. She inspired him to believe in his ability to go the distance. Sadly Jenna is no longer with us in body but she is most certainly out there on the trail with Seán in spirit, and no where is that truer than when he is running on the red ground of Moab.

Jenna

🌷  Jenna 🌷

He ran his tough 19 miles on Saturday and as he analyzed his performance afterwards said, “I was as ready as I could have been”. He has run in many races at this point and his ritual is the same: he trains, builds himself up and sets goals, then he rallies everyone he loves around him because this is something he cannot mentally do alone. He brings us along in his head for company and when the going gets tough we are there to cheer him on. I know I was with him step for step as I made it up a few hills myself last Saturday and just thinking about him as I ran along made my snowy and bitterly cold run something I will remember.

one of my running routes in rural Pennsylvania

one of my running routes in rural Pennsylvania

The real test comes in September when he attempts to take on the 100-mile race that defeated him last year. (I was there and you can read about it HERE!). I plan to be there physically, and not just a conjuration in his head. And maybe for the Red Hot in Moab next year, I will be wearing a race number of my very own – all I can say is: “watch out Seán, here I come!”

After the race Sean and some freinds took a jaunt out to the back country - another reason for me to go to Moab next year!

             Kristi standing precariously by the precipice of a canyon!                   After the race Sean and some friends took an exploratory jaunt to the back country – another reason for me to go to Moab next year!

As for this recipe…Seán is always asking me for cooking ideas, especially something easy and good for lunch. And, since I love food as much as he loves 50-mile races, I was only too happy to come up with this salmon dish for him. It is dead simply to prepare, packed with protein and low in calories – a very good combination for any aspiring athlete.

Amazing little fish cakes

Amazing little fish cakes

This is made with canned Salmon and don’t knock it until you try it. I did a lot of research on canned Salmon and there are plenty of companies out there making quality products. It is super affordable and a life saver pantry ingredient. If you have no plans for dinner or lunch and you want something delicious in a hurry, then this is a recipe you will fall in love with. I made this recipe with optional variations. You can go Asian or more Italian depending on what you have available and on your mood.

Happy cooking Seán!

*This recipe is also perfect for Blood Type A Diet followers – omit the butter and capers if you are very strict*

*This makes 12 Salmon Cakes – If you are serving lass than that for this meal I suggest you make all twelve and freeze the remainder in a freezer bag. DO NOT FRY THE ONES YOU ARE FREEZING – FREEZE AFTER YOU FORM THE CAKES. They can be thawed and fried in a pinch – SO HANDY!!*

 You will need:

2 tbs unsalted butter (or olive oil if you do not want to or cannot use butter)

1 small red onion – finely diced

2 celery ribs with plenty of green leaves – diced

1/3 cup chopped parsley or chopped cilantro leaves (cilantro leaves are great if using soy sauce instead of Worcestershire sauce)

2 14 oz cans good quality canned salmon (if it comes with bones and skin as mine did – it is easily removed before adding to mixture)

2 1/2 tbs rinsed capers OR  3 tbs green or black olives – finely chopped (optional)

1 1/4 tsp Old Bay Seasoning

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce OR 2 tsp soy sauce (if you go with soy sauce, do not add any capers or olives)

1 tbs Dijon mustard (do not use if using soy sauce)

1 cup panko bread crumbs (these can be found in the International section of your supermarket or where the Asian foods are displayed)

2 eggs – slightly beaten

Method:

Fry the celery and red onion until softened

Fry the celery and red onion until softened

1 – Put pan on medium heat and fry the celery and onion for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

2 – In a large bowl add the salmon (making sure to remove the skin and bones first) and roughly mash and break it up using a fork. Add the parsley (or cilantro), capers or olives (if using), Old Bay, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, egg and panko. Mix together with a fork and then add the celery and onions and mix everything together with a wooden spoon.

Make Salmon cake mixture

Make Salmon cake mixture

3 – Form the mixture into 12 cakes using your hands and place on a plate until ready to fry.

4 – Put pan or skillet on medium/high heat and when the pan has warmed up, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add 4 to 6 cakes to the pan and fry for about 4 minutes on either sides until browned on outside and heated through. Place on plate and keep warm in oven (180*) while you fry the rest of the cakes (adding more oil as needed).

I served these with a very simple savory Basmati Rice and some fresh spinach leaves but you can use anything you like. You can even put these atop a leafy salad or make them the star of a hearty sandwich.

Salmon cakes and savory rice

Salmon cakes and Savory Rice

The rice I made had some sautéed red onion and celery which highlighted some of the ingredients in the Salmon cakes. Cook the rice and then add your cooked veggies.

Blackened Asian-Style Salmon with Yummy Rice

This was another one of those dinners that was held together flavor-wise by my trusty bottle of soy sauce! Soy sauce is an all around champion in the kitchen if you want a big flavor but don’t want to spend any time trying coax it out of your main ingredients.

Serve

A Great, Fast & Easy Dinner

Take salmon for example…it’s not my most favorite fish in the world, and unless you whip it right off of your fishing line or get it when the boat comes in, I think a lot of the flavor gets lost by the time it is presented to you on a bed of crushed ice in the display case of your supermarket. This is why I always treat salmon to a robust dousing of something strong like soy sauce. Here I let it sit in a sweet and salty concoction and then cooked it fast on high heat.

It sealed in the flavors and gave every bite a crusty zingy taste which everyone raved about. The rice was the perfect partner and the zucchini soaked up the rest of the marinate like the absorbent sponge that it is – a totally yummy dinner which was enjoyed to no end the other night!

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*This is a great Blood Type A Diet Recipe with the main ingredients being beneficial (salmon, soy, onions, garlic) and the rest being neutral*

You will need:

4 salmon fillets (about 6 oz per piece)

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup mirin (find this in the Asian or international section of supermarket or specialty shop)

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp finely granulated sugar

2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

1 sweet onion

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 cup shredded or matchstick carrots

2 medium zucchini, diced

4 to 6 cups cooked basmati rice

Method:

*If you have leftover rice, take it our of the fridge ready for use. If cooking rice, do so first. For stove-top use two cups raw and follow package instructions. if using rice cooker, use 3-cup rice cup measure and follow instructions*

mix marinade

Mix marinade

1 – Mix the soy, mirin, sesame oil and sugar in a shallow bowl or dish and add the salmon. Turn a few times to coat and set aside in the fridge while you prep the rest of the ingredients.

prep veggies

Prep veggies

2 – Chop veggies!

3 – Put large saute pan on medium to high heat and let the pan warm up. Add the oil and when it is hot, add the salmon, shaking off the excess marinade as you go (reserve marinade to be added later to the rice). The fish should be un-crowded, so if your pan is small, cook two at a time. Cook fish for about 4 minutes, disturbing as little as possible. Flip and cook for another 3 or so minutes, until cooked through. Transfer to a plate and keep warm on low heat in the oven.

fry salmon

Fry salmon

4 – Add a little more oil to the pan and add the onions and garlic. Cook for 4 or 5 minutes until they begin to soften. Add the zucchini and continue to cook for another 4 or 5 minutes.

saute veggies

Saute veggies

5 – Add the rice and when it is just hot, add enough of the leftover marinade to color the rice. Taste rice and add more marinate to suit you.

add rice

Add rice

Serve a piece of fish with a serving of rice. an optional garnish (not for blood type A’s or diary-free diets) of a dollop of sour cream is great here, with a splash of sriracha sauce.

garnish with sout cram & chili paste, topped of with a flourish of parsley

Serving option: Garnish with sour cream & chili paste, topped with a flourish of parsley (on its own or along with rice)

Baked Fish with Green (or Red) Salsa & Lemon Wedges (serves 6)

The great thing about fish is that you can make something good in a hurry. Besides fish, having a food processor to blend ingredients is also a labor-saving device that allows for a speedy dinner. I used both the fish and the food processor for last night’s dinner.

Salmon filet with a great green slasa

Salmon filet with a great green salsa

Have you ever found yourself in the supermarket in a daze wondering how to get dinner on the table fast without the compromise of grabbing something from the freezer section, or God forbid a can of soup! It is at times like this you have to take this sound advice from the Crappy Kitchen: cook fish!

This dinner was luxurious in every way all with no trouble on my part because of smart choices. I blended all the ingredients for a salsa, spooned it over my fish and into the oven for 13 minutes!

lots of peppers from my garden & from next door!

Salsa can be made with whatever hot pepper you have on hand

It left me free to get ready for the week ahead and still manage to serve something very delicious for dinner.

You can use any type of firm fish so it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. The other great thing is that this can be made for an impromptu dinner party by any 10-year-old!

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You will need:

6 Firm fish filets (6 oz each), Cod, Salmon, Monk fish, Orange Roughy, Haddock, or any firm flaky fish

sea-salt

Freshly ground black pepper

for green salsa:

1 clove garlic (use 2 cloves if they are small)

1 poblano or Anaheim pepper, seeded, and roughly chopped (any hot pepper will do)

4 or 5 scallions, whites and light green parts only, chopped

1 cup chopped cilantro

1 cup chopped flat-leafed parsley

1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano

2 tomatilla, cored, seeded and roughly chopped (if you cannot find tomatilla, use plum or Roma tomatoes instead)

1 tsp sea-salt

1/3 cup water

1 tbs white wine vinegar

1/2 cup water

*You can also use a red salsa for the topping*

Slice 6 plum tomatoes in half and remove the flesh and dice. Put into a bowl with 2 tbs finely chopped red onion, 1  diced jalapeno, 1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves and 1 tbs of lime juice. Taste and add salt if you feel it needs it.

Method:

Preheat oven 350*

1 – Rinse and dry fish. Season with plenty of sea-salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place in an oiled heavy casserole (glass, enamel or metal will do). You may have to use two dishes.

season fish

Season fish

2 – Prep all of the veggies as instructed above.

Fresh parsley and an onion; great flavors

Prep all veggies for salsa

3 – Place all ingredients for salsa into your food processor and blend until smooth.

Blend all salsa ingredients

Blend all salsa ingredients

4 – Top each filet with a generous dollop of salsa and place in the oven until the fish is cooked (depending on the fish, but between 8 to 14 minutes).

Top fish with salsa adn place in oven

Top fish with salsa and place in oven

Serve with anything you like: on a bed of greens, with rice or on its own.

a squeeze of lemon is a lovely addition

A squeeze of lemon is a lovely addition

Make sure to have lemon wedges for generous squeezing. However, if you top with red salsa, a squeeze of lime works best.

fresh cilantro

Fresh cilantro

Freshly chopped cilantro is also a nice touch.

Salmon (or Pork) With Lemony Spaghetti (serves 4)

This was a night where I was salivating for fish but my kids were in the mood for something else. I am a very indulgent mother when it comes to food, probably because cooking is not a chore, but a pleasure for me. I have learned how to please both sides of the aisle by making one dish that will work with both of the other main ingredients (usually the protein).

Salmon with Lemony spaghetti

Salmon with Lemony spaghetti

The other night I was able to make this one pasta dish, which could easily be eaten as a meal in itself (with a little parm cheese) and it worked equally well with fried salmon and fried slices of pork tenderloin.

I know it seems like work but both the pork and salmon took no time at all to cook and I had a very happy dinner table. Believe me I did this as much to please myself as everyone else.

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You will need:

4  salmon fillets (around 6oz each) ( OR 1lb pork tenderloin, thinly sliced)

2 tbs olive oil

1 rib of celery including leaves, finely diced

1 small onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 good quality bouillon cube

1 cup water

1/3 cup white wine

1/2 cup (maybe a little more) heavy cream

2 tbs cold unsalted butter

1 tbs freshly chopped rosemary leaves

juice of 1/2 a lemon

1 head escarole, chopped

Method:

1 – Put large saute pan (large enough to hold complete finished dish) on high heat and add the oil. When it is hot, add the seasoned salmon fillets (or pork) to the pan and cook until done. salmon will take about 4 minutes on the first side and a little less on the second. Pork will take about 2 minutes per side. Remove to a plate and keep warm until dish is complete.

cook salmon

cook salmon

*Put the water on for the pasta and when it boils, add a couple of teaspoons of salt and a little oil to the water. Cook spaghetti according to instructions. Time it to be ready when cream is added to pan (# 5 in method)*

2 – Turn heat down to medium and add onions, garlic and celery. Cook for about 6 minutes before adding the rosemary. Continue to cook for another couple of minutes, stirring frequently.

saute onions, celery, garlic, then add rosemary

saute onions, celery, garlic, then add rosemary

3 – Next add the bouillon cube and stir until it turns to a paste and is fully incorporated.

add bouillon cube

add bouillon cube

4 – Add the wine and water and turn up the heat and let the mixture come to a boil. Add the escarole and turn heat down again. Cover and simmer for about 3 minutes.

add liquid

add liquid

5 – Add the cream to the pan and when it is nice and warm add 1 tablespoon of the cold butter. Stir.

add escarole, then cream, then butter

add escarole, then cream, then butter

6 – Add the pasta the moment it is drained (do not rinse pasta in cold water), and stir in the last tablespoon of butter.

add cooked spaghetti, then more butter

add cooked spaghetti, then more butter

Divide pasta between 4 warmed plates or shallow bowls along with a piece of fish…

Salmon With Lemony Spaghetti

Salmon With Lemony Spaghetti

…or pork.

this can also be made with pork tenderloin slices using exactly the same method

This can also be made with pork tenderloin slices using exactly the same method

100 Mile Race & What This Means To ME. Also Salmon Dinner for Runners & Non-runners Alike!

I will begin with a very pertinent quote from a wise man named Harvey:

“We will stop taking entries on Saturday, September 7, 2012. Our 50-miler has filled.  So if you know anyone with a couple of screws loose that thinks they want to run a 100 miles, now is the time for them to enter, before common sense and reason take hold”

I could stop right there and forget trying to figure out why my brother Sean wants to run in a race 100 miles long, because even the race organiser concurs with my thinking: he is mad, insane, delusional, crazy, yes, all of the above. I just have to accept this fact and move on.

I am talking about the Run Rabbit Run 100-mile race in Steamboat Springs Colorado this Friday, the 14th of September 2012! I am however going to do more than just talk about it, I am going to be right in the thick of it, running with my lunatic brother as one of his pacers for a small part of the race! 

50 mile mud

This is a race for Ultra-Runners: isn’t that a great name for individuals who think nothing of going out for a 30-mile jog? Ultra Running is a relatively new term. I think technically it is anyone who trains and runs more than a marathon distance, which is 26.2 miles, and they do this on a regular basis. Even if one were to argue over what distance makes the run an ultra-distance, I think it is more than safe for me to say that 100 miles goes above and beyond the definition.

A little background on my bother goes like this: has been an athlete all of his life, mainly in the form of Gaelic Football, moved to Steamboat Spring in 1995, took up running in April 2009, began to take it seriously almost immediately, has run in 21 mountain endurance races, 6 which qualify as an Ultra trail marathons, of which 3 were 50 kilometres and 3 were 50 mile races.

Why, when my brother asked me to fly to Colorado to be part of his support crew did I agree to do it? There are a few reasons, and even one of them would have been enough to give him a resounding “yes” through the radio waves!

The first reason is pretty obvious; my brother Sean. Besides the obvious fact that he is my sibling and I love him, from a running stand point, I have been totally impressed with what he has done in the past 4 years. He has taken the sport to a level I thought unimaginable for him, (for anyone) and I didn’t want to miss out on what I know is going to be a most meaningful day in his life. Sharing this with him will be unforgettable.

Run Rabbit Run! (Sean taking part in the 50 mile race last September – click on link to read my race report!)

The second reason is food!

 Crappykitchen is all about food one way or another, and yet the next several posts will be all about running; How does food come into it? Well, half of the conversations I have had with my brother have been about nutrition, and coming up to the race his big question to me was “what can you make me that I will find good to eat and will give me plenty of energy during the race?” (and that means not nauseating at about mile 60!).

The other “foodie” bit for me is making great dinners for everyone who happens to drop in for a visit in the evening. I also suspect there will be a feast to end all feasts after the race!

The dinner I will cook for Sean the night before the race (recipe to be posted)

The other reason is Jenna, a friend of Sean’s who was also an Ultra-Runner but is sadly no longer with us. I never met this person but Sean talked about her a lot when he first started to become serious about his madness (you know, ultra-running), and of how she encouraged and inspired him.

So many of our conversations after that tragic day were about Jenna and I felt like I got to know her through him. Every time I have run since and the going gets tough, I always think of her, and it spurs me on. I decided that while what Sean was asking me to do would be difficult (for me) I could do it knowing that there were, and are, people like Sean and Jenna out there proving that we have so much more potential than we think.

Photo detail

Go Jenna

Stay tuned for my next post which I will write after I get to Steamboat Springs and I have a chance to see where I will be running and the real panic sets in!

Ireland Chronicles: Entry 3 – Weekend in Dingle: Day 1 – The Conor Pass And Dinner in A Field

The one bit of advice I would give anyone who wanted to take off for a few days is to plan everything you might want to do as much as possible before you set out. I know, being organized can take time , but, after finding myself on so many occasions in a beautiful city, town or countryside, and am asked the question, “well, what’s the plan?” and I don’t have a notion of what the place has to offer, where to eat, or what’s open, I can proudly say that planning one’s trip is the most effective way to pack it all in without stressing out.

View of corrie lakes from Conor Pass, County Kerry

Spending the summer in Ireland (my home) was the perfect time to plan trips to places I hadn’t visited in a long time. Wanting to take full advantage of every precious moment, I made sure to carefully plot my trip, finding out what we wanted to see, what times museums and historical sites were open, where the best places to eat were, etc. Yes, I’m sounding like an overly fastidious and annoying  “square” but, I am here to tell you that my trip to County Kerry in the South West of Ireland will convince you to follow suit.

looking out over Conor Pass

This trip was planned with my sister June, and of course my 2 children. June booked a hotel room for two nights about 5 miles outside the beautiful little harbor town of Dingle. What turned out to be her most ingenious contribution to our Trip Tik was a small back pack that contained a single-burner gas stove, plates, cups, along with a spatula and big serving spoon.

along the road at Conor Pass

When she arrived home with this “gadget” I thought it was another of those things you buy when all excited about the idea of doing something different (like cooking outside in June’s case), but I played along as she enthusiastically pulled it out of the canvas bag and proceeded to show me all of the cool features while going on about how fun it would be to cook on the beach or mountain top!

A snapshot of the Dingle Peninsula

This was all very well, but the reason she was showing ME this wilderness stove was because it was presumed that I would be the one in the apron and holding the spatula!

Fishing boat in Dingle Harbor

I think the only time I am a really good planner is when it comes to food, so with that in mind, I decided  to get into the spirit of the idea of my kneeling over a stove on a possibly brisk irish beach. I visualized what would ultimately be a series of one-pot meals and packed accordingly. I decided that for the first day I could prep the vegetables I was going to use for the base of the dish and pack it in a plastic container. Other veggies would be packed for the following outdoor dinners or lunches, along with a slim chopping board and sharp knife.

Dingle Bay

Then there was no stopping me: I went on to pack lovely Maldon salt, pepper, chili flakes, curry powder, and fresh sprigs of rosemary from the garden. I washed little wine bottles and filled them with olive oil and white wine which I stored in one of the outside pockets of the bag, along with a big spoon, a spatula and tea cloths. I also packed enough meat, olives, mustard, grapes and wine for the next three days in a cooler. I knew one thing for sure: we wouldn’t starve!

Suki making a final plea to come along (if only we had a bigger car!)

We left for County Kerry in the afternoon (after a little delay trying to get June’s dog Suki our of the car!), with our sights on Conor Pass, the highest mountain pass in the country. Our final stop would be the little harbor town of Dingle which juts into the Atlantic ocean making it the westernmost point in Ireland.  This narrow and winding road  precariously hugs the edge of the mountain as it makes it’s way to Dingle. It is by far the most spectacular way to enter the town, albeit a little scary for an Acrophobian such as myself (Ok, maybe a little dramatic, but definitely scary).

The hike route to Peddlers Lake (an ancient Glacier paradise)

As we twisted our way through the pass we stopped several times to take in the magnificent views of the ancient corrie lakes dotted among the ultra green and plunging glacier mountains. If we were true adventurers we could have parked our car and hiked up the  mountain to Peddlers lake to marvel at its glass like surface, surrounding by corrie walls and ancient vegetation. Wearing flip-flops and dresses quelled that notion, but next time I will make sure to have my hiking boots and rain coat in the boot of the car.

The view from the road to the Dingle Peninsula

We also stopped to let cars pass on this “one way” road. I am trying to depict how absolutely breathtaking this place is through my words and pictures, but am failing miserably. The only way to know is to experience it for yourself, and I hope you get the chance to do so someday.

The coastline of Kerry

On past Dingle we eventually found our hotel, which was located on a lovely country road flanked by more green and rocky mountains. The roads were lined with hedgerows awash in drooping red fuchsia flowers. At the bottoms of the hedges was sand, evidence of the ocean close by.

typical travel conditions!

After we checked into our very modest hotel, it was time to find our picnic spot. It was getting a little late and shouts of hunger were going up. As we drove down the road heading for a beach June and I looked at each other and I know were thinking the same thing; “are we really going out into the countryside in the looming dusk with two cranky kids, and the now visible signs of misty rain?”

view from our field

Since we didn’t have a clue about this particular area, funding that perfect spot was harder than we though. The beaches we found were either too rocky or had no shelter whatsoever. As we turned the car around from one little beach we noticed a field just above the strand. It looked like there was a path made by tractor wheels so we followed them and decided it was here or a restaurant!

frying sausages and fresh salmon with a hub cap back-splash!

We parked by a bank that sheltered us from the wind coming up from the sea and set the little stove in front of the car, which we parked on the bank as a second buffer. My son was mortified thinking we were trespassing, which we probably were! I told him to go explore on the beach and not to worry, which worked well enough. June pulled out the shopping bag and picnic blanket, and plunked herself down with the a bottle and wine opener. 

settling in

We laughed so much at the whole scene. This was a first for us (besides actually camping). There we were in the darkening evening wearing coats and hats, and trying to figure out how to light our little stove, and all the while thinking we would pack the up whole lot up and dash off to a cozy warm restaurant. Then, magic happened.

The best seat in the house

When the stove began to glow and I poured olive oil in the pan adding my prepped onions, garlic, rosemary and thinly sliced fennel, the mood changed completely. The air filled with the sweet scent of cooking food and within minutes all of us were kneeling around the burner excited about dinner, and being out in the middle of nowhere with the sea on one side of us and the green and red of the countryside on the other.

add some white wine

We ate a lovely brothy pasta dish with fried salmon and artisanal sausages which we got fresh from Dingle on our way out of town a couple of hours earlier. It was washed down with an equally lovely Pinot Noir, while the talk was all about the miracles that could be worked with a cheap gas burner and a couple of sprigs of rosemary. We enjoyed a meal that we would have been hard-pressed to find in a good restaurant, and we did it for pennies.

crispy salmon (which we ate from the pan!)

The other thing that we couldn’t help noticing was how good everything tasted in the outdoors. Every mouthful felt like a gift of comfort and deliciousness. As we lounged against the car doors after dinner the kids pulled out a hula hoop and began winging it through the field like a giant frisbee. Food made them happy, and I knew this because June and I were happy for the same reason. We starting thinking about where we would end up this time tomorrow, what we would be eating, and if it could possibly turn out to be as much fun as we were having at this exact moment.

Leaving our field

We packed up as the sky darkened and light rain began to fall; perfect timing.