Sometimes we need to slow down to develop and perfect our personal recipe for living a delicious life. Everyone’s recipe is different, to be sure, although certain ingredients are essential — like a full heart, a calm soul, and an inspired mind.
As someone who grew up in a small lakeside town, my childhood summers were filled with pier-jumping, crawdad fishing, and endless beach days with bonfire nights — an excellent recipe for a delectable life. In adulthood, I became a city dweller. After many years spent far removed from lake life, I awoke one morning with the desire to recreate that delicious recipe from my youth — only to realize none of the essential ingredients were stocked in my current pantry. In their place was one fragile heart, one confused soul, and one jaded mind. Something had to change.
A few months later I found myself spending summer in the tiny lakeside town of New Buffalo, Mich., thanks to my “city boy” husband being small-town-curious. Somewhere between the cozy morning coffees, blissful beach days, afternoon hammock naps, and nature walks to nowhere, I began to rediscover the ingredients needed to make every day more delicious.
As an adult, adopting a slower way of living, even for a few short months, catapulted me back to childhood, when being present to relish sweet, simple moments was innate. It’s these everyday moments that weave true joy and magic into our minutes, hours, days, and, ultimately, our lives. In this rural world, my whole soul unfurled. Spending hours on a Sunday baking 100-percent-from-scratch pumpkin pie felt like a scrumptious form of self-care, and pickling everything from salad turnips to okra spears became a beautiful and moving meditation.
When summer gave way to the golden glow of autumn, we didn’t race back to city life. Instead, we hung on to our newfound peace for as long as we could, like leaves not quite ready to fall. I continued developing my recipe for a delicious life, and realized that cooking was an essential ingredient. “Hungry for Harbor Country” explores the idea that you don’t need to live lakeside to embrace the essence of lake life. Make the conscious choice to declutter your days, clean out the attic of your mind, and begin developing your own recipe for discovering your most delicious life, in the kitchen or beyond
Tiffy’s Summertime Key Lime Butter Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons real Key lime juice (I love Nellie & Joe’s, often available at Barney’s Market.)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 3/4 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour with xanthan gum, or regular all-purpose flour (I use Cup4Cup Multipurpose Flour.)
Key Lime Icing
1 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons real Key lime juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
Green food coloring (optional)
Tips for Success
Don’t overmix the dough or it will become tough. Package these up for a delicious host gift!
Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Brush lightly with oil and set aside.
Make the Dough
In a medium bowl cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes on medium speed, scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed. Pause the mixer and add the egg yolk, vanilla, Key lime juice, and salt, and then mix on medium speed until just combined. Pause the mixer to add the flour and, moving from low to medium speed, mix until just combined.
Bake and Cool
Using a small ice cream scoop (about 1-inch diameter) or a tablespoon, drop the dough in balls about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Briefly roll each scoop between your palms to form more perfect balls. Special Note: If you prefer a slightly thicker, chewier cookie, refrigerate the dough balls for 10 minutes before baking. Bake at 350°F for 10 to 12 minutes, until the edges are slightly golden and lift up easily with a spatula. Once done, leave on the baking sheets to cool completely, 30 to 45 minutes. Cool them more quickly by putting them in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes or the freezer for 15 minutes.
Make the Vanilla Key Lime Icing
While the cookies cool, make the icing. In the bowl of a standing mixer fit with the paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer in a medium bowl), add the confectioners’ sugar and mix for about 1 minute to remove any lumps. Add the Key lime juice, vanilla, and salt. Mix on medium to medium-high speed until smooth. Add 1 to 2 drops of the green food coloring (if using), then mix for an even color. Add warm water as needed until you can easily drizzle the icing with a fork.
Ice the Cookies
Once the cookies are completely cooled, dip a fork into the icing and then drizzle it quickly and evenly back and forth over the cookies to make stripes. (Whisk the icing as needed if a layer of crust has formed.) Let the icing harden on the cookies for about 30 minutes before serving, or for 1 hour before storing.
These cookies will last in an airtight container for 4 to 5 days or in the freezer up to 1 month … but honestly, they tend to get eaten in about 24 hours because they’re bite-size, buttery, and oh so craveable!
Beet-Red Sunset Salmon with Miso, Maple, and Roasted Fennel
1 (2-pound) salmon fillet, center cut (Use a thicker salmon like king or Atlantic from a sustainable farm.)
8 tablespoons red or white miso paste, divided (I love Great Eastern Sun brand.)
1/3 cup maple syrup
3 cups pickled beet juice (Get this from 3 [15-ounce] cans or 1 large jar. If you can’t find pickled beet juice, use plain and add 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or rice vinegar to the juice.)
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (optional for heat-seekers)
1 shallot, or 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for coating baking pans
2 bulbs fresh fennel, stalks removed and sliced into 1/3-inch-thick pieces (Reserve and roughly chop the fennel fronds for garnish.)
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Tips for Success
When cooked properly, salmon should flake apart with a fork and be moist and slightly translucent in the very center. Fish will continue to cook for another 5 minutes or so once removed from the oven, so to avoid overcooking, remove from the oven when the fish feels firm but still springs back to the touch.
Marinate 6 to 8 hours. If the salmon fillet is in one piece, place it skin side up on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut it into 4 to 6 similar-size pieces to ensure even baking. Place the salmon skin side down in a glass baking dish. In a small bowl, whisk together 4 tablespoons of the miso paste and the maple syrup. Brush the fish liberally with the miso-maple paste to coat the top and sides of the salmon. In a medium bowl, whisk together the beet juice, the remaining 4 tablespoons of miso paste, the cayenne (if using), and the shallot. Pour the beet marinade around the salmon in the baking dish, leaving the thicker paste on top of the fish untouched. Cover with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours maximum.
Prep the Salmon to Bake
Remove the salmon from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Preheat the oven to 425°F and line a baking sheet with foil, then brush it with oil. Use a basting brush to sweep the excess miso paste from the top of the salmon and place the fish, skin side down, in the center of the sheet, with the slices evenly spaced. Set aside.
Prep the Fennel
In a medium bowl, toss the sliced fennel with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange the dressed fennel slices around the salmon along the edges of the baking sheet and scatter a few pieces of fennel over the top.
Bake the Salmon
Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until the internal temperature of the salmon is 120°F to 125°F. Do not overcook or the salmon will be dry and chewy.
Once done, plate with the roasted fennel, and garnish with the fennel fronds.
Roasted Jalapeño Pecan Asparagus with Lemon Zest
1 medium jalapeño
2 bundles asparagus spears (about 35 spears, ½ inch wide and 10 inches long)
3 tablespoons almond, walnut, hazelnut, or pistachio nut oil, divided (I love La Tourangelle nut oils.)
2 teaspoons coconut sugar or sugar of choice
1/2 cup chopped unsalted pecans or nuts of choice (If using salted nuts, reduce salt by half.)
Zest of 2 lemons
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Tip for Success
Make sure the asparagus is very dry before roasting to avoid steaming.
Preheat the oven to 400°F (on the roast setting, if you have one). Line one to two baking sheets (depending on size) with aluminum foil or parchment paper and brush with oil. Set aside. (If you arrange the asparagus in two rows going across the short end of the baking sheet, they should fit on one sheet.)
Cut off the jalapeño stem and discard. Slice the jalapeño in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scrape out the seeds. Slice crosswise into thin pieces and set aside. Pat the asparagus dry with paper towels. Chop off the tougher white ends. Place the asparagus in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet(s). (If using two baking sheets, divide all the ingredients between them evenly.) Drizzle the asparagus with 2 tablespoons of the nut oil and sprinkle with the sugar. Toss to coat the asparagus, then rearrange it in a single layer. Scatter the jalapeño slices, pecan pieces, and lemon zest evenly over the asparagus. Roast for 6 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the asparagus spears, until fork tender. (Resist overcooking.)
Transfer the asparagus to a serving platter or plates. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of nut oil, sprinkle with the salt and pepper, and toss to coat. This crazy-versatile dish can be served room temperature as part of a picnic spread or hot as a side dish to an entrée such as the Beet-Red Sunset Salmon with Miso, Maple, and Roasted Fennel.
Lake Life Lowdown
Harbor Country is a collection of eight Lake Michigan towns in southwest Michigan along what’s known as the Sunset Coast, just north of the Indiana state line. It’s notable for its beaches, bed and breakfasts, wineries, and U-pick farms. “The beach is magical here, the water gets so warm,” says Union Pier resident and cookbook author Lindsay Navama. “When we discovered this area, we said, We’ve lived in Chicago for three years and no one told us about this?” In the summer, she and her family like to bike ride through the countryside. “We could be in the south of France, that’s how beautiful the fields and farms are here,” she says, adding that visiting the many U-pick farms is also a favorite pastime.
More information: harborcountry.org