Archive 2008 - 2019

Day 188

by Sarah R. Commerford

Finally! Nearly two years since first starting this journey, I have reached my beloved homeland, the United States of America. But what to cook to represent this vast country? I thought about cheese burgers, chocolate shakes and apple pie, but that felt too, dare I say, American? Since the United States is one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse countries in the world, it's impossible to capture all of the culinary traditions Americans eat today with one meal or dish.


Map Courtesy of Lonely Planet

So... I got to thinking about who was here first. That led me to the indigenous people who inhabited this land some 10,000 to 35,000 years prior to America's discovery by European explorers and settlers. Although there are hundreds of Native American and Indian tribes, bands, clans and groups in this country, all with distinct cultures, customs and beliefs, I turned to the Wampanoag Tribe on the island of Martha's Vineyard for inspiration, because four generations of my family have summered and lived on the island since the 1930's. That seems like a long time, but in comparison, the Wampanoag have lived on this beautiful island for more than 10,000 years. Despite unimaginable injustices, death due to foreign diseases, and dislocation from their land in the 1700's, the Wampanoag Tribe are a strong, thriving community in Aquinnah (Gay Head). Today, their customs, traditions and culture live on, including their ancient language, nearly lost after 150 years of dormancy, which is currently being reclaimed by the Wopanaak Reclamation Project.

As luck would have it, a little searching led me to the Wampanoag Tribe website, complete with recipes from their cookbook. I chose an amazing scallop dish because it uses local New England ingredients - plus, who in her right mind passes up an opportunity to eat scallops? To compliment these sea-jewels, I found locally-grown sunflower greens and a super-micro mix (seriously, the tiniest greens I've EVER seen), of watercress, mizuna, red giant mustard and crimson mustard. So, while this meal represents only a fraction of the culinary traditions in America, it's a place to start that both honors and celebrates the United States of America, it's first inhabitants and the many immigrants who followed.


Map Courtesy o f Lonely Planet

The United States of America is federal constitutional republic made up of 50 states and the federal Disctrict of Columbia. Situated mostly in North America, the U.S. is bordered by Canada and Mexico, with the state of Alaska to the Northwest and the state of Hawaii in the mid-Pacific. The U.S's maritime borders are the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. First inhabited by indigenous people who migrated from Asia, the population was greatly diminished due to displacement, war and disease that was introduced by European explorers who created the first 13 British Colonies along the Atlantic Seaboard. On July 4, 1776 the Declaration of Independence was created following the defeat of the British Empire during the American Revolution. In 1778, the U.S. Constitution that we know today was adopted, and in 1791, the Bill of Rights with 10 Constitutional Amendments was ratified, proclaiming the fundamental civil rights of all people regardless of race or creed. In 1860, the Civil War between the South and North over the institution of slavery and states rights, with the North prevailing to end the legal enslavement of African American people, a shameful practice that existed for more than a century before the founding of the United States. Since there's no way I can do justice to U.S. history, past or recent, in this little blog, please refer to U.S.A History for a more in-depth discussion.

One of the most bio-diverse countries in the world, the U.S. landscape includes the coastal planes of the Atlantic Seaboard, the forests of the Pacific west, mountains, lakes, rivers and the deserts of the Midwest and western states and active volcanoes in Alaska and Hawaii. Rich in animal and plant life, the U.S. agricultural landscape produces corn, wheat, soybeans, sorghum, rice, hay and virtually every kind of fruit, berry and vegetable imaginable. As you can imagine, it's difficult to pin-point any one culinary influence, since aside from regional cooking, America is home to thousands different ethnic groups, each with their own influences and traditions.

Cider, a Granny Smith apple, sage and butter for the sauce


Reduce cider to 3 Tbsp., and julienne apple - fresh lemon juice add zest and keeps colors fresh

Lovely sea scallops

Season with salt and pepper, then sear in a heavy, hot skillet - in butter - never forget the butter

Do not overcook - about 2 minutes on each side will do it

Melt remaining butter, add cider, lemon juice and sage - simmer until slightly thickened

Serve- I used sunflower sprouts and super-mini-macro greens - but wild rice would be great too

Seared Scallops with Cider Brown Butter (Adapted from Wampanoag Tribe Cookbook)

1 cup apple cider
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound sea scallops, patted dry with paper towels (see note)
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and julienned
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
16 small fresh sage leaves
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

In a large skillet, bring the cider to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 6 to 8 minutes, or until reduced to about three tablespoons. Pour into a bowl and set aside.
In another large skillet, melt two tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Season the scallops with the salt and pepper. Cook the scallops until lightly browned on the outside and opaque throughout, about two minutes on each side (Do not overcook). Remove from the pan and keep warm.

Add the remaining four tablespoons butter to the skillet. Brown the butter over medium heat, being careful not to burn. Stir in the reduced cider, half of the julienned apple, the sage, and lemon juice. Simmer until the apple is tender and the sauce is slightly thickened, about one minute. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

To serve, put the scallops on a bed of wild rice or field greens on a plate, and spoon on the sauce. Garnish with the remaining julienned apple.
Yield: four servings