September seems to be quite the month for birthdays—mine and Clif’s as well as the birthdays of two good friends, Diane and Claire. Last weekend, we celebrated Clif’s and Diane’s.
Diane’s came first. She is a fellow foodie, and for her gift I decided to put together a basket with homemade goodies as well as some other food-related items. Our plans were to get together on Saturday for a trip to Peaks Island, so Friday was a flurry of cooking—bread, spiced walnuts, and cinnamon pie knots (recipe below), all to go in the basket. I’m always a little nervous when I make food for presents. I want the food to be especially good. Luck was with me that Friday, and everything came out just the way I hoped it would. Along with the food, into the basket I tucked Julia Child’s My Life in France and some food photo note cards that Clif made. I must admit that both Clif and I were pleased with the results, mostly made-from-scratch gifts that came from the home and the heart.
Luck was also with us on Saturday for our trip to Peaks Island, which is a ten- to fifteen-minute ferry ride from Portland, Maine. The weather was September gorgeous—warm, dry, sunny, with a brilliant blue sky. There were five of us: Diane, Clif, our daughter Shannon, her fiancé, Mike, and me. Oddly enough, none of us had ever been to Peaks Island before, and we unanimously decided that this was one of our favorite places in Maine. Even though Peaks Island is only ten minutes or so from Portland, it nevertheless has the charm and tranquility of an island community. There is hardly any traffic, and indeed many people use golf carts to zip from place to place. A three-and-a-half mile road loops around the circumference of the island, and most of that road goes along the edge of the sea so that walkers and bikers have the sparkling ocean, rocks, birds, a lighthouse, purple asters, and rose hips to delight them as they walk and ride. Benches are strategically placed along the way, and one of the most impressive thing about the island and this walk is that most of the shoreline is accessible to the public. The lovely houses are across the road, and while they have a fine prospect, they don’t monopolize the oceanfront. Outside of a state or a national park, this is rare, and, again, very impressive. Over and over, we asked ourselves why we had never been to Peaks Island, but one thing is certain—we will return. We are thinking it might even be an annual September event.
Sunday was Clif’s birthday, and this meant more cooking. In our family, the tradition is for the birthday boy or girl to choose the meal. Clif decided on scalloped scallops, a simple but rich dish that has cream and buttered crumbs to go along with the scallops. It’s a Yankee dish, which yet again proves the point that plain food can be delicious if the ingredients are first rate. We also had roasted chicken, baked potatoes, corn on the cob, and buttermilk spice cake, made fresh that morning.
Claire’s birthday is next. She has left the dinner choice to me, and I can’t decide whether I should make rolled chicken breasts with an herbed cream cheese filling or beef cooked with wine and spices, a sort of boeuf bourguignon. Stay tuned!
Cinnamon Pie Knots
For the pie dough:
2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of salt
¾ cup of shortening
½ cup of cold water
Combine the flour with the salt. Cut in the shortening until the mixture is crumbly. Add the cold water and stir until the ingredients form a ball. Do not overmix or the dough will be tough.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
On a floured cloth or counter, roll the dough into two long rectangles, one at a time, of course. On each rectangle, brush a tablespoon or so of melted butter. Then sprinkle with a cinnamon-sugar mixture. Clif always complains that much of my cooking doesn’t rely on exact recipes, and he is right. Basically, I put some sugar into a small soup bowl and add cinnamon until I get the color I like. Then, I cover the dough with a layer of the sugar and cinnamon mixture. Don’t be stingy with the mixture. You want a good cinnamon taste.
Roll the dough from the wide end so that you have a thick rope of dough. Make cuts, halfway through, along the rope in two or three inch intervals so that you have will have nice little pieces when the dough is cooked. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and cook for twenty minutes or until the dough is golden brown. Once the dough has cooled, finish cutting so that you have indivdual pie knots.