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Simple, Special Meals from Martha

Martha Stewart Living, June 2011

The secret to making great food for summer guests is to take advantage of peak, local ingredients -- and to make note of the best recipes.

Text by Martha Stewart

Planning summer weekends with houseguests is perhaps one of the biggest challenges a host can face. There are many factors that go into making a weekend fun, interesting, and stimulating. One of the most important things is the food, which requires planning menus, shopping for ingredients, and cooking dishes so that meals are served on time and guests and family are sated.

I personally find such a challenge really kind of enjoyable, and over the past few years, I have compiled a file of recipes that can be prepared easily, that are certainly appealing, and that make use of locally available foodstuffs and produce.

I like to make substantial breakfasts for guests because that meal invariably precedes or follows a long hike. For lunch, I keep it simple with self-serve sandwiches. This leaves room for more elaborate dinners that lead to lots of lingering.

My summer home in Maine is on an island, so most of the recipes I turn to are best suited to the seaside, where shellfish is fresh and abundant. Every day, weather permitting, lobster boats come in, laden with the catch of the day: lobsters, of course, and also hard-shell crabs, which are carefully cooked by a few nearby shops and picked of their versatile meat.

Throughout summer, I try to serve crab and lobster, summer flounder, farmed mussels, and lots of Maine-grown vegetables for lunches and dinners, varying the preparation so as not to repeat a recipe too often. Lobsters can be steamed, boiled, or grilled -- or removed from the shell and transformed into pasta fra diavolo or bouillabaisse. Flounder can be grilled or pan-fried, and crab can be deviled, sandwiched, or fashioned into salads and crab cakes.

Breakfasts are much more lavish during weekends with friends than they are when I prepare them for myself. There are pancakes, waffles, bacon, and omelets, as well as concoctions created for a special occasion that are now requested time and again because they are so tasty, such as eggs Kevin. Also known as "eggs a la Kevin," these fried eggs with tomatoes and melted cheese are the eggs of choice at the Skylands table; just look at the picture and you will see why.

I keep records of all meals served so that if I have the same houseguests twice during the season, I don't serve them the same thing more than once -- unless, of course, they beg to have their favorite dish again.