As we planned dinner tonight,  I realized this was the first summer where I truly had my cooking sea legs (or so to speak) screwed on right.  Earlier today, amidst getting pummeled between the waves and baking on the sand, I started thinking about dinner plans.  Marinades, roasted vegetables, sauces, garnishes and the like.  Later on in the kitchen that evening, I let my knife rock through beautiful summer ripened tomatoes with ease.  As I assembled the ingredients for a tomato corn salsa, I could feel the stress (or whatever  it was I had sitting on my shoulders) melt away.

Our neighbors were on their way over to enjoy some tacos on our deck, and for once, I felt fully prepared to handle the task at hand.  I shooed my Mom out of the kitchen with a glass of chardonnay, and tasked my Dad with the corn grilling.  I had peak-season ingredients, a menu I was comfortable undertaking, and all the right people to cook for (and all the right kitchen jams to listen to as I whistle while you worked).  I had finally acquired the most important tool I would ever need in the kitchen: confidence.  Or at least that’s what I always try to preach, like a complete loser,  to my friends/cooks in doubt (I’m looking at you, Liz).

It wasn’t so much what I was making (anyone can do tacos, seriously), but it was the intention and comfort behind the knife that had finally clicked.

I initially wanted to do veggie tacos, but I knew the masses would revolt, so I opted for shrimp tacos instead.  We picked the little babies up from Gosman’s Fish Market, and I made sure that they were locally caught.  They were local alright: caught right off the docks here in Montauk.  Any more local and I would have had used my professional snorkel set to its fullest capacity and plucked them out of the water myself.

Once I started, I couldn’t stop.

Roasted corn with lime, cilantro and salt

Tomato corn salsa

(6 to 8 vine ripened tomatoes, 3 to 4 grilled corn on the cob (shaved off), 1/2 red onion, 3 garlic cloves, juice of 1 lime, and cilantro – never enough cilantro)

Roasted poblano peppers

(Set your oven to broil, split them in half, and place on a baking sheet underneath the broiler. Let the skin char – about 10 minutes – and throw in a ziploc bag to steam for 15-20 minutes.  The skin should peel right off.)

Avocado, red onion, salt and lime juice

Chipotle sauce

(Chipotle juice – from the canned peppers, 3-4 tablespoons of sour cream, 1-2 tablespoons of half and half (I used whole milk).  I added a squirt of lime juice, and more cilantro, of course.)

Local caught Montauk shrimp

(I let them marinade in olive oil, lime juice, cilantro and salt before throwing them on the grill)

The final product

(with monterey jack cheese)

Lemon sorbet from John’s for dessert

It may have taken me some time to find my way to the sea[shore], but at least I finally have the sea legs to walk it.