Beach dinner salad bar

Last night’s dinner was designed to offer something for everyone. I wanted tuna because the tuna at the beach is so good. Samantha doesn’t like tuna but we had leftover grilled chicken so that offered her a protein she liked. I had a variety of things and set them out with dressed lettuce and let everyone assemble their own plate. Here is what I did:


  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 egg
  • about 3 TB white Balsamic vinegar
  • olive oil

I whisked together the mustard and egg and then whisked in vinegar (I would have used sherry vinegar but they didn’t have it at the market here.) Then I slowly whisked in olive oil until it was emulsified (and I checked to make sure it tasted good.)

Salad options

  • grilled tuna
  • grilled chicken
  • leftover bacon from breakfast
  • hard-boiled eggs
  • sliced tomatoes
  • sliced peppers
  • warm goat cheese rounds (dipped in olive oil and panko and heated until just soft)
  • cooked potatoes (I used a package from the Little Potato Company and cooked them in the microwave)
  • croutons

Here is a picture of my plate:

Beach cooking

If you follow blog you know that I am fortunate to have lots of good cooks on both sides of the family.  Unlike some families where everyone fights about who is going to have to cook on vacation or for holidays, we have plenty of volunteers.  I am starting to get in a vacation frame of mind so thought I would suggest some options for a vacation week.  If you plan ahead you can bring any special equipment that you might need (we usually take a good knife, an apron, a cutting board, etc.) and it also helps to bring along spices or condiments that you want (it’s annoying to buy a new jar of a spice you already have at home so you have 1 tsp for a recipe.)  Here are some theme ideas for dinners on vacation with two alternatives for most – a version for those who don’t want to cook and a version for those who do!

Arrival night

The first night is tough.  You don’t know how traffic will be and if you are like us and don’t rent the same house every year, you aren’t sure what you will find.  Bringing dinner for the first night can help give everyone time to get acclimated.  Two ideas we have used successfully are store bought rotisserie chickens or whole cooked beef tenderloin.  If you bring a bagged salad, a loaf of French Bread and some wine, you are all set.  Everyone can relax and start planning the week ahead.

Crab night

One advantage of being near the ocean is ready access to fresh seafood.  Here are two alternatives with crabmeat:

Crab cake casserole

  • 1 lb jumbo lump crabmeat
  • 3/4 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/3 cup panko or bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 2 TB mayonnaise
  • 2 TB melted butter
  • 2 TB grated Parmesan cheese
In a 1 1/2 qt casserole dish, gently combine crabmeat with dry mustard and old bay.  Add egg, panko, mayonnaise and melted butter and stir to combine.  Top with Parmesan cheese and bake at 350 for 25 minutes.  Serve hot.  This makes 3 – 4 servings, increase for more people.

Crab Rolls

This is my Maryland version of the classic Maine lobster roll

  • 1/2 pound of crabmeat
  • 2 TB mayonnaise
  • 1 TB lemon juice
  • 1 stalk celery, minced
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 2 hot dog rolls
  • 1/2 tsp butter

Butter hot dog rolls and toast lightly in a toaster oven.  Combine all other ingredients gently and mound crab salad in hot dog rolls.

Either one of these would be good with sliced tomatoes from a local produce stand topped with Green Goddess dressing.  It’s easier to make the Green Goddess at home and bring it along:

Green Goddess Dressing

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup parsley
  • 1/4 cup chives
  • 2 TB scallion greens
  • 1 1/2 tsp anchovy paste (use this even if you think you don’t like anchovies)  🙂
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic
Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth.
Pasta night
Pasta is easy for a big group.  You can either top with store bought tomato or pesto sauce or make:

Shrimp Scampi

  • 3/4 lb of shrimp, peeled and deveined (this is for 2 people, increase quantities for more)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 TB butter
  • pasta of your choice
  • grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Cook pasta according to package directions.  In a heavy saucepan, combine olive oil and 1 tsp butter over medium heat.  Saute garlic about 1 minute.  Add shrimp and toss, cooking until shrimp have just turned pink.  Add white wine and lemon juice and increase heat to high.  Stir for about two minutes then turn off heat and stir in remaining tablespoon of butter.  Drain pasta and top with shrimp and sauce.

Grill night

Most rental places have a grill.  After confirming that yours is usable, you can either keep it simple with burgers and hot dogs or bring this wonderful shish kabob marinade from home:

Shish Kabob

  • 1 1/2 cups olive oil
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce (low sodium)
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 TB dry mustard
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a bowl or jar.  Marinate sirloin cubes, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and red onions (quartered).  Skewer and grill.  Serve over rice.
Tuna night
The tuna that we get in North Carolina is out of this world.  Simple grilled tuna steaks brushed with olive oil and salt and pepper don’t need much to go with them.  Grilled zucchini would be good and you can either serve plain or try:

Grilled Tuna “Tartare”

  • 1 tuna steak per person, brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper
  • 4 TB olive oil
  • zest of 1 lime
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 tsp wasabi powder
  • 4 dashes Tabasco sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 scallions minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (optional)
  • 2 avocados, chopped
Whisk together olive oil, lime zest, lime juice, wasabi powder, soy sauce.  Stir in scallions and jalapeno and stir into avocado.  Grill tuna until just seared on outside and serve with avocado topping.
Pizza Night
Almost everyone loves pizza and if you are running out of steam you can either cheat and order pizza or buy some individual sized Boboli pizza shells and a variety of toppings – traditional and non and let everyone assemble their own.  Here are a few ideas:
  • sauce (tomato, pesto or olive oil mixed with garlic)
  • cheese (Mozzarella, Parmesan, Goat, etc.)
  •  veggies (mushrooms, olives, artichoke hearts, broccoli, sundried tomatoes, arugula, etc.)
  • protein (pepperoni, shrimp, clams, grilled chicken, etc.)

Other ideas

If none of those appeal to your group, here are a few other ideas on blog that you might consider.  You can search to find any of the recipes:

  • Fajitas
  • Grilled Eastern Shore chicken
  • Tuna Salad Nicoise
  • Shrimp and Black Bean Quesadillas
  • Seafood Cobb salad

Whatever you have, try not to make the cooking a stressful thing – remember you are on vacation!  Enjoy!