I grew up in a big, drafty house on Cape Cod, at the top of a cliff overlooking Vineyard Sound. On a clear day, you can see Nantucket Island from the bay window in the living room, and mark the hours by the horn blasts of the ferry boats traveling between Wood's Hole and Martha's Vineyard.

I remember digging for clams when I was no more than 4 years old, searching for the tiny breathing holes that meant a clam was hiding just beneath the mud. Surrounded by an endless supply of fresh-off-the-boat delights, I was lucky enough to grow up eating things like "quahogs" (the Pequot Indian word for hard-shelled clams), bluefish and lobster.Susan Simon's new cookbook, "The Nantucket Table" (Chronicle, $29.95), was almost as good as a visit home.

It isn't just a cookbook of classic Cape Cod recipes. It's also a sumptuously photographed tour of Nantucket, spiced with funky historical tidbits about the island itself. Tom Eckerle made the photos.

If you can't afford a trip to the beach this summer, just prop the book open and pretend you're eating at the foot of Nantucket light-house.

Simon's book offers recipes for appetizers, soups, sides and vegetables, dressings, condiments, pastries and desserts, many of which I have not seen before in published form. A lot of them have been passed from hand to hand among Cape Cod natives. Now they're finally written down for all of us to enjoy.

Be warned, though: The key element for success with these recipes is freshness. None of the dishes will taste nearly as spectacular if you use frozen or canned fish or shell-fish.

Nantucket Clam Clowder (recipe follows) tastes best with oyster crackers, but regular ones are fine too. The recipe names quahogs; you can use any hard-shelled clams, including little necks or cherrystones.

My mother stuffed bluefish with some kind of breading, then baked it and served it with a cheese sauce, but Simon's recipe for baked Nantucket Bluefish is another Cape Cod standard.

It balances the strong flavor of the fresh bluefish with mayonnaise and comes out tasting tangy, not oily, as you might expect. I usually serve it with a green salad and featherlight Portuguese bread bought at a Cape Cod bakery, but fluffy white Italian bread is an adequate substitute. There are never any leftovers.

Simon's Summertime Codfish Cakes are quite easy to make and even more fun to eat.

Puzzle Pudding (recipe follows) is a dessert that takes only minutes to throw together but gives splendid results. Warning: if you make this dessert for guests, you'll have trouble getting them to leave.


2 large eggs

2 cups buttermilk

1/2 cup (white) sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 cups fresh blueberries

1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries

3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

For the garnish:

1 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 cups sliced fresh strawberries

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, white sugar and vanilla until well blended.

Sift together flour and baking powder. Add to the liquid, a bit at a time, whisking until smooth after each addition.

Generously butter a 91/2- by 11-inch baking dish or gratin dish. Distribute the berries evenly in the dish. Pour the batter over the fruit. Sprinkle the brown sugar on top.

Bake until the batter is set, at least one hour. Some of the berries will rise to the top, forming puzzlelike patterns with the batter and brown sugar. Serve cool, to bring out the flavor of the individual fruits. Place each serving on a puddle of heavy cream. Scatter the sliced strawberries on top.

Makes 6 servings.

- Recipe from "The Nantucket Table," 1998, by Susan Simon (Chronicle Books, San Francisco, $29.95.


1/4 pound salt pork or slab bacon, finely diced

1 quart fresh quahogs, shucked, packed in 1 cup of their own juice (see note)

2 cups water

1 large yellow onion, finely diced

1/2 cup pounded crackers (wrap them in a kitchen towel and pound into crumbs)

2 1/2 cups diced new potatoes

4 cups milk or half and half

8 teaspoons unsalted butter

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Note: If you buy your clams in the shell, you will need to shuck them with an oyster knife and reserve 1 cup of the juice; if there is not enough, add commercially bottled clam juice.

In a large saucepan or stockpot over medium heat, saute the pork or bacon until all fat is rendered and all that remains is the cracklings. Remove them and reserve. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the fat.

Take the clams out of their liquid and reserve it. Rinse the clams in 2 cups water. Strain the water and reserve. Finely mince the clams.

Saute the onions and clams in the pork fat for about 5 minutes. Add the pounded crackers and stir. Add the clam liquid and the reserved rinse water. Add the potatoes and cook until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the crack-lings.

In a saucepan, heat the milk or half and half; do not boil. Add to the chowder. Serve hot with a teaspoon of unsalted butter on top of each bowl. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Makes 8 servings.

- Recipe from "The Nantucket Table," 1998, by Susan Simon (Chronicle Books, San Francisco, $29.95.