Thursday, August 28, 2008

Locally-Grown Tasting Menu – Whole Wheat Pizza with Summer Squash

Here’s my version of take-out – I prepare a nutty, whole-wheat pizza crust, flavored with honey and wheat germ, and decorate it with yellow and green slices of summer squash, slivers of red pepper, rosemary and crumbled feta cheese. After baking, I take it out to the deck and enjoy with a chilled glass of white wine. It is a beautiful mosaic of summer flavors, perfect for dining al fresco!

While I take a brief holiday from blogging, I’m offering up a tasting menu of some of my creations from the organic produce grown at Sophia Garden. Enjoy the bounty of summer, and I’ll be back soon.

©2008 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Monday, August 25, 2008

Locally-Grown Tasting Menu – Marinated Cucumber Salad

The cucumbers are practically popping out of the soil at Sophia Garden these days. For this Marinated Cucumber Salad, the garden-fresh cucumbers are sliced paper-thin, tossed with slices of organic onions and diced green pepper, and dressed in a sweet-and-sour marinate that consists of 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 1/3 cup rice vinegar and 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt. Chill overnight for a refreshing and savory bite of summer!

While I take a brief holiday from blogging, I’m offering up a tasting menu of some of my creations from the organic produce grown at Sophia Garden. Enjoy the bounty of summer, and I’ll be back soon.

©2008 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Locally-Grown Tasting Menu – Roasted Beets, Goat Cheese and Candied Walnuts

As a child, I was always suspicious of beets. Now, I’m head-over-heels in love with the bold and brazen scarlet-purple bulbs. These organic beets from Sophia Garden are roasted with a drizzle of olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper for about an hour in a 400 degree oven. They are a perfect marriage with fresh-picked greens, goat cheese, candied walnuts and a light vinaigrette. Amore!

While I take a brief holiday from blogging, I’m offering up a tasting menu of some of my creations from the organic produce grown at Sophia Garden. Enjoy the bounty of summer, and I’ll be back soon.

©2008 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Monday, August 18, 2008

Jedediah Hawkins Inn - A Taste of Honey

What better way to spend a glorious summer afternoon than to dine with a dear friend at the home of a legendary sea captain, set amidst the farmlands of the North Fork of Long Island?

Built in 1863 and restored in 2005, The Jedediah Hawkins Inn is a towering Victorian mansion, a colorful edifice against the deep blue sky. JoAnn notes that Miss Haversham of Great Expectations must surely be lurking in one of the upper rooms. Inside, we are treated to fine Long Island wine and exquisite entrees, created from locally grown produce. Ensconced at a window looking out on the garden, we savor “The World’s Greatest Lobster Roll,” appropriately named …

… Seared sea scallops atop a dressing of summer corn, asparagus and bacon …

… And a dessert that has me absolutely buzzing – a Honey Tasting, with different varieties of honey from wildflowers and lavender and a scrumptious stack of cheese and home-baked cookies. The luscious honey flavors range from molasses to citrus to spicy rosemary. It is like a sun-drenched stroll in a summer garden.

… All under the watchful eye of the dashing seafarer, Jedediah Hawkins.

©2008 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Monday, August 11, 2008

Organic Nerd

I’m geeking out over this week’s harvest from Sophia Garden. There are mini green peppers, more pickling cucumbers, yellow summer squash, beets, burgundy beans, kale, slicing cucumbers, piles of blushing red fingerling potatoes, basil and cilantro and – drum roll please – the first heirloom tomatoes are in!!!

What to do with all this summer bounty? Start slicing, dicing, and boiling!

Dinner consists of a salad of yellow and red heirloom tomatoes sprinkled with crumbled goat cheese and fresh basil that tastes like licorice perfume.

Those red fingerling potatoes are scrubbed cleaned and boiled. Dressed with diced green pepper, cilantro and Dijon vinaigrette, they are transformed into a savory summer potato salad.

Diminutive cherry tomatoes in dazzling red, gold and orange - and sweet like sugar candy - are tossed with minced green pepper and whole wheat orzo for a fresh pasta salad.

You want to hear my geekiest move of all? I’m heading off on a trip to the West coast for a few days. There is so much food, and I can’t bear the thought of leaving my creations in the refrigerator. So, I pack a lunch of orzo salad and potato salad for the plane. Let’s face it. The food on airplanes is dismal, but these organic vegetables have me soaring!

©2008 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Hawaiian Wedding Cake

The date hits my Outlook Calendar faster than you can say “Waikiki Beach.” My friend Ms. Zany, the Queen of the Office Theme Party and her partner-in-crime Mad Me-Shell are at it again. They’ve scheduled the second annual celebration of Hawaiian Shirt Day. If this festive occasion doesn’t ring a bell, you’re not alone. It’s not a Hallmark card holiday. Zany made it up. The corporate dress code gets tossed out the window. The required uniform is a gaudy Hawaiian shirt – the cheaper, the better.

We immediately get to work on an authentic Hawaiian menu for the celebration. And, it turns out that “authentic Hawaiian” can be pretty loosely interpreted. We settle for “mainstream Hawaiian” which means lots of pineapple and coconut. Forgive us. It’s the summer. It’s the silly season.

There is a grand tradition here. In the 1950s, faux-Hawaiian was all the rage. It was the era of Trader Vic, shrimp sates and Mai Tais. All one needed was a pineapple and a few toothpicks, and one could embark on an exotic culinary adventure right at home.

Of course, I get the dessert assignment. So I dive headfirst into the Internet to see if I can retrieve a few pearls. I come up with Hawaiian Wedding Cake.

Whether or not Hawaiian Wedding Cake is genuine ethnic food, or was ever served to celebrate nuptials is debatable at best. But, the recipe leaves a blissful trail of crumbs throughout the Internet and has clearly been a longtime favorite for potluck dinners, brunches and church cookbooks. A quick blending of crushed pineapple, shredded coconut and walnuts dressed in cream cheese frosting produces a sweet, textured sheet cake rich with tropical flavors and nutty complexity.

There are many variations, some using vanilla pudding, some using Cool Whip, and some that replace the flour with crushed graham crackers. I come up with a 1991 citation for Hawaiian Wedding Cake from the Akron Beacon Journal, and another reference that suggests the original recipe was first published in the magazine Southern Living about a quarter-century ago. Hmmm. That means Hawaiian Wedding Cake could have actually been created in Ohio or Alabama. This gives new meaning to the term “destination wedding.”

It is certainly reflective of the stalwart tradition of convenience cakes. Any recipe that calls for a 20-ounce can of crushed pineapple is surely not from the Jacques Torres School of pastry. I do find a separate Hawaiian wedding connection. There is an authentic Hawaiian dish called Haupia, a coconut-based dessert that is similar to a gelatin and is served in squares. Haupia is also used as a topping for wedding cakes in Hawaii. Perhaps my “suburban-style” Hawaiian Wedding Cake was an attempt of mainlanders to emulate this island tradition, using easily-purchased supermarket staples.

The receptionist does a double take as I march through the lobby in my Ray-Bans and teal-green Hawaiian Shirt covered with white hibiscus. Our Hawaiian Shirt Day banquet is worthy of an island paradise, even if it is spread out in our large conference room. We feast on sweet and piquant Maui Onion Dip and Chips …

Aloha Meatballs, bejeweled with green peppers and maraschino cherries ….

And, Chicken Fruit Salad, glistening with pineapple and rice …

Mad Me-Shell conjures up a SPAM cheese ball, an orb so perfectly round and imposing that it looks like one of the outer planets of the solar system. Perched in a festive lady bug serving dish, the SPAM cheese ball is savory with just a hint of smoke, and reminds me of the luscious deviled sandwich spreads of my childhood.

I know my regular readers may have a hard time seeing “the S-word” in one of my posts. Now, don’t go sending me hate mail or anything. There is some serious culinary history behind Mad Me-Shell’s menu selection. You may not realize that SPAM is a bit of a gastronomic phenomenon in Hawaii. Introduced during the military occupation of World War II, SPAM is still so popular that it is sometimes referred to as “Hawaiian Steak.” Residents of Hawaii consume the most SPAM per capita in the United States. Credit Mad Me-Shell with both authenticity and audacity in her choice of a canapé.

The banquet concludes with the Hawaiian Wedding Cake, a majestic sea of coconut whitecaps, where glistening maraschino cherries bob gently. Zany and Mad Me-Shell are flush with the excitement of a tropical island holiday. You can almost hear the strains of the ukulele and feel the warm ocean breezes wafting through the conference room. Can the hula girls be far behind?

©2008 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Monday, August 04, 2008

Tapas in the Spanish Way for a Summer Afternoon

For all the dog days of summer, there are also the gems – brilliant, balmy, seemingly-endless days filled with affectionate, caressing breezes. There is no clock ticking, no next appointment. The sun seems to shine forever, the family is gathered around the table after a long while, and the only real decision to be made is whether to refill the wine glass… again. A day perfect for a summer feast, made of simple ingredients – perfect for tapas in the Spanish way.

Briny marinated olives (Verdeho de Aceitunas) and sauteed Marcona almonds (Almendras Fritas) pair up with a fine, venerable Rioja …

Tomato-rubbed bread (Pan con Tomate) from Catalonia is topped with savory Serrano ham, Spanish anchovies and Manchego cheese …

White bean salad (Ensalada de Judias Blancas) is a colorful marinade of tiny bites …

Chilled white garlic soup (Ajo Blanco), the forerunner of gazpacho, is a cold, frothy puree of garlic cloves, almonds and breadcrumbs …

Peppery Spanish Blue Cheese is spiked with a touch of brandy …

Cod salad with tomato and onion (Esqueixada) is fresh with the flavors of the sea …

The classic tapas dish, Garlic Shrimp (Gambas al Ajillo) is spicy and pungent, the garlic cloves the consistency of butter …

Finishing with a classic, silky crème caramel …

We eat until we are truly content. At long last, the sun goes down, the evening fireflies emerge and we can begin to dream about the next summer feast.

©2008 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved