Yesterday's Island Today's Nantucket
Volume 41 Issue 14 • August 11-17, 2011
now in our 41th season

Contemporary Simplicity

by Jenn Farmer - Chef and Food Fancier

I am a firm believer in the importance of balance in one’s everyday life.  That being said, I tend to overindulge in all endeavors.  Yes I am contradicting myself, but I firmly believe balance would be the key if I knew how to do it.  My one saving grace is that even the Dali Lama once said that cooking and love should be approached with reckless abandon.  Whilst pondering those words, and enjoying a snow cone, bratwurst, and beer, I thought about foods that I truly love.  I had a very difficult time narrowing it down.  So I thought about food I enjoy eating on hot summer days.  Then I remembered THE Pops were coming.  Picnics are one of my favorite things,  combine good food with great music, and you have me sold, it is a winner.  Since the Boston Pops only come to Nantucket once a year, this is a very busy time, and unique occasion.   An event this special, demands something unique, not just any old picnic will do.

Simplicity is extremely underestimated, when it comes to a classy picnic.   A layout of nice cheese, cured meat, olives, and fresh fruit with a loaf of artisanal bread and a glass of wine is relatively easy to assemble, yet very pleasing to the palate.  The charm is all in the presentation.  Making certain that you have brought all the necessities like utensils, plates, and napkins, (wet wipes too if you have any food that may be a bit juicy, like fruit).  Anything that needs to be cut to be served, like cheese or bread, should be done ahead at home.  Sandwiches, and finger foods, items that are not too flaky, crumbly or messy are good ideas.  I enjoy packing things that can be eaten in single bites.  Also consider items that are served chilled or at room temperature.  If you absolutely must have something hot, bring soup, coffee or tea preheated in a thermos. 

Another trick I have learned over time is taking an old favorite and make it miniature.  The small size is time consuming, but dainty, and people find it endearing.  Think about tiny lobster rolls, mini sliders, small meatballs, or baby Reuben sandwiches.  No one can resist something so sweet and delightful.  Another clever trick is creating a slightly unique spin on a classic. For example I love melon and prosciutto together, but recently tried something with similar flavors, cold watermelon wrapped with crispy bacon slices. It was so delicious.  Speaking of bacon, another great but extremely simple recipe is bacon-wrapped dates.   Simply take a pitted date, wrap it with a small amount of raw bacon.  Secure it with a toothpick that has been soaked in water for a little while (to prevent scorching) and bake in a very hot oven (450-500 degrees).  Turn them over once a few minutes into the process to ensure the bacon is crispy on both sides.  If you are feeling really fancy stuff the date first with an almond, or small piece of cheese.  These taste great hot or at room temperature. 
The following is one of my favorite summer dishes.  It is refreshing, and pairs well with our briny ocean air.  I like to eat it on baked or fried wonton crisps, but it can be eaten straight from the spoon as well.   When Nantucket Bay Scallops are available, I love to use them in this recipe. ]

Watermelon and Fresh Sea Scallop Ceviche

  • 1 cup watermelon, finely chopped
  • One half cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 ounce premium vodka
  • One eighth cup flat leaf parsley, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced chives
  • Nantucket Sea Salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 pound fresh Sea Scallops (Sushi Grade)

Mix the watermelon, lime, lemon, vodka, parsley, chives.  Slice the scallops into quarter inch thick slices (the scallops may be cut into half, if they are large) and mix with the dressing. Chill and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.  Serves 4-8.

Cinnamon Pork

  • 1 whole pork tenderloin (about 1 pound)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 scallion, minced
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon red wine (dry is best)
  • One half teaspoon cinnamon (freshly ground if possible)
  • One quarter cup soy sauce

Combine the all the ingredients, except the pork in a bowl and mix together thoroughly.  Place the tenderloin in the bowl and marinate for at least two hours, or even overnight. Remember to turn the meat over occasionally so the marinade is even.   Preheat oven to 350 degrees and broil the meat for about 45 minutes, basting often.  Alternately the pork can be grilled to desired temperature.  Let cool.  Slice into quarter inch slices.  Eat cold or at room temperature.  Nice eaten on rolls or wonton crisps.  Serves 6-8.

I realize these cookies sound a little strange, but I think they are great.  The subtle hint of curry with the coconut and dark chocolate is sophisticated. I actually like this recipe without the curry too.  Sometimes I substitute lime zest for the curry, and omit the chocolate. 

Curried Coconut Shorties with Dark Chocolate

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • One quarter cup granulated sugar
  • One teaspoon real vanilla extract
  • One  and one half teaspoons Madras curry powder
  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • One quarter teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups flaked coconut
  • 6 ounces good quality dark or semi- sweet chocolate, finely chopped

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.  Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla until very smooth and slightly fluffy.  Sift the flour and salt and curry powder together.  Gradually add the flour mixture to the creamed butter mixture, until it is smooth.  Stir the coconut in.  Shape the dough into a cylinder that is about one and one half inches in diameter. Roll the cylinder in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until the dough is firm.  This will take at least 2 hours, but can be made several days ahead. Once chilled, using a sharp knife cut one quarter inch slices from the cookie dough roll and place on a very lightly greased cookie sheet, leaving a one inch space between them.   Bake for about 20 minutes, they will be golden brown on the edges, but not on the top. Cool the cookies on the sheet until they are set up, and easier to remove.  This should take about 3 minutes.  Carefully remove the cookies with a thin spatula to a wire rack and allow them to fully cool.  Put half of the chocolate into a glass bowl and microwave on high power for 30 seconds. Stir and heat in 30 second intervals until the chocolate is just melted.  Add the rest of the chocolate, and allow it to sit at room temperature, stirring often, until it is completely smooth.  Continuing to stir it makes it smoother and glossier, and cools the chocolate a bit.  Drizzle each cookie with a little of the chocolate.  Let the chocolate on the cookies cool and set up.  Enjoy.  Makes about 20 cookies.


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