Monday, July 01, 2013

Ford Food Fest on Willsboro Bay

My friend Chris and his family bought a lovely little cabin on Willsboro Bay last summer, and they had us out for an inaugural visit/margarita-fest last year. The Fords were kind enough to invite us back for another cookout yesterday, and Chef Chris prepared an INCREDIBLE Caribbean menu for us.

He grilled up some killer jerk chicken, but to my surprise, the best thing on the plate was this spicy, Jamaican-style slaw--and I'm not even a big slaw or cabbage fan! As if he knew I would be pressuring him for the recipes (from a chef friend of his), he had them printed out and read to share with me, so I will pay it forward and encourage you to consider preparing these dishes for your next barbecue. Your guests will thank you for it!

Big Daddy Arawak's Jerk Chicken

1 tablespoon allspice berries
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cinnamon stick, crushed

Toast the spices in a dry pan on medium heat until fragrant. Transfer to a spice grinder and grind into a powder. Then add to a food processor.

1-2 scotch bonnet or habanero peppers, stemmed and seeded
1/2 cup yellow onion, rough chop
5 green onions, rough chop
2 tablespoons ginger, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
1 tablespoon fresh marjoram, minced
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
3 tablespoons dark rum
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons canola or peanut oil
2 teaspoons salt

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. *If you don't like things very spicy, try using a smaller quantity of habanero or a milder chile like a jalapeno or two.

Cut a five-pound whole chicken into eight pieces. Rub all but 1/2 cup of the marinade under and on top of the chicken's skin. Marinate at least four hours, preferably overnight. After grilling the chicken, brush the reserved marinade on and let rest for five minutes before serving.

Jamaican Slaw with Ginger-Lime-Peanut Dressing

Whisk together until sugar and salt dissolve:
1/4 cup lime juice (and the zest from the limes)
2 tablespoons white or apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon chile, smoked, or kosher salt
1/2-3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon thyme, minced
4 teaspoons ginger, minced

Toss in a large mixing bowl then add the dressing above:
4 cups green cabbage, finely shredded
1 cup cilantro leaves
1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced
2 green onions, sliced on the bias
1/4 cup mustard greens or kale, chiffonade

Just before serving, toss with:
3 tablespoons peanuts, crushed
1/4 cup toasted, sweetened coconut, optional (sprinkled on top)

*Dressing and slaw may be made a day ahead but kept separately. Combine 30 minutes before serving, then garnish with the peanuts and coconut (if using) immediately before serving.
Based on my potluck experience from last weekend, I didn't want to take something that anybody else might bring. Based on the crowd that was coming, I thought I could try something more classy and less trashy, so I decided on a watermelon and feta salad with pickled onions, mint, and a balsamic vinaigrette. I was very pleased with my idea, but then I ran it by some folks yesterday, and their responses ranged from "Huh?" to "Eww, weird." This had me running scared, so I did some further crowdsourcing of my FB friends, then I put together a blind taste test of the proposed watermelon feta salad utilizing some of their suggestions.

The test batches were prepared: 1) with raw red onion slivers, 2) with pickled red onions, 3) with basil, and 4) with mint. Though all versions were CRAZY GOOD, surprisingly, my roommate (a mint-and-melon lover) preferred the basil version, and I (not a mint fan in savory applications) preferred the mint! We BOTH preferred the pickled onions over the un-pickled, and then when I serendipitously combined the basil and mint taste test bowls, THAT WAS IT! The winning combination used pickled onions and a basil and mint combination, with perhaps 2/3 basil to 1/3 mint.

This salad is SO GOOD! And have I mentioned, I don't even like watermelon?! And how perfect for outdoor summer BBQ's--it's light, refreshing, healthful, won't spoil in the sun (though it tastes better icy cold), and surely no one will bring the same thing. The Fourth of July is coming right up, and watermelon is de rigeur, non? Believe it.

Watermelon and Feta Salad

This is not a precise "recipe," but a general methodology. I cut up half a seedless watermelon into one-inch chunks. I did the same with about a pound of feta cheese (not crumbles--cut from a chunk into the same size pieces as the watermelon). Then I pickled one large, thinly-sliced red onion by bringing 3/4 cup red wine vinegar, a teaspoon of salt, and a tablespoon of sugar to a boil, covering the onions, and refrigerating them overnight. Then you'll want maybe three tablespoons of chopped fresh basil and one tablespoon of chopped fresh mint, a few grinds of black pepper, and enough vinaigrette to coat everything. I used a new one from Marzetti's that I spied at the grocery the other day--cherry balsamic, the perfectly fruity foil! Gently toss everything together right before serving. If you want to make it ahead like I did, just prep everything, but keep in separate containers in the fridge until right before your party or the cheese will break down and the herbs will wilt and possibly darken.

Lastly, because I was scared people might hate my "weird" salad (they didn't--they were slightly wary, but all who tried it really liked it and the unusual--and unusually delicious--combination of flavors), I also made a fruit crisp. My original plan was to make it with peaches, but when I stopped by the store yesterday, the peaches AND the regular nectarines were all hard as rocks.

So I ended up choosing some tender, fragrant white nectarines, and because I worried that the color would be unappealing once cooked, I added some fresh blueberries as well, and then I adapted a favorite Ina Garten recipe for peach and raspberry crisp. Homey and yummy, especially as my friend Vicky cranked up some old-fashioned vanilla ice cream to go with!
 Wouldn't this be a welcome guest at your Fourth of July cookout?


White Nectarine and Blueberry Crisp
(Source: adapted from Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa)

4 pounds (10 to 12) firm, ripe nectarines (or peaches), washed but not peeled
1 pint fresh blueberries, rinsed
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 vanilla bean, scraped
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, divided
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar, divided
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 pound cold unsalted butter, diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter or spray the inside of a 10 x 13 baking dish.
Slice the nectarines into thick wedges and place them into a large bowl along with the blueberries. Add the lemon zest and juice, seeds from the vanilla bean, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and two tablespoons of corn starch. Toss well. Allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes. Pour the fruit into the baking dish and gently smooth the top.

Combine one cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, oatmeal, and the cold, diced butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or use a food processor, pastry cutter, or your hands). Mix on low speed until the butter is pea-sized and the mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle evenly on top of the peaches and blueberries.

Bake for one hour and fifteen minutes, or until the top is browned and crisp and the juices are bubbly. Serve immediately, or store in the refrigerator and reheat in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until warm.