Sunday, July 1, 2007

...And, the living is easy

I like many people take an annual beach week becoming bronzed by days under the sun; laughing with friends at tea-time with cups that are never filled with tea, and being lulled to sleep by the crash of the surf against the sea wall – all becomes the visions and sounds of my seaside-holiday dreams.

The water and its creatures are the foods that feed this coastal sojourn.

Being a northeasterner, I find myself between Long Island and Cape Cod during this time, and inevitably a request comes for lobster. Curiously, lobster was one of those foods I could not stand as a kid. Maybe it was the fact that I would walk into a restaurant and immediately see these poor creatures occupying such wretched conditions -- so far removed from a natural setting -- climbing all over each other with pitifully bound claws. However, on the coast it changed for me --you walk down to the docks and watch the fishermen unloading their haul as the seagulls circled above, hoping for some discarded remnants to make a meal of. With the swirl of the marine zephyrs cooling my reddened body, I found these short-tempered fellows appealing.

After years of simply boiling or broiling these crustacean kings, I decided it was time for a new approach. Riding home with my basket full of large flailing claws, I wondered how I was going to cook this star of the evening's feast. The possibilities seemed confined to the usual cooking techniques -- then I thought, why not ...? I decided to boil the lobsters for just 5 minutes, as opposed to the standard 20 minutes, to end their misery. Then I would smoke them. As the sun started to cross a distance line, I collected seaweed along the shore, and after grilling the corn I laid the seaweed on top of the hot coals to create an impromptu smoker. I then placed the blanched, whole lobsters over the seaweed and tightly secured the lid. After 20 minutes I pulled these now crimsoned sea scavengers off the grill and split them open. Their meat was tender and cooked perfectly, and a mix of sea and smoke rose from their exposed underbelly. Accompanied with a spicy salsa, a simple mixed salad, slightly charred corn on the cob and a bottle of Napa Chardonnay we sat, dining al fresco, and gave thanks.

Here's to summer.

Lobster and Mango Salad with Sorrel Dressing – yields 6 to 8 servings

3 lobsters (about 1/12 pounds each)
2 cups water
2 cups white wine
1 vanilla bean – split down lengthwise
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 ripe mango
1/2 pound jicama – peeled and sliced julienne
1 hot house English cucumber

In a 12-inch high-sided pan that will accommodate the lobsters place the water, wine, and vanilla bean and peppercorns. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer and place in the lobsters. Cook the lobster for 16 minutes, covered. Remove the lobsters from the poaching liquid and let cool. Split the bottom side of the lobster tails to expose its meat with a pair of kitchen scissors and gently loosen the lobster from its shell. Remove the meat from the claws. Slice the lobster meat into about 1/12” to 2” medallions.

Peel the mango and remove the flesh from the seed. Slice the mango into 1/2” thin slices.
Arrange the ingredients on plate in an alternating circular pattern. Drizzle with the dressing.

For Sorrel Dressing...go tp June 2, 2007 entry.

Grilled Fruit Salad - yields 6 servings

1 small pineapple - peeled and cored
3 firm peaches - quartered
3 firm plums - quartered
1 pint cherries - pitted
1 pint Strawberries - quartered
1 tablespoon honey
1 lime - juiced
2 teaspoons chopped rosemary

Slice the pineapple into 1/2" pieces. Over a hot grill mark the pineapple, peaches, plums and on both sides. You should only cook the fruit for about 3 minutes on each side. Cool, and than cut the fruit into chunks and toss with remaining ingredients.

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