July 16, 2012
Most days when I walk into the kitchen at the Shack Jenn is already in there, cooking for our summer party customers.
Out here on Cape Cod June and September are big months for weddings, but midsummer is really the sweetest part of the party season. Now's when people call on Jenn and her catering crew for more easygoing get-togethers: backyard barbecues, sunset cocktail parties on the deck, family reunion clambakes, and fundraisers for favorite causes.
Even when the mood and the food are pure summer fun, Jenn's usually got quite a bit going on. It may look like she is calmly threading swordfish onto skewers, but she's also watching some onion crispbreads in the oven, mixing up a marinade, scheduling a wine delivery and talking on the phone with the tent rental company. Jenn travels up and down the Cape doing parties, but this year lots of them are being held right here in town at our new party space at Sweet Seasons. The antique rooms look amazing hung with bold, colorful seascapes from my wife Traci's gallery.
Luckily, there are people who are drawn to the crazy pace of catering. One of them is Lisa Dutton-Swain, who joined Mac's after helping plan her brother's wedding a few years ago. She's a University of Vermont graduate, trained in vocal performance, and when she's not at one of our parties, she sings in the Worcester Chorus and works at Music Worcester, a non-profit music presenter out there. "I've never heard her sing, but she definitely knows how to make a party hum," Jenn tells me. That's Lisa in the picture below, just before we set up this summer's WHAT fundraiser.
Back to those skewers: Jenn is into grilled fruit this summer and when I ran into her in the kitchen, she was stacking cantaloupe and swordfish on skewers. The combination is great. She bathes the skewers in a fresh orange juice and herb marinade before they hit the grill. The swordfish is beautiful right now, plus the National Marine Fisheries Fishwatch reports stocks are fully restored. Ours is harpooned in Woods' Harbor, Nova Scotia.
(Thanks to Michael and Suz Karchmer for their veggie cups and skewers photo.)
Swordfish and Cantaloupe Skewers with Orange-Herb Marinade
When Jenn is serving entree-sized skewers, she grills the cantaloupe separately and serves it as a side with feta and a fruity-sweet vinaigrette. When she wants to pass mini-skewers at parties, she pairs a piece of sword with a piece of melon on a shorter skewer. One of her tricks to make the party version look especially neat is to grill the fish and cantaloupe separately on long skewers, then rebuild the individual hors d'oeuvres on those small bamboo swords.
When you're grilling on wooden skewers, by the way, it's important to soak them for a half hour or so before threading them––otherwise, the wood will burn. Jenn skips the soaking when she makes these in advance and lets them marinate skewers and all. Another of Jenn's tricks is to cut the swordfish and cantaloupe into rectangles rather than cubes: the skewers lie flatter on the grill and each piece gets a nice sear and cooks through more easily than cubes do.
Serves 4 as an entree or about 16 skewers
1 1/2 lbs. swordfish steaks, cut into rectangles for skewering
a ripe cantaloupe, cut into similar-sized rectangles
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
one clove garlic, minced to a paste
a sprig of rosemary or thyme, minced
2 generous pinches kosher salt
a good grinding of black pepper
If you're using wooden skewers, put them to soak while you prepare the fish and melon.
Place the swordfish and cantaloupe pieces in a glass or ceramic bowl. Whisk the orange juice and olive oil together, add the garlic, herbs, salt, and pepper, and pour the marinade over the fish and fruit, tossing gently to coat everything well.
Let stand for about a half hour. Keep the marinating brief: the swordfish begins to cure in the orange juice if you marinate it much longer.
Start a charcoal fire. While you wait for the fire to get good and hot, thread the swordfish and cantaloupe onto the skewers.
Spray or rub your grill grates thoroughly with oil to prevent sticking. Lay on the skewers and grill for a couple of minutes on each side, until the fish is lightly seared and turning white.
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