The Joys of Summer
With warmer weather our bodies seem to crave simpler foods.Â Even though we who live in Hawaii are fortunate to not have the drastic temperature changes that most mainlanders experience, we still notice and experience slight nuances in weather and temperature patterns.
Summer seems to be the time for lighter foods, more vegetables and fruit and the grilling of various meats and fish.
One of our favorite forms of getting together with a small group of friends is to host a potluck cookout at Kolekole Beach Park.Â Â There is one particular table and grill we like best, closer to the mouth of the stream and across the waterfall, and to that effect, we go a bit earlier to try to `claim territorial rights'.Â Â Â Most of the time it works!
A few days before the chosen day, we let our friends know to bring a choice of meats, fish or seafood to grill and their choice of a side dish, salad or dessert.Â Amazingly, even without telling anyone what to bring, there is always a well-balanced selection of choices.
Part of the fun of getting together, besides talking story and spending time with friends, is the sharing of our offerings. Everyone brings enough of everything, including choices of beverages and the meats, fish or seafood to share with everyone else in the true Spirit of Aloha.
We like to take advantage of the hot coals and also grill slices of marinated Japanese eggplants and large mushroom caps, sliced rounds of store-bought polenta or anything else that anyone thinks of bringing.
At the last potluck we hosted the grilled meat selections were pork, chicken marinated in guava juice and lots of garlic and small lobsters that had been drenched in lemon-butter.
One of our guests brought a focaccia topped with lots of sliced fresh tomato, basil and thinly sliced onions and Feta cheese.Â It was delicious and looked like a work of art.Â Another brought a wonderful cold rice salad and yet another guest brought a vegetable curry.Â We also had a huge bowl of mixed fruit and a nicely chilled watermelon.
We ended the meal with scoops of a delicious strawberry and vanilla custard trifle.
Fresh Tomato Salad Topped Focaccia
The basic focaccia recipe is simple.Â You can top it with anything you wish.Â Ours was topped with slices of fresh ripe tomatoes, chopped basil, sliced red onions and crumbled Feta cheese.
2 packages active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1-3/4 cups lukewarm water (105o -115o F)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle on the bread
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
4-5 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Dissolve the yeast and sugar in 1-cup lukewarm water in a bowl and let sit until foamy.Â In another bowl, add the remaining 3/4-cup water, the olive oil, and the salt.Â Pour in the yeast mixture. Blend in the flour, one-cup at a time, until the dough comes together.
Knead on a floured counter or board for about 10 minutes.Â You might have to add some flour as needed to make it smooth and elastic.Â Put the dough in an oiled bowl, turn to coat well, and cover with a towel.Â Let rise in a warm draft-free place for about one hour or until doubled.
Punch down the dough, knead it for about 5 minutes, and gently roll it out to fit a jelly roll pan, 15-1/2 by 10-1/2 inches or use a 14 inch round pizza pan.Â Let rise for 15 minutes, covered. Oil your fingers and make impressions with them in the dough, 1 inch apart. Let rise for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 400o F.Â Drizzle the dough with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt.Â Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Sprinkle with additional oil if desired. Top with your favorite fresh toppings.Â Cut into squares or slices and serve warm.
Try it with a scattering of fresh rosemary after drizzling with olive oil and sprinkling salt to the top and then bake.
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(c) By Sonia Martinez- The above is part of an article (under a different title) that appeared in my colum Tropical Taste inÂ The Hamakua Times of Honoka'a in May 2006