Island Flavor

"As I write this, the weather is hardly summer like. It's cold, dark and raining in the middle of June, but the summer solstice is just around the bend - June 21, the day this column appears - and weather forecasters are predicting 80 degree weather by next week. So, I'm letting my mind wander. I'm planning a wine and appetizer tasting to celebrate the longest day of the year. To get the festivities rolling, I like to greet guests with a glass of sparkling wine or Champagne. There are some nice locally produced sparkling wines that don't cost too much. Look for those produced by Washington's Domaine Ste. Michelle, which include a lean and clean Cuvee Brut, a crisp Blanc de Blanc with flavors of apple and pear, and a fruity Extra Dry, with a touch of sweetness. Other Northwest favorites are produced by Argyle, the Dundee Wine Company, Laurel Ridge Winery and St. Innocent, all located in Oregon. Weather permitting, I assemble a variety of my favorite Northwest wines on a table outdoors and let guests pour their own. Suggestions for white wines include sauvignon blanc, pinot blanc, chardonnay, riesling and gewürztraminer (keep these chilled in a bucket of ice). For reds, stick to lighter-bodied wine, such as pinot noir and gamay Beaujolais (if it's really hot, do as the French do and serve these lightly chilled). For the food, I like to keep things simple, but necessities include great crusty bread and a variety of crackers. I also like to include a big platter filled with an assortment of fresh vegetables - radishes, bell peppers, baby bok choy, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, green beans and anything else that's in season. Set out a bowl filled with olive oil mixed with a bit of balsamic vinegar, salt and freshly ground pepper for dipping. I also set out bowls filled with different kinds of olives. For fruit fresh locally grown strawberries are the ultimate. Then I set out my favorite appetizers and let the fun begin. Enjoy! Baked goat cheese with olive oil and roasted peppers Serves 4 8 ounces soft goat cheese (chevre) 2 red or yellow peppers, roasted, peeled and seeded 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano freshly ground black pepper 1 baguette, thinly sliced extra virgin olive oil, as needed Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place goat cheese in the center of an oven proof serving platter. Slice peppers into 1/2-inch wide strips and place around the goat cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with oregano and pepper. Heat until peppers and cheese are warmed through, about 12 minutes. Meanwhile, brush baguette slices with olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Broil until golden around the edges. Spread warm goat cheese and peppers on toasted bread. Recommended wine: sauvignon blanc. Seared ahi tuna with sesame vinaigrette Serves 4 to 6 You can use fresh ahi or albacore tuna in this dish. 8 ounces fresh ahi or albacore tuna (either tenderloins or steaks) 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds 2 teaspoons garlic powder olive oil as needed Sesame vinaigrette: 1 teaspoon sesame oil 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar 2 tablespoons sake 2 teaspoons maple syrup 2 teaspoons coarse ground Dijon mustard 1/4 teaspoon chili garlic paste 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 2 teaspoons wasabi (Japanese horseradish) Preheat grill. Sprinkle both sides of tuna with garlic powder. Press sesame seeds into top side of fish. Drizzle tuna with olive oil. Grill about 5 minutes on each side, until tuna is cooked almost all the way through. Remove from heat and keep warm. Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette. Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk together. Place a dab of wasabi on the edge of the serving dish. Pour the vinaigrette into the dish, reserving 2 tablespoons. Transfer the tuna to a serving platter and drizzle the remaining vinaigrette over the tuna. Serve with vinaigrette as a dipping sauce. Recommended wines: sauvignon blanc, dry riesling, pinot noir. Kalamata olive spread Serves 4 to 6 6 ounces black pitted olives 5 ounces pitted Kalamata olives 1-2 garlic cloves, minced 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil 2 teaspoons anchovy paste 1/8 cup mayonnaise 1/2 cup grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper parsley sprigs for garnish Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Pulse for about 45 seconds, until mixture is reduced to a caviar-like consistency. Serve on crackers or thinly sliced toasted baguettes. Lori McKean-Casad is a Northwest chef with 15 years of hands-on experience and a particular love for Northwest foods. She is the author or co-author of three cookbooks, Pacific Northwest Flavors, The Northwest Best Places Cookbook, and John Sarich at Chateau Ste. Michelle. She lives in Cornet Bay on Whidbey Island. If you have questions, comments, or favorite recipes to share, contact her at the Whidbey News Times, 675-6611; fax 675-2732; or e-mail"

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