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Summer 2011 Host's Guide: Mediterranean Yacht Party

Michalene Busico

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Cocktails on deck with a menu inspired by the great ports of call.

The flavors of the Mediterranean—the piney rosemary and bright citrus, the dusky spices, sweet honey and rosewater—evoke sun-drenched days and leisurely nights, and a kind of eating that is slow, luxurious, and entirely devoted to pleasure. Few people understand the experience as well as chef Ana Sortun, who has made a career of crisscrossing these waters. After graduating from Ecole de Cuisine LaVarenne in Paris, she explored the cuisines of Spain, southern France, and Italy while cooking at notable restaurants in the Boston area—until she embarked upon a life-changing visit to Turkey, where she became obsessed with the exotic spices of the eastern Mediterranean. Soon after, in 2001, she opened Oleana, her acclaimed restaurant in Cambridge, Mass., where she has been creating inventive versions of Turkish, Greek, and Arab dishes ever since.

View the Cocktails

Start with the gnocchi—tender with creamy ricotta and fresh herbs. In Sicily, they would be doused with a rugged tomato sauce; instead, Sortun has created a nuanced marmalade of greens, cooked down with anchovy, golden raisins, and garlic until they are soft and spoonable—the classic Mediterranean sweet-and-sour flavor known as agrodolce.

From there Sortun journeys to Barcelona for a crostini topped with mushrooms braised in sherry and Spanish paprika, then to Morocco for the savory lamb meatballs called kefta, served in a glazy tomato-sesame jam with saffron and ginger. For dessert, she tacks east to the Greek islands, for crispy phyllo flutes filled with semolina custard, crushed pistachios, and rose-petal jam.

View the  Wine ListIt is a transporting menu, whether you are lounging on deck or gathered on the patio. "For me, it’s the flavors that put you there," Sortun says. "The flavors are what take you to a place."

The CHEF SAYS
“You want a leisurely feeling, so it is important not to serve everything at once. You do not want a huge smorgasbord, where you feel like you have to rush to fill your plate, and—inevitably—food ends up sitting around and suffering. Instead, bring out a dish or two at a time. It is very luxurious, how the food just keeps coming out slowly, how the surprise keeps unfolding.”

MENU & RECIPE

Mediterranean Yacht Party
By Ana Sortun
Oleana, Cambridge, Mass.

Sicilian ricotta gnocchi with a marmalade of greens
Mushroom crostini with sherry, Spanish paprika & caramelized garlic
Red lentil tarts with feta & Greek herbs
Turkish tuna kibbeh nayeh (tuna tartare with Turkish spices & bulgur)
Quail kebabs with barberry
Moroccan-style lamb kefta (meatballs) in a tomato-saffron-sesame glaze
Pistachio & semolina flutes with rose-petal jam

Mushroom Crostini with Sherry, Spanish Paprika & Caramelized Garlic
1 baguette, cut into 24 ½-inch slices
6 tbsp. olive oil
2 c. hon-shimeji mushrooms, bottom of stems removed (or button mushrooms)
2 c. oyster mushrooms
1 c. thinly sliced celery
1 heaping tsp. sweet Spanish paprika
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp. sherry
1 tbsp. sherry vinegar
1 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. finely chopped garlic
Salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush both sides of bread with olive oil. Bake until golden brown and crisp, about 10 minutes.

Cook the mushrooms and celery in 1 tbsp. olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat, until the mushrooms give up their juices and begin to brown. Stir in paprika, lemon, sherry, and sherry vinegar. Remove from heat and let cool.

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat with the remaining olive oil and simmer until the butter begins to brown. Add chopped garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until the garlic turns golden brown. Immediately drain garlic through a fine sieve and cool. Season with salt and set aside.

Top each crostini with 1 to 2 tbsp. mushrooms and sprinkle with toasted garlic. Serve immediately. Makes 24 crostini.