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Delectable Delights from Bernadette Cormie

By Lisa Belcastro

Winter’s chill has settled over the Island. Christmas lights and holiday decorations create a festive glow, and social events fill our calendars. While the seasonal tourists will depart when the New Year’s ball drops, parties and get-togethers will continue throughout the colder months as we warm our hearts with the company of friends and family . . . and plenty of good eating.

Looking ahead to January and February, do you already have a few potluck dinners written in, and let’s not forget the Super Bowl merriment? With so much fun before us, can we ever have enough appetizer recipes? Of course not!

Fortunately, Bernadette Cormie of Herring Run Kitchens was willing to sit with me and share some easy and delicious recipes, as well as the tips to making each one great.

Bernadette had my mouth watering the second she began describing her Kale, Leek, and Endive puff. “It’s my favorite, favorite, favorite,” she oozed with enthusiasm. “You can use Gouda or cheddar cheese. The cheddar gives it bite, the kale gives it texture, and the endive gives it a silky flavor. It’s phenomenal.”

The day after she gave me the recipe, I headed out to buy the ingredients. This will quickly become a new favorite for me. And here’s the secret: “cook the kale at a low temperature, letting the kale fully cook so it melts in your mouth.” Yum!

Bernadette discovered her passion for cooking after leaving her corporate management job. She met Cathy Walthers, creator of Soups & Sides, and the two quickly became friends. When Cathy began testing recipes for her cookbook, she asked Bernadette to help. One dish led to another, and soon Bernadette found herself dreaming of a new business. “Working with Cathy, I realized how much pleasure and joy I got out of cooking.”

Making her dream a reality, Bernadette worked for a few years as a private chef, and then took the plunge and opened Herring Run Kitchens and Provisions, a catering company, with her husband Leigh.

One of her most popular offerings is Cathy’s Shrimp Corn Chowder. “I make it thirty times a summer,” said Bernadette. “It’s light and refreshing without a lot of calories. A great four-season soup.”

Personally, I love the fact that there’s no flour or gluten in the chowder. Bernadette’s trick is to add the shrimp right before serving so the shrimp stays succulent. I own Cathy’s cookbook, and this is one of the top recipes – right after the butternut squash and black bean chili.

Cathy is one of the local chefs Bernadette confers with when creating her menus. She also utilizes recipes from Tina Miller, who wrote Vineyard Harvest: A Year of Good Food on Martha’s Vineyard. “I like to focus on local chefs. It’s fun when you know people and can promote each other.”

Bernadette is offering two selections from Tina’s collection: the lobster corn fritters and the cod cakes. The cod cakes are an Island classic. When you make them, be sure to prepare the mix, and then let it set in your refrigerator for a couple of hours. Buy fresh fish, and if cod isn’t available “use any flaky white fish.”

If you’re looking to impress your friends, serve the lobster fritters. “Over the last six years the lobster fritters have been my most requested appetizers. They are a little bite of Heaven,” said Bernadette.

I haven’t made the fritters yet, but I’m adding them to my birthday menu in February (with a few test tasting batches beforehand). Bernadette assures me that the only trick with this recipe is to follow the directions and then be sure the oil doesn’t get too hot when you’re frying them up.

As we sat in her professional kitchen downstairs in her home on Spring Street in Vineyard Haven, I could hear Bernadette’s sons upstairs playing the saxophone, and her husband preparing dinner. All three popped in and out of the kitchen while we chatted. It was clear that home is truly where Bernadette’s heart is.

“I have the best of both worlds. I work at the school during the week and have my catering business on weekends and through the summer. We chose to do this so we could stay here and raise our family. We’re building a business, and working out of my home is really a blessing,” said Bernadette, who is the director of food service at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.

As her business continues to grow, Bernadette is no less enthralled with the career path she chose. “I absolutely love that people are celebrating life – weddings, bar mitzvahs, birthdays. People are happy, and I like being able to provide a service that adds to their happiness.”

If you’re planning an event in 2015, you can reach Bernadette through her website at: http://www.herringrunkitchens.com

In the meantime, enjoy the yummy choices she’s shared with us this winter season.

Spinach and Onion Pakora

What you need:
2 cups chickpea or garbanzo flour
1.4 cup of rice flour
1 tsp chili garlic paste
1 tsp garam masala*
D1 tsp of whole coriander, toasted on the stove & freshly ground
1 tsp teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 yellow onion, sliced into 1/8-inch half moons
3 cup fresh spinach finely sliced
1 cup warm water 110 degrees
1 qt mild vegetable oil (canola oil is best)

Method:
1. Heat a quart of vegetable oil in a deep pot on medium heat until the temperature reaches about 350.
2. Into a large mixing bowl put 2 cups of chickpea flour and the rice flour. Add the spices, salt, baking powder and cilantro. Stir to mix.
3. Add in the onions and spinach, breaking up the spinach as you put it in. Stir the mixture well.
4. Stir in the water to make a thick batter. (you can add flour as needed to thicken up as the veggies release their liquids
5. When your oil is hot enough, drop large table spoons of the batter mixture into the oil. Only fry a few at a time so the temperature of your oil does not drop for 2 to 3 minutes. If your oil is not deep enough to submerge the pakora, flip them half way through the cooking.
6. Drain on paper towels and serve hot lightly salted and hot

* Garam Masala is an Indian spice mix. I found mine on-line at: www.thespicehouse.com