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Island vacation for taste buds

February 24, 2008|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

Fresh food fans need not live next to an ocean to reap the benefits of Caribbean fusion cooking.

Cooking food island-style, with the help of fresh fruits and spice blends, can spruce up any run-of-the-meal dish, says Kris LeHardy, a 26-year-old Hagerstown native (and son of Herald-Mail employee Sharon LeHardy) who is now an executive chef at 32 Palm Restaurant, at Hilton Suites Ocean City Oceanfront in Ocean City, Md.

32 Palm specializes in Caribbean fusion, with hints of Latin and Asian cooking styles, LeHardy said. The restaurant takes advantage of its access to super-fresh seafood - not so useful for those of us cooking Caribbean many miles away from the ocean.

What to do?

"(Use) anything tropical," LeHardy says. Incorporate fresh fruits like limes, plantain and coconut. You can even Caribbean-ize everyday meats," LeHardy says. Adding jerk seasoning isn't the only option here.

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"People think Caribbean, they think they're going to have jerk chicken," LeHardy says.

His example: Punch up a marinated pork tenderloin - top it with cilantro-lime barley sauce and mixed-berry avocado salsa. He serves this with grilled veggies, which are also marinated.

LeHardy, a '99 graduate of St. Maria Goretti High School, got his cooking start as a line cook at The Grille at Park Circle in Hagerstown - a promotion from his first restaurant job as a dishwasher. He made his way to Ocean City after graduating from a culinary school in Pennsylvania.

He's now trying to make a name for himself in a city already packed with Caribbean fusion restaurants. Everyone is looking for an edge.

"The challenge is coming up with new takes on dishes," LeHardy said.

He's planning a trip to the Bahamas this year with hopes of getting more ideas.

"Ten percent of the trip will be research and development," LeHardy said. "The rest, vacation."

Marinated pork tenderloin



1 3-pound package pork tenderloin (2 pound-and-a-half tenderloins)
1 8-ounce can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 shallot
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons honey
2 cups water
4 cups vegetable oil

Combine all ingredients except vegetable oil and pork tenderloin in blender. Blend on high speed until pured. While blender is running, slowly pour oil in to create an emulsion. Pour marinade over pork and let marinate for at least 2 hours or for best flavor up to 24 hours.

When ready, place tenderloin on grill and cook for 10 to 12 minutes per side. Finish pork in pre-heated 400 degree oven until the internal temperature is 145 to 150 degrees. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Slice pork into thin strips. Serve on plate with mixed berry-avocado salsa, grilled vegetables and cilantro lime barley. (See recipes.)

Serves 2

Cooks note: Canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce should be available at most grocery stores in the ethnic foods section.

- Courtesy of Kris LeHardy

Grilled Vegetables



1 yellow squash
1 zucchini
1 red onion
1 red pepper
1 tomato
1 bunch fresh chives
2 cups balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut all vegetables into 1/2-inch thick slices. Combine all the ingredients and allow to marinate for two hours. Arrange vegetables in an even layer on grill and grill about 3 minutes on each side. The cooking process will be fast because of the marinade. Serve immediately.

Serves 2

- Courtesy of Kris LeHardy

Cilantro lime barley



1 16-ounce package uncooked barley
2 fresh limes
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1 minced shallot
Water for cooking barley
Salt and pepper to taste

Follow instructions for cooking barley on package. Zest the two limes and squeeze lime juice into the barley. Add the shallot, fresh cilantro and lime zest. Adjust flavor with salt and pepper.

- Courtesy of Kris LeHardy

Mixed berry-avocado salsa



1 cup fresh raspberries
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup fresh blackberries
1 cup diced avocado
1 each diced jalapeo
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh mint
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup fresh raspberries
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup fresh blackberries
1 cup diced avocado
1 each diced jalapeo
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh mint
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 tablespoon sugar

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