Tag Archives: Fourth of July

Summertime Memories

21 Jun

Ah, summer! Time to break out the barbeques and bistro tables.

In the next few weeks, we’ll be holding our annual “Fourth” party. It’s amazing how we can fit nearly 40 of our dear friends and family in our postage stamp-sized “yard,” but, thankfully, the Victorians understood the value of wrap-around porches, so we’re good.

I’m still contemplating the main course–last year’s was pulled beef sandwiches w/homemade barbeque sauce. I had planned on grilling chicken but had waited too long to shop, so, instead, had to switch plans, and hence, the beef won out. This year, I’m planning for an earlier chicken hunt. If successful, I’ll accompany them with a large batch of grilled peppers and onions, which I’ve already pre-tested. After grilling the lemon/garlic marinated chicken and removing, I then covered the hot grill with heavy foil and waited a few minutes to regain heat. I then spread out olive-oiled peppers and onions (w/cracked black pepper and sea salt) and hovered over the grill, moving them about as they began to cook. I did this until all were slightly charred and tender. An easy, efficient way to grill veggies on a “massive” scale. Though I wish I had a photog for you (don’t worry, I will, come “The Fourth”), I don’t.

But, I do have some equally-as-nice photogs of some grilled tilapia and homemade salsa that I had prepared some several weeks ago, if that would be acceptable? I’m going to post those below, with skeleton recipes, in honor of violin girl. This has become one of her favorites, and since she’ll be leaving for college in late summer (6 HOURS AWAY), it is the mission of Kaukab’s daughter to fill her head with memories of home. And what better way than through food?

GRILLED TALAPIA W/HOMEMADE SALSA

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The fish was grilled in a lightly buttered/Canola oil combo in a cast iron skillet turned on medium-high. I added a few pinches of ground cumin to the pan, as well. Make sure you pat dry the fillets well, before sauteeing/grilling. Once out of the pan, I squeezed a little lime on them.

The salsa was made with finely chopped tomatoes, shallots, and English cucumbers. You can use pickling cucumbers, as well. I added some finely chopped cilantro to the mix and then squeezed some lime and added a pinch of cumin and some sea salt. Finish off with a light drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and you’ve got a simple, quick salsa to top off your fish. Oh, and the slightly charred undercover on which the fish is laying is simply a flour tortilla which I lay atop one of my gas stove burners and move about quickly using a tong. You’ll see the tortilla begin to form bubbles about itself and you just move it about to evenly “grill.” You can do the same on the barbeque.

I had also made a quinoa/brown rice salad to accompany the above. Here’s what it looked like:

QUINUA SALAD W/CIDER VINEGAR DRESSING
Ingredients:
Apple Cider Vinegar
Canola Oil
Lemon
Cumin
Raw sugar or brown sugar, or even better, good maple syrup
Dijon Mustard
Sea Salt
Sesame Oil (spicy) and/or hot pepper sauce
yellow and red bell peppers (total 2)
jalepeno pepper (1/2 of one)
small box of quinoa/brown rice blend (cooked and cooled)
shallot or green onion (scallion) (1/2 shallot or one scallion)
English or pickling cucumber (1/4 – 1/2 English cucumber or 1 – 2 pickling cucumbers)

Dressing: While rice/quinoa mixture is cooking, prepare the dressing. I used about a 1/2 C. of vinegar and about 3/4 C. or more of oil, but remember, I don’t measure. Start with about 1/4 C. vinegar and move up as you make it, if you’re unsure. Generally, you’ll use almost double of oil:vinegar ratio. Use a few pinches of cumin, sea salt ( 3 – 4 grinds, perhaps). Squeeze enough lemon to taste, starting with a couple wedges, and a couple small squeezes of mustard, or about 1 Tbl. I used 2 – 3 packets of raw sugar, but I’ve used good maple syrup instead, and that was a few drizzles, which made it taste really good. Also, a few drops of hot pepper sauce, not too much, because you’ll have a bit of jalepeno in it. Whisk all ingredients together, and then whisk in the Canola oil. Adjust flavors. You should taste a sweet/sour product.

Finely chop the peppers, cucumbers, shallot/green onion, and jalepeno pepper and add to the cooled quinoa/brown rice mixture, which you’ve placed in a large bowl. Add in the dressing and mix gently. Store in fridge for a few hours, the longer the better. Use as an accompaniment, or as a main veggie lunch.

That’s it! or “Dat it!…What da big deal?!” as Kaukab likes saying.

July 4th No. 2

10 Jul

See how lovely these are? They would have been much lovlier, if they had been fired off on July 4th night, and not–unbeknowst to me, until all final arrangements of my July 4th festivities had been secured–on July 3rd, the very night I was preparing for the stated festivities.

Aside from that one hiccup, though, our Second Annual July Fourth Celebration went off  beautifully, much like the missing fireworks that I had planned on boycotting for messing with my plans, but succumbed to when several friends dropped by our house on the way to see them a few blocks away. And, although I would have enjoyed them more on the real holiday, it was a nice diversion from the kitchen that I had spent much of my day and evening engaging in food prep. while watching zombie movies and PBS cooking shows–don’t ask me how or why. 

You may be wondering what I had decided to cook for our gathering. Last year the main course was grilled chicken, along with brats and hot dogs. All good, but found hubby spending way too much time at the grill. Since I like to mix things up a bit, this year I had decided to try my hand at some beef barbeque. And anyone who knows barbeque (not I) will tell you that to do it right, you have to smoke the meat. And, you gotta have these:

Wood Chips. Mesquite. I had been looking at these for years, but didn’t have the nerve to try them. Yes, I’m silly that way. Since I wasn’t sure how much time to plan for cooking up enough beef to feed nearly 40 hungry palates, I decided to oven roast my 5 small beef roasts the day before and then “pull” them, to have ready to put on the grill the next day for smoking. I rubbed them with some garlic salt, cracked black pepper, and paprika and doused them all with worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins).  Since I didn’t have any onion salt, I threw in a bunch of quartered onions in the bottom of the pan, along with enough water, after I had first browned them in a hot oven (500) and then turning down the tempurature to 350 degrees, making sure to cover them tightly with foil. Make sure you check them every 45 minutes or so to see if you need to add more water so they won’t burn. One of my pans is shallower than the other, and I did burn some of the onions towards the end. But the meat was still tasty. You’ll end up roasting them for a few hours, depending upon how many you’ve got. Mine took 3 to 3 1/2 hours, maybe a bit more. I did turn the oven down more to 325 degrees after the beef roasts became almost tender enough, just to make sure I didn’t overcook them and they remained tender, which they did–just in case you were still wondering.

In the end, it worked out well. After roasting, I had placed the “pulled” beef in two tin pans and covered them tightly with foil. The day of the party, I had hubby start the charcoal fire, making two heaps of them on each side. When they were partially white, he placed a fistfull of wet chips (not potato, not poker, and certainly not cow) on top of each coal heap. Then, onto the grill rack the two pans of lovely beef did go. A slight “discussion” ensued about whether the beef would actually receive any real mesquite smoking magic. Hubby, convinced that it couldn’t possibly be, if the pans were covered. I, the one who’d been watching hours upon hours of “BBQ University” on PBS the day before, confidently portended otherwise. The verdict? Set, Match: PBS.

Here’s what it looked like, courtesy of violin girl’s violin teacher, who’d come over the next day to have some leftovers, with the agreement that I’d be engaging her plate in a last-ditch-effort photo shoot that this cook and hostess had failed to do when the original party-goers were present.

 Notice the amount of beef on her plate. It’s quite small compared to its companions. This is because violin teacher prefers a higher ratio of veggies:meat. I can respect that. May I also draw your attention to the shiny, beautiful glaze that is my barbeque sauce. Homemade, if I may brag. And a real winner this year. Bottle-worthy, I believe several guests exclaimed. You may have also noticed on this plate the recurring tabouleh and black bean salsa. I’m sorry if this may trouble you, but there are just some food items which make it on the playlist year after year. If you don’t want them to return, you’ll have to notify many of our party-goers and ask them to please stop requesting them.

This mango salsa always melds well with a variety of grilled or barbequed foods, anything from grilled fish or chicken to barbequed ribs, pork, or beef. And, it’s simple and really healthy. To the mangoes I like to add in some finely chopped cucumbers (along with minced red onion and jalepeno, and chopped cilantro) for crunch and freshness. The dressing is made up of lime, a few drops of hot sauce, honey, a smidgeon of ginger paste, pinch of cumin, sea salt to taste and a few drizzles of extra virgin olive oil. Mix gently.  With salsa, the flavor combinations are vast and you just use what you like. Mine is no different. The aim, for me, is to make it balanced in both texture and flavor.

Our “Fourth” wasn’t topped off by fireworks. Instead, these lovely scenes below:

Poor table hadn't been dressed yet with its pretty striped cloth.

 
Turned into a short shower later that evening, well-after dinner had ended. And, while many of us made our way indoors, others delighted in taking cover on the back and front porches while watching these:

wet, but pretty

 
So went July 4th No. 2. Great friends brought great food, and our time together only gets better. Even with the fireworks miscount. Here’s hoping for better math next year.
 
And, here’s the ingredient list for making my barbeque sauce. You’ll have a enough left over to use for other meal ideas, or to…dare I say…bottle.
 
Diane’s Bottle-Worthy BBQ Sauce:
40 oz. Heinz ketchup
18 or 19 oz. Marionberry seedless preserves (or any flavor of thick, jam-like consistency, e.g., grape, blackberry, etc.)
1/8C to 1/4C. brown sugar
dash of garlic salt
juice from 1/2 small lime
few drops of hot sauce
3 big pinches of red pepper flakes
2T. soy sauce (Kikkoman, regular)
9 or 10 oz. beer (I used what we had on hand–generally a cheap can of Milwaulkee Best, but in this instance I found a bottle of Heiniken.) Don’t fret. The sauce won’t care.
 
Again, I don’t measure, so use these amounts–particularly everything but the jam and ketchup, and maybe the beer–with the idea that you’ll start with the lower amounts and work up to the higher ones I guessed (eye-balled in my mind, afterwards–an especially precarious feat). Just taste as you go. It should have a sweet, but with a hit-hint of heat that comes on slowly. Of course, if you like more hit, then feel free to go for it.
 
In a medium-sized pan, pour in the ketchup and red pepper flakes. Turn heat to medium and stir for a few minutes. Add in all but the beer. Keep heating through until the jam is dissolved. Turn up heat to medium high until beginning to bubble. Pour in the beer and stir to thoroughly mix. Keep on medium-high until returns to bubble.  Turn down heat to simmer and partially cover. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. You can leave on stove to cool, or reheat for later, or use hot. It’s also good the next day straight out of the fridge. Just an aside: One of my guests asked me if I had made any hot dog sauce. Horrors! Poor kid; he didn’t know I was from the North. We don’t do hot dog sauce up there. Hadn’t even entered my mind. I apologized and told him we had ketchup and mustard. A short time later, he came back to tell me that he had put some of my bottle-worthy bbq sauce atop his hot dogs and it was “really good.” So, you see. You can even use this stuff on hot dogs!
 
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