July 4th

Hot and Fruity Barbecue Chicken

fullsizeoutput_9474.jpeg
fullsizeoutput_946c.jpeg

Around this time of year, when BBQ season is in full gear (at least where I live), you might be in need of a new barbecue sauce.

It gets a little boring to flavor chicken and fish and whatever else you put on the grill the same way over and over.

Besides, with so much fresh, local fruit available, it’s the perfect time for a peach/nectarine/plum based sauce.

So, here one is. It’s a little jazzed up with chili pepper, but is not overly spicy.

Hot and Fruity Barbecue Sauce

  • 4-5 ripe peaches or nectarines, peeled

  • 2-4 ripe plums

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped

  • 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped

  • 1 serrano pepper (or other small chili pepper), deseeded and chopped

  • 1-1/4 cups ketchup

  • 1/3 cup orange or other fruit juice

  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar

  • 1/4 cup honey

  

Remove the pit from the peaches, chop the flesh and place it in a bowl. Cut the plums in half, remove the pit and scoop out the flesh. Add it to the peaches. Heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for one minute. Add the garlic and chili pepper and cook for another minute. Add the fruit, ketchup, juice, cider vinegar and honey. Stir to blend the ingredients thoroughly. Cook over low-medium heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until thickened. Let cool. Puree in a food processor. Taste for seasoning and add salt to taste.

Makes about one quart

 

 

Blueberry Yogurt Torte

fullsizeoutput_9584.jpeg

You know that famous Plum Torte so many of us bake for Rosh Hashanah? I decided to use it for a light, summery coffee cake.

Sort of. I replaced the plums (not yet available anyway) with fresh seasonal blueberries.

I gave it a bit of enrichment by adding some yogurt (dairy sour cream would be fine too) and a splash of orange (by way of peel) because the citrus pairs so well with blueberries.

Voila! A terrific, easy, more-appropriate-for-summer dessert. July 4th? Sure. Picnic? Sure. Any time at all.

Blueberry Yogurt Torte

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter

  • 1/2 cup plus one teaspoon sugar

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 2 teaspoons grated orange peel

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1/2 cup unflavored yogurt

  • 1 pint blueberries

  • lemon juice (about one tablespoon)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and 1/2 cup sugar on medium speed for 3-4 minutes or until creamy and well blended. Mix the flour, orange peel, salt, baking powder and baking soda and mix briefly to blend ingredients. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat for a minute or two at medium speed until a thick batter has formed. Add the eggs and yogurt and beat at medium speed for 2-3 minutes or until smooth and creamy. Spoon the batter into the prepared springform pan. Arrange the berries on top of the cake, pressing them slightly into the batter. Sprinkle the lemon juice over the top of the cake. Sprinkle with the remaining teaspoon of sugar. Bake for 50-55 minutes or until browned, set and crispy. Let cool.

Makes 8 servings

Two Color Cabbage Slaw

fullsizeoutput_a6e7.jpeg

Picnic on July 4th? Of course! It’s the American thing to do.

So of course, we need to bring typically American food.

Like cole slaw.

Which has become an iconic American picnic dish but is actually not an American recipe at all. Cole slaw (which means “cabbage salad”) was originally a Dutch specialty.

Nevertheless, we Americans love it so much we have claimed it as our own and it is therefore perfectly perfect for any Fourth of July celebration.

Two Color Cabbage Slaw

  • 4 cups packed shredded green cabbage

  • 2 cups packed shredded purple cabbage

  • salt

  • 2 finely chopped carrots

  • 3 chopped scallions

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

  • 1-1/4 cups buttermilk

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise

  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • pinch or two of cayenne pepper, optional

Place the green and purple cabbage shreds in a large bowl, sprinkle with 1-2 teaspoons of kosher salt and toss to distribute the ingredients evenly. Let rest for 45 minutes. Rinse the cabbage and wipe the shreds dry on paper towels. Place the shreds in a large bowl. Add the carrots, scallions, parsley and dill and toss the ingredients. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, mayonnaise, cider vinegar and sugar. Whisk the ingredients and pour over the vegetables. Toss the ingredients and let rest for at least 15 minutes. Before serving, taste for seasoning and add salt and cayenne pepper to taste.

Makes 8 servings

Chopped Salad with Chick Peas, Feta Cheese and Zatar Vinaigrette

fullsizeoutput_96d0.jpeg

For us, summer means salad. Not just leafy greens and tomatoes for starters to a meal. We eat bulky filling salads for dinner. Like this chopped salad, which of course could be served with other salads or as a side dish to grilled fish. But it’s also satisfying on its own, just like this. Add a crust bread and some fabulous olive oil for dipping and that’s all you need (except for dessert of course).

Chopped Salad with Chickpeas, Feta Cheese and Zatar Vinaigrette

  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, deseeded, and chopped

  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped

  • 2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped

  • 3–4 scallions, chopped

  • 1 (15-ounce) can chick peas, rinsed and drained

  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese

  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

  • 1/2 cup tangy black olives, pitted and halved

  • 3–4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 1/2 teaspoon zatar

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • Pita bread or crisps, optional

Place the cucumbers, bell pepper, tomatoes, scallions, chick peas, cheese, parsley, and olives in a bowl and toss ingredients gently. Just before serving, mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, and zatar. Pour over the salad. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Salad tastes good with Pita bread or crisps.

Makes 4 servings.

 

Blueberry Crisp with Oat-Streusel Crust

fullsizeoutput_84ae.jpeg

Where I live (Connecticut), Memorial Day Weekend is the “official” start of outdoor grill/BBQ season. Sure, some people use their grills all year, even in the depth of winter. And some start around April. But the weather has been crummy, so — no grilling for me until this weekend.

I need a nice, summery dessert for after, right?

Here it is. Blueberry Crisp. Really simple and easy. Oaty, lightly sweet and with a gently crispy crust. You can make it dairy or parve. Goes well after anything you might have grilled for dinner. Good stuff for Father’s Day too. And July 4th.

Notice that there isn’t too much sugar in either the filling or the crust. Doesn’t need more.

Blueberry Crisp with Oat-Streusel Crust

Filling:

  • 4 cups fresh blueberries

  • 3 tablespoons sugar

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Crust:

  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1/3 cup quick cooking or rolled oats

  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, vegetable shortening or margarine, cut into chunks

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the blueberries, sugar, lemon juice and flour in a baking dish. Set aside. Place the flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a bowl and mix ingredients to distribute them evenly. Add the butter and work it into the dry ingredients with fingertips or a pastry blender until the mixture looks like coarse meal (or pulse in a food processor). Place the oat mixture over the fruit. Bake for 30 minutes or until the crust is crispy and brown.

Makes 4-6 servings.

 

 

Sour Cherry Crisp

fullsizeoutput_84f8.jpeg

Recently my daughter Gillian brought me some fresh sour cherries. Cherries that are intended for baking, not eating out of hand.

I love sour cherries. In fact I like most foods that are sour -- anything that provides that satisfying pucker in my mouth. 

Mostly, I like sour cherry pie, but I didn't have enough fruit.

Also, I don't have a cherry pitter.

Thanks to some instruction at The Spruce, I learned how to remove the cherry stones using a pastry tube tip, so I decided to make two individual Sour Cherry Crisps.

Notice that the amount of sugar I use is less than what you'll see in most recipes. The point of sour cherries -- for me -- is that they are supposed to be sour, merely mellowed by sugar, not overwhelmed by it. But, by all means, if you like your desserts more on the sweet side, you can add more.

Sour Cherry Crisp

  • 5 cups pitted sour cherries
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1-1/2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup melted unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the cherries, sugar and cornstarch in a bowl and mix to coat the cherries completely. Spoon the cherries into 4 baking ramekins (or a small baking dish). In a bowl, mix the oats, all-purpose flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Pour in the butter and mix to coat the dry ingredients. Spoon equal amounts of the oat mixture on top of the cherries. Bake for 28-30 minutes or until the top is crispy and golden brown.

Makes 4 servings

 

Baked Beans. Real American Food for the 4th.

fullsizeoutput_924f.jpeg

I was thinking about which "real American" foods to serve on July 4th. Not just the usual icons: burgers, apple pie, lemonade. I wanted something that represented the "mongrels" that we are: Americans may be tribal in some ways, but we are also an odd mix-and-blend of a zillion cultures.

And so is American food.

For example, some say that Baked Beans are originally from France -- some sort of easy version of cassoulet. But the countries where they eat baked beans the most are English speaking: England, Ireland, Canada and Australia.

And yet ... baked beans are also a favorite in Holland and Hong Kong.

And of course beans themselves are native to South America, so who knows?

The original Puritan colonists in New England made baked beans often and for the same reason as observant Jews make cholent -- the dish cooks slowly in a pot so there's no work to be done during the Sabbath. Baked beans have been popular ever since, and particularly so after the canned versions first came along at the turn of the 20th century. 

Green labelled Heinz Vegetarian baked beans were a standard item at my house when I was a kid.

So, baked beans it is.

I like making my own because when they're homemade I can season the beans the way I like, make them spicy or not, use more or less sugar (or sugar substitutes such as honey or maple syrup), make them vegetarian or with meat.

I recently had a couple of slices of flanken left over, so I decided to use them in a new recipe.

My husband usually likes my cooking and there are some dishes he thinks are so good he brags to people about them. Like my recipe for Carrot Soup with Harissa and Coconut.

These beans? He told me several times that they are among the best foods he has ever tasted. In fact, one night he only had baked beans (and a few of the chunks of flanken in them) for dinner. 

So, this recipe is a yes for July 4th.

Baked beans take time. But you can make them several days ahead. They last for a week in the fridge. If you don't have flanken you can use chuck, smoked turkey or some kind of sausage.

 

Baked Beans for the Fourth of July

  • 1 pound dried navy or great northern beans
  • water
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6-8 ounces beef chuck or flanken , cut into chunks
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon powdered mustard

Place the beans in a large saucepan and cover them with water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and cook for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the beans soak for one hour. Drain the beans and return them to the pot. Cover the beans again with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and simmer for 45 minutes. (Alternatively, cover the beans with water and let them soak for at least 8 hours.) Drain the beans and place them in an oven-proof casserole. While the beans are cooking, heat the vegetable oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the meat and cook for 5-6 minutes, turning the pieces occasionally, until they are browned. Remove the meat from the pan and add to the beans. Add the onion to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes to soften. Add to the drained beans and meat. Place the brown sugar, honey, ketchup, salt and mustard in a bowl and mix thoroughly to blend the ingredients. Stir in 2-1/2 cups water. Pour the mixture over the beans and meat. Cover the casserole and put it in the oven. Set the temperature at 300 degrees and cook the beans at least 5 hours, or until they are tender.

Makes 8 servings

Strawberry Shortcake (Without the cake)

fullsizeoutput_8989.jpeg

The strawberries are fabulous right now -- the local ones anyway. They're sweet, juicy and fragrant. They're small to medium rather than gigantic -- like the year-round supermarket staples, which are dry, tasteless and smell like plastic. The strawberries you can buy now are the kind I remember strawberries from long ago, (especially the ones I picked right off the plants in my parents' garden).

If you are lucky enough to get good, seasonal strawberries, try this recipe. I call it Strawberry Shortcake without Cake because the whipped cream mixture, which is made with mascarpone cheese, is thick, almost like a really moist cake, and yet it is sort of like whipped cream.

So easy too!

Remember this recipe next Passover. Or Valentine's Day. Or July 4th for that matter!

Make the cream part ahead and top it with berries just before you serve it. Lovely with coffee or tea and also an after dinner drink (brandy and so on).

Strawberry Shortcake without Cake

  • 1 pint strawberries
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2/3 cup mascarpone cheese (or use whipped cream cheese)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh orange peel
  • 2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar

Wash and dry the berries and remove the hulls. Make incisions into each berry as if to cut slices but do not slice through. Set aside. Whip the cream and mascarpone cheese with the sugar and orange peel until the mixture is thick. Fold in the Balsamic vinegar. Spoon equal amounts of the cheese mixture onto 4-6 dessert plates. Place sliced strawberries on top, gently moving the “almost” slices to fan them slightly.

Makes 4-6 servings

 

 

Grilled Baby Vidalias

fullsizeoutput_7d33.jpeg

During the summer my family likes grilled everything. 

Like these gorgeous baby Vidalia onions. I bought some recently. They are a perfect side dish for whatever else I make for dinner (also on the grill). 

They are among the easiest side dishes I have ever prepared.

Just a few simple ingredients. You can do this with spring garlic, thick scallions too.

Whatever you're grilling for the 4th of July -- this goes with it.

Grilled Baby Vidalia Onions

  • 1 bunch of baby Vidalia onions (5-6), or use baby leeks or thick scallions
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
  • sea salt

Preheat and outdoor grill or grill pan to medium-high. Trim the onions but leave enough of the root intact so the leaves don't come apart. Rub the olive oil over the surface of the onions. Place the onions on the grill and cook for about 8 minutes, turning them occasionally to cook all sides. After the first turn, sprinkle the onions with the lemon juice and Aleppo pepper. When the onions are browned and tender, sprinkle with sea salt and serve.

Makes 4-6 servings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Potato Salad with Lemon-Oregano Vinaigrette

_DSC6159 (1).jpg

Some people say potato salad comes from German cuisine. Others tell you it is French. Or from some other European country.

But I think potato salad is actually thoroughly American.

Potatoes are a "new world" plant. Back in the 16th century, before Europeans ever knew there was even another continent, Spanish explorers sailed to what would later become the "Americas." They were looking for gold and plenty in the mythical kingdom of El Dorado. 

Surprise!

What they found were plenty of potatoes, and that was their real treasure.

They brought potatoes back to Europe, where it met with mixed reviews, especially because so many people thought potatoes were poisonous. Others refused to eat potatoes because they weren't mentioned in the bible. 

Fortunately potatoes are nourishing and easy to grow, so in the poorer European communities the people were obliged to eat them or starve. 

And so by the time Europeans settled in what would become the United States, potatoes were a staple part of the diet.

With all this in mind, I say again: potato salad is an American food, because -- it all started with the potato. And so it's the perfect side dish for a 4th of July picnic, barbecue or any other sort of get-together.

For my money -- potato salad is best when served at room temperature. Not hot, not cold. There are a zillion versions. Here's one:

Potato Salad with Lemon-Oregano Vinaigrette

  • 2-1/2 pounds small red potatoes        
  • lightly salted water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped        
  • 1 tablespoon minced parsley
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano (1-1/2 teaspoons dried) 
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, or salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the potatoes in a saucepan, cover with lightly salted water and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Drain under cold water and peel, if desired. Cut the potatoes into bite-size pieces and place in a large bowl. Pour in the olive oil and lemon juice and toss ingredients gently. Add the scallions, parsley, oregano, salt, and pepper. Toss gently. Let rest at least 1 hour before serving.

Makes 4-6 servings