Today is Saturday, July 2nd. It's not the Fourth of July, but the holiday that celebrates independence also promotes independence, so some people are celebrating with food and fireworks today. I imagine that it suits others to gather and grill on Sunday, July 3rd. That's fine. We're talking about a country of independent people, minds, ideas and the freedom to choose when we actually celebrate all of this independent thinking and doing. We have decided to celebrate today, tomorrow and on the actual holiday. How about you? At this time in our history, when a majority of members of the highest court in the land are reinterpreting all manner of things, it's only fitting for us to do as we please also. Dark times.
Political opinions aside, when I find myself in a slump, it's not at all unusual for me to drift towards creativity in the kitchen. It's my safe place. It's comforting and reassuring. It's my atelier, my studio where I create works of culinary art. My works are usually savory, they are easy, they are adaptable to suit the tastes of my blog and Instagram followers and they always assure me that I can control something in my life when it feels as if everything else has run amok. Do you have a safe place like this?
Promote independent thinking and freedom to choose. Go ahead, celebrate whenever it suits you. And cook whatever you wish. For many immigrant families, this means hot dogs and hamburgers, bratwurst on the grill and one or some favorite feasting dishes that came to this country with them. I remember many such celebrations with my family where we added Pastitsio, Spanakopita and Roasted Lemon Chicken with Potatoes to the turkey and stuffing or ham or barbequed ribs for whichever adopted holiday we were celebrating.
Go grill that burger, then, and consider adding some of the following independent dishes as sides and appetizers. And if you happen to be on the visiting end of the grilling, consider taking one of my independent creations as your contribution to the festivities. Warning: These are "no recipe" recipes where I give you the ingredients and guidelines, but you get to choose how much onion to add or when there's enough vinegar or olive oil. Come one, go for it. I know that you CAN do it.
SIDES: One big salad and one small.
Cucumber & Tomato Salad With Goat Cheese Vinaigrette
Start with the following:
Cucumbers, peeled, seeded and cubed. About two large.
Grape tomatoes, cut in half. About 2 to 3 cups.
Sweet onion (like Vidalia) chopped. I like about 1 1/2 cups. You adjust to suit you.
Italian parsley, about 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped.
Salt, 1 to 2 teaspoons. Taste and adjust to suit you.
Toss and refrigerate for a few hours. Remove from the refrigerator and add:
Black pepper, just a few grinds
Red wine vinegar, 2 to 4 tablespoons
Extra virgin olive oil, 6 to 8 tablespoons
Goat cheese, two ounces.
Stir well to break down the cheese. Now you should have a creamy goat cheese vinaigrette.
Serve with more goat cheese crumbled over the salad or have it on the side.
Greek Bean Salad
Rinse and drain
Cannellini beans, one can.
Fresh dill, chopped
Red onion, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
Red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons
Extra virgin olive oil, 6 tablespoons
Toss well, taste, adjust salt, vinegar and oil to suit you. Serve at once or refrigerate for up to one day. Bring out of the refrigerator one hour before serving.
Sweet Pepper Saute
You know those wonderfully sweet and delicious little red, orange and yellow peppers that everyone is using in salads and around their favorite dips? We love them. I enjoy eating one or two as a snack. How about you? Great! Good to hear that you enjoy them too. Let me show you what else you can use them for after you've washed them, cut the tops off and seeded those little beauties.
Get a cast-iron skillet on the stove and heat it slowly over medium heat.
Small finger-sized sweet peppers, cut in half lengthwise, as many as you wish. I had about 4 cups.
Salt, one big pinch
Extra virgin olive oil. Be generous.
Toss everything well. When the skillet is screaming hot, turn up the heat to high. Dump the peppers with oil into the pan. Use tongs to turn each pepper to get them browned on each side. Once they have softened and charred, drizzle in anywhere from 2 to 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar. Shake the pan and continue to cook for 30 seconds. Turn the peppers and juices into a bowl. Taste and adjust salt to suit you.
Serve the peppers as a side to or directly over grilled bratwurst, veggie burgers or even grilled chicken or salmon steaks.
Eggs and Sweet Peppers
Hard boiled eggs, peeled and cut in halves
Sweet pepper saute, sliced into thin ribbons
Red wine vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil
Italian parsley, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
Eggs on the plate. Dust with salt and pepper. Top with the sauteed peppers and drizzle with extra vinegar and oil. Finish with the parsley.
This is a great main course for a vegetarian dinner. Serve it before or after a beautiful green salad. For your vegan friends, replace the eggs with boiled and lightly smashed baby potatoes. For omnivores, it's an easy first course or simple side dish. Serve up a bunch on a large white platter and let guests help themselves.
|Oops, took a large bite out of this one before the photo shoot. Shoot!|
Goat Cheese and Sauteed Peppers
Toast your favorite bread. Make sure it's well toasted. No butter. Cut into triangles. Spread generously with goat cheese and top with chopped sweet pepper saute and chopped Italian parsley. Couldn't be easier or more delicious.
Bean Spread on Toast
About that Greek Bean Salad. It turns out, if you mash it with a little more olive oil and a smidge more salt, that it's a fabulous, easy-peasy appetizer or addition to your favorite charcuterie or cheese and fruit board. New addiction!