Wednesday, June 13, 2012

0 Summertime, summertime, sum, sum, summertime...

I meant for this article to come out over the Memorial Day weekend since it's the traditional start of picnic and barbeque season, but I've been very busy and got delayed. However, summer is just getting started and there is still plenty of time to enjoy outdoor dining.

This past Memorial Day weekend I went to a friend's farm to enjoy an outdoor barbeque. It was pretty simple fare and a somewhat small gathering, but the food was delicious nonetheless. One of the things I like best about eating these kinds of foods is that they are quick and easy to make and don't heat up the kitchen when you're preparing them. As I said it was a small and simple affair, we had hot dogs cooked over an open fire, a garden salad, pickled beets (Sept 2, 2011), coleslaw, home made pickles and pickled cucumbers (Oct 18, 2011). There was cheese, chili (Mar 13, 2012), chopped onions and sauerkraut for toppings and watermelon for dessert. Mmmm, Mmm, good.

I remember last July when my friends from Japan came to visit, it was so hot and I wanted to have some friends and family over for a small get together. So I made a complete meal of cold salads – it didn't heat up the house and they were delicious as well as filling. We had a large garden salad, tabbouleh (Mar 6, 2012), rotini salad (Sept 20, 2011), cucumbers in sour cream (Sept 2, 2011) and fruit salad for dessert. It might have been hot inside the house as well as outside, but eating this dinner was refreshing and much better than eating a heavy, hot meal. Another night while they were visiting we had Fondue (Oct 8, 2011) for dinner with cut vegetables and cheese on the side, this also made a light meal that didn't heat up the house.

Besides your traditional hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken and steaks, you can also make shish kabobs (Mar 20, 2012) on the grill. Everyone can make their own so it's fun and healthy too. You can also make kabobs with fruit to serve as dessert.

It's good to keep in mind when it's hot that foods made with mayonnaise and sour cream can spoil easily so why not look at alternatives that aren't prepared with them. Use salsa (Sept 12, 2011), hummus or baba ghanoush (Feb 23, 2012) as dips and you can make coleslaw and potato salad without mayonnaise too – recipes follow. The last thing you want to do is have people over for a party and they end up in the emergency room with food poisoning.

Here are some more salad recipes:

Traditional Coleslaw
4 c cabbage, shredded (you can also add some red cabbage for color)
½ carrot, julienned (cut into thin slices)
3 Tbl mayonnaise
1 Tbl apple cider vinegar*
½ tsp sugar*

Put cabbage and carrot in a bowl. Mix mayonnaise, vinegar and sugar together, add to cabbage mixture and mix well. Serve cold.

*Substitute rice vinegar for apple cider vinegar and cut out the sugar.

Coleslaw without Mayonnaise
4 c cabbage, shredded
½ carrot, julienned (cut into thin slices)
2 green onions, thinly sliced
3-4 Tbl rice vinegar

Put cabbage, carrots and green onions in a bowl, add vinegar and mix well. Serve cold.

Traditional Potato Salad
6-8 red potatoes
1 small onion, chopped
4 hard boiled eggs, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
½ c mayonnaise
½ c sour cream
2 Tbl mustard
2 Tbl vinegar
½ tsp salt

Boil potatoes until “fork tender”. Cut into 3/4” cubes, cool to room temperature (do not add hot potatoes to the mayonnaise). In a small bowl mix mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, vinegar and salt. In a large bowl, put potatoes, onion, eggs and celery, add mayonnaise mixture and mix well. Serve cold.

German Potato Salad (No mayo)
3 c red potatoes
4 slices of bacon
1 small onion
¼ c white vinegar
¼ c water
1 Tbl sugar
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 Tbl fresh parsley, chopped

Boil potatoes until “fork tender”. Cut into 3/4” cubes, set aside. Cook bacon in a skillet until brown and crisp, set aside. Cook onion in bacon grease, until browned, then add vinegar, water, sugar, salt & pepper. Bring to a boil, then add potatoes and parsley. Crumple and add half of the bacon, cook until heated through, transfer to a serving dish, top with the remaining bacon (crumpled) and serve warm.

Traditional Three Bean Salad
1 can green beans, drained
1 can yellow beans, drained
1 can kidney beans, drained
¼ c green pepper, chopped
1 c red onion, sliced thin
½ c cider vinegar
1/3 c olive oil
½ c sugar

Combine beans, green pepper and onion. Whisk together remaining ingredients, pour over bean mixture, mix well. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving. Serve cold.

Making salads might be a little more time consuming than buying them already prepared at the super market – but as always, they're cheaper and healthier if you make them yourself. Check out the canned three bean salad – I bet it's got high fructose corn syrup and a lot more salt too. I'd say that you could make traditional coleslaw for about 50-75 cents – the same amount from the deli will set you back at least 3 dollars!

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