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Showing posts with label Fourth of July. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fourth of July. Show all posts

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Fried Chicken, Potato Salad, Carrot Salad, Little Gem Lettuce Salad and More for the Best Ever 4th of July Pot-Luck Party

We're having a party. On July 4th we'll gather in the park opposite our local high school (Pali High) to eat, catch up and watch fireworks. Everyone will bring food and drinks to share and a sweater because when the sun goes down, it gets chilly.
We have been doing this for so many years, I'm not certain when we started. Sometimes the group grows to almost thirty. Sometimes a handful of friends shows up. We've noticed that when the 4th falls on a weekend, there isn't enough time to travel out of town, so our group swells. This year, the 4th is on Tuesday, so our group will be more intimate. Big or small, the gathering is fun.

Everyone is asked to bring a favorite food. Something special. This year I'm making fried chicken the way chef Wes Whitsell (Manuela DTLA) showed me for a cooking video we did last month. His fried chicken is crispy and moist. For the cooking demonstration he made wings, thighs and legs. He doesn't like breasts because they don't have enough flavor. I pretty much agree. For my pot luck contribution, I'm making cut apart wings and legs, the easiest parts to eat at a picnic.
I'm also making carrot salad with golden raisins soaked in lemon juice & seasoned with black pepper, Yukon gold potato salad with charred corn & parsley, a charred corn & vegetable salad, roasted beet salad, garbanzo bean salad with charred onions & Lacinato (purple) kale, salt boiled broccoli florets and a buttermilk custard pie I saw Martha Stewart demonstrate on her PBS show.
I'll also make an Italian parsley salad with chopped vegetables and pitted olives and a Little Gem lettuce salad with carrot rounds and feta cheese, served with whole wheat lavash.
Only recently did I discover Little Gem lettuce. At Glatt, a kosher market, on Pico east of Robertson and then at the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers Market at the Garden of Organic stand. At first I thought they were "baby" romaine lettuces. They have a cleaner, crisper flavor, with less water and more crunch. Wrapped in a damp kitchen towel and placed in a plastic bag, the heads will keep fresh in the refrigerator for three weeks.
Here's the recipe I'll use for the 4th (which is exactly the recipe I use when I make the salad at home except sometimes I'll trade out the feta for blue cheese).

Crispy Little Gem Lettuce Salad

When making the salad, leave the leaves whole so they don't wilt.

For the olives, use any kind you enjoy. We like Castelvetrano Green olives, which can be found pitted for easy use, although olives taste best when not pitted.
Serves 4

Time to prepare: 20 minutes

Ingredients

2 heads Little Gem Lettuce, leaves removed whole, washed, pat dried

1 large carrot, washed, ends removed, peeled, cut into thin rounds

1 large tomato, stem end removed, washed, pat dried, cut into dime size pieces

1 cup pitted olives, roughly chopped

1 scallion, ends removed, washed, brown leaves discarded, cut into paper thin rounds (optional)

1/2 cup feta, pat dried, crumbled

1 medium avocado, washed, peeled, pit and any brown spots removed, cut into dime sized pieces

1/2 cup homemade croutons (optional)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, reduced over a low flame to 2 teaspoons, cooled

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Lay the Little Gem leaves in the bottom of a serving bowl. Sprinkle on the carrots, tomatoes, olives, scallions (optional), feta, avocado and croutons (optional).

Just before serving, season with sea salt and black pepper, drizzle on olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar.

Serve with a knife and fork.








Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Pot Luck Picnic

Summer is here. It's time to grill. It's time to pack a lunch and have a picnic. This Fourth of July is a model of our summer dining. We've planned a pot luck picnic with friends. We'll meet at 6:00pm in the park across the street from the high school football field, share dishes, hang out and wait until it gets dark (usually between 9:15pm and 9:30pm) when the fireworks begin.
In the morning I advance the picnic. Around 10:00am, I lay out half a dozen blue plastic tarps to mark where we'll assemble in the park. Everyone knows to bring a blanket, food and beverages to eat and enough extra to share, beach chairs and  sweaters because it does get cold in the evening.

As the sun goes down and the street lights dim, like sunflowers tracking the sun, we'll turn our beach chairs toward the football field. The fireworks begin slowly, grow in intensity, seem to stop and then rise again in a drawn out cacophony of explosions, whizzing skyrockets and overlapping designs of light. Accompanying each thump of the mortars sending fireworks overhead is an explosion which in turn is accompanied by wow's, whoa's, oooh's and aaah's from our friends and the crowd that fills the park.
As quickly as the fireworks end, even as the smoke still hangs in the air, the blankets and blue tarps are folded, the picnic baskets are packed up, trash is collected and everything is loaded into cars that will then join a slow moving serpentine cavalcade of bumper-to-bumper traffic that extends the evening another half hour or sometimes longer.
The first part of the evening is such fun. For our pot luck picnic, everyone brings their favorite dishes that are easy to transport and share.

Potato salad, roasted vegetable salad, carrot salad, deviled eggs, fried chicken, spicy ginger-lime chicken wingskosher dill pickles, Moroccan vegetable pickles, fresh fruit salad, tossed green salads, salt boiled green beans tossed with roasted hazelnuts in a simple vinaigrette, roasted beet salad, peanut brittle, a fig tartflourless chocolate cake..... The list goes on and on.
And the sharing is so much fun.

Some friends who love to cook, prepare their favorites. Others use the picnic as a time to pick up a selection of cheeses, olives, crackers and fresh bread to share.

I'll bring the sautéed pistachios with citrus rind bits that are so delicious as a snack. My wife doesn't enjoy anchovies so this is a time when I can make deviled eggs with anchovies and capers because I have friends to share them with.
For dessert, I wish there was a way I could heat hot fudge for hot fudge sundaes with caramelized almond slivers. That's a little too impractical for a picnic so that particular dish will have to wait until we're home.

When we travel, I use the same approach to eating in a car or on an airplane or train. Pack a meal as if you are going on a picnic is a great way to turn the trip into a culinary feast.

So, all the best for Fourth of July, summer picnics and long distance travel.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Summer's Best Picnic Food for Fourth of July - Freshly Made Salads and Chicken Wings Two Ways, With Rosemary and Kimchi

Days at the beach, long hikes into shady woods cooled by running streams and gatherings on the grass in parks set back from the road, all cry out for picnic lunches with salty, savory dishes. Each dish should be a treat, a respite from the heat and the exertions of the day.

A cheese sandwich with a good comte or brie with a slice of ham on whole wheat bread or a fresh baguette is a good start. Bring along homemade Moroccan style pickles or kosher dills and a snack becomes a feast. These days many supermarkets have deli counters selling made-to-order sandwiches and prepared food that can be basic (salads, meatloaf, baked chicken breast and cold pasta) or elaborate with gourmet ingredients and high prices to match (arugula salads, grilled vegetables, large shrimp with remoulade sauce and baby back ribs with a whiskey glaze).

A little bit of effort--not too much effort because who wants to be in a kitchen when it's hot outside--and the picnic basket can be filled with home cooked dishes that will refresh and delight your friends and family.

For the Fourth of July, a pot-luck picnic is a great way to go. We invite our friends to meet us at 6:00pm at the park across the street from the high school where the fire works explode overhead as soon as the sun sets. In the morning, we lay out plastic tarps to protect against the damp of the ground. Then we spend a few leisurely hours during the day preparing easy-to-make dishes to contribute to the meal that stretches over several hours as we catch up with friends and wait for night to fall.


Roasted Beet Salad

Super easy, super delicious, beet salad is perfect for picnics.

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 1 hour or more depending on the size of the beets

The beets my mom served when I was a kid were either boiled or canned. For some reason she never roasted beets until I made them. After that they were her favorite. Not soggy, the beets cook inside their skins, retaining all their sweetness.  They taste great and they're easy to make.

Ingredients

1 bunch of large beets
Olive oil

Method

Cut off the leaves and stems, reserving them to use later. A quick side note: after you wash them, if you chop up the leaves and stems, sauté them with olive oil, garlic and shallots; they'll caramelize and you can serve them as a side dish or tossed with pasta; they're delicious. 

Thoroughly wash the beets to get rid of any grit. Do not remove the skins or cut off the root. 

Preheat the oven to 450 F. Put a sheet of aluminum foil on a baking sheet. Place the beets in the pan, drizzle with olive oil, and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. 

Turn the beets every 20 minutes so they cook evenly. Use a wooden skewer to test if they're done. Roast until the skewer goes into the beets easily but don't let them get too soft. Al dente is good.

Let cool, then peel off the skins, cut off the root and the top part and discard. 

Serve them up the way you like--julienne, rounds, or roughly cut--put them in a bowl and dress with olive oil, reduced balsamic vinegar, sea salt and black pepper.

Variations

Use a vinagrette dressing, add feta, sliced scallions, and chopped Italian parsley.

Top with roasted walnuts.

Add roasted carrots.

Add green grapes sliced in half.




Kimchi Chicken Wings

The wings can be cooked the day ahead and refrigerated, then reheated before the picnic. The wings are delicious served hot or at room temperature.

Yield: 4 servings

Time: Marinate overnight; cook approximately 60 minutes

Ingredients

2 1/2 pounds chicken wings, washed, pat dried
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup kimchi, finely chopped
1 tablespoon kimchi water from the bottle
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, washed, peeled, sliced thin
2 tablespoons soy sauce

Method

Dissolve the brown sugar in the kimchi water, olive oil, and soy sauce. Add the kimchi, onion slices, and chicken wings. Mix well, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking tray with tin foil for easy clean up. Place a wire rack on the tray and arrange the wings on the rack. Drizzle the wings with olive oil. Put into the oven and bake 30 minutes. Turn over with tongs. 

Bake another 30 minutes. The wings should be tender and golden brown. If not, turn the wings over and continue baking another 10 minutes. Check again and continue baking at 10 minute intervals, turning the wings each time, until they are done.

In a small saucepan on a low flame, reduce the marinade by a third. Reserve.

Pour the heated, reduced marinade over the wings. Place in a leak proof container. 

Make sure everyone has plenty of napkins and a chilled drink of choice.

Variations

Add 1 tablespoon julienned garlic and 1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley to the marinade
Just before serving, top with 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds and 1 tablespoon thinly sliced scallion

Carrot Salad with Lemon-Soaked Raisins

Yield 6-8 (makes 1 quart)

Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

8 large carrots (preferably farmers market fresh), washed, peeled, ends trimmed off
1 scallion (optional), finely chopped
1 small bunch Italian parsley, washed, dried, stems trimmed, finely chopped
2 tablespoons golden raisins
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Pinch of cayenne
Sea salt and pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise

Method

Soak the raisins in lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper at least 30 minutes, preferably overnight Grate the carrots in a large mixing bowl.

Roughly chop the raisins, reserving the lemon juice not absorbed into the raisins. Mix together the carrots, raisins, parsley, and scallions.

Season with the cumin, cayenne, sea salt, and black pepper and toss. Add the lemon juice and mayonnaise. Mix well.

Variations

Use cilantro instead of Italian parsley

Add chopped capers

Top with roasted chopped almonds

Rosemary Fried Chicken

Yield4 servings

Time45 minutes to prepare, marinate the chicken overnight in buttermilk

Ingredients

1 whole chicken, washed, cut apart, skin removed if desired, wing tips, bones, and skin reserved to make chicken stock
1 quart buttermilk
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 quarts safflower or canola oil

Method

When you cut up the chicken, separate the two parts of the wing and cut the breast meat off the bone. Keep or discard the skin as you wish. The breasts can be left whole but will cook more evenly when cut into strips or tenders. The legs and thighs can be cut in half if you have a heavy chef's knife.

Toss the chicken pieces with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. Put the pieces in a container, add the buttermilk, 1 tablespoon of the rosemary, stir, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Using a wok or deep frying pan, heat the cooking oil to 325 - 350 degrees or until a piece of parsley browns immediately when dropped in the oil. Before you begin cooking, prepare your counter. Have a slotted spoon or an Asian style strainer ready. Lay two paper towels on top of a piece of brown grocery bag paper on a large plate.

Reserve 1 teaspoon of the rosemary to use just before serving.

In a brown paper bag mix together the flour, sea salt, pepper, rosemary, cayenne (optional), sugar (optional), and onions (optional). Remove one piece of chicken at a time. 

Shake off the excess buttermilk, drop the piece into the paper bag with the seasoned flour, close the top of the bag, and shake. Repeat with all the pieces, assembling them on a plate or cutting board.

Cook the chicken in batches. Gently drop each piece into the hot oil, making sure it doesn't touch the other pieces so each one cooks evenly.

Turn over when browned on one side. Remove when golden brown and drain on the paper towels. The pieces will cook quickly: chicken tenders (breast) 2-3 minutes; wings 7-8 minutes; thighs & legs 10-12 minutes.

Just before serving, lightly dust the chicken pieces with 1 teaspoon of rosemary, sea salt and pepper.

If you are making deep fried vegetables like onion rings or broccoli florets, they cook even more quickly: thick rings cook in 30 seconds, thin rings in 5-6 seconds; broccoli in 30 seconds. 

Soak the vegetables in the seasoned buttermilk for a few minutes, then process like the chicken pieces.