Fourth of July
Cecilia was a ‘10’ on a scale of one to two. She had unmitigated primal
passion. Her sexual appetite was unparalleled and horizontal. It was
vertical and diagonal. When I suggested to Cecilia that we spend the
Fourth of July in Hawaii, she responded by giving me a fireworks show
in the bedroom that went on till daybreak.
After Cecilia made my night, I made travel plans. We would first go to Hanalei Bay on the North Shore of Kauai. Then to Maui – Kaanapali Beach and Hana.
As I was packing for the trip, the phone rang. It was Cecilia. She stammered and fumfered and did everything audibly possible without actually forming words.
“What’re you trying to tell me?” I asked repeatedly.
“I can’t go,” she finally said.
Did you know July is National Hot Dog Month?
I guess it makes sense since this is the month when Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest takes place. I think this year, fifty-nine hot dogs were eaten in 10 minutes and then an overtime round was required because of a tie. Ack! Fifty-nine dogs plus the tie-breaker round...no thanks!
We don't have hot dogs around here very often, but when we do, we like them slathered with chili and cheese. And not just any chili, it has to be sweet and super tangy. I love chili with cumin and cayenne but not on a hot dog. I prefer something that really forces my taste buds to stand up and salute. This is why I came up with this recipe. Hold me.
These chili-dogs have an amazing burst of flavor like you have never tasted before. The tang gives you this awesome puckering sensation in your mouth but in a very good way. It's not overpowering, it's just right.
The “old timers” in Maine always eat salmon and peas for their fourth of July family feast. This tradition was started a long time ago when salmon still came “up river to spawn” and people still rushed in the Spring to plant their peas so they would have the first peas of the year, hopefully by the 4th, if the weather was good. (I still have customers that plant their peas in the fall so they sprout when they are ready come Spring.)
The old tradition is to bake a center cut chunk of salmon at 350 degrees till it is less than moist, (so all the relatives like it) than nap it with a white sauce, better known as a béchamel sauce to which you add in chopped hard cooked eggs. And peas, lot of peas cooked with butter, salt, pepper and a little water. The rule of thumb was to cook them till when you blew on a spoonful they wrinkled.
I started teaching my sons how to cook when they were barely tall enough to reach the kitchen counter. The first thing anyone needs to learn is good knife skills. I still remember his mom looking in horror when she walked into the kitchen to find me showing 5 year old Frank how to use a 10" chef's knife to chop Italian parsley. No blood was spilled that day, but the quality of my parenting was a topic of discussion for many months afterwards.
When Frank went away to UC, Santa Cruz, I put together a cookbook with recipes I thought would be quick, easy, and economical. Periodically I'd get calls from him for cooking tips, like the time he was in Costco and he wanted to know what he could do with frozen red snapper, since it was on sale for $1.35/lb.
What's really fun is when the student becomes the teacher.
If you’ve never read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, “The Last American Man”, I suggest you pick it up this Fourth for a bit of quirky, patriotic fun. It chronicles the true story of a modern day hero who lives in a teepee in the Appalachian Mountains, eating only what he himself picks, raises or kills. The guy is an egomaniac and a genius, and the writing, especially when detailing how he forages in the woods, is funny and sensitive and page-turningly good.
The only problem with that book is the title. He’s not the last American man. My mother is.
She spends every summer, and most of every fall, wading through rivers
with a fly-fishing rod, and hiking giant, shale-covered mountains to
sleep under the stars. She’s had staring contests with bears and
cougars, weathered lightning storms under scraggly trees, and once
hiked three miles back to her truck with a broken tailbone.
From the Los Angeles Times
In the beautiful economy of the forest – or the urban backyard garden
– leaves are nature's brilliant cookware. Banana leaves can be cut
down to make plates or unfurled into wrappers perfect for steaming fish
on a low-slung grill. Fig trees and grapevines yield leaves the exact
size for enclosing, then grilling, a cube of feta, a recumbent sardine
or a mint-studded lamb meatball.
Before the invention of tinfoil or grilling baskets, pragmatic cooks picked their kitchen supplies from branches and found what they needed in the trees.
Going green was logical – OK, obvious – long before it became chic.
At my local farmers' market this past week, I found some thick, hefty ears of corn that had been growing all summer with swollen kernels to match. They reminded me of the juicy ears of corn we had used at Tante Marie's Cooking School in San Francisco when we made a wonderful corn soup with a fresh tomato salsa. As soon as I saw those ears of corn I knew I would make that soup as soon as I got home.
As I visited with each farmer at the market, exclaiming over all the beautiful produce, I was able to buy the tomatoes, onion, garlic, tomatillos and jalapenos that I needed for the salsa that would top each serving of corn soup.
The soup doesn't take long to make. Removing the kernels of corn from the cob is not difficult when you stand each ear of corn on its wide end in a large bowl. Using a sharp knife or an electric knife, cut away the kernels from each ear. I ran into a friend at the grocery store today who told me when he does this job, he props an ear of corn in the middle hole of an angel food cake pan and then cuts the kernels away using an electric knife. The corn drops into the cake pan
Summer is the season for salads. Some days it just gets too hot to turn
on the stove. And you never get quite as hungry on those days anyway. A
salad for dinner makes perfect sense. Still I am always challenged to
figure out how to make salad feel like a meal. Especially without
adding fish or grilled meats.
Friday night was one of those salad nights. I had planned on making a chickpea and spinach dish but cooking was out of the question. A spinach salad was devised instead. Fortunately there were several delicious things on hand to make the salad something special. In this case Stilton cheese, red onions that were "bloomed" in vinegar, glazed pecans, and Mission figs.
We've lived in Pacific Palisades for many years, treasuring its small town qualities as a respite from the congestion of the Los Angeles megalopolis. The 4th of July brings out the best in our community. We celebrate Independence Day by getting together with our neighbors, family, and friends. The celebrations begin in the morning with the 5k/10k run, the parade down Sunset at mid-day, an early evening picnic, and conclude with the night-time fireworks at the high school.
To prepare for the picnic, we shop at the local farmers' market, buying as many fresh vegetables and fruits as we can carry. On the 4th we spend the day cooking for the pot-luck picnic we organize with a dozen of our friends. So we'll have a good spot to watch the fireworks, we meet at 6:30pm at the park opposite the high school. We look forward to the picnic because we can catch up with our friends. Even though the picnic is pot-luck, we make extra just in case... Some of our friends who like to cook bring their specialties, like Lesli's mixed berries, while others make a run to Bay Cities or Gelson's and bring containers of deli treats and rich desserts.
There was a time when I CRAVED greens. I mean it. CRAVED ‘em. Lambs tongue (mache) arugula, romaine, and kale (which I would stem, blanche, squeeze dry and then sauté in olive oil and garlic). Evan Kleiman has a terrific soup recipe that uses escarole and you can find it in the archives right here at One for the Table.
I used to eat salads all the time and for the life of me I wish those days would come back. But, you know the old saying; “A pickle can never become a cucumber again.”
I’m convinced it’s the secret to staying slim, even if you use decadent dressings. Recently, I ate at Wabi Sabi on Abbot Kinney in Venice. They served an amazing salad there, which was actually a side to a scallop dish. It was a simple arugula with walnuts and goat cheese, but the dressing was completely unique. They were kind enough to give me the recipe.