Last night we had friends over for a Fourth of July warm-up dinner party. The hyper-local menu–Grilled Sumac Lamb Chops, Cherry Couscous Salad and Asparagus–was created with the bulk of ingredients sourced in a one-mile radius; easy to pull off at this time of the year in the orchards and farmlands of Northern Michigan.
Concentrated cherry juice processed from cherries up the road lends the acidity and sweet to this versatile vinaigrette.
The day before yesterday, I marinated lamb chops 24 hours (refrigerated) in a mixture of whole milk, plain yogurt, garlic, ground sumac and cinnamon. (I’ll post the recipe after re-proof.)
Then, I made a couscous salad and am particularly excited about the impromptu vinaigrette, which was simply delicious. My secret weapon was cherry juice concentrate. With the acidity and sweet of fresh ripe cherries, it was a flavor bomb in this salad. (Recipe below.)
This vinaigrette would be marvelous in any grain or leafy green salad or a lovely marinade for fowl, pork or lamb. Oh my. This little vinaigrette is an absolute gem.
Fresh Cherry and Goat Cheese Crostini
You don’t have to live in the middle of a cherry orchard–grocery stores across the world carry cherry juice concentrates. Here’s a link to King Orchards, if interested, to purchase the exact concentrate I use. (And no. Uncle Jim and Aunt Sue aren’t the owners and, as always, I receive no compensations for my posts and recommendations on this site, which remains blissfully “ad-free”.)
The Fourth of July Grill
In the spirit of the season, here are some more cherry-inspired blogs from seasons past to whet your whistle, many of which are perfect for the celebratory Fourth:
Last week was a mother to digest. First the beloved fashion designer Kate Spade? And what’s to become of the global food scene without Anthony Bourdin to direct traffic? The man with such caustic, biting brilliance who had such a rich appetite for life? No one could even begin to replace this most empathetic of spokespersons for the world’s people, their food and their culture.
Streets of Hanoi.
His most recent documentary series, “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” premiered in 2013. It won five Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award and, for this Bourdain groupie (who recently spent ten days in Hanoi delighting in the street food scene because her guru led the way), the documentary was aptly named. Parts unknown, indeed, Anthony Bourdain. Shattering.
But back to the happiness that cooking can conjure. As Bourdain famously wrote in Kitchen Confidential: “Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.” I bought into that maxim many, many years ago.
And when I returned to the South for a family reunion last mongh–when the skillets started sizzling and my tongue begged loosening–I welcomed the grease flowing through my veins and bourbon burnishing my soul. Classic Southern soul-food and beverage don’t conjure notions of mindful moderation and stoic sobriety.
Smoked Barbecued Baby Back Ribs
And I didn’t stop there. After returning to Michigan, Memorial Day rolled around. Sure. I could have made some summery salads and lean grilled meats but the caravan wasn’t stopping. On a fat-lovin high, I was livin’ in the moment, adding that extra tablespoon of mayo to make that tater salad just right and sucking fatty ribs from the bone.
“Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit,” Bourdain wrote in “Kitchen Confidential,” and went on to describe vegans as vegetarians’ “Hezbollah-like splinter faction.” He threw political correctness out of the kitchen with every breath he drew and that, in part, is why this woman loves him.
His writings have always invited reflection into the USA’s love/hate relationship with food and have inspired my culinary musings and practices for decades. The word diet, for example, to me means denial. Just that one, four-letter word sets off cravings for fried foods, buttery breads and creme brûlée. It’s not in my vocabulary.
So it follows I’m not beating myself up for the excess baggage I packed around my midriff in the past month. Just sayin’ I’m feeling sluggish and the word––reboot–– is a part of my vocabulary.
The following bean fritter recipe is Vegan, part of the Hezbollah-like splinter faction of recipes (-: Lucky for me, I find veggie recipes an amusement park for my body, just as I do a well-marbled rib-eye.
Potato, Radish and Cucumber Salad with Yogurt Dressing
Deviled Eggs (aka: Stuffed Eggs) have taken on star-status in the past few years. No more are a plate of these rich and tantalizing mortals content to find themselves nestled up to a Maraschino Cherry Jello Mold on a boomerang-patterned formica counter.
Want to add a pickled flavor to the yolk? Take a bottle of pickled beets and soak the egg whites in the liquid for several hours. Stuffed eggs make a great summer appetizer and I served the pickled eggs (recipe below and photo on the left) and Stuffed Eggs Florentine at a family reunion we’re having this week.
We booked a couple of beach houses in the Florida Panhandle, 30A precisely, “…the greatest strand of white sand on earth”. If you’re interested in learning more about this laid-back, food-rich culture, I wrote a blog while traveling solo down there one fall, with a slideshow describing the area.
Stuffed egg aficionados advise starting with eggs that aren’t super fresh as eggs fresh from the hens are often difficult to peel––from my point of view this is the only drawback of purchasing a local freshly laid eggs. Also, my hard boiled eggs are not necessarily hard, but have a bit of creaminess in the center. My method for boiling eggs is below.
I’m also celebrating the completion of my first draft of THE MAIDEN TOWER, which is now in the hands of my editor–one of many drawn-out, complicated and gut-wrenching steps. The novel’s a contemporary legend–a bit of magical realism thrown in– set in the quirky landscape of Key West, Florida, a place of which I’m intimate. It’s the story of a mother and her three daughters held hostage by secrets, desires and fear. And then Hurricane Irma pummels their town, changing their lives forever.
Back to eggs. Here’s how I hard cook mine that yields a creamy, slightly undercooked center:
Start by bringing a large saucepan of water to a boil (to cover the eggs by a good inch) over medium-high heat. Carefully lower large eggs into water using a slotted spoon. Cook 10 minutes, lowering the heat if necessary to maintain a gentle boil. Transfer to an ice bath or very cold water and let cool until just slightly warm, about 2 minutes—this stops the eggs from cooking further and makes them easier to peel. Gently crack eggs all over and peel, starting from the fattest end containing the air pocket. Refrigerate if not using right away.
Taste buds prickle; wanderlust triggered. An Argentine barbecue (asado)
enticed me to Patagonia. A friend gave me a vial of ground sumac berries--4 months later I was
waking at dawn to the "Call To Prayer" in Turkey. Porcini to Tuscany, and so on. Read more about my chronicles of
trips and favorite associated recipes. Browse my travel recipes...
Here are ideas gleaned from others that speak to me;
where I highlight projects that bring friends, neighborhoods, and communities together. For me,
complimentary food makes the project and event more fun. Browse my projects and related recipes...