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Native Cooking Column by Dale Carson

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The Fourth of July is one of those holidays that most everyone gets off from work. There really aren't any other holidays like that in the summer until Labor Day, the first Monday in September; might as well enjoy it.

Come the Fourth, we always invite people over for the day and say, "sure, bring something if you'd like to." We'll provide the meat for the grill (tell them whatever we're planning to serve) saying, "You might want to bring a side-dish to go with the lamb shish-kabob, or hot dogs, or bison ribs." I let them suggest what instead of saying, "you bring the potato salad, and Sue can bring the baked beans..." that just would not be polite. The side dishes for a barbeque are just as important as the meat, in fact, if there is a major over-doneness (burnt), the sides could be all you'll get to eat. Depending on the number of people you invite, your buffet table can turn into a "groaning board" with selections of appetizers, salads (vegetable, green, slaw, potato, etc.), baked beans, even a pasta dish or two, breads of all types and desserts.

Grilled fresh vegetables like onions, peppers, Portobello mushrooms, tomatoes, green and yellow summer squash and corn are all marvelous brushed with a bit of olive oil (garlic flavored is a good one) and some balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Melted butter is nice brushed on corn or mushrooms.

Corn cut in one inch slices and put on a skewer with onions and red and/or green pepper pieces. This is a simple side dish with some corn bread or fry bread to round out the meal. If you are just having the basic hot dog and hamburger party, baked beans, coleslaw and lots of condiments can be the easiest meal to get together. I think any party can be the easiest if you spend your time organizing and planning before shopping.

Good Slaw

1 head of cabbage, sliced or chopped fine

1/2 red onion, chopped

2 stalks of celery, chopped fine

1/4 cup green pepper, chopped fine

1 large carrot or 2 small, grated

1/2 teaspoon caraway OR celery seeds

Dressing for slaw:

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 cup any vinegar and oil bottled dressing

Sprinkle of herbs: parsley, tarragon, basil

Whisk all together and blend into the slaw to coat well

Black Bean and Corn Salad

2 cans of black beans, drained

1 can whole kernel corn, drained

1 green bell pepper, fine chopped

1 red bell pepper, fine chopped

4 tablespoons lime juice

2 tablespoons good olive oil

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

5 scallions, sliced thin

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped fine

Use a large bowl. Combine the black beans, corn, peppers, lime juice, oil and vinegar then mix well. Chill for at least two or three hours so the flavors can mingle. Just before serving, garnish with the scallion and parsley.

Just remembered a hint from long ago, if you invite a lot of families with kids, provide them with a huge batch of popcorn and lemonade on a separate card table in the yard. This way they know you thought about them and they won't be likely to run into the grilling area and get hurt.

Cilantro and Garlic Bread

1 long loaf of French bread, about 18 inches

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped fine

1/4 cup fresh chives, chopped fine

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 cup chili sauce

1/2 cup butter

Combine the butter, chili sauce, peppers and garlic in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat until the butter starts to bubble.

Remove from heat and add the chives and cilantro, stir to blend. Split the bread lengthwise. Brush each half with the butter mixture (use it all up) and sprinkle with cheese. Put under broiler for a minute or toast the bread on the grill and cut into slices to serve.

Grilled Salmon

4 large salmon fillets (approx. 1 lb. each)

1/4 cup vegetable oil

4 tablespoons soy sauce

4 tablespoons lemon juice

2 large cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon dried sage or cumin

Put the salmon fillets in a shallow dish while you make the marinade. Mix all the other ingredients together, mix well and pour over salmon. Chill in fridge at least one hour, turn salmon and wait another hour. Drain the marinade into a saucepan and heat to boiling, reduce heat and simmer until needed.

Cover the grill rack with heavy duty foil or use a mesh basket or one of the new vegetable pans for the grill of Teflon with small holes. Place salmon skin-side down, turn and baste now and again with the hot marinade. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until fish flakes with a fork. Serve hot with lemon wedges.

A simple fruit salad is the most practical and satisfying dessert. Of course use whatever is in season. Blueberries, peaches, apricots, mangoes, grapes, pears, kiwi, cherries, cantaloupe, banana slices, fresh pineapple, watermelon and/or any combination that is healthy and colorful. You can add vanilla or plain yogurt with a tad of honey added. My mother used to put a little grenadine syrup in for color.

Notes and Tips

*Don't forget about sherbets. They look nice in scooped out shells of oranges or melons. All fruit desserts are good with a fresh sprig of mint stuck in the top.

*When getting set to have an outside grilling party, anticipation is the word to remember. Try to go through all the motions the cook will and have those tools on a tray and ready. Cookie or jelly roll pans are great for this purpose.

*E-musings:

I have to exercise early in the morning before my brain figures out what I'm doing.

Joined a health club last year, cost about $400. Haven't lost a pound. Apparently you have to go there!