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“Geez,” I thought after yet another humdrum Fourth of July, “doesn’t anyone throw parties anymore?”
I remember a July 4th spent lazing in giant inner tubes on a river with dozens of friends. I remember several holidays at the ballpark, and many picnics with family and friends. I remember killer badminton (played with tennis racquets), and performing hilarious precision “rafting” routines in a friend’s backyard pond.
Then I remembered I had organized most of those outings. So last year, instead of gardening and hoping the neighbors would set off a couple of bottle rockets, I threw a last-minute party. Everyone showed up. I grilled sausages and they provided the sides. It was a wonderful day.
This year I’m planning a bang-up Fourth, too. My picnic plans are for a David Chang fried-chicken sandwich followed by fireworks over the East River in New York City. Tony probably will wedge in a few noodle shops that day, too.
My Fourth of Julys will never be humdrum again, thanks to relearning a life lesson: Make it happen. So if you have no plans for Saturday and wish you did, get on the phone and start calling. A picnic need not be a major production – most people are happy to be invited for anything, even hot dogs.
For years I specialized in developing easy recipes that taste great and look chic, so I’ll reprise one and fork over a new one for slightly more suave July 4th grilling. If you’re rich or have practically no friends, I recommend the Ribeye Steak with Arugula Chimichurri Sauce I made for Tony Sunday. Yeah, it sounds fancy but the sauce is made in a blender with no cooking and the steak goes from fridge to table in under 10 minutes.
For a larger gathering try my fab Indian Chicken Kabobs with Mango-Mint Relish, created for my former Second Helpings newsletter. I had forgotten how good – any easy – these are. Chicken cubes are marinated in a mixture of yogurt and curry power, grilled on skewers and topped with a flavor-packed relish made from just five ingredients (including a dash of cayenne).
For best results, share with friends. Or meet me at David Chang’s Fuku in the East Village.
RIBEYE STEAKS WITH ARUGULA CHIMICHURRI SAUCE
• 2 ribeye steaks, about 1 inch thick
• Olive oil
• Arugula chimichurri sauce:
• 2 cups lightly packed arugula leaves
• 1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
• 5 medium cloves of garlic
• 2 tbsp. chopped onions
• 2 tbsp. fresh-squeezed lime juice
• 2 tbsp. red-wine vinegar
• 1 cup olive oil
• 1/2 tsp. salt
Trim most of fat from steaks and gloss all over with oil. Season heavily with salt, rubbing it into the meat with your hand. Heat a charcoal fire or gas fire on one side of the grill.
While grill heats, make chimichurri sauce: Briefly pulse arugula and parsley in a food processor or blender. Drop garlic cloves one at a time through the feed tube while the processor or blender runs. Remove lid and add remaining ingredients. Pulse several times until blended but not smooth. Transfer to jar, bowl or sauce boat and chill.
When coals are ashed over but still very hot, sear steaks for 2 minutes on each side or until edges are caramelized and steaks have distinct grill marks. Steaks slightly less thick than 1-inch thick should be medium-rare at this point. If serving 1-inch steaks, move to other side of the grill away from the coals. Cover with a vented lid and cook 2 to 3 minutes longer for medium-rare.
Transfer steaks to plates and top each with 3 tablespoons of the sauce. Pass remaining sauce at the table. Makes 2 servings. The sauce recipe will easily serve 8 to 10. Leftover sauce will keep for weeks in the refrigerator.
INDIAN CHICKEN KABOBS WITH MANGO-MINT RELISH
• 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
• 1 tsp. curry powder
• 1 tsp. garam masala
• 1 (8-oz.) container plain yogurt
• 1 mango, peeled and cubed
• 3 tbsp. chopped fresh mint
• 1/4 cup diced sweet onion
• 1 tbsp. olive oil
• Dash of cayenne pepper
Place chicken in a bowl, sprinkle with curry and garam masala and massage spices into meat. Add yogurt and stir well. Cover and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes. Do not marinate longer or the chicken will become mushy.
Meanwhile, make the relish by combining relish ingredients and stirring gently. Cover and refrigerate. Remove chicken from marinade and thread on four skewers, allowing as much yogurt as possible to cling to the meat. Place on a grill sprayed with vegetable oil spray. Cook over medium-hot coals, turning occasionally, until chicken is cooked through, about 7 to 10 minutes. Place skewers on serving plates and top with mango relish. Makes 3 to 4 servings. Recipe may be doubled, tripled or quadrupled.
HELP U COOK
A patch of black raspberries behind the barn went crazy after Tony cut down two old, dead pine trees that had been shading the canes. I hacked through briars and weeds to an inner sanctum of ripe berries and slithered back out with a quart of the beauties. The next day I harvested almost as many.
If you have a berry patch or plan to take advantage of the great deals on raspberries right now in stores, treat the fruit gingerly because they’re fragile and perishable. They will keep no more than a day or so in the refrigerator.
Don’t wash the berries until you’re ready to use or pack for freezing. Instead of rinsing them in a colander, which may bruise or rip apart the berries, float them in a big bowl of cool water. Swish gently, picking out bits of grass and stems.
For freezing I toss the berries with sugar or Splenda (about 2 tablespoons per quart) and scoop (gently!) into quart-size zipper-lock freezer bags. Voila – summer on ice.
From Mary, Rocky River:
Thanks for the tip that Popsicle molds can be found at T.J. Maxx. Here are a few raw recipes from www.rawtrainer.com. She (Marisa Dicenso-Pelser) owns a Pilates studio in Strongsville and is my guru for delicious raw recipes. Enjoy!
SUPER EASY STRAWBERRY POPSICLES
• 2 quarts local strawberries with the green tops
• 1 banana for creamy texture
• 1/4 cup maple syrup (optional)
Blend all the ingredients in a high-speed blender. Pour into ice-pop molds and freeze for at least 4 hours.
ORANGE DREAMSICLE SMOOTHIE/POPSICLES
• 1 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
• 1 or more large carrots
• 1 cup coconut milk
• 2 bananas, frozen
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract
• 1 tbsp. maple syrup
Blend ingredients in a high-speed blender. Enjoy as a smoothie or pour into ice-pop molds and freeze for at least 6 hours.
Dear Mary: Interesting. The banana in the first recipe serves as a texturizer to prevent the mixture from freezing rock-solid. Raw-food fans can find more recipes on Marisa’s blog. FYI, I bought the last (only?) set of ice-pop molds at the T.J. Maxx where I shop, so don’t count on your store having them.
From Carol B., Cuyahoga Falls:
I bought some garlic scapes at a farmers’ market, but they are curled, tough, and very strong in taste. Is there anything I can do with them? The strong taste doesn’t bother me.
Dear Carol: Scapes toughen as the pod at the tip matures. Usually the scapes straighten when this happens, but you say your scapes are still curled. Maybe they’re just dry. See if soaking them in warm water followed by a quick stir fry softens them. I don’t recommend longer cooking because that also can toughen scapes.
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