Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Independence Day, Southern Hemisphere Style (7 July 2007)

Another oldie but goodie. This post chronicles a memorable Fourth Feast that we had a couple of years ago, and highlights how really great a simple, seasonal, no-frills meal can be. As we celebrate the first day of Autumn with 88 degree temps here in Central Florida, it's nice to know that, if we wanted to, we could make this meal today and it would be just as delicious - and appropriate - as it was in July.

One note: I make a reference or two to Pampered Chef. At the time, I was a consultant with Pampered Chef; I'm not anymore. Great company with some great products (although I can now admit that some of them are just, you know, silly.) I didn't want to alter the posts in anyway, so I'm leaving the references. Any quality garlic press will get the job done, but I can attest that we use our PC one practically daily, and wash it in the dishwasher, and it continues to be a great products after 3 years.

This week's entry - July 4th! We wanted simple, simple, simple. If you know us, then you know that we are all about simplifying - especially during the hot - REALLY hot - days of Florida summers. We often lose our way while planning meals, though, and end up wearing ourselves out. But this time, we really managed to reign ourselves in.

The best way to eat well and to eat cheaply (it's surprising how often these two goals can converge) is to eat what is in season. This time of year, that certainly means raiding the garden! (Or, if like me, you don't have a single green digit, it means raiding the grocery store or market.)
We decided on a very simple menu - caipirinhas, grilled ribeyes with chimmichurri, potato salad, white bean salad. For dessert, peach buttermilk sherbet.

Jeremiah had a taste for steak on the grill, and because of the holiday, we found all kinds of options on sale. We chose boneless ribeyes, which are flavorful because of good marbleing, versatile, and won't break the bank. Another bonus - there were 4 of us, but since we are not linebackers, we decided to eat smaller portions, and split 3 steaks among the 4 of us - another $$$ saver (I mean, who needs a side of beef in these hot temps anyway?!) With the steaks, Jeremiah opted for a chimmichurri sauce, a piquant vinaigrette that includes lots of vinegar, parsley, and garlic, and a little red pepper just to give it a pop. If you are a die hard A-1 fan, PLEASE branch out and try this - holler if you'd like the recipe.

To round out the meal, we wanted, for the most part, to leave the oven off - turning it on this time of year makes it that much harder to keep the house comfortable. My mom made a very delicious, very traditional potato salad - I swear, this woman makes the best potato salad in the world...you can't imagine that it could be so much better, but somehow, it is. I made a white bean salad that we've had a few times, and we love it. So simple - canned cannellini beans, fresh basil, fresh tomatoes, s&p. Heat 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil over a medium flame, add 3 pressed garlic cloves (yes, I used the Pampered Chef garlic press, and yes, you need one if you like garlic), and gently let the garlic steep for 2-3 minutes, being careful NOT to let it brown (that would be icky.) Pour over the salad and toss. Can be left at room temperature for up to 4 hours. Jeremiah likes it cold; I like it room temp or slightly warm. DIVINE - and healthy! (By the way, we got the recipe from Martha Stewart Living, but we're kicking ourselves for not thinking of it first.) I love this recipe so much, that I'm making it for my PC shows in July and August.

You can't imagine how well everything went together - especially the potato salad and the steaks with the chimmichurri. The creaminess of the salad was the perfect foil to the vinegary-peppery sauce, which cut through the richness nicely.

Normally we would have a nice red wine with grilled steak, but this time of year, I find red wine hard to drink - it seems so heavy in the heat. So instead, we decided to try a cocktail that we had heard of - the Brazilian caipirinha. Caipirinhas are traditionally made with a cane liquor called cachaca, but in the spirit of the theme - keep it SIMPLE - we used what we had, which was rum. (We plan to find cachaca one of these days, because I am all about the authenticity of recipes.) The drinks were awesome - raw sugar muddled with limes, topped with rum and ice. Add some mint and some club soda and POOF! You'd have a mojito. But that's another entry. The caipirinhas definitely get a thumbs up in our household. We have a variation that we want to try with tangerine and ginger - I'll keep you posted.

Dessert - again, simple. I wanted to make cookies, or a sauce, or something! - but we stuck with a peach buttermilk sherbet recipe, again from Martha Stewart. We were concerned that we wouldn't find good peaches, having heard that this year's crop was all but decimated by bad weather conditions, but we found some great Georgia peaches, and offered our sincere thanks to God (I swear, peaches and white corn will be in Heaven - no doubt.) I lightened the recipe by using lowfat milk in place of whole milk with great results.

So there you have it! No amuse bouche, no fussing with cornsilk, no red white and blue cakes...but a memorable meal that made us thankful for our independence and summertime. And that's really what it's all about, right?

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