There they are. Like always. Pots of red, white and blue petunias and geraniums. A thoughtfully placed flag off to one side. They are the first thing I notice. The first thing I look for because isn’t that what holidays are for? The expected. The traditions. The counted on. The nostalgic.
The same gathering of aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, grandparents, old family friends and exhausted, bleary-eyed mothers and fathers. The same annual volleyball tournament that always starts out so benignly and ends up with small children running for their lives and not a single adult admitting to his competitive nature. The same water fights that somehow bring out the eldest children’s apparent knowledge of guerrilla warfare tactics. The same passing stage of younger ones trying out “forbidden language” while hiding under an old dollhouse. “Hi, Mr. Poopyhead.” “Hiya, Mr. Poopyhead.” A burst of giggles and then, once they’ve been found out, a rush of whispers, “I hope she doesn’t tell my Mom.” The same testosterone driven fireworks display between neighbors. Whose is the biggest? Whose flies up the longest? Whose makes the biggest “boom”? Followed up by the strutting of the 10-year old who has graduated into a bona-fide pyrotechnic. Finally being allowed to light more than just a sparkler.
And then, there’s the food. Oh, the food. The food we count on every year. The same food we request every year. My mother’s incredible, not-too “saucey” potato salad. The one which no Fourth of July would be complete without. My father’s masterful grilling skills. Hamburgers. Hot dogs. The cheerful little platter of deviled eggs that disappear as quickly as a shallow bowl of oysters on ice….if you like oysters that is. Wait a minute. Come to think of it, where were the deviled eggs this year?! The familiar spinach dip in a bread bowl. The homemade guacamole. Bowls of cherries, grapes and watermelon. The chocolate chip cookies. The apple pie. The lemon bars. And then, there’s always one who has to monkey with the menu. The vegetable pusher. The one who views holidays not only as a time for the tried and true but also a time to try something new. The one who insisted on making not one but two vegetable dishes when clearly, we already had more food than we could eat. And so she blanched her asparagus. Her green beans. She minced up her homegrown herbs. (The only thing the slugs haven’t eaten.) She whisked together her dressings and she added her dishes to the buffet.
And so we sat. Outside. All together. Eating. In our winter parkas. And, we complained about how much food we had. “Oh, I can’t possibly eat all of this.” And, we looked out across the Puget Sound. At the ferries gliding across the water. And, we listened to the patriotic bagpipe music in the background. And we talked about this and that. Something funny the kids had done. Our aches and pains. And we ate the familiar (and not-so-familiar) food and with eat bite of creamy potato salad, we celebrated the start of summer. Being together. And, the Fourth of July.
Medley of Summer Salads
So today I give you not one, but two recipes. Love both of these. One was new to our 4th of July buffet last year and the other was brand spankin’ new. Both received rave reviews, although, truth be told, the second salad definitely seemed to hit a chord with the women in the group a bit more than the men. A chick salad, perhaps? Head on out to your local produce stand and make these up. You won’t be disappointed.
Green Bean Summer Salad
Adapted from Sunset, June 2009
2 lbs green beans, cut into 2 inch pieces
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
3 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup each, minced fresh basil, chives and cilantro
1 cup thinly sliced red onion
3/4 cup toasted pine nuts (optional)
1/2 cup feta cheese crumbled (optional)
1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper (or to your liking)
Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Carefully, drop in your green beans and cook for 2-3 minutes or until your green beans are slightly softened. Drain your green beans and rinse with cold water until cool to the touch.
In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, mustard, oil and herbs. Add green beans, onion, pine nuts, feta, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Best served at room temperature. Delicious the next day for breakfast alongside some scrambled eggs and toast.
Cherry Tomato and Asparagus
Adapted from Sunset, June 2010
1 lb asparagus, trimmed and cut into thirds
3 cups halved cherry tomatoes (6 c in original recipe)
1/2 cup gorgonzola cheese
1 ripe avocado, cut into cubes
1/2 cup sliced basil leaves (1 c in original recipe)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp each kosher salt and pepper
Boil asparagus in a large pot of salted water for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.
In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper.
In a large bowl, combine your asparagus, tomatoes, cheese, avocado and basil. Gently stir in your dressing to coat your vegetables evenly. Then, eat up. This colorful little number is best eaten soon after making. Not so good for breakfast the next day. Chicks dig it.
All original text and photographs copyright: Carrie Minns 2009-2010