We have only recently come through the longest winter in the history of human occupation of the Midwest. (I am not kidding. My birthday is mid-May and I wore a leather coat and boots to go out to celebrate — and I was still cold. There was frost on the ground the three days later. Utterly depressing.)
Then BAM, summer hit us out of the blue. Gorgeous weather. Green everywhere. Clear skies and SUN! (And freckles — eye roll.)
The grills come out and – finally – the season of outdoor entertaining fires up!
I make guacamole and hummus for just about every outdoor-type party — at my house or elsewhere. I know, not particularly cutting-edge nouveau food ideas here. But they are crowd-pleasers — AND all-natural and veggie-rific. And if we’re grilling anything pork (ribs, chops, tenderloin) or making pulled pork, you gotta have coleslaw. Here’s a delicious coleslaw recipe — you will never eat gloppy pre-made coleslaw again.
The key thing, I think, is to use the smaller organic avacados. Those giant, commercial ones taste too bland. Nice ripe ones, of course. Push your thumb in near the top and if it gives some — good to go. (Don’t even bother to make it if the avacados aren’t ripe; or it they are too ripe with black spots in the flesh — you will just be frustrated — believe me, I have tried to fake it and it just doesn’t work.)
- 4 ripe avacados
- a teeny bit of finely minced onion
- half of a small clove of garlic, minced (or I often just use some garlic powder — I don’t like it very garlic-y)
- salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper
- a few squeezes of lime juice
- chopped tomato and fresh cilantro for garnish
I use a serrated tomato knife to cut the avacado in half and pop out the seed. Then scoop out the flesh in spoonfuls. Mash the avacado and the onion and garlic with the back of a fork. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder (if you didn’t use fresh garlic), 4-6 dashes of Tabasco, and lime juice. Stir to blend. Taste and season more if needed. Then top with tomato and fresh cilantro. Serve with veggies and chips.
I really like this recipe from 100 Days of Real Food. But if I can find plain hummus without weird preservatives — not an easy task, but it’s out there — I will just buy it and then dress it up as follows.
Top the hummus with a couple of Tbsp of chopped feta, a sprinkle of crushed dried oregano, a few grinds of black pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, a couple squeezes of lemon juice, and a sprinkling of chopped fresh flat leaf parsley. Serve with veggies, crackers, etc.
Here’s a shot of the much-used, very food-splatterd “Summer Grilling” issue of Cook’s Illustrated. To be honest, I have a love/hate relationship with this establishment. I love it because I always, always find some really great recipe or piece of cooking advice or equipment recommendation. But I hate it because there is just TOO much information in each issue and I can never remember where I read what. And their website annoyingly only allows you full access if you have a paid subscription. (Which I GET — I was/am a librarian for godsake — their information is really good and extensively tested by cooking professionals. Really good information generally isn’t free, and good professionals don’t work for free. BUT, I am also a spoiled American consumer who expects to get most information — especially things like recipes that I can find on about 75,000 other sites — right away and for free. So I admire them and want to be supportive, but mostly when I visit their website or read one of their issues, I feel vaguely … well … annoyed.)
That said, this magazine has some great recipes! Check it out!
Here’s the much-used coleslaw recipe. If you can’t read the tiny print, I will summarize. To keep the coleslaw from getting all runny, you shred the veggies and salt them and let some of the moisture drain out. I use the shredder attachment on the Cuisinart (™). Shred one head of green cabbage, cored; a couple of peeled carrots; a quarter of a small onion. Place the shredded veggies in a colander lined with paper towels (this isn’t part of the recipe, but I started doing it because it’s a pain to scoop little shredded bits of veg out the colander) and generously salt them; set the colander over a large bowl and let it drain for maybe an hour — I usually get about 2 T of liquid in the bowl.
Dump the shredded veggies into a big bowl. (The CI recipe says to rinse them again; but I don’t bother — I just don’t add any extra salt.)
I Real-Fooded up the CI recipe a bit, this way:
- 1/2 C mayonnaise (I use very little bottled stuff, but this Spectrum Organics Mayo is made with organic ingredients and no preservatives, and it tastes great — someday I’ll get around to learning how to make my own mayonnaise, just not anytime soon)
- 4T Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
- 3t white vinegar
- 2t honey
- lots of fresh ground black pepper
Fold all together; adjust seasoning — I seem to usually end up adding a bit more vinegar and mayo. Let sit covered in fridge for at least an hour. Even better if you make it a day ahead and give it a good stir before serving.
Yay outdoor party time!