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Fun food for the Fourth. July 2, 2010

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes.
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Silence Dogood here. The Fourth of July is coming, and that means picnics, grilling, food, and plenty of it! Do you know what you’re going to make? Potato salad, egg salad, deviled eggs, coleslaw? Maybe some pimiento cheese spread, refreshing gazpacho, or a big salad? How about a yummy summer squash casserole or crock of mac’n’cheese or a big vat of quick, crunchy hot-sweet refrigerator pickles?

Over the years we’ve been writing Poor Richard’s Almanac, I’ve posted a wealth of summertime recipes. We love them, and I think you will, too. So I’m going to do a post roundup here so you can find them. Just search the post title in our search bar at upper right. (Mind you, as I discovered, even if you type in the exact title, you may hit a few other posts before you get to the right one. But no worries—you can read the other posts and find even more great recipes, or just skip down to the one you’re looking for.)

I couldn’t decided how to organize this post—by type of food, or by post title with recipes listed for each post—so I’m going to do it both ways. That way, you can check out a post’s contents and see which ones appeal most to you, or look for a food (such as deviled eggs) and then see which posts have recipes for it. Either way, enjoy!

Let’s start with the posts themselves:

Perfect picnic fare: Silence’s Refrigerator Pickles, Caprese Salad, Quick Coleslaw, Deviled Blue Cheese Eggs

Time for potato salad: Mr. Hays’s Baked Potato Salad, Penn State’s American Flag Potato Salad, Janice Lichtenwalner Wetzel’s Favorite Potato Salad, Betty Lichtenwalner’s German Potato Salad, Mama Dip’s Southern-Style Potato Salad, Indian Potato Salad a la Silence

Silence makes coleslaw: Silence’s Green and Gold Slaw, Coleslaw with Cilantro and Scallions

Some eggcellent picnic fare: Silence’s Bedeviled Eggs, Delilah’s Egg Salad, Chard Quiche, Potato and Sugar Snap Salad, Veggies and Dips

Painless pickles, potato salad, and pimiento cheese spread: Mr. Hays’s Baked Potato Salad, Alice’s Primo Pimiento Cheese Spread, Silence’s Hot Sweet Refrigerator Pickles

Some celebratory salads: Silence’s Red, White and Blue Salad, Silence’s Simple Greek Salad, ‘Mater Madness

Super summer squash recipes: Silence’s Super Squash Casserole

The ultimate mac’n’cheese: Delilah’s Crock-Pot Macaroni and Cheese

A gazpacho rainbow: Silence’s Think Pink Gazpacho, White Gazpacho, Southwestern Yellow Gazpacho, Green Tomatillo Gazpacho, Red Garden Gazpacho, Red Bread Gazpacho with Avocado Salsa

Okay, let’s start again and list ’em by category:

Potato salad: Time for potato salad; Painless pickles, potato salad, and pimiento cheese spread; Some eggcellent picnic fare

Deviled eggs: Perfect picnic fare; Some eggcellent picnic fare

Coleslaw: Perfect picnic fare; Silence makes coleslaw

Egg salad: Some eggcellent picnic fare

Veggies and dips: Some eggcellent picnic fare

Pimiento cheese: Painless pickles, potato salad, and pimiento cheese spread 

Refrigerator pickles: Perfect picnic fare; Painless pickles, potato salad, and pimiento cheese spread

Salads (other than coleslaw and potato and egg salad): Perfect picnic fare; Some celebratory salads

Summer squash casserole: Super summer squash recipes

Macaroni and cheese: The ultimate mac’n’cheese

Gazpacho: A gazpacho rainbow

You’ll find a few recipe repeats as you look through these posts, since some recipes are so good and so appropriate I wanted to make sure they were available during picnic season. I know you’re going to love them! And please, share your Fourth of July favorites with us.

             ‘Til next time,

                         Silence

Perfect picnic fare. July 25, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. It’s summer, and that means picnics. Our friend Ben and I were invited to a picnic last night, and we’ve received a few hints that our friend Fritzjambo is in the vicinity and may spring another picnic on us tonight. Obviously, you don’t want to show up at a picnic empty-handed, even if you don’t know it’s happening ’til the last minute. And if you’re like me, you don’t want to show up with some hastily-purchased bags of chips and dip, either (though that’s not the worst option now that more groceries are carrying fresh salsa). So what do you bring?  

In a case like this, I like to have plenty of options, especially since I’m a vegetarian and don’t want to be confronted with a grill full of burgers and hot dogs, baked beans with pork, and the like. (“Well, you could just eat a bun… “) But even if you know there’ll be plenty to eat, you can always add a few distinctive contributions to the celebration.

In summer, I love to make refrigerator pickles, which are easy, have a ton of crunch, and are spicy/sweet/salty, which is to say, perfect! I always have some in the fridge, so they’re ready to snack on or grab to take along to a picnic or other gathering.

                 Silence’s Refrigerator Pickles

3 large to 8 small slender cukes, sliced

1 cup sugar

1 cup cider vinegar

2 tablespoons salt

1 tablespoon black mustardseeds

1 tablespoon gound turmeric

1 tablespoon whole cloves

1 large sweet onion, or more to taste, diced

dash hot sauce, such as Tabasco Chipotle or Pickapeppa, or more to taste

Combine vinegar and sugar and heat until sugar dissolves. Add salt, spices and hot sauce. Turn off heat and allow the brine to cool to lukewarm.

Meanwhile, slice cukes. Layer cukes and onions alternately in a glass or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid. Pour lukewarm brine over the cukes and onions, then attach the lid and refrigerate. Shake container every day to make sure brine is saturating pickles. The pickles will be ready to eat in three to five days, but the spiciness will increase over time, if you can resist eating them. The onions are great in sandwiches or on salads. 

I also like putting together a huge, gorgeous tossed salad with summer’s bounty, and taking it along with a dressing or two (such as Greek and honey mustard or ranch). Or a fabulous Caprese salad, which is quick to make and incredibly good.

Caprese salad: Layer a large platter two or three leaves deep with Romaine or butter (Boston) lettuce leaves. Slice several large vine-ripe tomatoes, then halve each slice. You’ll get the most fabulous presentation if you can alternate red, yellow, black, and/or green ripse tomatoes (such as ‘Zebra’), but it will still look and taste great if you just use red. Slice a ball or two of fresh mozzarella, then halve each slice. Make concentric circles on the platter of alternating half-slices of tomato, fresh mozzarella, and large whole fresh basil leaves, until the entire platter is covered. Chop two or three scallions (green onions) and sprinkle them over the platter. Drizzle on extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle on salt (we like Real Salt). Cut into pizza-style wedges and serve.  

Of course, no picnic’s complete without coleslaw. I gave you two unusual homemade coleslaw recipes in my earlier post, “Silence makes coleslaw,” but what if you’re rushed and don’t have time to make from-scratch slaw? No need to panic.

Quick coleslaw: Buy a bag of ready-made coleslaw (shredded cabbage and carrots, not a dressed slaw) and a bag of shredded carrots at the store. If your store sells pre-chopped sweet onion, get that as well. Stir half the bag of carrots into the slaw along with three tablespoons of the chopped onion. Then mix in 1/2 to  2/3 of a bottle of chunky blue cheese dressing. (If you hate blue cheese, you can use a pepper ranch or cheese ranch dressing instead.) Your goal is to coat the ingredients, not drown them, so start with 1/2 bottle and work up from there. Cover and chill until picnic time. People aways ask if they can take home what hasn’t been polished off!

Deviled eggs are also indispensable at picnics, at least as far as we’re concerned. This is one reason why I like to have a half-dozen hardboiled eggs in the fridge at all times; they’re instantly available for slicing on tossed salads, but they’re also there should a picnic and/or the concept of deviled eggs come up. I have my standard go-to recipe, which involves mashing the yolks with mayonnaise, mustard, and horseradish before stuffing them back in the halves and dusting them with paprika. But recently, I stumbled upon a marvelously different version. Of course, I had to modify it:

                   Deviled Blue Cheese Eggs

6 hardboiled eggs

3 tablespoons blue cheese (can use feta instead)

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoons chutney (sweet or hot to taste) 

2 tablespoons chopped pecans

2 tablespoons finely chopped yellow, orange, or red bell pepper

2 tablespoons finely chopped sweet onion (such as Vidalia or WallaWalla)

salt to taste

sweet or hot paprika (for blue cheese filling) or cinnamon or garam masala (for feta)

Mash yolks and add all other ingredients (except paprika, cinnamon, or garam masala), mixing well. Fill eggwhite halves with yolk mixture, then top with spice of your choice or top different halves with different spices, as you please. Chill and serve. You can multiply the proportions to match how much your gathering loves deviled eggs; we find that two whole eggs (four filled halves) per person is about right.

What else to bring? Our friend Ben and I always like to bring crusty baguettes with softened butter and one or more cheeses. Yum! A mix of marinated artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, and cubes of feta cheese is also incredibly delicious, with the bread and cheese or as a topping for a tossed salad. This also makes a great topping for tomato slices or quartered bell peppers, and a delicious filling for rolled radicchio or endive leaves.

If we know our hosts will have a grill going, we’ll bring portabella mushrooms and pesto. Corn on the cob with browned butter and salt is hard to beat, too, whether the corn is grilled or boiled. How about grilled cantaloupe or pineapple slices for dessert, with a splash of fresh-squeezed lime juice from your own greenhouse-grown fruits?

Okay, maybe I’m getting carried away. But none of this is impossible. And as OFB reminds me, those homegrown limes make a mean margarita, too.

            ‘Til next time,

                        Silence

Painless pickles, potato salad, and pimiento cheese spread June 26, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, recipes.
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3 comments

Silence Dogood here. With the Fourth of July almost upon us, it’s time to get serious about some easy, yummy summertime fare you can take along on picnics or serve at barbecues and deck or patio parties. Today’s recipes are all great with sandwiches, too (or in the case of the pimiento cheese spread, on sandwiches). Yum—just thinking about them is making me hungry! Don’t forget to check out my earlier post, “Some eggcellent picnic fare,” for deviled eggs and more great hot-weather favorites.

Our friend Ben and I love pickles. We love big, garlicky Kosher pickles, tiny crunchy-sweet cornichons, bread-and-butter slices—you name it, we love it. After my father gave us a jar of hot-sweet pickles from a specialty food company in Nashville, we fell in love with them and I (of course) developed my own recipe for this fabulous treat. Hot-sweet pickles are still our favorites, but, thanks to my ingenious friend Delilah of Crock-Pot mac’n’cheese fame, I’ve developed a much easier way to make them.

Before we tasted Delilah’s refrigerator pickles, our experience with refrigerator pickles had been a total disappointment. Limp and flavorless, these so-called pickles tasted more like sliced salad cukes that had sat too long in the fridge. Yuck!!! But Delilah’s were crunchy and flavorful. I asked for her secret, then went home and worked out a sweet-hot recipe for refrigerator pickles that are bursting with flavor and crunch. Let me tell you, these sweet hotties are picklelicious!!! If you can keep any around long enough, the flavor just gets better over time, and they stay crunchy for months. And there’s no standing over a hot stove with canning jars. We keep several large containers in our fridge all summer so we can enjoy them ourselves with sandwiches and appetizers, and have plenty on hand when guests come over or to take to the Friday Night Supper Club. (See my post “The Friday Night Supper Club” for more on this great idea.) Even if we set out a whole vat, there are never any survivors! Needless to say, a container of these makes a great gift, too.

              Silence’s Hot-Sweet Refrigerator Pickles

5-6 slender cukes, sliced (any kind will taste fine, but please, no waxed skins) 

1 cup sugar

1 cup cider vinegar

2 tablespoons salt (any kind is fine, no need to get pickling salt)

1 tablespoon black mustardseed

1 tablespoon turmeric

1 tablespoon whole cloves

1 large sweet onion (Vidalia, WallaWalla, or Candy type), or more to taste, diced

dash hot sauce, such as Tobasco Chipotle or Pickapeppa

Combine vinegar and sugar and heat until sugar dissolves; add salt, spices, and hot sauce. Layer sliced cukes and onions in alternate layers in a glass or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid. When the brine (the vinegar mix) is lukewarm, pour it over the cukes and onions, then close the lid and refrigerate. Shake container gently every day to make sure brine is saturating top layers. You can begin eating the pickles after 3 to 5 days; the flavor gets stronger over time. The pickled onions can be eaten as is, and they’re great as a sandwich relish and in salads, too. You can add more fresh cukes and onions as you eat the first batch, but make sure you put them at the bottom of the container with the older pickles on top. Check the brine to make sure it’s still flavorful, adding more salt, turmeric, and other spices as needed. I’ve found that the brine can be reused about three times before you need to pour it out and start over. (Note: This brine is cloudy, not clear like a canned pickle brine, which is why we use opaque plastic storage containers for our refrigerator pickles rather than glass.) So easy and so incredibly good!!! People can’t keep their hands off them. 

We prefer hot potato salads, but we were won over by this one when visiting family in Greensboro, North Carolina, where the family patriarch—a great chef at age 89—had whipped up a batch for us. Despite the huge quantity, it was gone after lunch the next day. Nobody seemed able to resist seconds, and some people (ahem) disappeared into the kitchen and returned with thirds. We think it will become your family’s new favorite, too. Mr. Hays makes it with baking potatoes, and interestingly, it works! (I gave this recipe in a post back in March, “Potatoes for planting and eating,” but thought it would be easier to reprint it here than make you all head off to yet another previous post.) 

              Mr. Hays’s “Baked Potato” Salad

3 pounds russet potatoes

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste (plus 1 teaspoon for cooking)

1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground pepper, or to taste

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

4 large eggs, hard-boiled, peeled, and diced

1 cup diced red bell pepper

1 cup thinly sliced celery (about 1 large stalk)

1 cup diced sweet onion (WallaWalla, Vidalia, or Candy type, about 1 medium onion)

1/4 cup each diced sweet and dill pickles (try my hot-sweet refrigerator pickles for the sweet pickles for a real taste sensation!)

3/4 cup mayonnaise

Fill a large saucepan with cold water. Add the potatoes and 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork, about 25-30 minutes. Drain the potatoes and gently rub off the skins, using a paper towel, while still warm. (If using a thin-skinned potato such as ‘Yukon Gold’, we leave the skins on.) Chop the potatoes into 1-inch pieces and toss with the cider vinegar, parsley, salt, and pepper. Stir in the red bell pepper, celery, onion, and pickles. Fold in the eggs and mayonnaise. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. Mr. Hays says this recipe serves 10, but given the quantities that were disappearing in front of our eyes, I’d be a little skeptical about that!

My father’s girlfriend Alice has perfected pimiento cheese spread. I’d always avoided this particular food, having had some really horrific encounters with various forms of it as a child (ooh, it was bad, nasty stuff). But Father loves Alice’s pimiento spread, and not being raised by wolves, when it was presented during one of our visits, we of course tried it—and could see his point. This stuff is easy, and yes, it is good. On crackers, as a stuffing for celery or dip for veggies, on a sandwich with toasted multigrain bread, crunchy Romaine lettuce, and red bell pepper rings or a slice of beefsteak tomato, it is positively addictive. Try it and see for yourself!  

              Alice’s Primo Pimiento Cheese Spread

Large piece of sharp yellow Cheddar, grated (or equivalent pre-shredded)

Smaller piece of medium-sharp white Cheddar, grated (or equivalent pre-shredded)

Small jar chopped pimiento, half-drained

Hellman’s mayonnaise

3 drops Tabasco, or to taste

Ground cayenne, paprika, or black pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon sour cream

Mix all ingredients in a food processor, adding enough Hellman’s mayonnaise to make a thick but spreadable dip or spread.

We, of course, use our favorite hot sauce, Pickapeppa, with a liberal hand, skip the additional pepper, add salt, and whisk it all together instead of processing it (we’re Luddites, after all; food processors scare us). This means you’d get a more textured spread or dip; Alice’s is smoother. But I’ll guarantee that whichever way you make it, you’re going to love it. It keeps well, covered, in the fridge, too.

Happy eating!

              ‘Til next time,

                         Silence