Friday, July 4, 2008

Independence Day - Just Brilliant

"I'll bet what motivated the British to colonize so much of the world is that they were just looking for a decent meal." ~Martha Harrison

That's amazing insight. The 3-hour final in the "US History 1600 - 1864" class I took in college was to write six or seven blue books to "Discuss the significance of water in American history, 1600 - 1864." This Martha Harrison would've kicked that exam's butt, no question.

Sweetie and I spent the 4th dining at the fancy-schmancy Woodfire Grill with the smartest woman we know, who has devoted her life to developing, testing, and producing an AIDS vaccine (and raising her kids, at which she did a bang-up job). She's great company, which has been the uncompromising hallmark of our holiday celebrations. Woodfire's barbecue was just unbelievable, and the peach-blueberry crisp finished off the meal perfectly. Munching on watermelon with our favorite 7-year-old and her dad (while watching fireworks) rounded out the evening culinarily. And yes, perfectly ripe watermelon fresh off the vine does count as a culinary experience and is in a different class altogether from the pale pink styrofoam cubes found in the supermarket.

The watermelon was a gift. A southwest Georgia farmer with a disability makes a trip to Atlanta every so often, calls our agency and brings us a feast of whatever he just harvested - "I have 75 pounds of peanuts for y'all!" On Thursday, it was 20 watermelons. After taking the train for a while you might think you've pretty much seen humanity-in-transit in all its wonders and varieties. Try taking the train with a 12-pound watermelon in your arms and see if "weird" doesn't go to a whole new level. It does get you a seat, though.

In all seriousness, it's this country for which Rosellina, Giulio, Tressa, and Dominick - my paternal great-grandparents - set arduous sail in the late 1800's and early 1900's. They each wanted a life in which they, and their future children, could succeed without any imposed limits. They farmed, they owned businesses, they openly went to Mass (Catholic church service) and made pizzelles (anise-flavored cookies) at Christmas and they proudly called themselves Americans. It was in the British colony of "America" that my mother's ancestors arrived in the 1600's... to farm, mine coal and own businesses, and to openly go to church and raise their children as they saw fit. And get a decent meal.

In honor of our fireworks-watching, watermelon-seed-spittin', Peachtree-Road-Race-running-or-wheeling, anthem-singing holiday, I offer the most all-American recipes I have that aren't apple pie:

Confetti Burgers
(Weight Watchers, but don't let that throw you - they don't taste diet-y and they're easily the best of a dozen turkey burger recipes that I've tried. That's right, I labored over a hot grill so you don't have to. Some people rid the world of transmissible diseases and I test out recipes. We all have our gifts and none of us got to choose them.)

3/4 pound ground skinless turkey
1/2 yellow squash, finely shredded (I have one grater with one size hole that I use for everything except zest. Whatever size you have is fine.)
1/2 cup cooked whole-grain brown rice
4 sun-dried tomato halves (not packed in oil), diced
1 tsp Italian herb blend (just combine some oregano, basil, and rosemary)
freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the grill to medium-high or prepare a medium-hot fire.
2. Combine the turkey, squash, rice, sun-dried tomatoes, herb blend, and pepper in a bowl, tossing just until mixed. Form the mixture into 4 (3/4-inch-thick) patties.

Either grill or freeze at this point. I usually double the recipe, wrap each uncooked burger in Saran wrap, and throw all the wrapped burgers into a freezer bag. It makes an easy dinner along with a salad.

Boneless Buffalo Wings
from Eating Well magazine
3 TBSP nonfat buttermilk
3 TBSP hot pepper sauce, such as Frank's Red Hot, divided
3 TBSP distilled white vinegar, divided
2 pounds chicken tenders
6 TBSP whole-wheat flour
6 TBSP cornmeal
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 TBSP canola oil, divided 2 cups peeled carrot sticks
2 cups celery sticks
Stinky Cheese Dip (you're on your own for that part)

1. Whisk buttermilk, 2 TBSP hot pepper sauce and 2 TBSP vinegar in a large bowl until combined. Add chicken, toss to coat. Transfer to the refrigerator and let marinate for at least 10 minutes or up to 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
2. Meanwhile, whisk flour and cornmeal in a shallow dish. Whisk the remaining 1 TBSP hot sauce and 1 TBSP vinegar in a small bowl.
3. Remove the chicken from the marinade and roll in the flour mixture until evenly coated. (Discard remaining marinade and flour mixture.) Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with cayenne.
4. Heat 1 TBSP oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the chicken, placing each in a little oil. Cook until golden brown and cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a serving platter. Repeat with the remaining 1 TBSP oil and chicken, reducing the heat if necessary. [Note: make sure you wipe any browned bits out of the skillet; they'll burn and smoke otherwise. From what I've heard....] Transfer to the platter. Drizzle the chicken with the reserved hot sauce mixture. Serve with carrots, celery, and Spicy Stinky Cheese Dip.

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