Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A Diverse 4th

My family has roots in what is now western Poland (Poznan) and eastern Germany (the border was always fluid, ‘cause they constantly invaded, raped, and slaughtered each other over the centuries, moving the border back and forth as necessary), as well as England and Wales on the other side. Our neighbors are first or second generation from Hong Kong, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Mexico, Hungary, Venezuela, France, Malaysia, India, Pakistan, Iran, South Africa, Korea, Egypt, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, Syria, and Argentina. Mixed in with some northern European looking folks whose ancestors likely arrived some generations ago. And those are just the ones nearby we know of. I’m sure there is a lot more diversity just around the corner.

My family and relatives are protestant, in that ‘go to church on Sunday and do what you want to every other day’ sense, and very conservative, until I showed up. All the family dirt hushed up and hidden from view to preserve that Norman Rockwell image. We have neighbors much like that, as well as neighbors who are gay, single parents, starch conservatives, a liberal here and there, careerists, stay-at-homers, Jewish ones, Catholic ones, atheists, Shinto-ists, Buddhists, Hummer-drivers and electric car owners, and who knows what all else. Quite a jumble.

But they’re all neighbors. And we all live together. More or less happily.

Virtually all of us in the US originate from somewhere else. Just like anywhere else in the world, people don’t much seem to like people who are not like them. It’s always been a struggle and it seems like it will continue to be so. Especially in these increasingly hyper-politicized times, where the cry of terrorism has been the catch-all lever to pull to be allowed to do almost anything, whether starting illegal wars, infringing on civil liberties, or generating hysteria about immigration. Making it harder for everyone to live together.

But this is a food blog, not a political one. So we wanted to embrace this diversity a bit this 4th of July, not in an online rant, but in a foodie way. Not in a huge way, but in a somewhat deliberate way. We could have gone vegan to honor the Buddhists, but other than that, I don’t really know how to prepare a conservative or liberal meal, or a catholic or atheist one either. So we went more with geographic diversity.

In that spirit, and in support of this diverse country we live in, we put together a bit of a diversity friendly 4th of July Menu. Elements from Mexico, Asia, Europe, America, maybe even the middle East, mixed and matched.

Fresh Gazpacho Soup with Dijon Crème
Orange and Ginger Marinated Grilled Chicken wrapped in Bacon
Vegetable Kebabs in Basil Vinaigrette
Arugula, Watermelon and Gorgonzola Salad
Hot Corn Tortillas
Mango Lime Mousse with Raspberries

Watermelon seems pretty small town American. Along with grilling in general. The gazpacho soup with the Dijon crème is a sort of Mexican and French fusion. The soy, orange and ginger marinated chicken has roots in Asia, but grilled US style. I guess in a stretch, kebabs have Mid-Eastern roots. Gorgonzola and basil vinaigrette seem Italian. While mango lime mousse seems a fusion France and Asia. We didn’t try to cover all the bases, just to provide a little diversity in the menu.

Because we are a pretty diverse country. And have always been so. Despite our recent behavior and attitudes. And we shouldn’t forget our roots, and the value they have brought us, and continue to bring us.

And aside from the ferocious fire we created in our Weber grill, which practically incinerated some of the veggie kabobs before I could move them, it turned out great! We made most of the food in the morning, when it was still cool, letting it chill and marinate all day. In the evening, just the grilling was left.

The two highlights were without a doubt the Arugula, Watermelon and Gorgonzola salad, and the Mango Lime Mousse. The gazpacho soup was very nice as well, with a nice balance of fresh vegetable flavor, heat from the chili pepper, and spice from the mustard crème.

Marinating the chicken breasts all day left them very moist. The bacon, which pretty much charred away during the hellacious grilling operation, protected the breast nicely, and gave the dog something to enjoy, even if that wasn’t the idea of the dish.

The veggie kabobs would have been great, but my fire was just too much for some of them (hence no real picture of them!). I’m a lot better on the broiler than the grill, is all I can say! None the less, they were good enough.

After dinner, we were able to see quite a few fireworks displays from our roof. More than usual, it seemed to me. Plus, there was a nice cool breeze up there as well. Very calming and refreshing.

It would be fine with me if a cooler, more reasonable breeze would start blowing over this country on a more regular basis.

Gazpacho Soup with Mustard Crème
Recipe by surfindaave
Serves 6 to 8 as appetizer

3 pounds roma tomatoes, peeled
1 zucchini, sliced
½ cucumber (seeds removed), or summer squash, sliced
1 red pepper, seeded and quartered
1 Serrano chili pepper, seeded
3-4 cloves garlic
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
2-3 tbsp olive oil
salt, pepper
2-3 tsp Dijon mustard
2-3 tbsp heavy cream
Cilantro sprigs as garnish, if desired

Add all ingredients except the mustard and cream to a food processor. Pulse until desired consistency is achieved (some like it chunky, some very smooth, I like it in the middle). Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Let gazpacho soup chill for several hours, along with the serving bowls.

Whisk together the mustard and the cream. Spoon some soup into the chilled serving bowls. Put a small spoonful of mustard crème in the center of each bowl. Garnish with a cilantro sprig, if desired. Serve. Enjoy!

Watermelon, Arugula and Pine Nut Salad
Gourmet Magazine, July 2004
Transcribed and adapted by surfindaave

1-2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3-4 cups cubed seedless watermelon, drained (rind discarded)
1 bag (6 cups) baby arugula, rinsed and dried
1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
6 ounces crumbled cheese such as gorgonzola, stilton, feta, etc.

Whick together the lemon juice, vinegar, and salt. Drizzle in the olive oil, whisking until emulsified.

In a large bowl, toss the arugula, 2/3 of the cheese and 2/3 of the pine nuts with the dressing. Place the watermelon on the salad and gently 'massage' it into the salad. Sprinkle the remaining cheese and pine nutes on top. Serve. Enjoy!

We stormed my stack of old cooking mags for the dinner, so the remaining recipes are from older issues of Gourmet magazine. If anyone is interested, I can transcribe some of them.

Orange and Ginger Grilled Chicken with Bacon
Gourmet Magazine, July 1983

Vegetable Kebabs
Gourmet Magazine, July 1983

Mango and lime Mousse with Raspberry Sauce
Gourmet Magazine, July, 1988

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Anonymous Megan said...

Lovely article. Your photos are beautiful, and I can't wait to try the Watermelon-Arugula salad.

7:38 PM  
Blogger surfindaave said...


Thanks! I will add the Watermelon Arugula salad recipe to the text today.

8:56 AM  

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