Tuesday, July 19, 2016

My favorite summer salad, from Nice

Days after 9/11, the fish husband and I were in the south of France, and little local fire and police stations were all holding blood drives for the people of New York. It was incredibly touching, and it made me quite angry when we were told by our government that the French were no longer our friends and we had to change the name of French fries and French toast. Spare me. These people were lining up to give us their blood.
     Now the events this past week in Nice reminded me of that experience, so I looked for ways to help and found this recommended web site: http://www.giveforfrance.org/en, with the added suggestion of a donation to the French Red Cross. I made a donation, and then I made a Salade Nicoise.
     This wonderful summer salad is great for summer entertaining, because you can make it all ahead of time, and because most of the ingredients come from your local farmer's market, just like they do in France. The recipe is on our web site http://www.burhopsseafood.com/swordfish--mahi-mahi--tuna.html.  I cheat a little, so that I don't leave so much cleaning up to do -- I boil the potatoes in a pan that's large enough to allow me to drop in the eggs to hard boil after the potatoes cook for 15 minutes, then a couple of minutes later I drop in the green beans to cook. Potatoes total cooking time is about 20-25 minutes, eggs 8 minutes, beans 6 minutes.
 I grill the tuna for about 3 minutes total -- 1/2 lb. of tuna is enough for a salad to feed 4 to 6 people. As you can see from the photo, we like our tuna on the rare side. (The potatoes are under the tuna. I use small round multi-color ones.)
     A few weeks ago we had the pleasure of dining with friends at Ravinia, where I ordered a Salade Nicoise, and it contained no potatoes, only a ton of chopped lettuce and some canned tuna. There were a few olives and a couple of beans, but it's supposed to be a potato salad! A really good one.
     The French are obsessive about their food, and the result is some of the best food anywhere in the world. They are also basically very nice people. It makes my heart ache to think of the terrible events of Bastile Day in Nice, and how terrified everyone must have been. My Salade Nicoise is a very small way of honoring them. The city of Nice and all of France is in my heart, they have suffered some horrible attacks in the past year, by a group of people who would have us believe that killing innocent strangers will somehow make us sympathetic to their cause. It's not working.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Friends, Fish, Summer Entertaining

I love entertaining in the summer, because I can get so much great produce from the farmer's market, and because I can cook the main course outside on the grill, leaving a lot less to clean up. Here's my recipe for a great summer dinner party:
1) Put together a menu that won't require you to be in the kitchen cooking instead of enjoying a glass of wine with your guests.
2) Set up a beverage bar/table, with multiple choices - wines, beer, non-alcoholic choices (ice tea, lemonade, juice, soda etc., glasses and an ice bucket. We like to start with a sparkling wine, even if we're in shorts - it's just more festive.
3) Start with some easy finger foods - cocktail shrimp, spreads and crackers, baby carrots, fresh salsa and chips - all easy to eat, easy to serve. People can just help themselves.
4) Make your side dishes ahead - for a green salad, wash and drain your lettuce and put it back in the fridge. When I put the salad together, just before serving, I add fresh chopped herbs from the garden, usually some avocado and a sprinkling of fresh berries. Herb roasted potatoes, rice pilaf dishes or cous cous make great summer sides, and you can buy them already made from us or make your own and refrigerate the night before. Bring to room temp before serving, or if appropriate, warm up in the oven, not the microwave.
5) If possible, spend some time outside -- we do drinks and appetizers on the deck, then move inside for dinner when the mosquitoes come out.
6) Fish as a main course cooks really quickly - I've recently done shrimp kebabs (marinated the shrimp in a garlic basil marinade) and fresh wild salmon, grilled and then brushed with some of our Mustard Green pesto.  We LOVE our Weber gas grill - turning it on is so much easier than making a charcoal fire, and you can control the temperature. If guests are sitting outside, you can carry on talking to them while you cook. Other entree ideas include any of our kebabs, any of our fish fillets or steaks that are suitable for grilling, salmon burgers or crab cakes. You can also do a lobster or fish boil out on the grill - you just need a really big pot. We have recipes on our web site, www.burhopsseafood.com.
7) Keep dessert light -- our Key Lime pie is great, but I also often just do something like cookies and fresh fruit, or a little later in the summer, my fresh peach cake (made with buttermilk) which I make the morning of the party, after I get the peaches from the market. I serve it warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt.
8) Put fresh flowers on the table, and use real plates and utensils and cloth napkins - unless you're eating outside in a park somewhere, there is no need for disposables. You're just creating more garbage when you throw away all your plates, napkins and utensil. Plus it's a lot nicer to eat off of a real plate. I have a ton of cloth napkins in many colors, I get them on sale, and they make your table look nicer and your guests feel more special.
9) Invite compatible people - it's rarely fun to have people with wildly varying political or religious views sitting across the table. Unless, of course, you're Bill Maher and your dinner theme is politically incorrect.
10) Most important of all - marry a guy who's willing to do the cleaning up. After 38 years, my guy still does the dishes, and I absolutely love him for it.