Thoughts on Independence Day & Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp

Alright now, we know that the 4th of July is a day of parades, cookouts and fireworks. But what about the real story? What’s behind all the hoopla? In case you’ve forgotten your history lessons, the then-colonists, subjects of the King of England declared independence on the 4th of July, 1776. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – that’s what July 4th, Independence Day, is all about.

This declaration did not happen overnight or without warning. Tension over a laundry list of issues had been brewing for years. Taxes were a particularly hot dispute. From documents to tea, the cash strapped British King tried to impose one tax after another on the colonists. Heated protests turned to rebellion before the all-out demand for independence.

Each and every one of the original thirteen colonies were represented when the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia and approved the Declaration of Independence. Hardly wild-eyed rabble-rousers, these congressmen were men of means, educated landowners and professionals. In defiance of the King, Congress pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor in pursuit of freedom and independence. Enough was enough, it was finally time to end the crushing tyranny of British rule.

The Colonists’ political and economic complaints were numerous and grave. Not only were they forced to pay taxes without representation, the courts were hopelessly biased and an army of red coats and mercenaries had invaded their shores. The colonists complained that the King had not only cut off trade with the rest of the world, he had, “plundered our Seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our Towns, and destroyed the Lives of our People.” In addition, they raised an oddly contemporary issue – immigration, stating “He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither …”

And so, the fifty-six signers of the Declaration of Independence renounced any last shreds of allegiance to King and crown. The colonies united into free and independent states. Today, we see it as a heroic declaration of freedom. However, at the time, it was treason. Or, at least, treasonous in the eyes of the British government. It was no small thing when the signers closed with a mutual pledge to stake their lives, fortunes and sacred honor on freedom and independence.

This holiday week, let’s all take a moment to reflect on the freedom fighters who helped create our great American story. Not just the revolutionaries of 1776 but the heroes of the Civil War, World Wars I and II and every conflict in our long history. While you’re at it, don’t forget the champions of the women’s, civil and LGBT rights movements.

A constant work in progress, our American story is far from perfect. Democracy is hard and our great experiment has been known to wobble and waiver occasionally. It will probably continue to do so. Am I alone in thinking that things are particularly wobble-y and waiver-y right now?

So, yes, thank the revolutionaries who laid the foundations for our democracy. Then, let’s ask more of ourselves to help safeguard life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for future generations. Together we can smooth out some of those wobbles and straighten a few more waivers.

Thank you, Happy Independence Day and bon appétit!

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp
A perfect dessert to help celebrate an old fashioned, red hot 4th of July or any early summer party. Enjoy!
8-12 servings

Butter for the pan(s)
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 – 2 pounds rhubarb, washed trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 1/2 – 2 pounds strawberries, washed trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 3 quart baking dish or individual ramekins.

Put the sugar, cornstarch and spices in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the rhubarb, strawberries, orange zest and Grand Marnier and gently toss to combine. Pour the fruit into the baking dish or ramekins and sprinkle with the crumble topping.

Put the pan(s) on a baking sheet to catch any drips and bake until the top is brown and the fruit is bubbly, 45-60 minutes for a large baking dish and 20-30 minutes for ramekins. Serve warm or at room temperate with vanilla ice cream.

Pistachio Crumble Topping
1 cup pistachios
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup quick-cooking oatmeal

Combine the pistachios, flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine and roughly chop the nuts. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse corn meal. Add the oatmeal and pulse until the topping comes together in little lumps.

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One Year Ago – Vietnamese Salad
Two Years Ago – Tomato & Burrata Salad with Grilled Bread
Three Years Ago – Grilled Shrimp & Vegetable Salad
Four Years Ago – Fresh Berries with Creamy Lime Custard
Five Years Ago – Grilled Tomato Crostini
Six Years Ago – Strawberries with Yogurt Cream
Seven Years Ago – Watermelon & Feta Salad
Eight Years Ago – Grilled Salmon with Lemon-Basil Aioli
Nine Years Ago – Mediterranean Shrimp
Ten Years Ago – Grilled Hoisin Pork

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What is (are) your favorite summer fruit(s)/dessert(s)? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2019

 

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Another Hip Hip Hooray Holiday Weekend Special

As I mentioned last week, a midweek holiday can be a bit awkward. Do the celebrations start the weekend before the Fourth of July? Or do you start on the Fourth and keep celebrating through the weekend? The best solution is to take the entire week and do it proud.

With all this warm weather, a picnic or cookout is a happy holiday must. Need some help with your menu? Not to worry, I have a few suggestions …

For a light and bright appetizer, your friends will love my Rosemary Cashews and
Tapenade with crispy slices of cucumber and red bell pepper.

Now, gather around the picnic table and enjoy my Vietnamese Salad. Next, try my Grilled Shrimp (this time without the peanut sauce) and Szechuan Noodle Salad.

As long as the local strawberries are in season, you’ll want to head to the PYO for dessert. What could be more festive than a Berry Flag Cake or Strawberry & White Chocolate Fool. Parfaits.

Have a wonderful summer and holiday. Bon appétit!

For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!!

What’s up with you this weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2018

Celebrate Democracy & Vietnamese Salad

This Fourth of July, let’s embrace and celebrate our democratic republic – the Great American Experiment. Back on July the 4th 1776, the founding fathers declared independence from a tyrannical, and some say mad, King George. At the time, they could only hope that the experiment would last. From day one, it’s been far from perfect and always evolving. Sometimes the nation takes a step forward. Take for instance, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Sometimes, it takes a step backwards. Consider McCarthyism and the Red Scare in the 1950s.

In spite of the ups and downs, our democracy has held. Our deep belief in equality, that all people are created equal has been central to our success. We cherish the fundamental rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These beliefs are at the very core of our national identity. It is what continues to make us patriots 242 years after the founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence.

The United States was founded by immigrants. From the pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, to the laborers who built the railroads and programmers who created Silicon Valley, the United States has always been a proud melting pot of diversity. Eight of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were not born in the United States. They were farmers, lawyers and doctors who crossed an ocean in search of a new life. We are a nation that has grown and prospered with each new generation of immigrants. Some came for adventure but most were in pursuit of a better, safer life.

I lived in Switzerland for seventeen years. It was an interesting experience for many reasons. For one, I was an immigrant, a foreigner, a legal alien coming from a nation of immigrants. With dozens of United Nations agencies and just as many multinational companies, Geneva is a wonderfully diverse city. At work and at play, people from vastly different cultures come together. On street corners, in restaurants, in the supermarket, people of every nationality and race speak a multitude of languages. Like communities across the U.S., this cultural melting pot made the town all the richer.

One summer, I was the assistant coach for a tee-ball team of five-year-olds. A few were Swiss but the vast majority were immigrants, just like their coaches. Many, but not all, were Americans. I’m guessing their parents signed them up to maintain a link back to their homeland. For the others, it was a chance to try something new. Overall, they were just a jumble of kids who wanted to have fun. While I have no proof or statistics, I’d hazard to guess that their talent was as varied as any tee-ball team you’d find in the U.S. Given the superb (?!?) coaching they received, I’m sure they had more fun than the average U.S. tee-ball team.

I joke about superb coaching because I was one of the worst softball players to darken the doors of my middle and high schools. However, I figured out one thing and passed it on to my five-year-old charges. Keep your eye on the ball, hold the bat tight and swing. Ignore the noise from the crowd. Don’t worry if that cute little Belgian girl likes you. Stop thinking about ice cream after the game. Keep your eye on the ball and you will hit it every time. Like magic, they did.

This 4th of July and every day, keep your eye on our shared American values. Hold tight to the belief in equality for all people. Don’t allow the country’s high standards for liberty, justice and opportunity falter. These beliefs are at the very core of our national identity.

Have a wonderful Independence Day and summer. Bon appétit!

Vietnamese Salad
A refreshing salad is perfect on a hot summer night. Serve this one with your favorite grilled fish or chicken. Enjoy!
Serves 8

4 heads baby bok choy, sliced thin on the diagonal
1 head romaine lettuce, roughly chopped
About 5 ounces arugula
3-6 radishes, finely chopped
1/2 European cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 carrot, cut into curls (use a vegetable peeler)
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 red or yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, cut in julienne
Garnish: 1/2 cup roasted, salted peanuts, roughly chopped

Put the vegetables and herbs in a large bowl and toss to combine.

To serve: toss the salad with just enough Vietnamese Vinaigrette to lightly coat. Transfer the salad to a large, deep serving platter or individual plates and sprinkle with chopped peanuts.

Vietnamese Vinaigrette
Makes 1 cup

Grated zest and juice of 2 limes
2 cloves garlic
1-inch piece fresh ginger
1-inch chunk red onion
1-2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon or to taste chili sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup or to taste extra virgin olive
2 teaspoons sesame oil

Put the lime zest and juice in a blender or small food processor, add the garlic, ginger, onion, honey and chili sauce, season with salt and pepper and process to chop the vegetables and combine. Add the vinegar, fish sauce and soy sauce and process until smooth.

Add the olive and sesame oils and process until well-combined. Transfer to a clean, glass jar. Let the vinaigrette sit for 30 minutes at room temperature or longer in the refrigerator to combine the flavors. Give the vinaigrette a good shake before using.

Store extra vinaigrette in the refrigerator.

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One Year Ago – Tomato & Burrata Salad with Grilled Bread
Two Years Ago – Grilled Shrimp & Vegetable Salad
Three Years Ago – Fresh Berries with Creamy Lime Custard
Four Years Ago – Grilled Tomato Crostini
Five Years Ago – Strawberries with Yogurt Cream
Six Years Ago – Watermelon & Feta Salad
Seven Years Ago – Grilled Salmon with Lemon-Basil Aioli
Eight Years Ago – Mediterranean Shrimp
Nine Years Ago – Grilled Hoisin Pork

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What’s your summer travel story? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2018

Is It the Holiday Weekend Yet Special?

The Fourth of July falls on Wednesday this year. A midweek holiday is a bit awkward. Do the celebrations start the weekend before or continue through the weekend after? Better you celebrate both!

This weekend and next, invite friends over for a happy holiday cookout. Fly a flag, roll out the grill and have a delicious weekend. Need some help with your menu? Not to worry, I have a few suggestions …

For a light and bright appetizer, you can’t beat my favorite Shrimp & Cucumber Bites or Crostini with Cucumber, Radish & Feta.Want something more exotic? How about Baba Ganoush with pita chips and fresh veggies.

Now for the main course … get the grill going and enjoy my Grilled Vietnamese Beef or A Hint of Asia Barbecued Chicken or Hoisin Pork Ribs. Complete your main course with my fabulous Asian Noodle Salad with Spicy Peanut Sauce and Asian Slaw.

As for dessert, it’s strawberry season. What could be better? For easy, you must try my Strawberries in Cointreau. If you want to get a little fancy try my Creamy Yogurt Tart with Fresh Strawberries.

Have a wonderful summer and holiday. Bon appétit!

For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!!

What’s up with you this weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2018