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Sunday, July 10, 2011

From the Garden to the Table

My sister's garden is not only practical, fenced to keep out the nimblest fence jumpers and other uninvited tresspassers, but simply lovely to look at as it blooms and grows. Raised beds of vegetables and flowers, yellow buds and blossoms are well cared for and I look forward to the day I am invited to share in their harvest. (I believe this behavior among sisters is acceptable, with a wink and a nudge.) Ah, but I wanted to share the experience of our celebration of America's Independence...

Food shared with family, what could be better? Food shared with family on an extra day off for a holiday weekend? Healthy and flavorful food shared with family on an extra day off for the Fourth of July!

Chicken has somehow climbed the ranks in our families as the most agreed upon protein of choice. These lean breast cutlets were beautifully grilled and quickly landed on nearly everyone's plate!

While whole wheat pasta may not be on everyone's menu, it does help give the classic macaroni salad enough of a spin to add a minimal amount of nutritional value, a smidge more fiber and while this version still included mayo (which can now be found with a bit of olive oil to lighten things up), diced carrots and celery added a welcome crunch.

The treat of the meal was the slow cooked ribs. In the crockpot since early morning, the meat was fall off of the bone tender with a marinade mellow enough for the most sensitive taste buds - not too sweet, not too spicy.

Corn on the cob is a timeless classic. As far as I am concerned, this American side can be served at every dinner. The crunchy snap, the appeal of finger food, butter dripping, salt licking, bits of kernels stuck to your lips and perhaps a squirt of juice on your table neighbor... For those who prefer to eat with a bit of dignity or have suffered through years of orthodontics, scraping a knife down the ear to relase the kernels into a mound of sweet corn is an alternate option.

Tossed salad - before or after the meal, that is the question. When I first began dating my husband, I learned his family serves the tossed salad at the end of the meal. This order of the meal is believed by his parents to aid in digestion, some may agree and argue it is also a palette cleanser. Sometimes, I may want my salad as part of the main course and since many traditionally offer the salad as a first course, you may see the salad on the table or sideboard throughout the meal for our families. I also prefer my salad without dressing, this is not a dietary concern, but rather an appreciation for the ingredients on their own. Another nod my sister gives to those who may not enjoy every vegetable in their salad is to serve some ingredients separately, a veritable salad buffet!

Greeting guests after a smooch and a hug are fresh veggies from the garden (which can also be used in the tossed salad) with a dip. Modern tradition once again.

Shrimp. To me, they are as addictive as potato chips but arguably one of the most versatile foods available. They may be served cold as a cocktail, in a salad, grilled, sauteed, scampi, in soup, Jambalaya, tacos and nearly any other application you can imagine. At times, I must simply move away from the platter and put my hands in my pockets.

My contribution was not just my healthy appetite, I did provide a well scooped and melon ball shaped fruit salad from canteloupe and watermelon with a few grapes both red and green and blueberries. It was a lovely celebration and good for us in more ways than one!

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