Spicing up Independence Day barbecues
Independence Day is a traditional time to fire up the grills. Brats, burgers, pork steaks, chicken: Choices are usually abundant for the entree. And even more so for the sides.
The Beacon used the Public Insight Network to ask people to share favorite side dishes, and received responses from the standard potato salad (even if the recipe is special) to tabbouli.
No matter what you eat on the Fourth, make sure to keep it fresh, L’Ecole Culinaire chef John Womick says.
“Most high-risk foods will experience decay or degradation within a four-hour window,” Womick says. “When you consider the different prep times with that meat, the cooking time and the serving time, that’s not a huge window of opportunity.”
Food should not be left out between preparing, cooking and eating, he says, especially in warm, humid weather.
“Keeping things chilled can be incredibly important,” he says.
Womick says his personal Independence Day usually has him outside grilling ribs and making his own version of potato salad. This year though, he might just order out.
“It’s too dang hot,” he says.
No matter where his dinner comes from on the fouth, Womick says the holiday is more about being with his family:
“For me, the Fourth of July is about family and having a good time. Our neighbors have a little parade and our little girl likes to participate in that, so it’s kind of cool to see the kids have a good time.”
Whether your barbecue is hosting the whole neighborhood or just a few close friends and family, make sure your sides stand out. As you plan, check out these responses to the question: What one food is essential to a good barbecue?
Marcia Tiemeyer, of St. Charles, says it just isn’t summer until she’s had a little potato salad. While plenty of St. Louisians will be cooking this up Wednesday, Tiemeyer has been facing a challenge for years: accurately recreating her father’s German vinegar potato.
“My father and grandmother made it for years, and Dad was so proud of it, he would never give the recipe to anyone,” she says. “He wouldn't even give it up on his deathbed; told me I had to figure it out and it would never be a good as his. He's right!”
Another dish on a lot of people’s plates is baked beans. Donna Frederick says she also has some family competition when it comes to the dish.
“My family has always had a bit of a rivalry about who makes the best baked beans,” she says. “Some make them a little sweet, some a little tangy, some thick and some thin, but everyone has his or her own ‘secret’ recipe.”
Frederick, of Dupo, points out that baked beans are great for families with vegetarians, as long as the cook uses vegetarian beans.
Some quirky cooks
Mitch Lee, of Webster Groves, likes to change up his grilled corn by covering it with cheese sauce. He says a friend introduced him to a basic recipe (see below), and he’s been experimenting since.
Lee combines feta cheese, mayonnaise, salt, black pepper and chili pepper, then spreads the mixture over either cobs of corn or he takes the corn off the cob. He says he loves the taste of fresh corn, and grilling “only helps to accent the flavor.”
Jennifer Bersdale, who lives in the city, prefers vegan veggie burgers for her July Fourth celebration. She and her partner are vegan, she says they’re always grateful when someone thinks to provide food they’ll enjoy.
Joy Moll of Kirkwood mixes up her barbecues by making tabbouli, a Middle Eastern garden salad (recipe below). She makes it her own by skipping scallions and adding mustard and honey. Moll says she loves the dish because of its “garden fresh flavors.”
Lee's Cheesy Corn
Shuck 5 or 6 ears of corn and brush each generously with olive oil or the oil of your choice.
Sprinkle with salt, and black pepper to taste.
In a bowl, combine ¼ cup of feta cheese and 1/4 cup of mayonnaise, salt, black pepper, and chili powder to taste.
I also like to sprinkle in a little ground cumin.
Set this aside until the corn is cooked.
Place the oiled and seasoned cobs on the grill directly over hot coals, turning as kernels begin to turn golden, some to blacken, and a few to pop. Be careful not to overcook. You should have a nice mixture of color.
When done you can do two things: spread the cheese mixture over the cobs, or, as I like to do, take the corn off the cob and mix it with the cheese sauce. Serve hot off the grill or cold as a salad.
This basic recipe is adaptable in so many ways. Instead of chili powder, use ancho chilis or cayenne pepper. Add some lemon juice to the mixture for some added zest. Experiment with other flavors, other peppers, more or less hot spice.
Jane’s Tabbouli (with a little help from Joy)
1 cup bulgur (cracked fine or medium)
2 cups boiling water
2 tomatoes, finely diced
1 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp honey
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp dried oregano leaves, crumbled
1/4 tsp ground cumin
Dash garlic powder
1. In a medium bowl, dump the boiling water over the bulgur and let it soak for 1 hour. Drain well in a dishcloth lined strainer, pressing out the excess water.
2. Add the tomatoes, parsley, and mint to the bulgur. Combine the ingredients well.
3. Whisk the dressing ingredients together. About 1 hour or less before serving, add the dressing to the bulgur mixture, and toss the salad to coat the ingredients thoroughly.