It’s our first 4th of July here in Florida. Without an outdoor grill (yet), I know it won’t be a traditional July 4th barbecue, not that we celebrate the 4th like most Americans do but I aim to bring the outdoors indoor with or without a grill.
So here’s my take on the 4th this year. A pot of purslane with red flowers for the center piece (picked up at a local garden store since my garden is still a piece of green lawn) is the best I can do at the moment to honor the red, white and blue. The outdoor tablecloth and dishes provide the white and blue part.
Menu is not exactly American. Oven-grilled Asian flavored beef, chicken and table-top grilled shrimp, all to be eaten with boiled thin vermicelli noodles, leaf lettuce, scallions and shoe-string cut vegetables like cucumbers and carrots. I even used chayote which I discovered is very good in salads. The dressing for this Vietnamese salad is lemon juice seasoned with fish sauce. This dish has become another family summer favorite picked up from Vietnamese friends over two decades ago. They just make a huge bowl of cooked vermicelli noodles, tons of green leafy vegetables, a large bowl of the spicy lemon fish sauce dressing and guests help themselves with various marinated meat cooked on the grill. So simple and yet so satisfying. A perfect way to serve to family and friends for a summer meal, the 4th or any other day!
Asian inspired grilled meat.
Beef. Cut into thin slices or get the already thin sliced bulgogi meat from a Korean food store. Season with bulgogi marinade. I find that bottled bulgogi marinade is now widely available in supermarkets. I make my own marinade with soy sauce, minced garlic and ginger, little bit of sugar, salt, scallions and sesame oil and sesame seeds. I recently searched the directory in Wellington, Florida for Korean restaurants and it came back with nothing. Nada! So I would probably be making bulgogi and kalbi quite often. But the list of Italian restaurants is almost endless, hopefully we’ll find one of them dishing out a good pizza when we crave for New York quality pizza.
Chicken. Use thighs with most of the fat removed. The marinade is soy sauce, chopped white and soft part of a lemon grass stalk, 3 kaffir lime leaves cut in Julienne strips, salt and chili pepper. Take a piece of whole kaffir lime leaf and tuck it under the skin. Take the top hard part of the lemon grass, cut to about 4 inches long and use as skewers. Stick each piece of chicken with the lemon grass stalk to keep the skin from separating. Kaffir lime is a favorite in Thai and Indian dishes. My kaffir lime tree has been my source of the fragrant leaves for many years back in New York. I ordered it from a Florida citrus grower, brought it with us on the move and it is now in our backyard enjoying the Florida sun, never to be brought again indoor to escape the Northeast winter.
Shrimp. Shell the shrimp leaving the last segment intact. Slit the top of each shrimp allowing for the removal of the black vein. Arrange in a platter and top with sliced scallions, crushed peanuts, salt, pepper and drizzle with canola oil. Grill using a tabletop stone grill, just like how they serve this dish in Vietnamese restaurants. Unless you are using a grilling basket, this is not appropriate to grill in an outdoor grill.
Lemon and Fish-Sauce or Nouc Cham. Using the finest blade of a Japanese mandolin, grate a small carrot and 2 cloves of garlic or cut them into paper-thin strips. In a bowl, mix the juice of 2-3 lemons (about 1/4 cup), 1/4 c fish sauce, 1/4 c water, 1 T sugar, sliced hot pepper according to your Scoville tolerance.
For dessert, in honor of our new and old home, Key Lime Cheesecake. A family member brought coconut flan topped with red, white and blue!