The cure for a year-long case of cabin fever could be a July 4th gathering, a get-together that showcases delicious food and celebrates camaraderie. For many, restless emotions fueled by being cooped up, have made this year’s holiday event a benchmark. A victory dance of sorts.
Yes indeed, it’s backyard party time. Chill the drinks and put out a welcoming cheese or charcuterie board. Dig out the long-handled grilling tools and the meat thermometer. Sharpen up a carving knife.
Grilled tri-tip seems the perfect choice for the menu, a triangle-shaped hunk of sirloin that cooks up like a steak, but slices like a toothsome brisket. Pair it with a wedge salad smothered in blue cheese dressing and you have a one-plate meal made in palate paradise, especially when pickled onions and halved cherry tomatoes are included.
Iceberg lettuce has a rather dicey reputation, but it’s the perfect choice for cutting into wedges. Make the wedges super crisp by soaking them for five minutes in an ice-water bath, an easy task when waiting for the off-the-grill beef to rest for a few minutes before cutting into 1-inch chunks.
If guests aren’t going to sit at the table, cutting the crisp wedge into bite-sized, manageable pieces could be problematic. In that case, cut the Iceberg into bite-sized pieces and toss with the dressing before plating.
The dressing and pickled onions can be prepared several days in advance and stored airtight in the fridge. The cherry tomatoes can be halved several hours before serving.
For dessert, a made-ahead olive oil cake is delicious topped with lemon curd and fresh berries, peaches, or figs.Dig in. Revel in mouthwatering food along with some cautious optimism.
Chef David Slay’s Blue Cheese Dressing
Yield: about 2 cups
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper, white pepper preferred, to taste
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese; see cook’s notes
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup canola oil; see cook’s notes
Optional: sour cream; see cook’s notes
Cook’s notes: When I make this dressing, I often add more blue cheese before using (yes, I love blue cheese). If you want a thicker dressing to spoon over a wedge salad, use only 1/4 cup of oil and add enough sour cream to make the consistency you want.
1. In medium bowl, combine vinegar, salt, pepper and dry mustard; stir until well combined and salt dissolves. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning. Refrigerate, well-sealed.
Bouchon’s Simple Pickled Red Onions
Yield: About 2 cups
1 large red onion
3/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1. Trim and discard root end of onions. Cut in half from top to bottom. Remove outer layer along with skin. Cut a V in interior of the bottom portion to remove core. Cut into 1/8-inch thick crosswise slices.
2. Pack into clean 1-quart canning jar; reserve any slices that don’t fit. If you don’t have a canning jar, use a heatproof bowl.
3. Combine vinegar and sugar in small nonreactive saucepan and bring to boil on high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Pour hot vinegar mixture over onions. Once onions begin to wilt, you can probably add remaining onions to jar. Cover and let cool.
4. Refrigerate at least 24 hours or up to two weeks.
Source: “Bouchon” by Thomas Keller with Jeffrey Cerciello (Artisan, $50)
Grilled Tri-Tip Wedge Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing and Pickled Onions
Yield: 6 servings
Pickled Onions; see recipe
Blue Cheese Dressing, see recipe
One trimmed 2-pound tri-tip roast; see cook’s notes
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or vegetable oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, about 1/2 teaspoon each
1 cup favorite store-bought tomato-based barbecue sauce, such as Bull’s-Eye Original or Texas Style Barbecue Sauce
Instant-read thermometer or wireless meat thermometer, such as one from ThermoPro
1 large, firm head of Iceberg lettuce
2 cups cherry tomatoes, red or yellow, or some of each, halved
Cook’s notes: If tri-tip is sold untrimmed with a great deal of fat still intact, I buy a 3-pound tri-tip and trim away most of the fat.
1. Prepare pickled onions and blue cheese dressing. Chill.
2. To grill meat, remove meat from refrigerator 30 minutes before grilling. Rub meat with oil and season with salt and pepper. Prepare charcoal or gas grill for indirect medium heat (350 degrees to 450 degrees). If using a charcoal grill, leave an area clear for indirect heat and place a drip pan in the cleared area. If using a gas grill, turn all burners to high, close lid and heat for 10 minutes. Turn off burner on one side and lower heat to medium (350 to 450 degrees) on other burner(s). Clean grate with wire brush. Grill meat over direct heat until well-marked on all on all four sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer to indirect heat and grill until done as desired, 20 to 30 minutes for medium-rare (130 degrees on thermometer). While the meat is cooking, baste it with the barbecue sauce every 5 to 10 minutes, turning the meat each time. Every gas grill seems to be different, but on mine I need to close the lid much of the time during the last 20 to 30 minutes of grilling to maintain a temperature of 350 to 450 degrees. Transfer to cutting board (preferable one with a well).
3. Meanwhile, while meat rests, fill a large pot or bowl with ice and water. With a sharp knife, cut lettuce into sixths (lengthwise wedges) and immerse in ice water. Soak 5 minutes. Pull a wedge from the ice water and, holding gently with the cut side down, shake energetically over sink to rid it of as much water as possible. Repeat with remaining wedges. Allow to drain on paper towel or clean kitchen towel for a minute or two.
4. Place a wedge on each plate, cut side up. Drizzle each wedge generously with dressing, letting it puddle on each side of the wedge. Scatter tomatoes and pickled onions over top and sides. Cut tri-tip into 1- to 1 1/2-inch chunks and distribute on plates around each wedge. If desired, sprinkle lightly with coarse salt.
Chef Jamie Gwen’s Olive Oil Cake with Lemon Curd
Yield: 8 servings
Butter for greasing pan
3 large eggs, beaten
2 cups sugar
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/4 cups milk
1/4 cup orange liqueur
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon minced or finely grated lemon zest (colored portion of skin)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup slivered almonds, finely chopped; divided use
Garnish: powdered sugar
Seven-Minute Lemon Curd (recipe included)
Garnish: fresh fruit, such as berries, sliced figs or sliced peaches
Optional garnish: sprigs of fresh mint
1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 10-inch nonstick cake pan with butter.
2. In large bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, olive oil, milk, liqueur, juice and zest. In separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add dry mixture to egg mixture; whisk until well blended. Fold in most of almonds, reserving about 2 tablespoons.
3. Pour mixture into buttered cake pan; batter should reach about 1/4-inch below top of pan (use excess batter to make individual “cakes” in muffin tins, if necessary). Sprinkle reserved almonds on top. Bake 1 hour in preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Place on cooling rack; cool completely. Run knife around edges to loosen cake. Place on serving platter. Place powdered sugar in sieve. Sprinkle cake with powdered sugar, shaking handle of sieve.
4. To serve, cut into wedges. Place each wedge on a dinner plate. Spoon some lemon curd over each wedge. Accompany with fresh fruit and, if desired, a sprig of fresh mint. Dust again with powdered sugar if desired.
Source: “Good Food for Good Times” by Jamie Gwen with Lana Sills ($24.95)
Seven-Minute Lemon Curd
Yield: About 1 1/2 cups
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 whole egg
3 eggs yolks
Pinch of salt
1. Place lemon juice and butter in medium saucepan over low heat and stir until butter melts.
2.Whisk sugar, whole egg and egg yolks; stir into butter mixture. Stir constantly over low heat for 7 minutes or until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Add pinch of salt and stir to combine. Use or store airtight in refrigerator.
Source: “Good Food for Good Times” by Jamie Gwen with Lana Sills ($24.95)
Have a cooking question? Contact Cathy Thomas at email@example.com