Fourth of July celebrations were briefly interrupted yesterday when thunderstorms threatening tornadoes swept through the area around the District of Columbia. Imagine thousands of people being evacuated from the National Mall into nearby federal buildings.
Well, we knew those buildings--including the U.S. Department of Agriculture--had to be good for something.
So although our own Independence Day soiree endured a brief rain shower it was not to be denied. The high point had to be my wife's stuffed hamburgers cooked on the grill.
After 16 years of marriage, I am still learning about my wife's hidden talents. This one she picked up working at a restaurant years ago. The trick is to make a stuffing of cream cheese infused with sauteed garlic and chives. Take a handful of beef and divide it into two smaller patties. Press those out and lay a small scoop of stuffing onto one of them. Then cover with the second patty and press the patties together around the edges.
My wife claims that burgers cook much better and retain their shape (meaning they don't cook up into a ball) if you make a deep depression in the middle of the burger before it goes on the grill. Having cooked her burgers a few times, I'd have to agree. Everyone at last night's party had a rave for these stuffed burgers, definitely not for those counting their cholesterol.
But the main reason for this post is to put out there another method for rendering edible all those summer squash you and your neighbors are harvesting from the garden. I was watering the garden at my daughter's charter school the other day when a neighbor who tends a small plot in his front yard approached me and whispered, "Do you like squash?" I could barely hear him so he repeated, "Do you like squash?" When I nodded in the affirmative he left for a brief minute, then returned with a bag full of big, beautiful yellow squash.
"I have so many, I have to give them away," he lamented.
In our house, yellow squash are a bit of a pariah. My wife won't eat them. We don't grow them. But I'm not one to turn down free food. I decided the best way to deal with these squash was to serve them to the crowd that came to dinner last night and since I didn't feel much like cooking them I improvised a platter of what foodies are calling "squash carpaccio."
That would be raw squash dressed any which way you like. It's so ridiculously easy I would not call it a recipe so much as kitchen prep. You slice the squash very thinly, scatter it on a platter, then drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, a chiffonade of herbs (basil, mint, etc.), salt, pepper and a fresh cheese--crumbled--such as goat cheese or Feta.
It helps to have a sharp slicing tool such as a mandolin. That will definitely make the job easier. Simply run the squash cross-wise over the blade. But for a different look, you can slice the squash lengthwise into ribbons using a vegetable peeler.
Try this with zucchini as well, or mix zucchini and yellow squash for a handsome plate. Guests don't even realize they're eating raw squash.
"Is this cucumber?" one guest inquired last night.