In the farm world, there is no “summer food.”
I don’t remember our family’s daily entrees changing much between seasons, probably because good, basic, filling food was needed year-round. There were no lettuce wraps or charred shrimp-and-leek skewers when you were feeding a family of seven plus two or three hired men.
Consequently, my mom’s rotation of “main dishes” didn’t change a lot in the summer. We still ate meatloaf, lasagna and tons of steak. In the summer months, we probably ate more sandwiches, Sloppy Joes and fish – namely, the icy blocks of haddock from the Schwan man.
When we grilled, it was a basic, no-frills affair, without chipotle rubs or balsamic marinades. Usually, it was just burgers or steaks, from our grass-fed herd. Occasionally, it was real chicken – the kind you butchered or bought from a neighbor and cut up yourself – not the flavorless, skinned and deboned poultry pucks that everyone started eating to avoid cholesterol.
Mom would slather the chicken pieces with seasoned butter, then grill them on a foil blanket over the old Weber grill. In my final installment on Swift summer cooking, I will share the closest I could muster to a “summer” menu.
Granted, we would not have served potato salad with taco salad, but we probably would have served this good German staple with just about anything else.
I’ll also admit the taco salad isn’t exactly authentic Mexican, but it’s hard to diss a salad that blends all the makings of a good Americanized taco with the ultimate condiment of the 1970s salad bar: Thousand island.
Barbie’s Taco Salad
1 pound lean ground beef
Salt and pepper
1 packet of low-sodium taco seasoning
1 (15-ounce) can chili beans
1 head iceberg or Romaine lettuce, washed, dried and torn into small pieces
2-3 tomatoes, diced
½ to 1 large onion, chopped (adjust according to individual preference)
½ to 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 cup of Thousand island dressing (can also mix with Catalina if you wish)
Hot sauce or salsa to taste
Optional add-ins: sliced black olives, hard-boiled eggs, sliced green peppers, avocado and sour cream
Brown ground beef and drain off fat. Season with pepper and taco seasoning. Add beans and simmer about 3 minutes; set aside.
Toss lettuce, tomatoes, onions and cheese together. Add burger mixture, Thousand Island and hot sauce to taste. Mix well. Top with crushed tortilla chips just prior to serving.
Hot German Potato Salad
6 medium potatoes, boiled in jackets
6 slices bacon
¾ cup onion, chopped
2 tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon celery seed
¾ cup water
1/3 cup vinegar
Peel boiled potatoes and slice thin. Fry bacon slowly in a large skillet; drain on paper. Saute onion in bacon fat until golden brown.
Blend in flour, sugar, salt, celery seed and pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring until smooth and bubbly. Stir in water and vinegar. Heat to boil, stirring constantly. Boil 1 minute.
Carefully stir in potatoes and crumble in bacon bits. Remove from heat; cover until ready to serve.
Remember Woolworth’s lunch counters? They were known for their light, lemony, no-bake cheesecake. This recipe, from our neighbor, Jean, is a pretty close cousin.
1 box graham crackers (or enough to make 3 cups crushed crumbs)
½ cup melted butter
¼ cup sugar
1 3-ounce box lemon Jell-O
1 cup boiling water
1 8-ounce brick cream cheese
1 cup granulated sugar
5 tablespoons lemon juice (you may wish to add more or less, depending on desired tartness)
1 can evaporated milk, well-chilled, or 1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
Dissolve lemon Jell-O in boiling water. Cool in refrigerator until slightly thickened.
Mix ¾ of the graham cracker crumbs with melted butter and sugar until well blended; press into bottom of 9 by 13-inch pan to form crust. Reserve rest of crumbs as garnish.
Beat the evaporated milk or heavy cream until fluffy. In a separate bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar and lemon juice with mixer until smooth.
Slowly add thickened Jell-O, then slowly mix in whipped evaporated milk or cream. Spread filling over the crust and sprinkle with reserved graham crackers on top.
Chill at least 2 hours and up to overnight; store covered in refrigerator.
Readers can reach columnist Tammy Swift at firstname.lastname@example.org.