Bastille Day is the national holiday of France on July 14. Formally called La Fete Nationale, the day commemorates the 1790 first anniversary of the storming of Bastille fortress-prison on the Champs-Élysées Avenue in Paris. Many cities in the United States celebrate the holiday including New York, San Francisco, New Orleans, Seattle, St. Louis and Minneapolis among many others.
My French friend Theo does not celebrate Bastille Day but others in his family do, including his sister and mother. But truth be told, the holiday is just another excuse for his entire family to cook and eat well. It’s always delicious and more than enough for everyone. Years ago I joined Theo and his family for Christmas. I was told a French Christmas was an even more festive occasion so of course I accepted the “moveable feast” — including an elegant dinner on Christmas Eve, and an all-day feast on Christmas day. The French like to eat. And Bastille Day is barely less elaborate. Since it’s a summertime holiday, bouillabaisse is considered a classic warm weather occasion and one that is generally low in fat and memorably delicious — especially for seafood lovers.
My father once traveled with me to Spain for business and pleasure. It was wonderful being with him but more eventful than I had expected. We drove from Madrid to a small village south of Barcelona that a friend had recommended to us. The trip held few surprises until I discovered my dad did not feel limited by the language barrier. Upon returning from parking our car near the café where we stopped for lunch, I found my dad trying to speak in sign language with the café owner. The owner didn’t speak a spot of English but told me (in Spanish, because I speak it) that he found my father totally charming.
An hour later we arrived at our hotel south of Barcelona, where we leased an inexpensive room on the bay. Our breakfast was included and consisted of cheeses, eggs, olives, Greek yogurt and coffee. After getting settled in our room we decided to stroll down the avenue along the beach where we discovered several cafes that specialized in a dish called paella with chicken and shellfish and another called fideos with seafood. My dad loved paella and I had heard that one particular café specialized in seafood with fideos Andalucian style that I enjoyed. We took pleasure in a bottle of Rioja and our entrees while watching the local fishing boats return to their moorings with the day’s catch as the sun set over the water. Eating alfresco is sublime and enjoyable.
As the weather gets warmer, salads become even better tasting light meals to enjoy 24/7. In the afternoon or late evening, try a freshly-made salad using small bowls filled with diced melon, prosciutto, tomatoes, avocados, and a handful of sprouts or watercress with a dash of walnut oil, balsamic vinegar and rice wine vinegar. Or prepare medium diced roasted beets and red pepper strips with fresh, deseeded and diced cucumbers with a handful of cannelloni beans on a bed of bib lettuce, dressed with fruity flavored olive oil and the juice of lemon and lemon zest.
Here’s another tantalizing addition you can make by adding a few of the vegetables noted above — roasted and not — with 2-3 tablespoons of tabouli that includes one of my favorite nutty grains, bulgur wheat. Or try quinoa Mexican style with delights like avocado, tomato and roasted corn off the cob with two tablespoons chopped melon or mango. These two dishes — Tabouli and Mexican Style Quinoa — give you special leftovers that you can combine in any number of different ways when guests or family come over unannounced, or for that matter as a late evening snack for yourself and your best friend. Both recipes are elaborated below followed by adding some of the other vegetables above. And whatever combination you choose will be delicious. There is no right or wrong way of enjoying these dishes. Your taste dictates. They are all good.
Dumplings go by different names depending on their country of origin. In Japan they call them Sumai or Gyoza; in the United States we call them wontons or pot stickers; Chinese dumplings are called Jiaozis; Latins call them empanadas; pierogies are Polish; Kreplachs are Jewish; ravioli us Italian. All of these dumplings are found here in the U.S. Or you can make your own. The dough that forms the dumpling is stuffed with an assortment of delights like pureed or diced vegetables, cheese, pork, chicken, ground tofu or glutinous rice. The rules are open ended. The stuffing is dependent on one’s culture and the creativity of the chef. Eating them is extraordinary.
The trick to making dumplings is to make a wrapping that is not too chewy but not too soft either; and to create a flavorful filling that is appealing and enticing while not too dense. Wrappers purchased at the grocery are really quite good.
Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wa) is one of the most popular, healthy foods being grown today. You can pretty much find it everywhere probably because it’s one of the most nutritious plant foods now being sold. It is also one of the few dishes found to be close to a complete protein and to be gluten-free as well. Moreover, quinoa is modest in price and flexible in how you achieve delicious flavors. It seems to take on the flavors you cook it with.
Quinoa was originally grown in high altitude regions of Latin America in Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia. It is now grown in Colorado and parts of California. It grows naturally in brown, black and red colors. Author Deborah Madison finds the black and red versions take a bit longer to cook— only 30 minutes—while the beige or brown take half as long. But Madison tells us that the red and black varieties are found to be more robust in flavor.
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