Feast for a rather lazy summer evening

watermelon saladWe gathered a few neighbors together at our house recently to mark our son’s graduation from eighth grade. Nothing big, not even technically a party. My kid isn’t into making a big deal out of anything on his account. But grilling with neighbors seemed to fit the occasion.

I smoked a brined turkey breast, friends brought drinks, salads, and appetizers, next door neighbor brought over some of his latest home brewed beer to sample, and we finished the whole thing off with strawberries, banana bread, and homemade ice cream sandwiches.

It was really, truly a fun and lovely evening, very relaxed and easy. Slightly tricky cooking on account of the diet around here–no dairy, no soy, no whole grain–but friends followed the rules and adapted gamely.

We love our neighborhood and are so thankful for our friends here. Why don’t you try grilling with your neighbors, too, on a fine summer evening sometime soon? Here’s your menu.

Sort of Homemade Ice Cream Sandwiches
I’m putting these first because you have to make them first. No, it won’t do to try and “throw these together” an hour before your party. Trust me, I know from sorry experience. Do them the day before. And not on a dreadfully hot day. And turn your freezer all the way down. I use refrigerated cookie dough for these because there is actually a brand that has no offending ingredients: Pillsbury Simply Cookies. They also happen to bake up in a rather thin and bendy way that makes them perfect for ice cream sandwich use.

Makes 12 sandwiches
2 packages Pillsbury Simply Cookie Dough (chocolate chip or peanut butter)
1 box Breyer’s vanilla ice cream (we use Breyer’s lactose free, which is shockingly good)

Bake the cookies and cool for hours and hours, maybe overnight. Soften the ice cream for only a few minutes. Any longer on a warm day and you’ll have an irrecoverable soup. Rip ten squares of foil or wax paper and stack them. Set your extremely thoroughly completely cooled cookies on one side, your barely softened ice cream on the other. Holding one cookie on your hand, slap on a sizable blob of ice cream, pop the other cookie on top, neaten up the edges, and wrap the whole thing very loosely in foil or wax paper and throw it in the freezer stat. Do this 11 more times. Do not so much as peek at these little constructions for at least a day. Serve them quickly and insist that they be eaten outdoors.

Smoked Turkey Breast
This is a lovely recipe from the lovely Eating Well magazine. This is a long stretched out recipe too, not hard, but you can’t start it just before folks come over. Do take your time and follow the directions. It comes out better when you give it all those hours in the brine and smoke it slow. Take care not to let your coals go out, however.

12 cups (3 quarts) water, divided
3/4 cup kosher salt
1 medium shallot, roughly chopped
1 medium clove garlic, smashed
zest of 1 lemon, removed in large strips with a vegetable peeler
10 thyme sprigs
8 sage leaves
4 bay leaves
1 tablespoon allspice berries
1 6-pound bone-in whole turkey breast
1 pound wood chips (about 8 cups), such as apple or hickory wood

Place 4 cups (1 quart) water, salt, shallot, garlic, lemon zest, thyme, sage, bay leaves and allspice berries in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.

Pour the brine into a large bowl or clean tub; add the remaining 8 cups water. Set turkey in the brine and refrigerate for 6 hours.

Two hours before preheating the grill, place wood chips in a large bowl of water to soak.

About 20 minutes before you are ready to grill, preheat a gas grill with all burners lit to 300°F or build a fire in a charcoal grill and let it burn down to low heat (about 300°F).

Drain the wood chips. If using a gas grill, fold a 12-by-20-inch piece of heavy-duty foil in half to create a 12-by-10-inch double-thick piece. Transfer the wet wood chips to the center of the foil and crimp up the edges to create a “basket.” (If you have a gas grill with a smoking box, place the chips directly into the box.) Set the foil basket on the grill rack directly over the heat source. If using a charcoal grill, you will add the chips directly to the coals as the turkey cooks.

If using a gas grill, turn off one burner (leaving 1 to 2 burners lit, depending on your grill). If using a charcoal grill, move the coals to one side.

Remove the turkey from the brine, pat dry and set on the unheated side of the grill rack. If using a charcoal grill, place one-third of the wood chips on the coals. Close the lid and roast undisturbed for 40 minutes.

Rotate the turkey 180 degrees, add half the remaining wood chips to the coals if using a charcoal grill, cover and continue for 40 minutes.

Rotate the turkey 180 degrees one more time, add the remaining wood chips if using a charcoal grill, cover and continue roasting until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the meat without touching bone registers 165°F, 40 minutes to 1 hour more. Transfer the turkey to a clean cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Nigella Lawson’s Watermelon, Feta, and Olive Salad
If you haven’t had a salad like this and you’re going, oh yuck! as you read the name of it, go ahead and try it anyway. You will, I can pretty much promise, love it. I’m reprinting it here with all its Nigella glory intact, but I did switch the metric amounts to English for you. Double this for a crowd.

1 small red onion
4 limes
3 to 3 1/2 lbs. watermelon (sweet and ripe)
1/2 lb. feta cheese
1 bunch fresh flatleaf parsley
1 bunch fresh mint (chopped)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 oz. pitted black olives (good Greek ones, for heaven’s sake not from a can)
black pepper

Peel and halve the red onion and cut into very fine half-moons and put in a small bowl to steep with the lime juice, to bring out the transparent pinkness in the onions and diminish their rasp. Two limes’ worth should do it, but you can find the fruits disappointingly dried up and barren when you cut them in half, in which case add more.

Remove the rind and pips from the watermelon, and cut into approximately 4cm / 1½ inch triangular chunks, if that makes sense (maths is not my strong point). Cut the feta into similar sized pieces and put them both into a large, wide shallow bowl. Tear off sprigs of parsley so that it is used like a salad leaf, rather than a garnish, and add to the bowl along with the chopped mint.

Tip the now glowingly puce onions, along with their pink juices over the salad in the bowl, add the oil and olives, then using your hands toss the salad very gently so that the feta and melon don’t lose their shape. Add a good grinding of black pepper and taste to see whether the dressing needs more lime.

Katie’s Indonesian Salad
My cousin Katie uses red cabbage, I use green. You could also use Napa, which is so pretty.

2 T green onions, chopped
2 T parsley
1/2 head cabbage
1/2 c. frozen peas
3/4 c. mayonnaise, or a little less if you are a less-mayo person
1/2 to 1 t curry
peanuts to taste

Chop cabbage. Add onions, parsley, and peas. Mix curry and mayonnaise and stir into salad. Top with peanuts.

Sharon’s Spinach and Chickpea Dip, in her own words
My friend Sharon brought this. She’s one of those people who says she doesn’t cook, but every time she does, she produces something awesome. This here dip is an example. The rule is that you must eat this with fritos.

It’s just 5 cups of spinach but honestly, I just put about 2/3 of a bag in and don’t really measure, a can of chickpeas with about a tablespoon of the liquid left in them, 2 tablespoons olive oil, some salt, and about 2 cloves of garlic and a couple shakes of Tabasco, but you add the Tabasco after you cook it and mush it. So you put it all in a pan and cook it until the spinach is wilty and then food process it and then add the Tabasco.



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