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In My Own words

A Recipe for August Fun

Katherine Au
MSM English Major - 1998

(August, 2010) August is the month that I think of as the end of summer, the dog days of summer, the days of barbeques and cookouts. This past July has surpassed heat records that I remember from most Augusts, and so I worry about how hot this August could be. Since itís near the end of July now as I write this, I can only say hindsight is better than foresight. But, this piece isnít about the heat of the summer, although for this summer maybe that topic does fit well; rather this piece is about the end of summer Ė cookouts, barbeques, having fun with friends and families.

August is the month when folks seem to pack as much in as possible before the start of fall. More specifically, they seem to pack more in before students go back to school. I remember the summer sales and back to school sales that always started at the beginning of August for returning to school. But, this year Iím not returning to school, nor are most of my friends, so for this purpose I think itís better served to not talk about sales for school supplies but rather recipes for a fantastic barbeque or cookout.

The first ingredient for a great cookout is a guest list. Invite whom you wish to spend an afternoon/evening with and whom you know you will enjoy spending the time with. Even if the menu doesnít come up to par, the company can make up for that. Then, of course, picking a date is a good thing. But, beyond the company and the date is having a wonderful setting. I have a friend who has speakers on the outside of the house Ė itís wonderful. You can be sitting outside and enjoying the quiet solitude of the breeze and buzzing of the bees and yet wanting to feel motivated to work and cultivate the garden or unload the moving truck and, with a push of a button, music that motivates begins to play. But, beyond the company, the location, the setting, there is something much more importantÖthe menu.

The menu is, of course, the solid structure to any gathering where food is served. Everyone has heard at some point of his or her life that food is the way to anotherís stomach. There certainly is a literal meaning to that, which I think is self explanatory, but there is also another meaning to that. I know from my own experience that if I enjoy the food at wherever I am, I seem to enjoy the experience much more.

So, to celebrate August and the coming to the end of this summer, Iíll share with you some recipes or hints of cooking that Iíve been exposed to that do make a difference for my taste buds.

One of my cousins makes the best hamburgers on the grill Iíve ever tasted. It isnít about the meat, although organic tastes better than not organic in my mind, but his secret is Worcestershire sauce mixed into the patties before they are put on the grill. I donít know what it is, but they have always been spectacular.

To go with grilled burgers in August, I would pair grilled corn. Boiled corn is wonderful, but when it is on the grill, it just has a flavor to it that canít be beat in my mind. To top off the grill possibilities, think about grilled vegetables. Squash, peppers, zucchini, onions, and any other vegetables wanted for a cookout are wonderful grilled in a grill basket. But, that is only on the grill.

For other recipes that I loveÖthere is a potato recipe that I always go to whenever a potato recipe is needed. My friend Audrey gave me this recipe. I canít give you exact measurements as itís not an exact recipe, but it is one that is simple and wonderful at the same time. Potatoes are the main ingredient, of course, with the right combination (to your own taste) of mayonnaise, red onions, and dillÖitís as simple as that and I at least think itís one of the most wonderful potato salads out there.

Beyond hamburgers, potato salad, fruits, and vegetables is a recipe that has always been a staple for my family. Taco Salad. The recipe is easy, and it can be prepared for a few people or made in great "vats" to feed many people at a time. The recipe below will serve 4-6 people, but itís not "rocket science." Add more of the ingredients you like the most, use less of those you donít care for. If you think you may have "picky" eaters, serve the onions and the olives separately alongside so folks can either add them or not, depending on their preferences. You can also prepare a vegetarian version by simply eliminating the meat--or fix one meat version and one vegetarian version (then you please everyone!).

Hereís the basic recipe: the meat version which serves 4-6. Brown and then drain off any fat from a pound of hamburger meat. Add a can (or two) of drained red kidney beans, a package of taco seasoning mix, and 3/4 cup of water. Simmer for 20-30 minutes until the liquid is absorbed. While the meat mixture is simmering, tear about half a head of iceberg lettuce (other forms of lettuce work fine as well) in a large bowl, add a tomato cut into wedges, about two cups of grated cheese (cheddar, four-part Mexican--whatever you like), and a large avocado. You can also add a chopped bunch of spring onions and 1/2 cup of sliced black olives to this mixture or serve both on the side. When the meat/bean mixture has finished simmering, add it to the mix. Crush about half a bag of taco chips (whichever kind you prefer) and add them, reserving the remainder of the bag of chips to serve alongside. Pour about half to three-quarters of a bottle of Catalina dressing (either regular, reduced fat, or fat-free) over the mixture and toss well. In addition to the chips, sour cream and guacamole can also be served alongside. To prepare the vegetarian version, simply simmer the kidney beans with the seasoning mix and water until the liquid is absorbed, leaving out the meat.

No matter what oneís choice is for an end of summer cookout/barbeque, it always can be a great time. The first and most important ingredient is the company and then the menu comes into play. No matter how your summer is ending, I hope it ends with a bang (not a whimper--to reference T.S. Eliot!) and a lovely experience with friends and family.

Stay cool--and if you canít stay cool, enjoy the heat with good friends and good food. Winter will be here soon enough!

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