Sunday, August 22, 2010

All-American

The Little League World Series is in full swing.  The children of the world are staying with host families surrounding Williamsport, PA where the international event has been based for 64 years.   Like many foreign visitors who spend time at American tables, these children will sample the All-American hot dog and hamburger grill out.  It’s inexpensive and our answer to a fun meal that allows for a little creativity too.   In addition to beef burgers, we now regularly see buffalo, turkey and veggie burgers in backyards everywhere.   Hot dogs come in healthier varieties made with turkey, chicken and tofu and some exclude nitrates. Garden-ripe tomatoes and all kinds of domestic cheeses top burgers. Homemade chili, sauerkraut or even chopped salads are offered with franks.  Side dishes from the grill or prepared in advance put the household personality and heritage front and center.  Potato salads, slaws, relishes and fresh salads and grilled vegetables from the garden tell the story of the family’s tastes and traditions.

If you have international visitors and have done the hot dog/burger meal already, consider offering other “All American” meals that show off the diversity of our people and the range of our resources.  Here are a few regional menu ideas to introduce your foreign friends to dinner across America:

Northwestern Pacific
Grill thick salmon steaks and fresh asparagus and serve with sesame soba noodles. 
Celebrate the region’s fruit harvest that evokes the flavors of northwest wines with a pear and berry tart.
To Drink:  Iced Coffee

Southern Barbecue
This country loves ribs.  Serve them with collards, corn bread (or fresh biscuits) and cole slaw.  Southerners are great bakers so your choices are numerous for dessert.  I love pecan pie but in the summer a key lime pie will fit the bill too.
To drink: Iced Tea  (not too sweet please) or try a micro-brewed soda pop.
(See February 25, 2010 post for collards recipe.)

New England Shore Dinner
Simplify a clambake by steaming clams with lobster and linguica sausage.  Serve with Boston baked beans, corn on the cob and new potatoes.   Pay homage to the Toll House restaurant in Massachusetts with chocolate chip cookies for dessert or wow guests with a Maine blueberry crumble.
To Drink: Cranberry juice and seltzer

Southwestern Seduction
Make fajitas using a choice of grilled chicken, beef or veggies (zucchini or eggplant and Portobello mushrooms) dressed with roasted red and yellow bell peppers, caramelized onions and sautéed mushrooms.  Pass the guacamole, salsa and hot sauce.  Serve rice and beans on the side.  Brownies with cinnamon ice cream or cinnamon-spiked whipped cream complete the meal.
To drink: Watermelon Agua Fresca  (see August 14, 2010 post for more information about Aguas Frescas.))


West Coast Fusion
Start with steamed and lightly salted edamame served in their pods. Follow up with fish tacos made with grilled or breaded fish plus a creamy slaw and a little hot sauce on a warm corn or flour tortilla. California avocados make a great garnish or form the base of a simple salad with baby lettuces and citrus vinaigrette.  A huge and varied fruit bowl for dessert will remind everyone that much of the fruit we eat, dried or fresh, is grown out here. 
To Drink: Lemonade with a sprig of fresh mint

Prairie Home
A pork tenderloin with a cherry glaze or a classic meat loaf served with green beans and mashed potatoes is a heartland meal that is hard to find done well at a restaurant because its pure home cooking.  Finish up with an apple or cherry pie.  This is big dairy country so make dessert a´ la mode with a premium ice cream.
To drink: Milk flavored with chocolate or strawberries. 

Don’t wait to have friends over from France to show off our culinary wonders.  Have a staycation dinner this week that transports you to a favorite region of the country.


Note: Irresistible pun apology for swing and based.