Memorial Day means different things to different folks. Traditionally, it kicks off the grilling season, while to the fashion police, this weekend allows white clothing and accessories to be released from closet custody.
But it is really a holiday of red, white and blue, a patriotic celebration of remembrance of the brave soldiers who lost their lives and limbs while serving the United States of America.
Originally, the holiday was meant to honor those who died in the Civil War, but now incorporates the tragedies of the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, the Korean War, Vietnam and Desert Storm. Unfortunately, our Memorial Day keeps expanding to cover more hostilities across the globe as we now also honor those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Instead of celebrating Memorial Day by charring meat at a backyard barbecue, a refreshing new game plan might include whipping up some portable picnic foods sans the mayo and other perishables as a strategic decontamination move, and head to the beach.
Don't be disarmed by an untraditional Memorial Day menu. You can keep things simple to prevent any culinary snafus along the way.
An assortment of sandwiches, salads and gazpacho keeps kitchen casualties at a minimum, and will provide tasty replenishment at sea.
Be armed with plenty of common supplies including toppings, condiments and patriotic red, white and blue potato and pasta salads and coleslaw. My grandma's recipe for the slaw is classified and top secret.
Make a variety of savory hero and submarine sandwiches on assorted baguettes, buns and rolls, stuffed with spicy roast turkey, grilled red onions, Portobellos, marinated eggplant and red, orange and yellow pepper slices, heirloom tomatoes and fresh arugula or watercress leaves to satisfy the savory tastes, and jelly and nut butter sandwiches such as almond or cashew for those with sweet tastes.
Mustard and ketchup are safe condiments and are forgiving in the heat, while milk--or egg-based ones are not.
In honor of Memorial Day, here's the recipe for an oil and vinaigrette potato salad with splashes of red, white and blue veggies, and a warm, roasted eggplant sandwich that would've pleased the palates of the biblical Maccabees, the Vikings, the medieval knights, the Japanese samurai, the Chinese soldiers, and of course, our modern-day American warriors with an explosion of flavors that their taste buds would surely salute.
Grilled Eggplant on Ciabatta Hero Sandwich
- 1 eggplant, thinly sliced elongated
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 red pepper, cut in half
- 1 yellow pepper, cut in half
- Fresh arugula
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and pepper to taste
Marinate the veggies in the oil and spices. Grill until tender. Pile layers on a ciabatta roll, and spread the top bread layer with your favorite mayo-free condiment such as spicy or honey mustard or my infused herbal oil.
Infused Herbal Oil
This oil is a great double agent that can also be used for dipping your breads, tossing in your pastas or splashing on your salads.
- 2 cups of extra virgin olive or grape seed oil
- 6 sprigs of fresh basil
- 6 sprigs of fresh oregano
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 tablespoon of peppercorns
- Sea salt to taste
In a large skillet, heat the oil on low. Dump all the ingredients in the oil and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain through cheesecloth or a fine strainer. Pour into a glass jar and cover. Refrigerate and enjoy for one week.
Red, White and Blue Potato Salad
- 2 pounds of red, white and blue potatoes (fingerling, baby creamers or other waxy varieties)
- 1/2 red onion, diced
- 1/3 cup of black olives, sliced
- 1/2 red pepper, diced
- 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup of white balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon of spicy mustard
- Sea salt and cayenne pepper to taste
Boil the potatoes until soft but firm. Cool. Cut into bite-size pieces. In a large bowl, combine the spuds, olives, peppers and onions. In a small bowl, whisk the oil, vinegar, mustard and spices. Toss a desired amount of the dressing into the potato mixture and blend well. Refrigerate. Safe to deploy to the beach for several hours.