Charles Siskin: A Flaming Fourth

Sunday, June 30, 2013 - by Charles Siskin
Watermelon Salad
Watermelon Salad
- photo by Charles Siskin

With Fourth of July coming up in less than a week it is not too soon to plan what you will take to the outdoor concert or to the family picnic. Here on the coast we always include a bottle of OFF. Why? because we are privy to the notorious yellow flies.

This isn’t just any old pesky fly, this, my reading companions, is the meanest fly that ever flew. This sucker leaves its mark on your leg or arm or anywhere it can land on your sweet body. Later as you sleep fitfully you will be thinking it is a dream that you are scratching a bite but wake up and you are whelped, tattooed, whatever. Tragically it isn’t until a couple of weeks later you recover full use of your hands for other than scratchin’. Makes chigger bites seems like a welcome visitor.  

Moving on, here’s some sagely cooking advice. When browning the tops of the marshmallows you just added at the last minute to your sweet potato casserole, do not, I repeat, DO NOT, fall into conversation with any of your party guests.  Better still don’t fall into conversation with anybody while performing this cooking maneuver. 

Should you forget to do that you might not want to call your guests attention to the now flaming dish inside your stove when you open the oven door. Or you might explain this is pre dinner Fourth-of-July performance art before the start of the real fireworks. Then very carefully remove this burning dish, let the flame die out then quickly remove the charred marshmallows and viola you have a lovely creamy white marshmallow sauce topping like you’d planned all along as you explain to your guests who are quickly exiting your home ahead of the fire department.  

Further good news is, relax you did not set off the fire alarm system. That does happen from time to time. Nor do you have to open all the doors and windows before smoke inhalation becomes deadly to many of your guests. That would take a major hit to your reputation as an awesome amateur chef and completely ruin your dinner party as well.

Recovering from near disasters in the kitchen has happened to just about anyone who cooks. I saw it on a Julia Childs’ TV segment in the past and she carried on like it was no big deal. Of course she had a propensity for taking a couple of good swigs from the cooking sherry in cases like that.  I might add this is reason enough to keep a bottle of your favorite libation nearby along with first aid equipment as well. 

Seriously, everyone should have a corner in their kitchen where they do keep first aid supplies as cooking accidents do happen frequently. Minor in most cases, but even the most professional of cooks have experienced mishaps. That ends the Doctor Oz portion of this article.

 Marshmallows burning aside, one thing that did not suffer any fatality at a recent dinner party was a glorious Watermelon Salad. My ever-watchful-for-best-bargain bride having brought home what was likely the prize watermelon from the County Fair. That would be the one that won for being the biggest. No, really, I thought I might need the two-wheeler to bring it from the SUV. 

Faced with what to do with it even after I cut it into two, I decided that the season begged for Watermelon Salad.  That would take care of a portion of this behemoth melon. The other half would just have to be content with being doused with cheap rum in a blender and showing up frozen on a popsicle stick. How cool is that?

Here’s a footnote. Several weeks later I opened the fridge and found a plastic baggy with several chunks of the same watermelon tucked neatly inside. This is like some watermelon horror story where the villain returns even after you’ve shot silver bullets into its heart. Or in this case, sliced and diced the bugger. 

As for the Watermelon salad, it’s a delicious treat with the addition of cherry tomatoes, English cucumber sliced thin, diced red onions and yellow peppers plus a dice of fresh basil. This baby just screams SUMMER! Ok maybe is doesn’t scream quite that loud but if you add some feta crumbled this awesome salad might just make you the envy of your party guests. Or at the very least let them realize that you are really that clever by half. 

Clever is good. Burned marshmallow not so good. S’mores are the best and that is the perfect ending to a casual summer party. It will bring back memories of campfires, backyard barbecues, times at the beach and the time you spent two weeks scratching on that yellow fly bite. 

WATERMELON SALAD (Serves 4 generously)

3 cups chunked seedless watermelon
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
1 cup thinly sliced English cucumber
1 cup yellow peppers diced 
1/4 cup diced red onion
½ cup fresh basil leaves ( which grows in abundance this time of year) sliced into ribbons plus several leaves to garnish
Note:(could use the more traditional fresh mint instead of basil) 
1/3 cup or more as needed Raspberry or any fruit flavored vinaigrette
Optional: Sprinkle crumbled Feta over salad to garnish before adding a basil leaf for the WOW Factor

Place fruit and veggies in a glass bowl toss with vinaigrette
Let mixture sit for 30 minutes or longer before serving
Keeps well in fridge overnight 


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