Come tomorrow, I suspect many of you will be firing up your grills and having a celebratory cookout. I have one thing to say to all of you planning on doing this – I am extremely jealous. We, urban dwellers, try as we might to boast that city living is the way to go, are actually quite jealous of all the backyard fun everyone else is having. Which is probably why New Yorkers love to invite themselves over to summer houses, suburban havens, and anyone in the tri-state area lucky enough to own a grill (there are some lucky balcony owners out there).
This Fourth of July, Andrew, Russell, and I will be grill-less, but that won’t stop us from celebrating in as much style as we possibly can, with fried chicken, corn on the cob, and blueberry cobbler. Really, we’re just trying to make our friends with grills jealous (far fetched as that may be). When life does not give us grill, we deep-fry instead.
In the past, I’ve always been a grateful invitee, lugging with me more than my fare share of slaws, potato salads, various pies, guacamoles, and salsas. When I lived in Chelsea, a trek to Brooklyn while carrying multiple totes full of food was actually a tricky feat. One time, salsa seeped out of its container, dripped all over the paper shopping bag I used for carrying provisions, and as I was about to leave the train, the bag ripped and everything spilled out. While I was gathering all my things together, the train doors had closed again and I missed my stop. Since then, I seal foods a lot more carefully.
I tried my hand at the salsa here a few weeks ago when I picked up a few hothouse tomatoes from a local farmer. They were so fragrant and lovely, but I wanted to heighten their flavor, so I stuck them under a broiler for a few minutes, along with an onion, some garlic and jalapenos. I took my broiled, blackened vegetables, threw them in the food processor along with some fresh lime juice and some salt and pepper. The results were even better than I expected.
The slightly charred, blistered tomato skin turned smoky, and combined with the heat from the jalapenos, took my regular summer salsa from great to spectacular. I served it at our monthly book club meeting (it was my turn to host) – and watched it disappear.
I imagine eating the salsa at a barbecue, served along some grilled chicken or a hamburger and it makes me want a backyard even more. Years ago, when I moved to New York, I scoffed at any idea of suburbia. Funny, how as you get older, the idea of a house, a backyard, a grill and your own washer and dryer (never mind all that room you get with a house) grows on you – you find it as something desirable, unlike a few years ago when, to me, the word suburbia spelled banishment. At the same time as I dream of white picket fences and manicured lawns, I am inextricably connected to Brooklyn with its communities, neighborhoods, brownstones, stoop sales, block parties, and stores where not only do proprietors know you by name, but also what you like to buy – a place I like to call home.
Suburbia, with my own shiny grill, can wait – I’ll make do with a broiler for now.
Adapted from Everyday Food
I was thinking about how those of you with grills, should try this recipe using a grill. I would imagine the timing to be similar for roasting the vegetables. Just look for blistered, slightly blackened sides on tomatoes, a golden hew on garlic, some blistering on onions and jalapenos as well. We are broiling out of necessity, but if you can take this thing outside and not heat up your house – that’s even better. Happy Fourth!
4 medium-sized tomatoes (1 1/2 pounds)
1 medium white onion, peeled and halved
3 jalapenos, trimmed
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
Juice of 2 limes
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
1. Heat broiler with rack in top position. Place the tomatoes, onion, jalapenos and garlic in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Broil for 6-8 minutes, until the vegetables are blistered and slightly softened, rotating sheet and flipping vegetables frequently. (Remove garlic earlier if browning too quickly).
2. Discard garlic skins. In a good processor pulse garlic and vegetables until coarsely pureed. Add the lime juice and season with salt and pepper. Pulse to combine.
3. Transfer salsa to a bowl and stir in cilantro.
Salsa will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.
Makes about 3 cups.