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Cynthia's Corner Cupboard - July 2001

Hot weather finds our family eating lighter, more vegetables, and often, we have cookouts and picnics. Which I am sure, is the case with most of you.

What do you remember about food in the summer? Did your family cook out a lot? Mine didn't, at least not until they moved into the house where my parents still live. With that final move, they got a small yard which was theirs alone, and bought a grill.

Prior to that, I remember neighborhood picnics where everyone cooked hot dogs on sticks over a large fire. Once in a while, Mom would pack a picnic basket, Dad would load up the car, and we'd go away for a day to Idlewild Park, Kennywood Amusement Park (site of the top roller coasters in the world), or one of the area state parks.

What I can't understand is how we never had food poisoning or any digestive problems. Why is this such a problem nowadays? At any rate, Mom would make baked beans in a large casserole, cover it and wrap it in a towel to keep it warm. We'd take fried chicken, and she'd put a big bowl of potato salad in the cooler.

We've done similar picnics with our children. We've also stopped and bought drive-through food and gone to Riverside Park here in our town for an impromptu mini-break in our routine.

Once, Merrill and I had a very romantic picnic - with just the two of us. The menu consisted of a bottle of champagne, fried chicken, gazpacho soup, cheese, fresh fruit - it was wonderful. All that was missing was a flowing stream and a couple of weeping willow trees, in order to be picture perfect.

We are very fortunate to have some lovely picnic spots around this area, all within a decent driving distance. Penn Hills Park, Freeport Park near Laube Hall, and Boyce Park are among our favorites.

Summer food - lighter, cooler, easier menus. Lots of salads and vegetables. Once, when I was speaking on food and cooking like this to a group, I couldn't believe it when one woman told me her husband would be furious if she ever served him simply a large salad for dinner, or vegetarian type foods.

Now, I knew this man, and he was always someone easy to get along with. So after thinking about this for a minute or so, I asked her some questions. And I found out she felt compelled to apologize as she served certain foods.

Well, if you apologize for the food before anyone even tastes it, chances are your family will think there is something wrong with the food. That means they will be very hesitant to try it. You're the cook, you're in charge of the kitchen, you should be able to introduce your family to different things. That doesn't mean to disregard their likes and dislikes - but how will they know if they like or do not like something, if they do not have a chance to try the dish?

In today's multi-ethnic small world, our children are going to be traveling, and perhaps moving to other countries, or at least several states away, in order to work and live. What are we doing to prepare them for this, if we stunt their culinary growth now?

Teaching them to enjoy other cuisine's is just as important as their learning another language, or how to work a computer, or social graces. There is a wonderful world to explore out there - whether they move 500 or 5 miles away from home.

Mankind cannot live on meat, potato and corn at every meal.

Summer is a great time to offer something different - look at the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables that are available, things our parents and most certainly, our grandparents, never knew. We are blessed in this way.

In the meantime, I hope you will Enjoy! the following and CYH - consider yourselves hugged!

Minted Potato Salad

3 med. new potatoes (about 3/4 lb.)
2 med. cucumbers
1/3 c. chopped fresh mint
(OR 2 T. dried mint leaves)
1/4 c. olive or salad oil
4 T. lemon juice
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Cook potatoes in boiling water for 15 - 20 min., or until tender. Drain and cool. Peel and slice into large bowl. Pare cucumbers, halve lengthwise, and seed. Spread cucumbers on paper toweling to dry completely. Cut into 1/4 inch slices to make crescent shapes. Lightly mix potatoes, cucumbers, and mint.

Drizzle oil over. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and chill until ready to serve. Garnish with fresh mint. Serves 4. This is great for picnics, as it does not contain eggs or any creamy mixture which could spoil.

Zucchini and Onions in Sour Cream

2 c. zucchini, peeled and sliced thin
1 c. onion, sliced
2 T. white vinegar
1 T. white sugar
1/2 c. sour cream
1 tsp. dried dill, or
1/4 c. chopped fresh dill
salt and pepper

Place prepared zucchini on paper toweling to dry for about an hour. Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate, serve chilled. Serves 2-3. Great for folks who can't eat cucumbers.

Summer Garden Salad

1 lb. rotini, cooked, drained and cooled
1 c. oil
4 tsp. dry mustard
6 tsp. sugar
3 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. pepper
8 T. vinegar
1/2 c. chopped green onions
2 medium tomatoes, cut up

Mix dressing ingredients in large bowl. Add rotini, toss to mix. Stir in tomatoes and chopped green onions. Refrigerate before serving.

Fresh Vegetable Salad

1 lb.. small zucchini
1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms
1 pint Plum tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 c. sliced, pitted ripe olives
1 medium (red) Bermuda onion, or other sweet onion, thinly sliced
1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley
1 sm. bottle Red wine vinegar and oil salad dressing

Rinse, pat dry and slice mushrooms and zucchini. Place all vegetables in large salad bowl. Pour salad dressing over, just enough to season salad. Cover and let set for 1 hr. or longer. Serve as is, or on lettuce leaves. Makes about 6 - 8 servings.

Summer Rice Salad

2 med. tomatoes, chopped
1 sm. cucumber, seeded and chopped
2 green onions, chopped
3 c. cooked rice
1/2 to 3/4 c. Italian salad dressing

In medium bowl, combine all ingredients using 1/2 c. dressing. Mix well. Cover, refrigerate to blend flavors. If desired, stir in an additional 1/4 c. dressing before serving. Makes 9 (2/3c.) servings.

© Cynthia Bowan, 2001
All rights reserved

Cynthia Bowan is a free lance writer and has been a newspaper food columnist for Gateway-Star publications in Monroeville, PA, USA, for sixteen years. She often lectures on cooking and food-related subjects; collects cookbooks; and has taught classes on cake decorating and gourmet cooking. She also moderates three recipe exchange lists, one food / cooking information list, and three others.

Her work has appeared on World in Your Kitchen, an award-winning Internet site which no longer is food-centered. Her work now can be found at CynthiasCornerCupboard@yahoogroups.com, www.agourmetkitchen.com and www.hub.uk.com. Her work also has appeared in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, the Pentecostal Evangel and Pittsbrugh's Expression Magazine.

She has been married to Dr. Merrill Bowan, a neurodevelopmental optometrist, for thirty-six years-plus, and lives in Oakmont, PA, just outside Pittsburgh. The Bowans have three sons, two daughters, one daughter-in-law, two grandsons (eight and five and a half), several cats and other assorted animals their children have brought home (including Monty the Python and Natasha the ferret . . . )

Email Hub-UK : info@hub-uk.com