I have always liked community cookbooks, as they usually feature the best recipes that home cooks have developed. Just like that type of cookbook, some of my columns are based on the same concept. I contact many of the cooks who have been featured in Gourmets and Good Eaters, and ask them for a favorite recipe.
This time around, I was looking for Memorial Day “must-haves.” These would be dishes that they always make on Memorial Day, or dishes that they are asked to bring to a gathering, or perhaps just a favorite recipe that says “Memorial Day” to them.
Alexandra Lancaster, my neighbor in Waquoit, thought of wine-soaked strawberries. Because she couldn’t locate the recipe, I did a little research and came up with one.
1 lb strawberries washed and hulled
2 cups rosé wine
1⁄4 cup sugar
Place strawberries in a bowl, cover with rosé and refrigerate up to 1 hour; drain strawberries and lightly dry them. Roll in sugar and chill briefly, or freeze until ready to serve.
At his home in West Barnstable, John Carafoli is lighting the charcoal. “I usually do a stuffed lobster on the grill,” he told me by e-mail. “The recipe is from Eleanor’s Restaurant, which was located off the Sagamore Rotary Circle in the 1950s. It’s stuffed with chopped scallops, fresh thyme, dry sherry, potato chips and Ritz crackers, plus lots of butter!”
Another neighbor who has appeared numerous time in this column is Linda Despres. I depend on her for fresh rhubarb for my Memorial Day dessert (more about that later), but for this column she suggested hot dogs—but not just any hot dogs! Ron Wing, who lives with Linda, insists on Hummel’s, which can only be found in Connecticut.
He likes to serve them grilled, along with the buns, hot off the grill. “Be sure to cut four or five slashes on the tops and bottoms before grilling,” he cautions. “These are best served with B&M Baked Beans, sauerkraut, or any of your favorite condiments.” I have had these hot dogs, and I concur with Ron, Linda, and Mary Jane and Frank Fernino (who brings them to us from Connecticut when they travel), that they are just about the best-ever (and I mean ever!).
I also checked with Mary Jane about one of her favorites for this upcoming holiday. She likes to make her broccoli salad, which she says is really good to make ahead and use on a buffet table, or to take to a party. “It doesn’t get soggy,” she said. “I like to have it in my summer salad rotation; I’ve had broccoli salads heavy with bacon and cheese with a mayonnaise-based dressing. While often delicious, they are a bit of a guilty pleasure. This version keeps enough bacon and cheese for flavor, but uses oil and vinegar for a dressing.”
MJ’s Broccoli Salad
About 4-5 cups of bite-sized fresh broccoli florets
About ½ cup of diced sweet onion
About ½ cup of diced red bell pepper
About ¼ cup of dried cranberries
About ¼ cup shredded cheddar or jack cheese
2-3 slices of cooked bacon, diced
3 TBSP apple cider vinegar
3 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl; whisk the dressing ingredients together and pour over the salad. Toss well to combine and cover and refrigerate for at least a few hours, tossing occasionally if you can remember.
Kate Davis, of Kate Davis Events, had a classic to offer. “A must-have for Memorial Day weekend is slow-smoked baby back ribs! I remove the membrane from the back of the ribs and trim any excess fat. I make a dry rub with salt, pepper, brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, Jerk seasoning and chili powder. After coating the ribs well, I refrigerate them overnight.”
She continued, “The next day, bring the ribs to room temperature. I put the rubs in a single layer in a pan and add a bottle of lager beer, then wrap the pan tightly with foil and cook for about two hours in a 225°F oven. Remove the ribs from the pan and wrap in foil and then transfer them to the smoker at 225 degrees to finish them off over Applewood chips (another four hours, more or less, depending on thickness).”
She likes to make a mop sauce to brush on them halfway through cooking. “Combine ½ cup cider vinegar with one and ½ tsp dry mustard; season that with salt and pepper and mop that on the ribs, once after an hour and a half and again at the two and a half hour mark. Then at the three and a half hour mark, flip the ribs and mop again. When they’re done, coat them with your favorite barbecue sauce (a good store-bought one is Sweet Baby Ray’s) and serve them.”
Here’s a perfect salad to go with those ribs. Laura Gross-Higgins said she just discovered it. “It’s delicious—you can grill the corn or do the ears under the broiler,” she said. “I got it off the web—it will be perfect as a side all season long. The corn can be grilled 1 day ahead before assembling salad, which can be eaten warm or cold.”
Grilled Corn Salad With Feta
6 large or 7 medium ears of corn
¼ cup chopped red onion
3 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
½ cup feta, crumbled
chopped fresh mint, cilantro or parsley
kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Set grill to medium-high; husk the corn. Oil the ears, using just 1 TBSP of the oil. Grill 10 to 12 minutes, turning often, until charred in spots. Transfer to a cutting board and set aside to cool; cut the kernels off the cob and put the corn, red onion and cheese in a medium salad bowl. Drizzle with the remaining 2 TBSP olive oil and toss; add the fresh herbs and toss again. Taste and add salt and pepper before serving.
Then there’s cole slaw, a perennial favorite. June Levy, who lives in New Seabury, says this is her “go-to cole slaw” recipe. “It’s hardly very high end, but it is somewhat nutritious, and it’s always a big hit. I usually buy a mix, and have added chopped apples. I don’t always use all the other ingredients when in a rush, and it still turns out well.”
June’s Broccoli Bacon Cole Slaw
1-2 heads fresh broccoli, washed and cut into bite-size flowerets; stems can be grated (or use Green Giant or Mann’s packaged mix)
½ cup chopped red onion
½ cup dried cranberries or golden raisins
½ cup diced celery
½ cup roasted sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds
3-6 slices crumbled cooked bacon
Some diced radish, if desired
½ cup mayonnaise
2 TBSP cider vinegar
1 to 2 TBSP sugar
½ tsp ground black pepper
Add broccoli, red onions, cranberries or raisins, celery, radish, crumbled bacon, and sunflower seeds to a large bowl. Next, make the dressing by mixing mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, and pepper in a small bowl. Pour dressing over the broccoli salad and mix thoroughly. Transfer salad to a large plate or serving bowl. Finish the salad off by garnishing with the crumbled bacon. (If you prefer a bacon-free version, omit bacon and garnish with a handful of dried cranberries and slivered almonds.)
PJ Hamel is the senior digital content editor at King Arthur Flour; she lives in Sandwich and we are fortunate that she has come to Highfield Hall to share her knowledge of all things baked. She told me she loves a good cookout, and especially enjoys having her own homemade hamburger buns. “This is just a superior recipe,” she said, “and it never fails!”
Beautiful Burger Buns
¾ to 1 cup lukewarm water*
2 TBSP butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
Three and a half cups King Arthur unbleached AP flour
¼ cup sugar
One and ¼ tsp salt
1 TBSP instant yeast
*For best results (a smooth, slightly soft dough), use the smaller amount of water in summer (or in a humid environment), the greater amount in winter (or in a dry climate); and something in between the rest of the time.
3 TBSP melted butter
Mix and knead all of the dough ingredients (except the melted butter)—by hand, mixer, or bread machine—to make a soft, smooth dough. Cover the dough, and let it rise for 1 to 2 hours, or until it’s nearly doubled in bulk; gently deflate the dough, and divide it into 8 pieces. Shape each piece into a round ball; flatten to about 3 inches across. Place the buns on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, cover, and let rise for about an hour, until noticeably puffy; brush the buns with about half of the melted butter. Bake the buns in a preheated 375°F oven for 15 to 18 minutes, until golden. Remove them from the oven, and brush with the remaining melted butter; this will give the buns a satiny, buttery crust. Cool the buns on a rack; this makes 8 large buns.
Yield: 8 large buns.
Lastly, I know a lot of people look forward to strawberries this time of year. I tend to wait until the Fourth of July for those, so I like to make a rhubarb crisp to serve on Memorial Day. My recipe is from the New York Times, and it is nearly effortless, especially if you use a food processor for the topping. Plus, it’s as good (or better) than a pie.
6 TBSP cold butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for greasing pan
3 lbs rhubarb, trimmed, tough strings removed, and cut into one and a half-inch pieces (about 5 to 6 cups)
¼ cup white sugar
1 TBSP orange or lemon juice
1 tsp orange or lemon zest
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup AP flour
½ tsp cinnamon, or to taste
½ cup each: rolled oats and pecans
½ cup pecans
Heat oven to 375°F and grease an 8- or 9-inch square baking or gratin dish with a little butter. Toss rhubarb with white sugar, orange or lemon juice and zest, and spread in baking dish. Put the butter in a food processor along with brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt, and pulse for about 20 or 30 seconds, until it looks like small peas and just begins to clump together; add oats and pecans and pulse just a few times to combine. Crumble the topping over rhubarb and bake until golden and beginning to brown, 45 to 50 minutes; serve warm or at room temperature.