Today is one of those National Days that was just packed with inspiration. Right out of the gate, there were three very different styles to celebrate. Picking just one was impossible, so why even try?
To me it made more sense to settle on a theme, then pull recipes together to honor the day as a whole. Food wise, we have Wine and Cheese Day and Hot Fudge Sundae. Yeah, pretty far apart on the menu spectrum, but doable. If you work your way through the day while highlighting certain aspects, a leisurely menu comes together beautifully.
Let’s start with National Wine and Cheese Day. We are encouraged to celebrate the perfect pairing of wine and cheese. It’s the perfect regionalized union of wine-producers and cheese makers. Speak to a trusted Sommelier, chat with your Cheesemonger. Their recommendations and pairings may lead to exciting new discoveries.
Since I’m no expert, I’ve taken the easy yet delicious route – a Port Wine Cheese Ball. It’s easy to make, and when paired with some crackers, grapes and assorted fruits, it makes for a wonderful start to any style meal. So here’s to National Wine and Cheese Day!
It’s also National Cowboy Day. This is one of those fun, moving dates that is observed on the last Saturday in July. Wow – the end of July already? My how time flies even when we are stuck inside.
For many Americans, the image of the Cowboy is met with a wave of warm emotions. For me, cowboys represent a particular breed of people with a keen sense of respect for the land, loyalty to family and community. Working hard is in their blood.
The era of the cowboy came after the Civil War and grew in the heart of Texas. While cattle were herded long before this time, in Texas cattle roam wild and unchecked. As America expanded, the demand for prime beef in the northern territories increased. In Texas there were nearly 5 million head of cattle that needed to be driven north for a taste of the profits to be had. Eventually, ranching replaced the unchecked herds. Even so, there are wide open places where cattle still has free range and cowboys still need to hold an old-fashion round up. Spend a little time in Wyoming, and you’ll find a whole new meaning to phrase traffic jam.
Putting a menu together for National Cowboy Day was so easy. Gotta grill up some meat. That was a gimmie. Again, if you’ve ever spent time in Wyoming, you’d notice all the sage. The air after a rain will actually smell like sage. And free-range chickens in Wyoming naturally have a sage taste. So naturally, I made my favorite Mashed Potato with fried sage. (Confession, we have sage growing in the garden and sometimes I like to fry it up in butter to add to omelettes or just eat by the handful. Crazy, I know, but also tasty). So why the squash in this menu? Why not. It’s summertime, and squash is just a summer dish.
I also wanted a beverage that reflected the season. To me, summer means berries and lemonade. So why not bring the two together? Remember, this is a family-friendly meal, so Blackberry Lemonade was perfect.
And finally, it’s National Hot Fudge Sundae Day. What better way is to end a wonderful family meal than with simple, old fashioned Hot Fudge Sundaes? Did you know that the Sundaes have been around since the 1880s? Hot Fudge is just a spin on the classic Sundae, with the Fudge served hot. Duh! It was around that time that Blue Laws made the sell of Ice Cream Sodas illegal on Sundays. Why? Brace yourself – the “sucking” of soda through a straw was viewed as unsavory behavior on the Lord’s Day. Ice Cream Sodas were a booming business for Drug Stores. To come up with a way to continue to sell ice cream and be a social gathering place, the Sundae was invented. After all, a Sundae is just an Ice Cream Soda, minus the soda (and the offensive “sucking). Personally, I don’t think God minds sucking on a soda on a hot Sunday afternoon. But that’s okay, a Hot Fudge Sundae is just as sinfully delicious.
Enough talking, let’s get to the good stuff – all that yummy food.
National Deliciousness Inspiration Menu
National Wine and Cheese Day –
Port Wine Cheese Ball
National Cowboy Day –
Cowboy Whisky Rib-Eye Mushroom Steaks
Browned Sage Butter Mashed Potatoes
Summer Squash Saute with Basil Vinaigrette
Refreshing Blackberry Lemonade
National Hot Fudge Sundae Day –
Classic Hot Fudge Sundae with Toasted Almonds
Port Wine Cheese Ball
4 oz Cream Cheese
4 tablespoons Butter
2 cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese
2 Garlic Cloves
2 teaspoons Dried Onion Granules
1/4 cup Ruby Port Wine
Let cream cheese and butter come to room temperature to soften.
Using the small holes of a cheese grater, shred the cheddar cheese. Place in a large mixing bowl.
Peel and grate the garlic over the shredded cheese.
Add cream cheese, butter, Onion Granules and port wine and mix until well-combined.
Place the cheese mixture onto a sheet of plastic wrap and from it into a big ball. Refrigerate for an hour to firm up.
Chop toasted walnuts and place in a bowl. Finely mince parsley, add to the walnuts.
Roll cheese ball in the walnut mixture to coat, pressing nuts into the cheese to adhere. Place on a serving platter with assorted crackers or breads and a spreader knife. Serve and enjoy.
Cowboy Whiskey Mushroom Steaks
4 tablespoons Hickory Smoked Balsamic Vinegar
4 tablespoons Bourbon Whiskey
4 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 cup Butter, divided
4 Rib-Eye Steaks
24 Cremini Mushrooms
1-1/2 tablespoons fresh Thyme Leaves
Thyme Sprigs for garnish
Combine balsamic vinegar, bourbon and Worcestershire sauce in a small bowl.
Note: Reserve half of the marinade for the mushroom sauce.
Blot steaks dry with a paper towel. Place steaks in a casserole dish. Pour half of the marinade over the steaks. Turn steaks to coat.
Place in the refrigerator for an hour, turning after 30 minutes.
While the steaks marinade, clean mushrooms, slice as thinly as possible. Set aside. Pull thyme leaves from stems, set aside.
Heat oven to 425 degrees.
In a cast iron skillet melt 4 tablespoons butter over medium high heat.
Remove steaks from marinade. Place steaks in the skillet and allow to sear, untouched, 3 minutes.
Turn steaks and remove from heat. Place the skillet in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the steak and desired doneness.Remove from oven, transfer steaks to a place and cover with a large metal bowl. Let steaks rest 10 minutes or until ready to serve.
While the steaks finish, melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a saute pan over medium heat.
Add mushrooms and saute until soft, 5 minutes. Pour reserved marinade over the mushrooms, add thyme, reduce heat and continue to saute 6-8 minutes.
Plate steaks individually, spoon mushroom sauce over the top.Garnish with thyme sprigs as desired and serve.
Browned Sage Butter Mashed Potatoes
3 lb. small Yukon Gold Potatoes
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) Butter, divided
12 fresh Sage Leaves
3/4 cup Half-and-Half
Kosher Salt to taste
Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste
Peel potatoes, cut into quarters. Place in a stock pot with just enough cold water to cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain well, return to stock pot and “dry” potatoes over low heat for about 5 minutes.
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, melt 8 tablespoons (1 stick) of the butter. When the foam subsides, add the sage leaves and fry until crisp, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sage leaves to paper towels to drain and season with salt. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking the butter until it is brown but not smoking, 2 to 3 minutes more. Pour into a heatproof bowl and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over low heat, combine the remaining 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter and the half-and-half. Heat until the butter melts and the mixture is hot, about 8 minutes.
Mash the potatoes using a potato masher or hand-held mixer until creamy but not yet smooth. Using a spatula, fold in the Half-and-Half mixture and 4 to 5 tablespoons of the brown butter until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
Transfer the potatoes to a serving dish. Garnish with the sage leaves and drizzle with the remaining brown butter. Serve immediately.
Summer Squash Sauté with Basil Vinaigrette
1 Garlic Clove minced
2 tablespoons Shallot minced
2 cups packed Basil Leaves
2 teaspoons fresh Lemon Juice
2 tablespoons White Balsamic Vinegar
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 cup Olive Oil
Freshly ground Black Pepper to taste
Peel and finely grate the garlic and shallot, gathering up their juices. Place the basil, garlic, shallot, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, olive oil, and pepper in a blender. Blend until smooth. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary.
Note: Vinaigrette can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
1 large Zucchini
1 large Yellow Squash
3 Garlic Cloves
1-1/2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 cup Grape Tomatoes
Kosher salt to taste
Dash crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan Cheese
Split zucchini in half lengthwise. Trim and discard ends. Cut remaining zucchini into half-moon chunks. Repeat with yellow squash. Set aside. Peel and roughly chop garlic, set aside.
Heat olive oil in large skillet on medium-high heat. Add yellow squash and zucchini and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add in the garlic and tomatoes and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, gently stirring, or until vegetables are crisp-tender and tomatoes are about ready to burst.
Season with salt and crushed red pepper. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, finish with a drizzle of vinaigrette dressing. Serve and enjoy.
6 Lemons, divided
3/4 cup Sugar
4 1/2 cups Water, divided
1 cup Blackberries
2 tablespoons Sugar
Ice Cubes as needed
Additional Blackberries for garnish
Cut lemons in half. Juice each half until 1 cup of freshly squeezed juice has been reached, about 5-1/2 lemons. Thinly slice remaining half a lemon into rounds for garnish. Set aside.
Heat 3/4 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook and stir until sugar has dissolved, about 2 minutes. Let cool.
Place blackberries and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar in a blender. Blend until smooth. (space) Combine simple syrup, blended blackberries, remaining 4 cups of water, and lemon juice. Place a fine-mesh sieve over a pitcher and pour lemonade into the pitcher. Discard solids. Serve over ice. Garnish with lemon wheels and additional berries as desired.
Classic Hot Fudge Sundae
4 tablespoons. Toasted Almonds
12 oz Ghirardelli Hot Fudge
8 scoops Vanilla Ice Cream
Whipped Cream as desired
4 Maraschino Cherry
4 Pirouette Crème Filled Chocolate Hazelnut Wafer Cookies
Chop almonds, set aside.
Warm hot chocolate according to jar direction. Drizzle a little of the fudge into four goblets or ice cream bowls.
Place 2 scoops of ice cream into each bowl.
Pipe a rosette of whipped cream on top, garnish with chopped toasted nuts, a cherry, and a cookie.