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4th of July Report and Tuna Update! Pls. Post Yours!

As I think I’ve mentioned before, I moved recently and am getting familiar to a new kitchen, which is always a little harder than you’d think! However, we have begun cooking full swing and yesterday on the 4th had our first little dinner get together and here’s a report of the aftermath!

Although we usually go all out on these holidays, we hit two snags. First, we had to get to bed early (No fireworks for us), second it was our anniversary. So we wanted our dinner to be special and simple at the same time. So recently I made a post about what do with a very special can of Tuna I had from Katy’s Smokehouse in Northern California. DanaB suggest Julia Child’s Classic Niscoise Salad. It just so happened that we just got the anniversary version of Art of French Cooking and have been looking for the perfect recipe to dive in. And so, the Niscoise Salad was it!!

As Dana had warned in her post, this recipe was 3 pages! It actually turned out to be four! But it wasn’t so much instruction on the recipe, it was more like recipes for each component. So while time consuming, the assembly was rather simple...

First, you line a large bowl with butter lettuce. Then, you lay on the bottom French Potato salad (recipe #1), a simple thing made with sliced waxy potatoes and dressed in a French vinaigrette (recipe #2, which we made 2 cups) mixed with fresh shallots and herbs (In our case we used Parsley, Basil and Marjoram). Then you take your tuna and anchovies tossed in some plain vinaigrette and make a little mound in the center of the bowl. Then, you toss some blanched green beans (Recipe #3) and some tomato quarters and toss them in plain vinaigrette as well and create a bed of beans all around the tuna mount and lay on top the tomatoes and some hard boiled egg slices (We omitted the Olives the recipe calls for) And finally, we added some outdoor grilled veggies (We had to break out the little Smokey for something on the 4th!) which were various squashes, asparagus, and red pepper to go with the salad. When assembled, I drizzled more dressing, this time adding dill to the herb mixture and placed the remaining (About 1⁄2 cup) in a little bowl so that folks could add more if they desired.

And it all looked so lovely!! I gave each guest a plate with a few leaves of butter lettuce on it and then had them all dig in to the salad! To accompany we had warm fresh baked Rosemary Dill Bread, fresh squeezed lemonade from my parents tree and a nice chilled Pouilly-Fuisse.

The Salad was a lot more simple tasting than I thought it would be. The flavors light and subtle. The only thing I would perhaps take out was the anchovies. They were entirely overwhelming to the tuna. In fact, the tuna, which was the most densely packed Albacore Tuna steak I've ever had, was really subtle in flavor. So much so, it hardly tasted like tuna. It tasted CLEAN and fresh, but not tuna... I hate to say it, but I think I perfer my bumble bee afterall... LOL! :)

The winning component in all of this was the French vinaigrette. We made it with white wine vinegar an excellent organic Greek olive oil and a bit of dry mustard. It was so good I ended up using it also a bread dip... Yum! :)

And the lemons weren't the only contribution from my parents ranch. They also recently gave us like 10lbs of Apricots! And on epicurious I found a great recipe for Apricot Ginger Pie...

The one thing that intrigued me in this recipe was the recent pie crust post and how some posters swear by an all butter crust. I've always been afraid to try one, but for this recipe, I was willing to give it a shot. I followed the directions perfectly and made and baked the pie shell. When it came out it looked HORRIBLY delicate. I was nervous that it would be too soggy due to the juices of the baked apricots, or that it would shatter when sliced and served. And most of all, that is would burn for the time needed to bake the final pie. Nevertheless, it smelled and looked wonderful and so I assembled and baked the whole pie.

I set it out to cool completely for a few hours before serving. When I served it, the crust cut PERFECT. It wasn't soggy or crumbly at all. Although I'm still on the fence about my original pie crust recipe (with just a TINY bit of Crisco but mostly butter, it seemed to add more heft), the guests all agreed with the posters that butter crust was the way to go... LOL!!

As for the pie itself, it was wonderful! The ginger was there, but not over powering. The crust was absolutely PERFECTLY crispy. I was afraid that the malty/sour flavor of grape nuts would overpower it, so I bought the Kashi version and the topping was indeed crisp and flavorful of the spices and brown sugar. A guest called it the perfect blending of pie and cobbler... I highly recommend the recipe... :)

And so, a simple meal that was wonderfully received and absolutely perfect for the hot weather! My only regret is in the excitement, I forgot to take pictures (I need to get better at that!!)

I am SO looking forward to cooking more through the Art of French Cooking and seeing what my new kitchen is capable of... :) And now please post your 4th of July Report (I love recap posts!) and here a couple of links for you guys! :)

Katy's Smokehouse of Trinidad (Awesome smoked salmon and premium canned fish!)

One of Julia's Nicoise Salad Recipes:

Apricot Ginger Pie

Dommy's New Kitchen (Still a little messy from the move)!



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  1. (I'm fka fresser)

    Dommy! your pie sounds super tasty! I remember seeing that when the mag came out and thinking I had to try it. Instead, i went with a quick and dirty blueberry-peach crisp, using PYO berries which were soooo good. I use a totally simple topping: just 2tbs unsalted butter, 1/2c sugar, 1/2 flour, a generous pinch of kosher salt. I usually use regular non-bleached but only had white-whole wheat on hand but it was fine. Despite hardcore humidity, which threatened to make mush of the crisp topping, it all tasted good and most of the crunch prevailed against tough weather conditions.

    For the main meal, I made turkey burgers, which i mix up with fresh basil, parsley, mint, and ground: ginger, cardamom, mustard, cumin, chile powder, black-pink pepper, turmeric or garam masala and some worcestershire sauce, and feta.
    Also grilled chicken kebabs marinated in:
    1/4tsp kosher salt
    1tsp sugar
    1/2tsp sweet pimenton de la vera
    1tsp chile powder
    1tbs olive oil
    1tbs the juice from a can of chipotles in adobo

    Pasta salad of orichiette with CSA broccoli, roasted red peppers, feta, sauteed onions, fig vinegar, olive oil, fresh ground pepper.

    I also made some guac and roasted a bunch of red, yellow, orange peppers and vidalia onions. All so sweet and yummy!

    Friends brought wayyy too much desserts. YUM. We tried out some wine from a local NJ vineyard which was surprisingly good. Other than that, just some good beers.

    The rain limited itself to one helluva downpour at 4pm, but things dried out quickly and we enjoyed the back 40...square feet.

    1. We had our party early, and enjoyed:

      -salami plate
      -fresh burrata with oil and black pepper
      -tuna tartare

      -oven baked BBQ ribs
      -caesar salad
      -polenta chevre tart (thanks to the person who posted this; it was great!)
      -corn on the cob and baby artichokes in raw garlic/butter

      -homemade vanilla ice cream with baked meringue, chocolate sauce, and spun sugar

      -lots of wine: riesling, rose, zinfandel, and raspberry mojitos

      My mistake was not making the appetizer portions smaller. Everyone was pleasantly full even before the main courses came out, and positively ready to burst before dessert hit the table. Still, it was lots of fun!

      Photos: http://www.chezpei.com/2006/07/happy-...

      1. Dommy!

        What a great menu and labor of love. Kudos to you!

        I am actually embarrassed about my 4th of July meal. I normally go all out but the day turned crazed since my son was in the local parade. We had not planned on having anyone over but we ended up with another couple and their kids last minute. The menu: chips and salsa, hummus w/ pita chips, Vidalia onion Bubba Burgers** w/ sharp cheddar, Popsicles and turtle brownies. All was from what was in the freezer or leftovers from other meals. My meal earlier in the weekend was much better!! http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

        **these are found in the frozen food section of your local big box supermarket. My husband is addicted to these things and always has them on hand for nights when he is on his own. They are not bad, actually pretty good, but I still prefer to make and season my own. http://www.bubba-burger.com/

        1. We started with Pegu Club cocktails compliments of the new Spirits board. Delicious drink that will be in my repertoire forever, thanks guys! The one non-gin-drinker among the six of us had vodka gimlets.

          Artichoke and green olive (picholine) dip (Epicurious) with pita chips and cucumber rounds, to accompany cocktails.

          Grilled skewers of shrimp alternated with blanched garlic cloves, marinated in tomato sauce-cayenne-red wine vinegar-garlic-basil.

          Grilled skewers of ground pork meatballs with cumin, onions, some other spices (can't remember exactly, brain is fried - recipe is from a recent Sunset magazine)

          Shredded carrot salad with feta (sheep-cow mix, Greek, from Artisan Cheese Gallery in Studio City), Moroccan olives, cilantro, toasted cumin seeds, lemon juice-olive oil dressing. From the same Sunset magazine as the pork meatballs.

          JeffW's panzanella - delish!

          Grilled corn on the cob

          For dessert, bing cherries from Hollywood F.M. and bittersweet chocolate brownies from Fine Cooking #61. The brownies are an Alice Medrich adaptation made only with unsweetened cocoa, no solid chocolate. Probably my favorite brownie recipe right now, super easy to put together.

          Espresso after dinner for those who wanted. Beer with dinner - Sapporo and Pete's Wicked Strawberry whatever (kind of refreshing, actually).

          2 Replies
          1. re: Debbie W

            Debbie - everyone's dinner sound fabulous, but if I had to pick a party to crash , it would have been yours. Sounds great!

            I had a couple of friends for lunch by the pool.

            Apricot halves and manchego w/ membrillo paste

            Pork roast/fig jam/goat cheese/arugula sandwiches on a friend's homemade rosemary bread.

            Spicy slaw (napa cabbage/daikon/red pepper/carrot/snow pea)

            Fresh out of the garden cherry tomatos

            Pound Cake

            and way more Gros Manseng than was reasonable in the middle of a hot afternoon.

            1. re: danna

              Thanks, nice of you to say that. Your pork/fig/goat cheese sandwiches sound yummy. Wish I had one right now, I'm starving!

          2. Sounds like a fantastic summer meal. I find myself making a (non-Julia, non-4 page) Nicoise salad as a quick weeknight dinner. Some tuna packed in olive oil, lettuce, pitted kalamata olives, tomatoes, boil some tiny potatoes and eggs and blanch some green beans, and you drizzle vinaigrette over the whole thing.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Amuse Bouches

              And our 4th was cheeseburgers, potato salad, coleslaw and ice cream. Pretty classic.

            2. Hubby mr. creosote worked his skills on the Weber while I did the sides and dessert :

              tri tip grilled over red oak - Santa Maria style
              pinquito beans with chile California, lard, and onion
              simple tomato salsa with hatch chiles, scallion, and chile arbol
              warm corn tortillas
              grilled buttery garlic bread
              romaine lettuce salad with homemade ranch dressing
              sour cherry pie with vanilla ice cream
              beer (Hefeweizen), wine (Bandol rose & Central Coast syrah)

              2 Replies
              1. re: petradish

                Do you have a specific rub you use for the tri-tip?

                1. re: Debbie W

                  The rub was something like a 1/4 c sea salt, generous teaspoon of blk pepper, and 2 roughly chopped garlic cloves, applied 2 hours before hitting the grill. Many people seem to like garlic salt in their rub instead of fresh.

              2. had our 3rd annual 4th of july cook-out. the spread consisted of:

                - grilled pork ribs with our "secret" dry rub (ok, it was basically some old bay, brown sugar, and anything else that looked good in the spice cabinet)
                - tabbouleh with cherry tomatoes, cucumber, scallions, mint and parsley
                - green bean salad with gorgonzola and a dijon and shallot vinaigrette
                - grilled corn kernals tossed with a roasted red pepper and basil butter
                - grilled chicken wings and legs marinated overnight in soy sauce, lemon juice, garlic, siracha and sprite (the carbonation helps to tenderize the meat and the sugar gives the meat a nice char)
                - mesclun greens tossed with lemon and olive oil, topped with cubed watermelon, julienned basil, and feta cheese (people really liked this one)
                - homemade guacamole with tortilla chips
                - burgers (of course!)
                - strawberry, blueberry and raspberry trifle, which someone pointed out was perfect for the 4th because it was red, white and blue. yeah, i meant to do that...

                to drink: lots of bud light (gotta have room for all the food!)

                1. Thank you for posting about the Niscoise Salad, I will definitely have to make it sometime this summer. Awhile back I bought a can of tuna when was camping on the humbolt coast and had your same reaction when I tossed it in a salad, I was expecting it to be more tuna fishy but it was less.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                    Thanks for posting that! For a second I thought it was just me... I think I perfer her Salmon better now... We have one can left, the Jalepeno one which sounds like it would go PERFECT with one of the other recipes King of Northern Blvd posted with lime and cilantro in the original tuna post! :)



                  2. Great report, Dommy! It was fun seeing your new kitchen and makes me wonder what other hounds' kitchens look like...

                    You will be interested to know that I had dessert duty for my family's gathering this year and made the key lime pie that you posted about last year here:

                    Those interested in the recipe should click on the link in petradish's response.

                    Result: Wonderful! Pure and classic and I wouldn't change a thing (a miracle for me!). Sorry, but I don't have a photo since I got a little preoccupied and everyone couldn't wait to dig in.

                    The fragrant tartness of the lime was perfectly balanced by the sweet, cookie crust. The condensed milk and egg yolks gave it such a smooth, voluptuous texture w/o being gloppy or too heavy. I found the whipped cream topping to be essential in tempering the lime flavor and providing some additional textural contrast and "lightness"...who can complain about whipped cream?!

                    A couple things I found, keeping in mind your and petradish's reports:

                    1. I had to fiddle w/ the cookie to melted butter ratio in the crust. I actually made two pies and the first one I was afraid was too crumbly and loose (ie, not enough butter for binding), so I added a little more butter to the second one so that it really mushed together firmly. Interestingly, the first one after baking and chilling, was just right. Easy to remove from pan and crisp yet tender. Second one was difficult to get out of pan and was resistant to the fork.

                    2. I too had to bake mine longer than the 10 min. stated. I think I let it go for about 15-17 min. total, til it dried out on top, just set in the middle and I noticed a few very miniscule bubbles forming on top.

                    Overall though, a real winner of a recipe! Will get a picture next time since there will definitely be a next time!

                    BTW, the side dish I contributed was a simple German-style potato salad that I just made up. Sliced rounds of boiled gold and red potatoes, chopped scallions, sliced hard-cooked egg, bacon, parsley, tarragon, S&P and a sherry mustard vinaigrette. I like that it doesn't include mayo to weigh it down. Wow, I feel like I ate alot this weekend...

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Carb Lover

                      Hey, another happy pie eater! Interesting results with the 2 pie crusts. I'm keeping the loose thing in mind for next time.

                      Now I'm curious about what else was served at your gathering (insert whistling emoticon here)...

                      1. re: petradish

                        I don't remember the last time I made a graham cracker crust, so I felt out of practice and was wondering how moistened the crumbs needed to be. After the fact, I also noticed your comments about not pulverizing the cookie too finely, which I'll pay more attention to next time.

                        We did a casual lunch gathering at my in-laws, so the rest of the menu was satisfying but boring and sparse IMHO. Grilled rib steak, chicken satay (dark meat and very tasty!), green salad, my potato salad, some rolls, and drinks. They also had munchies like chips and dip, etc. I appreciate my in-laws hosting, but I gotta say, they like to eat the same boring food over and over again. That key lime pie sure woke up the taste buds though!

                    2. We fired up the smoker and cooked a 9lb prime rib roast that was slathered w/ mustard, worcestershire, and minced garlic. We added a dry rub of seasoned salt, black pepper, paprika, cayenne and a pinch of cumin. Cooked it over oak and hickory logs until it reached 120 in the center. We let it rest and served it w/ a simple asparagus vinaigrette and roasted red potatoes.

                      Dessert was grilled pineapple and assorted berries w/ homemade whipped cream. Shaved fudged was sprinkled over the top of each portion.