We’re lucky here in the States to have long-weekend holidays that bookend the summer and smack it right in the center: Memorial Day in May, Independence Day in July, and coming sooner than you think, Labor Day in September.
If you cruise the food blogosphere in and around these holiday weekends, writings, musings, food reviews, and of course photos, are of gorgeous gourmet grilling – thick, juicy burgers cooked bloody rare, stacked high with vibrantly colored heirloom tomatoes and artisan cheeses, cushioned on all sides with a pillowy soft home baked, and perhaps lightly toasted, focaccia bread. Pork loin, bathed overnight first in a gourmet marinade of balsamic vinegar, roasted garlic, freshly ground spices and herbs picked from the July crop of herbs in your own garden. Perhaps it was Togarashi spice rubbed Jidori chicken and sesame-wasabi potato salad. Whole lobster tails with cilantro-lime butter and roasted tomatilla salsa. And for dessert? Stone fruits on the grill with a honey-balsamic glaze, of course.
It’s pretty clear that the overarching culinary theme is barbecue. Yes, yes, all-American barbecue is the only way to celebrate these all-American holidays.
But this past long-weekend, which started early on Friday, when the entire office shut down at about 11 am to get to the beach for the first of the weekend of blow out barbecues (I *ahem* did not make it), there is another sub-theme for my holiday: ceviche. And not just any old ceviche I toss together for myself, but ceviche made by someone else for me. For little ol’ me! Not once, but twice! Alright, so that ceviche with sashimi-grade fish cut into slices the size of the palm of my hand wasn’t just for me. But of the 40 or so guests at that barbecue, I ate that ceviche like the entire 2 gallon bowl was a single Sarah-serving :)
It’s so strange how I never noticed how much I love ceviche. Perhaps it just got lumped in with salsa and guacamole, which I also love, but are sort of a given. You get salsa for free out of the salsa bar at Baja Fresh. You can buy a jar of Pace Picante salsa off the shelf. You can even buy “fresh” salsa out of the refrigerator case. But ceviche is special. It has to be made fresh. It has to be eaten fresh. Fresh fresh fresh. And it has fish. Sometimes it has cilantro, too, but for ceviche, I can forgive that ;)
But even before the Malibu BBQ on Saturday, it was ceviche, and an entire Latin-ish inspired menu Friday night before. Chili-spiced prawns. Sopa de calabaza, which was actually butternut squash soup, but that doesn’t sound very Latin at all. Grilled chicken with vegetables, which also doesn’t sound very Latin, but are we really keeping score here? Strawberries with Kahlua-spiked cream. All home-cooked, and the best part of all was that it was home-cooked by someone else!
As much as I love to cook and (attempt to) bake, it’s such a delightful break to have someone else cook every once in a while. And when an entire meal is planned days in advance to make sure it is tailored to my tastes, prepared all day long, and served with such attention to every detail and my every need – well, I love that, too. And it always tastes delicious. Isn’t that weird? Grilled chicken and vegetables could be so ordinary if I ordered it in a restaurant, made by some anonymous cook back in the kitchen who’s only going off a ticket. He’s a professional, putting together the ingredients without even thinking because he does it 80 times every night. It's just chicken.
But when someone makes it in his home kitchen, when he has to run back over to the computer with a ladle in hand to double check the recipe instructions on-line, when he has stop and start over because it’s not easy for him, when he washes and slices and boils and plates everything with me in mind – grilled chicken and vegetables tastes like the most decadent, delicious meal I’ve ever had. Whatever it is, it always tastes sensational. Especially the ceviche.