The Independent

Memorial Day: the beginning of summer

Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer and summer eating habits. Meals in the summer are lighter, often use the grill instead of the oven, and feature salads.

My mother-in-law was raised on a farm on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The potato salad is her recipe, and probably her mother’s, as it featured a dressing which could be made for the farm crew and have no mayonnaise to spoil. It is perfect for picnics for that reason. It is also a perfect vegan salad.

The Blueberry Gingerbread recipe comes from Maine, where in August all foods are made using blueberries. This recipe is especially delicious using the wild blueberries of Maine as they are smaller and the ginger cake bakes evenly. The cake may be frosted with a cream cheese frosting. Add the deviled egg recipe from April!

Every family has their favorite summer burgers and sides.

These are a few of mine.

Guacamole Burgers with Monterey Jack & Chile

Monterey Jack Burgers

1-1/2 pounds lean ground beef

2 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, cut into 4 cubes

2 to 4 teaspoons green chile, well drained

Or 2 teaspoons chiles in adobo sauce, minced

Or 4 teaspoons finely chopped and seeded pickled jalapeños

Divide ground beef into four 6-ounce portions. Shape each fourth into a ball and fill the center with the cheese cube and 1 teaspoon of jalapeño. If you are using either green chile or green chile in adobo sauce, combine the chile with the ground beef first and then divide into fourths, and stuff with the cheese only. Form beef into a patty, 1 inch thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Grill, or sauté in a skillet until done. Transfer grilled burgers to toasted buns and top with guacamole. Add sliced tomato if desired. Serves 4.

Guacamole for burgers:

1 large avocado

2-1/2 teaspoons fresh lime or lemon juice

1/3 cup finely diced tomato, or 2 tablespoons fine dice canned tomatoes, well drained

3 tablespoons finely minced green onion

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or 1 tablespoon chopped jalapeños

2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro

Peel, halve and pit avocado in a small bowl. Mash with a fork. Stir in lime or lemon juice, diced tomato, green onion, red pepper flakes and cilantro. Taste. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer grilled burgers to toasted hamburger buns. Top with guacamole. Add tomato slice and shredded lettuce if desired.

Serves 4. This is a large burger; you may make them smaller, say 4 ounces each for six burgers.

Potato Salad

4-6 large potatoes, peeled, diced, cooked, drained and still warm

1/4 yellow onion, peeled and diced small or 3-4 green onions chopped very fine, include some of the green tops

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley (or 1-1/2 teaspoons dried parsley)

2/3 cup Basic French dressing

Combine all ingredients gently with a spatula. Salt and pepper to taste, if needed. Serve chilled, or at room temperature. Serves 4. This is excellent for picnics, because there is no mayonnaise to worry about. A wonderful vegan option, it contains no dairy or eggs and tastes great.

Basic French Dressing:

1 cup good quality olive oil

1/3 cup white wine, champagne or tarragon vinegar. (I prefer tarragon vinegar)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder

Combine all ingredients in a glass jar with a lid. Shake very well to combine. Allow to sit 15 to 30 minutes before using.

Will keep 2-3 weeks in a glass jar in the refrigerator.

Watermelon Salad with Feta & Mint

1 small watermelon, or 1/2 regular size watermelon

2 ounces crumbled feta cheese. Or Queso if you prefer.

3 or 4 sprigs fresh mint leaves


Cut watermelon in half. Dice into bite-size cubes, or use a large melon baller and make watermelon balls. Wash mint leaves, and separate leaves from stems. Crumble feta cheese.

Combine watermelon with feta and mint leaves. Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve. Serves six as a side dish. During tomato season, I often add 2 or 3 large, chopped tomatoes to this salad. The tomatoes give the salad an earthy taste and the watermelon is refreshing!


1/2 medium cabbage, outer leaves removed, cored and sliced in to thin wedges and then shredded.

1 large grated carrot

1/4 cup very finely sliced Vidalia or red onion, cut into fine dice

Toss all vegetables together, then add 2 teaspoons tarragon vinegar, 3 tablespoons mayonnaise, and 2 tablespoons sour cream or yogurt. Combine vegetables with mayo, sour cream, and vinegar mixture. Refrigerate and allow to set for 20 to 30 minutes. Serves six as a side dish.

The sour cream or yogurt is important, as it will lighten the taste of the coleslaw and blend well with the vinegar for a fresh, tangy flavor.




Blueberry Gingerbread

Preheat oven to 350℉

Spray and line with parchment paper 8 x 8-inch square pan

1 large egg

1/2 cup shortening

2/3 cup granulated sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup buttermilk

3 tablespoons molasses

1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (Maine wild blueberries are best because of their smaller size.)

Cream sugar and shortening until light and fluffy. Add egg, and mix well. In a separate bowl whisk to combine dry ingredients: flour, spices and salt. In another bowl or large measuring cup (at least 2 cup size), add baking soda to buttermilk. Stir really well. Set aside and allow to react. It will foam up and double in size. Add molasses to sugar, shortening and egg mixture. Add combined dry ingredients, alternating with buttermilk, by thirds. Combine all ingredients completely. Batter will be golden in color and very thick. Gently fold in blueberries. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until an inserted knife comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan. After gingerbread is completely cool, dust with powdered sugar. You may frost the gingerbread with a cream cheese frosting. Serve plain for your picnic, or with whipped cream, ice cream or applesauce.

You may omit the blueberries entirely, or replace them with an equal amount (1 cup) of very ripe, peeled, cored and diced pears. Yield one 8×8-inch pan. Recipe doubles easily to fill a 9×13-inch oblong pan.