River City Days

It’s August—the strangest month of the year.  There are no holidays in August, for one thing and the summer is drawing to a close . Often the hottest days come in August and a sort of hazy lethargy steals over a lot of people.  The kids are bored with summer vacation and you have run out of things to entertain them.  The yard is looking a bit bedraggled and some flowers and plants are beginning to die back. If there hasn’t been a lot of water (this year has been an exception), you may have to water your lawn to keep it looking decent.  In general it is kind of a blah month.

But on the bright side—The vegetable garden is beginning to produce some corn and tomatoes, zucchini and onions and if you don’t have a garden, the farmer’s market is starting to overflow.  The lawn may not need cutting quite so often—you can have lazy days in the hammock sipping lemonade and keeping cool.  And if you’re lucky enough to live in Red Wing, Minnesota, it’s River City Days, our annual celebration!

And that means great eating! Every year that we owned Candlelight Bed and Breakfast we have held a porch party while watching the River City Days Parade from our front porch on Third Street.  One year the menu included a wonderful brick-pressed sandwich which I had taken from Martha Stewart Living magazine.  It was novel and fun to make, relatively easy, make-ahead and tasted great. What more can you ask?

I hunted around to find some good stuff to go with this sandwich and present a great menu for any party you are hosting during our great celebration.

River City Days Porch Party

Homemade tortilla chips with guacamole

Brick-pressed Sandwiches

Cole slaw

Ice cream cake

Tortilla chips may seem mundane since they have been around forever.  I am not crazy about most of the packaged flavored varieties because they are very high in salt and overly seasoned.  Likewise, I don’t care for the baked tortilla chips which give up the tender crispiness that makes the fried ones delicious.  But I believe my bias is most influenced by having eaten home-made tortilla chips making all others pale in comparison.  They are ridiculously easy.  You don’t need a deep-fryer, just a heavy frying pan will do.  Slice your favorite tortillas (I prefer flour) into triangular shapes, whatever size you like.  Slide them into a deep fryer or a skillet with inch-deep hot oil.  Fry until crisp and lightly browned.  Drain on a paper towel.  Season with salt to taste and chili powder if you like extra seasoning.  Served with a salsa or guacamole, they really don’t need it.


Brick-Pressed Sandwich

Begin with a ciabatta loaf or some other rustic Italian bread.  Remove and discard the center of bread.  Spread olive paste on the bottom half.  Lay on roasted red bell peppers, fresh goat cheese and marinated artichokes. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Lay on prosciutto and salami, and drizzle again with balsamic vinegar.  Top with fresh herbs (basil, cilantro, and parsley) and top half of bread. Double wrap in parchment or plastic wrap.  Secure wrapped sandwich to wood cutting board with twine.  Place a brick or a cast-iron skillet on top of sandwich for at least 1 hour to flatten.  Taking care not to cut paper, slide a serrated knife between sandwich and cutting board. Slice into 8-12 slices (depending on size of loaf).  Can be made 1 day in advance without dressing; add dressing at least 1 hour ahead.


This recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart also—a great source of interesting and delicious recipes.

Strawberry and Pistachio Ice-Cream Cake

Serves 8

Berry Syrup (recipe follows)

Duncan Hines brand classic yellow cake mix prepared as package directs in 12”x17” pan. (use parchment paper to line pan for easy removal)

1 pint pistachio ice cream, softened 1 hour in refrigerator

1 pint strawberry ice cream, softened 1 hour in refrigerator

One-half cup heavy cream

1 Tbsp. sugar

One-half tsp. pure vanilla extract


Line a 9 and one-half-by 5-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving a 2-inch overhang on each side. Line plastic with parchment paper, leaving a 3-inch overhang on each long side.  Set aside.


Pour syrup into a large, shallow dish.  Cut cake into three strips: two 9 and one-half-by 4 and one-fourth-inches, one 9 and three-fourths-by 4 and three-fourths-inches; discard scraps. Soak one smaller strip in syrup 1 minute.  Turn; soak 40 seconds more.  Using two spatulas, carefully transfer cake to pan; gently press into bottom.  Brush with about 3 Tbsp. syrup.


In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the strawberry ice cream on medium speed until smooth, about 30 seconds.  With a small offset spatula, spread in a smooth layer to cover cake layer. Repeat soaking process with other small piece of cake; place on top of strawberry ice cream, gently pressing down to level layer.  Brush with syrup.  Freeze about 30 minutes.


Remove pan from freezer. Repeat process to make a layer of pistachio ice cream and final layer of cake.  Cover; place in freezer to harden completely, at least 3 hours or overnight.


Just before serving, whip heavy cream, sugar and vanilla to soft peaks in a medium bowl.  Invert pan onto a serving platter and pull on plastic wrap to release cake from pan.  Peel

off plastic and parchment. Mound whipped cream on top, and spread with a rubber spatula.  Cut into slices and serve immediately


Berry Syrup


2 six-ounce containers fresh raspberries

2 six-ounce containers fresh blueberries

1 cup sugar

One-half cup water

One-half cup Chambord or other berry liqueur, or water


Bring berries, sugar and the water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat; boil 1 minute. Strain through a fine sieve into a small bowl, pressing to extract liquid; discard pulp.  Stir in liqueur, if using.  Let cool completely.

Of course you can buy tortilla chips, but the homemade variety are so much better and couldn’t be easier.  Use flour or corn tortillas, whichever you prefer and cut them into triangles sized for dipping.  Heat an inch-deep amount of cooking oil in a skillet and carefully slip them into the hot oil.  Fry until they are golden on both sides (turning them once) and remove them to a paper towel-lined plate.  Salt them to taste.  Dip in Guacamole



2 ripe avocados

One green onion, cut in pieces

1 small can mild green chiles, chopped

1 tsp. salt

Freshly ground pepper

2 Tbsp. sour cream

1 Tbsp. mayonnaise

Juice of ½ large lemon or 1 lime


Put all ingredients in food processor or blender and process until smooth.  (Using food processor if you have one is easier because the guacamole is harder to clean off blade of the blender).


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