Independence Day Stories From Around The Grill Many immigrant families incorporate their cultural heritage with their Independence Day cookouts. In today's program, Tell Me More highlights some of these personal recipes from around the country.
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Independence Day Stories From Around The Grill

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Independence Day Stories From Around The Grill

Independence Day Stories From Around The Grill

Independence Day Stories From Around The Grill

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Megan Figueroa before eating her Mexican corn on the cob. Megan Figueroa hide caption

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Megan Figueroa

Megan Figueroa before eating her Mexican corn on the cob.

Megan Figueroa

As a country of immigrants, it's no surprise that many immigrant families celebrate America's Independence Day by incorporating cuisine from their home countries into the classical mix of hamburgers and potato salad.

Megan Figueroa was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. Her father is a first generation Mexican-American. Come July Fourth, her family eats carne asada, pinto beans, salsa and rice with their hamburgers and hot dogs.

But her favorite Independence Day treat is something her father calls elotes — Mexican corn on the cob.

What goes into making these elotes? "My dad spent a lot of time in Naco, Sonora, Mexico. And on the streets of Naco there would be street vendors that would sell corn on the cob, and they would put cheese, hot sauce, lime and salt on these corn on the cobs," Figueroa says. And voila — elotes.

"For me, being Mexican-American is being American. I've known nothing different." And, she adds, having corn with Mexican cheese and hot sauce on the Fourth of July is as American as it comes.

Anupy Singla and her family at a birthday party. Anupy Singla hide caption

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Anupy Singla

Anupy Singla, author of The Indian Slow Cooker, is cooking tandoori chicken on the grill, serving up a quick garbanzo bean salad, and making veggie-bean burgers with Indian spices.

Singla and her husband were born in India, and she says these meals provide her children with ways to appreciate their culture through food.

"We just want to pass down all of the great food memories we've had growing up — but it also helps us keep our childhoods at the forefront of our minds."

Tinbete Ermyas (center) sits down to eat with his uncle and father in Ethiopia. Tinbete Ermyas hide caption

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Tinbete Ermyas

When Tinbete Ermyas was growing up in his Ethiopian household, his family held on to both Ethiopian and American traditions.

"For us, the Fourth of July is a multicultural holiday where we celebrate both parts of our heritage, " Ermyas says.

His favorite food during July Fourth dinner is siga tibs — sauteed beef made with different spices.

"It instantly reminds me of home and the Fourth of July, and of all the different cultures we celebrate in our family."

Recipes From Around The Grill

Megan Figueroa
Megan Figueroa

Megan Figueroa's Recipe: Mexican Corn On The Cob


White sweet corn (an ear, or even two, for each eater)

Queso blanco (a crumbly, soft, white Mexican cheese; Cacique is a good brand)

Hot sauce (like Tapatio Salsa Picante).

Fresh limes (about one for each ear of corn)


Salt, to taste

Preheat an outdoor grill. Remove corn husks and wrap each ear of corn in aluminum foil and place on prepared grill.

Grill for about 30 minutes, turning occasionally, until corn is tender. After you have the corn off the grill, unwrap aluminum foil and let the corn cool to the point where it can be handled.

Butter the corn and then squeeze the lime onto the corn (my dad's tip to help get the cheese to stick a bit more). Salt the corn (use your best judgment! In our house we have heavy hands with the salt). Crumble the desired amount of queso blanco onto the corn.

Top with some hot sauce — as much as the eater can handle! Finally, I would recommend crumbling extra queso blanco on the side so that when you rotate the corn you can add more cheese since it doesn't always stick well to the corn. I would also keep the hot sauce bottle at the table because you never know when you will need more.

Anupy Singla's Recipe: Garbanzo Bean Street Salad

Chana Chaat

The term chaat essentially means "to lick" — like licking your fingers after an especially good meal. That's what chaat — Indian snack foods — represents. This is one of my most basic and favorite salads. It's easy to put together, and what I love most about it is that you can add any ingredients you have in your fridge. So, chop up some boiled potatoes, fresh celery, dice up some radish or greens and add as you wish. The possibilities are absolutely endless. To dress it up a bit, serve it all up on a leaf of fresh lettuce for a low-carb snack.

2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/2 red or white onion, finely chopped

1 small tomato, finely chopped

1 teaspoon white salt

1 teaspoon black salt (found in an Indian grocer — omit if you don't have one near you)

1 teaspoon red chile pepper

1/2 lemon, juiced

1 handful chopped cilantro

Anupy Singla's Recipe: Potato Patties

Aloo Tikki

Makes about 10 medium-sized patties

Street food is some of the most addictive and delicious Indian food. Potato patties are made by vendors all over India. They are pan-fried like hamburgers and served veggie-style over a toasted bun or slice of bread. You'll be shocked by how easy they are to make at home and how delicious they are even when you substitute sweet potatoes.

The fritters are also served up at home to guests with chutney on the side as a delicious treat with steaming cups of chai or as a starter before dinner. I love making a batch of the potato mixture and frying them up fresh as a quick and healthy after school snack for my girls. Remember, you want to eat them piping hot for the best flavor.

Makes about 10 medium-sized patties

1 large potato (Russet works best - or try subbing a sweet potato)

1/2 medium red or white onions, finely diced

1-inch ginger, peeled and grated, about 1 tablespoon

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon coriander powder

1 teaspoon garam masala

1 teaspoon red chile powder (optional)

1 cup frozen or fresh peas (optional)

1-2 green Thai, Serrano, or cayenne chilies, stems removed, chopped (optional)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chickpea or gram flour

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons oil, more for cooking

Boil potato until soft. Once cool, use your hands or a potato masher to gently break down. You'll have about 3 cups mashed potatoes at this point. (If using sweet potatoes, peel first, dice and then steam until soft.)

Boil water in a separate pan. Add frozen peas, if using, and let sit until defrosted and soft. Drain and discard water.

Heat the oil on medium-high heat in a shallow frying pan. Once hot, add the cumin until it sizzles and browns (about 2 minutes). Then, add the onion, ginger, turmeric, coriander, garam masala and red chile powder. Cook until soft, another 2-3 minutes.

Once cooled, add the mixture to the potatoes followed by the peas, green chilies, salt, gram flour, and lemon juice.

Mix well with your hands or large spoon.

Make small patties and set aside on a tray.

Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a large, heavy pan on medium-high heat. Once hot, cook the patties 2-4 at a time depending on the size of the pan, about 2-3 minutes on both sides until browned.

Serve hot with chopped parsley or cilantro on top as a garnish. This patty can be eaten as a sandwich, on top of lettuce, or as a fun side to your meat entree. The mixture lasts about 3-4 days in the fridge.

Note: To add a little more protein, mix in some cooked/canned chickpeas or black beans. You can also mix in other greens like chopped spinach or kale. Or, turn the dish a little South Indian by substituting black mustard seeds for the cumin and frying up fresh curry leaves along with the spices.

Tinbete Ermyas's Recipe: Sauteed Beef

Siga Tibs

A traditional Ethiopian meal on a platter, part of Tinbete Ermyas's Fourth of July dinner. Tinbete Ermyas hide caption

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Tinbete Ermyas

Prepare the beef (tofu or cremini mushrooms can be used vegetarian alternatives) by washing and cutting up into bite-size cubes. Set aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet or place baking sheet on the grill. Add garlic and onion and cook until onion appears clear.

Add green and red peppers. Stir in first tbsp berbere spice (see recipe below). Cook until vegetables are all soft.

Add meat and a tablespoon of butter or oil. Stir in second tablespoon of berbere spice.

Continue to cook on medium heat, stirring often. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve hot with bread or with awaze sauce.

Berbere Spice Mix

1 tablespoon paprika

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon ginger powder

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 teaspoon dry basil

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1/2 teaspoon fenugreek

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground clove

Mix ingredients in a bowl.

To make awaze sauce, combine a tablespoon of berbere with 1 tablespoon of oil and 1 tablespoon of wine or lemon juice. Serve the sauce with tibs, or on hot dogs and hamburgers.