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Fire Station 9 Rescues Fourth of July Dinner: Alex's Spinach Salad with a Side of Antics

Lieutenant Ignatius "Iggy" Carroll, Public Information Officer for the City of Miami Fire Department, didn't mess around when asked to play guinea pig for a story on July 4th eats.  He suggested his old stomping grounds, Station 9 in Little Haiti.

Lemon City's finest may not have the iconic pole, but it's safe to say these firemen deserve to preside over an area named after a food (the wild lemon trees of its past.)

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After all, these guys are no strangers to serving up some serious meat poundage for large groups, Independence Day-style, pretty much every day of the week.  They are a good source of info for folks manning the grill this weekend, since cooking is the number one cause of home fires according to the National Fire Protection Association. They also cook well.

The menu last night from Executive Chef Jerry Arocha and Su Alex Stayton, who cook for 14 and fight fires, would be a welcome addition to any backyard gathering.  Juicy ribeye steaks were simply marinated in olive oil, salt and pepper, and then grilled medium rare.  Cayenne-spiked broccoli florets were just cooked enough to be tender but still maintain their crunch, and both Idaho and sweet potatoes were wrapped in tin foil and baked.  Did I mention the Caesar salad to start?  I had the feeling that, although they clearly were on their best behavior with a lady guest on premise, they eat this well all the time.

"The guys chip in to the daily chow fund and then we go shopping," said Arocha of his and Stayton's frequent trips to Publix.  "We get our meat from Viña & Sons.  Sometimes it's short ribs or baby backs."

And they love a good butt rub.  That is, the packaged spice mixture called Butt Rub.  I was warned about visiting the website (butt rub dot com, no joke,) and the curious pop-ups I might encounter in the process.

Fireman Alex Fernandez recalled an incident where things got a little heated in their kitchen.

"We went out on a call and Chris left the steak in the oven.  When we came back, there was smoke everywhere," he explained.  "It was a little overcooked, but no damage was done, nor fireman injured."

It's just part of the gig, and like everything with firemen, the public's safety is their number one priority.  They risk their lives for it each and every day -- even if it means putting up with the occasional well done beef.  And you won't find them ever skipping a meal.

"It's true that the kitchen is the nucleus of the station," added Fernandez.  "You know the saying, the family that eats together stays together?  Well the same is true for us.  The days we eat out things are different..."

And  Chef Stayton was generous enough to offer his spinach salad recipe, a favorite at Station 9. 

Alex's Spinach Salad
Prep/cook time 15 minutes
Serves 6-8

16 oz. baby spinach
1/2 lb. bacon
1 green apple (Granny Smith)
1/4 of a red onion
3-4 oz. Craisins (dried cranberries)
4-6 oz. walnut pieces
The juice of one lemon
4 oz. blue cheese (crumbled)
3-4 oz. poppy seed dressing (Naturally Fresh)
1 saute pan
1 large bowl

>Saute the bacon until crisp; crumble and set aside
>Thinly slice onion and set aside
>Thinly slice apple; coat with the lemon juice to prevent browning and set aside
>Put the spinach in a large bowl and add crumbled bacon, apples, Crainsins, walnuts, blue cheese, red onions
>When ready to serve, add dressing and mix well

Cooking Fire Safety Tips From The National Fire Protection Association

Cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires and home injuries. The leading cause of fires in the kitchen is unattended cooking. It's important to be alert to prevent cooking fires.  (Click here for the shocking facts and figures on home cooking fires if you don't think it can happen to you and your family.)

Safety tips...

*Be on alert! If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol don't use the stove or stovetop.
    * Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
    * If you are simmering, baking, roasting, or boiling food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
    * Keep anything that can catch fire -- oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains -- away from your stovetop.

If you have a cooking fire...

* Just get out! When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire.
    * Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number after you leave.
    * If you try to fight the fire, be sure others are getting out and you have a clear way out.
    * Keep a lid nearby when you're cooking to smother small grease fires. Smother the fire by sliding the lid over the pan and turn off the stovetop. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.
    * For an oven fire turn off the heat and keep the door closed.

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