America’s 235th anniversary of its split from Great Britain has swelled to become the nation’s largest secular shindig. Celebrations show off with rock-star pyrotechnics, machismo-grilling skills, puerile face-stuffing contests, and a smorgasbord of American eats from pork butts to peanut butter cookies. Instead of celebrating Independence Day by charring bovine at a backyard barbecue, here’s a new game plan that might include whipping up some portable picnic foods (sans the mayo and other perishables) and heading to the beach or backyard to go AWOL.
Don’t be disarmed by an untraditional Fourth menu. Keep things simple with an assortment of sandwiches, salads and chilled summer soups — smoky gazpacho, watermelon basil, cilantro avocado, blueberry banana, icy lemon or minty Georgia peach — to provide tasty replenishment at land or sea.
Have plenty of common supplies on hand — toppings, condiments, and patriotic red, white and blue potato and pasta salads and coleslaw with vinaigrette bases. My grandma’s classified recipe for stuffed red pepper slaw pairs well with a variety of hero and submarine sandwiches on assorted baguettes stuffed with turkey bacon, grilled chicken breasts, and nightshades such as Portobellos, marinated eggplant, red onions, technicolor pepper slices, and heirloom tomatoes.
For the sweet-tooths, try jam or bananas and nut butter sandwiches, like almond, walnut, macadamia or cashew.
Here are a few safe-food strategies for deployment:
- Keep hot foods hot and cold ones cold to avoid the formation of airborne bugs.
- Never let different food groups share cutting surfaces, knives, utensils or dish towels to avoid cross-contamination. Wash hands obsessively, especially after handling raw eggs, chicken or meat.
- The only food that should be served pink is the watermelon. Meat, fish, fowl and mushrooms need to be cooked-through, but not incinerated. Burnt offerings can be carcinogenic, including “jerk” and “blackened Cajun.”
- Refrigerate leftovers in airtight containers immediately after you’ve finished eating.
- Mustard, barbecue sauce and ketchup are safe, heat-forgiving condiments, while milk or egg-based ones (like mayo) are not.
My patriotic contribution includes a couple of Independence Day recipes with an explosion of flavors so divine your taste buds will surely salute them.
Patriotic Potato Salad
2 pounds of red, white and blue potatoes (fingerlings, baby creamers or other waxy varieties)
1/2 red onion, diced
1/3 cup black olives, sliced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon spicy mustard
Sea salt, cumin and cayenne pepper to taste
: Boil the potatoes in their jackets until soft but firm. Cool. Cut into bite-size pieces. In a large bowl, combine the spuds and veggies. In another bowl whisk the oil, vinegar, mustard and spices. Toss a desired amount of the dressing into the potato mixture, blend well. Refrigerate. Safe to deploy outdoors for several hours.
Navajo Peach Crisp
6 large, ripe peaches, peeled, sliced
1/4 cup cane sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons walnuts or pecans, chopped
A few drops almond extract
Preheat oven to 375° F. In a 2-quart baking dish toss the peaches with cane sugar, cinnamon and almond extract. In a separate bowl, combine flour, brown sugar and salt. Crumble butter into coarse chunks and add to the flour/sugar. Sprinkle mixture over the peaches and top with nuts. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. If near the homefront, serve with tri-colored frozen treats – strawberry, vanilla bean and blueberry or other funky blue hue — sorbets, gelatos, soy, rice or coconut milks.
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