Let’s pay tribute to America’s birthday symbolically with red, white and blue foods — not artery-clogging red meat, pasty white bread or stinky blue cheese, rather healthier options to bolster the immune system, dial up energy levels and keep moving and non-moving parts humming. So here’s an A-(merican) List of patriotic fare.
Cherries are ensconced in our heritage thanks to the apocryphal story of George Washington, master of a new hatchet chopping down his father’s prized English cherry tree. This superfruit is packed with anthocyanin pigments for easing achy arthritic joints, melatonin to regulate circadian sleep patterns, and quercetin to reduce cardio risk factors. Cherry up with sauces drizzled on desserts or pork dishes, dried drupes tossed in warm wilted spinach or fruit salads, or raw ones munched straight-up.
Tomatoes are a treasure-trove of Vitamin C and lycopene, the latter a carotene pigment to protect the family jewels from prostate cancer. Toss sun-dried ones in pastas, whip up salsas, slice on burgers, skewer on kebobs, or grill whole.
The quintessential fruit of summer, the pink-fleshed watermelon is a refreshing, hydrating treat naturally high in potassium and electrolytes. Blend this behemoth beauty with heirloom tomatoes, fresh buffalo mozzarella and basil, or puree into a thirst-quenching agua fresca.
The petite yet potent cranberry was recognized by Native Americans as a healer well before the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock. The noble cranberry is best known for its anti-adhesive antioxidants, making it bladder’s best friend for warding off pesky infections. Chop raw in relishes to ratchet up turkey burgers or grilled chicken, or toss dried ones in green salads, taboulis, or biscotti for a chewy burst of flavor.
The gold standard of seafood — the lobster — is a scrumptious protein-packed sea treasure with a mother lode of B Vitamins to boost brain health, and mellow out nerves. Try mouth-watering lobster rolls, lobster cocktails, or spicy gazpacho brimming with choice chunks.
The most popular and Vitamin C-rich berry in the world, the strawberry is recommended for everything from dulling a throbbing headache to removing tartar from teeth. Amp up a mixed green salad, fresh squeezed lemonade or ice cream sundaes with this seedy sweetie of summer.
Melt-in-your-mouth goat cheese is a delightful alternative for those with sensitivities or allergies to moo milk. Enjoy red, white and blue treats like a goat cheese spread dressed with sun-dried tomatoes and Nicoise olives (see recipe below), or drizzled with an orange blossom honey, blueberry and strawberry sauce.
Thick Greek yogurt with smooth as silk texture and distinct tartness is packed with protein along with immune boosting probiotic cultures. Top fresh berries with a creamy dollop, blend yogurt with cucumber or melons for chilled summer soups, or combine with assorted herbs for a grilling marinade.
The most popular vegetable in this country, the beloved potato has a rich store of essential minerals and vitamins in both its skin and flesh. So keep the spud healthy by laying light on fatty toppings such as butter, sour cream, and crumbled bacon, and don’t deep-fry.
The lily-white Daikon radish adds a moderate to mild kick to assorted salads, cold noodle dishes, burgers, steak and chicken.
These vibrant tubers once considered food for the gods have dark purple skins with flesh of varying nuances from violet to lavender. The purple potato adds eye candy, rich nutty flavors and loads of antioxidants to roasted root blends, seafood chowders and egg dishes.
One of the few fruits indigenous to North America, the mighty blueberry puts the skids on free radical damage to cells and DNA.
Blue corn is an ancient crop once cultivated by the Pueblo tribes of southwestern regions. Tricky to hybridize or genetically modify, this corn variety is a healthier alternative to its paler siblings, packed with antioxidant pigments and one-third more protein. Go blue with corn chips, tortillas or tamales.
The heart-healthy, anti-inflammatory ripe black olive enlivens everything from savory appetizers to kitschy desserts like a dark chocolate soufflé with candied kalamatas.
Warm Red, White and Blue Goat Cheese Dip
1 1/4-inch thick slice of Bucheron goat cheese
6 sundried tomatoes
6 Nicoise olives
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, (a meaty oil, not too grassy)
Cast iron dish (6 x 1.5-inches deep)
Method: Place cheese in center of the dish. Spread olives and tomatoes around the cheese. Pour oil around the cheese. Place on the grill and bake. Make sure it’s not too hot or the bottom will burn, but let it get nice and bubbly. —Courtesy, Executive Chef Nathan Coulon, True Food Kitchen