The fourth of July is the best kind of American holiday — celebrated at the height of summer, with grills going and fireworks sparkling and ice-cold lemonade (or beer) in hand.
When family is around and backyard games are in progress, it’s more fun to be outside than slaving away in the kitchen. These tried and true summer dishes are not only easy, they can also be prepared either ahead of time or on a Weber kettle.
Watermelon Feta Salad with Kalamata Olives
Fair warning: this salad, by British cookbook author Nigella Lawson, is addictive, and not only during the summer when watermelon is abundant. Sweet with melon, salty with kalamata olives and feta cheese and fresh with chopped mint and parsley leaves, this is a crowd-pleasing summer salad that goes with everything. Steeping raw red onions in fresh lime juice removes their rasp, so start those first.
There are dozens of variations on the watermelon salad — try Whole Foods’ version with goat cheese and basil, or Ina Garten’s take with baby arugula and parmesan.
Deviled eggs with smoked salmon
With a bit of spiced mustard and creamy mayonnaise, deviled eggs are a classic party dish. This Forkful of News recipe, topped with smoked salmon and sliced chives, has a secret tang from pickled onions (you can use dill pickles, too).
To make them even more elegant for a dinner party, add fish eggs (like flying fish roe, or tobiko) for a tiny bit of salty snap.
Grilled Marinated Flank Steak
Flank steak can be incredibly tender and flavorful if you give it a night in marinade. After trying Mediterranean and Southwestern combinations, the best is an Asian-style combination of soy sauce, garlic, ginger and brown sugar. Start with a marinade like Alton Brown’s or this version from AllRecipes. Then add/subtract ingredients to your taste.
Because flank is a tough cut, the key is to let the steak sit in marinade overnight. Grill for about 15 minutes total and then LET IT REST for 10 minutes, at least. While the steak rests, you can throw on kebabs.
The only thing slightly fussy about these skewers is the assembly. Cut up whatever vegetables you have around (peppers, onions, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, squash, mushrooms), brush with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with some interesting spices (cumin, paprika, aleppo pepper) and grill on medium, 6-10 minutes.
The skewers above have small pieces of chicken on them, but shrimp or precooked slices of chicken sausage work, too. Vegetarians at your celebration might appreciate veg-only kebabs, like these from Epicurious.
Martha Stewart recommends threading each vegetable or meat separately, to have better control over the cooking time. That’s certainly an option, but if you’re staying away from super-high heat anyway, the lazy man’s everything-on-one method has worked fine for us.
Patriotic Bundt Cake
Holidays are no time for restraint. Go big with a lovely pound cake, like the sour-cream based Man Catcher from Melissa Gray’s “All Cakes Considered” (try it with fresh blueberries in the batter) or Ina Garten’s lemon pound cake, cooked into a bundt pan as the Smitten Kitchen suggests.
Shown above is my friend’s deliberately patriotic bundt cake, which she topped with fresh white whipped cream and stewed fresh berries (bright red strawberries and blueberries, of course). A scoop of ice cream would be delicious, too!
However you celebrate, we wish you a very happy 4th of July and share our gratitude that we are a country that believes in freedom and Democracy.
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