4th of July BBQ Makeover
-Karen Bussen, www.karenbussen.com
This year, why not skip the greasy fried chicken and predictable burgers and upgrade your All-American celebration with some fresh flavor and stylish accents. Here’s my “party recipe” for the whole shebang:
Define your space. If the weather’s nice, plan to set up three tables outside in the backyard or on the terrace or deck. Use one for a buffet, one for a bar (this eliminates crowding during the party), and one for seating. If you don’t have great patio furniture, why not move your dining table or a sideboard or hutch out back? If you don’t have enough chairs, don’t be afraid to mix in unmatching styles – it gives the table charm and personality.
Tweak the Old Glory color story. The 4th can be so … well … red-white-and-blue. Instead of decorating every surface with the American flag in mind, choose a solid, modern base color for your tablecloth or runner – think khaki or black, for example. Then accent with the “4th” colors (a red and white striped napkin, for example, or a blue accent glass) for a terrific new take on the typical.
Serve healthy fare from the grill. Instead of cheeseburgers, whip up a batch of my Pineapple-glazed Shrimp Kebabs, and offer simple side dishes like Baby Potato Salad with Oregano, Radicchio and Carrot Slaw, and Manchego-jalapeno Cornbread. The Shrimp Kebab recipe works really well with swordfish, too.
The pies have it. If you like to bake, dazzle your guests with an assortment of red and blue pies (think strawberry, blueberry, and cherry) displayed on old cake stands from the flea market. If you’re pastry-challenged, no worries! Just buy pies at the store (or ask guests to bring them). Either way, put a pint or two of good vanilla ice cream in the center of the table.
A new twist on a great summer drink. For my Tropical Rose Sangria, I switched up the classic sangria by adding pineapple juice and using rose wine instead of the usual white or red. It is so delicious, and you can make it a day ahead, drink that, and make more before your guests arrive! Just add the club soda right before serving. I suggest offering one good lighter-style beer, and a few fresh juices and bottled water on your bar as well.
4th of July tunes. Download great summer music and customize a playlist to accompany the festivities. I recommend anything by Buckwheat Zydeco, Johnny Cash, Clifton Chenier, and Robert Cray, and I wholeheartedly encourage a contest to see who can remember all the lyrics to the Star-spangled Banner after two glasses of sangria!
Baby Potato Salad with Oregano
This is a perfect picnic salad.
2 pounds assorted baby potatoes (red, brown, and fingerling)
1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1⁄4 cup white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
Salt and pepper
Place the potatoes in a pot of salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until tender. Drain the potatoes, rinse them under cold running water, and slice in half.
Transfer the potatoes to a large mixing bowl and pour the olive oil and white wine vinegar over them. Add oregano leaves and season with salt and pepper. Toss gently until the potatoes are evenly dressed.
Manchego Jalapeño Cornbread
Spicy, cheesy, and moist! I love this cornbread for dinner on a warm summer night, whether with barbecued meats or just a big old salad. If you don’t have manchego, you can substitute cheddar, Monterey Jack, or Gouda.
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
6 ounces manchego cheese, grated
1⁄4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons pickled sliced jalapeño peppers
1 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Grease an 8-inch-square baking pan. Combine the cornmeal, flour, two-thirds of the manchego, the sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Mince 1 tablespoon of the jalapeños and combine with the milk mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until blended. Pour into the prepared pan.
Lay the remaining jalapeño slices on top of the batter approximately 3 inches apart (the idea is for each piece of cornbread to get a slice of jalapeño on top) and sprinkle with the remaining manchego. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean. Serve warm.
This is the ultimate summery seafood dish. Easy to make and packed with flavor.
Vegetable Oil, for the grill
4 bell peppers, assorted colors, cut into 1-1/2-inch squares
5 pounds jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 pound fresh pineapple chunks
Salt and pepper
3 limes, cut in wedges
Brush your grill with oil and preheat it to 325º F.
Soak about 20 bamboo skewers in cold water (this will keep them from burning on the grill).
To assemble the kebabs: spear a piece of bell pepper onto a skewer, followed by a shrimp, a pineapple chunk, and another piece of pepper. Each skewer should hold 3 shrimp and several contrasting colors of bell pepper. Repeat until all ingredients are used. Season with salt and pepper.
Place the assembled kebabs on the hot grill. Cook for 3 minutes on each side, turning once. Serve with lime wedges.
Tropical Rosé Sangria
This sangria is light, refreshing, and unique, as it uses rosé wine instead of white or red.
2 oranges, with peel, sliced into rounds
1 large apple, with peel, cored and cut into small pieces
1 cup fresh pineapple chunks
1/2 cup sugar or 1/4 cup simple syrup
1/2 cup Grand Marnier
750 ml bottle fruity rosé wine (I suggest Tavel, Rosé d’Anjou, or Côtes de Provence)
Cut the orange rounds into quarters and put half of them in a large pitcher, along with the apple and pineapple chunks, sugar, and a splash of the Grand Marnier.
Add the wine, pineapple juice, and the remaining Grand Marnier. Stir well, then chill for at least a half hour to let the flavors come together. Just before serving, add the club soda. Pour into wine glasses over ice, if desired, making sure each glass gets chunks of fruit as well as sangria. Garnish with the remaining orange wedges.
Radicchio & Carrot Slaw
This wonderful slaw is a great twist on classic coleslaw. If you like yours crunchier, make it just before the party.
2 heads radicchio, cut in half, then sliced thinly
2/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon dried fennel seed
3⁄4 cup roughly grated or julienned carrots
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
In a large mixing bowl, toss all the ingredients together. Serve chilled.
Karen Bussen is the author of Simple Stunning Parties at Home, whose flowers, styling and party designs have been featured on the CBS Early Show, Regis & Kelly, and the Today Show.