As an interior designer, I’ve constructed designs for 100s of rooms across America. But when it came to designing the perfect plate for one of the biggest celebrations of the year (after all, our country is turning 236), my partner Eddie and I decided to pull out all the stops and get the party started early.
We put our heads together and created what we believe is the perfect Americana fare. And as two people who absolutely love food, we had to test everything before the big event so we did a trial run with a close group of close family & friends.
First up, a Cherry Infused Meyer Lemon Punch with Prosecco and Vodka. At our house, the grill doesn’t get hot without mixing a Meyer lemon from our tree in something. Hats off to Eddie for concocting fireworks in a glass. It’s two parts lemonade, one part vodka and one part Prosecco for the perfect fizz. Garnish with pitted cherries and lime. But watch out! They can sneak up on you like bottle rockets. Beeeeeuuuuuuuuuuuu.
With adult beverages in hand, the food frenzy began with a homemade Bruschetta and a Chilled Trio of Grapes paired with White Stilton with Apricots, Double Cream Brie and Roquefort made with raw sheep’s milk. The chilled grapes were a cinch; stick ’em in the freezer a few hours before serving. Kids will love ’em.
For the main course, there’s nothing more American than a Sloppy Joe or in our case, Sloppy Joe Sliders. Sometimes called Slushburgers in the Upper Midwest, Hot Tamales in Sheboygan or Taverns in parts of South Dakota; the good ole homemade Sloppy Joe was always a staple in our house growing up.
The fact that we have just as many vegetarian friends as those who eat meat, Eddie devised a way to make two versions; one with sirloin beef and the other with a variety of beans. Both had brown sugar and Worcestershire. Since small plates have taken over the American restaurant scene, it seemed only fitting to serve ’em as a slider. HINT: But be sure to serve chunks of dill pickles on top. Not sliced but chunked. That’s requires a butcher knife and plenty of clearance as they squirt!
Now you may already know, Eddie and I pick up our vegetables straight from the farm. We love Whole Foods and farmer’s markets, but there’s something nostalgic about getting fruits and vegetables straight out of the ground. It’s a nod to Eddie’s Mexican roots and for me well it seemed like every family in the Midwest had a garden including us.
Dictated by much of what was harvested this week, we opted for Roasted Mix Corn with Red Onion, Avocado and a Cilantro Honey Lime Vinaigrette. I roasted white and yellow corn on the BBQ and Eddie commandeered the salad dressing. But word to the wise, it’s much easier and less messy to cut white vs. yellow corn off the cob! Ask our dogs who cleaned up the floor.
Trigger happy, I decided to cut a bevy of carrots so Eddie could make a Carrot Slaw with Spring Onion, Parsley and Red Wine Vinaigrette. Eddie insisted that each carrot look like a little match so that people would not get a large chunk of carrot in their mouth. Oi vey!
Lastly, Eddie served up some Orecchiette with Pesto, Mascarpone, Gorgonzola and Sun Dried Tomatoes. Albeit, this ear-shaped pasta reaches beyond our borders into southern Italy but it’s hearty and bite-sized — perfect for a BBQ.
Now the big dilemma! What to serve for dessert? Since we started with lemons; why not finish with them. These Lemon Cake Pops were the hit of the party. But lose the lollipop stick, these were meant to pick up an pop in your mouth. With Meyer lemon zest as the key ingredient, Eddie hand-dipped each one then sprinkled them with something cracktastic! I’m not exactly sure what it was.
Now you’re probably sitting and yelling at your computer — WHERE’S THE RECIPES!!!???!!!!!!
Truth is, we didn’t write anything down. We love cooking by instinct which is why I listed most of the ingredients in the names of the dishes in hopes it will inspire you to throw caution to the wind and let your passion and palate be your guide. It’s what leads me through so much of my design work and certainly Eddie and I in the kitchen.
From our house to yours, HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA! And remember that our greatest freedom is freedom itself. Enjoy the 4th!
Unitl next time…