Easy meets Elegant in this Fourth of July Menu

When it comes to Fourth of July fare, a menu with a focus on fresh seafood and summer fruit offers just the right balance of warm weather flavors and a substantial wow factor. Yet we find ourselves wanting to focus on having fun and enjoying our guests as much as – if not more than – spending time in the kitchen.

With that in mind, we’ve pulled together a menu of dishes which require minimal effort for a maximum outcome. Some of the recipes are personal favorites; others piqued our interest while perusing the internet for new things to try.

Craft Cocktail:

What’s a summer soiree without a signature drink? This Smokey Watermelon-Jalapeno Margarita pairs puréed melon with muddled jalapenos and hickory-smoked salt. From BoulderLocavore.com; photo via website.

As Guests Arrive:

Either, or both, of these are prepared ahead of time so you can just set them out as guests arrive. Pair them with a crisp Chardonnay or a Prosecco.

  • Smoked Salmon Canapés with Crostini
    • 6 oz. package good-quality Scottish smoked salmon
    • 8 oz. cream cheese
    • 1 T fresh lemon juice
    • 3 T fresh dill – chopped
    • Crusty baguette
    • Salt, pepper, EVOO

Combine softened cream cheese with dill and lemon juice; refrigerate for at least one hour. Preheat oven to 400. Cut baguette into 1/2-inch slices, brush both sides with EVOO, season with fresh-ground pepper and Kosher salt. Bake until lightly browned (about 6 minutes – watch carefully!). Slice the salmon into bite-sized pieces. Assemble as canapés on a platter as guests arrive or arrange the ingredients on a serving piece with utensils and let guests make their own. If you’d like to save a few steps, substitute the crostini for a cracker such as Stoned Wheat Thins.

  • Russian Oysters
    • Freshly-shucked local oysters, on the half shell
    • 1 shallot, minced
    • 1 c sour cream
    • Fresh lemon juice
    • Small jar caviar

Combine sour cream, shallot and a squeeze of lemon juice; refrigerate for at least one hour. Just before guests arrive, shuck the oysters and place on baking sheet in the refrigerator (cover loosely). When ready to serve, arrange the oysters on a chilled platter; top each with a dollop of the sour cream mixture and a “thumb nail” of caviar; garnish with lemon slices and serve. These are divine.

Appetizer:

Ale-Steamed Mussels: You may find an appetizer simply isn’t needed, especially if you’ve opted to prepare both the salmon canapés and the Russian oysters. But should you be so inclined… Fresh herbs, Dijon mustard and ale elevate mussels in this recipe from the New York Times. Photo via website. Serve with an IPA from a local brewery.

Entrée:

Grilled Striped Bass with Tomato-Basil Salad

With striped bass in season for such a short time, we consider it an absolute must to enjoy it as often as possible.

  • Tomato-Basil Salad
    • 1 T Red wine vinegar
    • 3 T EVOO
    • 3 T Fresh basil, loosely chopped
    • 1 T chopped fresh shallot
    • 1 container small tomatoes – such as Cherubs – halved
    • Salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, cover loosely and let stand at room temperature for approximately two hours.

  • Marinade
    • 1/4 c EVOO
    • 1/2 c Vegetable Oil
    • 1/4 c Red wine vinegar
    • 3 T Fresh lemon juice
    • 1 shallot, chopped
    • Salt and pepper

Whisk ingredients together, pour over fish filets in a Pyrex pan, let marinate for about two hours in the refrigerator.

Pre-heat grill to medium high; place bass filets directly on grill; cook for approximately four minutes on each side (cooking time will vary depending on thickness of filet; do not overcook). Plate and serve topped with the salad. Garnish plate with a lemon wedge.

Please pardon the pedestrian presentation shown here; this photo is from a mid-week meal with just the family – the recipes are that easy. But, even when entertaining, we still like to keep things simple. Grilled asparagus and roasted Yukon potatoes are our go-to choices for side dishes … with virtually everything!

Dessert:

We find a fruit crisp is always a crowd pleaser. This peach crisp from Real Simple has minimal ingredients, most of which you are likely to have on hand (except the five pounds of peaches), and looks yummy. If baking seems like too much effort for Fourth of July weekend, these strawberry ice cream sandwiches take all of five minutes to prepare. Perfect! Photos via RealSimple.com.

 

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