Hurray for The Red, White and Blue

I know, I’m a little later than usual with my holiday menu. June flew by so quickly, it made my head spin. Better late than never, right?

As a child growing up, we didn’t have the television as a distraction during dinner. For the longest time, the dining room table was in the kitchen, and the television (an old black and white contraption with rabbit ears and three channels to choose from) was in the living room. For a brief time, the dining room table was moved into the living room, although I haven’t a clue why. It was during this brief “fancy” placement of our table that music became a part of our dining experience. I don’t mean tuning in the radio or dropping a stack of top hit 45s on the record player. Dad was in charge of the music selection. Recordings of John Philip Sousa – lively marching music – was the usual selection. To this day, I enjoy a good march, and sometimes get a little teary eyed, although I cannot explain the deep emotional response to songs such as “Stars and Strips Forever”.

Image result for john phillips sousa

Fireworks and the music of John Philip Sousa were a big part of my childhood. Mind you, I grew up in a time when being a Patriot meant a sense of community pride and love of country. Today, Patriot seems to mean something entirely different, depending upon your political, religious and economical perspective. For the purpose of this simple posting, let’s put aside differences and those things that separate us. July 4th is but a week away – a time to come together to celebrate the birth of America with picnics and backyard barbecues.

Before we get into this year’s selection of appetizers, I have a confession to make. Recently I found two awesome matching deviled egg platters at a Flea Market – and so this year’s appetizers are centered around the platters. I’ve never seen platters quite like these – made to serve up your eggs and whatever else you wish to include – anything from assorted olives, to match-stick vegetables and whatever else you can dream up. My plan is to divide the appetizers between the platters and serve with a few olives in the upper corners just for show. The larger, middle section will be perfect for stacking the cold cut roll-ups, flanked on either side by marinated artichoke hearts, then the olives. In the smallest two “compartments” I plan to rest small forks for ease of serving.  What fun!


*** Independence Day from Start to Finish ***

Starters
Patriotic Deviled Eggs
Cold-Cut Roll-Ups
Panko-Parmesan Crusted Marinated Artichoke Hearts with Lemon-Basil Aioli

From the Grill
Garlic-Beer Marinated Chicken Thighs
Grilled Smoked Beef Sausages
Basic Mini-Burgers

On the Side
Corn on the Cob
Macaroni Salad

Salads
Compressed Watermelon Salad with Tomatoes, Goat Cheese and Cherry Balsamic Vinegar
Cucumber-Tomato-Basil Salad with Dill Dressing

The Grand Finale
American Flag Cake


Patriotic Deviled Eggs
16 Hard Boiled Eggs (or as needed, see tip below)
1 cup mayonnaise
3 teaspoons mustard (yellow, stoned or Dijon-Style Mustard – it’s a matter of personal tastes – try each to see which flavor suits you)
4 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
Onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste
2 cups hot water, divided
1 teaspoon Royal Blue Food Coloring
1 teaspoon Red Food Coloring
2 tablespoons white vinegar, divided

Tip: Boil 2 eggs more than required to fill serving tray. The extra eggs give more yolk filling, the extra whites allow for tasting and adjusting seasonings if necessary.

To Boil eggs, place eggs in a pan and cover with cold water. Bring to a full boil. Remove from heat, cover and let rest for 12-14 minutes. Drain, then plunge eggs into ice-cold water to cease the cooking process. The results will be a perfectly cooked egg with a sunny yellow yolk.

Tips for Peeling Hard-Boiled Eggs: Once eggs are cool enough to handle, roll gently on counter to crack shells. Place into cold water, refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from water and peel. Water will work its way into shell, the result is an easily peeled egg.

Peel eggs and cut in half lengthwise. Remove egg yolks and place yolks in food processor with mixing/chopping blade. Set whites aside and mix coloring.

In a glass bowl, mix 1 cup hot water, distilled white vinegar and 1 teaspoon Royal Blue Food Coloring. Mix well and add more coloring if desired.

In another glass bowl, mix remaining cup of hot water, distilled white vinegar and 1 teaspoon Red Food Coloring. Mix well, and add more coloring if desired.

Divide egg white halves into three groups. One group is to remain uncolored, the remaining two are colored red and blue. Place half of the “colored” whites into blue coloring, the other half into the red coloring.  Allow white to soak about 3 minutes or until desired color is reached. Place white up-side-down (cut side down) on a paper towel to drain. While colored egg whites drain, make filling.

Mix/chop yolks until fluffy and are fine grade resembling bread crumbs. Add mayonnaise and mustard and mix until creamy. Mix in red wine vinegar one tablespoon at a time and season to taste.

Place 12 white halves on serving dish or egg platter. Select best of the halves.

Spoon filling mixture into a piping bag fitted with desired tip. (I like the larger star for deviled eggs), then pipe into egg white halves.

Tent with plastic wrap (using toothpicks for “tent poles” ) and chill well until ready to serve.


Cold Cut Roll-Ups
Roast Beef Roll-Ups:
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
2 to 3 tablespoons minced banana peppers
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 pound thinly sliced cooked roast beef

In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, cilantro, peppers and garlic. Spread about 2 tablespoons on each slice of beef. Roll up tightly and wrap in plastic wrap.

Refrigerate overnight.

Ham and Turkey Roll-Ups
12 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/2 cup shredded zucchini
4 teaspoons dill weed
1/2 pound thinly sliced fully cooked ham
1/2 pound thinly sliced cooked turkey

For ham and turkey rolls, in another bowl, combine the cream cheese, carrot, zucchini and dill. Spread about 2 tablespoons on each slice of ham and turkey. Roll up tightly; wrap in plastic wrap.

Refrigerate overnight.

Slice the roll-ups into 1-1/2-in. pieces. Yield: 6-7 dozen.


Panko-Parmesan Marinated Artichoke Hearts with Lemon-Basil Aioli
Artichoke Hearts
1 (12 oz) jar Marinated Artichoke Hearts, drained
¼ cup flour
Garlic powder, to taste
Sea salt to taste
White Pepper to taste
1 egg
2 tbsp vegetable oil
½ cup plain panko crumbs
¼ cup Parmesan, finely grated

Drain marinated artichoke hearts. Lay on a double layer of paper towels, top with another layer of paper towels. Press on them gently to squeeze any excess liquid out of them.The hearts need to be as dry as possible. If needed, change towels and continue to gently press out the excess liquid.

Place the flour in a bowl. Season to taste with garlic powder, sea salt and while pepper.

In another bowl, whisk the egg with a little vegetable oil.

In a third bowl, mix the panko and finely grated Parmesan cheese.

Dip each artichoke heart lightly into the flour mixture then in the egg mixture followed by the Panko-Parmesan mixture until completely coated.

Place the coated artichoke heart on small baking dish. Repeat with the remaining artichoke hearts until all the hearts are coated.

Place the plate of coated artichoke hearts unwrapped into the refrigerator for 30 minutes. This resting period is important. By allowing breaded artichokes to chill in the refrigerator the coating will better adhere to the artichoke, thus preventing the coating from falling off during the frying process. While the artichoke hearts chill in the refrigerator, make the Aioli (recipe below)

To Cook: Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.
Once the oil is HOT, add the artichokes a few at a time, making sure not to crowd the pan too much.

Cook for 4-5 minutes, or until golden brown.

Carefully turn the artichokes over and continue to cook until golden brown.

Remove from oil with a slotted spoon and place on a rack lined with a paper towel to soak up any excess grease.

Lemon-Basil Aioli
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 clove of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons basil, finely minced
1 Pinch Fresh Dill
1 Lemon, zested
Juice of 1 Lemon

Place basil and dill in a blender or food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add lemon zest and pulse one or two times more just to incorporate without over-processing.

Transfer basil mixture to a mixing bowl. Set aside.

In another mixing bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, minced garlic, and lemon juice together until well combined.

Add the basil mixture to the mayonnaise mixture. Whisk together, taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Cover and place in the refrigerator until well chilled.

To Serve: Arrange artichoke hearts on a small serving platter. Spoon Lemon-Basil Aioli sauce into a small bowl. Serve platter of artichoke hearts along side sauce for dipping.


Garlic-Beer Marinated Chicken
(1) 11 oz beer or dark ale
3 tablespoons sesame seed oil
1 1/2 tablespoons roasted minced garlic (from a jar okay)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 lbs chicken thighs, bones and skin removed
2 limes, cut into wedges

In a bowl, whisk together beer and sesame oil. Add minced garlic, seasonings and spices. Whisk well.

Place thighs into a large zip-lock bag. Pour marinade over chicken. Turn bag several times to distribute the marinade. Place bag on a platter or casserole dish just in case bag might leak. Place into the refrigerator overnight, shooting for at least 12 hours of soaking. The longer the chicken percolates in the marinade, the deeper the flavor.

When ready to cook, remove chicken from the refrigerator and allow bag to lay flat on the counter for 30 minutes.

While meat comes to room temperature, build a nice bed of coals. Remove chicken from marinade and grill about 6 minutes per side. Move to upper warming rack, cook an additional 3 to 4 minutes or until cooked through.

Transfer thighs to serving platter and garnish with lime wedges before serving.


Grilled Smoked Beef Sausage
2 Packages Hillshire Farms Smoked Beef Sausage
1 1/2 Cup Barbecue Sauce, any flavor

Heat small grill gas grill for direct cooking. Split sausages in half width-wise to create 2 halves. Split again lengthwise to open sausage. You will now have 8 “J” shaped sausages.

When grill is ready, place sausage haves on grill skin side up until nicely cooked. Turn, brush with barbecue sauce and continue to grill until heated through.

Serve with additional barbecue sausage if desired.


Basic Mini Burgers
2 lbs Ground Beef
2 tablespoons Hamburger Seasoning
12 mini hamburger buns
Lettuce
1 Large Tomato, sliced
1 small Red Onion, sliced
4 Cheddar Cheese slices, optional
Pickles
Ketchup
Mustard
Mayonnaise

In a bowl, combine ground beef with hamburger seasoning. Divide ground beef into twelve balls. Pat down into patties just slightly larger than buns.

Grill patties to desired doneness. Top with cheese and allow to melt before removing burgers from grill.

If desired, brush buns will a little olive oil and toast on the grill just before assembling burgers.

While the burgers are grilling, place a lettuce leaf on the bottom bun, top with tomato and a little red onion. Set bun bottoms aside until ready to use.

Once the cheese had melted on burgers, place patties on bottom bun. Top with top of bun. Arrange burgers on a platter and serve with condiments as desired.


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