The 4th of July is just a week away. Whether you're entertaining family and friends at home, or you've been invited to a backyard barbecue or picnic somewhere else, I'm sure you're already thinking about what you're going to cook and eat for Independence Day.
One of my best strategies for planning food for a July 4th celebration is to keep things simple. People going to a cookout or other party expect the all-American basics of hot dogs and hamburgers. That's certainly what I want to eat. Of course, I'll make sure they're the best-quality burgers and franks I can find -- sometimes varying the standards just a bit by expanding their definitions to include items like delicious fresh sausages or ground turkey. I'll season the burgers well, too, and be sure to include some excellent cheeses to top them. I'll probably grill some onion slices and other vegetables to go with them. And the buns, briefly toasted on the grill before serving, will be good bakery products rather than bland and anonymous white spongy stuff.
So much for the main course. Where I really like to get creative is with dessert.
For the Fourth of July, that means berries. These beautiful, juicy summer fruits are at their absolute peak right now, not just in fresh-picked seasonal quality but also in their variety. Go to any good farmers' market and you'll probably see a surprising array of berries as dazzling as treasure chests full of jewels in Aladdin's cave. Red and white or golden raspberries. Strawberries big and small. Plump blueberries as big and round as marbles. Luscious blackberries and boysenberries that look like they're ready to explode with juice.
This warm-weather bounty is just begging to be turned into a dessert for your holiday spread. And their variety of colors -- including various shades of red, white (or at least golden), and blue -- make them perfect for a patriotic finish to your meal.
One of my favorite ways to feature berries is incredibly simple to make for a party: sandwiching the fresh fruit on a bed of whipped cream between layers of puff pastry.
But, you may wonder, isn't puff pastry French, hardly the all-American touch the day calls for? Well, the simple answer is that, in the middle of the Revolutionary War, France supported the Americans in their fight for independence. So pate feuilletee, as the French call puff pastry, can be a patriotic choice!
Better still, it's convenient. Bake and split the individual pastry squares in advance, and whip and chill the whipped cream, and you have all the elements ready to assemble at the last minute. That's American ingenuity at its best.
Have a happy, safe, and delicious 4th!
RED, WHITE, AND BLUE BERRIES IN PUFF PASTRY
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