Happy Fourth!

The Fourth of July falling midweek this year is a bit inconvenient since we can’t hook it easily to the weekend. If you have people over to celebrate, there’s no free day in advance to prepare, nor a day afterwards to recover.

But I’m glad we, as a country, haven’t tried to turn this sacrosanct holiday into a three-day weekend for our own convenience, as we have other holidays like Memorial Day. I believe we should honor the day for its meaning; not for our barbecues. Memorial Day to me will always be May 30 and a holiday in remembrance of our war dead; not the last Monday in May and the kickoff to summer.

So the Fourth of July is in its rightful place on Wednesday and it’s our responsibility to figure out how to celebrate it. We’re having a few people over for a simple late lunch rather than dinner (to give us enough time to clean up and relax afterwards). And I’m looking for some easy dishes to make.

Steve plans to grill a tri-tip that we will slice so people can make sandwiches with grilled onions, aioli, sliced tomatoes and other fixings. I’m still planning the menu, but coleslaw, potato salad and baked beans and chips seem like a good way to round out the menu.

If people are early and hungry, I think I’ll serve tapenade. Not very American, I guess, but this is my go-to appetizer when I don’t want to stress. (We could say it’s in honor of the Marquis de La Fayette.) I always have the ingredients on hand – capers, anchovies, olive oil and fresh rosemary from my garden. I always have fresh lemon juice, too. When the price is right, I buy extra lemons, grate the rind and squeeze the juice. I store the rind and juice separately in plastic bags in my freezer. Just to be safe, I keep a few cans of kalamata olives in my pantry. That way, I don’t have to make a special trip to my supermarket olive bar for unexpected company.

Try this Provencal olive spread with crostini. If you don’t have time to make the crostini, just use crackers. Don’t be concerned about the anchovies – they are just another flavorful element in this pungent spread – there’s no fishy taste, promise!

Here are some other easy dishes for this mid-week Fourth of July celebration.

Have a happy – and safe – one!

Makes 2 ½ cups, about 6 servings

3 cloves garlic
2 cups pitted kalamata olives or other pitted black olives
5 anchovy fillets
1 tablespoon capers, drained
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper

Start food processor running and drop garlic cloves through the feed tube to chop. Stop processor and add olives, anchovies, capers, rosemary and lemon juice. Puree until chunky. With machine running, pour oil slowly through feed tube and continue to process until smooth. Season with pepper.

To get the tapenade recipe and shopping list on your smartphone (iPhone, BlackBerry, Android device) or PC, click here.

Serves about 6

1 loaf French bread (baguette)
2 tablespoons olive oil

Heat oven to 375°F. Slice bread ¼-inch thick. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush olive oil on both sides of bread slices. Arrange on two baking sheets and bake for about 15 minutes, turning once, until bread is golden, dry and crisp. (Gently squeeze slice between your fingers. If bread is still spongy, it is not fully toasted. Partially toasted bread will turn tough and chewy.) Serve crostini warm or cool to room temperature. These toasts can be made in advance, cooled completely and stored airtight until needed.

To get the crostini recipe and shopping list on your smartphone (iPhone, BlackBerry, Android device) or PC, click here.

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Posted: Jul 1st by Sandy_Hu