Red, White and Blue Cheat Sheet

This year's Fourth of July is a real bugger, falling in the middle of the week. It's a tall order being red, white and blue while whipping up a fabulous outdoor feast without the cushion of a long weekend.

We're literally running out of time before the rockets' red glare gets going, so chop-chop. To help, I've compiled a cheat sheet with lots of links to recipes for various components of a classic summertime shindig. Let's go!

Got marinade?
There's still time to rub it in and lather up dem ribs, roasts and birds. Consider a dry jerk, curried rub or a bath of yogurt-based tandoori seasonings.


Homemade burger buns are the bomb diggety. (Kim O'Donnel)


No time for marinade?
Do the plank instead. A piece of salmon grilled on a untreated wooden plank does most of the seasoning work, imparting the flavor of the wood into the fish. It's also one of the easiest things to on a grill with no flipping or fussing required. All you gotta do is soak that plank in advance and let the grill do the job.

Meat and fish not an option?
No problem. Try grilling marinated tofu, lined up on skewers. It's also a great way to break the ice for tofu virgins, and the flavor and texture are terrific this way.

No time to boil potatoes or shred cabbage for slaw?
Grill fruit instead, while the fire is hot. I love these two numbers from a recent issue of the Food section : a grilled halved pineapple roast and grilled peaches topped with a heady-sounding basil mascarpone.

Got nonalcoholic options?
Make lemonade. Better yet, there's no time to make and cool a simple syrup, so add pureed raspberries or blueberries instead for a very patriotic ade that makes you feel like a million bucks thanks to all of those antioxidants.

Time for dessert?
The fruitier, the better. The pickins couldn't be better right now. There are peaches, apricots, cherries in the stone fruit department, and blueberries, razzies and blackberries in the berry world, so there's no excuse not to make a quickie cobbler, buckle or freelance tart.

Wanna blow your guests away?
Make your own buns. Seriously. It's not too late, if you've got a few free hours today, and it's not hard at all. Inspired by pastry guru Rose Levy Beranbaum who sang the praises of DIY buns in a recent Food section story, I set out to make my own, and I might not ever buy bagged buns again. They are THAT good.

"You made these buns?" exclaimed Mister Mighty Appetite. "I can't believe how good they are." Neither could I. For my experiment, I branched out a little and followed the lead of Beth Hensperger, whose recipe for sesame burger buns, yields a bun packed with character and flavor, soft enough to cushion the burger yet firm enough to absorb the juices and condiments.

And finally, talk to me today at Noon ET for a red-white-and-blue edition of What's Cooking, for last-minute tricks, trips and a pitcher of margaritas for the first 20 people to show up.

Have a delicious and safe holiday!

Recipe below the jump.

Sesame Burger Buns
From "The Bread Bible" by Beth Hensperger

Ingredients
1 ¾ cups warm water (105-115 degrees)
1 tablespoon (1 envelope) active dry yeast
2 tablespoons plus ½ teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup nonfat dry milk powder
2 ½ teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 ½-5 cups all-purpose flour or bread flour
1 large egg beaten with 2 teaspoons water, for glazing
¼ cup sesame seeds

Method

In a small bowl, pour in ½ cup of the warm water. Sprinkle yeast and ½ teaspoon of the sugar on top. Stir to dissolve and cover, until foamy, about 10 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl using a whisk, combine remaining 1 ¼ cups water, dried milk, remaining sugar, salt and butter. Add yeast mixture, mixing until combined.

Add 2 cups of the flour. Beat hard until creamy, about 1 minute. Add remaining flour, ½ cup at a time, until a soft, shaggy dough is formed, just clearing the sides of the bowl.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for about four minutes, dusting with flour only 1 tablespoon at a time as needed, until smooth and soft. (KOD note: a dough scraper is useful, as dough tends to stick.)

Place dough in a greased deep bowl. Turn once to coat and cover with
plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk,
60-75 minutes.

Gently deflate dough. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface.

Divide dough into 12 equal portions. Shape each into a tight round
ball and place each ball at least 2 inches apart on a baking sheet,
lined with parchment paper. Do not crowd; dough will spread.

Flatten each ball with your palm. Cover loosely with a dry towel and
let rise until puffy, about 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush each roll with egg glaze and
sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake 20-25 minutes, or until slightly brown, firm to the touch.
Transfer to a cooling rack. Cool completely before splitting.

By Kim ODonnel |  July 3, 2007; 11:33 AM ET Bread , Entertaining , Summer
Previous: Tasting 'Ratatouille' | Next: Still Blowing Out the Fireworks

Comments

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That recipe does sound pretty simple; I might try it!

Posted by: Southern Gal | July 3, 2007 1:51 PM

A follow-up to today's chat...Spanakopita can absolutely be made with olive oil instead of butter, although the flavor of the oil will come through pretty strongly. Maybe a light olive oil instead of extra virgin? We do olive oil and phyllo all the time for spanakopita, teropita, salmon wellington, and so on. The only difference is the flavor of the oil vs. butter.

Posted by: Brownsburg, IN | July 3, 2007 3:41 PM

Kim!
I read your blog on the Savvy Gourmet in New Orleans and decided that I HAD to go when I was there for an Emergency Management Conference and Exercise in June. I loved it and bought one of those cute aprons for my sister-in-law (who is an awesome cook). There was a children's cooking class going on, and I had the most wonderful cob salad and blueberry infused lemonade. I told the owner that I came at your suggestion, and he was stoked. Thanks for the recommendation - I wish we had one here!

Posted by: Jessica | July 4, 2007 2:44 PM

Kim, the buns turned out fabulous. Thanks for the July 4 inspiration! I will make these again and again...

Posted by: Katie | July 4, 2007 5:21 PM

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