(June 22, 2021 / JNS) After a year-and-a-half of hunkering down, we are free at last—at least, for the most part. With the advent of vaccines, we welcome back hugs and backslapping, kids running amok with their grandparents, maybe a dog or two in the mix—all unmasked in the great outdoors! This Fourth of July will be one to remember. It represents a return to summer and all that brings after the waning of a global pandemic that can now see family, friends, neighbors and even communities come together to celebrate.
Many of us tend to forget the origin of July 4, but not I! Fifty years ago, this Shetland Islands native became a proud new American citizen after studying the fundamentals of U.S. history and the break from Britain. The words stuck in my head: “No taxation without representation.” Unpopular taxes and laws put in place by the British included the Sugar Tax and the Stamp Act. Colonists, motivated to stand up for their rights, rebelled a tea tax by tossing crates of the valued commodity into Boston Harbor. The colonies’ widespread dissatisfaction with increasing British control led to a revolt, and eventually, the Declaration of Independence. The document signed by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, is a celebration of independence and freedom from British rule. Now, with the coronavirus being harnessed by vaccinations, this day becomes doubly meaningful as a return to freedom and (a new) normalcy.
It’s been a while since we’ve entertained a crowd, but now’s the time to break out. Mix and mingle. You’ve earned it! Start with Shabbat dinner on Friday night and work up to Sunday knowing Monday is a day off. Make up a menu from the dishes below and delegate. There’s something to delight everyone, whether the vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian or “I’ll eat everything” gang.
I’m always on the lookout for new food items, so when I saw packages of baby zucchini, I grabbed them. Sliced lengthwise, they’re perfect to scoop up the lentil pâté, fragrant with Mediterranean spices. Not to be outdone by seasonal ravings of lobster rolls, I substituted cooked cod chunks for lobster. There’s no flavor, however, comparable to fresh herbs. Even for me, a sometimes gardener with limited space, it’s easy enough to plant a half-dozen herbs ready to pick. My Biblical Blessing Salad is inspired by a memorable dinner at a Jaffa cafe overlooking the sea. We delved into a lively, tongue-tingling fresh herb salad, dressed lightly with olive-oil dressing and served alongside crisp fried St. Peter’s fish (tilapia). The base for the Old Glory Cookie Cake is a zesty lemon-bar cookie, garnished with fresh berries. I used blueberries and raspberries, but substitute with your favorite colorful toppings. Serve with a scoop of lavender-infused fruit on the side. Then insert a few sparklers for a celebratory, rousing finale.
Baby Zucchini Sticks
Barbecued Flank Steak With Fresh Herb Sauce
Biblical Blessing Salad
Old Glory Cookie Cake
Red, White and Blue Lavender Fruit
Lentil Pâté (Pareve)
Makes 2½ to 3 cups
Adapted from a recipe shared by my culinary friend and colleague, Myra Chanin.
*Steamed lentils are available in some markets or cook 1½ cups dry lentils according to package directions.
*Pereg makes a wide variety of kosher spices such as sumac and mixed spices (available online).
1 package (17 oz.) steamed lentils
1 tablespoon cut-up Vidalia onion
3 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1½ teaspoons sumac
1¼ teaspoons Pereg Cajun mixed spices
Break up lentils and place them in a food processor.
Add the onion and process to combine.
Add the remaining ingredients. Process until coarsely ground or until smooth.
Serve with baby zucchini, cut in half lengthwise.
Barbecued Flank Steak With Fresh Herb Sauce (Meat)
*May use lite soy sauce to reduce sodium.
*Substitute dried sage for thyme.
½ cup white vinegar
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons bottled minced garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
2 (1-pound each) flank steaks
In a medium bowl, whisk together, the vinegar, olive oil, wine, soy sauce, garlic, thyme and pepper.
Arrange the steaks in one layer in a large shallow glass dish. Prick each steak several times all over with a fork. Pour the marinade over, turning steaks to coat thoroughly.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, turning several times or overnight.
Remove steaks from the refrigerator. Pour off marinade and discard (do not reuse).
Heat grill to medium-hot. Arrange steaks on the grill.
Cook for 5 to 6 minutes on each side for rare. Cook a few minutes longer for medium or well-done. If steak is thick, cooking times may be longer.
Transfer to a cutting board. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
Slice ¼-inch thick on the diagonal, cutting across the grain. Arrange on a platter and spoon some sauce over top. Pass remaining sauce in a gravy boat.
Fresh Herb Sauce (Pareve)
Makes about 1 ½ cups
*Prepare sauce a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Remove from refrigerator 30 to 45 minutes before serving.
*Make cooked fish or chicken sparkle. Spoon the sauce over top before serving.
4 cups parsley, loosely packed
2 green onions, trimmed and sliced
2 hard-cooked eggs, quartered
2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
¼ cup lemon juice
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1½ teaspoons lemon-pepper seasoning or to taste
In the food processor or blender, place the parsley, green onions, eggs, mustard, lemon juice and olive oil.
Process until mixture becomes smooth.
Season to taste with lemon-pepper seasoning.
Serve at room temperature.
Cod Fish Rolls (Pareve)
A kosher take on a New England lobster roll.
*Substitute cooked salmon for codfish.
*Prepare cod filling a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.
*¾ pound cooked flaked cod is about 2 cups.
*Toast hot-dog rolls, if desired.
¼ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
¼ teaspoon hot sauce or to taste
½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
⅛ teaspoon salt
¾ cup finely diced celery
1 tablespoon chopped shallots
1 tablespoon pickle relish
3 tablespoons thinly sliced chives, divided
*¾ pound cooked cod, cut in small chunks (recipe below)
4 hot dog rolls, split
8 lettuce leaves, shredded
In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon juice and rind, hot sauce, pepper and salt.
Fold in the celery, shallots, pickle relish and 2 tablespoons chives.
Add the cod and mix gently.
Line the hot dog rolls with lettuce. Divide cod filling evenly and spoon over top.
Sprinkle with remaining chives and serve.
To poach cod: Cut cod into 2 or 3 pieces. Pour ¼ cup orange juice, 1 tablespoon vinegar and ½ cup water into a large nonstick skillet. Bring to boil over high heat. Add the cod; reduce heat to medium. Simmer, covered, for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.
Biblical Blessing Salad (Pareve)
*Could substitute quinoa for bulgur.
*Include salad greens for some of the fresh herbs or shredded spring greens for dill.
*Rinse herbs well in cold water. Spin dry in a salad spinner.
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
freshly ground pepper and salt to taste
¼ cup bulgur wheat
1 bunch parsley (about 4 cups, loosely packed) stalks trimmed
½ bunch basil (about 1 cup, loosely packed), leaves only
½ bunch dill, (about 2 cups, loosely packed)
½ cucumber, unpeeled, seeds removed and coarsely diced
½–¾ cup dried cranberries or raisins
⅓ cup pumpkin seeds
Prepare the dressing: In a small jar, pour the lemon juice, olive oil and mustard. Cover and shake well to mix. Season to taste with pepper and salt. Set aside.
Place bulgur in a cup and pour boiling water over to cover. Let stand 10 to 15 minutes to soften. Drain well. Set aside.
Using kitchen shears, snip the parsley, basil and dill coarsely into a large bowl.
Add the bulgur, cucumber, cranberries and pumpkin seeds.
Just before serving, pour enough dressing over to barely moisten. Toss and serve.
Old Glory Citrus Cake (Dairy)
*Make it easy. Use prepared vanilla frosting.
*Prepare the citrus cookie base ahead of time (it can be frozen).
*White baking chips do not contain cocoa butter and so can’t be labeled as chocolate, but they do contain partially hydrogenated oil (usually palm kernel oil). True white chocolate is almost always in bar form and contains cocoa butter.
*To make pareve, use margarine instead of butter. Prepare non-dairy frosting. See recipe below.
*Two large lemons should yield 6 tablespoons of juice.
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons grated lemon rind, divided
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1¾ cup sugar
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 container (16 oz.) vanilla frosting
blueberries, raspberries, white baking chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl, beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar till fluffy, about 30 seconds.
Stir in 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind.
Add the flour, ½ cup at a time, beating well between each addition.
Press into an ungreased 13×9-inch baking pan.
Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes.
While crust is baking, prepare the filling. Whisk the eggs and sugar until blended. Stir in the flour, lemon juice and remaining grated lemon rind.
Pour over the partially baked crust.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes longer until golden-brown and almost set in the center. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.
To decorate: Spread frosting over to edges. Decorate like an American flag with blueberries, raspberries and white “chocolate” chips.
Vanilla frosting (Pareve): Whisk 3 cups confectioners’ sugar with ⅓ cup softened margarine. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 tablespoon non-dairy creamer. Stir to mix. If too stiff, add a little more non-dairy creamer, a drop at a time. Be careful; too much liquid and frosting will become runny.
Red, White and Blue Lavender Fruit (Pareve)
*For adults only: prepare the day before. Drizzle orange liqueur such as Sabra over and refrigerate.
*Set aside honeyed fruit for the kids.
*An acid such as orange juice prevents bananas from browning.
2 bananas, cut into chunks
¼ cup orange juice
1 pint of raspberries
1 pint of blueberries
1 pint of blackberries
½ teaspoon dried lavender
honey to drizzle
In a small bowl, place the bananas and pour orange juice over top. Toss gently and let stand for 5 minutes.
Drain, saving juice to add to breakfast drinks.
Place in a bowl with the berries. Sprinkle lavender over and stir gently. Drizzle with honey.
Chill and serve.
Ethel G. Hofman is a widely syndicated American Jewish food and travel columnist, author and culinary consultant.
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