This summer I’m throwing my annual 4th of July party at the lake, and I can’t wait to spend a day relaxing with delicious food, friends & family. Here’s what I have on the menu this year:
July 4th is a long day and people are going to stay until dusk, so make sure you have snacks out for grazing. Plan accordingly to how many guest you will be having over. You don’t want to run out!
I always have an Italian/tuscan table theme, and I encourage you to put your personal spin on your party. Themes make parties more fun anyways!
Meatball skewers are perfect for appetizers or entrees. Just defrost my veal meatballs from HSN and stick them on a skewer with bell peppers and onions. Then grill until the peppers and onions are soft and charred, and serve with either my spicy arrabiata or classic marinara for dipping. These are great as snacks because they can be served hot or at room temperature.
Staying with the Italian theme, I always serve my father’s famous focaccia with a charcuterie and imported mozzarella cheese.
Next, I’m making a spinach artichoke dip with homemade tortilla chips and my Rosemary & Truffle Oil Donatella Popcorn. Finally, I’ll make an easy shrimp and avocado appetizer.
The Main Courses
I will be making a few of my signature pizzas:
- Classic Margherita- with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil
- Charred Mushrooms- with smoked mozzarella, pecorino, and basil
- And for fun: The “Americana.” It’s a nod to the Italian interpretation of the American diet: hot dog & fries pizza. It’s so bad it’s good, and I think my guests will get a kick out of it too!
You can’t celebrate the 4th of July without Hot Dogs & Burgers– because that’s what people expect. I suggest getting creative, jazzing them up, and making them your own.
5 Tips For Better Grilling
1. Start with 80/20 beef. Anything fattier is too greasy and anything leaner is too dry. Sirloin and chuck are the juiciest.
2. When forming patties, create a dip in the center because they shrink on the outside. There’s nothing wrong with having your butcher form them for you. Let them do the work, you’ll be busy enough! Just salt and pepper to season. Good quality meat speaks for itself!
3. Get good quality buns- something special like multigrain or onion rolls.
4. Leave it alone on the grill- too much handling encourages the juices to come out and you’ll be left with a dry burger. Don’t over cook- take it off 30 seconds before its done and let it rest for a minute
5. Upgrade your fix ins’- high quality cheese, spinach instead of iceberg lettuce, herbed aioli (recipe) Don’t make them a supporting role give them a primary role! Just don’t mess around with homemade ketchup- nothing tastes as good as heinz!
On the Side
For sides and starches, I’ll have a balance of healthy vegetables and yummy pastas. Zucchini, eggplant, asparagus, and corn will be grilled to perfection on my new Lynx grill. As for the pastas: Italian Baked Mac & Cheese and a cold pasta. Of course, you have to serve a refreshing summer salad, so I’ll be serving a cucumber tomato salad and a panzanella too.
I like to stick to one or two signature desserts, and this year I’m making my Sparkling Watermelon and a Watermelon Granita- served in my HSN Baker. People love to bring sweets, so I usually let my guests contribute the rest.
I love letting the dessert be a fun activity for the kids, so I let my non-chefy team experiment with decorating cheesecake and mini sponge cakes. Buy or make a cheesecake in a sheet tray and use star-shaped cookie cutters to make individual cakes. Arm the kids with frosting, food coloring, sprinkles, fruit, and other patriotic decorations and let them design their own masterpieces! We did an “Iron Chef” competition here at the office, and my intern Carly killed it! It was so much fun and totally delicious.