We’ve reached the high-summer holiday of July 4th, the quintessential get-out-there-and-enjoy-the-heat American rite of passage. Americans associate July 4th with grilling, beer, fireworks, parades, flags, and celebrating freedom–in more or less that order. It’s a super patriotic day that occasions fireworks even in remote American outposts.
If you do a quick poll of friends and family to ask what historical event occurred on July 4th, we predict you’ll get a surprising range of answers. For a day celebrated all across the country, its origins are actually a little murky. If you want to be the wonk who knows what really happened on the fourth of July, read on…
The legal separation of the original thirteen colonies from Great Britain occurred on July 2nd, a day that John Adams predicted would be henceforth “celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival [and] the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.” Adams was right about the mode of celebration, but a little premature on the date. The date written on the Declaration of Independence became the National Day, although there’s some evidence that it wasn’t actually signed until August of 1776.
Although Adams was off in his prediction, both he and Thomas Jefferson–the only two signers of the Declaration who went on to become President–died on July 4th, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of Independence Day, which is pretty eerie. And James Monroe, another Founding Father who became president died on the same day five years later.
Although hotdogs and hamburgers are the traditional grilled foods for July 4th, we’re suggesting an alternate plan that offers a little more flair and flavor, as well as a nod to another part of American history.
Grilled Vietnamese Pork with Salad & Rice Noodles
This is perfect for a summer party and comes together pretty quickly and easily. Serve this family style and let your guests assemble their own lettuce wraps and make sure there’s plenty of dipping sauce to go around. We like to layer the pork on top of the noodles, followed by the herbs and veggies and topped off with a good dose of dipping sauce.
1.5 pounds pork tenderloin, sliced crosswise into 1 ½” thick pieces
4 scallions (white and pale green parts) chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp chopped lemongrass (optional)
1 tbsp ginger, finely chopped
2 tbsp light brown sugar
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp fish sauce
3 tbsp vegetable oil
½ cup hot water
4 tbsp fish sauce
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 Thai chiles, thinly sliced
1 tsp finely chopped garlic
Salad & noodles
1 cucumber (preferably seedless) thinly sliced crosswise
1 cup Thai basil leaves (can substitute regular basil)
1 cup cilantro leaves
1 cup mint leaves
1-2 heads of butter or gem lettuce, leaves separated
1 package rice vermicelli
1 tbsp rice vinegar
Julienned carrots and daikon
Mix all ingredients together and spread over pork in a glass baking dish. Season with some salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 3 hours.
Make dipping sauce
Mix first four ingredients in a small bowl. Garnish with chilies and garlic. May be prepared 1 day ahead of time. Cover and chill.
Grill pork over medium high heat until cooked through and slightly charred on the outside, about 4 minutes per side depending on thickness. Let pork rest for 10 minutes.
Cook rice noodles in a pot of boiling water, following package instructions. The thin noodles will cook very fast, don’t overcook. Drain and toss with a tbsp of rice vinegar.
Arrange lettuce leaves, vegetables and herbs on a large platter.
Slice pork into ¼ inch strips and sprinkle with crushed peanuts and chopped scallion garnish if using. Serve with salad, rice noodles and dipping sauce.
Summer Berry Bundt Cake
Adapted from Modern Potluck by Kristin Donnelly
As soon as the farmers markets are overflowing with summer berries (now!) this bundt cake comes to mind. We made this for a July 4 potluck barbecue last year to rave reviews. And it’s one of those rare desserts that the grown ups enjoy as much as the kids. The addition of polenta and ricotta gives this a lovely texture and the pink glaze made with berry juice transforms this simple bundt cake into a real stunner.
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened plus more for buttering the pan
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup polenta
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
zest of 2 lemons
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups (15 oz) ricotta
3 large eggs
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 cups of mixed berries such as blueberries, raspberries and blackberries
For the glaze
1/4 cup mixed berries
1/4 cup water
1 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Generously butter the bundt pan and dust with flour.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, polenta, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the sugar, butter and lemon zest together on medium speed for a few minutes. Add the ricotta, the eggs, one at a time, and lemon juice. Beat together until incorporated. Add half the dry ingredients, beat well, then add the remaining dry ingredients and beat well. Gently fold in the berries and scrape the batter into the prepared bundt pan.
Bake for around 75 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Then invert the cake onto a platter or cake stand and let cool completely.
While the cake is cooling, make the glaze. In a small saucepan, combine the berries with the water and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, smashing the berries with the back of a spoon until they release all of their juices. Strain into a bowl and discard solids. Whisk together the sifted confectioners sugar and 3 tbsp of the strained berry juice until a smooth glaze forms. When the cake is completely cool, drizzle the glaze over the top and let drip down the sides.