When it comes to the Fourth of July, it’s all about the fireworks and the outdoor barbecue.
But for many Gothamites, grilling is not an option. So here’s a guide to throwing a classic American-style feast for a July 4 party either outside in the park or in your sixth floor walk-up.
Building the menu:
For the spread, think simple, easy and fun, said Aida Mollenkamp, chef-journalist-turned-host of the Cooking Channel’s “FoodCrafters.”
Aside from one main dish (we included a suggested roasted shrimp tossed with parsley pesto recipe), Mollenkamp advised preparing finger food – such as pita chips, crudite and hummus - and a simple side along the lines of sliced seasonal melons or a basket of berries.
We suggest hitting up your local bodega for some pre-made angel food cake, pound cake or mini shortcakes, adding homemade whipped cream (ReddiWip if you must), and topping with strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. Voila — edible patriotism.
Setting the mood:
Keep things breezy and simple (and stay away from tacky) with Crate & Barrel’s fun, streamlined outdoor eating accoutrements, such as the Blue & White Fireworks Napkin Set ($2.95 for 16); Sparkle Picks (mini tinsel sparklers to light up the table, $6.95 for 50) and vibrant Red or Blue Plates with White Stars ($2.95-$4.95 for 8).
Don’t worry about draping yourself in red, white and blue, but sport some over-the-top Americana (i.e. large flag sunglasses) that will put you and your guests in a patriotic party mood.
Here’s Mollenkamp’s easy recipe for roasted shrimp and parsley pesto. Who needs to spend time flipping burgers when you could be chowing down and catching up with friends?
Roasted Shrimp Tossed with Parsley Pesto
* 1 bunch parsley leaves
* 3 garlic cloves
* 1/4 cup pine nuts
* 1 teaspoon lemon juice
* 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano
* 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds shrimp, roasted using your favorite method, and allowed to cool to room temperature
Combine all the ingredients except for the oil and shrimp in a food processor. Pulse about 1 minute, slowly pouring the oil into the processor, to make a smooth pesto.
Yield: 6 servings
Aida’s Melon Agua Fresca
3 cups fresh melon (watermelon or cantaloupe are perfect), seeds removed and roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups water
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
Tequila to taste (note: just as delicious without the tequila)
Place all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Chill and serve over ice.
If you're REALLY craving a barbecue:
There are several locations across New York City parks where barbecuing is permitted. In Brooklyn parts of Prospect Park even offers grills (though you need to get their early to get one). In Manhattan, you can fire up a grill in Morningside Park; in the Bronx, head to Pelham Bay Park and in Queens you can barbecue in parts of Flushing Meadows Park. For a full list of designated barbecuing areas go to nycgovparks.org.
Expert Q and A: We asked Sarah Carey, editor of food and entertaining for “Martha Stewart Living,” for her tips on Independence Day partying in the city.
1)What elements make for a great NYC-based July 4 party?
Things that feel special, but are easy. Or things you can transport easily and make ahead that are movable.
2)What kinds of food would you recommend?
If you’re staying at home, you can do a stovetop clambake, a recipe for which is in the July issue of Martha Stewart Living and at http://www.marthastewart.com/article/throw-a-stove-top-clambake. It’s extremely fast and easy. You probably can have it ready to eat in 40 minutes. Add a peach cobbler or a pie and you’re done.
3)What kinds of cocktails should people make?
Serve lots of cold refreshing beverages. You can fill your bathtub with ice and fill it with wine. You can also make a sangria. If you’re taking it outside, bring ice separately so it doesn’t get watered down. Take it in big plastic containers. It feels like summer, because of the fresh fruit.
4)How would you set the mood?
For music, pick something like salsa, Caribbean or something that feels light and summery. Keep all your windows open. Tell everyone to wear flip flops and summer dresses.