Fourth of July Meal Ideas

Holidays are the perfect excuse to indulge a decadent palate. Fourth of July is one of the few widely celebrated summer holidays, so it's no wonder Americans love to go all out. Suddenly, dormant barbecues called to action and farm-fresh produce appears on picnic tables everywhere. But there's more to Fourth of July cooking than just fried chicken and hamburgers. This year, try a few new twists on those old classics to rev up meals with an adventurous cultural selection.

Twists on Old Classics

It would hardly be Fourth of July in America without the smell of fried chicken and barbecued goodies. Hamburgers, hot dogs, steaks and even veggie burgers are an integral part of the holiday. There are many variations possible on these classics. Try one of these classics-redone recipes, courtesy of MIAMI BURGER by Bobby Flay (serves 4) INGREDIENTS: 1 lb. ground chuck (80 percent lean) or ground turkey (90 percent lean) Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil 1/2 cup mayonnaise 4 cloves roasted garlic, mashed 4 hamburger buns, split 1/4 cup Dijon mustard 8 thin slices Swiss cheese 4 thin slices smoked ham 2 dill pickles, sliced into 1/4-inch slices DIRECTIONS: Divide the meat into four equal portions (about 6 ounces each). Form each portion loosely into a 3/4-inch burger and make a deep depression in the center with your thumb. Season both sides of each burger with salt and pepper. Cook the burgers using the oil. Remove the burgers to a plate. Combine the mayonnaise and roasted garlic in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread both sides of each bun with the mayonnaise and mustard. Place a slice of cheese on each bun bottom, place a burger on top, then top the burger with a slice of ham, another slice of cheese and some pickle slices. Cover with the bun tops. Cook the burgers on a sandwich press or wrap the burgers in aluminum foil and cook in a hot skillet over high heat (put a heavy skillet on top of the burgers to press them flat) until golden brown and the cheese has melted, about one and a half minutes per side. Serve immediately. FRIED CHICKEN SALAD by Sandra Lee (serves 4) INGREDIENTS: 1 (12-ounce) box popcorn chicken For dressing: 1/2 cup ranch dressing 2 tsp. barbecue seasoning For Salad: 8 cups romaine or iceberg lettuce, chopped 2 tomatoes 1 cucumber 16 baby carrots DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, place popcorn chicken on baking sheet and bake for eight to 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Mix together ranch dressing and seasoning in small bowl and set aside. Place lettuce in a large bowl. Add dressing and toss with tongs until lettuce is coated. Set aside. Cut each tomato into eight wedges and the cucumber into 16 slices. Divide lettuce onto four cold plates. Arrange each salad with four tomato wedges, four cucumbers and four baby carrots. Top each salad with a quarter of the chicken pieces.

Cultural Adventure

The United States is known as the "melting pot" for a reason: People from all over the world come to America to live, work and visit. This has granted those living here the amazing opportunity to experience all kinds of cultures---and endless possibilities for delicious food. Celebrate America's unique diversity this year with scrumptious cultural selections. Here's a tasty breaded Indian snack from KHASTA DAL KACHORI INGREDIENTS: 3/4 cup skinless dried black beans (urad) 4 cups flour (atta) 1 green chili, chopped 1/2 tsp. salt Oil for deep-frying 1 Tbsp. anise seeds (Saunf) 1 tsp. coriander seeds 1 tsp. white cumin seeds 1/2 tsp. red chili powder 1/4 tsp. asafoetida powder DIRECTIONS: Soak the beans in water overnight, then rinse and drain. Sift the flour and gradually add enough water to make soft dough. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let rest for 30 minutes. Grind the drained beans with the chili powder, salt and spices to make a stuffing. Mix well and divide into 16 equal portions. Divide the dough into 16, using wet hands, and smear each portion with a little oil. Flatten and roll out into 2-inch rounds. Wrap one portion of stuffing in each round and roll into a smooth ball using greased hands. Flatten and roll into a 3- to 4-inch round. Heat oil in a deep-frying pan (kadhai). Lift the rolled kachori and carefully slip it into the hot oil. Immediately baste with the hot oil over the top of the rounds with a spatula so that they swell up like a ball. This should take only a few seconds. Flip the kachori over and cook the other side until golden brown. Serve dal kachori hot with chutney. TZAJIKI (CUCUMBER DIP) from INGREDIENTS: 1 medium cucumber, peeled and finely chopped 1/2 pint Greek-style yogurt 1 Tbsp. olive oil 1 tsp. vinegar 1/2 tsp. salt 1 tsp. chopped dill 1 clove garlic DIRECTIONS: Combine all ingredients. Chill at least an hour to blend flavors. Serve as a dip with fried fish, eggplant or zucchini.

Festive Cocktails

A chilled cocktail on a sticky summer night is a delicious way for adults to celebrate Fourth of July festivities. Whip up this deliciously cool drink from, pull up a lawn chair and enjoy the fireworks. FOURTH OF JULY COCKTAIL by Guy Fieri INGREDIENTS: 1 ounce watermelon schnapps 1 big splash cranberry juice 1 very thin slice jalapeno or Serrano pepper 1 slice lemon 1 slice lime 1 1/2 ounces tequila 1/4 ounce blue curacao 1/2 ounce simple syrup Watermelon wedge, for garnish (optional) DIRECTIONS: Mix the schnapps and cranberry juice in a shaker; pour into an ice-filled glass. Muddle the jalapeno pepper, lemon and lime slices, tequila, blue curacao and simple syrup in the shaker. Slowly strain into the glass over the red layer. Garnish with watermelon if desired.

Keywords: Fourth of July meals, Fourth of July cooking, fried chicken, hamburgers, barbecue

About this Author

Heather King began publishing creative works in 1988 and has been a professional editor and writer since 2002. Clients include Harry N. Abrams, Prenctice-Hall, WisdomTools, SmartFinds Marketing, American Community Mutual Insurance Company, as well as prominent businesspersons and artists. She has an Honors B.A. in anthropology and philosophy.

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