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Side show: Add a bang to your Fourth of July with super sides

 

Grilled sweet peppers and corn on the cob hot off the grill are stand-out sides for a Fourth of July celebration. Think outside the traditional cook-out box with recipes from the pages of Bon Appétit magazine.

Grilled sweet peppers and corn on the cob hot off the grill are stand-out sides for a Fourth of July celebration. Think outside the traditional cook-out box with recipes from the pages of Bon Appétit magazine.
Photo by: Gentl & Hyers/Bon Appetit

 

Summer’s tomatoes are great with herbs and a few minutes on the grill.

Summer’s tomatoes are great with herbs and a few minutes on the grill.
Photo by: Craig Cutler/Bon Appetit

 

State Fair potato salad calls for a drizzle of sweet pickle juice on warm potatoes.

State Fair potato salad calls for a drizzle of sweet pickle juice on warm potatoes.
Photo by: Mark Thomas/Bon Appetit

 

Snow peas with toasted almonds, minced shallot and lemon juice are simple to prepare.

Snow peas with toasted almonds, minced shallot and lemon juice are simple to prepare.
Photo by: Gail Albert Halaban/Bon Appetit

 

 

Jan Swoope

 

In light of our recent feel-good fascination with all things royal, there''s a footnote of irony to this year''s celebration of independence from Britain''s rule -- but that''s what 235 years, and a fairytale wedding, will do for you.  

 

Make no mistake, however: The Fourth of July is America''s holiday -- our red, white and blue birthday. The long weekend ahead will be marked by cook-outs, fireworks, concerts and parades all across this young country. 

 

In our neck of the woods, grills are being prepped for barbecue, burgers and steaks. How about letting the grill do double duty, with some great side dishes to accompany your main attractions? Two recommended by Bon Appétit magazine are grilled sweet peppers and corn on the cob, and charred tomatoes with herbs. 

 

 

 

Light it up 

 

Corn on the cob, hot off the grill, never fails to impress. And it''s easy to do. 

 

Start with the freshest, just-ripe ears of your favorite variety. The best are usually found at local farmers'' markets or produce stands. If buying at the grocery, remember the husks should be bright green and fit snugly around the ear of corn. Kernels, plump and milky, should be in tight rows, right to the tip of the ear, says whatscookingamerica.com. 

 

For cooking in aluminum foil, remove all the husk and silk from each ear. There are two schools of thought on soaking corn on the cob before cooking. Some people prefer it, to add extra moisture for cooking and to steam the kernels inside the foil. If you decide to soak, before wrapping in foil, place shucked ears in a pot of cold water for about 20 minutes. Be sure ears are completely covered with water. When finished, shake off excess water before wrapping in aluminum foil.  

 

Preheat the grill to medium (350 degrees). Place each ear diagonally on a square of foil and brush the kernels with olive oil. Elevate your Independence Day corn by adding a little garlic, chopped onion, nutmeg, salt and black pepper. (Or you may want to try cilantro and oregano.) 

 

Roll and close up by twisting each end of the foil and place on the grill. Let the corn cook slowly for 15 to 20 minutes, occasionally rotating each ear. Don''t overcook, or your corn will get mushy. (If you prefer to cook corn in its husk, instructions at sites like whatscookingamerica.com can help.) 

 

 

 

And more 

 

Charred tomatoes can add pizzazz to any Fourth of July table. Tomatoes at their peak of flavor need only fresh herbs, a drizzle of olive oil and a few minutes on a hot grill.  

 

Not everything, of course, needs to see the grill. Potato salad is a tried-and-true favorite; but no need to serve the same-old, same-old. Drizzling sweet pickle juice over warm spuds is the secret to Bon Appétit''s State Fair potato salad. And, rather than the expected baked beans, serve snow peas with toasted almonds for a refreshing culinary coup. 

 

Whatever the menu, wherever the celebration, maybe this is the perfect occasion to invite over the new neighbors, the single friend, the senior who might be spending the day alone. When it comes to enjoying life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, share the bounty of a fabulous Fourth. 

 

 

 

CHARRED TOMATOES WITH FRESH HERBS 

 

Makes eight servings 

 

Four large firm heirloom tomatoes (about 10 ounces each), cored, cut horizontally in half 

 

2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves, divided 

 

2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, divided 

 

5 tablespoons (about) extra-virgin olive oil, divided 

 

     

     

  • Arrange tomatoes, cut side up, on rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then 1 1/2 tablespoons each oregano and thyme leaves.  

     

  • Drizzle with 3 tablespoons oil. (Can be made two hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.) 

     

  • Prepare grill (medium-high heat). Brush grill rack with oil. Place tomatoes, cut side up, on rack. Cook until bottoms are charred, three to four minutes. Turn tomatoes over and grill just to sear, about one minute. Turn cut side up onto platter.  

     

  • Sprinkle with 1/2 tablespoon each oregano and thyme, then drizzle with more oil, if desired. Serve warm.
 

 

(Source: Cristina Ceccatelli Cook/Bon Appétit, Aug. 2008) 

 

 

 

STATE FAIR POTATO SALAD 

 

Makes 6-8 servings 

 

 

 

3 1/2 pounds red-skinned potatoes, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch pieces 

 

1/4 cup juices from jar of sweet pickles 

 

3/4 cup mayonnaise 

 

1/3 cup buttermilk 

 

4 teaspoons Dijon mustard 

 

1 teaspoon sugar 

 

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper 

 

Three hard-boiled eggs, peeled, chopped 

 

1/2 cup chopped red onion 

 

1/2 cup chopped celery 

 

1/2 cup chopped sweet pickles 

 

     

     

  • Cook potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain; transfer to large bowl. Drizzle pickle juices over potatoes and toss gently. Cool to room temperature. 

     

  • Whisk mayonnaise, buttermilk, mustard, sugar and pepper in medium bowl to blend. Pour over potatoes.  

     

  • Add eggs, onion, celery, and pickles and toss gently to blend. Season to taste with salt. (Can be made eight hours ahead. Chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.)
 

 

(Source: Michael McLaughlin, Bon Appétit July 2002) 

 

 

 

GRILLED SWEET PEPPERS AND CORN 

 

Makes 12 servings 

 

 

 

Four red bell peppers 

 

Four yellow bell peppers 

 

Nine large ears of corn, broken in half 

 

Olive oil (for brushing) 

 

1/4 cup (half stick) unsalted buttera 

 

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil 

 

     

     

  • Prepare grill (medium-high heat). Grill peppers until charred on all sides. Transfer to paper bag; roll top to close tightly. Let steam 10 minutes. Peel and seed peppers. Cut into 1/2-inch thick strips. (These can be made one day ahead. Cover and chill.) 

     

  • Brush corn with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper and other adds, as desired (garlic, chopped onions, etc. (See text above.) Grill until charred in spots, turning occasionally, about 10 minutes. Transfer to large bowl; cover to keep warm. 

     

  • Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper strips. Sauté until heated through, stirring often, three to five minutes. Stir in 3/4 cup basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon into center of large shallow platter. Arrange corn around peppers. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons basil over and serve.
 

 

(Source: Diane Rossen Worthington/Bon Appétit, June 2009) 

 

 

 

SNOW PEAS WITH TOASTED ALMONDS 

 

Makes four servings 

 

 

 

1 tablespoon unsalted butter 

 

1/4 cup sliced almonds 

 

1/2 pound snow peas, trimmed 

 

2 teaspoons minced shallot 

 

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice 

 

     

     

  • Melt butter in medium skillet over medium heat. Add almonds and cook until golden and fragrant and butter begins to brown, stirring frequently, about 1 1/2 minutes.  

     

  • Add snow peas and shallot; sauté until snow peas are crisp-tender, one and one-half to two minutes. Remove skillet from heat; add lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and serve.
 

 

(Source: Maria Helm Sinskey/Bon Appetit, April 2009) 

 

 

 

 

Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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