It isn’t a Fourth of July celebration without a little razzle, dazzle and fireworks. So now that you’ve draped your deck with flags and bunting, and donned your most festive scarlet togs, it’s time to give your buffet table the patriotic treatment, too.
No need to go all Martha, though her enormous raspberry-and-buttercream flag cake is perfect if you’re feeding the whole neighborhood. However, if it’s just family, you’ll soon be paraphrasing Dorothy Parker’s remark about ham: There is such a thing as too much cake.
That’s why this year I’m taking a different route to red, white and blueberry heaven.
I’m going to start by taking my cue from Washington, D.C., chef Barton Seaver. Everything should be seasonal, including the cocktails, he says in his new cookbook, “Where There’s Smoke: Simple, Sustainable, Delicious Grilling” (Sterling Epicure, $30).
His blueberry-cherry sangria is sensational, especially if your recollections of sangria involve less-than-great wine masked with Fresca. Here, zinfandel, brandy and white grape juice get a spritz of citrus from orange and lemon zest, and added flavor and pizazz from generous helpings of pitted fresh Bings and plump blueberries. The best part? The sangria-soaked cherries and berries after your cocktail is gone.
Serving kids and other nondrinkers? Sub in cranberry juice for the booze. Just make sure you clearly label your pitchers.
Even nonbakers will feel comfortable tackling Lucinda Scala Quinn’s Independence Day Icebox Cake. You may know Quinn, the executive director of food and entertaining at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, from her “Mad Hungry” cooking show on the Hallmark Channel or her first cookbook, “Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boys.” Now she’s followed it up with a new book, “Mad Hungry Cravings” (Artisan, $27.95). While baking must be exact, her icebox cake offers plenty of room for creativity. A “patient decorator,” she says, can arrange the berries into stripes and starbursts, “but even if you scatter the berries recklessly, you will capture the rogue spirit of the USA.”
Instead of actual cake, this confection is made of vanilla wafers -- the boxed kind -- layered with whipped cream, pureed strawberries, and raspberries and blueberries. If you can whip cream, you can do this.
As for me, I’m opting for a sleek cherry-blueberry tart this year, with a frangipane filling, since almonds complement stone fruit so nicely. It may look impressive, but the tart’s ridiculously easy to make, especially if you have a food processor for the tart crust. You don’t even need to wash the bowl before starting the almond filling.
Bake it in a rectangular tart pan, and you’ll have the perfect flag-shaped canvas for those patriotic blueberries, nestled against stripes of fresh Bing cherries.
As for the star? That’s you.
Follow Jackie Burrell on Twitter at Twitter.com/bayareafooded