Star-spangled side dishes

Photo by Emily Ryan. 005: Roasted garlic and grape tomatoes star in these crostini.
Photo by Emily Ryan 006: This potato salad "compliments just about everything."

This July 4th, declare independence from the same-old side dishes, and celebrate the freedom to try something new. Revolutionize the menu with help from three area chefs and recipes ranging from avocado mousse to roasted garlic grape tomato crostini.

“A baguette would work best for that. I don’t want to say French bread on the 4th of July,” joked Fred Duerr, executive chef at Rising Sun Inn in Franconia. “I like the freshness of the tomatoes in the summer. You can use the red or the yellow tomatoes.”

He also suggests baked bean casserole or horseradish dill fingerling potato salad for a twist on tradition.

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“The horseradish gives the potato salad a little kick,” Duerr described.

J&A Gourmet in West Chester offers five kinds of potato salad, including a Pennsylvania Dutch version.

“I’ve been eating this since I was a little kid. I have fond memories of it,” said owner Chris Blank. “It’s just a different blend of flavors that most potato salads would not have. It compliments just about everything.”

He pairs it with marinated flank steak and corn.

“I’ve never had anybody who’s had it and didn’t like it,” Blank explained. “It’s better the second or third day, truthfully.”

A favorite at DiFabio’s 9th Street Market & Catering Co. in Media: avocado mousse, served on its own, in phyllo cups or atop a green salad.

“I made it for the first time 25 years ago,” recalled chef Jeff Deal. “It’s unique because it’s simple, easy to make. It’s quick. It’s light and refreshing and great this time of year.”

“I think it would be good on a burger,” he added. “You can serve it as a dip. It would be good with vegetable chips.”

Back at Rising Sun Inn, Duerr’s holiday plans include more than food. His big July 4th picnic features a dunk booth for charity, so the chef’s taking a turn in the hot seat.

“It’s always a fun day,” he said.

Roasted Garlic Grape Tomato Crostini

24 (¼-inch thick) slices of bread (baguette)

1 pint grape tomatoes

1/2 cup garlic cloves

2 cups olive oil

24 basil leaves

1 cup diced fresh mozzarella

Salt and pepper

Boil garlic in water for 5 minutes; drain. Add 1½ cups olive oil. Roast at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. Strain off oil and reserve garlic. Brush bread with oil. Bake bread at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes until golden brown and crispy.

In a hot pan, add 1/2 cup oil and tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cook 3 minutes, then turn off. Tomatoes should be soft. Add basil and fresh mozzarella. Chop garlic to taste, mix together and serve on toasted bread.

Recipe courtesy of Rising Sun Inn

Horseradish Dill Fingerling Potato Salad

2 pounds cooked sliced fingerling potatoes

1/4 cup horseradish

1/2 cup diced onion

1/2 cup diced red pepper

1/2 cup diced celery

1½ cups mayonnaise

Salt and pepper - pinch

Fresh dill– to taste

1 tablespoon vinegar

Boil potatoes until tender. Pour off water. Air-cool potatoes 15 to 20 minutes. Slice potatoes. Add all ingredients and mix.

Recipe courtesy of Rising Sun Inn

Baked Bean Casserole

4 cups beans in tomato sauce

1 cup diced onions

1/4 pound bacon strips, cut into 1/4 slices

1/2 cup Dijon mustard

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup brown sugar

Salt and pepper – pinch

Cumin – pinch

Chili powder – pinch

Set aside bacon. Combine all ingredients. Lay bacon on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.

Recipe courtesy of Rising Sun Inn

Pennsylvania Dutch Potato Salad

1/4 white onion, grated (1/4 cup)

2½ to 3 pounds white potatoes, left whole and unpeeled

3/4 cup sour cream

3/4 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1/4 cup white vinegar

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tablespoon chives

1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire

Salt and pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients, except potatoes. Wash potatoes well, and boil whole with skin on until tender. Once cooked, peel while hot. Drop into dressing hot. Break them up with a fork. (Do not cut up.) Let sit, and chill until cold. Yields about 3 pounds.

Recipe courtesy of J&A Gourmet

Avocado Mousse

3 ripe (even overripe) avocados

6 ounces crème fraiche

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Whip crème fraiche until stiff. Peel and seed the avocados, and puree in a food processor with the lemon juice. Fold the two mixtures together, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Fill a pastry bag or cookie press with the mixture, and pipe onto red-tipped greens as a salad or a side for such as smoked salmon.

Note: This is not an egg-based mousse, so it cannot be heated. Also, do not prepare the mousse more than eight hours ahead of serving so that the avocado won’t discolor.

Homemade crème fraiche can be achieved by letting 3 cups of heavy cream and 3 tablespoons of buttermilk thicken and ripen in a warm place for anywhere from 6 hours to a full day. Keep bowl loosely covered with plastic or toweling. The result is a rich thickened cream that is lighter than sour cream. Store in refrigerator.

Recipe courtesy of DiFabio’s 9th Street Market & Catering Co.

Eat, cook, win

Feeling competitive this July 4th? Rising Sun Inn in Franconia hosts a buffalo-hot-dog-eating contest and a chili cook-off. The contest begins at noon. First prize: a package worth $250. Chili tasting starts at 4 p.m. Bring cooked chili or everything needed to prepare it on site