BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Go Fourth and Conquer

Fellow Americans, arm yourselves with a cold beverage and prepare for the party of the summer! If you’re really on the ball, you’ve already checked out of work and are easing into a full four day weekend, packed with all the things that make this country great: Explosions, drunken revelry, and more food than you can comfortably consume but still manage to, heartily. It’s a no-holds-barred celebration of summer, and I believe that very same free spirit should apply to the menu, no matter what your specific plans are. Whether you’re planning a low-key affair with just a few friends, a giant neighborhood bash that includes a couple of zip codes, or some very patriotic Netflix and chill alone, this is not an event that calls for culinary frippery. Leave the recipes in the kitchen, but take these ideas to the celebration.

Potato salad is pretty much mandatory, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be larded up with a thick miasma of creamy dressing and unidentifiable “vegetables.” Rather, try out a vinaigrette version and think of more flavorful additions. Some of my favorites include caramelized onions, thinly shaved fennel, olives or capers for some briny goodness, and meatless bacon of any variety. It doesn’t take too much to make it shine, so keep it to 5 inclusions at the most and don’t overthink this one.

Corn, one of the only crops indigenous to North America, is another friend that must be invited to join the fun. The absolute freshest sweet corn is a joy to eat cold and raw, but if you live more than 1 hour away from the fields, toss your ears on the grill for a real treat. Take a page from elote and slather it vegan mayo, sprinkle generously with paprika and nutritional yeast, and finish it off with a squeeze of lime. Eaten straight off the cob, it will be incredibly delicious and extremely messy if done right.

Anything on a stick. (Seen here: shishito peppers.) Enough said.

As many dips as you have chips! My vote goes for hummus or guacamole, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be plain. Dress up your chickpea spreads with spinach or artichokes to recall some of that old school flavor, or go bold and douse your guac with a generous squeeze of sriracha.

Though they may be “traditional” mains, skip the hot dogs and hamburgers this year. Instead, stuff some fresh veggies and celebrate the height of growing season here in the states. Any sort of grains and beans make fine fodder here, with bell peppers or zucchini serving as prime vessels, and you can even wrap them up and toss them on the grill, too.

For dessert, all you need is fruit. Yes, really, coming from the sweet-toothed baker, take my word for it! Something light, sweet, cold, and refreshing will hit the spot after a day out in the sun. The only acceptable alternative is ice cream, because really, when is ice cream ever a bad idea?

There you have it: A plan of attack suitable for the laziest of citizens, because working hard on this weekend of rest would be downright un-American. Happy Birthday, America! You’re looking pretty fine for all your 240 years.


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A Frozen Fourth of July

Our Independence Day, the most patriotic of national holidays here in the US, typically fails to stir up much enthusiasm from me. The backyard barbecues are a welcome excuse to grill some easy entrees and catch up with old friends, but that could happen on any summer day, too. Plus, that red, white, and blue color scheme is a bit uninspiring… Most of the time. Inexplicably and without warning, it just hit me the right way this time around. Without plans or any party to attend, I still couldn’t resist the bait- I went all out to make a festive fourth of July dessert. In fact, now I want to throw my own little fete because of this impromptu project…

This cake is the key to turning the holiday into a real celebration. Fluffy billows of snow-white whipped coconut creme obscure a sweet surprise within. Though plainly ordinary from the outside, just remove a slice and watch guests’ faces light up…

To cool off a sweltering summer day in the sun, ice cream cake is just what the doctor ordered. Trust me on this one, it’s the only prescription suitable to combat exhaustion, hunger, heat, and dessert cravings all at once. Red velvet cake, one of my unexpectedly most popular recipes, has been given new life as the base of this icy layered treat. Revised and tweaked to perfection, it now practically glows with a crimson-red hue, all from a little can of cooked beets. For anyone who complained about an overtly lemon flavor, that issue is now a thing of the past. All you can taste is cake, sweet, moist, lightly cocoa-flavored cake.

Blue Moon Ice Cream lends a subtly fruity, mysterious yet comfortingly familiar flavor to the assembly. The real inspiration for this whole frozen dessert, it’s rare to find such a bright blue food, and so I seized the opportunity as soon as I could. Never mind dusty blue corn chips or purplish-blue potatoes– This ice cream is really blue!

If you didn’t plan ahead and pre-order a copy of Vegan a la Mode, then you’re in luck- Sarah of The Sweet Life is generously hosting a giveaway, which she put together without any prompting and paid for out of her own pocket. There’s still time to get in on the action and see this recipe for yourself, so don’t delay and enter the contest now!

Putting together this ice cream cake is much easier than it looks. Simply prepare the red velvet cake according to the instructions, but transfer the batter into a 9-inch round springform pan lined with a round of parchment paper on the bottom and lightly greased. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center pulls out clean, with perhaps a few moist crumbs clinging to it (but absolutely no wet batter.) Let cool completely, and chill before proceeding. Meanwhile, prepare the Blue Moon Ice Cream from Vegan a la Mode (page 8) according to those directions, and after churning, transfer the still soft ice cream to the same springform pan, smoothing it over the baked cake evenly, leveling out the top with a spatula. Let the whole thing harden in the freezer overnight before attempting to unmold.

Once firmly frozen, remove the sides from the pan, peel the parchment off the bottom of the cake, and transfer the two layers to a serving platter, cake plate, or cake stand (remember that you’ll have to fit it back into the freezer though, so double-check that there will be enough space to accommodate your dish!) Frost with coconut whipped creme, and top with edible star glitter, if desired. Store in the freezer until ready to serve, and then…

Celebrate!

Have a Happy Fourth of July!

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