Food & Drink

An Italian-American Independence Day


This Fourth of July, I will be freshly landed off a plane from Italy, heading directly to Massachusetts, and the transition from Italia (no, I promise I will never be one of those people who call another country by its native name, even if I move there) to the beating heart of New England, U.S.A., Cape Cawd, to be with a large crowd of in-laws. All of this is to say that, since I know I’ll be doing much of the cooking, I’m thinking this will be an eclectic Independence Day menu.  Which is A-OK by me.

Two facts that inform menu planning for me in general:

1. I love a strong lead in direction; otherwise, how on earth do you decide where to start?

2. On a traditional holiday (e.g., the Fourth of July) I know there will be a significant contingency in our group who will NEED the classics (e.g., burgers and hot dogs), and I know that just the basics with no twists feels boring.  So the twain need to meet.

Without further ado (and certainly subject to change—who knows if a black truffle should fall into my suitcase?), I present…

An Italian-American Fourth of July Menu

Grilled Pizza, to start: During the summer, there is no dish my family asks for more than pizza on the grill.  And I have a weird hunch that no matter how much pizza I manage to eat in Italy, it will never, ever be enough.

Plus a bowl of Smitten Kitchen’s Caponata, to scoop onto crostini—or maybe even the grilled pizza—or just eat with a fork before and throughout the meal.  (Nod to Sicily.)

Burgers: Again, to skip the burgers and hot dogs would be to find myself repeatedly explaining why I forgot to make burgers and hot dogs, and that’s easily avoidable.  Yes, I will also be making some beef burgers; I realize that for some people a turkey burger remains confusing.  No, I will not be making the hot dogs; they will be purchased.

Simplest Tomato Basil Mozzarella Salad: When you have a big group at an outdoor event, it is a little bit of an unwritten rule (it may, in fact, be written) that you need a pasta or potato salad.  My husband’s family loves them a good pasta salad, and this one celebrates that holy Italian trinity, tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella, essentially a Caprese salad mixed with pasta.  Fresh mozzarella is non-negotiable.

Spicy Cole Slaw: And on the Fourth Day of July it is also writ, there shall be slaw.

For a salad, I am debating between a number of simple summer salads that my friend Jenny (Dinner: A Love Story) listed on her blog a while back.  And by debating, I mean wondering if I can leave any of them out.

There will be corn.

And there will be ice cream.

And there will be Italian white wine and American beer.

And there will be a nap.


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