Sure, you could get some burgers and dogs and have yourself a classic July 4th grill-up. But why not make it a little more special? Summer is when the produce markets are full of fresh bounty, and there are tons of ways to take advantage.
Here are some thought-starters to play with for fun, different takes on your 4th cookout:
Chiles are bringing the heat, but fear not, as spicy food is one of the best ways to cool off in the summer swelter — the sweat you get from eating it actually cools you off. One of the easiest ways to use fresh chiles is to slice them thinly with a chef’s knife or a mandolin and sprinkle them over crostini, salads, or grilled meats for an extra zing.
Beets are an American ingredient through-and-through, so you can feel extra patriotic eating them this Saturday. Think cooking them will be a pain? Think again. Wrap them in foil with a little bit of oil, salt, and pepper, then throw them right on your barbecue coals for 30-45 minutes, or until they’re tender all the way through. Use your hands to peel the skin right off, then quarter and toss together for a smoky, warm beet salad.
Cantaloupe is the jewel of summer fruit — orange, tender, and deliciously sweet. While the grilled fruit phenom is taking off, the cantaloupe really shines in its raw form, served alongside a bit of prosciutto and cheese for a salty-sweet contrast in the tradition of Italy.
Cherries are coming into peak ripeness right now, and one excellent way to make use of their sweet, tart flavor is to blitz them up in a barbecue sauce for any grilled meats. Balanced with ketchup, brown sugar, and other common ingredients, it’s likely you have everything else you need sitting at home already.
Corn is synonymous with summer, but cooking it is usually limited to throwing entire ears on the grill. Get a little creative with Mexican inspiration and go for elote, which pairs the sweet corn with the spicy, rich, and bright flavors of cream, cheese, lime, and chili powder.
Endives add a bitter, crunchy note to any salad, but they’re truly incredible brushed with oil and put on a hot grill to get charred and tender. With a little vinegar drizzled on top, you’ll be wondering why anyone ever eats endives raw.