Like any summer gathering, the Fourth of July revolves around food. You've probably planned your menu, but it's not too late to add some quick and easy last-minute dishes. Here are ideas from several area chefs to try today or later this summer.
• Chef Susan Moses, co-owner of 212 Market: Take two pounds of small, red-skinned potatoes; cut them in half, but don't peel them. Cook them in lightly salted water with a handful of fresh green beans or whatever vegetable you like till they are crisp-tender. While still hot, sprinkle them with a couple tablespoons of vermouth. Let them stand for a few minutes, then add a couple tablespoons of white wine vinegar, a chopped shallot and about a tablespoon of your favorite mustard. Then add a half cup of olive oil and a pinch of chopped parsley. "This is very versatile and light," Moses said.
"You can throw corn into it or just about anything you want," she said. "You can sub out basil for the parsley, or dill or chives. It's all good."
• Chef Rick Shell, food and beverage director of The Chattanoogan: Cut a large watermelon into bite-size pieces, then toss it with a large chopped Vidalia or other sweet onion, add about a quarter cup of apple-cider vinegar, 6 ounces of goat or feta cheese and a handful of chopped fresh basil leaves.
"It's a great combination and very refreshing," Shell said.
• Chef Joe Fidelibus, general manager Mountain City Club: "Let's try a barbecue rub," Fidelibus said, adding that this one is tasty and simple. You'll need two cups of sugar, a quarter-cup of paprika, two teaspoons chili powder, a half-teaspoon cayenne pepper, a half-cup of salt, a couple teaspoons black pepper and a teaspoon of garlic powder. Combine and use for any grilled meats from pork to chicken and steak.
• Chris Anderson, food and beverage director of Bluff View Art District: For a simple summer crostini, you can either serve a cold version by layering goat cheese and strawberry jam on baguettes. For a warm version, top baguettes with colby or cheddar and run under the broiler to melt the cheese, then top with a dollop of strawberry jam or pepper jelly. Any way you serve it, it's a hit all summer long.
My suggestion: I'll add a recipe I found that's absolutely delicious and extremely simple. Summer's fresh fruits are usually good on their own, but this is a simple way to dress them up a bit or boost their sweetness. Just cut up a selection of fruit, put it in a bowl and serve alongside a mixture of 1/2 cup sour cream, 1 tablespoon brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract.
Another sweet aside: I got several responses from a recent column asking if anyone knew who made the fried peach pies at the garden center that was once on Manufacturers Road. No one knew the woman's name, but they did tell me that the business was Fat Man's Forest. Another reader said that while she didn't know where to get good fried peach pies in town, Jackson Bakery makes the best fried apple pies, hands down.
"They can't be beat, and the bakery will make whatever amount you want. They're about 79-89 cents apiece. I've used them several times for desserts, and they were a big hit," wrote Dixie McClintock.
Phyllis Cabe, owner of The Big Biscuit Barn in Fort Oglethorpe, said she's put homemade fried pies on her menu -- apple, blackberry and strawberry. They're a big hit, she said, and available every day.
On a personal note: My youngest daughter is getting married in October, so for the past few months, I've been out sampling wedding cakes. She has chosen white chocolate cake with strawberry cream filling and buttercream icing from Kimmee's Cakes on Dayton Boulevard in Red Bank. From the sample I had, I know I'll want a big slice at the reception. It's outrageously good.
Choosing someone adept at making specialty cakes is an opportunity to combine ideas from several cakes into a personalized design. Kimmee's Cakes prices are better than I'd expected for the amount of artistry involved. You can find the bakery on Facebook, or call 877-6656.
Ramblings from the road: If you happen to be traveling in the Tunica, Miss., area, plan on a stop at Fitzgerald's, one of several casinos in the town. I'd written about a trip there a few years back and wasn't very pleased with the food service. But after a recent return visit, I have to say it's made a complete turnaround.
Though the casino does not offer the big-name restaurants that others do, the 24-hour Players Cafe has some excellent offerings. My favorite was the Buffalo shrimp. Yum! And we also enjoyed an excellent dinner in Don B's Steakhouse. To be honest, the prime rib was the best I've ever had.
And though I was still full from dinner the night before, breakfast the following morning at Riverview Buffet was outstanding. For instance, the bacon on many breakfast buffets is not allowed to cook long enough to make it crispy. At Riverview Buffet, the bacon is crisp, the omelets made to order, and the cinnamon rolls melt in your mouth.
All in all, I ate my way across the casino floor and even pocketed a few bucks at the penny machines in between.
Happy Fourth of July to all.