The Fourth of July is an ideal time to celebrate with friends. And what better way than to offer a culinary nod to patriotism through the reds and blues of berries.
For some creative ideas, we talked to Tammy Maltby and Cathy Gries, who run Start Simply But Simply Start cooking and hospitality classes.
Maltby's No. 1 rule for entertaining: Don't try to be perfect.
"It's not simply about entertaining; it is about providing a comfortable setting where people can enjoy fellowship with each other," she said.
Forget about having a spotless home with everything in place. Use the garage to clear up clutter so you can head to the kitchen and whip up simple party-time dishes. With fresh berries at their juiciest, the cooking/hostess gurus offered a batch of ideas.
"One of our favorite ways to use strawberries, raspberries and blueberries is to layer them in a trifle dish with cheesecake filling," Gries said. "And it's super easy to simply dip big strawberries in white chocolate. No one can pass them up."
If you don't want to bother with the cheesecake filling, you could use frozen whipped topping instead.
Another fun thing to make is a flag cake. Bake a homemade sheet cake or a box cake, then frost it with store-bought white frosting or smooth whipping cream. Create a flag design with big blueberries for the left corner "star" box and use sliced strawberries for the stripes.
Before you get out your knife to slice the strawberries, follow Gries' advice and reach for an egg slicer. You can use it to slice the washed and hulled berries. It's amazingly fast, and you end up with even slices every time.
Another dessert worth your time is Maltby's chocolate and berry pie.
"It's a swoonful of sugar," she said.
Think dark chocolate topped with sour cream and then three pints of fresh raspberries.
Maltby shops at Whole Foods Market for chocolate and buys two bars: "one to keep me motivated and the other one for the dessert."
"As you have heard me say many times, 'Pie heals,'" she said. "When I make this pie, I use dark mint chocolate. This is my summer dessert go-to recipe. I also love that you can make it in the morning for dinner that night. I love having things I can prepare long before guests arrive."
For an extra splurge, top the pie with fresh whipping cream and chocolate shavings.
The cooking team also made berry-filled pies topped with stars cut from pastry scraps.
Above are a few berry delicious recipes to set off some culinary fireworks of your own.
Raspberry-Chipotle Salmon Salad
Yield: 4 servings
16 ounces grilled salmon, roughly chopped 2 pints fresh raspberries 1/2 cup jicama, julienned 1/2 cup green onions, thinly sliced 5 cups fresh baby spinach 1 tablespoon coconut oil 1 small sweet onion, minced 3 cloves garlic, minced 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced, plus 3 teaspoons adobo sauce 2 pints fresh raspberries 1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar 2 tablespoons raw honey 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Combine first five ingredients in a large bowl and toss together.
To make Raspberry-Chipotle Vinaigrette, over medium heat, melt the coconut oil in a saut?pan. Add minced onion and cook until translucent. Add garlic, continuing to stir, until golden brown. Add chipotle pepper and adobo sauce and stir well. Reduce heat to a simmer.
Add raspberries. Occasionally stir and allow to simmer until raspberries are completely broken down. Remove from heat.
Stir in vinegar, honey, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
Source: Ashley Kipp, cookbook author and blogger
Chocolate Berry Pie
Yield: 1 (9-inch) pie
1 (9-inch) refrigerator pie shell (Pillsbury) 1 1/2 cup water 1/2 cup sugar 3 tablespoons corn starch 3 tablespoons raspberry Jell-O 6-8 ounces dark chocolate bar with mint 3 tablespoons milk 1 1/2 cup sour cream 3 containers of fresh raspberries Whipped cream Fresh mint leaves
Bake pie shell according to direction. Let cool.
Melt chocolate in microwave. Add 3 tablespoons milk. Stir until well blended. Pour chocolate in the bottom of the baked pie shell.
Spread sour cream over chocolate.
Meanwhile, mix water, sugar and corn starch together over medium heat, stirring until it starts to clear and thicken. Remove from heat, add Jell-O and stir well. Cool for about 5-10 minutes. Add fresh berries, gently stirring. Pour berries over sour cream, refrigerate until firm, about one hour.
Add fresh whipped cream and garnish with more berries and mint.
Source: Tammy Maltby, Start Simply But Simply Start