How to Spend Independence Day in a Small Town & Berry Flag Cake

JC_FlagFrom sea to shining sea, cities and towns will be vying for our attention this coming weekend. What better place to spend the long Independence Day Weekend than Tucson, Chicago, Boston or New York. I’m going to take that as a question and not a rhetorical one. My answer: “None of the above.” The best place to spend the Fourth of July is in a small town. If you can manage it, I’d seriously recommend you fine-tune that down to a small town in New Hampshire. After all, it is the live free or die state.

Forget the hustle and bustle of a busy city. Relax and enjoy a country holiday:

Between the sun streaming through the skylight and the birds tweeting, I generally wake early in the summer. As I see it, I have two choices. (Perhaps you have more but I’ve narrowed it down to two.) I can get up and slowly ease into the day with a cup of coffee and a blueberry muffin. It’s a red, white and blue weekend, hence blueberry. Or I can head right out the door for a cool morning walk or bike ride. I’ll still get the coffee and muffin, just later rather than sooner.

Midmorning, it’s time for a trip to the farm stand or the farmers’ market. Unless I stocked up the day before, then I might whip up another batch of muffins or bake a coffeecake. When you live in a beautiful place, people tend to visit on holiday weekends. It’s good to be prepared.

Next, I can take it easy and enjoy lunch under a tree at that café I like or belly up to the counter at the local diner. There’s a pretty good chance that the server will know me, if not by name then maybe by face or reputation. Then again, I don’t want that beautiful produce I just bought to go to waste. Perhaps, I’ll toss up a salad and have a leisurely lunch on the porch. Then again, a picnic at the beach sounds pretty good. Decisions, decisions.

Many small towns are almost famous for their Fourth of July parades. Kids attach playing cards to their bicycle spokes and clickety–clack along, veterans march, tutu-wearing dogs look embarrassed, the high school band performs and kids on unicycles amaze. For those of us with a lake nearby, the parade moves onto the water. Instead of unicycles, costumed captains and mates slowly cruise along the shore. There are no bands but flags fly and streamers waft in the breeze.

Speaking of boat parades, a beach on one of New Hampshire’s lakes is the perfect place to spend a holiday afternoon. After the parade, it’s time for an adventure in my kayak. Perhaps you’d prefer a little water skiing or a sail.

Next, who needs a fancy, downtown restaurant when you can enjoy a country cookout with family and friends? Our family tends to go all-American on the Fourth with burgers and dogs on the grill and a couple of salads (including red, white and blue potato salad). Top it off with a spectacular, stars and stripes dessert for a perfect and perfectly delicious patriotic feast.

And finally, out-of-staters will tell you that the best part of a live free or die Independence Day Weekend are the fireworks. Okay, so our public displays can’t necessarily compete with the grandeur of a big-time, big-city extravaganza. But, and it’s a big BUT, any Tom, Dick or Harry can buy fireworks in New Hampshire. Make sure you have the first aid kit and fire extinguisher ready!

Let the fun begin and bon appétit!

Berry Flag Cake
A deliciously patriotic dessert for the long holiday weekend! Enjoy!
Serves 8-12

8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
4 tablespoons Grand Marnier or freshly squeezed orange juice
About 1 1/2 cups Lemon Curd (recipe follows)
1 cup very cold heavy cream
About 24 crisp ladyfinger cookies
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

1 quart strawberries, halved plus more to pass
1 cup blueberries, plus more to pass

Put the cream cheese and 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy. With the mixer running, slowly add the Lemon Curd in large dollops, incorporating each spoonful before adding another. Set aside.

Clean the beaters and beat the heavy cream with the electric mixer until soft peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese and Lemon Curd mixture.

Arrange the cookies in a single layer in the bottom of 9 x13-inch glass or ceramic pan. Combine the orange juice with the remaining Grand Marnier and drizzle over the cookies. Spread the creamy topping over the cookies. Cover the cake and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, overnight is best.

To serve: line up the blueberries in a 3-inch square in the top corner of the cake. Create stripes with the strawberries. Let everyone admire your flag before spooning the cake into individual bowls and serve with more strawberries and blueberries.

Lemon Curd
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

6 large egg yolks
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cold and cut into small pieces

Create an ice bath by setting a small bowl in a larger bowl and surrounding it with ice and water.

Put the yolks, juice and sugar in a small, heavy saucepan and whisk to combine. Set over low heat and, stirring constantly, cook until the curd reaches 170 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Remove the pan from heat, add the butter a few pieces at a time and whisk until incorporated. Pass the curd through a fine mesh sieve into the bowl set in the ice bath. Add the lemon zest and, stirring frequently, cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until firm and chilled, at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.

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Three Years Ago – Grilled Scallop & Asparagus Salad
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Six Years Ago – Mediterranean Shrimp
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Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How will you celebrate the long holiday weekendt? Feel free to share.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2016

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