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Cooking Up a Fourth of July Feast

Celebrate Independence Day with crisp white wines and a simple menu to match

Laurie Woolever
Posted: June 30, 2008

The Fourth of July weekend is a great time for simple food and light, refreshing wines that will help you beat the summer heat. If you're entertaining in the coming days and are looking for a light and tasty alternative or supplement to hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill, we've got a menu that you'll want to make all summer long: Summer Squash Gazpacho, Fresh Mozzarella and Shrimp Salad, and Asparagus Salad with New Potatoes. They're quick, easy, can be easily scaled up or down depending on how many diners you've got at the table, and will go well with the Pinot Grigios and Sauvignon Blancs that we recommend below.

If barbecue is your thing, try our recipe for Barbecued Pork Ribs, which can be made in the oven or on the grill, or Barbecued Pulled Pork, a slow-and-low preparation that can be left alone to cook until it's falling off the bone. You might choose to follow our foolproof recipe for Charcoal-Grilled Steak, or take advice from some top chefs with Michael Lomonaco's Sirloin Steak Burgers with Red Onion Jam and Swordfish and Smoked Bacon Club Sandwiches, or perhaps Michelle Bernstein's Mixed Grill of Skirt Steak, Lime-Butter Shrimp, Clams and Mexican-Style Corn. If you're traveling for the holiday weekend, be sure to check out our hotel listings, and if you're looking to leave the cooking to someone else, be sure to consult our restaurant guide, which will help you find establishments with the best wine lists and service no matter where you are.

Whether you're celebrating indoors or out, in your backyard or far from home, we hope you have a safe and happy Fourth of July weekend!

SUMMER SQUASH GAZPACHO

• 1 pound yellow crookneck squash (you may also use zucchini)
• 1 medium onion
• 3 cloves garlic, peeled
• 1/4 cup virgin or extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 quart water
• Salt and freshly ground pepper
• 2 pounds ripe Roma tomatoes, chopped, or 28 ounces canned tomatoes, chopped, and their juices
• 1/4 bunch basil
• 1/4 bunch tarragon
• 2 cups tomato juice (fresh, or from a glass container)
• 2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
• Juice of 1 fresh lemon (or more, to taste)
• Garnishes: lemon wedges, diced cucumber and diced scallions, chopped parsley, croutons

Cut the squash and onion into 1-inch chunks. Combine them in a large saucepan with the garlic, olive oil and the water. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and 10 or 12 grinds of pepper. Bring the contents to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, cover the pan and let the vegetables boil gently for 5 minutes.

Uncover the pan and add the chopped tomato (with skin and seeds) and fresh herbs. Boil the soup for 10 minutes, then add the tomato juice, Sherry vinegar and lemon juice. Cook for 5 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and more lemon juice, if desired.

Puree the soup in a blender and let cool. Serve at room temperature with garnishes. Makes about 3 quarts. Serves 10 to 12.

FRESH MOZZARELLA AND SHRIMP SALAD

• 1 pound fresh mozzarella (packed in water)
• 1/2 cup olive oil
• 2 yolks from hard-cooked eggs
• 8 anchovy fillets
• 1/4 cup Italian parsley leaves
• 2 cloves garlic
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 1/3 cup black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
• 2 tablespoons capers
• 2/3 pound peeled and cooked bay shrimp
• Basil or parsley for garnish

Rinse the mozzarella and, using a serrated knife, cut it into 1/2-inch slices. Divide the slices among 8 chilled salad plates.

In a food processor, puree the oil, egg yolks, anchovies, parsley and garlic. Season with black pepper to taste. There should be enough salt from the anchovies. Stir this mixture together with the olives, capers and shrimp. Spoon it over the mozzarella slices. Garnish with basil leaves or parsley sprigs. Serves 8.

ASPARAGUS SALAD WITH NEW POTATOES

• 1 pound fresh asparagus, the thicker the better
• 1 pound small new potatoes
• Water for boiling
• Salt
• Green Onion Dressing (recipe follows)
• 1/4 pound mixed salad greens

Trim and peel the bottom 2 to 3 inches of the asparagus spears. Wash but do not peel the potatoes.

In a large saucepan, bring at least 3 quarts of water to a boil. Add 2 teaspoons salt per quart of water. Boil the asparagus for 5 to 7 minutes, or until it is just cooked through. Remove the asparagus with tongs and drain the spears well.

Add the potatoes to the water and boil them for 10 minutes, or until they are cooked through. Drain them well, and when they are cool enough to handle, cut them into quarters. Transfer them to a mixing bowl and toss with about 1/4 cup of the Green Onion Dressing.

Dip the asparagus spears in the remaining dressing, letting any excess drip back into the bowl before transferring the spears to four separate plates. Arrange the potatoes over and around the asparagus, taking care not to cover the asparagus tips.

Dress the mixed greens with enough of the remaining dressing to coat them lightly. Garnish the asparagus with these greens, piling them over the blunt ends. Serves 4.

Green Onion Dressing

• 1 bunch green onions or scallions
• 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
• 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 cup walnut or olive oil

Trim the root ends off the onions, along with any of the green portions that are starting to wilt. Cut the remaining portions into 1-inch pieces and place them in a blender or food processor with the mustard, vinegar and salt. Run the machine to puree the mixture, then add the oil in a thin stream until it is all absorbed. Adjust for seasoning. Makes about 3/4 cup.

PINOT GRIGIOS

ALOIS LAGEDER Pinot Grigio Alto Adige Benefizium Porer 2006 Score: 90 | $25
Displays aromas of cantaloupe, peach, mango and light apple. Full-bodied, with minerally and spicy character and a long finish of tropical fruit. Drink now. 4,200 cases made. From Italy. —J.S.

LAVIS Pinot Grigio Trentino Ritratti 2006 Score: 87 | $18
Mineral, apple and cream on the nose. Medium-bodied, with clean fruit and a crisp finish. Drink now. 65,000 cases made. From Italy. —J.S.

HOGUE Pinot Grigio Columbia Valley 2007 Score: 86 | $9
Bright and lively, with pretty melon and citrus flavors, lingering gently. Drink now. 46,000 cases made. From Washington. —H.S.

SAUVIGNON BLANCS

OBERON Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley 2006 Score: 89 | $15
Guava, papaya, peach and nectarine flavors are rich and fleshy, with fragrant floral notes. There's juicy, refreshing acidity and a lingering finish. Drink now. 7,136 cases made. From California. —M.W.

GEYSER PEAK Sauvignon Blanc California 2007 Score: 88 | $12
Pungent grass, gooseberry, lime and guava notes are intense and bright, with a mouthwatering acidity and a long, lingering finish. Drink now. 145,000 cases made. From California. —M.W.

MARKHAM Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley 2006 Score: 87 | $16
Bright citrus flavors—tangerine, Meyer lemon and lime—are effusive and fruity, with a hint of rose water, juicy acidity and a long, lingering finish. Drink now. 20,000 cases made. From California. —M.W.

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