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The Blonde Cucina: Feature Explosive Flavors on the Fourth

by and on July 03, 2016 6:00 AM

Folks, the Fourth of July is just a day away. What are you doing this year? Are you planning a festive party? Are you attending a picnic and need to bring a covered dish? Or, are you just staying at home, having a little cookout before you make your way to State College for the Fourth Fest fireworks spectacular?

No matter what you do, I have some recipes that will burst with flavor, just like those fireworks you’ll be watching.

Hosting a party? As I’ve said before, let the stores help you. Purchase those veggie and fruit trays, chips and barbecue sauce — anything that makes less stress for you. Don’t forget the stores will have great desserts that are festive and will be one fewer thing you need to worry about.

One great idea for a party is to have a hot dog bar. Cook the dogs, set them on a plate and have a plethora of toppings for your crowd. Everybody will love making their own creations.

Don’t want to go the traditional route? Make a nacho bar — people still have fun making their own and even the adults will be acting like kids in a candy store.

Another tip: Just buy red, white and blue solid-colored napkins, cups and plates. They will cost less than the Fourth of July-themed items and if you have leftovers you can reuse them for Valentine’s Day, Christmas, etc.

Now, let’s get to my great crowd-pleasing recipes. These are those heavy hitters that will have everyone asking you for the recipes.



Start to finish: 30 minutes

Servings: 6

 1 pound red potatoes cut into 2-inch chunks

Sea salt 

1/2 pound green beans, clean and trimmed 

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 

1/4 cup mayonnaise 

3 tablespoons sour cream 

1 tablespoon dill weed 

Juice of 1 lemon, plus 1 teaspoon grated zest

Freshly ground pepper

Cover the potatoes with cold water in a large pot and salt the water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.

After 6 minutes, add green beans and cook until crisp-tender. Drain in a colander. Run potatoes and green beans under cold water to stop cooking and pat dry.

Mix the mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, dill, lemon juice and zest, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and pepper to taste in a bowl. Add the potatoes and green beans; season with salt and pepper and toss.

Serve at room temperature




Start to finish: 10 minutes

Servings: 4

2 cups watermelon cubes

2 tablespoon sugar

1 cup vodka

Juice of 2 lemons

1 1/2 cups unflavored sparkling water

1/2 cup pineapple juice

Blend the watermelon cubes with the sugar in a food processor or blender. Strain through a fine sieve once blended.

Add strained mixture into a pitcher with vodka, pineapple juice and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Stir to combine.

Pour mixture among 4 highball glasses. Add 3 to 5 ice cubes to each. Fill each to the brim with sparkling water. Stir to combine.

Feeling festive? Use a lemon to wet the edge of the glass and rim it in blue sugar.




Start to finish: 30 minutes

Servings: 2

1/2 pound large shrimp, peeled with tails on and deveined or 1/2 pound of chicken breast sliced to the size of shrimp

1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

Dash of cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons garlic, grated

1 teaspoon cornstarch

12 egg roll wrappers, cut in half into 2 triangles

2 tablespoons water

2 teaspoons cornstarch

oil for frying

sweet chili sauce for dipping

Marinate shrimp or chicken in mixture of sweet chili sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic and cayenne in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Shake any excess marinade off of the protein. Wrap in the egg roll wrappers, leaving the tails out if using shrimp, and seal the wrapper with a mixture of the water and the cornstarch.

Fry the stuffed egg rolls in small batches in oil over medium-high heat until golden brown, crispy and cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes for shrimp and 3 to 6 minutes for chicken, depending on the thickness. Set aside on paper towels to drain.

This will be a firework explosion of flavor and, trust me, it seems a whole lot harder than it actually is.

Happy Fourth of July!

This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.

Ciara Semack is the owner of The Blonde Bistro in Bellefonte. She is the mother of one and a lifelong resident of Centre County. Her column appears every other week in the Gazette. Questions, suggestions and comments can be directed to [email protected]
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