A Food-filled 4th of July
Proudly American food enthusiast Leslie Meunier’s traditional Fourth of July celebration is built on three fundamental principles: family, food and fresh air. The day is all about barbequing and outdoor dining with festivities stretching from the mid-afternoon through to the evening. Leslie’s philosophy is to keep the environment casual, but still make a statement. Her number one rule: “Always make too much food – you can never have enough!”
On Leslie’s menu this month is corn and blue cheese salad, macaroni and cheese, all-American apple pie and Eton Mess (a Brit classic that Yanks love). She takes us into her kitchen and shares her family favourites.
Corn and Blue Cheese Salad
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 ears corn
1 sweet onion (Vidalia or Walla Walla), halved and thinly sliced
1 pint Sweet 100 tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, halved
220g blue cheese, crumbled
Fresh basil sprigs, for garnish
1. Combine the vinegar, basil, sugar, salt, pepper and oil in a blender and blend until you get a smooth mixture.
2. Combine the corn kernels, onion and tomato in a large bowl. Add the dressing and toss to coat, season with salt and pepper and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.
3. Top with crumbled blue cheese and garnish with basil sprigs. Salad can be made a day in advance and served cold at room temperature.
Creamy Macaroni and Cheese
12 tbsp butter
2/3 cup flour
7 cups whole milk
220g grated mozzarella cheese
680g to 850g grated cheddar cheese (½ in sauce and ½ sprinkled on top)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups lightly toasted fresh breadcrumbs
1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add about 1 tablespoon of salt.
2. Put the macaroni into the boiling water, stir and cook until just tender.
3. Drain and mix with 2 to 3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil.
4. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
5. In the meantime, while the macaroni is cooking, make the béchamel sauce.
6. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan on medium-low heat.Add the flour and whisk constantly until incorporated. Keep stirring for about 3 to 5 minutes so the raw flour taste cooks off.
7. Slowly add the milk, 1 cup at a time at first, whisking it into the flour-butter mixture. When all the milk has been added, continue stirring and reduce the heat to low.
8. Turn off the heat and stir in the cheese. Season with salt and pepper and pour the béchamel sauce over the macaroni and mix together.
9. Put the creamy macaroni mixture into a 9 x 12 inch casserole dish and sprinkle the top with cheese.
10. Cook in a 200C oven for about 20 minutes, then sprinkle the toasted breadcrumbs on top and cook for about 10 more minutes or until the top is golden. If it is not nicely browned, then put the casserole under the broiler for 1 to 2 minutes and watch it carefully.
Do not get impatient when making the béchamel! If the heat is too high, it tends to burn. Cook until the sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.
4 large egg whites
A pinch of salt
¾ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup pomegranate juice
1. Preheat the oven to 160C.
2. Put the egg whites in the bowl of a food processor and add the salt. On the second highest speed of the processor, beat the egg whites until they come to medium peaks. With the mixer running, gently sprinkle in the sugar.
3. Drop the batter in 1 inch diameter balls, onto 2 parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until they are light brown all over, firm to the touch and lift cleanly off the baking sheet (rotate the pans halfway through.) Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheets. These cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week.
4. Let the strawberries mull in the pomegranate juice for about 30 minutes while whipping the cream.
Layer broken pieces of the meringue, whipped cream, blueberries and strawberries with juice into a glass. Layer and repeat.
4 lb Granny Smith apples, peeled, quartered and cored
1 lemon zest
1 orange zest
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
½ cup sugar (plus 1 tsp to sprinkle on top)
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
A pinch of ground allspice
1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp water for egg wash
1. Preheat the oven to 200C.
2. Cut each apple quarter into thirds crosswise and combine in a bowl with the zests, juices, sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice.
3. Roll out half the pie dough and drape it over a 9 or 10 inch pie dish to extend about half an inch over the rim.
4. Fill the pie with the apple mixture. Brush the edge of the bottom pie crust with the egg wash so the top crust will adhere. Top with the second crust and trim the edges to about 1 inch over the rim. Tuck the edge of the top crust under the edge of the bottom crust and crimp the two together with your fingers or a fork.
5. Brush the entire top crust with the egg wash, sprinkle with 1 tsp sugar, and cut 4 or 5 slits.
Place the pie on a sheet pan and bake for 1 to 1¼ hours, or until the crust is browned and the juices begin to bubble out. Serve warm.