Anyone with a can of Reddi-Whip and some berries can cobble together a dessert that looks like an American flag. Though that's not a bad tradition for a Fourth of July picnic, I like to celebrate Independence Day by being a little more decadent and a little less dependent on a dessert that's a stack of pancakes short of a good Sunday breakfast.
For this year's 4th of July, I'm making a Red, White, and Blue Bread Pudding Cobbler. The bottom layer is a buttery sort of bread pudding. I top that with a sugary crumb mixture and top that mixture with alternating rows of blueberries and raspberries or strawberries. I top the whole thing with a big crumbly star. If you have a round casserole or baking dish, the effect is a little like Captain America's shield.
The simpler version of the crumble is a gratin. Fruit topped with buttery crumbs and baked or broiled until the top browns. Topped with a dollop of sweetened cream (or honeyed Greek yogurt), it's like fireworks for your mouth.
When it comes to patriotic colors, there's a huge empty spot on the typical Fourth of July picnic table. All the festive stuff is saved for dessert, but there's no reason that flag-colored inspiration can't start with appetizers. Cherry tomatoes or sweet red peppers stuffed with blue cheese are red, white, and blue. I make a Roasted Tomato and Roquefort Po-Boy Sandwich that's got all the flag colors in taste-tested proportion.
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The conundrum is blue; there aren't a lot of naturally blue foods. I'm not a fan of food dye -- it's scary, unnatural, and generally off-putting. I was, however, raised in a family where terminal hostess syndrome (THS) was rampant. This meant that we had a lot of dishes (and by a lot I mean that if Imelda Marcos collected dishes there'd be comparisons made). Red and white foods -- served on a blue plate -- bring Independence Day to your table. It's a patriotic sort of Blue Plate Special.
Now you have an excuse to buy new dishes.
Andy Broder is the chef/owner of AndyFood, A Culinary Studio.