4th of July Recipes

Mention Independence Day, and I automatically think of barbecues, beach, and best of all, fireworks (not to mention the Will Smith movie). Growing up, we always spent the 4th of July at my grandparents' cabin in northern Minnesota, and the days were full of swimming in the lake, four-wheeling, card-playing, and, of course eating -- as I always think they should be. Living on the east coast makes it hard to get home for this celebratory holiday, but I'll be lying on the beach in Connecticut and hopefully eating some great seafood, which should be almost as good. I rounded up a few recipes that would make great options for a 4th of July barbecue:

_MG_3663Ricotta & Roasted Cherry Tomato Crostini

_MG_4165Guacamole _MG_3090Corn & Tomato Salad

_MG_2829Greek Salad

_MG_4748Blue Cheese & Bacon Potato Salad

_MG_4715Pulled Pork Sandwiches

_MG_2988Rhubarb Pie

_MG_1739Peach Cornmeal Shortcakes

What are your plans for the 4th of July? Do you have any long-standing traditions? I'd love to hear!

Pulled Pork Sandwiches

_MG_4712One of my favorite parts of warm weather, hand's down, is eating outside. And one of the foods I associate most with eating outside is barbecue. In New York, I'm fortunate enough to be near some excellent restaurants, but I had never tried my hand at making pulled pork. It always seemed far too complicated, and I never planned far enough in advance. But one Sunday I woke up, and knew that I just needed some pulled pork. My favorite versions are piled with coleslaw and served with pickles, and I found a recipe that includes both of those in one. The pork itself did take a while and called to be marinated overnight (I marinated it for four hours), but I have seen some great-looking recipes that can just be thrown in a slow-cooker which would make it really easy for a weeknight dinner. Of course, I think the best pulled pork sandwiches have an inherent smokiness from a wood fire, but until I have my hands on a grill, the oven works perfectly well._MG_4715 I followed this recipe from Food & Wine for the pulled pork exactly, and this recipe from Bon Appétit for the slaw, which I modified slightly by adding 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar for more acidity and 1/2 cup mayo for creaminess. Serve sandwiches on a picnic table with a cold beer, slathered in barbecue sauce._MG_4721

Also, I'm very excited to announce that I am collaborating with my friend Max, who started the amazing site Wine & Bowties. It is pretty much the go-to site for everything that's cool in music, art, style and culture, and I am incredibly excited to begin a recipe series with them. My first recipe (the guacamole that I posted here) went up on Monday night, and you can look for more new recipes every couple of weeks. Wine & Bowties also has a ton of other fascinating content, so be sure to check out their other features as well.

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Spaghetti & Meatballs

It would seem that fall has officially arrived. I am always reluctant to let go of summer, but something about the crisp air brings on wishes for apple cider doughnuts (of which I had some last weekend), warm soup, and sitting by a fire. Lately, I have had a particular craving for classic spaghetti and meatballs. Of course, growing up in my family, the classic meatballs were Swedish, not Italian (but just as delicious). However, having studied abroad in Italy, I came to love Italian food and culture -- and in fact, one of my uncles is convinced we are part Italian, so you never know. In any case, these meatballs make an excellent and hearty dinner, and even better leftovers for lunch the next day. I modified the recipe to make it slightly healthier by using mostly ground turkey instead of pork, but you could also use pork only. I also love how the ricotta makes the meatballs surprisingly light. Spaghetti and Meatballs (adapted from Food & Wine, serves 6-8)

1/2 pound sliced white bread, crusts removed and bread cut into 1/2-inch dice (4 cups) 1 pound lean ground turkey
1/2 pound lean ground pork 3 ounces thickly sliced pancetta or bacon, minced 3 large eggs, lightly beaten 2/3 cup ricotta cheese (5 ounces) 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley 1 teaspoon dried thyme 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, chopped 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper Kosher salt Two 28-ounce cans peeled Italian tomatoes, crushed Freshly ground pepper 2 tablespoons shredded basil 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
16 oz spaghetti or fettuccine (I used whole-wheat)
Preheat the oven to 400°. In a food processor, pulse the bread to coarse crumbs. Transfer the crumbs to a large bowl and add the turkey, pork, pancetta, eggs, ricotta, parsley, thyme, fennel seeds, crushed red pepper and 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt. Mix well. Shape into 20 meatballs, using about 3-4 rounded tablespoons of the mixture for each. Transfer the meatballs to a medium roasting pan.
Roast the meatballs in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until firm and just beginning to brown. Meanwhile, puree the canned tomatoes in a food processor until smooth, about 30 seconds. Using a spatula, loosen the meatballs from the bottom of the pan. Add the tomato sauce to the pan and season well with salt and pepper. Lower the oven temperature to 325° and cook uncovered for about 2 hours, or until the sauce is very thick and the meatballs are very tender; turn the meatballs once or twice during cooking.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add spaghetti or fettuccine and boil until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and add 1-2 tablespoons olive oil so the noodles don't stick.
To serve, place 3-4 oz. pasta in a bowl. Spoon sauce and 2 or 3 meatballs over pasta. Garnish with basil and Parmigiano Reggiano and serve hot.

Tilia

Though I usually write about restaurants in New York, as that is where I live most of the time, this past weekend I was lucky enough to be home in not-so-snowy Minnesota. The trip was filled with family, food, lovely Christmas traditions, and more food (including, for better or worse, lutefisk). However, aside from the lye-soaked cod, one of the nicest parts of the trip was a lunch yesterday at Tilia with my family.

I had heard rave reviews of this restaurant from Twin City-darling Steven Brown from several sources, and couldn't wait to go as soon as I arrived home. Situated in the lovely Linden Hills neighborhood of Minnapolis, "tilia" is actually Latin for the Linden tree. Though Brown has worked at many of the Twin Cities' best restaurants, this is his first solo venture, and I couldn't wait to see if it lived up to the hype.

Fittingly, as soon as we walked in the door of the restaurant at 1:15, the host told us it would be at least an hour wait for five people. My face fell -- as I needed to leave for the airport in two hours, that would have been impossible. However, with a little flexibility (fitting five people into a booth), we were able to be seated immediately. Our server was engaging and funny, and had many recommendations. We ended up sharing several dishes, including pork belly with lentils and apple chutney (stellar), french fries (salty and marvelous), and the fish taco torta (crunchy and creamy and spicy all at once). However, I would have to say that the two stand-out dishes were on the sweeter side. The first was called, whimsically, "Millionaire's Bacon". This consisted of crispy-succulent bacon drenched in -- wait for it -- salted caramel sauce. More a dessert than a side dish, this was rather remarkable. Though I couldn't eat ore than a few bites, the saltiness of the bacon offset the sweet vanilla of the caramel perfectly.

My other favorite dish was the butterscotch pudding topped with crème fraîche. Wonderfully creamy, with subtle vanilla undertones and lovely butterscotch flavor, the crème fraîche added a nice tart note to the sugary pudding. This was accompanied by a perfectly made macchiato.

Overall, Tilia surpassed all of my expectations. The service was a little slow at times, but understandable given how busy their lunch service is. It feels like a real neighborhood restaurant, an excellent place to meet a friend for a glass of wine (or a beer from their excellent list). Make sure to share everything.