Four Fresh Ideas for the Fourth From Terra Brockman
Editor’s Note: Anyone with an inkling of exposure to the local food world has probably heard of Terra Brockman. Terra is an author, describing her world in central Illinois, including the seasons of her brother Henry’s Farm. Terra is an advocate, founding the Land Connection to train farmers and ensure there is more local food available. She has been working hard this year to make it easier to eat local by sharing information on seasonal produce and providing delicious recipes. She wants to share with Local Beet readers some ideas for the 4th of July and in the weeks ahead.
Seeking out food from your local farmers is a patriotic thing to do. Fresh fruits and vegetables connect us in a literal and visceral way to our land, and buying them is good for our local farmers and local economy. And they taste great, and are good for you, too.
So this year, declare your independence from high-fat, high-sugar crackers, chips, dips, cookies, and other processed foods. Swap them out for low-calorie, high-nutrition fruits and vegetables from local farms, and this will be your best Fourth ever!
From cool drinks to grilled vegetable side dishes to grilled peaches for desert, here are four ways to add fresh local foods to your celebration.
Cool Mint Soda
Mint is an all-time favorite for keeping cool in the summer, but chamomile, or lemon verbena, or any herb that strikes your fancy will also work in this recipe. Double it if you’re expecting a crowd.
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped
Mint sprigs for garnishing
1. Make simple syrup by dissolving the sugar in the water in a saucepan over medium heat.
2. Turn the heat off and stir in the chopped mint leaves. Let sit for a couple of minutes. When the mixture is cool, strain the mint leaves out.
3. Add two to four tablespoons (to taste) of the mint syrup to a glass of sparkling water. Add a mint sprig as a garnish.
Grilled Stuffed Peppers
Use red, yellow, or green bell peppers, or Italian or Hungarian sweet peppers.
3 sweet peppers, halved
8 oz mozzarella cheese (sliced)
1 large tomato, chopped
6 sprigs basil
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Cut each pepper in half and remove seeds. Fill each pepper with the chopped tomato, and drizzle olive oil over the top of the tomatoes.
2. Add a slice of mozzarella on top of the tomatoes, and then add a dash of salt and pepper and a sprig of basil.
3. Place the filled pepper halves on a hot grill, but not directly over the flame. Cover and grill for about 30 minutes, or until the pepper is soft.
Parsley Pesto Potatoes, Grilled
Herb pesto is quick and easy to make in a food processor. Make a double batch, and use the extra on crackers or sandwiches.
1 cup fresh parsley, removed from the stems
1 cup pecans (you can substitute walnuts or pine nuts)
¼ cup hard cheese such as romano, grated
¼ cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt, to taste
1 to 2 pounds small new potatoes (or large potatoes cut into chunks)
1. To make the parsley pesto, put all the ingredients, except the potatoes, into a food processor and blend until well mixed.
2. In a large mixing bowl, toss the potatoes with the pesto.
3. Place the potatoes on a piece of foil on a hot grill, away from the direct flame. Cover the grill and cook until tender, about 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes. When you can easily pierce them with a fork, they’re done.
Grilled Peaches with Tart Cherries
While the grill is still hot, make this quick, easy, and delicious dessert. If you have a big group, slice up some local watermelons, muskmelons, and honeydew melons on the dessert table alongside these peaches.
1 cup tart cherries, pitted
½ cup honey
1. Cut the peaches in half and remove the pits. Coat the peaches in olive oil. If you have a citrus-infused olive oil, that is particularly nice!
2. Fill each peach half with some cherries, and drizzle with honey.
3. Place the peaches on the medium-hot grill for 10 to 15 minutes, or until soft.
Seasonal Cook’s Notes: Let food freedom ring! What are you cooking up with local foods for the Fourth? Send us your photos and links to the recipes you used, and we’ll share them with our 1,000+ Facebook followers. If you’d like to include your name, location, and a caption for your photo, we’ll share that as well. Send to Amanda@thelandconnection.org.