Festive Fourth of July Food

While these sparkling recipes are designed for July 4th fireworks, they are perfect for entertaining all summer long. Three cheers for the red, white, and blue! Hope you have a festive holiday.

COOL BLUE MARTINIS

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This recipe is for each drink but they can be made by the pitcher. These are really “light martinis” as there is more bubbly and less vodka or gin than in standard martinis.

– 5 ounces chilled Prosecco

– ½ ounce (1 tablespoon) gin or vodka

– ½ ounce (1 tablespoon) blue Curacao

– 1 tablespoon (or more) simple syrup

Stir everything into a shaker with a few ice cubes. Shake away! Strain into a chilled martini glass.

MAKES 1 DRINK

BOMBAY TURKEY SLIDERS with HURRY-CURRY SAUCE

These are a cinch to put together and both the sauce and the sliders can be prepped early in the day.

HURRY-CURRY SAUCE

– ½ cup light mayonnaise
– ⅔ cup plain yogurt
– 4 teaspoons curry powder
– 2 tablespoons ketchup
– 1 small clove garlic, finely minced

BOMBAY TURKEY SLIDERS

– 1¼ pounds ground turkey
– 2 teaspoons curry powder
– 1 teaspoons ground cumin
– Large pinch chipotle chili powder
– 3 tablespoons finely minced scallions
– 4 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro or basil
– 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
– 3 tablespoons light mayonnaise
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 12 little dinner rolls, split and toasted
– 12 thin slices Kirby cucumber
– 12 thin slices plum tomato

Stir together ingredients for sauce. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Put turkey in a large bowl. Add the curry, cumin, chili powder, scallions, cilantro or basil, ginger and mayonnaise, plus 1 teaspoon salt. Mix until blended. Form into 12 small (2 ounce) burgers. Heat the oil in a large skillet and cook burgers over medium-high heat for 2 minutes, turn over and cook 2 minutes longer. Place the burgers on the buns and slather with curry sauce. Top with a slice of cucumber and tomato. MAKES 12 SLIDERS.

RED, WHITE AND BLUEBERRY SHORTCAKES

This luxurious dessert is worthy of fireworks. Wonderful if you can get tiny ripe strawberries from your local farmer’s market. The light touch of lemon zest in the biscuits and thin layer of lemon curd makes these truly memorable. Garnish with edible flowers.

LEMON-BUTTERMILK BISCUITS

– 1½ cups flour
– ½ teaspoon salt
– 2 teaspoons baking powder
– ½ teaspoon baking soda
– 2 tablespoons sugar
– 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
– Grated rind of 1 lemon
– ⅔ cup buttermilk

SHORTCAKES

– 1½ cups heavy cream
– 3 tablespoons confectioners sugar
– 1 teaspoon vanilla
– ½ cup lemon curd
– 3 cups fresh berries: raspberries, tiny strawberries, blueberries
– Edible flowers for garnishing

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and 1 tablespoon sugar. Cut butter into small pieces and incorporate into flour mixture. Add lemon zest and buttermilk and mix lightly. Turn dough out onto floured board. Roll out to 1-inch thickness. Cut out 3-inch round and place on ungreased baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake 16 to 18 minutes until golden. Let cool.

Whip heavy cream with confectioners sugar and vanilla until very thick.

Cut biscuits in half. Spread lemon curd on bottom half of each biscuit. Spoon whipped on top and add fruit. Top with biscuit “hat” and add more berries and whipped cream. Garnish with edible flowers. SERVES 6.

The Heart-Tug of a Handwritten Recipe

Just this week I received this note from a stranger. “I grew up eating South African pumpkin fritters as a special treat — my mother made them from my late grandmother’s recipe and they have stuck in my memory. Recently leafing through an old binder of recipes, I discovered my grandmother’s recipe. But it was not the taste memory that tugged at my heart, but her handwriting that stirred something deep within.”

I knew exactly what he meant. One year ago, I found a recipe I wrote in my best penmanship for my mother as a small gift for Mother’s Day. I had not seen it since she died and the flashback of writing it connected me to her in a combustible way – at the intersection of love and loss. At that moment, I proposed an idea to Brett Rawson, a poet and co-editor of the literary arts magazine “The Seventh Wave,” who had just started a terrific website celebrating the handwritten word.

The idea crystallized into a column called “Handwritten Recipes,” which re-ignites the connection between generations of families through the exploration of food and memory – most profoundly through the power of the pen. While the relation of food to language is universal, the curve and slope of a loved one’s scrawl can recapture long-lost memories, scents, tastes and emotions at a moment’s notice.

I’ve been collecting (with some exuberance) handwritten recipes from both friends and strangers around the world, and publishing them on handwrittenwork.com. These stories reveal new connections between pen and people. Some recipes have been handed down for generations, and their appearance shows it: tell-tale stains, scribbled additions, scratched-out revisions, and the fascinating variation of penmanship styles. Other recipes are recently uncovered after years in dust-covered boxes in dark and distant closets. Magically, they each bring to light the silent power of the handwritten word. More nourishing than simply something to eat, these stories shorten the distance between our sense of taste and our history.

A particularly engaging story comes from Lari Robling, an independent radio producer and writer, currently producing “Voices in the Family” with Dr. Dan Gottlieb for WHYY in Philadelphia. A special cup of tea, carefully placed next to a handwritten recipe card, sets the scene to unlock the secrets to Bettymarie’s Peach Meringue. The yellowing card’s splotches hint at past mishaps, while a faded cursive “what’s cookin’,” specifies Mom as the author, calling her by name. Yet the story is not all peaches and cream. The cracked exterior of the cake becomes a metaphor for a complicated mother-daughter relationship whose sweetness and love stand the test of time.

Another story focuses on the rekindling of father-daughter memories through the unexpected discovery of a handwritten recipe for “vodka sauce.” It is testament to the emotional power that “chicken scratches” can hold. Told by Allison Radecki, a culinary tour guide, her poignant tale is as much character study as it is a love story. Allison’s neighborhood-based walks in Brownstone Brooklyn trace the history of immigration and culinary change, and her father’s hastily scribbled note on a random piece of paper acts as a time machine to past meals. Over the years, other family members have added comments and drawings to the recipe’s edges, preserving a multi-generational bond of memories.

As these essays and connections accumulate on my desk and brighten my inbox, they form an exchange of collective memory and the transmission of taste beyond flavor — my very goal in creating this column.

Writer April Lee’s vivid memory of her grandmother’s sweet potatoes encouraged her to jot the recipe down in her own handwriting, the pen as medium for evocative recollection. “I wrote the recipe exactly as she told me. It’s captured in ink on paper, a record of holidays, of seeing my grandparents’ car pull into the driveway, of a full table with family and sweet potatoes with cherries, a record of her voice, her peculiar nature. I make it from memory and for now, this recipe is preserved, put aside, ready to be offered when we are sad along with two extra pineapple slices and a cup of the juice.”

And then there’s poet Tina Barry’s pot roast. “It is a part of our history: My mother’s, my daughter’s and mine. And it will be a part of my granddaughter Vera’s, too. When Anya cooks for Vera, my mother will be with them in all the flavors on the plate. There will be a little of me, too, in the slant of my “t,” the dot that never quite caps the “i.” That’s what a recipe does, especially one that’s handwritten: it brings loved ones closer with the proof of their hand on paper, the memory of clangs and chatter, the perfume of onions cooking slowly on the stove.”

As we become so digitally dis-connected, I’ve taken on the enriching task of assembling and publishing these linkages between gastronomy and memory from a time when people actually did things by hand; when cooking symbolized something that felt like love.

The “handwritten recipes” project is a living cookbook. Yet in some ways it has already been written and waiting to be retrieved from a dusty shoebox or kitchen drawer.