A menu fit for the Fourth

Bee staff

This potato salad includes red potatoes, leeks, Dijon mustard and garlic, but no mayonnaise.
This potato salad includes red potatoes, leeks, Dijon mustard and garlic, but no mayonnaise. Kansas City Star

Food on the Fourth of July is almost as tradition-bound as that table-buckling Thanksgiving spread. People like good ol’ American favorites, like hot dogs, burgers or ribs. On the side are fresh corn on the cob, a scoop of Mom’s potato salad and crisp, cold slices of watermelon.

Later, after that has settled a bit, just before the fireworks, the kids grab ice pops or cupcakes, and the grownups dig into pie and ice cream.

So you probably have your favorites, but in case you don’t, or you want to try something new, here are some suggestions for an Independence Day menu. Each has a bit of a tweak to make it distinctive.

Spring potato salad

Serves 4-6

Because it contains no mayonnaise, this potato salad is perfect for a picnic or outdoor potluck – no worrying about the dressing going bad. It tastes good cold or at room temperature.

Adapted by Laurie Snell from Jacques Pepin in Food & Wine, May 1996.

2 pounds red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed clean

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium leeks, washed, with white and tender green parts thinly sliced

1/4 cup minced onion

1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons dry white wine

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Place potatoes in medium saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to boil over high heat. Cook until just fork tender, or about 25 minutes. Drain potatoes into colander set into sink, and set aside.

In a large sauté pan, warm 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add leeks and sauté for about 2 minutes, until just wilted, but not browned. Transfer leeks to large mixing bowl.

After potatoes have cooled, cut each into 1/8-inch slices and place in a bowl with leeks. You can peel cooked potatoes before slicing, if desired.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together onion, garlic, mustard, white wine, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper and remaining 1/3 cup olive oil. Pour dressing over potatoes and leeks and gently stir to coat. Garnish with parsley. Potato salad can be served immediately or cold after being placed in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Per serving, based on 4: 451 calories (51 percent from fat), 26 grams total fat (3 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 50 grams carb., 6 grams protein, 568 milligrams sodium, 5 grams dietary fiber.

Strawberry-ginger slab pie

Serves 12 to 16

The crust for this pie includes a bit of black pepper. Cut out stars instead of circles for a patriotic top crust.

Note: Use smaller, fresh farm strawberries rather than conventional supermarket berries, if possible. The farm berries release less juice, which makes for a less runny filling. Add some blueberries for a July 4 pie.

Recipe from The New York Times.

For the crust:

2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out dough

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1 cup cold unsalted butter (2 sticks), cut into 1/2-inch cubes, plus more for buttering the pan

3/4 cup ice water

2 tablespoons buttermilk

For the filling:

3 pounds fresh strawberries, small berries cut in half and larger berries cut in quarters (see note above)

3 to 4 tablespoons loosely packed dark brown sugar, depending on how sweet your berries are

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon grapefruit zest

1 1/2 teaspoons grapefruit juice

1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Make the crust: In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, 2 teaspoons granulated sugar, the salt and the pepper. Using a pastry blender, cut butter into flour until the largest pieces of butter are the size of lentils.

Sprinkle ice water over dough a tablespoon at a time, stirring and scooping the dough with your hands as you go to incorporate the water, until the dough just begins to adhere and you can gather it into an imperfect ball. (You may not need all the water.) Transfer dough to a piece of plastic wrap and press into a disk. Wrap tightly and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Lightly butter a quarter sheet pan with a 1-inch rim, including the top edge of the rim, and set aside. (Quarter sheet pans are usually 8 by 11 inches or 9 by 12 inches, depending on the manufacturer.)

Lightly flour a large work surface, a rolling pin and the dough. Roll the chilled dough into an 1/8-inch-thick rectangle. From that, cut a rectangle 3 inches bigger than the dimensions of your pan on each side (i.e., an 11-by-14-inch rectangle for an 8-by-11-inch pan, or a 12-by-15-inch rectangle for a 9-by-12-inch pan). Reserve the extra dough.

Gently press the dough rectangle into the quarter sheet pan, trimming excess dough at the edges. The dough should go all the way up and over the top edge of the pan, if possible. Transfer pan to refrigerator and chill for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, line another baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out reserved dough to 1/4- to 1/8-inch thickness. Using 1- and 2-inch biscuit cutters, cut out about 30 circles of different sizes (or use all one size if you prefer), rerolling dough as necessary. Transfer circles to parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate.

Make the filling: Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir well. Set aside for about an hour, while crust chills.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. When oven is hot, paint some of the buttermilk on the edges of the pie crust. Transfer berry mixture to crust, patting the berries down into a roughly even layer. Place pan on a larger baking sheet to catch any drips. Bake for 30 minutes.

Paint buttermilk over reserved pastry circles and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon granulated sugar. Place circles all over the bubbling berries. Continue baking pie until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling, an additional 50 to 60 minutes.

Run a small knife around the edge of the pie while it’s warm. Transfer the pie in its quarter sheet pan to a wire rack. Let cool for at least 2 hours before cutting and serving from the pan.

Bourbon grilled ribs

Prep time: 25 minutes (including time to make sauce)

Cook time: 40 minutes to 1 hour, 15 minutes

Serves 6

No need to cook the sauce: The heat of the grill finishes the flavor as it’s slathered onto the ribs or other meats or poultry. Double the recipe so you can have a jarful in the fridge. It lasts several weeks. Recipe from the Chicago Tribune.

For bourbon barbecue sauce:

1 cup tomato ketchup, preferably organic

1/4 cup bourbon

1/4 cup sorghum or light molasses

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard or your favorite mustard

1 to 2 tablespoons pureed chipotle in adobo

For ribs:

2 large slabs baby back pork ribs (3 pounds total) or 3 pounds bone-in country-style pork ribs

Salt, freshly ground pepper

Hickory or mesquite wood chunks

2 cups prepared bourbon barbecue sauce, or as needed

To make sauce: Mix all ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake well. Refrigerate up to several weeks.

Pat ribs dry. Season generously on all sides with salt and pepper. Refrigerate uncovered for up to 2 days. Remove from refrigerator while you prepare the grill so the ribs start to come to room temperature. Soak wood chips in water to cover for at least 30 minutes.

Prepare a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to high. When the coals are covered with a gray ash, arrange them on two sides of the grill leaving the center empty. Place a drip pan on the bottom of the grill and place the cooking grate on top. If using a gas grill, turn off the burners in the center of the grill and turn the other burners to medium.

Just before you put the meat on the grill, nestle a few wood chunks among the hot coals. Put ribs on grill over the drip pan (not directly over the heat). Cover grill and cook, turning once, until fork-tender and juices run clear, about 40 minutes for the country-style ribs or 1 1/4 hours for the baby back ribs.

Generously baste all sides of the ribs with the barbecue sauce. Grill covered until meat is nicely glazed, 10 to 15 minutes more. Remove from grill; let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Per serving: 438 calories, 33 g fat, 10 g saturated fat, 113 mg cholesterol, 12 g carbohydrates, 23 g protein, 375 mg sodium, 0 g fiber