(photo credit: workswyomissing.com)
Wow, it’s the 4th of July
and that means Summer get togethers with family and friends.
At the end of the post, along with my recipe, my dear friend Marie Renello of “Proud Italian Cook” has graciously allowed me to post a great 4th of July dessert recipe from her blog.
Fresh Watermelon Cake with Berries and Cream
Wait until you see this, it’s absolutely fabulous and I have included the link to her website so you can see step by step instructions with photos and browse the rest of her great recipes. She is amazing!
A little stroll down memory lane for me before we start the tablescape…
I have always loved this holiday since I was a little girl. My Uncle Vinny (every Italian girl has an Uncle Vinny) used to bring the greatest fireworks and my all time favorite “sparklers” to our home every year. (We won’t mention that they were illegal back then….anyway, the story continues).
My cousins and I couldn’t wait for dusk so he could set off the fireworks. It was a production for him to set up and we all watched in amazement. He would always set up down the block and we weren’t allowed to go anywhere near the preparation. That was rule # 1.
We would lay on blankets on the front lawn, looking up to the sky for the show with all the oohs and aahs that go along with fireworks and then the sparklers would come out. Did I mention they were my favorite?
I still feel like a kid on 4th of July whenever I see sparklers at any special occasion such as a milestone birthday or a wedding.
But before the great fireworks extravaganza there was the barbecue. Oh, the food. My parents took all their hosting events very seriously and of course, being Italian we had more food in one day than you could possibly eat in a month.
We had a traditional antipasto with all the cheeses, cured meats and pickled vegetables – that was just a given. My Grandmother would make Linguine with Crab Sauce from the fresh crabs my Dad caught at Jones Beach Pier. Very often I would go crabbing with Dad and get all the traps ready. I still have the original traps in my attic; but I have never used them without Dad.
Linguine was mandatory, because after all, what is an Italian get together without some sort of macaroni on the table, no matter what the occasion? Then my parents went to town with the rest of the food.
I remember going with my Dad to the Italian food store to get sausage for my Mother’s Sausage and Peppers and skinny sausage rings for the grill. Everything had to be just so. Then there was the butcher to buy the steaks, chicken thighs and lamb for the grill. My Mother would marinate the meat with her “secret recipe” (I wish I knew what was in that).
Can’t forget some sort of fish to grill (most of the time my Father caught the fish himself) and last but not least, the lonely platter of hot dogs and hamburgers and their buns just waiting in case anyone should ask for one. After all, this was an American holiday.
My mom would start with all the side dishes. Caprese salad (home grown tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil drizzled with olive oil and some fresh black pepper), roasted peppers in olive oil and Lots of GARLIC (you won’t have a cold with that dish or friends either because you would smell like garlic for days), Potato, onion and string bean salad in oil and red wine vinegar (recipe in Beach Stripe post), Foccacia with olives and rosemary, tomato salad, pasta salad, rice salad, panzanella salad (stale bread soaked in the juice of tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, basil and onion) and then the American, baked beans, tossed salad and corn on the cob.
Of course this was followed by all types of fruit and Italian pastries, Grandma’s amaretto cream puffs plus apple pie and ice cream. Espresso with anisette, sugar and a tiny piece of lemon peel and “American” coffee as my family called it.
After the fireworks, Grandma always had some snacks ready in case you were hungry. Yes, I said hungry. The snacks were always zeppoles and calzone stuffed with ricotta and ham. Keep in mind this was all for a dozen people. And yes, we ate the zeppoles and calzones.
Food is Love to any Italian family. What can I say?
It wasn’t until I was an adult that I introduced my potato salad with God forbid, mayonnaise to the party. Mayonnaise was not used at these outdoor barbecues because it could spoil, everything had vinegar in it. I put my potato salad on ice and after much convincing, it was allowed to stand next to all the Italian dishes.
Over the years I have received many compliments on my potato salad, so I wanted to share it with you today. I love sharing recipes with all the DishingwithDiane members.
I made it a tradition in my family that the first time I will ever make this during the year is on the 4th of July. After that, I make it all summer.
(I have included a recipe for my Potato Salad at the end of the post).
The funny thing is, that with all the Italian influences; you would think that the Italian flag would be flying, but the back yard was decorated in all Red, White and Blue and God Bless America signs and American flags hanging proudly on the back porch and the front of the house.
We are proud Americans of Italian descent.
My grandmother loved this holiday to celebrate America because for her, coming from Italy at a young age, America was truly the land of opportunity.
(photo credit: 4thjulyusa.com)
Now on to the tablescape…
For this tablescape, I chose a very rustic looking dish set. The set is by the American Folk Artist and antiques collector, Warren Kimball and the pattern is called Colonial. It is a melamine dish made to look like a “wooden American flag”. I just felt it fit perfectly for the 4th of July and melamine is shatterproof and perfect for outdoor events.
Now the tablecloth. I am using a navy tablecloth with white stars– just perfect. I never bought the matching napkins to the tablecloth so since this a barbecue; I am using 4th of July paper napkins for the holiday and continued with the flag theme.
I dug out my galvanized charger plates. (My husband thinks they look like the tops of garbage cans, but I am using them anyway); to continue the rustic feel.
There is just something about these charger plates that also give me the Americana feel and I think they look great with the dishes. Once again, I am using my old stand by, my red woven placemats.
The flatware was an easy choice because when I bought the dishes, I also bought the matching flatware.
I use these dishes and flatware the entire month of July.
Yes, I change my dishes monthly.
What’s a dish collection if you don’t use them? Use your stuff, don’t save it, have fun!
Remember, make every day a celebration!
The glassware, well it was a toss up. Either striped blue and red glasses or the mason jar mugs. I chose the blue and red striped since I just used the mason jar mugs for my Memorial Day tablescape.
I wanted to keep the centerpiece simple since the entire tablescape has a lot going on with all the extras on the table.
I am using a water pitcher with a star design and “America the Beautiful” written around the neck of the pitcher.
Let’s move on because I will have that song in my head all day. I think I just stopped singing it from Memorial Day.
I put red, white and blue carnations and Gerber daisies in the pitcher.
Close up of the flowers.
I usually use artificial flowers when I entertain outside in the Summer, just in case the real flowers have a mind of their own and wilt in the heat. No one wants a wilted centerpiece.
I decided to add some galvanized pails that match the charger to hold a few additional items for each place setting. This addition is also my “party favor” for guests. In the pail, I put a mini bottle of Coke- very American, a small American flag, a themed paper napkin and a cute little patriotic pinwheel clip.
Just before the guests arrive, I will add some fresh baked cookies and of course they will have to be chocolate chip.
Close up of the party favor.
I love to have party favors at all my parties. It doesn’t have to be a big gift. A little token from the party adds to the wonderful memories. I have used cookies, jam, mini champagne bottles, candy, etc. Use your imagination. I feel an edible item is the best- everyone loves to eat.
(I ordered some sparklers for this tablescape, but they didn’t arrive in time- oh well, I’ll use them next year. That is, if they last that long….I just love sparklers. I may be serving dinner or dessert with sparklers. Bob will be surprised; then again with me, maybe not).
I love using candles on a table too. Everyone looks good in candlelight.
For this tablescape, I am using some patriotic star votive candles that I have had for years to add a little brightness. I had to take the photo with one candle not lit so you could see the pattern on the glass without the glare from the flame.
Just for a little fun I also place two Frisbees on the table. You might need a little exercise after your big meal.
And now my 2015 July 4th tablescape is done.
Thank you for letting me share my memories of the 4th of July with you. I hope you enjoyed the tablescape and you try the Potato salad and Watermelon cake recipes below.
I have such fond memories of the 4th of July and all the fun we had. Sadly, most of the relatives that I shared 4th of July fireworks and barbecues with growing up have passed on; but they will always be in my heart.
I am now ready for my own barbecue (on a much smaller scale of course).
I have to go boil some potatoes and make potato salad, so I’ll see you next time.
Have a safe and Happy Fourth of July!
Make some great memories of your own with your family and friends this holiday.
Be safe and keep your pets safe too.
Until my next post, stay well and make every day a celebration!
The dishes and flatware were purchased so long ago, I forgot from where. I have a lot of sets that I can’t remember where I purchased them- sorry, be prepared. After all, my collection of dishes was collected over 40 yrs.
Galvanized chargers from Pottery Barn
Red placemats from Homegoods
Red and Blue striped glasses from the Dollar store
Patriotic pitcher from Homegoods
Navy tablecloth from Macy’s
Red, white and blue carnations,Gerber daisies, flags and pinwheel clips from Michael’s Arts and Crafts
Frisbee and paper themed napkins from Party City
Patriotic votive candles from Crate and Barrel
Diane’s Potato Salad
5 lb bag of red potatoes- NOT PEELED – boil whole until a fork can pierce the skin but not mushy – DRAIN
2 ½ C Hellman’s mayo – NOT LIGHT
5 TBSP Red Wine Vinegar
3 ¾ tsp Kosher salt
2 ½ tsp Sugar
¾ tsp Pepper
2 ½ C Celery (chopped)
1 ½ C Red onion (diced)
1 dz Hard boiled eggs
(Shredded carrots are optional)
* Safety check…
Check your eggs for signs of cracks. Since fresh eggs are harder to peel it is best if you purchase your eggs a week prior to boiling. You can test the freshness of the eggs by placing them into a glass of water. The freshest eggs will lie on the bottom of the water on its side. As an egg ages the air pocket inside grows so your egg will start to stand up on end. An egg that floats to the top should be discarded.
Mix mayo and vinegar together—Add salt, pepper, and sugar and mix thoroughly.
Add celery and onions—Next add potatoes WARM (cut into bite size pieces)
Add eggs (sliced) and fold all ingredients together.
*I think the potato salad tastes best after it has cooled in the refrigerator for a few hours and all the flavors have blended together. If you try this recipe, please send me your comments. I love hearing from you.
Fresh Watermelon Cake with Berries and Cream
from “Proud Italian Cook”
- 1 whole seedless watermelon
- 3 cups of heavy whipping cream ( you’ll probably have some extra)
- ½ teaspoon of vanilla
- 2 tablespoons of confectioners sugar or other sweetener like stevia
- assorted fresh berries and other garnishes of your choice like nuts, sliced almonds, coconut, sprinkles, etc.
- First whip your cream with the confectioners sugar and vanilla, whip until you get nice stiff peeks, then refrigerate bowl.
- Wash and dry the whole watermelon.
- With a sharp knife slice the top and bottom off.
- Standing upright begin removing the dark green rind all around.
- Keep trimming the sides removing the light green rind underneath and trimming it into a nice cylinder shape.
- Wipe and pat dry the cylinder with paper towels to remove excess moisture.
- Place shaped and patted dry melon on serving platter.
- Spread cold whipped cream all over with a rubber spatula, top and sides.
- Garnish with berries or other things of your choice.
- At this point you can refrigerate it until ready to cut. I placed the whole platter into my fridge and didn’t cover it, but if you had a cake plate topper that would fit over the top, that would be fine too but not necessary.
- If you have some of the “cake”remaining after cutting just refrigerate soon after so the whipped cream doesn’t melt down, especially on a hot day.
Click on the link below for the step by step instructions with photos
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(photo credit: crossfitfairfax.com)