Regardless of your plans this Fourth of July weekend, it's likely you'll be eating outdoors at some point, in the presence of a picnic blanket or a smoking grill.
In our cover story on Pages 4E-5E, we offer ideas for side items to accompany a traditional Fourth of July feast. Specifically, those "salads" that usually get placed on red-and-white checkered tablecloths: potato, fruit and pasta. Sometimes, these mayo-based salads are left to fester in the sun, untouched; hopefully these spins on the classics will go over better with your guests.
Here are some other tips for making the most of dining outside.
• Set the table: Don't have a suitable outdoor tablecloth? Buy a roll of brown craft paper and spread it across your table. It will absorb any spilled liquids or grease, plus it makes for easy cleanup. When you're done eating, simply fold it up and throw it away.
• Keep bugs away: By turning a mesh colander upside down so it forms a dome, you can create a bug-free tent over your food.
• Stick 'em: Differentiate between rare and medium-well burgers, or other kinds of grillables that look the same, by inserting toothpicks or Popsicle sticks into the foods that need to stand apart.
• Perfect burgers: An easy thing to remember about grilling hamburgers is that they mostly want to be left alone. That means don't overmix the raw meat, or add too many additional things to it. Simply season the meat with salt and pepper, then form it into patties. Press down in the middle of each patty with your thumb, then cook them on a hot grill and let them be. Don't smoosh them down with your spatula, or cut them open to check for doneness. When they're cooked, let them rest for a few minutes before chowing down.
• More than meat: While the grill is hot, think outside of the box and prepare items other than meat for the grate. Some unexpected (yet delicious) options include: artichokes, peaches and watermelon. (For more ideas, see the story on Page 4E.)
• Cool down: Identify some picnic/cookout items that freeze well and throw those in the freezer the night before your event. Things like grapes or other fruits, juices and bottles of water can then sit out in the sun and stay relatively chilled, and they won't take up precious space in your cooler.
Contact Michelle Stark at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8829. Follow @mstark17.