Fourth Favorites: Celebrate the holiday with these classic Lost Italian recipes

Our Fourth of July celebration today takes us back to some of our most popular summer recipes from the past five years, with four courses of favorites and even a boozy tropical slush to keep you cool throughout the weekend.

Karpouzi Salata
Tangy, salty feta cheese and fresh mint bring out the sweet flavor of watermelon in Karpouzi Salata (Watermelon-Feta Salad). Forum file photo
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Our Fourth of July celebration today takes us back to some of our most popular summer recipes from the past five years, with four courses of favorites and even a boozy tropical slush to keep you cool throughout the weekend.

Our holiday menu features classic summer ingredients like sweet corn, watermelon and grilled meat, all made with a twist that takes these summer staples to the next level. And, with the holiday falling in the middle of the week, you can enjoy these specialties today or throughout the weekend, especially as most of the dishes can be prepared at least a day in advance of serving.


Appetizer: Savory Sweet Corn Pancakes

First up is one of my all-time favorite appetizers, Savory Sweet Corn Pancakes. These savory mini pancakes are chock-full of sweet corn, and you can mix in your favorite flavor add-ins like chives and cheddar cheese or fresh basil and jalapeno to create the ultimate summer taste experience. I even make them in the winter with frozen sweet corn when I'm craving a bit of sunshine. The pancakes can be made up to three days in advance and reheated just before serving, and the flavored sour cream will last up to one week.



Salad: Watermelon, Mint and Feta Salad

What would the Fourth of July be without watermelon? This refreshing salad is a perfect marriage of flavors. The intense sweetness of the watermelon is perfectly balanced by the tangy saltiness of feta cheese and cool, fresh mint, rounded out with olive oil, rice wine vinegar and a dose of black pepper.


Main Course: Tony's Italian Bison Burgers

We featured these bison burgers in July of 2015 and they have remained a family and reader favorite ever since. The Italian flavor comes from the inclusion of sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and herbs, as well as three Italian cheeses - fontina, Gorgonzola and Parmesan - which help keep the naturally extra-lean bison meat from drying out once grilled. The burger mix can be prepared and refrigerated up to 24 hours before cooking, and you can serve them with traditional burger toppings or add some tomato sauce for a specialty we like to call the Sloppy Italian.


Dessert: Strawberry Shortcake


Few flavor combinations scream summer better than the classic mix of fresh strawberries and cream, and Strawberry Shortcake is our favorite way to showcase this perfect food pairing. The cake is easy to make and best when served shortly after baking, but it can be made in advance and frozen for up to two months. Fresh strawberries that have been macerated with sugar for several hours and real whipped cream are the keys to success for this old-fashioned favorite.


Adult Indulgence: Boozy Tropical Slush

A little goes a long way with this unique and refreshing summer slush that features a combination of old-fashioned limeade and lemonade (of the frozen-concentrate variety), black tea, ginger, water, vodka and coconut rum. The alcohol keeps the slush from freezing solid, while the frozen juice concentrate is the key to achieving the signature consistency of an authentic slush. This slush will keep frozen for at least a month, if it lasts that long.


So, this is what we'll be enjoying today and throughout the holiday weekend. All of these featured recipes can be found online at . Or, email and I'll be happy to send you a copy.

Have a safe and happy Fourth of July!

Recipe Time Capsule:


This week in...

• 2017: Grilled Watermelon with Gorgonzola and Prosciutto

• 2016: Savory Sweet Corn Pancakes

• 2015: Gio's Melon Ball Salad

• 2014: Sweet Corn Hummus

• 2013: All-American Grilled Bison Steak with Chimichurri and Salmoriglio Sauces


Cheddar Chive Corn Pancakes

Makes: about 8 3-inch pancakes


½ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup milk

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon canola oil

½ teaspoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 cups fresh sweet corn kernels (about 2 to 3 ears); frozen corn will also work

Additional canola oil for frying

2 tablespoons fresh chives, small-chopped

¼ cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded


In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, milk, eggs, oil, baking powder, salt and pepper until smooth and combined. Stir in the corn, chives and cheese until incorporated. Let batter rest, lightly covered, for 30 minutes.

Lightly brush griddle or large nonstick frying pan with canola oil and heat over medium heat until hot, but not smoking. Pour approximately ¼ cup of batter to form each cake, which should be about 3 inches in diameter.

Cook over medium heat until bottom is golden brown and edges of cake are dry, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and continue to cook on other side until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes more. Monitor and adjust heat up or down as needed.

Transfer to plates or platter and serve with flavored sour cream. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 1 month. For best results, reheat on hot griddle or frying pan. If frozen, thaw thoroughly before reheating.

Lemon Chive Sour Cream


1/3 cup sour cream

1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon fresh chives, finely chopped


In a small bowl, combine sour cream with flavorings until well combined. Best when made at least 30 minutes in advance of serving. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.


Watermelon, Mint and Feta Salad

Serves: 4 to 6


4 cups seedless watermelon, cubed or balled (approx. 1-inch pieces)

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup rice wine vinegar

½ cup feta cheese, crumbled

10 leaves fresh mint, cut into thin strips chiffonade-style


Put the watermelon balls in a mixing bowl and sprinkle with black pepper, olive oil and rice wine vinegar. Gently stir to incorporate ingredients and then refrigerate for 1-2 hours before serving for best results. Do not refrigerate for more than 2 hours, or the acid from the vinegar will begin to break down the watermelon. Serve on a platter family-style or plate individually and top with a generous sprinkling of feta cheese and fresh mint.


Tony's Italian Bison Burgers

Makes: 6 to 8 burgers


2 lbs. ground bison meat

½ cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

⅓ cup fontina cheese, grated

⅓ cup Parmesan cheese, grated

½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

½ teaspoon dried (or ground) oregano flakes

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon dried basil flakes

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper


In a large mixing bowl, use your hands to mix the ingredients together until well combined, at least 5 to 8 minutes, even longer if possible. The more you mix ground protein, the more tender the meat will be.

Divide the mixture into 6 to 8 even parts and form into patties of equal size. Cook on the grill over direct, high heat for 2 minutes on each side until grill marks are achieved. Finish cooking over indirect, high heat or in a 400-degree oven, covered, for about 5 to 6 minutes until an internal temperature of 130 degrees is reached to achieve a perfect medium-rare. Use a meat thermometer to ensure doneness and prevent over-cooking.

For best results, remove from grill or oven and let the burgers rest for 3 to 5 minutes before serving.

To serve, top with traditional burger toppings, or warm tomato sauce for a Sloppy Italian.


Strawberry Shortcake

Cake ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons shortening, cubed

2/3 to 3/4 cup milk

1 to 1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter


Preheat oven to 450 degrees and grease a round, 8-inch cake pan.

In a food processor, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt by pulsing 10 times until combined. Add the shortening and pulse until mixture appears coarse and crumbly, about 6 times. Turn the processor on and slowly add the milk until the dough just begins to form a ball. Turn the processor off and turn the dough out onto a work surface.

Gently form the dough into a ball and divide in half. Gently pat half of the dough into the greased cake pan, and dot this layer with little bits of cold butter. Gently pat the other half of dough on top until fully covered.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown, and cool for 5 minutes before removing cake from pan. Serve warm or at room temperature. Before serving, use a long, serrated knife to split the cake in half horizontally.

Cover the bottom layer with macerated strawberries, followed by a generous layer of whipped cream. Place the second cake layer on top and then cover with a layer of whipped cream followed by more strawberries. Cut into wedges and enjoy!

Filling ingredients:

2 pounds strawberries, washed and sliced into pieces

¼ to ½ cup sugar

Real whipped cream


Prepare the strawberries at least 2 hours before serving, or even overnight. Wash the strawberries and remove the greens, then cut into pieces as desired. In a medium bowl, mix the berries with the sugar until well coated. Let sit for 2 hours at room temperature, or in the refrigerator up to 24 hours. For best results, bring to room temperature before using.

Sarah's Tips:

• If you don't have a food processor, you can mix the ingredients by hand using a pastry cutter or fork to combine. You may have to knead the dough a bit after turning it out until a ball is formed.

• For an elegant presentation, create a trifle by layering pieces of cake with strawberries and whipped cream in a wine glass, topped with toasted almonds.

• Once baked, the shortcake can be frozen up to 2 months.


Tropical Summer Slush

Makes: about 3 quarts


2 cups sugar

5 cups water

3 bags black tea

2 cups water

1 thumb fresh ginger, peeled

12 ounces frozen orange juice concentrate

12 ounces frozen limeade

1 cup vodka (may also substitute 2 cups brandy, whiskey or your favorite liquor)

1 cup coconut rum

Fruit skewer to garnish


In a large pot, cook the sugar and 5 cups water over medium heat until dissolved, stirring occasionally; remove from burner and let cool.

In a small pot, bring 2 cups of water to a boil; remove pot from burner and add bags of black tea and the thumb of ginger. Allow to steep for at least 10 minutes or until cool; remove and discard the ginger.

Add the frozen juices, vodka, rum and tea to the syrup and stir to combine. Pour into a plastic or glass container, cover and freeze overnight. Garnish with fresh fruit skewer and enjoy. Stores well in freezer for at least 1 month.

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