Kitchen Shrink: Feast on patriotic dishes this holiday weekend

A reader wants to know how to prevent her favorite sister-in-law from bringing her monster dishes that no one seems to like to her Fourth of July gathering.

It's a very common problem in families to have an enthusiastic cook with half-baked culinary skills. Not to worry. There's a way to delicately avert the near-crisis. Tell sis-in-law that the menu is under control or you have a specific theme. Then politely ask her to bring a good bottle of wine or a patriotic trio of red, white and blue ice creams or sorbets. This way she feels like she's contributing and you're saving the family from possible indigestion - or worse.

Since you signed up to do the cooking, take some help from this assortment of recipes:

Southwest Gazpacho

  • 4 large ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 English cucumber, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 sweet red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon of Tabasco sauce
  • 2 cups of tomato or vegetable juice
  • 1/2 cup of fresh orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons of virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
  • 2 ripe, firm avocados cut in chunks
  • Salt and cracked black pepper to taste
  • Fresh cilantro sprigs and lime slices for garnish

Combine the ingredients except the avocado, cilantro and lime slices in a large bowl and stir gently. Chill for 2 hours. Ladle into martini glasses and garnish with avocado, cilantro sprigs and lime slices.

Brocslaw or Broccoli Coleslaw

  • 1 16-ounce bag of shredded broccoli or two big heads of fresh chopped broccoli
  • 1/2 small red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 small yellow pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 1/4 cup of slivered almonds

For the dressing

  • 2/3 cup of grapeseed oil
  • 1/3 cup of seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the creamy version

  • 1 cup of mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • Pinch of wasabi powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine the veggies. Set aside. In a separate bowl, add the vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper and whisk in the oils. Toss with the slaw until evenly distributed, and top with almonds and more scallions.

For the creamy dressing, blend ingredients well, toss with the slaw until evenly distributed.

Patriotic Potato Salad

  • 12-14 potatoes (a mixture of redskin, blue and white) boiled in their jackets and cubed
  • 6 hard-boiled eggs, diced
  • 2 red bell peppers, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups of diced celery
  • 1/4 cup of diced red onion
  • 2 cups of mayonnaise (adjust for your desired consistency)
  • 2 teaspoons of spicy mustard
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • Salt and cracked black pepper to taste
  • Red pepper rings and red caviar for garnish

In a small bowl, blend the mayonnaise with the mustard, lemon juice, salt and pepper. In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, eggs, celery, red pepper and onion. Toss with the mayonnaise dressing until the mixture is moistened. Garnish with red pepper rings, a dollop of red caviar and toothpick paper flags.

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