Lighting Up the Sky and Firing Up the Grill

For most of us, the Fourth of July is kick-off time for firing up the grill and eating outdoors. Yet try as we may, the weather doesn't always cooperate with a carefully thought-out dining plan.

The weather this year has been so crazy that I can envision slightly shivering guests trying to brave the unpredictable early summer wet and cool weather as they bite into the first of the season hot-off-the-grill hamburger. I see pitchers of cold lemonade and iced tea being passed up in favor of steaming cups of coffee.

I don't have a clue to what the skies will have in store for us this holiday weekend, but you can be sure I'm planning a menu that can be enjoyed and executed inside as well as out.

To begin: a smooth and spicy beet-and-cherry soup (I like to call it "Not Your Bubby's Bing Borscht"), which can be offered chilled or heated. Serve in clear glasses over ice to sip on the patio or in bowls garnished with chopped dried cherries.

The main course: an Asian-inspired marinated flank steak, which tastes equally delicious prepared on the grill as in the broiler. Accompany it with a mustard and thyme-dressed orzo salad dotted with colorful veggies, served at room temperature.

The weather won't influence a rhubarb-and-berry crisp — it's the perfect dessert to complete an indoor or outdoor party.

Sesame-Soy Flank Steak


Marinade Ingredients:

1/2 cup kosher red wine
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced
3 green onions, minced
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsps. honey
1 Tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper 2 lbs. flank steak
2 Tbsps. toasted sesame seeds

Mix all of the marinade ingredients until well-blended.

Pour over steak in a nonreactive bowl. Marinate, turning to coat, about 1 hour.

Heat the grill or broiler.

Remove steak from marinade and cook, turning and basting occasionally with marinade, until medium rare, about 6 minutes per side.

Transfer steak to a cutting board. Cut thin slices on an angle across the grain.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.

Serves 6 to 8.


Orzo Salad With Summer Vegetables


Vinaigrette Ingredients:

4 Tbsps. champagne or white-wine vinegar
4 tsps. grainy mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsps. fresh thyme (1/2 tsp. dried)
salt and pepper
10 Tbsps. olive oil

Salad Ingredients:

2 cups orzo (rice-shaped pasta), cooked and drained
4 medium plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 yellow pepper, seeded and diced
1 green zucchini, diced
1 cup fresh peas
4 green onions, thinly sliced
2 cups arugula leaves, torn into small pieces
salt and pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together vinaigrette ingredients until well-blended.

In a large bowl, toss together salad ingredients.

Dress with the vinaigrette, and mix until well-combined.

Taste for salt and pepper.

If refrigerating, bring to room temperature before serving and adjust seasonings.

Serves 8.


Bing Borscht


2 Tbsps. vegetable oil
2 Tbsps. chopped shallots
1 tsp. curry powder or to taste
6 medium beets, peeled and diced
1 cup pitted Bing cherries
4 cups vegetable stock
1 medium potato, peeled and diced (optional)
2 Tbsps. fresh lemon juice
1 cup watercress leaves
salt and pepper
dried pitted cherries

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan.

Cook shallots until soft. Stir in the curry and cook until fragrant.

Stir in the beets and cherries, and cook for about 2 minutes.

Add vegetable stock, bring to a boil and add the potato.

Simmer for 25 minutes, or until beets are very tender.

Let cool slightly, then purée in blender or food processor with the lemon juice.

Return to the pot and stir in the watercress. Taste for salt and pepper.

Garnish with the dried cherries.

Serve hot, chilled or at room temperature.

Serves 6 to 8.


Blueberry-Rhubarb Crisp


1/3 cup sugar
2 Tbsps. all-purpose flour
3/4 lb. rhubarb
2 cups blueberries

Topping Ingredients:

1/3 cup pecans
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
6 Tbsps. cold unsalted pareve margarine

Preheat the oven to 375°.

Grease a 2-quart shallow baking dish.

Stir together the sugar and flour in a small bowl.

Trim the rhubarb and cut enough of the stalks into 1/2-inch pieces to measure 2 cups.

Add the rhubarb and blueberries to the sugar mixture, tossing well, and spread mixture in baking dish.

To Make the Topping: Finely chop the pecans. In a bowl, whisk together the flour and sugars. Cut the margarine into 1/2-inch cubes, and with your fingers or a pastry blender blend into flour mixture until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Add the pecans and toss well.

Crumble topping in chunks over the filling. Bake crisp in upper third of oven until filling is bubbling and topping is crisp and golden, about 50 minutes.

Serve crisp warm or at room temp.

Serves 6 to 8.

Louise Fiszer is a California cooking teacher and food writer. Among the six books she's co-authored is Jewish Holiday Feasts.



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