In Maryland, the Fourth of July is all about the food
By Andrew Michael Woods
Maryland’s Fourth of July celebrations are best experienced through the fog rising from mountains of crabs caked in Old Bay and the charred scent of meats and vegetables rolling from grills across the region. Cold beer and hot food define the day–ideally with a little music and lots of company. Fortunately, Marylanders have unique access to produce and critters that the rest of the country can only dream of.
I always start my planning at the Baltimore Farmers’ Market and Bazaar (http://www.promotionandarts.org/events-festivals/baltimore-farmers-market-bazaar) the Sunday before the holiday. I collect whatever looks best, but a few favorite recipes tend to guide my selections. I can never resist the shiny sweet, grass-scented corn, impossible spectrum of heirloom tomatoes, amethyst-tinted red onions, summer squash, perfectly ripe peas (there’s usually a line a mile long, don’t miss them!), peppery radishes, and tons of basil and parsley.
Sometimes the goat cheese from South Mountain Creamery (http://www.southmountaincreamery.com/) doesn’t even last until the day of the party. If you’re not in Baltimore, check out the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s Maryland’s Best program (http://marylandsbest.net) to find farms for local produce.
I like to get my crabs from one of our legendary crab houses. It’s well worth the trek to Monroe Street and W. Pratt to pick up your order from Sea Pride Crab House (410-624-3222), Bay Island Seafood (410-566-0200), or Best Crabs (410-400-9089), just to name a few. For steaks, burgers and hot dogs, try Roseda Farms (http://www.rosedabeef.com/) the go-to for many of the area’s finest restaurants. Pick up a few six-packs of cold Brewer’s Art Resurrection or Bird House or some Union Craft Duckpin – or any other Maryland beer for that matter, and get cooking!
Classic tomato, mozzarella, and basil takes on a Charm City twist with picked crab, lemon juice, and a sprinkle of Old Bay. Serve cold on a giant platter; you won’t need to worry about storing leftovers.
- 3 large tomatoes, sliced
- 20-30 large basil leaves
- 8 oz. South Mountain Creamery herbed goat cheese
- 8 oz. picked crab meat (about 6-8 crabs)
- 2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tbsp. DEVOO (Dimitri extra virgin olive oil, found at the farmers’ market!)
- 2 tsp. Old Bay or other crab seasoning, for sprinkling
On a large chilled platter, layer tomatoes with basil leaves and slices of cold goat cheese. Sprinkle with lemon juice and olive oil, crumble the crab on top and season with Old Bay.
Grilled Vegetable Pasta Salad
This is a celebration of local, seasonal produce. Use what looks and smells delicious; these are just my favorites. This cold salad is incredibly forgiving and effortlessly make-ahead. Make it your own!
- 2 zucchinis, sliced
- 2 gold bar squash or yellow summer squash, sliced
- 4 large ears sweet corn
- 2 medium red onions, cut into quarters
- 2 tomatoes, diced
- 6 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup chopped basil
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 lb. bowtie or corkscrew pasta, or other short pasta of your choice, cooked to al dente
Prepare the vegetables. Grill zucchini, squash, and onions for about 2 minutes per side. Set on a baking sheet and allow to come to room temperature. Cook the corn, and cool before slicing kernels off.
Chop the grilled vegetables and toss with the tomatoes and cheese. In a mason jar, add the garlic, herbs, vinegar, oil, and mustard. Cover. Shake vigorously until combined, and you’ll have made the easiest all-purpose vinaigrette around. Combine the vegetables, cheese, pasta, and dressing and allow to stand for an hour or so. You can chill it for a few days and serve it when you’re ready… or keep sneaking a snack and hope it lasts until your party!
London Broil Sliders
Pick up a London broil, also known as top round, a giant lean steak that will feed a crowd. Marinate the meat overnight for best results, and cook to medium rare. You will have more sandwiches than you think you need, but they’ll be a hit!
For the marinade:
- 1/2 cup dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp cracked black pepper
- One 5-lb London broil
- 12 slider rolls, warmed on the grill
Combine the seasonings for the marinade in a food processor until the consistency of a loose paste. Pour into a gallon freezer bag with the meat and allow to marinate for 2 hours to overnight.
Pre-heat a gas or charcoal grill or oven broiler to high for 10 minutes.
Grill or broil for roughly 8 minutes on one side, 7 on the other for medium rare. Make sure the meat isn’t too close the broiler in the oven and keep checking the meat so you don’t overcook. Allow to rest for 10 minutes under foil for even cooking. Slice thin, against the grain and serve on slider rolls with grilled vegetable pasta salad and Chesapeake caprese to the delight of your Independence Day crowd.
A native of Charleston, South Carolina, Andrew Michael Woods lived for a time in the south of France. He studied political science and law, and after working in public policy advocacy, turned his attention to cooking. He appeared on Season 6 of Fox’s MasterChef and participated in the CreateTV Cooking Challenge. He is the author of Join Me for Supper, a cookbook that features his favorite recipes from childhood. Find Andrew on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram: @woodscooks