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Food52’s New Classics for the Fourth of July

For children and adults alike, the highlight of Fourth of July parties often centers on what comes at the end of the night: fireworks. But who’s to say the food can’t be equally as exciting?

Beyond the opportunity to enjoy a cold cocktail with friends and family, July 4th offers a chance to shine at the grill and in the kitchen, to dazzle guests with a whole lot more than burgers, dogs and potato salad. Whether you're a novice party host or a seasoned professional, here are six fresh ideas for stretching your culinary chops beyond the basics and throwing your most impressive backyard shindig to date.

Recipe: Watermelonade

Photo by Sarah Shatz

When the weather gets hotter and the days get longer, we find ourselves reaching for one of two summer elixirs: watermelon or lemonade. Now you can have both at once -- enter our favorite summer drink: Watermelonade. This drink is just what it sounds like: strained and blended watermelon mixed with homemade lemonade. With just 3 ingredients -- ones you probably have on hand – you’re looking at the new queen of the refreshments table.

Recipe:  Mexican Street Fair Corn

Photo by thirschfeld

If corn on the cob at your house has only been acquainted with butter, it’s time to introduce a little south-of-the-border flair. Just grill the ears, brush them with mayonnaise, roll them in a mix of shredded hard cheese and minced fresh cilantro, then sprinkle with a chile-garlic powder blend. The hardest part will be resisting sinking your teeth in until you’ve had a chance to squeeze a bit of lime over the surface.

Recipe: Shrimp Burgers with Roasted Garlic-Orange Aioli

Photo by Sarah Shatz

In summer, we say the more burgers, the better. This one provides a spunky break from beef, pork, and turkey, opting instead for fresh shrimp dotted with confetti-like accents of red pepper, fennel fronds and orange zest. The accompanying aioli forgoes the wallop of raw garlic and lemon for the mellow, floral flavors of roasted garlic and orange, and cleverly uses the aioli not once but twice: to bind the shrimp patty and to layer on just before biting down. Note: For the aioli's flavors to fully develop, we recommend making it the day before and letting it hang out in the fridge overnight, tightly covered.

Recipe: Herbed Beef Skewers with Horseradish Cream

Photo by Sarah Shatz

These marinated sirloin roll-ups are tender and succulent, and the rosemary skewers make for a pretty sensational presentation. The horseradish cream is tangy and lush, with a dual zip from both pink peppercorns and the prepared horseradish. It's up to you and your taste buds, but we used the maximum amount of horseradish -- because that's how we roll.

Recipe: Summer Squash Couscous with Sultanas, Pistachios, and Mint

Photo by Sarah Shatz

This dish is well-balanced, with tart, sweet and savory flavors playing off each other with every bite -- not to mention the fact that it's beautiful to look at, studded with brightly colored chunks of squash, golden sultanas and green flecks of mint. The recipe instructs serving the couscous at room temperature, music to the ears of any party host looking for a low-maintenance dish to sub for the ubiquitous pasta salad.

Recipe: Mint Chocolate Harbor Bars

Photo by Melanie Einzig

Harbor Bars are enormous, chocolate-dipped ice cream sandwiches made with soft chocolate chip cookies. They're a Maine thing, and here's our attempt at recreating the illustrious cookie ‘wich -- using mint ice cream for an unexpected twist.

How will you reinvent summer classics for this year’s Fourth of July party? Share your comments below!