Red, White & Light Recipes for a Fourth of July Picnic

Tres Leches Cake RecipeTime to get cooking! The Fourth of July is almost here which means it’s time to gather “Around the Table” to celebrate all things red, white and blue. Below you’ll find some “red, white and light” recipes for a family picnic or barbecue that are refreshing, cool and easy to make. Happy Fourth!

See also our reflection on America and our pictures of the U.S. from “sea to shining sea.”

Tres Leches

Tres Leches (Three Milk Cake) is a cake that is popular in the Latin American countries, predominantly Nicaragua, Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Guatemala.

According to some sources, its origins come from the British Trifle, the Italian Tiramisu and the Jamaican Rum Cake and so can be thought of as a melding of European, Latin and South American influences.

The three milks used in the cake are generally evaporated, condensed and heavy cream, although my recent dining experience in a Latin American restaurant served the most delicious Tres Leches which used evaporated, condensed and goat milk with a layer of whipped goat cheese in between the cakes. It was topped with smoked salt and served with a side of rhubarb puree – absolutely delicious!

Interestingly, it was also mentioned that the recipe for Tres Leches was found on the back of evaporated and condensed milk cans that were marketed to the Latin and South American countries in the 1940s.

Whatever its origins, I think it is a perfect summer dessert for a perfect summer evening with all of the comfort qualities it offers. Light, moist, cool and soothing, it can be topped with fresh blueberries, strawberries, raspberries or cherries.

Tres Leches Cake (taken from Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman)

1 cup All-purpose Flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
5 whole eggs
1 cup sugar, divided
1 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup milk
1 can evaporated milk
1 can sweetened, condensed milk
¼ cup heavy cream

Ingredients for the icing:
1 pint heavy cream, for whipping
3 tbsp. sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan liberally until coated.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Separate eggs.

Beat egg yolks with 3/4 cup sugar on high speed until yolks are pale yellow. Stir in milk and vanilla. Pour egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and stir very gently until combined.

Beat egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. With the mixer on, pour in remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until egg whites are stiff but not dry.

Fold egg white mixture into the batter very gently until just combined. Pour into prepared pan and spread to even out the surface.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Turn cake out onto a rimmed platter and allow to cool.

Combine condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream in a small pitcher. When cake is cool, pierce the surface with a fork several times. Slowly drizzle all but about 1 cup of the milk mixture—try to get as much around the edges of the cake as you can.

Allow the cake to absorb the milk mixture for 30 minutes. To ice the cake, whip 1 pint heavy cream with 3 tablespoons of sugar until thick and spreadable.
Spread over the surface of the cake. Decorate cake with whole or chopped maraschino cherries (we substituted fresh blueberries, strawberries and raspberries). Cut into squares and serve.

Bruschetta with Mascarpone Cheese

Bruschetta recipeIngredients:
1 loaf of really good ciabatta bread
3 medium-sized preferably farm fresh tomatoes
1 container of good quality Mascarpone (Italian cream cheese); we used Vermont Creamery
1-2 cloves of fresh garlic
1-2 tbsp. (or as more as desired) fresh basil
Lemon juice
Drizzle of olive oil
Kosher salt

Slice bread and place on baking sheet in 350 degree F oven and lightly toast on both sides. Remove from oven and rub garlic cloves on top of bread and then brush a mixture of olive oil and melted butter on each slice; return to oven just for a minute or two. Remove and place on serving tray. Dice tomatoes and place in medium sized bowl and toss with a light squeeze of lemon juice, a sprinkle of salt and pepper to taste and approximately 1-2 tablespoons of chopped basil. Combine well and place on serving tray with bread. Remove mascarpone from container and place in serving dish with tomatoes. Enjoy!

Melon Salsa

1/2 watermelon
1/2 cantaloupe
1/2 honeydew
1-2 tbsp. fresh Mint
Dash of cayenne pepper or 1 tsp. of diced fresh jalapeño pepper

Melon salsa recipe

Dice all melons and place in serving bowl. Combine with 1-2 tablespoons of fresh mint and a dash of cayenne pepper (or jalapeño). Add more or less of mint and pepper as desired. Place in refrigerator to chill for several hours.

Note: It is the thorough chilling of this dish that makes it so refreshing on a hot day.

Very Easy Ham Barbecue Sandwiches

Ham bbq sandwichIngredients:
1 pound of Boar’s Head or Krakus Polish Ham
1 bottle of Sweet Baby Ray’s Original Barbecue Sauce
Hamburger or sandwich buns from quality bakery

Slice ham into uniform 1-inch squares. Brown the ham on medium to high heat in large skillet in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter. Do in small batches at a time so that some of the pieces brown up a bit around the edges. When all of the ham has been browned, place back in skillet and add approximately 1/2 bottle of sauce and approximately 1/4 cup of water and let simmer on low for 20-30 minutes. Add more sauce and water (if it seems too dry) as needed. Serve on oven toasted buttered buns.

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