Sunday, July 5, 2015

On the Homefront: Softer Shades of Red, White, and Blue Table

Juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron
(from Birding Information)

Two days ago we got so much rain that a rather confused juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron spent part of the morning in our driveway under the mistaken impression that it was a river!  Early on the Fourth of July our rain continued, but by afternoon the sun was shining, just in time for a patriotic holiday celebration.  Naturally I had to set a red, white, and blue table, but instead of the usual bold colors of our flag, I decided to go with softer shades of sky blue, coral red, and creamy white.  The inspiration for this color scheme was two sets of salad/dessert plates from our local HomeGoods, one set bought last month and another set purchased several years ago.  Both feature a crab design, which is perfect for our annual Independence Day crab cake tradition.  The more recent purchase has a coral-colored crab on a cream background, while the older set has red crabs on a light blue background.  I also found some etched crab glassware at HomeGoods recently, so I think the crab theme was just meant to be this year!

Blue fabric place mat; cream-colored embossed shell-rimmed dinner plate (Coquille by Gibson) from Target ages ago; embossed crab salad plate (Seaworld by Maxcera) from HomeGoods last month; faux wood-handled flatware; fringed natural cotton napkin; blue crab ceramic napkin ring by a local artist; etched crab water glass from HomeGoods last month; blue glass goblet from Target many years ago; crab coaster found by my husband while traveling; natural woven table runner from Target several years ago.

A closer look at the crab salad plate atop the cream-colored dinner
plate with the embossed shell pattern on the rim.

We found a set of these ceramic crab napkin rings made by a local
artist at a town fundraiser.

My husband brought the crab coasters home after one of his frequent
trips, and they came in handy for the blue goblets.

One of the six etched crab glasses I recently found at HomeGoods.

The blue plates with red crab design by Dennis East will serve as
dessert plates.

I don't even remember where we got this little ceramic crab bowl
with serving spoon, but it will hold extra sauce for the crab cakes.

My husband found this long and narrow ceramic crab tray during
his travels, and it makes the perfect centerpiece with some white
tea lights and scattered pale blue glass beads.

A simple bouquet of daisy mums adds a summery touch to the head
of the table.  They sit in a ceramic bucket that matches the crab
dessert plates.

Tiny crab salt and pepper shakers.

Two crab wine bottle holders enthusiastically wave flags instead!

I kept the menu simple, since the crab cakes my brother in Baltimore sends us every Christmas are huge and very rich.  I bake them first, then quickly panfry them and serve them on spicy arugula topped with a simple combination of cocktail and tartar sauces (if you want to make your own crab cakes, try this recipe for Classic Maryland Crab Cakes).  A handful of Terra Chips and a quick tomato salad round out the meal, leaving plenty of room for a lattice-topped Georgia Peach Pie with vanilla ice cream.  The peaches this year are abundant and flavorful, so it was almost a shame to use them in a pie, but there are plenty more available for eating fresh so I don't feel too guilty!

Crab Cake Tradition Fourth of July Menu:

Maryland Crab Cakes on Fresh Arugula/
Cocktail-Tartar Sauce
Mixed Tomato Salad*
Terra Chips
Georgia Peach Pie**/Vanilla Ice Cream

(We dug into our salad before I could get a picture, but ours
was just as lovely as the one shown above.)

*Mixed Tomato Salad

16 oz. mixed heirloom tomatoes, cut into chunks
2 small red tomatoes, cut into chunks
1/2 small red onion, diced
1 T. olive oil
2 tsp. red wine or balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp. sugar
1/4 C. shredded basil leaves

Combine the tomatoes and onion in a salad bowl.  Toss with the oil, vinegar, and sugar.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside at room temperature for 20 minutes.  Just before serving, toss in the basil.  Serves 4.

Note: For a Caprese salad, add 8 oz. diced fresh mozzarella cheese with the basil.

**Georgia Peach Pie

pastry for double-crust pie (see Note)
8 peaches, peeled and sliced
1/4 C. sugar
1/4 C. flour
2 T. lemon juice
1 tsp. grated lemon peel
2 T. milk

Line the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan with half of the pastry, rolled out into a 12-inch circle, leaving a one-inch overhang.  Roll out the other half of the pastry into a 12-inch circle and cut into ten one-inch wide strips.

Combine the remaining ingredients except for the milk in a large bowl.  Pour into the lined pie pan.  Arrange the dough strips in a lattice pattern over the top of the filling (click here for instructions on how to make a lattice top pie, or watch the YouTube video below).  Trim the strips to match up with the bottom crust overhang.  Dampen the overhang lightly with water and bring up over the ends of the strips to the top edge of the pie pan.  Seal and flute the edges.  Brush the lattice strips and crust edge with the milk.  Bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes, until the filling is bubbling and the crust is golden brown.  Serves 8.

Note: You can use a store-bought crust (as I did), but the original recipe includes instructions for making a homemade butter crust.  To do so, combine 2 C. flour with 1/4 tsp. salt in a large bowl.  With a pastry blender or two butter knives, cut in 3/4 C. cold butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Sprinkle 5-6 T. ice cold water, 1 T. at a time, over the flour mixture, tossing with a fork to blend lightly and evenly.  When the mixture forms a ball, knead gently 2-3 times.  Divide the dough in half.  On a lightly floured surface, roll one half into a 12-inch circle for the bottom crust.  Roll the other half into another 12-inch circle to cut into the top lattice strips.  This YouTube video gives instructions on creating a lattice-topped pie:

Pie-Making Tips: My peaches were small, so I used ten instead of eight.  I reduced the amount of sugar in the original recipe by half because the peaches I used were so tasty.  Feel free to use your own best judgment on sweetening your fruit.  I also set the filling in a fine-mesh colander for a while to drain off some of the excessive liquid from the extremely juicy peaches, and you may decide to do the same.  Actually, if you are smart and don't forget like I did, you can do this with just the sliced peaches before adding the rest of the ingredients, and you can save the juice to drink later!  This step will lessen the chances of a soggy bottom pie crust.  My oven tends to run hot, so for pie baking I rely on silicone pie crust shields to keep the crust edge from burning.  I have two different types, one similar to this one and the other just like the one listed here.  Both work well, but of course the second one is adjustable and will fit different-sized pie plates.


Two types of candy are on the table for the Fourth of July.  A ceramic crab bowl holds red Cherry Sours at one end of the table.  At the other end, the two extra etched crab glasses are filled with Lindt Lindor Stracciatella Truffles:

Even the credenza is decked out for the holiday celebration:

Dalmatians Star and Stripe make a return appearance for their
favorite holiday!

A chip and dip platter matching the blue crab plates serves as
a decorative focal point on the credenza.

A small white canapé plate in the shape of a crab (Incanto Mare by Vietri)
is used as a candleholder.

Dalmatian Glory returns as well, displaying her flag proudly.

I hope everyone had a safe and fun-filled Fourth of July!

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