Celebrate The Fourth With A Feast

IN THE KITCHEN

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Americans love to celebrate our nation's birthday. It's all about proclaiming our freedom with family, friends, summer fun and fabulous food. Whether the party takes place in the back yard, the park, by a lake or in a campground, traditional American favorites are sure to be on the menu.

Serve up more fun, less work and mouthwatering results with these easy recipes.

Start by taking advantage of the diamond of fruit -- fresh, sweet dark cherries -- during the peak of the season. Consider it nature's contribution to the party. Next, offer a surefire crowd pleaser: slow-roasted brisket. It's an old-time favorite that's sweeping the nation's eateries as one of this year's hottest trends.

Brisket With Cherry Barbecue Sauce is made in a slow cooker for slow-roasted flavor without fuss.

A salad, made from in-season vegetables, or roasted corn makes a simple side dish.

For a sparkling grand finale serve Star-Spangled Cherry Shortcake. Use either a large star cake pan or mini star pan for individual cakes. The shape sings "holiday." The taste calls for seconds.

It's a best-of-summer menu wrapped up for the season's best holiday.

Brisket With Cherry Barbecue Sauce

Preparation Time: 15 minutes. Cooking Time: 8 to 10 hours.

2 cups fresh sweet cherries, pitted

2 1/4 cups (18 ounces) bottled barbecue sauce

2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar

1/4 cup water

4 pounds fresh Certified Angus Beef® brisket

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine cherries, barbecue sauce and sugar in blender. Pour water into empty barbecue sauce bottle and shake; add to blender. Blend until smooth.

Place brisket in oval, 6-quart slow cooker, lean side down. Lightly rub salt and pepper into meat. Pour cherry barbecue sauce over brisket; cook on low 8 to 10 hours. Slice and serve with remaining sauce.

Option: Just before serving, place brisket under the broiler or on the grill to caramelize the sugars in the sauce.

Makes about 16 servings and 4 1/2 cups sauce.

Keep the party going by serving any leftover brisket in this tantalizing wrap. It's tempting and simple to make. Cherries, fresh spinach, sweet peppers and more mingle with the brisket releasing a festival of summer flavors.

Beef Wrap With Cherry Salsa

Preparation Time: 12 minutes. Cooking Time: 10 minutes.

4 large flour tortillas (flavored, if desired)

1 pound cooked Certified Angus Beef® brisket (left over from the Brisket with Cherry Barbecue Sauce), cut into thin strips

4 slices provolone cheese

1 cup fresh spinach leaves

Cherry Salsa (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wrap tortillas in a damp paper towel and foil; place in oven until warm, about 10 minutes. Heat brisket through in microwave or on stove.

To serve, place cheese, spinach and brisket in tortilla; top with Cherry Salsa. Roll tortilla; cut in half. Makes 4 servings.

Cherry Salsa

Preparation Time: 20 minutes. Chill Time: 1 hour.

1 cup fresh sweet cherries, pitted and halved

1 cup seeded, chopped yellow tomato

1/2 cup chopped sweet yellow onion

1 cup chopped yellow or red sweet pepper

1/2 cup canned crushed pineapple, drained

3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons kosher salt

Combine all ingredients; chill at least one hour. Makes about 3 1/4 cups.

Burger Bash

Burgers on the grill are a summertime staple, so invite friends and neighbors and fire up the grill! Offer tasty toppers for all to enjoy. Corn on the cob and watermelon wedges are the quintessential accompaniments.

Best Burgers

Total preparation and cooking time: 20 minutes.

1 1/2 pounds ground beef

Salt and pepper

4 hamburger buns, split

Lightly shape ground beef into four 3/4-inch-thick patties. (Keep patties refrigerated, covered, until time to grill. For transporting, place patties in cooler, covered, with frozen gel ice packs or ice, and keep cold until time to grill.)

Place patties on grid over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill, uncovered, 13 to 15 minutes to medium (160 degrees) doneness, until no longer pink in center and juices show no pink color, turning occasionally. Season with salt and pepper, as desired.

Serve burgers in buns. Top as desired (see below). Makes 4 servings

Cook's Tip: To melt cheese on patties, place a cheese slice on each patty 1 minute before patties are done.

Toppers:

Blue Moon: Crumbled blue cheese, sautéed mushrooms, lettuce leaves and sliced tomatoes; serve on onion bun.

Greek-style: Crumbled herbed feta cheese, sliced black olives and sliced onions; serve in pita bread pocket.

Trattoria-style: Mozzarella cheese, roasted red bell peppers and mayonnaise mixed with basil pesto; serve on focaccia bread.

Picnic in the Park

The park is perfect for large or small gatherings. Grilled flank steak is a great choice for a crowd of any size. Simply marinate and grill, then carve and serve with favorite sides and crusty bread.

Balsamic-Marinated Flank Steak

Total preparation and cooking time: 30 minutes. Marinating time: 6 hours to 24 hours.

1 beef flank steak (about 1 1/2 pounds)

Salt and pepper

Marinade:

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Combine marinade ingredients in small bowl. Place beef steak and marinade in food-safe plastic bag; turn steak to coat. Close bag securely and marinate in refrigerator 6 hours or as long as overnight, turning occasionally. (For transporting, place food-safe plastic bag containing beef and marinade in a container with a tight-fitting lid. Place container in cooler with frozen gel ice packs or ice and keep cold until time to grill.)

Remove steak from marinade; discard marinade. Place steak on grid over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill, uncovered, 17 to 21 minutes for medium rare to medium doneness, turning occasionally.

Season steak with salt and pepper, as desired. Carve steak crosswise into thin slices.

Makes 6 servings.

Recipes are from Family Features Inc. The following web sites are recommended for more festive feast ideas: www.wilton.com.; www.nwcherries.com; www.certifiedangusbeef.com; www.BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com.

To order a free grilling brochure, "1-2-3 Grill It! Beef," send a self-addressed, stamped, No. 10 business-size envelope to NCBA, Dept. FC-123, P.O. Box 670, Bloomingdale, IL 60108-0670.

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