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Ramona King

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Try these 11 summer recipes to show off the red, white and blue

Beginning with Memorial Day and carrying through Labor Day, summertime seems to bring out the red, white and blue in all of us. Cooking dishes that highlight our nation’s colors can add an extra “wow” factor to your festivities, especially if your gatherings fall on Memorial Day or the Fourth of July.

Fortunately, much of summer’s seasonal produce bounty easily checks the red and white boxes. Blue? Well, you might need to be a little creative at times. Whether you’re celebrating a national holiday, feeling patriotic, or just enjoy the color scheme, here are some red, white and blue dishes guaranteed to impress your guests.


Summer Berry Crisp

While this color of this Summer treat will more closely resemble purple, this berry crisp is made with blueberries. Topped with either a dollop of fresh whipped cream of vanilla ice cream, this is the perfect treat to offer your guest celebrating the holiday weekend with you. 
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Anne Byrn's Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

For a sweeter option, it’s difficult to look past a cornerstone of Southern desserts: red velvet cake. Not naturally red, this chocolate cake from Anne Byrn owes its color to an ample dose of red food coloring. Buttermilk keeps the cake light and springy, and the true decadence arrives in the form of cream cheese frosting. Again, red and white in the same dish keeps you on the right track for a full patriotic spread. As a famous rotund singer once declared, “Two out of three ain’t bad.”
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Key Lime Mousse with Blackberry Compote

This tart and refreshing mousse pairs wonderfully with the sweet blackberry compote. Both components can be prepared and well in advance, making this an ideal dessert to serve for a crowd. Crème de cassis is a sweet, red liqueur made from blackcurrants and makes an appearance in this recipe. Eat responsibly. 
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Strawberry Poke Flag Cake

For a truly patriotic dessert, we love making this easy poke cake. Poke cake is a favorite Southern style of cake; if you're not familiar, it simply involves poking holes in a baked cake and then pouring a flavorful sauce on top. This sauce soaks deep into the cake, adding, often, color and tons of flavor to the cake. In this case, we're making our poke sauce from strawberry Jell-O to give it red coloring throughout the cake. Perfect for  Independence Day, this easy flag cake is short on work but big on flavor. Don't be afraid of all of the Jell-O and Cool Whip — it makes for an ultra-moist cake that'll stay that way for days.
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Carolina Gold Rice Pudding with Strawberries

Carolina Gold rice is a medium-grain, aromatic rice from the South Carolina Lowcountry. When stirred, it releases starch similarly to Arborio rice, which makes it a perfect substitute in risotto and rice pudding. While rice pudding is commonly served chilled, I highly recommend eating this one when warm, as the creamy, flowing texture of the rice is enhanced when still warm.
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Chilled Vidalia Onion and Potato Soup

Warmer weather frequently calls for cold dishes to help combat our oft-oppressing heat in the South. Try this regionalized take on a traditional French vichyssoise by substituting sweet Vidalia onions for the more typical leeks. Legendary Atlanta chef Gerry Klaskala utilizes a combination of chicken stock and cream to lighten the soup, then purées it until smooth and luscious. To make this soup feel more substantial, try garnishing it with grilled or pickled shrimp.
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Old-Fashioned Southern Vanilla Ice Cream

Want to try a dessert instead? Make simple vanilla ice cream from scratch. Rich vanilla ice cream is the perfect accompaniment to dishes like peach cobbler, or it can act as the centerpiece for a killer ice cream sundae. Make sure to control the heat when cooking the custard base, as scrambling the egg yolks would ruin the ice cream. When it comes time to spin and freeze the ice cream, you could always use a tabletop ice cream maker or a mixer attachment if you have one. Better still are the older machines with the hand crank, especially if you want your kids to work for their dessert.
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Strawberry Pretzel Salad

In 2018, surrounded by full plates of lettuce, it is hard for us to image that congealed sugar and flavoring could ever be considered as a salad. However, these dishes continue to be a mainstay of holiday meals, barbecues, showers and potlucks alike. We have the Jell-O corporation to personally thank for decades of congealed and molded fruits and sometimes vegetables.  With its many different variations, the strawberry pretzel salad seems to be among the most popular. The recipe is believed to have originated in the 1960s when the Joys of Jell-O cookbook was published. 
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Angel Berry Pie

Called angel pie, heavenly pie or the admittedly less seductive upside-down meringue pie, this dessert is simply a meringue base, filled with cream, fruit, curds and (occasionally) syrups. When it inevitably falls apart into a delicious jumble, it is almost an Eton Mess, or Lanton Mess, depending on what fruit is on top. What I've decided to call an angel pie is a secret weapon of bakers across the country, but especially in the South, a pantry-ingredient pie that looks like a celebration dessert and is just as good for breakfast as it is before your evening nightcap.
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Classic Grilled Cheeseburger

This is the trickiest color because there aren’t really any blue foods that occur in nature. While the exterior of a blueberry boasts a deep, dark blue hue, the berries immediately turn a reddish-purple color when smashed or cooked. Unless you want to order butterfly pea flower tea directly from Thailand (which will steep into something resembling 2000 Flushes), you might have to take some liberties in the blue department. For that, I recommend using a recipe that features blue cheese. Inoculated with Penicillium mold cultures, this blue-veined cheese plays nicely with many seasonal summer ingredients, including berries, peaches and tomatoes. Try this recipe for a classic cheeseburger; however, melt a creamy blue cheese atop the burger instead of the more common American or cheddar. Temper some of the funk with salty bacon, caramelized onions or earthy mushrooms.
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Proper Pepper Pimento Cheese Flag

Looking for a patriotic appetizer for Memorial Day? This unique pimento cheese and fruit flag is an easy and festive addition to the table, especially when using Georgia's own Proper Pepper Pimento Cheese. This easy appetizer may be scooped up with a firm cracker or assembled with a spreader. Top with pepper jelly or jam for an additional punch.
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Photo credit (Summer Berry Crisp): Maura Friedman
Photo credit (Carolina Gold Pudding with Strawberries, Rice Burger): Ramona King
Photo credit (Angel Berry Pie): Kate Williams


Author image

Chef Jeffrey Gardner is a native of Natchez, Miss., and a graduate of Millsaps College and Johnson & Wales University. He lives in Atlanta and has served as sous chef for popular restaurants South City Kitchen Midtown and Alma Cocina. In 2013 he became executive chef for East Cobb restaurant Common Quarter and was named one of ten “Next Generation of Chefs to Watch” by the Atlanta Business Chronicle. He has appeared on TV shows including Food Network’s Chopped and Cooking Channel’s How to Live to 100, and also filmed a series of healthy cooking videos with retired pro wrestler and fitness guru Diamond Dallas Page. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling the world with his wife Wendy, watching game shows and “spending all his money on Bruce Springsteen concerts.”

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