JEFF TIEDEMAN: Watermelon healthiest food for Fourth of JulyIn a way, the Fourth of July is no different. But most foods are easier to prepare and you would be hard pressed to pick just one or two that epitomizes the day that Americans celebrate as Independence Day.
Every holiday has its traditional foods. Turkey and stuffing usually is associated with Thanksgiving. Many Easter dinners feature ham and hot-cross buns. Latkes (potato pancakes) and sephardi (jam-filled doughnuts) can be found during Hanukkah And let’s not forget corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day.
In a way, the Fourth of July is no different. But most foods are easier to prepare and you would be hard pressed to pick just one or two that epitomizes the day that Americans celebrate as Independence Day.
I can think of at least a dozen simple foods that you could find at the millions of backyard barbecues, cookouts and get-togethers that are taking place today.
First and foremost, everyone will have some sort of meat (hot dogs, burgers, chicken, ribs, etc.) — and maybe fish — could be found on the grill. Along with some baked (homemade) or cold (store-bought) beans, potato and pasta salads are popular, too.
Here are a few other foods you might find at Fourth of July celebrations:
• Kebabs: No matter if they’re all-meat, all-veggie or a mix of both, this is a great option.
• Chip and veggie dips: July 4 wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t have several potato chip dips to choose from. And salsa and tortilla chip also are a favorite.
• Pickles: More are eaten more July 4 than any other time of the year.
• Lemonade: This the No. 1 drink on the Fourth of July, followed by sweet tea and colas.
• Strawberry shortcake: This the No. 1 dessert that is traditionally served on July 4. (You can add blueberries to the red strawberries to make the dish “red, white and blue,” symbolic holiday colors.
• Homemade ice cream: After all, the month of July is National Ice Cream Month.
• And no Fourth of July get-together would be complete without my favorite — watermelon. (I used to love eating watermelon and spitting out the seeds.)
While it’s hard to improve on a simple chilled slice of ripe watermelon at the end of a picnic, other savory dishes such as watermelon gazpacho, watermelon salsas, and salads with feta cheese or cherry tomatoes would hit the spot.
Of all these Fourth of July foods, watermelon is perhaps the healthiest of the bunch. It is loaded with lycopene, the antioxidant that research suggests may help protect against cancer, heart disease and stroke. Research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests that watermelon contains 40 percent more lycopene by weight than tomatoes. (A 1-cup serving of watermelon contains about 9 milligrams of lycopene; a medium tomato contains 4 milligrams. And those stored at room temperature have the highest levels of lycopene, according to a 2006 USDA Agricultural Research Service study.)
Watermelons also are a good source of vitamins A, B6 and C, and they are 92 percent water, so they aid hydration on hot days like we’ve been experiencing lately.
And if this still seems like too much trouble or you have to work today, most supermarkets have just about everything you might need for a backyard picnic, including rotisserie chicken, which you could serve plain or with a prepared sauce, chutney or flavored mustard to accompany it; and deli potato salad, which could be doctored with some deli egg salad and fresh herbs to give it a homemade touch.
No matter if you’re preparing the food yourself or relying on your grocer, enjoy this year’s Fourth.
And remember, keep it simple.
,hr />Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at (701) 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at email@example.com.