Independence Day doesn’t get any better, crazier, or more patriotic than the celebrations in downtown Huntington Beach – beginning with the Huntington Beach 4th of July Parade. Not what you would expect from a beach city known for its surf culture, yet the parade is in its 111th year, is the largest 4th of July parade west of the Mississippi, and is a long standing family-friendly tradition in Huntington, aka Surf City USA.
I’ve written about 4th of July in Huntington Beach before when I featured my friend Marina’s easy Crème Brûlée French Toast and Eggs Napolean that has earned her the “Hostess with the Mostest” designation among all her friends (Party for 200, No Problem). Both are easy “recipes” to prepare if you’re expecting a crowd and guaranteed to garner raves from your guests.
Living smack dab in the midst of the downtown party madness has its drawbacks – fireworks for days leading up to and after the 4th, no parking, loud inebriated people, scared doggie needing a sedative… but this happens everywhere on the 4th and overall, gatherings are family friendly, patios and yards decked out in red, white and blue, and fun times beginning with breakfast before the parade and continuing until the fireworks display at the pier.
Organizations from the army to the Shriners to Falun Dafa, Cub Scouts and Adventure Girls participate every year, marching bands from regional high schools and as far away as Minnesota proudly represent, and local businesses from Boeing to Hoag Hospital roll along the parade route in themed floats. My favorites are the vaqueros (cowboys originating from Spanish Mexico) with wide brimmed sombreros on their dancing horses, some exhibiting precision lasso skills, and the escaramuza (women) riding side saddle in their brightly colored traditional dress.
And, of course there are parties… and we do it right in Huntington Beach!
Parties, large and small, family and friends, some loud, some simply relaxing, line Main Street and the surrounding neighborhood where you’ll witness all kinds of fun and games, live bands, and some very serious corn hole, beer pong, and luge contests.
This is a luge in case you were wondering. I’m purely a spectator.
So what about the food? We don’t do the traditional hot dogs and hamburgers unless we have guests with children. Instead, I make a huge batch of pulled pork – begin with a bone-in pork butt roast, coat with a coffee and spice dry rub, sear the roast in a Dutch oven, transfer to the slow cooker, add a bottle of Guinness (a favorite porter or stout will work as well) and browned onions and garlic, and cook on low for 6 hours or so. Sometimes I finish it on the grill for more charred ends and smoky flavor. Serve with cole slaw, potato salad, and/or baked beans. To balance out the carbs, a vegetable crudité platter is welcome and provides something to munch on until the main attraction.
But, with heirloom tomatoes already appearing in the markets, I’d go with a simple Caprese Salad. For a party, a platter of heirloom tomatoes arranged on a bed of arugula with fresh mozzarella slices, topped with creamy, crunchy red walnuts, and drizzled with aged balsamic vinegar is pure summer goodness. There’s really no recipe, and no cooking – perfect for steamy days and when you would rather be spending your time enjoying the party.
- 1 large fresh tomato preferably heirloom
- 1 4 ounce ball of fresh mozzarella sliced
- 4 ounces arugula
- 1/2 cup red walnuts
- 1 tablespoon high quality Olive Oil
- Aged balsamic vinegar
On a plate or platter, scatter the arugula, arrange tomato and mozzarella slices on top. Drizzle with olive oil (and balsamic, if you choose) and sprinkle with red walnuts.
Currently, I’m obsessed with red walnuts and you can read more about them in my last recipe post: Farro and Apricot with Fresh Mozzarella and Red Walnuts. Do you see a pattern here? Nuts are also my go-to nutritious snack, but I love the crunchiness, added protein and nutrition that they bring to salads.
Credit: 4th of July photos by Harrison Sutcliffe Photography