I look forward to celebrating the 4th of July with friends, lawn games, and the kind of foods I associate with the holiday — specifically burgers, potato salad and chocolate cake.

Tradition is great, but these days, lots of folk are trying to eat more plant-based foods and less sugar. Happily, you can do both without sacrificing flavor. 


Burgers really are the great American food, and they are just as diverse. You can throw just about anything inside a bun and credibly call it a burger. Most people are still looking for that beefy burger taste. But not everyone wants the beef.

Food scientists have been working to create plant-based burgers that can rival the juiciness and meaty flavor of a beef burger.

I picked up a Beyond Meat Burger (available in the frozen food section at Andy’s Market) to see if the pea-protein based burger was a reasonable facsimile of the real thing. The result, in the words of my carnivorous husband, was “surprisingly good.” By including a hefty amount of coconut oil, the burger has the fatty mouth feel of beef burger. Combined with the right condiments, it’s tasty and satisfying.

It did not, however, compare to the flavor of an umami-packed patty I made from fresh ground chuck and minced mushrooms. By switching out about 1/3 of the freshly ground beef with minced mushrooms, you add moisture and boost the beefy flavor of the meat without adding fat.

I’ve tried using minced, raw mushrooms, but my best results came from sautéing a mix of shiitake and button mushrooms, then mincing in a food processor, before mixing them into fresh ground, not too lean, beef.

No-mayo potato salad

A summery potato salad dressed with lemon and olive oil and lots of tender herbs such as mint or cilantro is a great accompaniment to burgers.

Simmer thin-skinned, unpeeled potatoes (such as Yukon Gold) until just tender (overcooking results in mushy potato salad).

When the drained potatoes are just cool enough to handle, cut into bite-sized chunks.

Toss with a dressing made with fresh lemon juice, olive oil and salt. Add a generous amount of chopped herbs and some sort of textural element (e.g., chopped celery, dill pickle, jalapeño, blanched green bean). Add whatever spice compliments the herbs you’ve chosen (I like Aleppo pepper or sumac with mint, and ground cumin with cilantro).

Serve at room temperature with a final squeeze of lemon juice and sprinkling of herbs.

Red, white and blue cake

For dessert, you can’t go wrong with chocolate cake, frosted with lightly sweetened whipped cream and decorated with blueberries and strawberries or raspberries.

Seek out a recipe for stabilized whipped cream — the key to preventing the cream from getting runny.

Finally, remember that it’s a participatory democracy we celebrate. Make sure everyone pitches in, and you’ll have a dandy celebration.