Having company for the weekend is not such a big deal for Center Harbor resident Barbara Lauterbach. For starters, her home was the former B&B, Watch Hill, that she ran for 11 years. And besides having a history of making luscious breakfasts, Lauterbach is also a well-travelled foodie and the author of several cookbooks, including “Potato Salad,” published by Chronicle Books. So, friends and extended family are welcome on the Fourth; in fact it is an annual Lauterbach tradition to fill the white New Englander with food and laughter for a holiday gathering that is as American as it gets.
Red, white and blue are a theme that starts with the traditional white clapboard home, dressed in festive buntings.
Barbara and family dress the part, too. The gang includes Barbara’s son, Peter, and daughter, Lisa, their spouses and children. Peter’s childhood friend, Marty Kramer, makes the trip up from D.C. and Barbara’s good friend, Cindy Barnes from Virginia, makes the annual pilgrimage, too. Cindy was one of Barbara’s first guests when she first opened the B&B.
The menu on the Fourth is very simple and traditional and everyone pitches in. Barbara prepares one or two of her famous salads, and she and her companion Tom Wilson boil up lobsters for the lot. Daughter Lisa Laskin makes the same blueberry tart each year and daughter-in-law Lisa Lauterbach fries up battered zucchini blossoms, many of which are eaten straight from the paper bag they are draining on. It is as simple as that. There are a lot of meals to prepare for a weekend with guests and keeping it simple, but good, keeps everybody happy.
Earlier in the day Barbara made buffalo burgers seasoned with horseradish and a touch of Worcestershire sauce, plus a simple made-ahead pasta salad from her cookbook of 50 pasta salads.
The Lauterbachs have just one rule: No talking about the next meal until the present meal is finished. I guess that way there is more to talk about than food.
In between eating, the family walks down the block to join in the annual Center Harbor Fourth of July Parade. It’s the quintessential New England parade with fire trucks and kids in wagons and a spray of candy for anyone willing to scurry for it. It is over in 15 minutes and the group heads back to the house for backyard games or a dip in Lake Winnipesaukee.
Dinner has been in the works since the afternoon. Lisa Laskin has made the tart and Barbara the salads. The key is low and everyone seems to know their responsibilities. It’s part of the tradition, same menu, different year.
The lobsters get their boiling bath and are kept in a picnic cooler to stay hot until ready to serve. All dishes are served buffet style from the kitchen as the family gathers on the classic New England porch to sit down. Tables have been pushed together and covered with old copies of the local news. A lake breeze filters through the screens.
It’s time to eat, the glorious red lobsters are waiting. Pass the melted butter, please!
After dinner, as dusk approaches, Barbara’s generous backyard is alight with home fireworks, bottle rockets and sparklers. As dusk deepens, they all watch the town fireworks from the perfect vantage point of the front yard. Perfect, except that Tom forgot about the automatic sprinklers that come on each evening – the kids run for cover between bombs bursting in air. Now, that episode is part of the tradition, too.
The grandkids, Jake and Sam Lauterbach and Peter and Isabelle Laskin, are allowed to run through the morning sprinklers in their pajamas before breakfast. Sometimes traditions are planned, sometimes they just happen. NH
Barbara’s tips for family gatherings
Barbara likes to keep it simple when the family gathers at her Center Harbor home for the Fourth of July weekend. She offers basics like potato salad from her eponymous cookbook and classics such as deviled eggs and boiled lobsters.
Assign a large (16-ounce) plastic cup to each person. With an indelible marker, everyone writes their own name on their own cup, and it is theirs for the duration!
Have a large cooler of ice outside – this saves continual opening and closing of the refrigerator. (Buy a couple bags of ice at the supermarket early in the day.) Beverages (cans, bottles, etc.) can also be in this cooler, again saving constant trips.
Each family or group is assigned a corner for their “stuff.” It’s amazing how much stuff people with kids travel with, and keeping it in one area makes it easy to find that swimsuit, special toy or book, or stuffed animal.
Do as much ahead as you can, so you can enjoy your family and the festivities.
Make a meal plan ahead of time if it involves several days. Encourage contributions!
Barbara made 14 pans of these for the annual Center Harbor firefighter’s spaghetti dinner in thanks for thawing her home’s pipes one Christmas Eve.
4 unsweetened squares (4 ounces)
1/2 pound butter
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Melt together unsweetened chocolate and butter. Beat eggs, then beat in sugar until frothy. Combine with the chocolate and remaining brownie ingredients. Mix well and pour into a buttered 9″ x 12″ pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes. Cool on rack.
Make frosting by beating 2 tablespoons of butter with 1 1/4 cup of confectioner’s sugar sifted. Add 2 tablespoons of light cream and mix. Spread over brownies. Make icing by melting 2 squares of semi-sweet chocolate and 1 tablespoon of butter in small pan. With a whisk or fork and drizzle over brownies in a swirl or grid pattern.
Fabulous fourth salmon & potato salad
In New England salmon, peas and new potatoes make up the traditional Fourth of July meal. While making this dish with frozen peas is one option, the flavor and texture of just-shelled fresh peas can’t be beat.
Serves 8 to 10
2 pounds Red Bliss or red new potatoes
2 pounds salmon steaks, poached and flaked
1 cup shelled green peas
1/2 cup sliced radishes
4 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
Lettuce leaves, red-leaf or Bibb
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Cook the potatoes until fork tender. When cool enough to handle, peel if desired, then cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place the potato slices in a large bowl and set aside. In a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice, dill, shallot, salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in the oil until an emulsion forms. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the dressing over the warm potatoes and toss gently. Add frozen peas or briefly cooked fresh peas. Add the flaked salmon, peas, and radishes to the potatoes and toss again. Garnish with the hard-boiled eggs. Note: Add a bouquet garni and about 3/4 cup wine to the poaching water for the salmon for additional flavor.
Lisa’s Blueberry Tart is originally from Food & Wine Magazine.
1 1/4 cup whole almonds ( 1 1/2 ounces)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Unbaked tart shell (recipe on p. 96)
1 1/2 pints blueberries (4 cups)
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
Sweetened sour cream or vanilla ice cream, for serving
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a food processor combine the almonds, 2 tablespoons of the granulated sugar and the flour. Process until the almonds are finely ground. Sprinkle the mixture evenly into the tart shell. Spread the blueberries over the almond mixture. Sprinkle the berries with the remaining 1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar.
Place the tart on the bottom rack of the oven and reduce the temperature to 400 degrees. Bake for about 45 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
Before serving, lightly sift the confectioners’ sugar over the tart. Serve in wedges, accompanied with sweetened sour cream or vanilla ice cream.
Unbaked Tart Shell
It is difficult to make a butter pastry crust in the summer because the butter softens so quickly. To remedy this problem, keep a bag of flour in the freezer during hot weather. Cut the butter into small pieces and freeze it for