Fireworks on the Levee: A Baton Rouge Tradition

Independence Day is one of my favorite holidays. Growing up, we would celebrate the 4th of July with friends and family, cooking out, soaking up the sun, and of course, setting off fireworks.  My dad would take my brother and me early in the morning to one of those massive firework dealers that seem to spring up overnight around New Year’s Eve and the Fourth, and we would buy an obscene amount of sparklers, roman candles, bottle rockets, and the like. Everyone would gather around after the day’s festivities to ooh and ahh at our firework displays that night, while our miniature schnauzers cowered inside and howled.

Upon moving to Baton Rouge, we discovered the Baton Rouge tradition of watching the Fourth of July fireworks from the banks of the Mississippi River. People arrive downtown early in the morning to claim their spot on the levee and spend the remainder of the day enjoying the nearby festivities, such as the USS KIDD’s July 4th Spectacular or the LSU Museum of Art’s 4th of July Celebration at the Shaw Center, complete with a DJ, cash bar, hotdogs, and jambalaya from Capital City Grill (check out these events and more at Visit Baton Rouge). The fun-filled day culminates with a spectacular fireworks show at 9 pm, sponsored by WBRZ 2 and the USS KIDD. This year, leave the fireworks displays to the pros and come and join us on the levee! You will be  part of a Baton Rouge tradition to remember, and, more importantly, our schnauzers will thank you.

Corn and Black Bean Salad, Warm Welcomes – RRR IV

Of course, no Fourth of July celebration would be complete without a fabulous meal. Warm Welcomes – River Road Recipes IV, features an entire suggested menu to enjoy while watching the fireworks on the levee. One of my favorites from this menu is the Corn and Black Bean Salad, found on page 229. It is cool, colorful, and flavorful, with just the right amount of kick from the jalapenos and spicy cilantro dressing.

The bright, fresh summer vegetables featured in this salad add the perfect pop of color to your 4th of July menu. Photo by Lauren De Witt.

The bright, fresh summer vegetables featured in this salad add the perfect pop of color to your 4th of July menu. Photo by Lauren De Witt.

Spicy Cilantro Dressing

  • 1/2 cup corn oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder

Salad

  • 2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15-ounce) cans whole kernel corn, drained
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 1/2 red bell peppers, finely chopped
  • 1 cup diagonally sliced green onions
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • 2 jalapeno chiles, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 garlic cloves, minced
Corn and Black Bean Salad. Photo by Lauren De Witt.

Corn and Black Bean Salad. Photo by Lauren De Witt.

For the dressing, combine the corn oil, vinegar, cilantro, lemon juice, hot pepper sauce, and chili powder in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and seal tightly. Shake to mix.

For the salad, combine the beans, corn, tomatoes, bell peppers, green onions, red onion, jalapeno chiles, and garlic in a bowl and mix gently. Add the dressing and toss to coat. Chill, covered, for 6 to 10 hours. Spoon into a salad bowl and garnish with sprigs of cilantro and/or red onion wedges.

Serves 8.

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