(June 27, 2012)

What with our reliving the War of 1812 with special zeal this year because Baltimore is home to the "Star Spangled Banner," it's easy to come up with a theme for a seasonal dinner. Whether it be for Independence Day or Bastille Day (July 14), or simply to take advantage of the advertising blitz being mounted by Party City, red, white and blue is certainly the dining color scheme du jour.

This bill of fare, designed to feed eight (and probably a couple more), attempts to take full advantage of our nation's color scheme, not only in the table service we choose to use but, of course, in the food we put on those plates. We attempt to take full advantage of seasonal, regional foodstuffs for our patriotic dinner.

As always, we encourage you to invite good friends and when a couple of them say, "What can I bring," you can offer your guests one of the recipes provided here.

We begin our campaign with shrimp and crab salsa and nacho chips. Wash them down with ginger-lime cosmos, or simply provide a favorite local beer and a Maryland wine, something white, light, a bit on the crisp side.

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We march forward with grilled rib eye steaks, sided by a saute of peppers, onions, capers and herbs. Plus salt and pepper oven fries. You can add corn on the cob, if you like, and a tossed green salad, featuring juicy red tomatoes and a blue cheese dressing. A red Maryland wine will go nicely. Ditto, a local beer.

Dessert is a make-ahead — blueberry cheesecake bars. Simple, and a fitting thematic finale to your summertime-casual dinner.

Gingery cosmos

Cool and tangy, these make a pleasant foil for the crab nachos.

2 limes, quartered

3/4 cup sugar, divided

2 cups citrus-flavored vodka

1/2 cup fresh lime juice

3 tablespoons freshly grated (peeled) ginger

4 cups ice

8 lime slices

Run 1 lime quarter around the rim of a martini glass. Repeat with remaining lime quarters and seven more martini glasses. Place 1/2 cup of the sugar on a flat plate. Dip lime-rubbed martini glasses into sugar. Set aside.

In a cocktail shaker, combine lime quarters, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, vodka, lime juice and ginger. (You'll probably have to do this in a couple of batches.) Use a muddler or back of a wooden spoon to mash the mixture until lime wedges are crushed. Add ice and shake well. Strain mixture among prepared glasses. Garnish each with a lime slice. Makes 8 cosmos.

Shrimp 'n crab 'salsa'

You can make your own nacho chips, but there are so many good ones out there, just go ahead and buy 'em.

24 large shrimp (about 1 pound)