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Martha chose Independence Day for her first big party at Cantitoe Corners, the farm she restored outside New York City; guests came from up and down the street and beyond for an alfresco meal. Martha's French bulldog, Francesca, and her Friesian horses, Meindert and Rinze, posed with guests for a flag-waving picture straight out of an American history book.
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Icy drink in hand to offset the heat from the homemade grill (crafted for her by an Argentine polo player), Martha charred chicken wings and baby-back ribs in the center of the grill over hardwood charcoal, then moved them to the sides to keep them warm.
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Garden-fresh vegetables, including zucchini, yellow squash, celery root, carrots, fennel, and bell peppers, were prepared a day ahead; after herb oil was brushed over them, they needed just a short time on the grill to earn smoky flavor and enticing grill marks.
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The flesh of baked russet potatoes was mashed with broccoli, butter, and olive oil, and then spooned into the skins and baked a second time.
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Arrangements conjuring stunning fireworks punctuated the tables; the colors of agapanthus, allium, and globe thistle were the basis of the party's palette.
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Martha and guests, including Kids editorial director Jodi Levine (to Martha's left) and Decorating editorial director Kevin Sharkey (across from Martha); the tables were set with Wedgwood white bone china and modern French "ivory" flatware, and each was covered with lightweight blue fabric stamped with white stars from an early design of the American flag.
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A giant glass cylindrical container held more than enough Bing cherry mojitos for everyone; like other mojitos, these contained sparkling water for effervescence and lime juice but also included plump cherries and cherry vodka.
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Festive Hors d'Oeuvres
Martha drilled and painted wooden pieces to make flag holders; radishes are offered with ricotta dip, butter, and salt, plus ice to help keep them crisp.
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Even after they were grilled, the vegetables kept their clean, bright flavors; Martha liked the almost geometric look created by arranging them in sections on several platters rather than mixing them together.
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The cornbread -- which was adapted from Marion Cunningham's cornbread recipe, Martha's favorite -- was flecked with fresh corn kernels, crunchy at the edges, and (with cream poured over the center before baking) custardy in the middle; the salad was dressed with a lemony white wine vinaigrette and included just-picked baby lettuces, three types of beans, cherry tomatoes, and shaved carrots.
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Plates with a sampling from the buffet.
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The ribs and chicken wings were glazed with the same barbecue sauce; it had a dash of spice from garlic, ground coriander, chili powder, and cayenne pepper; tang from vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and Dijon mustard; and a hint of sweetness from dark-brown sugar and honey.
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Martha posed with her young friends (clockwise from top right): Sarah, Andrew, Isabella, Mikey, Alessandro, Jack, Sienna, Peter, and Mario.