By Beverly Barbour
Good pickin's at a picnic
Yup, it is true. Picnics are more trouble than eating at home. But, you have to have at least one picnic per summer just to prove it's summer, even if you go on one alone. M.F.K. Fisher wrote about her grandmother packing a lunch for the two of them to take walking so that they could have a picnic. The high point of the story was the frying of two eggs in butter and then sandwiching the hot, buttery eggs between slices of buttered bread. (Maybe with a little catsup?) At any rate, picnics have come a long way since she was a girl.
Even a cold, fried egg sandwich on soggy bread would taste good if you brought some of this summer salsa along.
ROASTED TOMATO AND BELL PEPPER SALSA
You don't need to peel the bell pepper for this quick 15 minute recipe.
4 plum tomatoes (1 1/2 lbs.)
Preheat broiler. In a shallow pan, toss tomatoes, bell pepper, onion and garlic with olive oil. Broil about 4-inches from heat, turning occasionally, until lightly charred on all sides, about 10 minutes. Cool 10 minutes. Peel garlic and puree in a blender with broiled vegetables and remaining ingredients. Puree until smooth. Makes 2 1/4 cups.
POTATO SALAD WITH GREEN BEANS OR ASPARAGUS OR SNAP PEAS
Take the salad to the picnic in a large bowl with a lid; pack the bacon and cheese toppings separately. Combine just before serving.
Dressing: Blend olive oil, cider vinegar, brown mustard, cloves and anchovey paste in processor or blender until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Cook green vegetable until crisp-tender. Transfer to ice water and chill. Cut into 2-inch lengths. At the same time cook potatoes until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and cool. Peel potatoes; cut lengthwise in half and then crosswise into 1/3-inch thick slices.
Salad: Gently toss together the potatoes, beans, scallion rings, half of the bacon, and 1/4 cup of cheese. Pour half a cup of the dressing over all and toss just to mix. Season with salt and pepper. This much can be done ahead. Just before serving sprinkle salad with remaining bacon and grated Parmesan cheese. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
BUTTERMILK FRIED CHICKEN
Separate layers of friend chicken with paper towels when you pack for the picnic.
2 chickens, each cut into 8 pieces
Combine chicken pieces and the buttermilk in large bowl. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or as long as a day. Thoroughly combine flour, salt, pepper and cayenne. Piece by piece lift chicken from buttermilk and roll in flour mixture to coat well. Place on waxed paper. Place a cooling rack over a sheet pan while heating oil to 325°F. Working in batches, add 4 chicken pieces to hot oil and fry until brown and cooked through, this takes about 12 to 15 minutes per batch. Transfer cooked chicken to rack and drain. Sprinkle very generously sprinkle with more salt and pepper. When cool pack your container. This can be made 4 hours ahead and refrigerated until you leave. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
SOUTHWESTERN CORN AND RADISH SALAD
This keeps for a day or two and is delicious served with almost anything your picnic basket has to offer. Much easier to carry, serve and eat than a leafy salad.
4 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (figure 1 cup for corncob)
Combine all ingredients and season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate for up to 48 hours, but bring to room temperature before serving. Makes 6 servings. * Chili powder or hot sauce can be substituted. Warm the tongue as much or as little as you like.
FRESH FRUIT WITH ROSEWATER AND MINT
Leave the pieces large enough to pick up with your fingers. If you don't have a source of rosewater borrow a little from a friend whose heritage is Middle Eastern, or sprinkle the fruits with lemon or lime juice, or use both.
1 fresh pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into bite-size pieces
Arrange fruit on a platter and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Sprinkle with a little lemon or lime juice, then with a little rosewater, then garnish with mint. Makes 6 servings.
PACKUP, PICKUP AND HIT THE TRAIL... OR THE PATIO