“There are few things so pleasant as a picnic eaten in perfect comfort.” — W. Somerset Maugham
Memorial Day heralds the beginning of picnic and barbecue season. What a glorious time to enjoy a respite under a magnificent tree, or spread a blanket on a sandy beach, brisk ocean breezes sharpening the appetite. Firing up a grill fills the air with the promise of delicious delights. Even a quick sandwich, eaten outdoors on a park bench, tastes so much better during the bright and beautiful days of late spring.
Conscious cooking takes on a new vibrancy as the days grow warmer and longer. The weeks to come will bring perfect produce, including fresh spring asparagus, baby lettuces, fragrant herbs, rosy rhubarb with its tantalizing sweet and tart flavor profile, and ever so succulent strawberries. These sensational, seasonal ingredients can be transformed into perfect picnic dishes.
Simplicity is key for picnicking. Lightly grilled, steamed or roasted asparagus spears spritzed with fresh lemon juice and parmesan cheese shavings is a light and lovely outdoor hors d’oeuvre that packs easily. Rhubarb can be cooked down with just a bit of brown sugar and vanilla in a saucepan on medium low heat to create a compelling compote. Layer this lusciousness in little glass jars with vanilla yogurt and crumbled granola for a perfect picnic parfait. Dip strawberries or crisp little cookies into that same rhubarb compote, and feed your picnic partner a sweet treat.
Fresh herbs perk up picnic recipes. Use chives to add a slightly sharp bite to potato or egg salads, or salad dressings. Poached salmon and dill sauce is an elegant picnic entrée. Cilantro will elevate any Asian noodle dish and parsley’s snappy tang is just the right addition to tabbouleh or other grain salads. A super simple and classic combination, fresh basil and tomatoes are always a perfect picnic salad.
Add Mediterranean flair to your barbecue menu by marinating lamb or beef with fresh rosemary, olive oil and garlic. The woody stalks of rosemary also make great skewers, infusing meat, fish and vegetables with a serious herbal essence.
Keep plenty of supplies on hand for impromptu picnicking. Stash a small roll of garbage bags, hand wipes, salt and pepper shakers, a small cutting board and knife, bug spray and a blanket in your basket. Just add food and drink and you will be ready to enjoy the pleasant pastime of picnicking on a moment’s notice.
What better way to prepare a delicious life!
Grilled Vegetable Picnic Antipasto
2 medium size eggplant
1 medium zucchini
1 medium summer squash
1 pound fresh asparagus (thickest spears you can find)
3-4 red or yellow peppers
2 large sweet onions
1 bunch each parsley, dill, basil and cilantro (washed and chopped fine)
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
One 8 oz. log fresh mozzarella
Wash and trim all vegetables. Cut eggplant, squashes, peppers and onions into thick slices. Snap ends off asparagus. Place vegetables in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to lightly coat. Season with salt and pepper. Meanwhile prepare a medium hot fire in a grill and be sure the grill rack is clean and well oiled. Grill vegetables 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until just beginning to soften. Remove from grill and place in your picnic container. Slice the log of mozzarella and place on top of the vegetables. Drizzle with more olive oil, season with salt and pepper and scatter all the chopped herbs over the top.
For more information on Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, “The Conscious Cook,” go to www.theconsciouscook.net.