one summer picnic

August 4, 2008


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This weekend was merry. How merry? Most of us were drunk on red wine by 2pm, took naps on deep couches, and enjoyed long swims and a fire pit at the end of the evening. There was also a massive thunderstorm Saturday afternoon, lots of wind to clear it away and strong, if intermittent sunshine. The get-together was inspired by a birthday and several picnics ensued—made with variations on key summer staples: corn, pesto, watermelon, tomatoes, and the ever-seasonal hot dog and hamburger. This week' s posts will chronicle every dish, beginning with those served at dinner on Saturday evening. There were upwards of ten hands busy in the kitchen pre-meal and work was done in an hour or less. We had time to chop, puree sautée and swim before the plates hit the picnic table. We fed about 15 with minimal effort and time. There' s really nothing more fun than cooking with a bunch of friends and eating together—especially when things culminate with a campfire and s' mores (though ours were roasted over an oven-burner, for fear of the noxious Duralog). Lots of these items have been explained before, in which case, click the hyperlink for a full recipe. Or just make your own version using the ingredient list as a blueprint. These are great semi-arranged/ semi-cooked items that will please meat eaters and veggie averse alike, despite the abundance of light, vegetarian options.

On the menu:

Caprese Salad * Pico de Gallo, Mango Salsa and Guacamole *
Corn salad with basil and lemon zested sea salt * Tortellini with pesto and fresh basil * Roasted asparagus with Parmesan cheese * Greek salad *Hot dogs and sausages *
Lemon Squares with blueberries

Anabelle (and Benny’s paw) Caprese Salad:

3 large tomatoes
2 large balls mozzarella
fresh basil
sea salt, fresh pepper and olive oil
Slice tomatoes and cheese into similar-sized discs and layer on a platter. * Place a large leaf of basil between each slice. * Drizzle with your best olive oil, a sprinkling of sea salt and serve. (Can be made a few hours in advance and kept covered in the fridge.)

Lisa’s Pico de Gallo, Mango Salsa and Guacamole:

You can also puree the mango long enough to make it smoother—though I prefer the salsa with chunks of fruit. Serve with white and blue corn chips.

Corn Salad with basil and lemon zested sea salt:

This is a variation on the corn salad with cilantro I made recently. Simply slice kernels from a raw ear (approximately 1 ear per person) and sautee with butter. Be sure to heat the skillet before adding butter to prevent it from burning. Add about 1 tbsp for every 2 ears you prepare. If you need to add more while cooking, push the corn to one side of the pan and put the butter on the naked skillet. As it melts, tilt the pan so that it pours into the kernels. Add chopped basil and sea salt mixed with lemon zest to finish. (This stays warm covered with foil and can sit up to 15 minutes.)

Emily’s Tortellini with pesto and fresh basil

For the Pesto…
2 large bunches of fresh basil, stems removed
½ c parsley, stems removed
½ c pine nuts
½ c grated, fresh Parmesan
½ c olive oil
4 cloves of roasted or sautéed garlic

2 tbsp lemon salt and pepper to taste

Blend it! (add an anchovy or two for a more savory hint. I don' t know how to make fresh pasta. Yet. And Emily didn’t have time on her birthday. * Boil water in large stockpot. Add 2 large bags of high-quality (as fresh as possible) cheese-filled tortellini. * Cook * Drain and let cool a bit before returning to pot. * Cover with pesto and 1 bunch of fresh basil—chopped, but not too small.

Louisa’s Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan Cheese:

Cut ends off of 2 bunches asparagus * Roast in pan with olive oil, lemon juice and sea salt (enough to cover): cook at 350 for about 17 minutes of until stalks are slightly shriveled and roasting—not so long that they turn brownish chartreuse. (If this happens, grate extra Parmesan on top. A trick that works for many an overcooked item.)

Everybody’s Greek Salad:

Double or triple or quadruple it. Good luck finding a large enough bowl.

John’s Hot Dogs and Sausages:

Grill whatever hot dogs and sausages you like—we went with some apple smoked chicken sausages and some high quality, locally packed piggie dogs. * Serve with sauerkraut, mustard and catsup. * Throw on some pico de gallo, guac or mango salsa if you so choose: that is what John did. He was also in charge of grilling these dogs to perfection. As he was taking various orders, the Zen master among us begged, “Make me one with everything.”

Steph GT’s Lemon Squares:

I found a great recipe I will post on tomorrow, inspired by a pair of lemon-lusting lips. Serve these with blueberries and store in the fridge. * Re-dust with confectioner' s sugar just before serving.

We also had a watermelon, courtesy of Anne and Nick. Chop and serve.

Still to come: Danny’s s’mores and Patrick’s knife skills.

NB: Cooks named are not responsible for the recipes herein. If they don’t turn out, blame me.

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