Grown up picnic food

Typically there are fireworks in our neighborhood the weekend before the Fourth put on by a local nursing home.  They didn’t do it this year and when I told my daughter, she started to cry.  Obviously we needed another plan.  I bought tickets for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra fireworks at Oregon Ridge and we are going with our friends and taking a picnic.  It’s going to be hot so I wanted cool things.  Christie is making her wonderful ceviche which has been blogged previously.  I made vodka cherry tomatoes, cucumber cups with crab salad, tuna tartar, deviled eggs and Parmesan crackers.  Here are the recipes:

Vodka spiked cherry tomatoes

  • 2 pts cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup good vodka
  • 3 TB white wine vinegar
  • 1 TB sugar
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • kosher salt and coarsely ground pepper
Make an x at stem end of each tomato.  Dunk in boiling water for about 20 seconds and then in ice water.  Remove peels.  Combine vodka, vinegar, sugar and lemon zest and soak tomatoes in vodka mixture.  Combine salt and pepper in a shallow dish.  Serve tomatoes with toothpicks – spear the tomato and then dip in the salt, pepper mixture.  For an indoor party, these look pretty in a glass trifle bowl – for a picnic transport in any plastic container.
Deviled eggs
Classic picnic food – not the easiest to transport but worth the trouble.
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
Place eggs in a pot just big enough to hold them and add water to cover.  Bring to a rapid boil, reduce heat to just simmering and cover for 17 minutes.  Remove from heat and add cold water and ice cubes to stop cooking.  Chill eggs in refrigerator.  Peel eggs and cut in half.  Put yolks in a bowl and mash with a fork.  Add Worcestershire sauce, mustard, paprika and mayonnaise.  Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.  Fill egg whites with filling and top with additional paprika.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  (My daughter loves the filling – not surprising given that when I make her poached eggs she only eats the yolks.  She is spreading the extra filling on pretzels – it’s pretty good.)
Tuna Tartar
  • 1 lb fresh tuna, chopped finely
  • 4 TB olive oil
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 tsp wasabi powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 5 dashes Tabasco sauce
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 2 scallions, minced
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper with seeds removed, minced
  • 1 1/2 avocados, chopped

Place tuna in a bowl.  Whisk together olive oil, lime zest, lime juice, wasabi, soy sauce, Tabasco, salt and pepper.  Pour over tuna.   Stir in  scallions, jalapeno and avocado.  Refrigerate for a few hours until ready to serve.  This is really good on sesame crackers and I found some with lime.   (You can also eat it with a fork!)  🙂

Cheese crackers
I wasn’t going to make these but I was in the garden picking herbs for dinner and I smelled the rosemary and I thought it would be a good addition to the cheese crackers that I make.  I was right.
  • 1 1/4 cups freshly grated cheese (I used half Parmesan and half Romano)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 TB fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 stick butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine cheese with salt and pepper and rosemary in a mixer.  Add butter and beat to combine.  Add flour in 3 batches combining until mixture holds together.  Roll into balls (about 1 TB in size) and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment.  Flatten slightly.  Bake about 14 – 16 minutes until edges are browned.  Remove from oven and let cool.

Crab salad in cucumber cups

  • 2 cucumbers, cut into slices about 3/4 inch
  • 1/2 pound of crabmeat (leftover after my seafood salad last night)
  • 2 TB mayonnaise
  • 1 TB lemon juice
  • 1 stalk celery, minced
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Scoop center out of cucumber slices with a spoon.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Gently combine crabmeat with mayo, lemon juice, celery and Worcestershire.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  When ready to serve, mound about 2 tsp of crab salad in cucumber cup and eat.  These will be very refreshing at our picnic.

When we were talking about the picnic, Kevin said that when he was a kid they always had gingersnaps (or ginger cookies) with strawberry cream cheese and he wanted ginger cookies with something.  I am a big fan of Laurie Colwin’s food essays and remember her writing about a gingerbread cake with chocolate icing.  I also thought about lemon with the ginger flavor.  I made a batch of icing – 1/2 chocolate and 1/2 lemon.  I bought a package of Anna’s ginger thins and a package of Otterbein’s ginger cookies (not realizing that they are cut into shapes – trucks, people, etc. which made it a little harder to make sandwiches).  I spread the Anna’s cookies with chocolate icing and sandwiched them together and the Otterbein’s with lemon icing.  I froze them in bags.  I think they are going to be popular.

Icing for cookie sandwiches

  • 1 stick butter softened
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

Combine together with a mixer.  Split in half.  For chocolate add 4 TB of unsweetened cocoa powder and 1 tsp milk.  Beat until spreadable.  For lemon add juice and zest of 1 lemon and beat until spreadable.  Spread on ginger cookies and sandwich together.

Summer entertaining

My daughter has a fall birthday so she is going to do a pre-first year before starting First Grade.  It turns out that none of the other kids from her section of kindergarten are going to Pre-First – they are all going on to First Grade.  Her class won’t be very big and we wanted to start giving the kids a chance to get together so we’re hosting some families tonight.  Samantha is referring to it as our party with new friends!

It is summer time and this is a family event so we want it to be casual and easy.  The horrible heat wave from earlier in the week has eased and although it’s still hot, it isn’t as humid so the kids should be able to run around outside.  We’re going with classic cookout food and I’ve been very mature about letting go of my normal control freak need to do everything (in my opinion!)  One of the families is bringing an appetizer and someone else is bringing dessert.  Here is the menu we’re supplying:

  • Grilled hamburgers and grilled chicken breasts with hamburger buns, cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion, etc.  (In addition to ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise, I’m going to put out some chipotle mayonnaise
  • Deviled eggs
  • Potato salad
  • green salad

I’m marinating the chicken in a mix of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and herbs.  Here are the recipes for the deviled eggs (which Samantha already helped me make) and the potato salad:

Deviled eggs
It doesn’t matter how many deviled eggs I make, I don’t think I have ever had leftovers.  Typically you’ll hear people say “I haven’t had deviled eggs in ages” as they pop them in their mouths!
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
Place eggs in a pot just big enough to hold them and add water to cover.  Bring to a rapid boil, reduce heat to just simmering and cover for 17 minutes.  Remove from heat and add cold water and ice cubes to stop cooking.  Chill eggs in refrigerator.  Peel eggs and cut in half.  Put yolks in a bowl and mash with a fork.  Add Worcestershire sauce, mustard, paprika and mayonnaise.  Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.  Fill egg whites with filling and top with additional paprika.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  NOTE: For fancy parties, a small bit of caviar can be added to tops of deviled eggs.
Potato Salad
There are lots of recipes for potato salad and I like most of them but once I discovered this one, it is my default.
  • Red potatoes, 3 pounds
  • scallions, 1 bunch thinly sliced
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • freshly ground pepper
Boil potatoes until tender.  Let cool until you can handle and then chop potatoes.  Combine mayonnaise and lemon juice (adjust to your taste) and toss over potatoes.  Add sliced scallions and pepper.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Picnic side dishes

We are hosting my daughter’s class picnic today.  We’re supplying sandwiches for the grownups and people are bringing side dishes.  Since I can tend to be a little bit of a control freak, it is hard for me to do this but it is nice that people want to contribute.  It is the time of year when there are lots of events and you  might have an opportunity to sign up for something.  Here are a few of my favorite things to bring to a picnic (or what I would make if I was doing the menu myself).

Fruit salad basket

Carving a watermelon into a basket makes a great container for fruit salad and it looks like it is a lot harder than it actually is.  Place the watermelon on its flattest side.  You’ll want about a two inch “handle” for your basket so start about 1 inch to right of center and make a straight slice about 1/2 way down the melon.  Repeat about 1 inch left of center.  From the right side, slice the melon horizontally towards the handle slice and remove the section.  Repeat on left side.  Carve out watermelon flesh from handle, leaving rind.  Scoop watermelon flesh from “basket” and use a melon baller to turn watermelon flesh into balls.  Combine watermelon with balls of honeydew, cantaloupe and sliced strawberries or fruit of your choice.  Serve fruit in basket.

Pasta salad

I have made this numerous times and people always ask for the recipe.  They are shocked when I give it to them because they think it is more homemade than it is.  This is a great last minute summer side dish and is easily doubled, tripled or even quadrupled.

  • 1 package fusilli pasta
  • 1 package Good Seasons Italian dressing mix prepared according to package instructions
  • 1 TB capers
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Cook pasta according to package instructions.  Drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking.  Toss to remove water and then toss with salad dressing.  Add capers and Parmesan cheese.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Toss again before serving.  You could add sliced cherry tomatoes and any blanched vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower would be good) to this salad if you like.
Deviled eggs
It doesn’t matter how many deviled eggs I make, I don’t think I have ever had leftovers.  Typically you’ll hear people say “I haven’t had deviled eggs in ages” as they pop them in their mouths!
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
Place eggs in a pot just big enough to hold them and add water to cover.  Bring to a rapid boil, reduce heat to just simmering and cover for 17 minutes.  Remove from heat and add cold water and ice cubes to stop cooking.  Chill eggs in refrigerator.  Peel eggs and cut in half.  Put yolks in a bowl and mash with a fork.  Add Worcestershire sauce, mustard, paprika and mayonnaise.  Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.  Fill egg whites with filling and top with additional paprika.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  NOTE: For fancy parties, a small bit of caviar can be added to tops of deviled eggs.
Potato Salad
There are lots of recipes for potato salad and I like most of them but once I discovered this one, it is my default.
  • Red potatoes, 3 pounds
  • scallions, 1 bunch thinly sliced
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • freshly ground pepper
Boil potatoes until tender.  Let cool until you can handle and then chop potatoes.  Combine mayonnaise and lemon juice (adjust to your taste) and toss over potatoes.  Add sliced scallions and pepper.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Brownies
Brownies are a great thing to bring to picnics because they are easy to eat.  These are always a hit.
  • 4 squares unsweetened baking chocolate (I use Baker’s)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 350.  Melt chocolate with sugar and butter, stirring regularly.  Remove from heat and let cool for 5 – 10 minutes.  Stir in eggs, flour and vanilla.  Pour into a rectangular baking pan and bake for 22 minutes.  Remove from oven and let sit.  Cut into squares.  (For easy cleanup, line your pan with parchment paper  -you can lift the parchment out and cut the brownies and put the pan away.)
Bring any of these along and you will be a very popular picnic guest!