As the sun starts hanging around later and later, cheering up everyone from a longer-than-usual winter hibernation, we sometimes get that hankerin’. And just as barbecue season kicked off with the Memorial Day holiday, there’s another food-based season primed and ready.
“Hey Boo Boo! Let’s go to the park and get us some pick-a-nick baskets!” as Yogi Bear would say.
Yes, it’s picnickin’’ time.
Whether with your family, a group of pals or a memorable romantic outing, picnics allow for multitasking at its most basic and best: food and the outdoors.
And no, you don’t need to follow the smarter-than-the-average-bear’s method of stealing someone else’s basket. With these simple summer recipes, it’s easy to plan for the perfect picnic. Each recipe is tapered up or down for four servings.
A good pasta or macaroni salad is a necessity for a pleasing picnic. But that doesn’t mean you have to keep using grandma’s 100-year-old traditional recipe. Here are a couple ideas to zest up the same old salads.
This mixture of citrus and mint puts a light summery twist on the traditional pasta salad.
First, bring a large pot of water to a boil with the usual dash of salt. Add about 4 ounces of pasta, whatever shape or style you like, and let it cook until it’s al dente, draining it when finished. Next, in a large bowl add about two-thirds of a 6-ounce container of lemon yogurt, just a little more than five teaspoons of mayo, two tablespoons of freshly chopped mint, about a third of a bunch of green onions (also chopped), a cup of seedless grapes (you can leave them whole or halve them) and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the pasta until everything is coated. Next, sprinkle over some fresh lemon juice and stick it in the fridge until you’re ready. This way you’ll have a nice, cool refreshing salad while picnicking in your favorite park or getaway.
Gorgonzola-Pepper Pasta Salad
This one mixes a variety of bell peppers with some sweet add-ons also perfect for a summer day in the sunshine.
Once again, boil your pasta until its al dente, but when you’re done, toss it with two tablespoons of oil and let it chill in the fridge for about an hour to cool.
In the meantime, cook a cup of fresh, chopped spinach over medium heat. Once done, combine it with half a chopped green pepper, half a red pepper and half a yellow pepper, also adding to your pasta. Separately, whisk together a quarter cup of canola oil, two tablespoons of walnut oil, a little less than three tablespoons of champagne vinegar and a tablespoon of honey. Pour this over your pasta, tossing it until it’s evenly coated. Finally, sprinkle a cup of crumbled Gorgonzola and about a half cup of chopped walnuts over the top and let these all chill similarly.
While the salads set up the sides, most people bring along some chips or other snacking items. But instead of loading up on greasy, fatty potato chips, make your own.
All you’ll need for this one is potatoes, salt and oil. It doesn’t get any easier!
Slice two medium-sized potatoes thin, letting them rest in a bowl of cold water as you go. Once you’re done, drain the bowl, fill it with water again, but this time add about a tablespoon and 1-1/2 teaspoons of salt, letting the potato slices sit for at least 30 minutes. Drain them and rinse them afterward.
Next, heat the oil to about 365 degrees, frying the potato slices in small batches. Once they turn golden, take them out and let ’em drain on some paper towels. Once they’re all done, season as you wish. It’s just that easy.
For the main course, of course, it’s a sandwich. It simply wouldn’t be a picnic without the bread-based basic. But that doesn’t mean you have to simply go through the motions with sliced ham and processed cheese food.
Curry Chicken Sandwiches
For this recipe, you’ll basically rehash a chicken salad sandwich, adding some goodies to sweeten it up along the way.
In a large bowl, combine two cups of chopped cooked chicken, a chopped unpeeled red apple, 3/4 cup of dried cranberries, a half cup of thinly sliced celery, a quarter cup of chopped pecans and two tablespoons of chopped green onions. In another bowl, combine 3/4 cup mayo, about two teaspoons of lime juice and a half teaspoon of curry powder. Add the chicken mixture and stir it all to coat it up. Finally, serve it up on your favorite kind of bread with a leaf of lettuce in between and get ready for some good eats.
For a vegetarian alternative, try these tasty sandwiches featuring homemade hummus.
Veggie and Cilantro Hummus Sandwich
First, you’ll want to bang out the hummus, placing two cans of drained garbanzo beans, a quarter-cup of tahini, two minced cloves or garlic, a teaspoon of salt, another of garlic powder and a few pinches of paprika into a blender, adding 1-1/2 teaspoons of olive oil, a tablespoon of water, 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice and about 2/3-cup fresh chopped cilantro over the top. Puree these in the blender until it all smooths out, setting it aside when you’re done.
Next, whisk together a quarter-cup water, 2-2/3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, two teaspoons olive oil, a quarter cup of white sugar, a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of sesame oil until the sugar completely dissolves. Toss in a thinly sliced cucumber, two large-sliced tomatoes and two small, thinly sliced red onions until coated.
Finally, spread the hummus on top of your bread, sprinkle it with some crumbled feta, throw down a slice of lettuce, top it with the veggies and add a little more dressing to your taste. Bag it, pack it and get ready to picnic it.
For desert, bust out your favorite fruits, like fresh watermelon or a homemade fruit salad. The options are limitless as summer seasonals arrive. So wipe the dust of your picnic basket, pick up your favorite bottle of wine or sparkling cider, pack a blanket or two and find a spot to lounge in the rays, play in a park, take a dip in a lake or watch the sunset. The food’s already taken care of.
These recipes and more like them can be found at www.allrecipes.com.
Aaron Managhan is the sports editor for the Central Kitsap Reporter.