6 Picnic-Perfect Recipes
● By Style
Labor Day is all about celebrating the end of the summer season with family and friends, taking a moment to relax before the kids go back to school and the holiday madness begins.
Here we’ve showcased 5 super simple, picnic-friendly recipes that highlight the last of the summer produce—none of which require slaving away over a grill.
Select Recipes excerpted from What Can I Bring? Cookbook, by Anne Byrn
(Workman Publishing, 2013, $16.95)
Julia’s Chilled Zucchini Soup
Serves 12 as an appetizer, 6 as a first course (Makes 6 cups)
Toting this chilled soup in a thermos will keep it cool, or alternatively, a glass jar that will show off its gorgeous color. Don’t forget to bring the half-and-half to stir in last minute, and bring the chopped parsley garnish and the toast rounds or melba toast in convenient plastic bags.
- 1-quart (4 cups) low-sodium chicken broth
- 3 to 4 packed cups coarsely grated zucchini (1 lb.; from 2 medium-large zucchini)
- 1 1/2 cups chopped sweet onion (1 large onion)
- 1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes
- Salt and white pepper
- Hot pepper sauce
- 1/4 cup half-and-half
- 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
- Toasted French bread rounds or melba toast, for serving
Place the chicken broth in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the zucchini and onion and cook, covered, until the vegetables are fork-tender, about 15 minutes. Remove the lid and, with the soup at a simmer, add the cubes of cream cheese, one at a time, whisking until they are incorporated. Let the soup simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes, then turn off the heat. Season the soup with salt, white pepper, and hot sauce to taste.
Working in batches, ladle the warm soup into a food processor or blender (or alternately, using an immersion blender) process until almost smooth, about 15 seconds. Flecks of zucchini should still be visible. Pour the soup into a glass storage dish and refrigerate at least six hours, or overnight.
Just before serving, stir the half-and-half into the soup. Ladle it into demitasse cups or bowls and garnish with the parsley. Serve with toasted rounds of French bread or melba toast on the side.
Cucumber and Tomato Salad with Sweet Dill Vinaigrette
The flavor of the cucumber improves when they marinate, so the salad will taste better if you pour the vinaigrette over it ahead of time. It can be refrigerated for up to 4 hours. If you want to make the salad more substantial, add avocado at the last minute, along with chilled shrimp or crabmeat. And don’t be afraid to play around with different colors and varieties of tomatoes, such as heirloom.
For the Sweet Dill Vinaigrette
- • 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
- • 1 tbsp. sugar
- • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh dill
- • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the Salad
- • 3 cucumbers (about 2 lbs.), rinsed
- • 4 medium-size ripe tomatoes, peeled
- • 3 scallions, green part only, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
- • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- • Avocado slices (optional)
- • 1/2 cup peeled steamed shrimp, sliced in half lengthwise, or ½ cup lump crabmeat (optional)
Make the vinaigrette: Place the rice wine vinegar and sugar in a small mixing bowl. Gradually whisk in the olive oil, a little at a time, until the vinaigrette thickens slightly. Add the dill and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set the vinaigrette aside.
Make the salad: Peel the cucumbers in strips, so that the stripes of dark skin and light green flesh alternate down the sides. Cut off and discard the ends and cut the cucumbers into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Slice the tomatoes 1/3 inch thick. On a round platter (it will need to be about a foot wide), arrange the cucumber slices in a ring around the rim. Arrange the tomato slices inside the cucumbers. Scatter the chopped scallions on top and season with salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, pour the vinaigrette over the cucumbers and tomatoes. Arrange avocado and/ or spoon shrimp or crabmeat in the center of the platter, if desired. Garnish the salad with fronds of fresh dill.
Old-Fashioned Macaroni Salad
Can you imagine an all-American picnic without a classic macaroni salad? This version is cool and refreshing, and the peppers, onions, carrots, and celery provide just the right amount of crunch. You can chop the veggies while the macaroni cooks, and feel free to add more adventuresome seasonings as you like.
- • 1 lb. elbow macaroni (4 cups)
- • Salt
- • 1 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
- • 1 cup finely chopped carrots
- • 1 cup finely chopped celery
- • 1 cup finely chopped red onion (1 medium-sized onion)
- • 2 cups mayonnaise
- • 1/2 cup sweet pickle relish
- • 2 tbsp. cider vinegar
- • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
- • Freshly ground black pepper
• Bring large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Stir in the macaroni and 1/ 2 tsp. of salt, reduce heat to medium-high, and cook the macaroni, uncovered, according to the package directions until just done, 7 to 8 minutes
• Meanwhile, place the bell pepper, carrots, celery, and onion in a large serving bowl. Set the vegetable mixture aside.
• Drain the macaroni well in a colander, shaking to remove the excess water. Let the macaroni cool slightly, then transfer to the bowl with the vegetable and stir to combine.
• Add the mayonnaise, pickle relish, cider vinegar, and mustard to the macaroni mixture and stir well to combine. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and black pepper as needed. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour, preferably all day.
Eighteen-Minute Salmon with a Fresh Ginger Glaze
Salmon may seem like an unconventional picnic item, but this recipe is extremely versatile. It can be marinated ahead of time or covered with the glaze immediately before baking; it can be served warm in a portable baking dish, but is just as delicious served cold.
- • 1 salmon fillet (about 1/2 lbs.)
- • 1/3 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
- • 1/3 cup honey
- • 2 tbsp. grated peeled fresh ginger
- • 2 medium-size cloves garlic, crushed in a garlic press
• Place the salmon in a 13 X 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish and set it aside. Place the soy sauce, honey, ginger, and garlic in a small mixing bowl and stir to combine. Pour the soy sauce mixture over the salmon, lifting it up with a fork so that the marinade can run underneath and coat the salmon well. If you have time, cover the baking dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to two hours. Or simply set the salmon aside while the oven preheats.
• Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
• Uncover the salmon and bake until the soy sauce mixture forms a glaze and the fish flakes around the edges, about 18 minutes. If the fillet is thicker in the center than at the edges, the center will cook less quickly; add a few more minutes of baking time if needed. If you cut the salmon into pieces, the edges will be less likely to overcook. Remove the pieces of salmon from the oven as they test done.
Lemon Icebox Cheesecake with A Gingersnap Crust
Serves 12 to 16
This cheesecake has the creamy texture of an icebox pie, with just the right amount of fresh lemon flavor. And the gingersnap crust is a pleasing, if unexpected, match for the lemon, especially when one is expecting the conventional graham cracker. Feel free to tote the cheesecake in its pan, just be sure to allow enough time to for it to cool to room temperature—one hour—and then another four hours to chill in the refrigerator.
For the crust
- • 2 cups (about 8 oz.) gingersnap cookie crumbs (36 small cookies pulsed in a food processor)
- • 5 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
For the filling
- • 2 packages (8 oz. each) regular cream cheese
- • 1 package (8 oz.) reduced fat cream cheese
- • 1 cup sugar
- • 3 large eggs
- • 3/4 cup sour cream
- • 1 tbsp. grated lemon zest (1 large lemon)
- • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- • Fresh raspberries for garnish
• Make the crust: Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
• Place the gingersnap crumbs in a small glass bowl, add the butter, and stir with a fork until the crumbs are thoroughly moistened. Press the gingersnap mixture into the bottom and partially up the side of a 9-inch springform pan that is at least 3 inches deep. Bake the crust until browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Set the crust aside to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees.
• Make the filling: Place all of the cream cheese and the sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium-low and add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each has been incorporated. Add the sour cream and beat until combined. Add the lemon zest and juice and beat until combined, about 20 seconds.
• When the crust has cooled, place the springform pan on a baking sheet and pour the filling into it, smoothing the top with a rubber spatula. Transfer the pan on the baking sheet to the oven and bake the cheesecake until the outer edge (about 2 inches) has set but the center is still a little shaky, 55 to 60 minutes. Carefully remove the cheesecake to a wire rack to cool for 1 hour at room temperature. Transfer the cheesecake to the refrigerator to chill, uncovered, for at least 4 hours. Serve with fresh raspberries.
Recipe excerpted from American’s Best BBQ Homestyle: What the Champions Cook in Their Own Backyards by Ardie A. Davis and Chef Paul Kirk (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2013, $19.99)
Harry Soo’s Slapilicious Buttermilk Fried Chicken
Serves 2 to 4
The first several years we competed in or judged at the Memphis in May World Championship
Barbecue Cooking Contest, the adventure wasn’t complete without a side trip to Mason, Tennessee, for a pulled pork sandwich at Bozo’s and fried chicken at Gus’s. Lately we’ve switched to barbecue spaghetti at the Bar-B-Q Shop in Memphis and fried chicken at the new Gus’s in downtown Memphis. The last time we were at Gus’s in Mason we tried to get the fried chicken recipe from Taurus, Gus’s son. He wouldn’t turn loose of a single ingredient. We suspect, however, that buttermilk, flour, and cayenne pepper were involved. Harry Soo adds some barbecue rub to the mix for a flavor signature that rivals any other fried chicken we’ve ever had, except what our mothers fried for Sunday after church lunch! Chef Paul has added some enhancements to Harry’s online recipe. We hope you’re as pleased as we are with the result.
- 1 small (3- to 3½-pound) whole chicken
- Slap Yo’ Daddy (SYD) Competition Meat Rub or your favorite rub (see Note)
- Cayenne (optional)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp. yellow cornmeal
- 1 tbsp. baking powder
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 4 cups pork lard or oil of choice
Cut the chicken into 12 pieces (or ask your butcher to do it). First, remove the backbone and wing tips and reserve for another use. Cut the chicken in half, remove the wings, and cut in half. Cut the thigh and leg off and cut the breast in half. Repeat with the other half and you should have 12 pieces.
Place the chicken in a small baking dish and season all over with rub. Sprinkle with cayenne if desired. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or longer if desired.
Combine the flour, cornmeal, 2 tablespoons of the rub, and the baking powder in a shallow dish and blend well. Set aside.
Drain the chicken in a colander for 10 minutes. Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture. Let rest on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Dip the chicken in the buttermilk, then dredge it in the flour mixture again, shaking off the excess flour.
Preheat a cast-iron skillet with 4 cups lard until it registers 360ºF on a deep-frying thermometer.
Fry the chicken in small batches, starting with the thighs, legs, and breast and taking care not to crowd the chicken. When the bottoms are brown, turn the chicken pieces over. The pieces should be done in 7 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces and the quantity you have in the pan. The chicken is done when the juices run clear when pierced with the tip of a knife. Use an instant-read thermometer to ensure that the meat at the center is more than 165°F. Repeat for the remaining pieces.
Drain the chicken thoroughly on paper towels, sprinkle with some finishing rub, if desired, and serve immediately.
Note: To make your own rub, combine 1 tablespoon sea salt, 2 teaspoons finely ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon granulated garlic, 1 teaspoon sugar, and ½ teaspoon mild chili powder and blend well.
WHAT’S TO DRINK?
Pair your picninc with some local, award-winning and All-American wine offerings from Lone Buffalo Vineyards, 7505 Wise Road, Auburn, 916-663-4486, lonebuffalovineyards.com.2010 Where The Buffalo RoamThis popular, traditional and award wining Rhone-style red blend is produced from Syrah, Mourvedre and Granache grapes grown right here in Placer County. Concentrated but lively fruit, silky tannins, depth with a hint of spice, yet elegant and easy to drink. Extremely food friendly, and will pair excellently with any of the featured recipes.2010 Thunder Beast ZinfandelClassic Foothill Zin with raspberry aroma and peppery finish. As big and bold as the mighty buffalo! A perfect accompaniment for the Baked Fried Chicken, Cucumber Tomato Salad, or even the Old-Fashioned Macaroni Salad.