Picnics don’t need to be like that. They can be much better, even if they are spur-of-the-moment events. Perhaps you have made camp and learn of a short hike to a waterfall you’d like to see, so pack a picnic and go. If you are passing through a town on the way, stop and pick up a sub sandwich, or stop at the store and pick up meats and cheese from the deli, bread, cookies, fruit, a carton of sodas and a big bag of potato chips. If you buy dill bread, grated mozzarella cheese, marinated artichokes, a red onion and some sprouts, you’ll have a gourmet sandwich in no time.
We once picked up buckets of fried chicken, some fresh corn on the cob and a bag of juicy peaches. At the picnic site we shucked the corn by pulling back the husks but not removing them completely, and removing the silk. We spread some herb butter on the cobs, then replaced the husks and tied the ends with twine. We placed the ears on the grill over hot coals and roasted, turning frequently, 15-20 minutes, until the husks were dry and browned. One doesn’t have to go on a picnic for this kind of grilled corn—it’s fun to do right at your own campsite after you’ve taken that hike.
Here’s a real winner for a family picnic:
1 2/3 cup chopped pimiento-stuffed olives
1 1/2 cup chopped, pitted black olives
2/3 cup olive oil
4 oz. jar drained and chopped pimientos
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons drained capers
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt, pepper to taste
French or Italian bread loaf
4 oz. jack cheese
4 oz. mozzarella cheese
Combine all the ingredients except the cheese and bread, cover and put in the refrigerator overnight to blend the flavors. Cut an 8-inch round French or Italian bread loaf (about one pound) in half, forming top and bottom; remove centers of each half, leaving a 1-inch-thick shell. Brush inside of the shells with some of the salad liquid. Press half of the salad, drained, in the bottom shell. Layer 4-oz. of thinly sliced jack cheese, and 4-oz. of grated mozzarella cheese over the salad; press on the remaining salad, and cover with the top half of the bread and press again. Wrap in Saran wrap, then in foil, several layers. Have someone sit on it on the way to the picnic. Once there, cut the sandwich into wedges. Serves six.
Then there are those picnic extravaganzas! One might pack smoked oysters, a crab salad on fresh greens with croissants, a bottle of blush wine and some wild blackberry tarts. Or smoked turkey, ham and herbs baked in pastry, a cucumber and sour cream salad with cherry tomatoes, and chocolate brownies. Or chilled prawns and cocktail sauce, smoked salmon with cream cheese and crackers, marinated asparagus, a bottle of Chardonnay and fresh fruits hand-dipped in chocolate.
Strictly speaking a picnic is simply an outdoor meal. It can be a special event, a festive occasion, or even a simple snack of bread and cheese at your own campsite. Pasta salads are always well received.
TORTELLINI VEGETABLE SALAD
1 8-oz. bottle prepared Italian dressing
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 cup fresh broccoli florets
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1 cup cherry tomato halves
1 cup sliced zucchini
1 package cheese-filled tortellini
1/2 cup sliced ripe olives
Cook and drain tortellini according to package directions. In a large bowl, combine Italian dressing and mustard. Add tortellini and vegetables; toss to coat. Cover and chill. Serves six to eight.
STUFFED PITA BREAD
1/2 cup salad oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped red onion
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon sweet basil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon oregano
Combine the above ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl.
1/2 pound mushrooms, quartered
1 avocado, sliced
1/4 pound salami, sliced and cut into strips
4 cups spinach, trimmed and torn into bite-size pieces
2 cups lettuce leaves, torn into bite-size pieces
1 cup alfalfa sprouts
1/3 cup jack cheese, cut in small cubes
6 pita loaves
Place mushrooms, salami and avocado into a leak-proof plastic bag or plastic container; pour on the dressing, toss and seal or cover. Chill. Combine spinach and lettuce and place in a plastic bag; seal. Place sprouts and cheese in separate plastic bags; seal.
To assemble; cut each pita loaf in half, stuff with a handful of greens, spoon in vegetables; sprinkle with sprouts and cheese. Eat immediately.
20-oz. can crushed pineapple
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup chopped nuts
Mix ingredients by hand and put into a greased 9-inch x 13-inch pan; bake in a preheated 350-degree oven 30-45 minutes. Cool.
3 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar
Mix ingredients and ice the cake.
Dedicated picnickers insist that there’s a certain magic about sharing good food in the sunshine and fresh air. Anthony Huxley put it quite simply: “To make contact with the green wild world seems to be an instinctive need.” We who are RVers know this to be a fact, so whether we have a picnic on a log beside a lake or on the tailgate of an old station wagon or truck, it can be a memorable time.
HINT OF THE MONTH: Never forget the bottle opener, paper towels and bags for trash when you are packing a picnic.
Marian Platt’s regional narrative cookbook of Washington’s Sequim Valley, From My Kitchen Window, can be ordered by sending cash, check or money order for $25 (includes tax and handling/mailing costs) to Marian Platt, 434 Chicken Coop Rd., Sequim, WA 98382. Phone (360) 683-4691.