Picnics for Grownups

Susan Spungen reinvents food-on-a-blanket with some surprise ingredients (think farmers’ market and ethnic inspired). Add a couple of sweet crowd pleasers, and you have portable meals to delight the most discerning of foodies

By Susan Spungen
PICNIC PERFECT >> Clockwise from top left: Cheddar and Onion-Marmalade Sandwich, Fresh Pea Salad, Cold Cucumber-and-Honeydew Soup, Gorp Cookies.
Photograph: Anna Williams

Cold Cucumber-and-Honeydew Soup
Cheddar and Onion-Marmalade Sandwiches


Fresh Pea Salad

Asian Chicken Salad

Red-Quinoa Salad

Spicy-Greens Frittata

Arnold Palmers

Gorp Cookies




Prep time: 20 minutes

2 English cucumbers (about
1½ pounds)
½ large honeydew, cubed
(about 5 cups or 2½ pounds)
½ cup fat-free Greek yogurt, plus
more for garnish
4 tablespoons fresh lime juice,
plus more to taste
¼ cup fresh mint leaves
Salt and pepper, to taste
Green Tabasco, for garnish

Peel, seed and chop 1½ cucumbers. Dice the remaining half, and reserve for garnish. Puree half the chopped cucumber and cubed melon with ¼ cup yogurt and 2 tablespoons lime juice. Pour into an airtight container. Puree the remaining chopped cucumber and melon with ¼ cup yogurt and 2 tablespoons lime juice. Add the mint, and puree a bit more. Combine with the first batch, and add more lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Chill. Serve cold, garnished with a dollop of yogurt, diced cucumber and a dash of green Tabasco.

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 37 minutes
Makes 8 sandwiches

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large red onions, thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons light-brown sugar
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 multigrain baguettes
16 ounces sharp aged Cheddar, sliced by hand
4 cups watercress, preferably hydroponic

1. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook onions until translucent but not brown, about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Lower heat to medium; sprinkle with salt, pepper and sugar. Cook 5 minutes more, and add vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and ½ cup water. Simmer until juices have thickened, about 20 minutes. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Cool in a bowl.
2. Split each baguette lengthwise. Spread marmalade on the cut sides of the bread. Divide cheese, and place on the two bottom halves of the bread. Top each with watercress. Cover with top bread halves. Cut each baguette into four sandwiches. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Prep time: 22 minutes
Serves 6

For the Olive Salad
½ cup pitted green olives, chopped
½ cup pitted black olives, chopped
½ cup chopped jarred artichoke hearts
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced (about ½ cup)
2 anchovies, finely chopped
¼ cup chopped jarred roasted red peppers
¼ cup roughly chopped Italian parsley
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon dried oregano

For the Sandwich
1 large loaf ciabatta (about 1 pound)
4 ounces sliced mortadella
4 ounces sliced salami
4 ounces sliced provolone cheese
4 ounces sliced sopressata
1. To make the olive salad: In a medium bowl, toss to combine all ingredients.
2. To make the sandwich: Using a large bread knife, split the loaf of ciabatta, making the cut in the lower third of the loaf. Scoop out the top portion a little to create a hollow. Spread half the olive salad on the bottom piece of bread. Layer the bottom portion with the mortadella, then the salami, then the provolone, then the sopressata. Top with the remaining olive salad. Cover with the loaf top, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate. Slice into 6 portions before serving.


Prep time: 28 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes
Serves 6

For the Dressing
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 medium-to-large shallot, minced (about ¼ cup)
3 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil

For the Salad
12 ounces sugar snap peas, strings removed
12 ounces snow peas, trimmed
2 cups fresh shelled peas (about 2 pounds unshelled)
or frozen peas, thawed
Handful pea shoots, optional
½ cup chopped fresh mint

1. To make the dressing: Whisk together the vinegar, honey, salt, pepper and shallot to combine. Whisk in the oil. Place in a container with a tight-fitting lid or a jar for transportation.
2. To make the salad: Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Meanwhile, slice the snap peas on a slight bias in half or thirds. Slice the snow peas diagonally in strips. Have a large bowl of ice water nearby. If using fresh peas, add them to the boiling water first, and cook 1 minute. Add the snap peas and snow peas, and cook 1 additional minute. Drain all the peas, and quickly rinse under cold water. Plunge them into the bowl of ice water to refresh. Stir with your hands to ensure all the peas are cool. Drain thoroughly, and place in a large bowl.
3. If using frozen peas and/or pea shoots, add them now. Toss in the mint. Transfer to an airtight container. Add dressing just before serving.

Prep time: 30 minutes
Serves 8

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon honey
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
3 cups shredded Napa cabbage
1 cup grated carrots (about
2 medium carrots)
½ large red pepper, julienned
3 scallions, sliced
1 cup cilantro leaves
Black sesame seeds, for garnish
Boston lettuce leaves, for serving

1. Whisk together the vinegar, lime juice, soy sauce, salt, pepper, honey and ginger. Whisk in oils. Combine with the chicken, and pack in an airtight container. Refrigerate. Can be made up to 1 day in advance.
2. Toss together the cabbage, carrots, red pepper, scallions and cilantro. Pack in an airtight container, and refrigerate. Just before serving, combine with chicken and dressing, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve with lettuce leaves for wrapping.

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Serves 8

1 cup red quinoa*
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 small shallot, finely chopped
(about 1 tablespoon)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups peeled, diced English cucumber
2 cups peeled, diced, cooked beets
1 cup small grape tomatoes, halved
½ cup toasted walnuts, chopped
2 ounces crumbled Gorgonzola

1. In a small pot, bring the quinoa to boil in 2 cups water. Lower heat, and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, transfer to a large bowl, and let cool completely.
2. Whisk together the vinegar, mustard, shallot, salt and pepper. Whisk in the oil. Pour over cooled quinoa. Add remaining ingredients, and toss to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place in an airtight container, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
*Note: Most quinoa comes prerinsed, but check the label, and if it isn’t, rinse the quinoa well before cooking.

Prep time: 34 minutes
Cooking time: 37 minutes
Serves 8

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ medium onion, chopped
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 bunch Broccolini, tough stems removed, cut into long, thin florets
1 bunch greens like dandelion or Swiss chard, chopped (about 3 cups)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch red pepper flakes
8 large eggs
¼ cup milk or half-and-half
1 ounce prosciutto, cut into strips
¼ cup grated Parmesan, plus more for top
4 ounces Gruyère, cut into small cubes

1. Preheat the oven to 325º. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in an ovenproof 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until onion is translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the Broccolini and 3 tablespoons water. Cover, and cook until Broccolini is bright green and slightly tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add greens, season with a pinch of salt and pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Cover, and cook until greens wilt, another 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Rinse pan.
2. In a bowl, beat the eggs with the milk, and season with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Stir in the prosciutto, cheeses and vegetables. Heat pan with 1 teaspoon oil over medium-low heat, add egg mixture, and cook for 5 minutes, pulling in the more-cooked sides to let uncooked egg run to edges. Sprinkle with more Parmesan (about 3 tablespoons), and transfer to oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until set, puffed and golden. Let cool in pan. Loosen with a spatula; slide out of pan. Serve cut into wedges, warm or at room temperature.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Serves 8

5 black-tea bags
5 cups boiling water
6 to 10 tablespoons sugar
3 cups ice water
1 cup fresh lemon juice
(4 to 6 lemons)
Vodka, optional
Lemon wedges, for serving

Tie the tea bags together, and place in a 2-quart heatproof jar or pitcher. Pour the boiling water over the tea, and let steep for 5 minutes. Discard the tea bags. Whisk in the sugar until dissolved. Add the ice water and lemon juice, and stir well. Refrigerate until well chilled. Pour into glasses (or Ball jars) filled with ice, and add a shot of vodka. Garnish with lemon.

Prep time: 35 minutes
Baking time: 45 minutes
Makes 28 cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
2½ cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (16 tablespoons)
1 cup light-brown sugar, packed
½ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate bars, chopped (or 2 cups chocolate chunks)
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
½ cup raisins
½ cup dried cherries or cranberries

1. Preheat the oven to 350º.
2. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, oats, salt, baking soda and cinnamon.
3. In a stand mixer or using a hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugars. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then vanilla. Add the flour mixture, and mix on low speed until just combined. Add the chocolate, pecans and dried fruits on low speed until combined.
4. Form 28 balls of dough (a shy 2 inches in diameter), and place on parchment-lined baking sheets (you’ll need 2 or 3), 1½ inches apart. Bake 1 sheet at a time for 15 to 18 minutes. Cool cookies on a rack. Repeat with remaining dough. Cookie dough can be wrapped and refrigerated or frozen, and baked later.

First Published Fri, 2011-05-27 10:41

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