Our Food Editor Christine is back with a fun approach to that old holiday staple, picnics!
We put up with a lot, living here in Hoboken. And by “a lot”, I mean Winter. There’s no way to get around it, the winters here are rough on me, especially since I’ve been conditioned to southern and California winters my whole life. So when the seasons turn and the weather warms up, the restaurants start putting tables on the sidewalks, the rooftop bars start opening, and the piers on the Hudson River are full of people picnicking at Movies Under the Stars or for one of the fireworks displays that frequently pop up here. It’s just full-on, exuberant outdoor living- soaking in the vitamin D while it lasts!
Outdoor living requires food, and to me, picnic food is a special category.
For me, a picnic is best when the meal is simple, utensil-free, and just a little bit special. Knowing what to purchase and what to make yourself is half the challenge: a few little tubs of olives and artichoke hearts, a baguette or pita to spread delicious things on, a little cheese plate and some charcuterie and all you have to do is pull one homemade dish off and you’ve got a feast.
I‘ve rounded up a few of the recipes I turn to when it’s time for a meal al fresco.
Pimento Cheese and vegetable sticks
Hummus and pita chips
When a friend of mine got married recently, she had what she called a “picnic” wedding, a ceremony followed by a picnic on her lawn with casual but really beautiful food, and 7 layer cakes in different flavors instead of one “wedding cake.” It was beautiful and elegant and really fun! I helped her plan the menu and we decided to go with a few savory tarts or galettes as a nice vegetarian option. I love savory galettes because they don’t really even require a real recipe- as long as what you’re filling it with isn’t too watery, you can throw whatever you want onto a crust and bake it and it will be delicious! Give this one a try…
SAVORY GALETTE with CHIMICHURRI, MOZZARELLA, OLIVES and TOMATOES
Serves 4-6 wedges
1 recipe single pie pastry
8 ounces fresh mozzarella balls (or cubed melting cheese like fontina)
1/3 cup chimichurri sauce
½ cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
¼ cup pitted olives, quartered
1 egg, beaten to make an egg wash for the pastry
*I used the small fresh mozzarella balls called bocconcini for this recipe. I prefer fresh mozzarella because of its light, milky flavor, but cubes of any good melting cheese will work too.
Preheat your oven to 400.
Place your rolled out pastry onto a piece of parchment on a baking sheet. In the center of the pastry, arrange the cheese, tomatoes, and olives. Spoon the sauce over the top. Fold the pastry in toward the middle of the pastry to form a thick edge, pinching the folds a little to seal the edges. Brush with beaten egg.
Bake until the pastry is dark golden brown and the cheese is melted- 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool before cutting into wedges and serving.
This sauce is going to become your favorite summer condiment! It’s great on grilled meat or vegetables, or toss it with some pasta, feta and artichokes for a really easy pasta salad, or drizzle it on a sandwich instead of pesto!
Makes about 2 cups
Will keep for 2 weeks in the refrigerator
1 cup parsley
½ cup cilantro
¼ cup fresh oregano or (1 teaspoon dried)
2 cloves garlic
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 inch piece of lemon peel (pith removed)
Juice of ½ lemon
Salt to taste
Tip: In order to get the flavor of the garlic without all the heat, I place the peeled cloves in a bowl and pour boiling water over them for about 30 seconds, then drain, and use as normal.
Blend all of the ingredients together in a blender or food processor until they for a smooth paste. Salt to taste.