It’s hard to picture a better setting for a picnic than a Sunday in the South: Red-checked blanket spread along the banks of the May River, shade provided by towering live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, glasses of lemonade dripping with condensation as platter after platter is pulled from a wicker hamper — fried chicken, deviled eggs, potato salad.
It’s enough to make your mouth water just thinking about it.
At your next outdoor affair, kick your classic fare up a notch with these gourmet twists.
Citrus & Green Olive
Makes: 6 servings
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup green olives stuffed with pimientos, drained and finely chopped
1 ½ tablespoons shallots, finely minced
juice of 1 lemon
zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 ½ pounds medium shrimp, steamed, peeled and deveined with tails on
Process olive oil, green olives, shallots, lemon juice, lemon zest, and salt in a food processor for 15 seconds. Place shrimp in a serving bowl and then toss with the marinade to coat. Cover and refrigerate.
Note: This dish can be made a day in advance and kept refrigerated.
Makes: 16 servings
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup powdered sugar
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
6 tablespoons salted butter, divided into 6 pieces
4 egg yolks, beaten
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup blueberries
2 tablespoons heavy cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
Fresh mint leaves
To make the crust, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and adjust the rack to the middle setting. Lightly coat an 8-by-8 baking dish with cooking spray and then line with parchment paper, allowing extra paper to hang over the sides to serve as “handles” to remove the squares once cooled. Pulse the flour, add powdered sugar, and salt in a food processor until combined, about five seconds. Add four slices of butter and process for 20 seconds; the texture will be powdery. Transfer to the parchment paper-lined baking dish and press firmly onto the bottom of the dish, creating an even layer. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the crust begins to brown.
To make the filling, add the egg yolks to a medium saucepan. Whisk in sugar until thoroughly combined, and then stir in lemon juice and zest. Set heat to medium-low, then add remaining two slices, butter and cook, stirring constantly, for five minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat and strain through a mesh strainer into a medium bowl. Stir in blueberries and heavy cream. Pour filling over the prepared crust and bake for 12-14 minutes. The center will be slightly jiggly. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Remove from baking dish using the parchment paper “handles,” and then cut into squares. Transfer to a serving platter and dust with powdered sugar, sprinkle with blueberries, and garnish with fresh mint leaves.
Caviar and Wasabi
Makes: 16 servings
8 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chilled
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons sour cream
3 teaspoons prepared wasabi sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 ounce red whitefish caviar
Cut eggs in half and remove yolks. Combine yolks with mayonnaise, sour cream, wasabi sauce, rice vinegar and Dijon mustard and mash with a fork until smooth. Place the filling in a piping bag, seal with a rubber band and refrigerate. Assemble the deviled eggs at the picnic by arranging the egg whites on a platter and then piping in the filling. Top each with a generous dollop of red caviar.
Make: 32 servings
1 eight-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup pimientos, drained and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 celery stalks, each sliced on the bias into four pieces
Using a mixer, combine the first 8 ingredients until well incorporated. Cover and refrigerate until firm. Top each celery stick with a generous mound of pimiento cheese. Cover and refrigerate.
St. Patrick's Day
Makes: 1 gallon
4 cups of water plus an additional 12 cups of water
12 tea black bags
1 cup granulated sugar
8 drops of green food coloring (optional)
lime slices (optional)
mint leaves (optional)
Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a medium pot. Remove from heat and add tea bags, allowing them to steep for 10 minutes. Discard the tea bags and stir in sugar until dissolved. Pour into a gallon container and add the 12 additional cups of water and refrigerate for at least four hours. Stir in food coloring for a true St. Patrick’s Day treat, and then serve over ice in tall glasses. Garnish with lime slices and mint leaves, to taste.