Back to the Kitchen: Recipes for the Perfect Summer Picnic

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It is that time of year when there are picnics, concerts in the park, beach days and the Hollywood Bowl. Picnics can be as simple as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with fresh fruit and chips — or,  if you hang with a bunch of foodies they can be as elaborate as any indoor-at-home meal. Most of us have some sort of cooling/packing equipment so it makes for a easy “get up and go.” (Trader Joe’s has a fantastic insulated blue bag that is back in stock for the summer.) As goofy as Deviled Eggs seem they are always the first to go so I usually make a couple variations. The grilled asparagus is simple. Add fig spread to make it special. You can also steam the asparagus, but I love the texture of grilling.

I admit that I love fried chicken — it is the most perfect staple picnic food. I have cooked with the best of the best and some of the most passionate debates I have ever witnessed are over fried chicken. To egg or not to egg. To buttermilk or not to buttermilk. This recipe is quick and simple. While people are constantly requesting my version, I call it a work in progress and will happily be challenged by anyone to find the best!  Throw in a few appetizers, a few wraps, and end with decadent chocolate cupcakes great for kids as well as the adults.

As far as beverages some venues and parks allow wine while others do not. I usually purchase two big gallon water jugs. In one I simply add lemon, lime and cucumber to make spa water,  and in the other I add a can of frozen lemonade and two Celestial Seasonings cold brew tea bags, such as Tropical Fruit and Raspberry.

Enjoy these recipes no matter where you go!

Deviled Eggs

12 hard-boiled eggs

1/2-cup mayonnaise

3 tablespoons Dijon

3 tablespoons dill pickles, minced

Splash vinegar

Pinch cayenne pepper

Pinch salt

Peel eggs and very carefully slice eggs in half the long way, keeping the whites intact as much as possible. Place whites on tray, holes up. Drop yolks into a small mixing bowl and smash with a fork. Add remaining ingredients and mix with fork until smooth. You can fill the egg whites by using a small spoon or a pastry bag. Sprinkle with paprika or chopped chives for a little color, and serve or refrigerate. Serves 6.

Decadent Deviled Eggs

1/3-cup mayonnaise

1 large shallot, minced

6 slices bacon, cooked until crisp and finely chopped

6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and split length-wise

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

12 drops tabasco sauce or to taste paprika, to garnish

In a medium-size bowl, mash the egg yolks with a fork. Add the bacon, shallot, mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, salt, pepper and Tabasco. If desired, fill a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip and pipe the yolk mixture back into the egg whites. Or use a small spoon to fill the whites. Sprinkle with paprika and serve. Serves 6.

Grilled Asparagus Wrapped In Proscuitto With Goat Cheese

1 bunch asparagus (about 25)

12 slices proscuitto

8 ounces goat cheese

Trim asparagus and cut to about 4 inch spears. On a medium grill or stovetop grill, place asparagus and cook turning often about 10 minutes. Lay out a piece of proscuitto, cut in half. Spread with goat cheese and carefully place the asparagus spear at the left end and roll to the right. Repeat until all asparagus is wrapped.

Mini Bells With Herb Cheese

This is so simple and looks so pretty. Most of the time they come in containers with an assortment of red, yellow and orange.

15 mini bell peppers, cut in half, lengthwise and cleaned

1/4-pound herb cheese

Using small knife stuff each half with about a teaspoon of cheese. Sprinkle chives over the top as a garnish.

Fried Chicken

1 cup flour

3 tablespoons old bay seasoning

1-tablespoon salt

2-tablespoon pepper

1/2-tablespoon cayenne (or to taste)

1-tablespoon garlic powder

1 4-5 pound chicken, cut

Peanut oil for frying

In a zip lock bag mix flour and seasoning. Place a piece of chicken in the bag and thoroughly coat with flour mixture. Remove from the bag shaking off excess flour and repeat with remaining pieces. In a deep skillet pour oil halfway up the side. Heat to 350. Add chicken in a single layer being cautious not to over crowd. Cook 15 minutes turning several times so that it browns evenly drain on a paper towel. Keep chicken warm in the oven or place in the refrigerator. Serves 6

Vegetable and Hummus Sandwich

1 cucumber, diced

1 large carrot, diced

1 red onion, diced

2 tomatoes, diced

1 red pepper, diced

1 small heart of romaine, finely chopped

1-cup kalamata olives

3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

In a large bowl gently toss all ingredients together.

4 6-inch pita bread, cut in half

1 1/2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

2 cups hummus

Gently spread hummus on the sides and bottom of halved pita. Stuff with salad mixture. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serves 6

Basic Hummus

2 cups (cooked or can) garbanzo beans (chickpeas)

3 cloves garlic, peeled

6-8 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup tahini (sesame seed butter)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

In a food processor finely chop the garlic. Add the rest of the ingredients and puree until smooth, stopping the machine twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve at room temperature with veggies and pita bread.

Caprese Wrap

2 cups diced fresh mozzarella cheese

6 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

6 tablespoons chopped pitted kalamata olives

3 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

3 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

3-teaspoon olive oil

½ pound thinly sliced prosciutto

1 pound asparagus spears, steamed and chilled

6 whole-wheat lavosh bread

Combine the first 6 ingredients in a medium bowl. Cover and chill 2 hours.

Arrange 2 slices of prosciutto and 6 asparagus spears on each lavosh. Spoon about 1/3 cup cheese mixture over the asparagus. Season with salt and pepper and roll up. Slice in half on the diagonal. Makes 12 halves and serves 8-10.

Chocolate Cupcakes

6 ounces unsweetened chocolate

2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1-cup hot brewed coffee

1/2-cup sour cream

1/2-cup butter, soften

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 350. Line 12 muffin cups with liners. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over boiling water. Remove the pan from the heat. Whisk the sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt together into a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk together the hot coffee, sour cream, and butter. Gradually whisk in the eggs, and then stir in the chocolate. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until all the ingredients are smoothly blended. Fill the cupcake liners about two-thirds full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack. Makes 12, but can be easily doubled.

Chocolate Frosting

12 ounces unsweetened chocolate

1 1/2 cups evaporated milk

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/4-teaspoon kosher salt

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over boiling water. Place the milk, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl and stir until the sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes. Add the chocolate in a slow stream and mix until thoroughly blended. Makes three cups.

Butter Cream

2 sticks butter, softened

4 large egg yolks

1/4-teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

3-4 cups confectioners’ sugar

Cream the butter until smooth then add the egg yolks one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the salt and vanilla and a little of the sugar and beat until smooth. Gradually beat in additional sugar until butter cream is a desired consistency. Add milk to thin and chill to thicken. Makes 2 cups.

Gwen Kenneally is the owner of Back to the Kitchen, Full Service Catering and Party Planning. She is the co-founder and master baker at Magpie Gourmet Mini Pies.   CLICK HERE to Learn from Gwen through her instructional videos featured on EHow. Check out her websites and  Her Sweet and Savory Cookbook is available through AMAZON .


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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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