Back to the Kitchen: A Summer Picnic

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gwenpice110x1651BY GWEN KENNEALLY

Memories of childhood picnics are everlasting.

Memories of childhood picnics are everlasting.

I am so in love with food and entertaining that the summer gives me options to combine cuisine with some of my other loves: nature, music and baseball! Be it the beach or the Hollywood Bowl, picnics are a great passion of mine.  I have such amazing childhood picnic memories as well as a few romantic ones as well. I like great tasting food that can stand up to all the elements. Next to ants nothing can ruin a picnic quicker than spoiled mayonnaise or soggy sandwiches. It is fun to go on group picnics and potluck. As with all entertaining, I like a nice variety so that everyone will have something to enjoy. While I love the look of picnic baskets, keep in mind that some things need to be kept cool in an ice chest.  Traveling with food also allows you to be creative with packaging and presentation. I love to wrap sandwiches in parchment paper and tie with raffia. It is fun to individually pack in Chinese “to-go” containers (availed at restaurant supply stores). Don’t forget serving spoons, cutlery, plates, cups and a bottle opener. I love to bring vintage linens, candles and depending on the event, a boom box. Spread the blanket, relax and enjoy the glory of the moment. Since it is all prepared, even the chef gets to chill!

Fried chicken is the ultimate picnic staple.

Fried chicken is the ultimate picnic staple.

Fried Chicken
I admit that I love fried chicken. I think it is a 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 one is quick and simple. While people are constantly requesting this recipe, I call it a work in progress and will happily be challenged by anyone to find the best!
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.

Vegetable and Hummus Sandwich
1 cucumber, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 red onion, diced
2 tomatoes, diced

Hummus can be used as a dip or in a sandwich.

Hummus can be used as a dip or in a sandwich.

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.

Basic Hummus

2 cups (cooked or can) garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
3 cloves garlic, peeled
6-8 tablespoons lemon juice
1cteaspoon salt
1/2 cup Tahini (sesame seed butter)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4cteaspoon 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.

Leslie’s Sesame Noodles
For the sesame sauce:
1 cup tahini (or peanut butter)
1 cup toasted sesame oil
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 clove garlic, minced
2 scallions, sliced into 1-inch pieces
2″ knob of ginger, grated
Combine all in Cuisinart until smooth.

For the salad:
1-pound fusilli
1 cup carrots, cut into 2 inch julienne
2 cups snow pea pods, sliced in half widthwise – steamed or blanched
2 cups fresh bean sprouts
1 cup roasted, unsalted cashew pieces

Cook pasta in boiling water until al dente, 8 – 10 minutes. Drain well.
While still warm, toss pasta in a large mixing bowl with sesame
Sauce, carrots, snow pea pods and half of bean sprouts. Garnish with remaining bean sprouts and cashews. Serve at room temperature.

Roasted potatoes are delicious hot or cold.

Roasted potatoes are delicious hot or cold.

Minty Roasted Potatoes
16 new potatoes
1/2 cup olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
8 garlic cloves finely chopped
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves

Pre-heat oven to 350
Prick the potatoes with the tines of a fork and arrange them on a baking sheet. Bake for 1 1/2 hours.
Cut the potatoes into quarters and place them in a serving bowl. While they are still hot, toss them with the oil, salt, pepper and garlic. Gently toss in the mint. This twist on a potato salad can be served warm or at room temperature.

Italian Cookies
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
3 cups flour
3 teaspoon baking powder
1/2-teaspoon salt
1-teaspoon vanilla
1/2 to 1 cup chopped nuts
1-teaspoon anise extract
1-tablespoon anise seeds

Cream butter and sugar add the eggs one at a time then the rest of the ingredients.
Form 2 ” by 1/2″ loaves (makes 2 or 3 long loaves)
Bake 20 minutes at 350. Slice diagonally 1/2 inch. Bake 10 or 15 minutes more.

You can't go wrong with brownies.

You can't go wrong with brownies.

1 and 1/2 sticks butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4-teaspoon salt
1/2-teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1/2-cup flour
2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces
3/4-cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an eight-inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides. Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and beat vigorously for one minute with the wooden spoon. Stir in the nuts and chocolate chips. Spread evenly in the lined pan. Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack.  Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

Gwen Kenneally is the owner of Back to the Kitchen, Full Service Catering and Party Planning. Check out her website and blog and Email her:

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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.