Eats: Give your next picnic an international flair

0

Did you know that June 18 is not just Father’s Day, but also International Picnic Day?

Although answers to when, why or how this special day for picnics began are elusive, picnics themselves can be traced to the end of the French Revolution and the Victorian Era when attending a picnic allowed people to put aside restrictive formal etiquette.

At that time, the French Royal Gardens were first opened to the public and it became a popular pastime for the French to visit the gardens and take along a meal, called a “picnic” (pique-nique).

Even the National Park Service celebrates International Picnic Day by encouraging everyone to get outdoors and enjoy an al fresco meal with friends and family. I’m sure you can entice Dad to take a break from yard work and grilling when you propose a delicious picnic.

Advertisement

And why not give it an international flair, in honor of the day? Whether you serve your basket of goodies on your best china in your own backyard or on paper plates at your favorite scenic picnic place, to make it most enjoyable, picnic pros recommend you prepare your global cuisine ahead and keep it simple.

The recipes below were chosen not only for their summer-time flavors and portability, but to serve as a springboard to get your creative juices flowing. When creating your international picnic, you can settle on one country or perhaps you’d rather have the fun of being more eclectic, combining foods from regions you’ve never sampled. Whatever you decide, be sure to include some favorites too.

One salad recipe offered today reveals that I’m crazy about Vietnamese food and love the crisp texture of healthy cabbage and carrots with the addition of fresh herbs and sliced chicken sparked with herbs and sweet and sour dressing.

I’m also quite fond of panzanella, a mid-summer Mediterranean delight. The recipe has a Greek twist, but it can be made the Italian way by substituting the feta for fresh mozzarella, choosing a different variety of olive, and adding fresh basil.

Both salads can be served as side-dishes or choose one for the main event. For my picnic, I paired the two with addictive sausage rolls. I visited Ireland recently and the delectable, popular snacks are a convenience-food staple that can be enjoyed hot or cold. The Moroccan mint tea is my go-to thirst quencher.

Although these recipes represent the far corners of the world, all the ingredients can be found right here at home. Just add a favorite local cheese and in-season fruit for dessert and you have yourself a proper celebration for International Picnic Day, Father’s Day or any summer day.

Karen Schneider is the editor of Northern Journeys, a quarterly publication that supports the arts. She is also a book editor and a writer who has contributed to the Lewiston Sun Journal for 20 years. She can be contacted at iwrite33@comcast.net.

This eclectic picnic combines flavors from four countries and includes the season’s first strawberries and a sampling of local cheeses. Ready to serve on a deck or transported to your favorite picnic spot, the international dishes can be prepared in advance.

Sausage rolls (Ireland)

Serves 4, allowing for 2 per person

1 pound lean ground pork

1 leek, diced (white part only)

1 apple, diced

1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme

1 1/2 teaspoons dried sage

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

Salt & pepper

1 package frozen puff pastry (2 sheets), thawed

1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine pork, leek, apple, herbs and mustard seeds in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Roll out pastry. Cut each of the rectangular sheets into fourths. Spoon pork mixture onto each square. Roll into a tube, brush edges and top with beaten egg, then fold and crimp to seal. Score tops and bake for 20 minutes on a cookie sheet until golden and cooked through. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Crunchy chicken salad (Vietnam)

Serves 6

Salad:

4 cups finely shredded green cabbage

1 1/2 cups shredded carrot

1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro

1/4 cup coarsely chopped mint

3 cups cooked chicken, shredded

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

In a large bowl, toss together the cabbage, carrots, red onion, cilantro, mint and shredded chicken. Add oil and dressing (see below) and toss. Garnish (see below) and serve.

Dressing:

4 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon water

1 jalapeno pepper, minced

1 teaspoon minced garlic

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Stir until the sugar is dissolved; set aside.

Garnishes:

2 tablespoons oil

2 large shallots, thinly sliced

Salt

Lime wedges

3 tablespoons roasted peanuts, crushed

Heat oil in a small saute pan. Add shallots and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until golden, 3-4 minutes. Drain shallots on paper towels, sprinkle them with salt and set aside. Use to garnish the salad along with the lime and peanuts.

Panzanella (Mediterranean)

Serves 6

Salad:

1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced

2 red and/or yellow peppers, seeded and diced

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced

6 ounces feta cheese, diced

1/2 cup black olives

Combine vegetables, olives and feta in a large bowl and set aside.

Croutons:

1/4 cup olive oil

1 loaf sourdough bread cut in cubes to make 6 cups

Sea salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan and add bread. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; cook over medium heat, tossing frequently for 10-15 minutes until browned.

Vinaigrette:

1/4 cup red wine or apple cider vinegar

3 teaspoons minced garlic

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 cup olive oil

Combine all ingredients except olive oil in a glass measuring cup and blend together. Whisking constantly, slowly add olive oil to make an emulsion. Add vinaigrette and bread cubes to vegetables and toss. This is even better if you let it sit for about 30 minutes so flavors are enhanced. Season to taste and serve at room temperature.

Moroccan tea

Makes 1.5 quarts

6 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, plus sprigs for garnish

8 green tea bags

1-2 tablespoons honey

Bring water to a boil in a pot. Turn off heat. Add mint and allow to steep for 5 minutes. Bring back to a boil. Turn off heat and add tea. Steep for 3 more minutes. Strain and sweeten to taste. Chill.

Panzanella is a versatile Mediterranean dish incorporating summer’s bounty.
Sausage rolls, an Irish staple, are a delicious, easy picnic addition.

Advertisement