Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Summer picnic fare

Shelly over at This Eclectic Life asked for suggestions for picnic food, particularly for things she could bring to a blankets on the grass outdoor theater performance. I'm a huge fan of picnics and outdoor eating, so I couldn't help but jump in and offer up a few of my favorites.

What are some of your family's favorite summer picnic foods? Leave me a note in the comments and I'll post the links below.

Here are some of mine:

Cold Sesame Noodles (always a real crowd-pleaser)
Note: this can be made vegetarian by leaving out the meat, but since we all know how much Shelly loves her bacon I suspect that won't be needed in her house)

Serves 2-3 on its own or 4-6 as a side dish

2oz/50g lean back bacon (hard to find here so I use Chinese-style roast pork - I roast up a big hunk every now and again and freeze it in smaller portions for throwing into things like this, stir-fries, etc.)
1 Tbl peanut (or other light) oil
1/2 inch/1cm piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped (no need to peel)
1 clove of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
4oz/100g fresh bean sprouts
2 tsp Mirin or sherry (or other light white cooking wine)
7 inch/18cm cucumber, diced (no need to peel or seed unless it's one of those big waxy, seedy ones. If it's au naturel just dice that sucker up)
8oz/225g dried egg noodles (skinny ones like soba noodles, i.e. the ones that look like spaghetti)
2 spring onions (scallions), very thinly sliced
3 Tbl sesame oil
1 1/2 Tbl light soy sauce
plenty of freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Grill or broil the bacon until the edges crisp up, then cut it up into very small pieces. Heat the peanut oil in a wok (or deep frying pan if you don't have a wok) until very hot, then add the ginger, garlic and bean sprouts. Stir-fry for 30 seconds, splash in the wine and toss 30 seconds longer. Scoop into a small bowl and leave to cool.

If you've got a big seedy waxed cucumber: cut it in half lengthwise, scoop out and discard the seedy center and finely dice the flesh. Set aside. (Thankfully, they sell the little ones here, no need for all this nonsense. I want wax on my candles, not on my food!)

Boil the noodles until al dente or as directed on the package, separating the strands with a wooden spoon, then rinse them under cold water and drain thoroughly. Combine all the ingredients in a serving bowl, mixing very thoroughly. May be served straight away or refrigerated up to 6 hours.

Shelly also asked for some savory tart recipes. Here are a few I like because they're actually light and reasonably healthy. Ok, the truth is I absolutely adore the traditional, heavy, laden with fat and cholesterol versions (I can't help it, it's the Hungarian in me, a love of heavy creamy dishes is in my blood), but since I might just as well go ahead and glue those directly to my already quite a bit larger than I'd like it to be derriere I've made it a project to find decent lower calorie substitutes. (If anyone really really wants the fattening versions I'll post them, as long as you sign this handy little waiver I've got in case your favorite jeans no longer fit after eating it...)

Spinach Pie
1700 calories (for the whole pie)

1 bunch fresh spinach (washed and chopped) OR 1 package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1/2 cup water
3 fist-sized potatos, peeled and grated and with the water squeezed out
4 zucchinis, grated and squeezed
3 Tbl bread crumbs (homemade if you got 'em)
2+2 Tbl olive oil
2 Tbl mayonnaise (lowfat ok)
2 eggs
2 Tbl chicken soup powder (ubiquitious in Israeli recipes)
1 Tbl dried dill
1/4 tsp black pepper
salt to taste

9x13 inch (20x30cm) or so rectangular pan

Steam the spinach in water for about 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and steam for another 3 minutes while stirring. Drain and return to pot.

Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.

Transfer to a greased dish and bake in a medium oven (say about 350F/170C) for about 45 minutes (keep an eye on it).

Green Tart
750 calories (for the whole pie)

5 medium leeks, cut into thin rings
2 heads of celery, roughly grated (i.e. give it a quick whizz around the food processor)
1 cup (yes, cup) of fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
1 tsp sesame seeds
2 eggs
1/4 tsp ground caroway seeds
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 Tbl good quality olive oil

Pour enough boiling water on the leeks to cover them and leave to sit for 15 minutes.

Drain the leeks and squeeze out the excess water. Add the celery, cilantro, dill and sesame seeds and mix thoroughly.

Beat the eggs with the spices and the oil, add to the leek mixture and mix thoroughly.

Pour into a greased 9-10" (26cm) pie plate and make in a medium oven (say about 350F/170C) for about 45 minutes (keep an eye on it).

Butternut Squash and Eggplant Tart

2 large eggplants
2 large butternut squash, cut in half lengthwise and cleaned of seeds
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup lowfat soft white cheese (i.e. farmer cheese or other)
1 cup lowfat garlic flavor soft cheese spread
2 Tbl mayonnaise (lowfat ok)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt

Grill the eggplant and squash on a medium-high heat until soft. Remove seeds. Put in large mixing bowl and mix together well (they should each be falling apart a bit). You can mix them in a food processor if you like, but I prefer to leave them a little bit chunkier. Add the beaten eggs and mix well.

In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Add to the eggplant-squash mixture and combine thoroughly.

Pour into a greased pie plate and bake for 45 minutes in a medium oven (say about 350F/170C) for about 45 minutes (keep an eye on it).

Optional: throw in some sauteed mushrooms in addition, or even instead of the eggplant. Steamed carrots and/or sweet potatoes would also work. It's a flexible style of cooking. Get creative.


Anonymous said...

Robin, Thank you for posting those! I have an article about a picnic that is just about half ready to post. I wanted to link to your recipes, so that's perfect. I'm loving the sound of the noodles. Spinach tarts, and green tarts would be wonderful, but I will have to disguise anything with squash in it. Though I love squash, my husband has an aversion to it that borders on idiotic. It's hilarious to watch him try to avoid eating it when friends serve it at meals.
Thank you for going to the trouble!

Robin said...

You could always substitute sweet potatoes for the squash. It's more of a "formula" (this + that = tart) than a "you must do this" kind of recipe anyway.

Anonymous said...

LOL! He's the worst about sweet potatos! He almost gags watching me eat them! I told him that, although he claims "Southern roots," he's a California boy. I posted with a link! Thank you again for putting up the recipes. Your sesame noodles remind me of a Vietnamese dish I eat a lot. I'm looking forward to trying it!

Anonymous said...

Those recipes look delicious. I love Cold noodles and that Green Pie with the fresh cilantro. When I make my salsa, I always add lots of cilantro. :)
Also the salmon recipes look really good too. I love grilling my salmon.

And your WFMW, works for me too! :)

Spicy said...

Thank you. I love noodles...always looking for new recipe's..and believe it or not..spinach is my favorite greens.

Fairly Odd Mother said...

Mmmmmmm. . . these look GOOD!

Jen said...

I have an overabundance of spinach right now, so I'll have to try that pie.
And you can get pork in any form in Israel? ; )

Janet said...

mmm, those noodles sound GREAT!

Anonymous said...

I tried the Sesame Noodles and loved them! Thank you again for posting them!

Robin said...

Glad you enjoyed Shelly, they're a real favorite around here too.