by Nancy Sweet, director, culinary operations and programs, LLCC
Picture it. A beautiful spring afternoon. Sunny blue skies. A short hike out to a quiet spot. Then spreading out a pretty blanket or quilt and unpacking a picnic basket. Or, maybe it’s date night or girl’s night out. Tasty snacks and a bottle of sparkling rosé make for the perfect evening at our local Muni for a show.
Regardless, portability, ease of use, and tastiness are key when planning a picnic menu. Maximize pre-picnic prep by making up and even portioning what you can in advance. Easy sandwiches, fresh salads and bite size snacks and treats are perfect. Paper plates are great, but for a more earth-friendly approach, grab some inexpensive melamine dishes or find something fun and vintage at a thrift store to reuse dishware.
The weather has been beautiful. Grab a friend, maybe your pups, too, and get outdoors! Start spring off right by have a relaxing and delicious meal outside in an unexpected location.
Fruit, Cheese and Herb Skewers
Serves 4 – 6
18 Basil leaves
18 Mint leaves
12 Fresh small mozzarella cheese balls
2 cups assorted berries: Blackberries, Raspberries, Strawberries, Blueberries all work
Balsamic vinegar (optional – this gets messy but it’s delish.)
Thread assorted combinations of berries, herbs, and cheese onto skewers. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar if desired.
Summer Rice Salad
Makes 6 servings
1 small shallot, minced
3 tablespoons white or red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cups cooked basmati or jasmine rice, chilled or room temperature
2 cups thinly sliced napa cabbage
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced English cucumbers
1 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
1/3 cup chopped fresh chives
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Salt to taste
Stir together shallot, vinegar, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and honey in a large bowl. Whisk in olive oil until blended. Add rice, cabbage, cucumbers, red bell pepper, green onions, mint, chives, and parsley; toss well. Add salt to taste. Cover and chill up to 4 hours.
Ginger and Lime Marinated Mellon
Makes 6 – 8 servings
1 (3 1/2-lb.) cantaloupe
1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled
Cheesecloth or coffee filter
2 tablespoons sugar in the raw or regular sugar
1 teaspoon loosely packed lime zest
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Peel, seed, and slice cantaloupe into 1/2-inch-thick wedges. Grate ginger to equal 1 tablespoon, using large holes of a box grater. Place grated ginger in a piece of cheesecloth or a coffee filter. Squeeze juice from grated ginger into a large bowl; discard solids. Add cantaloupe, sugar, and remaining ingredients to bowl; toss to coat. Pack mixture into 2 (1-qt.) wide-mouth canning jars; pour any accumulated juices into jars. Cover with metal lids, and screw on bands. Chill 3 to 8 hours.
Salami, Brie, and Fig Jam Sandwiches
Serves 4 sandwiches. Adjust up as needed.
4 oz brie, sliced into very thin wedges
4 oz fig jam
8 oz salami
Cut a baguette in half vertically down the middle to make it easier to work with. Then, slice each half horizontally in order to make it work for a sandwich. Spread the fig jam on the top side of the bread. Then, distribute out salami all over the bottom piece of bread. Then, top with all the cheese in one layer. Put sandwich together and cut into 1/4s. For most ease, wrap each individual sandwich in butcher paper and tape shut.
Cheesecake in a Jar
6 pecan shortbread cookies or graham cracker cookies, finely crushed
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons white sugar
6 (1/2 pint) canning jars with lids
12 ounces sliced fresh strawberries
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped
Stir together cookie crumbs, butter, and 2 tablespoons sugar in a bowl until blended. Divide mixture evenly among jars (about 3 1/2 tablespoons each) and gently press (do not pack) into bottoms.
Halve 6 strawberries for garnish and set aside. Chop remaining strawberries.
Beat together cream cheese, lemon juice, and 1/2 cup sugar in bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth. Fold in whipped cream and chopped berries and divide evenly among jars (about 1/2 cup each). Top each with a 2 berry halves and cover with lids. Chill at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.
Want to know more?
Lincoln Land Community College offers associate degree programs in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management and academic credit certificates in Culinary Arts and Baking/Pastry. For more information call 217-786-4613 or visit www.llcc.edu/hospitality-culinary-arts.