Showing posts with label Picnic Food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Picnic Food. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Go Green for Super Bowl Sunday! Cook Easy-to-Make Roasted or Grilled Artichokes

We are planning a Super Bowl Sunday party. My plan is to serve "picnic" food. Carrot salad, potato salad, Little Gem green salad, Persian salad, crispy fried chicken, brown sugar salmon and roasted artichokes.

Super Bowl Sunday food should be fun, delicious and healthy.

Spring is happening and artichokes are showing up in our farmers markets. The dark green vegetable, prized by cooks, is healthy and easy-to-prepare.
Looking at an artichoke, with its hard exterior and sharp pointed leaves makes me wonder how anyone figured out they would be good to eat. With a small amount of effort, that tough looking exterior gives up the wonderfully savory flavor bits at the end of the each leaf.
Choosing a good artichoke

Whether you find one that is the size of your hand or a larger one the size of a soft ball, give it a squeeze. If the artichoke feels solid, you've found a good one. An artichoke past its prime will be squishy like a child's squeeze toy. Make sure all the leaves are green. Don't buy an artichoke with brown or blackened leaves.
Having a sharp pair of scissors or kitchen shears, a pairing knife and a chefs knife will make breaking down the artichoke easy.

Roasted or Grilled Artichokes

One person can easily eat one artichoke the size of your hand. The larger artichokes will feed 2-3 people as an appetizer or a side dish. 

Serves 4

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 30-35 minutes

Total Time: 40-45 minutes

Ingredients

4 medium sized or 2 large artichokes, washed
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup sweet butter (optional)
Directions

Preheat oven to 350F. Or, set grill (indoor or outdoor) to medium-high.

Place a large stock pot on the stove on a high flame. Add kosher salt. Bring to a low boil. Cover.

To roast the artichoke sections after boiling, cover the bottom of a baking sheet with parchment paper, a Silpat sheet or a piece of aluminum foil. Set aside.

Using scissors trim off the pointy end of each artichoke leaf.

Trim off the stem of each artichoke, flush to the bottom. Discard the stems.

Give each artichoke a flat-top haircut. Place the artichoke on its side. Using a chefs knife, trim off the top 1/4" of each artichoke and discard.

Place the artichoke on the cutting board. Using a chefs knife, cut each artichoke in half, from bottom to the top. Cut each half into two pieces. If the artichoke is large, cut those four pieces in half, creating eight segments.

Working quickly, because the inside of the artichoke will discolor when exposed to air, use a sharp pairing knife to remove the fuzzy part on the inside of each section. Rinse the artichoke sections and discard the fuzzy parts.

Place all the artichoke sections in the boiling salted water. Cover and cook 10 minutes.

Using the pairing knife, test one of the artichoke sections. The knife should easily go into the fleshy part on the bottom of the leaves. If the knife doesn't go in easily, cook another 5 minutes but beware not to over cook the artichokes. They should be firm not mushy.

Place a colander or strainer in the sink. Pour the hot salted water with the artichoke sections into the colander and drain.

Transfer the artichoke sections to a mixing bowl. Drizzle with olive oil. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Toss well to coat.

If grilling, place the artichokes on the pre-heated grill. Turn frequently to avoid burning. Remove when grill marks appear on all sides.

If baking in the oven, arrange the artichokes on the prepared baking sheet, leaving room between the sections.

Place in the oven and cook 15 minutes. Using tongs, turn the sections over and place back in the oven another 15 minutes so they cook evenly.

Remove the artichokes from the oven and serve hot or at room temperature with sea salt, black pepper and small dishes of melted butter (optional).

If serving with melted butter (optional), melt the butter in a small saucepan being careful to avoid burning.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Summer Travel - Time to Plan a Picnic at 30,000 Feet




When you board an airplane and walk past the first-class passengers settling into their double-wide seats, it’s difficult to avoid feeling like a second-class citizen. The issue isn’t only personal space. As the curtain closes behind the lucky few, you know the crew is preparing a nonstop feast for those with plenty of disposable income.
You can almost see the French cheeses and crackers on a tray with glasses of bubbly Champagne, an opulent first course meant to stimulate the appetite before a gourmet entree — chateaubriand, perhaps, or line-caught salmon with roasted asparagus. If you listen closely, you can hear the flight attendant whispering to leave room for the hot fudge sundae with fresh whipped cream and toasted almonds.
In coach, nothing is free. Sure, for now the sodas, water, and coffee are still complimentary, but if you’re hungry, have your credit card ready. Alaska Airline’s cheeseburger with chips or the Chicken Bánh Mi Sandwich is a relative bargain at $7, but Delta charges $9.99 for a grilled chicken wrap, and a vending-machine-type pastrami and cheese (cheese on pastrami?) sandwich is $9.99 on American Airlines. Delta’s “Eats Treats” is a choice of three snack boxes with packets of easy to eat chips, cookies,  cheese spread, nuts and dried fruit for $5.99-$8.99.
You’ll do a lot better if you brown bag it and pretend you’re on a picnic.

Choose food with staying power

Pack food that travels well: trail mix, your own tea bags and sunflower seeds. Fresh fruit is good, but avoid berries that bruise easily. Carrot and celery sticks are great, as are sandwiches. One caveat: Remember that you can only take 3 ounces of any liquid through airport security, so go easy on the salad dressing or condiments you bring.

Assemble sandwiches carefully

Sandwiches are an easy-to-eat option for in-flight meals because everyone gets to choose what they want. There are an infinite number of combinations from ham and cheese on rye to grilled shiitake mushroom and watercress sandwich for vegetarians. Meat eaters in the family can go crazy and build a feast of turkey breast, salami and provolone on deli rye.
To keep your bread pristine, put the mayo or mustard (as well as tomatoes or lettuce) between the meat slices, not directly on the bread. Or, for really long flights, wrap the bread, meat and cheese in plastic wrap sealed in Ziploc bags and assemble the sandwich with condiment packets while you’re flying.
Avoid fillings that might disturb your fellow passengers. Overly messy food or condiments, like chopped liver and garlic paste are a bit too aromatic for an airplane’s close quarters.

Keep it fun for the kids

If kids like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, stop at a camping supply store and pick up a couple of refillable plastic tubes. The kids can choose their favorite peanut butter and jam and pre-fill the tubes at home. Now they have something to look forward to on the plane.

A salad bar in the air

Make carrot, potato or pasta salad at home and pack it in plastic containers. Keep a green salad fresh by assembling it when you’re ready to eat. (A tip: You can pick up a couple of the empty salad dressing containers at your grocery store’s salad bar.) At home, give everyone the chance to pack their favorite salad fixings. Besides lettuce or arugula, bring chopped tomatoes, scallions, croutons, olives, hardboiled egg slices, crumbled cheese, or carrot rounds — those salad-dressing containers work well for these items, too.
Want to make your salad even more delicious? Try this simple vinaigrette. Just heat ¼ cup of balsamic vinegar over a low flame until it’s reduced to a teaspoon, then mix it together with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. The reduced balsamic adds depth and natural sweetness to the dressing.

Let your deli do the work

To glam up your meal, nothing says classy like a charcuterie plate and nothing is easier to prepare. Pick up a selection of favorite meats, pâtés, cheeses, and a small baguette or a selection of rolls at your favorite deli. Bring along some olives, a few cornichons — those tart French pickles — and a packet of Dijon mustard, and you won’t care what the first-class passengers are eating.

Celebrate your sweet tooth

For dessert, go wild and stop at your favorite bakery. Fresh fruit tarts don’t travel well, but cookies, muffins, scones and even eclairs do quite nicely if packed in plastic containers, like the ones used at the deli or the lidded containers sold by Ziploc and Glad.

Don’t forget the basics

Bring paper plates, napkins and plastic utensils so you can feast in style. A plain kitchen towel makes a perfect airplane tray tablecloth and helps with spills. Pack everything in plastic containers. Be a good neighbor and carry plastic bags for easy clean up so you don’t leave any trash behind. Take along sea salt and freshly ground pepper in empty 35mm film canisters (remember those?) or even the plastic containers used for prescription medication.

Why we love flying

With all the inconveniences, we easily forget that flying is a manmade miracle. Think about it, a hundred-plus people and all their luggage powering through the sky above the highest clouds. Amazing. If only we didn’t feel so claustrophobically uncomfortable, we could return to the wonder we felt as kids when we pressed our noses against the window and looked down at the earth below.
We can’t regain that lost innocence, but enjoying a delicious home-prepared meal, maybe we can reconnect with the fun of flying. A really good sandwich, some olives, and a crisp Fuji apple from the farmers market can do that for you.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Bring Your Own Food on the Airplane For An In-Flight Picnic




You can almost see the French cheeses and crackers on a tray with glasses of bubbly Champagne, an opulent first course meant to stimulate the appetite before a gourmet entree — chateaubriand, perhaps, or line-caught salmon with roasted asparagus. If you listen closely, you can hear the flight attendant whispering to leave room for the hot fudge sundae with fresh whipped cream and toasted almonds.
In coach, nothing is free. Sure, for now the sodas, water, and coffee are still complimentary, but if you’re hungry, have your credit card ready. Alaska Airline’s cheeseburger with chips is a relative bargain at $6, but Delta charges $9.49 for their hamburger and $10.99 for one of their wraps, and a vending-machine-type sandwich or salad is $9.99 on American Airlines. 
You’ll do a lot better if you brown bag it and pretend you’re on a picnic.

Choose food with staying power

Pack food that travels well: trail mix, your own tea bags and sunflower seeds. Fresh fruit is good, but avoid berries that bruise easily. Carrot and celery sticks are great, as are sandwiches. One caveat: Remember that you can only take 3 ounces of any liquid through airport security, so go easy on the salad dressing or condiments you bring.

Assemble sandwiches carefully

Sandwiches are an easy-to-eat option for in-flight meals because everyone gets to choose what they want. There are an infinite number of combinations from ham and cheese on rye to a grilled shiitake mushroom and watercress sandwich for vegetarians. Meat eaters in the family can go crazy and build a feast of turkey breast, salami and provolone on deli rye.
To keep your bread pristine, put the mayo or mustard (as well as tomatoes or lettuce) between the meat slices, not directly on the bread. Or, for really long flights, wrap the bread, meat and cheese in plastic wrap sealed in Ziploc bags and assemble the sandwich with condiment packets while you’re flying.
Avoid fillings that might disturb your fellow passengers. Overly messy food or condiments, like chopped liver and garlic paste are a bit too aromatic for an airplane’s close quarters.

Keep it fun for the kids

If kids like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, stop at a camping supply store and pick up a couple of refillable plastic tubes. The kids can choose their favorite peanut butter and jam and pre-fill the tubes at home. Now they have something to look forward to on the plane.

A salad bar in the air

Make carrot, potato or pasta salad at home and pack it in plastic containers. Keep a green salad fresh by assembling it when you’re ready to eat. (A tip: You can pick up a couple of the empty salad dressing containers at your grocery store’s salad bar.) At home, give everyone the chance to pack their favorite salad fixings. Besides lettuce or arugula, bring chopped tomatoes, scallions, croutons, olives, hardboiled egg slices, crumbled cheese, and carrot rounds — those salad-dressing containers work well for these items, too. It's a little more ambitious, but a grilled vegetable salad is well-worth the extra effort.  A treat anytime, at 30,000 feet, the sweetness of charred vegetables is especially delicious.
Besides salad dressing in one of those little containers, bring sea salt and black pepper as well.
Want to make your salad even more delicious? Try this simple vinaigrette. Just heat ¼ cup of balsamic vinegar over a low flame until it’s reduced to a teaspoon, then mix it together with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. The reduced balsamic adds depth and natural sweetness to the dressing.

Let your deli do the work

To glam up your meal, nothing says classy like a charcuterie plate and nothing is easier to prepare. Pick up a selection of favorite meats, pâtés, cheeses, and a small baguette or a selection of rolls at your favorite deli. Bring along some olives, a few cornichons — those tart French pickles — and a packet of Dijon mustard, and you won’t care what the first-class passengers are eating.

Celebrate your sweet tooth

For dessert, go wild and stop at your favorite bakery. Fresh fruit tarts don’t travel well, but cookies, muffins, scones and even eclairs do quite nicely if packed in plastic containers, like the ones used at the deli or the lidded containers sold by Ziploc and Glad.

Don’t forget the basics

Bring paper plates, napkins and plastic utensils so you can feast in style. A plain kitchen towel makes a perfect airplane tray tablecloth and helps with spills. Pack everything in plastic containers. Be a good neighbor and carry plastic bags for easy clean up so you don’t leave any trash behind. Take along sea salt and freshly ground pepper in empty 35mm film canisters (remember those?) or even the plastic containers used for prescription medication.

Why we love flying

With all the inconveniences, we easily forget that flying is a manmade miracle. Think about it, a hundred-plus people and all their luggage powering through the sky above the highest clouds. Amazing. If only we didn’t feel so claustrophobically uncomfortable, we could return to the wonder we felt as kids when we pressed our noses against the window and looked down at the earth below.
We can’t regain that lost innocence, but enjoying a delicious home-prepared meal, maybe we can reconnect with the fun of flying. A really good sandwich, some olives, and a crisp Fuji apple from the farmers market can do that for you.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Fourth of July Picnic Favorites: Rosemary Fried Chicken, Carrot Salad and Potato Salad

I wrote this post several years ago as a tribute to how much we enjoy the 4th of July and how much we enjoy a picnic with our friends. Happily we'll be enjoying the evening all over again in a few days. Life is good. Very good.

The serious underpinning of 4th of July should never be forgotten. In these perilous times we have good reasons to appreciate our good fortune as we celebrate independence, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness.

For us, our day is spent going to the breakfast 5k in Pacific Palisades, our small town overlooking the Pacific Ocean. After lunch we cheer on the parade that slowly winds its way up main street, then we go home and cook our part of the pot-luck picnic dinner.

At 6:30 we gather in the nearby park, meeting up with friends and family as we eat, talk, and wait until night falls when the fireworks at the high school begin.

We contribute favorite picnic dishes to the pot luck. Nothing could be better on the 4th than crunchy-salty, rosemary fried chicken, sweet carrot salad with the added kick of lemon soaked raisins and a bit of cayenne, and the comforting creaminess of Yukon Gold potato salad.

Rosemary Fried Chicken

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 45 minutes to prepare, marinate the chicken overnight in buttermilk

Ingredients

2 whole chickens, washed, cut apart, skin removed if desired, wing tips, bones, and skin reserved to make chicken stock
1 quart buttermilk
5 cups flour
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 quarts safflower or canola oil

Method

When you cut up the chicken, separate the two parts of the wing and cut the breast meat off the bone. Keep or discard the skin as you wish. The breasts can be left whole but will cook more evenly when cut into strips or tenders. The legs and thighs can be cut in half if you have a heavy chef's knife.

Toss the chicken pieces with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. Put the pieces in a container, add the buttermilk, 1 tablespoon of the rosemary, stir, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Using a wok or deep frying pan, heat the cooking oil to 325 - 350 degrees or until a piece of parsley browns immediately when dropped in the oil. Before you begin cooking, prepare your counter. Have a slotted spoon or an Asian style strainer ready. Lay two paper towels on top of a piece of brown grocery bag paper on a large plate.

Reserve 1 teaspoon of the rosemary to use just before serving.
In a brown paper bag mix together the flour, sea salt, pepper, rosemary, cayenne (optional), sugar (optional), and onions (optional). Remove one piece of chicken at a time. Shake off the excess buttermilk, drop the piece into the paper bag with the seasoned flour, close the top of the bag, and shake. Repeat with all the pieces, assembling them on a plate or cutting board.

Cook the chicken in batches. Gently drop each piece into the hot oil, making sure it doesn't touch the other pieces so each one cooks evenly.

Turn over when browned on one side. Remove when golden brown and drain on the paper towels. The pieces will cook quickly: chicken tenders (breast) 2-3 minutes; wings 7-8 minutes; thighs & legs 10-12 minutes.

Just before serving, lightly dust the chicken pieces with 1 teaspoon of rosemary, sea salt and pepper.

If you are making deep fried vegetables like onion rings or broccoli florets, they cook even more quickly: thick rings cook in 30 seconds, thin rings in 5-6 seconds; broccoli in 30 seconds. Soak the vegetables in the seasoned buttermilk for a few minutes, then process like the chicken pieces.

Carrot Salad with Lemon-Soaked Raisins

Yield 6-8 (makes 1 quart)
Time 20 minutes

8 large carrots (preferably farmers' market fresh), washed, peeled, ends trimmed off
1 scallion (optional), finely chopped
1 small bunch Italian parsley, washed, dried, stems trimmed, finely chopped
2 tablespoons golden raisins
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Pinch of cayenne
Sea salt and pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise

Soak the raisins in lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper at least 30 minutes, preferably overnight Grate the carrots in a large mixing bowl.

Roughly chop the raisins, reserving the lemon juice not absorbed into the raisins. Mix together the carrots, raisins, parsley, and scallions.

Season with the cumin, cayenne, sea salt, and black pepper and toss. Add the lemon juice and mayonnaise. Mix well.

VariationsUse cilantro instead of Italian parsley

Add chopped capers

Top with roasted chopped almonds

Yukon Gold Potato Salad

Yield: 4-6 servings
Time: 60 minutes

Ingredients

2 pounds potatoes, preferably Yukon Gold, washed
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
3 quarts water
1 scallion, washed, ends trimmed, finely chopped
1 carrot, washed, peeled, ends removed, grated
1 ear of corn or 1/2 cup corn kernels
2 tablespoons olives, preferably Kalamata or cracked green, pitted, finely chopped
1 tablespoon capers, drained, finely chopped
2-3 tablespoons mayonnaise
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Put the potatoes, kosher salt, and water into a pot, bring to a gentle boil, and cover. Cook 30-45 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the potatoes. They should be firm, not mushy.

The potatoes are done when a fork goes in easily. Remove from the salted water. Let cool. Peel off the skins.

Grill an ear of corn and cut up carrot seasoned with olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Cut the kernels off the cob, finely chop the carrot and add to the potato salad along with the chopped scallions, olives, capers, and mayonnaise.

Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and pepper.

Variations

Add 1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley, leaves only.

Add 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh celery.

Add 1 broccoli floret either grilled or lightly sauteed then finely chopped

Friday, May 2, 2014

Picnic Food and Caviar at 30,000 Feet

Growing up, we used to fly from Los Angeles to New York once and sometimes twice a year so my mom could visit her mom who lived on the Upper West Side (110th and Amsterdam). In those days I looked forward to flying. How amazing, I thought, that this big heavy thing could roar down a runway and push itself into the air.

Sitting next to the window and looking down as we passed over desserts, mountains and cities, I was mesmerized.
Even today I regard flight as something of a miracle although the actual experience of being in an airplane isn't as much fun. Terrorism and economics have degraded the airport and flying experience. Having to pay for amenities we used to take for granted like paying to check luggage and being charged to phone an airline agent are high on my list of why travel is less fun than it used to be. And what about being charged for food on planes? When I was a kid, I looked forward to those meals. I know, I was easily satisfied when my favorite not-cooked-by-mom meal was a fried chicken Swanson TV dinner with mashed potatoes and corn in butter sauce.

Putting the fun back into flying

When we fly these days, I make a meal I think of as a picnic lunch. All the foods my family would eat when we went to the beach are great to have on the plane. Think about it. Nothing is better than a shared lunch of cold rosemary fried chicken, deli bar olives, Comte cheese and Breton crackers, chicken salad with mango chutney and toasted almondsegg salad flavored with bacon, arugula salad with home made croutons, potato salad with corn, chopped Italian parsley salad with cherry tomatoes, olives, Persian dukes, croutons and feta cheese with a reduced balsamic and olive oil dressing, roasted beet saladcarrot salad with lemon-pepper infused golden raisins and Fuji apples from a farmers market.
If I'm watching movies on my iPad and snacking on good food, flying is fun again.

Flights out of Tom Bradley International Terminal, LAX

Last fall I flew to Geneva, Switzerland out of LAX. Unfortunately, at the time, while the renovation of the terminal had been completed, the Level 4 food court vendors hadn't moved in.
Last week I was invited to a press reception at the terminal to try out the food and beverages served at the Petrossian Caviar and Champagne Bar.
Not everyone enjoys caviar. It's expensive and, well,  it is "eggs from a fish". Two strikes against caviar to many people. My dad loved caviar. He was Russian and loved all that kind of food: black bread, radishes, herring with onions in sour cream and chopped liver.
Back to last week

Going to the boarding area of an airport when you aren't actually flying is not easy. Special approvals need to be obtained. Passes are issued. Guards inspect you. PR people and airport personnel escort you every minute you are beyond security check points without a boarding pass.

I mention this for a reason.
Level 4 at Bradley International could be a destination for Angelenos. Going to airports and watching planes take off and land used to be a fun thing to do. No more. But if you are traveling internationally out of LAX, arriving at the airport two hours early won't be an inconvenience because you'll have the opportunity to enjoy the open, airy Great Hall with dozens of restaurants and retail stores as good as any you'll find at The Grove.
Petrossian gave us a tasting of their appetizers (smoked salmon canapés with salmon roe, blinis and hardboiled eggs topped with caviar), champagne and a High Society cocktail. Everything was delicious.
Besides serving caviar as God intended--on a blini--Petrossian has also created caviar powder and white chocolate with caviar. The powder is cool. Used instead of salt on the rim of a cocktail glass in the High Society adds a crunchy-salty-caviar flavor that worked great with the gin, St. Germaine and green Chartruse.
Besides a full menu at the Bar, Petrossian also has insulated packs to take on the plane. The snacks come with a big price tag, but if you are a caviar-eating kind of person, the high cost will be familiar.
I wrote a profile for Luxury Travel Magazine with a lot more details.

Ready. Set. Brine. Feta-Brined Roasted Whole Chicken

Does brining matter? That's what a friend and I asked ourselves when we were making  fried chicken . Like budding scientists, we did a c...