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Have a picnic in Pittsburgh with family, friends and homemade food

By Olga Watkins
Tuesday, July 2, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

Highland Park, South Park, Moon Park, Brush Creek Park and Riverview Park are just a few of the dozens of family friendly and beautifully scenic city, county and neighborhood parks in and around Pittsburgh.

In the summer months many of these locales offer everything from fishing and ziplines, wave pools and sand volleyball courts to free concerts and movies, festivals and fireworks. Our parks play a huge role in making our city so livable, picturesque and unique. Within minutes of Downtown, there are enough amenities available in the parks to keep any family entertained and active throughout the year.

And while concession stand food is often readily available, a lunch or dinner of hot dogs, chicken fingers and snow cones is not for everyone. Packing a picnic is the perfect opportunity to get your creative culinary juices flowing by making a delicious and memorable meal part of a wonderful day with your family or a romantic interlude with your sweetheart.

All of these items can be made a day in advance, except the watermelon salad, which should be assembled right before transporting or serving. Just remember to wrap the sandwiches tightly in plastic and store the salads in airtight containers. Use insulated lunch boxes and coolers with ice packs to keep the contents of your picnic basket cold. If your prepared foods are unrefrigerated for four hours or more, take care to discard any leftovers.

Olga Watkins is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

Brie and Salmon Baguette

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon orange zest

1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

1 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons dried cranberries

2 cups arugula, rinsed

12-inch baguette

14 pound room temperature brie cheese, rind removed

12 pound thinly sliced smoked salmon

14 cup sliced red onion pieces

Combine the olive oil, orange zest, orange juice, honey and vinegar and whisk until thoroughly combined. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cranberries and allow them to sit in the dressing for at least 1 hour. Just before making the sandwich, toss the arugula with the cranberries in the dressing.

Use a bread knife to cut the baguette in half lengthwise. Spread the brie onto both sides of the bread as you would with butter. Add the salmon in an even layer and then the onions. Strain the arugula and cranberries from the dressing and add them, in an even layer, to the sandwich.

Wrap the sandwich tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until you're ready to pack your picnic basket.

Cut into 4 to 8 smaller pieces to serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Grilled Chicken and Pepper Wrap With Garlic-Herb Vinaigrettte

For the vinaigrette:

14 cup olive oil

2 teaspoons aged balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons honey

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

3-4 leaves of fresh basil, chopped

1 sprig fresh oregano, leaves only, chopped

6 leaves fresh flatleaf parsley, chopped

For the filling:

6 ounces chicken breast, grilled then chilled and cut into bite-size pieces

12 cup of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

14 cup of hot pepper rings, chopped

14 cup of artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

1 tablespoon pitted Kalamata olives, finely diced

2 tablespoons red onion, thinly sliced into 1-inch-long pieces

4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into small chunks

For serving:

2 12-inch flour tortillas

To prepare the vinaigrette: Combine the olive oil, vinegar, honey, lemon juice and mustard in a bowl and whisk thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic, basil, oregano and parsley and stir gently.

To prepare the filling: In a large mixing bowl, combine the chicken, tomatoes, peppers, artichoke hearts, olives, onions and mozzarella cheese. Add the dressing and fold the ingredients until coated.

To serve: Warm each tortilla in a large pan or on a griddle for about 30 seconds at medium heat to make them more pliable. Lay the shells flat and divide the filling ingredients between the two tortillas, placing the filling in the center of each shell. Tuck in the sides and roll up the ends as you would with a burrito. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate until you're ready to pack your picnic basket.

Cut in halves or thirds to serve.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Porchetta and Provolone on Ciabatta

Porchetta is a traditional Italian delight. A suckling pig is deboned, stuffed and seasoned with salt, pepper, rosemary and lots of garlic. Sometimes, fennel and other herbs and spices are also used. It is typically rolled into a large cylindrical shape and slow-roasted over a wood fire. Finally, it's chilled, sliced and served on bread.

You can find porchetta at most Italian markets and at some gourmet deli counters. You can also substitute chilled, thinly sliced, roasted pork loin roast that has been seasoned with garlic and rosemary for a similar taste experience.

2 tablespoons honey-stoneground mustard dressing

1 individual size ciabatta roll

2 ounces provolone cheese, sliced

14 cup sweet pickle slices

4 ounces thinly sliced porchetta or cold, sliced, roasted pork loin

Spread the honey mustard on both sides of the ciabatta and top each side with a slice of provolone cheese. Next, add a layer of pickle slices and a layer of porchetta. Lastly, slice the sandwich into 2 to 4 pieces and wrap it tightly in plastic, either in pieces or as one whole sandwich. The provolone, honey mustard and sweet pickle slices also work beautifully with hot or cold fried pork cutlets as a sandwich. Cut in halves or quarters to serve.

Makes 1 sandwich.

Watermelon and Jicama Salad With Fresh Mint

For the dressing:

14 cup grapeseed oil

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, sliced

2 tablespoons fresh basil, sliced

For the salad:

1 cup jicama, shredded, tossed in lemon water and drained

2 tablespoons shredded carrot

2 green onions, cleaned and thinly sliced on a bias

2 cups fresh watermelon, cut into small cubes or balls (12 inch or smaller)

12 cup crumbled feta or goat cheese

2 cups sturdy salad greens, romaine, leaf, iceberg and baby spinach are good for this

To prepare the dressing: Combine the oil, honey, vinegar and lime juice in a mixing bowl and whisk thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper. Gently fold in the mint leaves and basil.

To prepare the salad: In a separate bowl, combine the jicama, carrots and green onions, pour the dressing on top and stir. Let these ingredients sit in the dressing for about 10 minutes. Next, add the watermelon and cheese and stir gently. Finally, fold in the salad greens just before packing or serving. You can also store the dressing separately, build the salad and toss it all together just before serving.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Grilled Corn and Chickpea Salad

14 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon fresh dill

2 ears corn, grilled, cooled and cut off of the cob

1 can chickpeas, rinsed

12 small zucchini, peeled and diced

14 cup red onion, finely diced

14 cup sweet red or green bell pepper, finely diced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine the olive oil, lemon juice and fresh dill in a mixing bowl and whisk. Add the rest of the ingredients except the salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

Makes 4 servings.

Summer Berry Turnovers

2 cup water, plus 12 cup cold water, divided

2 tablespoons sugar, plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided

14 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons orange juice

1 teaspoon orange zest

1 cup assorted fresh berries, cleaned, stemmed and/or hulls removed

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Butter to grease the baking sheet

Pie crust dough, enough for a double-crust pie

1 tablespoon melted butter

In a saucepan, bring 2 cups of water to a rolling boil. Add 2 tablespoons of sugar and salt and stir until they are dissolved. Add the orange juice and zest, then add the berries and turn the heat down to a high simmer. Allow the mixture to reduce by about one-third.

When the mixture has reduced, stir the cornstarch into the 12 cup of cold water and quickly add it into the berry mixture. Gently stir until the cornstarch water is thoroughly combined with the berry mixture. The berry filling will thicken quickly. Continue to gently stir the filling until it is thick and not runny. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Allow the filling to cool before moving onto the next step.

Heat the oven to 350० degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet. Roll out the pie dough and cut out 6 6-inch circles of dough. Divide the cooled filling equally among the dough circles, placing the filling on one side of the circle with a 12- to 34-inch edge of dough visible. Fold the other half of the dough over the filling half and press the edges together, using your fingers and the tines of a fork to seal the edge completely.

Bake in the center of the oven for 15 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, lightly brush each turnover with a little melted butter and sprinkle with the 1 tablespoon of sugar. Then return the turnovers to the oven, turning the baking sheet, for another 10 minutes or until golden brown. Allow the turnovers to cool before wrapping or eating. Wrap in wax paper to transport.

Makes 6 turnovers.

Raspberry Mint Tea

Drinking water

1 cup sugar or equivalent sweetener

2 large bunches fresh mint, rinsed (leaves on the stems)

2 pints fresh red raspberries

Ice, for serving

Bring 1 gallon of drinking water to a rapid boil. Add the sugar and carefully stir until it's dissolved. Add the mint and continue to boil for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover the pot and steep the mint leaves for another 15 minutes. Strain the liquid into another pot to remove the leaves. Add the raspberries while the water is still warm. Allow the tea to cool at room temperature. Stir before transferring the tea into a gallon-size pitcher or airtight container. Add cold drinking water to bring the level to 1 gallon. Chill in the refrigerator until serving. Pour over ice to serve.

Makes 1 gallon.

 

 
 


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