Pack some pizazz in your next picnic

The Picnic Cookbook by Annie Bell © 2013 Kyle Books
The Picnic Cookbook by Annie Bell © 2013 Kyle Books

Sometimes it seems all you can – or need to – muster for an outdoor picnic is wine, crackers and some great cheese. This summer, challenge yourself to create that summer event you’ve always imagined, starring crisp vegetables and prepared dishes and perhaps even a blanket you didn’t pull out of the dusty back corner of your closet.

A new book, “The Picnic Cookbook,” devotes itself to more than 100 simple recipes you can make at home and bring with you to picnic. Author Annie Bell is a food writer whose credits include British Vogue, and even though she sneaks in a few Brit-friendly menu items – Scotch egg pie, anyone? – the book provides an array of options, from dips and crudites to grilled shrimp and “All-American Cherry Pie.” Try out these tips to make a simple picnic look lavish:

Bell’s top tips to make your picnic sparkle:

Prepare as much beforehand, even freezing food if you need to.
The night before, throw ice packs in the freezer, chill any drinks, make salad dressings and pack the picnic basket.
Think small and light – pack cooler bags instead of boxes and bring condiments in smaller bags.
Chill drinks below the temperature you want to drink them at before leaving, allowing for the opening and closing of the cooler bag.

Don’t forget to pack these items:

Wine chiller sleeve
Ice cubes in a food thermos
Lightweight, fluffy fleece blankets
Small cutting boards
Trash bags for the end
Corkscrew
Food bags and ties to take home leftovers
Tablecloth and clips

Try out these recipes:

Cucumber, chile, and pumpkin seed salad

For six to eight people

Two cucumbers, ends discarded, halved, seeded, and sliced into half-moons
about 1⁄8 inch thick sea salt
1⁄3 heaping cup pumpkin seeds or pine nuts
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 scallions, trimmed and finely sliced
½ medium-hot red chile, seeded and finely chopped
A handful of coarsely chopped cilantro
In a large bowl, season the cucumber with sea salt and let stand for 30 minutes. Give the cucumber a good rinse in a strainer or a sink of cold water, then dry it in batches between double thicknesses of paper towels. At the same time, heat a skillet over medium heat and toast the pumpkin seeds or pine nuts until lightly colored, stirring continuously, then transfer them to a bowl and let cool. In a serving bowl or sealable container, combine the oil and lemon juice. Scatter the cucumber on top of the salad, then the scallion, chile, cilantro, and seeds or nuts, and cover to transport. Toss the salad in the dressing just before serving.

Tiramisu in a Jar

For four people

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon strong black
Coffee, cooled
3 tablespoons Kahlua or Tia Maria
2 medium eggs, separated
¼ cup unrefined superfine sugar
1½ cups mascarpone
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3½ to 4½ ounces ladyfingers
unsweetened cocoa, for dusting

In a shallow bowl, combine the coffee and liqueur. In a large bowl, whip the egg whites until they are stiff using a hand mixer. In another bowl, whip the yolks and sugar together. Beat the mascarpone into the egg yolk mixture until smooth, then the vanilla. Fold in the whipped egg whites in two batchess. Dip enough ladyfingers to cover the bottom of a 1-liter Le Parfait canning jar into the coffee-liqueur mixture until the sponge just starts to yield between your fingers, but not so that it is totally soaked, breaking them to fit as necessary. Spoon about a quarter of the mousse on top, and continue layering until you have used up all the ingredients, ending with mascarpone mousse. You should get about four layers of each. Liberally dust the surface with cocoa, close, and chill for at least 2 hours.

Eggplant veggie roast with goat cheese and tomatoes

For six people

3 eggplants, sliced approx. 1¼-inch thick, ends discarded
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered, depending on size
5½ ounces young firm goat cheese, cut into approx. ½-inch dice
Coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lay the eggplant slices out on a couple of cookie sheets, with a bit of space between each slice. Brush the slices with oil on both sides and season the top. Roast for 20 minutes, then turn them and cook until golden, another 15 to 20 minutes. At the same time, place the tomatoes in a bowl, scatter a bit of salt over them, and set aside. Transfer the eggplant slices to a large roasting pan that holds them in a single layer with a bit of space in between. Pour 3 tablespoons of oil over the tomatoes and gently toss, then mix in the goat cheese. Pile this on top of the eggplant slices and return to the oven for 4 to 5 minutes to warm through, then let
cool. Scatter with lots of chopped parsley. Transport in the roasting pan covered with foil, or transfer to a plate or container and cover.

Follow Alison Bowen on Twitter @reporteralison



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Newest java joint in bastion of hipness is…

Little may represent the change the neighborhood is undergoing right now like the arrival of the first Starbucks. The chain which is ubiquitous in Manhattan, opened a Williamsburg store at…

National

Black and white are the new orange at…

By Brendan O'Brien(Reuters) - Black and white are the new orange in a Michigan county where the sheriff has made a wardrobe change for jail…

National

Traps set after reports of giant snake on…

New Jersey animal control workers have set traps to snare a reported 20-foot-long serpent slithering through the waters of Lake Hopatcong.

Local

NYPD: Stroller carrying 2-year-old rolls onto Queens subway…

A 2-year-old girl in a stroller rolled onto subway tracks in Queens on Monday morning, police said.

Entertainment

‘The Leftovers’ recap: Season 1, Episode 4, ‘B.J.…

Last week’s episode of “The Leftovers” was apparently a fluke, because this week’s episode returns to focusing on the Garveys and it is so boring.…

Movies

Interview: Luc Besson says 'Lucy' is very different…

Filmmaker Luc Besson talks about his new film "Lucy," how it's different than "Limitless" and his crazy first conversation with Egyptian actor Amr Waked.

Music

Weezer releases first new song since 2010

Weezer releases "Back to the Shack," their first new song in almost six years.

Movies

Benedict Cumberbatch plays a different kind of genius…

The man known worldwide for his portrayal of London's eccentric private detective Sherlock Holmes is trading his Belstaff coat for tweed this fall. Benedict Cumberbatch…

NFL

'Vicktory dogs' travel road to rehabilitation seven years…

Of the dozens of dogs groomed by Bad Newz Kennels, 48 were rescued and 22 of the pit bull terriers have emerged at Best Friends Animal Society.

MLB

Yankees looking at trade for Cliff Lee, according…

Yankees looking at trade for Cliff Lee, according to report

NFL

Giants lineman Chris Snee to retire: Reports

The Giants report to training camp on Tuesday, but Chris Snee may not be there when they do.

NBA

Carmelo Anthony talks about his charity work in…

As he is used to doing every year, NBA All-Star Carmelo Anthony is going to visit Puerto Rico to do work for his foundation.

Tech

RocketSkates let users roll with a motor

Los Angeles company Acton has raised funds on Kickstarter to roll out a nifty alternative – motor-powered "RocketSkates."

Tech

Knicks star Carmelo Anthony becomes a tech entrepreneur

He's been an All-Star, an Olympian, and a celebrity spokesperson. Now NBA player Carmelo Anthony is adding the position "tech entrepreneur" to his resume. Along…

Tech

Ulises 1 is the world's first singing satellite

A group of artists and engineers in Mexico have unveiled Ulises 1, the world's first opera-singing satellite.

Home

Wallscape on a budget

Skip the wallpaper and ombre an accent wall instead.