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

Protesters say new Met Opera is anti-Semitic

Protesters, including a former mayor and governor, gathered outside of the Metropolitan Opera on Monday afternoon to protest the opening of “The Death of Klinghoffer.”

Local

Brooklyn girl's death ruled a homicide

The New York City Medical Examiner has ruled the death of a Brooklyn toddler a homicide. Jeida Torres, 3, was found bruised and unresponsive Saturday…

Local

New York City continues to prepare for Ebola…

New York City continues to prepare for the possibility of Ebola. There have been numerous scares, but no confirmed cases. Representatives from about 150 unions…

Local

NYPD nabs alleged serial bank robber

  The NYPD has arrested a man they say is responsible for multiple Manhattan bank robberies this month. Police have arrested a Brooklyn man they…

Entertainment

We the Economy: Morgan Spurlock's new crusade

If Morgan Spurlock gets his way, you won't be able to avoid We the Economy, the series of 20 shorts films curated by the "Super…

Arts

3 Parody plays lampoon your childhood, adulthood and…

Whether you loved the source material or you're going in blind, these parody plays have something for every audience member. We rate three of NYC's hottest satirical shows.

Gossip

Who has more power: Harry Styles or Amal…

Amal Clooney comes in fourth on The Evening Standard's Most Influential Londoners list.

Music

#AskPaul McCartney reveals his love of American pop…

For an Englishman, Paul McCartney's pop culture tastes would fit right in stateside. The former Beatle (@PaulMcCartney) revealed that he has a real thing for…

NFL

Breno Giacomini: Media blowing up Golden Tate-Percy Harvin…

According to Breno Giacomini, the fight between Golden Tate and Percy Harvin during Super Bowl week was over by the time the lineman turned around.

College

College football AP Top 25 rankings: Mississippi State…

College football AP Top 25 rankings: Mississippi State holds off FSU

NHL

NHL Power Rankings: Sharks, Canadiens, Blackhawks out in…

NHL Power Rankings: Sharks, Canadiens, Blackhawks out in front

NFL

DeMarco Murray carries Cowboys to win over Giants

The Giants knew they would need to stop DeMarco Murray if they were going to leave Dallas with a win. It didn't matter.

Education

Is a 'gap year' after high school for…

It’s a familiar script that millions of students follow each year: Graduate high school and then immediately start college. But more and more students are…

Parenting

New news about Kate Middleton's pregnancy

The Palace released a statement about Kate Middleton's pregnancy.

Parenting

Cool book for kids: 'The Princess In Black'

"The Princess In Black" will change the way girls view princesses.

Wellbeing

Gabby Bernstein: The 3 questions I always get

For the last decade, I’ve been writing self-help books and preaching the Gospel of Gabby to audiences throughout the world. And no matter what country…