Picking just the right picnic fare to strike a happy note at outdoor concerts With Music on the Side

July 12, 1995|By Joyce Gemperlein | Joyce Gemperlein,Knight-Ridder News Service

On certain summer evenings, when there is gardening to be done, schoolbooks to be tackled, laundry to be washed, or bills to be paid, the most sensible course of action is to run away from home with picnic basket in hand and ears cocked for music.

-- Adapted from "Lee Bailey's Long Weekends" (Potter, $30)

Brownies

Makes 12 brownies

4 ounces good-quality unsweetened chocolate, chopped

1/2 pound unsalted butter, chopped

4 large eggs

2 cups sugar

1/2 tablespoon vanilla

1 cup mini-marshmallows

6 ounces chocolate chips

1 cup all-purpose flour

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 9-by-9-inch glass baking dish then line it with parchment paper, allowing a 1-inch lip of paper. (Or just butter dish well.)

Boil water in the bottom of a double boiler, then turn off the heat. Put chopped chocolate and butter in top pan and set in place. Stir occasionally until completely melted.

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, whisk eggs until well-blended with sugar. Stir in vanilla, marshmallows and chocolate chips. Stir in flour, mixing until well blended. Blend in melted chocolate. Turn into prepared baking dish and bake in middle of the oven 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out moist. Do not overbake. Remove from oven and run a knife around the edges of the brownies to keep marshmallow top from cementing to the dish. Cool, cut the brownies into desired sizes.

Country kitchen

It's imperative to begin with fried chicken for a country-western or bluegrass menu. This version is "fried" in the oven and the skin is removed to get rid of more fat. Serve with any bean salad and eat a peach to fuel up for a country line dance.

Oven-Fried Chicken

Serves 4 to 6

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, minced

6 tablespoons honey mustard

1 jalapeno pepper, minced

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

3/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

2 teaspoons chili powder

1/4 teaspoon each salt, dried oregano, ground red pepper

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 frying chickens, cut into serving pieces, skin removed

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a jellyroll pan with aluminum foil. Combine cilantro, mustard, jalapeno and lime juice in a small dish; set aside. Combine bread crumbs, cornmeal, chili powder, salt, oregano and red pepper in a shallow dish. Drizzle oil over and mix with your hands until uniformly moistened. Using the back of a small spoon, coat chicken pieces with mustard mixture, then roll in crumb mixture. Arrange meaty side up on pan and bake until the juices run clear, 40 to 45 minutes. Serve at room temperature.

Salsa rhythms

Whether it's mariachi music, samba or salsa, these pocket sandwiches will fit the mood. Pick up cookies from the Mexican bakery or munch tropical fruits.

Cheese-Corn Empanadas

Makes 24

DOUGH:

1 cup ( 1/2 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 pound cream cheese, at room temperature

1 cup fine- or medium-grind cornmeal

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

-- of cayenne

FILLING:

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

2 cups fresh corn kernels, blanched 2 minutes and drained, or thawed, frozen corn

1 1/2 cups grated Swiss cheese

4 green onions, minced, including some of the green tops

1 bunch cilantro, leaves only, minced

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Tequila Salsa (recipe follows)

To make the dough, cut butter and cream cheese in smal chunks and put in a food processor. Add cornmeal, flour, salt, cayenne and pulse to form a smooth ball of dough. You may have to turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand to get the right consistency.

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Lightly flour work surface. Divide dough into quarters. Roll 1 portion into a circle about 3/4 -inch thick. Using a round cutter about 4 inches in diameter, cut out 6 rounds. Set aside, covered with a cloth or plastic wrap. Repeat with remaining portions.

For filling, toast cumin seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until they dance on the surface. Remove to a bowl and add remaining ingredients, mix well.

Top each dough round with an equal amount of filling. Fold in half and press edges together to seal. Holding the empanada in one hand, pat the sealed edges with the palm of the other hand to make a smooth, rounded edge. Arrange 1 inch apart on a baking sheet. Bake until golden and crisp, about 20 minutes. Serve at once, or cool and serve at room temperature. Offer salsa on the side.

Tequila Salsa

Makes about 2 cups

4 dried ancho chilies

4 dried guajillo chilies

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1 onion, quartered

grated zest of 1 scrubbed orange

2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

1 tablespoon tequila

salt

Put chilies, cumin, coriander, onion and zest in a pot. Cover with water by about 2 inches. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook, uncovered, until chilies are soft, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Lift out chilies, reserving liquid. When cool enough to handle chilies, remove and discard stems and seeds (wear gloves).

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