Life's a picnic with these outdoor tips


August 13, 2008|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,Sun reporter


125 Recipes With 29 Seasonal Menus

By DeeDee Stovel

Storey Publishing / 2008 / $9.95

This slim paperback with no photographs might be easy to pass by, but you'd be missing a book that has many of the qualities of a successful picnic. It's simple, portable and filled with great food.

To me, half the battle of pulling off a picnic is getting the food to your destination while it's still fresh and looks good. The recipes in Picnic conclude with directions on how to pack your food for a picnic, which can be vital to how well the dish works on the go. For example, you're reminded to separately pack the mint garnishes for the Iced Cucumber Soup, so they won't become soggy in a thermos. There's also a general chapter on picnic planning, including food-safety tips and ideas for accessories to put in your picnic basket.

The picnic menus go beyond the ordinary (and span the seasons) with ideas like the "Cross-Country Ski Picnic" and the "Spring Project Picnic," which encourages you to eat spit-roasted deli chicken, couscous and apricot-almond bars while you're cleaning up a schoolyard or community garden.

The recipes don't require much skill, and they offer familiar picnic fare with some flavorful twists. Tortellini Salad With Pine Nuts, a nice alternative to the usual pasta salad, had the crunch of fresh bell peppers and pine nuts and a touch of fresh dill. Zucchini and Sausage "Pie" (really an easy crustless strata made in a baking pan) was a tasty way to use up extra zucchini. You can cut it into small squares for picnic appetizers, or make it a main dish with a salad on the side.

Country Living: Eating Outdoors Sensational Recipes for Cookouts, Picnics and Take-Along Food From the Editors of Country Living Hearst Books / 2008 / $19.95

This book takes the concept of picnic food a step further to any kind of eating outdoors. It's built on the concept that just about anything tastes better when it's consumed alfresco. Unlike Picnic, which had some hearty fall and winter fare, Eating Outdoors is geared almost completely to warm-weather food, and takes great advantage of tomatoes, melons, peaches, berries and other fruit and vegetables at their best.

Naturally, many of the recipes are for the grill, and the book helpfully kicks off with a quick guide to using and maintaining gas and charcoal grills. There are some outdoor party planning tips, but they're not extensive.

This is a fairly basic book with some attractive photos, but it has a few new ideas for the outdoor cook. The deviled eggs go Middle Eastern with fenugreek and coriander. Fresh figs join grilled chicken and wild mushrooms in a salad. Lavender shows up in a peppery steak rub, and the meringue pie has an orange filling.

You'll also find techniques for basic favorites, such as foil-baked new potatoes for a campfire cookout and several takes on simple grilled vegetables.

The Honey and Ginger-Glazed Salmon we tried was an easy, tasty meal that could be made just as easily with a grill pan if it's raining. And the Frozen Lemon Souffles were a creamy, delicious make-ahead dessert, though next time I'll try adding a touch more lemon zest for extra tang. If you find putting foil collars on the ramekins too fussy, don't use them - your souffles won't be quite as tall and pretty, but they'll taste fine.

Honey and Ginger-Glazed Salmon

Serves 4

3 tablespoons honey

3 tablespoons dry sherry

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

four 6-ounce salmon fillets (about 1 inch thick)

vegetable-oil cooking spray

4 cups cooked short-grain rice

sliced green onions for garnish

Prepare grill for cooking over medium heat.

For the marinade: In a shallow glass baking dish, combine the honey, sherry, soy sauce, lime juice, ginger and mustard.

Arrange the salmon in a single layer in the dish and turn to coat all sides completely. Cover and set aside to marinate, turning occasionally, about 20 minutes.

Coat the grill rack with cooking spray and arrange salmon fillets in a single layer, sides not touching. Grill 4 inches from the heat source, carefully turning the fish with a wide spatula only once halfway through the cooking time, until the desired degree of doneness is reached - 8 to 10 minutes.

Place the salmon fillets on warm plates. Serve with rice and garnish with sliced green onions.

From "Country Living: Eating Outdoors"

Per serving: 547 calories, 43 grams protein, 13 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 61 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 107 milligrams cholesterol, 594 milligrams sodium


Find recipes for Frozen Lemon Souffle and Tortellini Salad with Pine Nuts at

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