By Barbara Beltrami
These times are causing us to rethink how we feed ourselves. Even as the weather brings us outdoors and procuring provisions becomes easier, it is still a challenge to come up with ideas that break away from the same old, same old kitchen fare and backyard barbecue.
But here’s what you can do: You can park outside your favorite restaurant, order takeout, have it delivered to your car (maintaining all distancing and COVID-19 protocol, of course), and have a tailgate picnic. It will give you a break from your routine and help to support local restaurants and their employees who are struggling to recuperate from their financial losses during the pandemic.
And if you’re just not up to takeout, but still need a change of scenery for mealtime, here is one of my favorite do-it-yourself picnic menus, tailgate or otherwise, that requires little preparation and the addition only of some fresh summer fruit and a beverage or two. So find an unpopulated space with a nice view and breeze and enjoy a little change of venue.
Pasta Salad Caprese
YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings.
1 pound fusilli, shells or other short pasta
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 garlic clove, bruised
1 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves, torn
Cook pasta according to package directions. While it’s cooking, in a small bowl whisk together the oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and garlic clove; set aside. When pasta is ready, drain but do not run cold water over it. Transfer to large bowl. Remove and discard garlic from oil and vinegar mixtures and while pasta is still hot, toss it with the dressing. Let sit at room temperature until ready to serve; add mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and more salt and pepper; toss again and serve immediately with frittata and wine or lemonade.
Artichoke, Asparagus and Spinach Frittata
YIELD: Makes 4 servings.
1 pound fresh baby artichokes, outer leaves trimmed
6 extra large eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup snipped fresh chives
3 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups fresh spinach leaves
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into one-inch pieces
Sprinkle artichoke hearts generously with salt and steam until very tender, about 15 minutes. Immerse in cold water. In medium bowl beat eggs vigorously with salt, pepper, herbs and cheese; stir in spinach leaves. Preheat oven to 400 F. In a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat warm oil, add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until onion starts to wilt, a couple of minutes. Add artichokes and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes
Pour in egg mixture and swirl pan to distribute evenly; distribute asparagus pieces evenly over top. Shake the skillet gently and tilt the pan while lifting the edges gently with a spatula so that liquid from center runs to outside edge of pan. Reduce heat to low, repeat tilting-lifting procedure every two minutes and cook till eggs are nearly set, about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer frittata to upper third of oven and monitoring carefully, cook until top is light golden, about 3 minutes. Remove from oven, slide or invert onto plate, and when somewhat cooled, cover with aluminum foil. Cut into wedges and serve hot, warm or at room temperature with pasta salad and wine or lemonade.
Oatmeal and Dried Cherry Cookies
YIELD: Makes 4 dozen
1/2 cup plus 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
3 cups old-fashioned uncooked oats
1 cup dried cherries, chopped
Heat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl with mixer on medium speed, beat butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until fluffy and creamy; add eggs and vanilla and beat well. In another medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; add to butter mixture; mix well. Add oatmeal and dried cherries; mix well. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet; bake until golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Cool one minute on cookie sheet, then finish cooling on wire rack. Store in airtight covered container.