to pack a hearty picnic without relying on sandwiches
B. A. Nilsson
We pack the car with folding canvas chairs, a cooler for
drinks, a cooler for food, a portable grill—just in case—and
the usual array of blankets and umbrellas and plastic plates
and cutlery. And a wine opener. Never forget the wine opener.
But even before we rally the forces to head picnicward, the
cry goes up: “ABS!” And that stands for Anything But Sandwiches.
Not that there’s anything horribly wrong with the things.
There’s no beating two slices of lightly toasted bread as
a container for that toothsome mix of meat, veg and sauce,
a container that travels easily to the mouth and waits until
only until you bite down hard to spatter your shirt with sandwich
We have been enchanted by the empanada, impressed with
the Cornish pasty and, more recently, briefly seduced by the
wrap. But a sandwich of any kind never lets you forget that
it’s food on the go. And what we want is food that helps us
relax—food you’re better off consuming while sitting still.
Salads, of course, are key to the repertory, but I’m using
the term to describe anything that’s mixed together with appropriate
dressing and seasoning. Pretty much ABS, you see. And your
salad assembly will help you clean out icebox and larder.
I’m probably a fool not to have written a cookbook by now,
but, much as I enjoy reading them, I don’t think in cookbook
terms when I cook. For this picnic meal, I need an array of
vegetables, some salad-friendly meatstuffs, and a bunch of
the stuff that lives in the refrigerator door.
Onions and garlic, oil and vinegar. This theme will repeat.
But let’s start with the items that should marinate the longest,
first of which is a tomato-and-onion salad. Slice some big
beefsteak tomatoes, then halve the slices. Do the same with
a couple of onions. Add salt and pepper, and toss them in
good wine vinegar and some olive oil. Fresh basil can’t hurt.
Let it sit for a couple of hours.
Next is a bean salad. Use what you’ve got, or pick up some
kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans—look for color and
texture contrast. Toss the beans with minced onion and garlic,
and throw in some chopped red pepper if you can. I also add
cilantro and cumin for a south-of-the-border effect, soon
to be regulated by the National Guard.
Got some leftover slices of cooked (preferably grilled) squash?
Toss it in oil and vinegar. Add cumin or caraway seeds to
cooked string beans as you dress them. Roast some beets and
toss the slices with onion slices and crumbled gorgonzola.
Now you’re cooking. Leftover pasta you can toss with anything,
and dress it with O&V or go for a richer mayo. “ABT,”
my wife whispers, and I understand: Anything But Tuna in the
Slices of grilled chicken breasts are similarly versatile,
ever seeking the right salad host. A Caesar salad of romaine
lettuce tossed in a homemade garlicky mayo is the classic,
but there’s no reason not to pair the meat with one of your
Hummus is also excellent picnic fare, and you’re seeing it—and
many variations—on the supermarket shelves for amusingly high
prices. Make it yourself and you’ll never buy it again. Again,
onions and garlic—lots of the latter—which you can throw in
a food processor along with a handful of fresh parsley. Add
a can or two of chickpeas and let the machine continue to
pulverize the mixture. Combine it with the sesame-seed paste
called tahini, and grind it into a paste. Add fresh lemon
juice, cumin, salt and pepper, and drizzle some good olive
oil on top.
While we’re looking at Middle Eastern dishes, consider tabouleh.
Its only exotic ingredient is bulgur, a cracked wheat, but
you can find it at health-food stores and store sections.
Put the bulgur in a bowl and pour boiling water over it, enough
to cover the grains as they absorb and expand.
Add chopped scallions, lots of chopped parsley, chopped mint,
diced tomato and a lot of lemon juice. I usually cut in some
vinegar as well. Toasted pine nuts and cucumber slices also
complement this dish.
The basis of baba ganouj is eggplant, roasted whole
until soggy. Scoop out the inside stuff and mix it with minced
garlic, scallions, chopped parsley and tahini, seasoned with
cumin and moistened with lemon juice and olive oil. Like hummus,
it’s a great pita-bread accompaniment.
You can beat the sandwich rap and still enjoy its components
by taking the salad approach, incidentally replicating what
you find as appetizers at fancy restaurants. Cold meat or
fish, smoked trout or salmon, meatloaf and country pâté can
be part of a plate that includes mustard, a pungent, fruity
salsa, pickles, chopped onions—whatever it takes to keep the
Toss a fruit salad for your dessert (or just as a break from
the more savory flavors). Mix apples, pears, citrus fruit,
mangoes, fresh watermelon. Just keep the bananas out. Bananas
persevere poorly. Sprinkle the compote with a little rum to
add an adult nuance to the dish.
The biggest drawback I’ve found to this menu is the amount
of containers you need. Your kitchen runs the risk of turning
into a Tupperware palace, and I have yet to discover a cooler
into which those containers fit conveniently. There’s always
an odd-shaped item that keeps the lid from closing.
But put together a feast like this and you’re ready for anything
from a quick trip to the backyard to a fancy tailgate party
at a polo match. Add a crisp Chardonnay and you’re ready to
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
new Farmer’s Market opens on Schenectady’s
upper Union Street on Saturday (May 6), and will
continue each Saturday, 9 AM to 1 PM, through
the end of October. Look for the market in the
parking lot off Woodland Avenue between Union
Street and Eastern Avenue. Initially, the market
will feature herbs, bedding plants, and flowers.
Other locally produced and grown agricultural
items will be added as they become available.
. . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland
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very much enjoyed eating dinner at Daniel's
at Ogdens. You review described my dining
experience perfectly. This wasn't the case
with Pancho's. I much prefer Garcia's or
Lake View Tavern for Mexican fare. I agree
that a restaurant can have an off night
so I'll give the second unit on Central
Avenue a try.
yes I miss the star ratings, bring it back.
Second, I haven't had a chance to visit
Poncho's yet, but I especially like reading
would travel to Amsterdam to this restaurant
- it's not that far away. People traveled
from all over to eat at Ferrandi's in Amsterdam.
From his background, I'm sure the chef's
sauce is excellent and that is the most
important aspect of an Italian restaurant.
Sometimes your reviewer wastes words on
the negative aspects of a restaurant. I'm
looking forward to trying this restaurant
- I look forward to Metroland every Thursday
especially for the restaurant review. And
by the way Ferrandi's closed its Amsterdam
location and is opening a new bistro on
Saratoga Lake - Should be up and running
in May. It will be called Saratoga Lake
Bistro. It should be great!
comments about the Indian / Pakistani restaurants
being as "standardized as McDonald's"
shows either that you have eaten at only
a few Indian / Pakistani restaurants or
that you have some prejudices to work out.
That the physical appearances are not what
you would consider fancy dancy has no bearing
on the food. And after all, that is what
the main focus of the reviews should be.
Not the physical appearances, which is what
most of your reviews concentrate on.
A restaurant like The Shalimar, down on
Central Avenue, may not look the greatest,
but the food is excellent there. And the
menu has lots of variety - beef, lamb, vegetarian,
chicken, and more..