Labor Day Weekend is the perfect weekend for a picnic. To celebrate the end of summer I’ve organized a feast of some of America’s favorites – from fried chicken to chocolate cake, cheeseburgers to homemade strawberry ice cream.
Parsley Potato Salad
Mushroom Artichoke Salad
Chile-Spiced Bean Salad
Crusty Parmesan Chicken Breasts
Chocolate Buttercream Cake
Strawberry Ice Cream
Packing the picnic: The salads can be prepared a day in advance. It’s probably not necessary to double the recipes unless you have a large crowd to feed. Be sure to include a serving spoon for each salad. The Crusty Parmesan Chicken Breasts can be served either cold or warm. Either bake it a day ahead, refrigerate it, and carry it in a cooler; or pop it in the oven about an hour before you leave and transport it hot. The deviled eggs can be made from your favorite recipes or one from Tiny New York Kitchen. They will need several hours to chill and must be packed in a cooler, along with the assortment of vegetables (each in a plastic container). Take along a basket or platter for the chicken, a tray for the eggs, and serving forks.
All of the barbecue equipment can travel in a sturdy cardboard box, if there’s room, lay the buns and cheese on top so they don’t get squished. The hamburgers and condiments should be packed in a cooler.
You can bake the cake and prepare the frosting well in advance; both can be stored in the freezer. After thawing, the frosting should be beaten for a few minutes with an electric mixer. A round plastic serving plate with a high, tight-fitting cover is ideal for transporting the cake; remember to carry along a knife and a cake server.
In a cooler, pack the ice cream custard, berry mixture, and ice, each in its own container. Take a hammer and large, heavy dishtowel for crushing the ice cubes, and rock salt for the ice cream freezer (which would be a non-electric one). Pack the fragile ice cream cones and berries for garnish last.
Keep the beer in the cooler. For the lemonade and coffee, you will need a couple of thermoses. Preheat the one for the coffee; don’t forget to take cream (kept cold) and sugar. Pre-chill the other thermos and fill it with cold lemonade.
At the site: Assemble the ice cream freezer and begin hand-cranking, taking turns so that everyone can participate. If the ice cream is ready before it’s time for dessert, remove the dasher, cover the container, and let it stay in the freezer to ripen; don’t forget to dump out the salty water and pack the freezer with fresh ice.
Fire up the barbecue about 30 minutes before you want to begin cooking. Grill the cheeseburgers when the coals are gray. Arrange the chicken in a basket, set out the rest of the food, and dig in.
Have you ever come home from the market after purchasing fruit to find that you spent money for nothing? I have plenty of times and it ticks me off every time. Here are some Fruit Essentials that may help you have more fruit shopping success.
Did you know that many plants that are botanically fruits are not sweet? We think of them as vegetables or non-fruits. Avocados, beans, coconuts, corn, cucumbers, eggplants, green peppers, okra, peas, pumpkins, sugar peas, string beans and tomatoes all fall in the fruit category. Some cookbooks make a distinction between fruit, vegetables and fruit vegetables. Fruit vegetables are foods that are botanically fruits, but are most often prepared and served like vegetables. These fruits are considered fruit vegetables: Aubergine, autumn squash, avocado, bitter melon, cantaloupe, chayote, chile, courgette, cucumber, eggplant, gherkin, green bean, green sweet pepper, hot pepper, marrow, muskmelon, okra, olive, pumpkin, red sweet pepper, seedless cucumber, squash, sweet pepper, tomatillo, tomato, watermelon, wax gourd, yellow sweet pepper and zucchini.
Pectin is a substance contained in some fruit which is used for making jams and jellies thicker. High pectin fruits are apples, cranberries, currants, lemons, oranges, plums and quinces. Low pectin fruits are bananas, cherries, grapes, mangos, peaches, pineapples and strawberries.
Low pectin fruits seem to discolor quicker than high pectin fruits ( bananas and eggplants). Lemon juice or vinegar slows the discoloring process. Other fruits and vegetables that discolor quickly are avocados, cauliflower, celery, cherries, figs, Jerusalem artichokes, mushrooms, nectarines, parsnips, peaches, pears, potatoes, rutabaga and yams.
Bruising: When a fruit is bruised the cell walls break down and discoloration begins. The process can be slowed down by refrigeration.
Cleaning: It is important to clean our fruit and vegetables. Rinse fruit in cold running water and scrub as needed before cooking or eating. Soaking fruit in water for more than a few minutes can leach out water soluble vitamins.
Peeling: The fruit skin usually contains a lot of important nutrients, but if you need to peel a thick-skinned fruit cut a small amount of the peel from the top and bottom. Then on a cutting board cut off the peel in strips from top to bottom. A good way to peel thin skinned fruit is to place the fruit in a bowl with boiling water and let stand for about 1 minute. Remove and cool in an ice water bath. You could also spear the fruit with a fork and hold over a gas flame until the skin cracks OR quarter the fruit and peel with a sharp paring knife or potato peeler.
Wax: Oh those beautiful waxed apples that wink at us at the market. They are beautiful because they are waxed. I don’t know about you, but I would rather not eat wax. Wax can be removed from the surface of fruits by washing them with a mild dishwashing soap and then thoroughly rinsing them. This will remove most of the wax, but probably not all of it.
Purchasing Ripe: Purchase these fruits fully ripe: Berries, cherries, citrus, grapes and watermelon. All of the fruits in this list, except berries, can be refrigerated without losing flavor.
Purchasing Not-So-Ripe: Apricots, figs, melons, nectarines, peaches and plums develop more complex flavors after picking. Store these fruits at room temperature until they are as ripe as you would like them.
Refrigeration: You can refrigerate apples,ripe mangos and ripe pears as soon as you get them. Do not refrigerat bananas.
Seasonal Fruit: Winter is the season for citrus. Fall is the season for apples and pears. Late spring is the season for strawberries and pineapples. Summer is perfect for blueberries, melons, peaches and plums.
Washing: Dry fruit with paper towels or kitchen towels and then use a blow dryer on the cool setting to completely dry fruit.
Squeezing: A microwave can be used to get more juice from citrus fruits. Microwave citrus fruits for about 20 seconds before squeezing the fruit for juice.
I went to Gossett's Farm Market in South Salem, New York today. It was a cute little market. The big hit for me was the great variety of pickles from Pickle Licious. I picked up a variety of pickles, sauerkraut, gardinaria and olives.
Gossett's Farm Market