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When the weather is picnic-perfect, this basket will add a lot of class to your culinary efforts!  The menu below can be packed and stored (see "picnic tips" at the end of each recipe) in this deluxe picnic suitcase from Litoré®

English Style Deluxe Picnic Suitcase for Four with Blanket  

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Bruschetta with Tomato & Basil
Grilled Fillet of Salmon Salad
Cornish Hens with Orange, Honey & Herbs
Lentil, Red Pepper & Potato Salad
Grilled Peaches with Raspberry Sauce

(recipes yield 6 servings)

Outdoor dining and grilling on the barbecue are two warm weather activities that we all enjoy so why not celebrate this holiday in that style - al fresco. That is assuming Mother Nature is kind to the climate wherever you live in the U.S.A.!

This menu is easy to prepare and you and your guests are sure to be impressed with the many different tastes and textures - not to mention how impressed Mom will be.

Let's begin with the Bruschetta (pronounced broo-skeh-tah) comes from the Italian word bruscare meaning "to roast over coals" - an Italian creation which is just a slice of grilled bread - preferably a rustic Italian style bread which is grilled over hot coals (or under a  broiler) then rubbed with fresh garlic and drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and a pinch of sea salt and pepper if you desire.  Adding a topping of marinated or seasoned bits has been taken to the extreme at some restaurants and in some recipes which is why I like to keep the topping ingredients to a minimum of fresh tomato and herbs -  that makes a delicious hors d'oeuvre with Champagne or other wine.

As a first course, a marinated fresh salmon salad, dressed in a mustard vinaigrette and garnished with toasted walnuts.  All of the components of this salad can be prepared several hours ahead of serving time - covered and refrigerated.

As a main course, Cornish Hens are split and marinated with an orange and honey marinade seasoned with herbs that is sure to please everyone. If available, opt for USDA certified organic Cornish Hens. Alternatively, organic chicken pieces of your choice can be used. Allow two pieces per person or more if you'd like leftover chicken for another time.

Another colorful and vegetarian accompaniment, is the Lentil, Red Pepper and Potato salad -  both colorful and full of healthy ingredients.  I have no objection to using canned lentils although there are lesser quality canned beans on the supermarket shelf so opt for an organic or better known brand name such as Goya when using canned beans in this or any other recipe.

The dessert calls for fresh peaches -- although locally grown peaches won't be available for a couple of months, tree fruit from Chile should be available in most large supermarkets. If not, frozen peach halves would be an acceptable substitute.

Bruschetta with Tomato, Basil & Herbs  
2 medium ripe fresh tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped
¼ cup Olave Extra Virgin olive oil (or other quality olive oil)
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
¼ teaspoon Crushed dried red pepper flakes
6 large fresh basil leaves, finely minced
2 Tablespoons finely minced flat-leaf parsley
2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
1 large loaf Italian bread or French Baguette cut into ½-inch thick slices on the diagonal

1. In a medium glass bowl, combine first 6 ingredients. Let stand one hour to allow flavors to blend.

2. Grill slices of Italian bread on the barbecue until grill marks appear on each side. Bread may also be grilled in a stove top grill pan lightly coated with oil.

3. Rub each slice of grilled bread with the cut side of the garlic halves and brush each slice with olive oil.

3. Top each bread slice with 1 to 2 tablespoons of the tomato mixture (amount depends on the size of the bread slice).  Arrange on a serving platter and enjoy with a beverage of your choice.

Tips for a picnic:  Pack the topping separately from the slices of grilled bread and assemble at the picnic site.

  Grilled Fillet of Salmon Salad
6 - 3 oz. portions of salmon fillet
1 cup + 6 Tbls. Newman's Own Olive Oil and Vinegar Salad Dressing
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard

6 handfuls of arugula, radicchio cut into bite size pieces. Mesclun can be purchased in most large supermarkets which is a pre-mixed combination of different young greens. Earthbound Organics has excellent quality and a wide selection of salad greens.


18 walnut halves, lightly toasted
12 small edible flowers - (squash blossoms, pansies, nasturtium, chive flowers that are specifically grown to be edible.)
6 small sprigs of fresh dill

Heat gas grill to medium/high or light charcoals until they are medium/high and not quite all white.  Salmon can also be grilled on a stove top grill pan.

1. In a glass pie plate or other shallow dish, combine the salad dressing and mustard. Marinate salmon pieces in the mixture for 1 hour in the refrigerator. Line the grill surface with a piece of the new stick resistant Reynolds aluminum foil and poke holes in the foil with a fork. This will prevent the salmon from sticking to the grill surface. (Note, if using an indoor electric grill or a stovetop grill pan, this step is not necessary) Place salmon on the foil surface and grill for approximately 3 - 4 minutes per side.  Note: you can grill the salmon pieces several hours before serving - keep cooked salmon chilled until ready to assemble the salad.

2. Toast walnut halves in a non-stick skillet, lightly coated with oil. Remove walnuts from skillet and reserve.

3. Arrange tender salad greens on 6 plates. Place a piece of grilled salmon in the center of the greens and garnish each plate with 2 edible flowers and 3 walnut halves. Place a sprig of dill on top of each salmon piece Drizzle a tablespoon of dressing over each serving.  Serve additional Newman's Own Olive Oil and Vinegar (pour it into a gravy boat or other vessel) dressing on the side for those who may like more on their salad.

Tips for a picnic:   If packing this dish for a picnic, pack all of the components separately and assemble the salad at the picnic site.

Cornish Hens with Orange, Honey and Herbs

4 Cornish Game Hens, cleaned, split in half and backbones removed (or just split in half)

For Marinade:      
1½  cups fresh orange juiceTip: remove the zest from the oranges before juicing them for use in this recipe.
1 cup honey
½ cup red wine vinegar
1 large Spanish onion (or other sweet onion) thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons orange zest (see orange tip above)
2 Tablespoons lemon zest
4 sprigs fresh thyme
10 juniper berries, crushed
2 bay leaves, broken in half
  salt and freshly ground black pepper

Garnish: cherry tomatoes and watercress sprigs

1. Combine marinade ingredients in a large glass or other non-corrosive dish and marinate the Cornish Hen halves for at least 3 hours (up to 8 hours).  Remove marinated meat to paper towels to pat-dry (discard marinade) and when the charcoal grill (or stovetop grill pan) surface is hot, grill hens on both sides until nicely browned. Test for doneness by cutting near the thigh bone. Juices should run clear and not pink or use an instant read thermometer to check for internal temperature which should be 175 degrees F in the breast and leg. 

Tips for a picnic: Pack cooked Cornish Hens wrapped in foil and then place in a foil pan and covered with more foil.  The garnish of cherry tomatoes and watercress sprigs should be wrapped in paper towel and then packed in a freezer weight plastic bag. Each plate garnished at the picnic site.

Lentil, Red Pepper and Potato Salad

If there are any vegetarian guests at your table (or picnic site) double this recipe.


2 cups cooked lentils (if using canned lentils, rinse and drain)
1 cup diced cooked Yukon Gold potatoes
½ cup cooked fresh or thawed frozen green peas
½ cup finely chopped red bell pepper
¼ cup chopped red onion
¼ cup chopped celery
1 Tbls. finely chopped basil
2 Tbls. red wine vinegar
2 Tbls. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  Salt and Freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine the lentils,  cooked potatoes, peas, red pepper, red onion, celery, parsley and basil in a large serving bowl. Whisk the vinegar, oil, salt and pepper in a separate bowl; pour dressing over the salad mixture and toss to combine. If not serving immediately, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 hours. Garnish each serving with a sprig of fresh basil and red leaf lettuce leaf, friseé lettuce or 3 endive leaves.

Tips for a picnic:  This salad can be put together and packed in a sealed container.  The garnishes should be wrapped in paper towel and packed separately in a freezer weight bag.

Grilled Peaches with Raspberry Sauce
12 fresh peaches, cut in half, pit removed
  Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 packages frozen or fresh raspberries
  Mint sprigs for garnish

1. Brush cut side of peaches with olive oil; place on a medium hot grill for approximately 10 minutes or until grill marks appear. Turn peaches over and grill for another 2 minutes on the skin side.  Remove from grill to a platter.

2. Purée raspberries in a food processor and add some sugar to taste if necessary.

3. To serve, arrange 2 or 3 tablespoons of the raspberry sauce in the center of each dessert plate; place two grilled peach halves on top of the sauce. Garnish plate with sprigs of fresh mint.

Tips for a picnic: If there is no grill at the picnic site, the components of this dessert can be made, stored separately, and plated at the picnic site.  Wrap fresh mint garnish separately, in paper towel, and store in a freezer weight plastic bag.




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