MENU: PICNIC ON AN ELECTRIC BOAT
The weather over the past week has been wretched--unusually hot and muggy. But our dear friends were in town so we rented an electric boat to cruise around the bay in search of cool breezes. It was a relaxing, leisurely way to reconnect, and we enjoyed one of our faves: a picnic! (Because, it's not an occasion without good food and drink!!)
Here’s the Boat Picnic Menu
Cheeses: Cypress Grove Sheep’s Milk “Lamb Chopper” and Feta marinated in herbs
Roasted, salted almonds
Homemade Pickled Veggies
Lobster Rolls with Potato Chips
Fresh Corn Pancakes
Arugula Salad with Blueberries and Pecans
So, how to put this party together? First, assemble the appetizer platter. Start with a couple of cheeses—for variety I used a firm sheep’s milk cheese and a softer, cow’s milk feta. A simple, delicious trick is to marinate your feta in olive oil with herbs. You don’t really need a recipe, but I’ll give you some general instructions below.
I like something sweet to go with the cheese—seasonal fruit is always good. I used grapes because we got some really nice ones at the Farmers’ Market. A small dish of almonds for salt and crunch, and pickled veggies provide an unexpected tartness to cut the rich flavors of the cheese.
Feta Cheese Marinated in Olive Oil with Herbs
Start with a block of good feta, cut or broken into bitesize chunks. Set aside.
Prepare the marinade using a mixture of chopped herbs: basil, thyme, rosemary, mint, dill, parsley, sage (extra bragging rights if they’re fresh from your garden!). I use about 1/4 to 1/3 cup (depending on how much cheese you have). Put them in a bowl with the juice of one lemon and some grated lemon zest. You can add other things like peppercorns, a pinch of dried chili flakes, a small piece of garlic, a fresh chile or some fresh ginger, or even substitute orange or lime for the lemon juice and zest. Whatever—use what you like and have on hand. It’s totally up to you.
Next, stir in about a cup or so of olive oil. Finally, alternate layers of cheese and herb/oil mixture into a pint jar. Top up the jar with more olive oil and let it all marinate for a day. Delicious served with crackers, or even added to a salad. After the cheese is gone, I like to drizzle the herbed oil over steamed veggies or make a vinaigrette. No waste here!!
Lobster rolls are easy to make, but there are several keys. First, use Maine lobster. It’s more flavorful and less salty than Pacific lobster, and for the price, you want to taste that succulent meat! Second, you need the brioche hot dog buns that are split along the top, so the luscious filling stays in better! Toast the buns in butter in a skillet to give the rolls an even richer flavor. And finally, if you’re a potato chip fiend like me, you need to use the recipe linked below. Adding chips to your lobster roll ups the crunch, oh—so addicting!
Here’s the lobster roll recipe I used from Food & Wine magazine, July 2011. (https://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/deluxe-lobster-and-potato-chip-rolls?utm_source=emailshare&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=email-share-recipe&utm_content=20200813)
Fresh Corn Pancakes
Fresh corn is a classic summer food, and it’s hard to improve on eating it simply grilled. But just for a change, try these tasty Fresh Corn Pancakes. I discovered this Ina Garten recipe watching her Barefoot Contessa show on the Food Network. Ok, I admit they’re a bit of work--but these slightly sweet, slightly spicy pancakes use fresh corn and yield enough for a crowd. And if you don’t eat them all on your picnic, they reheat well. https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/fresh-corn-pancakes-6552287
Arugula Salad with Fruit and Nuts
Arugula (or rocket) is a popular salad green in Italy. The leaves have a snappy flavor and are a pretty oak-leaf shape. For this salad I just add some fresh fruit like blueberries or slices of mango (or pear in the fall), nuts like walnuts or pecans, toasted and broken into small pieces, and a light coating of fruity salad dressing. To save time I use bottled dressing, like Briana’s Organic Mango Vinaigrette. Super easy!
And finally, dessert—possibly the best part of the meal! For feeding a picnic crowd, a fruit cobbler is an easy way to go. It’s best served a bit warm, so plan to pull it out of the oven shortly before you leave for your picnic. Just beware—as I was carrying it on my lap in the car, my better half jammed on the brakes, spilling hot, sticky juices on me! *#ˆ%*&@! (I'm just bummed that I forgot to take photos of this.)
I make a simple cobbler with peaches several times each summer—it showcases fragrant, flavorful fruit perfectly. Start with about 5 large ripe peaches. Slice and toss with sugar—anywhere from 2/3 to a full cup, depending on how sweet the fruit is—and 1 ½ teaspoons of cornstarch (to thicken the juices). Sometimes I mix in a teaspoon of ground cinnamon and a sprinkle of nutmeg, or for a more unusual flavor, add some chopped mint, basil or rosemary, and a couple grinds of black pepper to your peaches. Pour the fruit into a shallow baking dish.
You can make the biscuit topping from scratch (pretty easy), but here’s an even easier shortcut. Use Bisquick Original Pancake Mix—2 ¼ cups of mix and 2/3 cup of milk, stir together, then drop by tablespoonfuls on top of the fruit. Sprinkle turbinado sugar over the biscuits before baking—it gives the finished dessert a bit of sparkle! Pop it into a 400-degree oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the fruit is bubbling, juices are thickened and the biscuits are brown. (Check to be sure the biscuits really are fully baked--sometimes the tops are done, but they're sticky underneath.). The cobbler is perfect as is for a picnic, or at home serve it with ice cream!
Despite chasing errant napkins, managing plates on a small tabletop and searching for the previous user’s repeatedly ringing phone that was lost in the cushions, our boat picnic turned out really well. It was a gorgeous evening, we found some blessedly cool breezes, everyone loved the lobster rolls, and seeing our friends was a special treat!