Summer Delights: Three Weatherproof Salads
Chris Fennimore shares salads perfect for your next picnic.
As the days grow warmer and longer, it’s time to drag Heywood out of the closet and get him ready for picnic season.
Heywood is a large plaid blanket named after Heywood Hale Broun, the flamboyant sportscaster of the 1960s and ’70s. Woodie, as he was called, favored outrageous plaid sports jackets; he would have looked perfectly at home wearing our picnic blanket.
Whether it was a formal outing to a nearby park or setting up a folding table in the driveway of our house in Brooklyn, eating outdoors has always been a favorite of mine. Dining “al fresco” was probably the only part of being a Boy Scout that I really enjoyed (although the knot-tying skills have come in handy).
“Picnic” itself is a rather strange word. It comes from the French “pique-nique” and means a “social gathering where each attendee brings a share of the food” or “a light informal meal where one would leisurely pick and nibble at food.”
I like aspects of both definitions. A picnic is all about sharing, both food and time; there is no rushing through a picnic. I also really like the idea of spending the time outdoors nibbling on a little bit of this and that, with plenty of time for a Frisbee toss or cornhole game.
During the ’50s and ’60s, the standard picnic fare often included things such as potato salad and deviled eggs. However, salmonella got the better of those ideas; now we tend to shy away from dishes that rely heavily on mayonnaise — unless, of course, you have some form of portable refrigeration that will keep things cool and safe.
So what do we bring to picnics these days? Salads. All three of these recipes are weatherproof and perfect for nibbling; they also go great with anything else people might bring to the gathering.
A lifelong home cook with a big Italian-American family, Chris Fennimore was the longtime program director, as well as the popular “cooking guy,” at WQED. In 1993, he began producing and hosting the series “QED Cooks,” which won a James Beard Award and an Emmy. He has produced, contributed to and edited more than 100 community cookbooks in WQED’s “America’s Homecooking Series.”
Celery and Green Olive Salad
1 pound Sicilian cracked green olives
1 head celery
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup white or red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
Smash the olives on a cutting board using the flat side of a large knife or the bottom of a coffee mug. Remove the pits and coarsely chop the olives. Wash and dry the celery stalks. Use a vegetable peeler on the outside of each stalk to remove the strings. Cut each stalk crosswise into ¼-inch pieces. Mix all the ingredients together and let them marinate overnight. Serve as a side salad or part of an antipasto.
2 pounds of carrots, grated
1 cup golden raisins
4 tablespoons orange juice concentrate
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 8-ounce cans crushed pineapple (drained)
½ cup shredded coconut
½ cup roasted sunflower seeds
Use the coarse side of the grater for the carrots then toss all the ingredients and let them marinate for a little while to mix the flavors. Sprinkle the sunflower seeds on at the last minute so they retain their crunchiness.
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
4 ounces olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar glaze
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper (or ¼ teaspoon hot pepper flakes)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 pound small mozzarella balls
Mix the tomato halves with the olive oil, vinegar and spices and marinate overnight. Cut the basil leaves into small pieces. Assemble the skewers, alternating tomato halves, mozzarella balls and basil leaves. Place the skewers side by side in a 9×12 pan (it’s OK to stack). Pour the remaining marinade over the skewers and cover.