In Praise of Picnics

Grab a blanket and your favorite foods, and celebrate with an easy outing.

  • Print
  • |
  • Email

Salmon Salad
You can use leftover grilled, baked, or sautéed salmon to make this as a sandwich filling or as a dip for crackers or bagel chips.

1 (1-pound) salmon fillet
1⁄3 cup mayonnaise
1⁄3 cup sour cream
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon diced red onion
2 tablespoons chopped capers
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place salmon in a Dutch oven, and add water to cover by 1 to 1 ½ inches. Cover Dutch oven, and bring to a simmer; simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and let stand 5 minutes. Transfer salmon to a large bowl. Cool fish, and flake. Fold in mayonnaise, sour cream, and lemon juice. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and chill 30 minutes. Makes 3 cups.

Cucumber, Red Onion, and Basil Salad
Take this salad on the road―toss the ingredients together and let them marinate on the way. The salad will be ready when you arrive.

2 English cucumbers, thinly sliced (about 5 cups)
½ red onion, thinly sliced (about 1 ¼ cups)

½ cup basil leaves, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Cover and chill 1 hour. Makes about 4 cups.
Chef Phil Conde
Yankee Pier
Larkspur, California

"I've traveled throughout our country, and no matter where you venture―among the red cedars of the Olympic Peninsula, down the laurel-lined lanes of Santa Barbara, around the rocky crags of Maine, across Maryland's Eastern Shore, or through the Carolinas to the tropical Florida coast―you're bound to find a shaded farm stand offering local produce. You might pack a hamper with childhood-favorite tuna sandwiches, potato chips, and lemonade; or load up on lobsters, mussels, and clams for a bonfire feast. But along the way you'll want to stop for the season's best offerings: juicy peaches, succulent blueberries, golden-sweet corn, and vine-ripened tomatoes. After all, a coastal picnic is more than just a destination."
 ―Author Russell Cronkhite

Mussels with Fennel and Garlic
¼ cup olive oil, divided
5 dozen mussels, scrubbed and debearded
1 bay leaf
4 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup diced onion
1 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup dry white wine
Crusty French bread

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add mussels and bay leaf; sauté 1 minute. Add remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, garlic, and next 4 ingredients, and cook 1 minute. Add wine; cover and cook 3 minutes or until mussels open. Discard any unopened mussels. Cool completely. Chill until serving. Serve with French bread. Makes 4 servings.
From A Return to Family Picnics by Russell Cronkhite
(Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 2005)

"First, I pack a bottle of Devil's Gulch Pinot Noir. Then, I prepare Cider-glazed Pork Loin Sandwiches on fresh hearth-baked bread, along with black-walnut pesto and crisp butter lettuce. With the sandwiches, I like Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese from Wisconsin, an aged cow's-milk cheese with a washed rind. For a sweet ending, my wife loves apple coffee cake."
 ―Chef Matt Christianson

Cider-glazed Pork Loin Sandwich with Walnut Pesto
Matt uses black walnuts for an earthy flavor. Regular walnuts make a good substitute because black walnuts may be difficult to find. Allow the pork to stand 10 minutes after removing from the oven to ensure juicy, tender meat.

1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 (2-pound) boneless pork loin
¾ cup fresh apple cider
2 tablespoons butter
¾ cup walnuts, toasted
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves
1 shallot
¾ cup (2 ounces) shredded Parmesan cheese
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 slices fresh whole-grain bread
1 head Bibb lettuce

Heat vegetable oil in a large ovenproof skillet over high heat. Add pork loin and cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Bake pork loin in skillet, uncovered, at 375° for 10 minutes. Add cider and butter to skillet, basting pork with pan juices. Bake 45 more minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 150°. Cover with foil; let stand 10 minutes or until a thermometer registers 160°. Cut pork into 1⁄8-inch-thick slices. Reserve drippings in skillet.

Process walnuts and next 6 ingredients in a food processor until smooth, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides. Spread pesto evenly on 1 side of each bread slice. Layer 6 bread slices, pesto side up, with pork slices, reserved drippings, and lettuce. Top with remaining 6 bread slices, pesto side down. Makes 6 servings.
Chef Matt Christianson
The Lark Creek Inn
Larkspur, California

"I always keep Spiced Fig-and-Zinfandel Compote around the house. It's perfect for picnics because it's so versatile. Spoon some over mild goat cheese on crostini, spread it on smoked turkey sandwiches, or even serve it with ham for an informal picnic with the kids. Ideally, picnics include artisan cheeses, foie gras terrine, nice country bread, perhaps some thinly sliced prosciutto, some marinated olives―all with St. Francis Old Vines Zinfandel or a white wine such as a Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling."
 ―Chef Mark Dommen

Spiced Fig-and-Zinfandel Compote
¾ cup diced dried Mission figs
½ cup diced dried apricots
1⁄3 cup raisins
1 ½ cups Zinfandel wine

1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
¼ teaspoon black peppercorns
1 whole clove
1 (1⁄2-inch) cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons honey
¼ teaspoon salt

Combine first 5 ingredients in a nonaluminum saucepan, and let stand 30 minutes.

Place a small skillet over medium-high heat until hot; add coriander seeds and next 5 ingredients, and cook, stirring constantly, until spices are toasted. Transfer spices to a clean coffee grinder and grind until fine. Set aside 1 tablespoon spice mixture. Reserve remaining ground spices for other uses. Bring fruit mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, 35 minutes or until thickened. Add lemon juice, honey, salt, and 1 tablespoon reserved ground spice mixture to fruit mixture; cool. Makes 1¾ cups.

Note: We prefer toasted and freshly ground whole spices, but you can substitute prepared ground spices in the following proportions:
¾ teaspoon coriander, ¾ teaspoon fennel, ½ teaspoon cumin, ¼ teaspoon black pepper, 1⁄8 teaspoon clove, and ½ teaspoon cinnamon.

Chef Mark Dommen
One Market
San Francisco, California

"In addition to wine and cheese, we bring Spiced Angel Cake to picnics because the blending of flavors and comforting nature of the dessert is perfect. It's light, delicious, and a great way to end the meal."
 ―Chef David Myers

Spiced Angel Cake
Too rich to be angel food cake, too light to be shortbread, this mildly fragrant dessert is a Coastal Living staff favorite.

½ vanilla bean
1 teaspoon lemon rind
½ cup butter, melted and cooled
4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 ¼ cups sifted cake flour

¾ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¾ teaspoon ground cardamom
1⁄8 teaspoon salt
Orange marmalade
Crème fraîche

Split vanilla bean lengthwise; scrape out seeds. Stir seeds and lemon rind into butter.

Beat egg whites at high speed with an electric mixer until foamy. Add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form and sugar dissolves (5 to 6 minutes). Fold butter mixture into the meringue.

Whisk together flour and next 4 ingredients. Gently fold dry ingredients into meringue. Carefully spoon batter into a lightly greased 15- x 10-inch jellyroll pan; spread to edges of pan. Bake at 350° for 14 minutes or until golden. Cool cake completely. Cut cake into squares. Top each piece with a dollop each of orange marmalade and crème fraîche. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Chefs David and Michelle Myers
Los Angeles, California

"There's nothing better than a picnic at the beach on a sunny afternoon. Eating delicious food, sipping wine, and enjoying good conversation with friends is what the lazy days of summer are all about. For a perfect ending to a picnic, serve delicious brownies that are meant to be eaten with fingers―no plates, forks, or spoons. They're especially good with chilled grapes and fresh berries."
 ―Author Barbara Scott-Goodman

Perfect Picnic Brownies
½ cup butter
5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 large eggs
1 ¼ cups sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup chopped walnuts

Melt butter and chocolate in a saucepan over low heat. Beat eggs and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until well blended. Gradually add chocolate mixture to egg mixture, beating at low speed until blended. Gradually add vanilla and flour, beating until blended. Stir in walnuts. Pour into a lightly greased, aluminum foil-lined 8-inch square pan. Bake at 325° for 35 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into squares. Makes 6 servings.
Adapted from The Beach House Cookbook by Barbara Scott-Goodman
(Chronicle Books, 2005)

More Ways To Get Coastal Living



JavaScript must be enabled to use this Calendar module.

29 Delicious Salads

Our best and most flavorful salad recipes play more than just a supporting role, they are the star of the table.

Grilled Tuna Salad Nicoise