Iron Chef MLE presents – A Picnic

It is a warm spring day, and nothing but blue skies and lazy breezes await. In the feast you are about to consume, I have done my best to embody spring as an ingredient, whenever possible using produce appropriate to the season.

All portions of your repast were packed in appropriate sealed containers with blue ice in an insulated picnic bag.

Spread upon the ground is, of course, a classic red and white gingham oil tablecloth. What better way to set the scene of a picnic? To your great surprise, this tablecloth has the additional power of keeping the insects away as you seat yourselves under a newly-leafed tree, with just the right amount of shade and sun.

You will begin with a light snack of freshly made hummus with vegetable crudite and pita chips. To drink you have a cooled sun tea made from Celestial Seasonings’ Red Zinger, lightly sweetened and with orange and lemon slices, brought to the picnic in a Lexan plastic bottle and served in plastic tumblers that came with the picnic bag.

Your appetite is only lightly whetted – you need something a bit more substantial. Luckily, in the picnic bag is a container with teriyaki-marinated chicken satay on wooden skewers, and alongside you find a small covered bowl filled with fresh peanut sauce. The ever-so-classy white plastic plates provide a convenient place on which to place your chicken and pour out your sauce for dipping.

You have noticed that your picnic bag has an attached insulated bottle holder. Inside you find a chilled bottle of medium-dry mead, with notes of both spice and honey. You pour yourself a glass of mead into the plastic wine glasses you find in the bag and propose a toast to Spring.

But what else is in the bag of mystery? Why, it’s a fresh pasta salad, made with bow tie pasta, freshly white wine-poached salmon, feta cheese and red grapes. Your spork makes this far more fun to eat, since parts of it stick to the fork and other parts get scooped up by the spoon. You detect hints of dill and balsamic vinegar as you hungrily consume this dish.

You’re now ready for the main event, and find in your bag some toasted hoagie rolls, citrus-marinated pork tenderloin medallions, freshly-made barbecue sauce, and a kohlrabi and cabbage cole slaw. The tangy sweet citrus notes of the pork and the deep smoky chipotle flavor of the barbecue sauce cry out for the pungent freshness of the slaw, and you assemble your sandwich to great delight, using the provided plastic serving utensils.

After a while, you realize there is still more in your picnic bag of wonders. Reaching in once more, you find an airplane-sized glass bottle of absinthe and alongside it is a packet of almond-anise biscotti. A little note details the steps in the process of your first dessert, and you drip a small amount of absinthe over each biscotti before biting in.

Just when you think you can eat no more, you decide to dig down into the bag to see if there is anything left. And there is! A strawberry rhubarb turnover made with browned butter pastry, singing notes of Spring itself. It can be held in one hand, yet packs a deliciously sweet-tart punch. What a way to end such a grand outdoor repast!

Hummus
1 can garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas), drained, reserve some of the liquid
5 cloves fresh garlic
1 tbsp tahini (sesame seed butter)
juice of one lemon
1/2 medium tomato
a few dashes crushed red pepper
salt & pepper to taste

Crudite – jicama, snap peas, baby carrots, red bell pepper strips, English cucumber (peeled)

Pita chips – Brush pita bread with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic powder. Cut each pita bread into 8 wedges. Toast on medium in toaster oven. Remove from toaster oven; cool.

Chicken Satay
1 chicken breast, cut into thin strips and marinated in your favorite teriyaki sauce
then skewered and grilled on stovetop or Foreman grill. When chicken is cooked, chill until ready to eat.

Peanut sauce for dipping

1/2 cup chunky natural peanut butter
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp rice vinegar

Heat all ingredients in small saucepan and stir until everything is well-mixed. Thin with water as necessary to reach desired consistency.

Salmon, grape and feta Pasta Salad

Bowtie pasta, cooked to al dente (2 cups cooked)
1/2 pound salmon fillet
1/2 cup white wine
juice of 1/2 orange
2 tsp Penzey’s fox point seasoning
1 cup red grapes, halved
1/2 cup feta cheese
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp fresh dill, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Rinse salmon fillet and rub with fox point seasoning. Poach in medium frying pan in white wine and orange juice until flaky. Remove from pan, refrigerate. When fish is cool, remove skin and cut into bite-sized pieces. Toss pasta, fish, grapes, and feta together in a bowl with olive oil, balsamic, dill, and salt & pepper. Refrigerate for at least one hour or up to overnight to allow flavors to meld.

BBQ Pork tenderloin sandwiches with kohlrabi coleslaw

Hoagie rolls, toasted

1 pork tenderloin
3/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried thyme
1 clove minced garlic
dash salt

Marinate pork tenderloin in other ingredients overnight.
24 hours before picnic, cook pork tenderloin on a charcoal grill over low flame, turning meat frequently, until meat reaches internal temperature of 160 degrees F. Chill tenderloin in refrigerator overnight. The morning of the picnic, slice into 1/4-1/2 inch thick medallions and keep cool until ready to assemble into sandwiches.

BBQ sauce
3/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup cider or red wine vinegar
1/8 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/8 cup soy sauce
1 canned chipotle pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tbsp dry mustard
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 clove minced garlic
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Mix all ingredients and cook in a medium saucepan over medium heat until sauce comes to a simmer. Makes about 1 cup.

Cole Slaw

1 medium red or green kohlrabi, shredded
1/2 medium green cabbage, shredded
2 large carrots, shredded
Sauce:
3/4 cup mayonnaise
several large squirts spicy brown mustard
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 tsp salt

Shred all slaw ingredients and toss to mix. Make sauce, adjusting levels to taste. Toss slaw with sauce and refrigerate.

Almond-anise biscotti

1 cup plus 2 tsp all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
3.5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 large eggs
1 tablespoon absinthe or other anise liqueur
1/3 cup whole almonds, toasted, coarsely chopped or sliced almonds

1 egg white

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into medium bowl. Mix sugar, melted butter, 1 egg, and absinthe in large bowl. Add flour mixture to egg mixture and stir with wooden spoon until well blended. Mix in almonds.

Using floured hands, shape dough into 2 1/2-inch-wide log. Transfer log to prepared baking sheet. Whisk egg white in small bowl until foamy; brush over top and sides of log.

Bake log until golden brown (log will spread), about 30 minutes. Cool log completely on sheet on rack, about 25 minutes. Maintain oven temperature.

Transfer log to work surface; discard parchment paper. Using serrated knife, cut log on diagonal into 1/2-inch-wide slices. Arrange slices, cut side down, on same baking sheet. Bake 12 minutes. Turn biscotti over; bake until just beginning to color, about 8 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool.

Strawberry rhubarb turnovers in browned butter pastry

1.5 cups strawberries, hulled and chopped
1 cup rhubarb, chopped
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp cornstarch

Mix ingredients and let sit, stirring occasionally, while you make the browned butter pastry.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp powdered sugar
1/4 cup (half a stick) butter
enough ice water to make dough stick together

Melt butter in saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. When butter has started to brown, continue to stir until butter is the color of brown sugar. Remove from heat and refrigerate until butter is solid again. Meanwhile, combine dry ingredients using pastry blender. Once butter is completely solid, cut into flour etc. until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add ice water a few drizzles at a time and toss with a fork until the dough holds together OK. Transfer dough to a floured surface and divide into two balls, then gently press each one out into a flattened circle with your hand. Roll each pastry out until about 1/4 inch thick, then add 1/2 strawberry rhubarb filling to each circle. Fold each circle in half over filling and press closed with a fork, poking holes in the top to allow steam to escape. Bake for 20-30 minutes at 375F.

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5 responses to “Iron Chef MLE presents – A Picnic

  1. Yum! Sounds like a fun picnic! Love the absinthe idea.

  2. Yup. I definitely want to eat it. Good work!

  3. wow, this sounds like an incredible picnic, especially the pasta salad. Yum!

  4. Sounds like a great picnic….I esp like the chicken satay and the pork sandwiches. Mmmm…..

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