August 14, 2010

Who Loves A Picnic?

Summer in Sacramento means eating outdoors, a lot.  There are so many great things to do around the region, such as concerts and wine tasting, that require picnics.  Joe and I have it down to a science.  I keep a bag in the closet with acrylic wine glasses, bottle opener (wine and beer), plates, napkins, utensils, bug spray, sunscreen, wine caddy, and pocket knife. I only have to throw in my camera and serving utensils, plus whatever dry food we're having. Last night I made antipasti salad, double-tomato bruschetta, and homemade almond roca.

Antipasti salad
Ok, so I cheat sometimes and use a box of Suddenly Salad (classic), but it can be made homemade too.

One bag of tri-colored corkscrew noodles, cooked and drained
One bottle italian salad dressing (can be store bought or homemade)
One small jar marinated artichoke hearts, quartered and drained
Finely shredded carrots
Chopped pimientos
Green and black olives, sliced into rings
Small cubes of cheese, mozzarella or jack (I used pepper jack last night)
Small cubes of summer sausage, sliced pepperoni, or sliced salami.  (I used summer sausage, the pepperoni and salami are kind of greasy)
Sliced and chopped peppercinis
Can use sliced green/red pepper
Cherry tomatoes, cut in quarters (however much you like)
4 or 5 leaves chopped Basil

Combine all ingredients, gently stir in freshly grated parmesan cheese (canned is not a good substitute here)

Double-Tomato Bruschetta

6 roma (plum) tomatoes (or, use whatever you  have)
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil , chopped (do not use the oil, too greasy)
3 cloves minced garlic (or, however much you like)
1/4 c. good olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar (white vinegar or rice vinegar doesn't cut it)
1/4 c. fresh basil, stems removed, roughly chopped
1/4 tsp salt (should use kosher, but regular is ok)
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper (I always use twice the pepper)

Combine all ingredients the day of (this is not a recipe you can make the day before), I usually allow 3-4 hours for the flavors to blend.  It's better left on the counter than in the fridge.  Serve on garlic toasts.

*Preparation note*
Buy good quality olive oil, it makes a difference

Garlic Toasts

Thinly sliced french or sourdough baguette.  For tomato bruschetta I like the french.  Slice thin (1/2 inch). Lay slices on a cookie sheet. Combine olive oil and chopped garlic in bowl and liberally brush on bread slices.  Bake in 400 oven for 5-10 minutes, depending on how toasty you like the bread.  (side note here-you can buy those garlic bagel chips, and I suppose they are tasty, but nothing beats freshly prepared food)

*Serving note*
The tomato bruschetta can be heaped on the garlic toasts, sprinkled with mozzarella cheese, and broiled until the cheese is melted. 

Generic Almond Roca 

1 lb sweet cream butter
1 cup chopped almonds, plus an additional 1/2 cup chopped almonds
2 1/2 c. sugar
2 Tbsp water
1 bag of chocolate chips

In large saucepan combine butter, sugar, and water. Stir, on medium heat, until the butter is melted, then occasionally until a candy thermometer reaches 300 degrees. It should be brown at this point, if not then wait for it to turn brown, take off heat, stir a few times.  While the candy mixture is cooking prepare cookie sheet.  Put down wax paper or parchment.  Arrange 1 c. chopped almonds on cookie sheet, spreading out to edges of pan (here is when you can decide if you like more/less almonds).  Pour the candy mix over the almonds in a back and forth motion, front to back of pan, allowing the candy to naturally spread, using a rubber spatula to spread if needed. 
Immediately sprinkle chocolate chips (I like using 3/4 bag) on top, waiting 5 minutes for them to soften, then spread using a rubber spatula.  Sprinkle the rest of the almonds on top of chocolate chips, again using more/less, depending on preference.
Place in refrigerator to harden, probably an hour or two.  Because it's warm in Sacramento, I always keep it in the fridge (tupperware) once it's broken up, otherwise the chocolate melts a little.

*Preparation note*
 Invest in a good candy thermometer, and rubber spatulas that can stand the heat (pampered chef)

Every time we use the wine caddy we get comments.  It holds 4 glasses and one bottle of wine. The handle holds the opener, cork, and is wide enough for my knife (although, I'm not leaving my Leatherman Juice out for anyone to steal).  The wine shown here, 7 Deadly Zins, is a local wine from Lodi, Ca.  This area is known for Zins, and this one is my favorite.

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