Road trips and picnics!

Summer is finally here! Taking my child to camp in Eastern NC recently brought back memories of the picnics our family enjoyed on many car trips to the coast. Mom always had the cooler at hand for impromptu excursions, and she came up with easy, quick recipes that she whipped up like magic. Our family car was always (and still is) loaded up ready for a picnic at a moment’s notice.

On road trips, we would bypass the many restaurants and rest stops. Instead, we opted for stops at tiny roadside churches — where there always was a picnic table in the shade, welcoming folk and a playground to get the wiggles out — or the beautiful state parks along the way. And boy…Mom was ready to whip up a farm-to-fork snack right there in the parking lot when we happened upon a road-side stand.

We all have fond memories of picnics and tailgating with family, friends or a romantic interest. So we thought we’d share some yummy, fast recipes that incorporate the bounty of summer and travel well to your ultimate picnic spot. Get out there and make your own memories!

Heirloom Tomato Appetizer

  • ½ pound variety of heirloom tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 1 pinch freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 fluid ounce Herb Vinaigrette (see recipe below)
  • 1 ounce Goat Lady chèvre

Slice tomatoes and place them on a serving plate. Sprinkle tomatoes with salt and pepper. Drizzle Herb Vinaigrette over tomatoes, and then sprinkle with goat cheese. Makes 1 portion.

Recipe Tips:

  • Pack recipe ingredients separately in your cooler, and then combine them when you get to your picnic. That way your tomatoes won’t get mushy on the way.
  • Cut your heirloom tomatoes at home, marry the pieces back together again in the shape of a ball and bind with a few rubber bands. Then, combine all ingredients when you get to your picnic destination.

Herb Vinaigrette (make at home and bring in a squeeze bottle)

  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp dried tarragon
  • ¼ cup minced red onion
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 3 cups canola oil
  • ½ cup minced fresh basil
  • ½ cup minced fresh flat leaf parsley

Combine all ingredients except oil and herbs in a saucepan, and heat while whisking until sugar is dissolved and Dijon is incorporated. Pour mixture into a blender and slowly add oil until well combined. Stir in herbs. Makes 1 quart.

Curried Chicken Salad over baby spinach tossed in Meyer lemon vinaigrette, topped with fresh blueberries and sliced almonds
Curried Chicken Salad over baby spinach tossed in Meyer lemon vinaigrette, topped with fresh blueberries and sliced almonds
Curried Chicken Salad

  • 2 pounds diced roasted chicken
  • 1/8 cup diced red onions
  • ¼ cup diced celery
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ tbsp curry powder
  • 1/8 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/8 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ¾ cup lemon juice
  • salt & pepper to taste
In a large bowl, mix all ingredients (except chicken) until well blended. Add chicken and mix thoroughly. Makes 4 cups.

Another great picnic recipe is our Cucumber-Tomato Salad “Liquor House Salad” (see it on our “Fresh, cold hothouse tomatoes” blog post)

 

Chocolate Brownies

  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 pound semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 ¾ cups packed brown sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup melted unsalted butter
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, blend flour, baking powder and salt. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate chips while stirring. In a mixing bowl, combine brown sugar, eggs and vanilla. Mixture should turn light brown in color when done (about 5 minutes on medium speed). Add melted chocolate and melted butter to egg mixture and then add that mixture to the flour mixture, blending well with a spatula. Add walnuts, stirring to incorporate. Pour mixture into a greased pan. Bake in 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Makes 6 large brownies.

Tips for a fun and easy picnic:

  • Keep the car packed with the essentials: blanket, basket or backpack to carry it all in, wet wipes, paring knife, wine tool, chairs (if needed) and an empty Tupperware container (you’ll use it for something).
  • Think ahead of any road trip — bring along some basic ingredients in a cooler, and supplement them with roadside stand produce. (Here are some of our favorites: hard cheeses, olive oil, French bread, cured meats, capers, smoked salmon, olives and a few basic herbs and/or spices. Take our suggestions or add your own favorites!)
  • Choose an ant-free, soft, grassy spot at a park, church or school. Many rest stops have lovely picnic areas in the shade.
  • Pack a big blanket (the bigger the better — it helps prevent those pesky bugs from climbing on).
  • Bring along a small pillow to lie back on while you watch clouds go by, take a nap or stay late for a romantic star gaze!
  • Flashlights and citronella candles are important for evening picnics. And don’t forget the bug spray, especially when the mosquitoes are out.
  • Be sure to clean up after yourself — leftover foods, drinks and trash can attract wildlife to picnic areas, which isn’t safe for the animals or picnickers!

There you have it: A few of our recipes and tips for delightful and yummy summer picnics. Load up your car with family and friends (or a romantic rendezvous) and take off to explore the back roads and popular destinations near you. With a few simple recipes and a little forethought, you can avoid the fast food trap and enjoy a tasty, farm-to-fork meal while en route.

Contributing Writer: Virginia Phelps

These recipes are available on our Suddenly This Summer menu at Lucky’s through August 4. See the menu.

Posted June 2015