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Picnic Recipes from the Garden

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woven picnic basket and wide-brimmed hat on lawn

Recipes by Julianna K. Grimes

We can’t think of a better way to celebrate your garden’s summer bounty than with a delicious picnic lunch or dinner. Fresh melon, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, mint, basil, and more are all part of this mouthwatering menu—the perfect accompaniment to an outdoor concert in the park, outing to the beach, or backyard gathering with family and friends. Bon appetit!

The menu
Watermelon-Cucumber Sparkler
Marinated Sweet Peppers & Fresh Mozzarella
Farro Salad with Arugula, Radish & Goat Cheese
Basil Chicken Wraps
Quick-Pickled Summer Squash
Strawberry-Rhubarb Chiffon Pie

Watermelon-Cucumber Sparkler

Watermelon-Cucumber Sparkler
Watermelon-Cucumber Sparkler

Add your favorite bubbly to this refreshing beverage just before serving. If you prefer a nonalcoholic version, use a mildly zingy ginger ale. Serves 8.

1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup fresh mint leaves
6 cups cubed, seeded watermelon
1 Japanese cucumber, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
4 cups chilled sparkling wine or ginger ale

1. Combine 1 cup water and sugar in a microwave-safe dish. Microwave at high power for 3 minutes or until water boils and sugar dissolves; stir. Add mint to boiling syrup; let stand for 30 minutes. Discard mint.
2. Combine watermelon and cucumber. Place half of melon mixture in a blender with 1/2 cup cooled syrup; puree 2 minutes. Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a pitcher. Repeat mixture with remaining melon mixture and syrup; stir in lemon juice. Chill 2 hours. Divide mixture evenly into 8 cocktail glasses; top each serving with 1/2 cup sparkling wine or ginger ale. Serve immediately.

Marinated Sweet Peppers & Fresh Mozzarella

Marinated Sweet Peppers & Fresh Mozzarella
Marinated Sweet Peppers & Fresh Mozzarella

With its mix of vibrant colors and mild flavors, this dish is sure to be a crowd pleaser. If your guests like fiery heat, substitute a spicy chile, such as serrano, for the banana peppers. Serves 8-10.

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 garlic cloves, smashed
2 cups red baby bell (or other sweet red pepper)
1½ cups Lunchbox Snacking pepper (or other orange bell pepper)
1½ cups sweet banana peppers
8 ounces baby fresh mozzarella balls (bocconcini)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind
1/4 cup torn fresh
basil leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh
oregano

1. Preheat broiler to high.

2. Pour 1/2 cup of oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add garlic to oil in pan. Heat until garlic is fragrant, but do not brown (about 8 minutes). Discard garlic. Combine peppers in a bowl. Drizzle peppers with 1/4 cup oil; toss. Spread peppers on a heavy-duty baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Broil 8 inches from the flame for 5 minutes on each side or until peppers are blistered; cool. Halve peppers; discard seeds. Combine blistered peppers and cheese in a bowl; sprinkle with salt, crushed red pepper, and orange rind. Pour garlic-infused oil over pepper mixture; toss. Cover and chill 24 hours, stirring occasionally.

3. Sprinkle mixture with fresh herbs and adjust seasoning as needed, then serve immediately.

Farro Salad with Arugula, Radish & Goat Cheese

Farro Salad with Arugula, Radish & Goat Cheese
Farro Salad with Arugula, Radish & Goat Cheese

Farro is an ancient grain that’s begun to grow in popularity. Bob’s Red Mill sells it prepackaged, or look for it in the bulk bins at your local natural foods store. Substitute wheat berries if you can’t find it. Serves 6.

1 cup uncooked farro
4 cups chicken cooking stock (such as Swanson)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, smashed and minced to a paste
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2/3 cup thinly sliced radish
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallot
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 (3-ounce) log goat cheese, crumbled
Freshly ground black pepper
6 cups arugula

1. Cook farro in boiling chicken stock for 30 minutes or until pleasantly chewy. Drain farro; place in a large bowl. Sprinkle hot farro with salt; toss.

2. While farro cooks, combine juice, mustard, and garlic in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk. Slowly add oil to juice mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Pour vinaigrette over hot farro; toss. Let stand 30 minutes at room temperature, stirring occasionally. Stir in radish, shallot, and parsley. Sprinkle farro with goat cheese and pepper. Adjust seasoning as needed. Serve over arugula.

Basil-Chicken Wraps

Basil-Chicken Wraps with Quick-Pickled Summer Squash
Basil-Chicken Wraps with Quick-Pickled Summer Squash

Double the basil dressing recipe and keep the extra on hand to toss with hot cooked pasta or whole grains, or use it to dress a hearty romaine salad. Serves 6.

1½ cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons grated fresh Parmiagiano-Reggiano cheese
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup canola oil
3 cups chopped cooked chicken
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
6 (8-inch) whole-wheat tortillas

1. Combine basil, buttermilk, cheese, nuts, and salt in a blender; process until smooth. With motor running, slowly add oil through the food chute; process until smooth. Place chicken in a medium bowl; pour basil dressing over chicken. Add mayonnaise and juice; toss to combine. Stir in tomatoes. Adjust seasoning as needed.

2. Divide chicken mixture among tortillas; roll up. Wrap each sandwich in parchment paper; halve crosswise.

Quick-Pickled Summer Squash

Use a vegetable peeler to make gorgeous squash ribbons for a stunning salad. Of course, you can substitute your favorite veggies (like carrots or cucumbers) in place of the squash. Serves 6-8. (See photo above.)

3 cups shaved yellow squash (about 2 large)
3 cups shaved zucchini (about 3 medium)
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1¼ cups water
1/2 cup sherry vinegar
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon sugar
4 sprigs fresh dill
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine squash and garlic in a medium non-aluminum bowl. Combine water, vinegar, salt, mustard seeds, sugar, and dill in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Pour hot vinegar mixture over squash; cover and chill at least 4 hours. Discard dill; drain pickling liquid. Sprinkle squash with chives and pepper.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Chiffon Pie

Strawberry-Rhubarb Chiffon Pie
Strawberry-Rhubarb Chiffon Pie

Using graham crackers to make the crumbs makes a difference in the flavor of the pie. The crackers come in perforated sheets. To get the right amount for the crust, break the sheets along the perforations and use 24 of the resulting small, individual crackers. Serves 8-10.

Crust:
24 small graham crackers
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted
Pie:
1/4 cup cold water, divided
1 (1-ounce) envelope unflavored gelatin
1/3 cup boiling water
1½ cups sliced fresh or frozen strawberries, thawed
1/2 cup fresh or frozen sliced rhubarb, thawed
1½ cups sugar, divided
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 large egg whites
1½ cups heavy cream, whipped

1. Preheat oven to 400˚.
2. To prepare crust, place graham crackers in a food processor; process until finely ground. Add 1/2 cup sugar and melted butter; process until well combined. Press crumb mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 9-inch spring-form pan, forming a smooth layer. Place pan on a baking sheet; bake at 400˚ for 10 minutes. Cool completely.
3. To prepare pie, place 2 tablespoons cold water in a small bowl; sprinkle with gelatin. Let stand 2 minutes; stir in boiling water. Combine strawberries, rhubarb, and 1 cup sugar in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes; remove pan from heat. Strain strawberry mixture through a sieve over a bowl, pressing as you work. Discard solids. Stir 2 tablespoons gelatin mixture into fruit mixture.
4. Combine remaining 1/2 cup sugar, remaining 2 tablespoons cold water and corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes. Place egg whites in a large bowl; using clean, dry beaters, beat egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. (A stand mixer is best for this job.) With motor running, gradually add hot sugar syrup; beat until stiff peaks form. Let egg white mixture stand until cool. Fold egg white mixture into whipped cream; fold in gelatin. Pour cream mixture into cooled, prepared crust.
5. Drizzle fruit mixture over top; swirl with the tip of a paring knife. Chill 8 hours or overnight. Run a butter knife around the edges of pie; release spring-form ring.