Lemon Thyme & Ginger

Almost Classic Nicoise Salad for Two

My Classic Nicoise Salad for Two and recipe.

If you ever need something that will take you on a trip to the sunny shores along the Mediterranean Sea, enjoying a Nicoise Salad will do just that. It is a salad full of vibrant foods found in the Mediterranean and in particular the French Rivera. Originating from Nice, France, you can expect a Nicoise Salad made with warm sun ripened vegetables, cured black olives, anchovies, garlic and a garden of herbs reflecting the region’s abundant summer bounty from both land and sea. This is an elegant salad with attitude. It speaks in a loud and briny voice, yet it is never offensive because it’s beauty transports our senses to a sunset along the Côte d’Azur no matter how distant that may be.

My Classic Nicoise Salad for Two with recipe.

Traditional Nicoise Salad

Nicoise Salad is one of my favorite salads. Even though I came to it from an adapted version, rather from an authentic source, I believe it is true in its concept. My research revealed what I knew as Nicoise Salad included several ingredients that are not necessarily “traditional”.  Like most regional foods of classic cuisines there usually is a traditional version and the adapted versions built off the one traditional recipe. Yet, for Nicoise Salad, there is debate about what that one recipe consists of. Even in Nice, from restaurant to restaurant and house to house, you get a slightly different version all considered a classic. Despite the fact no one can agree on one “traditional recipe” there is consistent agreement about the essential ingredients that define a Nicoise Salad.

The definitive ingredients are: French green beans, also known as haricot verts, ripe tomatoes, black cured olives, preferably ones from the South of France, anchovies, garlic and fresh herbs, like Fines Herbs. Everything else like potatoes, lettuce, capers, tuna fish, marinated artichoke hearts, and hard-boiled eggs, are open for debate. Two of the add-ins, potatoes and marinated artichoke hearts, are highly debated as definitive ingredients, but lettuce, tuna fish and hard-boiled eggs are questionable, or optional as I like to put it.

My Classic Nicoise Salad for Two and recipe.

My Nicoise Salad

Because my introduction to Nicoise Salad was in New York and not along the French Rivera, my idea for this classic salad includes many optional ingredients, especially tuna, potatoes and hard-boiled eggs. However, it is just these ingredients that turned my mind around about liking anchovies. Therefore, I do not consider them blasphemous because they compliment an essential ingredient in a Nicoise Salad. It was so long ago when I was first introduced to anchovies I barely remember it, What I do know is if you do not like them, open your mind to try anchovies in a Nicoise Salad and then make up your mind.  Paired with the other salad ingredients, the anchovies strong fishy and briny flavor turn complimentary and not overpowering.

Now I love anchovies, especially with lots of garlic, and add them to many recipes, like Baby Artichoke Hearts with Anchovy Caper Sauce. These artichoke hearts make up a Nicoise Salad in its own right, just add some tomatoes, haricot verts and olives and you are good to go.

My Classic Nicoise Salad for Two with recipe.

Including tuna, potatoes, anchovies, and hard-boiled eggs in one salad may seem over the top, but it is the salad I know and love. I could omit the tuna to feel more authentic, because tuna is the ingredient you rarely find in a Nicoise Salad in France, or so I’ve heard. Though I do believe tuna adds a nice flavor. Plus, if you use good quality prepared tuna from a jar or can, it makes a big difference.

The tuna I used is TonNino tuna (not an ad) in olive oil. It comes in a jar, is wild caught, dolphin friendly, Yellowfin Tuna. Plus, you can find it at most grocery stores. It had a mild tuna flavor that was very moist without a mineral-metallic aftertaste you get from canned tuna.

I have never made this salad with grilled or fresh tuna because there is enough preparation without it. Also, I believe fresh tuna will dominate the flavor and at $24 plus per pound, should be the featured ingredient. I am sure it tastes delicious, but call it by a different name, like Grilled Tuna Mediterranean Salad.

 

My Classic Nicoise Salad for Two and recipe.

How to Compose a Nicoise Salad

Another Nicoise Salad debate is over how to assemble the salad. You’ll find in a lot of restaurants serve Nicoise Salad plated as a composed salad with each ingredient artfully placed on a platter with the dressing drizzled over the top. Another way to present the salad is to mix all the ingredients together, like salads usually are, with the salad dressing evenly coating all the fresh ingredients. Personally, I prefer the all mixed up style because I believe it tastes better that way. It is a perfect jumble of deliciousness compared to the composed salad.

As you can see in my photographs, I opted for the composed salad just because it photographs better. However, by dinner time I had everything all mixed up.

Making a Nicoise Salad becomes a personal choice of ingredients and appearance. The important consideration is always including ripe tomatoes, black cured olives, blanched green beans, anchovies, garlic, and a handful of fresh herbs. No exceptions. Everything else is up to you. Keep in mind Nicoise Salad is vibrant so don’t skimp on the garlic and anchovies. As you make this salad, think of hot summer days, dry heat, warm coastal breezes, salty air, and the best seasonal ingredients found around the Côte d’Azur . You will reward yourself with a trip to the French Rivera even when you are thousands of miles away.

My Classic Nicoise Salad for two, with recipe

Over looking the village of Banyuls Sur Mer, France and the Mediterranean Sea

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Classic Nicoise Salad for Two

Nicoise Salad is composed of the vibrant flavors of Provence in the summer. This is not a delicate salad, but one filled the robust flavors like garlic, anchovies, cured olives, and capers. Fresh French green beans, sun ripened tomatoes, and fresh herbs compliment the vibrant regional flavors and become even more exceptional with a garlicky vinaigrette. Within each region, every chef and home cook have their particular “must have” spin for this classic salad. All the other ingredients are "optional" , and some ingredients cause serious debate. 

Take a bite, close your eyes then transport your senses to the Côte d’Azur on a hot summer day. 

This recipe can easily be doubled and tripled in size to feed 4-8 people. You may need to adjust the dressing somewhat, but that is easily done. 

Nicoise Salad is best eaten as soon as it is prepared. Arrange it decoratively in a bowl or platter or serve mixed together in a delicious jumble of fresh ingredients tossed with the vinaigrette. With all the ingredients at room temperature.

Course Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine French
Keyword Dinner Salad, Nicoise Salad, Salade Niçoise
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 2 people
Author Ginger

Ingredients

Nicoise Salad

  • 2 Yukon gold potatoes about 8 oz (247 g) total
  • 1 small onion peeled and cut in half
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled and smashed and green germ removed
  • 2-3 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 oz (125 g) French Green Beans (Haricots Verts) ends trimmed
  • ½ 4 oz ( 105 g) head of green leafy lettuce like Boston Bibb
  • 1 6.7 oz (190 g) jar tuna in olive oil, such as TonNino
  • ¼ lb. (115 g) grape tomatoes, cut in half use plum tomatoes when they are at the peak of the tomato season
  • ¼ cup (75 ml) black cured olives
  • 1 TB capers brined cured
  • 4 anchovy fillets
  • A handful of fresh herbs either Fines Herbs, tarragon, basil, chives, parsley

Anchovy Vinaigrette

  • 1 clove garlic finely minced
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 1 TB minced shallot a small shallot about 1 oz or .5 g
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 ½ TB red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup 75 ml) Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • A couple grinds of fresh black pepper

Instructions

Cook the ingredients:

  1. Fill a sauce pan with water and add the potatoes. Add about 3 tablespoons of Kosher salt to the pot along with a couple of thyme springs, onion and garlic cloves. Bring the water to a boil turn down the heat and gently simmer the potatoes until they are fork tender, about 25 minutes. Depending on the temperature of your simmering water will depend on how long the potatoes need to cook. I check the potatoes every 10 minutes so I do not over cook them.

  2. Once done, remove the potatoes from the sauce pan and set aside to cool.
  3. While the potatoes are cooking, fill a bowl with ice and water and set aside.
  4. If adding eggs to your Nicoise Salad, place the eggs in a sauce pan and fill the pan with water. Bring the pot to boil then turn down the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook the eggs for 7- 8 minutes. Ideally you want medium-boiled eggs when the yolks are set but not cooked all the way through, but not runny. 

    Turn off the heat and add the eggs to the ice bath. When the eggs are cool enough to handle, gently roll the egg back and forth on the counter to crack the egg shell. Peel off the shell, with the egg submerged in the ice bath for an easy peel. Set the eggs aside. If you are making these in advance, store the peeled eggs in a bowl with filled with water in the refrigerator.

  5. Make another ice bath for the green beans.
  6. Fill the pot you used for the potatoes or eggs with fresh water and bring to a boil. When the water comes to a boil, add a large pinch of Kosher salt and the prepared green beans. Once the water returns to a boil, remove the green beans and add them to the ice bath. Once cool, remove the green beans from the ice bath and place on a clean lint free kitchen towel and dry. Set aside.

Make the Vinaigrette

  1. If you haven’t already done so, mince the anchovy fillets, garlic and shallots then add to a small bowl.
  2. Add the Dijon mustard and vinegar and whisk until well incorporated. Continue to whisk and add the extra virgin olive oil in a slow and steady stream. Stop pouring the olive oil periodically to whisk and the salad dressing and make sure the dressing is emulsified. 

Assemble the Salad

  1. In a large mixing bowl, add the lettuce leaves if using and pour about 2 teaspoons of vinaigrette over the leaves. Toss the leaves gently with your hands until the greens are evenly coated with the vinaigrette. Divide the lettuce between two large pasta bowls, or large salad plates. Or, arrange the lettuce on one platter large enough to hold the whole salad.
  2. If you wish peel off the potato skins, or leave them on. Slice the potatoes into bite size pieces. Also, if you want the green beans into smaller pieces, cut them in half.

  3. Arrange the green beans, chopped potatoes, chopped tomatoes, tuna fish, anchovy fillets, olives and capers over the lettuce. Drizzle the salad with the vinaigrette, making sure every add-in gets a coating of the salad dressing, especially the potatoes. Cut the eggs into quarter wedges or in half and arrange them on the salad.
  4. Serve immediately at room temperature.

Recipe Notes

If you choose not to add in lettuce, double the amount of fresh green beans to make up for the loss of a green vegetable. You may also want more tomatoes. Also, cut up the green bean into bite size pieces for ease and convenience. 

When tomatoes are in season and perfectly sweet and ripe, substitute the cherry tomatoes with plum tomatoes or other sweet flavored tomatoes. Cut them up into generous bite size pieces. 

My Classic Nicoise Salad for Two. Nocoise Salad is a classic salad from the French Rivera consisting of French green beans, tomatoes, anchovies and black cured olives. My recipe adds leafy greens, potatoes, capers, tuna fish and cooked eggs, dressed in an anchovy vinaigrette. It is a robust salad exemplifying the seasonal ingredients of the summer.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Summer Backyard BBQ Menu Ideas

Summer Backyard BBQ Menu with recipe links.

There is nothing like getting together with friends and family for a day into night BBQ. The warmer temperatures and longer days just invite people to relax and hang outside. I put together a delicious BBQ Menu designed for ease of preparation,  seasonal produce, diet flexibility, and just good eats. When preparing a BBQ menu, the first thing to evaluate is know your guests’ dietary restrictions, if any. Don’t put any of your guests in the position where they must bring their own food. A courteous host will design a menu around their inspiration and friends and family food restrictions. In my case no matter if I am entertaining friends or family, I always need food for vegetarian, sometimes vegan, and gluten free diets. The whole menu does not have to include all the restrictions, but having at least one selection per course for any specialized diet is greatly appreciated.

Food allergies are taken more seriously than when I was growing up and there are times when people have so many food allergies and restrictions they opt to bring their own food. No one wants to put anyone out or feel like they are needing a special meal just for them. As a courtesy describe your menu to your friend or family member and inform them of your menu. If you are making something they can eat, let them know.

Summer BBQ Menu

Beer   Wine   Raspberry Hibiscus Margarita

Appetizers

Muhammarra   Grilled Shrimp Cocktail   Pickled Deviled Eggs

Main Course

Grilled Sherry Marinated Flank Steak

Cold Sesame Noodles

Grilled Asparagus

3 Bean Salad

Dessert

Double Coconut Pie

Gluten Free Strawberry Tart

Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel

 

Raspberry Hibiscus Margarita with Jalapeno, recipe.

BBQ Menu: Drinks

Serving a selection of wine and beer and non-alcoholic beverages is all anyone expects at a backyard party. However, these days people are very particular about the type of wine and beer they like to drink. Most likely your guests will bring a beverage they like and willing to share.

For beer, offer a variety like a lager, IPA, and Saison. This variety should cover most people’s taste preference. You know you guests best, if the only beer your guests drink is Corona, then that is all you need. For me, I am surrounded beer aficionados, so the more diverse selection the happier they are.

My summer wine selection usually includes, red, white and rosé wines. Here again, people are particular about what wine they like to drink and based on my experience two types of white wines are necessary. There are two distinct white wine camps, those who only drink chardonnay and those who do not drink Chardonnay period. A choice of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio will round out the white wine selection nicely. Another option is offer White Bordeaux. It is a dry white wine and should appeal to both white wine camps.

For red wine, Merlot pairs nicely with the steak and is not as heavy as a Cabernet Sauvignon. Additionally, I found during the summer a lighter, dry red wine like Cotes de Rhone is another all-purpose red wine choice.

The great peace keeper is Rosé. Both red and white wine drinkers enjoy a dry rosé. So, if you do not have the white or red wine they prefer, rosé to the rescue. It is a refreshing wine and perfect for summer.

For fun, offer a signature cocktail like Raspberry Hibiscus Margarita with Jalapeno. You get two drinks in one with this recipe. The raspberry hibiscus juice is excellent in a cocktail and a non-alcoholic beverage mixed with seltzer or ginger ale.

BBQ Menu: The Beginning

No BBQ menu is complete without a good selection of appetizers. Chances are, your guests will arrive hungry anticipating a night of eating and drinking. Appetizers give people something to do other than drink, plus they set the mood of your party. Also, it is my experience people love appetizers or nibbly foods, sometimes more than the main dinner selection. Some people like to help and pass around a tray of appetizers because it gets them connected to everyone at the party.

Three recipes, Spinach and Artichoke Dip with Bacon, Roasted Red Pepper Dip with Walnuts and Pomegranate, Blue Cheese Dip with Caramelized Shallots

BBQ Menu: Appetizers

Depending on the amount of people determines how many appetizers you need. For a party with 8 people, I usually have three appetizers. Having more than 2 appetizer selections gives people choices for their meal, it looks welcoming and people feel like they are going to be well fed. When there is a small selection of food, people feel self-conscious about eating, because no one wants to be the guy who eats more than their fair share, and like I mentioned earlier people are usually hungry as soon as they arrive to a BBQ. Even if you have a larger party, 3 appetizers are a nice selection but make enough of each for two appetizer stations.

Variety is the name of the game. People love chips and dip of any variety. Serve with a vegetable crudité, and chips and crackers. All my dips published in this blog are some of my favorites and picking one is like choosing which of your children is your favorite. They are all my favorite. For a small party, I would select one dip, for a larger party I make two or three dips depending on the other appetizers.

 

Muhammarra is a delicious roasted red pepper dip from Syria. It is a vegan dip, but not gluten free. You can easily eliminate the crackers and add more walnuts for a gluten free option. Next to guacamole, Muhammarra is one of my favorites.

No one can resist shrimp cocktail and this roasted shrimp cocktail with Sriracha horseradish cocktail sauce is a definite crowd pleaser.  As long as you got your grill going, grill the shrimp over indirect heat instead of roasting them.

If it is not super hot outside people love Deviled Eggs and the Cornichon Pickle Deviled Eggs will pair nicely with the rest of the menu.

Summer Vegetable Steak Salad with Spicy Citrus Dressing Recipe

BBQ Menu: Main Course

I went traditional with this BBQ menu and selected a meat entrée because this flank steak is easy to prepare and cooks up quickly.  My recipe for Grilled Sherry Marinated Flank Steak is an oldie but goodie and one I use regularly. The marinade is also delicious for pork tenderloin. The photographs may need updating but the steak has a sweet, salty and smoky flavor that is timeless. With grilled sherry marinated flank steak, you can make all sorts of crowd pleasing main entrées. Serve it as is, make into a steak salad, or make tacos or steak fajitas. Additionally, any leftovers make the best steak sandwich.

Very few people don’t like grilled asparagus and it pairs well with this flank steak. On several occasions I discovered grilled asparagus is the only prepare some people will eat asparagus. As long as you got the grill going, you might as well grill up some vegetables. You can serve the grilled asparagus as is or have an orange mayonnaise dressing on the side. If you have vegetarians at your party be considerate and grill the asparagus before you grill the flank steak.

I often find a green salad is not the most popular food item at buffets and barbecues. My theory is people pile their plates with the main food selection with the best intention of returning for salad. But chances are they go back for seconds and forgo the salad. However, no one will miss the leafy green salad as long as there a couple of vegetable dish selections. For a leafy green salad substitute, I enjoy this 3 Bean Salad, made with two types of string beans, kidney beans and a lemon ginger vinaigrette.  Not only is it a delicious salad, it provides some protein for vegan and vegetarian guests.

For an unexpected side dish, serve Cold Sesame Noodles instead of potato salad. Cold sesame noodles also give your vegetarian guests some more protein with the 3 bean salad. If you need a gluten free side dish, make the cold sesame noodles with your favorite gluten free pasta, or Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit.

Nectarine and Blueberry Galette recipe

BBQ Menu: Dessert

For a small party one dessert is plenty, but if you are having more than 8 guests, then offer a selection of desserts. I prefer desserts that can easily be made in advance and maintain their vibrant appearance and taste. Unless I make a sheet cake, like Pioneer Woman’s, Best chocolate Sheet Cake, I do not bake cakes for barbecues. Pies, cookies, brownies, crisps, or make your own ice cream sundaes are perfect for a summer BBQ menu. An excellent pie, and gluten free to boot, is Double Coconut Pie or, Gluten free Strawberry Tart made with pistachio cookie crust. The strawberry tart taste best when it is assembled right before serving, but that does not take too much time.

Nothing beats these fudgy brownies with sea salt and caramel, and they can easily fit in to make your own brownie sundaes. Just add the caramel sauce after you top off with the ice cream. But if you want a cold and refreshing dessert, Lemon Mousse or Yogurt Panna Cotta are excellent options for a small backyard parties.

Party Success

All these recipes were published to feed an average size family, yet they can easily scale up to feed any number of number of people. If I am only serving one main entrée selection, I figure on 6 oz (175 g) per person for the main entrée. A 6 oz (175 g) serving is a normal sized dinner portion. If you have a lot of food in your buffet and a second entrée, figure on 4 oz (150 g) of meat or fish per person. A half cup (125 ml) per person is a good portion size for any salad, vegetable or grain side dish.

The key to a fun and relaxed backyard BBQ is don’t fret it. Do as much as you can in advance and let people help when offered. Once the appetizers are made, the only food you need to time is the flank steak, everything else can be made in advance. Keep any cold food chilled before serving. There is nothing on the vegetables dishes you need to worry about going bad, except if you serve the orange mayonnaise.

Summer parties are less formal, and people enjoy making a dish to share. The main point of your get together is just that, a gathering of friends and family for a relaxing evening of good food, and fun. There is nothing wrong with asking people to help. Know your talents and limits, if dessert is not your forte, ask friends to bring dessert or buy it. Or, maybe you love making dessert but can’t swing the appetizers or salad, ask for help. Honestly, most people enjoy bringing a contribution because it makes them feel they are part of the party’s success. As much as you do not want to be alone in the kitchen, your guests want to visit with you as well, so ask for help when you need it.

Here is to a summer full of lots of parties and barbecues. Enjoy!

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Easy Picnic Food Ideas for Late Summer and Fall

Just because the days are getting shorter doesn’t mean we need to hunker down and stay inside. This time of year, the nights are cooler but the sun is still warm and shining. Even with the cooler temperatures, one can still feel the warmth of the sun on their back and soak in all the rays. Sit back on a picnic blanket with friends and family and close your eyes to the sun and relax. A late summer/early fall picnic is a wonderful way to enjoy the season. Gathered here is a collection of easy picnic food ideas and recipes to inspire you for your next outing.

Easy picnic food ideas and recipes.

Picnic food and your spread do not need to be a Martha Stewart event. In addition to serving fresh and delicious food, great picnic food should be easy to transport, have minimal prep work, and keep its freshness over time. You can make it as fancy as you want, but eating outside is a relaxing casual affair, so the food prep should be easy and relaxed too.

In my childhood, the standard picnic food was sandwiches or hot dogs cooked over an open fire. There is a reason these items are still popular. Sandwiches are perfect picnic food. You can make them gourmet, or PB and J, and they do not require plates or utensils to eat them. Wrap them up in parchment or wax paper, then later the paper performs double duty as the “plate”. You can eat half, then cover them up in the wrapping it came in. Then run off for a game of Frisbee.

I included a recipe for grilled chicken sandwiches made on focaccia, with smoked mozzarella, avocado, arugula and basil mayonnaise. Use your favorite bread, but make sure it will last for a couple of hours without getting soaked or smashed.  Smushed sandwiches are never fun to eat so pack your sandwiches carefully.

Easy Picnic Food Ideas and recipes

Grilled chicken sandwiches with smoked mozzarella, avocado, arugula and basil mayonnaise.

What is it about the fresh air that causes people to want to snack on salty food? I don’t know, all I know is I am right there with everyone else chomping down on chips when I play outside, go to the beach or hike. Nibbles or snacks are always great picnic food, but you don’t have to go crazy and buy out the store. I recommend, one item for an appetizer, and one salty crunchy snack, like chips. It is easy to go overboard with the snacks, but they are not the only food items at the picnic. No one will return home hungry.

Easy Picnic Food Ideas and recipes

Muhammara and Artichoke Tapenade

A terrific picnic appetizer is tapenade. Pictured in my picnic photographs is artichoke tapenade, a recipe I made from My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz. The recipe I used from this book is a little different from the recipe on his website, but it is still delicious and easy to make.

Another great spread or dip is muhammara, roasted red pepper dip. Muhammara is one of my favorite vegetable spreads. Both spreads are gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan. Serve either with crusty bread, pita chips, or cut vegetables.

Easy Picnic Food Ideas with recipes

Fruit salad with watermelon, nectarines, herbs, and a spicy lemon honey dressing.

I believe every picnic should include some fruit. Ripe fruit is great picnic food because most fruit is naturally designed for individual servings. Fruit provides a bright and fresh taste to counterpoint the rich sandwiches and salty snacks. It is very refreshing. I am craving watermelon now so I included it for this blog post, but any fruit will suffice. You can either slice the watermelon, cut it up into chunks for easy picking, or make a fruit salad.

For this article, I decided to make a fruit salad made with watermelon, nectarines, mint, basil, with a honey lemon and chili pepper vinaigrette. I love herbs with fruit and adding the bit of hot pepper brings out the sweetness in the fruit. Included in the post is the recipe for this fruit salad. Making a fruit salad requires having serving utensils and plates, or you can bring additional beverage cups to use. Then all you need are utensils.

Dessert should be simple and there are many options. One option is a light unfrosted loaf or single layer cake like gluten-free Nifty cake. This cake is made with oat flour and has a slightly nutty flavor. It is a light sponge cake that everyone will enjoy. For ease of transporting it, make it a single layer cake, (and without the whipped cream frosting as pictured in the recipe), and serve with the watermelon fruit salad.

Kitchen Sink Oatmeal Cookies reicpe

Kitchen Sink Cookies

Easy picnic food ideas and recipes.

Ginger Molasses Cookies

Another dessert option is cookies. Children young and old love cookies and they travel well. Kitchen sink oatmeal cookies are perfect for picnics. They are loaded with rolled oats, raisins, butterscotch chips, and chocolate chips. They can stand up to the heat of the day without melting and falling apart. Also pictured is, Ginger Molasses Cookies from Flour by Joanne Chang. Joanne is the owner of Flour Bakery in Boston. I love molasses cookies and wanted to test her recipe. In the link from the Boston Globe, her recipe is the second cookie recipe on the first page.

If you plan on bringing beer or wine, also include a non-alcoholic beverage like lemon-cucumber water or strawberry lemonade. Picnics are a time to drink responsibly, so keep your beer and wine on the low alcohol level.

Easy Picnic Food Ideas for Summer and Fall and recipes

Helpful Tips for Prep and Picnic Food :

If you are picnicking with friends, divide and conquer the food preparation. I have found people really like to participate and help.

Tapenade or Muhammara can be prepared the night before your picnic. You can also prepare the chicken and dessert the night before. This leaves making the sandwiches,  fruit salad,  and packing for the morning of. 

Along with your choice of beverage, bring water for drinking and cleaning scrapes or sticky hands. Also paper towels come in handy if something spills. They are light weight  and easy to stuff into a pocket.

Pack everything in a couple of insulated tote bags with ice packs. Keep your load light in case you need to hike to your picnic spot. Also bring a blanket to sit on. 

Don’t forget the trash bag. A lot of places are carry-in / carry-out parks, and often it is hard to find a trash can when you need one.

Bring a First-Aid Kit, especially if you are traveling with children. At a minimum bring Band-Aids and an antiseptic lotion. They are easy to carry in your wallet or zip-lock bag to store in your picnic basket.

Bee stings are common at picnics. The general advice is to get the stinger out quickly and apply ice, (or cool pack). Read the link for more bee sting information.

If you are serving alcoholic beverages, please drink responsibly.

Easy picnic food ideas and recipes.

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Easy Picnic Food Ideas for Summer and Fall Grilled Chicken Sandwiches with Smoked Mozzarella, Avocado, and Basil Mayonnaise

Included are three recipes that are perfect for an afternoon lunch or light supper picnic. Grilled Chicken Sandwiches with Smoked Mozzarella, Avocado and Basil Mayonnaise. The other recipe is the Watermelon and Nectarine Fruit Salad with Spicy Honey Lemon Dressing. It may look like a long list, but there are several food items here for you to make and enjoy. In the notes is my recipe for the basil mayonnaise and a pesto. Use your favorite basil pesto recipe or follow mine, just omit the grated cheese and pinenuts. The prep time varies for each food item. The grilled chicken takes about 20 minutes to cook not counting the overnight marinating and cooling. The sandwiches take about 10 minutes once everything is cooked and prepped. The fruit salad takes about 15 - 20 minutes to make. Depending on how large your bread slices are will determine the amount of chicken, mozzarella and avocado you need to cover your bread slice. I made my sandwiches with focaccia about 4 x 4 inches in size. For the tapenade or dip, and dessert- click on recipe links in blog post. Enjoy your picnic.
Servings 4 servings
Author Ginger

Ingredients

Grilled Chicken Sandwiches

Grilled Chicken - Prepare the day before

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts 1.5 lbs / 750 g
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp of garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp of onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp of sweet paprika
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp dried oregano
  • Lemon zest from half a lemon
  • 1 TB extra virgin olive oil

Grilled Chicken Sandwiches

  • 8 slices of good quality bread
  • About 1/2 cup 125 ml basil mayo
  • Grilled chicken sliced thin across the grain
  • About 4 oz 125 g of Smoked Mozzarella, sliced into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 1-2 avocados cut into thin slices
  • Arugula

Basil Mayonnaise

  • 1- part mayonnaise
  • 1- part basil sauce*

Watermelon, Nectarine and Basil Salad with Spicy Lemon Honey Dressing

  • 1/4 Seedless watermelon cut into big bite size chunks
  • 3 ripe nectarines sliced into thin wedges
  • Small handful of Fresh Mint leaves
  • Small handful of Fresh Basil leaves
  • About 2 TB fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1/8 tsp ground chili pepper

Instructions

Grilled Chicken

  1. The day/night before pound the chicken breasts to an even thickness then season both sides of the breasts with the salt, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, dried oregano, and lemon zest. Place the seasoned chicken on a plate or container and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  2. There should be a light and even coating of seasoning over the chicken breast, but not too heavy. Use your judgement about how much seasoning you want.
  3. Bring the chicken out of the refrigerator and rest on the counter 30 minutes before you want to grill it.
  4. Prepare your grill and proceed as you like, or use a grill pan on the stove top. Heat the pan to medium high.
  5. When the grill or grill pan is hot, add the chicken breasts skin side down at a diagonal to get nice grill marks. Cook for three minutes, then adjust the chicken breasts to the opposite diagonal position and grill for another 3 minutes. Turn over to the other side and repeat. If the chicken is not done cooking move the breasts to an indirect heat source on your grill and cook until done. If using a grill pan, turn the heat down to medium and continue to cook until done. About 5 minutes more depending on how big the chicken breasts are. The chicken breasts are done when the juices run clear after being pierced with a fork. Internal temperature is 170°F ( 77°C). Remove from the pan or grill and rest the chicken for 10 -15 minutes. Cool before making sandwiches.

Assemble the Sandwiches

  1. Smear and good coating of the basil mayonnaise (see recipe in notes) on both pieces of bread. Evenly cover one piece of bread with chicken slices, then add one slice of smoked mozzarella, or to cover the chicken if your bread slices are large. Layer the sliced avocado over the mozzarella. Add a small handful of arugula to the top and cover with the top piece of bread. If your sandwiches are large cut in half and wrap in parchment paper or wax paper. Refrigerate until ready to eat or go on your picnic. Pack in an insulated bag with a cool pack or ice to keep cool and fresh for your picnic.

Watermelon Nectarine and Basil Fruit Salad

  1. Mix the fresh lemon juice, honey, and ground chili powder in a small bowl. Keep stirring until the honey is completely dissolved. Taste and add a small pinch of Kosher salt. Set aside.
  2. Add the prepared watermelon and nectarines to a mixing bowl and gently stir to combine. Tear or snip the leaves of the basil and mint and mix together. Add the honey lemon dressing and stir. Taste and add more herbs if needed. Place in a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid and keep in an insulated bag with cold pack, or refrigerator. The fruit salad is the last thing to make for your picnic, because fruit releases a lot of juice after it is sliced and with dressing.

Recipe Notes

To make the basil mayonnaise, I use a 1 - 1 ratio of mayonnaise to basil sauce. The basil sauce is essentially basil pesto without the cheese and pine nuts. Use your favorite pesto recipe without the grated cheese and pinenuts and mix together 3-4 TB of mayonnaise with 3-4 TB basil sauce until combined.

My general basil pesto recipe is 2 cups of basil leaves, 1 cup arugula or spinach leaves, 1 garlic clove - minced, 1 TB lemon juice, 1/2 tsp kosher salt, and 1/3 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil. In a food processor, process the basil, arugula, garlic, lemon juice, and salt until the basil and arugula are finely minced and combined. Use a thin rubber spatula to scrape everything off the sides of the bowl. With the motor running slowly add in the extra virgin olive oil. You might not use the whole amount. I do not want it too oily or runny so I stop adding the olive oil when I reach a smooth and slightly thick consistency. I do this because I store the pesto in a container with an additional layer of olive oil over the top of the pesto.
If you want traditional pesto, add 1/2 cup grated roman cheese and 1/4 cup pinenuts before you add the olive oil, and process until smooth. Then add the olive oil. Pesto is best used the same day it is made, but will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Use can freeze pesto without the nuts and cheese, for up to 3 months. Pour a layer of olive oil over the pesto before freezing.

Where is your favorite place to picnic? Please share in the comment section below.

© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Summer Vegetable Steak Salad with Spicy Citrus Dressing

Beef, Main Entrees, Salad, Steak | August 11, 2017 | By

This time of year, I focus my meals around tomatoes and fresh corn. I know soon enough local ripe tomatoes and corn will no longer be available. Every day I enjoy the freshness of a perfect juicy tomato and the sweet crunch of fresh corn. They taste so good and refreshing at peak season. I never get tired of them. This obsession challenges me to create different recipes that include corn and/or tomatoes. One variation I created is a steak salad loaded with summer vegetables. This is a light and refreshing salad with just the right amount of spicy citrus dressing to complement he vegetables and steak.

Summer Vegetable Steak Salad with Spicy Citrus Dessing Recipe

Summer Vegetable Steak Salad with Spicy Citrus Dressing Recipe

My focus for the recipe was to use local vegetables and fruit from NY Hudson Valley farms. It turns out, everything but the nectarines were grown in Yorktown by Meadows Farm. This local only focus (with the exception of the citrus salad dressing), is a big change for me because I add avocado to everything, especially salad. Avocado would taste great in this salad too. The salad’s produce ingredients include, yellow and green beans, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, fresh corn, arugula, nectarines and herbs. This whole group of fruit and vegetables pair perfectly with grilled steak. Unfortunately, it did not occur to me until I finished the salad, I could buy my steak locally at Hemlock Hill Farms in Cortland Manor.

This salad does not take long to prepare, but as is typical cooking with fresh produce does require more prep-work. I believe the results are worth it. Each step is done to bring out the bright flavors of fruit and vegetables. What is important to focus on is the timing of adding certain ingredients, and when to cook your steak. To achieve the freshest appearance and taste, slice then add the nectarines and steak just before you are ready to serve. Also tear or snip the herbs at that time as well. The rest of the ingredients are hardier and won’t turn brown when exposed to the air and acid.

Summer Vegetable Steak Salad with spicy Citrus Dressing Recipe

I am using a new technique I just learned for dressing a vegetable salad. Instead of whisking all the salad dressing ingredients together in a separate bowl, I mix some, but add the rest directly to the vegetables. The citrus juice, zest, Sriracha, and honey get mixed together so the honey dissolves and is easy to mix. Normally, I would add the vinegar with the citrus, and then the olive oil to the citrus mix. However, I will add these ingredients separately to the prepared vegetables and adjust the amounts as needed.

First, add the vinegar to the vegetables with a pinch of Kosher salt. This step brings out the bright flavors and makes them shine. I was pleasantly surprised when I first tried this technique. I did not taste a strong vinegar flavor. Instead, the vinegar accentuated the natural flavors of the vegetables. How many times have you tasted homemade salad dressing and got hit in the face with an acid punch? It is not the case when you first add vinegar to vegetables. This is also a good lesson showing how adding additional seasonings and dressings change the flavors of the vegetables and fruit.

Try these dinner salads, Grilled Chicken and Cucumber Salad with Avocado Yogurt Dressing, Grilled Chicken Salad with Orange Saffron Dressing

Delicious summer desserts, Lemon Mousse, Peaches and Berries with Bourbon Sabayon, Almond Peach Galette, Nectarine and Blueberry Galette, Nifty Cake, Gluten-free Nifty Cake

Summer Vegetable Steak Salad with Spicy Citrus Dressing Recipe

Summer Vegetable Steak Salad with Spicy Citrus Dressing Recipe

Joshua McFadden, chef/owner of Ava Gene’s in Portland Oregon, is considered a vegetable whisperer. He describes his salad making techniques in his cookbook, Six Seasons. I got the idea of adding the vinegar first to a salad after reading his book. Using this idea does make fixing a salad more hands on (literally), and the ingredient amounts somewhat vague. If you are just learning to cook, my advice is to start with less amounts of seasoning and dressings. You can always add more, but it is harder to fix over-seasoned and over-dressed food. Get your (clean) hands in there and add, toss and taste. Repeat until you believe it is perfect.

Do you have a local market where you buy your produce?  Farmers markets are great, but around here they open one day a week on Saturday or Sunday. Having a local farm stand open six days a week in my hometown is a treat. I shop at big grocery stores as well, which are very convenient. However, I am grateful to live in an area where local farm produce is available to me.

Summer Vegetable Steak Salad with Spicy Citrus Dressing Recipe

What meal do you make using local and fresh ingredients?

Enjoy!

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Summer Vegetable Steak Salad with Spicy Citrus Dressing

An easy summer dinner salad made with grilled steak and seasonal vegetables. You can use any vegetables you wish. I like to pair green beans with steak, so I included them with other local produce that is available in the summer. An avocado is an optional ingredient. If you are using it add it just before serving and sprinkle the pieces with lime juice. You can also replace the vegetables in this salad with my recipe for Anything Goes Potato Salad . The amount of time to cook the steak depends on the type of steak you have and how thick your piece is. Steak does not need long to cook over a very hot grill or skillet. Start with two minutes a side for a steak that is one inch thick for rare meat. Thicker steaks are easier to cook properly and get a good sear on them.
Prep Time 39 minutes
Cook Time 6 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Author Ginger

Ingredients

Citrus Dressing

  • 1 TB fresh orange juice and zest from half an orange
  • Juice from one lime and zest
  • 1 TB honey
  • 2 TB sherry vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic smashed
  • 1/2 tbs Sriracha
  • Kosher Salt to taste
  • Fresh ground pepper

Summer Vegetable Steak Salad

  • 1 lb green beans ends trimmed
  • 2-3 scallions
  • 1 lb 450 g green beans, if a mix of colors are available use them.
  • 1 ear of fresh corn
  • 1/2 lb 225 g grape tomatoes
  • 3 oz 40 g arugula
  • 1 1/2 lbs 750 g steak, like shell steak, strip steak, or flank steak, your choice
  • Pinch of Kosher Salt about 1/2 tbs
  • 1/2 tbs crushed fennel seed
  • 1/2 tbs ground coriander
  • 1 - 2 nectarines or peaches sliced into wedges (If using peaches peel them first)
  • About 5-6 basil leaves
  • About 6 mint leaves
  • About 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • More Kosher salt and ground pepper

Instructions

Prepare the steak

  1. One hour before you cook the steak, remove the steak from the refrigerator and its packaging. Put the steak on a plate and pat them dry with paper towels. Sprinkle Kosher salt, ground coriander and crushed fennel seed over both sides of the steak. Loosely cover the steak with plastic wrap and let it rest on the counter for 30 minutes up to 1 hour.

Spicy Citrus Dressing

  1. Add the orange juice, lime juice, zests, honey, sriracha, a small pinch of Kosher salt, a couple of grinds of ground pepper, and smashed garlic clove to a small bowl. Mix until the honey is dissolved. Cover the bowl with plastic and keep on the counter for later.

Prepare the vegetables

  1. Trim off the ends of the scallions and thinly slice each scallion on a sharp diagonal. Add the scallion slices to a small bowl filled with cold water and ice. Let the scallions macerate in the ice water for 15 minutes.
  2. Husk the corn and cut off the stem piece. Place the bottom of the corn in a mixing bowl and hold onto the tip. With a sharp knife slice off the kernels from the cob. Once the kernels are sliced off, run the back edge of your knife down the cob to press any corn milk out, catch the drippings in your bowl.
  3. Make an ice water bath for the green beans. Fill a large bowl with cold water and ice. Set aside near the stove.
  4. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil on the stove. Trim the green beans. When the water boils add a large pinch of salt then the green beans and blanch them for one minute. Remove the green beans from the boiling water and quickly add them to the ice water bath to stop the cooking. When cooled, take the green beans out of the ice bath and dry on a clean kitchen towel. Add the beans to the bowl with the corn.
  5. Cut the grape tomatoes in half and add to bowl.
  6. Add half the arugula. If the leaves are large, tear them in half.
  7. Drain the scallions and dry them, then add to the bowl with the vegetables.
  8. Add the sherry vinegar, a small pinch of Kosher salt and a couple of grinds of black pepper to the vegetables and toss to mix with your clean hands. Taste. You will taste the vinegar, but it will not be harsh. Set aside.
  9. Sear the seasoned steak on a hot grill, grill pan, or skillet. Add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil to your pan or grill. Add the steak and sear for about 2- 3 minutes per side depending on the cut of your steak. My steak was very thin, about an inch, so very little time was needed to cook it. Flank steak will take longer. Aim for rare to medium-rare steak, or how you prefer your steak. The internal temperature for rare steak is 125°F (52°C). Medium-rare is 130 - 135°F (54 - 57°C). Remove the steak from the heat and rest on a carving board, and grind a couple of rounds of fresh pepper over each steak. Let the steak rest for 10 - 15 minutes.
  10. When you are almost ready to eat, cut the bone off the steak (if there is one), and slice on a diagonal and across the grain into thin, 1/4 inch (.5 cm) slices. Drizzle about half of the citrus dressing over your steak slices on the cutting board then drizzle 1 TB of extra virgin olive oil over the steak.
  11. Slice the nectarines and add to the vegetables. Add the remaining arugula. Drizzle the remaining citrus dressing over the vegetables. Toss to coat and taste the vegetables for seasoning. Add more lime juice, sriracha, or other seasonings if needed. Drizzle a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over the vegetables and toss to coat. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. Tear or snip the herbs over the bowl of the vegetables and toss. Taste and correct seasoning.
  12. I like to serve the steak and vegetables side by side, not all mixed up like a traditional salad. This way if you have any leftover steak, you can store it separately and make steak sandwiches the next day. On a large platter spread out your vegetables and drizzle with olive oil and fresh herbs. Arrange the sliced steak to the side of the vegetables and pour any accumulated juices from the cutting board over the steak. Lightly drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over the steak and a light sprinkle of sea salt flakes if you have them, and fresh ground pepper. Garnish the steak with chopped herbs. If you prefer, mix the vegetables and steak together in a bowl. Taste for seasoning. Serve immediately.

© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Green Bean Salad with Lemon Ginger Vinaigrette

Summer is in full swing and every week more vegetables are available at the markets. There is no better time than now to eat your fill of summer vegetables. One of my favorite vegetables are green beans. I can eat them plain, or all dressed up with butter and fresh herbs. I love the clean and slightly sweet taste with its snappy crispness. If prepared properly, green beans maintain their spring green color, hold their shape, and still have a fresh picked flavor.

Green Bean Salad with Lemon Ginger Vinaigrette recipe

Green Bean Salad with Lemon Ginger Vinaigrette recipe

Because they are so well-loved and easy to prepare, we often use green beans in a salad. Hot or cold, green bean salad is a perfect side dish for any type of meal on any given day. There are countless varieties of green bean salads to make as well. Fresh beans pair well with all sorts of vegetables like tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, potatoes, peas, and other beans just to name a few options.  They are also good with endless seasonings and add-ins like walnuts, almonds, basil, tarragon, garlic, sesame seeds, or fresh ginger.

Green Bean Salad with Lemon Ginger Vinaigrette recipe

Green Bean Salad with Lemon Ginger Vinaigrette recipe

For this recipe, I decided to make a green bean salad with yellow wax beans and red kidney beans as the main ingredients. It is a lemony 3-bean salad with fresh basil and parsley, with a subtle spicy kick of fresh ginger and lemon vinaigrette. I wanted a salad dressing that is a little different from my typical vinaigrette of vinegar, mustard, garlic and olive oil. Because ginger and green beans taste so great together I decided to add it in. The ginger does not come off too strong, just enough for the beans to shine with a subtle spicy glow.

Fresh yellow wax beans are tender, sweet and delicious. I love the contrast of colors between pale yellow wax beans with the bright green beans and dark red from the kidney beans. Wax beans are hard to come by, as I have only seen them at local farm stands. Last summer I could not get enough of the yellow wax beans from Rochambeau Farm Stand and I can’t wait until they are available this summer. For this recipe, I bought this round of fresh beans from another local farm stand, Meadows Farm.  Lucky for me, I live in a metropolitan area with 4 local farms only a couple of miles away from my house. I get to participate in the best parts of both worlds.

Green Bean Salad with Lemon Ginger Vinaigrette recipe

Look for green beans and yellow wax beans that are firm, bright in color, and not too big. At times, fresh beans can get fibrous and unpleasant to eat. Fortunately, it is easy to tell if the beans are fibrous by their look and touch. Older and more fibrous beans are less dense, limp, duller and paler in color. Haricot Verts are French green beans. These beans are smaller and often more tender than regular green beans. They also tend to be pricier.

For more summer vegetables recipes

Zucchini and Corn Salad with Avocado and Pistachio Salad

Sweet and Spicy Herbed Carrots  

Like most vegetable salads, if you prepare the green beans too far in advance, they will lose their crispness. Fortunately, because they take about a minute to cook, putting this green bean salad together is not a hassle or stressful to do before serving. There is a minor amount of chopping, and the only thing you must cook are the beans for one minute. The most difficult thing to make is the salad dressing, and that is fairly easy.

Green Bean Salad with Lemon Ginger Vinaigrette recipe

Green Bean Salad with Lemon Ginger Vinaigrette recipe

Serve this salad hot or cold as a side dish paired with fish, meats or chicken. Or, serve as a vegan entrée paired with brown rice or other grain. Enjoy!

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Green Bean Salad with Lemon Ginger Vinaigrette

Green bean salad is bright and refreshing with a lemon and ginger vinaigrette. The ginger is subtle, just enough to add a note of spice with the sweetened lemon juice. I like my green beans extra crispy, so I barley blanch them. The dressing will soften the beans, so you want to be careful to not cook them too much or add the dressing too early. This salad pairs well with everything, especially grilled meats or fish. Serve with brown rice or another grain and you provide a complete protein meal for your vegetarian/vegan friends and family.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 2 minutes
Total Time 17 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Author Ginger

Ingredients

Lemon Ginger Vinaigrette

  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 TB fresh lemon juice
  • Zest from half a lemon optional
  • 1 tsp honey or agave, or liquid sugar in the raw*
  • 4 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/8 tsp Kosher Salt
  • A couple of grinds on the pepper mill of black pepper

Green Bean Salad

  • 8 oz 225 g fresh green beans or French green beans, cleaned and stems trimmed
  • 8 oz 223 g fresh yellow wax beans, cleaned and stems trimmed
  • 1-15 oz 425 g can Red Kidney Beans, or Black-eyed peas, or chick peas - drained, rinsed and dried
  • 1 TB minced fresh basil
  • 2 TB minced fresh parsley
  • 3 scallions minced white and light green parts only
  • Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper if needed

Instructions

Make the vinaigrette

  1. Add the grated fresh ginger, lemon zest (if using), lemon juice, and honey to a small bowl. Whisk until the honey is completely dissolved. Add the olive oil, a little at a time and whisk thoroughly between additions until emulsified. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Also, adjust flavor with additional ingredients if needed. Set aside.

Make the Green Bean Salad

  1. Fill a large sauce pan or stock pot with water, and turn the stove to high heat. Bring the water to a boil. Meanwhile prepare an ice bath in a large bowl and fill part way with ice cubes and cold water. Set aside.
  2. When the water comes to a brisk boil, add a pinch of Kosher salt, then add the prepared green and wax beans. Quickly blanch the beans, about one minute or when the water returns to an early boil. Drain the water and immediately add the beans to the ice bath. Swirl the beans once around in the ice water with your hands. Allow the beans to stay in the ice bath until they are just cool. Drain the beans from the ice bath and spread them out on a clean kitchen towel to dry.
  3. Add the beans to a medium mixing bowl, then add the red kidney beans, minced scallions, and fresh herbs. Gently toss with your hands to mix. Give the reserved lemon ginger vinaigrette a good whisk to emulsify it again, and add about half of the dressing to the vegetables. Toss to mix, then taste to see if you want more dressing. Taste for seasoning and add a small amount of salt and pepper if needed.
  4. This is delicious served either cold or warm, but like most salads it is best eaten very soon after it is made. Make ahead note: you can make the salad dressing ahead and store on the counter for a couple of hours. Prepare the beans no more than an hour ahead of time. Add rinsed and dried kidney beans and green beans to a bowl and cover. Store in the refrigerator until you are ready to mix them all together. It is best not to add the fresh herbs and scallions until you are ready to serve the salad. Assemble the dressing, herbs and vegetables, and mix together when you are ready to serve.

Recipe Notes

For a vegan meal, use your favorite liquid sweetener like agave. I am not as familiar with the level of sweetness agave or liquid cane sugar in the raw, so start with less, then taste and add more if needed. You can easily use a pinch or granulated sugar as well. Just make sure it is well mixed.

© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

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