Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Picnic in the Glass; Garden Vegetable Pasta

Recipes: Gourmet's "Picnic In The Glass" recipes, Curried Chicken Salad with Spiced Chickpeas and Raita and Greek Salad with Orzo and Black-Eyed Peas;
Garden Vegetable Pasta

The past few weeks have been very busy. I am here, at the end of July, wondering where our summer went to. But I know. Vacation, entertaining… June and July have swept by and I haven’t even had the chance to lazy an afternoon away, reading in a hammock. I am not complaining (much)-- I really do enjoy hosting parties and weekend get-togethers (well, everything but shopping for the food). Planning, preparation, and lately I’ve been delegating some menu items to my guests and that had really taken a load off. It’s fun. I think that, if I won a lottery, I would budget money to have someone do the grocery shopping, and then someone to clean up afterwards. Then it would be almost too perfect!

There are many recipes that I need to post here. I hope to be able to get a few on this week, then some posted next week.

I am not going to do this in chronological order, though. There are some recipes which have turned out so well that I just have to place them here as soon as I can.

But first.

This past weekend Jack and I had 5 friends to the lake house for a few days. The weather cooperated perfectly. Every evening we were able to eat on the patio, surrounded by flickering torches; during the day the sun was out but not too hot, and we were able to spend the afternoons on the boat. It rained once, at 3am. As I said, the weather was perfect.

I think that my favorite recipe which I made over the weekend was for our Sunday lunch on the boat. I was dithering between several ideas when I flipped through an August issue of Gourmet, which Nancy had left for me to read the previous weekend. The article “Picnic In The Glass” caught my attention. Two-cup glass jars were used to layer different ingredients, producing portable salads. What a great idea to use those pint canning jars I have so many of (since I haven’t done much in the way of canning in the past few years).

First, both Tammy and Caroline helped me to put these together. They are very competent sous chefs and chopped quantities of cucumbers, tomatoes, onion, etc. without complaint. Then the ingredients were placed in the jars, transferred to a cooler, and taken to the boat where they were enjoyed a few hours later.

What an incredibly cool way to picnic! The jars were easy to hold, and no paper plates were remaining to dispose of. Each of the guys consumed 2 jars, the ladies one each (although Caroline and I “shared” a few bites of each salad). Although Indian food is my favorite type of cuisine, and I enjoyed this salad very much, the Greek one was pretty delicious also.

Basically, the Curried Chicken Salad with Spiced Chickpeas and Raita consisted on red grapes on the bottom of the jar, then a layer of curried chicken salad, a layer of cool cucumber raita, and then a layer of cumin-and-turmeric-spiced chickpeas which was topped with toasted slivered almonds.

The Greek Salad with Orzo and Black-Eyed Peas started with a black-eyed pea salad (they were tossed with tomatoes, parsley and a red wine vinaigrette) on the bottom, then on top of that an orzo salad (orzo, cucumber, Kalamata olives, red onion, fresh oregano in a lemony dressing), then a layer each of shredded romaine and crumbled feta. A peperocini pepper or two was to be placed on top, but we ran out of room and left those out.

Both of these salads were incredible. There were four other salads featured in the article and I want to try the shrimp with salsa, avocado, and chips soon (the other three didn’t do much for me).

One of the Indian salads was left. Although the directions say that these can be made up to 6 hours before serving, it wasn’t until 2 days later that it was used. I microwaved it on a very low power just to take the refrigerator chill off, and served it over some leftover, room-temperature coconut rice for lunch. It still was delicious.

Friends Dary and Caroline arrived not only with their share of food and wine, but also with bags of fresh produce from their garden. I have to admit, as I wiled my afternoons away on the boat I was figuring out what I could do with these wonderful spoils of their garden. For dinner on Sunday night I steamed the fresh (edible-pod) peas and served them with leftover barbequed chicken from Friday night. I haven’t had fresh peas in years, since I stopped growing them, and they were superb.

On Monday we spent the day cleaning and packing, and didn’t arrive back at the farm until almost 7. As I transferred those vegetables from the cooler into the refrigerator I had an idea for dinner. Garden Veggie Penne!

There is no recipe for this. Basically, vegetables are sautéed in olive oil and garlic, a milk-and-cornstarch mixture (about 2 teaspoons cornstarch to 1 cup of milk) is added and stirred until thickened. Then the addition of fresh basil and grated cheese (I used Asiago), and the mixture is tossed with whole wheat penne.

After dividing between plates, sprinkle with a little more cheese. Quick and so, so delicious with all of those vegetables (almost) straight from the garden!

My vegetable garden is very late this year since we were on vacation and I didn’t plant anything until the beginning of July. And something keeps nipping the top off of my bean plants. So to have fresh vegetables was such a wonderful treat. Dary, Carolyn, if you guys are reading this—THANKS!!!

More soon!


Nikki Miller-Ka said...

I love the salad in a jar. It's a very green idea for a picnic, pretty, and looks delicious. I'd leave off the almonds of the Indian-spiced one, but yum!

You've been away on vacations and such, and I haven't had the time or $$$ to get away AT ALL! I'm jealous. I write a column called Road Trips for my paper and I need to take my own advice and GO!

Laura said...

I've been dying to try the Indian picnic jar--although probably out of the jar since I imagine we would just be eating it at home. It looked wonderful. Glad to hear you guys liked it.

Kitchen Queen Victoria said...

Nikki, if you write about road trips, you therefore must take road trips! GO!!! :)

Laura, I will make this next not in a glass jar, but as a pita filling. The chicken salad and spiced chickpeas would be an incredible sandwich!