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Caribbean Cooking: What is a Picnic?

Food historians tell us picnics evolved from the elaborate traditions of moveable outdoor feasts enjoyed by the wealthy. In contemporary usage, picnic can be defined simply as a pleasure excursion at which a meal is eaten outdoors, ideally taking place in a beautiful landscape, something pleasantly or easily accomplished. Preparing meals and transporting them to a boat would be considered a picnic.

The following are recipes are easy to do, so don’t just pick up deli sandwiches – prepare something special! Presentation is very important so take good silverware, napkins, table cloth and glasses.   

Follow these tips for packing food safely for a picnic: first, of course, wash hands and work areas, and be sure utensils are clean before preparing food.  When you are cooking food at home to transport, it should be cooked in plenty of time to be chilled thoroughly in the refrigerator.  Do not partially cook food to use later.  Chill a cooler to 40ºF and pack food directly from refrigerator to cooler.  On a hot day carry the cooler in the air-conditioned car, not the trunk. Keep the cooler in the shade and keep the lid closed as much as possible. Use a separate cooler for drinks, as that one is being opened and closed often.

Besides the following recipes I always like to have a big platter of cheeses—brie, baby Gouda, Jarlsberg and others you may like—along with fresh fruits like grapes, strawberries, and sliced melon.

GAZPACHO

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Chilling time: 4 hours
Serves: 8

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2-1/2 cups canned tomato juice
6 tomatoes, peeled and seeded
2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
2 onions, peeled and quartered
2 shallots, peeled and cut
2 cucumbers, peeled and quartered
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill
Garnish: Sour cream or crème fraîche and sprigs of dill

Whisk together vinegar, olive oil, and tomato juice. In batches, process the vegetables to a coarse mixture, add a small amount of the juice mixture each time. Do not puree completely so that you have some texture. Add cayenne, salt, pepper, and the chopped dill. Mix well. Chill at least 4 hours. Serve in chilled bowls with garnish.  Note: This soup keeps well.

CARROT, ONION, AND BEET SALAD

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 40 minutes
Serves: 8

3 cups baby carrots
2-1/2 cups boiling onions (about 1” diameter)
3 cups baby beets, peeled if desired, and cut up
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. hot water
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. orange juice
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
3 cups mixed baby greens

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Toss together carrots and onions. Place in one layer in half of a 13x9x2 inch baking pan. Place beets in opposite half of pan. Drizzle 1-1/2 Tbsp. of the olive oil over vegetables. Cover with foil and bake for about 40 minutes, or until tender. Transfer carrots and onions with a slotted spoon to a storage container and cover. Transfer beets to a separate container and cover. Add water to baking pan, stirring to dislodge any browned bits.
Dressing: Combine liquid in pan, the remaining olive oil, vinegar, orange juice, parsley, chives, salt, and pepper in a screw-top jar. Cover and shake to combine. Place greens in self-sealing plastic bag and seal. Transport vegetables, dressing, and greens in a cooler with ice packs. To serve: Toss together the carrots, onions, beets, greens, and dressing.

BASIL-STUFFED BEEF

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Grilling time:  45 minutes
Serves: 10-12

3 to 3-1/2 lbs. boneless beef sirloin roast, cut 1-3/4 inches thick
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 cups lightly packed basil leaves, snipped
3 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp. olive oil

Make five or six 5-inch long slits along the top of the roast, cutting almost through it. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Combine basil and garlic in a medium mixing bowl; stuff mixture into the slits in meat. Tie the meat with heavy-duty string to hold slits closed. Drizzle with olive oil.

To grill: Arrange medium coals around a drip pan in a grill with a hood. Test for medium-low heat above the pan. Place meat on grill rack over drip pan but not over coals. Insert a meat thermometer; lower the grill hood. Grill about 45 minutes or until meat thermometer registers the desired temperature (150º for rare, 160ºF for medium, 170ºF for well done). Add more coals as necessary. Let meat stand, covered, for 10 minutes (the temperature of the meat will rise slightly).

To oven roast: Preheat oven to 425ºF. Place meat on a rack in a hallow roasting pan. Insert a meat thermometer. Roast uncovered for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350ºF, roast for 35 to 45 minutes more or until desired doneness. Let meat stand, covered, for 10 minutes.

Place meat in a shallow container. Cover and chill 2-24 hours. Transport in a cooler with ice packs. To serve, place meat on a cutting board and cut into slices.

BLACK OLIVES, TOMATO, AND BASIL PASTA

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time:  10 minutes
Serves: 8

1 (16 oz) pkg. farfallé pasta
2 Roma (plum) tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 cup pitted black olives, cut in halves
1/2 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic minced
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
Salt and pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente, drain. In a large bowl, gently toss the cooked pasta, tomatoes, olives, olive oil, garlic, and basil. Season with salt and pepper.  Note: This may be served at room temperature or as a cold salad. Easy to prepare and easy to transport.

HELLO DOLLYS

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time:  34-45 minutes
Serves: 8

1 stick butter, melted
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup coconut flakes
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate bits
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Layer ingredients in brownie pan, in order given. Bake until firm. Cool and cut into pieces.

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