In Praise of Picnics – Coastal Living

In Praise of Picnics

By Julia Dowling Rutland

Grab a blanket and your favorite foods, and celebrate with an easy outing.

Picnics mean different things to different people. Some carefully prepare transportable recipes and pack up their wine coolers and small cheese boards. Other picnickers simply grab a few items at the market and kick back on a sun-bleached bench. Whatever your style, these movable spreads are quintessentially summer.

So relax and enjoy the following delicious recipes and food memories from coastal chefs, cookbook authors, and party planners. Let nature be your table under the big blue umbrella sky.

“The ideal spot to have a beach picnic is someplace isolated. It’s great if you can be on the leeward side of a dune, where there is less wind. You’ll have sun but avoid sand blowing into your food. My approach to a beach menu is something simple, and comfort food makes it special. I bring meals that are prepared in advance, chilled, and transported, or are easily prepared on site. A lot of public beaches have grills—all you have to bring is the charcoal. I like to focus not so much on the food as the overall experience.”
—Chef Tim Creehan

Grilled Grouper Sandwich with Chipotle Tartar Sauce
Chipotle Tartar Sauce is an easy variation on classic tartar sauce and would also be tasty with French fries or crab cakes. Chipotle peppers (dried, smoked jalapeños) in adobo sauce add full, smoky flavor.

3⁄4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons diced celery
1 tablespoon minced onion
2 tablespoons dill pickle relish
1 tablespoon minced canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
4 (5-ounce) grouper fillets
4 teaspoons lemon pepper
4 Kaiser rolls, toasted on grill
1 tomato, sliced
1 red onion, sliced
4 Napa cabbage leaves

To make the tartar sauce, combine first 5 ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and chill 3 hours. Sprinkle grouper with lemon pepper. Grill fillets, covered with grill lid, over medium-high heat (350° to 400°) 4 minutes on each side or until fish flakes with a fork. Place each fillet on a Kaiser roll. Top with Chipotle Tartar Sauce, tomato, onion, and cabbage. Makes 4 servings.

Creole Coleslaw
1 cup mayonnaise
1⁄2 cup ketchup
1⁄4 cup vinegar
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1⁄4 cup sugar
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1⁄8 teaspoon ground red pepper
6 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup shredded carrot

Combine first 8 ingredients in a small bowl. Combine cabbage and carrot in a large bowl. Add the desired amount of dressing, tossing well to coat. Chill up to 2 hours or serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.
Chef Tim Creehan
Beach Walk Café
Destin, Florida

“I like to keep things simple for a beach picnic—no reason to be all fancy-schmancy and then have sand ruin your efforts. Besides, the beach is the definition of casual. But the drama and brilliant sunshine of a beach picnic call for food that has big, bright flavor. Don’t let the simplicity of these crostini fool you: The little morsels taste lusciously complex, especially when peaches are in peak season. In fact, I only make these when the best peaches are available. I serve them with a raucous green salad with herbs, and a cold bottle of vinho verde or French rosé.”
—Author Jeremy Jackson

“There’s nothing better than a picnic at the beach on a sunny afternoon. Eating delicious food, sipping wine, and enjoying good conversation with friends is what the lazy days of summer are all about. For a perfect ending to a picnic, serve delicious brownies that are meant to be eaten with fingers—no plates, forks, or spoons. They’re especially good with chilled grapes and fresh berries.”
—Author Barbara Scott-Goodman

Perfect Picnic Brownies
1⁄2 cup butter
5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 large eggs
1 1⁄4 cups sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
1⁄2 cup chopped walnuts

Melt butter and chocolate in a saucepan over low heat. Beat eggs and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until well blended. Gradually add chocolate mixture to egg mixture, beating at low speed until blended. Gradually add vanilla and flour, beating until blended. Stir in walnuts. Pour into a lightly greased, aluminum foil–lined 8-inch square pan. Bake at 325° for 35 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into squares. Makes 6 servings.

The Beach House Cookbook


Adapted from The Beach House Cookbook by Barbara Scott-Goodman
(Chronicle Books, 2005)
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