What to do for Dad for Father's Day? Take him on a picnic!
Picnics shout ADVENTURE! - and what dad wouldn't enjoy having an adventure planned in his honor?
Though simple, picnics are very special affairs. What could be better than eating out of doors in a beautiful setting? These relaxed, carefree events give picnickers a chance to enjoy conversation with friends and family while communing with nature. Nothing - not even ants or rain - can dash the fun of a picnic.
Our American tradition of picnicking grew from the European Medieval hunting feasts and Renaissance country banquets. But picnicking really came into its own in the Victorian era with the introduction of the lavish Victorian garden party. These soirees were the highlights of the summer social season in England, and, lucky for Americans, the tradition jumped across the pond. Garden parties were deemed a necessary part of social life up and down the Hudson River, along the coast of Long Island and in New York City's gardens.
At some point, these galas gave way to the more casual picnic we Americans love.
Picnics are celebrations of human spirit, culinary diversity and adventure. Planned or unplanned, a picnic is different from any other outdoor eating event. They are different from clambakes, barbecues, shrimp boils, al fresco dining and fair food. It must have something to do with the portability of a picnic that adds a sense of wanderlust to the meal.
An American picnic can be many things:
n Impromptu salad, cheese, fruit and bread enjoyed while listening to a summer concert in the park
n An artfully packed hamper of gourmet delights served on fine linen and china
n Box or brown bag lunches shared by co-workers on the office lawn
n Traditional American foods prepared at home and served on a blanket in the park
n PBJ's, juice boxes and cookies at the park after swimming lessons
n Steaming hot chocolate, chili, corn bread and dill pickles served at the outdoor ice skating rink
n Imaginary tea and crumpets carefully poured for favorite dolls in the backyard.
For Father's Day, pack a festive picnic basket or hamper with his favorite foods, toss a blanket in the car and head out to a special park or beach.
Remember to keep foods at safe temperatures. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
Don't forget to pack salt and pepper, plenty of napkins, tablecloth or blanket, glasses, silverware, plates, knives, bottle openers, ice and serving utensils. Think through the serving of each dish to ensure you have what you will need to make your picnic a success. It's usually not convenient to go back for forgotten items.
Use both the Five:30 Lemon Basil Pasta Salad and the Grilled Chicken Sandwiches with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese recipes and your Father's Day picnic is nearly complete! Add brownies, watermelon and beverages and you will have a perfect picnic ready to go.
Happy Father's Day, Dad! Bon Appetit!
Grilled Chicken Sandwiches with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese
8 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, well trimmed and pounded to uniform ½ inch thickness
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary
2 red onions cut into ½ inch thick slices
8 large French bread rolls (about 4 inches long) cut in half
½ cup chopped drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
2 bunches arugula, watercress, spinach or lettuce of your choice
4 ounces light soft goat cheese
Place chicken in medium bowl. Add vinegar, olive oil, garlic and rosemary. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Season chicken with salt and pepper. Grill chicken and onions until chicken is just cooked through and onions are golden brown, turning occasionally, about 10 minutes. Grill cut sides of rolls until golden brown. Spread bottom halves of rolls with chopped sun-dried tomatoes. Top with chicken breast and some grilled onions and lettuce. Spread top halves of rolls with 1 tablespoons goat cheese and place atop sandwiches. Serve.
If transporting to a picnic, have each person add lettuce before eating, rather than pack and wrap the lettuce in with the warm ingredients.
Five ingredient entrees ready in 30 minutes or less (salt, pepper, oil and water not included in the count!).
Lemon Basil Pasta Salad
Makes 6 to 8 servings
1-pound farfalle pasta
4 vine-ripened tomatoes, diced
2 lemons, 1 cut into slices, the other zested and juiced
8 large basil leaves cut into chiffonade, plus more whole leaves for garnish
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Fill a large pot three-fourth of the way with water and place over high heat. Add the sliced lemon and plenty of salt, so that it tastes like seawater and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook 8 to 10 minutes, until al dente. Drain the pasta and rinse under cold water to cool down. Discard lemon slices.
Put the pasta in a large serving bowl and add the tomatoes, basil, lemon zest and juice, olive oil and salt and pepper. Toss well and garnish with more basil, either whole leaves or chiffonaded.