Picks for the Picnic

Leisure food for the summer

EUGENIA UHL PHOTOGRAPH

Summer picnics require two things: deviled eggs and pimento cheese sandwiches.

These are comfort foods for me and I never tire of them whether it’s a picnic, road trip or parade party. I can remember carrying pimento cheese sandwiches in my lunchbox to grammar school, and I sometimes sent my kids to school with them, too.

It is amazing how these simple foods disappear at a party. I figure they’re comfort food for a lot of people besides me, because they always go fast in a crowd. Stuffed celery is another favorite that flies off a buffet as soon as you serve it.

Years ago our friend Rick made some sandwiches that my husband and I still make for fishing trips or boating outings. Similar to a poor boy, they’re foot-long pieces of French bread, overstuffed with cold cuts, cheese, vegetables and olive oil. The key is using top-quality hard salami and ham with dried black olives and whole green onions. They are wrapped tightly in tin foil and easily transported in a cooler. I see them as a cross between a poor boy and a muffuletta.

My family loves the outdoor performances of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra in City Park, Lafreniere Park and other locations. There is nothing like an evening of picnicking and beautiful music with appeal for all ages. However, mosquito spray runs a close second to good food for enjoying these occasions.

Finding a good location for a picnic takes some practice. The obvious places are the city’s magnificent parks, but there are others to be found as well. We once drove across the Causeway to picnic on the Mandeville lakeshore. And on another occasion we found a spot on a bayou just over the spillway bridge near LaPlace. The only drawback was a four-foot moccasin that serpentined too close for comfort. We have also found places over the levee along the Mississippi River where giant ships entertained us while we ate.

If I’m under a live oak anywhere, I’m a happy camper. I became a live oak aficionado when I lived Uptown and watched the streetcar go by through the limbs of the magnificent trees. Now that I reside next door in Jefferson, I’m elated that the parish has hundreds of live oaks reaching maturity in the neutral grounds along many boulevards. Most recently, our parish officials have given us hundreds of new magnolia trees and crape myrtles. With the beauty of constantly improving Lafreniere Park, Jefferson may someday rival its neighbor’s as yet unmatched charm.

At our house we’re trying something new to stay cool this summer. It is a mister, delivering a cooling spray while we sit outside. It might be just the thing for more picnics in our own backyard.

Following are recipes for simply made picnic foods. For example, my pimento cheese sandwiches won a little contest we once held at the office against more complex recipes. Sometimes simple is best; it’s often how our mamas did it.


Pimento Cheese Sandwiches

8    ounces extra-sharp Cheddar cheese,
    at room temperature
1    4-ounce jar pimentos
1/2    cup mayonnaise
1    loaf soft, round-top bread


Grate cheese into a bowl. Drain pimentos and add to cheese. Add mayonnaise and mix well.

Spread liberally onto fresh bread. If for a party, trim edges and cut into four triangles.

Makes 6 whole sandwiches or 24 finger sandwiches


Rick’s Sandwiches

1    long poor boy loaf
1/3    cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3     pound hard salami
1/3    pound ham, sliced thin
1/3    pound sharp Cheddar cheese, sliced thin
1/3    pound Swiss cheese, sliced thin
1    bunch green onions, cut in thin slices
    length-wise
1/2    cup dried black olives or oiled
    black olives
Salt and pepper to taste


Slice bread in half length-wise. Drizzle bottom layer with a little of the olive oil. Layer all ingredients, occasionally drizzling a little of the olive oil. Top with lightly oiled bread and cut into desired number of pieces. Wrap whole loaf in heavy tin foil and refrigerate until ready to serve, or wrap in individual pieces. This sandwich is best made the night before, allowing time to marinate.


New Potato Salad

3    pounds small red new potatoes
2    large stalks celery, chopped
1/2     cup red onion, chopped
3     packed Tablespoons fresh dill leaves,
    chopped
1/2     cup high-quality or homemade
    mayonnaise
1/2     cup sour cream
1/4     cup Creole mustard
1/4     teaspoon Creole seasoning
1/4     teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


Boil potatoes until fork tender. Cut into halves or fourths, depending on size, and place in a large bowl. Add all other ingredients and mix well. Serve at room temperature or chill for later use.

Serves 6 to 8


Stuffed Celery

8     large stalks celery
8     ounces cream cheese
4     Tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
2/3     cup sour cream
8     shots Tabasco
2     Tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste


Clean and cut celery stalks into fourths.

Mix all other ingredients together, mashing with a fork, and stuff into celery pieces using a knife.

Makes 32 pieces


Deviled Eggs

1     dozen large eggs
1/2     cup olives stuffed with pimentos
2/3     cup mayonnaise
2     Tablespoons yellow mustard
1/2     teaspoon Creole seasoning
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Paprika (optional)


Carefully place eggs in a medium pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a full boil. Cover and turn off heat. Let eggs set for 10 minutes without removing top. Pour hot water off and replace with cold running water. Holding each egg under water, peel and place on paper towels. When all are peeled, slice eggs in half. Remove yolks and place on a flat plate. Place whites on serving plate or in a refrigerator container.

Mash egg yolks with a fork. Mash drained olives with a fork into little pieces. Add remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Spoon filling into whites, covering the whole tops of the egg whites. Sprinkle with paprika, if desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes 24 deviled eggs


 

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