Summer is in full swing so it is officially time for picnics. Whoo-hoo! Although I have mentioned summertime and grilling in a previous blog, I wanted to again explore one of my favorite times of year. PICNIC TIME!
Kind of a silly word when you think about how it is spelled. PICNIC. Why no ‘k’ at the end? When looking further into the history of the word, here is what I learned. “The first usage of the word is traced to the 1692 edition of Tony Willis, Origines de la Langue Française, which mentions pique-nique as being of recent origin; it marks the first appearance of the word in print. The term was used to describe a group of people dining in a restaurant who brought their own wine. The concept of a picnic long retained the connotation of a meal to which everyone contributed something.”
But let’s get back to the real meaning of picnic (from my perspective). It translates to GREAT FOOD… and lots of it!
Growing up, picnics usually consisted of hamburgers and/or hot dogs (or even thick slices of bologna) cooked over blazing charcoal briquettes, all prepared in the backyard ….when it was too hot to cook in the kitchen. Yup, no gas grills or air conditioning back then. Or, for holidays or special occasions, my Mom and aunts would cook up some incredibly divine fried chicken to go along with mustard potato salad (made 100% from scratch). They’d even bake a few fruit pies without the help of premade pie crusts (usually done in the evening to beat the heat). The next day, the chicken and tater salad would then be put in a large cooler for the hour-long drive to a picnic area close to our favorite lake. I still remember how fun these ventures were, but am not so sure the food safety police today would have approved… yet none of us ever got sick from room temperature chicken!
Needless to say, if you were to search the Internet today, you’d come up with the most basic of picnic foods to hardcore guidelines on how to throw a gourmet picnic (really?). Whatever meets your ‘fancy’!
The bottom line when it comes to a picnic? All that’s needed are family and friends, good conversation and GREAT FOOD. And what makes food GREAT? It’s the ingredients and preparation method that enhance the natural flavors of the food. For example, cooking hamburgers on a hot grill causes the exterior to caramelize, bringing out what we now know as umami flavor. The same goes for the pan-fried chicken.
So, if you want to step up your next picnic a notch, why not try one of the recipes (below) that offers distinct umami flavor… from the bacon that is a key ingredient in Authentic German Potato Salad, to the natural umami goodness of mushrooms (via the Garlic Marinated Mushrooms recipe), or the umami seasoning in the Spicy Hot-Cold Noodle Salad.
Bon appetit! And don’t forget the red checkered tablecloth!
Authentic German Potato Salad
- 3 cups diced peeled potatoes raw
- 4 slices bacon uncooked
- 1 small onion diced
- 1/4 cup white vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. water
- 3 Tbsp. white sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
- 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
Place the potatoes into a pot, and fill with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, and cook for about 10 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork. Drain and set aside to cool.
Place the bacon in a large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Fry until browned and crisp, turning as needed. Remove from the pan and set aside. Crumble once cool.
Add onion to the bacon drippings and cook over medium heat until browned. Add the vinegar, water, sugar, salt and pepper to the pan. Bring to a boil then add the potatoes and parsley. Stir in half of the bacon crumbles. Heat through, then transfer to a serving dish. Top with the remaining bacon crumbles.
While this salad is traditionally served warm, it need not be.
Recipe courtesy of Allrecipes.com
Garlic Marinated Mushrooms
Be prepared to have your friends ask for the recipe!
- 2 lb. small white mushrooms can also use other fresh mushrooms such as Portobello, oyster or shiitake mushrooms
- 1 ½ cups lemon juice
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 3 Tbsp. chopped garlic make those heaping if you LOVE garlic!
- 2 tsp. olive oil
- 2 tsp. onion powder
- 1 tsp. garlic salt
- ¼ tsp. black pepper
Wash and dry mushrooms; place in medium bowl.
Place lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, oil and remaining seasonings into a small saucepan and heat just to a rolling boil.
Remove from heat and pour immediately over the mushrooms.
Stir well to coat the mushrooms evenly, then cover and refrigerate at least one hour or longer, preferably overnight.
Serve cold as an appetizer or add to pasta salad.
Recipe courtesy of Mymotherlode.com
Spicy-Hot Cold Noodle Salad
- 1 lb. oriental noodles fresh
- 4 each scallions spring or green onions or green onions, chopped
- 2 tsp. hot chili pepper oil
- 2 tsp. sesame oil
- 2 Tbsp. vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. sugar
- 1-½ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. black pepper
- 1 tsp. umami seasoning MSG
- 2 sweet red bell peppers chopped
- 4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
Cook the noodles in boiling water for 3 minutes, then drain.
Rinse them in cold water until they are cool; set aside again to drain.
Make the sauce by mixing together all of the other ingredients (except for vegetable oil).
Heat about 4 tablespoon oil in a wok.
When it is hot, pour in the sauce mixture, and then the noodles.
Stir well to cover the noodles with sauce, then remove and cool.
Photo credit: Flickr user, Alpha