IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY MORNING
Posing a borrowed bear in the rain, however, would not be a good idea. So when the weekend forecast called for thunderstorms on Saturday, we decided to postpone our pic-a-nic fest to Sunday. And, boy, were we glad we did. Saturday morning brought torrential rains under a sky so thick with clouds it looked like dusk at 10:00 a.m. It doesn't get much more humid than this on the banks of the Ohio River, where Cindie and Odie live, and their air conditioners had not yet been installed for the season, leaving sweat pouring off us, and every bit of paper - be it t.p. or recipes - damp to the touch.
Soon after this month's theme was announced, I contemplated picnic possibilities as I drove to Tennessee, over-thinking as I sometimes do. As La Diva (last month's Smackdown winner and therefore this month's host/judge) always advocates, I wanted to challenge myself and try something new. After a good night's sleep, I opened this book (which Cindie had passed along to me) to the page where I'd left off, and fell upon a recipe that seemed perfect for the occasion.
EXPLORATIONS IN THE VEGGIE ZONEI'm always on the lookout for intriguing new ways to use in-season produce, and have been further spurred on by committing to contribute some recipes to my local Hyde Park Farmer's Market that will be available as giveaways to the market's customers. Here are two I've submitted, and which I tried out myself for our picnic.
ROASTED RADISHESI had never thought of applying heat to radishes until recently. Roasting radishes brings out the turnip-y side of their flavor, mutes the bite/heat/sharpness I associate with (and, frankly, enjoy about) raw radishes, and tends to make their color pale. An entirely different way to look at - and taste - radishes.
For this recipe, I started out with these vibrant red radishes.
PICKLED SUGAR SNAP PEASI confess to being a pickle girl, as is, apparently, Deb from Smitten Kitchen. I discovered a wealth of pickle recipes on her site recently and decided to try out this one, with sugar snap peas I found at the great new farmers market in Madeira.
STEAK SALADCindie and I knew we'd have to appeal to conventional male appetites with our cold/room-temp picnic menu and that some meat offerings would help satisfy the guys at the table. For her main course, Cindie marinated flank steak overnight, seared it on the grill, and let it cool.
MARINATED SAUSAGE AND GRUYERE SALADThis one was my contribution in the meat salad arena, a dish that piqued my interest as soon as I read this recipe - one that would never have occurred to me if left only to my own devices. It turned out to be the hands-down favorite of all our picnic dishes Sunday evening, by consensus of men and women alike. It is definitely a "keeper" that I will make again.
An old-style Alsatian peasant dish using a local (there) garlicky cured sausage called cervelas, for my version, I used preservative-free, house-smoked kielbasa and Swiss brats (think cheddarwurst, but with Swiss cheese) from one of my local go-to sausage places, Avril-Bleh's, close enough to walk to on my lunch hour.
WATERMELON AND GAZPACHO APPS
When I first broached the idea of joining forces with Team Eggplant for this Smackdown, Odie liked the idea of picnicking on the boat. Alas, the boat is in the shop, and after something like 7" of rain in three days, the mighty Ohio is mighty murky, so boating would not have been a good idea anyway. Still, I wanted to keep to the terms of the challenge, and needed a way to lure people outdoors and away from the thankfully installed a/c.
With the rest of the avocados I made some guac (just for you, buffalodick), which somehow did not have its picture taken. Odie used the tortilla chips (which Karen was kind enough to bring for this last-minute idea) to scoop up my admittedly chunky gazpacho, pronouncing it one of the best salsas he'd ever had.
DESSERT: CINDIE'S GEORGIA PEACH AND BLUEBERRY PIE, PLUS BERRIES AND BALSAMIC
La Diva's blog for links to more entries and news of the eventual Culinary Smackdown winner.