For many families, the Independence Day celebration marks the start of the
season for outdoor dining.
With pleasant, sunny weather that’s not
overwhelmingly hot, it’s the ideal time to relax with friends and family members
around a tasty spread.
What people consider the perfect food to eat
outdoors is entirely a matter of taste.
When we lived in Paris, we liked
to picnic with friends on a simple selection of fine quality foods – fresh
baguette, several kinds of pâtés or cheeses, wine and seasonal fruits. Usually
we stopped at a patisserie on the way to the park and bought a piece of sweet
pastry or cake such as a “gateau de voyage,” a cake that travels well. My choice
was often pain de Genes, a buttery almond cake. The idea of cooking anything at
a picnic didn’t cross my mind.
On the other hand, some people prefer
picnics of hearty cooked food. I’ve even seen a family carrying a
blanket-swaddled pot of cholent to the park.
These days when I prepare
food to eat outdoors I include cooked vegetables. Salads of cooked vegetables
taste good at room temperature and go well with all sorts of foods, from
hard-boiled eggs to grilled meats.
Potato salads are popular picnic food
but if a salad will be sitting outdoors for a while, it’s best to make it
One I like is a spicy Tunisian potato salad flavored
with olive oil, lemon juice, cumin, caraway seeds, hot pepper sauce and fresh
A mustard and olive oil dressing also gives a flavor boost to
potatoes. Jamie Gwen, author of Good Food for Good Times 2, makes such a
dressing for her lemonbasil potato salad, and notes that adding the dressing to
the warm potatoes allows the flavors to soak in wonderfully. To make the salad,
she roasts quartered small potatoes and whole garlic cloves with olive oil, salt
and pepper until tender and golden, and adds a blender dressing of Dijon
mustard, olive oil, lemon juice, a generous amount of fresh basil leaves, salt
and pepper. Tossing the potato mixture with baby spinach leaves and cherry
tomatoes adds color and freshness.
Just about any vegetable that you like
to cook can be made into a salad. Such salads are convenient to prepare because
they can be made ahead. Often, if the vegetable sits in its dressing for a few hours, it tastes even
Yotam Ottolenghi, author of Plenty, makes a delicious rendition
of Moroccan carrot salad. His spicy salad calls for mixing the cooked carrot
pieces with garlic, fresh hot peppers, cumin, cloves, coriander and other
spices, as well as onion sauteed in olive oil.
A generous amount of
chopped fresh coriander gives the salad a spring-like appearance and a lively
Vegetables roasted with olive oil make fine picnic
food. Claudia Roden, author of The Food of Spain, makes sweet roasted tomatoes
with a “deliciously intense flavor” to serve as an appetizer or to accompany
meat or fish. To prepare them, she halves plum tomatoes through their stem ends,
sets them on a baking sheet lined with oiled foil, sprinkles them generously
with sugar and lightly with salt, pepper and olive oil, and bakes them slowly
for 31⁄2 to 4 hours.
Another baked tomato dish, good for serving cold at
a picnic, is Roden’s light tuna-stuffed tomatoes. The filling, which bakes in
the hollowed out tomatoes, is a mixture of tuna canned in oil, chopped black
olives, and onion and garlic sauteed in olive oil.
are another great choice for eating alfresco. I especially like marinated fried
eggplant slices with roasted red pepper strips and a spicy dressing of cumin,
garlic, hot peppers, olive oil and wine vinegar. The eggplant goes well with
meat or with flavorful cheeses, or simply with pita and hard boiled
Roden prepares Spanish marinated mushrooms by dry-cooking mushrooms
in a skillet so they lose their juices and better absorb the dressing, which she
makes from lemon juice and grated zest, olive oil, salt and pepper. The
mushrooms, which “keep for many days,” are finished with a sprinkling of
Ottolenghi uses marinated mushrooms as the basis for a rich
salad that he recommends for picnics or springtime buffets. He marinates
uncooked mushrooms with olive oil, wine vinegar, lemon juice, a little maple
syrup, salt and pepper. Next he mixes them with lightly cooked fresh fava beans
and toasted chopped walnuts and flavors the salad with cumin.
is topped with a tehina dressing with Greek yogurt (thick strained yogurt
similar to labaneh), garlic, lemon juice and salt, and finished with a
sprinkling of chopped fresh dill and oregano. If you wanted to serve such a
salad with meat, you could make a tehina dressing without the
Whether you’re taking these salads to the park or eating them in
the garden or on the porch, packing them is simple and so is serving them. All
you need to serve with one or two of these salads is sliced cheeses, hard-boiled
eggs or perhaps cold roast beef or chicken, with any fresh bread that your
family likes and ripe fruit for dessert. This type of troublefree picnic is my
favorite way to celebrate Independence Day.
Faye Levy is the author of
1,000 Jewish Recipes.
MARINATED EGGPLANT WITH ROASTED PEPPER
In this recipe, the spiced vinegar
penetrates the sauteed eggplant and balances its richness. Generally the
marinated eggplant slices are served as an appetizer, but they are also good in
a sandwich or as a side dish with cold meats or sliced cheese.
2 medium eggplants (about 900 gr. or 2 pounds),
2 tsp. salt
about 1⁄2 cup olive oil, or more if needed (for frying)
6 medium-sized garlic cloves
1 fresh small hot pepper, halved lengthwise
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil (for marinade)
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1 tsp. ground cumin
3 Tbsp. mild white wine vinegar (5% acidity)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 sweet red pepper, roasted and peeled (see Note below),
or from a jar
Pita or sliced French or Italian bread (for accompaniment)
Cut eggplants in 1-cm. (1⁄2-inch) slices crosswise, discarding ends. Arrange
slices in 1 layer on a rack set over a tray. Sprinkle both sides evenly with
about 1 teaspoon salt. Let slices drain for 1 hour, turning them over after 30
minutes. Pat them dry very thoroughly with several changes of paper
In a large, heavy skillet heat 2 or 3 tablespoons oil over medium
heat. Quickly add enough eggplant slices to make 1 layer. Saute eggplant about
21⁄2 minutes on each side, or until tender when pierced with a fork. Transfer
slices to a plate.
Add 2 or 3 tablespoons oil to skillet, heat oil and
saute remaining eggplant in batches, adding remaining oil between batches as
Transfer eggplant to a large shallow serving dish or baking
For marinade: Peel 2 garlic cloves without crushing
Cut them in very thin slices lengthwise. Peel and mince remaining
garlic cloves. Heat oil in a small saucepan, add chopped garlic and halved hot
pepper and cook over low heat for 2 minutes. Stir in paprika, cumin and a small
pinch of salt. Add vinegar and sliced garlic, bring to a boil and cook over low
heat for 1 minute. Remove marinade from heat and discard hot pepper.
marinade evenly over eggplant slices and sprinkle them with black pepper. Turn
slices over so that all come in contact with marinade.
Cut roasted pepper
in strips about 1 cm. (1⁄2 inch) wide. Put pepper strips on top of eggplant. Let
stand at room temperature for 30 minutes or refrigerate up to 3 days before
Serve eggplant slices cold or at room temperature, topped with
pepper strips and garlic slices and accompanied by fresh bread.
roast sweet peppers, broil or grill them, turning them often, until their skins
blister all over, about 15 minutes.
Transfer to a bowl and cover tightly;
or let stand in a closed plastic back for 10 minutes. Peel peppers using paring
knife and remove seeds.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
SPICY MOROCCAN CARROT SALAD
This recipe is from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. He serves his intensely flavored
salad with fried fish or pilaf of freekeh (green wheat). His recipe calls for
Greek yogurt; use thick strained yogurt or labaneh. For serving with meat, you
can make the salad without yogurt. If you don’t have preserved lemon, you can
omit it or add 1⁄2 teaspoon of grated lemon zest.
900 gr. (2 pounds) carrots
1⁄3 cup olive oil, plus extra to garnish
1 medium onion, minced
1 tsp. sugar
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 medium-sized hot green peppers, finely chopped
1 green onion, finely chopped
1⁄8 tsp. ground cloves
1⁄4 tsp. ground ginger
1⁄2 tsp. ground coriander
3⁄4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. preserved lemon, chopped
2 1⁄2 cups cilantro (fresh coriander), chopped, plus extra
1⁄2 cup thick strained yogurt or labaneh, chilled
Peel carrots and cut them, depending on their size, into cylinders or
semicircles 1 cm. (1⁄2 inch) thick; all the pieces should be roughly the same
size. Place in a large saucepan and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil,
then turn down the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes or until tender but
still crunchy. Drain in a colander and leave to dry.
Heat the oil in a
large pan and saute the onion for 12 minutes over medium heat until soft and
Add the cooked carrots to the onion, followed by the
sugar, garlic, hot peppers, green onion, cloves, ginger, coriander, cinnamon,
paprika, cumin, vinegar and preserved lemon. Remove from heat. Season liberally
with salt, stir well and let cool.
Before serving, stir in the cilantro,
taste and adjust the seasoning.
Serve in individual bowls with a dollop
of yogurt, a drizzle of oil, and garnished with the extra cilantro.
Makes 4 servings