Sunday, May 21, 2006

Herbal Picnic Basket Goodies

Here at The Essential Herbal, we are closing in on the deadlines for both the July/Aug issue of the magazine AND the latest book - Wild Foods for Every Table.
This takes our attention elsewhere, and the blog has suffered.
So.... with picnic season approaching, we have a wonderful article from last the May/June '05 issue.

Herbal Picnic Basket
By Lynn Smythe

"Seating themselves on the greensward, they eat while the corks fly and there is talk, laughter and merriment, and perfect freedom, for the universe is their drawing room and the sun their lamp. Besides, they have appetite, Nature's special gift, which lends to such a meal a vivacity unknown indoors, however beautiful the surroundings."
-Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, 1775-1826
There’s nothing like the thrill of packing up a scrumptious meal in a picnic basket and gathering together your friends and family to enjoy an outdoor picnic on a bright and sunny summer day. One of my children’s favorite spots to picnic is at a small park along the intracoastal waterway near our home in south east Florida. We can enjoy the fresh ocean breeze and watch the comings and goings of a variety of boats, yachts and jet skis. We often see a variety of wildlife while enjoying our meal such as seagulls and pelicans.
I’ve even been known to throw an indoor picnic for my kids on a cold and blustery day to help lift their spirits. I simply place a blanket on the floor of the living room and load it up with my kids favorite snacks such as cheese and crackers, fresh fruit, chips and lemonade.
If you grow your own herbs you may pick them fresh from your garden to utilize in a variety of culinary creations including the recipes listed below. The produce section of most grocery stores stock a wide variety of fresh herbs during the spring and summer months. There is nothing to compare to the taste of fresh herbs. If you are unable to find fresh herbs you may use dry herbs in their place. The general guideline is to use 1/3 less of the dry herb than fresh. For instance if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of fresh herb you may substitute approximately 1 teaspoon of dried herb.

Herbed Cheese Spread

2 tablespoons fresh thyme - chopped fine
2 tablespoons fresh sweet marjoram - chopped fine
4 tablespoons green onions - sliced fine
8 ounce package cream cheese at room temperature
In a small bowl add the herbs, green onions and cream cheese. Mix together until well blended. Cover the top of the bowl with aluminum foil and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Serve this delicious spread with an assortment of crackers and breadsticks.

Chive Dip

This dip is a wonderful accompaniment to fresh raw vegetables such as carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower and radishes.
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup fresh chives or garlic chives - snipped with scissors
1 tablespoon fresh sage - minced
2 cloves garlic - minced
1 ½ teaspoons garlic salt
In a medium sized mixing bowl mix add all ingredients and mix well. Let chill for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator before using to allow all the flavors to meld together.

Chocolate Mint Fudge

Don’t substitute dried mint in this recipe. If you can’t find chocolate mint you can substitute peppermint or spearmint.
One (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
One (12 ounce) package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon chocolate mint - minced
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Place the milk and chocolate chips into a medium sauce pan. Melt over low heat until the chips are melted and mixture is well blended. Remove from the heat and stir in the minced mint leaves, extract and walnuts. Pour into a 8 inch square pan, smooth the top with a spatula and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Makes 16-20 servings.

Cool Caraway Coleslaw

2 cups green cabbage - shredded
1 cup red cabbage - shredded
1 cup carrots - peeled and shredded
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
Use a food processor to shred the cabbage and carrots then add them to a large mixing bowl. In a small bowl mix together the remaining ingredients until all the sugar is dissolved to make the dressing. Pour the dressing over the shredded vegetables and mix together. Store the coleslaw in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Makes 4 cups of coleslaw.

Dilled Tuna and Tomato Boats

4 large tomatoes
Two (6 ounce) cans tuna fish packed in water - drained
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup fresh dill - snipped with scissors
16 lettuce leaves
Cut the tomatoes in half, scoop out and discard the seeds. Place the hollowed out tomatoes on a platter. In a small bowl mix together the tuna, mayonnaise and dill. Fill the tomatoes with the tuna mixture. Place 2 tomato boats onto each plate which has been covered with a layer of 4 lettuce leaves. Sprinkle each serving with a little bit of salt and pepper if desired. Makes 4 servings.

Egg Salad with Salad Burnet

To make a hearty sandwich to serve at your picnic serve this egg salad on fresh slices of whole wheat herb bread. The recipe for whole wheat herb bread is included in this article.
12 eggs
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh salad burnet - chopped fine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Place the eggs in a large pan, fill the pan with water and place it on the stove on high heat. When the water comes to a boil turn the heat down to medium and cook the eggs for an additional 12 minutes. Remove the pan from the stove, drain the water and run cold water over the eggs until they have cooled down. Remove the shells from the eggs and chop them up then place them in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Serve this salad with assorted breads and crackers if desired.

Elegant Pasta Salad with Garlic Chives and Marjoram

2 cups dried bow tie pasta
1 cup tomatoes - chopped
1 cup yellow bell peppers - seeded and chopped
1/2 cup green onions - sliced
1/2 cup black olives - sliced
One (6 ounce) jar marinated button mushrooms - drained
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh garlic chives - snipped with scissors
1 tablespoon fresh marjoram - chopped fine
parmesan cheese - optional
Cook the pasta according to the package directions, drain, cover with cold water and drain again. Place the prepared pasta into a large bowl. Stir in the tomatoes, peppers, onions, olives, mushrooms, oil, vinegar, garlic chives and marjoram. Let chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese prior to serving if desired.

Lemon Basil Fruit Salad

2 cups fresh raspberries or blackberries
2 cups fresh strawberries - hulled and sliced
One (15 ounce) can mandarin oranges - drained
One (20 ounce) can pineapple chunks - drained
2 tablespoons white grape juice
¼ cup fresh lemon basil - minced
Place all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix well. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Sage and Tarragon Chicken Salad

This is another terrific sandwich spread to serve on top of the whole wheat herb bread.
One (10 ounce) can chicken breast
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup finely diced celery hearts
2 teaspoons fresh sage - chopped fine
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves - chopped fine
salt & pepper - optional
Drain the liquid from the can of chicken breast. Flake with a fork and add to a medium size bowl. Add the mayonnaise, celery hearts, sage and tarragon and mix well. Add salt and pepper if desired.

Whole Wheat Herb Bread

This bread tastes great served along with the egg salad and chicken salad recipes which are also located in this chapter. Make this bread the day before your picnic. When making this bread choose from among basil, chervil, chives, garlic chives, parsley, thyme, oregano or marjoram or a combination of 2 of these herbs. Be sure to use the milder tasting soft stem herbs. Don’t use woody stemmed herbs such as rosemary or sage for this recipe as they may impart an overly strong flavor to your bread.
1 package active dry yeast
2 1/4 cups warm water
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup fresh herbs - chopped fine
1 tablespoon melted butter
2 teaspoons celery seed
Place the yeast in a small mixing bowl. Add the warm water and stir until the yeast has been dissolved. In a large mixing bowl stir together the flours, sugar and salt. Stir in the herbs. Stir in the yeast and water mixture and mix well. Add a little bit more warm water if necessary to make a sticky dough. Cover the top of the bowl with a small kitchen towel. Place the bowl in a warm place such as on top of the refrigerator and let the dough rise until doubled in bulk - approximately 1 hour. Sprinkle your hands with flour to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands then punch down the dough, divide it in half and place each half into a greased 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Cover the pans with the kitchen towel and let the dough rise until doubled - approximately 30 minutes. Brush the top of each loaf with half of the melted butter and sprinkle with half of the celery seeds. Cook in a preheated 400 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes until the loaves sound hollow when thumped on the bottom. Makes 2 loaves.

Rosemary Shortbread

1 cup unsalted butter - room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped pistachios
3 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves - minced fine
additional confectioners sugar for garnish
In a large bowl cream the sugar into the softened butter using a large mixing spoon. Add the flour 3/4 cup at a time. Add the vanilla extract, pistachios and rosemary and mix until well blended. Roll the dough into large marble sized pieces using 1 level tablespoon of the dough and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 17 to 20 minutes until light brown. After the cookies have been removed from the oven and have cooled off slightly roll each one in confectioners sugar. This recipe makes approximately 30 cookies.

Lynn Smythe
5312 Cleveland Road Delray Beach, FL 33484-4228 Phone: 561-637-5040
E-mail: Website:

1 comment:

The Unusual Farmchick said...

I am so happy I found your blog! I just initiated a "Summer of wild foods & wine" challenge on my blogs. I hope you do not mind if I steer others this way for ideas. Thank you for sharing these great recipes & I look forward to reading more!
here is a link to my main blog if you would like to check out the challenge.
~Tammie {farmchick}