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Elegant Outdoor Picnic

Jun 08, 2011 01:51AM ● By Erin Frisch
Summer Time and the Living Is Easy

Dining under the Stars

Susan Nye

Summer is special. The air is warm, the sky is blue, and the living is easy. A short drive and you can be lying on the beach or paddling a kayak, wandering down a wooded trail or hiking in the mountains. Tennis and golf are nearby and you can play surrounded by spectacular scenery. Need a break? Well, maybe it’s a good day to string up a hammock, pour a glass of lemonade, and laze around in the backyard with a good book.

Summer evenings are a great time to get together with family and friends. When it comes to summer entertaining, there is nothing better than a picnic. The Italians call it al fresco. The French call it pique-nique and they do it with style and ease. And you can, too.

Whether you celebrate summer in your backyard, at a local park or at the beach, the Vermont countryside makes a beautiful backdrop. Keep your table simple and rustic with a plain cloth, a few summer flowers, and lots of twinkling tea lights.

With all the glorious summer vegetables and fruits in the market, let the food take center stage. There is nothing like fresh-from-the-farm fruits and vegetables to create the perfect summer meal. You will find wonderful strawberries and asparagus in June, glorious beans and tomatoes in July, and heavenly sweet corn in August. Think local and let the day’s harvest at your neighborhood farm stand or farmers’ market drive your menu.

But remember it’s summer, not a time for complicated dishes and hours in the kitchen. Take the fuss and worry out of your feast with a big, beautiful salad. Salad is summer’s answer to the one-dish supper. You can prepare everything well in advance and enjoy your day at the beach or in that hammock.

Bring your family and friends together for a relaxed summer feast. Gather at sunset and linger until long after the moon has risen over the mountain. Have a wonderful picnic and bon appétit!


Summer Picnic

Celebrate summer with a delicious feast that is both elegant and easy.

Enjoy a little taste of southern France right here in Vermont.

Salad Niçoise with Mediterranean Shrimp

Arugula & Baby Greens with Lemon Vinaigrette

Peaches with White Chocolate Fool



Salad Niçoise with Mediterranean Shrimp

This colorful salad makes a beautiful centerpiece for your picnic table. You can prepare everything in advance and put it together at the last minute for a no-fuss evening.


Serves 6

  • 1 lb haricot verts or other fine green beans, trimmed
  • 1 lb mix of red and yellow grape and cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 2 lb new potatoes
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • Niçoise Salad Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
  • 2 Tbsp coarsely fresh, chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Mediterranean Shrimp (recipe follows)
  • Niçoise or Greek olives, pitted and slivered
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. Fill a large bowl about half full with ice water and set aside.
  2. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a rapid boil. Add the beans and cook for 4 - 5 minutes or until they are tender-crisp. Drain and plunge the beans into the ice water to stop the cooking. When the beans have cooled down, drain well.
  3. Put the beans, tomatoes, cucumber and onion in a large bowl, add enough vinaigrette to coat, gently toss. Check for seasoning, cover and refrigerate.
  4. Meanwhile, put the potatoes and butter in a medium saucepan, cover with cold salted water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the potatoes are just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Drain well and let cool slightly.
  5. Cut the potatoes in half and put in a bowl, add enough vinaigrette to coat, gently toss. Let the potatoes cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate.
  6. To serve: add the potatoes to the bean mixture, sprinkle with parsley and gently toss. Arrange the vegetables on a large platter and sprinkle with the slivered olives. Arrange the shrimp on top of the vegetables.
Niçoise Salad Vinaigrette

Makes about 1 cup

  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp anchovy paste
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp hot sauce
  • 1 tsp Kosher or sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  1. Combine lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, anchovy paste, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk to combine. Slowly add the olive oil, continue whisking until the vinaigrette is thick and emulsified.
  2. Store any extra vinaigrette in a glass jar in the refrigerator.
Mediterranean Shrimp
  • 2 lb large shrimp
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2-3 Tbsps olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1-2 Tbsp fresh, chopped oregano*
  1. Shell and de-vein the shrimp, set aside.
  2. Cook the garlic, salt, pepper and pepper flakes in the olive oil over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the wine and continue to cook until almost dry. Add the lemon juice. Raise heat to medium high and simmer for a minute or two.
  3. Add the shrimp and toss to coat. Cook the shrimp for 2-3 minutes or until pink, do not overcook. Remove from the heat and sprinkle with chopped oregano. The shrimp can be served warm, at room temperature or cold.
*If you prefer, you can substitute the oregano with basil but please use fresh herbs; they are a wonderful addition to any summer dish.


Arugula & Baby Greens with Lemon Vinaigrette

Arugula has a nice peppery bite, mix it with baby greens and a lemony vinaigrette for a refreshing salad.


Serves 6

  • 5-8 oz baby arugula
  • 8-12 oz mixed baby greens
  • Lemon Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
  1. In a large bowl, combine arugula and greens; toss with a little vinaigrette. Serve immediately.

Lemon Vinaigrette

Makes about 1 cup

  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. Put lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl, whisk to combine and dissolve the salt. Slowly whisk in the olive oil, continue whisking until well combined.
Peaches with White Chocolate Fool

Peaches and cream turned up a notch. Your friends and family will enjoy this slightly decadent dessert.


6-8 servings

  • 4-6 fresh peaches, peeled and cut into bite-size chunks
  • 2 Tbsps sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Framboise* or Grand Marnier
  • White Chocolate Cream (recipe follows)
  • Raspberries, for garnish
  • Grated white chocolate, for garnish
  1. Place the peaches in a large bowl. Add the sugar and Framboise and toss to combine. Remove half of the peaches and put in a food processor and process until roughly pureed.
  2. To make the fool: Gently combine the peach puree with half of the white chocolate cream and chill for 1 hour.
  3. To finish the dessert: Spoon peach chunks into dessert glasses and top with the peach-cream mixture. Sprinkle with raspberries and garnish with grated white chocolate.

White Chocolate Cream

  • 1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 Tbsps sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 6 oz white chocolate
  • 1 Tbsp Framboise or Grand Marnier
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  1. Fill a large bowl about half full with ice water and set aside.
  2. Break the white chocolate into small pieces. Put it in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Whisk 1/2 cup of cream with the yolks, sugar and salt in a small heavy saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until it registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer.
  4. Pour the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into the bowl with the white chocolate. Let stand for a few minutes; whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir in the Framboise and vanilla. Set the bowl in the ice bath, stir frequently to cool. Chill completely in the refrigerator.
  5. With an electric mixer, whip remaining cream until stiff peaks form. Cream should be very cold. Whisk one quarter of the whipped cream into the white chocolate custard; gently fold in the remaining whipped cream. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
*Framboise is a French raspberry liqueur. You can find it at large liquor stores or specialty shops.

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