Picnics

Times Staff Writer

There is nothing like a cool-looking, cool-tasting picnic under a hot sun. We're talking about ice-cold drinks and refreshing foods that are cool to the lips and yummy, besides. Behind the scenes, however, the host-cook wants the workload to be as minimal as possible. Who wants to work up a sweat in the heat of summer, no matter how much you love your family and guests? I remember a hostess who worked so hard on her Hollywood Bowl picnic she was laid up for 2 1/2 days afterwards from fatigue. Imagine how that made us, her guests, feel.

You want to enjoy the picnic too. You want a menu that is simple, yet glamorous, almost work-free. You want it to survive the trek to the picnic site and you want to have it served with the least fuss possible.

We've created several menus to keep the cook cool and the guests at ease.

The first menu calls for cold shrimp to use with cocktail sauce. You can buy the shrimp already cooked. You can also purchase the cocktail sauce, although we heartily recommend our recipe. No cooking there.

The cold beef requires cooking or barbecuing the meat. To avoid last-minute work, plan on an extra steak on the fire the next time you barbecue, and freeze the steak to use for the picnic salad recipe whenever needed. Slicing the steak will be that much easier partially thawed, anyway. You can assemble the ingredients in a large covered container and use the same container to toss and serve the salad at the picnic.

Dessert is even easier. Store-bought ice cream pops are shipped to the picnic in a compact ice cream freezer (frozen overnight). Or you can pack them in dry ice, which is available in package form.

The Thai Picnic calls for peanut soup, an easy recipe from a Velvet Turtle restaurant that we've used with great success over the years. You can serve it cold for a summer picnic and hot in the winter months. Put it in a thermos to serve from cups. No spoons necessary here.

The Papaya Stuffed With Curry Chicken can be completely assembled and chilled in advance and set on a tray lined with plastic wrap to tote to the picnic. We've scattered ice cubes on the tray for a cooling effect once at the picnic. All you do is serve each self-contained papaya boat from the tray. The Thai tea also is poured from a thermos to serve ice cold with lace cookies, store-bought or otherwise. Our recipe is a honey.

In a Caribbean-style menu we chose smoked oysters for appetizers on tortilla chips instead of fresh ones for convenience and safety. You can add any toppings you desire or the Mexican-style ones suggested on our menu. The chicken drumsticks (select nice, fat ones at the market) can be marinated and cooked a day in advance since they are served cold, anyway. They will keep just fine in the refrigerator until ready to tote.

Rice and beans are served cold as a salad. Use leftover rice and canned beans, as we did, or make your own from-scratch beans. This salad too can be prepared a day or two ahead. In fact, day-old salad tastes better, because flavors have been allowed to develop.

You can serve the chicken and rice in a manner shown here with drumsticks stuck into the mounded rice for convenient service, or separately in plastic containers. For convenience, the coconut cream can be served from the can in which it comes for dipping the medley of fresh finger fruit sticks (it's a pretty can and it has a lid) or transferred as we have done in the photograph shown.

We stress rice salad for summer picnics because you can use leftover rice from an evening meal (make sure you make enough to accommodate the recipe). Rice is a hardy food that also travels well. Assemble the rice, shrimp and and other ingredients at home and top off the salad with caviar at the picnic.

The Individual Tiramisu (Italian trifle) desserts require no cooking, but they should be made no sooner than a day ahead for ultimate freshness, unless frozen.

HOLLYWOOD BOWL MENU

Old-Fashioned Shrimp Cocktail

Cold Beef Salad Maxine

Assorted Ice Cream on Sticks

Store marinated shrimp and cocktail sauce in separate containers to assemble on the site. Or arrange shrimp over a layer of sauce in small, deep plastic containers with lids to carry to picnic. Completely assemble cold beef salad and store in chill-proof container. Toss at the site.

Assorted ice creams or ice pops, such as coconut ice pops, Eskimo Pies, fruit bars or other favorite ice cream on sticks can be carried in frozen freezer container (such as Donvier ice cream maker) or packed in a container filled with dry ice.

SHRIMP COCKTAIL SAUCE

3/4 cup chili sauce

3/4 cup catsup

Dash lime juice

1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

Few dashes hot pepper sauce

1 tablespoon prepared horseradish

Dash dry mustard

Combine chili sauce, catsup, lime juice, Worcestershire, hot pepper sauce, horseradish and mustard. Serve with chilled shrimp or other seafood. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

COLD BEEF SALAD MAXINE

1 pound top sirloin steak, cooked medium rare

1 cucumber, thinly sliced

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

1 medium carrot, shredded

1 large tomato, cubed

Ginger-Garlic Marinade

Lettuce

2 cups bean sprouts

1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

Cilantro sprigs

Cut steak into thin strips. Place in shallow pan with cucumber, red onion, carrot and tomato. Add Ginger-Garlic Marinade and marinate several hours.

At serving time, line platter with lettuce. Top with bean sprouts. Drain beef mixture and spoon marinade over bean sprouts. Arrange beef mixture over sprouts. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and cilantro sprigs. Makes 6 servings.

Ginger-Garlic Marinade

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

2 cloves garlic

1 inch ginger root, shredded

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon sugar

1/3 cup Mirin

1 tablespoon minced cilantro

Salt, pepper

Combine vinegar, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar, Mirin, cilantro and salt and pepper to taste.

THAI PICNIC

Cold Peanut Soup

Sesame Bread Sticks

Papaya Stuffed With Curried Chicken

Chilled Thai Tea

Coconut-Ginger Lace Cookies

Pack Cold Peanut Soup and Thai Tea in separate thermos bottles. Serve in cups. Arrange individual stuffed papayas over a frilly lettuce on deep-sided tray or container with lid to carry to picnic. Decorate tray with ice cubes at the site.

VELVET TURTLE PEANUT BUTTER SOUP

2 tablespoons minced onion

3 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon flour

1 cup creamy-style peanut butter

1 quart chicken stock

Salt, pepper

1 cup half and half or whipping cream

1 tablespoon Madeira

Cook onion in butter until wilted. Add flour and cook, stirring, until smooth. Add peanut butter, chicken stock and salt and pepper to taste. Cook and stir over low heat until thickened and smooth.

Add half and half. Just before serving add Madeira. Makes 6 servings.

PAPAYA STUFFED WITH CURRIED CHICKEN SALAD

2 cups diced cooked chicken or turkey

1/2 cup chopped green pepper

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup green grapes

1/2 cup diced pineapple

Curry Dressing

3 papayas

Lemon juice

Lettuce leaves

Mint leaves or edible flowers

Combine chicken, green pepper, onion, celery, raisins, grapes, pineapple and Curry Dressing. Toss to mix well. Chill.

Cut papayas into halves. Remove seeds. Brush cut sides with lemon juice. Spoon chicken salad into papaya cavities. Place over lettuce leaves. Garnish with mint leaves.

Curry Dressing

1 cup sour cream

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon curry powder

Salt, pepper

Blend together sour cream, mayonnaise, curry powder and salt and pepper to taste. Chill.

COCONUT-GINGER LACE COOKIES

1/2 cup unsifted cake flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup light molasses

1/3 cup minced candied ginger

1/3 cup flake coconut

1/4 cup butter or margarine

Mix flour, baking powder and baking soda. Combine sugar, molasses, ginger, coconut and butter in saucepan. Bring to full boil and cook 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Add flour mixture and coconut and mix well. Drop by tablespoons onto lightly greased baking sheet. Bake only 4 at time for easy handling.

Bake at 350 degrees 5 to 8 minutes. Cool slightly, then remove carefully from baking sheet, using thin-bladed knife or spatula, and allow wafer to bend slightly. If wafer hardens on pan, return to oven few minutes. Makes about 18 cookies.

LA BAMBA PICNIC

Smoked Oyster Nachos

Cold Roast Caribbean Chicken Drumsticks

Rice and Bean Salad

Pineapple Sticks Dipped in Coconut Cream

Pack assorted toppings for the Smoked Oyster Nachos in small separate containers with lids and assemble at the picnic. Pack chicken and beans in separate containers. Purchase coconut cream to use for dipping precut fruit sticks or fingers, such as pineapple, assorted melon, papaya and mango.

SMOKED OYSTER NACHOS

Smoked oysters

Large tortilla chips

Guacamole

Salsa

Sour cream or Mexican crema

Arrange smoked oysters on large tortilla chips. Top with assorted toppings, such as guacamole, salsa and sour cream or crema.

CARIBBEAN CHICKEN DRUMSTICKS

12 chicken drumsticks

1/2 cup melted butter

1/2 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon dried chile de arbol

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon ground chile pasilla

1 teaspoon paprika

Place chicken drumsticks in large baking dish. Combine butter, oil, chile de arbol, cumin, salt, garlic, pepper, chile pasilla and paprika. Pour over chicken drumsticks.

Bake at 350 degrees 45 minutes or until chicken is tender. Cool, then chill. Makes 6 servings.

RICE AND BEAN SALAD

2 cups cooked cold rice

1 (15-ounce) can or 2 cups cooked pinto beans

1 onion, minced

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 stalk celery, diced

3 radishes, diced

1/2 cup chili sauce

2 tablespoons vinegar

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Salt, pepper

Combine rice, beans, onion, garlic, celery, radishes, chili sauce, vinegar, cumin and cilantro. Toss to coat rice and beans well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes 6 servings.

RICE SALAD PICNIC

Tomato-Endive Bites

Rice-Shrimp-Caviar Salad

Individual Tiramisu

Pack tomato salad and endive separately to assemble at the site.

Assemble rice and shrimp in container and garnish individual servings with caviar at the site.

Pack Individual Tiramisu desserts over ice package in a plastic tray to pass at the site.

RICE-SHRIMP-CAVIAR SALAD

1 cup cloud ears

1 tablespoon oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup minced onions

1 cup sliced green onions

1 long green chile, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound medium shrimp

2 cups wild and brown rice mixture or bulgur

4 cups chicken broth

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon minced ginger root

Red or black caviar

Reconstitute cloud ears in warm water 20 minutes. Drain and slice.

Heat oil and butter in large saucepan. Add onions, green onions, chile and garlic and saute until onion is tender. Add cloud ears and shrimp and saute until shrimp is pink.

Remove shrimp and set aside. Add rice and saute until lightly coated. Add chicken broth. Bring to boil. Cover and simmer until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed. Cool.

Combine soy sauce, vinegar, ginger and shrimp. Add to rice mixture, tossing to mix well. Garnish with caviar. Makes 6 servings.

Note: Use medium grain bulgur if used in lieu of rice.

INDIVIDUAL TIRAMISU

1 (3-ounce) package lady fingers

Creme de cocoa

1 (15-ounce) carton mascarpone or fresh ricotta cheese

1/4 cup whipping cream

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons strong coffee (espresso preferred)

Cocoa

Separate lady finger halves. Sprinkle cut side lightly with creme de cocoa. Line bottom of 6 individual oiled souffle dishes with wax paper. Oil paper.

Arrange lady finger halves upright around each souffle dish, trimming tips at rim. Chill.

Combine mascarpone, whipping cream, sugar, vanilla and coffee in blender or food processor. Blend until smooth.

Spoon into lady finger-lined dishes. Cover with with wax paper. Chill until firm. Unmold, remove wax paper and dust with cocoa. Makes 4 servings.

TOMATO-ENDIVE BITES

1 large tomato, diced

1 small onion, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped basil

Salt, pepper

2 heads Belgian endive

Combine tomato, onion, garlic, vinegar, oil and basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill.

Break off endive leaves and spoon tomato mixture on wide end of each endive. Serve as appetizer. Makes 6 servings.

Food Styling by Minnie Bernardino and Donna Deane

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