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Volume 37 Issue 16, - August 10-16, 2007 now in our 37th season

Picnic for the Pops

by Maryjane Mojer

It’s that time of year again.  Incredible music, a beautiful venue, a sunset that’s just about made to order…what could make this any better?  Ah, yes….the perfect picnic.  Whether you’re listening to a live orchestra, say, oh, The Boston Pops, or you’ve tuned in your favorite radio station the right picnic basket can make a wonderful evening even better.

If you are one of the many who will attend the Pops this year, or you’re planning your own big night out, a bit of planning ahead can ensure that you’ll be feeding your heart, soul, and stomach.  While the daffodil parade is the time for the crystal and the Cristal, the picnics at the Pops are about great food and sharing and community.

It’s amazing when so many individuals and groups of people go to the beach and wind up creating one big dinner table.  People bring food to share, and share they do.  Cheese and crackers are passed from group to group, shrimp cocktail handed from one family to another and wine and plastic cups make the rounds as the event turns into one giant beach party.

Keep in mind how you’re getting to the concert.  If you’re biking, backpacks make it easy.  By car, a small cooler can be simple to transport, and will double as a table to keep your goodies out of the sand.  I also like to bring a knife, a corkscrew and a small cutting board.  A large Ziploc bag can fit your paper plates, plastic ware, napkins and a couple of garbage bags for cleanup afterwards.  If you’re going the sandwich route, make them at home.  It’s so tempting to bring all the fixin’s, lay them out and let everyone make their own—remember, though, the sand is a great place to sit, but it’s not fun to munch on.  Any assembly is best done beforehand.  You also want to keep in mind that everyone needs their space (thousands attend this popular event), so the less sprawling out the better.

I come from a family of grazers.  For an event like this, we’re more inclined to fill several small containers with savory tidbits than to bring a full meal.  This is not the time to worry about the food pyramid.  By the time we get to our spot, open the chairs and pop the cork, the last thing on my mind is putting a balanced meal together.

There are so many great brands of resealable containers available at the grocery store.  They stack very nicely and can fit quite handily into a Ziploc and into your backpack.  Yes, I am a double packer….I load up the containers and load up a Ziploc.  I’ve had one too many oily olives or pasta salads spill out into my bag.  Talk about putting a damper on your evening!

For our picnic, we’ll be bringing a couple of types of cheese and some crostini.  Olive tapenade is easy to make and has a great shelf life, so make more than you need.  We’ll also take a great pressed sandwich made on Ciabatta from Daily Breads, a bag of chips, and some fresh fruit.  I’m a bit of a cookie fiend, and no day, let alone no picnic, is complete for me without one or two.  My new favorite is the coconut chocolate chip from Something Natural.  If you have time to make a batch of cookies at home, the following is a terrific recipe with something for everyone

Kitchen Sink Cookies

350 degrees, 12 to 14 minutes

half-pound (two sticks) of softened butter
1 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup chocolate chips or peanut butter chips
1 cup coconut
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 cup currants or cranberries (or diced apricots, or dates, or dried blueberries)

Beat the butter until light and fluffy.  Add sugars and vanilla, beat till combined.  Add eggs one by one, mix till combined. 

Combine all of the dry ingredients and add to the butter, sugar mix.  Mix well but only to combine all ingredients.  Drop by spoonfuls onto a prepared baking sheet.  Bake until just barely browned.

The fun with this recipe is in it’s flexibility.  Add your own family favorites.

Olive Tapenade

4 cups pitted kalamata olives
3 anchovies
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1 to 2 teaspoons lemon juice
3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil

Place all ingredients in your food processor fitted with the blade attachment.  Pulse till combined.  Don’t over mix!

If you don’t have a processor, this can certainly be done by hand.  I have lots of knife experience and good knife skills, but have recently purchased one of those pump like choppers.  They’re great for nuts, small batches of onions, herbs, and such.  They also make a recipe like this much less daunting than if you were to chop them by hand!

Muffaletta Sandwich

This sandwich can be made in the morning, pressed and chilled, and then cut and wrapped for the picnic.

One loaf of Ciabatta, sliced in half lengthwise.  Spread the bottom half with olive tapenade.  Cover the tapenade with slices of provolone cheese. Top the cheese with slices of tomatoes.  Add a layer of salami, another layer of provolone, another layer of tapenade, a layer of ham, a layer of mortadella, a layer of red peppers and top with the other half of the bread.  Wrap the whole sandwich in plastic, place on a cookie sheet, top with a second cookie sheet and weight it with whatever you have handy.  I have a couple of bricks that I use in the kitchen from time to time. (Who needs a fancy panini grill when you have bricks?  Wrap them in foil and you’re good to go.)

Quick Crostini

450 degrees, 20 minutes 

Slice a baguette into 1/2 inch slices.  Lay the slices out on a sheetpan.  Drizzle with olive oil, not to coat, but just to help brown and add a bit of flavor.  Sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper.  Bake until golden brown.  Cool completely

The Pops brings out the best of Nantucket.  It’s a melding of summer residents, year ‘rounders, and guests, and it’s all about community.  The music is only rivaled by the company and from where I’ll be sitting, the company is incomparable.

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