Picture Perfect Picnic
Spring. The earth has finally woken up fully from her long slumber, complete with flowers in bloom, gardens producing and beautiful produce. At high elevations, the mountains are finally passable again to allow us to enjoy our favorite outdoor family activity – hiking.
A grand display of alpine splendor is revealed when taking the train up from the coast of Lake Geneva to Rochers de Naye (pronounced roh-shay duh nay) in the French-speaking canton of Vaud, Switzerland. We walk along the ridge trail with a view of the lake on one side and the rocky green hillsides on the other, taking the time to stop every now and then to admire the myriad species of alpine flowers that decorate the landscape as we gaze down at civilization far below. While restaurants conveniently abound in remote areas high in the Alps, it’s often a lot more fun to pack a gourmet meal and plan for ourselves a little picnic. It also guarantees that our meal will be completely gluten-free.
Of course, fresh fruit, cured meats and local cheeses are always great options, but these recipes are sure to add a creative flair to your next picnic event, whether on a romantic afternoon getaway with your significant other or a large family get-together in the park.
Pesto Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps
(Gluten-free, Grain-free, Soy-free)
This variation on a picnic classic adds a bit of punch and brightness with bold almond and basil pesto. Serving the chicken salad in lettuce wraps makes for an easy hand-held picnic treat.
2 pounds cooked chicken meat, chilled
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 medium or large apple, peeled, cored and diced
½ cup plain yogurt
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup Basil & Almond Pesto (recipe follows)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 head iceberg lettuce, washed and dried
¼ cup sliced almonds, for garnish
Combine the chicken, celery and apple together in a large mixing bowl. In a separate smaller bowl, stir together the yogurt, mayonnaise and pesto to create the dressing. Add 1 cup of dressing to the salad ingredients and toss together until well coated. Add more dressing if desired. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Separate the leaves from the head of iceberg lettuce and serve the chicken salad in lettuce wraps, garnishing with sliced almonds.
Transportation Suggestions: Package the prepared chicken salad and sliced almonds together in a sealed container. Lay the lettuce leaves in between layers of paper towel and wrap them together in plastic wrap. Pack with an ice pack to keep the chicken salad cool.
Basil & Almond Pesto
(Gluten-free, Grain-free, Egg-free, Soy-free, Refined Sugar-free, Vegetarian)
¼ cup toasted whole almonds
2 cups basil, stems removed
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Juice of half a lemon
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
Pulse the almonds in a food processor until small and uniform in size. Add the basil, Parmesan, lemon juice, garlic and olive oil. Pulse until combined. Add more olive oil as desired until the pesto is a paste-like consistency.
Shrimp Summer Rolls with Cucumber Peanut Dipping Sauce
(Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Egg-free)
These rolls are not fried or cooked after assembly, making them refreshing on a warm sunshine-filled day. Fill them with cool and relaxing flavors like avocado, cucumber and fresh mint, which are complemented exquisitely by the sweet and tangy cucumber peanut dipping sauce.
For the dipping sauce:
2 tablespoons gluten-free soy sauce or tamari
Juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon gluten-free
Thai sweet chili sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
½ cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
¼ cup crushed peanuts
For the rolls:
½ cucumber, peeled and seeded
1 avocado, pitted and halved
8-12 cooked chilled shrimp, peeled and tails removed
½ cup grated carrots
Handful of fresh mint leaves
4 rice paper wrappers
To make the dipping sauce, whisk the soy sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, sweet chili sauce, sesame oil and vinegar together in a small bowl. Add the diced cucumber and peanuts.
Heat a kettle of water on the stove to boiling. While it is heating, prepare the other ingredients: slice the cucumber and the avocado into thin strips and gather the other filling ingredients.
Pour the hot water into a large shallow bowl or plate. Gently submerge 1 rice paper wrapper under the water for a few seconds. Then place it on a flat surface and let sit for about 1 minute before adding any ingredients. Lay some of the roll ingredients on the bottom third of the wrapper. Fold the sides in before rolling the entire thing up tightly. Repeat with the remaining wrappers. Serve the rolls with the dipping sauce.
Transportation Suggestions: Store the dipping sauce in a wide-mouthed tight jar. Then you can simply open the lid to dip your summer rolls at your picnic. Once the summer rolls are assembled, wrap them in a damp paper towel before packaging them in order to keep them from drying out. Pack with an ice pack to keep the shrimp cool.
Beet & Chèvre Salad with Honeyed Shallot Balsamic Vinaigrette
(Gluten-free, Grain-free, Egg-free, Nut-free, Soy-free, Refined Sugar-free, Vegetarian)
Beets are one of the few root vegetables that, once cooked, can often be more delicious served chilled. Their rustic, earthy flavors pair well with fresh greens and creamy goat cheese. The slightly sweet shallot dressing blends everything together for a bold salad that is sure to be remembered.
2 large beets
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided use
3 medium shallots, peeled and diced
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste
1-2 cups fresh spinach
4 ounces soft chèvre, cubed
¼ cup shelled sunflower seeds (salted or unsalted)
Fresh mint, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Use a knife to remove the tops and the tips of the beets. Then peel the outside with a vegetable peeler. Cube them into bite-size pieces. Toss them in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Spread them on a baking pan and roast in the oven, uncovered, for about 45 minutes or until they are tender.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a pan on medium heat. When hot, add the diced shallots and minced garlic. Sauté until softened and browned. Remove from the pan and let cool until not too hot to touch.
In a bowl, whisk together the cooked shallots and garlic, remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, lemon juice, and salt and pepper.
Divide the spinach, roasted beets, chèvre, and sunflower seeds between 4 bowls. Drizzle with dressing to taste and serve.
Transportation Suggestions: Package the spinach separately from the other salad components to keep it from wilting. The dressing transports very well in a mason jar. Pack with an ice pack to keep the cheese cool.
Sticky Coconut & Almond Macaroons
(Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Soy-free, Vegetarian)
Thanks to the popularity of the notoriously difficult-to-make French macarons, their cousin – the humble coconut macaroon – often gets forgotten. These are the epitome of the famous coconut cookie, made sweet with a homemade sugar syrup and blended with a bit of almond meal for an increased depth of flavor.
Makes 14-16 cookies
1½ cups granulated sugar, divided use
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon gluten-free corn syrup
7 ounces (200 grams) unsweetened shredded coconut
1½ ounces (50 grams) coarsely ground almonds
or almond meal
½ teaspoon salt
4 large egg whites
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 375ºF. In a small pot, combine 1 cup sugar, water and 1 tablespoon corn syrup. Heat on medium, stirring regularly, until the mixture comes to a boil and all of the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and stir in the shredded coconut, almond meal and salt.
Add the egg whites, remaining ½ cup sugar and vanilla to a medium sized bowl. Whisk vigorously until foamy, 1-2 minutes. With a wooden spoon, stir the egg whites into the dry ingredients until combined.
Use your hands to gently shape the “dough” into balls about 1½ inches in diameter. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. The “dough” will be very wet and sticky.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown all over. Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet. They will still be quite fragile while they are hot, but will firm up a bit and transfer easily once cooled.
Transportation Suggestions: Store in a rigid container with a lid to keep the macaroons from getting crushed.
Written by Jennifer Oliver
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