School's out, and summer is officially here. It's time for trips to the beach, the lake, the park. It's also the season for outdoor plays, concerts and band performances, which means it's also time to think about picnics.
A picnic can be as simple or as elegant as the planner wishes. A bottle of wine, a choice of crackers and cheeses finished off with berries or grapes may satisfy some. Fresh fruit in season is as close as the local farmers market, while a trip to the local grocery store, Trader Joe's, Sutton Gourmet or Fresh Fields will turn up a wide variety of cheeses to stimulate even the most bored appetite.
For those with heartier appetites for lunch or dinner, there are the traditional but still tasty standbys of fried chicken, pulled pork or beef piled on buns, raw vegetables sliced or julienned, cole slaw, potato salad, green salads, pasta salads, sandwiches and subs with every filling imaginable, and of course hamburgers and hot dogs.
A full-blown picnic isn't a picnic without watermelon and something chocolate, homemade chocolate chip cookies or brownies, to be followed by toasted marshmallow of course or that goodie of Girl Scout fame, the s'more, made with the toasted marshmallows, a graham cracker and a square of chocolate.
For those who want to increase their picnic repertoire, here are two recipes offered by the Whole Foods Market Web site — one very traditional, the other a twist on an old favorite.
All-American Baked Beans
2 cups dried navy beans
6 cups plain tomato juice
1/4 pound ham hock or salt pork
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon mustard
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
Wash beans and soak overnight in about 5 cups of the tomato juice. Cover and cook over low heat about 11/2 hours until beans are tender, but don't let them boil. Turn beans into a 2-quart casserole with a lid. If you're using the pork or ham hock, wash and score and press into the top of the beans. Mix remaining 1 cup of tomato juice with the brown sugar, spices, Worcestershire and onion. Pour over beans, cover the pot and cook in a slow 300 F oven for 2 hours. Remove cover and stir in the salt and vinegar. Bake again, uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes, or until browned.
Chipotle Egg Salad
Makes enough for 20 hors d'oeuvres
6 large eggs, hard-boiled, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 to 2 tablespoons vinegar from pickled chipotles
3 scallions white and green, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Small, round tortilla chips
Shredded romaine lettuce
Thinly sliced, pickled chipotles
Combine the chopped egg, mayonnaise, chipotle vinegar, scallions, salt and pepper in a bowl. Lightly mix and mash with a fork. Adjust seasonings.
Use for sandwiches, spread on crackers or as hors d'oeuvres. On a round tortilla chip place a small mound of shredded lettuce. Top with generous spoonful of egg salad and strips of thinly sliced, pickled chipotles.
IF THE IDEA OF A PICNIC appeals, but the thought of making it doesn't, there are a variety of choices. At Fresh Fields a shopper can assemble a meal or get a dinner package for four for $17.99 according to Sara Kinney, a spokesperson for Fresh Fields. There will be a different meals offered for each month of the summer.
In June, picnic-goers can get a meal of rotisserie chicken, red bliss potato salad, creamy ziti pasta, and cucumber and tomato salad. In July the entree is eight pieces of fried chicken with the potato salad and cucumber and tomato salad, along with tailgate slaw. The choice for August has a south-of-the-border flavor with grilled chicken quesadillas, Brazilian rice, corn and tomato salad, black bean salad and salsa.
"It's perfect for Wolf trap, at the pool or on your patio, " said Kinney.
She noted there were plenty of side dishes to be found at Fresh Fields, including vegetables, berries, fresh lemonade, cheese, pates, potato and pasta salads and Mexican slaw, not to mention the variety of breads, baguettes and buns.
Local Fresh Fields can be found at 6548 Little River Turnpike, Annandale, 703-914-0040; 11660 Plaza American Drive, Reston, 703-736-0600; 8402 Old Keene Mill Road, Springfield, 703-644-2500; and 143 Maple Ave. E., Vienna, 703-319-2000.
CHRISTINA J. PARKS is the person to consult to pick up a picnic dinner from McCormick& Schmick in Reston. The picnic menu is a great choice for concerts at Reston Town Center or Lake Anne or Friday Nights Live in Herndon or any other outdoor destination.
"Someone can call ahead, put the order on a credit card or pay for it when they pick it up, " said Park. The menu includes entrees like yellowfin tuna for $20, lobster thermidor for $28.75; fish and chips for $11.50, seafood Cobb salad for $11.25; half-pound cheeseburger for $6.25, jumbo lump crab cake sandwich for $13.75, bay shrimp and Dungeness crab melt for $9.75 and grilled salmon club for $9.75. The entrees come with a side, and the picnic boxes include utensils, napkins, salt, pepper, ketchup and chocolates. Beverages and appetizers can also be ordered.
For more information or to place and order, call Christina J. Park at 703-467-0821 or e-mail at email@example.com
At Sutton Gourmet, planning a picnic without work can be a cinch. Stop on the way to an outdoor event, or choose the basic lunch box or salad lunch box. With 24 hours’ notice, the basic salad lunch box includes any of the sandwiches available, a lengthy list; a deli side salad; fresh fruit; a bakery cookie; and potato chips, for $11.99 each. The salad lunch box for $8.99 includes mixed field greens with a choice of chicken salad, egg salad or Albacore tuna salad and a multigrain roll with butter.
Salads available include the traditional picnic fare of potato salad, macaroni salad, fruit salad and cole slaw, along with a variety of specialty salads including sweet-potato salad, Mediterranean bean salad, wheatberry salad, pesto pasta salad and Thai pasta salad.
For the main course there are a variety of heroes, wraps and rolls as well as imaginative sandwiches on bread, ciabattas, brioches or rolls.
Hungry shoppers can get an advance glimpse of the menu on www.haydaymarket.com/catering/lunch.
Local Sutton Gourmet stores are at 605 Franklin St. in Alexandria, 703-549-6611; 66550 Old Dominion Drive in McLean, 703-448-3828; and 11860 Spectrum Center in Reston, 703-787-4888.
SOMEPLACE SPECIAL, a Giant Gourmet store at 1445 Chain Bridge Road in McLean also carries picnic fare.
A customer needs to call two days in advance for the prepared picnic which will cost $10.5 to $18.95 per person depending on what is ordered.
The chicken concerto package for example at $18.95 per person consists of boneless lemon herb-grilled chicken breast, tabouleh salad, green beans vinaigrette, French rolls and Hawaiian pineapple wedges. the classic offers sliced rotisserie turkey breast with lettuce and tomato on a Kaiser roll, potato salad, heath bar cookies and fruit while spring meadow offers sliced chicken breast on a Kaiser roll, new potato salad, seasonal fresh fruit and a ranger cookie, each for $10.95
Wine is also available and silverware is included in the package. Call 703-448-0800 and ask for Christi, Lauren or Peggy.