Warm weather beckons, and who doesn’t love a day at the beach, by the lake, under a big tree at the park or even just spread out on a blanket in the backyard — away from four walls and the kitchen table. After all, how many Monarch butterflies can you count from behind your desk in the home office? And food tastes so much better under the sun!
Picnics have been going on in one form or another for generations. Though sometimes disputed, the French are said to have originated the word pique-nique, in 1692, but used to describe a group of people dining in a restaurant who brought their own wine. Remember artist George Seurat’s famous park scene in the painting with the world’s longest name: “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.” Perhaps the painting’s well-heeled classe de loisir (leisure class) was thinking about feasting on boeuf bourguignon and créme brulee, to say the least!
Though usually more informal, today’s al fresco meals don’t have to be strictly about tuna sandwiches, fried chicken, and potato salad. Many foods thought typically restricted to the dining room or restaurant can be made picnic-friendly in the form of hand pies (stuffed with lobster, crab or shrimp, for a delicious, healthy treat), fruit slaws, cold soups, vegetable dips and purees (these can make excellent sandwich toppers) to ramp up picnic faire. So ditch the desk, wave away the washing machine and try these easy, portable recipes to ramp up your outdoor fun!
Shrimp and Feta Hand Pies
8 ounces medium or large cooked shrimp, peeled & deveined
1/2 cup finely crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots (or onion)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
15-ounce package refrigerated pie crust sheets (2 rolled sheets)
Coarse salt (optional)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
In a bowl, combine shrimp, feta, shallots, lemon juice, oregano, olive oil, and black pepper.
Unroll pie crust dough on a lightly floured work surface. Wet a 1-inch border around the edge, then wet a one-inch wide ‘X’ across the dough (like the spokes of a wheel.) You’ll end up with four triangular ‘dry spots’ on the dough.
Divide filling between the four triangles, then lay the second sheet of dough on top. Starting from the middle and working toward the edges, press out the air while sealing the dough around the filling. Cut the dough to separate the triangles, then fold or roll the edges.
Place pies on a non-stick baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with a little coarse salt, if desired. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden. Serves four.
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