Picnic Adventures

| July 19, 2011 | 0 Comments

The word picnic always conjures up fun and adventure for me. In my childhood, our family summered at Lake Tahoe and we enjoyed yearly family reunions on the granite sands of Nevada State Beach. There used to be an old log pavilion there and ten or so families gathered for a day of swimming, games and conversations. I have pictures of myself at these gatherings that date back to my first year in 1946. When my children arrived, I brought a home in Tahoe and we continued the reunion tradition for almost sixty years. Sadly, now there are too few of us still alive to continue. The last semi-reunion gathering was my son’s wedding on the beach there in 2005. But memories of the excitement and food remain vibrant. Remembered tastes of my Aunt Alta’s corn slaw, Aunt Florence’s fried chicken and my Mom’s potato salad still make my mouth water.

We keep a self-contained picnic table that is lightweight and includes seating for four in our car–just in case. As I’ve grown to adulthood, deli picnics of our favorite treats have oft replaced homemade goodies. It’s the adventure of finding a quiet picturesque spot that intrigues us. While driving, we may pass an enchanted woodland setting, or a river or stream that calls to be explored, so we make it ours for a brief period and toast the nature gods that send us such beauty. On road trips, part of the fun is the quest of finding that perfect place to stop for a picnic lunch. Even if it is purchased wine, fruit, cheese, bread, olives and a dessert, I still feel as if it is a memorable moment.

Summer in San Diego can become a perpetual picnic with our wonderful climate allowing outdoor meals every day. Many of our parks have summer concert series and they provide another perfect picnic venue. Now, if we don’t have time for picnic preparations, we can explore wonderful take out fare from local delis, our very own Mission Hills Farmer’s Market, (conveniently occurring on Fridays), Venissimo cheese shop, and any number of specialty stores close at hand.

Homemade picnic fare is still my favorite. To that end, I’ve selected three non-traditional picnic fares for this month’s recipes—a cold soup, a shrimp and rice salad that can become an entrée, and ratatouille, my favorite summer appetizer/snack/vegetable. All travel well and you’ll feel gourmet as well as sated.
Bon Appetite.

Cream of Avocado Soup

(Serves 6-8)


  • 3 ripe avocadoes, peeled, seeded
  • 1 1/2 cup of light cream
  • 1/4 tsp onion salt
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp white pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp grated orange rind


Puree avocados with broth. Combine with cream and seasoning. Chill thoroughly. Stir in lemon juice. Chill well and serve cold. Garnish if desired with a dollop of sour cream or fresh mint.

Curried Shrimp and Rice Salad

This also works well with cooked salmon.
( Serves 8 )


  • 4 cups cooked white long grain rice
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced green stuffed olives
  • 1 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
  • 1/4 cup capers
  • 1 lb. cooked small shrimp or flaked salmon



  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp. curry powder
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Mix all salad ingredients together. Combine the dressing ingredients and add to the salad. Toss well to combine evenly and allow flavor to mix for 2-3 hours while chilling in the refrigerator. Serve cold. Garnish with a lemon slice.


(Serves 8-10) This is best with long, slow cooking and overnight refrigeration. I usually double this recipe because it keeps well and tastes even better after a few days. It’s the perfect summer dish because it uses all those vegetables abundant in summer gardens.


  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup minced parsley
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 1 eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 zucchini, thickly sliced
  • 2 green or red bell peppers, seeded and cut into chunks
  • 4 large tomatoes cut in wedges
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 Tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 Tsp. dried basil or 1 Tbsp fresh
  • 1 tsp. oregano dried or 1 Tbsp. fresh


In a large Dutch oven or oven-proof casserole, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil and sauté onions and garlic. Mix together the salt, pepper, basil oregano and parsley. Layer the eggplant, zucchini and peppers separately over the onion and garlic, sprinkling each layer with some of the herb mixture before adding another layer. Drizzle the remaining oil over the top.

Cover the casserole and bake in a preheated 250 degree oven for 3 hours. Add the tomatoes. With a  spatula, lightly turn the vegetables to mix. Continue to bake for another hour, or until vegetables are tender. If the ratatouille is too soupy (it should have a stew-like consistency), bake uncovered to allow excess moisture to evaporate. Refrigerate overnight to blend the flavors.

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