25 April 2010

Picnic Salads

For me, picnics are all about sunshine, friends, rest, and good food.  And there's not much else so beautifully relaxing as stretching out on a warm, soft blanket after a satisfying repast of varied and interesting dishes.  Picnics "my way" are usually an eclectic collection of salads and entrees; I remember the surprise of one friend years ago who assumed a picnic we were organizing would consist of just pre-made sandwiches eaten in a park.  Oh no.  Picnics call for real good food!

One of the challenges to picnicking is keeping food safe.  As food sits in the temperature danger zone (41 - 135 F), potentially harmful bacteria have a chance to grow.  Your picnic can be a safe one, though, by controlling the temperature of your food.  Chances are, however, that you won't be able to keep your food at or below 41 F while traveling out to your picnic destination!  As an alternative, you can control the amount of time your food spends in the temperature danger zone.  If your food starts cold (at or below 41 F), the current ServSafe recommendation is that the food must be consumed within 6 hours.  Since bacterial growth is favored in moist and protein-rich foods, you may also want to consider excluding these types of foods from your picnic menu if time and temperature control is impractical.

Here are two great picnic salads I made this weekend.  Largely vegetable-based, they can stand up well to extended time in a cooler.  The first one is a take on Çoban Salatası, Turkish Shepherd's Salad, which I first enjoyed on a visit to Antalya, Turkey.  On that scorching hot summer day years ago, I found it exquisitely refreshing, and I loved the fresh colors, flavors, and textures.  Traditional Shepherd's Salad consists of tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, onion, and parsley, but in my version I take out the onion and add in tangy feta cheese and Kalamata olives.

The second is a delicious French salad, a salade de carottes râpées.  Quintessentially French, this salad is made of grated carrot and minced parsley dressed simply with lemon juice, olive oil, a pinch of sugar, and salt and pepper.  It's a wonderfully cooling complement to a sunny-day picnic!

The preparation of these salads is extremely easy.  Just toss all ingredients together!  They can be made a day ahead of time and stored chilled.

Mediterranean Shepherd's Salad
Makes 4 servings

1 1/2 cups diced cucumber
2 cups diced Roma tomato
1 cup diced sweet Italian pepper
3/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted
4 oz. low-fat feta cheese, diced
1/3 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1 Tbs. olive oil
salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

Salade de carottes râpées
(French Carrot Salad)

2 cups grated carrot
1/4 cup Italian parsley, finely cut
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 tsp. olive oil
1/8 tsp. superfine sugar
salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste


Bo said...

That shepherds salad looks fantastic! Great pictures too!

erica said...

Thanks Bo! :)

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