JEFF TIEDEMAN: Picnic palsOutdoor gatherings wouldn’t be complete without side dishes.
I fondly recall my last honest-to-goodness picnic, the kind where there are a lot of people in attendance for some sort of special occasion, there is always a ton of good food and a lot of fun is had by all.
It was this past summer, when we had a party at a shelter on River Road in East Grand Forks, adjacent to the Greenway. The occasion was that my stepdaughter, Jessica, and her family were in town from Ohio, and we figured this would be a nice way to have them get together with friends while they were visiting.
But if you were to ask me about my last picnic or barbecue before that, I would have a pretty hard time pinning it down.
The question came to mind a week or so ago, when Therese commented that our dinner, which featured marinated pheasant breasts and elk tenderloin cooked on the grill, homemade potato salad and baked beans and a scrumptious two-crust lemon pie, felt just like a picnic — even though we were eating inside.
I’ve been to some pretty memorable outdoor food events over the years. Among the most unforgettable were the 40th and 50th birthday parties of my friend and former co-worker, Darrel Koehler, which were held at Riverside Park and Union Lake, respectively; several Fourth of July pig roasts at Balm Lake near Debs, Minn., hosted by another friend, John French; and when I was much younger, our Griggs Landing softball team’s cookouts, which we usually had after a tournament.
Of course, burgers and steaks as well as brats and hot dogs on the grill, perennial summertime favorites, were standard fare at the birthday parties and the softball get-togethers. And naturally, the main food attraction at the pig roast was pork.
But what’s a picnic without tasty side dishes like potato salad, baked beans, deviled eggs and some sort of dessert?
At our soiree last July, beside the homemade sloppy Joes, brats and dogs (all kept warm in slow cookers), we opted for a tri-colored pasta salad that contained broccoli, artichoke hearts, green and red bell peppers, celery and Italian dressing — instead of potato salad. (See recipe at www.grandforksherald.com/event/tag/group/Life/tag/food/.) We did this because we were leery of having something with mayonnaise on a hot, sunny day.
(Make this kind of salad a day ahead because it tastes even better after the flavors have had time together.)
But if you’re one of those people who can’t do without potato salad at a picnic, switch it up a bit with one that’s oil-and-vinegar-based. (If you’re not sure how to make one, Google “recipe” plus “whatever you’re looking for.” You’ll probably get more than a million hits.)
I don’t recall what else we had at the other aforementioned affairs, but most definitely there were several sides available.
For those who are planning picnics and are looking for sides that are affordable, easy, delicious and healthy, consider the following:
— A vegetable salad such as a three-bean.
n Fresh summer fruit, i.e. a watermelon boat or a fruit platter.
— Jell-O salads, plain or with fruit. Or if you feel creative, mix Cool Whip into the already set Jell-O, or fold powered Jell-O (or pistachio pudding) into Cool Whip for a sweet side.
And with healthy sides such as these, there is always room for dessert.
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.