There is nothing like a cool-looking, cool-tasting picnic under a hot sun. We're talking about ice-cold drinks and refreshing foods that are cool to the lips and yummy, besides. Behind the scenes, however, the host-cook wants the workload to be as minimal as possible. Who wants to work up a sweat in the heat of summer, no matter how much you love your family and guests? I remember a hostess who worked so hard on her Hollywood Bowl picnic she was laid up for 2 1/2 days afterwards from fatigue. Imagine how that made us, her guests, feel.
You want to enjoy the picnic too. You want a menu that is simple, yet glamorous, almost work-free. You want it to survive the trek to the picnic site and you want to have it served with the least fuss possible.
We've created several menus to keep the cook cool and the guests at ease.
The first menu calls for cold shrimp to use with cocktail sauce. You can buy the shrimp already cooked. You can also purchase the cocktail sauce, although we heartily recommend our recipe. No cooking there.
The cold beef requires cooking or barbecuing the meat. To avoid last-minute work, plan on an extra steak on the fire the next time you barbecue, and freeze the steak to use for the picnic salad recipe whenever needed. Slicing the steak will be that much easier partially thawed, anyway. You can assemble the ingredients in a large covered container and use the same container to toss and serve the salad at the picnic.
Dessert is even easier. Store-bought ice cream pops are shipped to the picnic in a compact ice cream freezer (frozen overnight). Or you can pack them in dry ice, which is available in package form.
The Thai Picnic calls for peanut soup, an easy recipe from a Velvet Turtle restaurant that we've used with great success over the years. You can serve it cold for a summer picnic and hot in the winter months. Put it in a thermos to serve from cups. No spoons necessary here.
The Papaya Stuffed With Curry Chicken can be completely assembled and chilled in advance and set on a tray lined with plastic wrap to tote to the picnic. We've scattered ice cubes on the tray for a cooling effect once at the picnic. All you do is serve each self-contained papaya boat from the tray. The Thai tea also is poured from a thermos to serve ice cold with lace cookies, store-bought or otherwise. Our recipe is a honey.
In a Caribbean-style menu we chose smoked oysters for appetizers on tortilla chips instead of fresh ones for convenience and safety. You can add any toppings you desire or the Mexican-style ones suggested on our menu. The chicken drumsticks (select nice, fat ones at the market) can be marinated and cooked a day in advance since they are served cold, anyway. They will keep just fine in the refrigerator until ready to tote.
Rice and beans are served cold as a salad. Use leftover rice and canned beans, as we did, or make your own from-scratch beans. This salad too can be prepared a day or two ahead. In fact, day-old salad tastes better, because flavors have been allowed to develop.
You can serve the chicken and rice in a manner shown here with drumsticks stuck into the mounded rice for convenient service, or separately in plastic containers. For convenience, the coconut cream can be served from the can in which it comes for dipping the medley of fresh finger fruit sticks (it's a pretty can and it has a lid) or transferred as we have done in the photograph shown.
We stress rice salad for summer picnics because you can use leftover rice from an evening meal (make sure you make enough to accommodate the recipe). Rice is a hardy food that also travels well. Assemble the rice, shrimp and and other ingredients at home and top off the salad with caviar at the picnic.
The Individual Tiramisu (Italian trifle) desserts require no cooking, but they should be made no sooner than a day ahead for ultimate freshness, unless frozen.
HOLLYWOOD BOWL MENU
Old-Fashioned Shrimp Cocktail
Cold Beef Salad Maxine
Assorted Ice Cream on Sticks
\f7 Store marinated shrimp and cocktail sauce in separate containers to assemble on the site. Or arrange shrimp over a layer of sauce in small, deep plastic containers with lids to carry to picnic. Completely assemble cold beef salad and store in chill-proof container. Toss at the site.
Assorted ice creams or ice pops, such as coconut ice pops, Eskimo Pies, fruit bars or other favorite ice cream on sticks can be carried in frozen freezer container (such as Donvier ice cream maker) or packed in a container filled with dry ice.
SHRIMP COCKTAIL SAUCE
3/4 cup chili sauce
3/4 cup catsup
Dash lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Few dashes hot pepper sauce
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
Dash dry mustard
Combine chili sauce, catsup, lime juice, Worcestershire, hot pepper sauce, horseradish and mustard. Serve with chilled shrimp or other seafood. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
COLD BEEF SALAD MAXINE
1 pound top sirloin steak, cooked medium rare
1 cucumber, thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced