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Fourth of July : Take It Outside

June 29, 1995|HEIDI HAUGHY CUSICK | Cusick edited "Picnics" (HarperCollins), from which this article is excerpted. and

I grew up picnicking. For Sunday outings, my mom always packed a lunch, partly for the economics of feeding seven children, but mostly because destinations were usually parks.

My husband courted me with picnics shared on coastal headlands, Sierra mountain peaks and Provencal hillsides.

Now, my children, who often ate packed lunches on benches and blankets, raid the refrigerator for olives and cheese to take on their own backpacking excursions in the redwoods or canoeing trips up the river.

Every day presents an occasion for picnicking--from Sunday breakfast and Saturday lunch to a sunset dinner--but July 4, in particular, is one holiday that demands picnic fare.

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Hang up the bunting, invite the neighbors and light the barbecue. This Yankee Doodle menu highlights many of the foods America gave the world and is a fitting way to celebrate our heritage.

BARBECUED SALMON WITH STRAWBERRY, MINT AND CUCUMBER SALSA

Every Fourth of July, the world's largest salmon barbecue takes place in Noyo Harbor in Northern California, attracting some 5,000 people. Try this recipe for your own holiday celebration.

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SALSA

1 English (seedless) cucumber, unpeeled, finely chopped

1 green onion, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, cut into thin strips

3 to 4 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar

2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and finely diced

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SALMON

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

6 (6-ounce) skinless salmon fillets

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SALSA

* For best results, prepare Salsa shortly before leaving for picnic.

* Mix cucumber, onion, mint and vinegar in medium portable bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour.

* Pack strawberries in separate portable container and refrigerate. Place both containers in cooler.

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SALMON

* Melt butter with garlic in small saucepan over low heat. Stir in honey, soy sauce and lemon juice. Cook 2 minutes. Set aside. Let cool slightly and pack in portable leakproof container. Be sure to pack basting brush and fish-grilling rack. Pack salmon in portable container. Cover tightly and refrigerate to chill well before packing in cooler.

* When ready to grill, prepare fire in charcoal grill. When coals are ready, brush sauce on both sides of salmon fillets and place in well-oiled fish-grilling rack. Grilling rack simplifies cooking and turning of fish.

* Place rack over coals about 4 inches from fire. Grill salmon 4 to 5 minutes on each side, turning once and brushing with sauce again after turning. Fish should take about 10 minutes total cooking time for each inch of thickness. Measure thickest part of fish fillets to determine cooking time. Baste fish again with sauce as it finishes cooking. Fish is done when it is just barely firm and resistant to touch.

* To serve, open rack and remove fish fillets with spatula. Transfer to platter. Stir strawberries into cucumber mixture and serve on top of salmon.

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Makes 6 servings.

Each serving contains about:

365 calories; 399 mg sodium; 116 mg cholesterol; 24 grams fat; 9 grams carbohydrates; 28 grams protein; 0.58 gram fiber.

RED, WHITE AND BLUE POTATO SALAD

1 1/2 pounds assorted red, White Rose and Peruvian Blue potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

Salt

5 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 cloves garlic, minced

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh chives

1/4 cup capers, drained

Fresh whole chives

Paprika

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* Place potatoes in heavy saucepan with tight-fitting lid. Add water to cover by 2 inches. Season to taste with salt. Cover and bring to boil. Boil until tender when pierced, about 15 minutes. Drain and let cool.

* Meanwhile, in large portable bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Add potatoes, chopped chives and capers. Toss gently. Garnish with whole chives and paprika to taste. Cover securely and pack in picnic basket.

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Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Each serving contains about:

291 calories; 266 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 17 grams fat; 32 grams carbohydrates; 9 grams protein; 0.92 gram fiber.

AMERICAN APPLE PIE

America's quintessential picnic pie also loves a bit of cheese. You can save a piece of Cheddar from your sandwich makings to serve with this delectable pie. For a simpler presentation, top with a plain crust.

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CRUST

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup chilled shortening, lard, margarine or unsalted butter, cut into bits

1/3 cup milk

1 egg

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

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FILLING

2 1/2 pounds sweet-tart, firm apples, peeled, cored, quartered and sliced, to equal 8 cups

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup half and half

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CRUST

* Sift together flour and salt in bowl of mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add shortening and beat on low speed until mixture is consistency of fine cornmeal.

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