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PICNIC PLANS

Romance Is on the Table

July 25, 1996|JANA LIEBLICH

Summer is a time for romantic picnics in the park, at the beach or even indoors. This menu is something seductive to take along.

On the practical side, all of the dishes are simple to prepare and transport. On the romantic side, the object of your affection can only melt at the sight of the meal's finale, brownies with both white and dark chocolate chips and a rich chocolate glaze on top.

For starters, you could make a wild rice salad with fresh vegetables to create a rich combination of colors, textures and tastes. Or if you find ripe seasonal fruit at the market, put together a fresh fruit salad. Then go elegant with cold poached salmon served with a watercress mayonnaise sauce.

It's only food, but the adage is true even today: The way to a woman's heart is through her stomach. It works for men too.

Menu

Wild Rice Salad

Cold Poached Salmon With Watercress-Mayonnaise Sauce

Double-Chocolate Fudge Brownies With Chocolate Glaze

STAPLES

Olive oil

Vinegar

Salt

Pepper

Shallots

Parsley

Bay leaf

Black peppercorns

Mayonnaise

Dijon mustard

2 lemons

1 onion

Sugar

Butter

Eggs

Unsweetened cocoa powder

Flour

Vanilla extract

Walnuts

Powdered sugar

SHOPPING LIST

2 (4-ounce) packages wild rice

1/2 pound fresh shelled peas or 1 (10-ounce) box frozen peas

1 large tomato

1 small cucumber

1 bunch green onions

1 bunch fresh basil

2 (1 1/2-ounce) bags pine nuts

1 bunch watercress

2 (6-ounce) salmon fillets

1 (750-milliliter) bottle white wine

1 (6-ounce) bag semisweet chocolate chips

1 (6-ounce) bag white chocolate chips

1 (8-ounce) box unsweetened chocolate squares

GAME PLAN

Evening before or morning of picnic: Prepare brownies and cover tightly to keep fresh. Prepare salmon fillets, cover and refrigerate. Prepare watercress-mayonnaise sauce and refrigerate. Prepare all ingredients for rice salad (if serving) but do not combine.

As close to serving as possible: Prepare fruit salad (if serving) and toss with a little lemon juice to keep fruit from browning. Combine ingredients for rice salad and toss with dressing.

COLD POACHED SALMON WITH WATERCRESS-MAYONNAISE SAUCE

POACHED SALMON

2 lemon wedges

1 cup white wine

1/2 cup water

2 shallots, chopped

3 sprigs parsley

1 bay leaf

1/4 teaspoon salt

10 whole black peppercorns

2 (6-ounce) salmon fillets

Combine lemon wedges, white wine, water, shallots, parsley, bay leaf, salt, peppercorns and salmon fillets in large shallow pan. Cover and bring to gentle simmer. Cover and simmer until fish begins to flake when poked with tip of knife, about 10 minutes per inch of thickness.

When fish is done, remove cover and let cool in poaching liquid 10 to 15 minutes. Carefully remove fish from poaching liquid, discard liquid and wrap fish in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about 3 hours.

WATERCRESS- MAYONNAISE SAUCE

1 bunch watercress

3/4 cup mayonnaise

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 onion, grated

Salt, pepper

Remove watercress leaves from stems and puree in food processor or blender with mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice and grated onion. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve chilled fish topped with tablespoon of Watercress-Mayonnaise Sauce. Serve leftover sauce on side. Makes 1 1/4 cups sauce.

Makes 2 servings.

Each serving, with 1 tablespoon sauce and no extra, contains about:

256 calories; 386 mg sodium; 55 mg cholesterol; 11 grams fat; 6 grams carbohydrates; 30 grams protein; 0.22 gram fiber.

DOUBLE-CHOCOLATE FUDGE BROWNIES WITH CHOCOLATE GLAZE

This brownie recipe is an adaptation of one of my favorites by Richard Sax from his book "Classic Home Desserts" (Chapters, 1995). I've added two types of chocolate chips (white and dark), walnuts and a rich chocolate glaze on top. If your sweetheart would prefer a slightly less decadent brownie, feel free to leave the chocolate glaze off.

BROWNIES

1 cup butter, softened

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup flour

1 cup walnuts, chopped

1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1/3 cup white chocolate chips

Cream butter in bowl of electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add sugar and continue to mix 3 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, and mix just until well combined.

With mixer on low speed, add cocoa and vanilla extract and mix to combine. Continuing on low speed, add flour slowly and mix until combined. Add walnuts, semisweet chocolate chips and white chocolate chips and mix just long enough to incorporate.

Pour batter into greased 13x9-inch baking pan and bake at 350 degrees until knife inserted in center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on rack.

CHOCOLATE GLAZE

4 (1-ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate

2 teaspoons butter

2 cups sifted powdered sugar

6 tablespoons warm water

Melt chocolate and butter in double boiler over simmering water. Remove from heat and whisk in 1 cup powdered sugar. When combined, whisk in 3 tablespoons warm water. Whisk in remaining powdered sugar and remaining warm water to get smooth glaze consistency.

Spread over cooled brownies and set aside until hardened and shiny.

Makes 24 brownies.

Each serving contains about:

293 calories; 96 mg sodium; 57 mg cholesterol; 16 grams fat; 35 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams protein; 0.44 gram fiber.

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