Friday, July 9, 2010

Picnics and Cookouts - A Summer Tradition

Here in the northern states of the USA, we long for summer time when we can move our gatherings of friends and family out of doors.  We enjoy picnics on our own garden lawns, at public parks, along the lake or riversides and just about anywhere else that's not inside the house.  A picnic, in my way of thinking, is usually not a cookout.  If you are from the area you know what I mean.  For the rest of you, it generally means a picnic has food that was previously prepared and is not likely very hot. Sometimes it travels in a picnic basket where you my have the entire meal stored, or each person brings an item to share.  A cookout sometimes occurs as part of a picnic, where someone has a grill (gas or charcoal powered) and actually cooks the food (usually brats, Italian sausages, hotdogs or hamburgers) just before it is eaten.

I love a good picnic and cookout.  But when the crowd count rises past a dozen, I generally do not cook on the grill as it is difficult to get large quantities of food all cooked at the same time. Further I spend the entire event working over a hot grill.  In these cases, I prepare food in advance either on the grill or in the oven and then deliver it to the table warm when we are ready for it.

Recently we held a birthday party in our garden and we had 30+ guests.  I prepared 36 Italian sausages with roasted bell peppers and sweet onions in the upper oven, while roasting lightly breaded chicken in the lower oven.  The other dishes... deviled eggs, pasta salad (see prior posting), cole slaw, a vegetable tray and other appetizers were all prepared well in advance.  Homemade lemonade rounded out my menu (along with a cooler of beer and soft drinks.)  This gave me the opportunity to enjoy the party and not spend my entire time cooking and catering.

Of course, we'll also have picnics up at Ravinia (the summer home of the Chicago symphony) as we did last year when we celebrated my nephew's birthday.  Once again I made chicken, this time pan fried just like my mother always made in the summer time, and accompanied it with a summer red skin potato and dill salad and chilled dressed green beans.


Cooking on the new grill is also high on my priority list and I will have dinner parties for 4-6 guests that include just about any meat you can roast on a grill.  When I cook out, I do try to prepare the main dish meat and all of the sides on the grill as well, so I don't have to run in and out.  I generally make the salads and desserts in advance.  And I almost always start these affairs with an appetizer (home grown tomatoes for my Bruschetta) and a cocktail.

Lamb T-Bones

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