When my kids were little, I loved packing everyone and everything into the car for a Sunday picnic supper at the neighborhood park.
As much of a production as it sometimes seemed, we all agreed that food tasted better when combined with fresh air and wide open spaces.
When planning a picnic supper, choose a menu that is easy to prepare and transport, with dishes that taste good cold or at room temperature and can be made ahead.
If possible, take two coolers, one for food and the other with drinks and extra ice. This will prevent the food from warming each time someone wants a beverage. Follow through on food safety by returning dishes to the cooler as soon as they have been served.
Be sure containers are well sealed. (Screw-top jars are best for liquids.) And wrap breakable items, such as wine bottles, in towels for protection.
I've incorporated creamy Florida avocados into today's recipe. In season from June through January, they are at their peak now. Avocados don't fully ripen on the tree, and need about a week at room temperature before they're ready to use. When ripe, they yield to gentle finger pressure.
To prepare, cut the avocado in half from top to bottom, all the way around. Twist gently to separate halves. Smack the seed with blade of a sharp, heavy knife, twist the knife slightly and lift out the seed.
GRILLED CHICKEN WITH BLACK BEAN, CORN AND AVOCADO SALSA
Cold soup and a loaf of crusty bread fill out this picnic menu. The rich tropical fruit characteristics and lively flavor of Gauthier Cellars 2008 Sauvignon Blanc from Monterey's San Saba Vineyard (about $18) makes it a great picnic wine.
4 small boneless, skinless, chicken breast halves (5 to 6 ounces each)
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
6 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 ears sweet corn, husked (or 1 cup thawed frozen corn kernels)
2 teaspoons minced jalapeno or serrano chile
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1/2 cup rinsed and drained canned black beans
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
About 20 grape tomatoes, halved
1 ripe Florida avocado, halved, pitted, peeled and diced
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper
4 ounces baby arugula
Lay chicken flat on a cutting board and cover with plastic wrap. Pound each piece with the flat side of a meat mallet or the bottom of a small pan until an even thickness. Combine chicken with 2 tablespoons each oil and lime juice. Marinate in refrigerator for 1 to 3 hours.
Heat grill or grill pan to medium-high. Grill chicken, flipping once, about 5 minutes per side, until cooked through. Set aside.
Stand an ear of corn on one end in a large bowl and use a serrated knife to cut off kernels; repeat with other ear. Add chile, ginger, beans, onion, cilantro, 4 tablespoons lime juice and 1 tablespoon olive oil; toss to combine. Stir in tomatoes and avocado, and season with salt and pepper.
Toss arugula with remaining 2 teaspoons each oil and lime juice, and divide among 4 plates. Top with chicken and avocado-corn salsa. Makes 4 servings.
Per serving: 462 calories (42 percent from fat), 22.6 g fat (3.7 g saturated, 13.9 g monounsaturated), 68.4 mg cholesterol, 34.7 g protein, 35.6 g carbohydrates, 10.2 g fiber, 504.8 mg sodium.
Carole Kotkin is manager of the Ocean Reef Club cooking school and co-author of "Mmmmiami: Tempting Tropical Tastes for Home Cooks Everywhere." ------
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