On certain summer evenings, when there is gardening to be done, schoolbooks to be tackled, laundry to be washed, or bills to be paid, the most sensible course of action is to run away from home with picnic basket in hand and ears cocked for music.
-- Adapted from "Lee Bailey's Long Weekends" (Potter, $30)
Makes 12 brownies
4 ounces good-quality unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/2 pound unsalted butter, chopped
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1/2 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup mini-marshmallows
6 ounces chocolate chips
1 cup all-purpose flour
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 9-by-9-inch glass baking dish then line it with parchment paper, allowing a 1-inch lip of paper. (Or just butter dish well.)
Boil water in the bottom of a double boiler, then turn off the heat. Put chopped chocolate and butter in top pan and set in place. Stir occasionally until completely melted.
Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, whisk eggs until well-blended with sugar. Stir in vanilla, marshmallows and chocolate chips. Stir in flour, mixing until well blended. Blend in melted chocolate. Turn into prepared baking dish and bake in middle of the oven 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out moist. Do not overbake. Remove from oven and run a knife around the edges of the brownies to keep marshmallow top from cementing to the dish. Cool, cut the brownies into desired sizes.
It's imperative to begin with fried chicken for a country-western or bluegrass menu. This version is "fried" in the oven and the skin is removed to get rid of more fat. Serve with any bean salad and eat a peach to fuel up for a country line dance.
Serves 4 to 6
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, minced
6 tablespoons honey mustard
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/4 teaspoon each salt, dried oregano, ground red pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 frying chickens, cut into serving pieces, skin removed
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a jellyroll pan with aluminum foil. Combine cilantro, mustard, jalapeno and lime juice in a small dish; set aside. Combine bread crumbs, cornmeal, chili powder, salt, oregano and red pepper in a shallow dish. Drizzle oil over and mix with your hands until uniformly moistened. Using the back of a small spoon, coat chicken pieces with mustard mixture, then roll in crumb mixture. Arrange meaty side up on pan and bake until the juices run clear, 40 to 45 minutes. Serve at room temperature.
Whether it's mariachi music, samba or salsa, these pocket sandwiches will fit the mood. Pick up cookies from the Mexican bakery or munch tropical fruits.
1 cup ( 1/2 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup fine- or medium-grind cornmeal
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
-- of cayenne
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 cups fresh corn kernels, blanched 2 minutes and drained, or thawed, frozen corn
1 1/2 cups grated Swiss cheese
4 green onions, minced, including some of the green tops
1 bunch cilantro, leaves only, minced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Tequila Salsa (recipe follows)
To make the dough, cut butter and cream cheese in smal chunks and put in a food processor. Add cornmeal, flour, salt, cayenne and pulse to form a smooth ball of dough. You may have to turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand to get the right consistency.
Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Lightly flour work surface. Divide dough into quarters. Roll 1 portion into a circle about 3/4 -inch thick. Using a round cutter about 4 inches in diameter, cut out 6 rounds. Set aside, covered with a cloth or plastic wrap. Repeat with remaining portions.
For filling, toast cumin seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until they dance on the surface. Remove to a bowl and add remaining ingredients, mix well.
Top each dough round with an equal amount of filling. Fold in half and press edges together to seal. Holding the empanada in one hand, pat the sealed edges with the palm of the other hand to make a smooth, rounded edge. Arrange 1 inch apart on a baking sheet. Bake until golden and crisp, about 20 minutes. Serve at once, or cool and serve at room temperature. Offer salsa on the side.
Makes about 2 cups
4 dried ancho chilies
4 dried guajillo chilies
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 onion, quartered
grated zest of 1 scrubbed orange
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon tequila
Put chilies, cumin, coriander, onion and zest in a pot. Cover with water by about 2 inches. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook, uncovered, until chilies are soft, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Lift out chilies, reserving liquid. When cool enough to handle chilies, remove and discard stems and seeds (wear gloves).
Combine chilies and cooking liquid in a blender with orange juice and tequila. Puree until smooth. Strain to remove any seeds or skins. Season with salt. Serve warm.
-- From "Tequila, The Book" by Ann & Larry Walker (Chronicle, $10.95)
To get in the mood for jazz or Cajun, munch on a muffaletta served with olive salad. A pecan pie, bought or homemade, will have you humming before the music starts.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
1 cup prepared mayonnaise
1/3 cup spicy dark mustard
3 tablespoons grated horseradish
4 teaspoons paprika
3/4 teaspoons cayenne
2 green onions, white and green parts, finely chopped
Whisk mayonnaise with all ingredients -- stir in onions last.
Refrigerate at least 2 hours to allow flavors to blend. Pack in cooler.
New Orleans Muffaletta
about 6 ounces pimiento-stuffed green olives, drained and roughly chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped, with some leaves
1 garlic clove, minced
about 1/2 cup good olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 to 6 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 large, round country-style loaf, 9 or 10 inches in diameter
good-quality olive oil
thinly shredded romaine
Layers (choose 4 or 5 of the following): 1/3 to 1/2 pound sliced salami; 1/3 to 1/2 pound sliced provolone; 1/3 to 1/2 pound sliced turkey; 1/3 to 1/2 pound sliced ham; 1 6-ounce jar marinated roasted red or yellow bell peppers; 1/2 cup artichoke hearts; about 8 Chinese eggplants, sliced lengthwise, tossed in olive oil and salt and roasted in oven until brown; ripe tomatoes, sliced
The night before, or six hours before the picnic, assemble the muffaletta. First combine the ingredients for the olive salad. Chill.
Slice the bread horizontally into three layers with a serrated knife. Lightly drizzle the bottom with olive oil. Place a layer of lettuce on top. Make another layer of the meats or cheese you have chosen, or make a layer of vegetables. Top with the middle layer of bread. Spread on a liberal amount of olive salad, including juices. Add more lettuce if desired. Add top of bread.
Press down with your hands and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Place on a cookie sheet or big plate. Cover with another plate and place a weight (a can) on top. Refrigerate overnight for 4 to 6 hours under the weight. Take to picnic in cooler. Slice into big wedges to serve.
Food that rocks
G; These make-ahead tuna subs are easy to prepare and eat.
Pacific Rim Tuna Subs
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed ginger
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper flakes
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 6-ounce cans water-packed tuna, drained
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon sesame seed
1/4 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
salt or a -- of fish sauce to taste
4 submarine sandwich rolls
fresh tomato slices
In a medium bowl, whisk vinegar, garlic, ginger and pepper VTC flakes. Gradually whisk in the oils. Add the tuna, onion, green pepper, cilantro, sesame seed, mint and salt or fish sauce. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour, up to 6 hours.
Taste salad and add vinegar, oil or salt as needed. Drain tuna salad, reserving juices. Drizzle juice over tops and bottoms of rolls. Put sandwiches together with tomato slices. Press sandwiches with the palm of your hand. Wrap each in plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature at least 1 to 4 hours before serving.
Green Pea Guacamole
Serves 4 as a dip
8 ounces thawed frozen baby peas
1/2 medium or 1 small very ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons purchased green salsa
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped (wear rubber gloves)
In a food processor, combine ingredients and process until pea are pureed. Taste for seasoning. Spoon into bowl and garnish with cilantro leaves. May be made up to 4 hours ahead, covered and refrigerated.
-- Adapted from "The California Cook" by Diane Rossen Worthington (Bantam, $27.95).