There’s Nothing Greater Than the Great Outdoors


As soon as I see my daffodils and tulips popping out of the ground, I am ready to take the party outdoors. Dining al fresco is one of life's great pleasures. Despite the lack of rain this spring out here on the West Coast, my garden has managed to maintain its vibrant look.

The following menu allows the cook to enjoy the outdoors with his or her guests, as all of the dishes can be made in advance and served cold or at room temperature. They need only be carried to the waiting garden table.

Of course, there can be no guarantee of sunny skies so I plan accordingly … in case of a rain-out, this meal can quickly become a moveable feast to be enjoyed indoors.

Golden-Tomato-and-Pepper Soup with a garnish of snipped chives starts the meal. For the main course, there's a hot sweet Curried Salmon Salad With Mangoes. No vegetable evokes springtime more than asparagus, and coupled with sweet crunchy sugar snaps, it makes a tasty, bright salad.

A cheese tray with breads and crackers provides a good accompaniment.

Finally, for dessert, comes a Mixed-Berry Cornmeal Cobbler served warm with vanilla ice-cream.

Chilled Golden-Tomato-and-Pepper Soup


4 Tbsps. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, chopped
4 golden bell peppers, seeded and chopped
3 golden tomatoes, seeded and chopped
8 basil leaves
pinch thyme
6 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup cream or yogurt
2 Tbsps. sherry vinegar
salt and pepper
1/2 cup chopped chives

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan.

Cook the garlic, onion, peppers, tomatoes, basil and thyme, partially covered until soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the stock, and bring to a boil.

Simmer about 15 minutes.

Purée in food processor or blender with cream.

Allow to cool; refrigerate until chilled.

Stir in vinegar just before serving. Taste for salt and pepper.

Garnish with chives.

Serves 6.


Curried Salmon Salad


5 cups cooked salmon, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
2 mangoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. curry powder
1/4 cup peach or mango chutney
2 Tbsps. fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper
6 cups mixed greens
additional parsley for garnish

In large bowl, combine the salmon, celery, peaches, green onions and half a cup of the coconut.

To make the dressing, combine the mayonnaise, curry, chutney, and lemon juice. Toss with salmon mixture. Taste for salt and pepper.

Line serving platter with greens and mound salmon salad over them. Sprinkle with remaining coconut and parsley.

Serves 6 to 8.


Asparagus and Snap-Pea Salad


Dressing Ingredients:

1 tsp. sweet-hot mustard
2 Tbsps. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. white-wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. fresh tarragon leaves, minced
1/2 tsp. salt

11/2 lbs. asparagus, trimmed, peeled, cooked just until tender
1/2 lb. sugar snap peas, trimmed and cooked until tender
2 cups frozen peas, thawed and drained
4 cups watercress leaves

Whisk the dressing ingredients until well-combined in a small bowl.

Cut asparagus on the diagonal into 2-inch lengths. Cut snap peas on the diagonal in half.

In a large bowl, combine the asparagus, snap peas and thawed peas with the dressing.

Toss in the watercress.

Taste for salt and pepper.

Serves 6 to 8.

Mixed-Berry Cornmeal Cobbler


Filling Ingredients:

8 cups mixed berries (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, etc.)
3 Tbsps. sugar
2 Tbsps. lemon juice
2 Tbsps. butter

Topping Ingredients:

11/2 cups flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
3 Tbsps. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
6 Tbsps. cold butter, cut into pieces
2/3 cup cold milk
2 Tbsps. cream
2 Tbsps. sugar

Preheat oven to 450°

Combine the berries, sugar, and lemon juice in 2-quart shallow baking dish, and dot with butter. Set aside.

Combine the dry ingredients. Cut in the butter until mixture is crumbly.

Stir in the milk just until the dough holds together.

Turn out on a floured surface and knead gently for about 1 minute. Roll out to 1/2-inch thickness.

Cut rounds with a 2-inch biscuit or cookie-cutter. Place over topping slightly overlapping each biscuit. Brush with the cream and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden-brown and bubbly.

Serves 8.

Louise Fiszer is a California cooking teacher and food writer. E-mail her at: [email protected].


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