I started this column with a picnic concept in mind. My first thought was to avoid anything that required a knife and fork because they are difficult to manage on the beach, mountainside or even in your backyard.
Sandwiches and wraps are an obvious picnic go-to, and I love them, but they are not exactly creative. Then I recalled a bygone summer during which my entire extended family swore off carbohydrates.
I did not, because as a devout bread and pasta lover such a diet would have had me keeling over and/or punching people by 11 a.m. As the main caterer, however, it fell to me to figure out how to sustain my crew without demon carbs.
Beach picnics were a challenge; normally, I just made an assembly line on the kitchen counter: bread, condiment, filling, bread, wrap and go, but without bread this was a problem.
Then I hit the sticks — I began threading everything onto wooden skewers. Last night’s flank steak? Caprese salad? Cubes of chicken? Fruit? Veggies? Yes!
It was a bit labor-intensive to prepare for a crowd, but it was a fun, innovative and unique way to present the food and, assuming your kids are past the age of impaling themselves and others, they will love it. You can pack these in large, rectangular Tupperware containers or wrap them securely in foil. Just be careful not to puncture anything with the pointed end of the skewer.
These are pretty to look at and delicious to eat. The quintessential summer salad on a stick.
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- 20 basil leaves
- 1 pint small mozzarella balls (sometimes called “ciliegine”)
- 6-inch wooden skewers
- Salt/pepper/olive oil if desired
Rinse and drain tomatoes and basil leaves.
Drain the mozzarella.
Alternate the tomato, cheese and basil leaves on skewers. If the leaves are large, you may want to cut them in half, double them or wrap them around the tomato or cheese.
Drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, if desired.
Variation: Make these Greek by altering the ingredients: cubes of feta, pitted olives, cucumber, pepper chunks and, of course, cherry tomatoes. Drizzle the skewers with olive oil, salt, pepper and freshly chopped or dried oregano and/or dill.
Meat and/or Veggie Sticks
These are a great way to get kids to eat vegetables and a sensible way to use leftovers.
I started to cook double the amounts for dinner in order to have enough leftover for tomorrow’s lunch skewers. Just make sure you cut the veggie chunks large enough to hold together when pierced.
You can certainly make these as kebabs to start off for dinner, but then you are busted for serving straight up leftovers. By repackaging the ingredients, the meal feels “new,” although all you have done is thread the food onto skewers. You can also set the items up on a kitchen counter and have your crowd come and make their own skewers before heading out to the patio or beach.
- Cubes of chicken and/or slices of flank steak
- Assorted raw, steamed, roasted or grilled vegetables (zucchini, eggplant, onion, pepper, mushrooms, tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, potatoes, yams, carrots, etc.)
Thread the ingredients onto skewers as desired.
Drizzle with salad dressing or the sauce of your choice or leave them plain.
When my daughter was in second grade, she became fascinated with this concept. This was also around the time when schools began to emphasize healthier snacks for class parties, and cupcakes were no longer assumed for every celebration. This was far more interesting than sending in 20 apples for the harvest festival.
- Assorted cubes of watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, mango, apple, pear, peach, strawberry, grapes, etc.
- Fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice
Assemble the skewers, then spritz with lemon or lime juice. Drizzle the skewers with yogurt-honey dressing, if desired, or leave them plain. Enjoy.
Chili-Lime Watermelon Skewers
For kids and timid palates, omit the chili and salt. Go easy on the spices until you’ve tasted the dish. These are a great “garnish” to a margarita or other fruity cocktail.
- Cubed watermelon
- Fresh squeezed lime juice
- Chili powder or cayenne pepper to taste
- Coarse salt to taste
Thread the watermelon cubes onto the skewers. Spritz them generously with fresh lime juice. Sprinkle sparingly with salt and chili pepper. Enjoy.