A Moveable Feast

Culinary director Rachael Perron shares tips on packing picnics with panache.

It’s summertime, which means warm weather, outdoor activities and spending a lot of time with family and friends. And what better way to do all of those things than with a picnic? Sure, you could slather some peanut butter and jelly on a piece of bread, but why not kick your picnics into high gear? Rachael Perron, culinary director at Kowalski’s Markets and a White Bear Lake resident, offers some fun alternatives to the boring soggy sandwiches, with two fun picnic themes and easy-to-prepare recipes. She also gives us some quick picnicking tips and information on how to keep those delicious dishes safe for us to eat. So, grab your picnic fixin’s, a blanket and your favorite somebody (or somebodies), and enjoy a great meal al fresco.

Whether you’re celebrating a special anniversary, wanting to reconnect after a busy week, or just looking to enjoy some great food with your sweetie, this amore-filled picnic will put some sizzle in your summer.

What to serve:

François Montand brut rosé
Fresh peaches and cherries
Milton Creamery Prairie Breeze cheddar cheese on a Gourmet Thyme pistachio shortbread
Velvet Bees gourmet honey butter
Lemony chicken orzo (see recipe)
Caprese salad jars (see recipe)

Lemony Chicken Orzo
Serves 4

What you’ll need:

  • 1 Tbsp. plus 1½ tsp. Kowalski’s extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup orzo, cooked according to package directions, drained
  • 8 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cooked and cooled
  • 2 Tbsp. raw pepitas, very finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. very finely minced fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 tsp. freshly grated lemon zest (about 1 lemon)
  • 1½ tsp. finely minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 green onion, very thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp. freshly ground Kowalski’s black peppercorns

How to make:

In a medium mixing bowl, drizzle 1½ tsp. oil over orzo; toss to coat. Chill in the refrigerator, covered, until cold. Chop chicken; add chicken and next 5 ingredients (through green onion) to the orzo in the mixing bowl and toss to combine. Drizzle remaining oil and lemon juice over salad; season with salt and pepper. Toss salad and serve immediately or store covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Good to know:

Find marinated chicken breasts, such as rosemary garlic chicken breasts, in Kowalski’s meat department. Fully cooked, cooled breasts are also available in the deli Heat & Eat case.

Caprese Salad Jars
Serves 4

What you’ll need:

  • ¼ cup Kowalski’s extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 tsp. Kowalski’s balsamic vinegar, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked Kowalski’s black peppercorns, to taste
  • 1 lb. grape or cherry tomatoes
  • ½ lb. fresh mozzarella mini cheese balls, drained (such as Bel Gioioso ciliegine)
  • ¼ oz. fresh basil leaves, torn, (add more, to taste)

How to make:

Pour 1 Tbsp. oil and 1 tsp. vinegar into each of 4 screw-top glass jars. Add salt and pepper to taste. Divide tomatoes and cheese balls evenly between jars. Add basil to jar; secure lid. Refrigerate until ready to serve. To serve, shake jar to blend oil and vinegar and to coat tomatoes and cheese; pour onto a plate or eat straight from the jar.

Good to know:

Find ciliegine in Kowalski’s deli department, or substitute an equivalent amount of chopped fresh mozzarella, in 1-inch dice.

Tasty Tips:

- Glass canning jars are the perfect individual, reusable containers for beverages and salads. Their screw bands and metal lids will keep everything intact and can be stacked in a cooler for easy transporting.

- Use a colorful beach towel as a tablecloth. It’s durable and washes easily.

- Kitchen towels make practical reusable napkins. They can also be used to cushion items in your basket or cooler and are useful when it comes time to clean up.

- Keep a basket, box or bag ready for an impromptu outing. Fill it with silverware, serving utensils, plates, a sharp knife and cutting board, napkins, plush hand towels, paper towels, wet wipes, insect repellant, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, and garbage bags and extra-large zip-top plastic bags for storing dirty service items and linens. Don’t forget a board game, Frisbee or ball!

Food Safety

- Keep frozen water bottles or beverages and reusable ice packs ready in the freezer. Add them to your cooler when you’re ready to go. An insulated cooler packed with ice is safer than a basket for most food items.

- Keep cold foods cold (at or below 41˚ F) and pack your cooler right before heading out. If you’re driving, transport your cooler in the air-conditioned car, not in the trunk.

- If you are bringing both raw and prepared foods, be aware of cross-contamination. Keep these items separate and securely wrapped, and bring plenty of clean serving utensils.

- Keep food out of direct sunlight. Eat hot foods within 2 hours of preparation (1 hour if it’s hotter than 80˚), or purchase, or chill in the refrigerator before packing in the cooler. Toss food that’s been out of the cooler for more than an hour.

- Pack sandwich fixin’s separately and assemble sandwiches just before eating.

What to serve:

Snap peas and baby carrots with hummus
Raincoast crisp crackers with spreadable Fayette Creamery raw milk Cheddar and Lucille’s Kitchen Garden raspberry pepper jam
Turkey tartines (see recipe)
Fresh watermelon salad (see recipe)
Unsweetened iced tea with fresh lemon
Dark chocolate bites

Turkey Tartines
Serves 4

What you’ll need:

  • 4 slices hearty whole-grain bread
  • ¼ cup honey mustard
  • 8 oz. Boar’s Head oven-roasted turkey
  • 4 thin slices Havarti cheese
  • Toppings, to taste: microgreens, sliced avocado, thinly sliced radishes

How to make:

Top each slice of bread with mustard. Layer evenly with turkey and cheese; top as desired. Serve immediately.

Fresh Watermelon Salad
Serves 4

What you’ll need:

  • 1 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lime juice (about 1 lime)
  • 1 Tbsp. Kowalski’s extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. Kowalski’s honey
  • Pinch of freshly ground Kowalski’s sea salt and Kowalski’s black peppercorns to taste
  • 16 oz. container Kowalski’s watermelon spears
  • ¼ small red onion, sliced in half crosswise and thinly into crescent shape
  • ¼ oz. very thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
  • ¼ oz. very thinly sliced fresh mint leaves
  • 2 oz. crumbled Bulgarian or Israeli feta cheese

How to make:

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together juice, oil and honey. Add salt and pepper; set aside. Cut each watermelon spear into 4 cubes; arrange on an extra-large rimmed serving platter. Sprinkle evenly with onion, herbs and cheese. Whisk dressing again to combine; drizzle over salad. Serve immediately.

Health Nut

Lighten up your outdoor meal with this healthy picnic that offers a whole lot of good-for-you flavor and absolutely none of the guilt.