Randy’s Recipes: Summertime is Picnic Time

By Randy Graham

Summer is the perfect season for picnics at the beach or at your favorite Central Coast park. Time to start planning your picnic!

To keep the stress level to a minimum while I prepare picnic fare, I like to keep things simple. By simple, I mean keep the menu simple: one sandwich recipe, one side dish recipe, and some store-bought potato chips, cookies, or brownies.

My favorite picnic sandwich is a sub sandwich. I remember mom making subs for picnics and to take to baseball games at Candlestick Park. She cut the rolls in half. Then she slathered mayonnaise on both sides of the roll and piled in slices of Gallo salami. I can still taste it to this day! My version is different, and I think you’ll like it a lot.

Chicken salad sandwiches are my wife Robin’s favorite. She likes the chicken shredded and folded into a creamy dressing with celery, roasted almonds, and dried cranberries. I like to make it with pretzel buns, but you can make it with your favorite sandwich bread.

The Ploughman’s Lunch Sandwich is an open-face sandwich that features a generous slice of garden-fresh tomato, Kerrygold Dubliner cheese, and an herbal vinaigrette dressing on multigrain bread.

My version of a Bánh Mì sandwich is vegetarian and takes a little more time to make, but it is worth the effort if you want something spicy and different. One sandwich makes an entire meal. Its ingredients include mushroom pâté, marinated jalapeño slices, cilantro, and Sriracha sauce.

Choose one of the sandwiches below or make your own favorite sandwich. Add a side dish such as my Three Bean Salad and pack it to go with plenty of your favorite beverage. In case you don’t have a favorite picnic beverage, I’ve made a few suggestions.

Seven-Layer Sub Sandwich
(makes 4 sandwiches)

As my brother John used to say, “Make it long!” I like to make my sub sandwiches 24 inches long. Then I cut them into 6-inch lengths and wrap them tightly in plastic wrap. My version is veggie, but you can add deli slices of ham, turkey, roast beef, or salami. Perfect picnic food!

I like to serve this sandwich with a hoppy IPA and a side of chilled potato salad.

24-inch-long loaf of French bread
Vegenaise (or substitute mayonnaise)
Whole grain Dijon mustard (your choice. I like Maille Old Style)
6 deli slices provolone cheese
1 package Yves Veggie Turkey slices
1 large zucchini (sliced thin lengthwise and grilled)
1 jar roasted red peppers (drained and patted dry)
1 red onion (peeled and sliced thin)
2 large and firm tomatoes (sliced thin)
1 green bell pepper (sliced thin)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Slice French bread lengthwise, creating top and bottom halves. Spread Vegenaise on the sliced part of each French bread half. Do the same for the mustard. Slightly overlap layers of cheese on the bottom half of the French bread, layer Tofurky slices over the cheese. Layer the grilled zucchini on top of the Tofurky, and then layer the roasted red peppers on top of that. Layer onions on top of the peppers, layer the tomatoes on top of the onions, and finish with a layer of bell peppers.

Add the oil and vinegar to a small bowl and stir to combine. Liberally sprinkle the oil and vinegar mixture on the top layer (bell pepper slices) and add salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste. Top with the other half of the French bread and slice into four 6-inch sandwiches. Wrap each sandwich tightly with plastic wrap and put them in the refrigerator until ready to pack up and go on your picnic.

Chicken Salad Sandwich
(makes 6 sandwiches)

Celery is a perfect way to add bulk and crunch to chicken salad and to offset the creaminess of the dressing  and the dressing on this salad is creamy! The tangy cranberries add a touch of sweetness, and the toasted almonds provide crunch. What could be better?

I like to serve these sandwiches with my spicy Kohlrabi Slaw and a chilled bottle of sparkling wine. Ménage à Trois Prosecco goes nicely with the chicken and the spicy slaw.

2 halves boneless skinless chicken breast
1/2 cup Vegenaise (or mayo)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup celery (chopped)
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup toasted almonds (coarsely chopped)
6 fresh large pretzel buns

Poach chicken: Fill a 12-quart soup pan two-thirds full of water; bring to a boil.

Wrap each of the chicken breast halves completely and tightly in heavy-duty plastic wrap. Add the wrapped chicken to the boiling water cover and cook on medium heat for 25 minutes. Remove from pan and let stand for five minutes. Unwrap chicken and shred. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until completely cold.

Combine Vegenaise and the next five ingredients (lemon juice through black pepper) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk until combined. Add celery, cranberries, almonds, and shredded chicken; toss well to coat. Cover and refrigerate for one hour to allow flavors to blend.

Cut pretzel buns in half. Place approximately one-sixth of the shredded chicken on the bottom half of each bun. Place the top of the buns on top of the chicken.

Tip: Make the shredded chicken the day before.

Ploughman’s Lunch Sandwich
(makes 6 sandwiches)

A ploughman is a farmhand. You may already know that a ploughman’s lunch is a cold meal originating in the United Kingdom, commonly served in pubs. Its core components are cheese, pickle, and bread. It is traditionally eaten with beer. The dish can also include such items as boiled eggs, ham, and pickled onions. As its name suggests, it is more commonly consumed during the lunchtime period.

What you probably do not know is that the Ploughman’s Lunch was invented as a marketing ploy by the English Cheese and the Milk Marketing Board to promote the sale of cheese in pubs! A Ploughman’s Sandwich was served at lunchtime (or at supper) and was/is an open-faced sandwich containing cheddar cheese, pickle, and salad.

Here is my springtime version of the perfect Ploughman’s Sandwich suitable for my ploughman friends. Serve with dill pickles on the side and a pint of your favorite beer. I like to serve this with a Sierra Nevada Porter.

Dressing Ingredients:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh dill (chopped)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic (chopped)
A wee pinch of sugar (optional)
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Sandwich Ingredients:
6 slices multigrain bread
6 tomato slices
7 ounces Kerrygold Dubliner cheese (sliced thin)
12-ounce bag European greens
1/2 cup pitted large black olives (sliced in half)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Puree all dressing ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Set aside.

Place bread slices on a baking sheet and top with the tomatoes and then the cheese. Bake for five minutes to melt the cheese. Remove from oven. Set aside.

Place salad greens in a large bowl, add dressing, and toss to coat.

Just before leaving on your picnic, place sandwiches on the counter and pile greens on top of the sandwiches. Garnish with olive halves and wrap the sandwiches tightly in plastic wrap.

Tip: Substitute 1/2 -inch slices of fresh sourdough French bread for the multigrain bread, and this is an altogether different sandwich.

Bánh Mì Sandwich
(makes 6 sandwiches)

Bánh mì is Vietnamese for bread and is also associated with a single serving baguette made into a tasty sandwich.

My first taste of bánh mì was when our son Robert made one for us on one of his visits to Ojai in-between classes at school up north. He described it as a crisp, light roll with a cacophony of flavors inside. It is a true flavor flash for me, and as Robert says, “It is to die for.”

Although a bánh mì sandwich typically consists of one or more meats, vegetables, and condiments, my version is vegan and includes a mushroom-lentil pâté, grilled tofu, and pickled vegetables. To cut the prep time in half, I use store-bought pâté. If you have the time, however, I recommend my recipe for Mushroom-Lentil Pâté below. For chiles, I use marinated jalapeño slices (nacho style), but you can use the long and narrow green Thai chile peppers if you like. These peppers are tasty but very hot.

I like to serve this sandwich with a chilled three-bean salad. In addition, I like to pair this sandwich with a craftsman hard kombucha such as GoldVibe from the Nevada County Kombuchary in Northern California.

Pickled vegetable ingredients:
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 large daikon radish (peeled and cut into matchsticks)
2 medium carrots (peeled and cut into matchsticks)

Grilled tofu ingredients:
14 ounces extra-firm organic tofu
1 cup marinade (such as Soy Vay Island Teriyaki)

Additional ingredients:
6 mini baguettes
6 tablespoons Vegenaise
1 cup mushroom pâté (see below)
1 medium cucumber (peeled and cut into matchsticks)
1/3 cup marinated jalapeño slices (drained)
Cilantro (leaves only for garnish)
Sriracha sauce (as a condiment)

Pickled vegetable directions:
Bring three cups of water to a boil. Put the sugar and vinegars in a mixing bowl. Pour hot water into a bowl and stir to mix. Add radish and carrot matchsticks. Cover and set aside to cool. If making this a day or two ahead of time, transfer pickled vegetables and liquid to a glass container (I use mason jars), cover, and place in refrigerator until ready to use.

Grilled tofu directions:
Preheat grill to medium-high heat (about 450 degrees).

Remove tofu from the package and rinse under cool water. Cut it into three slices (a little less than 1/2 -inch think and 4-by-4-inches square). Lay the slices on four paper towels and cover with another four towels. Press down to absorb as much liquid as possible. I put a cutting board on top of the towels, put a weight on that, and let it sit for about 15 minutes. Pour marinade into a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and layer the tofu slices over the top of the marinade. Cover, set aside, and allow to marinate for 30 minutes or more.

Carefully lay the tofu slices on the grill. Baste with leftover marinade, close cover and grill for five minutes. Turn slices over, baste, and grill for another five minutes. Each slice should have nice charred grill marks. Remove from grill and set aside to cool. When cool, cut each square into two 4-inch-long by 2-inch-wide rectangles. You should have six rectangles.

To assemble the sandwiches, toast the baguettes in the oven until warmed through and the outside is crisp. Slice baguettes in half, leaving a bit of crust on one side to act as a hinge.

Spread a tablespoon of Vegenaise on the bottom of each baguette. Spread a couple of tablespoons of pâté on top of that and add a slice of grilled tofu. Top that with pickled vegetables, cucumber, chiles, and cilantro. Fold the top over the filling and serve with Sriracha sauce on the side.

Mushroom-Lentil Pâté Ingredients:
12 cremini mushrooms
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 small sweet onion (diced)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
2 cups cooked brown lentils
1 cup toasted pecans (chopped)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon tamari
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary (minced)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme (minced)
2 tablespoons fresh sage
2 teaspoons brandy
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
1 teaspoon Better Than Bouillon (vegetable base)
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Mushroom-lentil pâté directions:
Remove stems from the mushrooms and wipe the mushrooms clean. Heat the olive oil and butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic. Cook, frequently stirring, until the onions are translucent, about six minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until they’re soft and cooked through, about eight minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Using a food processor, combine the cooked lentils, nuts, lemon juice, tamari, rosemary, thyme, sage, brandy, brown sugar, vegetable bouillon, and cayenne. Add the mushroom mixture and process until completely smooth. Add pepper to taste.

Scrape pâté into a serving bowl and refrigerate for a few hours until firm.

Tips: I like to make the mushroom-lentil pâté the day before. One cup of dried lentils will make a little over two cups of cooked lentils. I generally use green lentils in my recipes because they tend to retain a firm texture even after cooking. For this recipe, I use brown lentils because I want them to be creamy when blended. You will have leftover pâté that will keep in the fridge for three or four days.

Side Dish Recipes

Three Bean Salad
(makes 8 to 10 servings)

Most recipes for three-bean salad consist of green beans, kidney beans, and garbanzo beans. My recipe substitutes white beans for the garbanzo beans and my dressing gives it a slightly sweet, tangy bite that is irresistibly good.

Two 15-ounce cans green beans (drained)
Two 15-ounce cans white beans (drained and rinsed)
Two 15-ounce cans kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
21/2 cups red onion (chopped)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/3 cups red wine vinegar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon dried tarragon

Gently mix all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for 12 hours before serving.

Hattie’s Potato Salad
(makes 3 to 4 servings)

If you’ve always thought that nothing tastes as good as it used to taste when mother made it, here you go! This recipe is passed down by Robin’s mom, Hattie. It is simple and simply the best homemade potato salad ever.

5 to 6 medium-size red potatoes
1 medium red onion (chopped fine)
1/2 cup Vegenaise
1 teaspoon celery seed
Salt and pepper (to taste)
4 hard-boiled eggs (divided)
Paprika (for garnish)
2 tablespoons parsley (chopped for garnish)

Boil the potatoes until tender throughout (about 15 to 20 minutes). Let the potatoes cool but peel while still warm. Dice potatoes and combine with onions. Add mayonnaise, celery seed, salt, and pepper to taste. Gently stir to combine.

Peel the eggs. Chop two of the eggs and fold them into the salad. Slice the other eggs and layer them on top of the salad. Sprinkle with paprika and chopped parsley. Cover and refrigerate. Serve chilled.

Spicy Kohlrabi Slaw
(makes 6 to 8 servings)

The first time I saw kohlrabi, I thought, “This is one alien-looking, whatever it is.” Don’t be put off by its appearance, even if it does look like someone teleported a Martian vegetable right into your kitchen. Once it is peeled and grated, you’ll love its flavor and texture. It pairs perfectly with the carrots, onions, and jalapeños in this spicy kohlrabi slaw.

4 cups kohlrabi bulbs (peeled and grated)
1 medium carrot (coarsely grated)
1/2 cup onion (peeled, cut in half, and sliced thin)
2 jalapeños (seeded and diced fine)
41/2 cups water (divided)
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Peel the kohlrabi by cutting off the top and bottom and then peel the skin off with a paring knife. Using a box grater, grate the kohlrabi on the large openings until you have about four cups, transfer kohlrabi to a large mixing bowl. Add carrot, onion, and jalapeños to the kohlrabi. Pour four cups of hot water into the bowl. Cover and let steep for five minutes. Uncover and drain. Set bowl aside.

Bring 1/2 cup water, vinegar, salt, sugar, and oregano to a boil in a saucepan. Pour over the kohlrabi mixture and allow it to cool. Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to go picnicking.

Refrigerator Dill Pickle Spears
(makes 16 pickle spears)

Who doesn’t like a crisp homemade pickle with their sandwich? Refrigerator pickles are quick and easy to make, no sterilizing of the jars or special equipment required.

11/4 cups distilled white vinegar (5% acidity)
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups cold water
8 Persian cucumbers (cut lengthwise into halves)
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
6 large garlic cloves (peeled and halved)
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
16 dill sprigs

Combine the vinegar, salt, and sugar in a small non-reactive saucepan (such as stainless steel, glass, or ceramic) over high heat. Whisk until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Transfer the liquid into a bowl and whisk in the cold water. Refrigerate brine until ready to use.

Stuff the cucumbers into four clean pint jars. Add the coriander seeds, garlic cloves, mustard seeds, red pepper flakes, dill sprigs, and chilled brine into jars, dividing evenly. If necessary, add a bit of cold water to the jars until the brine covers the cucumbers. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours for best flavor. The pickles will keep in the refrigerator for two or three weeks!

What to pack in addition to sandwiches and side dishes:

θ Picnic blanket
θ Sunscreen
θ Bug spray/repellent
θ Knife (for cutting sandwiches)
θ Spoons and forks
θ Unbreakable drinking glasses
θ Napkins
θ Bottles of water
θ Bottle opener
θ Hand wipes and/or baby wipes
θ Trash bags (for cleanup)
θ First aid kit (in case of bee stings, 
 cuts, or scrapes)
θ Condiments (relish, ketchup, 
 mayonnaise, salt, pepper)
θ Fun packaged stuff (brownies, 
 cookies, potato chips, trail mix)