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Seize-the-day picnics ... to make and-or buy, surprisingly quick.

Seize-the-day picnics . . . to make and/or buy, surprisingly quick

February can bring the West some of its most dazzling weather--warm, bright days as grand as any spring will offer.

But these memorable days arrive unexpectedly, amid late-winter flurries. Taking advantage of them requires a certain state of readiness.

To help you enjoy spontaneous outings this month, we propose impromptu picnics that get you on your way while the sun is shining. Our menus rely on foods you buy ready to serve, on purchased ready-to-eat foods you quickly combine, and on speedy alternatives to make.

Where to go? Every part of the West holds promise. Some locations can be counted on; others burst forth as sudden surprises.

But remember, as you're lured to some glorious picnic site, not to intrude on private property.

In California, the almond orchards that extend south down the Central Valley from Red Bluff and Chico spread a sudden pink canopy of bloom this month. When the sky is blue and the sun shining, a view of such an orchard, here or in similar climates elsewhere, is worth the trip: one good storm, and the fragile glory is lost until another year.

When nature takes it easy in the mountains, a sunny snowfield--at Shasta, Tahoe, Yosemite, or Mount Baldy, for example --can be a stimulating place to picnic and play.

In the milder Santa Ynez, Napa, and Sonoma valleys, hills greened by winter rains invite cycling and day-hikes.

And the Southwest's deserts are now at their most comfortable temperatures.

With their perpetual summer, San Diego's beaches are a February refuge almost as reliable as those of Hawaii. But, less predictably, beaches from the central California coast on up to Puget Sound can also be briefly bright and appealing.

To be ready to respond to outdoor temptation wherever it occurs, keep your picnic basket packed with napkins, cups, plates, spoons, forks, knives, a bottle opener, and a cloth to spread on a table or the ground.

Each of the five picnics we suggest can go together quickly. Our menus include these codes: # means you but it; * means you make it; #* means you can buy or make it; #/* means you combine purchased ready-to-eat components. Directions begin on page 144.

On the trail to Mission Santa Ynez . . . one cyclist takes the cooler, another the picnic basket

Pan Bagnat Makings#/*

Fresh Fennel

Florentine Cookies#

Green Grapes Tangerines

Plain or Flavored Mineral Water

Dry Chenin Blanc

Buy roasted red peppers and repack them in an oil-and-vinegar dressing; use to anoint made-at-the-site sandwiches of cold meats, cheeses, and crusty rolls, creating pan bagnat (directions on page 145), a salad-sandwich like those that are popular in Provence.

Stalks of fresh fennel have the crisp texture of celery, with a cooling taste you'll welcome after a good ride.

Fit perishable meats, cheeses, and greens into a small cooler to secure on one bicycle. On this Santa Ynez outing, a visit to one of the valley's fine wineries supplied one beverage and a pleasant detour. Be sure to bring plenty of mineral water for thirsty cyclists; they'll want some at rest stops, too.

Under almonds in the Central Valley . . . a blossom-viewing party for four or two

Roast Duck#* Onion Confit*

Black Bread# Prosciutto Butter*

Miner's Lettuce or Butter Lettuce

Mustard Flower Vinaigrette*

Aromatic Spice Almond Tart#*


A flowery site deserves a romantic menu, but the volatility of the season means the food must be gathered quickly. Buy a roast duck at a Chinese market, or roast your own (see page 144), or buy a roast chicken. You can make the onion confit, prosciutto butter, and vinaigrette (also on page 145) ahead and keep them ready to go.

As a pleasant dalliance, you might like to search for your salad in the greening countryside. Tender miner's lettuce is a delectable find; look for its dark green cup-shaped leaves in cool, moist soil with partial shade. Also gather a few of wild mustard's brilliant yellow flowers you'll likely see blooming now; their pungent bite is delicious in salad. These wild gleanings need to be rinsed thoroughly before using, so bring water; a plastic bag can serve as a bowl. If you want, bring along some butter lettuce greens as insurance; allow 1 to 2 cups for a serving.

An almond tart (page 145) is our dessert proposal, as tribute to an almond-blossom view, but any pretty pastry that you buy is fine.

Nachos in the snow at Yosemite . . . lunch is in the bag

Cherry Tomatoes Celery Sticks

Nachos in a Bag#/*

Tangerines Raisins or Dates

Chocolate Chip Cookies#*

Fruit Juice Drinks in Individual Cartons

Beer or Merlot

This picnic is especially easy to pack and easy to serve, and cleanup is a snap. Individual-size bags of corn chips become bowls to hold pleasant warm chili (homemade or canned) ladled from a thermos; other toppings include avocado dip, salsa, and cheese. The chips, in their bags, become hand-held, hand-warming nachos.

Foods to buy and assembly suggestions are detailed on page 145.

Raw vegetables are ready for munching as the troops ski in. Fresh and dried fruits, with purchased or homemade chocolate chip cookies, make dessert. And take a supply of extra juice, so snow players can carry off cartons for refreshment later on.

Use the snow as your cooler, pushing beverage bottles and cartons into this natural refrigerator.

Sushi and tropical fruit at Hanauma Bay . . . you have Mainland options


Marinated Vegetable Salad#

Kim Chee or Pickled Ginger#

Island Pineapple Bananas

Japanese Sweet Crackers#

Guava or Passion Fruit Drink

Tea in Individual Cartons

Even on the Mainland, you'll find these foods available in Asian markets and some supermarkets.

Sushi--tart-sweet seasoned cold rice-- comes with many toppings and fillings. Some combinations are adventurous; to get what you want, ask, or read the ingredient list. Some kinds of sushi, such as bara sushi, are not shaped but are presented like salads and sold in individual bowls--in Hawaii, often quite fanciful ones. You will find perishable sushi in the refrigerator; or you might have some made to order. Keep sushi cold in an insulated chest until you eat it. Allow 6 to 8 pieces of sushi (each about 2-bite size) for a serving.

Allow 1/2 cup of a purchased vegetable (like broccoli or cauliflower) salad for each person. Kim chee and pickled ginger are sold packaged in containers of different sizes; they play the role of pickles. A medium-size (about 3 lb.) pineapple will serve 6; cut it into chunks, then bite fruit from the peel. Also buy 1 small banana per person.

Smoked fish at harborside San Diego . . . a buy-everything meal

Smoked Fish Platter#

Bread Basket# Cream Cheese

Alfalfa Sprouts Cucumber Slices

Lemon Wedges Roma-style Tomatoes

Black Ripe Olives

Pickled Cherry Peppers

Pears Seedless Grapes

Mineral Waters, Plain and Flavored

Apple Juice

In San Diego fish markets, especially those in Seaport Village, you find several kinds of smoked fish not often prepared this way. A waterfront picnic is a great way to try them.

You will encounter choices like succulent smoked swordfish bellies; firm-textured smoked mackerel, yellowtail, or albacore; and moist-smoked salmon. The ready-to-eat fish is often still warm from the smoker. Ask for a taste to decide what to buy.

Away from San Diego, widely available smoked fish include salmon and Alaskan cod (sable or butterfish), as well as canned smoked herring.

Check smoked fish for bones as you eat, or before putting it into sandwiches. For a serving, allow at least 1/4 pound fish; buy extra servings to take home if you like--smoked fish freezes well.

You can make sandwiches in bagels, onion rolls, or dense pumpernickel bread, or make open-faced ones on big crackers. Allow at least 2 sandwiches for each person. Buy cream cheese (the whipped kind is easier to spread); 1 ounce makes 2 sandwiches.

Hardy alfalfa sprouts can get along for a few hours without chilling; allow 2 to 3 tablespoons for each sandwich. Also have a cucumber and a few tomatoes to slice, and lemon to squeeze onto the fish. Bring along a small knife to cut things up with.

Photo: (# means you buy it; * means you make it; #* means you can buy or make it; #/* means you combine purchased ready-to-eat components)
COPYRIGHT 1988 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:recipes
Date:Feb 1, 1988
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