Bring your game-time noshing A-game to next partyLabor Day weekend signals the nearing end of summer and the beginning of tailgating season. Here are some ideas for dishes to contribute to a picnic or tailgate that take advantage of the still-abundant seasonal vegetables and fruits but don’t require too much work.
Heirloom varieties of tomatoes ripen at different times so there should be plenty to choose from both in color and in size. Combine chopped tomatoes with Spanish olives, cubed manchego cheese, herbs and pimentón dulce, a smoky paprika from Spain, to make an appetizer to spoon onto toasted bread.
You could replace part or all of the mild pimentón with the picante or hot variety, which is hotter than the dulce but not as hot as a cayenne.
Top the appetizer with torn crisped prosciutto (or Spanish ham, if you can find it) and chopped marcona almonds that have a richer, almost macadamia-like, flavor than regular almonds.
This appetizer can double as a salad by cubing the toasted bread and folding it into the olives and tomatoes to make a Spanish panzanella.
Pack the components separately, then arrange the bread around bowls of the tomatoes and olives, prosciutto and nuts when you get to your destination. If you’re going the panzanella route, wait until you’re setting up to combine the bread with the salad.
The most perfectly ripe and fragrant melon is the key to the fruit salad that could be placed with either salads or desserts. The depression where the melon stem was attached should give a little to pressure but there shouldn’t be any soft spots. Pick up the melon and sniff it. It should smell like a ripe melon. If it doesn’t, pass it buy and try another one.
This fruit combination also would be good with a honeydew, changing the main color from orange to pale green. Either melon is complimented in color and flavor by the addition of deep purple blackberries and/or blueberries and a squeeze of fresh lime.
Flecks of dark green mint add another dimension of flavor and color. You could replace the mint with basil. Either way, use fresh herbs, not dried. Fold in the mint or basil when you put the salad on the table so it doesn’t turn dark.
The peanut butter cookie recipe is easy to memorize because it’s all in halves, except for the flour, which is 1 1/2 cups and 1 egg.
Having the butter and peanut butter at the same temperature allows them to mix together smoothly, so if you refrigerate your peanut butter, put it out with the butter to come to room temperature.
Optional chopped peanuts add crunch. Adding peanuts seems to work better than using crunchy peanut butter. The peanuts in the peanut butter displace the amount of peanut butter, which can give you a different texture. The cookies will be good either way.
You could make these in the traditional way by rolling the chilled dough into balls that you’ll flatten with a floured fork. If time is an issue, it’s faster to make bar cookies or, like this recipe, a larger cookie that you cut into pieces. You can make this in a 13-by-9-inch baking pan or a 1/4 sheet pan.
You can replace the peanut butter with almond or cashew butter.
Pack them in a tin or other hard sided container in layers separated by parchment or waxed paper to keep them from sticking together.
Spanish Olive and Tomato Salad
- 1 cup chopped green Spanish olives (plain or stuffed with pimentos)
- 1 1/2 cups chopped heirloom tomatoes (a mixture of colors is nice)
- 1/4 cup grated or cut into tiny dice manchego cheese
- 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
- 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, preferably Spanish
- Finely grated zest of 1 orange (about 1 teaspoon)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 4 slices of prosciutto or Spanish ham
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped marcona almonds
- Toasted bread or crackers
Combine the olives, tomatoes, cheese, onion, herbs, vinegar, olive oil and orange zest. Add salt and pepper to taste, though you shouldn’t need much salt.
Crisp the prosciutto in a 425 degrees F oven until lightly browned. Let cool then break it into pieces.
Put the olive and tomato salad into a bowl. Put the prosciutto and almonds into separate bowls. Serve with toasted bread or crackers.
Variation: Make a Spanish panzanella by folding 2 cups of cubed toasted bread into the olive and tomato mixture. Add an extra tablespoon of vinegar and increase olive oil to 1/3 cup. Top with chopped almonds and prosciutto.
- 2 cups chopped cantaloupe
- 1 cup blackberries, blueberries, or a combination of the two
- Juice of 1 lime, about a tablespoon
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint or basil
Combine the cantaloupe, berries and lime juice. Sprinkle with herbs and fold to combine.
Peanut Butter Slices with Jam or Chocolate
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup peanut butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- (1/2 finely chopped roasted peanuts, optional)
- 1/2 cup jam, any flavor you like, heated to a simmer
- 1/3 cup chocolate chips
Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt with a whisk. Set aside.
In a mixer, beat together the butter, peanut butter, sugar and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg.
Turn the mixer to low and slowly add the flour mixture, mixing until the flour is completely incorporated, adding the optional peanuts near the end. Cover and chill dough for at least an hour.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Divide dough into quarters. Roll each quarter into a 10-inch long snake. Lay them out parallel on a parchment-lined baking sheet, about 2 to 3 inches apart. Press a slight depression lengthwise on each snake. Bake about 10-12 minutes, or until set and starting to turn brown at the edges.
Remove from the oven and immediately run a thin line of jam or chocolate chips the length of each cookie. Use a knife to smear the chocolate as it melts.
While still warm, cut the cookies apart lengthwise if they’ve cooked together then cut across into pieces. Let cool completely before putting into a tin, separating layers with parchment or waxed paper.
Variation: Grease and flour a 13-by-9-inch pan or 1/4 sheet pan. (You could line the pan with parchment paper.) Break chilled dough into pieces and place in the pan. Gently press the dough into an even layer. Bake about 15 minutes. Top with a drizzle of the warmed jam or sprinkle with chocolate chips. Spread the chocolate as it melts, leaving bits of cookie showing. Cut into pieces while still warm but leave in the pan to cool.