Food just tastes better outdoors. Breathing fresh air, drunk on sunshine and a slight breeze . . . I love a picnic. An al fresco repast can be as simple as cheese, bread & charcuterie, but if I can find a picnic table and a grill, I like to plan something just a little more elaborate. I bring dessert made, chicken brined and ready to go on the grill, and ingredients for salads already prepped. With a plan like this, even on a weeknight we can steal a few moments from our hectic lives and come home, tumble into bed and dream about the stars peeking out in the purple dusk and an evening filled with stories, laughter and more than a little magic.
Honey-Brined Grilled Chicken
2 chickens, halved (save backbones for stock)
1/2 c. kosher salt
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. honey
Rustic Romesco Relish
4 small to medium sweet red peppers
1 clove garlic
1/3 c. whole almonds
juice of 1/2 lemon
small handful basil leaves
Dissolve honey, sugar, and salt in 2 cups boiling water. Add 4 quarts cold water to brine. Submerge chicken halves in brine and place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours and up to 12. When ready to grill, remove from brine and pat dry.
Make a fire in on side of grill or smoker. Brush chickens with a little olive oil and begin grilling over indirect heat (the side with no coals). Place almonds and garlic in small heavy skillet and place on grill to toast. When toasted and fragrat, remove from grill and set aside. Place peppers and tomatoes over direct flame and grill until charred. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
Continue grilling chickens, turning frequently, until done all the way through. When done, remove from heat to rest.
Remove skin from tomatoes, and any charred bits of skin from peppers. Chop tomatoes and peppers with a large knife very finely. Chop almonds and garlic and add to pepper and tomato mixture. Add chopped basil and lemon juice, then pour in enough olive oil to create a loose, saucy consistency. Add salt to taste and serve with grilled chicken.
Walnut Apple Cake
adapted from Cannelle et Vanille
1 small container plain yogurt
1 yogurt container demerrarta sugar
1 yogurt container sugar
1/2 yogurt container Texas olive oil
1/2 yogurt container grapeseed oil, or other neutral, light oil
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 tsp. cinnamon
3 yogurt containers flour or gluten-free baking mix (I used Pamela’s)
1/4 tsp. xanthan gum if using Pamela’s
1 Tbs. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
4 Gala apples
2 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. sugar
Preheat oven to 350. In a 9″ iron skillet, melt 1 Tbs. butter and saute 2 apples, sliced and sprinkled with 1 Tbs. sugar, until golden. Place in a small bowl and set aside. Dice remaining two apples and saute in remaining 1 Tbs. butter and 1 Tbs. sugar until golden. Remove to a separate small bowl. Return apple slices to skillet in a more or less even layer.
In a mixing bowl, combine cinnamon, flour or baking mix, xanthan gum if using, baking powder, and salt. Combine with a whisk until completely blended. In a separate bowl, combine yogurt, sugars, eggs, oils, and vanilla bean paste. Whisk until thoroughly combined. Add liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until combined. Fold in diced apples and walnuts and pour in skillet over sliced apples. Bake for about 30 minutes of until cake tester comes out clean.