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Cape Flavors

Celebrate mom with a special meal

By Denise Clemons | May 07, 2011
Photo by: Jack Clemons Fruit skewers, yogurt filo cups and corn salad make a delicious and easily portable Mother's Day picnic.

This Sunday is Mother's Day, and if the weather holds, it would be a great day to celebrate mom with a picnic. Many local restaurants have announced special menus, mostly for brunch and mainly buffets. On the busiest day of the year to dine out, a self-serve array of dishes will give restaurants the ability to handle larger-than-usual crowds with their regular complement of servers and kitchen staff. Why not avoid the hubbub and create an enjoyable dining experience to savor al fresco.

PICNIC BASKET ESSENTIALS
Plates
Glasses
Cutlery
Napkins
Ground cloth
Paper towels
Insect repellent
Trash bag

Your first decision will be location, which should be based on mom’s tastes. Options include dining beneath an umbrella on a beach blanket, at a gazebo in the park, or if her idea of roughing it is black-and-white television, the linen-draped table on your screened back porch. The farther you travel from the kitchen, the more you’ll need to plan and pack, starting with picnic basket essentials (see sidebar).

Whether you serve breakfast, lunch or the combination midday meal of brunch, avoid dishes that must be served piping hot or icy cold. Choose foods that can handle preparation in advance and those that will travel easily without disintegrating or require you pull a wagon full of serving utensils, which brings us to the menu.

I like to start brunch with fresh fruit, but cut fruit salad tossed in a bowl is bulky to carry and can become mushy. To solve that problem, thread bamboo skewers with a variety of whole berries (see photo). The fruit holds it shape, and your fingers remain stain-free as you eat each juicy bite from the skewer. If the berries are not perfectly ripe, dust them with confectioners sugar to accentuate their sweetness.

A simple main course that fits picnic criteria is a savory quiche or frittata. I’ve included a recipe for Sausage and Zucchini Pie that is similar to those familiar breakfast dishes, but uses fewer eggs and adds some flour to create a firmer consistency. The Cheese Casserole is another alternative; it has the added benefit of being prepared the night before. For a heartier version, you could add chopped ham or bacon to this dish.

To add color, texture and healthy vegetables to the plate, you might want to include a salad. Instead of the dressing and tossing challenges of a lettuce or spinach salad, we opted for confetti corn salad as in the photo. While you could use canned corn (horrors!) the frozen packages of microwaveable corn kernels have a nicer flavor. The ingredients for this recipe can vary according to what’s on hand; just make sure you have flecks of red and green for pretty presentation.

A meal to honor mom would not be complete without something sweet – here I’ve included filo fruit tarts. Instead of making temperature-sensitive custard, I used a thick Greek vanilla yogurt swirled with blackberry jam to fill miniature filo pastry cups. To keep these from becoming soggy, transport them in a plastic container lined with paper towels. For a more colorful presentation, you could garnish these with a mint leaf (I just didn’t have any on hand).

Our picnic would not be complete without a sparkling beverage to toast the guest of honor. If it’s too early in the day for champagne, consider a sparkling cider or sparkling pink apple-pomegranate juice – be sure to reserve a few berries to toss into the glasses for a flurry of bubbles. Here’s to moms everywhere – Happy Mother’s Day!

Sausage and Zucchini Pie
1 T butter
1 T olive oil
2 C shredded zucchini
1 chopped onion
1/2 lb bulk sausage
3 eggs
1 C milk
1/2 C half & half
1 T Parmesan cheese
2 C grated Swiss cheese
3/4 C flour1/2 t salt
1/4 t white pepper
dash nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400 F. Coat the inside of a 9-inch-square pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. Melt the butter with the oil in a large skillet. Sauté the zucchini and onion until soft, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large mixing bowl with a slotted spoon; set aside. Break up the sausage in the skillet while cooking over medium heat until no longer pink; drain on paper towels. Whisk the eggs, milk and half & half into the zucchini mixture. Stir in the drained sausage and the remaining ingredients; mix well to combine. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool on a wire rack; cut into squares to serve.

Overnight Cheese Casserole
8 slices whole wheat bread, cut into quarters
1 chopped onion
1 lb grated cheddar cheese
4 eggs
3 C milk
1 t dry mustard
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper

Coat the inside of a 2-quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. Arrange 12 bread quarters on the bottom of the baking dish and sprinkle with 1/3 of the onions and 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat two more times with remaining bread, onion and cheese. Combine remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk together until smooth. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the bread layers. Cover with plastic wrap and store in refrigerator overnight. The next morning, remove dish from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Preheat oven to 325 F and bake for one hour. It will be puffy when it comes out and deflate as it cools.

Confetti Corn Salad
2 C corn kernels
1/2 C minced red onion
1/3 C diced red pepper
1/3 C diced sun-dried tomato
1/4 C snipped chives
2 T olive oil
juice of 1 lime
1 T sherry vinegar
salt & pepper, to taste

Combine vegetables in a mixing bowl. Whisk together olive oil, lime juice and vinegar. Pour over vegetables and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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