Parks & Picnics

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May 21, 2013 by caitlinvaclark

I’m back! Finally. I haven’t exactly gone much of anywhere. I just needed to take some time to enjoy London, recharge my cooking, entertain a few visitors in town, and start some new projects. I have been testing new recipes, and have experienced a lot of trial and error lately, emphasis on error. But in my time MIA, I have found a few keepers and a lot of moments where simplicity shines. I think it’s been an important reminder: through spring and summer, enjoy the abundance of seasonal produce and the palates’ desire for light refreshing flavors.

Over the past week, I have been a sightseeing mad person. My friend, Beth, was in town for her first visit to London and we saw everything: Westminster Abbey, antique teapots on Portobello Road, The Globe Theatre, the view from the top of St. Paul’s, the Crown Jewels, even Paris (for a quick 36 hour jaunt).

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But one of the greatest ways to experience the beat of the city is through all the parks, so we walked and people watched and flower gawked. From Highbury Fields to Hyde Park, we covered the city. The impressive parks of London sure made my attempt at gardening look a bit foolish. Hell, Holland Park has peacocks roaming around and have you seen the tulips at Regent’s Park??

Regent's Park Tulips

I suppose if (okay, when) my garden fails, at least I have some incredible spots around the city to enjoy. When the weather is nice, no matter where you are, people flock to a spot of greenery. By grabbing a sandwich and a soda or a baguette, cheese, and wine, being outdoors can suddenly become an event. In my effort to simplify lately, I think one of the best ways to picnic is to make a few quick salads and call it a day.

A Perfectly Simple Picnic Menu:

  • Chicken Pesto Orzo Salad
  • Quinoa & Roast Vegetable Salad
  • Grilled Steak
  • Zucchini Bread
  • Prosecco & Beer, of course!!

Perfect Picnic Salads @ Regent's Park: A Broad Cooking

All three of these salads taste great hot, cold, or room temperature. They could be tossed together the morning of our picnic, or even the day before. Have a good game plan and you’ll be ready for an al fresco meal in no time. Start by marinading the steak, get your vegetables roasting, then focus on the orzo salad. Be sure to toss the orzo salad together while it is still warm so that the spinach wilts slightly.

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While you are assembling the orzo, roast your vegetables and cooking the quinoa. For the quinoa salad, and also the steak, wait until just before the picnic to mix the salads with the dressing.

Chicken Pesto Orzo Salad: A Broad Cooking

Once you have roasted the vegetables for the quinoa salad, be sure to scrap all their juices into the bowl.

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Toss the vegetables with quinoa, bocconcini mozzarella, and balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy at room temperature.

Roasted Vegetable Quinoa Salad: A Broad Cooking

I used Michael Symon’s Korean Style steak marinade from an episode of The Chew during which the co-hosts absolutely gushed over these flavor. I was so curious if it was as amazing as their reactions seemed to indicate. And yes, it was. Make this for yourself ASAP.

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Since I wanted the steak to go along way, I thinly sliced it and served it with an Asian slaw style salad. For the salad dressing, I mixed ginger and soy sauce with lime and pineapple juices. I kept the elements separate until we got to the picnic.

Gingery Asian Steak Salad: A Broad Cooking

The combination of salads provided a little something for everyone and start to finish the prep took me less than an hour!

Picnic Salads: A Broad Cooking

Chicken Pesto Orzo Salad

Serves 4-6

10 oz. orzo

6 oz. cooked shredded chicken breast

1 cup fresh pesto

3 oz. baby spinach

Cook the orzo according to the package. Drain.

While the orzo is still warm, toss it with the chicken, pesto, and spinach. Season with salt and pepper and serve cold or at room temperature.

Roasted Vegetable Quinoa Salad

Serves 4-6

1 cup quinoa

3 cups diced vegetables (peppers, red onion, zucchini, yellow squash, cherry tomatoes)

2 Tbs. olive oil

2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar

1 cup halved boccotini (or diced mozzarella)

Preheat oven to 375˚F.

Toss the vegetables with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and spread onto a baking sheet. Roast in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, until tender. Allow to cool.

Meanwhile, cook the quinoa according to the package and allow to cool.

Once the ingredients have cooled, toss the vegetables with their juices into the quinoa. Add the mozzarella and balsamic vinegar and mix. Season with salt and pepper.

Gingery Asian Steak Salad

Serves 4-6

1 lb flank steak, marinaded in Michael Symon’s Korean Style Steak Marinade

1 small napa cabbage

1/2 cucumber, julienned

1 carrot, julienned

2 oz. bean sprouts

1/2 cup chopped cashews

4 scallions, thinly sliced

1 Tbs. minced ginger

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 Tbs. sunflower oil

1 tsp sesame oil

Juice of one lime

1/4 cup pineapple juice

Marinade the beef for one hour then grill 2 minutes per side on a hot grill pan. Let rest for 10 minutes. Thinly slice.

Thinly slice the napa cabbage and toss with the cucumber, carrot, cashew and scallion.

Whisk the ginger, soy, sesame oil, sunflower oil, lime and pineapple juices. Toss with the salad and serve with the sliced steak.

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