It is here! Beautiful summer breezes to compliment one of the most festive warm weather holidays - July 4th!
If you are packing a picnic for this holiday, here is a great menu that will not heat up your kitchen AND it is super easy to prepare!
First up - my Cool Cucumber Soup. This creamy chilled soup is ideal for entertaining, as it can be prepared well in advance. The refreshing taste of the cucumber is carried by the tofu, which adds substance and stands in for the heavy cream so often called for in similar soups. Whenever I serve this, diners inevitably ask, “Are you sure there isn’t any cream in this soup?”
Cool Cucumber Soup
12 ounces soft regular or silken tofu, drained and cubed
1⁄2 sweet onion, chopped
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 to 2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried dill weed, or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
Sea salt Freshly ground pepper
Cut 4 thin slices of cucumber and set aside for the garnish. Peel, seed, and chop the remaining cucumbers.
Put the chopped cucumbers, tofu, onion, lemon juice, garlic, brown sugar and 1⁄4 teaspoon of the dill weed in a blender and process until creamy. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the remaining dill weed. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours.
About 30 minutes before serving, chill four soup bowls. To serve, ladle the soup into the chilled bowls. Garnish each bowl with a cucumber slice topped with a sprinkling of dill weed. Serve immediately.
Then to please everyone at your picnic, my hearty Potato Salad! There is no doubt about it, potato salad is perennially popular for picnics and summertime meals. For a more rustic version that’s also more nutritious, try leaving the skins on the potatoes. This recipe is easily doubled or tripled to feed a crowd.
Country-Style Red Potato Salad
10 to 12 small red potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 large carrots, diced
2 to 3 stalks celery, with leaves, chopped
1⁄2 cup sliced green or black olives
1⁄2 cup vegan mayonnaise, plus more as needed
1 to 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
2 teaspoons italian seasoning
1 teaspoon brown sugar (optional)
1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt
1⁄2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1⁄4 cup chopped fresh basil (optional)
Freshly ground pepper Paprika, for dusting
Tomato wedges, for garnish
Dill sprigs, for garnish
Steam the potatoes until tender but still slightly firm, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool until slightly warm. Add the carrots, celery, and olives and stir gently until well combined.
Put the vegan mayonnaise, mustard, italian seasoning, brown sugar, and salt in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Add to the potato mixture and stir gently until well combined. Add the parsley, optional basil, and pepper to taste and stir gently until evenly distributed.
Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 12 hours. Check the consistency before serving; if the mixture seems dry, stir in a bit more vegan mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon at a time. To serve, sprinkle paprika over the top. Garnish with tomato wedges and dill sprigs if desired.
For an easy portable sandwich, try my Avocado Rolls. These versatile roll-ups are perfect for any midday meal, from a casual brunch to an elegant luncheon. They also travel well, making them ideal for picnics. Just wrap them in parchment paper and go!
Avocado Rolls with Kalamata Olives
2 whole-grain flour tortillas or wraps
1⁄4 cup store-bought hummus
1 to 2 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise (optional)
4 ounces (5 cups, lightly packed) mixed baby greens
1 avocado, sliced
8 small kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
2 teaspoons raw or unsalted roasted sunflower seeds
Lay the tortillas on a large cutting board. Spread half of the hummus evenly over half of each tortilla. Spread half of the optional vegan mayonnaise evenly over the other half of each tortilla. Evenly arrange half of the greens, avocado, olives, and sunflower seeds over the lower two-thirds of each wrap.
Starting at the bottom edge, roll the tortilla tightly and evenly around the filling. Gently but firmly press the edge to seal the roll. Set the roll seam-side down and cut it diagonally into 5 or 6 pieces. To serve, place the pieces on a plate cut- side down.
Then we need a fast and festive dessert. How about…Peanut Butter Fudge? Although this fudge is a rich picnic treat and fills the bill when a decadent dessert is called for, it’s full of healthful ingredients, making it a fun afternoon snack for kids and adults alike.
Peanut Butter Fudge
3⁄4 cup smooth or chunky peanut butter
1⁄3 cup maple syrup
31⁄2 ounces vegan dark chocolate
1⁄3 cup unsalted roasted sunflower seeds
1⁄4 cup raisins
Lightly coat an 8-inch square baking pan with vegan margarine. Put the peanut butter and maple syrup in a large bowl and stir vigorously until well combined. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over medium-low heat. Pour the chocolate into the peanut butter mixture and stir until thoroughly combined. Fold in the sunflower seeds and raisins. Transfer to the prepared pan. Spread in an even layer and smooth the top. Score the surface at 2-inch intervals with a table knife; this will make it easier to cut the fudge after it has set. Yum-oh.
Cover with foil and refrigerate until firm enough that the fudge holds its shape when cut, about 30 minutes. Serve chilled. Stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, the fudge will keep for about 1 week.