Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Sunday, July 3

Gapers Block

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr

« Friday Foodporn: Country-Fried Bacon Masi's Italian Superior Bakery »

Feature Fri Jul 02 2010

Our Favorite Picnic

Because we are ready to head out to our own picnics and cookouts for this weekend, we've decided to leave you with a few cherished recipes to consider making.

We've stripped it down--no organic frisée, and lose the truffle oil; celebrate America's independence from England using some down home ingredients. any mayo?

Pimento Cheese Sandwiches (Cliff)
One thing my family always had for summer picnics were Pimento Cheese Sandwiches. They were always pretty easy to make because a market in our hometown had really great Pimento Cheese (it's a type of spread for those of you not familiar with it).

But Pimento Cheese is really super easy to make at home, you simply need the following:

1.5 pounds of Sharp Cheddar Cheese, grated.
1 (4-6 oz.) can of diced pimentos (or "pimientos" if you're shopping in the Hispanic section)
1/4 tsp of garlic powder
1/4 tsp of onion powder
1/2 tsp of fresh cracked black pepper
2/3 of a cup of mayonnaise
Salt to taste.

Mix the all of ingredients together. You can do it by hand, but a stand mixer will make the job much easier. Put in a lidded container and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes; overnight is even better.

Pimento Cheese Sandwiches are a very traditional Southern comfort food (served annually at The Masters in Augusta, swanky!) and are made by spreading a nice even layer between two slices of fluffy white bread. You can remove the crust, and cut into finger servings if you want to elevate this from comfort food to hors d'oeurve.

* * *

Lemon Herb Orzo Salad (Mandy)

I make an orzo pasta salad people always seem to love, I think because I use orzo instead of fusilli or another more standard pasta. I like it because it's really versatile.

Prepare the pasta according to the package, being sure to add the salt. Then rinse it in a colander under cold water to stop the cooking and set aside. Make a lemon vinaigrette, using one part fresh lemon juice to two parts olive oil, plus a dash of dijon mustard, lemon zest, salt and plenty of fresh ground pepper.

Here's the key to this dish: fresh herbs. Really, any kind are delicious, but a combination of basil, thyme and parsley seems to go over really well. Be generous! Once you've mixed the dressing and herbs into the pasta, you can be as creative as you'd like with other ingredients.

The beauty of this is that you can keep it vegan or not. Pine nuts are pricey right now, but they pair really nicely with the orzo. Another option is slivered almonds (toasted of course.) Chopped kalamata olives are a briney addition, while diced celery brightens up the dish and adds crunch. Chopped red and orange bell peppers and cherry tomatoes make it pretty. Cubed salami and smoked provolone or a can of good tuna and capers make for a heartier salad. The best part is that you can prep your pasta and most ingredients the night before, though you should wait until just before the party to chop the herbs and add the dressing.

If you add the herbs too soon they lose their bright colors, and if you add the dressing the night before, the pasta will drink it up and you'll lose some flavor.

* * *

Ham Rolls(?) (Andie)
I don't even know what to call this... "Ham Rolls"? "Spicy Creamy Ham Rolls"? "Scallion Cigars"? It doesn't sound that great no matter what name you attach to it. But it's delicious. My mom makes these for summer parties, and my aunt makes them every 4th of July for our enormous family gathering down in Missouri. If you're my mom, you use saran wrap to help mold and roll everything -- if you're my aunt, you just bare-hand it and get cream cheese up to your elbows. Whatever sounds fun to you:

1 package sliced deli ham (Carl Buddig works really well--right consistency and resistance to tearing, and available in grocery stores everywhere)
1 package cream cheese
1 bunch green onions, cleaned and trimmed to about 5 inches
Horseradish (optional)

Combine your cream cheese and horseradish (or whatever flavoring suits your fancy -- sweet curry powder, capers, shredded jack cheese, parmesan, minced jalapenos, salsa verde--go wild). Spread the cream cheese mixture onto a slice of ham, place a green onion on one edge and roll it up. You can use another dab of cream cheese to seal the roll at the end. Enjoy!

They're cool and fresh-tasting, involve both meat and a veggie, and toe the line between side dish and appetizer. Best of all, you can eat them with one hand, leaving your other hand free to balance your overloaded paper plate, grab a beer, or steer a nosy dog or flailing child away from your food.

* * *

Lemon and Herb Potato Salad (Gemma)

* * *

Buttermint Salad (Ben)
(from The Hancock County Cookbook)
2 cans of crushed pineapple
2 packages of lime Jello
2 small packages of marshmallows
16 oz. Cool Whip
1 package of Buttermints, crushed

Drain pineapple juice and mix with water to equal 2 c. Bring to boil; stir in jello, marshmallows and mints. Stir to melt marshmallows and mints. Let set for several hours. Whip together jello/mint mixture, Cool Whip, and pineapple. Spoon salad into 9 X 13-inch freezer safe pan. Put in freezer. Thaw just a few minutes before serving.

* * *

Fourth of July Cake (Lori)
Several years ago I made a sheet cake and topped it with premade white icing, then I arranged blueberries and raspberries to make the stars and stripes of the American flag. I put some sparklers on before serving it, which I did on roller skates. It was my kitschiest 4th of July ever.

* * *

"Summer Surprise" Dessert (Robyn)
At first, I thought this dish was going to be a texture nightmare--cut fruit with sour cream on it, yech--but it's healthier than a lot of the sugary, fattening crap I've brought to summer cookouts.

The recipe first appeared in Dear Abby; it's reprinted here.

1 cup fresh seedless grapes, halved
1 cup fresh whole blueberries
1 cup fresh strawberries, halved
1 cup fresh peaches, cut in bite-sized pieces
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 cups sour cream

In 9x12-inch glass dish, combine fruit and mix well. Sprinkle brown sugar over the fruit. Top with sour cream. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate 3 to 4 hours. The sour cream will seep through the brown sugar to the fruit. To serve: gently stir the fruit; spoon into sherbet glasses.

Any combination of fruits may be used: fresh plums, kiwi, raspberries, pitted bing cherries, etc. However, fresh peaches, fresh grapes, and fresh blueberries are a necessity. Frozen or canned fruits are not recommended.

GB store
GB store

Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

GB store



Drive-Thru on Flickr

Join the Drive-Thru Flickr Pool.

About Drive-Thru

Drive-Thru is the food and drink section of Gapers Block, covering the city's vibrant dining, drinking and cooking scene. More...
Please see our submission guidelines.

Editor: Robyn Nisi,
Drive-Thru staff inbox:



 Subscribe in a reader.

GB store

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15