Monday, June 14, 2010
Culinary Throwdown: Picnic Baskets
Our hostess with the mostest, La Diva Cucina, was the winner of the last Culinary Throwdown and therefore got to choose the theme for this one.
What a lovely idea! Unfortunately, I'm currently spending most of my free time wrangling a manuscript, so I only had time to concoct a single dish. But in my mind, the sweet stuff is always the most important stuff, so here's goes my entry:
Fresh Fruit With Lemon Curd and Meringue Cookies
This is really a no-brainer, which is what you want for a picnic. Everything can be cut up and prepared a couple days ahead of time, stored in plastic containers, carted to the picnic spot of your choice in an insulated cooler, and assembled on site. I recommend serving in those el cheapo Pyrex custard dishes you can get four-for-a-buck at the local Dollar Store, because not only are they retro fabulous cool-looking, they're also tough as nails. You can cart them anywhere.
For the lemon curd, I've used Martha Stewart's recipe for years and it hasn't failed me yet. Easy to make, tangy-delicious, and super duper versatile, the curd works beautifully as a topping for ice cream, a fruit tart filling, or mixed with cream cheese for a kicked up carrot cake icing. And it's delicious slathered on toast first thing in the morning.
The meringue cookies are likewise easy to make. Ingredients:
4 egg whites (use the yolks for the curd)
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup superfine sugar (regular ol' granulated will work, too, but superfine makes a crisper meringue)
Your choice food coloring
Beat the whites in a stand mixer on medium high with 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar until foamy. Turn mixer to high and beat in sugar, one tablespoon at a time until the mixture is glossy and sticky-stiff, about 4-5 minutes. Add eight drops your choice food coloring and mix until well incorporated, then pipe or dollop the meringue on a Silpat-lined baking sheet, pop into a 225º F for 1-1/4 hours, turn the oven off, leave cookies inside of another 60-75 minutes, then serve.
Take along your favorite bubbly libation and, bam, instant picnic desert without the hassle.