Walters is without question one of the most talented chefs in our region. With summer still going strong and plenty of opportunities now through the fall for outdoor cooking and dining al fresco with a luncheon or early supper prepared at home, here are here 10 ideas she has given for upping your outdoor cookout and picnic game.
Outdoor cookout and picnic tips
- Plan on foods that are good and safe being served and eaten at room temp. Think non-mayo based composed salads, cured meats, plenty of pickled nibbles like olives and crudité.
- If you can, invest in good insulated ice trays and service wear that will keep cold foods cold.
- Instead of the same veggie tray with ranch dressing try a marinated veggie salad or grilled veggie platter.
- The hotter it is outside, the more fruit people will eat. Plan accordingly. Jazz it up while you are at it with not just watermelon, cantaloupe and grapes, but try a platter of cut tropical fruit, or just one variety of something local and perfectly ripe or create a “rainbow” of color showcasing the best of what is seasonally available.
- Love me some Panzanella salad, with so many varieties to try. My latest favorite is peaches and local cherry tomatoes in red wine vinaigrette with fresh mozzarella and plenty of basil and arugula. Get past basic potato salad.
- Grill/roast ahead of time with larger cuts of protein. Think steaks like flank or skirt, flattened (spatchcocked) chicken, whole loins or shoulders of pork, etc. and serve party style on a large platter, sliced and simply dressed.
- Make some grains. Farro, quinoa, freekah, barley and rice all make great dishes and you can cook the grains ahead of time. Use them at room temperature as a base for salads. They pair well with all sorts of vegetables both raw and cooked. Whisk up a simple vinaigrette and you are good to go.
- Get your greens on. I love a mix of both neutral greens and bitter ones together. Think little gem, red leaf or romaine for the neutral part and maybe radicchio, endive or escarole to supply the bitter. Fresh herbs will help make the salad pop and using them in tossed salads help “bridge” the opposing flavors together.
- Plan on picky eaters. Whether it is a serious food allergy, stubborn children or personal preferences, someone will always not like something, so it’s nice to plan ahead and have at least one item that is something simple that will please most everyone.
- Make a simple dessert. Whether you are transporting or just carrying it out on the deck, don’t make it fussy. Summer desserts should be simple. Bowls of freshly washed berries, a bucket of cold local peaches, a straightforward 9x13 cake or a platter of homemade cookies or brownies will make those summer nights extra sweet.
Culinary ‘game changers'
In addition to tips for leveraging your picnic, Chef Carrie Walters, Culinary Director at Dorothy Lane Market, shares her own culinary “game changers” — ingredients for raising the bar on everyday meals that you should consider adding to your kitchen.
- DLM Grilling Rub. I use it so much at work, I now can’t live without it at home. It’s a basic for me on steaks and burgers.
- Red Boat Fish Sauce. Gives that funk/umami to many dishes that taste like it’s “just missing something.”
- Stephanie Izards finishing sauces and rubs. The Top Chef winner from Chicago has a line of sauces and rubs that highlight global flavors. I am obsessed with them. Such a delicious shortcut to so many good dishes.
- Maldon Sea Salt. There is no substitution for that finishing salt. Period.
- Fresh Bay Leaf. What an incredible difference it makes. I like to score them a couple of times with a sharp knife before throwing them into something like a soup, stew or braised dish. I just need to have my own bay tree .... I wonder if I can get one to grow in Dayton?
- San Marzano tomatoes. The low acid taste, “meatiness” and round balanced sweetness that comes from them can’t be found in any other canned tomatoes.
- Tahini. I have been on a binge challenging myself to find more ways to use this in my everyday home cooking. OK yes, I am making those salted tahini chocolate chip cookies WAY more than I should.
- Miso. I like always having some, whether it is red or white in my fridge. The umami that it can provide in a multitude of dishes is amazing. Salad dressing, spreads, dips, fish soups, etc. And speaking of cookies — Have you tried the miso peanut butter cookies that “crashed” the internet?
Dayton Eats looks at the regional food stories and restaurant news that make mouths water. Share info about your menu updates, special dinners and events, new chefs, interesting new dishes and culinary adventures. Do you know of exciting outdoor spaces, new exciting format changes, specials, happy hours, restaurant updates or any other tasty news you think is worth a closer look at? E-mail Alexis Larsen at firstname.lastname@example.org with the information and we will work to include it in future coverage.