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Recipe: 'Good Day for a Picnic'

by Jeremy Jackson
Jun 8, 2005

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Jeremy Jackson

Food writer Heidi Swanson suggests this picnic-centric compendium in her roundup of summer cookbooks. Jackson offers "simple food that travels well," such as fig pate and "cornsomme."

Fig Paté

Slice this onto crackers or walnut crostini with your favorite fig-friendly cheese.

1/4 cup hazelnuts

baking soda

1 teaspoon fennel seeds, or to taste

1 1/4 cups dried Black Mission figs, stemmed and halved

1 tablespoon brandy

1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Freshly ground black pepper

To remove the skins from the hazelnuts without toasting them, bring some water and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda to boil in a small pot, boil the nuts for a few minutes, then drain the nuts and rub off their skins with a kitchen towel.

Toast the fennel seeds in a small skillet over medium heat just until they start to change color. Grind them in a spice grinder or clean coffee grinder.

Place the hazelnuts, figs, brandy, balsamic vinegar, and 1 1/2 teaspoons water in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the mixture is a paste. Add the ground fennel and black pepper to taste.

Place the fig paste on a sheet of aluminum foil and shape it into a rough 6-inch log, then wrap it tightly in the foil, rolling to shape it into a perfect cylinder. Unwrap the foil and place the log - still on the foil - onto a baking sheet and bake at 200˚F until the surface of the log dries out and hardens a little bit, 20 to 25 minutes. Let it cool.

Wrap the log securely in foil and keep it in a zipper-lock bag in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Makes one 8-inch log to serve 8.

Recipe from Good Day for a Picnic by Jeremy Jackson

Cornsommé

Much of the flavor from in this soup comes from boiling the corncobs. Good warm or cold. For this soup to be at its best search out the freshest, sweetest corn you can find.

3 ears sweet corn, shucked and cleaned

1 shallot, chopped

2 or 3 fresh thyme sprigs

1/2 garlic clove, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a pot large enough to hold the corncobs, bring 4 cups water to a boil. Boil the corn on the cob for 3 minutes, covered, then remove and let cool. Leave the boiling liquid in the pot.

Cut the corn kernels from the cob, then scrape the cobs with the back edge of your knife to extract the "milk." Reserve the corn kernels and milk.

Put the bare corncobs back in the hot water, along with the shallot, thyme, garlic, and a bit of salt and pepper. Simmer the mixture for 15 minutes or so.

Pass the corn kernels and corncob broth through the fine screen of a food mill. Be patient, making sure all the juice is extracted from the corn. (For an even smoother soup or if you don't have a food mill, puree the corn and broth in a blender or food processor and then pass through a fine mesh strainer.) Taste for salt and pepper.

For a picnic, transport the soup in a thermos or plastic pitcher with a lid so that it's easy to pour into individual bowls.

Makes about 8 small servings.

Recipes from Good Day for a Picnic by Jeremy Jackson

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