Life’s a picnic!
‘A picnic should be an action of joy and spending time with people you like being around’
By a waterfall under a shade tree, on a checkered cloth in a park, at a table in a pavilion – choose a spot, pack a basket or backpack and enjoy an easygoing meal outside.
“I believe that people should picnic often. A picnic should be an action of joy and spending time with people you like being around,” said Tracey Deschaine of Dixie Picnic in Malvern, who fondly recalled picnics with her mother, “a real southern belle,” and her southern relatives.
“We all remember how great the food was,” she said. “So that’s where Dixie Picnic came from.”
At the restaurant, Deschaine dishes up family favorites like flaky buttermilk biscuits.
“Biscuits are one of those recipes that taught me technique is everything. It’s all about the technique of having the butter cold and working quickly,” she explained. “If you follow that recipe, you’re going to have the most delicious biscuits you’ve ever had!”
Serve them as BLTs since bacon travels well, and bring along mayonnaise packets.
“Nothing makes this sandwich pop quite like a juicy summer heirloom tomato. Throw on a thick slice with the bacon and some lettuce, and you’ll sit down on your picnic blanket with a big smile on your face!” Deschaine said.
She also recommends grilled pineapple salad with citrus vinaigrette. Try packing it in a mason jar.
“It’s so popular, and it’s so delicious,” Deschaine said. “I just really love that salad.”
Chef Art Roman of The Kitchen Workshop in Paoli likes what he calls Italian market basket salad.
“If you belong to a CSA, whatever looks good in your CSA basket you can throw in there,” he suggested. “You can take a Greek spin on it with kalamata olives and feta cheese.”
This versatile salad also works with cheese tortellini or ravioli.
“I usually undercook the pasta a little bit – by a minute or 2,” Roman said. “That’s why most people have bad pasta salad because the pasta is generally overcooked.”
No cooking required for his radish canapés.
“It’s just an interesting recipe, not the proverbial thing you take to a picnic or outing,” he noted. “It’s got some really good texture to it. People almost think it’s crab.”
“Don’t tell them that it’s radishes. They don’t get the props they deserve,” said Roman jokingly. “If you can, buy them with the tops on. That’s key to the success of this recipe.
And don’t forget the littlest picnickers. For the Crayola crowd, how about a banana “cigar”? It’s PB&J with banana rolled in a whole wheat tortilla
It’s “something silly and simple,” Deschaine said. “You can get kids to really use their imagination if you say, ‘I’ve got a banana cigar.’”
People of all ages enjoy Dixie Picnic’s “upcakes,” upside-down cupcakes with plenty of icing in every bite like her great-aunt used to make.
“Right now, our biggest seller is s’mores, which only comes around from Memorial Day to Labor Day,” she mentioned. “We have people lamenting when they’re done.”
Just like s’mores, picnics are quintessentially summer. So check the weather, grab a blanket and plan a lazy afternoon.
“There are so many different picnics you can have,” Deschaine mused. “I think it’s a respite from your everyday.”
As her slogan says, “Y’all need a picnic!”
Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits INGREDIENTS
25 ounces all-purpose flour 2 tablespoons baking powder 1 teaspoon baking soda 2 teaspoons salt ¼ cup vegetable shortening 8 ounces cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes 2½ cups buttermilk - cold
Preheat convection oven to 400 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Whisk to combine. Combine vegetable shortening into flour mixture with fingers until only peanut-size chunks remain. Add butter chunks to flour mixture and pinch butter between fingertips to form nickel-sized flat pieces. Add buttermilk and mix until dough sticks together. Turn dough onto lightly floured baker’s table and shape into a rectangle approximately 12-by-18 inches. Fold the end thirds into the center of the dough, turn and roll out again to the same size. Repeat folding about eight times, dusting table lightly with flour to prevent sticking. Roll dough ½-inch thick and cut into 3-inch rounds. Brush tops with melted butter and bake until tops are golden brown, 8 to 9 minutes. These can be frozen and reheated in a 300 degree oven for 10 minutes, and they stay delicious!
You can’t go wrong with classic picnic fare like fruit and cheese.