Gourmet on the Go

What better way to enjoy outdoor concerts and Saturday afternoon picnics than grazing over gourmet food that you actually cooked up yourself? Here are five recipes that not only transport easily from kitchen to blanket, but also keep so well in Charlotte's heat and humidity that you won't think twice about grabbing another scoop of potato salad after it's been sitting out for three hours.


Photographs by Chris Edwards

Food styling by Chris Valanne



Greek Summer Salad

Serves 4
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon mustard
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup sliced red onion (about ½ small onion)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 1/2 cups chopped cucumbers
2 cups chopped tomatoes
2 teaspoons chopped dill
2 1/2 tablespoons sliced basil (about 5 leaves)
1/2 cup parsley leaves
1/8  cup pitted and sliced Nicoise olives
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon crumbled feta cheese
Black pepper to taste

In a small bowl, combine ¼ cup red wine vinegar and sliced red onions and let sit for 10-15 minutes. In a large salad bowl, combine the rest of the salad ingredients. Remove onions from vinegar, add them to salad, and toss well, reserving vinegar. In a separate small bowl, whisk 1 tablespoon reserved vinegar with mustard until well combined. Drizzle in olive oil while whisking until creamy. Add rest of the ingredients to dressing and mix well. Toss dressing with salad when ready to serve.

Quick Tip: Bring some pitas to turn this salad into sandwiches for vegetarians. Plus, for the picnic, bring dressing in a separate container and toss before you serve (although having the dressing meld with the salad at room temp for thirty or so minutes is fine, too).

French Potato Salad

Serves 4
1 3/4 pounds baby red potatoes, quartered (half the smaller ones)
1/8  cup white wine
3/4 ounces extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 tablespoon sliced basil (about 10 leaves)
1/8  teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Place cut potatoes in a large pot and cover completely with cold water. Add a large pinch of salt. Over high heat, bring potatoes to a boil and cook until tender, but not falling

apart, about 20 minutes. Drain in a colander, shake off excess water, and return to pot. Add wine, cover, and let sit until slightly dry, about 5 minutes. Place potatoes in a large bowl and add oil, mustard, and vinegar and mix. Add rest of ingredients and toss well. Let sit for at least 15 minutes before serving, so the sauce thickens. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Quick Tip: French potato salad doesn’t have mayo, so it’s ideal for transport and can sit out for a while. Plus, it’s also best when eaten warm or at room temperature. (Bonus: You can make this the day before; just make sure to bring to room temp before serving.)

Tangy Roast Beef Croissant Sandwich

Serves 4
1/3 cup low-fat mayo
1/2 teaspoon mustard
1/2 tablespoon white horseradish
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1 d’anjou pear, sliced thinly
1 lemon
4 croissants, sliced
8 leaves bib lettuce
1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

Combine dressing ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Squeeze lemon juice in a small bowl and dip pear slices in lemon juice, so they are well coated. To assemble sandwich, spread ½ tablespoon of dressing on each half of croissant. Place two pieces of bib lettuce on the bottom half of croissants, then place 4-5 slices of pear in one layer, add ¼ pound roast beef, making small folds with each slice of beef, instead of laying flat. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of cheese on roast beef, and place top half of croissant. Repeat until each sandwich is complete.

Quick Tip: Wrap these (and all picnic sandwiches) in tin foil or parchment paper, never plastic bags or plastic wrap, which make the sandwiches soggy. (Bonus: dipping the pear slices in lemon juice ensures that they won’t brown. Also, look for the rounder savory croissants, rather than the sweeter dessert style.) 

Basil Vodka Lemonade

Serves 4
Simple syrup:
½ cup water
¾ cup sugar
1 bunch basil leaves (20-30 leaves)

1 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 8 lemons)
1 cup water
1 cup vodka (Ketel One is the smoothest, but since the taste of vodka is pretty well masked, Absolut will work fine)
1 cup ice cubes
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon basil syrup
Lemon wedge, for garnish

To make syrup: In a small saucepan, over medium-high heat, cook sugar and water, stirring well, until dissolved, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat and add basil leaves, and let steep until cool. Meanwhile, add lemon juice, water, vodka, ice cubes, and cooled basil syrup to pitcher and stir well. Serve over ice in a highball glass with a lemon wedge for garnish.

Quick Tip: If premixing, don’t add the ice until ready to serve, so it doesn’t water down the mixture. Freeze some lemonade (minus the alcohol) in ice cube trays and serve with the drink for an even tangier concoction. 

Berry Pound Cake with Honey Whipped Cream

Serves 4
16 ounces strawberries, hulled and halved (about 2 cups)
1 pint blueberries
1/8   cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 store-bought pound cake, cut into ½-inch slices
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon honey

Toss berries with 1/8  cup sugar and orange juice and let sit for at least 30 minutes or overnight. In a clean bowl, add cream and sugar and whip with hand mixer until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes. Add honey and mix again until well combined. Top one slice of cake with about 1/3  cup berries including juice, and top with honey cream.

Quick Tip: Bring all three components separately to picnic and assemble there to avoid dessert catastrophe. Lay pound cake slices on plate, top with berries and juice, and add a dollop of cream. (Bonus: adjust sugar quantity based on the ripeness of your berries and sweet tooth.)