cooking class: summer picnic favorites

July 2, 2022

one of the things I love about the Midwest is the changing of the seasons, along with the weather our appetites and food cravings adjust…now that summer is upon us, we eat lighter, utilizing all the fresh vegetables and herbs coming out of the garden…we make easy to transport dishes to take to potluck BBQ’s and picnics at the lake…for this month’s cooking class I prepared some of my favorites, and had everyone make their own butter to enjoy with crispy radishes…be the hit at your next friend and family gathering by bringing any of these dishes

thai cucumber salad…

this salad is full of bright flavors for a hot summer day…I cut the cucumbers on a mandolin in long thin ribbons for a more dramatic look on the plate but if you’re serving it as a side you can simply just slice it in circles…was delicious on it’s own but would make a great accompaniment to spicy grilled chicken

thai cucumber salad

Servings: 4

2 English cucumbers sliced 1/4″ thin

1/2 cup pickled red onion (recipe follows)

1/8 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1/8 cup fresh mint, chopped

1 jalapeno, thinly sliced

1 dried Thai chili, crushed

1/3 cups yogurt

1/3 cup peanuts, crushed

1/3 cups shredded coconut


1/8 cup sesame oil, toasted or regular

1/3 cup lime juice

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/8 teaspoon garlic minced

1/2 inch knob fresh ginger root, minced

3/4 tablespoons fresh green peppercorns

1 tablespoons honey

thinly slice the cucumbers lengthwise on a mandolin or with a knife as thin as possible.

combine all salad ingredients in a large salad bowl

mix the dressing ingredients together

pour the dressing into the salad bowl and toss well to coat

spread some of the yogurt on the plate into a circle

add cucumber salad on top exposing some of the yogurt, sprinkle with sea salt

pickled red onions

4 red onions, thinly sliced

2 cups rice vinegar

2 cups water

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons mustard seeds

1 tablespoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon coriander seed

1 tablespoon cumin seed

1 teaspoon sea salt

Bring all the brine ingredients to a boil, pour over the red onions, let it sit for at least 3 hours…makes 1 quart

when it comes to radishes, I am a traditionalist, pull it out of the ground, wipe it off on your apron, dip in some sea salt and enjoy…if there happens to be some soft butter at the ready, even better, a dollop on the end finished with cracked salt crystals is a treat…my husband’s favorite way to enjoy the radishes are with thick blue cheese dressing

doug’s blue cheese dressing

18 ounces kewpie mayo

½ lb. buttermilk blue cheese, crumbled

1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce

2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper

¼ cup buttermilk

Combine all the ingredients, mix well…makes 1 pint

homemade butter

fill a jar just short of half-way full with *room temperature heavy whipping cream, screw the lid on tight and start shaking, in about 5 minutes or so, you’ll have thick whipped cream, you can then add a pinch of salt and herbs and continue shaking for another couple minutes

you may think it’s not working, but keep shaking, suddenly you will start to see a lump forming inside and a clear liquid starts to appear, continue shaking for another couple minutes until you have a firm ball

remove the ball of butter from the jar, save the liquid buttermilk for other uses

if not using right away, rinse the butter in ice water and form into whatever shape you’d like

*warm cream to room temperature (about 60-65° F). If cream is too cold, it will take much longer to churn. If it is too warm, the butter will be soft and weepy

smoked salmon rillette…

dips and spreads are always a favorite at parties and picnics…I enjoy sitting on the deck, perusing a magazine, and leisurely savoring this salmon rillette with a slightly chilled glass of chardonnay or a delightful pinot noir…if you’re not a fan of salmon, you can substitute tuna or sardines, but I have to say that two different classmates told me that they usually don’t eat salmon and thought this was delicious!

smoked salmon rillette

2 lbs smoked wild salmon

2 lbs cream cheese at room temperature

2 tablespoon chives, minced

4 green onions, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons dillweed

1 tablespoon lemon pepper

1 tablespoon garlic powder

juice and zest of 2 lemons

½ cup milk

½ lb unsalted butter, melted

combine all ingredients except the butter!

using your hands, mix well trying not to turn the salmon into paste
adjust seasoning with a little salt or more milk if necessary

spoon into small jars or ramekins, pressing out any air bubbles

top with thin layer of the melted butter, chill

serve with crackers, pita or crusty bread…pickled onions or cucumbers are great with it