Concert in the Park

June 21, 2012 § 1 Comment

It’s picnic time of year with movies in the park, concerts in the park, dinners at the pool, beach days, etc.  I love to have the fixings on hand for a spontaneous outing; chopped vegetables with flavored humus, fresh fruit, cheese and crackers and of course a nice crisp summer wine.  We are so fortunate in our area to have great venues such as Ravinia Festival on the Northshore of Chicago.  I’ve gotten many recipes over the years from the Noteworthy Cookbook, a collection of recipes from the Ravinia Festival.  I’m totally digging The Climber Chardonnay & Cabernet wine pouches along with Govino reusable glassware.

And you really don’t have to do much planning at all for a lovely afternoon under a shady tree or an evening under the stars.  Grab sandwiches from your local deli or think “picnic” when you visit your farmers market.  A French Baguette, Aged Cheese, Sliced Heirloom Tomatoes and Moroccan Olives make a meal in my book.

Black Pepper Cheese Crisps from Clare Cooks

  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese (I recommend sharp cheddar)
  • black pepper (in a grinder)
Heat the oven to 350. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a teaspoon to place the cheese on the baking sheet. Make sure there is enough room between the cheese clumps so they can spread out a bit when they melt. Grind some black pepper on each little clump. Bake for 5-8 minutes until the edges are golden brown and they look ‘lacy’. (I found I had to bake mine at least 8 minutes to get them to come out right, but ovens vary.) Let cool for 10 minutes and peel from parchment paper. Serve and enjoy!

Rounds of Cucumber and Radish Topped with Minted Cheese

Yield: Makes 32 hors d’oeuvres

4 oz cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh mint
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon table salt
Pinch of cayenne, or to taste
1/2 medium seedless cucumber (usually plastic-wrapped)
3 medium radishes
Coarse sea salt for sprinkling.  Special equipment: a Japanese Benriner* or other adjustable-blade slicer
Garnish: tiny fresh mint leaves and finely grated fresh lemon zest


Stir together cream cheese, herbs, zest, lemon juice, table salt, and cayenne.

Slice 32 (1/8-inch-thick) rounds from cucumber with slicer. Trim bottoms from radishes, then slice into 32 (1/16-inch-thick) rounds with slicer. Top each cucumber slice with a radish slice and 1/2 teaspoon herbed cream cheese. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt and serve immediately.

Creamy Avocado Yogurt Dip from two peas and their pod

Yield: Serves 4

This healthy Creamy Avocado Yogurt Dip is simple to make and is great for parties or snack time. Serve with pita chips, tortilla chips, or cut up vegetables.


1/2 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt (I use Chobani)
2 ripe avocados, peeled and seeded
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon finely chopped seeded jalapeño pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Pita chips, tortilla chips, cut up veggies-for serving


1. Place the yogurt, avocados, garlic, cilantro, jalapeño, lime juice, and cumin in a blender or food processor. Mix until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

2. Scrape dip into a serving bowl and serve with pita chips, tortilla chips, or cut up veggies.

You don’t have to go far to enjoy a meal or snack in the outdoors.  The backyard is just fine.



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