Recipe: Picnic in a Jar

Before summer comes to an end, try whipping up one of these recipes with al fresco flair.
Nothing inspires summertime nostalgia quite like a woven wicker basket and a red-checked blanket spread on freshly cut grass at the park. Typically, a hodgepodge of dishes culled from the refrigerator and plopped into Tupperware play second fiddle to the atmosphere. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here, city chefs Micah Frank (Black Market), Will Osgood (Pipers Restaurant), and Ron Harris (Locally Grown Gardens) assemble elegant picnic dishes—stylishly presented in mason jars—that will be as memorable as the day itself.

Israeli Couscous and Eggplant Salad, Makes 10 Servings
*From Micah Frank of Black Market
» 2 cups Israeli couscous
» 2 eggplants
» 1 onion
» 1/2 cup olive oil
» 2 sweet peppers, chopped
» 2 lemons, juice and zest
» 1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
» 1/4 cup sugar
» 1 tablespoon kosher salt
» 1 tablespoon black pepper
» 1 tablespoon oregano, chopped
» 1/4 cup basil, torn
» 2 quarts halved cherry tomatoes
1. Cook couscous in a pot of salted water. Drain and place into a bowl large enough to mix all of the ingredients together. Set aside.
2. Slice the eggplant and onions and grill until lightly charred, and then set aside to cool. Chop into 1-inch pieces.
3. Cut sweet peppers into 1-inch pieces and saute with half of the olive oil for 4 to 5 minutes.
4. Place lemon juice, zest, red-wine vinegar, sugar, and salt into the pan with the peppers and cook for 2 more minutes or until the sugar dissolves and peppers are coated.
5. Turn off stove and add the remaining olive oil and chopped oregano to the pan. Pour the warm pepper vinaigrette over the couscous and mix.
6. Once the mixture becomes room temperature, pour into a mason jar and add the remaining ingredients. Serve this salad at room temperature for maximum flavor and top with crumbled goat cheese or feta.

Chicken Pot Pie, Makes 6 Servings
*From Will Osgood of Pipers Restaurant
Pie Dough
» 1 cup margarine
» 2 cups all-purpose flour
» 1 teaspoon sugar
» 1 pinch of salt
» 2 ounces of water
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Place flour, sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl and add margarine in marble-size pieces, dispersing throughout the flour with a wooden spoon.
2. After ingredients are incorporated, slowly add the water as you stir. When the dough pulls together into one ball, it’s ready.
3. Dust the counter with flour and roll out
the dough.
4. Cut dough into ¼-inch-thick “lids” that fit the top of a mason jar. Place on cookie sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown.
» 2 tablespoons butter
» 3/4 cup finely diced celery
» 1 tablespoon finely diced onion
» 3/4 cup cooked peas and carrots
» 2 pounds chicken breast
1. Bake chicken breasts at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees and the chicken is white throughout.
3. Let the meat cool, and then cut it into
large chunks. Dice the chunks into ½- to ¾-inch pieces.
4. Saute celery and onions with the butter until the vegetables soften. Combine the celery and onions with the peas, carrots,
and chicken.
Chicken Gravy
» 1 can chicken broth
» 1/4 cup melted butter
» all-purpose flou
1. Make roux for the gravy by mixing ¼ cup melted butter with flour until the mixture becomes the texture of wet sand. Heat the chicken broth to a low boil, and then whisk
in the roux in small increments until the broth is thickened to a gravy-like consistency and clings to the back of a spoon.
2. Mix the gravy with the filling and add salt and pepper to taste.
3. Ladle into warm mason jars and top with the baked lids.

Strawberry Shortcake, Makes 12 Servings
*From Ron Harris of Locally Grown Gardens
» 2 cups all-purpose flour
» 5 tablespoons sugar
» 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
» 6 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter
(cut into small cubes)
» 3/4 cup chilled heavy cream
» 2 tablespoons melted, unsalted butter
Fruit Filling
» 3 pints fresh strawberries (washed,
hulled, and halved)
» 2 tablespoons sugar
Whipped Cream
» 1 cup heavy cream
» 1 tablespoon sugar
1. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, 4 tablespoons of the sugar, and the baking powder.
2. Add the pieces of chilled butter to the bowl and, using your fingertips, work the butter into the flour blend until it has the consistency of coarse crumbs. Add the heavy cream and gently mix until the dough forms.
3. Turn out the dough on a lightly floured board and gently knead to make the dough smooth. Pat down the dough to make a 1-inch-thick round.
4. Using a lightly floured, 1½-inch-round cookie cutter, cut out 12 shortcakes. Brush the tops with the melted butter and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar.  Place the shortcakes on a plate lined with waxed paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Transfer the chilled shortcakes to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake on the center rack of the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden and firm to the touch.
6. While the shortcakes cool, place the strawberries in a glass bowl and add the sugar.  Gently stir the filling and let it sit for 1 to 2 minutes. Whip the cream and sugar together in a separate, medium-size bowl until the cream just begins to thicken.
7. Using a fork or serrated knife, cut the shortcakes in half through the middle, like a biscuit. Place one half on the bottom of a mason jar and generously spoon the macerated fruit and juices over it.  Top with a heaping dollop of whipped cream and then with the other half of the shortcake.