Manger Dehors

Celebrate spring with a picnic featuring simple, flavorful fare

Serve chicken liver pâté and herbed cheese spread on party crackers, chunks of French or rye bread.

Spring is an ideal time to have a picnic. My father claimed that food eaten outdoors always tastes better, and I’ve agreed with him. You might want to consider a romantic picnic for two, one for the entire family or for a few guests.

Give some thought to the location. It could be in the backyard, by the pool, at a public park, on a screened-in porch, on a small balcony or patio and even on a boat. It’s time to get out and enjoy the sights and scents only a Louisiana spring can offer. The fragrance of honeysuckle and jasmine, the tweeting of red birds, mockingbirds singing in the moonlight, the glow of an orange sunset are all the more savored when accompanied by a simple but sumptuous repast.

Chilled wine, a jug of mint-flavored ice tea or lemonade and small bottles of water (include some of the flavored ones if you like) are easy enough to tote along. Homemade or store-bought cookies are great for a dessert. Then again you might want to bring along blue cheese, fresh pears and ginger snap cookies to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Main Dish

Marinated Mixed Vegetables

This is easy to put together and keep chilled until ready to use.

3 garlic cloves, crushed
¾ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
¼ teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
salt and freshly ground black
pepper to taste
1 small head cauliflower, broken
into florets
3 carrots, cut crosswise into
1/4-inch slices
1 large green or red pepper,
seeded and cut into strips
½ pound green beans, trimmed
and blanched in salted boiling
1 large zucchini, cut into strips
½ pound cherry tomatoes

1. Combine garlic, oil, lemon juice, vinegar, sugar and Dijon mustard in a small bowl. Whisk to blend, then season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

2. Place vegetables into a large shallow container fitted with a lid. Pour in marinade and toss to coat evenly. Cover with lid and marinate, tossing vegetables two to three times, for at least 24 hours before serving. Serves 6 to 8


On the Side

Chicken Liver Pâté

Bring a baguette or toast points, a small jar of Dijon or Creole mustard and you’re good to go.

3 tablespoons butter
¼ cup finely chopped onions
1½ pounds chicken livers,
2 hard-boiled egg yolks
4 tablespoons softened butter
½ cup heavy cream
1⁄3 cup Cognac
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
salt and freshly ground black
pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped green
onions or fresh chives

1. Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add chicken livers and cook just until the pink disappears. Remove from heat.

2. Purée mixture in a blender or food processor until smooth. Put the egg yolks through a sieve and add to the liver mixture together with the 4 tablespoons softened butter, the cream, Cognac, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Process to mix well.

3. Spoon the pâté into a decorative bowl, cover and chill for several hours.

4. Sprinkle top of pâté with green onions and chives before serving. Makes about 24 appetizer portions


Herbed Cheese Spread

Tip: Serve on party crackers, chunks of French or rye bread.

Makes about 20 appetizer portions

1/2 cup crême fraîche
4 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Pinch of cayenne
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1. Whip the crême fraiche in an electric mixer until fluffy and set aside.

2. In a separate bowl, whip the cream cheese with the remaining ingredients until light and fluffy.

3. Fold in the whipped crême fraîche and refrigerate until ready to use.


Chocolate Mint Cookies
2⁄3 cup butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
1⁄3 cup firmly packed dark brown
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ounce square unsweetened
chocolate, melted
1½ cups all-purpose flour
10 ounces mint chocolate morsels

1. Preheat the oven to 325 F.

2. Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy. Gradually add sugars, beating well. Add egg, vanilla and melted chocolate, mixing well. Gradually add flour, mixing well. Stir in morsels. Drop by level tablespoons onto a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on cookie sheets for about three minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool before storing in an airtight container. Makes about 3 ½ dozen