Victoria Day is picnic perfect

Queen Victoria’s Birthday is anticipated with great relish – not so much as a celebration of a birthday, but as a marker of the seasons, that first long weekend of the season when you have the whole glorious summer ahead. This is the time when cottagers make their initial trek northward to their dream on the lake, or plan some other enticing outing. With that in mind, Foodland Ontario has provided us with a selection of picnic-perfect food suitable for the portable feast.

Quinoa and Grilled Asparagus Salad
Quinoa, native to South America, is combined with Ontario grilled vegetables in this easy –to- prepare salad bursting with refreshing flavour. This vegetarian salad is a great option for brunch and outdoor celebrations, as a main dish salad or as a side salad to accompany grilled meat, chicken or fish. For a taste of Brazil substitute black beans for chickpeas. Likewise, for a taste of Chile substitute cilantro (coriander) for parsley.

1 cup (250 mL) quinoa, rinsed
1 lb (500 g) asparagus, trimmed
1 sweet pepper (any colour), seeded and quartered
1 large onion, cut into 1/2 inch (1.2 cm) slices
2 tbsp (25 mL) vegetable oil
1 can (19 oz/ 540 mL) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup (125 ml) chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp (5 mL) grated orange rind
1/4 cup (50 mL) orange juice
1 tbsp (15 mL) liquid honey
1 tbsp (15 mL) red wine vinegar and Dijon mustard
1 small clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 tsp (1 ml) each salt and pepper

In medium saucepan, bring quinoa and 2 cups (500 mL) water to boil; reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 15 minutes or until most of the water is absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand, covered for five minutes. Place in serving bowl; let cool. Meanwhile, place asparagus, sweet pepper and onion on rimmed baking sheet; brush with 1 tbsp (15 mL) of the oil. Place vegetables directly on greased grill over medium-high heat; close lid and grill, turning occasionally, until tender-crisp and lightly marked, five to 10 minutes, transferring back to baking sheet as they are done. Let cool slightly. Cut into bite-size pieces; stir into quinoa along with chickpeas and parsley. In small bowl, whisk together remaining oil, orange rind and juice, honey, vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper; pour over quinoa mixture and toss to coat. Serve at room temperature.


Grilled Sausages and Veggies
You will need plenty of napkins on hand with this take on Rio de Janeiro’s Sausage-on-a-bun smothered with grilled vegetables. The secret to perfectly grilled sausages is to grill them slowly on medium heat, adjusting heat if necessary and turning frequently with tongs. Do not pierce them or juices will escape, resulting in dry sausages and perhaps flare-ups.

1 lb (500 g) asparagus, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 onion, halved and sliced lengthwise
1 sweet pepper, seeded and thinly sliced lengthwise
1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
4 tsp (20 mL) balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp (2 ml) dried oregano
4 (1 lb/500 g) pork sausages
4 sausage buns, halved horizontally
1 tomato, chopped

In bowl, toss together asparagus, onion, sweet pepper and oil; transfer to grill basket. Place grill basket on greased grill over medium heat; close lid and grill, stirring occasionally, until tender and lightly marked, about 15 minutes. Return vegetables to bowl; toss with vinegar, oregano and salt and pepper to taste. Meanwhile, grill sausages alongside vegetables, turning frequently, until  browned and meat thermometer registers 160˚F (71˚C) about 25 minutes. To serve, place sausage in each bun; top with grilled vegetables and tomato.


Dinner Size Empanadas
These meat turnovers make perfect picnic fare because they can be eaten in the hand either warm or at room temperature. Serve with a green salad studded with cucumber and tomato pieces or crudités. For ease, the filling may be made a day ahead and completed as turnovers with prepared pie pastry.

1 lb (500 g) extra lean ground beef
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 lb (500 mL) asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch (1 cm) pieces
2 tomatoes, diced
1 hard cooked egg, chopped (optional)
1/4 cup (50 mL) sliced green olives (optional)
1 tbsp (15 mL) all purpose flour
2 tsp (10 mL) paprika
1 tsp (5 mL) each, dried oregano and cumin
1/2 tsp (2 ml) pepper
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
1/2 cup (125 ml) shredded old cheddar cheese
1 pkg (400 g) refrigerated pie pastry
1 egg, beaten

In large non-stick skillet, cook beef, garlic and onion over medium-high heat, breaking up beef with spoon, for about 10 minutes or until beef is no longer pink; drain off any fat. Stir in 1/2 cup (125 mL) water, asparagus, tomatoes, (egg and olives if using), flour, paprika, oregano, cumin, pepper and salt; reduce heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes or until slightly thickened and asparagus is tender. Transfer to bowl and refrigerate to cool completely. Stir in cheese. On lightly floured surface roll out each pie crust into an 11  1/2 inch (29 cm) Circle; place each on large parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet. Spoon half of the beef mixture onto half of each crust, spreading to within 1/2 inch (1 cm) of edge. Brush edge of each crust with beaten egg. Fold unfilled half of each crust over filling into half-moon shape; press edges with fork to seal. Prick tops with fork in several places; brush lightly with beaten egg. Bake in 400˚F (200˚C) oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.  Serve immediately or cool and refrigerate ready to transport. Cut into wedges to serve.

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