If clear summer weather is in the forecast this weekend, consider entertaining off-site and host a picnic in the park. Round up a few friends and have everyone pitch in and bring components to create a fabulous meal. One person should bring sides (store bought or homemade — it doesn’t matter), another brings the fresh fruit and beverages, and another a main entree like fried chicken fingers. Finally, you arrive with this show stopping sandwich and a simple dessert, if desired. I recently pitched in hosting a picnic in the park and created this grilled vegetable, mozzarella and prosciutto sandwich for the occasion. My friends dubbed it “The Symphony.” I’d like to think it was due to the delicious and harmonious taste of the sandwich, however, since our picnic was at an outdoor symphony performance, I think other factors were involved. Regardless of the name sake, it is a fantastic item to bring to your next gathering, whether indoors or out. Click to see the recipe and tips for packing up a portable outdoor meal.
Norm’s Notes: Picnic Potluck
Picnic potlucks are a great way to hold a communal meal and split the work and costs among a group of friends. Coordinating menu items and dispersing duties and equipment needs yields big benefits. Each party is responsible for only a few items to bring which dramatically lightens the load and provides a more inspired and creative menu since folks have the time to create an interesting dish.
Equipment wise, disposable plates and cups are essential, however, everything you bring needn’t be disposable. Add a little character to the “table-setting” by dressing it up with cloth napkins and metal flatware. [Usually forks are all that’s needed.] A small cutting board and steak knife will come in handy for the cutting duties like portioning the sandwich, slicing a wedge of cheese, or removing price tags from recently purchased chairs and the like. As for the “adult beverages,” first check and see if it is legal to carry them in your park. If so, a large thermos is the most discreet way to transport them, plus it helps keep the temperature constant.
Since the grilled vegetables and mozzarella make up the bulk of the sandwich, feel free to omit the prosciutto to create a vegetarian entree.
The olive mixture provides a lot of saltiness in the sandwich, but I added a little sugar to the olive mixture to help balance its taste. When spooning the olive mixture over the cut side of the bread, be sure the oil and olive pieces get into the crevices of the bread so it soaks up and holds their pungent flavor.
The “Symphony” Sandwich aka Grilled Summer Vegetable Sandwich
Makes 6 to 8 servings
1 large zucchini
2 small yellow squash
1 large red bell pepper
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper
¼ cup olive oil, divided
½ large red onion cut into ½-inch slices
1 (12-oz.) French baguette
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 (8-oz.) ball fresh mozzarella, sliced
2 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto
½ cup chopped assorted pitted green and Kalamata olives
1 garlic clove, finely grated
¼ tsp. sugar
1. Preheat grill to HIGH (around 450 degrees). Cut zucchini and squash lengthwise into ¼-inch thick slices. Cut bell pepper into 2-inch wide strips. Toss zucchini, squash, bell pepper, basil, next 2 ingredients and 1 Tbsp. olive oil together in a large bowl until coated. Brush onion slices with 1 tsp. olive oil.
2. Grill vegetables, covered with grill lid, 2 to 3 minutes, on each side or until charred and just tender. Remove and let cool 15 minutes.
3. Split baguette horizontally. Spread bottom cut side with mustard. Layer with mozzarella, grilled vegetables and prosciutto. Stir olives, garlic, sugar and remaining olive oil together in a small bowl until combined. Spoon half of olive mixture over top of prosciutto. Spoon remaining olive mixture on cut side of top piece of bread. Cover with top piece of bread facing cut side down.
Transportation: Assemble sandwich on a large sheet of parchment paper. Wrap up tightly and slide into bag or sleeve baguette was purchased in. The sandwich may be stored in the refrigerator up to 2 hours before serving. Any longer, and the bread may become too soggy.