Tag Archives: picnics

A favorite picnic food.

IMG_6467As Jane Brody wrote about the original version of this recipe in her Good Food Book, Middle Easterners don’t really eat anything along the lines of our potato salad, but if they did, it might taste like this. Of course, she wrote that a long time ago, so for all we know, they may have adopted the tradition by now.

This dish is very convenient for picnics, because it contains no mayonnaise to worry about. Its creaminess comes from sour cream and yogurt, which along with the mint and vegetables make it refreshing for summer meals. The warm spices balance everything out. I’ve made only minor changes.

Middle Eastern Potato Salad

about 6 servings

2 # small to medium red potatoes, skins on, steamed or boiled
5 green onions
2 T. minced fresh parsley
2 T. chopped fresh mint leaves
Paprika for garnish

2/3 c. sour cream
1/3 c. yogurt (or you can use all yogurt, or any proportion of the two ingredients.)
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

As soon as the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them into quarters or halves or 3/4-inch cubes. In a medium bowl, combine the dressing ingredients.  Add the potatoes to the dressing and toss lightly to coat. Taste and add more salt or seasoning as desired. (At this point I often refrigerate the salad several hours or overnight.)

pot salad 09

Within an hour or two of serving, chop the mint, parsley and onion, and gently mix about half of it into the potatoes.  Arrange the potatoes on a serving platter, sprinkle the rest of the vegetables opotato saladn top, and then sprinkle on some paprika if desired. Be sure to take the salad out of the refrigerator a little while before serving so that it is not too cold to taste all the flavors.

I usually make a triple batch, which amounts to a little more than a gallon of salad.  If you make the smaller amount it may not be necessary to mix some greens into the potatoes; they could all go on top.

Thanks to Lorrie who asked her readers about their favorite picnic foods, because she reminded me that I’ve been wanting to share this recipe for a long time.

Revisiting the Fort Ross Fourth

I wasn’t able to participate with my church in the Fort Ross pilgrimage this year, but I thought I’d re-publish my article about the yearly event that I shared five years ago. I hope you all had a blessed Independence Day!

Fort Ross State Historic Park has been a favorite destination of our family for decades. It is a restored fort from the early 1800′s, when California was not yet a state in the Union, and for a while the Russians had an outpost in Northern California for fishing and trapping and growing food. You can see lots more photos and read about the history of Fort Ross online.

I loved the place from our first discovery of it when the children were small. A historic association holds yearly re-enactment days that are great fun, but just visiting on our own was relaxing and renewing, at least in the summer, when the sun would break through the fog and you could smell the ocean and the baking grasses at the same time, and imagine the people of long ago.

After I joined the Orthodox Church, I was delighted to learn that our diocese has permission to use the chapel at the fort twice a year, including on the 4th of July. We worship in the morning and have a picnic afterward when the sun usually comes out. There is plenty of time to get back home in the evening for Vespers and maybe fireworks later on. I’ve made the pilgrimage three times now, and my pictures here are collected from all the visits.

It’s a short walk from the parking lot to the actual fort enclosure. The photo at right is looking across the field from the chapel.



The church building as restored is small, and sometimes we let the whole of it serve as the altar, with the congregation and the choir standing outside and the priests and deacons coming in and out frequently as they pray and serve Communion.

This year we all squeezed into the chapel, which is very intimate. I couldn’t get a good picture because of that window, but I am posting a bad one just to give an idea of the atmosphere. Very thin idea, indeed, as there is only the one visual dimension, and no conveyance at all to the other senses.





After the liturgy, the clergy and many others made the trek to the cemetery to sing a short service for the ones buried there. Others of us waited within the walls of the fort for their return.




The bishop brought a picnic lunch, too.


We waved plenty of flags to show our thankful allegiance to the nation whose birthday we were celebrating, at a fort now owned by Americans.



One year N. brought his hammered dulcimer and treated us to music at the picnic.

After lunch, K. and I took a walk down to the lovely cove below the fort.

One young parishoner and his mother had found treasures in nearby tidepools.




When we got back, the history talk by the park ranger was still going on. It leads up to instruction in loading and firing the cannons.

My favorite priest is getting ready to load the cannon.


A blue study of guys waiting for the explosion.

Bang! Poof! No cannonball was shot–only gunpowder.

The majority of California’s state parks are likely to be closed because of the deep debt our state is in. If that happens, our Fort Ross pilgrimages may become a fragrant memory, and something to hope for in the more distant future.

Update: Since I wrote that last gloomy paragraph, grassroots efforts of many people have improved the likelihood that the park will endure and continue to be one of my favorite destinations — and maybe as a pilgrim in 2015.

Philosophy of Pie and Picnics

Vegan Coconut Pie

Between tonight and tomorrow this subject must become theoretical, as Monday my church begins fasting in preparation for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. Though I admit to making vegan desserts, like this coconut pie for Father L.’s birthday, usually I’d rather just wait until a fast-free day to enjoy the butter and cream. Hey, by then I’m happy to pour cream in my coffee and call it dessert.

But that’s not festive enough for a picnic, or for a tea party. I think both of those events demand some cake, if they are going to be traditional (in addition to the scones, if you want those). Sadly, our family is generally lacking in cakes, with the major exception of Pearl, who learned on her own and makes lovely ones. I don’t think her household lacks cake; I don’t know anything about their picnics.

The rest of us, going back a couple of generations and on both sides of the family, eat pie. One of us even declared, “Cakes are for looking at.”

I can’t grant that much myself, because my very few attempts at cake decorating beyond the sprinkling of some coarse sugar did not draw any comments about prettiness. My favorite topping for children’s birthday cakes of long ago was an array of gumdrops — but with that we start slipping into the candy category.

It may have been Big Sister Pearl who baked this birthday cake for Soldier, using plenty of that ingredient that is so important. I can see something in his expression that hints at what he would do 20 years down the road: leave cake out of his wedding altogether, in preference for pie.

I blame bloggers for giving me the feeling that something is missing. Have you noticed how many blog posts have been written about this or that recipe for cake, which comes out of the oven in the late morning or afternoon just in time to have a slice with some tea, at the kitchen table with the children just home from school, or just taking a break from homeschool?

Proof that I baked a cake

It’s not clear how I would work that tradition into my lifestyle at this point. My husband would be alarmed and reluctant, to put a good spin on it, and might not eat any cake. I’m considering reviving my Girlfriends Tea Parties just so I can make a cake or two. When I did this before it was a great way to try out a few of the hundreds of dessert recipes I have in my collection. After we sampled them together, all the ladies took home most of the leftovers to share with their sweeter-toothed husbands.

One huge advantage to packing the cake into a basket instead, to be eaten on a blanket spread under a tree, is that I wouldn’t have to clean the house beforehand. But the Old English style of picnicking has also not caught on in the Glad Tribe. Our group has favored throwing handfuls of trail mix into their mouths so that they can get to the mountain peak and back before dark. None of this leisurely sitting around eating and fattening up.

But I have a new desire to broaden our style in that regard, too, probably from reading too many blog posts about Wind in the Willows and grown-up girls taking their Toad and Mole dolls on outings with yummy noshables.

It’s good that I will have a few weeks to think about these important questions — or rather, not to think about them. And by then I’ll be too busy getting ready for a new grandchild, and getting ready for a trip…Then there will be another fast, and then another new grandchild. All these ideas for events that require a Lot of Planning really don’t fit in this summer.

But it won’t take long to throw together a pie to set before my dear husband, a blackberry or cherry would suit just fine, and leftovers won’t be a problem.

Sunless and Satisfying Day

The beach cottage is next to a creek that forms a lagoon at this time of the year, cut off from the frigid Northern California ocean water by sand dunes and therefore swimmably warm, if you don’t mind the algae.

The whole place is full of memories for me, going back more than 20 years to the first time I was here with our children, who with their homeschooling friends built rafts of driftwood and punted around, while their baby sister crawled through the sand.

Those are abalone shells lined up on the fence.

We’ve come many, many times to this sleepy village, and this week it was to be with our friends who lived full-time in the house for a spell but now only vacation there. Mr. Glad and I are normally just a couple these days, but they were lucky enough to have four of their five daughters with them.

No sooner had we arrived than I discovered the fuchsias and Chinese firecrackers that had enthusiastically taken over the mostly untended yard. They make you think you are in a tropical paradise, until you look up and notice the fog and the golden hills.

In the background of the third fuchsia pic, you can see the wild fennel reaching for the skies. A lot of it has already dried and is getting mildewed.

The fields of rattlesnake grass a block away also contradict the tropical theme. I picked bundles of the stuff before I came to the conclusion that it’s really past its prime and that I should just come back next June to get it when it is still green and the “rattles” are whole.

Sand Art by Mr. G

We packed up some cheese, French and Italian breads, and watermelon, and drove up the coast to another beach just for fun.

One can’t easily predict how grey and cool the days will be out there, but we expected the sun to come out by the afternoon, and we pointed out the little patches of blue we could see here and there near the horizon.

At least it wasn’t terribly cold, though I did keep my sweatshirt on all day. The fog did not lift, but the sun burned some young chests right through it. And I was so happy and busy smelling the seaweed and the beach plants that I didn’t even notice the weather change that never happened.

Some of us took a walk along the bluffs, where I found so many interesting things to see and click my camera at, including stickers and a minty purple flower that filled the low moist places.

Rattlesnake grass and cow parsnip

When we returned to the cottage it was to cook together and cozy up with a big dinner and loving camaraderie — lively talk and laughing followed by sitting on couches and in rockers. Mr. G and I couldn’t help ourselves, taking lots of pictures of the girls so clearly content and comfortable with each other, tucked in with overlapping arms and legs and smiling so much you wouldn’t believe it.

I didn’t mind the grey skies, because the flowers and friendship made the best kind of sunshine.