Dining Al Fresco this Spring

While it’s still chilly everywhere else in the country, we Floridians are enjoying our best weather of the year. Now is the time to revel in the mild climate and sunshine before the sweltering heat of summer sets in. Of the infinite number of ways to enjoy a beautiful day, dining al fresco could easily be the most popular.  Be it at the beach, on a boat, on your back patio, or in the park, a picnic is a must in the springtime.  Picnics can be a relaxing, casual, and romantic way to enjoy delicious food, great company, and the beautiful scenery.

A part of the Culinary Collection, Capture the Coast is full of delicious recipes best enjoyed outdoors, but the recipes showcased here make use of common ingredients, can be made a day ahead of time, and keep well in a cooler.


Dill Dip

Capture the Coast Cookbook, pg. 47

½ cup sour cream

2/3 cup mayonnaise

1 to 2 tablespoons grated onion

1 tablespoon dried parsley

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1 teaspoon dried dill weed, or 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh dill weed

½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Dash of Tabasco sauce

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Chill, covered, for 8 to 10 hours before serving.  You may use lower-fat sour cream and mayonnaise in this recipe.


Mediterranean Orzo Salad

Capture the Coast Cookbook, pg. 58

This refreshing salad recipe yields 12 servings, but holds up well for several days, making delicious leftovers. However, you may also want to consider halving the recipe.

¼ cup good-quality olive oil

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

Zest of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

½ cup sugar

2 cups orzo

½ cup pine nuts

½ cup golden raisins

6 tablespoons finely chopped pitted black olives (optional)

6 tablespoons finely chopped shallots or red onion

 ½ cup thinly sliced fresh basil

4 ounces feta cheese, drained and crumbled

Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, oregano, 1 teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and the sugar in a small bowl. Cook the pasta using the package directions. Drain.

Place the pine nuts in a dry small skillet. Cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes or until evenly toasted, shaking the skillet constantly.

Combine the pasta and dressing in a medium bowl and toss to coat.  Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.  Add the pine nuts, raisins, olives, shallots and basil and mix well.  Add the cheese and toss lightly. Season with salt and pepper.


Antipasti Sandwich

Capture the Coast Cookbook, pg. 94

This sandwich is better the longer the ingredients meld together.

 If you don’t have focaccia on hand, or don’t like it, the sandwich would be just as delicious on your bread of choice.

1 loaf focaccia

2 or 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

8 ounce sliced deli ham or turkey

          3 roasted red bell peppers, cut into strips (page 52 in Capture the Coast provides instructions)

 4 slices provolone cheese

2 cups arugula

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Cut the bread into halves horizontally.  Spread the Dijon mustard in a thin layer on the cut sides of the bread.  Layer the ham and roasted bell peppers on one of the bread halves.  Layer the cheese on the remaining bread half.  Toss the arugula with the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a bowl.  Pile on top of ham and roasted bell peppers.  Place the remaining bread half cheese side down on top of the arugula.  Press firmly and cut into four equal pieces.

Place the sandwich on a layer of plastic wrap, keeping all four pieces together, and wrap tightly.  Store in the refrigerator or a cooler until serving time.  The longer the sandwich is stored, the better the flavors of the sandwich will meld.


Ricotta Cheese Cookies


2 cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

½ cup soft ricotta cheese

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg, beaten

Sprinkles (optional)



1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 to 2 tablespoons boiling water

Anise, lemon, or orange extract to taste

For the cookies, preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt together.  Beat the butter and cheese in a mixing bowl until smooth and creamy.  Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and mix well. Add the egg and mix well.  Add the flour mixture gradually, beating constantly.  Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a cookie sheet lined with baking parchment.  Sprinkle the tops with sprinkles.  Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until the cookies have a matte finish.  The cookies will not be light brown or brown on the bottom.  Cool on the cookie sheet for 5 to 10 minutes or until cool to the touch.

For the icing, sift the confectioners’ sugar into a bowl.  Add the boiling water 1 tablespoon at a time until the desired consistency, stirring constantly.  Stir in flavoring.  For the assembly, dip cookies in icing or spread over the tops with an offset spatula.  Store in a well-sealed container.


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