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Ideas for Southern-Style Picnic Menu?

notquitethereyet Jun 16, 2010 10:40 PM

Hey all,

I'm planning an indoor/outdoor event and want to serve a Southern picnic type menu. The catch is that it needs to be 100% vegetarian ( and if possible 100% vegan).

I've thought of some things but haven't been able to come up with a menu that seems cohesive. It's not a sit-down type event so I want things people can pile on a paper plate and eat small portions of or pick at throughtout the event.

Any ideas?

I'm pretty good at veg/veganifying things so I'll take regular non-veg suggestions too.

Thanks a lot!

  1. hollyd Jun 19, 2010 07:19 AM

    black-eyed pea salad: mix vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste. Use to dress 2 cans black eyed peas, diced red onion, red and green pepper, jalapeno. Let sit for a day. Add cilantro or parsley at the last minute.

    Cucumber salad: same dressing as above without the cayenne. cover cucumber and red onion and let sit for a day

    As a NC girl, I can attest that these two salads are at every summer picnic.

    4 Replies
    1. re: hollyd
      alkapal Jun 19, 2010 07:21 AM

      yes indeedy. i don't know why they call that pea salad "texas caviar"? i guess it should just as well be NC caviar? ;-)).

      1. re: alkapal
        hollyd Jun 19, 2010 07:32 AM

        exactly! But we call it that sometimes too.

        1. re: alkapal
          dexmat Jun 20, 2010 07:36 AM

          According to sources online and Texas lore, the dish was created by Helen Corbitt for a New Year's Eve party at the River Oaks Country Club in Houston when she was chef there; this was ca. the late 40s, early 50s. It did not acquire the moniker Texas Caviar until she was in charge of the restaurants at the Driskill Hotel in Austin a few years later. She is most famous as long time head of food services for the Neiman-Marcus restaurants and wrote numerous cookbooks. She was a native New Yorker and didn't care for black-eyed peas and came up with the idea of pickling them as an alternative to Hoppin' John to make them palatable to her and it went over big. I don't know if anyone knows why it was dubbed Texas Caviar. I have three of her cookbooks, among the first I ever bought but I never look at them anymore except out of historical curiosity, and it's not mentioned in any of them.

          I always thought the ironic thing was that River Oaks is the wealthiest neighborhood in Houston and many of the members there would have been able to buy real caviar by the barrel, but I guess if it wasn't known as that while she was there that no longer applies so the ironic thing is that this Southern dish with a Texas moniker is actually a Yankee recipe.

          For the OP, I grew up in Texas and think of myself as a Southwesterner not Southerner but the first things that come to mind for a Southern picnic would be potato salad, pimento cheese, deviled eggs, something with greens (collards, mustard greens, turnip greens) and maybe something with okra (maybe pickled) as far as vegetables. It's also difficult to imagine a Southern picnic without cold fried chicken.

          Where I grew up was not a good area for growing salad greens and I never heard of arugula nor, I doubt, did anyone even know of it, but the South is a big place.

          1. re: dexmat
            alkapal Jun 21, 2010 02:59 AM

            thanks for the historical information, dexmat. i too have a helen corbitt cookbook, but as you say, there's no mention of the texas caviar dish.

            i spent one hot (HOT) summer in houston near river oaks. so, the irony is not lost on me! ;-).

            i suspect arugula was grown where the climate was not as hot as in florida and texas. so these states probably were more likely to accommodate the growing of arugula: NC, TN, KY, SC .

            anyone from alabama, s. georgia, s. mississippi, s. louisiana that knew of growing arugula? <i have to check its growing zone>

            """""Product Description:
            The Arugula Rocket Salad Roquette, 'Eruca sativa', is one of the most popular "new" greens. The interesting flavor of Arugula will add spunk to any boring salad. Descriptions such as hot with a hint of nut flavor, tart, and spicy are used to describe Arugula. Roquette Arugula is most often eaten raw in salads but is also steamed or added raw to many other dishes, such as pizza. Arugula is a green much like lettuce and is best in cool temperatures.
            Arugula, when mature, grow to 2 to 3 feet tall, but the leaves are tastiest and less bitter when harvested 2 to 6 inches long. The flowers are white and are also edible. Plant in early spring, 3 to 4 weeks before the last average frost date and plant successive plantings therafter every 3 weeks until first fall frost approaches. Rocket Salad Arugula prefers light, fertile, moist, and well drained soil. In warmer climates, delay planting during the heat of the summer."""""" http://www.naturehills.com/product/rocket_salad_arugula.aspx

            yep,from the following garden discussion i link below, it looks like arugula can't take really hot temps, and in the "south" where it is grown, it is in the cooler seasons.

            and yes, the south is a big place! ;-).

      2. n
        notquitethereyet Jun 18, 2010 02:38 PM

        Thanks for the great suggestions.

        Yeah, I know without meat it's not quite authentic. I guess I want to satisfy my craving and maintain my vegetarian-ness, so compromise is in order.

        I'd love to do something fried in place of chicken. I was trying to think if I could bread and fry some vegetable, but I'm not sure. I've never done it before.

        I am leaning toward potato salad, cole slaw, baked beans, maybe corn and bean salad, fruit in some form. Still trying to work out the details.

        Thanks for all the suggestions everyone!

        3 Replies
        1. re: notquitethereyet
          will47 Jun 18, 2010 03:16 PM

          You could bread / fry frozen (and then thawed, with moisture squeezed out) tofu. We do this for "fish" tacos, and it's great. Or homemade seitan "ribs". Some sort of collards, maybe with liquid smoke to replace some of the ham / pork taste? Potato salad with vegenaise? Vegan Mac and "Cheese" (I'm pretty partial to one of the methods on this site: http://veganyumyum.com/2009/01/mac-ch... )?

          You might take a peek through "Vegan Soul Kitchen" if you can get your hand on a copy, and see if anything resonates.

          1. re: notquitethereyet
            alkapal Jun 18, 2010 04:55 PM

            have you ever tried confetti salad? there are lots of versions, and it really is very versatile. here are a couple of recipes, but you could add cukes, celery, etc.:

            look at these variations! http://www.google.com/images?client=s...

            i think one of those confetti salads would be neat with cornbread -- like a southern panzanella. or maybe it's better just to have cornbread alone, to eat with many things.

            1. re: notquitethereyet
              lowereastrittenhouse Jun 21, 2010 06:39 AM

              Fried okra? Chow chow is great. I'd second the suggestion for black-eyed peas.

              And if you're looking to deep fry a vegetable, Scott Peacock and Edna Lewis have a recipe for deep-fried celery hearts!

            2. m
              mpjmph Jun 17, 2010 07:02 AM

              Before I saw vegetarian I though cold fried chicken... But for a meat free picnic, I will second Janet's suggestions and add biscuits or homemade bread with fig or pear preserves.

              1. Tripeler Jun 17, 2010 06:22 AM

                Some sort of three-bean salad? KIdney beans, small white beans, and garbanzo beans in a light vinegar dressing with green beans and wax beans? Easy to do vegan dish, for sure.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Tripeler
                  alkapal Jun 17, 2010 06:33 AM

                  i adore three bean salad. if you're near a trader joes they have a fresh green bean and wax bean mix.

                  i just used their fresh cut green beans proper to make a fingerling potato and green bean salad. simple vinaigrette. tasty and good served room temp.

                2. alkapal Jun 17, 2010 03:31 AM

                  i'd add texas caviar to the menu. pimento cheese. refrigerator pickles. icebox cole slaw.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: alkapal
                    LaLa Jun 19, 2010 10:31 AM

                    plus one on the pimento cheese.pinto beans and cornbread, maybe?
                    Squash casserole,macaroni and stewed tomatoes, blackberry cobbler.

                    1. re: alkapal
                      LaLa Jun 19, 2010 10:32 AM

                      oh and corn pudding and garlic grits

                    2. j
                      Janet Jun 17, 2010 12:12 AM

                      OK, as a Southern Belle, I have to say if there isn't pig it isn't southern.

                      mustard potato salad. of course mine has egg in it

                      macoroni salad

                      Benedictine spread

                      marinated vegetables

                      fruit salad

                      onion and tomato sandwiches

                      cole slaw

                      Angel Food cake with 7 minute frosting

                      7 layer salad and leave the bacon out

                      spiked watermelon

                      amborsia salad

                      beer cheese and crackers

                      pickled cucumber and onion salad

                      tomato and cucumber Miracle Whip salad

                      deviled eggs

                      blanched asparagus

                      baked beans with molasses, onion, mustard, catsup

                      corn any way you want to fix it

                      I can't even visualize a picnic without ribs, hamburgers, pork tendrloin, steak, or brisket. The South really needs to cook with pork parts to season.

                      good luck

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: Janet
                        Cherylptw Jun 18, 2010 06:44 PM

                        I'm with you on the pork...southern spells pig pickin's, ribs, and other smoked meat delectables. However, I posted awhile back a recipe for "Pulled" Tofu BBQ that may be of interest in which the tofu was grilled then shredded & simmered in sauce to be served on buns or just on a plate with sides.

                        Another dish that is southern is fried tomatoes: my version uses red tomatoes instead of green and they're cornmeal crusted & served stacked with a whole tomato per serving sliced & sandwiched with a pesto sauce or slow simmered tomato sauce and some cheese. In your case, you can use soy cheese; garnish with fresh basil leaves.

                        A couple of other options are a marinated fresh green bean & yellow wax bean salad; I created a recipe that included oven crispy proscuitto and garnished with toasted cornbread croutons which just won me $500.00 in a recipe contest. You could "vegetarian/veganise" it. Finally, recently I made a arugula salad with thinly sliced Vidalia onion & fresh sliced peaches & served with a sweet onion vinaigrette that got rave reviews. Southern all the way.

                        If you're intersted in any of my suggestions, I'll be glad to share the recipes.

                        1. re: Cherylptw
                          alkapal Jun 19, 2010 06:21 AM

                          and the peaches are good right now!

                          just saw the neely's making a bbq sauce using peach nectar. YAH!! http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/pa...

                          fried ripe tomatoes? they have got to be mushy! and pesto? arugula, no one knew when i was growing up in the south. not to pick, cheryl, but you's strayin' out of the south, girlfriend. ;-).

                          of course, you redeem all of that non-southern-ness by honoring miss vi-dalia!

                          ps, i love your prosciutto idea with the cornbread croutons in the bean salad. i've got someone sending me their recipe for lima bean salad that has prosciutto, mushrooms, shallots, red bell peppers in a lovely vinaigrette, and i can't wait to make it.

                          1. re: alkapal
                            Cherylptw Jun 19, 2010 08:12 AM

                            Actually the fried red tomatoes are not mushy, they're ripe but firm so they hold up to the frying especially since they're double dipped in flour & coarse ground cornmeal, plus they have to be cut thick enough to hold up. My grandmother's recipe & she was born & raised in NC; she also grew every green you can think of including arugula, which by the way, lends itself well with it's peppery accent against the sweetness of the peaches & Vidalias.

                            Why not pesto? If I would have said Basil Vinaigrette, would it have sounded better? It's essentially the same components as pesto. Nearly every garden I see here in NC has basil in it so it's a given, I'll give you that pine nuts aren't southern but pecans & walnuts are and there are tons of recipes using them as a substitution. Keep in mind that the south is a very large region.

                            I did a bbq sauce using frozen & thawed peaches (fresh is even better but for purposes of this recipe & time, I went with frozen) & believe it or not, prepared bloody mary mix..it was all pureed then simmered & really good. Anyone interested can find the recipe here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ca...

                            1. re: Cherylptw
                              alkapal Jun 19, 2010 05:09 PM

                              did you grow up in the south eating arugula or basil? in my estimation, those are not "traditional" southern food components. for sure they're grown and used nowadays. i adore arugula, and have basil growing in the back yard for all sorts of herb pastes.
                              that bbq sauce is intriguing -- but using a bloody mary mix may be quick but expensive. let me drink the bloody mary, ok? :-).

                              1. re: alkapal
                                Cherylptw Jun 19, 2010 06:42 PM

                                I didn't grow up the south; my family (mother & father) was born & raised in NC so I spent all my summers, holidays & family occasions in NC. My grandmother grew arugula & basil along with some of every other herb & vegetable you could name. Because my mother was raised on it, she cooked it as well, so to us, it's southern.

                                I recently found out my grandmother grew something called "rape", a green like collards....I'd never heard of it but it's my understanding she also mixed in in with her "mixed greens" which included arugula. Arugula might not have been "common" to all southerners but in my family's neck of the woods, it was. I bought a pack of rape seeds to plant in the fall so I can determine if I remember the flavor of them.

                                Yeh, that bbq sauce had to be thrown together and plated with the tenderloin in 30 minutes so I had to use something that had some flavor.

                                1. re: Cherylptw
                                  alkapal Jun 19, 2010 06:57 PM

                                  i used to spend summers in highlands, north carolina. it was beautiful, and the gardens we saw were terrific! the water from the mountain streams is the very best water in the world. i wish i could have gallons of it right now!

                                  i looked up the rape plant: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/mv123 it is in the mustard family.
                                  i think rapeseed is what "canola" is made of. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/491375/rape
                                  tis a pretty plant. it is "brassica napus"

                                  related to
                                  "rapini" in italian (aka broccoli rabe). brassica rapa http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rapini

                                  i grew up in florida, which i suspect is too hot for arugula, anyway. but i never heard of arugula until several years ago.

                                  by the way, have you ever tried the "glory" brand of collards? they taste like home-made! or pret-ty darn close. http://www.gloryfoods.com/Products/Se...

                                  1. re: alkapal
                                    Cherylptw Jun 19, 2010 07:05 PM

                                    North Carolina is beautiful; I've lived here for 20 years...thanks for the info on the rape plant...I went on wikipedia but only saw the rapini posting...I like kale so I guess I'll like the rape.

                                  2. re: Cherylptw
                                    LaLa Jun 20, 2010 07:18 AM

                                    My granny grew arugula too and thank God I have never lived out of the South!
                                    Ky, Tn . and Sc

                                  3. re: alkapal
                                    jwg Jun 19, 2010 07:04 PM

                                    Growing up in Tennessee (I am 50), we never heard of fresh arugula or basil. Dried basil was only used in spaghetti sauce. I did not learn about fresh basil until the 80s with the Silver Palate Cookbook.

                                    1. re: jwg
                                      alkapal Jun 19, 2010 07:07 PM

                                      i think cheryl was lucky to have a gardening grandmother with a huge variety of herbs and plants!

                                      i have relatives from all over the south, too -- so my experience is not just of florida "southern". ;-).

                                      1. re: jwg
                                        alkapal Jun 19, 2010 07:10 PM

                                        ...and if you used dried basil in your spaghetti sauce, you were "gourmet." LOL!

                                    2. re: Cherylptw
                                      hollyd Jun 20, 2010 09:15 AM

                                      I spent my first 18 years just outside Charlotte, and my next 7 in Asheville. My grandmother grew about 10 kinds of greens, all were chopped and cooked down together for "greens". Turnip, "rapi", collards, mustard, arugala (which she called rugala), beet greens, etc. made for a nicely balanced dish.

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