Kowalski’s and Top Ten Wine and Spirits Reveal Summer Backyard Picnics

Head to your own backyard for an al fresco feast.

Nothing says summer like a picnic. We turned to two local experts—Rachael Perron, culinary director at Kowalski’s and Bill Abrahamson, wine buyer/manager, Top Ten Wine and Spirits—for a summer picnic menu that can be enjoyed on your backyard patio, porch or deck.   Menu Prairie Breeze cheddar cheese, seeded crackers, blackberries and sliced soft fruits (i.e. nectarines, peaches, plums) and accompaniments Szechwan slaw Curried chicken salad wraps Almond toffee bars    Szechwan Slaw Serves 6 Ingredients 2 boxes Napa Salad (from the Grab & Go section in Kowalskis’ deli department) 2 tsp. Sriracha hot sauce 1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips 1½ cups chopped fresh pineapple ½ cup small red onion, sliced into thin half-moons ¾ oz. fresh cilantro, stemmed, leaves roughly chopped 2 cups crunchy wonton strips  To Make In a small bowl, whisk dressing from the boxed salads with hot sauce; set aside. In an extra-large salad bowl, mix remaining salad ingredients with bell pepper, pineapple, onion and cilantro; toss with dressing. Garnish with wonton pieces. Serve immediately.                                                                  Curried Chicken Salad Wraps Serves 8 Ingredients 1 rotisserie chicken, skinned, boned, shredded (about 4 cups) 1 cup finely chopped celery 1 cup dried cherries or dried cranberries ½ cup chopped green onions ¾ cup mayonnaise ½ cup sour cream ½ cup apple juice 1 Tbsp. curry powder ¼ tsp. coarse ground black pepper 1½ cups chopped cashew pieces 8 flatbread wraps or pitas or 16 slices of sandwich bread Bibb lettuce   To Make In a large mixing bowl, combine chicken, celery, cherries and green onions. In a medium mixing bowl, combine mayonnaise, sour cream, apple juice, curry powder and pepper. Spoon dressing over chicken mixture; stir to combine. Refrigerate, covered, at least 4 hrs. to overnight. Stir cashews into salad. Divide salad and lettuce among flatbreads.        Almond Toffee Bars Makes 24 Ingredients 14 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided, at room temperature ¾ cup brown sugar 1 egg yolk, at room temperature 1½ cups flour ¼ tsp. kosher salt 1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk 12 oz. bag mini semisweet chocolate chips 8 oz. bag Heath English toffee bits (not chocolate-covered toffee bits)  To Make In a medium mixing bowl using an electric mixer, beat 12 Tbsp. butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk; mix just until fully incorporated. In a separate small mixing bowl, mix together flour and salt; add to bowl with the butter mixture. Stir until no traces of flour remain. Press mixture evenly and firmly into bottom of a 9 x 13" nonstick pan (sides only sprayed with cooking spray). Bake in a preheated 350˚ oven until light golden brown (12-16 minutes). Remove from oven; allow to cool slightly (leave the oven on). In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine sweetened condensed milk and remaining butter; cook, stirring frequently with a silicone spatula until bubbly, then 5 minutes more until thick. Pour evenly over crust; bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven; sprinkle evenly with chocolate chips. Return to oven; bake 3-5 minutes until chocolate begins to melt. Remove from oven; spread chocolate with a knife evenly over the surface of the filling. Sprinkle toffee pieces evenly over melted chocolate, pressing in lightly. Cool at room temperature 30 minutes. Cool completely in the refrigerator; cut into 1½ x 4" bars. Store tightly covered in the refrigerator up to 5 days.      Wine Picks from Bill Abrahamson: 1. Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Dry Riesling 2011 ($10) This may be the greatest white wine value in the country today, vibrant and crisp with lime, apple, peach and a hint of orange peel flavor and aroma. It’s Riesling and it is DRY. It’s a classic white wine for seafood also. Serve chilled. 2. A to Z Oregon Pinot Gris 2011 ($15) A bright and appealing wine with tropical aromas of lime, kiwi and tangerine leading to tangy citrus flavors combine with stone fruits like apricot and peach for a great ride all the way through to the finish. Serve chilled. 3. Kenwood Vineyards Russian River Pinot Noir 2010 ($15) This may be one of the best reds available for the price. Lots of Bing cherry and raspberry flavor with appropriate acidity and soft tannins make this a wine to buy by the case. Serve slightly chilled, approx. 55 F.   Beer Picks from Bill Abrahamson: Obviously, with the spiciness of this menu we want to avoid overly hoppy beers and focus on those that lean more to the malty side. 1. Lift Bridge “Farm Girl” Saison ($9.99 per six-pack) Pale golden ale in the Belgian Farmhouse tradition, this great tasting and refreshing ale (made in Stillwater, Minn.) is perfect for spicy Asian influenced cuisine. Serve chilled. 2. Bell’s Oberon Summer Ale ($9.99 per six-pack) The quintessential summer brew made from malted wheat and barley, it has a light, citrusy flavor to handle the heat of the day and the heat of the cuisine. Serve chilled. 3. John Henry “Three Lick Spiker” Ale ($9.99 per six-pack) This is a terrific dessert beer for the almond toffee bars. The style is an Imperial Stout that is finished in Bourbon barrels and it’s loaded with toasted malty sweetness and dark chocolate flavors. Delicious! Serve chilled. & Tips for stylish, safe and simple picnics:Look for fashionable picnic supplies that are also eco-friendly, such as lightweight reusable plates, cups and utensils. Kitchen towels make practical reusable, eco-friendly napkins, too. They also can be used to cushion items in your basket or cooler and are useful when it comes time to clean up.Keep a basket, box or bag near the back door, ready for an impromptu outing. Fill it with silverware, serving utensils, plates, a sharp knife and cutting board, napkins, plush hand towels, paper towels, wet wipes, insect repellent, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, garbage bags and extra-large zip-top plastic bags for storing dirty service items and linens. Don’t forget a board game, Frisbee or ball!Even if you’re staying home, keep cold foods cold (at or below 40˚) and pack a cooler right before heading out, even if it’s just a few steps. If you do drive to your picnic spot, transport your cooler in the air-conditioned car, not in the trunk. Keep frozen water bottles or beverages and reusable ice packs ready in the freezer, too. Add them to your cooler when you’re ready to go. An insulated cooler packed with ice is safer than a basket for most food items.If you are bringing both raw and prepared foods, be aware of cross-contamination. Keep these items separate and securely wrapped, and bring plenty of clean serving utensils.Keep food out of direct sunlight. Eat hot foods within 2 hours of preparation (1 hour if it’s hotter than 80˚) or purchase or chill it in the fridge before packing it in your cooler. Toss food that's been out of the cooler for more than an hour. Pack tuna, egg and chicken salad for sandwiches separately from your bread, and pack it in the cooler. Make sandwiches when you’re ready to eat. Pack salad dressing separately from prepared greens, fruits and veggies, too.