See the menu these notes are written about (with takeout order form) here.
Picnic Menu - Monday and Tuesday
My mother claims that food writer Laurie Colwin once said a picnic is an excuse to eat a bag of potato chips for dinner. I've not been able to find this quote, but it seems like something she would have written. It also seems like something my mother would claim Laurie Colwin had written, as a justification for her own potato chip eating behavior.
This alleged quote is certainly excuse enough for making potato chip cookies, a personal favorite. There are many potato chip based desserts in the world, and if the selection here doesn't satisfy you, may I suggest this list from Brit + Co with recipe links?
Potato chips aside, it's definitely true that Laurie Colwin has a well respected baked mustard chicken recipe recommended for picnic use. This Hel's Kitchen menu has its own version of mustard chicken, marinated in a Butterfly Bakery Miso-Mustard salad dressing (Heady Topper Mustard, no less).
Another literary picnic reference that I did not follow although I was sorely tempted: the Wind in the Willows picnic. If you're curious there's a recreation described here on the Food in Literature blog.
Instead, I've focused my picnic efforts on chicken, bread + spreads, and hearty salads that can be served at room temperature. Two somewhat unusual dishes on this menu to be aware of:
Green Bean Pesto: No, it's not made with green beans. It's made with green bean leaves (plus green peas, garlic, parsley, walnuts, parmesan, and olive oil). This recipe was inspired by the many creative garden produce recipes in the CSA Cookbook - also the source of my new interest in stir fried watermelon rinds and pasta sauces made with tomato leaves, tomatoes, and mint. If you don't like the word "creative" applied to your pasta sauces, rest assured that it is still recognizable as being within the pesto family.
Asian Sweet Potato Salad: In some ways this salad isn't unusual at all, in that it tastes a lot like classic Thai papaya salads. Instead of papaya, though, it has pickled sweet potato. If you like Thai food, you'll recognize the sweet and spicy sauce (note that it includes dried shrimp so is not vegetarian). By Thai food standards, it is not very hot. If you don't like heat in your food, though, you might find it spicy.
Pie Contest Menu - Wednesday and Thursday
Pies are a quintessential American food, but they're also found in various forms around the world. In recognition of that, this is a menu of more global pie references.
The first place to look for non-American pies is (in my book) the United Kingdom. They do, after all, have steak and kidney pies. In this case the Bedfordshire Clanger -- a hand pie that is cleverly dinner and dessert in one: half meat, half fruit. That's it. It's a simple dish.
The Daikon Radish and Dandelion Green pastry is one that I discovered a mere two weeks ago in the Hel's Kitchen Taiwan Night. I love bitter flavors, and it works particularly well to load the filling with bitter then take the edge off with a buttery crust.
This Galician Empanada (also known as Galician Pie) is most easily described as a calzone the size of a very large pizza. The filling can be anything, but often is tuna, green olives, and vegetables, cooked in white wine (as it is here). I regret only that I do not own a giant wood fired oven to bake it in.
Vegetarian Tamale pie is a more rustic version of tamales, still with masa harina, beans, and cheese but in a simpler form for the home kitchen (ie no wrapping in corn husks).
A final international item of note on the pie contest takeout menu is Ginger Bars. My recipe comes from New Zealand and uses a brave amount of powdered ginger. Don't imagine gingerbread, these are bar cookies with thick icing on top.
An aside: I've heard New Zealand cooking referred to as a step below British Cooking. Note that both cuisines made it onto our debut week menu. I've written in their defense before, with menus, and if you're curious the New Zealand post is here and the British one is here.