While I was looking for picnic photos, I came across this. Hello, MJ?
Darlings, well, well, well, this almost turned into the competition that never was. Like every one else, even La Diva had difficulty finding the right time to picnic! Each time La Diva picked a day, I was thwarted by something, like pesky ol' work, social commitments, illness and bad weather!
But Diva prevailed.
Originally, I had visions of a lovely sunset picnic for my personal deejay and sidekick, DJ Nevah L8 (4 dinnah)'s birthday, laying on the grass in a lovely park down on the point of South Beach. With incredible views of downtown and the Port of Miami, the spot I wanted is on the end of Biscayne Bay on Government Cut canal where all the large cruise ships leave to go out to sea. But, it was not meant to be. Recent afternoon showers made the ground wet and as our impending picnic hour loomed, more clouds threatened, thunder rumbled and the mozzies came out in full force!
The birthday picnic could not be rescheduled ONE MORE TIME. La Diva bought the food. And cooked. Nope, it was now or never.
So, as our backup plan, we simply ate in our backyard in case the clouds opened up and drowned out our al fresco dinner. Luckily, we have a pretty nice back yard right on the water on Biscayne Bay.
Star Island in the foreground and downtown Miami behind it makes for a sultry island-meets-city view from the pool/bbq area downstairs. We had front row seats for the sunset surprise.
My picnic basket entry is:
Spicy chipotle chicken fingers with cucumber slaw, roasted sweet potato and black bean salad, refreshing fruit salad with feta, walnuts and basil and of course, white wine sangria!
The recipe for the chicken came from the Food Network, I had printed it up long ago and was culling my recipes when I found it and figured now was as good of a time as any to make it. You can see the recipe HERE.
Notice that the recipe calls for "masa." Masa is used to make corn tortillas and the like and no, I wasn't buying any for this recipe. Nope. I have enough stuff crowding my pantry left over from one time recipes and La Diva figured she'd "make do" with what I had. Since "masa" is corn, I figured corn meal would be a good substitute, after all, I often use corn meal to bread my Cajun fish fillets. So, off to the pantry I go and find: no corn meal. Ok how about polenta? NOPE. OUT. Then grits? Ahhh....yep. I find that grits are a larger and more coarse grind than corn meal or polenta but what the heck?! I added the grits to the panko breading mixture and voila, extra crunchy breading! Moral of the story: Use what you've got, don't go crazy trying to find something that might not be worth the effort or can be easily substituted.
RESULT: I thought the chicken could have been even spicier as it had good chipotle flavor but it was quite subtle. Next time I make this, I will not add the extra buttermilk and see how spicy it is, I think the added buttermilk is a waste. I also used half the oil to fry the chicken as well. But damn, yummy, crunchy and succulent, the chicken was nice. The cooling cucumber slaw added moisture but it was not vital to the dish. I also would have preferred a crunchier slaw as once I grated the cukes, they became slightly mushy. Regular cole slaw would be the preferred choice next time.
Fruit salad: I wanted to kick up good ol' regular fruit salad a notch by combining two recipes together. I often make watermelon and feta salad over greens (or sometimes blueberries or strawberries) so why not combine them into a lettuce-free salad with the savory flavors of feta cheese? I simply added watermelon, blueberries, strawberries, toasted walnuts, torn fresh basil and made a dressing of extra virgin olive oil, white wine vinegar and salt and freshly cracked pepper. Nice, refreshing and a bit of zing!
The black bean potato salad is easy, cost-effective and quick. And everyone likes it. Simply dice sweet potato, toss with olive oil and roast in a high oven (450) until brown (you have to turn after 10 minutes and cook for another 10) and then let cool. In a bowl add a can of strained black beans, add potatoes, fresh chopped cilantro and red onion. I then dress the salad with lime juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and ground cumin. I like to make this about an hour before serving to give the flavors a chance to meld. YUM.
Finally, La Diva's white wine sangria. I dunno, something about drinking red in the summer is SO HEAVY to me. I get a magnum of a not too expensive (but not too cheap) white wine (this was a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc) and in a pitcher I add some rum (or vodka) for that KICK, top it off with Sprite and add various cut fruits. This time I added cherries, grapes, strawberries, lemon and limes. The more liquor you add, the more kick you'll get! DJ Nevah L8 does not like white wine but the birthday boy was more than happy to swill my sangria down all night!
After the brief and intense sunset, we were awarded with a colourful sky of peach, pink and purple.
So, darlings, seems like most of you were super busy for this challenge like La Diva. If you were able to participate, THANK YOU FOR YOUR EFFORT. If not, there's always next time. But for those that have entered, I ask that you be patient. I have out of town guests coming tomorrow and am working too. I'll TRY to announce a winner as soon as possible but it might take some time for me to get to see youse! I would like to announce the winner sometime over the weekend, so check back when you can! Good luck to all!!!cooking class, cocktails, parties, cocktail party, Miami, coral gables, events, bartending class, cocktail class, Laura Lafata, Miami Beach, miami cooking classes, bachelorette parties, bachelorette party, personal chef, corporate events, catering, personal chef, party entertainment, www.ladivacucina.com, top chef