This time of year just begs for casual outdoor dining, where you can
relax, get cozy, eat with your fingers, and, if you’re feeling sappy,
feed each other little bites.
By Katie Lee
There’s something so intimate about a picnic with your guy. And as
the temperature begins to rise, eating outside becomes refreshing and
romantic. But no boring ham-and-cheese sandwiches or store-bought potato
salad here! Entice him with an exotic Middle East-themed menu of foods
rich in bold flavors. Pack a colorful blanket or tapestry and a few
pillows for lounging. Find a pretty spot to settle down or, if the
weather doesn’t cooperate, spread out on the floor of your apartment.
Between the aromas and tastes, you’ll be transported.
Meze Platter with Herbed Pita Crisps
Meze is traditional in Greece and Turkey and is the equivalent of
tapas or finger food. Make these homemade pita crisps, and buy the rest
in the deli at your grocery store. A drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
and a squeeze of lemon juice brighten up all the flavors.
2 T unsalted butter, room temperature
1 T minced fresh herbs
(parsley, rosemary, thyme, etc.)
2 pitas, split in half, and each
half cut into fourths (use whole wheat for a healthy alternative)
Baba ghanoush (eggplant dip)
Extra-virgin olive oil
For the pita crisps: Preheat oven to 400°F. Use a
fork to mix butter and herbs in a bowl, then spread onto the pita
slices. Sprinkle with salt, and bake until crisp, about 10 minutes.
For the meze platter: Arrange hummus, baba ghanoush,
dolmades, olives, tabbouleh, feta, and lemon on a platter. Drizzle
with extra-virgin olive oil, and serve with the pita crisps.
Moroccan Mint Tea
On my trip to Israel this past summer, we drank a refreshing mint tea
at the end of every meal. Store tea in a thermos, and pack it in your
picnic basket. I like to serve this tea in decorative Moroccan glasses.
Bonus: After drinking, your breath will be fresh and you’ll be ready
3 c. water
1 green-tea bag
1 c. fresh mint leaves
Boil water. Place tea bag, mint leaves, and sugar in a teapot. Add
water, and stir. Let steep for 5 minutes. Strain and serve.
Couscous Salad with Shrimp
Couscous is a staple throughout the Middle East. The traditional
stuff takes some time to prepare, but quick-cooking couscous, like in
this recipe, is still very tasty. Couscous is usually served with a
stew, but I like it as a salad for a lighter alternative that’s easy to
1 6-oz. box herb-flavored couscous
10 medium shrimp, cooked,
1/2 c. chopped cucumber
1/2 c. sliced grape
2 T chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
3 T extra-virgin
1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
Prepare couscous according to the package instructions. Let cool. In a
large bowl, combine the couscous with shrimp, cucumbers, tomatoes, and
parsley. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, and toss to combine.
Chill until serving time.
For dessert: Bring dried fruit — like apricots,
dates, prunes, and figs — to enjoy with your tea.
Perfect for a picnic: I love the chic Sofia Mini
Blanc de Blancs — small cans of sparkling wine inspired by Sofia