Summer cabin meals are better alfresco.

By Lisa Readie Mayer

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Summer calls for a good, old-fashioned picnic. Sure, you can pack one to-go for a day on the boat or a hike in the woods, but there’s no need to even venture beyond the cabin compound. Whether you simply lay a blanket on the grass, spread a towel on the dock or balance a plate on your knee while sitting on the porch rocker, it’s always a delight to eat outside in the fresh air and sunshine.

If your picnic takes you past the porch, you’ll want food-packing containers that are both pretty and practical. For instance, glass mason jars are ideal for salads – layer dressing on the bottom, followed by chopped veggies, cheese and other sturdy toppings, before adding lettuce at the top, so it won’t get soggy. A quick shake tosses the salad when you’re ready to eat. Individual bento boxes with divided compartments keep chicken salad out of the fruit salad, and washed-and-repurposed wine bottles with screw-tops are a handy way to transport a cocktail for the group.

This picnic menu features a delicious sandwich made with grilled boneless pork loin, grilled red onions, mild green chiles, gruyere cheese and a saucy topping. After assembling, the sandwich is toasted right on the grilling grid. Creamy Chipotle Macaroni Salad is a colorful go-with that’s loaded with summer veggies and gets a bit of smoky heat from canned chipotle chiles. And, in this cool cocktail, the iconic picnic drink – lemonade – gets the grown-up treatment thanks to a splash of whiskey and triple sec.
Fair warning: With a meal this tasty, the ants may beat a path to your basket!

Creamy Chipotle Macaroni Salad

The smokiness of the grilled corn and chipotles puts a modern spin on a picnic classic.

Dressing:
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
2 canned chipotle chile peppers in adobo sauce,
seeded and minced
2 teaspoons adobo sauce (from the can)
1½ teaspoons kosher salt

Salad:
12 ounces dried elbow macaroni
4 ears fresh corn, husked
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 bell peppers, 1 red and 1 green, finely chopped
12 ounces grape tomatoes, each cut in half
3 scallions (white and light green parts only), thinly sliced
½ cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves

  • Prepare the grill for direct cooking over high heat (450° to 550°F).
  • In a large serving bowl combine the dressing ingredients. Set aside.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook according to package directions until al dente; drain, rinse under cold water and drain again. Transfer the macaroni to the serving bowl with the dressing and toss to combine.
  • Brush the corn all over with the oil, and then grill over direct high heat, with the lid closed, until browned in spots and tender, 8 to 10 minutes, turning occasionally. Remove from the grill. When cool enough to handle, cut the kernels off the cobs.
  • Add the corn, bell peppers, tomatoes and scallions to the bowl with the macaroni and mix well.
  • Refrigerate until ready to serve. Just before serving, gently mix in the basil.

Recipe & photo used with permission from Weber’s New American Barbecue, by Jamie Purviance, Weber-Stephen Products LLC, 2016

Pork Loin Sandwiches

If you won’t be eating your picnic for a while, you can skip the step of grilling the sandwiches, but be sure to build them on nice crusty rolls.

FNP4716_cmykMarinade:
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon prepared chili powder
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic powder

Pork loin:
Handful of smoking wood chips
4 boneless pork loin chops, each 4 to 5 ounces and about ½ inch thick
½ cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons store-bought barbecue sauce
1 red onion, about 8 ounces, cut into 4 slices, each about ⅓ inch thick
4 crusty rolls, split
8 thin slices Gruyère cheese
1 can (7 ounces) whole mild green chile peppers, drained, opened flat and seeds removed

  • Soak the wood chips in water for at least 30 minutes.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the marinade ingredients. Place the pork chops in the marinade, turn to coat evenly, and let stand at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes.
  • Prepare the grill for direct and indirect cooking over medium heat (350° to 450°F).
  • Mix the mayonnaise and barbecue sauce. Set aside.
  • Drain and add the wood chips to the charcoal or to a smoker box on a gas grill, and close the lid. When smoke appears, grill the chops and onion slices over direct medium heat, with the lid closed, until the chops are almost fully cooked and the onions are charred, 6 to 8 minutes, turning once or twice.
  • Remove from the grill.
  • Spread the cut side of the rolls with the mayonnaise mixture. Place the bottom halves of the rolls on a baking sheet and top each with 1 cheese slice, 1 pork chop, 1 onion slice that has been separated into rings, 1 green chile pepper, another slice of cheese, and the top half of the roll. Press the top of the roll firmly with your hand to compress the sandwich (try not to break the bread).
  • Place the sandwiches over indirect medium heat and – using a spatula or cast-iron skillet – press them down one at a time. Close the lid and grill for 2 minutes. Turn the sandwiches over, press them down again, close the lid, and grill until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted, about 2 minutes more.
  • 103301_Jack_Daniels_Lynchburg_Lemonade_ORIGINALRemove the sandwiches from the grill, wrap each in parchment paper, cut in half, and skewer with toothpicks, if desired.

Recipe & photo used with permission from Weber’s New American Barbecue, by Jamie Purviance, Weber-Stephen Products LLC, 2016

Lynchburg Lemonade

So good, you might want to set up a lemonade stand. Adults only, please.

1 part Jack Daniel’s whiskey
1 part triple sec
1 part sour mix
4 parts lemon lime soda

  • Combine and stir. Garnish with a lemon slice.

Recipe & photo courtesy of Jack Daniel’s Distillery