A Picnic from My Mother’s Pantry

I am planning a gourmet picnic with family this weekend, so today I started on a few packable goodies using some of the amazing stuff my mother has preserved (as well as, you guessed it–more tomatoes!).  I always feel a little giddy with the sheer quantity of great ingredients I have on hand when I visit, and it makes me want to invent interesting dishes.  One of the things I wanted to work with was this gorgeous, violet-infused simple syrup that mom made last May, when all of the violets were blooming:

Is it not beautiful?  It has a delicate violet aroma and flavor, plus that stunning color.  With this I made up a simple fruit and cheese plate: goat cheese drizzled with the violet syrup, apple slices from our neighbor Patsy’s tree, and some crunchy pecans.  This was delicious and we ate it while working on the other recipes:

We also roasted a large pan of Sun Gold tomatoes to take along as a picnic bruschetta.  This is a simple way to amplify the flavor of tomatoes, and if you are not lucky enough to have home grown fruit with flavor, this will make even crappy grocery store tomatoes taste decent.  We started with a large number of fresh Sun Gold tomatoes:

Honestly, I cannot stop taking photos of tomatoes when I am here.  I am stunned by their beauty, particularly en masse (weird? guilty).

We washed these off and then dried them on a towel to minimize the moisture for the roasting process:

This method is simple: preheat your oven to 300 degrees, and toss the tomatoes in a baking pan along with some olive oil, salt, garlic, and fresh herbs–we used fresh basil and mint:

Let this roast until the tomatoes have released their juices and the skins have split–about 45 minutes to an hour, or longer for larger tomatoes.  Roasting concentrates the flavors in a beautiful way, and this is great just tossed with pasta.  I am using them for a bruschetta, so I lightly toasted some crusty bread and spooned on the roasted tomatoes and a sprinkle of that goat cheese:

Extremely delicious, and easy to pack the components for a picnic.  Finally, I wanted to use some of my mom’s lovely raspberry preserves, so I made a batch of White Chocolate Raspberry Shortbread Bars for the upcoming picnic. Two cups of red raspberry jam, made from fruit from the garden:

I made a basic shortbread with a cup of unsalted butter, a half cup of sugar, and two cups of flour.  I cut the butter in and then sprinkled in some pure vanilla, a pinch of salt, and a half teaspoon of ground ginger.  I pressed the dough out into a 9 by 13 inch baking pan and baked it at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, just to set the crust.  Then I spread the two cups of jam over the top and baked for another 20 minutes.

Let this cool down, and then melt a large bar (3.5 ounces) of white chocolate (I used Lindt) and drizzle over the top.  To melt chocolate, heat in the microwave in 15 second intervals, stirring after each, until it is smooth:

Let the chocolate cool completely before cutting this into 20 bar cookies:

If you are worried about all of the calories in these bars just imagine how many calories you will burn pressing that shortbread crust down into the baking pan.  It is hard work, trust me.

Thanks for reading!

-Angela

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11 Responses to A Picnic from My Mother’s Pantry

  1. Karen September 30, 2010 at 4:41 am #

    Wonderful picnic goodies! Those Sun Gold tomatoes look amazing. Nothing better than home-grown! And that violet simple syrup is such a beautiful color…Looks like quite the feast!

  2. Angela FRS September 30, 2010 at 4:51 am #

    Thanks Karen–and I appreciate the gratuitous tomato shot in your last post (I can relate!).

  3. Eric September 30, 2010 at 12:40 pm #

    Looks Delish!

  4. Anonymous September 30, 2010 at 3:08 pm #

    The simple syrup is gorgeous. Did your mom muddle the violet petals? Boil them?

  5. Angela FRS September 30, 2010 at 3:12 pm #

    I am not sure but I will have her post a response–I would love to try this with other edible flowers (I cannot get violets to grow in my arid Colorado yard).

  6. Angela FRS September 30, 2010 at 5:23 pm #

    OK, apparently you steep the flowers in hot water for as long as overnight, then strain the liquid and use that as the syrup base.

  7. Anonymous September 30, 2010 at 6:19 pm #

    Pink Syrup
    1 cup violet flowers
    1 cup sugar
    1 tablespoon lemon juice

    Place violet flowers in a hot pint jar,fill jar with boiling water, cover loosely, leave over night. Next day, strain infused liquid and discard flowers. Combine liquid, sugar and lemon juice in non reactive pan and heat to boiling. Reduce heat and cook until it thickens. Pour cooled pink syrup into jar and seal. It will keep 3 mo. in the refrigerator or can be frozen for longer storage. mom

  8. The WoodLand School October 1, 2010 at 2:45 am #

    I just can't get over the violet syrup! What a wonderful treat 🙂

    Meanwhile, I'm going to queue up that shortbread … yum!

  9. Yenta Mary October 1, 2010 at 1:13 pm #

    Gettin' in the car and inviting myself to that picnic! 🙂 And oh, that violet syrup is such a gorgeous luxury!!!

  10. Simply Life October 2, 2010 at 12:53 pm #

    wow! everything looks great!

  11. Angela FRS October 2, 2010 at 3:08 pm #

    Thank you! It was pretty delicious.

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