Perfect time to make Moms life a picnic

Warm, golden rays of sunshine are enough of an excuse for me to pack my picnic basket and head for the nearest grassy knoll. For those of you who need more legitimate reasons to spread out the picnic blanket, two opportunities are coming up within days of each other: Lag B’Omer on Thursday, May 10 and Mother’s Day on Sunday, May 13.

Lag B’Omer is a minor Jewish holiday and elicits different opinions about what it commemorates. But everyone agrees it is a joyful holiday and perfect for menus celebrating spring.

Why not combine both celebrations in one perfect day?

This picnic should not be just another outdoor meal. Make it a special event, a festive occasion that becomes a magical experience of sharing good food in the sunshine and fresh air. Not only does this get Mom out of the kitchen but gets her out of the house as well.

A pita bread banquet is quite fitting as a theme. Pack a good selection of fresh pita breads in all sizes, from minis to maxis, whole grain and white. A variety of tasty fillings to stuff in these sandwich pockets turns them into a meal. Don’t forget a robust assortment of Mediterranean olives and a salad of roasted red peppers to nibble on while setting up. To complete the banquet, add fruit, cookies and sparkling cider or light wine.


Ratatouille and Spinach

Serves 12

2 Tbs. olive oil

1 onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 small eggplant, diced

1 small red bell pepper, seeded, deveined and diced

4 oz. small cremino mushrooms, quartered

1 cup chopped tomatoes

1⁄2 tsp. dried thyme

1⁄4 cup chopped fresh basil

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

6 full-size pita breads, cut in half to make 12 pockets

3 cups spinach leaves, coarsely chopped

In a medium skillet, over medium-high heat, heat oil. Sauté onion, garlic, eggplant, pepper and mushrooms until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and thyme, cover, and simmer 8 minutes. Uncover and simmer another 5 minutes. Stir in basil. Let cool and add salt and pepper.

Line pita halves with spinach and fill with ratatouille.


Farmers Salad

Serves 12

2 cups diced red radishes

1 English (hot house) cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced

6 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced

1 cup low-fat cottage cheese

3 Tbs. plain yogurt

1⁄2 tsp. paprika

2 Tbs. snipped fresh dill

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

6 (6-inch) pita breads, cut in half to make 12 pockets

oak leaf lettuce leaves

In a medium bowl, combine radishes, cucumber and scallions. In a small bowl, combine cottage cheese, yogurt, paprika and dill. Add to vegetables and mix well. Add salt and pepper. Line pita halves with lettuce leaves and fill with farmers salad.


Sweet and Hot Red Pepper Salad

Serves 8

2 lbs. red bell peppers, roasted, peeled and seeded

2 Tbs. olive oil

1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar

1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

1 Tbs. honey

1⁄2 tsp. ground cumin

pinch cayenne

2 cloves garlic, minced

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Cut red peppers into strips and put in a shallow bowl. Combine all the remaining ingredients except parsley and toss with peppers.

Let marinate a few hours or overnight. Sprinkle with parsley.

Louise Fiszer is a Palo Alto cooking teacher, author and the co-author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking.” Her columns alternate with those of Faith Kramer. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to [email protected].