Sunday, May 25, 2008

Celebrate the Season

Tomorrow is Memorial Day, and if you are like me, you are looking forward to the first-of-the-season cookout. Many of us will invite friends and family over for a backyard barbecue while others will load up the car and head out to their favorite destination.

If it's the latter, why not visit one of Connecticut's 138 state parks and forests open to the public year-round from 8 a.m. to sunset. Rich in terrain, diverse activities, and locations around the state, they provide an opportunity to get away from concrete and blacktop for a few hours and enjoy another color of Connecticut ~ earth tones. You will come home feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, and isn't that what a holiday is meant to do?

Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket artfully describes the fun and unique activities located at the following State Parks (seven) and one State Forest: Devil's Hopyard (East Haddam); Gillette Castle (East Haddam); Kent Falls (Kent); Hammonasset Beach (Madison); Dinosaur (Rocky Hill); Talcott Mountain (Simsbury); and Harkness Memorial (Waterford.) Also, Mohawk State Forest (Cornwall.)

All have excellent picnic facilities, including grills and picnic tables, most have hiking, many have fishing, a couple are interpretive, some are handicapped accessible, and I repeat, all have picnicking. If you don't have my book yet and want to visit this weekend, check out the particulars at

Speaking of unique, the following is a new and delicious recipe from Cruising Connecticut (P. 72) to enjoy at a state park ~ or wherever you end up. As for me, I'm still waiting to see what my daughters are cooking up!

Halibut en Papillote with Pesto (By Chef Richard Moriarty)
Richard says, "At the Center for Culinary Arts, students learn that steaming is a terrific way to prepare nutritious meals quickly. En papillote (awn-poppy-yote) is a cooking method where the food is steamed in its own juices. Parchment paper or aluminum foil is used to wrap the food in a tight package, providing a neat, quick efficient cooking medium. And here's the best part. If you use tinfoil to create your papillotes you can ook them outside on the grill. These bundles of flavor can be prepared in advance and cooked quickly at service time. Foods that are appropriate for steaming are vegetables, fish and shellfish. Halibut with pesto en papillote is an easy fix that still looks elegant, even presented in aluminum foil."

* Place 1 pound fresh halibut steak in the center of one sheet of tinfoil about 14 inches long, and season lightly with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle 1 oz. dry white wine over the fish. Spread 4 tbs. pesto over the top of the fish in an even layer. Fold the long sides of the foil over the fish and seal by crimping the edges together. Then twist one end into a tight seal and bend it upward into a thin handle. Repeat with the other end. Refrigerate until ready to cook.
* Preheat the grill to hot. Place the tin foil papillote on the grill and cook until done, about 10-12 minutes. Unseal the foil and serve at once. (Serves 2)

Basil Pesto (Makes about 2 1/2 cups)
* Place 6 cloves garlic, peeled in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process until garlic is minced. Add 1 cup fresh basil leaves, washed and 1 cup fresh curly parsley, washed and pulse until minced. Add 3/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts, rough chopped and pulse until well chopped, but not fine. Add 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese and pulse until just mixed. With the processor running, add 3/4 cup Olive oil quickly and process until just mixed. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
* This pesto freezes well, and can be used in many different recipes.


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