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Picnic-friendly dishes for a quiet holiday meal in a park

Addie Broyles
This potato and goat cheese tart is from "Family Style: Shared Plates for Casual Feasts" by Karen Tedesco.

With all this talk of what will Thanksgiving look like, maybe you’re opting out altogether this year.

One of my most memorable holidays as an adult was the year my son was almost 2 and we skipped out on the big family dinner and headed to a friend’s house on the Gulf Coast. We made a lamb roast and spent the whole day by ourselves and it was gloriously quiet.

This year, many of us will be spending the day by ourselves because of the pandemic, but maybe these dishes will inspire you to make something decidedly un-Thanksgiving as a way to make the day memorable for yourself.

Central Texas’ picnic weather also seems to be extending much longer than usual, so to break up your holiday (or everyday meal) routine, you could pack up these dishes along with a blanket and a couple of canned beverages and hit your local park, while maintaining a safe social distance from others (and wearing a mask when you can’t).

Beets with Chives and Toasted Hazelnuts with Arugula and Pancetta Dressing

This mix-and-match salad from “Salad Party: Mix and Match to Make 3,375 Fresh Creations" by Kristy Mucci includes three elements: roasted beets with chives and hazelnuts, a pancetta dressing and a big bowl of arugula. The book is filled with interchangable recipes that inspire cooks to take one salad base (here, the arugula, but you could substitute Brussels sprouts, summer squash or soba noodles), and a topping (roasted beets, sauteed mushrooms, charred corn, shredded chicken, for example) and a dressing. The book is bound so that you can flip each recipe section to remix the salad recipes. Mathematically speaking, there are more than 3,000 possible salad combinations, and although some make more sense than others (capers, fennel and cabbage might be a little odd), flipping through variations on the three core components of a salad will certainly spice things up long after the holiday season. If you are taking this salad on a picnic, take the dressing in a separate container and dress the salad when you get there.

— Addie Broyles

For the beets:

6 large beets, trimmed and cleaned

1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped

2 tablespoons fresh chives, finely chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon

Freshly ground black pepper

For the salad:

2 pounds arugula

1/2 cup diced pancetta

1 garlic clove, peeled and minced

1/4 cup minced shallot

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt, such as Maldon

Freshly ground black pepper

Fill a large pot with water and add a generous amount of kosher salt. Bring the water to a boil, add the beets and cook until tender, about 45 minutes. Peel, quarter and transfer to a large bowl, and combine with the hazelnuts, chives, olive oil, lemon juice and vinegar. Season with sea salt and pepper. Let cool or serve warm. Beets with chives and hazelnuts can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Wash and dry the arugula thoroughly before use. Dry arugula will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.

In a small pan over medium-high heat, cook the pancetta until the fat is rendered and it’s starting to crisp, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Remove from the heat and add the shallot, vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store in an air tight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

To serve, place a bed of arugula on a plate and spoon the beets on top. Drizzle with the dressing and serve.

— From “Salad Party: Mix and Match to Make 3,375 Fresh Creations" by Kristy Mucci (Chronicle Books, $19.95)

Potato and Goat Cheese Flatbread

This is my quick take on a white pizza — pizza bianca — a savory tart topped with potatoes, cheese, pesto and arugula greens. The secret to making it is to use frozen puff pastry dough instead of a traditional yeasted pizza dough. I love how the thinly sliced potatoes (I use a mandoline to slice them) turn out tender with crisp edges, merging into the flaky pastry and soft goat cheese; it’s a carb lover’s dream. I recommend using an all-butter puff pastry dough — Dufour has a good and readily available one. This flatbread, which doesn’t require any serving utensils, is great to bring along to a picnic or an outdoor holiday gathering during the coronavirus pandemic.

— Karen Tedesco

1 (14-ounce) sheet frozen puff pastry dough, thawed according to package directions (keep it cold until ready to use)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 teaspoon finely chopped or grated garlic

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or rosemary

8 ounces baby Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled and cut into parchment paper–thin slices

Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon

Freshly ground black pepper

2 green onions, sliced

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese

2 tablespoons pesto sauce

2 cups baby arugula greens

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the pastry dough on the prepared sheet and unfold it. Using your hands, press the dough into a rustic rectangular shape that almost reaches the edges of the pan — don’t worry if it’s not perfect. Poke random holes all around the dough with a fork or a small, sharp knife.

Drizzle the dough with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and sprinkle it with the garlic and thyme, rubbing them evenly over the surface.

Toss the potatoes in a bowl with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and season them with salt and pepper to taste.

Layer the potato slices over the dough, overlapping them and leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edges. Scatter the green onions over the potatoes and sprinkle them with the Parmesan.

Bake the flatbread until the edges of the crust are puffed and golden, 17 to 20 minutes.

Remove the flatbread from the oven and immediately top it with the goat cheese. Spoon the pesto randomly over the flatbread, then sprinkle it with the arugula. Slice into pieces with a knife or pizza cutter to serve.

— From “Family Style: Shared Plates for Casual Feasts” by Karen Tedesco (Page Street Publishing, $22.99)

Kristy Mucci's new book is called "Salad Party: Mix and Match to Make 3,375 Fresh Creations."