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Afternoon Tea Picnic at the Ice Skating Rink
Back where I come from, people would think I'm crazy for considering an afternoon tea at the neighborhood ice rink or frozen pond. The weather is just too cold there to enjoy something as mild as tea and sandwiches. More likely, you would find much heartier food, served steaming hot, to combat the icy chill of the wind and snow.
Not here in balmy northern California. This weather just does not evoke those same thoughts in me. So, when four of my friends wanted to get together for an afternoon of food and ice skating at the rink in San Francisco's Embarcadero, I thought of a lighter version of a typical northeastern menu.
I have prepared an afternoon tea usually seen in the comfortable drawing rooms of older homes and grand hotels and positioned it in an outdoor setting that will revive weary skaters. The menu is similar to an indoor tea, complete with a thermos of steaming Earl Grey and a thermos of decaffeinated peach tea and tiny, crustless sandwiches of Dungeness crab and artichoke hearts with sunflower sprouts or chicken and green grapes with toasted almonds.
For the sweet tooth in most of us, I've included fudgy raspberry brownies that pair deliciously with the fruity and flowery notes in the hot teas. Of course, we can't forget the lemons, sugar and milk for the teas and small plates, forks and napkins to provide most of the comforts of home.
You may feel a bit silly setting up such a lavish picnic at the ice rink, but you'll soon discover that lots of skaters are admiring your feast and wishing they, too, had the ingenuity to think of such a simple, but stylish, way to pamper themselves while skating.
Dungeness Crab, Artichoke Hearts and Sunflower Sprout Sandwiches
makes 15 sandwiches
4 canned, drained artichoke hearts (packed in water)
1 1/2 cups cooked Dungeness crab
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 tablespoons light mayonnaise
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon grated onion
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley (optional)
10 sour dough bread slices
1 1/2 - 2 cups sunflower sprouts
Mash the artichoke hearts with a fork until they become small chunks. Add the crab, lemon juice, mayonnaise, parmesan cheese, onion, salt, pepper and parsley. Butter bread slices. Top five slices with sunflower sprouts and about 1/3 cup of the filling. Top with remaining bread, buttered slices facing down. Trim crusts. Cut each sandwich into 3 rectangles. Cover and refrigerate. Keep cool until served.
Chicken, Green Grapes and Toasted Almond Tea Sandwiches
makes 20 sandwiches
1 1/2 cups finely chopped, cooked chicken
1/2 cup sliced Thompson grapes (or any favorite seedless grape)
2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
2 tablespoons non-fat plain yogurt
1 tablespoon minced sweet onion
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons toasted slivered almonds
10 slices white bread
Combine chicken, grapes, mayonnaise, yogurt, onion, celery, salt, cumin and almonds in a bowl and mix well. Butter one side of each bread slice. Spread about 1/3 cup of salad on five bread slices. Top with watercress, if using. Top with other bread slices, buttered side down. Cut off crusts. Cut into 4 triangles. Cover and refrigerate. Keep cool until served.
makes 24 brownies
These brownies are so soft and buttery, they benefit from keeping chilled until about 1/2 hour before eating. The recipe makes quite a lot so you'll have plenty to take on your picnic and enough leftover for a few days of treats.
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks)
4 eggs, beaten
5 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup walnuts
2 cups flour
3/4 cup raspberry preserves
Butter 13"x9" baking pan. Preheat oven to 325�F. Place sugar, water, vanilla and butter in a saucepan. Warm over medium heat to melt butter. When melted, remove from heat and add chips and eggs, stirring often until chips melt. In a mixing bowl, blend remaining ingredients except raspberry preserves. Add melted ingredients, stirring well. Pour into the buttered baking pan, smoothing the surface with a spatula. Drop tablespoonfuls of raspberry preserves onto the top of brownies. Cut the preserves into the brownies with a knife until much of the fruit is swirled into the batter. Bake for approximately 40-42 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with fudgy crumbs stuck to its sides. Cool completely before cutting or refrigerate after cooling and cut when brownies have thoroughly chilled.
Rosemary Furfaro is a freelance food writer.