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Picnicking via Horseback
For those of us who relish a good hack in the country atop a challenging mount, this time of year, when spring is beginning to blossom, can be an incomparable pleasure. The vibrant vegetation is a refreshing and rewarding vista after the gray months of winter.
I have always found riding in the fresh, country air heightens my appetite tremendously. If you plan to take a long, leisurely ride away from civilization, it's best to prepare some food to stave off any pangs of hunger. Through trial and error, I found the best foods to take on a horseback ride were things that will hold up to the rigors of the trail, are light and uncomplicated and don't need any extra fussing or assemblage once I dismount and present the meal. Of course, any food eaten at the moment when starvation takes hold is appetizing, but it is a challenge to create a menu that can satisfy your packing needs as well as provide a balanced, nutritious meal.
The trick to eating well when transporting your meal by horseback is to prepare foods that will provide protein and energy but remain light in your stomach for the trek back home. I've put together a slightly spicy Asian-inspired menu for four people that offers both vegetarian and meat entrees. Don't be intimidated with the addition of chili paste in each dish. It's added to give flavor, not an overpowering heat.
Chicken wings are bathed in a dark, aromatic sauce overnight, then baked in the oven until they reach a rich, deep red-brown color. The vegetarian entree is sesame and peanut- flavored lo mein noodles that are tossed with green onions and julienned cucumber. Whenever I've served these noodles, I found they are satisfying to both the carnivore and the vegetarian. For those who prefer strictly vegetables, I made a raw vegetable salad of broccoli, snow peas, carrots, baby squash and radishes with a Thai-inspired dressing of fresh lime juice, garlic, chiles, basil and cilantro.
Fruit is the most logical and simplest choice for dessert. I usually prepare cubes of sweet cantaloupe and Asian pear and dress them up a bit by tossing them in tangerine juice, orange zest and mint, then thread them on skewers for ease in eating. Since it is simple to make and the ingredients are a matter of choice, I have not included any recipe for this. Mineral water is always my choice for beverage. Although having a champagne picnic via horseback sounds romantic, it could turn your pleasant experience into a dangerous one with inebriated riders galloping through the rough countryside.
The only items I would advise taking along with your food are plastic plates and forks, paper napkins, packages of the wet towels (for after-meal hand cleaning) and a blanket if you don't enjoy sitting on the ground. The less you need to bring to eat your meal, the better off you will be. Just remember everything you bring has to be tied to your saddle, so pack as light as possible.
If you find this experience to be very rewarding and want to pursue more opportunities like this, you should research the several horseback riding companies that provide riding holidays through various countries. Asking your travel agent is a good start. One company I would recommend calling is Equitour, stationed in Dubois, Wyoming. They provide top quality horses native to the country in which you ride and have spectacular week-long riding itineraries for both the intermediate and skilled rider. They can be reached at (307) 445-3363 if you live in Wyoming or, for those outside of this state, (800) 545-0019.
Asian Chicken Wings
makes 5 generous portions
For easier assembly, you can purchase the pre-cut chicken wings from your grocer's freezer section. Simply thaw and follow the remaining instructions. Remember, these must be started two days before serving.
2 inch piece of ginger root, peeled
2 bunches green onions
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup cooking sherry
1/3 cup Asian plum sauce
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup Asian sesame oil
1 teaspoon Asian chili paste
4 Asian star anise
1/3 cup honey
4 pounds of chicken wings
Roughly chop the ginger root and the green onions and place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse until the seasonings are cut into small pieces, then process until they become quite fine.
Transfer contents of food processor into a deep, heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the remaining ingredients except the chicken wings. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Cool.
Meanwhile, cut off wing tips. (Set tips aside for stock if you are ambitious.) Disjoint wings into two sections and place in a bowl or plastic container. Pour cooled sauce over them, tossing to coat all wings evenly. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 375�F. Oil two large, shallow roasting pans. (I found the black enameled roasting pans provided the darkest coloring on the wings.) Place your oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of your preheated oven.
Drain wings, reserving the marinade. Divide them between the two prepared pans. Bake uncovered 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, basting every 20 minutes with the reserved sauce and turning each wing as you baste. Halfway through the cooking, rotate each pan to the other shelf so they cook evenly. When cooked, remove wings from pans and place on sheets of foil in a single layer. (They will be a bit sticky so the foil is the easiest method to use.) After completely cool, place in an airtight container and refrigerate. Serve at room temperature.
Spicy Peanut and Sesame Noodles with Cucumber and Green Onions
These noodles are addictive and very soul-satisfying so plan on everyone enjoying a serving. Chinese egg noodles (lo mein noodles) can usually be found fresh in your grocer's refrigerated specialty foods section. You can substitute linguine.
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 inch ginger root, peeled and chopped
3 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
1/4 cup Asian rice vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
3 teaspoon Asian chili paste
1 bunch cilantro, leaves and stems chopped roughly
1 small cucumber, peeled and halved lengthwise
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
1 pound Chinese egg noodles, cooked and cooled to room temperature
2 teaspoon black sesame seeds (optional)
Place garlic, ginger root and sesame oil in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse until the seasonings are cut into small pieces, then process until they become quite fine.
Add the rice vinegar, soy sauce, honey, peanut butter, chili paste and cilantro leaves to the food processor bowl and process until a smooth sauce results. Reserve.
Julienne the peeled cucumber halves.
Place the noodles in a deep bowl and add the sauce. Toss well to coat all the noodles. Add the cucumbers and green onions and toss again. Sprinkle with black sesame seeds.
Serve at room temperature.
makes 5 generous portions
These vegetables taste better after marinating for four to six hours in the dressing.
2 large stalks broccoli, broken into bite size pieces
1/4 cauliflower, broken into bite size pieces
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut on the diagonal
2 green onions, cut into 2 inch lengths
2 cups snow peas, string removed
1/2 cup shredded red cabbage
1/4 of each red and yellow bell peppers, thinly sliced
3 tablespoon Asian seasoned rice vinegar
1/3 cup peanut oil
2 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 inch piece ginger root, minced
juice of 1/2 of a large lime (about 2 tablespoons)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 to 1 teaspoon Asian chili paste
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
Place the vegetables in a large bowl.
Whisk the remaining ingredients except the peanuts in a bowl to incorporate. Pour over the vegetables. Add the peanuts and toss well. Store in an air tight container in the refrigerator. Toss again just before serving.
Rosemary Furfaro is a freelance food writer.