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Published: 8/10/2004

Herbed Farfalle and Beef Salad

8 ounces farfalle (bow tie) pasta

1/3 cup olive oil (divided)

1 New York strip steak (12 ounces)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup lemon juice

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 cups arugula or torn spinach leaves

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1/4 cup torn mint leaves

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside.

In small skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add steak and cook about 4 minutes per side for medium doneness. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from pan and cut into slices.

In large bowl, whisk together remaining oil with lemon juice, garlic, cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add arugula or spinach, herbs, steak and pasta. Toss well. Serve at once or cover and chill up to 24 hours ahead.

Yield: 4 main-dish servings

Source: Christina Ferrare's Family Entertaining (Golden Books, 1998, $30).

NECTARINE TART

This tart, from " Picnics " by Sara Deseran (Chronicle Books, 2004, $14.95), should be made a few hours in advance. The raw tart shell can be frozen for as long as a month, but the tart should be baked the same day as the picnic.

1 1/2 cups flour, plus extra for rolling

3/8 teaspoon salt (divided)

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter

1 to 3 tablespoons ice water

6 cups (about 2 1/2 pounds) unpeeled nectarines, halved, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 teaspoons flour

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cubed

Prepare tart shell: Combine 1 1/2 cups flour and 1/8 teaspoon salt in large mixing bowl or food processor. Cut butter into small pieces and work into flour, using pastry cutter or pulsing in food processor. When dough resembles a coarse meal, add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, just until dough sticks together. Pat dough into flattened ball, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate 15 to 30 minutes.

Remove dough and, as soon as it's pliable, roll it out on lightly floured surface into circle about 1/8 inch thick and at least 13 inches in diameter. (You may have extra dough.) Gently place rolled dough into 11-inch tart pan with removable bottom so it covers bottom and sides completely. Patch any small holes or tears by pressing on extra pieces of rolled dough glued with a dab of water. To remove dough hanging over edges of tart pan, use knife or take a rolling pin and roll it over edges.

Cover tart shell with plastic wrap and freeze (at least 1 hour and up to a month). Do not defrost tart shell before filling with nectarines.

To make the tart filling, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Arrange an oven rack on lowest level.

Place nectarines in large bowl. In another bowl, combine sugar, cornstarch and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and mix well. Add sugar mixture to nectarines and gently combine. Sprinkle flour onto bottom of frozen tart shell, spreading it around to thinly cover entire bottom. (This will help prevent a soggy bottom crust.) Transfer nectarine mixture to shell and arrange nectarines so as many as possible are on the bottom, rather than stacked; dot the top with the butter.

Bake tart approximately 1 hour, or until crust is golden brown and nectarines are tender and a little brown or caramelized on edges. The long baking gives nectarines an intense flavor and helps assure they will not be too juicy. To transport, leave in tart pan and wrap well with plastic wrap. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

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COLD SLOW-ROASTED SALMON WITH CUCUMBER-CUMIN RAITA

This cold salmon, from " Picnics " by Sara Deseran (Chronicle Books, 2004, $14.95), is perfect for a romantic main course.

1 filleted side of salmon, skin on, 2 to 3 pounds (about 1 1/2 inches thick in center), pinbones removed

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

2 English cucumbers, peeled and diced

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic

Sprinkle of cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

Rub both sides of salmon with olive oil. Place salmon skin-side down in roasting pan. Generously sprinkle salt and pepper over flesh side. Roast uncovered 25 to 35 minutes. Salmon will look undercooked on top, but if it flakes when gently pulled apart with fork, it's done. Remove and set aside.

To make raita: Place cumin seeds in large dry skillet over medium heat. Stir for 2 minutes until fragrant. Remove to plate and cool. Place in spice grinder or clean coffee grinder and grind well.

In medium bowl, combine cucumbers and the 1 teaspoon salt; mix well and let sit 15 to 30 minutes, then drain off any accumulated liquid. Add ground cumin seeds, yogurt, lemon juice and garlic and mix to combine. Sprinkle top with cayenne. Let sit 10 minutes. Chill until ready to serve. Keep salmon chilled during transport and until ready to eat. Raita can be kept in a separate container and spooned alongside. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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FRESH MOZZARELLA, TOMATO AND BASIL SANDWICH

This mozzarella-tomato sandwich, from " Picnics " by Sara Deseran (Chronicle Books, 2004, $14.95), is easy to assemble after you've hiked to a favorite picnic spot in a state park. Place the fresh mozzarella balls, tomato slices and basil in a compact cooler. Fresh mozzarella, packed in water or whey, is available in most grocery stores.

4 pieces of bread, such as herbed focaccia or baguette, halved

4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large garlic clove, halved

1 pound large fresh mozzarella balls, cut into thick slices

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 large tomatoes, cut into slices

1 bunch fresh basil, leaves separated

Brush bottom half of each piece of bread with olive oil and rub with cut end of garlic. Top with layer of mozzarella and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with tomato slices and sprinkle with salt and pepper again. Top with basil leaves. Brush remaining bread with olive oil and place on top. Makes 4 servings.

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PEPPERONI PIZZA SALAD

This recipe for a picnic with the kids plays off the appeal of one of America's favorite fast foods. It's from " Pasta Salads " by Barbara Lauterbach (Chronicle Books, 2004, $18.95).

8 ounces ditalini or other small, tubular pasta

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Salt and black pepper

1 teaspoon anchovy paste (optional but recommended for subtle flavor)

1 clove garlic, minced

2 teaspoons dried oregano, crumbled

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 ounces pepperoni sausage, cut into 1/4-inch slices, then quartered

1/2 cup green bell pepper, seeded, ribs removed and chopped

2 ripe tomatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks

1 cup fresh white mushrooms, thinly sliced

1/2 cup pitted black olives, thinly sliced

8 ounces mozzarella, shredded

Cook pasta al dente, according to package directions. Drain into colander and rinse briefly under cold running water. Shake colander gently to drain completely. Set aside.

To make dressing, in small bowl, whisk together the vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk in anchovy paste, if using, garlic and oregano. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until an emulsion forms.

Place pasta, pepperoni, bell pepper, tomatoes, mushrooms, olives and mozzarella in large serving bowl. Toss together gently. Pour dressing over mixture and toss again, gently but thoroughly. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate up to 8 hours.

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LIME-COOLER MARGARITAS

This beach picnic drink can be transported in an insulated container and blended just before serving. The recipe is from ''Festive Picnics " by Pamela Sheldon Johns and Jennifer Barry (Ten Speed Press, 2004, $16.95).

1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 cups water

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup tequila

2 tablespoons Cointreau

2 limes, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices, for garnish

Coarse salt or colored sugar

In glass pitcher or 2-quart thermos, combine lime juice, lemon juice, water and sugar, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

To serve, add tequila and Cointreau to pitcher or thermos and stir well with spoon to blend. Rub rim of each glass with wedge of lime. Dip rim into small dish of coarse salt or colored sugar. Fill glasses with ice cubes and lime juice mixture. Garnish with lime slice. Makes 6 servings.

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TAKE-ALONG CHOCOLATE CHIP AND DATE CAKE

Here's a recipe from www.bettycrocker.com for a cake that packs well.

2/3 cup hot water

1/2 cup cut-up dates

1 teaspoon baking soda (divided)

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 egg

1 cup flour

1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips (divided)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar (divided)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped nuts

1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In medium bowl, pour hot water over dates; stir in 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. Let stand 5 minutes.

Stir in vegetable oil, egg, flour, 1/2 cup chocolate chips, granulated sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, vanilla, salt and remaining 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. Pour into ungreased 8-by-8-inch square pan.

Prepare topping by mixing together remaining 1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips, nuts and remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar. Sprinkle cake with topping.

Bake about 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack. Makes 9 servings

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PICNIC MENUS

You can pack a picnic for any occasion, and take it anywhere.

Tom Dezell, manager of the wine and spirits department at Sendik's in Brookfield, Wis., suggested wines to accompany several of the following menus and settings:

CONCERT IN THE PARK

Herbed Farfalle and Beef Salad

Nectarine Tart

Oregon Pinot Gris, French Beaujolais or fresh rose wine with main course

Italian Moscato d'Asti or German Spatlese wine with dessert

PICNIC WITH THE KIDS

Pepperoni Pizza Salad

Brownies

Lemonade

ROMANTIC PICNIC FOR TWO

Cold Slow-Roasted Salmon with Cucumber-Cumin Raita

Poundcake with fresh berries

Pinot Noir wine

BEACH PICNIC

Roasted chicken salad with red grapes and pecans

Lemon bars

Lime-Cooler Margaritas

PICNIC FOR A SHORT HIKE

Fresh Mozzarella, Tomato and Basil Sandwich

Fresh fruit

Italian red Barbera wine in a boda bag

PICNIC FOR A ROAD TRIP

Cold fried chicken

Take-Along Chocolate Chip and Date Cake

Fruit juice spritzers (half favorite fruit juice and half soda water)

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PICNIC IDEAS

The Internet is loaded with recipes and tips for picnics.

For romantic picnic ideas and recipes, visit holidays.lovingyou.com/summer/picnicfortwo.shtml

For patriotic desserts for Fourth of July picnics, check out www.recipelink.com/picnics.html

Other Web sites offering picnic ideas include The Better Homes and Gardens Web site, www.bhg.com/home/Picnic-Recipes.html and www.foodfit.com/summer-picnic-recipes.asp.

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(c) 2004, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Visit JSOnline, the Journal Sentinel's World Wide Web site, at http://www.jsonline.com/

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): PICNICFOOD



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