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cold meat loaf
Cold Beef, Ham and Cheese Picnic Loaf

italian pasta salad
Classic Italian Pasta Salad

cucumber salad
Cucumber Salad

Menu Plan for the week of June 28, 2013: Day 3 Recipes

Cold Beef, Ham and Cheese Picnic Loaf
Classic Italian Pasta Salad
Cucumber Salad

Cooking time:  45 minutes hands on in 2 sessions for menu      Cooking schedule: see below for instructions

       This is a do-ahead, cold picnic, with all the work being done early in the day. I've tweaked the schedule to get it done in 2 work sessions. It will serve 2 with leftovers for tomorrow or 4 or 6.  Any of the dishes would be a good contribution to a larger gathering. Split a small onion between the Loaf and the Cucumber Salad. You could do this on the 4th for a picnic, switching menus.

Cold Beef, Ham, Cheese Picnic Loaf   Preparation, cooking time: 15 minutes plus 60 baking
    The odd amount for the ham is because I buy pre-packaged. A little goes a long way, so 3 - 4 oz will be fine. Make this early in the day so that it can thoroughly chill before slicing and serving.

16oz ground beef  (500gr mince)
3.5oz (100gr) Prosciutto or other dry-cured ham, 4 - 5 slices
2 eggs
1/3 cup minced onion
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup 3oz, (90gr) dry bread crumbs
1/3 cup 3oz (90ml) red wine (or beef stock),
1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 tbs ketchup
4oz (120gr) Cheddar
1/4 cup ketchup for the top

Chop Prosciutto as finely as possible. Mince onion and garlic.  Slice the Cheddar.
In a large bowl lightly beat eggs with a fork.  Add the bread crumbs, onion, garlic, wine, eggs, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, ham and mix well.  Add the beef and mix well, using your hands, kneading it like bread.  Divide mixture in half and place half in large baking dish, patting it into the shape of a loaf or pack into a 9 X 5 (22.5 x 12.5cm) loaf pan. Place the cheese on top leaving 1/3" (1cm) all around.  Top with the remaining meat, patting into shape to cover the cheese,  pat / pinch around the edges to seal. 
Bake at 400 F (200C) for 45 minutes.  Remove, spread 1/4 cup ketchup evenly over the top.  Return to oven and bake for another 15 minutes. When done, remove and let rest at least 15 minutes before cutting.  (If using loaf pan, after cooling slightly, unmold it.) Slice and serve.

Italian Picnic Pasta Salad                                     Preparation and cooking time:  35 minutes
         This is the 'classic' or original (close to it, anyway) Pasta Salad.  The original called for bottled "Italian Dressing" but I prefer to make my own.  It's a great salad to take to a pot-luck picnic or to plan on leftovers.  For two I would simply cut everything in half. 

6oz (200gr) sliced, hard salami
1 red onion
1 cup green olives (or Greek dry-cured, kalamata, whatever you like)  I used 1/2 green and 1/2 Greek
4oz (120gr) mushrooms
2 ribs celery
1 cup (6oz, 180gr) cherry tomatoes
1 green bell pepper  or any color
2 cups bite-size pasta, farfalle, elbow macaroni, fusilli, shells
1 tbs olive oil
Italian Vinaigrette:
1/2 tbs Dijon-style mustard
2 tbs white wine (tarragon) vinegar
1 tbs lemon juice
5 tbs salad olive oil
1 tsp snipped fresh chives       substitute 1/2 tsp dried
1 tsp chopped fresh oregano   substitute 1/2 tsp dried
1 tsp chopped fresh basil         substitute 1/2 tsp dried
1 tsp chopped fresh parsley substitute 1/2 tsp dried

Cut salami in half or into quarters.  Peel and quarter the onion, then slice thinly.  Clean mushrooms and slice.  Cut olives in halves or thirds.  Put salami, mushrooms, onions and olives into another bowl and add vinaigrette.  Allow to marinate, at room temperature, for 1 - 3 hours. 
Cook pasta according to package instructions.  When done, drain, put into a large bowl (or back into the cooled pot) and toss with olive oil. 
Slice celery 1/4" (.5cm) thick, cut cherry tomatoes in half, and chop pepper.  Add all three to pasta and toss lightly. 
Before serving add marinated vegetables to pasta and toss to combine.  If not serving immediately, refrigerate to chill.
Italian Vinaigrette: Place mustard, vinegar and lemon juice in a small bowl and whisk to combine.  Slow add olive oil, whisking constantly, to combine.  When all oil is in and emulsified, add herbs.

Cucumber Salad             Time:  16 minutes, divided: 8 minutes,  wait 4-10 hours, 8 minutes
    Another summer classic, this is loosely based on my mother's recipe - which was her mother's.  She used cream, I use yogurt but the taste is surprisingly similar.  I can't be real specific here - I never measure and it depends on how big the cukes are, etc. But this is an easy 'taste and adjust' salad.  Just play with it until you like it - you really can't screw it up (unless you try to hurry)

2 - 3 medium - large cucumbers
kosher, rock or sea salt
shallot or small onion
4 whole cloves
2 - 3 tbs lemon juice fresh if you have it
3 - 4 tbs salad olive oil
1/3 - 1/2 cup Greek yogurt or plain yogurt
2 - 3 tbs snipped fresh chives

First: Peel cucumber and thinly slice on box slicer.  (You know, the kind your mother had with three slits on one side for slicing and different size holes on the other 3 sides for grating and shredding.)   Stick the whole cloves into  the onion half.  Put the studded onion in the bottom of a deep bowl large enough to easily hold the cukes.  Put in a layer of cukes, sprinkle with salt, and repeat 3 times using about 1/2 tsp salt on each layer.  Put a small plate or saucer on top of the cucumbers - it should be sitting on the cukes, not the sides of the bowl.  Put a big can or jar of something heavy on the plate - to weigh it down.  We want weight on the cukes - the plate is just to distribute it more evenly.  Let it sit at room temperature for 4 - 10 hours. 
Second:  Remove weight and plate.  The cucumbers will be sitting in a lot of water.  Put cucumbers in a strainer - discarding onion and cloves.  Rinse cucumbers (remember all that salt?)  You don't want to get all of the salt off - just about 80%  Taste to test.  When rinsed to your satisfaction take the cucumbers in your clean hands and gently squeeze most of the remaining liquid out.  Put back into the bowl (that you have rinsed)
To finish: Add 2 tbs lemon juice, 3 tbs oil and stir.  Add 1/3 cup yogurt , stir and taste.  Adjust to the quantity of cukes and your liking.  Add fresh ground pepper, chives and serve. This will keep a week, but it never lasts that long at our house.

Cooking Schedule: 75 minutes for menu
Assemble all ingredients and utensils
Utensils: measuring cups, spoons, knives,
medium bowl, baking dish or loaf pan, pot and
colander for pasta, large bowl, 2 medium bowls, slicer,
strainer, cling film
At least 4, preferably 6 hours before eating:
Turn oven on, 400F (200C)
Put water on high heat for pasta
Mince 1/2 onion, garlic
Finely chop Prosciutto
Slice Cheddar
Mix all ingredients for meat loaf - in order
Assemble meat loaf, layering cheese
Bake Picnic Loaf
Stud 1/2 onion with cloves, put in bowl
Peel cucumbers
Start to cook pasta
Slice cucumbers
Layer cucumbers with salt
Put plate on cukes, add weight, set aside
Slice celery
Cut cherry tomatoes

Clean pepper, chop
Trim, clean mushrooms, slice
Peel, slice red onion
Cut salami, olives
Drain pasta
Put pasta in large bowl, toss with oil
Add tomatoes, pepper, celery to pasta
Toss pasta / veg, lightly, cover with film, set aside
Snip herbs
Make vinaigrette - squeeze fresh lemon for juice
Put mushrooms, onions, salami, olives in medium bowl
Add vinaigrette, stir well, cover with film, set aside
     Do something until time to put ketchup on loaf
Remove loaf, spread ketchup, return to oven
    15 minute break
Remove loaf, let rest
2 hours later:
Combine pasta and vegetables, refrigerate
Refrigerate meat loaf
Whenever you're ready:
Drain, rinse, squeeze cukes
Squeeze lemon, finish cucumber salad
Serve it all when you want.

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