Pack the Perfect Picnic

Madison chefs share creative recipes for your next al fresco meal

Sunshine, a warm breeze, good friends and great food—these are the ingredients for a perfect Wisconsin summer day. Why not trade in that run-of-the-mill potato salad and cold chicken for some elegant and unique picnic food?

Black and Bleu Tenderloin Sandwich

From Andy Drobac, executive chef, Brocach Irish Pub

1 sourdough baguette (Madison
Sourdough makes a good one)
2 lbs. beef tenderloin
1/2 lb. of your favorite bleu cheese (we
use Cashel Bleu)
1 stick butter at room temp
Baby arugula
Olive oil

Season tenderloin liberally with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat cast iron skillet over high heat until very hot. Sear tenderloin on four sides, for two minutes a side. Remove tenderloin from pan and allow to cool (this can be done a day ahead of time, store tenderloin in cooler). Mix bleu cheese and butter and spread on both sides of baguette. Slice tenderloin and place on baguette. Dress arugula in olive oil and place on top of roast beef. Close sandwich and wrap tightly. Eat within a couple of hours.

Edamame Tabouli with Pita Bread

From Brett Olstadt, executive chef, Restaurant Muramoto

1/2 bag frozen shelled edamame
1 bunch Italian parsley
1 bunch cilantro
1/2 bunch mint
1/4 small onion (minced)
1 cup olive oil
1 lemon (juice only)
Salt and pepper
1/2 seeded cucumber (minced)
Pita or naan bread

Combine all ingredients except the olive oil and cucumber in a food processor. Turn on and slowly drizzle olive oil into mixture. Make sure to scrape the sides with a rubber spatula to ensure an even mix. Fold in cucumber and refrigerate in a sealed container until needed.

Asparagus and Bleu Cheese Tarts

From Laurie Conrad, chef & owner, The Blue Daisy, a catering and culinary business

1 sheet frozen puff pastry (thawed)
1 bunch asparagus
1 cup blue cheese crumbles
1⁄4 cup crème fraîche
2–3 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to season

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with either parchment paper or a silicone liner. Place puff pastry sheet on liner and score the outer edges with a paring knife, about 1⁄4 inch from the edge. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and evenly spread the crème fraîche over the inner scored area. Top with the asparagus, alternating tip to tip. Evenly brush olive oil over the asparagus and season with salt and pepper. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 20–22 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle the blue cheese crumbles over the tart. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Otehlia Cassidy is a freelance foodie who blogs about food (, teaches cooking classes in Madison and leads culinary tours to Mexico.

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