Cooking: Dining Al Fresco

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Dining Al Fresco

Warmer weather is often welcome for a variety of reasons, but there’s something nearly irresistible about enjoying a meal outdoors. Dining al fresco is an easy way to turn a meal into a full-fledged event. Begin your meal with chicken sandwiches crafted on the grill and a seasonal pasta salad on the side then finish it with a glass of white wine and a dessert made for al fresco entertaining – cheesecake topped with fresh berries and mint.

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Pasta Salad with Tomatoes
Reprinted with permission from the
American Institute for Cancer Research
Servings: 8

8 oz. whole-wheat small pasta (fusilli or farfalle), cooked according to directions
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
4 tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil, divided
1 tsp. turbinado sugar (optional)
salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
4 cloves garlic, minced and divided
1 medium green bell pepper, finely chopped
4 plum or Roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 slice whole-wheat or multigrain bread
In bowl, cover and chill pasta. In large mixing bowl, combine vinegar, 2 tbsp. basil, sugar, salt, pepper, red pepper, 2 tbsp. oil and half of minced garlic. Whisk to combine well. Add pasta, bell pepper and tomatoes, and toss gently until well coated.
In food processor or blender, pulse bread to produce coarse crumbs. In medium skillet, heat remaining oil over medium-high heat. Stir in breadcrumbs and garlic. Saute 1 1/2-2 minutes until browned and crisp. Remove from heat and let cool.
Top pasta with garlic crumbs and remaining basil.

Grilled Chicken Sandwiches
with Pesto, Brie, and Arugula

Recipe courtesy of the National Chicken Council
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Servings: 4
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 pound thin-cut chicken cutlets
1/4 cup basil pesto, divided
1 large tomato
8 slices crusty sourdough bread
4 oz. Brie, thinly sliced
1 cup packed baby arugula
Heat grill to high. Combine 1/4 cup olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper; pour into plastic zipper bag. Add chicken, seal and marinate at least 30 minutes.
Grill chicken 2-3 minutes, turn and grill another 2-3 minutes, or until chicken registers internal temperature of 160° F. Remove and reserve.
Spread each piece of bread with 1/2 tbsp. pesto. Slice tomato into eight slices. Place chicken on four bread slices. Top with Brie slices, arugula, and two tomato slices. Top with remaining bread slices, pesto side toward tomato. Brush outside of each sandwich with about 1/2 tbsp. of remaining olive oil. Place on grill, reduce heat to medium and grill 2-3 minutes per side, or until bread is nicely toasted and cheese is melted. Remove from heat, cut each sandwich in half and serve.

New York-Style Honey Cheesecake
Recipe courtesy of the National Honey Board
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
4 pkg. (8 oz. each) cream cheese
3/4 cup honey
1/4 cup flour
5 eggs
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. lemon zest, grated
1 tsp. vanilla
fresh berries, for garnish
fresh mint, for garnish
To make crust: In small bowl, stir together graham cracker crumbs and butter until well blended. Press mixture evenly onto bottom and sides of greased 9-inch springform pan; set aside. Heat oven to 350° F.
To make filling: In electric mixer bowl, combine cream cheese, honey, and flour. Beat until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Beat in cream, lemon zest, and vanilla.
Pour cream cheese mixture over crust; bake 15 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 200° F and bake 1 hour and 30 minutes longer, or until center no longer looks wet or shiny.
With oven off and door ajar, let cheesecake cool 1 hour in oven. Remove cheesecake to rack to cool completely.
Cover and refrigerate cheesecake at least 4 hours before serving. Garnish with fruit and fresh mint. Pair with chardonnay like Joseph Carr.

Dessert Wine Pairings
Sweet Cheesecake—A good rule: the lighter the dessert, the lighter the wine. Avoid heavy reds for a sweeter dessert and instead pair with a crisp white like Chardonnay, such as Joseph Carr from Sonoma, California.
Citrusy Lemon Meringue Pie—Lemon flavors can sometimes be polarizing, but complementing the dessert with an equally citrusy wine can work wonders. Try pairing with a food-friendly pinot grigio or a sauvignon blanc.
Rich Chocolate Cake—Red wine with chocolate seems like a no-brainer, but not all red wines are created equal. For a richer delicacy such as devil’s food cake, try something like Villa Pozzi Nero D’avola, a more fruit-forward, easy-drinking red varietal.
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