Summertime picnic

Summer is a perfect time to share a picnic meal with friends. There is something exciting about eating outdoors, even if you are only heading to the local park.

We have had season tickets for the Hollywood Bowl for as long as I can remember. Friends meet up with us there and we enjoy an entire evening sharing a picnic dinner and music under the stars.

One of the most interesting salads we have had was when a guest was asked to bring a Caesar salad to the Bowl. The ingredients were packed individually; when we got to the Bowl, our friends put the romaine, grated Parmesan and anchovy dressing into a plastic bag — shake, shake — and served. It was delicious.

Your picnic meal may be nothing more than tuna salad and a selection of cheeses, but you’re still likely to have a good time, which is probably why many of us remain devoted to the same picnic foods we’ve eaten forever.

Here are some ideas for a successful, frustration-free picnic, which you can enjoy at the Hollywood Bowl, the Santa Barbara Bowl, the Libbey Bowl in Ojai, the beach, a park or in your own backyard.

Begin with Roasted Peppers prepared in a simple, foolproof method and served with anchovies. When not planning to serve the peppers immediately, cover them with oil and garlic, and store them in a bowl in the refrigerator. The olive oil serves as a preservative, and the garlic actually brings out their flavor. Although people may bring store-bought roasted peppers in the jar, they cannot compare with peppers prepared at home.

Meatloaf is a favorite and can be made with ground beef, chicken or turkey. Serving is no problem —  heat it in the oven just before leaving for your picnic. Cover tightly with aluminum foil, wrap in several layers of newspaper or a towel, and it will stay as warm as if you just took it out of the oven. During the preparation, I include hard-boiled eggs that I place in the center when shaping the meatloaf. When you cut the loaf, it is very festive to see them in each slice.

Don’t forget to include Potato Salad, which traditionally goes with meatloaf as well as it does with most picnic foods. Spoon into Tupperware or a similar snap-top plastic container, and place on a plastic bag filled with ice to keep cold.

Rich, chewy Chocolate Pecan Brownies covered with a creamy chocolate frosting are a perfect take-along dessert — they can be baked in advance and are easy to transport.

Up Front

Good Brownies

They call Brownie Troop 239 the Mitzvah Troop, andit seems for good reason. The girls at Stephen S. Wise ElementarySchool are on a mission to sell the most cookies possible to raisemoney for Reoven Aviton, an Israeli boy who suffered from arespiratory disorder (laryngotracheal) that made it impossible forhim to eat or breathe on his own. Israeli doctors told the boy’sparents he needed surgery in the U.S. The surgery was completedsuccessfully in Cincinnati, but the Israeli insurance company refusedto pay the $150,000 medical bill, citing the fact that the proceeduretook place out of the country. The girls hope proceeds from theircookie sales will help the parents repay the debt. “Our Brownies saidthey wanted to help this little baby,” said Troop co-leader CarolSteinberg. “And we are proud of them for that decision. Other troopshave ice cream parties with their cookie profits. Our girls will havethe pleasure of knowing they made a difference in someone’s life.”For more information, call (310) 471-2724. — R.E.

That Old, Jewish Academy

How do you get your foreign film nominated for anAcademy Award? According to one European film buyer quoted in TheHollywood Reporter (Mar. 17-23), you make sure the film is good forthe Jews. Journalist Andrea Vaucher, investigating how it is thatfilms that do poorly in their own countries end up winning Oscars,found that the people who submit films for consideration often try tospeculate on “what American Academy members would like to see. ” Saidone film buyer, “We all know that the Academy is comprised of olderpeople who are mostly Jewish. If it’s a choice between two films, andone has a pro-Jewish theme, that’s the one we’ll send.”

Up Front asked an Academy spokesperson if thebuyer’s insight was accurate. (Do we have to do your job for you,Andrea?) “There is no way anyone could know that,” said thespokesperson. “We don’t have those kind of records.” —Robert Eshman,Managing Editor

Cleaning for Pesach Doesn’t Have to be a CrummyJob

Everyone knowsthat there are only two kinds of people in this world: the organizedand the disorganized. Now that Purim is over, the disorganized amongus have a dread of cleaning for Pesach, since we will have to wadedeeper than the Red Sea in our accumulated belongings, trying to rootout our chametz.But there’s hope at the end of the broom closet. Esther Simon(above), (a.k.a. The Traditional Home Organizer) contends that it’sthe clutter and not the crumbs you need to worry about when cleaningfor the Festival of Freedom.

“When you de-clutter your home, cleaning forPesach is really easy,” says Simon, a member of the NationalAssociation of Professional Organizers who is paid by the hour totell clients what to file, where to file it, and sometimes, where tostuff it. “People who aren’t organized can feel overwhelmed andalmost depressed by the thought of cleaning for Pesach, but once Ishow them how to get rid of what they don’t need and organize whatthey have in a workable system, the cleaning part is simple.”

Simon, an observant Jew and mother of seven whoused to work as a hospital social worker, also offers guidance on ahost of other domestic issues, such as planning and packing forvacations, accommodating overnight guests, training a housekeeper,creating a home office in tight quarters, and even caring for anelderly or infirm relative (which Simon herself did for sixyears).

In her zeal for orderliness, Simon is likely togive clients homework assignments, such as purchasing various sizesof stackable Rubbermaid canisters to keep toys together, andpracticing new ways of opening and organizing mail. (For example,toss the envelopes before ordering bills to be paid.)

When last we spoke, Simon was making a beeline outthe door, notebook in hand, to attend a seminar on how to fold linensand organize linen closets. Even to the hard-core slovenly, herenthusiasm for neatness is contagious.

For those too embarrassed to allow somebody asimpeccably organized as Simon to see their own overstuffed closetsand file drawers, have no fear: She’s already been to my house. Andif she can clean it there, she can clean it anywhere.

Esther Simon, The Traditional Home Organizer, canbe reached at (310) 396-5656 or e-mail– Judy R. Gruen, Contributing Writer

Woman’s Table

On the sixthnight of Passover (which translates to Wednesday, April 15), theAmerican Jewish Congress Feminist Center invites everyone to gatheraround its seder table. The celebration, which will be held atStephen S. Wise Temple, will be led by Rabbi Laura Geller of TempleEmanuel. Music will be provided by Debbie Friedman, winner of thisyear’s Covenant Award for “Jewish educators who’ve made adifference,” who will fly in from New York for the occasion. Sederparticipants are encouraged to take home with them the uniquefeminist hagaddah, “And We Were All There,” which is soon to bepublished by Behrman House.

The mission of the AJC’s Feminist Center is topromote a more inclusive and meaningful vision of Judaism for bothwomen and men. “For me the seder provides a way to extend our embraceof the tradition,” says Sharon Klein, a member of the eventcommittee. “It gives us a chance to widen our per-spective on thestories that are told about the Exodus, and some that may not havebeen, but should have been. It is also about meeting wonderfulpeople.” The seder is generally an annual event, although it did notget off the ground in 1997. For information, call (213) 761-8940.–Beverly Gray, Education Editor

A seder plate by Josef Vater, circa1900. From “Jewish Art,” 1995.