Joni Woolf: It’s picnic time, all summer long

Published 10:30 am Monday, July 10, 2017

On the Fourth of July I was invited to join friends who were barbecuing both pork and beef ribs. I love ribs, of any kind, barbecued, and was delighted to accept, and to take a covered dish. I decided to take one of my favorite picnic dishes — Bourbon Baked Beans. The recipe comes from a 1968 cookbook called Atlanta Cooks for Company and published by the The Atlanta Music Club. It is of course now dog-eared and smeared with unidentifiable remains of ingredients. In other words, it has been well-used and well-loved. This is one of those recipes that stands the test of time; everywhere I take it, it receives compliments.
Had I been entertaining at my home this Fourth, I would have served these beans, perhaps along with a couple of others I’m including below. The local markets are flooded with fresh food, so this is the perfect time to try the second and third recipes for a fresh-from-the-farm taste of summer.

Bourbon Baked Beans
4 No. 2 cans baked beans
1 tablespoon molasses
½ teaspoon dry mustard
½ cup chili sauce
½ cup bourbon
1/3 cup strong coffee
1 small can crushed pineapple
½ cup brown sugar
Crisp bacon
Blend together all but brown sugar, pineapple and bacon. Let stand 3 hours. Bake 30 minutes at 300 degrees F. Increase oven temperature to 350 degrees F.; add pineapple and brown sugar and bake 30 more minutes. Add crisp bacon slices before serving.

Grilled Farmers’ Market Vegetable Kebabs
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into wedges
1 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into wedges
1 red onion, cut into wedges
½ lb. fresh okra, stems removed
4 small summer squash, quartered
2 small yellow squash, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 small zucchini, cut into 1-inch chunks
½ cup fresh sage leaves
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup pesto
Juice of one small lemon (about 2 Tablespoons)
Sea Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Secure first 8 ingredients on skewers, adding sage every 3 or 4 vegetables, and alternating vegetables for color. Combine oil, pesto and lemon juice in a small bowl and whisk until well blended. Brush marinade onto kebabs, and add sea salt and pepper. Grill over medium-high heat 8 to 10 minutes per side or until slightly charred but still crisp. NOTE: Vegetables may be grilled on a grill skillet without skewers 10 to 15 minutes per side or until charred and crisp-tender, if desired.

Fresh Green Tomato BLT
¾ cup canola oil
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons sugar
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg
½ cup buttermilk
2 large green tomatoes, cored and sliced into ¼ inch slices
½ cup Duke’s Mayonnaise
1 16-oz loaf of ciabatta or focaccia bread, cut in half, horizontally
2 tomatoes, cored and sliced thinly
Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. (Oil should sizzle when a small amount of flour is dropped into skillet.) Whisk egg and buttermilk together in a separate bowl. Dip 1 green tomato slice in egg mixture until coated on both sides; dredge in flour mixture until coated on both sides, and place in hot oil. Repeat with remaining slices, frying in batches. Fry 2 minutes or until undersides are golden brown; flip and repeat. Remove with tongs or a slotted spatula, and place on a baking sheet lined with paper towels to drain. Keep warm in 200-degree F. oven. Spread mayonnaise onto bread, and top with lettuce, bacon, fried green tomatoes and heirloom tomato slices. Add more lettuce. Top with remaining bread half, cut into four servings, and serve warm.

Now head to the markets for all the fresh joys of the season.

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at