An Italian Picnic Without The Pasta

In this installment of our Weekend Picnic series, Jim Kent visits an Italian chef in South Dakota's Black Hills, who shows us how to prepare a great lightweight picnic.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Now to our Weekend Picnic series, where we offer simple recipes for filling your picnic basket with fresh local foods.

Today, we go to the Black Hills of South Dakota, where reporter Jim Kent went looking for what to take along for a light picnic.

JIM KENT, BYLINE: Nestled in the northern Black Hills of South Dakota is a little slice of Italy called Roma's.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THAT'S AMORE")

DEAN MARTIN: (Singing) When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore.

KENT: The piazza-styled restaurant has wrought-iron railings and stone columns and plays the music of popular Italian singers. It's owned by Leigh Kamstra. While she's not Italian, she's always loved the cuisine.

LEIGH KAMSTRA: It's rustic. They use fresh ingredients and it simmers a long time to bring out all of the flavors and all - everything that you put it. It's a labor of love.

(SOUNDBITE OF SHARPENING OF COOKING UTENSILS)

KENT: Chef Leigh expresses her love of Italian food in the kitchen. We're here with her on a quiet Saturday afternoon, just before Roma's opens for business.

KAMSTRA: Can you grab this other pot?

KENT: As her staff prepares for the evening crowd, Chef Leigh takes me to a quiet corner in the back surrounded by stainless steel countertops, shelves and sinks to prepare a light, easy-to-make Italian picnic. Chef Leigh starts off slicing from a huge wheel of cheese.

KAMSTRA: Gorgonzola cheese. It's an Italian blue cheese. Some Kalamata olives. And add a little bit of goat cheese as well. And some crackers, so that you have your little appetizer at the beginning.

KENT: OK, so that's the appetizer. The picnic's main course will be a salad topped with smoked salmon.

KAMSTRA: And I'm using romaine lettuce.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHOPPING)

KAMSTRA: And I usually use the heart of the romaine 'cause it holds up better if you're taking it somewhere. Grape tomatoes. And then I'm going to cut the cucumber to make it into smaller pieces...

(SOUNDBITE OF CHOPPING)

KAMSTRA: And this is a red onion that I'm going to be cutting up to put on there for another dimension of flavor as well as color for the salad, so it's more appealing.

KENT: Nothing too fancy yet, just a simple salad. But Chef Leigh likes dishes that look good, too. So she suggests adding raspberries and drizzling a little raspberry vinaigrette over the top.

KAMSTRA: Now we have smoked salmon, it's a Alaskan salmon. And I'm just going to fan it across the top of the salad, so it makes a nice little arc across your salad.

(SOUNDBITE OF CREEK FLOWING)

KENT: Pick up some chocolate truffles for dessert and a bottle of sweet moscato to go along with them - and there you have it. A nice light Italian meal for your summer picnic somewhere like here...

(SOUNDBITE OF CREEK)

KENT: ...along the banks of Spearfish Creek, in Spearfish, South Dakota.

(SOUNDBITE OF CREEK)

KENT: For NPR News, I'm Jim Kent.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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