Picnics have always been a favorite outing of mine. I mean, I celebrated my nineteenth birthday with a picnic. That is legal drinking age in British Columbia where I was living at the time, but instead of crashing the local pub with my older siblings, we – well, picnicked.
We raided the greenhouse for cherry tomatoes and baby cucumbers, tucked a load of homemade bread and a pocket knife into a basket, recruited a few friends and set off on a hike. After an hour or so of trekking, we reached the lookout and threw ourselves on the mossy rocks, ravenous. Out of nowhere my sister produced a dark chocolate torte and a few pounds of Montreal smoked meat, an obvious nod to a certain young man back in Quebec who was missing the occasion.
It was the sweetest gesture, and not lost on my sentimental 19-year-old self. That was a picnic to remember, absent boyfriend and all.
Picnic for the Planet
Picnic season is finally back and what better way to celebrate than on Earth Day. You can be certain that I’ll be stretched out on a blanket at some point today, enjoying the first picnic of the season. We’ve got a few families coming over and the plan is to go for a nature walk and then build a bonfire for S’mores. Happy Earth Day!
I am also joining up with some of my favorite bloggers and our Earth Day friends at The Nature Conservancy for a Virtual Picnic for the Planet.
Amber and I teamed up to spread the word about Picnic for the Planet, and since she and I live in different countries, the only logical thing to do was to take our picnic online.
At the bottom of the post you’ll find plenty of inspiration for picnic food from a great group of girls who obviously know their picnic stuff.
But first, my ideal picnic and a recipe.
Perfect Picnic Fare
I’m happy eating most anything as long as I’m stretched out on a warm rock or mossy slope under sunny skies, but if I had to choose a perfect picnic menu, it would consist of these elements.
How many picnics did I enjoy when backpacking through Mediterranean Europe that consisted of crusty bread, a hunk of cheese and a carton of wine? I can think of quite a few, and not once was I lacking.
Bread and cheese, most decidedly, is the base of a picnic lunch. You can pick your favorites – pita, wrap, panini, sub, and more – but it’s hard to beat this easy to pack, easy to eat duo.
Outdoor summer dining screams for fresh salads, be they potato, pasta, grain, tomato, bean or green. The combinations are endless, as Shaina demonstrates with her Spring Orzo Pasta Salad with Asparagus and Artichokes. That salad is chilling in my fridge right now, awaiting a coveted spot in the picnic basket.
Easy Greek Salad is crowd-pleaser, Beet Salad with Pickled Golden Raisins is definitely original, and -my favorite- Grilled Corn & Avocado Salad with Lime & Basil simply must be bookmarked for corn season.
Don’t forget to pack the forks.
Sweet berries, stone fruits and fragrant melons are all ripe at the peak of picnic season. It’s almost criminal not to feature them in a menu, however, they can be a little tricky to transport. A picnic outing nearly always requires some travel -either by foot or car or both- and the jostling is not kind to delicate summer fruit.
So, I like to make a fruit salad in advance, with plenty of mint and a squeeze of lime. I pack it in a Tupperware container, and tuck some small waffle or sugar cones into the picnic basket alongside the fruit salad. When it is time to serve, I use a slotted spoon to scoop the fruit into the cones and pass them aground. Little ones can eat the fruit – and the containers – and there aren’t any dishes to do, only faces to wash.
Or bars. Or cupcakes. But something sweet must be had! In honor of Earth Day, may I suggest Happy Planet Cookies? Good for the earth and good for you! Plenty more ideas for goodies at the bottom of the post.
Full confession time – I love a handful of potato chips with my picnic lunch. It’s the only time I eat them (save for the occasional dreary baby/bridal shower). I’m currently relishing Miss Vickie’s Balsamic Vinegar and Sweet Onion chips. Multigrain and garden herbs pita crisps from In Snax are also a favorite, and a decidedly healthier alternative to your standard potato chip.
A Nalgene flask of filtered water is usually all we pack for our picnics, but for special occasions I’ll make Strawberry-Limeade. If I’m particularly organized I’ll make sure we have some Cold-Brewed Iced Tea steeped. I sweeten it with agave syrup, add a sliced lemon and the tea is good to go.
Today our iced tea is the new Meyer Lemon flavor from Stash. Perfect for spring!
Recipe: Pressed Sandwiches, Italian Style
My love for Italian bread, cheese and meat has not subsided in the decade since I was in Italy. This favorite sandwich serves up many of those flavors in tidy little packages.
I love a pressed sandwich for two reasons: it can be made in advance, (the night before, actually) and it compacts the filling just enough so that the sandwich doesn’t fall apart when the children eat it.
Plus, the layers look so pretty! Feel free to mix and match ingredients to make your perfect sandwich.
- Bread: 1 large ciabatta, or rustic loaf of bread
- Cheese: provolone, mozzarella, Asiago or other firm cheese
- Meat: soppressata, capicollo, or other Italian cured meat
- Fresh Green: lettuce, baby spinach, or radicchio
- Spread: butter, pesto, seasoned mayonnaise
- Extras: sun dried tomatoes, marinated eggplant or peppers
method for sandwiches pictured:
- Slice bread in half down the center. Butter generously and spread pesto on the bottom piece of bread.
- Place a row of slow roasted roma tomatoes on the pesto.
- Add several layers of soppressata and mild capicollo, followed by slices of provolone cheese.
- Top with iceberg lettuce (it doesn’t bruise like spinach, or brown like basil overnight) and the upper crust of ciabatta.
- Wrap the long sandwich tightly in plastic wrap, pressing down as you go to get a firm wrap.Place on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. Balance a tray or baking sheet on top of the sandwich and fill the tray with heavy items from the fridge – or a big cast iron pan.
- Leave sandwich for at least four hours or overnight.
To serve. Unwrap sandwich and slice into 1½ inch pieces. Skewer with a decorative toothpick and an olive if desired. Serve.
A Virtual Picnic For the Planet Round-Up
I’m happy to link up with these lovely bloggers for a virtual picnic event! Won’t you join us? Sangria, cheesecake, homemade potato chips – this obviously isn’t their first picnic.
My Baking Addiction | Mixed Berry Cheesecakes in a Jar
Bluebonnets & Brownies | Nanny’s Potato Salad
Gourmande in the Kitchen | Honey Ginger Lemonade
Dine & Dish | Sangria
Add A Pinch | Herbed Tortellini Salad
Bakers Royale | Fruit Recipe Roundup
Three Many Cooks | Black and White Caviar
Food for My Family | Homemade Potato Chips and Avocado Ranch Dip
Sugarcrafter |Apple Hand Pies
Tickled Red | Tangy Potato Salad
What’s Cooking with Kids | Kale Chips
Confessions of a Cookbook Queen | Mini Lemonade Cakes
TidyMom | Picnic Pies in a Jar
Fried Chicken? Brownies? What is your favorite picnic fare?