A Summer Picnic

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When I was little, my Mom and I shared a Saturday ritual. Our day would start at the now closed market, Eatzi's, where we would stock up on our usual picnic necessities: strawberries, cheeses, perrier (at six years old, I liked to pretend it was champagne), and a baguette for sharing with the ducks. I was always captivated by Eatzi's variety of produce, cheeses, and fresh breads, an uncommon luxury for one living in the suburbs.  In hindsight, these shopping excursions may have ignited my interest in perusing specialty food shops. We would continue to the park where we would unfold a blanket and spend the afternoon in the grass, enjoying nothing more than the breeze and each other's company. This is a past time I find under appreciated today.

As it goes with most nostalgic instances, I don't know when this tradition stopped, but I do know that the humble picnic is one that needs reviving in my life. My enthusiasm for food seems to amplify when dining al fresco, my bare feet in the grass. It's the intimacy of the dining experience and simplicity of the meal and surroundings that make it so appealing.  I don't recall ever having an unhappy picnic, a testament to the fact that the simplest moments in life can be the most satisfying.

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Note- I kept this menu vegan, but both the sandwiches and the salad would be excellent with the addition of goat cheese or feta.

 

Wheat Berry + Carrot Salad

(Serves 4)

1 cup wheat berries

3 carrots

1 cup parsley, loosely packed

1/2 cup mint, loosely packed

Vinaigrette 

1 lemon

1 tsp mustard

1 tsp honey

1 tsp red wine vinegar

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 tbs olive oil

Add the wheat berries and 2 cups of water to a saucepan. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and allow to cook for 15 minutes. Drain and cool.

Set aside a bowl of ice water. While the wheat berries are cooking, using a vegetable peeler, peel the carrots into very thin slices. Add the carrot shavings to the ice water to curl up for 5 minutes. Drain well and add to the wheat berries.

Finely chop the parsley and mint and add to the salad

Combine all but the oil for the vinaigrette. Once combined, add the oil and whisk until emulsified. Pour over the salad and toss.

The salad will hold for up to 3 days in the fridge.

 

Beet and Pesto Sandwiches

(serves 4)

2 large beets 

3 radishes, thinly sliced

multi-grain bread

arugula

lemon

Pesto 

1 cup walnuts, toasted

1 clove garlic

1 cup basil, loosely packed

1 cup arugula, loosely packed

1/2 cup olive oil

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

Roast the beets. Turn the oven to 400 F. Wrap the beets tightly in foil and roast for an hour and a half. Remove from the foil and allow to cool. Once cool enough to handle, peel the beets (the peels should easily fall off once cooked) and cut into thin slices. Set aside until ready to use.

Make the pesto. Toast the walnuts in a dry skillet (no oil) over medium heat. Move the skillet constantly to avoid burning the walnuts. Toast until golden and fragrant, 3-5 minutes. Add the walnuts and garlic to a food processor and pulse until broken down. Add the basil, arugula, salt, and pepper and pulse 2-3 times to chop the greens. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil until all is used and everything is combined. This pesto should be slightly thicker than most to keep the sandwiches from getting soggy.

Slice the radishes thinly, toast the bread, and squeeze fresh lemon juice over the arugula.

Assemble the sandwiches. Slather a generous amount of pesto over the bread. Add beets, radishes, and top with arugula.

Wait to dress and add the arugula until just prior to serving. Everything else can be put together up to two hours prior.

 

Rhubarb-Ginger Lemonade

2 cups rhubarb, roughly chopped

1/4 cup roughly chopped ginger

1/4 cup honey

2 cups water

juice from 10 lemons

1 cup purified water

Add the rhubarb, ginger, honey, and water to a saucepan. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and allow to cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the rhubarb is very soft and the liquid has thickened and is slightly syrupy. Skim and discard any foam that arises while simmering.

Strain the rhubarb syrup and cool completely.

Combine the syrup, lemon juice, and water and chill until ready to serve.

 

Blueberry-Lemon-Coconut Bars (slightly adapted from Superfood Kitchen)

1 1/2 tbs chia seeds

3 tbs fresh lemon juice

1 cup oat flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

pinch of sea salt

3/4 cup + 2 tbs shredded dried coconut, divided

2 tbs fresh lemon zest

2 tbs coconut oil, melted

2 tbs apple sauce or half an apple shredded finely

1/4 maple syrup or agave nectar

1/2 cup soft medjool dates (about 5 or 6) , pitted

1 cup fresh blueberries

Preheat the oven to 300 F. Lightly grease an 8 x 8 inch baking pan.

Remove the zest from 2-3 lemons and set aside until ready to use.

In a small bowl, mix the chia seeds and lemon juice together. Set aside for about 20 minutes to allow the chia seeds to become saturated and bulk up, stirring once halfway through.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix together the oat flour, baking powder, salt, 3/4 coconut flakes, and lemon zest. Stir well to combine and incorporate the lemon zest. In a separate bowl, combine the coconut oil, apple, and maple syrup or agave. Mix in the soaked chia seeds. Chop the dates into fine pieces (though not completely broken down; they should still have some texture) and mix with the other wet ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir to blend. Fold in the blueberries, making sure they are well distributed. Spread the mixture into the prepared baking pan, using a spatula to flatten out the surface. Sprinkle the remaining coconut flakes on top, and pat down lightly into the mixture.

Bake for 25-28 minutes, until the edges begin to turn golden brown and the blueberries have just begun to release liquid. Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before cutting into squares.