Kitchen Focus

May begins an important time of the year for me: outdoor picnic season. I say "outdoor" because carpet picnics are a special part of my life year round! There's nothing like putting together a selection of tidbits and nibbles and enjoying the fine art of dining in an unexpected spot ... whether that spot is a secluded opening in a forest or the middle of your living room!

Of course, preparing for the picnic that's to take place in the great outdoors does bring with it a few extra things to think about and plan for. So, this month, we're taking a look at how to do just that!

My favorite picnic is really less about a meal and more about little tastes of wonderful flavors ... a nibble fest, if you will. It begins with choosing one or two items you really enjoy and branching out until you have something special. I like to make sure these kinds of picnics are built around a nice bottle of wine, some wonderful cheese and some creative fruit or olives ... or both! You can round this sort of picnic with fine bread, nuts or even something a little salty like pretzels. I also always like to have something sweet to nibble on. Fruit can certainly fill that role, but small bits of chocolate or cookies work equally well.

If you are more into a structured meal, I highly recommend something easy to carry, serve and eat. Sandwiches are traditional, but cold pasta salads with vinegar and oil dressings can be helpful too. Salads with leafy greens might not stand up well, but those consisting of chopped vegetables and the like can work quite well. In fact, one of my favorite picnics consisted of some shredded chicken and goat cheese in a pita and a generous scoop of a tangy carrot salad tucked into the sandwich. And, as a special treat for you, here's the recipe for that salad:

Tangy Carrot Salad

  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 T. red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 2 c. coarsely shredded carrots
  • 1/2 c. sliced green onions

In a small bowl, stir together the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper to make the dressing. Pour this dressing over the remaining ingredients and toss to combine.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes

So, there you have it, add some perfect weather and good conversation -- as a wise friend of mine once said -- and you've got the makings for a great picnic! And, if the weather turns on you, spread out the blankets in the living room and don't let Mother Nature keep you from that good conversation and some fine dining!

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