Summer was made for outdoor picnics and barbecues. Sometimes an invitation arrives for an outdoor feast, other times the Iowa sky opens up and offers the perfect weather for eating under the stars. If you are like me, I like to stock up and stay prepared for these moments ripe for eating outside.
Get yourself a picnic basket. Why? Because they’re cute and functional and you can store all your outdoor dining necessities right inside. They sometimes pop up in second hand stores, if you don’t want to buy one new. If you don’t want a traditional picnic basket, fine, at least get a large sturdy canvas bag that can hold all your plates, napkins and picnic blankets, as well as your food. Having all the picnic musts in one place makes it easier to pack a bag and fly.
Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Ditch the plastic silverware and paper plates and stock up on reusable gear. It always seems to be difficult to find a garbage can if you’ve picnicked someplace besides a little city park. You end up bringing the plates and silverware home to your garbage—why not just make them reusable and bring them home to wash. Same for glasses. Get some Go Vino reusable stemless wine glasses, and use them for everything from lemonade to bubbly water to champagne.
Get a picnic blanket. Think you don’t need one? I hope you like itchy legs and dirty, wet butts. You could purchase a blanket specifically for this purpose, but why? Relegate an older throw or that wall tapestry you hung in your dorm room to picnic duty and store it with the rest of your picnic gear.
Pack your picnic. Now the next time the suggestion of a picnic is brought up, you’ll be all set with your gear so you can focus on the food. You have a few choices. You can scramble to the grocery store and buy a bunch of pre-packaged salads, wrapped sandwiches and things for the grill. Your second option: take a survey of your fridge and pantry (you might have a lot of these ingredients already) and head to the store with a shopping list that will yield a delicious spread without a lot of fuss, excess garbage to haul home or money spent.
This recipe makes a large pan bagnat, which is basically the sandwich version of a salad Nicoise without the floppy greens:
- Cut your baguette in half lengthwise. Remove a bit of bread from both top and bottom half to make it slightly hollow.
- Layer in your ingredients, give the sandwich a kick of salt and pepper and drizzle with vinegar and oil.
- Close the sandwich, and wrap it in aluminum foil or plastic wrap. While you are pulling together the rest of your picnic basket, weigh down the sandwich with a heavy skillet to compact ingredients.
- Side this sandwich with some simple sauteéd garlic green beans—are also easy and quick to make and great served hot or cold.
- Pack some hand fruits for dessert and enjoy your meal with a chilled bottle of rosé.