On our honeymoon, my partner created an extravagantly beautiful picnic for me on the beach at sunset. I can still remember how she gave me her jacket because it was chilly, how loved and treasured I felt at that moment, and how I could feel my heart and life open up in ways I had never imagined possible. After that, how could any femme resist the power of the perfect picnic?
Maybe it’s because of the memory of that night that I still feel swept off my feet by a romantic picnic. Last weekend, we packed up our old-fashioned wicker picnic basket, blankets, a few throw pillows, and the requisite red and white check table cloth and headed out to enjoy each other and the beautiful fall weather. We lounged atop a patch of clover, ate every single thing in our basket, and had the world’s best chocolate-covered strawberries for dessert. Yum….
To help you assemble the ingredients for the perfect fall picnic, Grrlchef of kitchenspeakeasy has generously provided the following guest post. I don’t think she expects us to bring a martini shaker on a picnic, so I’m guessing that delicious after-dinner cocktail is what we make once we get home and want to continue the fun! 😉
So there’s this traditional recipe from France that I like to call Fromage Blanc. It’s basically a bunch of cheeses traditionally blended together with leek broth (you can skip the leek broth) and white wine and herbs etc. You can enjoy it with crudites (raw vegetables), dried fruits (apricots are my fave), or crackers and a nice bread. I’m not trying to get all fancified here so this is my quick and easy version (or as we say in the kitchen, the “down and dirty” version).
1 Block Neufchatel Cheese (8 oz)
2-4 ounces asst cheese (something soft: blue cheese, brie, provolone)
(that would look like a cup of grated, just so you know)
1/4 C. White wine (or 2 T. Lemon Juice if you’d prefer)
1/4 C. Leek Broth (take 1 small leek and simmer in 2-4 C. broth) — Optional
1 T. Herbs (yes you can use dry but then only use a teaspoon)
2 t. Lemon Zest (I try to go organic here…it’s a pesticide thing)
Black pepper to your liking, some people like it hot
1 t. Garlic, if you are in good company not great first date ingredient
If you have a food processor, great! If not, soften the neufchatel, grate the other cheese, wash your lemon before zesting, and mix those ingredients together. It should taste a little strong, but be creamy and spreadable. If you like it milder, add less of the “other” cheeses and less herbs and wine. If you can do this a few days ahead it really gets flavorful. Now let’s talk about its playmates…I mean its plate-mates!
Sugar Snap Peas (they have pretty cheap bags at Trader Joe’s), Carrots, Celery, Radishes, Cucumbers, Bell Peppers. If you want the sugar snap peas to be a brilliant green but still crunch, boil some salted water and submerge them for less than 2 minutes and then drop them into an ice bath until they are cool, dry them off on a paper towel. This trick also works with asparagus, broccoli, and other green veggies.
Fruits – well, apples of course, or pears (only if they aren’t rock hard). They should smell sweet otherwise they’re not. These are what’s in season right now…as we get towards winter, I’ll be using more tropical fruit.
Bread/Crackers – A little bit of bread can go a long way. If you have a bakery, just get a roll or two and slice them into small rounds; it’s much cheaper than a whole loaf.
I’ve been teaching wine the last three weeks so here are my suggestions:
Grand Royale – a splash of grand marnier or cointreau in a glass of bubbly, preferably gloria ferrer
St Supery Sauvignon Blanc – Napa Valley – meyer lemon, passionfruit, citrus, it’s sexy
Saintsbury Chardonnay – Carneros – butter, citrus, oak
Beaujolais or Rose – be mindful that some french Roses are dry
Ferari-Carano Siena – Sangiovese/Cab blend – is velvety and luxurious
Or here’s my favorite end of the evening drink I used to make when I was (briefly) a bartender. It’s a variation on the traditional white russian: godiva cappuccino liquer, vodka, a splash of kahlua, shaken and strained into a martini glass with an ibarra chocolate rim….
That’s all I have my friends…now go forth and have a lovely weekend. XO – Grrlchef