Al Fresco This Summer!






We brought a rug for sitting on, our lunch was in a box. The sand was warm. We didn’t wear hats or shoes or socks. Waves came curling up the beach. We waded. It was fun. Our sandwiches were different kinds. I dropped my jelly one.

The Picnic, Dorothy Aldis

The mention of picnics in our last blog got us thinking – and doing. We retrieved picnic blankets, readied hampers, coolers, our Govino Glasses and got to packing. Sure, when we head to the forest preserve, Grant Park or our neighborhood amusement park, The Ravinia Festival, we can (and do) pack a picnic fit for the fanciest foodies.

Smoked Salmon

If we’re attending a CSO performance, it’s upscale night with china and linen, smoked salmon, caviar, foie gras on toast with something super-rich, naughty and chocolate for dessert. We would pour Matthew Fritz Pinot Noir 2011 or a bottle of bubbly; Lanson “Black Label” Brut NV.

If it’s Los Lonely Boys, homemade guacamole and chips, steak salad with ice cold Coronas and a thermos of frosty margaritas.

Rockin’ out with The BoDeans or Heart means one hand free at all times for snapping your fingers, pumping in the air or simply holding on to your “picnic partner”!

In the other hand of course, would be our favorite of all picnic foods, the sandwich. The great James Beard observed “One of the great American arts, which varies from being a triumph to being a disaster, is the art of sandwich making.” This is true, the perfect sandwich can be the ultimate in satisfying deliciousness in its simplicity. Sandwiches can be elegant, ethnic, over the top or open face, savory, sweet, meaty or messy. Our favorite sandwiches for picnics are easily transportable, made with hearty well-balanced fillings, the flavors of which improve with a little time, stuffed lovingly on great bread. In other words, sometimes a little soggy is good. A good submarine, hoagie or tuna on wheat can benefit from a little time in the bun.

Pan Bagnat

Possibly the greatest picnic sandwich of all time is the Pan Bagnat: or Le Tuna Sandwich extraordinaire. Literally “wet bread” this sandwich version of salad Niçoise has it all. Olive oil packed canned tuna is mixed with olives, red onions, fresh herbs, and vinaigrette. The salad fills the center of a crusty French baguette, improves in flavor after a few hours. It’s beautiful and utterly satisfying. We would serve the Hogwash Rosé 2012.

This is our delicious version of Pan Bagnat. Be creative. Use what you like best. Imagine it as a sandwich stuffed with Salad Niçoise-fantastic.

Serves 2

1/2 loaf crusty French baguette

1 clove garlic, cut in half

4-6 basil leaves

1 (6oz) can tuna

3/4 cups Niçoise or Kalamata olives, sliced

1/4 cup piquillo or red peppers sliced very thin

1/2 small red onion, sliced thin

1/4 cup Italian flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

if you like, add marinated artichoke hearts/blanched green beans etc.

1. Slice the loaf of bread in half lengthwise. Remove some of the insides of the bottom half. Brush both halves with a little extra virgin olive oil. Rub each with the garlic. Line one half of the bread with the basil leaves.

2. In a bowl, combine the tuna, olives, red bell pepper, onion, parsley. In a measuring cup or small bowl, whisk the lemon juice into the olive oil until it is emulsified/combined. Pour the vinaigrette into the tuna mixture and stir to combine. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper.

3. Spoon tuna mixture into the trough of the baguette over the basil leaves. Wrap sandwich well in plastic. Crush it down by placing a brick or heavy cast iron skillet and refrigerate, preferably with the weight, overnight.

4. The next day, cut sandwich in half. Eat!

We are going to spend a lot of our time in the next few months playing, eating and drinking outside. It always tastes so much better in picnic mode.


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