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Among the delights of Summer were picnics to the woods.
-Georg Brandes

i was the very happy recipient of a picnic time cambridge basket a mere few days ago. my very kind in-laws sent it to me in a huge package–and who doesn’t like to open boxes that come by post? i have to say i opened it with extreme unbridled delight, and the moment my eyes lay on the basket itself i started to postulate and plan all the wonderful times i would have with this basket–despite the almost freezing weather outside and the rain. the basket is for four, includes plates, flatware, wine glasses, a wine key, cheese board, and even a blanket.

the picnic basket lust started on my first wedding anniversary. my husband had scheduled a very sweet picnic for us at a local waterfall. it requires a short hike, and a hop over the maintained trail, then down onto the rocks. it was a perfect, sunny day. and, he even hiked down with me on a recovering broken knee. the picnic was made up of our favorite sandwiches from tubs gourmet subs, and for the occasion of our anniversary, he even talked the sandwich artists into making me a sandwich that was no longer on the menu–a baguette with chicken, feta, avocado, sun-dried tomatoes, and dill. he also packed a bottle of champagne, and two plastic flutes.  but–he couldn’t find a picnic basket to pack everything in, and packed it in another basket for presentation. not to say it wasn’t a perfect picnic. we sat on the sun-warmed rocks and took a little champagne-induced nap. after hiking back up, we had dinner and drinks at the lodge overlooking the falls.

but how much more perfect if we had had all the adorable accoutrements?

my mother-in-law termed the basket very “elegant” and i have to say i agree. and i’m quickly brainstorming and imagining menus and locales worthy of such a lovely basket.

do you know any recipes i could borrow for a spring-time picnic?

here are some ideas i’ve got for picnic-fare:

**cous cous saladkathy casey’s dish d’lish offers a very very delicious “nw cous cous salad.” i haven’t been able to find the recipe, and when i asked at her store, i was told that it might be one of the ones she keeps to herself! i tried to recreate the salad with some success, and with quinoa instead of cous cous. you may have noticed already that i am the sort of cook that does everything by look and tasted, so the proportions are not exact:

1 box of quinoa–cooked in rice cooker

dried cranberries

almonds, pecans, hazelnuts– roasted and chopped

cherry balsamic vinegar

olive oil

fresh thyme, parsley, mint–minced

red, orange, and yellow peppers–stir fried with olive oil, salt, and pepper

red onions–stir fried with peppers

mix everything together and season to taste. enjoy at room temperature.

**cheese, crackers, and fig spreadgoing back to my end of autumn feast, i believe a great addition to any picnic would be goat gouda, fig spread, and crackers from essential bakery.

**champagnefresh, light, and airy, champagne sounds like the perfect drink for a spring picnic

**caponata picnic sandwiches–borrowed from the food network’s giada de laurentiis. i would probably substitute the eggplant for red peppers, though.

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 3 red, orange, or yellow peppers, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • Salt
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1(14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons raisins
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers
  • 1 loaf ciabatta bread, cut crosswise into 6 equal pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 6 slices (1/3-inch-thick) drained fresh water-packed mozzarella

Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the celery and saute until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Add the red pepper and cook until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes with their juices, raisins, and oregano. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer over medium-low heat until the flavors blend and the mixture thickens, stirring often, about 20 minutes. Add the vinegar, sugar, and capers. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Cut the bread pieces horizontally in half. Grill the bread cut-side down on a grill pan over medium-high heat until golden, about 2 minutes. Rub the whole garlic cloves over the toasted side of the bread. Add a slice of mozzarella to bread bottom, spoon the caponata on top, cover with the other bread half, and serve.

To take for a picnic: Wrap the sandwiches separately in plastic wrap or parchment paper. Chill until ready to serve, or keep at room temperature up to 1 hour.

**jewel oatmeal cookies–again, borrowed from kathy casey, but this time i have the recipe in my copy of kathy casey’s northwest table. i will have to post it later when i remember and look it up!

***UPDATED*** jewel fruit-studded oatmeal cookies from kathy casey’s northwest table: p. 214

makes about 32 cookies. author’s note “crips but still chewy, these cookies are studded with an assortment of gem-colored dried fruits of the Northwest. If you want them extra-fruity, you can add more varieties, such as dried blueberries and chopped dried pears.”

8oz butter, softened

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups rolled oats (old-fashioned or quick-cooking, but not instant)

1/2 cup chopped dried sweet or tart cherries

2/3 cup chopped dried apricots

1/2 dried cranberries

1/4 cup dried currants

in a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars together until light. add the eggs and mix until will combined. scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the flour, salt, spices, baking soda, vanilla, and oats and mix on low speed until thoroughly combined. stir in the dried fruit to distribute evenly. chill the dough in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. meanwhile, preheat an oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and grease baking sheets or spray with vegetable-oil cooking spray. drop tablespoons of dough 3 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets and flatten each spoon full with your fingertips.  bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies are browned. rotate the pans halfway through baking. let the cookies cool on the pans for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.