Food & Drink

The perfect picnic

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picnic basket
Fresh flowers are an added touch to the perfect picnic
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Here are a few ideas for the perfect picnic

Maybe the perfect picnic for you is at the beach or in the park. Maybe it's at a winery or on top of the mountain you just hiked. Wherever it may be, one thing is for sure. There is nothing more satisfying than indulging in good food and good wine on a warm, sunny day - no matter where you happen to park your blanket.

What makes the perfect picnic?

A Cool Tote
Obviously you need a picnic basket. Traditional woven baskets are charming, but sometimes they just aren't functional. In most cases you need a cooler, and I'm not talking about those massive coolers on wheels, either. Just a medium-size cooler that will store some drinks and the items below that need chilling.

Gourmet Cheese
Your picnic is not complete without a variety of gourmet cheeses. Nothing says the perfect picnic like a sliver of Manchego cheese to go with that Pinot Grigio you're sipping. You can pick up some cheese at your local farmers market or go sampling at the grocery store if your town doesn't host a specialty cheese shop.

I don't know about you, but I live near a Greek restaurant that makes the best hummus from scratch - roasted red pepper, spinach and feta cheese, just to name a few of the varieties. Hummus is a great addition to the perfect picnic because it's easy to eat - and it's delicious. Who would've thought that mashed-up chickpeas could taste so good? You can make your own hummus in a snap (see recipe below) or buy it at your local grocery store.

Most grocery stores have olive bars these days. When you're packing for your picnic, remember to grab a container of olives. Mix it up with a blend of kalamata, Spanish green olives (manzanilla olives), nicoise and Italian black olives (lugano olives). Toss in some marinated mushrooms and roasted red peppers and you're as good as gold.

Salsa and Guacamole
These two dipping items round out the perfect picnic quite nicely. If they are homemade, even better. There's nothing like the taste of fresh salsa made from homegrown tomatoes, with just the right heat. If you can't get your hands on the fresh-made stuff, don't fret. The best salsas are made with black beans and corn, in my opinion. Guacamole is easy to make. Get a couple of fresh avocados, dig out the "meat," add salsa, mix it up and voila! Of course there are more in-depth recipes, but if you want it quick, easy and still full of flavor, there you go.

French Baguette, Pita Chips and Tortilla Chips
You need something to eat with the cheese, something to dip into the hummus, the salsa and the guacamole, not to mention something hearty to soak up the wine. So all three of the above should suffice. Otherwise it's not the perfect picnic, now is it?

No picnic is complete without some good wine. A couple of bottles should do it. Start out with a nice, crisp vino blanco (white wine) like a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. Round out your meal with a nice, light red wine. Maybe a Pinot Noir or Sangiovese. If it's a really hot day, a cold rose isn't bad, either.

Hummus recipe

  • 1 can (19 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained or 2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp plain nonfat yogurt
  • 4 Tbsp toasted sesame tahini
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp crushed fresh garlic
  • 3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

  1. Place the chickpeas, yogurt, tahini, lemon juice, cumin, and garlic in a food processor, and process until smooth. Add the parsley, and process until the ingredients are well mixed and the parsley is finely chopped.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a covered container, and chill for several hours. Serve with wedges of pita bread or whole grain crackers, or use as a sandwich filling.

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