Provencal Gourmet Picnic
Provence is a region in France best known stateside for lavender and sunflower exports. If you’ve been there though, you will recall hot summer days with light breezes that float up from the Meditteranean Sea. Endless fields of flowers dominate the landscape and markets are jammed with all sorts of incredibly fresh, alluringly colored and utterly delicious produce.
The Mediterranean Diet was conceived here. Because of its location betwixt the Alps and the sea, the cuisine is simple, healthy, diverse and inclusive of all sorts of tastes and textures: salty, sweet, briny, savory and everything in between.
Natives savor their own piece of heaven by spending long afternoons lingering over multiple courses punctuated by wine, cocktails or homemade spirits.
For this picnic theme, you could spread the table with a flowery or striped sheet as in this photo by www.chicprovence.blogspot.com. Set the table with flowery, mismatched china and sturdy French glassware, all found cheaply at Goodwill. The drinks could alternatively be served in chic Weck jars, which are found at most specialty kitchen stores. These are the jars with the retro sealed lids, as opposed to the Mason jar twist-off.
- Medjool Dates with Mascarpone and Artisanal Honey
- Bloomy, soft cheese with artisanal crackers or bread
- Fig Cake- available at Whole Foods Market
- Madrange Ham and French Brie sandwiches on baguette with sliced cornichon- Madrange ham is available at Tastings Gourmet Market
- Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches with Mache, Red Pepper Jelly and Herbed Goat Cheese on Rustic Rolls
- Quinoa with roasted Summer Squash, grilled Red Bell Peppers, Walnuts and Sweet Balsamic Vinaigrette
- Homemade Limoncello or Champagne Punch
- Marcona Almonds and Fresh Figs- both available at Whole Foods Market or Trader Joe’s
- Honeycomb- available at your local farmer’s market
- Macarons- try a local bakery for dessert!
Stuffed Medjool Dates- you won’t be able to put down this easy, fast, yummy, sexy finger food!
Use only the soft, rich Medjool Date in this recipe, which you can find at Costco and sometimes Sam’s Club. Marscapone can be found in most groceries in the gourmet cheese area.
- Halve each date to remove the pit.
- Whip the marscapone so it it light. Then scoop a small amount into the “bowl” created in each half of the date where you removed the pit.
- Drizzle excellent quality orange blossom or acacia honey over.
Herbed Goat Cheese
Purchase one log of plain chevre-or goat cheese. Unwrap and place it in a bowl. Add a nice bit of Herbes de Provence (which you can make on your own or buy at any grocery) and a pinch of sea salt. Stir it all up, spoon it into a cute jar, et voila! You can make the sandwiches ahead of time, or at the picnic. The goat cheese is also wonderful with crudite or crackers.
Here is a photo of the Mini Ham and Brie sandwiches from Tastings Gourmet Market. Eas-ay, Peas-ay! Slice the mini baguette lengthwise. Layer the ham (you have to fold it like a fan onto the bread). Put the brie on top of the ham. Slice some tiny cornichon and put on top of the brie. Serve with Dijon mustard on the side.
Orzo Salad with Roasted Summer Vegetables
Roast a variety of summer vegetables such as squash, zucchini, eggplant:
- cut into small dice, drizzle with olive oil and lightly season with sea salt and ground pepper.
- Cook in 425 degree oven until soft and caramelized. Cool.
- Prepare orzo according to package instructions.
- Mix cooled vegetables with the orzo. Dress with good French feta cheese and light lemony vinaigrette. Garnish with a chiffonade of fresh basil or thyme.
- 1 cup Triple Sec
- 1 cup Brandy
- ½ cup Chambord
- 2 cups Unsweetened pineapple juice
- 1 quart Ginger ale, chilled
- 2 750-ml. bottles dry champagne, chilled
- In a bowl combine the Triple Sec, brandy, Chambord and juice. Chill, covered, for several hours or even overnight.
- Prepare ice cubes by pouring a portion of the mix into ice trays. Freeze overnight, then combine with a few regular ice cubes in 16 oz. canning jars and pack these “cold packs” in your basket.
- At the picnic, combine the mixture with the ginger ale in a large mason jar. Pour over the smaller jars (keeping the ice) and top with the champagne.
Feel free to share...