J.D. Mowat
JD Mowat

Life is a picnic

Are you feeling a bit indoorsy? A bit cooped up? A bit hungry?

You need a picnic.

It doesn't take much. A blanket. A basket. Food and drink for said basket. It does require a relatively flat, dry patch of land. Ideally with grass, trees, you know, the whole great outdoors thing.

You don't need a huge menu for a picnic, keeping it simple and tasty is the way to go. Try this out and see what you think:

White Bean Mint Dip
Grilled Veggie Sandwiches with Goat Cheese
Fresh berries

Not a bad way to spend some time in the park.

Pick this up for your little adventure for two:

1 tin of white beans
2 tins of pitted black olives
1 small jar of capers if you're low
olive oil if you're low
1 lemon if you're out
1 package of goat cheese or 200 grams
1 fresh baguette
1 package of crackers – go for something interesting, not just saltines...
1 large or 2 medium tomatoes
1 medium zucchini
1 medium eggplant (the long ones)
1 onion if you're low
1 bunch of fresh mint
1 small hot chili pepper
1 bulb of garlic if you're low
1 package of fresh berries - Strawberries, Raspberries...something like that
1 large container of assorted olives
A couple of nice little pastries – don't pick things that'll melt or go all soft if it's a bit warm
1 bottle of Rosé wine – French is good but there's also Australian, South African and more. Just don't get some kind of hideous, awful White Zinfandel or the like. Seriously. Don't.
A couple of good, easy reading, enjoyable books
A blanket
Clean, empty plastic bags
2 medium sized plastic containers for food
aluminum foil
A large tote bag
Some kind of container for the wine (many places frown upon you enjoying adult beverages in the great outdoors, so be discreet – the trick here is if you behave like an adult and keep things on the down low, you'll be left alone – if you start drinking right out of the bottle in front of the playground , you're probably going to be talking to someone with a badge shortly).

Okay. You've done the shopping, selected where you're going to establish your base camp, now it's time to do a spot of cooking.

Chill the wine. That's very important. It's crucial. In fact, I can't stress how critical it is. Unless of course you don't drink. In which case, pick up some juice. Something exotic perhaps. Or some really nice sparkling water. Water's always good.

Get out the following:

cutting board
chefs knife
paring knife
scraps bowl
large mixing bowl
knife for spreading
baking sheet
food processor
olive oil
herbes de provence
smoked paprika

It'll take you about an hour to prep, make and tidy.

Set the oven to 250º.

Wash the tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini under cold water.

Cut the ends off the eggplant and zucchini and ditch'em. Then cut long strips, not too thick, less than ½”.

Slice the tomatoes, about ½” thick.

Slice the onion about ¼” thick.

Put the veggies in the large bowl. Add a teaspoon of salt and pepper and smoked paprika, along with 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Stir it around so everything is coated. Then lay them out on the baking sheet in a single layer. Put the sheet in the oven, set the timer for 30 minutes.

Clean the bowl and set it aside.

While things are cooking, you can make the Tapenade and White Bean Mint dips.

Do the tapenade first – open the cans a bit and drain off the water in them, then put one can into the food processor.

Grab 1 clove of garlic and add that.

Get your capers and add a teaspoon of them to the mix.

Cut a third of your hot chili and add that.

Pour a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over top and then put the lid on, hit the button and watch the magic happen. Put the mixture in one of the medium bowls.Taste it. Does it need anything? Salt? Spice?

Do the same thing for the next can, same amount of garlic and chili and capers, or more, or less, to your taste really.

When you're done, put the Tapenade into one of the plastic containers and squeeze the remaining half lemon over it. Keep the lemon, you'll need it.

For the White Bean Mint dip, open the can of beans and empty it into the strainer, run the beans under cold water to rinse them off.

Wash the mint off and pull about 2 tablespoons worth off.

Once the beans have drained, put them and the mint into the food processor along with a clove of garlic and 4 tablespoons of olive oil, then press the button.

When it's smooth, squeeze the lemon half in and add about ½ a teaspoon of salt and pepper. Check the taste – do you want more mint or salt or lemon or anything in it? When you're satisfied, mix it for another minute of so, then put it in the other plastic container.

Check on the oven, by now things should be ready. Take the baking sheet out and let it cool.

Cut two pieces of baguette, large enough for a sandwich each. Cut those pieces in half sandwich-style.

When the veggies cool, wrap them in aluminum foil – putting them on the bread now will just make the bread messy and soggy.

Spread some goat cheese on each piece of bread, give it a good coating, then put the bread into one of the plastic bags.

Wash the berries, keep them in the container they came in and bag that.

Okay, time to pack up and hit the road. Here's your list of essentials.

Booze opener
Booze glasses
Empty plastic bag

Pack everything up, wrap the blanket around the wine to keep it cool and hit the road. Find the perfect spot, set up camp and enjoy. Assemble the sandwiches when you're ready, that way they'll be nice and fresh.

Bear in mind that you can eat pretty much anything on your picnic, this menu is just a suggestion, an idea, a hint. Make what you want, bring what you want, eat what you want. Just make sure you do it yourself...

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