“Hey, Boo-Boo!” It’s a Picnic Basket!
Diane Rezendes, food writer
There’s something magical about an end-of-the-day picnic. Work and chores are done; all that awaits are good food, fun and laughter, and the company of the people we love most. Whether a concert in the park after work, a day at the beach, or free movie night right here in downtown Redwood City, relaxing over a casual outdoor meal is part of why we love it here so much.
This week we bring you a few easy take-along ideas using the peak produce of the season.
Let’s start with rinse-and-take fruit.
Our stone fruits are at their height now, and we have a bounty of them: Lady Crawford yellow peaches from Andy’s Orchard, and California Clean peaches, nectarines, plums, and pluots from Sweet Home Ranch.
Picnic tip: When peaches are perfectly ripe, they can be delicate in travel. Try this foolproof method. After rinsing the peaches, wrap each one in a thick cloth napkin. When you unpack it at your picnic, your peach is perfect and your napkin is ready.
Our grapes are sweet as candy, and so much better for you. Try a grape tasting. Sample a few varieties we’re getting this week from Fresno: is your favorite the green Thompson grapes you grew up with? Do you prefer muscats with their winelike sweetness? And have you tried the latest variety, the teardrop grapes with their elongated shape and low acidity?
Each of our mini-watermelons makes two generous portions. Just cut one in half and give it to each person, along with a spoon. It’s ready to eat, right in its own natural bowl.
If you can spare even a few minutes to prep, this refreshing watermelon salad will be a sure hit. At home, cube some watermelon and toss with chopped or torn mint leaves. Just before serving, crumble in some feta. The sweetness of melon, the tang of cheese, and the coolness of mint come together in a very pleasing way.
Best two-fruit mix ever: blackberries and mango. We have sweet blackberries from Webb Ranch, just down the road in Portola Valley. Fold them with cut-up Kent mango. That’s it.
Rinse-and-take tomatoes: all you need is your favorite heirloom tomato and good quality salt (try one of our specialty salts), and just eat it out of your hand, adding a bit more salt after each bite.
Try this low-prep vegan cousin to a classic Caprese. In a bowl, stir rough-chopped tomatoes and basil leaves, finely chopped mild sweet onion, Sigona’s Fresh Press extra virgin olive oil, and fresh lemon juice. Garnish with coarse salt, pepper, and pine nuts. Non-vegetarians can make an entrée out of it by topping it with two or three fillets of Italian tuna or Portuguese sardines.
This takes more prep, but I can’t resist because it’s so yummy: the day before your picnic, grill up some seasonal favorites: I like zucchini, summer squash, and eggplant because they are so abundant and tasty; red bell pepper for sweetness and color; and onion for a sharper sweetness. Chill overnight; the flavors will blend beautifully and intensify.
You can serve it as is or with salt and pepper. Consider which flavor profile complements your menu – Provençal with French herbs; Greek with olives and oregano; Szechuan with sesame oil, minced ginger and garlic.
Make it your own: What’s your culinary heritage? Which are must-use seasonings in your family’s cooking? Try some of them and see what you create.