Thursday, September 13, 2007

Pic'nic. 1. n. Pleasure excursion including outdoor meal; (colloq.) something agreeable or easily accomplished [F pique-nique]

Thanks to my mom's 1934 edition OED for that definition of picnic. Apparently the word comes from the French pique-nique, which Michelle and I encountered in France (we thought it was funny, sort of like 'le weekend,' but since we stole the word from them, the joke's on us). Apparently in the 18th century the French pique-nique was more like a potluck in that everyone brought little dishes to share and it wasn't outdoors at all! Quel dommage.

But luckily all that has changed. The ideas that the word 'picnic' call to mind now are full of delight – and usually full of summer, that season where food and fresh air actually go together well. One of the first WeDine picnics of the summer was documented in this post and featured fantastic barbequed salmon (or so I read, because I had to experience it through the lovely blog post, like everyone else). But the following picnics I was very happy to be a part of, and I will clearly be referring back to them when it starts raining every day, a season we like to call 'fall-winter' here in Vancouver.

Picnic the first

About a week into July, the weather was still iffy, but nice enough that we starved-for-the-sun girls decided to head to the beach for a picnic. Michelle and I made White Bean and Tuna Salad, a recipe from Giada de Laurentiis' Everyday Italian cookbook which is on temporary loan from the Meg & Darryl Whetung Cookbook Foundation until we can bear to part with it (or Meg takes it back by force). The book, despite sometimes having up to three pictures of Giada's enormous grinning face on some double-page spreads, is actually well-written and just what it says – for everyday use. Very instructive. The salad was taken from her 'Fresh from the Pantry' section, and she really made me think about how to properly stock a pantry (or a cupboard – the only person I know who has a real pantry is my dad in Devon) so that you can eat well on days when, for whatever reason, you're not heading to the market. Here's the salad in all its loveliness. For picnics, tartan blankets are a must!

White Bean and Tuna Salad

2 cans tuna
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 cans cannellini beans (or other white beans) drained and rinsed
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
6 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup capers
Fresh basil leaves
Olive oil

In a large bowl, add tuna, salt, pepper, and break the tuna into bite-sized pieces. Toss in beans and onions. Add tomatoes, capers and torn basil leaves, and drizzle with olive oil and red wine vinegar until desired saucy consistency is achieved. Season with salt and pepper. This salad is really all about tasting it to make sure it's the way you want it – Giada uses dark tuna in olive oil, but I've not tried that yet, just bought regular tuna in water and then added in olive oil. Delicious. The capers are essential, by the way.

Also present at this picnic, Meg's devilled eggs, which, though they look innocent enough, were actually quite devillish.

And Meg's improvised quinoa salad, as blogged about here, rounded out the al fresco fare. Note the tartan blanket!

The weather confused us a little, and swimsuits, sunglasses, sweaters and scarves came out at various times, sometimes all together. But generally it was a lovely picnic. You have to enjoy them while you can!

Alisha brought lots of lovely fruit for after-salad, which was consumed during team Scrabble. This is at least the fifth post where Scrabble or some other word game has been mentioned, guys. Perhaps we were the geeks we were looking for!

Picnic the second

A recent spate of birthday celebrations has meant many opportunities for delicious food gatherings, and Meg took advantage of such a one by suggesting a picnic for her own birthday. We met at the always-delish (and busy!) Noodle Box (see also this entry) on fourth, where I had my usual Singapore Cashew Curry with prawns. But it's so tasty! I know I must try new menu-items though – what if some others are equally tasty?!

Then we headed for the beach (Kitsilano, this time) just as the sun was setting. Noodles were slurped, secret champagne may have been drunk, and various dessert goodies were consumed, including a lovely lemon-meringue cake made by Tess & Tessa, chocolate-chip squares made by me & Michelle, and a variety of Capers sweets from Alisha and Meg. We were all completely content by the time we'd polished off all of that! Ah picnics. What a great idea they are.


moyrad said...

Mmmm pique-nique. It is one of the best ways to eat. All of our beachy food is also quite simple to make too. The most devilish thing about Meg's eggs was that some eggs were mild, some medium and others hot, hot, hot and you never knew which one you were going to get.

Leeeeesha said...

I don't think I've ever had so many picnics as I've had since living in Vancouver. It must be the endless array of beaches here, and the not-too-hot and not-too-cold climate, that seem to make me want to find a patch of grass, stare at the waves or sunset, and eat copious amounts of salad or fruit or freshly grilled meat and vegetables.

Our picnics have been some of the simplest meals we've made together, but also some of the most memorable.

Laura said...

Those devilled eggs were all hot!

Laura said...

Alisha, you're absolutely right. The beaches are such a huge factor, in that there's somewhere nice you want to head for an outdoor meal. I agree about the most memorable part too!

YoonJu said...

I really miss Vancouver and the beaches, and of course all my lovely friends! Ah picnics... I wish I was there with you all.