Our last picnic was so nice that we decided to do it again. This time, with ten more people, including two little girls and one very little dog.
Unfortunately, the weather wasn't as cooperative this go-round. It was breezy and overcast, a little too cool for sitting outside. (What is up with June this year?) But we put down our blankets, unpacked the food, and made the best of it. A delicious array of things to eat can improve almost any situation, even a not-so-nice day.
There was pasta salad, and guacamole, and cookies, and conversation about who should play Barbarella in the upcoming remake. (I said Sienna Miller. Mike said Anne Hathaway. Your thoughts?)
Some people brought beer and wine, which I hid in a bag and poured surreptitiously. Our friends from Australia thought all of this was very silly, and I wholeheartedly agree, but open container fines are expensive! Later on, we overheard the park rangers—two very vocal women stalking about—telling people to put their booze in dark colored cups. I guess if you drink alcohol in red or blue cups they won't fine you? Strange, but good to know. Next time I won't be so paranoid.
As we ate and drank, the little girls, Rose and April, ran around in circles, thrusting handfuls of grass down the backs of peoples' shirts when they weren't looking. Grass escalated to raps on the back of the head with tiny fists and then the sky got dark and it started to drizzle and we decided to pack it up, only a few hours after we got there.
The picnic was not the day in the sun I imagined, but even imperfect gatherings have their merits. Being surrounded by Prospect Park's lush greenery, and good people, and good food was worth the trip.
After Dan and I got home it started pouring. Feeling full from lunch, I curled up on the bed in our dark bedroom and closed my eyes, listening to the steady beat of the rain outside on the air conditioner. Even though it's nice to surround yourself with people, sometimes it's really nice to be alone.
Prospect Park picnic #2
Lemonade, beer, and rose wine
Guacamole, salsa, and tortilla chips
Fusilli with chickpeas, tomatoes, and feta
Cherries, strawberries, and yellow watermelon
Cheese and salami
Chocolate-butterscotch chip cookies
Pasta salad with chickpeas, tomatoes and feta
My friend Anne brought this pasta salad, from Bon Appétit, to the picnic and it was eaten up by all—kids and adults alike. I think the dog even moved in for a bite. It's perfect picnic eating: tasty, portable, and not heavily slicked with mayo or oil.
3/4 lb. fusilli or other corkscrew pasta
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. chopped garlic
2 tsp. grated lemon peel
6 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cups chopped plum tomatoes (Anne used halved grape tomatoes)
1 15- to 16-oz. can chickpeas, drained
4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
Additional chopped fresh mint
Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain and rinse with cold water to cool. Drain again. Combine 1/4 cup mint, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic and lemon peel in large bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Add pasta, tomatoes, garbanzo beans and feta cheese. Toss to blend well. Season salad to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared ahead. Let stand at room temperature 2 hours; or cover and refrigerate overnight, them let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.) Mound salad on large shallow platter (or in a plastic container). Garnish with additional mint.