“Some evenings we took a picnic into the woods, with a bottle of white wine wrapped in a crisp tea towel, wine glasses in a cedarwood container, and a flask of coffee. This was high table sur l’herbe.”
- Ian McEwan, Sweet Tooth (2012)
There is much to recommend about Ian McEwan’s latest novel, a story about love and spies in 1970s London.
It also contains inspirational passage about picnics, taken in true British style—with proper china and silverware. Brits love their gardens, and we’ve always adored how they think nothing of indoor furniture---sofas and cushions and the like—relocated outdoors.
We’ve long been fond of the “carpet picnic,” a tradition we appropriated years ago when penniless students, with time on our hands and romance in our hearts.
Life with young children can make date nights an ordeal, but a carpet picnic allows for a little glamour at home. Farmers’ markets are popping up all over our cities right now; seasonal offerings make for delicious fare.
Components should be near to hand: a bright tablecloth spread out on your prettiest carpet. Real china (your best; why not?) Cloth napkins. Mismatched plates. A Mason jar with a spring bouquet.
Inside or out, this makes for an instant, simple pleasure.
The Bourbon Sour also helps.
Add fresh bread and a selection of cheeses to add substance to the savoury snacks detailed below. We love rustic loaves from De La Terre and almost anything from Montforte Dairy.
(And, yes, while the menu below is tailor-made for you and your love, children are big fans of picnic suppers. Pour icy apple juice into a crystal wine glass, make a plate of tiny tea sandwiches, and let them join the party.)
Parmesan Roasted Asparagus
Preheat the oven to 400° degrees F.
Snap the thick ends off of asparagus at their natural breaking point.
Lay them in a single layer on a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil.
Sprinkle with salt, pepper, NSS, and chilies. Roast for 8 to 10 minutes (or longer if you prefer softer spears).
Sprinkle with the Parmesan and return to the oven for another minute. Serve with lemon wedges.
Spicy Citrus Olives
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a large mixing bowl, combine olives, garlic, chilies, olive oil, pepper, orange zest, and NSS. Add a squeeze of juice from the zested orange. Marinate well.
Place olive mixture on parchment lined baking sheet. Place another baking sheet on top and weight with a cooking brick or other heavy object. Bake for 20 minutes. Plate and enjoy!