It’s Picnic Week here on davidrosengarten.com (see the piece I posted yesterday about wines for picnics). In fact, it’s the start of Picnic Season—a whole spring, summer and early fall worth of delicious al fresco dining.
Now, when I plan a picnic—I like to bring food that’s just a notch in interest above the usual picnic fare (your egg salad, your ham sandwiches, etc.) I usually like to choose a theme…and go from there.
One of the greatest picnics of my life took place by the side of a babbling brook, in southern France, in spring. Sacre bleu! The food was provided by a local charcuterie shop (what a range of pâtés and terrines), where they also sold lovely salads and room-temp vegetable dishes. We went to a fromageur in the local town for great French cheese, and to a local baker for baguettes. Of course we visited the local wine shop as well…bagging a few riotous bottles of fruity local red, which we contrived to chill in the brook.
This is not such a difficult picnic to pull off, right here in the U.S. of A.!
But the one dish we enjoyed that you might have some trouble finding at a deli—is ratatouille, the famous Provençal room-temp mélange of eggplant, zucchini, peppers, olive oil, garlic, tomatoes. It was once fairly unknown in the U.S.—then, with the success of the movie of the same name, ratatouille’s stock went up. But not “up” enough to make it widely available.
The best way still to get it on your picnic blanket (in a container, of course!) is to make it at home. It isn’t difficult. You can do it the morning of, or the night before—in which case you’d keep it in the fridge overnight.
Here’s one version of it (diced veggies instead of sliced, easier for picnic noshing). It goes beautifully with the red wine I’ve selected (see below) for this whole French picnic.
This fruity, delicious red is produced by the creator of the Le Pain Quotidien restaurants at his house/winery in Languedoc; it is made from 100% Mourvèdre, one of my favorite Mediterranean grapes. Medium purple garnet. Lovely nose of cooked red fruits, with a grape jam predominance. Fairly sweet attack (perfect for the sweetness of the vegetables!), which turns dry by mid-palate. Always on the verge of becoming a big, ripe mouthful..but always saved at the bell by elegance and good acidity.