This is a little different from my typical date night in posts. The weather has been so beautiful in Maine that it’s nice to have a date night or day outside. I love to pack up a picnic, drive to a local park or maybe a bit further 🙂 and have a nice little date outside. Maine is a fickle state and you need to take advantage of good weather when you can! Take some time to enjoy where you live, or pack a picnic while on vacation. We love to do that when we travel! It makes us feel like locals.
What to Eat:
Just because it’s a picnic doesn’t mean you need to pack PB&Js! Or do, it’s your picnic but I prefer PB&Banana. When I pack a date-worthy picnic I like to either pack some fancier sandwiches or a charcuterie board that I then usually make a sandwich from.(I like bread, a lot) My go to for a fancy sandwich is a Niçoise Tuna Sandwich aka Pan Bagnat.
This is a sandwich from Nice in southern France. Made with tuna (or anchovies), olives, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes and vegetables, it’s basically Salade Niçoise between pieces of crusty bread. The classic method for making pan bagnat is to wrap the assembled sandwiches and weight them with a heavy object for a few hours, or even overnight, so the ingredients and flavors meld and the bread soaks up any juices. You don’t have to weight them down for your picnic, just wrapping them tightly will do the trick. Perfect picnic sandwich.
- 2 5-ounce cans olive oil-packed tuna
- ¼ cup drained capers
- ¼ cup pitted black olives, preferably oil-cured, chopped
- ¼ cup lightly packed
- fresh tarragon, chopped ( if you can’t find fresh use dried)
- 1 medium shallot, chopped
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 4 8-inch crusty rolls or ciabatta rolls
- 2 medium ripe tomatoes, cored and sliced about ¼ inch thick
- 2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and sliced crosswise
- 2 medium radishes, thinly sliced
- In a medium bowl, stir together the tuna with the oil, the capers, olives, tarragon, shallot, lemon juice, olive oil and ½ teaspoon pepper. Taste and season with salt.
- Split each roll horizontally, leaving one side hinged. If the rolls are very thick, pull out and discard some of the crumb so the bread is about ½ inch thick.
- Divide the tuna mixture evenly among the rolls, on the bottom halves. Lay the tomato slices on top of the tuna, followed by the egg and radishes.
- Close the sandwiches and press firmly. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and pack in your cooler, or stick in the fridge until you’re ready to go.
- Bring a sharp knife with you so that you can cut your sandwich before you eat it at your picnic!
Note: If you are eating these at home and not having a picnic somewhere else, you can just place the sandwiches on a baking sheet, place a piece of foil on top and then place another baking sheet on top. Weight it with a heavy object like a Dutch oven or some cookbooks. Let them hangout for 15 minutes, cut and enjoy!
Note 2: This recipe makes four sandwiches, if you’re not having a double date you can halve the recipe OR you have leftovers for lunch tomorrow, Because really, who buys 2 rolls?
The Niçoise Tuna Sandwich is perfect paired with some sea salt chips. This is a filling sandwich, you don’t need much to accompany it.
Another dish that is super tasty and gets better with time is an Apple, Fennel, and Kohlrabi Salad. Have it as a side with your favorite sandwich or add some rotisserie chicken in there and make it a meal.
- 1/2 cup walnuts, halved
- 2 1/2 tablespoons honey
- 1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/4 tablespoon fennel seeds, ground
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 fennel bulbs
- 2 Granny Smith apples
- 1 large kohlrabi bulb
- Your favorite package of salad greens (about 200g)
- 3 ounces Manchego, shaved
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Optional rotisserie chicken
- For the candied walnuts. Preheat the oven to 350F. Place the walnuts in a small bowl and toss to coat with 2 tablespoons of honey, salt and pepper. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the walnuts in an even layer.
- Roast 10-12 minutes, stirring the nuts halfway through. When the time is up remove nuts with parchment to a cooling rack to cool while you make the salad.
- Combine the vinegar, mustard, fennel seeds and remaining honey in a a small bowl. Add a bit of salt and pepper, whisk to combine. It will thicken a bit and look shiny. Give it a taste and adjust your seasoning. Set your freshly made apple cider vinaigrette to the side
- Trim the stalk and fronds of the fennel. (you can save the fronds, chop them up and add to the salad for some extra color if you want) Cut the fennel bulb in half vertically, you’ll want to remove the tough core. Slice the fennel halves as thin as possible.
- Halve and core your apples, slice thinly.
- Remove any knobby bits from the kohlrabi, it’s a rather alien looking veggie so there may be quite a few knobs. Cut into quarters and then thinly slice.
- Add the fennel, apple, kohlrabi, salad greens, half of the walnuts and half of the cheese into a large mixing bowl. Toss with about half of the vinaigrette, coating evenly. Add more vinaigrette as needed, you don’t want to overdress the salad. (This is also when you would add in the chicken if using)
- When ready to serve, top with additional nuts and cheese.
For a sweet treat pack some seasonal fruit, whip up some brownies or a favorite batch of cookies to bring along. There is nothing wrong with picking up those two bite brownies from the store either, they are delicious.
What to Drink:
So, in Maine we can’t just bring a bottle of wine to the park and drink it with the ducks. Which is unfortunate because I would love to have a glass of riesling among the waterfowl. Anyway, if we had the picnic in our backyard there would be favorite beers and rosés but we’re picnicking somewhere “off campus” so no alcoholic beverages here. I’ve recently discovered Rieme French Sparkling Lemonade and Reine des Limonades. It’s so refreshing and has a lot of different flavors to choose from. I really like the Lemon Mint and Pomegranate. I found it at a local IGA but if you don’t have that near you. Italian Soda or Trader Joe’s Elderflower Lemonade/ Strawberry Rhubarb are great to pack on a picnic. Plain old water is also great to have on hand as well, you don’t want to get dehydrated!
What to Listen To:
I love to listen to my Apero mix when we’re picnicking but there are also some great playlists on Spotify.
The Picnic List is a great low key, won’t upset the family next to you playlist.
What to Do:
There are so many things to do depending on where you have your picnic. Are you at a state park? Explore trails that may be there. Are you on the coast? Take a walk on the beach to look for sea glass or check out the local lighthouse. Are you at a park? Bring some lawn games with you or enjoy the gardens. I bring bocce with us no matter where we have our picnic because that game can basically be played anywhere! And I’m really good at it which is a plus. Also, a simple deck of cards can bring hours of entertainment if exploring nature is not your thing.
What are your favorite picnic meals? I’d love to hear about them! July is national picnic month so make sure you pack a cooler, get outside, and enjoy the nice weather.