I don’t know from where in the States (or world) you are reading this, but it is finally looking like we will be getting some spring weather around here.
Today was a gorgeous day: bright sunshine, blue skies, and flowers blooming. As you could guess, today was the perfect day to be outside. Fortunately, here in Chapel Hill, we have a lot of outdoor spaces, and plenty of people to occupy them. Weaver Street (a local hotspot in Carrboro that is both a neighborhood-owned grocery and communal gathering space) was overflowing with people enjoying a perfect spring day. A beautiful patchwork of blankets were spread across the lawn covered with lounging people, homemade picnic food, store-bought snacks, and more than a few bottles of wine and cider. Some children and a few pets ran and played in the “avenues” in between. The pleasant hum of laughter and conversation was all the music necessary.
Of course the most packed places are the parks of Orange County. Here is where the children reign supreme. Parents sit back and watch their kids tumble over each other playing and laughing at the Community Center Park (just down the street from Kitchenworks). The large hill and an elaborate jungle gym transform into a colossal mountain and expansive castle for anyone under the age of six. The nearby flower garden and the gazebo become the perfect places to calm down with a juice box and some snacks (or to discuss the heavy issues of “tag” with the adults). The Wilson Community Park caters to a slightly older group of kids. Cobbled together on the diamond are some teenagers in a pick-up game of barely adversarial baseball. The tennis courts nearby have the same style of lazy play, crazy stunts, and continuous laughter.
On a day like today, you can’t take things too seriously. After the cold of winter, before the hot humidity of summer, these are the kind of days we North Carolinians celebrate. We long to be outside enjoying the sunshine and those of us that have to be indoors spend the day daydreaming at a window. We dream of bright warm afternoons spent lazing about in a park or on a patio enjoying friends and hopefully some amazing picnic-fare.
Soon the picnic season will be upon us and as everyone knows, the name of the game is finger foods. Orange wedges, beautiful berries, or bags of almonds are perfect easy choices to keep the focus on fun rather than food preparation. A fresh crusty bread, deli meats, and some of your favorite cheeses are a great easy combo for DIY mini sandwiches. And of course, a picnic isn't complete without a festive beverage, whether it's a bottle of wine or a pitcher of lemonade.
Of course if you have the time, there are some amazing recipes out there for picnic food. Pasta salad, deviled eggs, and fruit salad are classic picnic fare that will satisfy most appetites. As for the main attraction, a good Club sandwich would be perfect. This recipe is taken from The Food Network in 2001 and is one of our favorites.
12 slices white bread
3/4 cup mayonnaise
8 romaine lettuce leaves
16 slices vine-ripened tomatoes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
16 slices crispy cooked bacon
16 ounces sliced roasted turkey
16 frill picks, or plastic cocktail swords
Toast the bread in a toaster, or under a broiler on both sides. Cut the lettuce leaves in half crosswise and form into 8 neat stacks.
To make a double-decker club:
- On a clean work surface, arrange 3 bread slices in a row.
- Spread 1 tablespoon mayonnaise over 1 side of each bread slice.
- Place a lettuce stack on top of the first bread slice, top with 2 tomato slices, and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Place 2 slices bacon over the tomatoes (broken to fit neatly if necessary) and top with 1/8 of the turkey (without letting any hang over the sides).
- Season the turkey with salt and pepper, to taste. Repeat with the second bread slice.
- Carefully place the second layered bread slice on top of the first layered bread, turkey side-up.
- Cover with the third bread slice, mayonnaise side-down.