A PEI Picnic in the Park

I like picnics.  My earliest memories of picnics consist of Sunday family drives on the Island with a stop at a park for a picnic lunch.  My Mom would have prepared the traditional picnic fare of tomato sandwiches along with ham and cheese sandwiches, too.  These would have been packed up in the airtight Tupperware containers and placed in the old blue Coleman cooler with ice (I’ll bet some of you remember those coolers!).  There would be cookies and squares for dessert.  Often plums and pears would be included in late summer outings because that would be their “in-season” time on PEI.  We had a large thermos that would have been filled with some kind of juice and lots of ice cubes and off we’d go touring around our province.

Picnic food always seems to taste so good …. whether it is the fresh air or what it is, I don’t know.  It’s also a great way to casual dine.  But that doesn’t mean it has to be boring or ordinary.  With a little planning, organization, and effort, picnics can be gourmet and they can be an event.  And, the best part is that you don’t even need to leave home to have a picnic!  You can picnic right in your own backyard, on your front verandah, or on your apartment or condo balcony.

The color theme for today’s picnic is lime green with white accents.  Just because we dine outside doesn’t mean we can’t add some polish to the dining table which, in my case today, just happened to be a traditional old wooden picnic table in a park.  As those of you who regularly follow my blog will have heard me say before….you don’t need high-end dinnerware and cutlery for picnics.  Simply visit your local dollar stores and you’ll find lots of things that will make your table look very dressy and you won’t have spent a fortune on the items.  The white plates, napkins, lime-green cutlery, and small salad bowls I used today all came from my local dollar store.

I debated about what flowers to dress the table with but knew I wanted them to be white.  Queen Anne’s Lace blooms prolifically on PEI this time of the year so I stopped on the country roadside on my way to the park and claimed some Queen Anne’s Lace from the ditch.

I added some green Granny Smith apples and green pears and, voilà, I had an easy, carefree centerpiece that took the picnic table from blah to one that looks attractive and oh-so-summery.  You don’t need to spend a lot on tablesettings for it to look attractive and, bonus, the apples and pears can be part of the meal!

The Picnic in the Park Menu

Pressed Italian Sandwiches

Pasta Salad

Fruit Cup

Homemade Butter Tarts

Jam-Filled Brown Sugar Cookies

Perrier

For my picnic outing in the park today, I am highlighting pressed Italian sandwiches. While my Mother would have gone to take great pains to ensure the picnic sandwiches were carefully packed so they would not get squashed, I actually purposely squashed mine today!  These sandwiches are incredibly tasty, not as difficult to make as you might think, and they look so attractive on the plate.

The idea of pressing the sandwich is that it helps all the flavours to blend.  You will need to press the sandwich for several hours or overnight.  The recipe for these sandwiches follows at the end of this posting.

Make sure you use a good quality bread for this sandwich and one that is not too soft.  Here, I have used a Ciabatta.  I love the ribbons of color that the sandwich ingredients make!

As a side dish, I chose to serve a pasta salad.  I found a great bag of colored, flower-shaped pasta at our local Winners store and I thought it would be great in a pasta salad which it was.

Pasta salads are easy to make and travel well – that’s probably why we often see them making an appearance on picnic menus.

Dessert consisted of a small fruit cup of green grapes, kiwi, and blueberries….again, the focus was on green with the blue for contrast.

Of course, there always has to be something for the sweet tooth on the picnic menu!  I used my dollar store cupcake carrier for the Jam-Filled Brown Sugar Cookies and the butter tarts.  This proved a good way to transport them and keep them in place.

Serving Perrier steps the picnic up a notch (plus, doesn’t the green bottle look great in this color scheme!)

And, when it all got pulled together, this is what it looked like.

Can you taste those good Italian cold cuts in the sandwich!

Now, here are some collages of today’s picnic.

Keeping color schemes simplistic makes the picnic table look coordinated.

A tasty meal, for sure on a warm PEI summer day!

PEI offers many great venues for picnic lunches, from our parks to our beaches.

I like to include edible components to table centerpieces.

Using wildflowers in the tablesetting is a great way to enjoy local flora.

Mix and match patterns (e.g., checks and stripes) for interest but just keep them in the same color family.

I love how the sun peaked through the trees.  I am going to look at these picnic photos some day in cold January and try to remember what a beautiful day today was for a picnic.

Pressed Italian Sandwiches

Ingredients:

Ciabatta loaf (I used Red Pepper & Sun-dried Tomato)

Butter

Basil Pesto

Mayonnaise

Roasted Red Pepper

Selection of deli cold cuts (I used salami and Mediterranean Turkey Breast), sliced very thin

Selection of cheese slices (I used Provolone and Cheddar)

Fresh basil leaves

Balsamic Vinegar (I used Liquid Gold’s Cranberry-Pear)

Olive Oil

Leafy Lettuce

Method:

Slice bread in half, lengthwise as shown in photo below.  Butter both sides of bread.

In small bowl, mix about 3 tbsp pesto with about 1 – 2 tbsp mayonnaise.  Spread on both sides of bread.

On bottom half of bread, add a layer of salami, followed by the roasted red pepper.  Add torn pieces of basil leaves.  Add a layer of Provolone cheese.

Add a layer of turkey breast.  Drizzle just a bit of olive oil, about 1 tsp or so, over the turkey breast.  Add a layer of cheddar cheese followed by a second layer of turkey breast.

Add fresh leafy lettuce and drizzle a bit of your favorite balsamic vinegar, about 1 tsp, over the lettuce .

Place the top half of the bread on top of the sandwich ingredients and press down on the sandwich.

Wrap entire filled loaf of bread as tightly as possible in plastic wrap.  Place in refrigerator and place a weight on top of the sandwich to “press” it.  This could be a couple of heavy books, for example, or anything that will press the sandwich down.  Let this rest in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 4-5 hours to let the flavours blend and to ensure that the sandwich is pressed.

Remove the sandwich from the refrigerator.  Remove the plastic wrap.  Cut into desired widths of individual sandwiches.  Out of this size of loaf, I got six sliced individual sandwiches.  For presentation, I also like to cut off the outside edges all around the sandwich loaf as it makes it more even and tidy and the layers of the sandwich are more visible.

Yield:  3 servings, 2 sandwiches per person

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