My friends and I love picnics: genuine food, open air lunches and the sun playing among the tree branches, that’s our perfect day. Every time we organize a picnic, we try to be as much eco-friendly as possible, that is, we try to reduce the impact on the environment. No plastic dishes or cups, each one of us carries his own dishes, glass and cutlery and we share the food from our lunch boxes. At the end of the day everyone just collects his own dishes to leave completely clean the lawn or the shrubbery. As I said, zero impact.
Then a few weeks ago I saw this article posted on Facebook by Alex, a volcano of interesting ideas: I immediately saw those little jars with chalkboard paint lids as perfect lunch boxes for a picnic. Just imagine: a red checkered blanket, a large straw bag, your favorite book, the play of light through the trees branches and many small glass jars with coloured chalk writings on the black lids. A scene that is a cross between Le déjeuner sur l’herbe by Manet and the Mad Hatter tea time banquet in Alice in Wonderland. More or less playful writings and explanations, each one free to choose the jar he fancies the most. At the end of the day, just wash the jars and clean the lids with a damp cloth and they are ready for the next picnic. Zero impact, greatest fun.
Simple and easy to carry recipes. Practical glass jars that can be customized every time with colourful chalk and ribbons to match. A picnic in the shade of the trees on a lazy Sunday afternoon. That’s our theme, today!
I made four recipes that have one thing in common: they can be eaten with a spoon or a fork without the need of a knife, you need just one hand, then you can lazily lay on a blanket with the other hand holding a book, or sit on a log watching your friends playing football in the clearing of pine trees. Quantities are all intended for 2 to 3 people.
… And what to drink? A floral Bancha green tea made with cold infusion: two tablespoons of tea leaves in 2 litres of water with a sprig of mint kept in infusion in the refrigerator overnight and filtered the morning before the picnic.
Corn and rice couscous is my favourite one, because it is very tasty even without any seasoning and has a beautiful natural golden-yellow hue. I used the corn flour also to coat the aubergine nuggets, which are therefore golden and crunchy outside and juicy inside.
CORN AND RICE COUSCOUS WITH AUBERGINE NUGGETS
- 175 g (1/2 cup) precoooked couscous
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 large aubergine, diced
- 1 tablespoon of fresh mint, chopped
- 1 tablespoon desiccated oregano
- 2 tablespoons of corn flour
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 mozzarella (125 g), diced
- Cook the couscous according to the package directions. Fluff the couscous with a fork and place it in a large bowl.
- Mix the corn flour with the oregano and the chopped mint in a large bowl and then add the chopped aubergine: toss the bowl to coat each aubergine cube with flour.
- Heat in a large pan a generous dash of extra virgin olive oil with a clove of garlic and stir fry the aubergine over medium heat for about 20 minutes, until they are golden brown and crispy outside, yet soft inside. Remove the aubergines from the pan and leave them to cool on a dish lined with paper towels. Season with salt.
- Season the cold couscous with the aubergines and the mozzarella. Season with salt if necessary and spoon into individual jars.
Let’s shuffle the cards. The panzanella, the classic Tuscan salad made with stale bread, tomatoes and cucumbers, is proposed here with the bulgur instead, reminding a Middle Eastern and Lebanese tabbouleh.
- 175 g (1/2 cup) bulgur
- 1 large ripe tomato, chopped
- 1 medium cucumber, sliced and quartered
- basil leaves
- extra virgin olive oil
- white wine vinegar
- Cook the bulgur according to the package directions, drain and let cool.
- Season the bulgur with the chopped tomato, the sliced cucumber, plenty of basil, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a splash of white wine vinegar. Season with salt and divide into individual jars.
To define the following one a recipe is an exaggeration, let’s say it is a small list of ingredients that get along well and are good for you, your heart and your soul.
GOOD FOR YOU YOGHURT
- 1 teaspoon flax-seed
- 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
- 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
- 1 tablespoon dark chocolate chips
- 125 g (1/2 cup) Greek yoghurt
- 1 tablespoon of wild flower and lavender honey
- fresh strawberries
- Combine all the seeds and the chocolate and put them on the bottom of the glass jars.
- Stir the Greek yoghurt with the honey using a with a spoon, until you have a smooth cream. Spoon the yoghurt on top of the seeds and chocolate.
- Top the yoghurt with the strawberries.
I have already told you how much I love sweet and fruity couscous salads. Well, I love them so much that I decided to try another recipe, changing slightly the ingredients and the mood. Maybe I like this one even more than the first attempt! It has a Middle-Eastern fairy-tale appeal, thanks to the presence of two of my favorite spices – cinnamon and cardamom – and the sweet dried figs from Turkey. The final touch is given by a tablespoon of dried rose petals: soaked in vinsanto (Tuscan sweet dessert wine) they get fleshy and intense and bring you on a flying carpet in the starry nights of Baghdad (how many times have I seen Disney‘s Aladdin? I do not count them anymore…)
ORIENT NIGHT SWEET COUSCOUS SALAD
- 175 g (1/2 cup) precooked couscous
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 4 dried figs
- 5 cardamom pods, crushed
- 1 tablespoon dried rose petals
- 125 ml (1/2 cup) of vinsanto
- 1 tablespoon almonds, coarsely chopped
- Make the couscous according to this recipe.
- Chop the dried figs and soak them in vinsanto along with the crushed cardamom pods and the rose petals, for at least 30 minutes.
- Squeeze the figs and the rose petals and stir them gently into the couscous, along with the chopped almonds. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon. Taste the couscous and if it’s not sweet enough add 1 up to 2 tablespoons of sugar. Divide the couscous into individual jars.
WHERE TO SHOP
- I bought the chalkboard paint in my local hardware store. The half kilo paint pot was not cheap, I paid it 18 €, but I think I’ll paint with it all the lids of all my spice jars. Well, it was definitely worth of my 18€! To paint the lids I followed this tutorial suggested by Alex.
- The jars are the beautiful Quattro Stagioni by Bormioli, a great classic, they have a vintage appeal I love so much!
- The colourful ribbons are form CupcakeConfessional on Etsy.
- The wooden cutlery are from Etsy as well, from my favourite FromSoul shop.