A picnic is the perfect occasion to taste the seasons. Whether on a sandy beach in summer or in a vineyard in autumn, enjoying a seasonal meal al fresco is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Keep your basic picnic supplies packed so you’ll be ready for a portable party at a moment’s notice.
A hearty main-dish pasta salad filled with seasonal produce is tasty at any temperature and makes a marvelous moveable feast. This dish is so versatile, you could put the word “optional” after every ingredient. Use whatever you like that’s in season. You can even throw in some diced ham, chicken or leftover grilled vegetables.
A deliciously crisp, well-chilled sauvignon blanc is the perfect picnic wine. You might also enjoy a good rosé or one of the lighter reds. And don’t forget the mineral water or other nonalcoholic choice.
Farmers’ Market Pasta Salad
1-pound package mini penne pasta
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, divided
1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced lengthwise
1 6-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
Salt and coarsely-ground black pepper
3 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, divided
1 large red bell pepper, julienned
1/3 cup julienned sun-dried tomatoes, plumped in a little hot water
6 ounces baby yellow squash, halved lengthwise
1/4 teaspoon marjoram
6 ounces thin asparagus, each spear cut into 4 pieces
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan
18 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
1. In Dutch oven, start boiling salted water for pasta. Meanwhile, in 10-inch skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and start slowly cooking sliced onion. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain in colander and return to Dutch oven. Stir into pasta 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar. Add the caramelized onions to pasta, along with artichoke hearts.
2. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet and cook mushrooms, seasoning with salt and pepper and 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce. Add cooked mushrooms to pasta.
3. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet and cook sliced red bell pepper and sun-dried tomatoes, seasoning with salt and pepper. Add tomatoes and crisp-tender peppers to pasta, along with 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce.
4. Add 2 cups water to skillet, bring to boil, add asparagus (except tips) and cook, covered, for 1 minute. Add tips and cook another minute. Remove from water with slotted spoon and add to pasta, along with 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar.
5. Add Parmesan and fresh basil to pasta; taste and adjust seasoning. Can be served immediately at room temperature. For picnic, refrigerate until well chilled, at least 3 hours; remove from cooler 30 minutes before mealtime.