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The Simple Joy of a Spring Picnic

The Simple Joy of a Spring Picnic

It’s hard to think of spring when there is still snow on the ground, and March can be a fickle month, but before we know it, the sun will shine and the snow will melt and we’ll all be more than ready to enjoy the outdoors again. And part of enjoying the nice weather is planning a meal with friends, either at an outdoor café or a picnic. So when you think of spring, what foods come to mind?  Perhaps foods that are light, bright, and vibrant in flavor both sweet and savory. This spring, why not plan a picnic that includes a variety of breads and spreads both savory and sweet?

Picture the scene. A warm breeze blowing and a large blanket spread out over the soft grass. On the blanket there is a basket filled with delicious springtime edibles. Fresh baguettes with jams, jellies and preserves made in Provence. Wine glasses clink together in a toast to the beautiful weather and the joy of sharing delicious food with those we love. There are fruit jams and olive jams, watermelon jelly, chocolate spread, almond spread, and a truffle spread thrown in for extra luxury.

The picnic offers such a variety of delicious foods, including cheeses and hams to rest on top of the spreads, that it’s hard to know where to begin. There is plenty to go around and each guest can try them all. That is an image of spring that we can all get excited about.

The history of the picnic seems to have developed a long time ago, but was usually only available to the wealthy. Working class families barely had enough hours in the day to scrape together a living, much less leisure time and luxury food items to eat al fresco. But those attitudes have changed significantly since Victorian times, and a picnic can be enjoyed by anyone. In modern society, you’d be hard pressed to find a man, woman or child who hasn’t enjoyed a picnic.

So even though you still have to put on your winter coat each day for at least another few weeks, it’s not too early to plan your picnic. Gather together your spreads and start packing your basket. Don’t forget the cutting board and utensils! Spring is around the corner and you can never be too prepared.

If you want to include a salad in your picnic basket, here’s a recipe that will pair perfectly with the tastes of spring.

Spring Pasta Salad

1 package (12 ounces) tricolor spiral pasta

1 package (10 ounces) refrigerated tricolor tortellini

1 jar (7-1/2 ounces) marinated artichoke hearts, undrained

1/2 pound fresh broccoli florets (about 1-3/4 cups)

12 ounces provolone cheese, cubed

12 ounces hard salami, cubed

1 medium sweet red pepper, chopped

1 medium green pepper, chopped

1 can (15 ounces) garbanzo beans or chickpeas, rinsed and drained

2 cans (2-1/4 ounces each) sliced ripe olives, drained

1 medium red onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 envelopes Italian salad dressing mix

Cook spiral pasta and tortellini according to package directions. Drain and rinse in cold water. Place in a large bowl; add the artichokes, broccoli, provolone cheese, salami, peppers, beans, olives, onion and garlic.

Prepare salad dressing according to package directions; pour over salad and toss to coat.

Serves 14-16