Monday, July 22, 2013

Shakespeare and Planning a Picnic

Last night, we went to see the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company perform "The Two Gentlemen from Verona" as a part of  Shakespeare on the Common. They put on a different Shakespeare play each summer, and it's something I look forward to every year. In fact, it's another one of the many reasons I love summer
They usually place the story in an unusual modern setting and always do a fantastic job bringing Shakespeare's words to life. This year the setting was 1960's-era Las Vegas, and performances of Frank Sinatra classics were scattered throughout, tying in with the story. Basically, it was Shakespeare re-envisioned as a musical, and it was so much fun! (If you're in the Boston area, you have until this coming Sunday, 7/28, to catch a performance!)
This is also a prime opportunity for a picnic in Boston Common! I had so much fun planning the meal, and I loved the spread we put together this year. Some of these may seem like no-brainers, but here are my essentials for an awesome picnic:

1) Good Food (that travels well)

I like to pick a variety of items that play well together and travel well.  I try to keep a little variety and have fruit, vegetables, cheese, starches, etc. Here are the recipes I used for this year's menu (many of which can be made ahead of time and actually improve if given a night to marinate).

Tortellini Salad : Cheese tortellini, salami, peppers, red onion, and fresh basil dressed with red wine vinegar, lemon juice, and olive oil. I love this recipe.

Bean Salad : I tweaked this recipe a bit to put together a salad of green beans, chickpeas, edamame, fresh green peas, and slivers of red onion tossed in a vinaigrette of oil, white vinegar, and lemon juice (note: lemon juice and plenty of salt were key for me. I found the original recipe a tad bland).

Marinated Feta : Large cubes of feta marinated in olive oil with rosemary, thyme, garlic, and crushed red pepper. 

Rosemary Lemon White Bean Dip : An alternative to hummus, this white bean dip is so flavorful and great with fresh pita or toasted pita chips

Fresh Fruit : I brought sliced nectarines, which served as a nice, simple dessert
2) Refreshing Drinks

This year I made a pitcher of White Sangria. I used a bottle of Pinot Grigio, 1/4 cup of Cointreau, 1/4 cup of simple syrup, and slices of 1/2 grapefruit, 1/2 orange, 1 peach, 1 nectarine, and a handful of strawberries and grapes. Snacking on sangria-soaked fruit is an added bonus here.  
For something non-alcoholic, I really love this Watermelon Limeade recipe or this classic lemonade. It's also a good idea to bring along some water as well, something I forgot this year.

3) Blankets (or old tablecloths) To Sit On

I use a couple old tablecloths that I inherited from my mom for picnics. My favorite is an old red and white one.  Any blankets or tablecloths you have laying around (that you don't mind getting a little dirty) will work. Or you could splurge and buy a pretty new one like this one from Terrain.

4) A Big Bag (or Picnic Basket)

I use a large insulated bag, which works great, especially for cold items, but I swooned when I saw this beauty from Anthropologie.
5) Support Equipment

No picnic is complete without packing the necessary support equipment. Don't forget plates, utensils (for both eating and serving), cups (I go for sturdy Tupperware cups), plenty of napkins, cute straws (optional, but who doesn't like cute straws?), ice packs/bags of ice to keep things cold, and something to hold any post-picnic trash (I use a gallon ziploc bag). Finally, I bring extras of everything because you just never know what's going to happen when you're eating outside.

It's also not a bad idea to bring some sort of bug repellent, whether it's spray, one of these Off! fans (they totally work), or a set of tiki torches (I kid).

6) Umbrellas In Case of Rain

Even when the forecast calls for 100% sunny skies, as it did yesterday, an unexpected rain cloud can always blow through, as it did yesterday. As soon as we found a spot to spread out our blankets, it started raining! We huddled under a shared umbrella with the lids on all of our food, laughing at our good luck. It only lasted about 10 minutes, just long enough to soak our pants and our blankets (but not our spirits)!
Happy Picnicking!

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