I have big, big plans for picnics in 2011. Last summer, I think, Brian and I were cheated...busy lives kept us from really taking the time to relax on weekends and enjoy each other's company on weekday evenings. Life is still moving quickly, but this year we've adjusted our priorities. And picnics are close to the top of my new list. Nothing quite says summer like packing a basket of simple foods, folding up your favorite quilt, and driving out to the country. Or, if you really want to get your picnic quota up, simply walking out to the backyard and plopping down on a patch of shady grass. That can happen any old day, and this year I plan to make it happen quite often.
A few weeks ago I started a list. My 'foods fit for a picnic' list, as I call it. On this piece of gridded paper I placed edibles such as 'not-too-crumbly biscuits' and 'pulled pork' and 'spicy coleslaw'. Also, there were 'buttermilk cookies' and 'dill pickles' and 'egg salad'. These were all recipes that I wished to research and experiment with, to really nail down so that I would be prepared for outdoor eating at any point between April and October. As of this week, I've crossed one off.
For some reason I've always had a thing for egg salad. Most versions I've ever had have been very bland, and I am never fully satisfied after choosing it for a sandwich over deli meat or roasted veggies. Regardless, for all these years, I've told myself and others "I really love egg salad!" And so when it made an appearance on my 'foods fit for a picnic' list (because of course, egg salad belongs at a picnic) I immediately started thinking about creating a fantastic herbed pesto that I could drizzle over top. You know, to make the egg salad more interesting.
Armed with this Alice Waters recipe recommended by a friend, I set about preparing what was to be the ultimate picnic sandwich...egg salad drizzled with chive pesto served on artisan bread. I smeared one slice of bread with the pesto, piled a heap of egg salad on another slice, and debated how to photograph my creation. While debating, I sampled the salad...and kept eating. This salad is so delicious, the exact opposite of bland, that the beautiful, emerald-toned pesto was immediately packed up and stashed away. Chopped eggs tossed with mayonnaise mixed with fresh chives, dijon mustard, and capers requires no accompaniment aside from a thick slice of good bread. Its the capers that make the salad, truly. I'll never eat egg salad without capers again. That would be like having a whole summer go by without a picnic, and that just won't do.
Egg Salad (the best ever...)
from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters
serves 4 (unless you're a big, big fan like me...then you might want to double the recipe)
- 6 eggs*, at room temperature (if you can, please buy happy, organic, farmer-raised chicken eggs)
- 2 tsp capers - rinsed, drained, and chopped
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh chives*
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley*
- freshly-ground black pepper
- pinch of cayenne
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise (Alice recommends homemade, which I'm sure is simple and lovely, but I used store-bought)
- 2 tsp dijon mustard
- 1/2 cup diced celery
- Cook the eggs in simmering water for 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and cool in a bowl of ice-cold water. Peel and chop the eggs coarsely.
- Mix together the rest of the ingredients. Add the chopped eggs and mix well.
- Adjust seasoning if necessary.
*Eggs from Double H Farm. Chives from the Local Food Hub. Parsley from Stephanie + Evan. Thank you!