13 April 2015

An Impromptu Spring Picnic on a Wanderlust Day

Green Goddess Avocado Dip with Crudites
The forsythia and almond trees are in full bloom, orchards are blazing with colour and the hummingbirds have returned. A visit to the farmers market last week cemented the idea in my mind and ultimately in my kitchen. Spring is when everything seems to come alive!!!!! The days are longer and the markets begin to burst with the colours of the bountiful fruits and vegetables of the season. Nothing comes quick enough as we wait impatiently to enjoy fresh rhubarb and sweet garden peas. It is the season for furled fiddleheads, asparagus and escarole and a wide variety of lettuce hand plucked from the garden for green salads. The delightful fragrance of chives, mint, chervil and tarragon fill the air to season our dishes. All of these tastes of Spring will be bursting from our gardens, forests, markets and window boxes…soon, yes soon…..

What better way to enjoy a beautiful Spring day than to take a leisurely drive south of the city past cerulean blue lakes meandering along the pocket dessert we call the home. The Okanagan Valley is dotted with balsam flowers and antelope and sage brush this time of year. I drive past fragrant orchards in full bloom and undulating vineyards as far as the eye can see. The goal... an early Spring picnic amongst the sheltered boughs at the Summerland Research Station and their ornamental gardens. 
Four Cheese Ravioli with Asparagus and Arugula
I have vague memories of being in elementary school and bringing a picnic lunch in a flowered lunch box with Brady Bunch stickers and doodles of David Cassidy from The Partridge Family to school for my friends to bid on to raise money for some unknown cause. It could have been basketballs for the gym or to offset the cost of a field trip our class wanted to take. There were Strawberry Socials, sports days and White Elephant Sales all organized by our parents or teachers with the same goal to make us well rounded and enhance our educational experience. The arrival of Spring not only brought warm weather, and school outings but it was a state of mind. Everything seemed to come alive!!
Scenes of the Okanagan Valley
My first picnic may have been in the backyard next to the fish pond with my sister and Barbie and Ken sipping lemonade and creating dandelion and clover sandwiches. Only partially edible of course but through the eyes of a child everything is driven by our imaginations. With the arrival of Spring I dig deep into the recesses of the hall closet and revisit my childhood by digging out my picnic basket and tablecloths and start searching for recipes that are picnic friendly. I remember long lazy days in summer when mom would pack a picnic basket to take down to the beach where we would frolic in the waves for hours kissed by the sun. I would hop on my bike with a picnic lunch in my "rat trap" and head for the local conservation areas with a group of friends.  L'il Burnt Toast and I spent many days over the summer doing just that both here in the Okanagan valley and where she grew up in Southern Ontario. The difference being, my daughter learned at a very young age to appreciate my gourmet picnics. Just like what came out of our kitchen there were very few hotdogs or peanut butter sandwiches for this family. More than likely you would find spanakopita, chicken or turkey spirals stuffed with proscuitto or goat cheese, shrimp cocktail, creme brûlée or strawberry cheesecakes. There were always a myriad of salads mirroring the seasons.
Rhubarb and Strawberry Mousse and Strawberries
The beauty of cooking with ingredients that are freshest in the Spring months are their pure simplicity. The standout flavours are the fresh, natural ingredients themselves... the pop of a freshly shelled pea or the bite of arugula.  It is still early and fresh, local ingredients can simply not come quick enough for my liking. So what do you do to feed your wanderlust? A road trip and early Spring picnic feeds my soul. 

An impromptu Spring picnic this time of year needs to be bright in colour to make up for the lack of 'fresh from the garden' ingredients. Surprisingly ripe with flavour I started off with Green Goddess Avocado Dip with Crudites from Feed Me Phoebe. I made a quick and tasty salad of four cheese ravioli with steamed asparagus. There is no real recipe. Liberally add the juice of one lemon and a large dollop of Greek yogurt. To bring back a reminder of summers gone by add a generous spoonful of basil pesto frozen in time last season. Toss it all with several large handfuls of peppery arugula and steamed asparagus and a satisfying salad is born. Also on the table was a non vegan version of Rainbow Potato Salad. And for dessert a Rhubarb and Strawberry Mousse from Okanagan Grocery with California strawberries for dipping.

An impromptu picnic was my way of heralding in the Spring season. Throughout the year picnics can be anything from a simple bagged lunch with delicious sandwich wraps, veggies and cookies to a dramatic gourmet picnic...or an impromptu affair like I created today. What feeds your soul this time of year?

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author/owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison.

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  1. Wonderful weather, food and landscapes. Perfect!



    1. Thank you Rosa. I love how you are almost always the first to comment even if I have not posted in months. I love that we're friends :-)

  2. This is pretty much the most beautiful picnic ever!! <3


  3. Thank you Sues. It nourished my soul.

  4. Our market season is starting here too. What fun it is to see what's new, especially this time of year. Lovely photos, Val. They make me eager for warm summer days.

  5. What a glorious day for a spring picnic and a fabulous meal.

  6. Picnic weather is slowly starting to arrive in NY. The buds aren't on the trees yet, but the crocuses are popping up their heads. Thanks for the inspiration - and the hope of beautiful days to come!

  7. I love this - I've got all the same feelings, I just made my first strawberry rhubarb dessert of the season - it's finally here!!


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