Quarantine Picnic

Author nika
Date 06/24/2020
Category Editorial
dylan and I celebrated the summer solstice in Plymouth, Massachusetts. We had planned this trip a while back and found ourselves in a strange situation – residing in America’s origin city while the country is experiencing unrest and confrontation with systemic inequalities. Our time there illuminated a few differences between regions in the country and reminded us about what we love about New York City, our priviledge, and the importance of a global food philosophy.

For the first edition of the Little Chefs’ blog, I wanted to explore a solitary picnic experience. Picnics have a wholesome quality about them and scream summer – even if it’s a new type of summer without many guests. They’re an easy outdoor activity, and can provide an opportunity for self reflection and thought.

In terms of food, an ideal picnic should have a variety of easy-to-eat dishes that are flavorful, versatile, and not messy. It also seemed like a great opportunity to try some of the dishes from the Little Chefs community and feature a few new ones. We also wanted to explore low cost ingredients that you might already have in your pantry.

I initially wanted to try out Sichuanese Spiced Cucumber Salad by alc, which seemed quick to prepare and full of flavor, two of the requirements for a picnic dish. The recipe requires dried chilies and a whole Sichuan pepper. At home in Queens, we can easily find these ingredients at the basic C-Town or at one of the specialty food stores nearby. In Plymouth, I realized this wasn’t the case. Most of the Plymouth grocery stores had very basic offerings, while others hosted a dismal “ethnic/international” food aisle. Maybe this isn’t surprising, but after living in New York for the past decade, you become accustomed to the plethora of cultures and cuisines available in any part of town – the entire local C-Town is basically an international food store. More troubling is the fact that these suburban “ethnic food aisles” merge Chinese, Thai, Indian, Mexican, Italian, Turkish and a variety of other cuisines into a single cramped lane. Merging these wildly different cuisines into one category groups them all as unspecified “otherness.” While I understand that perhaps these products are less desired in the suburbs, I wonder if they were simply integrated with everything else, new audiences could discover them. I also feel that without honoring each individual culture, it becomes harder to understand the nuances and specifities of each one. It made me realize that there is an opportunity with Little Chefs and food in general, to combine international flavors in new ways while learning about their origins. As a vegetarian, I find this a creative and thoughtful challenge.
Using the more readily available ingredients in Plymouth, we made two bright and vibrant salads that are super quick to prepare and very tasty.
Both of these salads have a Mediterranean quality to them – they’re both seasoned with olive oil and lemon and share an herbal component. The textures between the two salads make for a versatile offering.

Fennel salad by dj_boyfriend has strong, pungent flavors from the fennel, olives and parmesan. The acidity of the lemon brightens it up as does the fresh parsley. Using a mandoline creates thin strips of each ingredient, which helps pack flavor in each bite. The bites with the olives were my favorite. Out of the two salads, this one felt a little muskier and heavier and complimented the second dish.

Herbal Walnut, Tomato and Nectarine Salad by nika is a spin on more traditional Lebanese salads. The coarsely chopped vegetables work together without one flavor overpowering the rest. The mint, parsley, and lemon add freshness to the dish as well as a seasonal aroma.

Proja (Cornbread) by nika is a traditional Serbian cornbread. My mom described it as a basic dish that most home cooks know how to make instinctually. Proja is made entirely with pantry staples and kicked up a notch with a leafy green vegetable (basil, spinach, or swiss chard) and gourmet cheese.
Cherries, marzipan fruit, and a fruity rosé ended our meal in a summery dusk color palette.

marzipan by nmuccia is tactile and multi-layered and offers additional room for thinking and conversing together. Marzipan is one of my favorite desserts, and I never thought to make it until I saw nmuccia’s post.

If you’d like to see a step by step guide, you can take a look at Marzipan by nika, my forked version of the original listing.

This blog is intendended to be an occasional look into different types of foods and the processes to make them. I’m excited about highlighting different features from the community and developing an exciting discourse on this platform.

Thank you for reading!

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