My $5. Slow Food Meal! Picnic at Dolores Park.

Yesterday was a glorious day in San Francisco…like clockwork Native American Summer has kicked in. This means we get summer late here in the Bay, our August is chilly but our September is the stuff that inspires BBQs, picnics and evening stoop parties.

Yesterday was also Slow Food USA’s $5 Challenge. The call to action: create a delicious and nutritious alternative to a fast food meal for $5. The point was also to include friends and community and to share your experience, recipes and thoughts.

Vodka Fuzzy Navel and Bourbon Peach Lemonade

For our slow food picnic I wanted to take advantage of the lovely heirloom tomatoes that are bursting at this time of year, we’re getting them in our organic vegetable box we get delivered to our house and there was a $1.99/lb sale on them at the store on Friday, they had flats upon flats filled to the brim with hues of deep red, striped yellow and gold. I feel very proud of myself that I resisted buying a whole flat and only came away with four large tomatoes. Some cool salad was in order in addition to a fake bacon type BLT and cucumber sandwiches.  I also took this opportunity to try these gluten-free (in addition to free of a list of other common allergens) cheese biscuits, it’s a mix from Chebe and they are absolutely delicious – the box makes 16 little biscuits and I’m proud to say they got systematically polished off by a variety of people.

Picnic Arugula Salad

Salad eating at picnics can be a bit precarious thus we end up doing the potato salad and cole slaw thing (which I love!) but sometimes you just want a yummy dark green arugula salad. Managing the dressing and sogginess can be an issue. So, here’s my solution. 

1 clamshell of washed baby arugula

1/2 a fennel bulb, shaved – use that Mandolin

2 medium heirloom tomatoes, inch cubed pieces

1 8oz. can of Northern White Beans or Cannelini Beans

1/2 cup block feta, crumbled

2 tblsp. Brianna’s French Style Vinaigrette (this is an awesome jarred vinaigrette, but feel free to make your own.)

Drizzle of balsamic vinegar

I prep this salad by mixing together all the ingredients except the arugula in one of my favorite glass Pyrex bowl with a lid.  The beans should be rinsed, the fennel should be sliced with a mandolin or thin with a sharp knife, the heirloom tomato should be cut into chunks and juicy and the feta should be crumbled. Toss with the dressing and balsamic. Lid it up and you are ready to go. I usually buy baby arugula that is already washed in a clamshell for this type of salad although you can absolutely used bunched that you pre-wash and dry yourself – incidentally later in the fall I often do a big leaf arugula winter salad with burrata…stay tuned for that recipe. We did have a cooler to keep these items cold, so I gently packed my salad items. When you reach your destination and are ready to serve simply put a mass of arugula on your plate and top it with some spoonfuls of your bean/tomato/fennel/feta salad mix.

Vinnie’s Cucumber Samich

My husband is a vegetarian and generally when I think of cucumber sandwiches, ladies in the twilight of their lives munching them over tea come to mind, but he requests them on a regular basis. I, too, am in love with them but have yet to find a good gluten-free bread that begs cucumber. This recipe is one of his favorites, it combines the cool crunch of cuke with a smokey deep Munster…and, of course, is perfect for a picnic!

Whole wheat sourdough bread

European cucumber

Whipped cream cheese

Sliced Munster cheese

Smoked sea salt

Fresh ground pepper

My version of a cucumber sandwich is a little hardier than the I peel and slice the European cucumber (these are my favorite types for sandwiches, they come shrink wrapped) using my..wait for it… mandolin (can you tell I’m in love?) to make nice thin slices conducive to layering. I toast up the bread unlike the soft white bread often used for cuke sandwiches, spread each side with cream cheese, layer some cukes on one side, grind the smoked salt on top and then tear and layer the Munster. Grind the pepper over your Munster and top your sandwich with the other side of the cream cheese slathered bread. Slice into finger sandwiches and pack flat. These little sandwiches travel well, enjoy when you make it to your destination (“Out of the cooler, Vinnie!”)

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