Nothing screams summer like packing a picnic lunch and heading into the great outdoors. A picnic only needs two things to meet all the criteria of being a picnic: it has to take place outdoors, and, it has to include food. Picnics can happen anywhere from the park around the corner to the beach or hiking trail two hours away.
When I was growing up, my mother always included a picnic as part of a package, so if we were headed to the zoo, we’d picnic in a nearby park, or if we were going to the movie, we would pack sandwiches and eat them outside, maybe on nearby benches, or a centrally located grassy spot. Since my brother and I loved picnics so much, we never realized that this was my mom’s way of stretching a dollar, and instead, we thought of picnics as our special tradition.
The picnic tradition has stayed with me all of these years and in fact, I wouldn’t think of venturing off for the day without packing a few things in the cooler to ward off a growling belly later on. Over the years, I’ve learned what things to pack in my basket—items that can go without refrigeration, that stay fresh and flavorful and that hold up to traveling. I’m sure you have a few of your own favorites, but one that I’d like to share is a simple pasta salad with olive oil, plenty of garlic, peas and basil. I like to use cheese filled tortellini, because they can really hold up to traveling and the added protein keeps me full and prevents dips in my blood sugar.
Next time you’ve got a picnic on your calendar, put this salad on your menu.
Cheese Tortellini Pasta Salad
1 package dried cheese tortellini, cooked to package directions, drained
1/2 cup of olive oil
1 tablespoon champagne or rice wine vinegar
4 garlic toes, finely minced
1 cup of frozen peas, thawed and cooked
1 small basket of cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 bunch of green onions, green part only, finely minced
1 bunch of basil, finely shredded
1/3 cup of parmesan cheese
1/4 cup of walnut pieces
salt and pepper to taste
1. Toss warm tortellini with garlic, olive oil, vinegar and parmesan cheese.
2. Gently toss in peas, basil, cherry tomatoes, green onions, basil and walnut pieces.
3. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Spoon into a clean glass jar with a tight fitting lid.
5. Serve at room temperature.
Melanie Bryant is a writer obsessed with food. When sheâ€™s not writing about her latest culinary adventures, she spends her time working in the garden, collecting cookbooks, and hanging out at the local farmerâ€™s market. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of New Orleans. "You Had Me at Butter" (www.buttermelup.blogspot.com) is her blog where she writes about all things food.