we’re going on a picnic…

Truly warm and sunny days in San Francisco are treated like holidays.  It feels like the entire city collectively decides to venture out to the nearest grassy knoll to catch precious rays of sun because every park is full of people!  Any restaurant with outdoor seating is certain to be busy, every beer garden is packed, and even the buses aren’t very crowded because people prefer to walk to their destinations.
I have to admit that I don’t usually like walking in San Francisco, because of the insane amount of hills that we have.  But on a day with a sky that looks like this, I couldn’t say no.  Jules and I headed out on Sunday afternoon to join our fellow San Franciscans in a little bit of outdoor enjoyment.
St. Peter & Paul Church, North Beach, San Francisco

We packed a large blanket and a few books into a bag and headed for Washington Square Park, located in North Beach.  This also called for light and delicious picnic foods, made from the lovely produce we just bought at our farmers market.  All of these recipes are very simple – and take hardly any time to make.

Arugula Pesto Crostini

4 cups arugula
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese
2-3 garlic cloves
1/4 cup olive oil

1 cup of ricotta
Olive oil, for drizzling (optional)

1 baguette, sliced at an angle

Toast your baguette slices in the oven.  Since the pesto will have a good amount of fresh garlic in it, you don’t need to rub the bread with additional garlic.


Using a food processor, blend the arugula, cheese, and garlic cloves together.  With the blade running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until well mixed.

Top each slice of baguette with some pesto and a dollop of ricotta, and drizzle with olive oil if desired.  Arugula’s natural spiciness goes beautifully with the cheese, and the ricotta helps to soften the bite of the fresh garlic.

Beet Salad with Orange Vinaigrette
2 beets, peeled (I used golden, but use whatever you prefer)
1/2 cup of chopped parsley
2 T orange juice
1/4 cup olive oil
salt
pepper

Using the largest holes on a grater or the shredding disc on your food processor, shred the beets into strips.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the orange juice and olive oil, then toss the beets and parsley together in the vinaigrette.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Puy Lentil Salad with Parsnips
3/4 cup lentils, washed and picked over
2 cups water
bay leaf
1 sprig of thyme
2 parsnips, peeled and cubed
juice of 1 lemon
3 T olive oil
1 small shallot, chopped finely
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
salt
pepper

In a medium saucepan, put the lentils, water, bay leaf, and thyme, and cook for about 25 minutes, until the lentils are tender yet still retain their shape.  Drain and set aside.

While the lentils are cooking, heat a non-stick skillet, add a tablespoon of olive oil, and saute the parsnips until tender.  Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the olive oil, shallots, and lemon juice, then add lentils, parsley, and parsnips, and coat in vinaigrette.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Peanut Noodle Salad
 
For peanut dressing (from The Smitten Kitchen):
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon chopped peeled fresh ginger
1 medium garlic clove, chopped
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons Asian toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes or a splash of the hot sauce or chili paste of your choice (optional)
1/4 cup warm water
I used a hand blender to puree the ingredients together, adding the water last to make sure the dressing did not thin out too much.  You can adjust the water to your desired consistency.
1/2 lb cooked spaghetti noodles (or soba noodles)
1 cup shelled edamame, cooked
3 scallions, rinsed and sliced diagonally
1 English cucumber, halved lengthwise, then sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 T black sesame seeds
Toss noodles, vegetables, and edamame with dressing, then top with sesame seeds and give the noodles one last good mixing.
a blooming magnolia tree on our walk
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fiendishly fond of cooking, SoulCycle, Pilates, green smoothies, and Korean spas.

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