Days like the one we had yesterday bring out the best, happiest me! What a lovely sunny, breezy day for a picnic – just in time for Father’s Day! We packed up the sandwiches, the sunscreen and The Redhead and headed off to the Medicine Lake Park in Plymouth to have fun in the sun.
One of the things I love most about living in Minnesota is how much you value and take advantage of warm weather after you survive the winter. It feels like the everyone in the cities collectively has the same idea – getting to a lake – ANY lake….which luckily isn’t hard since we have well, you know, 10,000 of them!
Picnicking is always on our agenda because nothing tastes better than eating outdoors!
I have to keep the menu really simple when we’re talking about transporting food – making sure I don’t leave anything out (kinda need plates!), keeping things cold and making sure I don’t leave our child at home in the flurry of getting everything ready is hard enough! So I made sandwiches, pasta salad, devilled eggs (a family must-have – you haven’t seen pathetic faces until you leave out the devilled eggs) and berries.
This vegetarian pasta was a total hit, pretty healthy and didn’t have to be kept super cold, since the dressing was olive oil based. (Scroll to the end of this post for the recipe.)
Mmmm! Fresh blackberries and blueberries are The Redhead’s favorite….and so is the playground!
Heres the Recipe:
Summer Pasta Salad
1/2 lb Pasta, cooked, drained and rinsed in cool water
1 cup Cherry Tomatoes, cut into wedges
1/3 cup Red Pepper, diced
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese, shaved
3 tbsp Fresh Parsley, chopped
1/4 cup Olive Oil Vinaigrette (I just used our favorite salad dressing, Kraft’s Greek Vinaigrette with Feta Cheese, Oregano & Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
Toss all of the ingredients together and refrigerate until use (told ‘ya this recipe was super easy!).
I don’t know about you, but overheating my apartment isn’t my idea of fun on a humid day, so when it comes to cooking dinner, the quicker the better. And if seafood is part of the recipe, all the better! One of the things that I really like about this meal is that it looks a little fancy but it’s really easy and quick to make and it’s also a light option for a summer meal. It also features an awesome ingredient – fennel (not used enough, in my opinion!)…
Here’s the Recipe!
3 Cloves of Garlic – 1 Clove Minced, 2 Cloves thinly sliced
½ cup Panko Bread Crumbs
1 tsp. Dried Oregano
3 cups Thinly-sliced Fennel Root
½ tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
1/2 lb Angel Hair Pasta
½ lb Mussels (rinsed and cleaned)
½ lb Little Neck Clams (rinsed and cleaned)
2 tbsp Unsalted Butter
3 tbsp Chopped Fennel Fronds
Bring lightly salted water to a boil in a large pot. Add two tablespoons of olive oil and cook angel hair pasta for 5-7 minutes (cook until al dente’). Strain pasta and set aside.
Heat 6 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan. Add minced garlic and cook until lightly browned. Add Panko bread crumbs and oregano and cook until golden brown (about 5 minutes). Season to taste with coarse salt and scrape bread crumbs onto a plate to cool.
Wipe out the pan and heat 6 tablespoons of olive oil. Add sliced fennel root and allow to cook through (about 8 minutes). Add sliced garlic and pepper flakes and toast until garlic becomes golden brown. Stir in white wine and butter and allow to simmer until slightly reduced. Add mussels and clams to the pan and cover for approximately 6 minutes, or until the mussels and clams have opened (throw away any that do not open). Remove mussels and clams and set aside.
Add cooked pasta to sauce , along with fennel fronds, and toss until well mixed and evenly coated. Add mussels and clams, top with prepared bread crumbs, and serve immediately.
Sooo, fennel – I haven’t seen a grocery that doesn’t have fennel; however, if you seldom (or never) shop for it, it can be easy to miss because it’s often labeled only as Anise. Take a look in the produce section and you’ll spot it by it’s thick, white bulb sprouting multiple green stalks of delicate fennel “fringe”. It’s a really lovely and fragrant ingredient and for this recipe, you’ll just want to slice the bulb thinly and then use some of the fronds on top (they can just be pulled off the stalk and then roughly chopped).
On of my favorite parts of this recipe is the tasty bread crumb topping, and Panko breadcrumbs are really easy to find. They are a delightfully crunchy, flaky Japanese bread crumb that stays crispy after you’ve browned them – it’s easy to burn them, though, so making sure to stir as they cook will be important. After you use these once, you’ll want to put ’em in everything!!! They’re like a Japanese version of the Midwestern Cornflake crust!