Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Hello, Pic-a-nic Basket!

I recently arranged my first real picnic; armed with a blanket, some wine, my boyfriend, and an awesome picnic backpack very much like this one filled with lunch, I was fully prepared to eat on the grass and take in the perfect summer day. We set up shop beside a lake on the grounds of Old Westbury Gardens, the former estate of John Shaffer Phipps, heir to a fortune made in steel. Architecturally inspired by the homes of 17th century England, Phipps’s mansion sits before a beautiful, sprawling landscape of lakes, nature trails, and flower gardens.

If you’re from around the Long Island area, Old Westbury Gardens offers a quiet, pleasant escape. If not, you can still visit (or might have already), in the movies! It is no wonder why the estate’s scenic grounds have provided a location for so many films. It was first used in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 North by Northwest. The mansion’s scenes may not be as iconic as Cary Grant getting chased by an airplane in a cornfield, but still! Other popular films it appears in include 1970’s Love Story, and more recently, Age of Innocence, The Manchurian Candidate, American Gangster, and Hitch. TV shows Sex and the City, and Gossip Girl have also been shot there.

For lunch, I packed caponata and mozzarella sandwiches, à la Giada De Laurentiis. The caponata, a Sicilian eggplant dip, was great in between the toasted halves of a rustic Italian loaf. Light but substantial, and not as messy as I had thought, it was perfect picnic food. I barely even strayed from the recipe, because pretty much whatever Giada says, I listen to; she always gets it right, so I just roll with her word. I don’t care, she makes the kind of food that I love and she is one of my favorites. Along with that, we had a nice assortment of cheeses to pick on with the wine. Despite being limited by picnic conditions I prepared a spread of applewood smoked cheddar, horseradish cheddar, goat cheese, and provolone, with a mild sopressata, nuts, raisins, and crackers.

Don't you wish that I was going on a picnic and I was! What are you bringing? ;-)

Caponata and Mozzarella Sandwiches:
Yield: 6 Sandwiches
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- 1 eggplant, medium dice
- 1 red bell pepper, medium dice
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1, 14 oz can diced tomatoes
- 3 Tbs raisins (black or white)
- ½ tsp dried oregano leaves
- ½ cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 Tbs drained capers
- 1 loaf ciabatta or other rustic loaf, cut crosswise into 6 equal pieces
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 6 slices (1/3”) drained fresh mozzarella
- Salt and pepper, to taste

• Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add celery and sauté until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Add the eggplant and sauté until it begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Season with salt. Add the red pepper and cook until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and sauté until translucent. Add diced tomatoes with their juices, raisins, and oregano. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer over medium-low heat until the flavors blend and the mixture thickens, about 20 minutes. Add the vinegar, sugar, and capers. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
• Cut the bread pieces horizontally in half. Grill the bread cut-side down on a grill over medium-high heat until golden. Rub the whole garlic cloves over the toasted side of the bread. Add a slice of mozzarella to the bread bottom, spoon caponata on top, cover with other half of bread, and serve.
• To take on a picnic, wrap each sandwich individually in foil or plastic and keep cool.

Recipe by Giada De Larentiis, Everyday Italian, Food Network


Steve said...

Those are pretty good looking sandwiches and you're right you can't go wrong listening to Giada, she's usually got some great flavors going on.

zerrin said...

It looks like an awesome picnic! This great picnic photo makes me envy you. And the sandwich looks yummy with everything in it.

Lauren Zabaneh said...

what a gorgeous day and beautiful picnic. that's my kind of food and I love Giada too!

Chef Dennis said...

now you certainly are packing some great food.....such wonderful flavors to enjoy!! a nice bottle of wine and as long as your there who could ask for anything else!

Lazaro Cooks! said...

What a fantastic job with the picnic. You have got one lucky boy there. Love the sandwich.

Marisa said...

Thanks for all of the amazing comments everyone.

Chef Dennis, I have to say, I've had caponata on the brain since I saw yours!

Pure Mama said...

yum!! That sandwich looks fantastic! Especially with that delicious wine :) great job, and what a beautiful backdrop for a picnic!

Magic of Spice said...

What a wonderful picnic, and the sandwich looks fantastic:)

Foodessa said...

Marisa...this is certainly what I would adopt as the picnic to bring.
The location looks splendid.

Thanks for sharing such a wonderful day.

Flavourful wishes,

Wendy Irene said...

What beautiful photos!

Trish said...

What a fabulous day and menu! And the pictures are lovely. You definitely gave me some picnic ideas. Thanks for sharing!