These are just a few of the spontaneous responses I received when I asked shoppers on Saturday morning at the Cortez Farmers Market what popped into their head when they thought of a picnic basket. It’s an American icon and for most people it conjures some distant memory, often associated with childhood. I will wager that for most of us the memory is a pleasant one. After all, a picnic signals us to interrupt the routine, to slow down, to interact with nature, and to savor food, friends, and family.
The good news is that the picnic basket doesn’t have to be relegated to the past; you can craft new memories. There’s a one-stop picnic waiting for you at the farmers market.
If you’re in a hurry or just feeling lazy, then pick up some fresh-baked whole-wheat bread from the Garden of Weedin’ or Norwegian rye or sunflower bread from Wilson Farms. Pair it with homemade strawberry rhubarb jam, pear-pineapple-cherry, jalapeno, or peach raspberry jam, or perhaps tomato preserves from Mammy’s Jams and you’re on your way. How about individual savory apple cheddar green chile pies from the Pie Maker? They also offer quiches, cooked on the spot, and a tantalizing array of rolls, cookies, bagels, and mini-pies. All picnic-basket worthy.
Don’t have a proper picnic basket? No problem. Take any flat-bottomed container that has a handle and line it with one of Rosie Carter’s newest creations from her frontier series: dish towels and striped napkins made from ticking and hand-printed with whimsical original art. They’re cheery, practical, and delectable, like everything at the marketplace.
Eggs – hard boiled, deviled, in tuna, macaroni, or potato salads – are a staple of the picnic basket. You can purchase farm-fresh eggs from smiling Michelle at Song Haven Farm.
The hard-boiled egg is actually a misnomer because you should never boil an egg. Boiling toughens them and causes that dark line between yolk and white (perfectly edible) that is accentuated by too much heat. And a little known fact when cooking eggs in the shell: before cooking, Julia Child suggests pricking the shell of the egg on the fat end with a push pin, enough to pierce the inner membrane. This will prevent leakage of those globular egg whites that cling to the outside of the shell. You have her word on this.
If you want a perfect cooked egg for your picnic basket (and who wouldn’t?), try my recipe. This leaves the eggs cooked through but not rubbery, with a soft and moist yolk.
THE PERFECT (UN)HARD-BOILED EGG
Add some baby bok-choi, young carrots, and radishes for a crunchy counterpoint to the smoothness of the deviled eggs or the cooked salads and you can build a four-cornered meal: savory, sweet, smooth, and crunchy.
Put as many eggs in a pan as you want, but don’t stack them on top of each other. Lay them flat on the bottom of the pan. Cover with enough cold water so that there’s an inch or so above the eggs. If you want salt, add about a teaspoon per quart of water. Don’t cover the pan. Turn heat on to medium high. As soon as the water begins to boil, turn off the heat, cover the pan, and leave the eggs in the pan until the water is tepid (this takes at least 20-30 minutes). Remove the eggs, lightly crack the shells, and submerge in a sinkful of cold water. Cracking allows the cold water to penetrate the shell and cool the eggs more quickly and may aid the peeling process. Refrigerate until ready to use. If you’re going to separate the eggs, as in deviled eggs, do this right away, then refrigerate.
A note about fresh eggs: A newly-laid egg, says Julia Child, is more acid than alkaline, making it more difficult to peel. She recommends leaving them on the counter at room temperature overnight before cooking