I went to camp longer than the average person. For this reason, I never had a paying job until the summer after I graduated from high school. It wasn’t just a casual internship – I’d tackled my fair share of those in the summers before or after camp. This one had a real paycheck and taxes and, despite being a relative latecomer to the summer job game, I thought it was the coolest thing ever.
What did I do with that hard earned money? I bought a bicycle. But it’s not just any bicycle. It’s the most beautiful bike you could ever, will ever, have ever seen. I promise. It is bright blue with silver fenders, a white wire basket and a blue bell.
I love my bike, but I don’t ride it nearly enough. Thank goodness it’s officially spring, though. That’s a cause worth celebrating, right? Shaking off the doldrums of winter – which, yes, never really hit America, but there’s still a bleak knowledge that filters through those “-ember” months and makes you long for the green of spring even when snow never fell. It’s so worthy of celebration that I was pretty sure the only observance that could do this occasion justice was a bike ride and a picnic of bright fresh veggies.
My favorite vegetable, asparagus, pokes its tufted little head out of the ground in the spring, and I was thrilled to find it fresh at the store. I couldn’t scrounge up any broccoli, surprisingly, so I picked up cauliflower to make a variation of one of Hiedi Swanson’s amazing vegetarian dishes. The two vegetables are just barely cooked, so they maintain that delicious crisp crunch, and are tossed with a zesty dressing. If you’re looking for an easy lunch to bring on a picnic, go with a salad. You can prepare it at home – it only takes about 15 minutes from start to finish; then put the salad in a to-go container. Since a salad tastes better when it’s well mixed, tossing it mindlessly into a backpack before a hike or bike ride is just a great, easy step in your lunch prep. Perfect, right?
The Picnic Time Zuma backpack was ideal for the bike ride and is my favorite picnic gear I’ve used so far. For a picnic that requires activity, it is perfect. Lightweight and compact, the picnic backpack is comfortable on even filled with food. It doesn’t come with utensils or plates, but disposable ones can easily be packed in the upper mesh compartment.
Asparagus Cauliflower Salad
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks
1 ½ tbs fresh lemon juice
pinch of salt
2 tbs red onion, diced
3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
12 asparagus spears, cut into ¼ inch thick coins, washed
½ cauliflower head, trimmed and cut into small florets, washed
zest of one lemon
Whisk together the first four ingredients to make the dressing. Add the toasted pine nuts and set aside.
Add a splash of olive oil and a big pinch of salt to a medium sized skillet and turn the heat to medium-high. Once the pan is hot, add asparagus and cauliflower. Toss to coat in the oil and salt, and then cover the skillet with a lid. Cook for one minute. Stir the veggies again and taste a piece of cauliflower. You don’t want the vegetables to be over cooked; it should still have that fresh crispness to it. Cover and cook for another minute if necessary.
Remove from heat and stir in lemon zest. Toss with ½ of dressing and add more if needed. Transfer to a platter and add shaved or grated Parmesan to taste.