Since I went to college near wine country in California, I became obsessed with picnicking shortly after turning 21. With their mature oak trees and captivating views, wineries are absolutely ideal for relaxing the afternoon away. Whenever we made the trip, our plan was usually the same: Leave at 10 am, arrive by 11 am, head to Winery 1, then Winery 2, then stop for a scenic picnic around 1 pm and if we weren't too tired (it's amazing how wine tasting and sunshine takes the energy right out of you), visit Winery 3 before heading back.
Part of the fun was always deciding what to pack in our picnic. This was one of the first salads I started with several yeas ago, and though I have a new affinity for Orzo with Grilled Shrimp and Pesto, I still rely on this salad for picnics. Besides, with all the picnics I tend to go on, the same salad at them all would get a bit boring. To ensure freshness, separate the salad from the dressing while you transport it, and toss just before serving.
In terms of picnic menus, I like to have a main dish (like this salad, or grilled steak with pesto dipping sauce, or Barley Salad with Roasted Tomatoes) to anchor the meal, several sides like cheese and crackers, fruit, pita chips and hummus, and something sweet like brownies for dessert. Aside from a bottle of your favorite wine (many wineries sell their bottles pre-chilled for just this occasion), it’s all you need for a perfect afternoon.
Tuna and Green Bean Salad
Recipe courtesy Giada de Laurentiis
1 1/2 pounds slender green beans, trimmed, halved crosswise
3 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
2 large red potatoes, diced
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
9 ounces canned tuna packed in oil, drained
Cook the green beans in a large pot of boiling water until crisp-tender, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Using a mesh strainer, transfer the green beans to a large bowl of ice water to cool completely. Drain the green beans and pat dry with a towel. Add 2 teaspoons of salt to the same cooking liquid and bring the liquid to a simmer. Add the potatoes to the simmering liquid and cook until they are just tender but still hold their shape, about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the potatoes to the ice water to cool completely. Drain the potatoes and pat dry with a towel.
In a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice, garlic, oil, oregano, 1 teaspoon salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Place the tomatoes, basil and parsley in a large serving bowl. Add the tuna and toss gently to combine. Add the green beans and potatoes and gently combine. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat.