How to picnic like it’s your wedding day.
I know, I know: A) this post is over due (sorry, yet again!) and B) It’s frickin’ Thanksgiving, all you want to hear about is another variation on sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts. But think of this as a holiday oasis post, a place you can come to forget about the will-it-EVER-stop rain (if you live in Seattle) and instead remember summertime, picnic blankets, sundresses and adorable foods on crackers.
It was a gorgeous August weekend in the Cascade Mountains, 80 degrees and sunny, with the crisp waters of Lake Wenatchee a five minute drive away. It was a weekend filled with friends, singing, dancing, and of course, whole lot of food.
I was never going to be a traditional bride — white ball gowns and pretty pictures of me gazing into the sunset are definitely not my thing. And I’ve got plenty of political ideas about marriage and taxes and civil rights that have kept me from taking the idea of a wedding seriously for most of my life. It really took a mental shift, reframing the idea of a wedding ceremony to get me on board. It doesn’t have to be about poofy dresses and until sickness and death parting us, or about weird beef dishes from the 60s and the electric slide. It can be about friends. And our rather tiny families. And celebration. And where there’s celebrating, there’s food. And board games. And lawn games. And a lemonade stand. And midnight re-enactments of frogger with hacky sacks. And karaoke with lots of dancing.
Since so many of our guests were coming from far away, we wanted the wedding to to take over a weekend, giving us as much quality time as possible — and, of course, providing us with plenty of opportunities for meals.
I like to dream big, and I’ve never met a culinary challenge that was too intimidating. So as you can imagine, the days leading up to the wedding were slightly insane. I am forever indebted to all my friends who spent many hours cooking, pickling, packaging, and labeling all the food that would become welcome snacks for our guests, breakfast baskets that got delivered to everyone’s cabins, and finally make it into the main event: a wedding picnic in the mountains.
We spent months scavenging for picnic baskets, vases and picture frames at the thrift stores, and then painted them all bright aqua blue. We filled them with all of our favorite things, and sewed napkins, streamers and pillows out of vintage fabric I found at my great-grandmother’s house in Alabama. Actually full credit for napkin sewing goes to Mariah, my close friend and inspiration for all things domestic, because she didn’t even blink when I dropped a box of vintage fabric on her porch before hopping on a plane back to Seattle. It was not a white wedding. It was bright. It was patterned. And nothing matched. It was perfect.
We had olives marinated with rosemary, orange and chile flakes, and herb roasted nuts.
A tuna salad with tarragon, fennel and celery leaves, concocted by my business partner Olaiya Land, that pretty much stole the show.
Some Olympic Provisions salami and our favorite cheeses: Cowgirl Creamery’s Mt. Tam and Jasper Hill’s clothbound cheddar.
Pickled cucumbers with fennel fronds and some red pepper jelly that my family is still asking about.
Smokey baba ganoush, which I think is responsible for keeping me fed the entire weekend, and a white bean and kale salad dressed with a preserved lemon vinaigrette, recipe courtesy of our friends at Picnic.
And since I’m a pastry chef and John has an unrivaled sweet tooth, there was plenty of dessert: lemon pound cake and my most favorite banana bread ever, and rhubarb ginger jam made by Rebecca of Deluxe Foods. Three days before the ceremony I let go of the plan to make homemade nutella. It was the right decision.
I still think about that weekend. Having everyone with us, being able to feed them. Swimming in the lake, playing kickball in the sun, eating dinner under the stars – I can’t even imagine a different kind of wedding. Thank you to all of my friends, for being there and for being so awesome. And a special thank you to Gabe and Ashley Rodriguez, for taking such beautiful pictures that will make me remember that weekend in visual style.
Marinated Olives w/ Rosemary, Orange & Chile
8 cups caselvetrano olives
4 cups olive oil
4 six-inch sprigs rosemary
1 tsp chile flakes
8 garlic cloves
– Using a vegetable peeler, remove zest from orange in long, wide strips. Smash garlic cloves with the edge of a chef’s knife.
– Place the olive oil in a small saucepan along with the orange zest, rosemary, pepper flakes and garlic. Warm over medium heat until fragrant but not boiling or simmering. Turn heat to medium-low and add olives. Stir occasionally for about 5 minutes. Do not cook olives. Pour olives and oil into serving dish and accompany with crusty bread for dipping in the oil.
Roasted Mixed Nuts
8 oz pecans
8 oz cashews
8 oz almonds
6 oz hazelnuts
6 oz walnuts
1/4 cup chopped rosemary
1 tsp cayenne pepper
4 tsp dark brown sugar
4 tsp Maldon salt
1 oz butter, melted
-Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
-Toss the nuts in a large bowl to combine and spread them out on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven until light golden brown, about 10 minutes.
-In a large bowl, combine the rosemary, cayenne, sugar, salt and melted butter.
-Thoroughly toss the toasted nuts in the spiced butter and serve warm.
Tarragon Tuna Salad
15 oz good tuna in oil, w/oil (I like Tonno brand)
3 TBSP chopped tarragon
2 tsp chopped parsley
1/2 cup finely diced fennel
1 stalk celery, finely sliced
1/4 cup minced red onion
2 TBSP lemon juice
1/2 cup loosely packed celery leaves
1/4 cup mayonnaise
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Kosher salt, to taste
Pinch sugar, to taste
– Break the tuna into rough chunks.
– In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients except for the salt, pepper and sugar. Mix gently, to combine. Season with a generous amount of black pepper and a pinch of salt and sugar, if needed.
Red Pepper Jelly
1 1/2 lb red bell peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 TBSP red-pepper flakes
1 tsp smoked paprika
3 TBSP Sure-Jell less- or no-sugar-needed pectin
3 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup white-wine vinegar
1 TBSP unsalted butter
3/4 tsp kosher salt
– Pulse bell peppers with red-pepper flakes and smoked paprika, if using, in a food processor until finely chopped. (Mixture will measure about 2 1/2 cups.)
– Whisk together pectin and 1/4 cup sugar in a small bowl.
– Stir together pepper mixture, vinegar, butter, salt, and remaining 3 cups sugar in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot. Bring to a vigorous boil over high heat, then continue to boil vigorously, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Gradually add pectin mixture, whisking constantly. Return jelly to a vigorous boil, stirring constantly, and boil, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes (mixture will thicken slightly). Remove from heat.
Best Banana Bread Ever
1 lb peeled, very ripe bananas
9 1/2 oz sugar
1 vanilla bean
5 1/4 oz melted butter
7 1/2 oz AP flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
– Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (325 conv.). Butter loaf pans and line with parchment. Set aside.
– Rub the vanilla bean seeds into the sugar to make a vanilla sugar. Beat bananas and sugar well with paddle, then add the butter slowly.
– Add the eggs one at a time.
– Sift the dry ingredients and then add.
– Spoon into the prepared cake pans and bake until the cakes spring back when touched lightly in the center. Cool before removing from the pan.