Farewell to France Picnic

No, I’ve not secretly dwelled in France for the past couple of months masquarading on my blog as a quaint American midwesterner, nor do I expect to hop a flight to Provence within the next year (wishful thinking…). Rather, the title of this post refers to the heartbroken “Bon Voyage!” I’ll utter this Sunday when my dear friend and picnic buddy Ariane jets off to live with her grandparents in Paris until June. While she strolls along the Seine, converses in the absolutely gorgeous French language, and samples the world-renowned cuisine (now studded with a surprising array of vegan-friendly restaurants amongst the brie and saucission!), I’ll stifle the section of my brain reserved for dreaming up the perfect vegan picnic so as to prevent my forlorn realization of a picnic-less spring.

Needless to say, Ariane and I celebrated her soon-to-commence European adventure with our fifth picnic to date in preparation for their five-month hiatus. Since we remain in the midst of a relatively mild yet still snow-covered and chilly Wisconsin winter, I once again constructed an indoor fort of bedsheets to “provide the grandeur equal to outdoor picnicking” to which I referred in my last picnic post.

In a fit of Mediterranean inspiration, my mind allowed the night’s menu to evolve from the batch of Nic and Kier’s Ultra Creamy Hummus I blended up the previous day—and when I say blended, I mean that I employed my blender to puree the creamiest, silkiest, smoothest hummus I’ve ever had the pleasure of spooning into my mouth straight from the blender carafe spreading on just about everything I’ve eaten in the past couple of days. Who could have fathomed that the secret to out-of-this-world hummus lay simply with forgoing a food processor? Genius.

Of course, if one makes hummus, one must make a vehicle on which to spread it. Enter Richa’s Chickpea Flour Pancakes (aka Chilla or Puda). I tweaked the original recipe to suit a more Mediterranean palate that would nicely complement the hummus by flavoring the batter with 1 finely chopped scallion, 1 minced clove of garlic, and a handful of finely chopped parsley.

Of course, if one makes chickpea pancakes, one must make some veggies to roll up inside of them. I’ve been eyeing Laura’s Sesame and Lemon Roasted Cauliflower with Dates and Olives since she first published the post a bit less than two months ago, falling in love with the idea of crispy sesame seeds, tangy lemon juice, and saccharine dates all clinging to sweetly caramelized cauliflower, and guessed that the dish would meld deliciously with both hummus and the chickpea pancakes. I divided the recipe in half, omitted the olives (since I would use olives in my next dish and didn’t want to risk an overload), and substituted Romanesco broccoli for the cauliflower.

Of course, if one makes stuffed chickpea flour pancakes with hummus (or any meal for that matter), one must make some leafy greens to round out the Mediterranean dinner. Kim’s humble Braised Greens with Black Olives probably served as my favorite plate component of the night, marrying sweet sauteed onions, melt-in-your-mouth kale, and briny kalamata olives all finished with a dash of magic balsamic vinegar. I only minutely tweaked the recipe by using olive instead of coconut oil, red instead of yellow onion, scallions instead of green garlic, 6 pitted kalamata olives, and all kale instead of a kale-spinach blend.

Meal Checklist: Protein—chickpea flour, sesame seeds. Whole Grain—none. Vegetables—cauliflower, garlic, parsley, scallions, onions, olives. Leafy Green—kale.

Local Ingredients: Garlic from Brantmeier Family Farm, red onions from Blue Valley Farm.

The meal left both Ariane and I incredibly satisfied, though we whiled away the time in our childlike fort with discussions of life before, during, and after France long after clearing our plates. I couldn’t have wished for a more pleasant (or more scrumptious) goodbye.

Comment Provoking Questions: What’s your favorite way to celebrate someone’s going-away? When was the last time you made a fort? Do you have a “secret” for perfect hummus?

Until next time, Ali.