Let’s face it – life hasn’t been a picnic lately. But there was a pause in the clouds.
The Green Music Center has opened its back doors for summer concerts, and there is still time to take a âRoad Tripâ with the Transcendence Theater at Jack London State Historic Park. The coast tends to be clear this time of year, which gives you the perfect excuse to walk to your favorite Pacific perch, from the dunes of Dillon Beach to Salmon Creek.
So many good reasons to indulge in a decadent picnic. We know everything is better on the outside, even if it’s just oysters out of the box with crackers drizzled with a cheap rosÃ©.
But if you want to spice up your alfresco menu with fresh seasonal salads and a hearty sandwich and dessert, that’s okay. With a little shopping and hashing, you’ll be ready to munch on nirvana.
Matt Spector, chef / owner of Zoftig Eatery in Santa Rosa, serves all kinds of delicious salads and sandwiches in his cafe, as well as delicious treats made by his wife, Sonjia.
âWe recently went to Gualala and we went to the beach with a picnic,â Spector said. “We had a bullet.”
For a late summer feast, Spector offered some fresh dips and salads, as well as a hearty sandwich. Zoftig’s menu items this summer feature everything from the wine country, from cucumbers and eggplants to juicy blackberries from Front Porch Farm in Healdsburg.
As an appetizer, Spector suggested a creamy Green Goddess dip and a smoky Chipotle cream. They are the perfect addition to a plate of fresh vegetable sticks.
As an appetizer, the chef focused on salads that showcase many of the local vegetables available in farmers’ markets right now: an Israeli salad sprinkled with sautÃ©ed eggplant slices and a Panzanella salad with a baba ganoush. to soak.
âPeople love a big salad, as Elaine would say on ‘Seinfeld’,â he noted. âIf we were packing them for take out, we would put the dressing aside. “
Spector calls the Israeli salad “a nice kind of kitchen sink dish,” with tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers, roasted red peppers and hard-boiled eggs. “You can throw it away with whatever you have.”
Traditionally, the salad would include breaded and fried eggplant, not sautÃ©ed, so Spector adds fried pita bread to give it a crunch. For convenience, just sprinkle a few pita chips on top.
As a bonus, he also likes to add seasonal fruit, which right now means peaches or blackberries. Then there is the secret sauce made from mashed mango cooked with sugar and rice vinegar, like an agrodolce.
Needless to say, the whole of this simple salad is bigger than its parts.
The same could be said of Zoftig’s Panzanella salad, built around a slice of sourdough bread with the crust cut off. The bread is soaked in roasted garlic oil and toasted on the grill until crispy.
Spector adds the mashed eggplant dish known as baba ganoush and covers it with heirloom tomatoes, arugula, some herbs and a grated hard cheese. Then he dresses it in good olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Simple, yes, but satisfying.
Zoftig’s cafe and dining menus offer a range of delicious sandwiches and wraps, from Mushroom Banh Mi to Falafel Wrap and a classic Italian sub (or hoagie, if like Spector, you’re from Philadelphia).
But Hobb’s Ham & Brie, on sourdough bread with arugula and apricot mostarda, has a little bit of je ne sais quoi, as if you had entered the famous painting by Ãdouard Manet, “Le DÃ©jeuner sur l ‘ grass “.
After all, what’s a picnic without a baguette, some Brie and some fruit?
To smoothly end a long, leisurely picnic, Sonjia shared her recipe for truffle brownies, a dense, melt-in-the-mouth treat that tastes even better over time.
âIt’s good for a picnic,â she said. “We cut it into little squares and it has dark cocoa powder on top.”
The following recipes are from Matt Spector, chef / owner of Zoftig in Santa Rosa. Serve these two dips with a variety of vegetable sticks like jicama, peppers, cucumber and carrots.
Chipotle Cream Dip
Makes about 1â cup
1 cup sour cream
Â¼ cup of mayonnaise
2 -3 (depending on the degree of spice) tablespoons finely chopped adobo chipotle
1 lime, squeezed
Salt and pepper
Add all the ingredients and mix them well.
Green Goddess Dip
Makes about 3 cups
1 pint of sour cream
Â½ cup of mayonnaise
Â¼ cup chopped parsley
Â¼ cup chopped mint
Â¼ cup chopped cilantro
Â½ cup of citrus juice of your preference (grapefruit, lime, orange or lemon)
Combine all the ingredients in a blender.
This is a casual recipe, which means you can put in as much of each ingredient as you want and serve as much as you want.