As summer progresses, the opportunities for outdoor dining keep piling up. This week I decided to take advantage of the time honored hard-core New Yorker tradition of waiting on line in Central Park for free tickets to Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte Theater. I was advised by those in the know to score my spot by 6:30 AM on the day of the performance. Really? Ouch, that seemed awfully early, especially as the tickets do not get handed out till one PM. But, I was game. Sitting in the park on a beautiful day, how bad could that be?
The line in Central Park on Monday was not so long!
All I can say is come prepared. I brought a folding chair, a hat, water and a snack. Some people on the line arrived with folded mattresses and took a long nap. Not a bad idea at 6:30 AM!
For the edibles, think about something crunchy and light that won't wilt in the sun during your six hour wait. Green Bean Dijonnaise is a worthy choice. The beans will stay crunchy after a quick blanching and the flavor just gets better as the beans sit in the mustardy vinaigrette.
Look for plump, smooth beans at the farmers markets in the next few weeks.
Another great picnic choice would be Amanda's Watermelon Gazpacho. Pack it in a thermos to keep it cool and enjoy this very tasty and refreshing cold soup on the hottest of days. I must admit when Amanda first suggested her recipe last week I was a tiny bit sceptical. Watermelon is not a favorite of mine and the thought of combining this melon with tomatoes struck me as possibly underwhelming.
Curious about how it would taste I gave it a shot. DELICIOUS!! I was so surprised and delighted with the quick batch I made, I already have plans to make it again. Amanda suggests skipping the onions but I urge you to use them. Soaking chopped raw onions in cold water for a few minutes before adding them to the soup (or a salad) will remove some of the bite that people often find objectionable. I did not have any dill so I used fresh mint and chives for the herbs, a very good alternative. The sweetness of the watermelon was balanced by the onion and chili peppers and it gave the gazpacho a really interesting depth of flavor. This is a recipe worth trying and it could not be simpler to make!
Watermelon gazpacho is a WINNER!
My morning wait in the park was well worth it. The six hours of sitting on the line actually flew by and I was grateful for the opportunity to stop and experience some stillness for a while. The production of Measure for Measure that my husband and I attended that evening was riveting and rollicking, a true Shakesperean crazy quilt of a plot that flirted with the bawdy and macabre. How great to be a hard-core New Yorker in the summer!
Green Bean Dijonnaise with Pickled Shallots
For the pickled shallots:
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
In a small pan combine the vinegar, salt and sugar and heat on a low flame till the sugar and salt dissolves. Turn heat off and add the shallots. Let the shallots sit in the vinegar mixture till cooled, then drain and reserve the shallots for the salad.
For the green beans:
1 pound green beans, ends trimmed
1 quart water
1 Tablespoon salt
Bring water to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Add the salt and the trimmed green beans. Cook beans for about two minutes, till they are slightly softened, but still bright green. Taste beans to determine doneness. Drain the cooked beans and run cold water over them to quickly cool them down a bit. Drain beans again and arrange on a serving plate. Top the beans with the pickled shallots and toss with the Dijon vinaigrette.
for the Dijon vinaigrette:
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 clove garlic, crushed and finely chopped
3 Tbs. red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
In a small bowl combine the mustard, salt pepper, garlic and vinegar. Whisk to combine. Continue to whisk as you slowly drizzle in the olive oil, till the dressing thickens and emulsifies.