Picture yourself wine in hand on a terracotta-paved terrace overlooking rolling green hills, the shimmering glow of some ancient hill town in the distance.
“Darling, could you please pass me another olive?”
I’m convinced that a picnic with a view is one of the best gastronomic experiences Italy can dish up. It’s also an opportunity to sample local delicacies that aren’t always available in restaurants.
Here is how to get ready:
Having read the required amount of guidebooks and helpful websites, you’ll have a certain scenic spot in mind. Pack map, GPS, sunscreen.
Now you need to find the foodstuffs.
If you stay with or otherwise know the locals, it’s always good to ask where they buy their favorite prosciutto or their better wine. Try to figure out what’s specific to the area, may be a particular kind of cheese, focaccia or a patè. And please remember, Italy offers so much more than Chianti and Brunello.
Skip the small supermarkets. There you’ll only find commercial level national products, the same products exported all over the world. If you’re short on time, head to a large supermarket but please avoid the major brands, generally prepackaged and placed inside the tall refrigerators near the entrance of the shop.
Head instead for the fresh counter and buy local meats and cheeses by the slice. Pick up fresh baked bread and invest in a small bottle of high quality extra virgin olive oil.
If you do have time for more careful shopping, make it a point to go to a family run winery, to the market for the freshest fruit, and to a good specialty shop for the rest. You’ll be supporting a small business where someone actually talks to you. Most such owners are happy to have you sample some of the delicacies they offer. I have this theory that a good specialty shop smells wonderful, the owners are kind, and they’re proud of the fantastic foods they sell.
If you have the possibility to cook before the picnic, make this chicken liver patè:
- 300 gr. (11 oz.) chicken livers.
- 2 (approx. 7 oz.) pork sausages.
- 1/2 carrot, diced.
- 1/2 small onion, diced.
- 1/2 cup white wine.
- 3 anchovy fillets.
- 2-3 leaves of fresh sage.
- 1 tablespoon, balsamic vinegar.
- Juice of 1/2 lemon.
- 1 teaspoon, juniper berries.
- 1 teaspoon, capers.
Chop chicken livers and sausages and sauté over medium heat in 1 tablespoon of olive oil for a few minutes until lightly browned. Add all other ingredients and simmer over low heat until the chicken livers are tender and fall apart.
Purée the mixture in a food processor until it’s smooth, let it cool completely, and refrigerate (if you’re not using it immediately). Transfer to a jar and pack into the picnic hamper together with a loaf of crusty bread. Makes crostini for 6-to-8.
Heavenly, just like the views.