The picnics I remember from my youth consisted of peanut butter sandwiches, Cheetos and Little Debbie brownies in our backyard or a nearby park. There was nothing lovely or romantic about them; it was simply a quick lunch before running off to play. Fast forward to this period of quarantine, and many have had to be creative to find ways to spend time with others – six feet away. Be it a date or dinner with friends and family, picnics are often the answer.
Recently, a particularly beautiful day just begged for a French-inspired picnic. We needed to dine outside, and it needed to be special. I have always loved crepes. Is there anything more French? A crepe is simply a thin pancake. It can be savory or sweet and served with a variety of fillings and topping. My favorite savory crepe is filled with thin slices of ham, cheeses and fresh spinach and topped with a decadent béchamel sauce. Sweet crepes, of course, tend to steal the show. This particular evening I paired the fresh strawberries I picked at a local farm with Nutella and whipped cream laced with a little honey whiskey. Yum! Crepe making does take some practice, but don’t be intimidated. After you’ve made a few, you’ll get the knack.
Creating the perfect picnic spot is an essential way to emphasize the right mood. Maybe you have a favorite area in your backyard or a certain place where the sunset is spectacular. Next, consider shopping your home for a cozy quilt and a few comfy pillows. Gather your dishes, flatware, napkins, glasses and whatever else you need, and don’t forget candles and flowers if you want a romantic ambiance.
Whether you try a fancy recipe or just pick up simple picnic fare, take advantage of a beautiful evening with someone special and add some panache to your next picnic.
NANCY’S FAVORITE CREPES
• 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the pan
• 1 cup all purpose flour
• 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
• 1/8 teaspoon salt
• 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 3/4 cup whole milk, at room temperature
• 1/2 cup water, at room temperature
• 2 large eggs, at room temperature
1. Combine melted, cooled butter with the remaining ingredients in a blender or large food processor (or whisk by hand in a large mixing bowl). Blend on medium-high speed for 20-30 seconds until everything is combined. The mixture will be silky smooth and the consistency of cream. Cover tightly and chill in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes or up to one day.
2. When you’re ready to cook, heat an 8-inch skillet on medium heat and grease with butter (and again between each crepe). Once the skillet is hot, pour 3-4 tablespoons (closer to 3 is best) of batter into the center of the pan.
3. Tilt/twirl the pan so the batter stretches as far as it will go. The thinner the crepe, the better the texture. Cook for 1-2 minutes, then flip as soon as the bottom is set. Don’t wait too long to flip or the crepe will taste rubbery. Cook the other side for 30 seconds until set. Transfer the cooked crepe to a large plate and repeat.
By Nancy Roberts