Picnicking from Here

We celebrated our anniversary this year with a very hot night at Tanglewood, for the season finale of Live From Here with Chris Thile. To be honest, Garrison Keillor always made me feel a little uncomfortable, so I was happy when Chris became the host. He’s made it a much more music-centric show. Lake Street Dive, The Punch Brothers and Emanuel Ax were all guests our night. We were only scolded once by management because of the girls’ behavior. I actually am getting over a muscle strain so I couldn’t chase the girls around with Rich. He’s been exhausted since, although running and riding his bike in this heat probably doesn’t help.


We had a wonderful picnic and ended up sitting with my Cousin Roz, who was there with a friend. We didn’t manage to find my cousin on the other side, Brian, who was also there that night. (Half my readership is my family who will delight in knowing the family was together in the Berkshires.)

But yes, the picnic! Oh my, it was a wonderful one. I had a lot to work with from our CSA, and lots of recipes I wanted to try out. In addition to this week’s recipe, I used the zucchini in a frittata, along with caramelized red onion and feta. Lilli made a caprese salad all by herself. There were also sundry items, including chips and guac, garlic and lemon green olives (found at the Co-op for half the price as Whole Foods), some stinky cheese, crackers, and yogurt and honey for the girls. Rich brought a Rye Saison by Bear and Bramble, brewed by one of our neighbors here in Florence.



I had a hard time choosing what recipe to post because there have been so many good ones lately, and I have a few more lined up, but I am going with this fennel and white bean salad. Fennel is happening right now and the summer squashes will be around all summer.

We enjoyed this salad last summer as well, and I had meant to share it then, but there was kimchito tend to, and ice cream to eat. The idea of the salad comes from Julia Turshen and her wonderful cookbook, Small Victories, which earned a spot on the top shelf. I say “idea” because it’s a “Spin-Off” suggestion on from a recipe for a Chopped Chickpea Salad: “MIX WHITE BEANS WITH FENNEL, chopped fresh parsley, a little chopped fresh oregano, and shards of Parmesan. Dress with fresh lemon juice and olive oil.” That’s it.


I forgot the fresh herbs in mine, and added red onion, which I soak in lemon juice as I get everything else prepared. Yes, the fennel would benefit being sliced paper thin on a mandolin, but I just used the same very sharp chef’s knife I used to cut my onion and lemon. My fennel were medium-sized ones. I see enormous ones in the regular grocery store, and I’ve had teensy ones from the farm share. These were the right size for Goldilocks. I clean mine by peeling off the icky, wrinkly first layer and giving the rest a wash.

I didn’t end up using my entire can of Northern White Beans for this recipe – about ⅓ of a cup of them are sitting in my fridge right now, waiting on their destiny.

This is a great salad to pack, be it on a picnic or for a work or school lunch.

Fennel and White Bean Salad


⅓ red onion, sliced thin

1 half fresh lemon

3 Fennel bulbs, cleaned and shaved on a mandolin or thinly cut with a sharp knife

⅔ can of Great Northern Beans, rinsed and dried

Hunk of Parmesan

Kosher salt

Extra virgin olive oil

Fresh parsley


Thinly slice the red onion and place it in a bowl. Juice some of the lemon half, but not all of it. This will take the bite out of the onion. Sprinkle a pinch of salt on top of the onion and lemon juice.

Thinly slice the fennel. Add that to the onions.

Rinse and drain the beans. Add to fennel and onions.

Stir everything in the bowl. Squeeze the rest of the lemon into the bowl. Drizzle a little olive oil, up to two tablespoons, into the mixture. Add another pinch of salt. Shave about a tablespoon of fresh Parmesan into the bowl. (Or skip it, and keep if vegan.) Add parsley, if using.

If you’re going on a picnic or packing this up, let the salad sit in its own juices for at least 10 minutes for everything to settle. Then pack up.



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