Pasta Chicken Salad for Lenny’s Annual Picnic (serves 8 as main course)

 My pasta salad was pretty great (I know, very modest), and the picnic was certainly something that needs to be talked about!

Robust and zesty salad for picnic

Dave has a friend named Lenny and he has an annual picnic at his place to hail in the coming of warm days. We were not invited this year as Lenny thought we were still away in Italy (read previous posts), but found out through our mutual friend Tom, that it was happening last night. We decided to picnic-crash as a surprise!

Blacksmith’s Metal Tong Fence

One of the reasons to be excited about going to this picnic was the prospect of wandering around Lenny’s veritable jungle of a sculpture garden. This is a man who sees beauty in the everyday object, and exhibits  them on his land akin to an art installation at the Museum of Modern Art.

Ceramic Chimney tops on the flagstones on the back patio

From the moment we parked the car, (surprising Lenny who playfully greeted us in Italian) my eyes were constantly pleasingly distracted with curious things that upon closer inspection turned out to be things like antique blacksmithing tools (anvils, swage blocks, giant tongs, stakes…), and various architectural elements (like the backdoor frame which looked curiously like a carved wooden fire mantlepiece, which I forgot to ask him about).

The pond

To say the setting was idyllic is an understatement, and to say that his hundreds of iron, stone, wooden, glass, marble and ceramic objects scattered about this picturesque place looked out-of-place and cluttered would be a gross untruth. Lenny is apparently the master of balance. His outbuildings and sheds may be filled sky-high with a boggling amount of “stuff’, but he has learned the art of placement when it comes to the natural unnatural existing harmoniously.

Marble picnic table

It was difficult for me to join the dozens and dozens of people who were congregating around the back porch, and giant bonfire that was blazing almost out of control. But eventually, after much exploring and picture-taking, I headed over to see what kind of spread was laid out on the long tables under the trees beside the kitchen door.

Rum and fresh watermelon cocktail anyone?

The first thing that caught my eye was the freshwater melon with an upended bottle of rum sticking out of it’s flesh, and sporting a spigot to boot! I had never seen such a wonderful invention. The rum seemed to instantly dissolve into the fruit and break down the sugars into a cocktail that was rich, but not too sweet. I knew to keep well away from it if I wanted to enjoy my Sunday.

Lenny’s kitchen sink

There was also a leg of lamb, beef brisket, barbecued pork, a cucumber and dill salad, an amazing guacamole with puffy pastry triangles, baba ganoush, baby chocolate cake sandwiched together with fresh cream and strawberries, along with mountains of yummy things to drink, like…dark and light rums, red and white wines, fresh pulpy pineapple juice laced with dark rum, citrus-y vodkas and lemonades.

Lenny’s kitchen mantle

Myself, Tom, Dave and the kids went for a walk to sit by the river running through the property. As we made our way over, I discovered that quite a few tents were going up. This was apparently an affair that left you so exhausted, staying the night was a prerequisite!

Not a bad thinking spot

After devouring food, and chatting with strangers, the band Lenny had hired began their session on the porch. It was raucous fun and my vodka and watermelon juice felt refreshingly cool as the sun went down.

Crosscut Saw Band jamming away!

Thank you Lenny for the all-encompassing treat!


My new citrus squeezing tool from Orvieto, Italy

You will Need: 3 chicken breast fillets, 1 small/medium red onion, finely diced, 6 scallions including green parts, sliced, 1 red pepper, finely diced, 1/2 cup celery leaves, chopped, 1/2 cup crushed peanuts, 1 1/2 lbs mini ridged penne pasta (I used Barilla brand), 1 1/2 cups chicken broth, 2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tsp sea salt (I used Maldon), several grinds of black pepper.

For the Dressing; You will need: 6 tbs soy sauce, 1 tsp cayenne pepper flakes, 2 tbs fine white sugar, juice from 1 lime.

Make dressing

1 – Put dressing ingredients into a bowl and mix together vigorously. Set aside.

2 – Put pot of water on high heat and when boiling add penne and cook according to instructions. Drain into a colander and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Place pasta in big bowl and set aside.

Sear chicken

3 – While penne is cooking, put medium pan on high heat and add oil. Season the breasts with salt and pepper and brown quickly on both sides. Turn heat down to low and add chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then cover. Simmer very gently for 12 minutes. Turn off heat and leave in liquid until cool enough to handle. Remove to a chopping board and slice into bite-sized pieces. add to pasta.

diced red onion & celery leaves

4 – Chop remaining ingredients according to instructions and add to pasta. Add crushed peanuts and mix everything together.

Add nuts and other ingredients

5 – Add the dressing and mix again.

Serve at room temperature.

Summer is here.

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