Around this time of year I find myself reading a lot about picnics. I am not a picnic-y lady. I am a spiller and I just can’t imagine eating beans and potato salad on a paper plate on my lap without getting some combination of them in my hair. Of course, for us urban ladiez, “picnicing” usually refers to carrying a proper plate of food up to the roof deck of the apartment building and has nothing to do with a blanket-and-basket-Yogi affair. That’s my kind of picnic. But this dish works for either one.
I roasted the cherry tomatoes, which intensifies their sweetness and gives them a nice jammy consistency. (You know that feeling when a cherry tomato is too taught and if you bite into it at the wrong angle you’re going to squirt juice into someone’s eye? Roasting the tomatoes completely alleviates that anxiety. They still taste fresh, but not squirt-y.) The arugula and ramp pesto give the dish a green, earthy texture and a nice pepper and onion kick. So once you throw in a grain and top it with a little chicken sausage and cheese, you’re talking whole meal. You can pack it up and throw it into a bag for lunch at work, or into a picnic basket. Or you can just walk it upstairs with a glass of white wine and a portable speaker playing Ja Rule Pandora for a perfect Memorial Day “picnic.”
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- 1 T. olive oil, plus 1 teaspoon
- 1 teaspoon nice white wine vinegar
- Pinches salt and pepper
- 2 handfuls baby arugula
- 1 c. cooked millet (or whatever grain you have on hand -- brown rice, quinoa, and barley will all work here)
- ¾ c. 1 package fully-cooked Italian chicken sausage
- ⅓ c. homemade ricotta
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and toss with salt and pepper. Roast the tomatoes until they are withered and dark red -- about 20-30 minutes. Lightly dress the arugula with a teaspoon of oil and vinegar.
- While the tomatoes are cooking, toss together your millet, pesto and arugula. Slice the chicken sausage into bite-sized medallions and cook in a medium-high skillet, tossing occasionally, until the chicken is browned on all sides. If you're using a nonstick skillet, you shouldn't need extra oil -- the sausage will render its own. If you aren't used to browning meats, this may take practice. You don't want to move the chicken around too much -- if it's moving, it's not browning. But you also don't want it to stay in the same place for so long that it burns. If you're new at this, start on the medium end of medium-high and let the chicken cook for a long time between stirs or shakes. Before long, you'll be able to smell and see when the chicken is browned without touching the meat, and you can turn the heat up a bit.
- Once the tomatoes are done, stir them into the millet mix. Top with chicken sausage and a scoop of ricotta. This is fantastic hot for dinner, and very good cold the next day for lunch.