a picnic with Michael Smith.

the August long weekend saw the arrival of one of my best friends, Rebecca, back to Calgary. it has been a year since she moved back to Toronto, and i couldn’t have been more excited to have her back.

we spent last summer planning and going on perfect friend dates. you know the kind you wish a guy could think up and take you on? those! i had big shoes to fill for her summer visit, and with the help of Katey thought up a great date night for the three of us: Shakespeare by the Bow, with a homemade picnic.

the entertainment was taken care of, a Sunday evening performance of Comedy of Errors in beautiful Prince’s Island Park – my favourite green space in the city.

the menu was next to conquer.

michael smith family meals

enter Michael Smith’s new cookbook Family Meals.

so i know what you’re thinking, “but laura, you’re a single, childless, lonely lonely women – you have no family to prepare meals for.”

isn’t there some saying about friends are the family you choose?…also, you really cut deep, internet friends.

i’ve been a big fan of Michael Smith since his The Inn Chef days. i followed him abroad and back to his own kitchen. i enjoy his method of combining ingredients that go well together in a simple way to produce delicious meals. plus, i want to stand beside him, because i’m short and i think it’d be funny.

Family Meals is based around his family – that he still cooks for every day – and simple, delicious recipes for all meals, all days of the week, to make when you’re short on time. While Michael involves his family in the kitchen, this solo kitchen adventurer found the great-tasting recipes perfect even for just one….or a group of picnicking ladies. 


Katey took charge of the wine and dessert, and i went into planning mode with the rest of the picnic menu. the sandwiches were first to go on the list, and watermelon was next, followed by a concoction for refreshing infused water, and the hope Rebecca could make salad rolls.

what was missing? i needed a salad. something light, but still filling. as i flipped through Micheal Smith’s Family Meals, i found the perfect recipe. barely kale tabbouleh – a salad that i didn’t have to worry about getting soggy with dressing, in fact it was best served cold after the flavours had time to mix in the refrigerator.

kale_barley_tabouli_saladbarely kale tabbouleh
serves four to six


for the salad

  • 4 large kale leaves, tough centre stems trimmed away
  • 1 cup of any barley
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • handful of finely chopped parsley
  • leaves from 1 bunch of fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large dill pickle*, minced

for the dressing

  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1 tablespoon of your favourite mustard
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon of your favourite hot sauce

stack the kale leaves, then roll them up tightly. slice them as thinly as possible, forming fine threads. cram into a small saucepan and add 1⁄4 cup of water. cover and cook over high heat until the kale softens, just 2 or 3 minutes. drain and spread out on a plate to cool.

measure the barley into the same saucepan and add 3 cups of water and the salt. bring to a full boil, then reduce the heat to a bare simmer. cover tightly and continue cooking until the grains swell, absorbing the water and tenderizing, about 30 minutes.

meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients until emulsified. throw in the tender barley, the kale, parsley, mint, green onions, tomatoes and pickle. toss the works together, evenly mixing the flavours, textures and colours.

serve and share!

* pickles are totally optional for you, and not even a consideration in this kitchen – eww.


food prepared and packed up in my picnic basket, we headed to Prince’s Island only to be met with the first bad rain and thunder storm we had in about a month. while we needed the rain, i was sad to think my picnic date night plans were ruined.

smart thinking from three lovely ladies found us spreading the picnic blanket out on the living room floor on the condo, with Pretty Woman on netflix. sure, it wasn’t the park and Shakespeare, but it was still pretty perfect.


and what did my family think of the barely kale tabbouleh? we all loved the summer flavours of the lemon and herbs, and the mason jars were a great way to store picnic servings and leftovers.


i can’t wait to try more recipes from Family Meals. does anyone have a child they can lend me to cook with?

what’s your favourite dish to prepare for a family picnic? 

thanks to Penguin Canada for making this picnic possible.