Recipe

Picnic Recipes for Eating Al Fresco

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of eating al fresco.

Picnic Recipes for Eating Al Fresco

Photo: Picnic. Courtesy of Rowena / Flickr.

In his contemplative cookbook Delights and Prejudices, James Beard declared outdoor dining to be the highest form of consumption, as it is “perfectly true that under these circumstances food tastes better. One relishes the fresh air and the escape from crowds, and delights in being simply oneself.” As summer beckons us outside with its warm weather and fresh, bountiful rotations at the farmers market, we’re inclined to agree.

Whether it’s an elaborate Independence Day celebration or an impromptu roadside snack, even the simplest flavors seem magically enhanced when relished amid the outdoor splendor. And since preparation at home is half the fun, we’ve selected some of our favorite picnic recipes for your own outdoor spread. So grab the woven basket, pack plenty of napkins, and above all else remember that a “picnic worth doing at all,” according to Beard, is “worth doing with a hell of a lot of care.”


Prosciutto with Melon

Photo: Prosciutto with Melon. Courtesy of Kevin Lau / Flickr.

Ham with Melon
Author: 
Recipe type: Picnic
 
The Dean of American Cookery dubbed the melon to be "an age-old and natural ally of prosciutto or Parma ham." These delightful bites pack the perfect punch of slightly sweet and savory.
Ingredients
  • 1 large ripe melon; I prefer honeydew or Persian
  • 24 slices of prosciutto or Parma ham
  • 1 lemon
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Peel and seed the melon and cut in fingers about two and one-half inches long and one half inch square; you will want twenty-four fingers for this quantity of ham. Squeeze the juice of one lemon over the pieces and grind a little fresh pepper over them. Wrap each finger in a slice of prosciutto and serve within half an hour. It is wiser to make these in two or three rounds, for the melon seems to tire very quickly and is not attractive when this happens.
  2. You may prefer to have the melon fingers in a bowl set over cracked ice with a plate of sliced ham nearby and let your guests "roll their own." Some like chopped mint with this; use it if you care for the flavor combination.

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Homemade Tortilla Chips

Photo: Homemade Tortilla Chips. Courtesy of jeffreyw / Flickr.

Homemade Tortilla Chips
Author: 
Recipe type: Picnic
Serves: 4-6
 
These surprisingly easy-to-make chips add a delightful spin on a social staple, and pair wonderfully with the pomegranate guac below.
Ingredients
  • 12 count package of corn tortillas
  • Peanut oil for frying
  • Kosher salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat oil in deep skillet. On a cutting board, stack four tortillas and cut into eight wedges. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Add a handful of wedges to the hot oil. Separate any that stick together. Fry until golden brown. Remove and drain on a cookie sheet lined with a brown paper bag or paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and continue with the remaining tortillas.

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Guacamole

Photo: Guacamole. Courtesy of She Paused 4 Thought / Flickr.

Pomegranate Guacamole
Author: 
Recipe type: Picnic
Serves: 4-6
 
Ingredients
  • 2 large, ripe avocados
  • 1 red onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 fresh jalapeños, seeded
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro
  • Juice and zest of 2 limes
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate juice
  • 3 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
Instructions
  1. Finely chop the onion, garlic, jalapeños, and cilantro. Place in bowl and add lime juice, zest and salt. Set aside. Peel and pit the avocados and place in a bowl. Mash with fork slowly, adding the tablespoon of pomegranate juice. Add onion and garlic mixture and fold together to make a course pulp. Gently fold in pomegranate seeds. Serve with warm tortillas, tostadas, or corn chips.

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jicama

Photo: Jicama. Courtesy of eLjeProks / Flickr.

Jicama Salad
Author: 
Recipe type: Picnic
 
If your own supernatural kids want to help out in the kitchen, get their creative juices flowing with this light summer salad.
Ingredients
  • 1 small jicama, peeled and cut into bite-size chunks
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced thin
  • 1 cup shredded purple cabbage
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • A few radishes, scrubbed and sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
Instructions
  1. Mix all ingredients together in a salad bowl and serve chilled.

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Quinoa

Photo: Quinoa. Courtesy of Flickred! / Flickr.

Quinoa Tabouli
Author: 
Recipe type: Picnic
 
For a more substantial side, this modern take on the traditional Levantine dish is as fun to make as it is to say.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups quinoa, rinsed well
  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon seasoning blend
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 English or Persian cucumbers, cut into ¼? slices
  • 1 pink cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped finely
  • ½ bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped finely
  • ½ bunch fresh mint leaves, chopped finely
Instructions
  1. Cook Quinoa according to package instructions. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Let cool, then transfer the quinoa to a salad bowl.
  2. Next whisk lemon juice and garlic in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil. Season the dressing with seasoning blend and salt.
  3. Add cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, parsley and mint to bowl with quinoa and toss. Finally mix in dressing to coat.

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Roast Chicken

Photo: Roast Chicken. Courtesy of LexnGer / Flickr.

Chicken Mayonnaise
Author: 
Recipe type: Picnic
 
Ingredients
  • Beard called this the "father and mother of all chicken salads," and with good reason: it?s a summer picnic staple, best enjoyed with fine sliced bread and an ice-cold coke. We recommend making it with Beard?s homemade mayo.
Instructions
  1. Cut cold roasted or poached chicken in convenient portions for serving, and remove all the skin. Roll each piece in well-flavored mayonnaise to coat thoroughly. Arrange on a platter and garnish with sliced hard-boiled eggs, stuffed olives, and capers. Dust with chopped parsley. Surround the dish with tomato wedges and sliced cucumbers.
  2. This dish is equally good made with cold duck or turkey.

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Chicken Liver Pâté

Photo: Chicken Liver Pâté. Courtesy of TheCulinaryGeek / Flickr.

Pâté for Picnics
Author: 
Recipe type: Picnic
 
Who you callin' chopped liver? This savory whirl of meats is making an indubitable comeback in American haute-cuisine.
Instructions
  1. Wash and sauté in 4 tablespoons butter 1 pound chicken livers. Chop livers exceedingly fine or whirl them in a blender with 2 eggs, 6 garlic cloves, 1 medium-sized onion peeled and ½ cup cognac. Place this mixture in a large bowl and add 2 pounds ground veal, 2 pounds ground pork, 2 tablespoons salt, 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Blend the ingredients well with the hands and add ⅔ cup cognac, 1 teaspoon thyme, ½ teaspoon summer savory, a pinch of nutmeg and a small pinch of clove. Blend all thoroughly. Cut 2 pounds cold boiled tongue into long strips, about ⅜ inch thick, and cut 1 pound fresh pork fat into thin strips, about ¼ inch thick.
  2. Line a shallow baking dish with bacon strips, place one-third of the mixture on the strips in an oval shape and add a strip of tongue and fat pork. Add another third of the mixture, more tongue and pork, and finally a top layer of the mixture. Form into a loaf. Top with additional slices of bacon and bake at 325° for 3 to 3½ hours. Let the pâté cool. Remove it to a carving board or platter. Serve it in thin slices.
  3. This pâté will keep under refrigeration for a week if wrapped in foil to keep it moist.

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white truffle butter tramezzini

Photo: White Truffle Butter Tramezzini. Courtesy of Canal House.

White Truffle Butter Tramezzini
Author: 
Recipe type: Picnic
 
The culinary masterminds behind Canal House Cooking write, "There always seems to be a good sandwich to be had in Italy no matter where you are." We heard the same thing about Vespas, but until we make it to Roma and find out for ourselves, we?ll be gnoshing on these finger sandwiches.
Instructions
  1. Beat 8 tablespoons room temperature unsalted butter in a bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 1-2 minutes. Stir in 2 teaspoons white truffle paste and season it with a little sea salt. Set the butter aside. We use 1-2 tablespoons butter per sandwich. Use more or less to suit your taste. Makes 8-12 half-sandwiches
  2. VERY THIN WHITE BREAD TRAMEZZINI: Trim the crust off 3 slices very thin white sandwich bread. Spread some of the white truffle butter on 2 of the slices of bread. To make this double-decker sandwich, place one of the slices of buttered bread on top of the other, buttered side up, and finish the sandwich with the third slice of bread. Cut the sandwich in half on the diagonal. Makes 2 half-sandwiches
  3. CHALLAH OR BRIOCHE TRAMEZZINI: Use 2 thin slices challah or brioche. Spread some of the white truffle butter on one slice, top with the other slice, and cut the sandwich in half. Makes 2 half-sandwiches

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Onions

Photo: Onions. Courtesy of Chiot’s Run / Flickr.

Dolmadhes
Author: 
Recipe type: Picnic
 
Though Greek food isn't what you might expect from an author famed for her social commentary on contemporary Britain, Hilary Pym writes that her sister actually harbored a fascination with the Eastern Mediterranean culture. If the result is scrumptious morsels like these, all we're gonna say is . . . opa!
Ingredients
  • 2 small onions
  • ¾ pound (350 g) finely ground beef
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons cooked rice
  • 1 small head of cabbage
  • Beef stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Thin tomato sauce
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Chop onions very finely, put in a bowl with meat and seasonings, mix together, and add water (about 7 tablespoons) gradually, until well blended. Add rice and set aside. Put whole cabbage into boiling water and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Drain well and detach leaves, cutting away and discarding any hard bits of stalk. Put a small tablespoon of meat mixture on each leaf and roll up into a sausage-shaped parcel, turning in the edges. Arrange parcels in criss-crossed layers in a stewpan or casserole, making sure the seam sides are down. Add enough stock to cover, bring to a boil, add bay leaf, reduce heat, cover, and simmer 20 minutes. Transfer the dolmadhes to an ovenproof dish, discarding the stock and bay leaf. Over them, pour enough tomato sauce to cover, cover the dish, and bake about 30 minutes.

 ***

Cornbread

Photo: Cornbread. Courtesy of jeffreyw / Flickr.

Helen Evans Brown's Corn Chili Bread
Author: 
Recipe type: Picnic
 
Brown was Beard's greatest friend and confidante, and throughout their years of friendships they wrote hundreds of letters requesting counsel, recommendations and above all else, recipes. Here is one such of Brown's.
Ingredients
  • 3 ears of husked raw corn
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ¾ cup melted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ pound Monterey Jack cheese, diced
  • 1 4-ounce can chopped green chilies
Instructions
  1. Cut the kernels from the corn, put into a bowl, and combine with the rest of the ingredients. Pour into a buttered 2½-quart soufflé dish or a 9-inch square baking dish. Bake at 350° for 1 hour. Serve with butter.

***

Cherry Clafoutis

Photo: Cherry Clafoutis. Courtesy of Mickael Muller / Flickr.

Cherry Lavender Clafoutis
Author: 
Recipe type: Picnic
 
For a sweet kitchen finale, the artful juxtaposition of subtle lavender and cherried custard in this clafoutis (pronounced kla-foo-TEE) puts the "pie" in pièce de résistance.
Ingredients
  • 1 pound (455 g) cherries
  • ½ batch Sweet Tart Dough (page 30)
  • ¾ cup (180 ml) whole milk
  • ½ cup (120 ml) heavy cream
  • 1 oz (30 g) food-grade dried lavender (preferably organic)
  • 2 tablespoons (15 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon (1.5 g) salt
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla bean paste
  • 3 eggs
  • ¼ cup (25 g) confectioners' sugar, for sprinkling
  • 1 pound (455 g) cherries
  • ½ batch Sweet Tart Dough (page 30)
  • ¾ cup (180 ml) whole milk
  • ½ cup (120 ml) heavy cream
  • 1 oz (30 g) food-grade dried lavender (preferably organic)
  • 2 tablespoons (15 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon (1.5 g) salt
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla bean paste
  • 3 eggs
  • ¼ cup (25 g) confectioners' sugar, for sprinkling
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Set aside a handful of especially pretty cherries, with stems, to use for decoration. Stem and cut the rest of the cherries in half, removing and discarding the pits; set the cherries aside.
  2. Line an 11-inch (28-cm) tart pan with the dough, dock it, and freeze it for 20 minutes. Line the shell with parchment and fill it with pie weights or dried beans. Bake the shell for 20 minutes. Remove the pie weights and discard the parchment and bake for 5 minutes more, until the crust is golden.
  3. In a large saucepan, simmer together the milk, cream, and lavender over low heat for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, let the mixture steep for at least 20 minutes to infuse the cream with lavender, then strain and return the cream to the saucepan.
  4. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, salt, and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs until the mixture forms a smooth paste.
  5. Simmer the cream over medium heat and then pour the hot liquid into the flour mixture in a steady stream, whisking constantly until combined. Set the bowl aside.
  6. Raise the temperature of the oven to 375°F (190°C). Arrange the cherry halves evenly, cut sides down, on the tart shell.
  7. Open the oven and set the crust on the pulled-out center rack. You are using this as your work surface because this next step is tricky. Gently, very gently, pour the cream mixture over the cherries. Gently push the rack back into the oven, close the door, and lower the temperature to 350°F (175°C). (You raised the temperature in the last step to make up for the heat lost while you had the oven door open.)
  8. Bake the tart for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the custard is set. Cool it completely and dust it with confectioners' sugar. Arrange the reserved cherries around the perimeter.

 ***

Pineapple

Photo: Pineapple. Courtesy of ECohen / Flickr.

Pineapple Skewers
Author: 
Recipe type: Picnic
 
If you're planning to grill while you snack, it's worth taking a gander at Beard and Brown's Complete Book of Outdoor Cookery for technical advice in addition to scrumptious recipes. Plus, we're partial to anything that can be "blazed with rum."
Instructions
  1. Pineapple chunks, dipped in butter, broiled, and rolled in macaroon crumbs. These may be blazed with rum.

 ***

Tarragon

Photo: Tarragon. Courtesy of J.D. Falk / Flickr.

Filet Mignon, Tarragon
Author: 
Recipe type: Picnic
 
Give us a steak and we're happy. Give us a seasoned filet mignon paired with "lavishly buttered" hot French bread and delicious-sounding Cognac beans, and we're in haute-heaven.
Instructions
  1. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter and add 1 teaspoon of salt, 3 tablespoons of white wine, and 1 teaspoon of dried tarragon or 1 tablespoon of fresh tarragon. Brush the filets mignons with this mixture during the broiling process, and after they have been removed to hot plates. Serve with hot French bread, lavishly buttered, Cognac beans, and, if you want to bother with deep fat frying, drop 1 or 2 bunches of parsley into hot fat. It comes to the top of the fat when it's done, and that's almost at once. It's delicious with this type of steak. Drink a bottle of chilled rosé wine, preferably a California one.

 ***

Martini & Rossi Vermouth

Photo: Martini & Rossi Vermouth. Courtesy of
Daremoshiranai / Flickr.

Vermouth Cassis
Author: 
Recipe type: Picnic
Serves: 1
 
Toast to the wholesome richness of the season with this sweet throwback to a forgotten bar staple.
Ingredients
  • 4-ounce glass of French vermouth
  • Crème de Cassis liqueur to taste
Instructions
  1. Mix in a tall glass with ice and fill with club soda. Add a zest of lemon.

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