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In The Kitchen With: The Best of Picnic Foods

by Kristina Gill

Picnic weather has finally arrived!  Those of us who experienced the polar vortex this winter (again and again) thought these blue skies and affable temperatures would never come. Now is the time to take advantage of this weather, before pleasant breezes and warm sun become oppressive, blistering heat. To help you prepare to pass some time outdoors, I thought I would build on Amy’s DIY Outdoor Luncheon post from last week (chickpea and carrot salad pictured below) to bring you some of the recipes from the column which would carry well and stand up to a bit of time outside of the refrigerator. For me, picnic always means sandwiches, like William Brinson’s Pimento Cheese Sandwich above, but I’ve pulled together a range of choices to fit many palates. The great thing is that they can all be made quickly, and made ahead so on the day of the picnic, just pack your bag and go. Hope there’s sun your way this weekend! –Kristina


See more great ideas for a delicious picnic after the jump!


Wedding event planner Tara Guerard shared one of the most amazing recipes for shrimp paste sandwiches and low country lemonade. It is worth the time it takes to peel and devein a large quantity of shrimp to make a double batch because these sandwiches will disappear in a heartbeat. Low country lemonade does have alcohol in it, so please make sure you don’t violate any local laws if you choose to take it to a public space!


I wouldn’t normally think of taking an egg sandwich with mayonnaise on it for a picnic, but the first time I ever tried this sandwich, I took it for a brown bag lunch (three days in a row) and it sat out for hours with no refrigeration and I have lived to tell about it!  This ham, egg, and basil sandwich is one of my favorite sandwiches of all time!


Food photographer Vanessa Rees’ sesame pancake sandwich bread gives you the freedom to make your own sandwich. She developed this recipe precisely in response to the need to pack her lunch for days when she’s photographing for clients and needing a change of scenery. She filled hers with cilantro, carrots and red bell peppers. I would add some hummus, too.


What picnic would be complete without chips? Even better if homemade, and even tastier if they are homemade sweet potato chips. Blogger Sarah Coates from the Sugar Hit shared her recipe with us, including the rosemary salt, and it was an instant hit.  Make a giant batch because I’m sure you’ll eat most of them before you even reach the picnic blanket.


Pastas which can be eaten cold are perfect for picnics. Blogger and entertainer, Valerie Rice, shared her timely spring recipe for orecchiette with fava beans, arugula pesto and pine nuts, which hits all the greatest seasonal ingredients. The flavors of this pasta are even better the next day, so be sure to make ahead.


Another great cold pasta, dressed with leeks, lemon and herbs, is so easy to make, it just might make itself. This can definitely be made the morning of a picnic, shaken in its container before serving to distribute the ingredients, and enjoyed room temperature.


When I first moved to Italy, I was always a bit taken aback when served room temperature or cold vegetables. I thought it was lack of attention to detail in service. However, I’ve grown to realize not only that this reflects how many vegetable sides are served here, but often, the flavors are better when the food is neither too hot nor too cold. A perfect example of this are pomodori con riso, a summer dish always eaten at room temperature. Pack these tightly in a container to keep their shape.


Another great picnic option, the tomato tatin by pastry chef and photographer duo Whip + Click, is great with the best tomatoes of the season. Sprinkle with your favorite herbs and serve with a choice of salads.



The quintessential picnic dessert, photographer Jennifer Martine’s salted chocolate chip cookies. I have my doubts as to whether any would actually survive to meal time at a picnic, but it’s worth making a batch to prove me wrong! Make a triple batch of dough and freeze some.


Kait Turshen, AKA Bubble Girl, specializes in providing gluten-free, vegan, allergen-free baked goods. These dirty chai mini bundt cakes will put a smile on everyone’s face, and pack a flavorful punch in a tiny package.


I have such fond memories of chef and cookbook author Rachel Khoo’s ginger and orange tea cake last year, because it was the cake I made myself for my birthday. Like most pound cakes, this can be wrapped up the day before without losing any appeal. Pound cakes were made to travel!


Cheryl and Griffith Day’s baked (not fried) peach pies are a must in peach season, picnic or no picnic. I love them. What’s even better is that my favorite aspect of peach pie is how the juices soak the crust. Remember, these are baked, not fried, and will hold up well to transport, so you have no excuse not to make them with the best peaches you can find.


Blogger Beth Kirby’s sticky buns have been dancing in my head since we shared the recipe on the blog last month. So many of you tried and enjoyed the recipe that I couldn’t not include it in this roundup. Bring plenty of stuff to clean your hands after you eat these.

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