It’s a wonderful time of year to take your meals on a hike outside and enjoy dining al fresco. We love picnicking, but not all of our favorite foods travel well. To make sure your picnic is both delicious and easy to eat, we gathered some picnic-proof recipe ideas to try on your next outing. Along with the blanket and the bottle opener, pack a few of these dishes too.
Picnic-Proof Dishes: Chips and Dip
Dip travels beautifully, and it’s easy to serve from a sealed container that won’t leak. Plus, most dips go well with a variety of chips, crackers, and breads. Everyone can choose the dippers they like most. Just remind them not to double-dip, and you won’t even need to parcel out individual portions.
Roasted Broccoli and Artichoke Dip
This dip requires a bit of advance preparation, but it’s probably one of the healthiest options you can serve. Chop fresh broccoli and mince fresh garlic, then roast with olive oil and salt. While the broccoli and garlic are cooling, chop artichoke hearts, scallions, and a shallot. Combine all of these ingredients with Greek yogurt, Parmesan cheese, and seasonings, and you’ll have a nutritious, hearty dip for pita chips, fresh bread, or raw veggies.
White Bean Garlic Dip
Meanwhile, this dip is about as easy as it gets, and it’s also nutritious. Toss canned white beans, olive oil, minced garlic, chopped fresh rosemary, lemon juice and zest into your food processor, and whirl it around until it’s smooth and creamy. Serve this dip with practically any sort of dippers you like, from corn chips or pita chips to raw veggies or pretzels.
Mexican Sour Cream Dip
We’re especially fond of this dip because there’s no pre-packaged powdered mixes involved. Combine sour cream with dried dill and parsley, plus onion powder, garlic powder, and salt. Then stir in some salsa and shredded cheese. We also like how this dip can be made in advance and refrigerated, or mixed up at the last minute before you head out for the day. Serve it with tortilla chips or corn chips.
Picnic-Proof Dishes: Skewers
We’re not talking about skewers that you put on the grill, but ones that you can eat cold. They’re a smart way to combine ingredients without the hassle of serving dishes and utensils. Instead, you can pass out individual portions, and everyone can enjoy them right from the wooden or bamboo sticks.
Prosciutto Melon Skewers
Slide melon balls, mozzarella pearls, and folded prosciutto slices onto skewers. You can use cantaloupe for the melon, or choose another variety with similar density. Mozzarella pearls will look most attractive, but you can also cut mozzarella into chunks. Make a balsamic reduction on the stovetop and put it in a Mason jar or other sealed container. When you get to your picnic site, drizzle the balsamic over your skewers before eating.
There’s so much variety on these skewers, we bet everyone will love them. Use cheese tortellini, grape tomatoes, olives, salami, mozzarella pearls, artichoke hearts, and fresh basil leaves. Add other ingredients you like, and leave out the ones you don’t. These skewers are highly customizable. For the tortellini, boil it on the stovetop and let it cool. Then marinate it with Italian dressing (add a little Tabasco for kick) in the refrigerator for a few hours before threading the tortellini on the skewers.
Watermelon Feta Skewers
Cut watermelon and feta into equal-sized chunks. Mix olive oil, salt, and pepper, and toss the watermelon chunks in it. Then thread the watermelon and feta onto skewers and add basil leaves. Instead of pepper, you can try grains of paradise -- a tiny brown seed with more complex flavor.
Picnic-Proof Dishes: Pressed Sandwiches
A common picnic complaint is that sandwiches get soggy. We think pressed sandwiches are the perfect solution! They’re meant for the bread to absorb the moisture and flavor of the fillings, so no worries about them getting soggy. The only drawback is that pressed sandwiches need time to sit and compress, so plan to make them the day ahead.
Pressed Italian Picnic Sandwiches
Like the antipasto skewers above, these sandwiches are highly customizable. Slice a loaf of focaccia in half, and spread both halves with homemade pesto. Then layer deli-sliced meats, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and sliced fresh mozzarella on the bottom of the loaf. Replace the top, and wrap the entire loaf in plastic. Put it between two baking sheets to hold it flat, and add weight to the top sheet. You can stack it with cast iron cookware, hand weights, or your old set of encyclopedias. Refrigerate the entire stack overnight. Then remove the weight, the baking sheets, and the plastic wrap, and slice into squares for serving.
Chicken and Bacon Pressed Picnic Sandwiches
You’ll need to spend some time assembling the ingredients for these sandwiches, but the end result looks fantastic. Hollow out loaves of semolina bread, and spread the interior with a mixture of honey mustard and raspberry jam. Then add shredded chicken, crispy bacon, shredded cheese, fresh spinach, and diced red onion. Wrap the entire loaf in plastic, and press it between baking sheets as directed above. Refrigerate overnight, then unwrap and slice and serve.
Vegan Green Goddess Pressed Sandwiches
Don’t be put off by the word “vegan” in the name; these sandwiches are full of hearty fresh vegetables and tasty herbs and seasonings. Hollow out a loaf of sourdough bread, and spread both halves with dressing made from avocado, chopped parsley and cilantro, freshly squeezed lemon juice, minced garlic, salt, and olive oil. Then top it with thin slices of cucumber, zucchini, avocado, and peach. Once again, wrap it in plastic, pile weight on top, and refrigerate overnight. We bet you’ll be counting the hours until you can slice and eat it.