Picnic, Anyone? Recipes and Inspiration for Your Best Summer Picnic!Jun 28, 2018
Who doesn’t love a picnic?
It’s picnic season and preparing food for the outdoors (and prepping in the outdoors) is just as much fun as it is sharing it with friends and family. It’s also a perfect opportunity for self-care with the availability of freshly picked local produce. Breathing in fresh air, slowly savoring every bite while feeling warm sun on bare skin are the things summer memories are made of.
The joy of summer dining outdoors can be as simple as sitting on a park bench outside during your lunch break or as elaborate as planning for a full day beach picnic, complete with utensils, colorful baskets and blankets.
Preparation ahead is key for a relaxed and easy-going picnic. Foods that are bite-sized or hand held can be made ahead and packed up the night before. Also, what a great excuse to grill dinner the night before, just throw on some extra veggies for your sandwich. I have been known to use my cast iron pan on the grill to cook up smaller veggies, mushrooms or beans. YUM.
For the picnic pictured here, I went shopping at the farmer’s market for just-picked strawberries, herbs to add to the aioli, leafy greens and vegetables to grill for a seriously delicious pressed Italian sandwich. Our local market also has a bakery stand where I picked up a loaf of rustic sourdough. To save time (and to add a few more delicacies), I used roasted red peppers in a jar as well as marinated artichoke hearts.
To make transport and eating easy, I wash the strawberries and pack them into a sturdy container so they don’t get squished. I also cut up a watermelon into bite sized pieces and drizzled it with some maple syrup and edible blackberry flowers from a bush that grows alongside my house. You can add any edible flowers (please make sure they haven’t been sprayed with pesticides) and use your favorite melon or variety of melons.
Here’s a link that I find helpful for more information on which flowers are edible and where to find them.
Be sure to also bring your favorite potato and/or pasta salad and a bag of chips. What’s a day at the beach without some savory delights?
The pressed Italian sandwich is made by layering your favorite fillings, wrapping it tightly with plastic wrap and placing a weight on top of it in the fridge such as a cast iron pan.
Bring along a cutting board and a knife to slice into it at the picnic and be ready to bask in the ooohs and aaahs of praise that will ensue from your companions.
- 1 clove fresh garlic
- ¼ cup olive oil
- Juice of 1 lemon
- ½ cup vegan mayo
- 1 cup total fresh herbs of choice, basil, oregano (no stems), parsley, thyme (no stems)
Put all ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth and creamy.
Grilled or pan-seared vegetables and tofu
Ingredients (vegetables cut into thin slices):
- 1 zucchini
- 1 yellow squash
- 1 large Spanish or white onion
- 1lb block of tofu
- 4-5 portobello mushrooms
- Olive oil, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, agave or other light flavored sweetener
- Clean off stems and gills of the portobello mushrooms
- Rub vegetables with olive oil, a bit of salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Cut tofu into ½” thick slices, marinate with olive oil, add a generous sprinkle of salt, black pepper, garlic powder and a teaspoonful of agave or light flavored sweetener of your choice
- Grill the vegetables and onions first on each side until tender, or pan-sear in a hot cast iron pan until tender and edges get a bit caramelized
- Grill or pan-sear the tofu slices on each side until golden brown or with light grill marks
- Let the filling ingredients cool down to touch before building the sandwich
- 1lb loaf of rustic peasant or sourdough bread
- Herbed aioli
- Grilled vegetables (from above)
- Sliced marinated tofu (from above)
- 1 small jar of roasted red peppers, drained
- 1 jar of marinated artichoke hearts, drained and sliced in ½
- Fresh spinach or arugula
- Slice the loaf of bread in half lengthwise and pull out some of the soft middle to make room for the fillings. Leave enough bread in place to keep the sandwich stable. Spread the herbed aioli on the top and bottom insides of the bread.
- Begin layering each ingredient. Starting with the roasted red peppers, cover the entire bottom of the inside of the bread.
- Next, layer in the grilled zucchini, then the yellow squash. Layer in the tofu slices and then the grilled onions and the fresh spinach. Finish with the artichoke hearts and place the top layer of bread to complete the sandwich.
- Wrap it tightly 3x around with plastic wrap, pressing it together as you wrap, to keep it sealed and let the flavors blend together. Put it in the refrigerator with a weight on top such as a cast iron pan or a dinner plate with some canned items on top.
- Let it chill at least 3 hours before serving (overnight is ideal). It can also be made ahead up to 2 days in advance.
- To serve, unwrap the sandwich and using a serrated knife, slice it into to 1” thick slices to help keep the layers together.