Easy Picnic Recipes
Cookouts, picnics and barbeques are a time-honored summer tradition for most families. Choosing what picnic recipes to prepare can get a bit tricky as outdoor get-togethers in the warm summer months mean food safety needs to be top of mind.
Following are a few easy picnic recipes that are perfect for your next outdoor event that should leave you with plenty of time to spend with your guests as well as minimize any food safety risks.
NIBBLES AND MUNCHIES
- Tomato Bruschetta - Great for picnics as both the topping and the baguette slices can be prepped one to two days ahead of time.
- Roasted Red Pepper Hummus with Pita Crisps - This recipe can be made up to two days before your get-together. Use store-bought pita crisps to make things even easier.
- Mini Goat Cheese Pizzas With Caramelized Onions and Prosciutto - This is such an easy to make picnic recipe, and yet everyone will think you've become a gourmet chef. Using homemade or store-bought pizza dough, make pizza rounds approx. 2" to 3" in diameter. Brush with olive oil and bake in a hot oven until cooked through but not browned. Meanwhile, caramelize several onions (I use Vidalia) in olive oil until nice and brown. Season with salt and pepper. Let cool. All of this can be done a day or two in advance. When ready to serve, fire up the grill. Top each pizza round with some of the goat cheese, then the caramelized onions and finally some shredded prosciutto. Put on the grill, close the cover and cook until heated through and cheese starts to melt.
- Grilled Clams - You won't need to worry about these sitting out in the hot sun too long as they will be devoured by your guests as they come off the grill! Purchase some fresh cherrystone clams (you can use littlenecks if cherrystones aren't available). Discard any with open shells. Soak in a bowl of water in the refrigerator overnight to clean out any sand. Turn your grill to high. Take the clams out of the water and place directly on the grill. Close the cover and cook until the shells open. Remove to a serving platter and let guests have their choice of toppings -- hot sauce, melted butter or a spicy bbq sauce.
- Make-Ahead Cole Slaw - This recipe can be made up to one week ahead of time and refrigerated. And since there's no dairy or mayonnaise in it, food safety issues in the warm wearther are minimal. You can also try using this as a topping for hamburgers or pulled pork sandwiches.
- Cucumber and Onion Salad - If you've never made this dish before, you'll be surprised at the response that you get. This salad also can be made up to one week in advance and contains no dairy or mayonnaise. And with just four ingredients, Picnic recipes just don't get much easier than that!
- Marinated Green Bean Salad - If you can, use fresh green beans right from the garden for this delectable salad. This can be made 4 to 5 days in advance without losing any of the freshness or flavor. For a little kick, toss in some goat cheese and kalamata olives at the last minute.
- German Potato Salad - This recipe uses new potatoes and a dressing made from mustard seed, cider vinegar and oil replaces the traditional mayonnaise. I like to make this at least the day before the let the flavors blend.
- Bacon & Corn Salad - This recipe is downright decadent. Simply cook 1/2 pound or so of bacon in a hot skillet. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon. Use a sharp knife to cut the kernels off of a couple ears of fresh corn. Add to the bacon grease in the skillet. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes over medium heat, stirring to coat the corn. Remove from the skillet and drain. Crumble the bacon into the corn and toss thoroughly. Enjoy!
- Potato Packets - Scrub a few large russet potatoes until clean. Slice into sticks about the size of a french fry. Put in a bowl and toss with some olive oil to coat. Prepare several double layer squares of tin foil approx. 9" x 9". Place some of the potato sticks in the middle of the square. Add some thinly sliced onion and season with salt, pepper, celery seed or other seasons of your choice. Close the packets and seal. Toss on a medium-high grill and cook for approximately 30 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.
- New England Baked Beans - Although it is a "from scratch" recipe, it's a snap to make. Instead of cooking in the oven, you can also cook them directly in the crockpot on low for 18 to 20 hours. Just make sure to keep adding liquid. The beans are done when they are completely soft but they hold their shape and are not mushy.
- Roasted Vegetables - Even though everything is done last minute except for the vinaigrette which can be made ahead of time, there is minimal preparation. Use the freshest vegetables you can find. Although this recipe calls for zucchini, artichokes and fennel, I use tomatoes and bell peppers cut in half, zucchini and eggplant cut into thick slices lengthwise, and thick slices of onion.
No picnic would be complete without the almighty hamburger. I always use equal parts ground sirloin (for the flavor) and ground chuck (for the fat).
For a great base burger, mix 2-1/2 lbs sirloin/chuck mixture with 1-1/2 tablespoons season salt, 1 ounce A-1 Sauce and 1-1/2 ounce finely chopped onion. Be careful not to overwork the mixture as your burgers will become dense.
Try using different toppings on your burgers for a real treat for your picnic guests:
- Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, barbecue sauce, fried onion rings and pre-cooked bacon.
- Fresh coleslaw and dill pickle slices.
- Provolone cheese, sauteed hot peppers and caramelized onion slices.
- Roasted red peppers and mushroom slices sauteed in butter and garlic.
If you don't want to use ground beef in your burgers, try these substitutions:
- Grilled portobello and arugula burgers
- Grilled hot Italian sausage patties topped with roasted peppers and provolone.
- Grilled swordfish with a squeeze of lime and a dusting of paprika served on a roll with lettuce and a generous dollop of tartar sauce.
- Grilled ground pork burgers served with slices of ham, swiss cheese and dill pickles with some dijon mustard in the style of the Cuban sandwich.
- Grilled tuna steak burgers with remoulade.
- Spicy Turkey Burgers
To be sure my chicken gets cooked through when on the grill, I usually parboil it first for about 10 minutes. This makes more sense for entertaining also, as the grilling time is cut down. The chicken is already cooked through and just needs to be heated and crisped.
And unless you are using real plates (no paper) and flatware (no plastic), stick with chicken wings or drumsticks as these can be picked up with your hands and eaten.
I believe that desserts should be kept simple and fresh at a picnic. I prefer little bite-sized or individual items rather than a large cake or pie. Here are a few simple picnic ideas:
- Fresh Fruit - Serve up bite-sized pieces of cantaloupe, watermelon and some strawberries on small skewers. Make sure to have some melted chocolate and vanilla yogurt nearby for dipping!
- Brownie Bites - Cook up some chocolate brownies in mini-muffin tins. When cool, insert a lollipop stick into each brownie, dip in melted chocolate and then roll in chopped nuts, sprinkles or coconut to coat.
- Grilled Pineapple - Cut a fresh pineapple into rings about 1/2" thick. In a small bowl, mix some brown sugar with a little of the pineapple juice until you have a very spreadable mixture. Turn the grill to high. Place the pineapple slices on the grill and brush with the brown sugar mixture. Cook the pineapple and continue basting with the brown sugar until the pineapple is soft and has some nice grill marks, but does not fall apart or lose its shape. Remove to serving dish and top with coconut sorbet and toasted coconut.
- Dirt - If you have small children at the picnic, this is a must-have dessert. Go to your local nursery or arts & crafts store and see if you can find small (about 1-cup) plant pots to use as serving dishes. Simply make 1 package of chocolate pudding and fold in 1 container of Cool Whip. Take a package of Oreo cookies and crush in the blender until they look like, well, dirt! Put about 1/2" of the dirt in the bottom of the containers. Top with pudding and then another 1/2" of the dirt. Insert an artificial flower and decorate with gummy worms.
PICNIC FOOD SAFETY TIPS
- Try to keep dairy products and mayonnaise to a minimum, as these spoil easily.
- Wash your watermelon thoroughly before cutting, as the rind carries a lot of bacteria.
- Keep cold foods at 40 degrees or less and hot foods at 140 degrees or higher. Foods kept in that middle range should be discarded after two hours.
- If you plan on partially cooking meats and poultry in the oven before tossing on the grill, plan ahead so that the food goes directly from the oven to the grill.