Break Out the Picnic Basket

Good times await in the great outdoors. Just pack up a cooler with these totable recipes and lounge around with some pals and a cocktail or two.

- By Alanna Lipson

Good times await in the great outdoors. Just pack up a cooler with these totable recipes and lounge around with some pals and a cocktail or two.

Whether you’re already a Person Who Picnics or are new to the club (pandemic times, you know), there’s just something about dining al fresco that makes a meal taste better. The key to a good spread is bringing along fare that is prepared with portabilit­y in mind, tastes great at room temperatur­e and has a delicious beverage to sip alongside. This menu ticks all of those boxes! Transform a ginger-thyme lemonade concentrat­e into a sparkling or still drink (booze optional) and pour into insulated mugs to keep the tipples cool. Serve up salads—which are key for any picnic. A grain salad is always a winner because the longer it sits, the more the grains absorb the tangy dressing, and a shaved-vegetable salad brings welcome crunch to the party. Round out the meal by celebratin­g summer produce with an eggy bake packed with zucchini and a no-knead focaccia topped with peaches and prosciutto. Just add good friends and you’re ready for a night under the stars.

Shaved Radish, Celery & Cucumber Salad

ACTIVE: 20 min TOTAL: 20 min

It’s worth using that special bottle of olive oil and seeking out Parmigiano-reggiano, which is bolder than basic Parm, for this simple salad. Use a mandoline to shave the veggies if you have one.

1 English cucumber, very thinly sliced

3 medium stalks celery, very thinly sliced, plus celery leaves for garnish

4 medium radishes, very thinly sliced

3 tablespoon­s extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

2 tablespoon­s lemon juice ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

½ teaspoon flaky sea salt, such as Maldon

¼ teaspoon ground pepper

1. Combine cucumber, celery and radishes in a large bowl. Whisk oil and lemon juice in a small bowl or combine in a half-pint mason jar.

2. Just before serving, drizzle the dressing over the salad. Serve sprinkled with lemon zest, cheese, salt and pepper. Garnish with celery leaves, if desired.

SERVES 6: about ¾ cup

Cal 87 Fat 8g (sat 2g) Chol 3mg Carbs 3g

Total sugars 1g (added 0g) Protein 2g Fiber 1g

Sodium 271mg Potassium 143mg.

No-knead Focaccia with Peaches & Prosciutto

ACTIVE: 20 min TOTAL: 13 hrs 20 min (including 12 hrs rising time)

You could top this focaccia however you like, but the sweet-salty-tangy trio of summer peaches, cured ham and goat cheese is a winning combo.

1½ cups ice water

2 teaspoons honey

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon instant yeast

2 cups bread flour, plus more as needed

1 cup white whole-wheat flour

2 tablespoon­s extra-virgin olive oil, divided

4 slices prosciutto, cut into ribbons

1 large peach, thinly sliced

¼ cup crumbled goat cheese

Fresh rosemary for garnish

1. Whisk water, honey, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Stir in bread flour and whole-wheat flour, scraping down the sides and mixing until the dough is combined. It should be slightly sticky but come together in a uniform ball. (If the dough is too sticky to form a ball, add 1 to 2 tablespoon­s bread flour.) Lightly grease a large bowl, place the dough in it and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap.

2. Let the dough rise at room temperatur­e until doubled in size, 12 to 18 hours.

3. Spread 1 tablespoon oil on the bottom and up the sides of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Transfer the dough to the pan and, with oiled hands, gently stretch until it fills the pan and is evenly thick. (If the dough springs back or is resistant, let it rest for 10 minutes, then proceed.) Brush the dough with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Using your fingertips, make deep indentatio­ns all over the top.

4. Scatter prosciutto, peach slices and goat cheese evenly over the dough. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperatur­e until the dough is puffed, about 45 minutes.

5. Position racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 475°F.

6. Bake the focaccia on the lower rack until the bottom is golden, 15 minutes. Transfer to the top rack and bake until golden-brown and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped, 5 minutes more. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before slicing. Serve warm or at room temperatur­e, garnished with rosemary, if desired.

SERVES 12: 1 slice each

Cal 163 Fat 4g (sat 1g) Chol 5mg Carbs 26g

Total sugars 2g (added 1g) Protein 6g Fiber 2g

Sodium 331mg Potassium 67mg.

Bulgur & Butter Bean Salad with Pomegranat­e Molasses Vinaigrett­e

ACTIVE: 20 min TOTAL: 1 hr 20 min

TO MAKE AHEAD: Refrigerat­e for up to 1 day. Pleasantly sweet-and-sour pomegranat­e molasses is made by reducing pomegranat­e juice into a syrup. Look for it at well-stocked grocery stores and Middle Eastern markets.

13/4 cups water

1 cup bulgur

3/4 teaspoon salt, divided

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 2 tablespoon­s pomegranat­e molasses

or balsamic glaze

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

1 medium shallot, thinly sliced 3 medium tomatoes, cut into

1/2-inch wedges

1 15-ounce can no-salt-added

butter beans, rinsed

1/2 medium English cucumber,

halved and diced

1 cup chopped fresh parsley, divided 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint, divided

1. Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Stir in bulgur and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover, reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook until the liquid is absorbed, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and let cool for 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, whisk lemon juice, oil, pomegranat­e molasses (or balsamic glaze), pepper and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Stir in shallot. Add the bulgur, tomatoes, beans, cucumber, 3/4 cup parsley and 1/4 cup mint and stir to combine. Let stand at room temperatur­e for 1 hour or refrigerat­e for up to 1 day.

3. Serve at room temperatur­e topped with the remaining 1/4 cup each mint and parsley. SERVES 8: about 3/4 cup each

Cal 196 Fat 7g (sat 1g) Chol 0mg Carbs 30g

Total sugars 2g (added 2g) Protein 5g Fiber 5g

Sodium 327mg Potassium 439mg.

Zucchini, Spinach & Gouda Bake

ACTIVE: 35 min TOTAL: 1 hr 55 min

TO MAKE AHEAD: Refrigerat­e for up to 3 days.

EQUIPMENT: 9-inch cake pan

The addition of flour and baking soda gives more leavening power to the eggs, making this dish a bit more tender and fluffy than a quiche.

2 tablespoon­s extra-virgin olive oil 1 medium zucchini, sliced into

1/8-inch rounds

2 medium shallots, sliced 1/4 inch thick 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped 1 5-ounce package baby spinach 6 large eggs

1/4 cup low-fat milk

1/3 cup white whole-wheat flour

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

11/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

11/2 cups shredded Gouda cheese

1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat a 9-inch cake pan with cooking spray.

2. Heat oil in a large skillet over mediumhigh heat. Add zucchini and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, 4 to 6 minutes. Add shallots and garlic; cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat. Stir in half the spinach; cover and let stand until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the remaining spinach; cover and let stand until wilted, about 5 minutes more. Uncover and allow the mixture to cool for 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, whisk eggs and milk in a large bowl until smooth. Add whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt and pepper; whisk until no lumps remain. Stir in Gouda and tarragon. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and top with the vegetables, pressing them into the batter.

4. Bake until puffed and the edges are beginning to set, about 15 minutes. Turn the broiler to high and broil until the top is golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 1 hour. Serve at room temperatur­e. SERVES 8: 1 slice each

Cal 210 Fat 13g (sat 5g) Chol 164mg Carbs 11g

Total sugars 1g (added 0g) Protein 12g Fiber 1g

Sodium 391mg Potassium 140mg.

Ginger-thyme Sparkling Lemonade

ACTIVE: 20 min TOTAL: 2 hrs 40 min

TO MAKE AHEAD: Prepare through Step 2 and refrigerat­e for up to 5 days.

Leave the jug at home—this homemade lemonade concentrat­e is easier to tote, plus gives you the option to make drinks to order at your picnic. Bring sparkling and still water along with gin and vodka for a bar in your basket.

2 cups water

2/3 cup honey

12 sprigs fresh thyme, plus more for garnish

3 tablespoon­s finely chopped fresh ginger 2 tablespoon­s lemon zest

3/4 cup lemon juice

2 liters cold plain sparkling or still water 12 ounces gin or vodka (optional)

1. Combine water, honey, thyme and ginger in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in lemon zest and lemon juice. Let steep for 20 minutes.

2. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl. (Discard the solids.) Refrigerat­e until cold, about 2 hours or up to 5 days.

3. To make each drink, combine 1/4 cup of the lemon mixture with 1/2 cup sparkling (or still) water and 1 ounce gin (or vodka), if desired. Garnish with a thyme sprig, if desired.

SERVES 12: about 3/4 cup each

Cal 62 Fat 0g (sat 0g) Chol 0mg Carbs 17g

Total sugars 16g (added 15g) Protein 0g Fiber 0g

Sodium 2mg Potassium 35mg.

ALANNA LIPSON is a Toronto-based food stylist and recipe developer.

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