Sweet and savory recipes for a picnic

How do you like your picnic food, sweet or savory?

Picnic hamper with crockery and food.

Picnic hamper

There are pleanty of sweet and savory picnic recipes , recipes for a perfect season

Take one bright, sunny day in spring or summer, a choice of healthy, easy picnic food, and set up by scenic views. Add warm weather, ice-cold drinks, good company and interesting conversation.

Enjoy right away, and repeat often until the autumn comes.

Do you need a reason to eat out?

Food eaten outdoors tastes better, that is why picnics have been a popular pastime since 1700s. I cannot think of a better way to spend a warm summer afternoon under blue sky, than laze around by the canal with a glass of chilled wine, great food and good friends.

From the beginning of the warm weather, there are plenty of chances to eat outdoors. Take any of your kid’s sports events. Probably there is not much to eat, even if they serve the best hotdogs in the world, three games in the season and one gets bored of eating the same…why not taking a picnic lunch? Fill a picnic basket with great colors, flavors and textures –and bursting with key vitamins and minerals, too.

Organize one of those old potluck dinners where everyone brought a dish to share and have it by the river, the lake, the beach, or just enjoy the garden. With these recipes –easy to transport and easy to eat, with no much fuss about knives and forks- you only need to grab the first excuse to eat out.

Empanadas | Top

The word empanada in Spanish means “in bread dough” but it is used to name a type of pies with a savory filling enclosed not only in bread dough, but also in short or puff pastry.

Empanadas look as good as they taste; perfect food for a picnic on a budget as they only take pastry and some filling which can consist of recycled leftovers. Empanadas are delicious hot or cold. They take all sort of fillings, meat, fish or vegetables, all the suggestions below come out good. Use rolled out pastry or pizza dough and tomato sauce from a can as a shortcut. Not all fillings need to be cooked in advance, the filling can cook with the crust as long as your choice takes the same time.

Basics of empanada – Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Fit a 9" (24 cm) pan with one disk of pizza dough, distribute the filling on the lined pan, and cover with a second smaller disk. Press down at the edges and trim off evenly. You can flute the edges with a fork or thumb and finger or just seal them. Bake in the middle rack for 40-45 minutes.

  • Ham and onion filling - Parboil 1 cup (150 g) chopped onion for 2 minutes in boiling water, drain and put in a bowl. Add 1 cup (175 g) ham strips and 1 cup (150 g) finely chopped tart apple. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add enough beaten egg to hold the filling together.
  • Sardines - Mash 12 oz (300 g)  sardine fillets in tomato sauce –about 3 small cans- with 1-2 Tbs tomato sauce and 1-2 Tbs roasted peppers. You could use 3-4 Tbs leftover ratatouille. Use this as filling for your empanada.
  • Frankfurters and ham - Fill your empanada with 6 frankfurters, chopped, 4 cooked ham slices, cut in strips, 1 cup diced tomato, 1 cup cooked spinach, drained of all liquid, and 12 pitted black olives, seasoned with salt and pepper to your taste.
  • Grilled vegetables - use 2 cups (300 g) mixed grilled vegetables –onion, eggplant, zucchini, red peppers- and 4 Tbs (100 g) grated cheese as filling. Hold together with beaten egg, 1 small will do.
  • Roasted vegetables, mozzarella and anchovies - Fill your empanada with 1¼ cups (200 g) roasted vegetables -purple and yellow onions, red, yellow and green peppers, eggplant, zucchini- 1 can anchovies, drained and chopped and 1 diced mozzarella ball (120 g). Season with salt and pepper, basil and oregano are optional.
  • Tuna and tomato - In a bowl, flake canned tuna -2 cans 4oz each will do- with a fork. Add ¾ cup skinned roasted red pepper strips, ¼ cup pine kernels, 1 chopped hard boiled egg and ½ cup tomato sauce. Season to your taste with salt and pepper and fill your empanada.

Salads with a cereal core | Top

Couscous with chicken and vegetables

1 1/2 cups couscous
1 grilled chicken breast, diced
1 green pepper, washed and cut in strips
1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into matchstick shapes
1 celery stalk, washed and sliced

Use salad vegetables, chopped nuts, garden herbs, olives and hard cheeses with a light dressing to fork out hundred of other ideas for couscous salads.

Dressing: 2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil, juice from 1 lemon, salt, pepper, and 1 Tbs chopped fresh mint leaves
Garnish: radish, washed and sliced

Prepare couscous as per packet instructions. Place all ingredients in a salad bowl. Mix all ingredients for the dressing and shake to blend well. Pour over the salad and garnish with the sliced radishes.

Mozzarella and tomato pasta salad

1 1/2 (300 g) cups bow tie pasta
1 ball (120 g) mozzarella cheese
4 tomatoes, diced
6 anchovy fillets, chopped
24 black olives, pitted

Dressing: 4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper
Garnish: 1 Tbs chopped fresh aromatic herbs -oregano, basil, savory or marjoran, any of these are great

Cook the pasta al dente and drain. Place in a bowl. Add tomato, mozzarella, anchovies and olives. Prepare the dressing by mixing all ingredients. Pour over the salad and toss to coat.

Roasted vegetables and rice salad

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Roast red peppers whole for 45 to 55 minutes. The onion, peeled and cut in six wedges, and the eggplant slices for 40 to 45 minutes. Let them cool down.

1 1/2 (300 g) cups rice
2 red peppers, roasted and skinned
1 eggplant, sliced and roasted or grilled
1 onion, roasted
2 cloves garlic, sliced

Dressing: 4 Tbs olive oil, 1 Tbs vinegar, 1 Tbs water, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp salt, 3 anchovy fillets, 2 Tbs parsley leaves, finely chopped, 1 small onion, finely chopped –about ¼ cup.
Garnish: 2 Tbs chopped fresh basil leaves.

Cook the rice, drain and place in a salad bowl. Add roasted vegetables. Heat 1 Tbs olive oil in a pan and cook the garlic cloves until they start taking color. Add to the bowl. Mix oil, vinegar, salt, sugar and water and shake to blend. Add the anchovy fillets, mashed and blend into the dressing. Pour onto the salad and toss to coat.

Wheat and smoked salmon

4 medium russet potatoes
4 thick strips of bacon, diced

Dressing: 2 Tbs minced onion, 10 chives, finely chopped,½ clove of garlic, minced, 2 tsp Dijon mustard, ¾ cup basic vinaigrette

Cover potatoes with cold water. Add 1 tsp salt. Bring to the boil and cook for 15 minutes –potatoes shouldn’t feel soft.  Cover in cold water to stop cooking and drain. Peel and slice. Sautee the bacon until crisp; add to the potatoes including the hot drippings. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss. Check the seasoning and serve.

Sweet Finish | Top

Almond Pie

Preheat the oven to 350º F (180º C). Mix 1 cup (125 g) ground almonds, 1 cup (125 g) sugar, 1 cup (125 g) butter, and 2 eggs, beaten. Pour this filling into a 9” (24 cm) pie pan lined with pastry. Bake in the middle rack for 30 minutes. Let the pie cool down. Sprinkle confectioner’s sugar and slivered almonds for decoration.

Banana and hazelnut pie

Preheat the oven to 350º F (180º C). Mix 1 cup (125 g) ground hazelnuts, 1 cup (125 g) brown sugar, 1 cup (125 g) butter, and 2 eggs, beaten; add 1 Tbs rum for flavor, if you wish. Pour this filling into a 9” (24 cm) pie pan lined with pastry. Distribute banana slices on top. Sprinkle with sugar and slivered hazelnuts. Bake in the middle rack for 30 minutes. Let the pie cool down.

Quick chocolate cakes

Cut 1 layer of chocolate cake in rounds -best size jelly roll deep (¾" to 1" or 2 cm) and about 4" (10 cm) diameter. Glaze the cakes with a frosting prepared by melting 3 oz (90 g) baking chocolate and 1 Tbs butter. Decorate with chopped toasted almonds or hazelnuts.

Rice pudding tartlets

Simmer 3 heaped Tbs (3 oz or 90 g) rice in 3 cups (750 ml) milk with 2 heaped Tbs sugar and a small cinnamon stick for 15-18 minutes. Remove cinnamon and let it cool down. Preheat the oven to 350º F (180º C). Cut six 5” rounds out of a sheet of pastry and use them to line greased individual pie pans. Mix in 2 beaten eggs into the cooled rice pudding and distribute it between pans. Decorate each one with a cherry and bake for 30-35 minutes.

Peach tartlets

Preheat the oven to 350º F (180º C). Cut six 5” rounds out of a sheet of pastry and use them to line greased individual pie pans. Cook in the oven for 12 minutes. Get halved peaches, canned. Place one peach piece. Glace with peach or apricot jam and decorate with chopped toaster almonds.