Packing a feast and dining al fresco, whether you prefer a classic blanket or picnic table, is one of the great pleasures of the Canadian summer. However, figuring out what to pack can be daunting. The following recipes, loaded with seasonal produce, are built to last. Though they won’t keep forever, packing these dishes with ice and keeping them out of the hot sun will help your picnic last at least another hour longer – and who wouldn’t want that?
Lettuce can turn soggy and limp if dressed beforehand, and the heat of the sun can turn formerly crunchy, crisp greens into a droopy, unappetizing mess. Grilling hardier vegetables, ones that can stand up to heat and marinating, are a better vegetable option for the picnic basket.
This salad comes together quickly and can last outside of the cooler longer than dishes made with mayonnaise (which contains eggs). Fresh, light and filling, it’s density is also key to reducing the amount of food you have to lug to your picnic. The ingredients are sturdy, won’t go limp and even benefit for sitting for a couple of hours.
Spring Layered Salad with Asparagus and Buttermilk Dressing
Layering ingredients strategically is both a feast for the eyes and a sogginess saver. Build your salad, cover, keep in the cooler and toss right before serving for a main course that tastes as fresh as the minute you made it.
Grilled Corn and Bean Salad
Grilling corn brings out a smokiness to the sweet kernels. In this picnic-perfect salad, it’s paired with hearty beans for a side or veggie main that won’t wilt.
Caponata Picnic Sandwiches
Giada created a sandwich that was made for the picnic, combining ingredients that mingle well and stay fresher for longer. The sandwich can be made-ahead and kept out for up to 1 hour – not that it will last that long.
Buckwheat Noodle Salad
Chilled noodles with an Asian twist offer a light, exciting treat for the senses at your picnic. A light dressing keeps sogginess out of the equation, and with no dairy or mayonnaise to turn bad, it’s suitable at room temperature. Add frozen shelled edamame – doubling as protein and a colour boost – right before packing to keep this fridge-cold.
Orzo Salad with Grape Tomatoes and Radishes
Orzo is a dainty pasta that feeds a crowd and soaks up any flavours you add to it without going mushy. The add-ins here are low in natural juices, so you won’t be left with a pile of liquid at the bottom of your bowl. The recipe has goat cheese, so it does need to stay chilled until you’re ready to eat it.
Farro Salad with Tomatoes and Herbs
Farro is an ancient grain that holds up to dressings, juicy vegetables and long travelling times, making it a picnic-goers dream grain. Toss in any fresh, low-water vegetables you have on hand, transforming this dish into something new every time.
Heartland Chopped Salad
Unlike delicate lettuces, kale retains its texture when dressed. In fact, dressing kale beforehand actually benefits the dish, infusing the vegetal greens with your dressing of choice. This salad contains a variety of add-ins that make it feel like the main event, so no precarious picnic proteins, like meat or fish, are necessary here.
Grilled Corn and Barley Salad with Goat Cheese and Blueberries
Sweet and tender, juicy and savoury, this is a beautiful, filling and crowd-pleasing picnic salad. The star ingredients, corn, barley and blueberries stay identifiable and intact, ensuring a non-soggy salad when dining al fresco. To keep this dish outdoors for longer, skip the goat cheese or pack it on the side in your cooler, garnishing right before serving.
Get the recipe for Grilled Corn and Barley Salad with Goat Cheese and Blueberries
Allison Day is a cookbook author, nutritionist (RHN) and the creator of the award-winning food blog Yummy Beet.