Picnic side dishes

We are hosting my daughter’s class picnic today.  We’re supplying sandwiches for the grownups and people are bringing side dishes.  Since I can tend to be a little bit of a control freak, it is hard for me to do this but it is nice that people want to contribute.  It is the time of year when there are lots of events and you  might have an opportunity to sign up for something.  Here are a few of my favorite things to bring to a picnic (or what I would make if I was doing the menu myself).

Fruit salad basket

Carving a watermelon into a basket makes a great container for fruit salad and it looks like it is a lot harder than it actually is.  Place the watermelon on its flattest side.  You’ll want about a two inch “handle” for your basket so start about 1 inch to right of center and make a straight slice about 1/2 way down the melon.  Repeat about 1 inch left of center.  From the right side, slice the melon horizontally towards the handle slice and remove the section.  Repeat on left side.  Carve out watermelon flesh from handle, leaving rind.  Scoop watermelon flesh from “basket” and use a melon baller to turn watermelon flesh into balls.  Combine watermelon with balls of honeydew, cantaloupe and sliced strawberries or fruit of your choice.  Serve fruit in basket.

Pasta salad

I have made this numerous times and people always ask for the recipe.  They are shocked when I give it to them because they think it is more homemade than it is.  This is a great last minute summer side dish and is easily doubled, tripled or even quadrupled.

  • 1 package fusilli pasta
  • 1 package Good Seasons Italian dressing mix prepared according to package instructions
  • 1 TB capers
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Cook pasta according to package instructions.  Drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking.  Toss to remove water and then toss with salad dressing.  Add capers and Parmesan cheese.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Toss again before serving.  You could add sliced cherry tomatoes and any blanched vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower would be good) to this salad if you like.
Deviled eggs
It doesn’t matter how many deviled eggs I make, I don’t think I have ever had leftovers.  Typically you’ll hear people say “I haven’t had deviled eggs in ages” as they pop them in their mouths!
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
Place eggs in a pot just big enough to hold them and add water to cover.  Bring to a rapid boil, reduce heat to just simmering and cover for 17 minutes.  Remove from heat and add cold water and ice cubes to stop cooking.  Chill eggs in refrigerator.  Peel eggs and cut in half.  Put yolks in a bowl and mash with a fork.  Add Worcestershire sauce, mustard, paprika and mayonnaise.  Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.  Fill egg whites with filling and top with additional paprika.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  NOTE: For fancy parties, a small bit of caviar can be added to tops of deviled eggs.
Potato Salad
There are lots of recipes for potato salad and I like most of them but once I discovered this one, it is my default.
  • Red potatoes, 3 pounds
  • scallions, 1 bunch thinly sliced
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • freshly ground pepper
Boil potatoes until tender.  Let cool until you can handle and then chop potatoes.  Combine mayonnaise and lemon juice (adjust to your taste) and toss over potatoes.  Add sliced scallions and pepper.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Brownies are a great thing to bring to picnics because they are easy to eat.  These are always a hit.
  • 4 squares unsweetened baking chocolate (I use Baker’s)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 350.  Melt chocolate with sugar and butter, stirring regularly.  Remove from heat and let cool for 5 – 10 minutes.  Stir in eggs, flour and vanilla.  Pour into a rectangular baking pan and bake for 22 minutes.  Remove from oven and let sit.  Cut into squares.  (For easy cleanup, line your pan with parchment paper  -you can lift the parchment out and cut the brownies and put the pan away.)
Bring any of these along and you will be a very popular picnic guest!