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Pack up this movable feast and take it to the beach, the park, or your own backyard. Picnic power!
In California we eat al fresco most of the year, but for those of you living in less temperate climes, Fourth of July serves as the official kick-off of picnic season. And after the winter we've all just lived through, it's coming not a moment too soon! So pull out the coolers and blankets, gather up some paper plates and your prettiest napkins (I love these ones from Anthropologie), and take the party on the road for a retro picnic that's just like my nonna used to make.
I know in some families picnics can get pretty elaborate, with one or more grills blazing beside a mini encampment of folding tables and chairs, and an elaborate spread of desserts waiting to follow the inevitable mountain of burgers, dogs, and ribs. Next time you host a hoedown like that, invite me! I tend to take a more laid back approach to picnicking, with food that can be made ahead and served cold or at room temp and that lends itself well to packing and toting along with a minimum of fuss and muss.
Because we are lucky enough to live near the beach, picnics feature prominently in our weekend plans, and I have prepping and packing down to a science. I like to make a muffuletta: A New Orleans tradition, it's a big overstuffed sandwich that can be wrapped tightly and then cut into wedges for serving; the presentation is so much prettier than a basic hero sandwich cut into segments, and assembling all the components ahead of time allows the flavor of the olive‚ red pepper spread to permeate the bread.
I don't usually pack a lot of different sides, since the sandwich combines so many different ingredients in one easily managed handful. A zesty seasonal slaw, a fruit salad, or a pasta salad is all that's needed to complete the meal. I often go with orzo for pasta salads, as it seems to stand up better to dressings without becoming soggy as other shapes can. Beyond that a Thermos of lemonade‚ mine features a surprising note of basil simple syrup, for yet another Italian twist‚ plenty of cold water, and a container of watermelon wedges, cookies, or brownies (yes, I'd probably take all three) are all that's needed for a great meal on the go. Pile everything into that vintage wicker hamper you picked up at a tag sale, bring along your Frisbee and Polaroid camera, and you've got the makings of a great day in the sun, #TBT style.