When it comes to planning a family picnic, avoid buying expensive, pre-packed picnic kits — make your own, said Annie Bell, author of “The Camping Cookbook: 95 Inspirational Recipes — From Hearty Brunches to Campfire Suppers.”
The key to a successful picnic is planning ahead, Bell said.
That means making a checklist that includes essential materials like silverware, lightweight plates and a fleece blanket. Insulated lunch bags are also great for keeping foods cool or warm.
“Get everything perhaps colder than you think you need it,” said Bell. Don’t let warm weather ruin the meal.
For the feast, salads, sweets and finger foods, such as chicken wings and sausages, are quick and simple enough to prepare and store.
“Everything has to be very speedy and practical,” Bell said.
One of her favorite picnic recipes is a variation on pan-bagnat, a sandwich featuring roasted tomatoes and sourdough, but any dish combining tomatoes and bread is a winner, she says. Her version calls for sardines, but for the kids, substitute canned tuna for a twist on the lunchtime classic.
Tomato and Tuna Pan-bagnat
Makes 4-6 servings
Prep: 15 minutes, chill: 2 hours
1 olive sourdough loaf
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Slow-roasted tomatoes, see recipe
1 ounce arugula
1 to 2 cans tuna in oil
Slice off the top third of the loaf to create a lid; pull out some of the insides from both pieces, leaving ½-inch-thick shell. Drizzle oil over cut surfaces, spreading evenly. Spoon two-thirds of the tomatoes into the base; lay half of the arugula on top. Spread with tuna; add remaining arugula. Spoon remaining tomatoes into lid; carefully place lid onto base. Wrap loaf snugly in plastic wrap; place in a baking dish. Place another lightweight dish on top of the sandwich. You want the loaf to be firm enough to slice without squashing it. Chill, 2 hours; bring to room temperature to eat. Slice into 4-6 individual servings.
Nutrition information per serving for 6 servings: 445 calories, 40 percent of calories from fat, 20 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 18 mg cholesterol, 42 g carbohydrates, 25 g protein, 563 mg sodium, 3 g fiber.
Heat oven to 275 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice 1 quart cherry tomatoes in half; lay skin-down in a single layer on the baking sheet. Scatter over 1-4 cloves garlic, skin-on, crushed, and 4 sprigs thyme; season with ¼ teaspoon salt and a pinch sugar. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons olive oil.
Bake until tomatoes are semi-dry but still succulent, 2 hours; cool. Place tomatoes in a jar; cover with olive oil. Chill up to 3 days; bring to room temperature before using.