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Upscale Summer Picnic Menu?

We're planning a birthday picnic for my mom and brother in early April, and I'm trying to start coming up with a menu. It's going to be probably 15 or 20 people, and it'll be "lunch-ish", in other words nibbling throughout the afternoon. So far, I've come up with cold platters of things like roasted asparagus and thin-sliced rare beef tenderloin. Steak is a huge favorite in my family, especially tri-tip. It's practically mandatory! Any ideas for salads, mains, sides, and/or dessert and drinks? Thanks!

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  1. Post on Home Cooking board for suggestions.

    1. I have a really good bean salad - can't remember where the recipe is from but it is basically

      cannellini beans (think it is meant to be butter beans but I hate them - are they lima beans in the states?)
      cooked french/green/fine beans
      and some roasted red peppers.
      Mix all together and pour over a dressing of olive oil, dried oregano, lemon, some raw garlic (not too much), salt and pepper.
      If you want you can also add some finely sliced raw red onion, but again, I hate raw red onion so I omit.

      Easy peasy - very quick to make, and very transportable for a picnic!

      1. Agree you might get more suggestions by posting in Home Cooking:).

        My two cents; this is really a spring picnic, so think about what's freshly in season - perhaps a rhubarb dessert, like a cake with a rhubarb filling and soft whipped cream frosting.

        a spinach/feta/stawberry salad with a champagne viniagrette would be nice with roasted asperagus and cold sliced rare beef. You might make a pissaladiere or foccacia with roasted peppers, caramelized onions and blue cheese on it, which would be tasty with the beef.

        my favorite thing in spring is nettles; if you could find some at a farmer's market, a bright green light creamy nettle soup served in shooters would be a lovely thing too.

        1. A nice sangria to drink would be nice (if you were looking for adult options) maybe a jalapeno potatoe salad (don't know if that's upscale enough) I like Ina Garten's curried cous cous which is great cold. Maybe a trifle for dessert using berries in season. I also like Ina's shrimp salad which is perfect for a picnic, served cold. Have fun.

          1. Great ideas, guys! I hadn't realized that I didn't post in Home Cooking :)

            1. How about smoked whitefish on home made poppy seed Rye crackers. Make a 'spread' using small 'chunks' of the whitefish and cold sautéed fennel finely diced. Use the best olive oil you can find. Don't 'mush' the whitefish into a 'mystery mush'. Don't use any egg based mayo. The olive oil makes the whitefish 'spreadable'. http://www.google.ca/search?q=smoked+...

              1. Mmmm, some delicious aioli for the asparagus would be lovely. I love the idea of roasted Summer tomatoes and basil tossed into pasta with good oil and vinegar, too. Corn pudding is always nice; easy to transport and holds up well. Love the idea of the cold soup starter, too - one of my favorites is a watermelon tomato gazpacho. Think ya need some cheese in there; maybe a Caprese? Old hat, but really nobody doesn't like it. Or you could do a pimiento cheese and bring breadsticks.
                If your family likes tri-tip, what about a sort of Santa Maria Barbeque? Are you familiar with that? garlicky, oil-rubbed tri-tip, cooked over mesquite; salsa, penquito beans, grilled buttery French bread, and usually baked potato though you could make a potato salad instead. Roasted red potato salad w/ green beans is a family favorite.
                Drinks? Maybe thermoses of Juleps? Strawberry lemonade with vodka?
                If you can get tasty fresh berries, I'd lay my hands on as many different kinds as I could and make a huge mixed-berry pie or two.

                1 Reply
                1. re: mamachef

                  that's actually perfect, my grandmother grew up in Santa Maria!

                2. Cant go wrong with lobster salad and crab or shrimp cocktail although they cant sit our very long. Wheat berry salad or israeli cous cous is also nice. Chick pea or edamame salads (whatever bean you like for that matter). Dried fruits and cheeses. Mediterranean foods like stuffed grape leaves and tabouleh are also great.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: AdamD

                    I second the stuffed grape leaves! Can't go wrong. Actually a nice array of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean salad and small bites type dishes would be great.

                  2. Have you ever done a stuffed picnic loaf? They always have the wow factor and people think you're very clever when actually they're no trouble as long as you buy a 'good' loaf of bread with a proper crust....in case you haven't, what you do is to cut the top off said loaf, hollow it out by picking out the soft crumb leaving a shell of crust. Then you put a layer of thin ham slices over the bottom, thin cheese slices, thin tomato slices and perhaps halved olives, then repeat until it's full. Press the top on and wrap in clingfilm; chill until travelling. Transports beautifully, and you'd only need a couple for everyone to have a slice.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: flashria

                      Thanks flashria! You just gave me the last sandwich idea I need for my daughter's birfday tea party!! I think........proscuitto and Teleme for the meat and cheese. And I'll alternate bread types for more wow. Thanks thanks!

                      1. re: mamachef

                        so glad you like the idea, mamachef, I've had loads of tips and wisdom from you in the past! Hope the birthday party goes really well. (Incidentally, I've found a round 'cottage'-type loaf works best so you can cut it into wedges.)

                    2. Salad: Caprese salad - fresh mozerella, tomatoes, basil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt & pepper

                      Side: If you're having steak, are you doing something with potatoes? German potato salad?

                      Main: Cold roasted salmon

                      1. Are you hosting at home or going to a destination venue? Summer picnic in April suggests to me that you live in a southern clime?