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Picnic - Appetizers - Ideas Please

Our Dinner Club theme this month is “Picnic”. I’ve been tasked with bringing appetizers. I know that with a picnic, appetizers aren’t really typical. But to keep things categorized we have other people bringing “meat/main”, “Sides/Salads” and Dessert.

I’ve struggling all week on what to bring as the ‘appetizer’. I cannot bring meat or a salad, as that’s assigned to someone else. Devilled eggs are out due to an allergy. To add to the limitations, everything must be prepared/cooked and kept cold. There is no facility for cooking. I was considering bringing a home made ricotta cheese, some fancy crackers, a drier cured sausage and maybe some spicy almonds. But that all sounds super boring to me.

Any brilliant ideas from fellow Chowhounds on picnic appetizers would be much appreciated.

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  1. Check out the pickling thread! I made some amazing zucchini and squash blossom pickles this year. We had a picnic recently where I brought those some Saskatoon berry jam and a few cheeses. It was a huge hit and you get to cook a bit instead of just shop. :)

    1. Too bad about the eggs... those would be perfect!

      A couple of ides... flatbread or tortilla roll-ups. Use a good cheese to make more interesting. Or make pate. Lots of options to choose from (including lighter vegetarian versions that would be more summery). I have been tempted to make rillettes (you can do in small canning jars for a pretty presentation) but have never gotten around to it. I have had some very nice ones done with smoked trout, or could go more original with pork. And/or do quick pickles.. with an interesting mix of veggies, like okra, cauliflower, green beans, kohlrabi..

      1 Reply
      1. re: firecooked

        Roll ups are a great idea--there's a place which makes these, they are delicious and would be easy to replicate!!

        Flour tortilla, spread with cream cheese, top with fresh spinach, shredded chicken and salsa, roll like a really skinny burrito, chill, slice, serve!

      2. Guac and chips are always a hit (or an avocado dip, my favorite! Mash ripe avocado's with minced garlic, ceyenne, feta and Braggs, serve with tortilla chips). Any kind of chip/dip combo would travel well, and you could have fun making some dips! Fruit salsa and cinnamon/sugar chips is great too! Watermelon/feta skewers, caprise skewers, "Greek" skewers (marinate large cubes of cucumber in a greek dressing or red wine vinegar, skewer with kalamata olives, feta, and bell pepper), gazpacho or chilled cucumber soup (Hefty or one of those brands makes tiny little tupperware dishes with lids, one of those would be a good serving), tea sandwiches, grilled veggie platter (can be served chilled or room temp, so great for traveling!) And instead of a cheese board, maybe layer a piece of proccuito on top of a piece of provolone, and wrap around the top half of a breadstick. Very easy, pretty, and will travel great!

        1. Shrimp (salad size) cocktails (bring plastic spoons, sm paper cups)
          Peal and eat med size shrimp (on ice) different dips
          Smoked oysters (in cans) with toothpicks & crackers
          Caprese on a stick
          I like the pickling idea; asparagus, green beans on & on

          1 Reply
          1. re: Gail

            I really like the shrimp cocktail and the caprese on a stick.

            Also pickling isn't a bad idea provided the pickling can be done in time.

            1. Antipasto skewers kind of like these. You can make them with anything you like and leave out the salami on some if there are any vegetarians. I made them for July 4th a few years ago and they were a big hit. My skewers were a little smaller than these.


              Or this Pea Dip with Parmesan with pita chips or crackers. Love this.


              1. Everything I can think of has eggs in it -- savory madeleines, savory cheesecake, mac-and-cheese mini muffins (although I think you could find a recipe without eggs for this last one).

                Gazpacho shooters with a shrimp or avocado slice topper? Plastic or glass shooter glasses very reasonable at a restaurant supply store.

                1 Reply
                1. The perfect appetizer would be some oven dried prosciutto or salami chips served with a simple spread of drained ricotta mixed with a little lemon zest and black pepper. I top the ricotta with pickled red grapes. The combination of salty, sweet, crunchy and creamy is perfect.

                  Simmer together red wine, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, a cinnamon stick, one star anise pod, dry mustard, black peppercorns, coriander seed, crushed mustard seeds for 10 minutes. Add the seedless red grapes to a covered storage container, pour the liquid on top and weight down the grapes with a second storage container. Refrigerate overnight. I mold the ricotta, turn it out on a platter and top with the grapes. Serve with those chips and a knife to spread. It can be be made the day before and it does not have to be kept cold once you set it out for guests. I love this dish; I'm making it for a wedding next month...

                  1 Reply
                  1. Homemade pimento cheese, some sort of salumi/sausage, good bread or crackers, tomato jam, pickled okra.

                    1. There are some great suggestions here and I'm going to try not to repeat just give you a few other options. and please forgive me if I do repeat.

                      Melon wrapped in Prosciutto maybe something like this?

                      Little cucumber tea sandwiches with tzatziki and or hummus

                      Baked Pita chips with dips (hummus, tzatziki, crab dip, cheese dip, guacamole, tapenade, pesto, etc


                      Bruschetta just keep the topping separate from the bread and then serve together.

                      1. Salmon mousse, from the Silver Palate book. Kind of old school, but the last time we had a big party I was looking forward to eating some after all the clean-up was done but the platter was scraped clean.

                        It calls for mayo (eggs!), but I don't see why you couldn't just skip it. I sub sour cream for the whipped cream (lazy) without a problem.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: monfrancisco

                          This is a great suggestion. Old-school or not it is ALWAYS a hit when I make it for parties. I add some finely chopped smaoked salmon in addition to the called-for amount of regular salmon. (And monfrancisco, I make a small dish for me and hide it at the back of the fridge because there are NEVER leftovers! :) )

                          1. re: GretchenS

                            I'm making a note in the book right now about the small dish so I don't forget next time! Also about the smoked salmon -- that's inspired.

                        2. I would be very pleased with your ricotta, sausage, crackers, and almonds. Maybe expand the idea to turn into an antipasta tray.

                          1. Use your homemade ricotta for a dill or basil flavor dip, add in the bottom of individual cups for a pretty presentation, like these

                            Make cucumber cups like these, pack prepped cucumbers and filling seperate and assemble on site

                            1. tortellini skewers - with cherry tomato, mozzarella, spinach (for colour) and seasoned with pesto, olive oil and/or some balsamic.

                              I plan on making this for a party on the weekend.

                              Really easy to make and looks fancy too!

                              1. This chickpea bruschetta from Batali is great (and vegan if anyone cares):


                                They've been serving it as an amuse at Babbo for a few years now.

                                1. Thanks everyone for the great suggestions. I decided to stick with my first menu idea. Thanks to Tara57 for saying you’d be happy with that. It helped me realized it wasn’t that boring. However, I did decide to make a salmon pate as suggested. Seeing as it’s Pacific sockeye season (and I HATE canned salmon) I bought a fresh piece and BBQ’d it with spice rub on a cedar plank. Then I just let it cool and used that salmon whipped with clarified butter and whipping cream. I guess it was more of a mousse. And definitely NOT low calorie!! Really delicious.

                                  I absolutely love Cherylptw idea with the grapes and ricotta. I’m saving that recipe for a cozy winter dish.

                                  This was my first try at making ricotta. I watched some Youtubes and got the idea of how it should look. It was a little messy but boy was it worth it. I seasoned it with pepper and lemon rind. I’d highly recommend giving it a try.

                                  Thanks again everyone the awesome ideas and for always helping me look like a Super Star with my Dinner Club. They have no idea you exist!!

                                  1 Reply