In the winter, there’s nothing I like more than huddling around a table in a warm kitchen with good friends, sharing a Shabbat meal. Matzah ball soup, cholent, kugels, roasted vegetables, and a nice hefty cake–they’re all perfect dishes for December, or year-round if you happen to live in Siberia.
But I live in New York City, and we’re quickly approaching the time of year when I try to divide my time evenly between sitting outside drinking in the sunshine, and lying motionless on my bed, basking in the glory of my ceiling fan and trying not to melt. This means I don’t want to spend tons of time in the kitchen, and I definitely, definitely don’t want make cholent. In fact, what I really want is to eat my Shabbat meals outside on a picnic bench or a plaid blanket. But what kind of dishes lend themselves to my July requirements? Here’s a roundup of possibilities you can whip up on a Friday afternoon, and relish in the park the next day.
There are only two soups I will even consider on hot summer days, and luckily they both basically require a food processor and a spoon–not a minute with the oven on.
Gazpacho (delicious, and the most guilt-free food ever. Yum!)
Cucumber Soup (try our recipes, or Emeril’s–they’re all refreshing, creamy, and smooth with a fantastic kick.)
Or skip the soups (sometimes difficult to mess with bowls at a picnic) and try some finger foods and dips instead. Try our awesome recipes for hummus, (we have a variation with walnuts for the nut lovers), muhammara, pickled cauliflower, stuffed grape leaves, or crunchy and delicious Radish, Chive, and Cream Cheese Tartines.
For a main course, you have a number of options:
Schnitzel travels well and cooks quickly, so you can make it before Shabbat and bring it to the park in a Tupperware without much fuss.
Cold pizza and savory tarts are also great picnic foods. Try our Jewish Italian recipe or these other options:
Three-onion tart with Taleggio
Pizza with caramelized onions, gorgonzola and pecans
Spinach and White Bean Pizza
Lemony Zucchini and Goat Cheese Pizza
Fish can be another good possibility. My standard fish recipe is to take the fish, pour a bottle of salsa on it, close the fish in a pocket of aluminum foil, and cook (time depends on thickness of fish, but typically about 25 minutes). This can be served warm or cold, and is easy to transport in portion sized pieces.
The key to a great picnic is lots of refreshing side dishes and salads. Here are some of my favorites:
Black Eyed Pea Salad
Bulgur With Spinach and Dates
Whiskey and Wheat Berry Salad
Asparagus, Tofu and Cold Noodle Salad
Chickpea Salad with Roasted Red Peppers
Lentil Salad with Tomato and Dill
Finally, dessert. Sometimes it’s best (and easiest) to just buy some fresh fruit and leave it at that. Cherries, blueberries, watermelon, cantaloupe–they’re all delicious this time of year, and relatively easy to bring and serve at picnics. Fruit salad grosses me out, but if you like it, it’s perfect for a picnic. And if you want to be a tad fancier may I suggest this Bourbon Banana Bread that absolutely blew me away when I made it last week. It might be the best dessert I’ve ever made. Other possibilities:
Blueberry Oat Bars (Vegan)
Date Pecan Pie
Peanut Butter Oatmeal Monster Cookies
Winning Hearts and Minds Cake
Wow, is anyone else hungry?
Don’t forget to bring a big blanket, challah, wine, plates, silverware, serving spoons, napkins, cups, beverages, a bag for trash, and benschers (if you wish). I highly suggest resisting the urge to use all paper products and instead going with either biodegradable/recyclable products, or bringing your regular use stuff outside. Try getting recyclable plastic plates, because they won’t break and aren’t heavy, but you can use your regular silverware, cloth napkins, and non-disposable plastic cups (you can find them at the dollar store and keep them in the closet for big parties and picnics). If you do it right, you can leave your picnic having thrown almost nothing out. Hooray for limiting waste!
Now grab your blanket and get outside!