Take it Outside

07 May 2016

Picnic recipes for eating Alfresco

Recipes and Photos by KIM BYER

The sun may be beating our brows, but it’s not scorching our spirits. Despite the rising temperatures, we’re trekking outdoors to enjoy this gorgeous sunshine and these leisurely days. In the mindset of traveling light and easy, these picnic hearty recipes may be made ahead of time and easily transported to your field of dreams. For some, a picnic table on the porch is as far as you’ll wander. For others, a blanket on a Carolina beach beckons. If the mountains are echoing your name, a hike with a backpack full of cold drinks and Mason jar salads makes for a perfect afternoon. Wherever you find yourself outdoors this summer, here’s hoping you’re staying cool and eating delicious food. 

Naanwiches (Picnic Pizzas!)

Basil Walnut Pesto + Tomatoes + Fresh Mozzarella 

Makes 1 flatbread pizza 


1 naan or flatbread 

1 tablespoon basil walnut pesto 

A handful of grape tomatoes, sliced 

1-2 1/2-inch slices or small balls of fresh mozzarella cheese, torn

Basil leaves for garnish 

 Basil Walnut Pesto

Makes 1 1/4 cups pesto 


4 cups basil leaves 

1 cup walnuts 

1 cup Parmesan cheese

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1.     Bring a medium pot of water to boil. 

2.     Prepare a medium bowl of cold, iced water. 

3.     Stir basil leaves in boiling water for 15 to 30 seconds and immediately transfer to ice bath. 

4.     Drain and squeeze the excess water from the basil. 

5.     Add basil, walnuts and Parmesan cheese to food processor and slowly begin to drizzle in the olive oil, scraping the processor bowl sides every ten seconds or so for about 30 seconds.

6.     Assemble pizza by spreading pesto and adding toppings, including salt and pepper to taste. Serve at room temperature. 

Tip: Don’t over-process the pesto. Stop when the nuts become small chunks. 


Sundried Tomato Pesto + Kalamata Olives + Goat’s Milk Feta 


1 naan or flatbread 

1 tablespoon Sundried Tomato Pesto 

3 to 4 Kalamata olives, sliced 

4 to 5 chunks of feta cheese  

Sundried Tomato Pesto 

Makes 1 1/4 cups pesto


1 cup sundried tomatoes in oil

1 cup walnuts 

1 cup Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1.     Add sundried tomatoes, walnuts, Parmesan cheese and sherry vinegar to food processor and slowly begin to drizzle in the olive oil, scraping the processor bowl sides every ten seconds or so. 

2.     Assemble pizza by spreading pesto and adding toppings, including salt and pepper to taste. Serve at room temperature.  

Tip: Don’t over-process the pesto. Stop when the nuts become small chunks.

Citrus Cashew Dip 

Yields approximately 1 1/4 cups


1 cup raw cashews

1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice 

1/4 cup tahini 

1 Meyer lemon, juiced (optional, adds a tartness to the taste)

1/4 cup water 

Sesame or olive oil for drizzling (optional)

Chili flakes (optional) 

1.     Place cashews, orange juice, lemon juice (if using), and tahini in a food processor and process until a smooth consistency is reached. Scrape sides of processor bowl.  

2.   Add a small amount of water and blend again. Repeat until the desired consistency is reached. 

3.   Remove to a small bowl and top with sesame oil and chili flakes, if desired. Serve with crudités or chips.


Strawberry Salads in a Jar with Strawberry Citrus Dressing 

Makes 2 half-pint salad jars


2 small handfuls of arugula (rocket)

4 sweet peppadew pickled peppers, sliced in half

2 ounces goat cheese 

1/2 small cucumber, thinly sliced 

2 small handfuls of mustard microgreens or similar 

6 ripe strawberries, sliced 

1/4 cup pistachios, chopped 


1.     In two small jars, such as a Mason or similar, layer the salad ingredients in order, starting with the arugula. Seal with a top.

2.     Before eating, remove tops and pour dressing over the salad. Reseal and shake. Open and eat!

Tip: Don’t forget utensils, napkins, plates, blankets, sunscreen and mosquito spray!


Strawberry Citrus Dressing


3 or 4 medium-sized ripe strawberries

2 tablespoons sugar 

3 tablespoons orange juice 

2 tablespoons white vinegar, such as balsamic or rice wine 

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard 

3 tablespoons light oil, such as grapeseed or extra light olive oil 

Salt and pepper to taste 

1.     In a mortar and pestle, muddle the strawberries until they form a thin paste. 

2.     In a small jar, add the strawberries, sugar, orange juice, vinegar, and Dijon mustard. Place top on jar and shake. 

3.     Add the oil and a small amount of salt and pepper. Shake again, then taste and adjust with additional sugar, salt and pepper. 


Rice Wraps with Shrimp & Veggies and a Ginger Lime Dip

Suggested serving = 2 Rice Wraps per person


Round rice paper wraps 

3-4 medium-sized, cooked shrimp per wrap, shelled

Vegetables such as cucumbers, radishes, zucchini, jicama and/or carrots, chopped thin or julienne 

Handful of cilantro, roughly chopped 

Handful of roasted, salted peanuts, chopped 


1.   To assemble the rolls, organize all of your vegetables and shrimp into small bowls and line them up in front of a plate or platter. 

2.   Take one rice paper wrap and run it beneath running warm water until moistened. The paper will continue to soak in the water and become more pliable as you use it. Experiment with a few papers until you understand the amount of flexibility needed for folding and rolling.

3.   When ready, place 3-4 shrimp in a line about 1/3 of the way up the wrap. Add a line of mixed vegetables just in front of the shrimp.

4.   Roll the wrap over the mounded vegetables, and then fold both sides in, before completing the roll. 


Ginger Lime Dip 


2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated or minced 

2 teaspoons minced garlic 

3 tablespoons sugar (or equivalent sweetener of choice)

1/2 teaspoon salt 

3 tablespoons fish sauce 

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice 

1/2 teaspoon red pepper chili flakes

2 tablespoons water (or more, to taste)

1.    Grind ginger, garlic, sugar and salt with a mortar and pestle until it becomes a paste.

2.     Transfer paste to a bowl and add fish sauce, lime juice, chili flakes and water. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Serve at room temperature. 

3.     If necessary, this sauce can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for several days. 

Blueberry Hand Pies

Yields approximately 7 hand pies


2 9-inch round pie crusts (homemade or purchased)

1 pint blueberries 

1/4 cup of sugar 

1 tablespoon cornstarch 

1 tablespoon lemon juice 

1 egg white + 1 tablespoon water, mixed


1.     Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

2.     In a medium saucepan, cook half of the blueberries over medium heat with the sugar and cornstarch until juices are thick and bubbling.

3.     Meanwhile, roll out the dough and cut approximately fourteen 4-inch diameter circles using a small bowl as a guide for your knife. Place half of the circles onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat. 

4.     Add the remaining blueberries along with the lemon juice to the pot. Stir until heated. Remove from heat. 

5.     Spoon a few tablespoons of blueberries into the center of each piecrust. Place a second crust over the top and press the sides with tines of a small fork.

6.     When pies are sealed, brush them with the egg white mixture and bake for up to 45 minutes or when crusts turn golden. May be eaten warm or served at room temperature. 


Tip: For hand-pies, a store-bought crust ensures a more consistent and level working dough.

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