above: Sustainable paper products are ideal for picnics.
Photographs: Piotr – stock.adobe.com; mozzarella © Picture Partners – stock.adobe.com; tote contributed; others: contributed
The warm weather and lingering daylight are here at long last, nature’s cues to begin feasting al fresco. Putting together the perfect picnic is effortless when you know what to make and how to pack it like a pro. Our local area has countless places to picnic in style, and there are just as many options to source delicious ingredients. Whether you are gathering at Compo Beach, hiking in Devil’s Den, or boating on the Sound, a well-planned picnic is as essential as sunscreen. The following tips and recipes are sure to make your first picnic of the season a success.
Lauren Braun Costello
is a native New Yorker and now Westport local who is a classically trained chef, author, expert food stylist, and the force behind It’s Lauren, of Course! She has helped countless people become better cooks with her 100 days of cooking live on Instagram. Lauren can be found in her sunny kitchen cooking, of course or @itslaurenofcourse
Smokey Chicken Sandwiches
Made with only four ingredients but full of complex and alluring flavors, this sandwich comes together in minutes. Serve this sandwich and you’ll look like a culinary genius thanks to an assist from macha salsa, a Mexican-style chili crunch from Alma Mexican Foods. Replace the chicken with grilled vegetables for a meatless meal.
1 three-grain batard or other large crusty loaf
6 pieces thinly sliced grilled chicken
1 pound fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
¼ cup macha salsa with cherries
Slice the bread lengthwise into two long halves. Spread each half with a thin coating of macha salsa. Layer the bottom half with sliced mozzarella.
Then top with grilled chicken and remaining bread. Slice crosswise into six portions. Serve immediately or wrap in paper for a picnic.
PRO TIP: Store leftover sandwiches in the refrigerator; warm in the oven wrapped loosely in foil.
How to Pack a Moveable Feast
Plan a menu that is as easy to prepare as it is to eat. Think sandwiches, salads, whole and cut fruit, cheese, charcuterie, nuts, crudités, dips. Dishes that are best prepared in advanced and can be assembled easily before packing are ideal. Foods that leave fingers and faces free from being sticky should top the list.
Avoid things like bone-in meats and whole foods with pits, cobs, and cores. Buffalo chicken salad or sandwiches are better choices than wings. The less there is to throw away or compost the better. No one wants to lug home a bunch of trash at the end of a meal on the go.
Pack Like a Pro
Never suffocate your sandwiches by putting them in direct contact with plastic wrap and foil. Let your sandwiches breathe by packing them in paper. Lunchskins are planet-friendly wrappers that prevent sandwiches from becoming soggy or chewy. These self-sealing paper bags, sold at many local grocery stores, come in two sizes and several fun colors and patterns. Brown paper cartons are an excellent alternative to glass or plastic containers for salads found in the prepared foods section at Whole Foods.
Fancy But Functional
Select cutlery, plates, and napkins that are stylish and sustainable. Elevate your picnic experience with lightweight and
eco-friendly alternatives to
plastic like biodegradable wooden cutlery and compostable palm leaf plates. Cloth-like paper napkins with clever pockets help to keep things organized and elegant.
Get Carried Away
While a wicker picnic basket is the iconic carrier, there are many more practical, lightweight, thermal options that look chic, keep foods cool, and are a breeze to clean. Westport boutique She-la-la has many options in a plethora of colors that can be monogrammed.
Local Ingredient Superstars
This healthy and nutritious green found at the Westport Farmer’s Market is perfect for a picnic. The texture and flavor improve as the greens sit in the dressing.
You can get this cheese anywhere, but Stew Leonard’s makes theirs daily in-house and it’s the best.
A classic choice from artisan micro-bakery Wave Hill Breads that is ideal for making sandwiches hours before they are eaten thanks to a tender crumb and crusty exterior.
SALSA MACHA WITH CHERRIES
This seasonal Mexican-style chili crunch from Alma Mexican Foods is a magical condiment, a smokey and spicy flavor explosion that will take any dish to new heights.
for more recipes go to westportmag.com